The story is told of a British “Tommy” who could not make up his mind whether to acquire a farm or a village store, by marriage, “somewhere in France.” He could have either, but not both. Dispatches say that the banns have already been read for some of our “Sammies,” and when the war is over France will have some sturdy Yankee citizens. Difference of language seems to form no bar; in fact, the kindly efforts of each to learn the language of the other acts as an aid. It must be said that the British, so far, have rather the best of it. They have beaten the Yankees to the altar of Hymen, but they had the field to themselves for some time. By the end of the war the Americans may have caught up, for love and war have always walked hand in hand with Uncle Sam’s boys. Nevertheless the British have a big start, for Judson C. Welliver, writing to the New York Sun from Paris, says that in Calais hundreds of young English mechanics have married French girls. The writer tells of being accosted by a young man from “the States” at the corner of the Avenue de l’Opéra and “one of those funny little crooked streets that run into it.” Breezily the American introduced himself and said:“Say, do you happen to know a little caffy right around here called the the blame it, I can’t even remember what that sign looked like it was trying to spell.”
I admitted that the description was a trifle too vague to fit into my geographic scheme of Paris.
“Because,” he went on, “there’s a girl there that talks United States, and she’s been waiting on me lately. I get all the best of everything there and don’t eat anywhere else. But this morning I took a walk and coming from a new direction I can’t locate the place. I promised her I’d be in for breakfast this morning.”
“Something nifty?” I ventured, being willing to encourage that line of conversation. Whereat he plainly bridled:
“She’s a nice girl,” he said; “family were real people before the war. Learned to talk United States in England; went to school there awhile. Why, she wouldn’t let me walk home with her last night, but said maybe she would tonight.”
There isn’t anybody quite so adaptable as the young Frenchwoman. Only in the last few months has Paris seen any considerable number of English-speaking soldiers, because earlier in the war the British military authorities kept their men pretty religiously away from the alleged “temptations” of the gay capital. Later they discovered that Paris was rather a better place than London for the men to go.
So the French girls, in shops and cafés, have been learning English recently at an astounding rate. They began the study because of the English invasion; they have continued it with increased zeal because since the Americans have been coming it has been profitable.
To be able to say “Atta boy!” in prompt and sympathetic response to “Ham and eggs” is worth 50 centimes at the lowest. The capacity to manage a little casual conversation and give a direction on the street is certain to draw a franc.
Besides, there aren’t going to be so many men left, after the war, in France!
Mademoiselle, figuring that there are a couple of million Britishers in the country and a million or maybe two of Americans coming, has her own views about the prospect that the next generation Frenchwomen may be old maids.
In Calais there is a big industrial establishment to which the British military authorities have brought great numbers of skilled mechanics to make repairs to machinery, reconstruct the outworn war-gear, tinker obstreperous motor-vehicles, and, in short, keep the whole machinery and construction side of the war going. Most of the mechanics who were sent there were young men.
Calais testifies to the ability of the Frenchwomen to make the most of their attractions. English officers tell me that hundreds of young Englishmen settled in Calais “for the duration” have married French girls and settled into homes. They intend, in a large proportion of cases, to remain there, too.
The same thing is going on in Boulogne, which is to all intents and purposes nowadays as much an English as a French port. Everywhere English is spoken and by nobody is it learned so quickly as by the young women.
Frenchwomen have always had the reputation of making themselves agreeable to visiting men, but one is quite astonished to learn the number of Englishmen who married Frenchwomen even before the war. The balance is a little imperfect, for the records show that there are not nearly as many Frenchmen marrying English girls. But, says the writer in the Sun, a new generation of girls of marriageable age has arrived with the war, and:
Not only in the military, industrial, and naval base towns are the British marrying these Frenchwomen, but even in the country nearer the front. There are incipient romances afoot behind every mile of the trench-line.
Two related changes in French life are coming with the war which make these international marriages easier. Both relate to the dot [dowry] system. On the one side there are many French girls who have lost their dots and have small prospect of reacquiring the marriage portion. To live in these strenuous times is about all they can hope for. For these the free-handed Americans, Canadians, and Australians look like good prospects for a well-to-do marriage.
Even the British Tommy, though he enjoys no such income as the Americans and colonials, is nevertheless quite likely to have a bit of private income from the folks “back in Blighty” to supplement the meager pay he draws. The portionless French maid sees in these prosperous young men who have come to fight for her country not only the saviors of the nation, but a possibility of emancipation from the dot system that has broken down in these times.
