The French Twins
Lucy Fitch Perkins
This PG project is dedicated to the "Twins Team" of Luana,
Miriam, and DeWayne, who all helped keep me going through thick
and thin. If anybody out there has more "Twins" books which you
would be willing to share with PG, please let me know!
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To all friends of the brave children of France
Map of the Voyage
THE FRENCH TWINS
by Lucy Fitch Perkins
I. THE CHURCH AND THE PEOPLE
II. ON THE WAY H0ME
III. THE COMING OF THE GERMANS
IV. THE RETURN OF THE FRENCH
V. AT MADAMS COUDERT'S
VI. THE BURNING OF THE CATHEDRAL
VII. HOME AGAIN
IX. THE FOREIGN LEGION
XI. A SURPRISE
XII. MORNING IN THE MEADOW
XIII. CHILDREN OF THE LEGION
I. THE CHURCH AND THE PEOPLE
The sunlight of the clear September afternoon shone across the
roofs of the City of Rheims, and fell in a yellow flood upon the
towers of the most beautiful cathedral in the world, turning them
into two shining golden pillars against the deep blue of the
The streets below were already in shadow, but the sunshine still
poured through the great rose window above the western portal,
lighting the dim interior of the church with long shafts of
brilliant reds, blues, and greens, and falling at last in a
shower of broken color upon the steps of the high altar.
Somewhere in the mysterious shadows an unseen musician touched
the keys of the great organ, and the voice of the Cathedral
throbbed through its echoing aisles in tremulous waves of sound.
Above the deep tones of the bass notes a delicate melody floated,
like a lark singing above the surf.
Though the great church seemed empty but for sound and color,
there lingered among its shadows a few persons who loved it well.
There were priests and a few worshipers. There was also Father
Varennes, the Verger, and far away in one of the small chapels
opening from the apse in the eastern end good Mother Meraut was
down upon her knees, not praying as you might suppose, but
scrubbing the stone floor. Mother Meraut was a wise woman; she
knew when to pray and when to scrub, and upon occasion did both
with equal energy to the glory of God and the service of his
Church. Today it was her task to make the little chapel clean and
sweet, for was not the Abbe coming to examine the Confirmation
Class in its catechism, and were not her own two children, Pierre
and Pierette, in the class? In time to the heart-beats of the
organ, Mother Meraut swept her brush back and forth, and it was
already near the hour for the class to assemble when at last she
set aside her scrubbing-pail, wiped her hands upon her apron, and
began to dust the chairs which had been standing outside the
arched entrance, and to place them in orderly rows within the
She had nearly completed her task, when there was a tap-tapping
upon the stone floor, and down the long aisle, leaning upon his
crutch, came Father Varennes. He stopped near the chapel and
watched her as she whisked the last chair into place and then
paused with her hands upon her hips to make a final inspection of
"Bonjour, Antoinette," said the Verger.
Mother Meraut turned her round, cheerful face toward him. "Ah, it
is you, Henri," she cried, "come, no doubt, to see if the chapel
is clean enough for the Abbe! Well, behold."
The Verger peered through the arched opening, and sniffed the
wet, soapy smell which pervaded the air. "One might even eat from
your clean floor, Antoinette," he said, smiling, "and taste
nothing worse with his food than a bit of soap. Truly the chapel
is as clean as a shriven soul."
"It's a bold bit of dirt that would try to stand out against me,"
declared Mother Meraut, with a flourish of her dust-cloth, "for
when I go after it I think to myself, 'Ah, if I but had one of
those detestable Germans by the nose, how I would grind it!' and
the very thought brings such power to my elbow that I check
myself lest I wear through the stones of the floor."
The Verger laughed, then shook his head. "Truly, Antoinette," he
said, "I believe you could seize your husband's gun if he were to
fall, and fill his place in the Army as well as you fill his
place here in the Cathedral, doing a man's work with a woman's
strength, and smiling as if it were but play! Our France can
never despair while there are women like you."
"My Jacques shall carry his own gun," said Mother Meraut,
stoutly, "and bring it home with him when the war is over, if God
wills, and may it be soon! Meanwhile I will help to keep our holy
Cathedral clean as he used to do. It is not easy work, but one
must do what one can, and surely it is better to do it with
smiles than with tears!"
The Verger nodded. "That is true," he said, "yet it is hard to
smile in the face of sorrow."
"But we must smile--though our hearts break--for France, and for
our children, lest they forget joy!" cried Mother Meraut. She
smiled as she spoke, though her lip trembled "I will you the
truth, Henri, sometimes when I think of what the Germans have
already done in Belgium, and may yet do in France, I feel my
heart breaking in my bosom. And then I say to myself, 'Courage,
Antoinette! It is our business to live bravely for the France
that is to be when this madness is over. Our armies are still
between us and the Boche. It is not time to be afraid.'"
"And I tell you, they shall not pass," cried Father Varennes,
striking his crutch angrily upon the stone floor. "The brave
soldiers of France will not permit it! Oh, if I could but carry a
gun instead of this!" He rattled his crutch despairingly as he
Mother Meraut sighed. "Though I am a woman, I too wish I might
fight the invaders," she said, "but since I may not carry a gun,
I will put all the more energy into my broom and sweep the dirt
from the Cathedral as I would sweep the Germans back to the Rhine
if I could."
"It is, indeed, the only way for women, children, and such as I,"
grieved the Verger.
"Tut, tut," answered Mother Meraut cheerfully, "it isn't given us
to choose our service. If God had wanted us to fight he would
have given us power to do it."
The Verger shook his head. "I wish I were sure of that," he said,
"for there's going to be need for all the fighting blood in
France if half one hears is true. They say now that the Germans
are already far over the French border and that our Army is
retreating before them. The roads are more than ever crowded with
refugees, and the word they bring is that the Germans have
already reached the valley of the Aisne."
"But that is at our very doors!" cried Mother Meraut. "It is
absurd, that rumor. Chicken hearts! They listen to nothing but
their fears. As for me, I will not believe it until I must. I
will trust in the Army as I do in my God and the holy Saints."
"Amen," responded the Verger devoutly.
At this moment the great western portal swung on its hinges, a
patch of light showed itself against the gloom of the interior of
the Cathedral, and the sound of footsteps and of fresh young
voices mingled with the tones of the organ.
"It's the children, bless their innocent hearts," said Mother
Meraut. "I hear the voices of my Pierre and Pierrette."
"And I of my Jean," said the Verger, starting hastily down the
aisle. "The little magpies forget they must be quiet in the House
of God!" He shook his finger at them and laid it warningly upon
his lips. The noise instantly subsided, and it was a silent and
demure little company that tiptoed up the aisle, bent the knee
before the altar, and then filed past Mother Meraut into the
chapel which she had made so clean.
Pierre and Pierrette led the procession, and Mother Meraut beamed
with pride as they blew her a kiss in passing. They were children
that any mother might be proud of. Pierrette had black, curling
hair and blue eyes with long black lashes, and Pierre was a
straight, tall, and manly-looking boy. The Twins were nine years
Mother Meraut knew many of the children in the Confirmation
Class, for they were all schoolmates and companions of Pierre and
Pierrette. There was Paul, the sore of the inn-keeper, with
Marie, his sister. There was Victor, whose father rang the
Cathedral chimes. There were David and Genevieve, and Madeleine
and Virginie and Etienne, and last of all there was jean, the
Verger's son--little Jean, the youngest in the class. Mother
Meraut nodded to them all as they passed.
Promptly on the first stroke of the hour the Abbe appeared in the
north transept of the Cathedral and made his way with quick,
decided steps toward the chapel. He was a young man with thick
dark hair almost concealed beneath his black three-cornered cap,
and as he walked, his long black soutane swung about him in
vigorous folds. When he appeared in the door of the chapel the
class rose politely to greet him. "Bonjour, my children," said
the Abbe, and then, turning his back upon them, bowed before the
crucifix upon the chapel altar.
Mother Meraut and the Verger slipped quietly away to their work
in other portions of the church, and the examination began. First
the Abby asked the children to recite the Lord's Prayer, the
Creed, and the Ten Commandments in unison, and when they had done
this without a mistake, he said "Bravo! Now I wonder if you can
each do as well alone? Let me see, I will call upon--" He paused
and looked about as if he were searching for the child who was
most likely to do it well.
Three girls--Genevieve, Virginie, and Pierrette--raised their
hands and waved them frantically in the air, but, curiously
enough, the Abbe did not seem to see them. Instead his glance
fell upon Pierre, who was gazing thoughtfully at the vaulted
ceiling and hoping with all his heart that the Abbe would not
call upon him. "Pierre!" he said, and any one looking at him very
closely might have seen a twinkle in his eye as Pierre withdrew
his gaze from the ceiling and struggled reluctantly to his feet.
"You may recite the Ten Commandments."
Pierre began quite glibly, "Thou shalt have no other gods before
me," and went on, with only two mistakes and one long wait, until
he had reached the fifth. "Thou shalt not kill," he recited, and
then to save his life he could not think what came next. He gazed
imploringly at the ceiling again, and at the high stained-glass
window, but they told him nothing. He kicked backward gently,
hoping that Pierrette, who sat next, would prompt him, but she
too failed to respond. "I'll ask a question," thought Pierre des
perately, "and while the Abbe is answering maybe it will come to
me." Aloud he said: "If you please, your reverence, I don't
understand about that commandment. It says, 'Thou shalt not
kill,' and yet our soldiers have gone to war on purpose to kill
Germans, and the priests blessed them as they marched away!"
This was indeed a question! The class gasped with astonishment at
Pierre's boldness in asking it. The Abbe paused a moment before
answering. Then he said, "If you, Pierre, were to shoot a man in
the street in order to take his purse, would that be wrong?"
"Yes," answered the whole class.
"Very well," said the Abbe, "so it would. But if you should see a
murderer attack your mother or your sister, and you should kill
him before he could carry out his wicked purpose, would that be
just the same thing?"
"No," wavered the class, a little doubtfully.
"If instead of defending your mother or sister you were simply to
stand aside and let the murderer kill them both, you would really
be helping the murderer, would you not? It is like that today in
France. An enemy is upon us who seeks to kill us so that he may
rob us of our beautiful home land. God sees our hearts. He knows
that the soldiers of France go forth not to kill Germans but to
save France! not wantonly to take life, but because it is the
only way to save lives for which they themselves are ready to
die. Ah, my children, it is one thing to kill as a murderer
kills; it is quite another to be willing to die that others may
live! Our Blessed Lord--"
The Abbe lifted his hand to make the sign of the Cross--but it
was stayed in mid-air. The sentence he had begun was never
finished, for at that moment the great bell in the Cathedral
tower began to ring. It was not the clock striking the hour; it
was not the chimes calling the people to prayer. Instead, it was
the terrible sound of the alarm bell ringing out a warning to the
people of Rheims that the Germans were at their doors.
Wide-eyed with terror, the children sprang from their seats, but
the Abbe, with hand uplifted, blocked the entrance and commanded
them to stay where they were.
"Let no one leave the Cathedral," he cried.
At this instant Mother Meraut appeared upon the threshold
searching for her children, and behind her, coming as fast as his
lameness would permit, came the Verger. The Abbe turned to them.
"I leave these children all in your care," he said. "Stay with
them until I return."
And without another word he disappeared in the shadows.
Mother Meraut sat down on one of the chairs she had dusted so
carefully, and gathered the frightened children about her as a
hen gathers her chickens under her wing. "There, now," she said
cheerfully, as she wiped their tears upon the corner of her
apron, "let's save our tears until we really know what we have to
cry for. There never yet was misery that couldn't be made worse
by crying, anyway. The boys will be brave, of course, whatever
happens. And the girls--surely they will remember that it was a
girl who once saved France, and meet misfortune bravely, like our
blessed Saint Jeanne d'Arc."
The Cathedral organ had ceased to fill the great edifice with
sweet and inspiring sounds. Instead, there now was only the
muffled tread of marching feet, the rumble of heavy wheels, and
the low, ominous beating of drums to break the stillness.
Mother Meraut and the children waited obediently in the chapel,
scarcely breathing in their suspense, while Father Varennes went
tap-tapping up and down the aisles eagerly watching for the Abbe
to reappear. At last he came. Mother Meraut, the Verger, and the
children all crowded about him, waiting breathlessly for him to
The Abbe was pale, but his voice was firm. "I have been to the
north tower," he said, "and there I could see for miles in every
direction. Far away to the east and north are massed the hordes
of the German Army; they are coming toward Rheims as a thunder-
cloud comes rolling over the sky. Between us and them is our
Army, but alas, their faces are turned this way. They are
retreating before the German hosts! Already French troops are
marching through Rheims; already the streets are filled with
people who are fleeing from their homes for fear of the Boche.
Unless God sends a miracle, our City is indeed doomed, for a time
at least, to wear the German yoke."
He paused, and the children burst into wild weeping. Mother
Meraut hushed them with comforting words. "Do not cry, my
darlings," she said. "God is not dead, and we shall yet live to
see justice done and our dear land restored to us. The soldiers
now in the streets are all our own brave defenders. We shall be
able to go in safety, even though in sorrow, to our homes."
"Come," said the Abbe, "there is no time to lose. Our Army will,
without doubt, make a stand on the plains west of the City, and
it will not be long before the Germans pass through. You must go
to your homes as fast as possible. Henri, you remain here with
your Jean, that you may meet any of the parents who come for
their children. Tell them I have gone with them myself and will
deliver each child safely at his own door."
"I can take cart of my own," said Mother Meraut. "You need have
no fear for us."
"Very well," said the Abbe, and, calling the rest of the children
about him, he marched them down the aisle and out into the
Mother Meraut followed with Pierre and Pierrette. At the door
they paused and stood for a moment under the great sculptured
arches to survey the scene before them. The great square before
the Cathedral was filled with people, some weeping, others
standing about as if dazed by sorrow. Between the silent crowds
which lined the sidewalks passed the soldiers, grim and with set
faces, keeping time to the throbbing of the drums as they
marched. Above the scene, in the center of the square, towered
the beautiful statue of Jeanne d'Arc, mounted upon her charger
and lifting her sword toward the sky.
"Ah," murmured Mother Meraut to herself, "our blessed Maid still
keeps guard above the City!" She lifted her clasped hands toward
the statue. "Blessed Saint Jeanne," she prayed, "hear us in
Paradise, and come once more to save our beautiful France!"
Then, waving a farewell to the Verger and Jean, who had followed
them to the door, she took her children by the hand and plunged
with them into the sad and silent crowd.
II. ON THE WAY HOME
For some time after leaving the Cathedral, Mother Meraut and the
Twins lingered in the streets, forgetful of everything but the
retreating Army and the coming invasion. Everywhere there were
crowds surging to and fro. Some were hastening to close their
places of business and put up their shutters before the Germans
should arrive. Some were hurrying through the streets carrying
babies and bundles. Others were wheeling their few belongings
upon barrows or in baby-carriages. Still others flew by on
bicycles with packages of clothing fastened to the handle-bars;
and there were many automobiles loaded to the brim with household
goods and fleeing families.
