[Footnote 21: Flaubert.]
Apart from all that, he was just a boy, simple, gay, tender, and charming.
IV. ON THE SOMME (JUNE, 1916, TO FEBRUARY, 1917)
Georges Guynemer, then, was wounded on March 15, 1916, at Verdun. On April 26, he arrived again at the front, with his arm half-cured and the wounds scarcely healed. He had escaped from the doctors and nurses. Between times, he had been promoted sous-lieutenant. But he had to be sent back, to his bandages and massage.
He returned to Compiegne. The bargain he had made with his sister Yvonne was continued, and when the weather was clear he went to Vauciennes, where his machine awaited him. The first time he met an airplane after his fall and his wound, he experienced a quite natural but very painful sensation. Would he hesitate? Was he no longer the stubborn Guynemer? The Boche shot, but he did not reply. The Boche used up all his machine-gun belt, and the combat was broken off. Was it to be believed? What had happened?
Guynemer returned to his home. In the spring dawn comes very soon, and he had left so early that it was still morning. Was his sister awake? He waited, but waiting was not his forte. So he opened the door again, and his childish face appeared in the strip of light that filtered through. This time the sleeper saw him.
“Already back? Go back to bed. It is too early.”
“Is it really so early?”
Her sisterly tenderness divined that he had something to tell her, something important, and that it would be necessary to help him to tell it. “Come in,” she said.
He opened the blinds and sat down at the foot of the bed.
“What scouting have you done this morning?”
But he was following his own thoughts: “The men had warned me that under those circumstances one receives a very disagreeable impression.”
“Under what circumstances?”
“When one goes up again after having been wounded, and meets a Boche. As long as you have not been wounded you think nothing can happen to you. When I saw that Boche this morning I felt something quite new. Then....”
He stopped and laughed, as if he had played some schoolboy joke.
“Then, what did you do?”
“Well, I made up my mind to submit to his shots. Calmly.”
“Surely: I ordered myself not to shoot. That is the way one masters one’s nerves, little sister. Mine are entirely mastered: I am now absolutely in control. The Boche presented me with five hundred shots while I maneuvered. They were necessary. I am perfectly satisfied.”
She looked at him, sitting at the foot of the bed with his head resting against the post. Her eyes were wet and she kept silent. The silence continued.
Finally she said softly, “You have done well, Georges.”