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Europes_Rag_Doll

THE SATURDAY EVENING POST 11 "And, to show you that I like you, I'm going to make up for this to-morrow night. A real little Saturday-night blow! And don't forget Sunday afternoon—two o'clock for us, down at Crissey's Hall. Two o'clock." "Two o'clock." "Good!" "Oh, Charley, I "What, Sweetness?" "Oh, nothing; I—I'm just silly to-night." Her hand lay on his arm, white in the moonlight and light as a leaf; and he kissed her again, scorching her lips. " Good night, Sweetness." "Good night, Charley." Then up four flights of stairs, through musty halls and past closed doors, their white china knobs showing through the darkness, and up to the fourth-floor rear, and then on tiptoe into a long, narrow room, with the moonlight flowing in. Clothing lay about in grotesque heaps—a woman's blouse was flung across the back of a chair and hung limply; a pair of shoes stood beside the bed in the attitude of walking— tired-looking shoes, run down at the heels and skinned at the toes. And on the far side of the three-quarter bed the hump of an outstretched figure, face turned from the light, with sparse gray-and-black hair flowing over the pillow. Carefully, to save the slightest squeak, Sara Juke undressed, folded her little mound of clothing across the room's second chair, groping carefully by the stream of moonlight. Severe as a sibyl in her straight-falling nightdress, her hair spreading over her shoulders, her bare feet pattered on the cool matting. Then she slid into bed lightly, scarcely raising the covers. From the mantelpiece the alarm clock ticked with emphasis. An hour she lay there. Once she coughed, and smothered it in her pillow. Two hours. She slipped from under the covers and over to the littered dresser. The pamphlet lay on top of her gloves; she carried it to the window and, with her limbs trembling and sending ripples down her night robe, read it. Then again, standing there by the window in the moonlight, she quivered so that her knees bent under her. After a while she raised the window slowly and without a creak, and a current of cool air rushed in and over her before she could reach the bedside. On her pillow Hattie Krakow stirred reluctantly, her weary senses battling with the pleasant lethargy of sleep; but a sudden nip in the air stung her nose and found out the warm crevices of the bed. She stirred and half opened her eyes. "For Gawd's sake, Sara, are you crazy? Put that window down ! Tryin' to freeze us out? Opening a window with her cough and all! Put it down ! Put—it—down !" Sara Juke rose and slammed it shut, slipping back into the cold bed with teeth that clicked. After a while she slept; but lightly, with her mouth open and her face upturned. And after a while she woke to full consciousness all at once, and with a cough on her lips. Her gown at the yoke was wet; and her neck, where she felt it, was damp with cold perspiration. " Oh—oh—Hattie ! Oh—oh !" She burrowed under her pillow to ease the trembling that seized her. The moon had passed on, and darkness, which is allied to fear, closed her in—the fear of unthinking youth who knows not that the grave is full of peace; the fear of abundant life for senile death; the cold agony that comes in the night watches, when the business of the day is but a dream and Reality visits the couch. Deeper burrowed Sara Juke, trembling with chill and night sweat. Drowsily Hattie Krakow turned on her pillow, but her senses were too weary to follow her mind's dictate. "Sara! 'Smatter, Sara? 'Smat-ter?" Hattie's tired hand crept toward her friend; but her volition would not carry it across and it fell inert across the coverlet. "'Smatter, dearie?" "N-nothin'." "'Smat-ter, dear-ie?" "N-nothin'." In the watches of the night a towel flung across the bedpost becomes a gorilla crouching to spring; a tree branch tapping at the window an armless hand, beckoning. In the watches of the night fear is a panther across the chest sucking the breath; but his eyes cannot bear the light of day, and by dawn he has shrunk to cat size. The ghastly dreams of Orestes perished with the light; phosphorus is yellowish and waxlike by day. So Sara Juke found new courage with the day, and in the subbasement of the Titanic store the morning following her laughter was ready enough. But when the midday hour arrived she slipped into her jacket, past the importunities of Hattie Krakow, and out into the sun-lashed noonday swarm of Sixth Avenue. Down one block—two, three; then a sudden pause before a narrow store front liberally