Doors were flung open and left swinging on their hinges as people
escaped, scarcely looking behind them as they fled. These were
refugees from Rheims itself. There were many others wearily
plodding through the City, people who had come from Belgium and
the border towns of France. Some who had come from farms drove
pitiful cattle before them, and some journeyed in farm wagons,
with babies and old people, chickens, dogs, and household goods
mixed in a heap upon beds of straw. In all the City there was not
a cheerful sight, and everywhere, above all other sounds, were
heard the rumble of wheels, the sharp clap-clap of horses' hoofs
upon the pavement, and the steady beat of marching feet.
At last, weary and heartsick, the three wanderers turned into a
side street and stepped into a little shop where food was sold.
"We must have some supper," said Mother Meraut to the Twins,
"Germans or no Germans! One cannot carry a stout heart above an
empty stomach! And if it is to be our last meal in French Rheims,
let us at least make it a good one!" Though there was a catch in
her voice, she smiled almost gaily as she spoke. "Who knows?" she
went on. "Perhaps after to-morrow we shall be able to get nothing
but sauerkraut and sausage!"
The shop was not far from the little home of the Merauts, and
they often bought things of stout Madame Coudert, whose round
face with its round spectacles rose above the counter like a full
moon from behind a cloud. "Ah, mon amie," said Mother Meraut as
she entered the shop, "it is good to see you sitting in your
place and not running away like a hare before the hounds!"
Madame Coudert shrugged her shoulders. "But of what use is it to
run when one has no place to run to?" she demanded. "As for me, I
stay by the shop and die at least respectably among my own cakes
and pies. To run through the country and die at last in a ditch--
it would not suit me at all!"
"Bravo," cried Mother Meraut triumphantly. "Just my own idea! My
children and I will remain in our home and take what comes,
rather than leap from the frying-pan into the fire as so many are
doing. If every one runs away, there will be no Rheims at all."
Then to Pierre and Pierrette she said "Choose, each of you. What
shall we buy for our supper?"
Pierre pointed a grimy finger at a small cake with pink frosting.
"That," he said briefly.
His mother smiled. "Ah, Pierre, that sweet-tooth of yours!" she
cried. "Like Marie Antoinette you think if one lacks bread one
may eat cakes! And now it is Pierrette's turn; only be quick, ma
mie, for it is already late."
"Eggs," said Pierrette promptly, "for one of your savory omelets,
mamma, and a bit of cheese."
The purchases were quickly made, and, having said good-night to
Madame Coudert, they hurried on to the little house in the Rue
Charly where they lived. When they reached home, it was already
quite dark. Mother Meraut hastened up the steps and unlocked the
door, and in less time than it takes to tell it her bonnet was
off, the fire was burning, and the omelet was cooking on the
Pierrette set the table. "I'm going to place father's chair too,"
she said to her mother. "He is no doubt thinking of us as we are
of him, and it will make him stem nearer."
Mother Meraut nodded her head without speaking, and wiped her
eyes on her apron as she slid the omelet on to a hot plate. Then
she seated herself opposite the empty chair and with a steady
voice prayed for a blessing upon the food and upon the Armies of
When they had finished supper, cleared it away, and put the
kitchen in order, Mother Meraut pointed to the clock. "Voila!"
she cried, "hours past your bedtime, and here you are still
flapping about like two young owls! To bed with you as fast as
you can go."
"But, Mother," began Pierre.
"Not a single 'but,'" answered his Mother, wagging her finger at
The children knew protest was useless, and in a few minutes they
were snugly tucked away. Long after they were both sound asleep,
their Mother sat with her head bowed upon the table, listening,
listening to the distant sound of marching feet. At last, worn
out with grief and anxiety, shat too undressed, said her rosary,
and, after a long look at her sleeping children, blew out the
candle and crept into bed beside Pierrette.
Silence and darkness settled down upon the little household, and,
for a time at least, their sorrows were forgotten in the blessed
oblivion of sleep.
III. THE COMING OF THE GERMANS
When the Twins opened their eyes the next morning, the first
thing they saw was the sun shining in at the eastern window of
the kitchen, and Mother Meraut bending over the fire. There was a
smell of chocolate in the air, and on the table there were rolls
and butter. Pierre yawned and rubbed his eyes. Pierrette sat up
and tried to think what it was she was so unhappy about; sleep
had, for the time being, swept the terrors of the night quite out
of her mind. In an instant more the fearful truth rolled over her
like a wave, and she sank back upon the pillow with a little
Her Mother heard and understood. She too had waked from sleep to
sorrow, but she only cried out cheerfully, "Bonjour, my sleepy
heads! Last night you did not want to go to your beds at all.
This morning you wish not to leave them! Hop into your clothes as
fast as you can, or we shall be late."
"Late where?" asked Pierre.
"To my work at the Cathedral, to be sure," answered Mother Meraut
promptly. "Where else? Did you think the Germans would make me
sit at home and cry for terror while my work waits? Whoever rules
in Rheims, the Cathedral still stands and must be kept clean."
It was wonderful how the dismal world brightened to Pierre and
Pierrette as they heard their Mother's brave voice. They flew out
of bed at once and were dressed in a twinkling.
While they ate their breakfast, Pierre thought of a plan. "We
ought to take a lot of food with us to-day," he said to his
Mother. "There's no telling what may happen before night. Maybe
we can't get home at all and shall have to sleep in the
"Oh," shuddered Pierrette, "among all those tombs?"
"There are worse places where one might sleep," said the Mother.
"The dead are less to be feared than the living, and the
Cathedral is the safest place in Rheims." She brought out a
wicker basket and began to pack it with food as she talked. First
she put in two pots of jam. "There," said she, "that's the jam
Grandmother made from her gooseberries at the farm."
She paused, struck by a new alarm. Her father and mother lived in
a tiny village far west of Rheims. What if the Germans should
succeed in getting so far as that? What would become of them? She
shut her fears in her breast, saying nothing to the children, and
went on filling the basket. "Here is a bit of cheese left from
last night. I'll put that in, and a pat of butter," she said;
"but we must stop at Madame Coudert's for more bread. You two
little pigs have eaten every scrap there was in the house."
"There are eggs left," suggested Pierrette.
"So there are, ma mie," said her Mother. "We will boil them all
and take them with us. There's a great deal of nourishment in
eggs." She flew to get the saucepan, and while the eggs bubbled
and boiled on the stove, she and the children set the little
kitchen in order and got themselves ready for the street.
It was after nine o'clock when at last Mother Meraut took the
basket on her arm and gave Pierrette her knitting to carry, and
the three started down the steps.
"Everything looks just the same as it did yesterday," said
Pierrette as they walked down the street. "There's that little
raveled-out dog that always barks at Pierre, and there's Madame
Coudert's cat asleep on the railing, just as she always is."
"Yes," said Mother Meraut, with a sigh, "the cats and dogs are
the same, it is only the people who are different!"
They entered the shop and exchanged greetings with Madame
Coudert. They had bought a long loaf of bread, and Mother Mcraut
was just opening her purse to pay for it, when suddenly a shot
rang out. It was followed by the rattle of falling tiles. Another
and another came, and soon there was a perfect rain of shot and
"It is the Germans knocking at the door of Rheims before they
enter," remarked Madame Coudert with grim humor. "I did not
expect so much politeness!"
Mother Meraut did not reply. For once her cheerful tongue found
nothing comforting to say. Pierre clung to her arm, and Pierrette
put her fingers in her ears and hid her face against her Mother's
For some time the deafening sounds continued. From the window
they could see people running for shelter in every direction. A
man came dashing down the street; dodging falling tiles as he
ran, and burst into Madame Coudert's shop. He had just come from
the Rue Colbert and had news to tell. "The Boches have sent an
emissary to the Mayor to demand huge supplies of provisions from
the City, and a great sum of money besides," he told them, as he
gasped for breath. "They are shelling the champagne cellars and
the public buildings of the City to scare us into giving them
what they demand. The German Army will soon be here."
In a few moments there was a lull in the roar of the guns, and
then in the distance another sound was heard. It was a mighty
song of triumph as the conquerors came marching into Rheims!
"There won't be any more shooting for a while anyway," said the
stranger, who had now recovered his breath. "They won't shell the
City while it's full of their own men. I'm going to see them come
All Pierre's fears vanished in an instant. "Come on," he cried,
wild with excitement; "let us go too."
"I'll not stir a foot from my shop," said Madame Coudert firmly.
"I don't want to see the Germans, and if they want to see me,
they can come where I am."
But Pierre had not waited for a reply, from her or any one else.
He was already running up the street.
"Catch him, catch him," gasped Mother Meraut.
Pierrette dashed after Pierre, and as she could run like the
wind, she soon caught up with him and seized him by the skirt of
his blouse. "Stop! stop!" she screamed. "Mother doesn't want you
But she might as well have tried to argue with a hurricane.
Pierre danced up and down with rage, as Pierrette braced herself,
and firmly anchored him by his blouse. "Leggo, leggo!" he
shrieked. "I'm going, I tell you! I'm not afraid of any Germans
Just then, panting and breathless, Mother Meraut arrived upon the
scene. While Pierrette held on to his blouse, she attached
herself to his left ear. It had a very calming effect upon
Pierre. He stopped tugging to get away lest he lose his ear.
"Foolish boy," said his Mother, "see how much trouble you give
me! You shall see the Germans, but you shall not run away from
me. If we should get separated, God only knows whether we should
ever find each other again."
The music had grown louder and louder, and was now very near.
"I'll stay with you, if you'll only go," pleaded Pierre, "but you
aren't even moving."
"Come, Pierrette," said his Mother, "take hold of his left arm. I
will attend to his right; he might forget again. What he really
needs is a bit and bridle!"
The three moved up the street, Pierre chafing inwardly, but
helpless in his Mother's grasp, and at the next crossing the
great spectacle burst upon them. A whole regiment of cavalry was
passing, singing at the top of their lungs, "Lieb' Vaterland,
macht ruhig sein." The sun glistened on their helmets, and the
clanking of swords and the jingling of spurs kept time with the
swelling chorus. After the cavalry came soldiers on foot--miles
"Oh," murmured Pierrette, clinging to
her Mother, "it's like a river of men!"
Her Mother did not answer. Pierrette looked up into her face. The
tears were streaming down her cheeks, but her head was proudly
erect. She looked at the other French people about them. There
were tears on many cheeks, but not a head was bowed. Pierre was
glaring at the troops and muttering through his teeth: "Just you
wait till I grow up! I'll make you pay for this, you pirates!
"Hush!" whispered Pierrette. "Suppose they should hear you!"
"I don't care if they do! I wish they would!" raged Pierre. "I'm
But the German Army was destined not to suffer the consequences
of Pierre's wrath. He did not even have a chance to tell
Pierrette his plan for their destruction, for at this point his
Mother, unable longer to endure the sight, dragged him forcibly
from the scene. "They shall not parade their colors before me,"
she said firmly, "I will not stand still and look in silence upon
my conquerors! If I could but face them with a gun, that would be
She led the children through a maze of small streets by a
roundabout way to the Cathedral, and there they were met at the
entrance by the Verger, who gazed at them with sad surprise.
"You've been out in the street during the bombardment," he said
reproachfully. "It's just like you, Antoinette."
"Oh, but how was I to know it was coming?" cried Mother Meraut.
"We left home before it began!"
"It would have been just the same if you had known," scolded the
Verger. "Germans or devils--it would make no difference to you!
You have no fear in you."
"You misjudge me," cried Mother Meraut; "but what good would it
do to sit and quake in my own house? There is no safety anywhere,
and here at least there is work to do."
"You can go about your work as usual with the noise of guns
ringing in your ears and the Germans marching through Rheims?"
exclaimed the Verger.
"Why not?" answered Mother Meraut, with spirit. "I guess our
soldiers don't knock off work every time a gun goes off or a few
Germans come in sight! It would be a shame if we could not follow
their example!" `
"Antoinette, you are a wonderful woman. I have always said so,"
declared the Verger solemnly. "You are as brave as a man!"
"Pooh!" said Mother Meraut, mockingly. "As if the men, bless
their hearts, were so much braver than women, anyway! Oh, la! la!
the conceit of you!" She wagged a derisive finger at the Verger,
and, calling the children, went to get her scrubbing-pail and
All day long, while distant guns roared, she went about her daily
tasks, keeping one spot of order and cleanliness in the midst of
the confusion, disorder, and destruction of the invaded city. The
Twins were busy, too; their Mother saw to that. They dusted
chairs and placed them in rows; and at noon they found a corner
where the light falling through one of the beautiful stained-
glass windows made a spot of cheerful color in the gloom, and
there they ate part of the lunch which they had packed in the
wicker basket. During all the excitement of the morning they had
not forgotten the lunch!
When the day's work was done, they ventured out upon the streets
in the gathering dusk. They found them full of German soldiers,
drinking, swaggering, singing, and they saw many strange and
terrifying sights in the havoc wrought by the first bombardment.
As they passed the door of Madame Coudert's shop, they peeped in
and saw her sitting stolidly behind the counter, knitting.
"Oh," said Pierrette, "doesn't it seem like a year since we were
here this morning?"
Mother Meraut called out a cheerful greeting to Madame Coudert.
"Still in your place, I see," she said.
"Like the Pyramids," came the calm answer; and, cheered by her
fortitude, they hurried on their way to the little house in the
Mother Meraut sighed with relief as she unlocked the door.
"Everything just as we left it," she said. "We at least shall
have one more night in our own home." Then she drew the children
into the shelter of the dear, familiar roof and locked the door
from the inside.
IV. THE RETURN OF THE FRENCH
One unhappy day followed upon another for the inhabitants of
Rheims. Each night they went to bed in terror; each morning they
rose to face new trials and dangers. Yet their spirit did not
fail. Each day the roar of guns toward the west grew fainter and
more distant, and the people knew with sinking hearts that the
Germans had driven the Armies of France farther and farther back
toward Paris. Each day the conduct of the conquerors grew more
arrogant. "Our Emperor will soon be in Paris!" they said.
On the public monuments and in the squares of the City appeared
German proclamations printed upon green paper, warning the people
of Rheims of terrible punishments which would befall them if they
in any way rebelled against the will of the victorious invaders.
It was only with great difficulty that Pierre could be dragged by
these signs. Each morning as they went to the Cathedral they had
to pass several of them, and Pierrette and her Mother soon
learned to take precautions against an outburst of rage which
might bring down upon his rash head the wrath of the enemy. The
eye of the Germans seemed everywhere. One of these posters was
fixed to the window of Madame Coudert's shop. On the morning that
it first appeared, Pierre in passing made a dash for the gutter,
picked up a handful of mud, and threw it squarely into the middle
of the poster.
Madame Coudert saw him, and winked solemnly, but did not move.
His Mother instantly collared Pierre, and led him up a side
street just in time to escape the clutches of a German officer
who had seen him a block away, and came on the run after him.
