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Coming Home
by [?]

My enquiries about Mlle. Malo were equally unfruitful. I went to the address Rechamp had given me, somewhere off in Passy, among gardens, in what they call a “Square,” no doubt because it’s oblong: a kind of long narrow court with aesthetic-looking studio buildings round it. Mlle. Malo lived in one of them, on the top floor, the concierge said, and I looked up and saw a big studio window, and a roof-terrace with dead gourds dangling from a pergola. But she wasn’t there, she hadn’t been there, and they had no news of her. I wrote to Rechamp of my double failure, he sent me back a line of thanks; and after that for a long while I heard no more of him.

By the beginning of November the enemy’s hold had begun to loosen in the Argonne and along the Vosges, and one day we were sent off to the East with a couple of ambulances. Of course we had to have military chauffeurs, and the one attached to my ambulance happened to be a fellow I knew. The day before we started, in talking over our route with him, I said: “I suppose we can manage to get to Rechamp now?” He looked puzzled–it was such a little place that he’d forgotten the name. “Why do you want to get there?” he wondered. I told him, and he gave an exclamation. “Good God! Of course–but how extraordinary! Jean de Rechamp’s here now, in Paris, too lame for the front, and driving a motor.” We stared at each other, and he went on: “He must take my place–he must go with you. I don’t know how it can be done; but done it shall be.”

Done it was, and the next morning at daylight I found Jean de Rechamp at the wheel of my car. He looked another fellow from the wreck I had left in the Flemish hospital; all made over, and burning with activity, but older, and with lines about his eyes. He had had news from his people in the interval, and had learned that they were still at Rechamp, and well. What was more surprising was that Mlle. Malo was with them–had never left. Alain had been got away to England, where he remained; but none of the others had budged. They had fitted up an ambulance in the chateau, and Mlle. Malo and the little sister were nursing the wounded. There were not many details in the letters, and they had been a long time on the way; but their tone was so reassuring that Jean could give himself up to unclouded anticipation. You may fancy if he was grateful for the chance I was giving him; for of course he couldn’t have seen his people in any other way.

Our permits, as you know, don’t as a rule let us into the firing-line: we only take supplies to second-line ambulances, and carry back the badly wounded in need of delicate operations. So I wasn’t in the least sure we should be allowed to go to Rechamp–though I had made up my mind to get there, anyhow.

We were about a fortnight on the way, coming and going in Champagne and the Argonne, and that gave us time to get to know each other. It was bitter cold, and after our long runs over the lonely frozen hills we used to crawl into the cafe of the inn–if there was one–and talk and talk. We put up in fairly rough places, generally in a farm house or a cottage packed with soldiers; for the villages have all remained empty since the autumn, except when troops are quartered in them. Usually, to keep warm, we had to go up after supper to the room we shared, and get under the blankets with our clothes on. Once some jolly Sisters of Charity took us in at their Hospice, and we slept two nights in an ice-cold whitewashed cell–but what tales we heard around their kitchen-fire! The Sisters had stayed alone to face the Germans, had seen the town burn, and had made the Teutons turn the hose on the singed roof of their Hospice and beat the fire back from it. It’s a pity those Sisters of Charity can’t marry….