Thursday evening, before going to bed, the Aspirant and I sat at the kitchen table and made a lot of sandwiches, as they are carrying three days’ provisions. They expected a five hours’ march on the first day, and a night under the tents, then another day’s march, during which they would receive their orders for their destination. When the sandwiches were done, and wrapped up ready for his orderly to put in the saddlebags, with his other provisions, he said: “Well, I am going to say goodbye to you tonight, and thank you for all your kindness.”
“Not at all,” I answered. “I shall be up in the morning to see you start.”
He protested. It was so cold, so early, etc. But my mind was made up.
I assure you that it was cold,—18 below,—but I got up when I heard the orderly arrive in the morning. I had been awake for hours, for at three o’clock the horses were being prepared. Every man had three to feed and saddle, and pack. Orderlies were running about doing the last packing for the officers, and carrying kits to the baggage-wagons. Amelie came at six. When I got downstairs I found the house warm and coffee ready. The Aspirant was taking his standing. It was more convenient than sitting in a chair. Indeed, I doubt if he could have sat.
I had to laugh at the picture he made. I never regretted so much that I have not indulged in a camera. He was top-booted and spurred. He had on his new topcoat and his mended helmet—catch a young soldier who has been hit on the head by his first obus having a new and unscarred one. He was hung over with his outfit like a Santa Claus. I swore he could never get into the saddle, but he scorned my doubts.
To the leather belt about his waist, supported by two straps over his shoulders, were attached his revolver, in its case with twenty rounds of cartridges; his field glasses; his map-case; his bidon—for his wine; square document case; his mask against asphyxiating gas; and, if you please, his kodak! Over one shoulder hung a flat, half-circular bag, with his toilet articles, over the other its mate, with a change, and a few necessary articles.
He looked to me as if he would ride two hundred pounds heavy, and he hasn’t an ounce of extra flesh on him.
I laughed even harder when I saw him mounted. In one side of the holster was his gamelle; in the other, ammunition. The saddlebags contained on one side twenty pounds of oats for the horse; on the other three days’ provisions for himself. I knew partly what was in that bag, and it was every bit as heavy as the horse’s fodder, for there were sandwiches, sugar, coffee, chocolate, tinned meat, peas, corn, fruit, etc. Behind the saddle was rolled his blanket, inside his section of tent cover,—it takes six of them to make a real tent. They are arranged to button together.
I was sitting in the bedroom window when he rode on to the terrace. I had to laugh as I looked down at him.