When, puffing and blowing, he at last reached the shop there was
no one in sight except Madame Coudert behind her counter. The
enraged officer pointed out the insult that had been offered his
Madame Coudert looked surprised and concerned. She followed the
officer to the door, and gazed at the disfigured poster. "I will
clean it at once," she said obligingly. She got out soap and a
brush immediately, and when she had finished, her work had been
so thoroughly done that not a spot of mud was left, but
unfortunately the center of the poster was rubbed through and
quite illegible, and the rest of it was all streaked and stained!
"Will that do?" she asked the officer, looking at him with round,
innocent eyes and so evident a desire to please that, in spite of
an uneasy suspicion, he merely grunted and went his way.
The first time they came into the shop after this episode Madame
Coudert gave Pierre a cake with pink frosting on it.
In this way a whole week dragged itself by, and, on the morning
of the eighth day after the German entry into Rheims, Mother
Meraut and the Twins left home earlier than usual in order to
reach the Cathedral before the bombardment, which they had
learned daily to expect, should begin. They found Madame Coudert
in front of her shop; washing the window. A large corner of the
poster was now gone. "It rained last night," she said to Mother
Meraut, "and the green color ran down on my window. I had to wash
it, and accidentally I rubbed off a corner of the poster. It
can't be very good paper." She looked solemly at Pierre. "Too
bad, isn't it?" she said, and closed one eye behind her round
"The weather seems to have damaged a good many of them, I
notice," answered Mother Meraut, with just a suspicion of a
smile. "The weather has been quite pleasant too,--strange!"
"Weather--nothing!" said Pierre, scornfully. "I'll bet you that--
It seemed as if Pierre was always being interrupted at just the
most exciting moment of his remarks, but this time he interrupted
himself. "What's that?" he said, stopping short. Madame Coudert,
his Mother, and Pierrette, all stood perfectly still, their eyes
wide, their lips parted, listening, listening! They heard cannon-
shots, then music--toward the west--coming nearer--nearer.
"It is--oh, it is the Marseillaise!" shrieked Pierrette.
Mother Meraut and the Twins ran toward the sound. Now shouts were
heard--joyous shouts--from French throats! Never had they heard
such a sound! People came tumbling out of their houses, some not
fully dressed--but who cared? The French were returning
victorious from the battle of the Marne. They were coming again
into Rheims, driving the Germans before them! Ah, but when the
red trousers actually appeared in the streets the populace went
mad with joy! They embraced the soldiers; they marched beside
them with tears streaming down their cheeks, singing "March on!
March on!" as though they would split their throats. Pierre and
Pierrette marched and sang with the others, their Mother close
On and on came the singing, joy-maddened people, right past
Madame Coudert's shop, and there, standing on the curb, with a
tray in her arms piled high with goodies, was Madame Coudert
herself. The green poster was already torn in shreds and lying in
the gutter. It even looked as if some one had stamped on it, and
above her door waved the tricolor of France! "Come here," she
cried to Pierre and Pierrette, "Quick! Hand these out to the
soldiers as long as there's one left!"
Pierre seized a pink frosted cake, and ran with it to a Captain.
Pierrette gave a sugar roll to the first soldier she could reach;
other hands helped. Mother Meraut ran into the shop and brought
out more cakes. Shop-keepers all along the way followed Madame
Coudert's example, and soon people everywhere were bringing
offerings of candy, chocolate, and cigars to the soldiers, and
the streets suddenly blossomed with blue, white, and red flags.
At the corner, near Madame Coudert's shop, Pierre had the joy of
seeing the German officer who had tried to catch him surrender to
the Captain who had taken the pink cake. Oh, what a moment that
was for Pierre! He sprang into the gutter as the German passed
and savagely jumped up and down upon the fragments of the green
poster! It was a matter for bitter regret to him long after that
the German did not seem to notice him.
The whole morning passed in such joy and excitement that it was
nearly noon when at last Mother Meraut, beaming with happiness,
and accompanied by a radiant Pierre and Pierrette, entered the
Cathedral. They were astonished to find it no longer the silent
and dim sanctuary to which they were accustomed. The Abbe' was
there, and the Verger, looking quite distracted, was directing a
group of men in moving the praying-chairs from the western end of
the Cathedral, and the space where they had been was already
covered with heaps of straw. Under the great choir at the western
end there were piles of broken glass. Part of the wonderful rose
window had been shattered by a shell, and lay in a million
fragments on the stone floor.
Mother Meraut clasped her hands in dismay. "What does it all
mean?" she demanded of the Verger, as he went tap-tapping by
after the workmen. "What do you wish me to do?"
"Gather up every fragment of glass," said the Verger briefly,
"and put them in a safe place. The wounded are on the way, and
are to be housed in the Cathedral. We must be ready for them.
There is no time to lose."
As Mother Meraut flew to carry out his directions, the Abbe'
beckoned to the children. "Can you be trusted to do an errand for
me?" he said.
"Yes, Your Reverence," answered Pierre.
"Very well," said the Abbe. "I want you to get for the towers two
Red Cross flags. They must be the largest size, and we must have
them soon. The wounded may arrive at any moment now, and the Red
Cross will protect the Cathedral from shell-fire, for not even
Germans would destroy a hospital." He gave them careful
directions, and a note for the shop-keeper. "Now run along, both
of you," he said. "Tell your Mother where you are going, and that
I sent you."
In two minutes the Twins were on their way, but it was more than
an hour before they got back. First, the shop-keeper was out, and
when he got back it took him some time to find large enough
flags. At last, however, they returned, each carrying one done up
in a paper parcel.
"Here are the flags," Pierre announced proudly to the Verger, who
met them at the entrance.
"Yes," said Father Varennes, "here they are, and here you are.
Come in, your Mother wants to see you." The children followed him
through the door, and although they had been told that the
wounded were to be brought to the Cathedral, they were not
prepared for the sight that met their eyes as they entered. On
the heaps of straw lay tossing moaning men, in the gray uniforms
of the German army.
Pierrette seized Pierre's hand. "Oh," she shuddered, "I didn't
think they'd be Germans!"
"They aren't--all of them," said the Verger, a little huskily.
"Some of them are French. The Church shelters them all."
Doctors in white aprons were already in attendance upon the
wounded, and nurses with red crosses on the sleeves of their
white uniforms flitted silently back and forth on errands of
mercy. The two children, clinging to each other and gazing
fearfully about them, followed the Verger down the aisle. As they
passed a heap of straw upon which a wounded German lay, something
bright rolled from it to them and dropped at Pierrette's feet.
Pierre sprang to pick it up. It was a German helmet. Across the
front of it were letters. Pierre spelled them--"Gott mit uns."
"What does that mean?" he asked the Verger.
"God with us," snorted Father Varennes. "I suppose the poor
wretches actually believe He is."
The Abbe' was waiting for them in the aisle, and he took from
them the flags and the helmet. He had heard the Verger's reply,
and guessed what the question must have been. "My boy," he said,
laying his hand gently upon Pierre's head for an instant, "God is
not far from any of his children. It is they who, through sin,
separate themselves from Him! But never mind theology now. Your
Mother is waiting for you. I will take you to her."
The Twins thought it strange that the Abbe' should himself guide
them to their Mother. They followed his broad back and swinging
black soutane to the farthest corner of the hospital space.
There, beside a mound of straw upon which was stretched a wounded
soldier in French uniform, knelt their Mother, and the Twins,
looking down, met the eyes of their own Father gazing up at them.
"Gently! my dears, gently!" cautioned their Mother, as the
children fell upon their knees beside her in an agony of tears.
"Don't cry! he is wounded, to be sure, but he will get well,
though he can never again fight for France. We shall see him
every day, and by and by he will be at home again with us."
Too stunned for speech, the Twins only kissed the blood-stained
hands, and then their Mother led them away. Under the western
arches she kissed them good-by. "Go now to Madame Coudert," she
said, "and tell her your Father is here, and that I shall stay in
the Cathedral. Ask her to take care of you for the night. In the
morning, if it is quiet, come again to me."
Dazed, happy, grieved, the children obeyed. They found Madame
Coudert beaming above her empty counter. "Bless you," she cried,
when they gave her their Mother's message, "of course you can
stay! There are no pink cakes for Pierre, but who cares for cakes
now that the French are once more in Rheims! And to think you
have your Father back again! Surely this is a happy day for you,
even though he came back with a wound!"
V. AT MADAME COUDERT'S
The joy of the people of Rheims was short-lived. The Germans had
been driven out, it is true, but they had gone only a short
distance to the east, and there, upon the banks of the Aisne, had
securely entrenched themselves, venting their rage upon the City
by daily bombardments. From ten until two nearly every day the
inhabitants of the stricken City for the most part sat in their
cellars listening to the whistling of shells and the crash of
falling timbers and tiles. When the noise ceased, they returned
to the light and air once more and looked about to see the extent
of the damage done. Dur ing the rest of the day they went about
their routine as usual, hoping against hope that the French
Armies, which were now between Rheims and the enemy, would be
able not only to defend the City but to drive the Germans still
farther toward the Rhine.
When the Twins reached the Cathedral the morning after the return
of the French troops, they found their Father resting after an
operation which had removed from his leg a piece of shell, which
had nearly cost his life and would make him permanently lame.
Their Mother met them as they came in. She was pale but smiling.
"What a joy to see you!" she cried, as she pressed them to her
breast. "You may take one look at your Father and throw him a
kiss; then you must go back to Madame Coudert."
"Mayn't we stay with you and help take care of Father?" begged
"No," answered his Mother firmly, "the sights here are not for
young eyes. I can wait upon the nurses and keep things clean: My
place is here for the present, but tomorrow, if all goes well, we
will sleep once more in our own little home, if it is still
standing. In the mean time, be good children, and mind Madame
Coudert. Now run along before the shells begin to fall."
The Twins obediently trotted away, and regained the little shop
just as the clock struck ten. The day seemed long to them, for
their thoughts were with their parents, but Madame Coudert was so
cheerful herself; and kept them so busy they had no time to mope.
Pierrette helped make the little cakes, and Pierre scraped the
remains of the icing from the mixing-bowl and ate it lest any be
wasted. In some ways Pierre was a very thrifty boy. Then, too,
Madame Coudert allowed them to stand behind the counter and help
wait upon the customers. Moreover, there was Fifine, the cat, for
Pierrette to play with, and the little raveled-out dog lived only
two doors below; so they did not lack for entertainment.
The next evening their Mother called for them, as she had
promised to do, and they once more had supper and slept beneath
their own roof. For three days they followed this routine, going
with their Mother to Madame Coudert's, where they spent the day,
returning at night. On the fourth day they were again allowed to
visit the Cathedral and to see their Father. "It will do him good
to be with his children," the doctor had said, and so, while
Mother Meraut attended to her duties, Pierre and Pierrette sat on
each side of the straw bed where he lay, proud and responsible to
be left in charge of the patient.
Pierre was bursting with curiosity to know about the Battle of
the Marne. Not another boy of his acquaintance had a wounded
father, and though his opportunities for seeing his friends had
been few, he had already done a good deal of boasting; and was
pointed out by other boys on the street as a person of special
distinction. "Tell me about the battle, Father," he begged.
His Father lifted his tired eyes to a statue of Jeanne d'Arc,
which was in plain sight from where he lay. "Well, my boy," he
said after a pause, "there is much I should not wish you to know,
but this I will tell you. On the day the battle turned, the
watchword of the Army was Jeanne d'Arc. Our soldiers sprang to
the attack with her name upon their lips, and some have sworn to
me that they saw her ride before us into battle on her white
charger, carrying in her hand the very banner which you see there
upon the altar. I do not know whether or not it is true, but
certainly the victory was with us, and I for my part find it easy
to be lieve that our blessed Saint Jeanne has not forgotten
France." He raised himself a little on his elbow and pointed to a
place not far distant in the nave. "There," he said, "is the very
spot upon which she knelt while her king was being crowned here
in our Cathedral after she had driven our enemies from French
soil and had given him his throne! The happiest moments of her
life were here! What place should be revisited by her pure spirit
if not Rheims? My children, I wish you every day to pray that she
may come again to deliver France!" Exhausted by emotion and by
the effort he had made, he sank back upon the straw and closed
Pierrette took his hand. "Dear papa, she said, "every day we will
pray to her as you say, and give thanks to the Bon Dieu that your
life has been spared to us. If only your poor leg--" she stopped,
overcome by tears.
Her Father opened his eyes and smiled. "Ah, little one, what is a
leg more or less;--or a life either for that matter,--when our
France is in danger?" he said. "Is it not so, Pierre?"
Pierre gulped. "France can have all of my legs!" he cried, in a
burst of patriotism. "And when I'm big enough, I'm going to dig a
hole in the ground and put in millions of tons of dynamite and
blow up the whole of Germany! That's what I'm going to do!"
His Father's eyes twinkled. "It seems a long while to wait," he
said, "because now you are only nine, you see."
Just then their Mother came toward the little group. "Magpies!"
she cried, " it seems that you are talking my patient to death.
Run along now to Madame Coudert." At the Cathedral entrance she
kissed them, and then stood for a moment to watch them as they
hurried down the street out of sight.
VI. THE BURNING OF THE CATHEDRAL
On the evening of the 18th of September, Mother Meraut was late
in leaving the Cathedral, and it was nearly dark when she reached
Madame Coudert's door. Pierrette sat on the steps waiting for
her, with Fifine, the cat, in her arms. Madame Coudert was
knitting, as usual, and Pierre was trying to teach the little
raveled-out dog to stand on his hind legs. As their Mother
appeared, the children sprang to meet her.
"How is Father?" cried Pierrette. It was always the first
question when they saw her.
"Better," answered her Mother. " In another week or two the
doctor thinks he can be moved."
She was about to enter the shop to speak to Madame Coudert, when
the air was suddenly rent by a fearful roar of sound. She clasped
her children in her arms. "It's like thunder," she said, patting
them soothingly; "if you hear the roar you know at once that you
aren't killed. Come, we must hurry to the cellar." But before she
could take a single step in that direction there was another
"Look, oh look!" screamed Pierre, pointing to the Cathedral
towers, which were visible from where they stood; "they are
shelling the Cathedral!"
For an instant they stood as if rooted to the spot. Was it
possible the Germans would shell the place where their own
wounded lay--a place protected by the cross? They saw the
scaffolding about one of the towers burst suddenly into flames.
In another moment the fire had caught and devoured the Red Cross
flag itself and then sprang like a thing possessed to the roof.
An instant more, and that too was burning.
"Father!" screamed Pierre, and before any one could stop him or
even say a word, the boy was far up the street, running like a
deer toward the Cathedral. Pierrette was but a few steps behind
When she saw her children rushing madly into such danger, Mother
Meraut's exhausted body gave way beneath the demands of her
spirit. If Madame Coudert had not caught her, she would have sunk
down upon the step. It was only for an instant, but in that
instant the children had passed out of sight. Not stopping even
to close her door, Madame Coudert seized Mother Meraut's hand,
and together the two women ran after them. But they could not
hope to rival the speed of fleet young feet, and when they
reached the Cathedral square the flames were already roaring
upward into the very sky. The streets were crowded by this time,
and their best speed brought them to the square ten minutes after
the children had reached the burning Cathedral, and, heedless of
danger, had dashed in and to the corner where their helpless
The place was swarming with doctors and nurses working
frantically to move the wounded. The Abbe' was there, and the
Archbishop also. Already the straw had caught fire in several
places from falling brands. "Out through the north transept,"
shouted the Abbe.