On the other side, there are more than a few young women in France who must be rated “good catches” to-day, though their dots would have been unimportant before the war. A girl who has inherited the little property of her family, because father and brothers all lie beneath the white crosses along the Marne, not infrequently finds herself possessed of a little fortune she could never have expected under other conditions. Many of these, likewise, bereft of sweethearts as well as relatives, have been married to English and colonial soldiers or workmen; and pretty soon we will be learning that their partiality for America for there is such a partiality, and it is a decided one will be responsible for many alliances in that direction.
How it will all work out in the end is only to be guessed at as yet. The British officers who have been observing these Anglo-French romances for a long time assert that the British Tommy who weds a Frenchwoman is quite likely to settle in France; particularly if his bride brings him a village house or a few hectares of land in the country.
On the other hand, the colonials insist on taking their French brides back to New Zealand or Canada, or wherever it may be India, Shanghai, somewhere in Africa no matter, the colonial is a colonial forever; he has no idea of going back to the cramped conditions of England. He likes the motherland, all right, is willing to fight for it, but wants room to swing a bull by the tail, and that isn’t to be had in England, he assures you.
Probably the Americans will be like the colonials; those who find French wives will take them home after the war. That a good many of them will marry French wives can hardly be doubted.
Yes, the French girls like the American boys. But there is another scene. It is that of the country billet, which varies from a château to a cellar, the ideal one from the point of view of a billeting officer being a bed for every officer, and nice clean straw for the men. Get this picture of “Our Village, Somewhere in France,” back of the line, as drawn by Sterling Hielig in the Los Angeles Times:
A French valley full of empty villages, close to the fighting line. No city of tents. No mass of shack constructions. The village streets are empty. Geese and ducks waddle to the pond in Main Street.
It is 4 o’clock a. m.
Up and down the valley, in the empty villages, there is a moving-picture transformation. The streets are alive with American soldiers tumbling out of village dwelling-houses!
Every house is full of boarders. Every village family has given, joyfully, one, two, three of its best rooms for the cot beds of the Americans! Barns and wagon-houses are transformed to dormitories. They are learning French. They are adopted by the family. Sammy’s in the kitchen with the mother and the daughter.
They are piling down the main street to their own American breakfast cooked in the open, eaten in the open, this fine weather.
In front of houses are canvas reservoirs of filtered drinking-water. The duck pond in Main street is being lined with cement. The streets are swept every morning. There are flowers. The village was always picturesque. Now it is beautiful.
Chaplains’ clubs are set up in empty houses. The only large tent is that of the Y. M. C. A.; and it is camouflaged against enemy observers by being painted in streaked gray-green-brown, to melt into the colors of the hill against which it is backed up, practically invisible. Its “canteen on wheels” is loaded with towels, soap, razors, chocolate, crackers, games, newspapers, novels, and tobacco. At cross-roads, little flat Y. M. C. A. tents (painted grass and earth color) serve as stations for swift autos carrying packages and comforts. In them are found coffee, tea, and chocolate, ink, pens, letter-paper, and envelopes; and a big sign reminds Sammy that “You Promised Your Mother a Letter, Write It Today!”
All decent and in order. Otherwise the men could never have gone through the strenuous coaching for the front so quickly and well.
In “Our Village,” not a duck or goose or chicken has failed to respond to the roll call in the past forty days which is more than can be said of a French company billet, or many a British.
Fruit hung red and yellow in the orchards till the gathering. I don’t say the families had as many bushels as a “good year”; but there is no criticism.
In a word, Sammy has good manners. He looks on these French people with a sort of awed compassion. “They had a lot to stand!” he whispers. And the villagers, who are no fools (“as wily as a villager,” runs the French proverb), quite appreciate these fine shades. And the house dog wags his tail at the sight of khaki, as the boys come loafing in the cool of the back yard after midday dinner.
In the evening the family play cards in the kitchen, and here no effort is necessary to induce the girls to learn English, for, though they pretend that they are teaching French, they are really very slyly “picking up” English while they are being introduced to the mysteries of draw-poker. Says the writer in The Times:
So, it goes like this when they play poker in the kitchen the old French father, the pretty daughter, the flapper girl cousin, and three roughnecks. (One boy has the sheets of “Conversational French in Twenty Days,” and really thinks that he is conversing “Madame, mademoiselle, maman, monsieur, papa, or mon oncle, pass the buck and get busy!”)
