Page 3

The_Bravest_of_the_Brave

8 THE SATURDAY EVENING POST January /6,1915 To find her, however, proved a more difficult task than locating General Joffre himself. No one but God knows from hour to hour where the commanding general of the French Army is. And no one, except possibly a few wayfaring angels, knows from day to day where Madame Macherez may be found. At first I was told she was in Soissons, taking care of the children and incidentally governing the town, including the troops stationed there. She was impartial in this. When the Germans occupied Soissons she told them what to do and what not to do. Later, when the French drove them out, she managed their uprising and down-sitting in the same manner. When I was about to start for Soissons I learned that Madame Macherez was in Paris, at the headquarters of the Dames Francaises. I went there, only to find that she had been gone a week. No; she was not in Soissons now. That town had been evacuated by the citizens. Something dreadful was about to happen at Soissons. Madame Macherez was at Vic-sur-Aisne, where she had established a hospital in order to be ready for that something dreadful which was going to happen. Now Compiegne is the nearest station to that place which can be reached by train. I was told that it was "impossible, absolutely," to get to Compiegne. Something dreadful was about to take place at Soissons. The battle line had shifted; no one now was allowed to go to Compiegne, the neighboring town. I was given to understand that, if this something did not turn out as planned by the Allies, Compiegne would be filled again with German soldiers. Nevertheless, I resolved to make the journey, which is quite a different matter from being allowed to go. With the harmlessness of a dove, but with the wisdom of a serpent, I continued to avoid GalBeni and his military pass; but I secured a laissez passer from the police, with the warning, however, that it would do me no good; that I should be overhauled in the station and compelled to return to Paris. We started, that gentle lady whom I have mentioned before, and myself, two secret travelers, on the early morning train from Paris. We were four hours making the journey, which in ordinary times requires only one hour. So many bridges have been destroyed that it is necessary to make a long detour in order to reach Compiegne. The Germans were here thirteen days early in September. And the Kaiser slept for one night in the castle. Not a shell fell in the town; not a window was broken or a stone turned. The chief damage one hears of was the looting of the shops and the devouring of every pot of jam in the pantries. All the villages and farms between Compiegne and Soissons have been evacuated, and the refugees are now practically imprisoned in the town. No man, woman or child is allowed to pass the guard beyond the gates without a laissez passer, which is very difficult to obtain. The result is a congestion of life, like that of a beehive. The streets are literally overflowing with women, children and soldiers. Every hour commissary trains of motor cars pass through, taking provisions to the front; and toward evening there is a terrific roar of automobiles, all going at, great speed in the same direction, and all filled with officers returning to camp. Occasionally a regiment of infantry follows, loaded, like little red-legged camels, with their blankets and knapsacks; with bayonets gleaming on their gun barrels; always slouching along, bent far forward; their faces grim, holloweyed, grimed with black beards; very weary, and very determined not to keep step, not to make a smart appearance— but just to fight. They are the moving war script in this shifting scene. While all this is going forward, while a hundred children leap and sing and play—disappearing into the dark doorways of old walls, flying before speeding motors, dancing about the marching soldiers—suddenly a long gray car appears, moving very slowly, as though every jolt on the rough cobbles caused pain. It bears the Red Cross on each side. The children quiet down; they withdraw to the edge of the pavement, staring curiously. The women pause in their swift half trot down the street. Everything stops except those roaring cars filled with officers and that redlegged line of marching soldiers. They take no notice. Their time for that has not come yet—maybe it will arrive to-morrow; but to-day they march. The end of the ambulance is open behind. The women run forward and look in, with terrified, searching eyes, as it passes them. For seated within are two rows of wounded men. Some are bent almost double, hugging themselves as though they would hold gaping flesh and broken bones together; others with their heads thrown back, their bodies slumped, and arms and legs limp. Some faces are livid, others burning red with fever. But not a word, not a groan escapes them as they pass and look into the eyes of those women, who follow fearful at the tail of the ambulance until they make sure that none of these men belongs to them. There is a difference between seeing wounded men lying in clean hospital beds, surrounded by every possible comfort, and seeing these other wounded, just dragged from the trenches where they fell, still wearing their uniforms, with the grime of powder and blood sticking to them. And the latter sight is infinitely more horrible. In times of peace a man with half of such wounds as these men carry, sitting stolidly silent and patient, would be lying in a hospital, with a doctor and two trained nurses to soothe him; but these men require