Pierre and Pierrette knew well what they had come to do. For them
there was but one person in the Cathedral, and that person was
their Father. They had but one purpose--to get him out. Young as
they were, they were already well used to danger, and it scarcely
occurred to them that they were risking their lives. Certainly
they were not afraid. When they reached their Father's side, they
found him vainly struggling to rise.
"Here we are, Father," shouted Pierre: "Lean on us!" He flew to
one side; Pierrette was already struggling to lift him on the
other. As his bed was the one farthest from the spot where the
fire first appeared, the doctors and nurses had sought to rescue
those in greatest danger, and so the children for the time being
were alone in their effort to save him.
The flames were now leaping through the Cathedral aisles,
devouring the straw beds as if they were tinder. In vain Father
Meraut ordered them to leave him. For once his children refused
to obey. Somehow they got him to his feet, and he, for their
sakes making a superhuman effort, succeeded in staggering between
them, using their lithe young bodies as crutches. How they
reached the door of the north transept they never knew, but reach
it they did, before the burning flames. And there a new terror
The people of Rheims, infuriated by the long abuse which they had
suffered, stood with guns pointed at the wounded and helpless
Germans whom the doctors and nurses had succeeded in getting so
far on the way to safety. Above the roar of flames rose the roar
of angry voices. "It is the Germans who burn our Cathedral. Let
them die with it," shouted one.
Between the helpless Germans and the angry mob; facing their
guns, towered the figures of the Abby and the Archbishop! "If you
kill them, you must first kill us," cried the Archbishop. Kill
the Archbishop and the Abbe'! Unthinkable! The guns were
immediately lowered, and the work of rescue went on.
Out of the north door crept Father Meraut, supported by his brave
children. "Bravo! Bravo!" shouted the crowd, and then hands that
would have killed Germans willingly, were stretched in instant
sympathy and helpfulness to the wounded French soldier and his
brave children. Two men made a chair of their arms, and Father
Meraut was carried in safety to the square before the Cathedral,
Pierre and Pierrette following close behind. At the foot of the
statue of Jeanne d'Arc they stopped to rest and change hands, and
there, frantic with joy, Mother Meraut found them.
"A soldier of France--wounded at the Marne!" shouted the crowd,
and if he had been able to endure it, they would have borne him
upon their grateful shoulders. As it was, he was carried in no
less grateful arms clear to Madame Coudert's door, and there,
lying upon an improvised stretcher, and attended by his wife and
children, he rested from his journey, while Madame Coudert ran to
prepare a cup of coffee for a stimulant. From Madame Coudert's
door they watched the further destruction of the beautiful
Cathedral which Mother Meraut had so often called the "safest
place in Rheims." As it burned, a wonderful thing happened. High
above the glowing roof there suddenly flamed the blue fleur-de-
lis of France!
"See! See! " cried Mother Meraut. "A Miracle! The Lily of France!
Oh, surely it is a sign sent by the Bon Dieu to keep us from
"It is only the gas from an exploding shell, bursting in blue
flame," said her husband. "Yet--who knows?--it may also be a true
promise that France shall rise in beauty from its ruins."
VII. HOME AGAIN
The next day, they were able to move Father Meraut to his own
home. In spite of the excitement and strain, he seemed but little
the worse for his experience, and the happiness of being again
with his family quite offset the effect of his dangerous journey.
Mother Meraut was a famous nurse, and when he was safely
installed in a bed in a corner of the room which was their living-
room and kitchen in one, she was able to give him her best care.
There he lay, following her with his eyes as she made good things
for him to eat or carried on the regular activities of her home.
Pierre and Pierrette sat beside his bed and talked to him, or,
better still, got him to tell them stories of the things that had
happened during his brief stay in the Army. Pierre brought the
little raveled-out dog, with which he was now on the friendliest
terms, to see him, and Madame Coudert also came to call now and
then, bringing a cake or some other dainty to the invalid.
If only the Germans had gone from their trenches on the Aisne,
they and every one else in Rheims would have been quite
comfortable, but alas! this was not to be. The Germans stayed
where they were, and each day sent a new rain of shells upon the
unfortunate City. The inhabitants grew accustomed to it, as one
grows used to thundershowers in April. "Hello! it's beginning to
sprinkle," they would say when a shell burst, spattering mud and
dirt upon the passers-by. Signs appeared upon the street, "Safe
Cellars Here," and when the bombardment began, people would dash
for the nearest shelter and wait until the storm was over.
Pierre and Pierrette played out of doors every day, though they
did not go far from their home, and had no one but each other to
play with. Pierrette made a play-house in one corner of the
court. Here in a little box she kept a store of broken dishes,
and here she sat long hours with her doll Jacqueline. Sometimes
Pierre, having no better occupation, played with her. He even
took a gingerly interest in Jacqueline, although he would not for
the world have let any of the boys know of such a weakness.
When the shells began to fall, they would leave their corner and
run quickly to the cellar. As Father Meraut could not go up or
down, his wife stayed in the kitchen beside him. In this way
several weary weeks went by. Mother Meraut went no more to the
Cathedral. There was nothing there that she could do. The great,
beautiful church which had been the very soul of Rheims and the
pride of France was now nothing but a ruined shell, its wonderful
windows broken, its roof gone, its very walls of stone so burned
that they crumbled to pieces at a touch. Even the great bronze
bells had been melted in the flames and had fallen in molten
drops, like tears of grief, into the wreckage below. All the
beautiful treasures--the tapestries, wrought by the hands of
queens, and even the sacred banner of Jeanne d'Arc itself--had
Mother Meraut knew, but she did not tell her children, that
precious lives had also been lost, and that buried somewhere in
the ruins were the bodies of doctors and nurses who had given
their own in trying to save the lives of others, and of brave
citizens of Rheims who had fallen in an attempt to save the
precious relics carefully treasured there. Neither did she tell
them that little Jean, the Verger's son, was one of that heroic
band. These sorrows she bore in her own breast, but she never
passed near the Cathedral after that terrible night. Sometimes,
when a necessary errand took her to that part of the City, she
would pause at a distance to look long at the statue of Jeanne
d'Arc, standing unharmed in the midst of the destruction about
her still lifting her sword to the sky. In all the rain of shells
which had fallen upon the City not one had yet touched the
statue. Only the tip of the sword had been broken off. It
comforted Mother Meraut to see it standing so strangely safe in
the midst of such desolation. "It stands," she thought, " even as
her pure spirit stood safe amidst the flames of her martyrdom.
But I cannot, like her, pray for my enemies while I burn in the
fires they have kindled."
There was yet another burden which she carried safely hidden in
her heart. She had not heard from her father and mother since the
Battle of the Marne. That the Germans had passed through the
village where they lived she knew, but what destruction they had
wrought she could only guess. It was impossible for her at that
time to go to them; so she waited in silence, hoping that some
time good news might come. The slow weeks lengthened into months,
and at last Father Meraut was strong enough to get about on a
crutch like Father Varennes. It was a great day when first he was
able to hobble down the steps and out upon the street, leaning on
Mother Meraut's arm on one side, and his crutch upon the other,
with Pierre and Pierrette marching before him like a guard of
It was now cold weather; winter had set in, and life became more
difficult as food grew scarce and there was not enough fuel to
heat the houses. School should have begun in October, but school-
buildings had not been spared in the bombardment, and it was
dangerous to permit children to stay in them. At last, however, a
new way was found to cheat the enemy of its prey. Schools were
opened in the great champagne cellars of Rheims, and Pierre and
Pierrette were among the first scholars enrolled. Every day after
that they hastened through the streets before the usual hour of
the bombardment, went down into one of the great tunnels cut in
chalk, and there, in rooms deep underground, carried on their
studies. It was a strange school, but it was safer than their
home, even though there was danger in going back and forth in the
streets. By spring the children of Rheims had lived so much in
cellars that they were as pale as potato-sprouts.
Mother Meraut watched her two with deepening anxiety. Then, one
day in the spring, a corner of their own roof was blown off by a
shell. No one was hurt, but when a few moments later a second
explosion blew a cat through the hole and dropped it into the
soup, Mother Meraut's endurance gave way.
It was the last straw! She put the cat out, yowling but unharmed,
and silently cleared away the debris. Then, when the bombardment
was over, she put on her bonnet and went out. She came back an
hour later, to find the Twins sitting, one on each side of their
Father, holding his hands, and all three the picture of despair.
Mother Meraut stood before them, her eyes flashing, her cheeks
burning a deep red, and this is what she said: "I will not live
like this another day. Life in Rheims is no longer possible. I
will not stay here to be killed by inches. I have made
arrangements to get a little row-boat, and to-morrow morning we
will take such things as we can carry and leave this place.
Whatever may happen to us elsewhere, it cannot be worse than what
is happening here, and it may possibly be better."
Her husband and children looked at her in amazement. She did not
ask their opin- ion about the matter, but promptly began the
necessary preparations and told them what to do. Clothing was
brought to Father Meraut to be packed in compact bundles and tied
up with string. Then blankets were made into another bundle; a
third held a frying-pan, a coffee-pot, and a kettle, with a few
knives, forks, and spoons, while a fourth contained food. The
Twins were sent to say good-by to Madame Coudert, and to give her
a key to the door, and then all the rest of their household goods
were packed away as carefully as time permitted, in the cellar.
Mother Meraut put the Twins to bed early, but she herself
remained at work most of the night; yet when morning came and the
children woke, she was up and neatly dressed, and had their
breakfast ready. She did not linger over their sad departure, nor
did she shed a tear as they left the little house which had been
their happy home. Instead, she locked the door after them with a
snap, put the key in her pocket, and walked down the steps with
the grim determination of a soldier going into battle, carrying a
big bundle under each arm.
The Twins and their Father followed the resolute figure of Mother
Meraut down the street, not. knowing at all where she was leading
them, but with implicit confidence that she knew what she was
about. She was carrying the heaviest bundles, and the Twins
carried the rest between them, packed in a clothes-basket. On her
other arm Pierrette bore her dearly loved Jacqueline. Father
Meraut could carry nothing but such small articles as could be
put in his pockets, but it was joy enough that he could carry
himself, and it was quite wonderful to see how speedily he got
over the ground with his crutch.
Not far from their house in the Rue Charly ran the River Vesle,
which flows through Rheims, and as the Merauts knew well a man
whose business it was to let boats to pleasure parties in summer,
the children were not surprised to see their Mother walk down the
street toward the little wharf where his boats were kept. He was
waiting to receive them, and, drawn up to the water's edge was a
red and white row-boat, with the name "The Ark" painted upon her
prow. Mother Meraut smiled when she saw the name. "If we only had
the animals to go in two by two, we should be just like Noah and
his family, shouldn't we?" she said, as she put the bundles in
In a few moments they were all seated in the boat, with their few
belongings carefully balanced, and Jacqueline safely reposing in
Pierrette's lap. The boatman pushed them away from the pier. "Au
revoir," called Mother Meraut as the boat slid into the stream.
"We will come back again when the Germans are gone, and in some
way I shall have a chance to send your boat to you, I know.
Meanwhile we will take good care of it."
"There will be few pleasure-seekers on the Vesle this summer,"
answered the boat-man, "and the Ark will be safer with you than
rotting at the pier, let alone the chance of its being blown up
by a shell. I'm glad you've got her, and glad you are going away
from Rheims. It will be easy pulling, for you're going down-
stream, and about all you'll have to do is to keep her headed
right. Au revoir, and good luck." He stood on the pier looking
after them and waving his hat until they were well out in the
middle of the stream.
Father Meraut had the oars, and, as his arms had not been
injured, he was able to guide the boat without fatigue, and soon
the current had carried them through the City and out into the
open country which lay beyond. Mother Meraut sat in the prow,
looking back toward the Cathedral she had so loved, until the
blackened towers were hidden from view by trees along the
riverbank. They had started early in order to be well out of
Rheims before the daily bombardment should begin.
Spring was already in the air, and as they drifted along they
heard the skylarks singing in the fields. The trees were turning
green, and there were blossoms on the apple trees. The wild
flowers along the riverbank were already humming with bees, and
the whole scene seemed so peaceful and quiet after all they had
endured in Rheims, that even the shell-holes left in the fields
which had been fought over in the autumn and the crosses marking
the graves of fallen soldiers did not sadden them.
Mother Meraut sat for a long time silent, then heaved a deep sigh
of relief. "I feel like Lot's wife looking back upon Sodom and
Gomorrah," she said. Suddenly her eyes filled with tears and she
kissed her finger-tips and blew the kiss toward Rheims.
"Farewell, my beautiful City!" she cried. "It is not for your
sins we must leave you! And some happy day we shall return."
There was a report, and a puff of smoke far away over the City,
then the sound of a distant explosion. The daily bombardment had
"Your friends are firing a farewell salute," said Father Meraut.
All the morning they slipped quietly along between greening
banks, carried by the current farther and farther down-stream. At
noon they drew the boat ashore beneath some willow trees, where
they ate their lunch, and then spent an hour in such rest as they
had not had for many weary months.
It was then, and not until then, that Father Meraut ventured to
.ask his wife her plans. "My dear," he said, as he stretched
himself out in a sunny spot and put his head in Pierrette's lap,
"I have great confidence in you, and will follow you willingly
anywhere, but I should really like to know where we are going."
Mother Meraut looked at him in surprise. "Why, haven't I told
you? " she said "My mind has been so full of it I can't believe
you didn't know that we are going to my father's, if we can get
there! You know their village is on a little stream which flows
into the Aisne some distance beyond its junction with the Vesle.
We could drift down to the place where the two rivers join, and
go on from there to the little stream which flows past
Fontanelle. Then we could row up-stream to the village."
"It's as plain as day, now you tell it," answered her husband,
"and a very good plan, too."
"You see," said Mother Meraut, as she packed away the remains of
the lunch, "I haven't heard a word from them all winter. I don't
know whether they are dead or alive. I haven't said anything
about it, because you were so ill and there were so many other
worries, but this plan has been in my mind all the time. What we
shall do when we get to Fontanelle I do not know, but we shall be
no worse off than other refugees, and at any rate we shall not be
under shell-fire every day."
"If we can't find any place to stay there, why can't we go on and
on down the river, until we get clear to the sea," said Pierre
"It's just like being gypsies, isn't it?" added Pierrette.
"So far as I can see," said Mother Meraut, "we've got to go on
and on! Certainly we can't go back."
"No, we can't go back," echoed her husband, with a sigh.