“You will haf’ carts, how man-ny? (business.) Tree carts, fife carts, ou-one cart, no cart, an’ zee dee-laire seex carts!”—“Here, Bill, wake up!”—“Beel sleep! Avez-vous sommeil, Beel?”—“Oui, mademoiselle, I slept rotten last night, I mean I was tray jenny pars’ke that darned engine was pumping up the duck pond”
“Speak French!”—“Play cards!”—“Vingt-cinq!”—“Et dix!” “Et encore five cen-times. I’m broke. Just slip me a quarter, Wilfred, to buy jet-toms!” And a sweet and plaintive voice: “I haf’ tree paire, mon oncle, an’ he say skee-doo, I am stung-ed. I haf’ seex carts!”—“Yes, you’re out of it, I’m sorry, mademoiselle. Come up!” “Kom opp? Comment, kom opp?”
“Stung-ed” has become French. Thus does Sammy enrich the language of Voltaire. His influence works equally on pronunciation. There is a tiny French village named Hinges on which hinges the following. From the days of Jeanne d’Arc, the natives have pronounced it “Anjs,” in one syllable, with the sound of “a” as in “ham”; but Sammy, naturally, pronounces it “hinges,” as it is spelled, one hinge, two hinges on the door or window. So, the natives, deeming that such godlings can’t be wrong on any detail, go about, now, showing off their knowledge to the ignorant, and saying, with a point of affection: “I have been to ‘Injes!’”
I should not wonder if some of these boys would marry. They might do worse. The old man owns 218 acres and nobody knows what Converted French Fives. Sammy, too, has money. A single regiment of American marines has subscribed for $60,000 worth of French war-bonds since their arrival in the zone this, in spite of their depositing most of their money with the United States Government.
Sammy sits in the group around the front door in the twilight. Up and down the main street are a hundred such mixed groups. Already he has found a place, a family. He is somebody.
And what American lad ever sat in such a group at such a time without a desire to sing? And little difference does it make whether the song be sentimental or rag; sing he must, and sing he does. The old-timers like “I Was Seeing Nellie Home” and “Down by the Old Mill Stream” proved to be the favorites of the listening French girls. For they will listen by the hour to the soldiers’ choruses. They do not sing much themselves, for too many of their young men are dead. But, finally, when the real war-songs arrived, they would join timidly in the chorus, “Hep, hep, hep!” and “Slopping Through Belgium” electrified the natives, and The Times says:
To hear a pretty French girl singing “Epp, epp, epp!” is about the limit.
Singing is fostered by the high command. Who can estimate the influence of “Tipperary?” To me, American civilian in Paris, its mere melody will always stir those noble sentiments we felt as the first wounded English came to the American Ambulance Hospital of Neuilly. For many a year to come “Tipperary” will make British eyes wet, when, in the witching hour of twilight, it evokes the khaki figures in the glare of the sky-line and the dead who are unforgotten!
Who can estimate, for France, the influence of that terrible song of Verdun—“Passeront pas!” Or who can forget the goose-step march to death of the Prussian Guard at Ypres, intoning “Deutschland Uber Alles!”
“It is desired that the American Army be a singing army!” So ran the first words of a communication to the American public of Paris, asking for three thousand copies of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” noble marching strophes of Julia Ward Howe, which 18641865 fired the hearts of the Northern armies in 1864-1865.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord! . . .They are heard now on the American front in France. One regiment has adopted it “as our marching song, in memory of the American martyrs of Liberty.” And in Our Village, you may hear a noble French translation of it, torn off by inspired French grandmothers!
I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I have read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
Bear with me to hear three lines of this notable translation. Again they are by a woman, Charlotte Holmes Crawford, of whom I had never previously heard mention. They are word for word, vibrating!
Je L’ai entrevu Qui planait sur le cercle large des camps,
On a érigé Son autel par les tristes et mornes champs,
J’ai relu Son juste jugement à la flamme des feux flambants,
Son jour, Son jour s’approche!
Sammy doesn’t think so.
CUTE, WASN’T SHE?He was a young subaltern. One evening the pretty nurse had just finished making him comfortable for the night, and before going off duty asked: “Is there anything I can do for you before I leave?”
Dear little Two Stars replied: “Well, yes! I should like very much to be kissed good-night.”
Nurse rustled to the door. “Just wait till I call the orderly,” she said. “He does all the rough work here.”
