Say, I was so sure I had him it made me sore felt like running into him and yelling, 'Now, you fall, you bum!" The eyes of the poilus register surprise. Not a word of this dialogue, delivered in purest American, is intelligible to them. Why is an aviator in a French uniform speaking a foreign tongue, they mutually ask themselves.
They did their work methodically, systematically. It was a sight to make the angels weep. As I left the ruined cathedral I met a couple of French poilus, and tried to talk with them. But they spoke "very leetle" English, and I fired all my French words at them in one sentence. "Oui, oui, madame," I said. "Encore pomme du terre. Fini!" They laughed, but we did no get far with our talk!
The love of women and of all those people who had not been called upon to fight went out to those poilus at the front, in waves of emotion which reached as far as the advanced trenches.
One of Madame Waddington's more personal oeuvres is the amusement she, in company with her daughter-in-law, provides for the poilus in the village near her son's estate. Regiments are quartered there, either to hold themselves in readiness, or to cut down trees for the army.
He informed me that he had been stationed for some time with his regiment near the English troops, and there had been loud lamentations among the Poilus because they had been obliged to say good-bye to their English comrades. He added that the affection was not entirely disinterested.
He had, for instance, strongly objected to Annette, so attractive, and in 1914 only thirty-five, going to her native France, her "chere patrie" as, under the stimulus of war, she had begun to call it, to nurse her "braves poilus," forsooth! Ruining her health and her looks! As if she were really a nurse! He had put a stopper on it. Let her do needlework for them at home, or knit!
"I ought to have taken it for granted." "We give entertainments together," said Elodie. "He sings and I take the birds. Ah! the poilus. They are like children. When Riquiqui takes off Paulette's cap they twist themselves up with laughing. Il faut voir ca." This was all news to Andrew, and it delighted him beyond measure.
Then, of a sudden, there was a violent explosion just outside their wall, and one farther back in the chamber which they occupied. Hand-grenades had been thrown by the enemy, and hardly had the explosions taken place than there was the sound of another charge, and a horde of men dashed up the stairs and flung themselves upon the barricade which the poilus were defending. A Fight to a Finish
One of them was driving the reaping machine and looked like a gunner on his limber, with his kepi thrust to the back of his head. The trousers of his comrades were as red as the poppies that grew on the edge of the wheat, and three of these poilus had ceased their work to drink out of a leather wine-bottle which had been replenished from a hand-cart.
The serenity, cheerfulness, courtesy, and indomitable courage of the French poilus defending their own land; the scenes in the trenches with the German shells breaking around us and the wounded men being carried past us; the luncheon in the citadel with the commandant and officers in a subterranean room where the motto on the wall, above the world-renowned escutcheon of Verdun, was "On ne passe pas" "They don't get by"; the dinner with the general and staff of the Verdun army, in a little village "somewhere in France," and their last words to me, "On les aura!