Peter pulled at his arm, and Louise stooped to help him. Once up, he got his arm round him, and demanded where he lived.
The man stared at them foolishly. Peter gave him a bit of a shake, and demanded the address again, “Come on,” he said. “Pull yourself together, for the Lord’s sake. We shall end before the A.P.M. if you don’t. What’s your camp, you fool?”
At that the man told him, stammeringly, and Peter sighed his relief. “I know,” he said to Louise. “It’s not far. I’ll maybe get a taxi at the corner.” She pushed him towards a doorway: “Wait a minute,” she said. “I live here; it’s all right. I will get a fiacre. I know where to find one.”
She darted away. It seemed long to Peter, but in a few minutes a horn tooted and a cab came round the corner. Between them, they got the subaltern in, and Peter gave the address. Then he pulled out his purse before stepping in himself, opened it, found a ten-franc note, and offered it to Louise.
The girl of the street and the tavern pushed it away. “La!” she exclaimed. “Vite! Get in. Bon Dieu! Should I be paid for a kindness? Poor boy! he does not know what he does. He will ’ave a head—ah! terrible—in the morning. And see, he has fought for la patrie.” She pointed to a gold wound-stripe on his arm. “Bon soir, monsieur.”
She stepped back and spoke quickly to the driver, who was watching sardonically. He nodded. “Bon soir, monsieur,” she said again, and disappeared in the doorway.
A few weeks later the War Office—if it was the War Office, but one gets into the habit of attributing these things to the War Office—had one of its regular spasms. It woke up suddenly with a touch of nightmare, and it got fearfully busy for a few weeks before going to sleep again. All manner of innocent people were dragged into the vortex of its activities, and blameless lives were disturbed and terrorised. This particular enthusiasm involved even such placid and contented souls as the Chaplain-General, the Principal Chaplain, their entire staffs and a great many of their rank and file. It created a new department, acquired many additional offices for the B.E.F., dragged from their comfortable billets a certain number of high-principled base officers, and then (by the mercy of Providence) flickered out almost as soon as the said officers bad made themselves a little more comfortable than before in their new posts.
It was so widespread a disturbance that even Peter Graham, most harmless of men, with plenty of his own fish to fry, was dragged into it, as some leaf, floating placidly downstream, may be caught and whirled away in an excited eddy. More definitely, it removed him from Havre and Julie just when he was beginning to want most definitely to stay there, and of course, when it happened, he could hardly know that it was to be but a temporary separation.