IT is told in the chronicles of “The White Company” how the veteran English archer, Samkin Aylward, was discovered by his comrades one foggy morning sharpening his sword and preparing his arrows and armor for battle. He had dreamed of a red cow, he announced.“You may laugh,” said he, “but I only know that on the night before Crécy, before Poitiers, and before the great sea battle at Winchester, I dreamed of a red cow. To-night the dream came to me again, and I am putting a very keen edge on my sword.”
Soldiers do not seem to have changed in the last five hundred years, for Tommy Atkins and his brother the poilu have warnings and superstitions fully as strange as Samkin’s. Some of these superstitions are the little beliefs of peace given a new force by constant peril, such as the notion common to the soldier and the American drummer that it is unlucky to light three cigars with one match; other presentiments appear to have grown up since the war began. In a recent magazine two poems were published dealing with the most dramatic of these the Comrade in White who appears after every severe battle to succor the wounded. Dozens have seen him, and would not take it kindly if you suggested they thought they saw him. They are sure of it. The idea of the “call” the warning of impending death is firmly believed along the outskirts of No Man’s Land. Let us quote some illustrations from the Cincinnati Times:
“I could give you the names of half a dozen men of my own company who have had the call,” said Daniel W. King, the young Harvard man, who was transferred from the Foreign Legion to a line regiment; just in time to go through the entire battle of Verdun. “I have never known it to fail. It always means death.”
Two men were quartered in an old stable in shell-range of the front. As they went to their quarters one of them asked the other to select another place in which to sleep that night. It was bitterly cold and the stable had been riddled by previous fire, and the army blanket under such conditions seems as light as it seems heavy when its owner is on a route march.
“Why not roll up together?” said the other man. “That way we can both keep warm.”
“No,” said the first man. “I shall be killed to-night.”
The man who had received the warning went into the upper part of the stable, the other pointing out in utter unbelief of the validity of a call that the lower part was the warmer, and that if his friend were killed it would make no difference whether his death chamber were warm or cold. A shell came through the roof at midnight. It was a “dud” which is to say that it did not explode. The man who had been warned was killed by it. If it had exploded the other would probably have been killed likewise. As it was he was not harmed.
A few days ago the chief of an aeroplane section at the front felt a premonition of death. He was known to all the army for his utterly reckless daring. He liked to boast of the number of men who had been killed out of his section. He was always the first to get away on a bombing expedition and the last to return. He had received at least one decoration accompanied by a reprimand for flying over the German lines in order to bring down a Fokker.
“I have written my letters,” he said to his lieutenant. “When you hear of my death, send them on.”
The lieutenant laughed at him. That sector of the line was quiet, he pointed out. No German machine had been in the air for days. He might have been justified in his premonition, the lieutenant said, on any day of three months past. But now he was in not so much danger as he might be in Paris from the taxicabs. That day a general visited the headquarters and the chief went up in a new machine to demonstrate it. Something broke when he was three thousand feet high and the machine fell sidewise like a stone.
It is possible, say the soldiers, to keep bad fortune from following an omen by the use of the proper talisman. The rabbit’s foot is unknown, but it is said that a gold coin has much the same effect, why, no one seems to know. A rabbit’s foot, of course, must be from the left hind leg, otherwise it is good for nothing, and according to a poilu the efficacy of the gold piece depends upon whether or no it puts the man into touch with his “star.” It is said in the New York Sun:
Gold coins are a mascot in the front lines, a superstition not difficult to explain. It was at first believed that wounded men on whom some gold was found would be better looked after by those who found them, and by degrees the belief grew up, especially among artillery, that a gold coin was a talisman against being mutilated if they were taken prisoners, whether wounded or not.
The Government’s appeals to have gold sent to the Bank of France and not to let it fall into enemy hands in case of capture has since reduced the amount of gold at the front, but many keep some coins as a charm. Many men sew coins touching one another in such a way as to make a shield over the heart.
“Every man has his own particular star,” a Lyons farm hand said to Apollinaire, “but he must know it. A gold coin is the only means to put you in communication with your star, so that its protecting virtue can be exercised. I have a piece of gold and so am easy in my mind I shall never be touched.” As a matter of fact he was seriously wounded later.
Perhaps he lost his gold-piece!
The Sun relates another story which indicates the belief that if the man does not himself believe that he had a true “call” he will be saved. It is possible to fool the Unseen Powers, to pull wool over their eyes. To dream of an auto-bus has become a token of death, attested by the experience of at least four front-line regiments. And yet a sergeant succeeded in saving the life of a man who had dreamed of an auto-bus by the use of a clever ruse or lie, if you prefer. As the anecdote is told in The Sun:
A corporal said he had dreamed of an auto-bus. “How can that be,” the sergeant asked, “when you have never been to Paris or seen an auto-bus?” The corporal described the vision. “That an auto-bus!” declared the sergeant, although the description was perfect. “Why, that’s one of those new machines that the English are using. Don’t let that worry you!” He didn’t, and lived!
