THE SOUL OF THE SONG
THE TALE OF A FIANCEE
On Saturday most of the men made a run into Paris.
It had finally been decided as best that, if all went well, we should leave for Paris some time the next day. There were steamer tickets to attend to. There were certain valuables to be taken up to the Bank. The Divorcee had a trunk or two that she thought she ought to send in order that we might start with as little luggage as possible, so both chauffeurs were sent up to town with baggage, and orders to wait there. The rest of us had been busy doing a little in the way of dismantling the house. The unexpected end of our summer had come. It was sad, but I imagine none of us were sorry, under the circumstances, to move on.
It was nearly dinner time when the cars came back, almost together, and we were surprised to see the Doctor going out to the servants’ quarters instead of joining us as he usually did. In fact, we did not see him until we went into the dining room for dinner.
As he came to the head of the table, he said: “My good people, we will serve ourselves as best we can with the cook’s aid. We have no waitress to-night. But it is our last dinner. A camp under marching orders cannot fuss over trifles.”
“Where is Angele?” asked the Divorcee. “Is she ill?” And she turned to the door.
“Come back!” said the Doctor, sharply. “You can’t help her now. Better leave her alone!”
As if by instinct, we all knew what had happened.
“Who brought the news?” some one asked.
“They gave it to me at the Mairie as I passed,” replied the Doctor, “and the garde champetre told me what the envelope contained. He fell at Charleroi.”
“Poor Angele,” exclaimed the Trained Nurse. “Are you sure I could not help her?”
“Sure,” said the Doctor. “She took it as a Frenchwoman should. She snatched the baby from its cradle, and held it a moment close to her face. Then she lifted it above her head in both hands, and said, almost without a choke in her throat, ‘Vive la France, quand meme!‘–and dropped. I put them on the bed together, she and the boy. She was crying like a good one when I left her. She’s all right.”
“Poor child–and that tiny baby!” exclaimed the Divorcee, wiping her eyes.
“Fudge,” said the Doctor. “She is the widow of a hero, and the mother of the hero’s son. Considering what life is, that is to be one of the elect of Fate. She’ll go through life with a halo round her head, and, like most of the French women I have seen, she’ll wear it like a crown. It becomes us, in the same spirit, to partake of the food before us. This life is a wonderful spectacle. If you saw an episode like that in a drama, at the theatre, you would all cheer like mad.”
We knew he was right.
But the Youngster could not help adding, “That’s twice–two days running, that the Doctor has told a story out of his turn, and both times he outraged the consign, for both times it was a war story.”
That seemed to break the ice. We talked more or less war during dinner, but this time there were no disputes. Still I think we were glad when the cook trotted in with the trays, and with our elbows on the table, we turned toward the Violinist, who leaned against the high back of his chair, and with his long white hands resting on the carved arms, and his eyes on the ceiling–an attitude that he did not change during the narrative, began:
* * * * *