Then, in the shelter of a covered trench, came the nervous, very brief farewell. “Good-bye, father,” a kiss, and he was gone. He had to return as quickly as possible to the side of his men.
The firing had become general all along the line. The soldiers were shooting serenely, as though fulfilling an ordinary function. It was a combat that took place every day without anybody’s knowing exactly who started it—in consequence of the two armies being installed face to face, and such a short distance apart. . . . The Chief of the battalion was also obliged to desert his guests, fearing a counter-attack.
Again the officer charged with their safe conduct put himself at the head of the file, and they began to retrace their steps through the slippery maze. Desnoyers was tramping sullenly on, angry at the intervention of the enemy which had cut short his happiness.
Before his inward gaze fluttered the vision of Julio with his black, curly beard which to him was the greatest novelty of the trip. He heard again his grave voice, that of a man who has taken up life from a new viewpoint.
“I am content, father . . . I am content.”
The firing, growing constantly more distant, gave the father great uneasiness. Then he felt an instinctive faith, absurd, very firm. He saw his son beautiful and immortal as a god. He had a conviction that he would come out safe and sound from all dangers. That others should die was but natural, but Julio! . . .
As they got further and further away from the soldier boy, Hope appeared to be singing in his ears; and as an echo of his pleasing musings, the father kept repeating mentally:
“No one will kill him. My heart which never deceives me, tells me so. . . . No one will kill him!”
“No one will kill him”
Four months later, Don Marcelo’s confidence received a rude shock. Julio was wounded. But at the same time that Lacour bought him this news, lamentably delayed, he tranquilized him with the result of his investigations in the war ministry. Sergeant Desnoyers was now a sub-lieutenant, his wound was almost healed and, thanks to the wire-pulling of the senator, he was coming to pass a fortnight with his family while convalescing.
“An exceptionally brave fellow,” concluded the influential man. “I have read what his chiefs say about him. At the head of his platoon, he attacked a German company; he killed the captain with his own hand; he did I don’t know how many more brave things besides. . . . They have presented him with the military medal and have made him an officer. . . . A regular hero!”
And the rapidly aging father, weeping with emotion, but with increasing enthusiasm, shook his head and trembled. He repented now of his momentary lack of faith when the first news of his wounded boy reached him. How absurd! . . . No one would kill Julio; his heart told him so.