AN APPEAL TO PARTOW
“You, Marta—you are still there!” Lanstron exclaimed in alarm when he heard her voice over the tunnel telephone. “But safe!” he added in relief. “Thank God for that! It’s a mighty load off my mind. And your mother?”
“And Minna and little Clarissa Eileen?”
“Well, you’re through the worst of it. There won’t be any more fighting around the house, and certainly Westerling will be courteous. But where is Gustave?”
“Gone!” he repeated dismally.
In a flash he had guessed another tragedy for poor Gustave, who must have once more failed to stick to his purpose, thus shattering the last hope that the thousandth chance would ever come to anything.
“Wait until you hear how he went,” Marta said. With all the vividness of her impressions, a partisan for the moment of him and Dellarme, she sketched Feller’s part with the automatic.
As he listened, Lanstron’s spirit was twenty again, with the fever that Feller’s “let’s set things going!” could start rollicking in his veins. What did the thousandth chance matter? Only a wool-gatherer would ever have had any faith in it. Victory for Gustave! Victory for the friend in whom he believed when others had disbelieved! Victory for those gifts that had broken a career against army routine in peace, once they had full play in war!
“I can see him,” he said. “It was a full breath of fresh air to the lungs of a suffocating man. I—”
Marta was off in interruption in the full tide of an appeal.
“You must—I promised—you must let him have the uniform again!” she begged. “You must let him keep his automatic. To take it away would be like separating mother and child; like separating Minna from Clarissa Eileen.”
“Better than an automatic—a battery of guns!” replied Lanstron. “This is where I will use any influence I have with Partow for all it is worth. Now, let the red-tapists dare to point to his past when I ask anything for him and I’ll overwhelm them with the living present! Yes, and he shall have the iron cross. It is for such deeds as his that the iron cross was meant.”
“Thank you,” she said. “It’s worth something to make a man as happy as you will make him. Yes, you are real flesh and blood to do this, Lanny.”
Her point won with surprising ease, when she had feared that military form and law could not be circumvented, she leaned against the wall in reaction. For twenty-four hours she had been without sleep. The interest of her appeal for Feller had kept up her strength after the excitement of the fight for the redoubt was over. Now there seemed nothing left to do.
“No doctor who ever examined me for promotion has yet found that I wasn’t flesh and blood,” Lanstron remarked a little plaintively.