no such softness. They only look forward to the moment when they can lie down and be still until the burning holes in their bodies heal. They are impatient for only one thing—the delay, the battles they are missing. In the afternoon we went to the mayor's office for permission to drive beyond the town. From week to week the enforcement of military law grows more stringent in France, especially for foreigners. In addition to the usual permission from the police of the district even to reside in a hotel, we cannot go anywhere (Continued on Page 33) TEE C W igy Los Poog'sri- ll=llidriElEman rOE:7 111,1'STR.RTED •131, ANION 0770 FISCHER WITH a swagger he came up the accommodation ladder of the Alethea, whistling a snatch of a comic-opera air, cast a quick glance about him, and then turned to berate the Malay servant who followed laboring under the weight of a heavy trunk. "Put it down, you fool! And don't drop it!" With a slender rattan cane he indicated a spot on the Alethea's sooty and disordered deck. The walking stick was the final touch to his smartly carefui toilet. His white flannels betokened the workmanship of one of the most expensive tailor shops in Singapore. His buckskin shoes were of a new and irreproachable whiteness. A scarf of knitted scarlet silk gave a flashy accent to the whole immaculate costume and marked a certain flare and flamboyance about his person, in keeping with his assertive flourishes with the cane and the confident swagger of his walk. His sharp, shifty eyes, which looked shrewdly out from under the edge of his helmet, were small and set too close together and, with a somewhat receding chin, marred his otherwise certain claim to youthful good looks. The waist of the ship was for the moment deserted. Forward, in the heat of the tropic afternoon and the golden haze of dust that choked the air, leashes of cargo were spinning aloft and descending into the maw of the cavernous hold, where the sweating, glistening backs of a score of Malaya were laboring in a stifling atmosphere of spices, gums, and other odors redolent of the East. The Alethea lay at anchor in Singapore Roads, a couple of unwieldy tongkangs alongside of her, from which she was taking on the last of her cargo preparatory to steaming at five o'clock that afternoon to various ports of call scattered through the Dutch East Indies, and to islands beyond—mere dots of land on the map, besprinkled as though by a pepperbox over a sheet of blue. With unfailing regularity—barring the vicissitudes of wind and wave—the Alethea at intervals of three months steamed to the eastward and southward, laden with packing cases—Manchester goods, powder, firearms, cotton cloth—distributing her wares piecemeal at obscure and distant trading posts, and returning at length with a precious burden of rattans, copra and gums. Her times of advent and departure marked a period of straining activity among the lighters and tongkangs of the Orient Trading Company, a disturbance that, in turn, communicated itself ashore to the gloomy interior of the company's warehouse, the roof of which Bobby Manifested a Determination to Get Out of Singapore as Much of an Equivalent for London Life as He Could resounded as the great billows of merchandise rolled in and out; it stirred the deft Chinese clerks to increased nimbleness of movement where they sat counting and reckoning in the midst of the uproar—the babel of shouts and commands in three languages, the rumble of the vast tide of freight that swept and eddied about them. It reached even to the inner offices at the far end of the building, where in a restrained and dignified procedure the business of Babcock, Opdyke & Company was officially directed. The advent of Larry Babcock, followed by his trunk, through the surging activity of the warehouse had attracted a curious but discreet turning of heads. At the water's edge he had hired a sampan to take him out to the vessel; and Larry's trunk, plumped down on the deck by the Malay servant, caught the eye of Merrill, the chief officer, a moment later when he happened to look up from where he stood watching the transfer of the cargo. "Good Lord!" he ejaculated; and Griscom, the second officer, turned to look too. The nephew of the head of the Orient Trading Company strolled nonchalantly forward. " Here I am. Where do I stow myself ? " he demanded with chipper brevity. "Beg pardon, sir?" said Merrill. "Why, I'm Lawrence Babcock —" began the newcomer, a shade of impatience edging his tone. "Yes; I know, sir," rejoined the chief officer. "Well, I'm booked for this trip. Didn't Captain Leech tell you?" "Captain Leech is ashore, sir." "Oh, well," the youth answered indifferently; "I suppose you can have my trunk put away somewhere. I think I'll go back for a last look-in at the club." "The vessel sails at five sharp, sir." "Right-o!" agreed Larry easily. He turned away, lit a cigarette, with a sharp word galvanized into life the Malay who had been hovering beside the trunk, and strolled down the accommodation ladder. A moment later, ensconced in the stern of the sampan, he was threading his way back through the maze of shipping, Chinese junks, mail boats and Dutch freighters that choked the harbor. "Young Babcock — supercargo !" Griscom, the second officer, turned with a laugh to his superior. "I wonder how the old man likes the prospect." Merrill shrugged his shoulders. " Can't imagine the old man's actually getting lone- some for company—stand clear, there ! Easy with it !"


The_Bravest_of_the_Brave
To see the actual publication please follow the link above