All the pleasant afternoon they drifted peacefully along, and
nightfall found them in open country. It began to grow colder as
darkness came on. "We shall need all our blankets if we are to
sleep in the fields," said Mother Meraut at last. "It's time for
supper and bed, anyway. Let's go ashore."
"We'll build a fire on the bank and cook our supper there," said
"What is there, Mother, that we can cook?"
"There are eggs to fry, and potatoes to roast in the ashes," she
answered, " and coffee besides."
"I am as hungry as a wolf," said Pierrette.
"I'm as hungry as two wolves," said Pierre.
They found a landing-place, and the Ark was drawn ashore. Pierre
and Pierrette ran at once to gather sticks and leaves. These they
brought to their Father, and soon a cheerful fire flamed red
against the shadows. Then the smell of coffee floated out upon
the evening air, and the sputter of frying eggs gave further
promise to their hungry stomachs.
Before they had finished their supper the stars were winking down
at them, and over the brow of a distant hill rose a slender
crescent moon. Pierrette saw it first. "Oh," she cried, "the new
moon! And I saw it over my right shoulder, too! We are sure to
have wonderful luck this month."
Pierre shut his eyes. "Which way is it?" he cried. Pierrette
turned him carefully about so that he too might see it over his
right shoulder, and then, this ceremony completed, they washed
the dishes and helped pack the things carefully away in the
clothes-basket once more.
They slept that night under the edge of a straw-stack in the
meadow near the river, and though they were homeless wanderers
without a roof to cover them, they slept well, and awakened next
morning to the music of bird-songs instead of to the sound of
guns and the whistling of shells.
IX. THE FOREIGN LEGION
Fortunately for our pilgrims the weather remained clear and
unusually warm for the season of year, and they were able to
continue their journey the following day in comfort. That night
they slept in a cowshed, where no cows had been since the Germans
passed through so many months before, and on the morning of the
third day they reached the large market town which marked the
junction of the little river upon which the village of Fontanelle
was situated with the Aisne.
Mother Meraut was now upon familiar territory, among the scenes
of her childhood. She had often come here with her father when he
had brought a load of produce to sell in the town market. Here
they disembarked, bought a load of provisions, and once more
resumed their journey. Progress from this point on was slower
than that of previous days, for now the current was against them.
Father and Mother Meraut took turns at the oars, and they had
gone some four or five miles up the stream when they came in
sight of something quite unfamiliar to Mother Meraut. Stretching
across the level meadows beside the river, as far, as the eye
could see, were rows and rows of tents. Companies of soldiers in
French uniforms were drilling in an open field. Groups of cavalry
horses were herded in an enclosure, and everywhere there were the
activities of a great military encampment.
"It's a French training-camp," cried Father Meraut, and he waved
his cap on the end of an oar and shouted "Vive la France" at the
top of his lungs. Pierre and Pierrette waved and shouted too, and
Mother Meraut, caught by the general excitement, snatched up
Jacqueline, who had been reposing in the basket, and frantically
waved her. Some soldiers answered their signal, and shouted to
Father Meraut looked puzzled. "That's not French," he said; "I
can't understand what they say. But they have on French uniforms!
I wonder what regiment it can be. I'm going to find out."
"We're not far from Fontanelle now," said Mother Meraut; "don't
you think we'd better go on?"
"We can't get there without stopping somewhere to eat, anyway,"
said Father Meraut. "It's already eleven o'clock, and I'd rather
find out about the soldiers than eat." So they tied the Ark to a
willow tree and went ashore.
In a moment more they were in a city of soldiers, and Father
Meraut was making friends with some of the men who were lounging
near the cook-house, sniffing the savory smell of soup which
issued from it in appetizing gusts. Pierre and Pierrette sniffed
too, and even Mother Meraut could not help saying appreciatively,
"That cook knows how to make soup." Pierre laid his hand upon his
stomach and smacked his lips. "Pierre," said his mother,
reprovingly, "where are your manners, child?"
At that moment two soldiers were passing--one a tall, thin man,
and one much smaller. They paused and laughed, and the tall man
laid his hand on his stomach, too, and smacked his lips.
"Are you hungry, kid?" he said genially to Pierre. Pierre looked
The short man punched the tall man in the ribs. "Don't you see
he's French," he said derisively. "Did you think you were back
home in Illinois? Why don't you try some of your parley-voo on
him? You're not getting on with the language; here's your chance
for a real Parisian accent."
"Oh, g'wan," answered the tall man. "Try your own French on him!
I guess it won't kill him; he looks strong."
The short man came nearer to Pierre and shouted at him as if he
were deaf. "Avvy-voo-doo faim?"
Pierre withdrew a step nearer his mother and Pierrette. "Je ne
comprends pas!" he said politely. "Pardon."
The tall man took off his cap and rumpled his hair. "Try it
again, Jim," he said, "even if he is scared. They look to me like
refugees, and as if a good bowl of soup wouldn't strike their
insides amiss, but your French would stampede a herd of
"Try it yourself, then," said the short man, grinning.
The tall man sat down on a box at the door of the tent and
beckoned to Pierre. "I say, kid," he began, "avvy-voo-doo-fam--
fam?" He rubbed his stomach in expressive pantomime.
"Mamma," cried poor puzzled Pierre, "he asks me if I have a wife,
and rubs his stomach as if he had a stomach-ache. What does he
Mother Meraut came forward, trying hard not to laugh. "Que voulez-
vous, Messieurs?" she said politely.
The tall man was on his feet instantly with his cap in his hand.
"You see, ma'am," he began, "we're from the States-des Etats-
Unis! We've come here to fight le Boche--savez-vows? --combattre
le Boche!" He waved his arms frantically and made a motion as if
shooting with a gun.
A smile broke over Mother Meraut's face, and she held out both
hands. "Les Americains!"she cried joyfully, "des Etats-Unis, dans
l'uniforme de la France! Mais maintenant nous exterminons le
Boche!" She called Pierrette and Pierre to her side. "These are
Americans," she explained in French, "come from the United States
of America to fight with us. Shake hands with them."
The Twins obeyed shyly, and when their Father rejoined the family
a few moments later, their friendship had progressed to such an
extent that Pierre was seated on one side of the tall man and
Pierrette on the other, and they were all three studying a French
phrase-book. The short man, called Jim, was gesticulating wildly,
and talking to Mother Meraut, and she, good soul, looked so wise,
and said "Oui" and "Non," and nodded her head so intelligently to
encourage him, that he never suspected that she did not
understand one word in ten, and cast triumphant glances at the
tall man to see if he was observing his success.
At this moment a French Captain came by. The men sprang to their
feet, clicked their heels together, and saluted. Father Meraut
stiffened into military position and saluted also. The officer
returned the salute, then stopped and spoke to him. "You are a
soldier of France, I see," he said. "Where did you get your
"With Joffre, at the Marne, mon Capitaine," answered Father
Meraut, proudly. And then he told the Captain of his being
brought wounded to the Cathedral in Rheims, of its bombardment
and burning, and of his rescue by Pierre and Pierrette.
The Captain turned to the Americans and said to them in English:
"We have here three heroes of France instead of one! These
children have lived under constant fire since last September, and
they rescued their wounded father from the burning Cathedral of
Rheims at the risk of their own lives." The Americans saluted
Father Meraut, then they saluted Pierre and Pierrette, while
Mother Meraut stood by, beaming with pride.
"We will ask them to dine with us as our guests," said the
Captain, and, turning to Father Meraut, he spoke again in French.
"This is the Foreign Legion," he said. "It is made up of friends
of France, brave men of different countries who came voluntarily
to fight with us against the Boche. Here they receive special
training under French officers before going to the front. These
Americans have only just come. They do not know much French, but
they wish you to dine with them."
Ah, what a day that was for Pierre and Pierrette! Their story was
passed about from one to another, and, instead of being homeless,
wandering refugees, they found themselves suddenly treated as
distinguished guests, by real soldiers. Pierre swelled with
pride, and if he had only been able to speak their language, how
glad he would have been to tell the Americans about the return of
the French to Rheims, the green poster, Madame Coudert, and many
other things! Alas, he could only eat his soup and gaze about him
at all the activities that were going on in camp. When at last it
was time for them to go, it was with the greatest difficulty that
Pierre could be torn away from his new-found friends.
"Come again, old pal," said the tall man, slapping Pierre
cordially on the back as he said good-by. "Come again and see
your Uncle Sam! Come and bring your family!"
Pierre grinned, although he did not understand a word, shook
hands, and ran down the river-bank to join his parents and
Pierrette, who were already climbing into the boat.
"Jim" and "Uncle Sam" looked after them as the Ark swung out into
the stream. "Au revoir," shouted Pierre, waving his hand. "Vive
la France!" And back came the reply like an echo, "You bet your
life, vive la France!"
The shadows were beginning to lengthen across the valley as the
Ark rounded a bend in the stream and the little church spire of
Fontanelle came into view. "There it is--at last!" cried Mother
Meraut. "Thank God, something of the village still stands!" She
gazed eagerly into the distance. "And there is the Chateau," she
added joyfully, pointing to a large gray stone building half
hidden by a fringe of trees. "Oh, surely things are not going to
be so bad as I had feared. Hurry! hurry! It seems as though my
heart must take wings and fly before my body, now that we are so
Father Meraut bent to the oars. "I will stay with the boat while
you and the children go to the village," he said, when, a few
moments later, he found a favorable spot to land.
Mother Meraut was out of the boat almost before it was beached,
the Twins sprang out after her, and the three started up the road
to the village on a run. Groves of trees just bursting into leaf
lay between them and the one street of the little town, and it
was not until they had passed it that they could tell how much
damage had been done. The sight that met their eyes as they
entered the village was not reassuring, but, hoping against hope,
they ran on to the little house which had been Mother Meraut's
childhood home. At the threshold they paused, and the tears which
Mother Meraut had resolutely refused to shed when she had said
good-by to her own home in Rheims fell freely as she gazed upon
the ruins of the home of her parents. The house was empty, the
windows were gone, the door was wrenched from its hinges, and the
roof was open to the sky. The whole village was in much the same
condition. Every house was empty, the street deserted.
Neither Mother Meraut nor the Twins said a word. With heavy
hearts they turned from the gaping doorway and started toward the
Chateau, which lay half a mile beyond the village. Not a soul did
they meet until they arrived at the great gate which marked the
entrance to the park, and then they saw that the Chateau too had
suffered. It had been partly burned out, but as its walls were
standing and one wing looked habitable, their spirits rose a
little. At the gate a child was playing. They stopped. "Can you
tell me, ma petite," said Mother Meraut, her voice trembling,
"whether there is any one here by the name of Jamart?"
"Mais--oui," answered the child, surveying the strangers with
curiosity. "Voila!" She pointed a stubby finger toward the
Chateau, and there, just disappearing behind a corner of the
wall, was the bent figure of an old woman carrying a pail of
With a cry of joy, Mother Meraut sprang forward, and Pierre and
Pierrette for once in their lives, run as they would, could not
keep up with her. She fairly flew over the ground, and when the
Twins at last reached her side, the pail of water was spilled on
the ground, and the two women were weeping in each other's arms.
An old man now came toward them and the children flung themselves
upon him. "Grandpere! Grandpere!" they shouted, and then such
another embracing as there was!
Grand'mere kissed the Twins, and Grandpere hugged Mother Meraut,
and then, because the tears were still running down their cheeks,
Grandpere pointed to the overturned pail, and the water flowing
in little wiggling streams through the dust. "Come, dear hearts,"
he cried, "are these your tears? Weep no more, then, lest we have
a flood after our fire! This is a time to rejoice! Wipe your
eyes, my Antoinette, and tell us how you came here. It is as if
the sky had opened to let down three angels--and where, then, is
By this time a group of people had gathered about them--the
little remnant of the old prosperous village of Fontanelle. "Here
we are, you see," said Grandpere, "all that are left of us. Every
able-bodied young woman was driven away by the Germans to work in
their fields--while ours lie idle. Every able-bodied man is in
the army. There are only twenty-seven of us left--old women,
children, and myself. There you have our history."
Mother Meraut shook each old friend by the hand, looked at all
the babies and children, and proudly showed her Twins to them in
return, before she said a word about the sorrows they had endured
in Rheims, and the desperation which had at last driven them from
their home. The people listened without comment. They had all
suffered so much that there was no room left in their hearts for
new grief, but when she told them of the boat and her lame
husband they rejoiced with her that she had the happiness at
least of a united family. There was plenty of room in their
hearts for joy! "Come with us," they said. "We cannot be poorer.
Our cattle are driven away; we have no strong laborers to till
our fields, no seeds to plant in them. We live in one wing and
the outhouses of the Chateau, but hope is not yet dead, and your
hands are strong. Your husband, too, can help, and we shall be at
least no worse off for your being here."
Grand'mere spoke. "We live in the cow-stalls of the stable," said
she. "It is not so bad; there is still hay in the loft, and there
are other stalls not occupied."
Mother Meraut crossed herself. "If the Blessed Mother of Our Lord
could live in a stable," she said, "such shelter is surely good
enough for us."
Father Meraut, sitting patiently in the boat, was surprise, a
little later as he looked anxiously toward the village, to see a
crowd of people coming toward him, waving caps and hands in
salutation. Before the others ran Pierre and Pierrette, and when
they reached him they poured forth a jumble of excited words,
from which he was able to gather that Grandpere and Grand'mere
were alive and well, and that there was a place for them to stay.
He got out of the boat to greet the people, and their willing
hands took the bundles and helped hide the Ark in the bushes, and
the whole company then started back to the Chateau, Grandpere
lingering behind the others to keep pace with the slow progress
of Father Meraut.
When Grand'mere, the Twins, and their Mother reached the stable
they took their bundles from the hands of their friends, and went
in to inspect their new home. The stable had been swept and
scrubbed until it was as clean as it could be made. The large box
stall served as a bedroom for Grand'mere and Grandpere. Above
their bed of hay, covered with old blankets and quilts, was hung
a wooden crucifix. This, with two boxes for seats, was all the
furniture it contained. A few articles of clothing hung about on
nails, and in the open space before the stalls a stove was
placed, the pipe running through a pane of glass in a window near
When Grandpere and Father Meraut arrived, Mother Meraut met them
at the door. "Behold our new apartment!" she said, and she led
her husband to one of the clean stalls, where she had already
begun to set up housekeeping. The Twins were at that moment in
the loft overhead, getting hay for their beds, and Jacqueline,
exhausted by her journey, had been put to bed in the manger.
Father Meraut looked about. "This is not bad for the summer," he
said, "and who knows what good luck may come to us by fall?
Perhaps the Germans will be driven out of France by that time,
and surely we shall be able to do some planting even now."
"We have dug up the ground for gardens as best we could with the
few tools we have," said Grandpere. "The government would send us
seeds, but the roads are very bad, and we have no horses, and
supplies are hard to get even though we have money to pay for
them. The nearest town where provisions can be obtained lies six
miles below, at the mouth of the river, and it is very little one
can carry on one's back."