A regiment from the south has the same belief about an automobile lorry.
But, unfortunately for the scientifically minded, a disbelief in omens does not preserve the skeptic from their consequences. On the contrary, he who flies in the face of Providence by being the third to get a light from one match is certain of speedy death. The Sun continues:
Apollinaire tells how he was invited to mess with a friend, Second Lieutenant François V-, how this superstition was discussed and laughed at by François V-, and how François V- happened to be the third to light his cigaret with the same match.
The morning after, François V- was killed five or six miles from the front lines by a German shell. It appears that the superstition is that the death is always of this nature, as Apollinaire quotes a captain of a mixed tirailleur and zouave regiment as saying:
“It is not so much the death that follows, as death no longer is a dread to anyone, but it has been noticed that it is always a useless form of death. A shell splinter in the trenches or, at best, in the rear, which has nothing heroic about it, if there is anything in this war which is not heroic.”
SOME STUNT—TRY ITSergeant (drilling awkward squad)—“Company! Attention company, lift up your left leg and hold it straight out in front of you!”
One of the squad held up his right leg by mistake. This brought his right-hand companion’s left leg and his own right leg close together. The officer, seeing this, exclaimed angrily:
“And who is that blooming galoot over there holding up both legs?”
WHEN THE HUN QUIT SMOKING
Tommy I—“That’s a top-hole pipe, Jerry. Where d’ye get it?”
Tommy II—“One of them German Huns tried to take me prisoner an’ I in’erited it from ’im.”
HORSE AND HORSEAn anemic elderly woman, who looked as if she might have as much maternal affection as an incubator, sized up a broad-shouldered cockney who was idly looking into a window on the Strand in London, and in a rasping voice said to him:
“My good man, why aren’t you in the trenches? Aren’t you willing to do anything for your country?”
Turning around slowly, he looked at her a second and replied contemptuously:
“Move on, you slacker! Where’s your war-baby?”
WHY TOMMY JOINED THE CHURCH“Tommy Atkins” pleaded exemption from church parade on the ground that he was an agnostic. The sergeant-major assumed an expression of innocent interest.
“Don’t you believe in the Ten Commandments?” he mildly asked the bold freethinker.
“Not one, sir,” was the reply.
“What! Not the rule about keeping the Sabbath?”
“Ah, well, you’re the very man I’ve been looking for to scrub out the canteen.”
CAUSE FOR GRIEVANCEA wounded soldier explained his grievance to his nurse:
“You see, old Smith was next to me in the trenches. Now, the bullet that took me in the shoulder and laid me out went into ’im and made a bit of a flesh-wound in his arm. Of course I’m glad he wasn’t ’urt bad. But he’s stuck to my bullet and given it his girl. Now, I don’t think that’s fair. I’d a right to it. I’d never give a girl ’o mine a second-’and bullet.”
DOUBLY ANNOYINGA German spy caught redhanded was on his way to be shot.
“I think you English are brutes,” he growled, “to march me through this rain and slush.”
“Well,” said the “Tommy” who was escorting him, “what about me? I have to go back in it.”
KING GEORGE UNDER FIRE
KING GEORGE and Queen Mary have been seeing war at close range. Together they made an eleven days’ visit to the British troops in France, and while there the King experienced the sensation of being under fire. While the Queen devoted herself to the hospitals and the sick and wounded, the King was shown all the latest devices for killing and maiming the enemy. It was soon after seeing what would happen to the Teutons that he decided to drop his Teutonic name and become Mr. Windsor. Says a dispatch from the British headquarters in the New York Sun:
For the benefit of the King a special show was staged that he might witness “that black art of frightfulness which has steadily increased the horrors of war since the day when the enemy let loose clouds of poisoned gas upon the soldiers and civilians in Ypres,” says Philip Gibbs in the Philadelphia Public Ledger:
As soon as the King arrived on the field there was a sound of rushing air, and there shot forth a blast of red flame out of black smoke to a great distance and with a most terrifying effect. It came from an improved variety of flame projector. Then the King saw the projection of burning oil, burst out in great waves of liquid fire. A battalion of men would be charred like burned sticks if this touched them for a second. There was another hissing noise, and there rolled very sluggishly over the field a thick, oily vapor, almost invisible as it mixed with the air, and carrying instant death to any man who should take a gulp of it. To such a thing have all of us come in this war for civilization.
