Not a word of this was spoken, but Jack suddenly put it all into words, for he turned to me and asked quickly, “Mother, when will I be eighteen?”
Gay, as the skater who blithely whirls
To the place of the dangerous ice!
Content, as the lamb who nibbles the grass
While the butcher sets the price!
So content and gay were the boys at play
In the nations near and far,
When munition kings and diplomats
Cried, “War! War!! War!!!”
The day after we went to the city I got my first real glimpse of war! It was the white face of our French neighbor. His wife and two little girls had gone to France a month before the war broke out, and were visiting his family in a village on the Marne. Since the outbreak of war he had had no word from them, and his face worked pitifully when he told me this. “Not one word, though I cabled and got friends in London to wire aussi,” he said. “But I will go myself and see.”
“What about your house and motor?” he was asked.
He raised his shoulders and flung out his hands. “What difference?” he said; “I will not need them.”
I saw him again the day he left. He came out of his house with a small Airedale pup which had been the merry playmate of Alette and Yvonne. He stood on the veranda holding the dog in his arms. Strangers were moving into the house and their boxes stood on the floor. I went over to say good-bye.
“I will not come back,” he said simply; “it will be a long fight; we knew it would come, but we did not know when. If I can but find wife and children—but the Germans—they are devils—Boches—no one knows them as we do!”
He stood irresolute a moment, then handed me the dog and went quickly down the steps.
“It is for France!” he said.
I sat on the veranda railing and watched him go. The Airedale blinded his eyes looking after him, then looked at me, plainly asking for an explanation. But I had to tell him that I knew no more about it than he did. Then I tried to comfort him by telling him that many little dogs were much worse off than he, for they had lost their people and their good homes as well, and he still had his comfortable home and his good meals. But it was neither meals nor bed that his faithful little heart craved, and for many weeks a lonely little Airedale on Chestnut Street searched diligently for his merry little playmates and his kind master, but he found them not.
There was still a certain unreality about it all. Sometimes it has been said that the men who went first went for adventure. Perhaps they did, but it does not matter—they have since proved of what sort of stuff they were made.