"Is there no way to get help from the soldiers' camp?" asked
Father Meraut. "They must get supplies."
"Yes, but they cannot of themselves at this time take care of the
civilian population," said Grandpere. "There are many villages in
the same condition, and the soldiers' business is to fight for
"True," said Father Meraut. Then he exclaimed: "I have it! The
Ark! It will indeed be our salvation as it was Father Noah's."
Grandpere looked anxiously at Mother Meraut and touched his
forehead. "He is not mad?" he asked.
She laughed. "The name of our boat is the Ark," she explained.
"We can use it to go down the river to buy provisions if there
are any to be had."
Grand'mere, who had been listening, looked cautiously about, then
felt under the straw of her bed and brought out a stocking.
"See!" she said. "I have money. The others have money too, but of
what use is money when there is nothing to buy and no place to
"We must find a place to buy things," said Mother Meraut with
decision. "Grandpere and Jacques can take the Ark and go down the
river on a voyage of discovery, and bring back the supplies that
we most need."
After supper the whole village gathered about the stable door to
hear all the news which the Meraut family had brought from the
outside world. For months they had not seen a newspaper, and
there had been no visitors in Fontanelle. And when Father Meraut
had finished telling them all the story of Rheims, of the burning
of the Cathedral, of the miraculous safety of the statue of Saint
Jeanne, of his own escape, and the final destruction of the roof
over their heads, and their flight from the city, the pressing
needs of the little village and his and Grandpere's proposed
voyage were discussed, and it was very late when at last the
people separated and the little village settled down for the
XI. A SURPRISE
The next morning the whole village was up early, and plans were
perfected for the voyage of Father Meraut and Grandpere. A long
list of necessary articles was made out, and the money for their
purchase safely hidden away in their inside pockets. They were
just about to start down the road to the river, when suddenly a
wonderful thing happened. Right through the great gate of the
Chateau rumbled a large motor truck with an American flag
fluttering from the radiator! It was driven by a strange young
woman in a smart gray uniform. Beside her on the driver's seat
sat an older woman dressed the same way and carrying in her hand
a black medicine-case.
The girl stopped her engine, climbed down to the ground, and
approached the astonished people of Fontanelle: "Bon jour," she
said, smiling. Then in excellent French she explained her errand.
"We are Americans," she said, and at that name every face smiled
back at her. "We have come to help you restore your homes.
America loves and admires the French people, and since we women
cannot fight with you, we wish at least to help in the
reconstruction of your beautiful France. Your government has
given us permission to start our work here, and has promised help
from the soldiers whose camp is near. The money we bring from
America will purchase materials, and with your labor and the help
of the soldiers we shall soon see what can be done."
For a moment after she had ceased speaking there was silence. The
people of Fontanelle were too astonished for words. So much good
fortune after all their sorrow left them stunned. It was Pierre
who first found his voice. He took off his cap, swung it in the
air and shouted, "Vive l'Amerique," at the top of his lungs, and
"Vive l'Amerique," chorused the whole village, relieved to be
able to vent their feelings in sound.
Mademoiselle laughed. "Vive la France," she answered, and then,
turning to the truck, she cried, "Come and see what we have in
our little shop on wheels. But first let me introduce to you Dr.
Miller. She is an American doctor who has come to take care of
any who may be sick."
The Doctor had already climbed down from her high seat and was
opening the back of the truck. She smiled and shook hands with
the people. "Is there not something here you wish to buy?" she
asked. "The prices are plainly marked."
Everybody now crowded about the truck, and in it,--oh, wonderful,-
-piled on the floor and hanging from the top and sides, were the
very things for which they had been longing so eagerly! There
were hoes, and shovels, and rakes, and garden seeds of all kinds.
There were bolts of cloth and woolen garments and wooden shoes,
and yarn for knitting. There were even knitting-needles! And,
best of all, there was food, food such as they had not seen in
many weary months. Ah, it was indeed marvelous what that truck
The buying began at once, and never before had any one been able
to purchase so much for a franc! Soon there was nothing left in
the truck but some bedding and other articles belonging to the
Doctor and Mademoiselle, as the people at once began to call her.
"Will you not come with me to my apartment in the stable?" said
Mother Meraut cordially to the two women. "You must be tired from
"We must first see the Commandant at the camp," said the Doctor,
"and then we shall be happy if you will find some lunch for us.
It is necessary to see at once if our houses have come."
"Your houses!" cried Pierre, so surprised that he quite forgot
his manners. "But, Madame, it is not possible that you carry your
houses with you like the snails?"
The Doctor laughed. "Not just like the snails," she said; "our
houses have been sent on ahead of us in sections, with the army
supplies, and are no doubt here in the care of the Commandant."
"Go, my Pierre, conduct them to the camp," said his Mother, "and
when you come back," she added, turning to the two women, "I will
have ready for you the best that my poor house affords." The
Doctor and Mademoiselle thanked Mother Meraut, and then,
following Pierre, started down the river road toward the camp a
mile or more away.
The next few days seemed to Pierre and Pierrette, and indeed to
all the inhabitants of Fontanelle, little less than a series of
miracles. In the first place, the Doctor and Mademoiselle had
scarcely finished the good lunch which Mother Meraut had waiting
for them on their return from camp, when a great truck, loaded
with sections of the portable houses, entered the great gate of
the Chateau. It was followed by a detachment of soldiers from the
Foreign Legion, sent by the Commandant to erect them. The
soldiers were also Americans, and Pierre and Pierrctte were
delighted to find that both "Jim" and "Uncle Sam" were among
them. Indeed Uncle Sam was in command of the squad, and when he
presented himself and his men to the Doctor and Mademoiselle, he
explained that the Commandant had detailed Americans to this
duty, as he thought that they would more easily understand what
the ladies wished to have done.
The whole place now swarmed with people working as busily as bees in a hive. By
night one house was fit to be occupied. The following night two
more had been erected, and the soldiers had laid tent floors in
all of them. The day after that six more young women in gray
came, bringing more supplies. Under the generalship of the
Doctor, Mother Meraut was installed in the carriage-house which
opened from the stable, and here she prepared meals for her
family and for all the new-comers as well. The Doctor established
a dispensary in one room of the Chateau, and Mademoiselle opened
a store in the basement, keeping there for sale a large quantity
of the supplies which had been brought by the six young women.
Father Meraut and Grandpere worked hard on the gardens, assisted
by Pierre and Pierrette and any other person in the village who
was capable of wielding a hoe. Soon people began to come in from
the neighboring hamlets, bringing their sick babies to the Doctor
for treatment. The great truck was loaded with supplies received
through the Army Service and the Red Cross, and the young women
took turns in driving the "Shop on Wheels" into other, less
favored districts, to start there work similar to that begun at
Uncle Sam and Jim came so often to the village that they were
soon on friendly terms with every one in it. They acted as
emissaries between the camp and the village, and if anything was
needed which was beyond the power of these determined women to
supply, Uncle Sam and Jim seemed always by some miracle to
accomplish it. One day the Doctor said to Jim "I wish there were
some way of getting a good cow here. These little children cannot
get rosy and strong without fresh milk, and they haven't had any
since the Germans drove away their cows."
A week later Jim appeared at the Chateau gate leading a cow!
There was a card tied to one horn. The Doctor removed it and
read, "To Dr. Miller for the little children of Fontanelle."
"It's from the Commandant," said Jim, beaming with pride.
The cow proved such a success, and the babies and young children
showed at once such improvement, that the Doctor determined that
they should have not only milk but fresh eggs, and Mademoiselle
was sent to Paris to make investigations, and, if possible, place
an order for more cows and some hens. Upon her return she
announced that a load of live-stock from southern France would
soon arrive at the nearest railroad station, five miles away.
"It's going to be a regular menagerie," said Mademoiselle, when
she told Mother Meraut about it. "There will be two more cows,
two pigs, a pair of goats, ten pairs of rabbits, and sixty
"Mercy upon us!" cried Mother Meraut. "Where in the world can we
put them all? Must we move out of our apartment to admit the
"No," laughed Mademoiselle, "we must find another way to take
care of them. The cows can stay out of doors now, and there is
grass to feed them and the goats. They can all be tethered by
ropes, if necessary, but we must find a secure place to keep the
pigs and the rabbits, and the chicken-house must be mended and
put in order for the fowls."
"But Madame Corbeille now resides in the chicken-house. What will
become of her and her children?" cried Mother Meraut.
"Easy enough," said Mademoiselle; "there is still room in your
stable, is there not? For example, there is the granary! It will
do excellently for the Corbeilles. Pierre and Pierrette will help
build the rabbit-hutch, I know, and there we are, all provided
So it was arranged, and that afternoon another family came to
live under the same roof with the Merauts. Grandpere, with his
new hammer and some nails, mended the chicken-house, and then
helped Pierre and Pierrette build enclosures for the rabbits and
pigs out of stones and rubble from the fallen walls.
At last the day came when all the creatures were to arrive, and
Mademoiselle arranged that the Twins, Mother Meraut, and four of
her own party of young women should go to the railroad station to
get them. The great truck was brought out, ropes were then thrown
in, and all the people who composed what Mademoiselle called the
"Reception Committee" climbed in and sat on the floor, while
Mademoiselle and the Doctor occupied the driver's seat. The
soldiers had done some work on the roads, so they were not as bad
as they had been earlier in the spring; but they were still bad
enough, and the people in the truck were bounced about like
kernels of corn in a popper.
"Now," said Mademoiselle, when they arrived at the station, "the
fowls and the rabbits will have to go back in the truck. That
will be easy, for they came in crates; but the cows, the goats,
and the pigs must be either led or driven."
"It sounds simple enough," said the Doctor, "but have any of you
ever known any cows or pigs? Do you know how to manage them?"
"I have an acquaintance with cows," said Mother Meraut, "but to
goats and pigs I am a stranger."
"Very well," said Mademoiselle, "Mother Meraut shall lead the way
with the cows. You, Kathleen and Louise," she said, turning to
two of the gray-uniformed girls, "you shall attend the goats.
Mary and Martha may tackle the pigs. Pierre and Pierrette will
serve excellently as short-stops in case any of our live-stock
gets away, and the Doctor and I will bring up the rear."
"It's going to be a regular circus!" said Kathleen. "I feel as if
we ought to wear spangles and be led by a band."
"We haven't any clown, though," said Martha.
"I shouldn't wonder," said Mary, "if we'd all look like clowns in
The car with the creatures in it was standing on a side track,
and the station agent, looking doubtfully at the girls, led the
way to it, and after the rabbits and fowls had been loaded into
the truck, placed a gangplank for the cows to walk down, and
opened the door of the car. But nothing happened; the cows
obstinately refused to step down the plank.
"Here's a rope," said Mademoiselle, at last, throwing one up to
the agent. "I hoped we shouldn't need it, but I guess we do."
The agent fixed the rope to the horns of one of the cows, and
threw the other end to Mademoiselle. "Now," said he, "pull gently
to begin with."
Mademoiselle, pale but valiant, pulled, quietly at first, then
harder. The cow put her head down, braced her feet and backed.
"Come on," cried Mademoiselle to the others, "we'll all have to
Any one who could get hold of it seized the rope.
"I never played 'pom pom pull away' with a cow before," quavered
Louise. "I--I--don't feel sure she knows the rules of the game!"
"She'll soon learn," said Mademoiselle, grimly. "Don't welch.
Now, then, one--two--three--pull!"
At the word, they all leaned back and pulled. The cow, yielding
suddenly, shot out of the car like a cork out of a champagne
bottle, and the girls attached to the rope went down like a row
of bricks. The rope flew out of their hands, and the cow went
careering down the track with the rope dangling wildly after her,
while the other cow, fired by her example, came bawling after.
When they found grass by the roadside they became reasonable at
once. Mother Meraut then took charge of them, and, as Kathleen
remarked, "that ended the first movement." The second began when
the goats were unloaded. Mademoiselle took no chances with them.
She got the agent to put ropes on them in the first place, and
Kathleen and Louise, cautiously advancing to the plank, held up
propitiatory offerings of grass.
"That 's right," laughed Mademoiselle, "leading citizens with
bouquets! Perhaps a speech of welcome might help. They aren't the
first old goats to be received that way."
"Hush!" implored Louise. "My knees are knocking together so I can
hardly stand up now, and suppose they should butt!"
"In the words of the immortal bard 'butt me no butts,'" murmured
Kathleen, as they reached the gang-plank.
The agent, having attached the rope and released the goats from
their moorings, stood back and gave them full access to the open
door, holding the other end of the rope firmly in his hands. "You
can take the ropes when they are safely down the plank," he cried
gallantly. "They need a man to handle them."
"Oh, thank you," said Kathleen and Louise with one voice.
The goats accepted the suggestion of the open door at once and
galloped down the gang-plank with such reckless speed that the
agent lost his footing and came coasting down after them. "Mille
tonneurs!" he exclaimed, as he reached the end of the gang-plank
and struck a bed of gravel. "Those goats are possessed of the
The Doctor was beside him in an instant. "I hope you are not
injured," she cried. "Is there anything I can do for you? I am a
"No, Madame," said the agent, bowing politely, as he got himself
on his feet again, "I am hurt only in my pride, and you have no
medicine for that!"
"Oh," cried Mademoiselle, "how brave it was of you! It's as you
say--they need a man to manage them!"
The station agent looked at the goats, who were now grazing
peacefully, attended by Kathleen and Louise, and then, a little
thoughtfully, at Mademoiselle. "It is indeed better that a man
should take these risks," he said, throwing out his chest. "And
there are still the pigs! I doubt not they are as full of demons
as the Gadarene Swine themselves!"
"What should we do without your help?" said Mademoiselle. "The
pigs cannot be roped!"
"No," said the agent sadly, "they cannot." He considered a
moment. Then he motioned to Pierre and Pierrette, who were
standing with Mary and Martha at a respectful distance. "Come
here, all of you," he said, addressing them from the top of the
gang-plank; "pigs must be taken by strategy. I am an old soldier.
I will engineer an encircling movement. Mademoiselle; will you
stand here at the left, and, Madame la Docteur, will you station
yourself at my right? The rest of you arrange yourselves in a
curved line extending westward from Madame. Then I will release
the pigs, and you, watching their movements, will head them off
if they start in the wrong direction. Voila! We will now
He went back into the car, and in another moment the pigs,
squealing vociferously, thundered down the gang-plank, gave one
look at the "encircling movement," and, wheeling about, instantly
dashed under the car and out on the other side into an open
field. It was not until they had made a complete tour of the
village, pursued by the entire personnel of the "encircling
movement" that they were at last turned into the Fontanelle road.
"This isn't--the way--this parade--was advertised!" gasped
Kathleen, as she struggled with her goat in an effort to take her
appointed place in the caravan. "The--cows--were to--go--first!"
"Never mind," answered Louise cheerfully, as she pulled her goat
into the road. "A little informality will be overlooked, I'm
Mother Meraut followed them with the cows, and last of all
Mademoiselle and the Doctor climbed into the truck and brought up
the rear of the procession, with all the roosters crowing at the
top of their lungs.
