MoboReader > Literature > Told in a French Garden / August, 1914

   Chapter 10 EPILOGUE

Told in a French Garden / August, 1914 By Mildred Aldrich Characters: 7120

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


How We Went Out of the Garden

The last word had hardly been uttered when the Youngster, who had been fidgeting, leaped to his feet.

"Hark!" he cried.

We all listened.

"Cannon," he yelled, and rushed out to the big gate, which he tore open, and dashed into the road.

There was no doubt of it. Off to the north we could all hear the dull far-off booming of artillery.

We followed into the garden.

The Youngster was in the middle of the road. As we joined him he bent toward the ground, as if, Indian-like, he could hear better. "Hush," he said in a whisper, as we all began to talk. "Hush! I hear horses."

There was a dead silence, and in it, we could hear the pounding of horses' hoofs in the valley.

"Better come in out of the rain," said the Doctor, and we obeyed. Once inside the gate the Doctor said, "Well, I reckon it is to-morrow at the latest for us. The truth of the matter is: I kept something from you this evening. The village was drummed out last night. As this road is being kept clear, no one passed here, and as we were ready to start at a moment's notice, I made up my mind to have one more evening. However, we've time enough. They can't advance to-night. Too wet. No moon. Come on into the house."

He closed and locked the big gate, but before we reached the house, there was a rush of horsemen in the road-then a halt-the Youngster opened the gate before it was called for. Two mounted men in Khaki rode in, stopped short at the sight of the group, saluted.

"Your house?" asked one, as he slid from his saddle and leaned against his horse.

"Mine," said the Doctor, stepping forward.

"You are not proposing to stay here?"

"No, we are leaving in the morning."

"Got any conveyances?"

"Two touring cars."

"Good. You don't mind my proposing that you go before daylight, do you?"

"Not a bit," replied the Doctor, "if it is necessary."

"That's for you to decide," said the other officer. "We are going to set up a battery in this garden. Awfully sorry, you know, but it can't be helped."

The Youngster, who had remained at the gate, came back, and whispered in my ear, "They are coming. It's the English still retreating. By Jove, it looks as if they would get to Paris!"

"How many are there of you?" asked the senior officer.

"Ten," replied the Doctor.

"Eleven," corrected the Divorcée. "I shall take Angéle and the baby." And she started on a run for the garage.

"Perhaps," said the Doctor, looking through the open gate, where the weary soldiers were beginning to straggle by, "perhaps it will not be necessary for all of us to go." And he went close to the officers, and drew his papers from his pocket. There was a hurried whispered conversation, in which the Critic and the Journalist joined. When it was over, the Doctor said, "I understand," and returned to our group.

"Well, good friends," he said, "it really is farewell to the garden! The Critic and I are going to stay a bit. We are needed. The Youngster will drive one car, and the Lawyer the other. Get ready to start by three,-that will be just before daylight-and get into the house, all of you. You are in the way here!"

Everybody obeyed.

We had less than three hours to get together necessary articles and all the time there was the steady marching of feet in the road, where what servants we had were standing with water and such small help as could be offered a tired army, and bringing in for first aid such of the exhausted men as could be braced up.

Long before we were ready, we he

ard the rumble of the artillery and the low commands of the officers. In spite of ourselves, we looked out to see the gray things being driven into the gate, and down toward the hillside.

"Oh," groaned the Divorcée, "right over the flower beds!"

"Bother it all, don't look out," shouted the Youngster from his room. "That's just like a woman! Be a sport!" And he dashed down the hall. We had just time to see that he had "put that uniform on." He was going into the big game, and he was dressed for the part. In a certain sense, all the men were, when we at last, bags in hand, gathered in the dining room, so we were not surprised to find the Nurse in her hospital rig, with a white cap covering her hair, and the red cross on her arm. We knew at once that she was remaining behind with the Doctor and the Critic.

The cars were at the door. Angéle, with her baby in her arms, was sitting in one.

"Come on," said the Doctor, "the quicker you are out of this the better."

And, almost without a word, like soldiers under orders, we were packed into the two cars. The Youngster, the Lawyer, and the two officers stood together with their heads bent over a map.

"Better take a side road," said the officer, "until you get near to Meaux, then take the route de Senlis. It will lead you right over the hill into the Meaux, then you will find the route nationale free. Cross the Marne there, and on into Paris by the forest of Vincennes."

"Let the Lawyer lead," said the Doctor, "and be prudent, Youngster. You know where a letter will reach me. See that the girls get off safely!" He shook hands all round. The cars shot out of the gate, tooted for a passage through the straggling line of tired men in Khaki, took the first turn to get out of the way, and shot down the hill to the river.

"Well," said the Youngster, who was driving our car, with the Violinist beside him, "I think we behaved fine, and, by Jove, how I hate to go just now! But I have to join day after to-morrow, and I suppose it will be a long time before I see anything as exciting as this. Bother it. Well, you were amazed at the calmness only yesterday!"

No one replied. We were all busy with our own thoughts, and with "playing the game." In silence we crossed the first bridge. Day was just breaking as we mounted the hill on the other side. Suddenly the Youngster put on the brake.

"Here," he said to the Violinist, "take the wheel a moment. I must look back."

Just as he spoke there was a tremendous explosion.

"Bomb," he cried, as he got out his glass, and, standing on the running board, looked back. "They've got it," he yelled. "Look!"

We all piled out of the car, and ran to the edge of the hill. From there we could look back and just see the dear old house standing on the opposite height in its walled garden.

There was another explosion, and a puff of smoke seemed to rise right out of the middle of the garden, where the old tree stood, under which we had dined so many evenings.

For a few minutes we stood in silence.

It was the gentle voice of the Violinist that called us back. "Better get on," he said. "We can do nothing now but obey orders," and quietly we crawled back and the car started on.

We did not speak again until we ran up to the gates of Paris, and stopped to have our papers examined for the last time. Then I said, with a laugh: "And only think! I did not tell my story at all!"

"That's so," said the Youngster. "What a shame. Never mind, dear, you can tell the whole story!"-And I have.


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