placarded with invitatory signs to the public, and with a red cross blazoning above the doorway. And Sara Juke, whose heart was full of fear, faltered, entered. The same thin file passed round the room, halting, sauntering, like grim visitors in a grim gallery. At a front desk a sleek young interne, tiptilted in a swivel chair, read a pink sheet through horn-rimmed glasses. Toward the rear the young man whose skin was the wind-lashed pink sorted pamphlets and circulars in tall, even piles on his desk. Round and round the gallery walked Sara Juke; twice she read over the list of symptoms printed in inch-high type; her heart lay within her as though icy dead, and her eyes would blur over with tears. Once, when she passed the rear desk, the young man paused in his stacking and regarded her with a warming glance of recognition. "Hello !" he said. "You back?" "Yes." Her voice was the thin cry of a quail. "You must like our little picture gallery, eh?" "Oh! Oh!" She caught at the edge of his desk and tears lay heavy in her eyes. "Eh?" "Yes; I—I like it. I wanna buy it for my yacht." Her ghastly simulacrum of a jest died in her throat; and he said quickly, a big blush suffusing his face: "I was only fooling, missy. You ain't got the scare, have you?" "The scare?" "Yes; the bug? You ain't afraid you've ate the germ, are you?" "I—I dunno." "Pshaw! There's a lot of 'em comes in here more scared than hurt, missy. Never throw a scare till you've had a examination. For all you know you got hay fever, eh! Hay fever!" And he laughed as though to salve his words. "I—I got all them things on the red-printed list, I tell you. I—I got 'em all, night sweats and all. I—I got 'em." (Continued on Page 32) Z.90 DOLL German Officers and American Correspondents in the Prefecture at Lao,. ON THE first battlefield of any consequence visited by our party I picked up, from where it was lying in the track of the Allies' retreat, a child's rag doll. It was a grotesque thing of printed cloth, with sawdust insides. I found it at a place where two roads met. -Presumably some Belgian child, fleeing with her parents before the German advance, dropped it there, and later a wagon or perhaps a cannon came along and ran over it.. The heavy wheel had mashed the head of it flat. In an article for this weekly which I wrote early in September, when the memory of the incident was vivid in my mind, I said that, to me, this shabby little rag doll typified Belgium. Since then I have seen many sights. Some were dramatic and some were pathetic, and nearly all were stirring; but I still recall quite clearly the little picture of the forks of the Belgian road, with a background of empty fields and empty, wrecked houses, and just at my Correspondents and German Officer Watching Shells Fall at Laon By NEVEM' S. COBB feet the doll, with its head crushed in and the sawdust spilled out in the rut the ongoing army had made. And always now, when I think of this, I find myself thinking of Belgium. They have called her the cockpit of Europe. She is too. In wars that were neither of her making nor her choosing she has borne the hardest blows—a poor little buffer state thrust in between great and truculent neighbors. To strike at one another they must strike Belgium. By the accident of geography and the caprice of boundary lines she has always been the anvil for their hammers. Jemmapes and Waterloo, to cite two especially conspicuous examples among great Continental battles, were fought on her soil. German Cooks Lined Up Behind a Dough. Kneading Machine at Dinant Indeed, there is scarcely an inch of her for the possession of which men of breeds not her own—Austrians and Span- iards, Hanoverians and Hollanders, Englishmen and Prussians, Saxons and Frenchmen—have not contended. These others won the victories or lost them, kept the spoils or gave them up; she wore the scars of the grudges when the grudges were settled. So there is a reason for calling her the cockpit of the nations; but, as I said just now, I shall think of her as Europe's rag doll—a thing to be clouted and kicked about; to be crushed under the hoofs and the heels; to be bled and despoiled and ravished. Thinking of her so, I do not mean by this comparison to reflect in any wise on the courage of her people. It will be a long time before the rest of the world forgets the resistance her soldiers lately made against overbrimming odds, or the fortitude with which the families of those soldiers now face a condition too dolorous for words to describe.


Europes_Rag_Doll
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