There is not time to tell of all the adventures that befell them
on the eventful journey back to Fontanelle. One can merely guess
that it must have been full of excitement, since the Reception
Committee did not reach the village with their charges until some
time after dark. Mother Meraut was worried because she was not
home in time to get a hot supper for the tired girls, but when
they arrived they found that Grand'mere had stepped into the
breach, and had made steaming hot soup for every one. Grandpere
and Father Meraut took charge of the live-stock, and Mother
Corbeille milked the cows.
As they dragged themselves wearily to bed that night, Kathleen
decorated Mademoiselle with a huge cross,--cut out of paper,--
which she pinned upon her nightgown. "For extreme gallantry," she
explained, "in leading your forces into action in face of a
fierce charge by two goats, and for taking prisoner two
rebellious pigs!" Then she saluted ceremoniously and tumbled into
XII. MORNING IN THE MEADOW
As summer came on, life seemed less and less sad to the people of
Fontanelle. With the coming of the Americans the outlook had so
changed that, although the war was not yet over, they could look
forward to the future with some degree of hope. The news brought
from Rheims by occasional refugees was always sad. The Germans
con tinued to shell the defenseless city, and the Cathedral
sustained more and more injuries, but the beautiful stained-glass
windows had been carefully taken down, the broken pieces put
together as far as possible, and the whole shipped to safer
places in France. The statue of Jeanne d'Arc within the church
had also been taken from its niche, while the one before the
Cathedral doors still remained unharmed by shot and shell.
It comforted Mother Meraut to think of that valiant figure
standing alone amid such desolation. She had other things to
comfort her as well. With food and fresh air the roses bloomed
again in the cheeks of her children. Soon, too, the gardens began
to yield early vegetables. In the morning, instead of hearing the
sound of guns, they were awakened by bird-songs, or by the
crowing of cocks and the bleating of goats. These were pleasant
sounds to the people of Fontanelle, for they brought memories of
peaceful and prosperous days, and the promise of more to come.
The rebuilding of the village was begun by the end of June, and
the sound of saws and hammers cheered them with the prospect of
comfortable homes before cold weather should come again. The work
proceeded slowly, for the workers were few, even though their
good friend the Commandant gave them all the help he could. There
were now a multitude of little chicks running about on what had
been the stately lawns of the Chateau, and there were twenty new
little rabbits in the rabbit-hutch. As the rabbits could not
forage for themselves, it was necessary for others to forage for
them, and this work fell to the lot of Pierre and Pierrette.
One summer morning one of the roosters crowed very, very early,
and the Twins, having no clock, supposed it was time for them to
get up and go for fresh leaves and roots for the rabbits, as they
did every day. They rose at once, and the sun was just peering
above the eastern horizon as they came out of the stable door.
They went to the rabbit-hutch, and the rabbits, seeing them,
stood up on their hind legs and wiggled their noses hungrily.
"Rabbits do have awful appetites," said Pierre, a little
ruefully, as he looked down at the empty food-box. "Just think
what a pile of things we brought them yesterday."
"There's nothing to do but get them more, I suppose," answered
"I know where there's just bushels and bushels of water-cress,"
said Pierre, "but it's quite a long distance off. You know the
brook that flows through the meadow between here and camp? It's
just stuffed with it, and rabbits like it better than almost
"Let's go and get some now," said Pierrette. "We can take the
clothes-basket and bring back enough to last all day."
Pierre went for the basket, and the two children started down the
road which ran beside the meadow toward the camp. It was so early
that not another soul in the village was up. Even the rooster had
gone to sleep again after his misguided crowing. One pale little
star still winked in the morning sky, but the birds were already
winging and singing, as the children, carrying the basket between
them, set forth upon their quest.
When they reached the brook, they set down the basket, took off
their wooden shoes, and, wading into the stream, began gathering
great bunches of the cress. They were so busy filling their
basket that they did not notice the sun had gone out of sight
behind a cloud-bank, and that the air was still with that strange
breathless stillness that precedes a storm. It was not until a
loud clap of thunder, accompanied by a flash of light ning,
suddenly broke the silence, that they knew the storm was upon
them. When they looked up, the meadow grasses were bend ing low
before a sudden wind, and the trees were swaying to and fro as if
in terror, against the background of an angry sky.
"Wow!" said Pierre. "I guess we're in for it! We can't possibly
get home before it breaks."
"Oh," gasped Pierrette, as another peal of thunder shook the air,
"I don't want to stay out in it. What shall we do?"
Pierre looked about him. A little distance beyond the brook,
toward the camp, there was a straw-stack with a rough straw-
thatched shed beside it, half hidden under a group of small
trees. Pierre pointed to it. "We'll leave the basket here," he
said, "and hide under the straw until the storm is over. Then we
can come back again, get it, and go home."
Another clap of thunder, louder still, sent them flying on their
way, and they did not speak again until they were under the
shelter of the shed. The first big drops fell as they reached it,
and then the storm broke in a fury of wind and water. The
children cowered against the stack itself as far as possible out
of reach of the driving rain.
They had been there but a few moments, when they heard a new
sound in addition to the roar of the wind and the patter of the
rain upon the leaves. It was the dull tread of heavy footsteps,
and they were surprised to see a man running toward the straw-
stack, his head bent to shield his face from the rain, under the
brim of an old hat. His clothes were rough and unkempt, and
altogether his appearance was so forbidding that the children
instinctively dived under the straw at the edge of the stack like
frightened mice, and burrowed backward until they were completely
hidden, though they could still peep out through the loose straw.
The man reached the shed almost before they were out of view, but
it was evident that he had not seen them, for he did not glance
in their direction. He took off his hat and shook the rain-drops
from it. Then he wiped his face and neck with a soiled
handkerchief and sat down on the edge of a bench that had once
been used for salting cattle. He sat still for a little while,
with his feet drawn up on the bench and his hands clasping his
knees, the better to escape the rain. Then he began to grow
restless. He walked back and forth and peered out into the rain
in the direction of the camp. The children were so frightened
they could hear their own hearts beat, but they had been in
danger so many times, and in so many different ways that they
kept their presence of mind, and were able to follow closely his
every move. Soon they heard the sound of more footsteps, and
suddenly there dashed under the shed a soldier in the uniform of
France. It was evident that the first man expected him, for he
showed no surprise at his coming, and the two sat down together
on the bench and began to talk.
The wind had now subsided a little, and though they spoke in low
tones the children could hear every word.
"Whew!" said the soldier as he shook his rain-coat. "Nasty
"All the better for our purposes," answered the other man.
"There's less chance of our being seen."
"Not much chance of that, anyway, so early in the morning as
this," answered the soldier, looking at his watch. "It's not yet
"Best not to linger, anyway," said the other man. "That Captain
of yours has the eyes of a hawk. I was up at camp the other day
selling cigarettes and chocolate, and he eyed me as if he was
struck with my beauty."
"I wish you'd keep away from camp," said the soldier,
impatiently. "It isn't necessary, and you might run into some one
who knew you back in Germany. There are all kinds of people in
the Foreign Legion. I tell you, it isn't safe, and besides, I can
get all the information we need without it."
"All right, General," responded the other, grinning. "But have
you _got_ it? That's the question. I expect that buzzard will be
flying around again over this field in a night or so,--the moon
is 'most full now, and the nights are light,--and I've got to be
able to signal him just how to find the powder magazine and the
other munitions. Then he can swoop right over there and drop one
of his little souvenirs where it will do the most good and fly
away home. I advise you to keep away from that section of the
"Here is the map," said the soldier, drawing a paper from his
pocket, "and there are also statistics as to the number of men
and all I can find out about plans for using them. Take good care
of it. It wouldn't be healthy to be found with it on you."
The first man pocketed the paper. "That's all, is it?" he asked.
"All for this time, anyway," answered the soldier.
The man looked at him narrowly.
"Well," said the soldier, "what's the matter? Don't I look like a
"You'd deceive the devil himself," answered the man with a short
laugh. "No one would ever think you were born in Bavaria. Don't
forget and stick up the corners of your mustache, though. That
might give you away. When do you think you can get over to see
"I don't know," answered the soldier sharply, " but I'll meet you
here day after to-morrow at the same hour. Auf Wiedersehen," and
he was gone.
After his departure, his companion lingered a moment, lit a
cigarette, looked up at the sky, and, seeing that the shower was
nearly over, strolled off in the opposite direction.
The children, looking after him, saw him come upon their basket
near the brook, examine it carefully, and then look about in
every direction as if searching for the owners. Seeing no one, he
gave it a kick and passed on. They watched him, not daring to
move until he turned toward the river and was out of sight. Later
they saw a boat come from the shelter of some bushes on the bank,
and slip quietly down the stream with the man in it.
When they dared move once more they crawled out from under the
straw, and Pierrette said, "Well, what do you think of that?"
"Think!" Pierre said, choking with wrath. "I think he's a
miserable dog of a spy! They are both spies! And they are going
to try to blow up the whole camp! You come along with me." He
seized Pierrette by the hand, and the two flew over the wet
meadow toward the distant camp.
"Whatever should we do if we met that soldier?" gasped Pierrette,
breathless with running and excitement.
"Look stupid," said Pierre promptly. "He didn't see us, and he'd
never dream we had seen him; but, by our blessed Saint Jeanne,
this is where I get even with the Germans! Let's find Jim and
Reveille was just sounding as they entered the camp and presented
themselves at the door of Uncle Sam's tent. During the weeks that
had elapsed since their arrival in France, Jim and Uncle Sam had
acquired a fair working knowledge of the language, and, though it
still remained a queer mixture of French and English, they and
the children managed to understand each other very well.
"Bonjour, kids!" cried Uncle Sam in astonishment, when he saw the
two children at the tent door. "What on earth are you doing here?
Don't you know visitors are not expected in camp at this hour?"
"Sh--sh!" said Pierre, laying his finger on his lips. "Nobody
must see us! We have important news!"
Uncle Sam sat up in bed. "Why, I believe you have," he said,
looking attentively. at their pale faces. "Just wait a minute
while I get my clothes on. Here, you--Jim," he added, poking a
recumbent figure in the adjoining cot. "Roll out! It's reveille!"
Jim sat up at once and rubbed his eyes, and, after a hurried
consultation, the two men turned the two children with their
faces to the wall in one corner of the tent, while they made a
hasty toilet in the other.
"Now, then, out with it," said Uncle Sam a few moments later.
"Que vooly-voo? What's up?"
Jim sat down beside him on the edge of the cot, and the two men
listened in amazement to the story the two children had to tell.
When they had finished, Uncle Sam wasted no words. "Come with me
to the Captain tooty sweet," he said. And Jim added, as he patted
the Twins tenderly on the head, "By George, mes enfants, you
ought to get the war cross for this day's work."
A few moments more, and the children and Uncle Sam were ushered
by an orderly into the presence of the Captain, who was just in
the act of shaving. Uncle Sam's message to him had been so
imperative that they were admitted at once to his presence, even
though his face was covered with lather and he was likely to fill
his mouth with soap if he opened it. Uncle Sam saluted, and the
Twins, wishing to be as polite as possible, saluted too. The
Captain returned the salute, and went on shaving as he listened
to their story, grunting now and then emphatically instead of
speaking, on account of the soap. When Pierre came to what the
soldier had said under the shed, he was so much interested that
he cut his chin.
"So that's their program, is it?" he sputtered, soap and all,
mopping his chin. "But how on earth did you happen to be in such
a place as that at such an hour in the morning?"
Pierre explained about the rabbits and the cress, and Uncle Sam
added: "They're from Fontanelle. Their father is a soldier
wounded at the Marne, and they lived under fire in Rheims for
eight months before coming here. They're some kids, believe me!
They know what war is."
"Yes," said the Captain, "I remember them; they came up the river
some weeks ago." Then he turned to the children. "Would you know
that soldier if you were to see him again?" he asked.
"Oh, yes," said the children.
"Very well," said the Captain, "the men will go to breakfast
soon. You stay with Sam and watch them, and if you see that man
go by you step on Sam's foot. No one must see you do it. Be sure
you don't make a mistake now," he added, "and if you really do
unearth the rascal, it's the best day's work you ever did, for
yourselves as well as for France. Sam, you report to me
afterwards, and be sure you give no occasion for suspicion to any
"Yes, sir," said Sam, and saluted. Pierre and Pierrette saluted
The Captain returned the salute with ceremony. "You are true
soldiers of France," he said to the Twins as they left his tent.
If their comrades were surprised to see Uncle Sam standing with
two children by his side while the others passed into the mess
tent with cups and plates in hand, no one said anything. It was a
little irregular to be sure--but then--Americans were always
unexpected! For a long time the men filed by, and still there was
no sign of the face they sought. At last, however, Pierre came
down solidly on Uncle Sam's right foot, and at the same time
Pierrette touched his left with her wooden shoe. There, right in
front of them, carrying his plate and cup, and twirling his
mustache, was the man they sought!
The Twins stood still, and not by the quiver of an eyelash did
they betray any excitement until the man had passed into the
tent. Then Uncle Sam said to them, "Now you scoot for home, or
your Mother will be worried to death! Tell your Father and Mother
all about it, but don't tell another soul at present." The
children flew back across the meadow, picked up their basket of
cress, and when they reached the Chateau, fed the hungry rabbits.
Then they found their Father and Mother and told them their
XIII. CHILDREN OF THE LEGION
It must not be supposed, because things were more cheerful for
the inhabitants of Fontanelle, that they had forgotten the war.
They were reminded of it every day, not only by the presence of
soldiers, but by the sound of distant guns, and by the visits of
German airplanes. Often in the middle of the night an alarm would
be given, and the people of the village would spring from their
beds and seek refuge in the cellars of the. Chateau--that is, all
but Kathleen; she obstinately refused to go, even when the Doctor
reasoned with her. "Let me die in my bed," she pleaded. "It's
better form. Our best people have always done it, and besides
when I'm waked suddenly that way I'm apt to be cross." So, when
the sound of the buzzing motor was heard in the sky, she simply
drew the covers over her head, and stayed where she was, while a
strange, half-clad procession, recruited from stables and
granary, filed into the Chateau cellar. These raids were likely
to occur on bright nights, and as the time of the full moon
approached, the people of the village grew more watchful and
slept less soundly.
On the night following the adventure of the Twins in the meadow,
though the moon shone, no aerial visitor appeared, nor did one
come the next night after. Neither did any news from camp come to
the village. Pierre and Pierrette longed to tell Mademoiselle and
the Doctor their secret, but Uncle Sam had told them to share it
with no one but their parents, and they knew obedience was the
first requisite of a good soldier; so they said nothing, and
nearly burst in consequence. They went no more to the meadow
after cress, however. Mother Meraut saw to that. If they had gone
there on the morning of the next day but one after their
encounter with the spies, they would have had a still more
thrilling expe rience, for at midnight Uncle Sam, Jim, and the
Captain had quietly stolen away from camp and hidden themselves
in the straw. There they stayed until in the gray of the early
dawn they saw a boat come up the river, and the slouching figure
of the spy stalk across the meadow to his rendez-vous under the
shed. They stayed there until the soldier appeared, and until
they had heard with their own ears the plan for signaling the
German airplane that night, and for giving information which
would en able the aviator to blow up their stores of powder and
ammunition. Then, suddenly and swiftly, at a prearranged signal,
the three men sprang from the straw, and the astonished spies
found themselves surrounded and covered by the muzzles of three
guns. They saw at once that resistance was useless, and sullenly
obeyed the Captain's order to throw up their hands. They were
then marched back to camp, turned over to the proper authorities,
and the next morning at sunrise they met the fate of all spies
who are caught.