The most spectacular show here was the most harmless to human life, being a new form of smoke barrage to conceal the movement of troops on the battlefield.
From this laboratory of the black art the King went to one of those fields where the machinery of war is beautiful, rising above the ugly things of this poor earth with light and grace, for this was an air-drome. As he came up, three fighting planes of the fastest British type went up in chase of an imaginary enemy. They arose at an amazing speed and shot across the sky-line like shadows racing from the sun. When they came back those three boys up there seemed to go a little mad and played tricks in the air with a kind of joyous carelessness of death. They tumbled over and over, came hurtling down in visible corkscrews, looped the loop very close to the earth, flattened out after headlong dives, and rose again like swallows. The King was interested in the ages of these pilots and laughed when they confessed their youth, for one was nineteen and another twenty.
The antics of the “tanks” furnished the King with a great deal of amusement. Leaving the air-drome, he was driven to a sunken field, very smooth and long, between two high wooded banks. Says Mr. Gibbs:
Here there was a great surprise and a great sensation, for just as the King stepped out of his car a young tree in full foliage on the left of the field up a high bank toppled forward slowly and then fell with a crash into the undergrowth. Something was moving in the undergrowth, something monstrous. It came heaving and tearing its way through the bushes, snapping off low branches and smashing young saplings like an elephant on stampede. Then it came into sight on top of the bank, a big gray beast, with a blunt snout, nosing its way forward and all tangled in green leaves and twigs. It was old brother tank doing his stunt before the King.
From the far end of a long, smooth field came two other twin beasts of this ilk, crawling forward in a hurry as though hungry for human blood. In front of their track, at the other end of the field, were two breastworks built of sand-bags covering some timbered dugouts and protected from sudden attack by two belts of barbed wire. The two tanks came along like hippopotamuses on a spree, one of them waiting for the other when he lagged a little behind. They hesitated for a moment before the breastworks as if disliking the effort of climbing them, then heaved themselves up, thrust out their snouts, got their hind quarters on the move, and waddled to the top. Under their vast weight the sand-bags flattened out, the timber beneath slipped and cracked, and the whole structure began to collapse, and the twins plunged down on the other side and advanced to attack the barbed wire.
Another tank now came into action from the far end of the field, bearing the legend on its breast of “Faugh-a-ballagh,” which, I am told, is Irish for “get out of the way.” It was the Derby winner of the tanks’ fleet. From its steel flanks guns waggled to and fro, and no dragon of old renown looked half so menacing as this. St. George would have had no chance against it. But King George, whose servant it was, was not afraid, and with the Prince of Wales he went through the steel trap-door into the body of the beast. For some time we lost sight of the King and Prince, but after a while they came out laughing, having traveled around the field for ten minutes in the queerest car on earth.
The great thrill of the day came later. Through the woods of a high bank on the left came a tank, looking rather worse for wear, as though battered in battle.
It came forward through the undergrowth and made for the edge of the bank, where there was a machine gun emplacement in a bomb-proof shelter, whose steep bank was almost perpendicular. It seemed impossible that any old tank should entertain a notion of taking that jump, but this tank came steadily on until its snout was well over the bank and steadily on again with that extraordinary method of progression in which the whole body of the beast moves from the nose end upward until it seems to have a giraffe’s neck and very little else. That very little else was sitting on the top of the emplacement while the forward part of the tank was poised in space regarding the setting sun. However, without any hesitation, the whole mass moved on, lurched out, and nose-dived.
Good Lord! it was then that the thrill came. The tank plunged down like a chunk of cliff as it fell, went sideways and lost its balance, and, as near as anything could be, almost turned turtle. It righted itself with a great jerk at the nick of time just before it took the earth below and shaved by a hair’s breadth an ammunition dump at the bottom of the drop.
It was the finest tank trick I ever saw, and it was greeted with laughter and cheers. The King, however, and other spectators were rather worried about the lads inside. They must have taken a mighty toss. No sound came from the inside of the tank, and for a moment some of us had a vision of a number of plucky fellows laid out unconscious within those steel walls. The door opened and we could see their feet standing straight, which was a relief.
“Let them all come out,” said the King, laughing heartily. And out they all tumbled, a row of young fellows as merry and bright as air pilots after a good landing.