That was not the end of the affair, however, for, knowing that
the airplane which the spy had referred to as the "Buzzard" was
to be expected that night, and that the German aviator would look
for signals from the straw-stack, plans were made for his
reception, and this part of the drama was witnessed from the
village as well as from the camp. The night was clear, and at
about eleven o'clock the whirr of a motor was heard in the
distance. The Doctor, who had returned late from a visit to a
sick patient in an adjoining village, heard it, and at once gave
the alarm. Out of their beds tumbled the sleepy people of
Fontanelle, and, wrapping themselves in blankets or any garment
they could snatch, they ran out of doors and gazed anxiously into
Pierre and Pierrette, with their parents and grandparents, were
among the first to appear. They saw the black speck sail swiftly
from the east, and hover like a bird of ill omen over the
meadows. No alarm sounded from the camp, but suddenly from the
shadows three French planes shot into the air. Two at once
engaged the enemy, while a third cut off his retreat. The battle
was soon over. There were sharp reports of guns and blinding
flashes of fire as the great machines whirled and maneuvered in
the air, and then the German, finding himself outnumbered and
with no way of escape, came to earth and was taken prisoner.
"Three of 'em bagged, by George," exclaimed Jim to Uncle Sam,
when the aviator was safely locked up in the guardhouse, "and all
due to the pluck and sense of those two kids. If it hadn't been
for them, the chances are we'd all have been ready for cold
storage by this time. They've saved the camp--that's what they've
done! There are explosives enough stored here to have blown every
one of us to Kingdom-come!"
"Right you are, Jim," replied Uncle Sam with hearty emphasis, "we
surely do owe them something, and that's a cinch. Let's talk with
That night Uncle Sam and Jim made eloquent use of all the French
they knew as they sat about the camp-fire, and told the story of
Pierre and Pierrette to their comrades in arms. Not only did they
tell of their finding the spies and saving the camp from
destruction, but of their Father, wounded at the Marne, of their
experience in the Cathedral at Rheims, and of all they had
suffered there, and especially of their plucky Mother whose
spirit no misfortune could break. And when they had finished the
tale, the men gave such a hearty cheer for the whole Meraut
family that it was heard in the village a mile away, though no
one there had the least idea what the noise was about.
The next day Uncle Sam and Jim appeared in Fontanelle and told
the story of the spies to the Doctor and Mademoiselle, and then
they held a long private conference with Mother Meraut. The
children were on pins and needles to know what they were talking
about, and why Mother Meraut looked so happy afterward, but she
only shook her head when they begged her to tell them, and said,
"Someday you'll find out."
Two days later an orderly rode into the Chateau gate on
horseback, and inquired for Pierre and Pierrette Meraut. At the
moment he arrived the Twins were feeding the rabbits, but they
came running to the gate when their Mother called them, and the
orderly handed them an envelope with their names on it in large
letters. The Twins were so excited they could hardly wait to know
what was inside. They had never before received a letter. Their
Mother opened it and read the contents to the astonished
children. This was the note:--
"The Commandant and men of the Foreign Legion request the
pleasure of the company of Pierre and Pierrette Meraut, and of
all the people of Fontanelle at a birthday party to be held at
Camp (of course the exact name of the camp has to be left out on
account of the Censor) "on July 14th at 4 o'clock in the
afternoon. R. S. V. P."
The eyes of Pierre and Pierrette almost popped out of their heads
with surprise. "Why, Mother," they cried, "that's our birthday!
And it's Bastille Day too! Do you suppose it is the birthday of
the Com- mandant also?"
"Maybe," said their Mother, smiling. "Anyway it is the birthday
of our dear France."
The orderly smiled, too, and touched his hat. "Is there an
answer?" he asked.
"There will be," said Mother Meraut, "but first the others must
The Twins ran with their wonderful letter to the dispensary and
told the Doctor. Then they found Mademoiselle, who, with
Kathleen's assistance, was putting a new tire on one wheel of the
truck. They found Louise mending a chicken-coop, and Mary and
Martha sorting supplies in the storeroom. They found all the
other people of the village, some in the garden and some working
elsewhere, and every single one said they should be delighted to
"Now," said Mademoiselle, when they returned to her and reported,
"you must write your acceptance."
The Twins looked blank. "Can't we just tell him?" they asked
anxiously. "We can't write very well--not well enough to write to
"Oh, but," said Mademoiselle, "I'm sure he will expect a letter,
and you must just write the very best you can, and it will be
good enough, I'm sure. Get writing-materials, and I will help
At her direction Pierre brought paper and ink from her little
house, and the two children sat down on the ground beside the
"Now, what shall we say?" asked Pierrette.
"I know," said Pierre; "let's say: 'Thank you for asking us to
your party. We are all coming. Amen!' Don't you think that would
Mademoiselle bent over her tire. "Yes," she said, "I think he
will like that, but I'd both sign it if I were you."
So the Twins signed it and put it in an envelope and gave it to
the orderly, who promptly put it in his pocket, saluted, wheeled
his horse, and galloped away toward camp.
The days before the party were full of excitement for the Twins.
They thought of nothing else, and how strange it was that
Bastille Day and the Commandant's birthday both should be the
same as theirs. Mother Meraut bought some cloth, and made
Pierrette a new dress, and Pierre a new blouse, to wear on the
great occasion, and when the day finally came, the children
searched the fields to find flowers for a bouquet for the
Commandant; since they had no other birthday gift to offer him.
At three o'clock in the afternoon the whole village was ready to
start. Mademoiselle drove the truck with the old people and
little children sitting in it on heaps of straw. Kathleen was the
driver of the Ford car, and had as passengers Father Meraut,
because he was lame, and Grandpere because he was Grandpere, and
the Twins because it was their birthday; and everybody else
When they reached the camp, they found Jim and Uncle Sam ready to
act as guard of honor to conduct them to the Commandant, who,
with the Captain beside him, waited to receive them beside the
flagstaff at the reviewing-stand of the parade-ground. It seemed
very strange to Pierre and Pierrette that they should walk before
their parents, and even before the Doctor and Mademoiselle, but
Uncle Sam and Jim arranged the procession, and placed them at its
head. So, carrying their bouquet of flowers, they followed
obediently where their escort led. "Now, kids," said Uncle Sam in
a low voice as they neared the reviewing-stand, "walk right up
and mind your manners. Salute and give him the bouquet, and speak
"We haven't any piece to speak," quavered Pierrette, very much
frightened, "except to wish him many happy returns of his
Uncle Sam's eyes twinkled. "That'll do all right," he said; only
of course he said it in French.
The regiment was massed before the reviewing-stand as the little
company came forward to meet their host, and when at last Pierre
and Pierrette stood before the Commandant, with the beautiful
flag of France floating over them, though they had been fearless
under shell-fire, their knees knocked together with fright, and
it was in a very small voice that they said, together, "Bonjour,
Monsieur le Commandant, accept these flowers and our best wishes
for many happy returns of your birthday."
The Commandant took the flowers and smiled down at them. "It is
not my birthday, my little ones," he said gently, "it is the
birthday of our glorious France and of two of her brave soldiers,
Pierre and Pierrette Meraut, as well, and the Foreign Legion is
here to celebrate it! Come up here beside me." He drew them up
beside him on the reviewing-stand and turned their astonished
faces toward the regiment.
"Men of the Foreign Legion," he said, "these are the children who
discovered two spies, and by reporting them saved our camp from
probable destruction." Then, turning again to the children, he
said: "By your prompt and intelligent action you have prevented a
terrible catastrophe. In recognition of your services the Foreign
Legion desires to make you honorary members of the regiment, and
France is proud to claim you as her children!" Then he pinned
upon their breasts a cockade of blue, white, and red, the colors
of France, and kissed them on both cheeks, the regiment meanwhile
standing at attention.
When he had finished the little ceremony, the men, responding to
a signal from the Captain; burst into a hearty cheer. "Vive
Pierre! Vive Pierrette! Vive tous les Meraut," they cried.
For a moment the Twins stood stunned, petrified with
astonishment, looking at the cheering men and at the proud
upturned faces of their parents and the people of Fontanelle.
Then Pierre was suddenly inspired. He waved his hat in salutation
to the flag which, floated above them and shouted back to the
regiment, "Vive la France!" and Pierrette saluted and kissed her
hand. Then the band struck up the Marseillaise, and everybody
sang it at the top of his lungs.
It was a wonderful golden time that followed, for when the
children had thanked the Commandant, all the people of Fontanelle
were invited to sit on the reviewing-stand and watch the regiment
go through the regular drill and extra maneuvers in honor of the
day, and when that was over, the guests were escorted back to the
mess tent, and there they had supper with the men. Moreover, the
camp cook had made a magnificent birthday cake, all decorated
with little French flags. It was cut with the Captain's own
sword, and though there wasn't enough for the whole regiment,
every one from Fontanelle had a bite, and Pierre and Pierrette
each had a whole piece.
When the beautiful bright day was over and they were back again
in Fontanelle, the Twins found that even this was not the end of
their joy and good fortune, for Mother Meraut told them that the
regiment had put in her care a sum of money to provide for their
education. "Children of such courage and good sense must be well
equipped to serve their country when they grow up," the
Commandant had said, and the men, responding to his appeal, had
put their hands in their pockets and brought out a sum sufficient
to make such equipment possible.
More than that, Uncle Sam and Jim had two small uniforms made for
them,--only Pierrette's had a longer skirt to the coat,--and on
parade days and other great occasions they wore them to the camp,
with the blue, white, and red cockades pinned proudly upon their
breasts. Indeed, they became the friends and pets of the whole
regiment, and were quite as much at home with the soldiers as
with the people of Fontanelle.
Then one day Uncle Sam had a letter from home in which there was
wonderful news. It said that the city of Rheims had been
"adopted" by the great, rich city of Chicago far away across the
seas, and that some happy day when the war should be over and
peace come again to the distracted world, Rheims should rise
again from its ashes, rebuilt by its American friends.
In this hope the Twins still live and work, performing their
duties faithfully each day, like good soldiers, and praying
constantly to the Bon Dieu and their adored Saint Jeanne that the
blessings which have come to them may yet come also to all their
ale, care, am, arm, ask; eve, end; menu, ice, ill; old, obey,
orb, odd; food; zh = z in azure; N = the French nasal. ' An
apostrophe indicates a short sounding of the preceding consonant.
_French Words and Phrases_
Bon Dieu (Heavenly Father)
Bonjour (Good-day; hello; how do you do?)
combattre le Boche (fight the Boche)
"Les Americains des Etats-Unis, duns l'uniforme de la France.
Mais maintenant nous exterminons le Boche." ("Americans from the
United States, in the uniform of France. Surely now we shall
crush out the Boche.")
Mille tonneurs! (Great heavens!)
Que voulez-vous? (What do you wish?)
Vive (Long live)
Vive la France (Long life to France!)
Vive tous les Meraut (Long life to all the Meraut family.)
"Auf Wiedersehen" (German: "Till we meet again," or "Good-bye.")
"Lieb' Vaterland, macht ruhig sein" (German national anthem:
"Dear Fatherland, be tranquil.")
SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS
The French Twins offers a valuable supplement to the study of
current events. In the first place, there is no problem of
arousing interest in the nation which this book represents.
France and the French people have from the outbreak of the Great
War compelled new and intense interest and sympathy from all
Americans; and each fresh insight into the character, life, and
ideals of the country is eagerly welcomed. Moreover, in any class
there will be few children who cannot claim either a relative or
a friend who has served in the War; and many, like Pierre and
Pierrette Meraut, will have had soldier fathers, thereby creating
a bond between themselves and the Merauts strong enough to
guarantee the pupils' interest throughout the reading of the
book. Like the other books of the "Twins Series," _The French
Twins_ adapts itself readily to dramatization.
In providing adequate background for the story, the teacher will
find fertile resources in newspapers and magazines. _The Red
Cross Magazine_, _The National Geographic Magazine_, the Boy
Scout and the Girl Scout publications, are readily accessible and
contain much valuable supplementary material for classroom use.
The Foreign Legion, the Battles of the Marne, Joffre's visit to
the United States, Rheims Cathedral, important events near the
scenes of the story, etc., can be made clear and real to the
children by the aid of maps, illustrations, and articles in these
magazines, and by means of picture post-cards, and other material
from other sources. The story of the founding of the Red Cross,
the origin of its flag, etc., will help to vivify the incidents
connected with this organization.
As for French history, the two focus points are the stoniest of
Joan of Arc and Bastille Day. Both furnish abundance of colorful
detail and incident upon which to build the pupils' conceptions
of the spirit and ideals of the French people. In the case of
Bastille Day, correlation should be made between that day and our
own Independence Day, comparing the French and American
Revolutions and indicating the similar circumstances in the two
movements. Lafayette's part in our War of the Revolution and
America's payment of our debt to France in the Great War form
another means of making familiar to the children the story of our
historic friendship with France.
While _The French Twins_ is a war story, soldiers and trenches
and battle-fields are nevertheless not the main features; on the
contrary, _The French Twins_ depicts the necessary part played by
women, children, and old people during the War, and shows how the
spirit and aims of the soldiers' families have been the same as
those of the soldiers themselves. Self-control, endurance, and
cheerfulness at home are proved to be as much a part of true
bravery as fearlessness in battle. Since the soldier's part in
the War has been held closely to everyone's attention, the
reading of this story will supply a balancing view of the other
side of war; and the pupils' perspective of the whole cannot fail
to gain in scope.
Books which may be commended to the teacher, for descriptions of
various aspects of the Great War, are: Hay's _The First Hundred
Thousand_; Nicolas's _Campaign Diary of a French Officer_;
Aldrich's _A Hilltop on the Marne_; Hall's _High Adventure_ and
_Kitcheners Mob_; Buswell's _Ambulance No. 10_; Haigh's _Life in
a Tank_; Stevenson's _From "Poilu" to "Yank"_; two anonymous
books, _The Retreat from Mons_ and _Friends of France_; Paine's
_The Fighting Fleets_; and Root and Crocker's _Over Periscope
For children's reading, we suggest Mrs. Perkins's _The
Belgian Twins_, Sara Cone Bryant's _I am an American_,
Thwaites and Kendall's _History of the United States_,
Tappan's _Little Book of the War_, and such compilations
as _Stories of Patriotism_ and _The Patriotic Reader_.
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