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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Tin Soldier - BOOK THREE _ THE BUGLE CALLS - Chapter XXIX. "AND, AFTER ALL, HE CAME TO THE WARS!"
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The Tin Soldier - BOOK THREE _ THE BUGLE CALLS - Chapter XXIX. 'AND, AFTER ALL, HE CAME TO THE WARS!' Post by :peppe Category :Long Stories Author :Temple Bailey Date :April 2012 Read :1780

Click below to download : The Tin Soldier - BOOK THREE _ THE BUGLE CALLS - Chapter XXIX. "AND, AFTER ALL, HE CAME TO THE WARS!" (Format : PDF)

The Tin Soldier - BOOK THREE _ THE BUGLE CALLS - Chapter XXIX. "AND, AFTER ALL, HE CAME TO THE WARS!"

BOOK THREE THE BUGLE CALLS - CHAPTER XXIX. "AND, AFTER ALL, HE CAME TO THE WARS!"

A perfect day, with men lying dead by thousands on the battlefield; twilight, with a young moon; night and the stars--

Drusilla's throat was dry with singing--there had been so many hurt, and she had found that it helped them to hear her, so when a moaning, groaning, cursing ambulance load stopped a moment, she sang; when walking wounded came through sagging with pain and dreadful weariness, she sang; and when night fell, and an engine was stalled, and she took in her own car a man who must be rushed to the first collecting station, she found herself still singing--. And this time it was "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

The man propped up beside her murmured, "My Captain liked that--he used to sing it--"

"Yes?" She was listening with only half an ear. There were so many Captains.

"He was engaged to an American."

She listened now. "Your Captain--?"

"Captain Hewes."

She guided the car steadily. "Dawson Hewes?"

"Yes. Do you know him?"

"I--I am the girl he is going to marry--"

He froze into silence. She bent towards him. "What made you say--_was_--?"

"He's--gone West--"

"Dead?"

"Yes."

"When?" She still drove steadily through the dark.

"To-day."

She looked up at the stars. So--he would never come blowing in with the sweet spring winds.

"I'd rather have been--shot--than to have told you that--" the man beside her was saying, "but, you see, I didn't know you were the girl--"

"Of course you couldn't. You mustn't blame yourself."

She delivered her precious charge at the hospital and put up her car for the night. Standing alone under the stars she wondered what she should do next. There was no one to tell--the women who had worked with her in the town which had since been recaptured by the Germans had gone to other towns. But she had stayed as near the front as possible, and she had never felt lonely because at any moment her lover might come--there had always been the thought that he might come--.

And now he would never come!

She had a room in the house of an old woman, all of whose sons were in the war. So far two of them had escaped death. But the old woman said often, fatalistically, "They will not always escape--but it will be for France."

The old woman had soup on the fire for Drusilla's supper. The room was faintly lighted. "What is it?" she asked, as the girl dropped down on the doorstep.

"My Captain is dead--"

The old woman rose and stood over her. "It comes to all."

"I know."

"Will you eat your soup? When the heart fails, the body must have strength."

Drusilla covered her face with her bands. The room was very still. The old woman went back to her chair by the fire and waited. At last she rose and filled a small bowl with the soup--she broke into it a small allowance of bread. Then she came and sat on the step beside the girl.

"Eat, Mademoiselle," she said, with something like authority, and Drusilla obeyed. And when she gave back the bowl, the old woman set it on the floor, and drew the girl's head to her breast.

And Drusilla lay there, crying softly, a lonely American mothered by this indomitable old woman of France.

Days passed, days in which men came and men went and Drusilla sang to them. And now new faces were seen among the tired and war-worn ones. Eager young Americans, pressing forward towards the front, found a countrywoman in the little town; and they wrote home about her. "She's a beauty, by jinks, and when she sings it pulls the heart out of you. She's the kind you want to say your prayers to."

So her fame went forth and took on gradually something of the supernatural--her tall, straight slenderness, her steady eyes, her halo of red hair grew to have a sort of sacred significance, like that of some militant young saint.

Then came a day when Derry's regiment marched through the town to the trenches, spent an interval, and came back, awed by what it had seen, but undaunted.

Drusilla, sitting on the doorstep of the stone house, saw a tall figure striding down the street. He stopped to speak to an old woman and doffed his hat, showing a clipped silver-blond head.

Drusilla went flying through the dusk. "Derry, Derry!"

He stared and stared again. "Is it you?" he asked. Nothing was vivid now about Drusilla except her hair.

"Yes."

He took her hands in his. "My dear girl." It was hard for either of them to speak.

"Did Bruce McKenzie tell you that my Captain has--gone West?"

"I had a letter. I haven't seen him. His hospital isn't far from here, I understand."

"Just outside. He--he has been a great help--to me, Derry."

She took him back to her doorstep and they sat down.

"Tell me about Jean."

He tried to tell her, wavered a little and spoke the truth. "The hardest thing was leaving her. I don't mind the fighting. I don't mind anything but the fact that she's over there and I'm over here. But it had to be--of course."

"Yes, everything had to be, Derry. I am believing that more and more. When my Captain went--I found how much I cared. I hadn't always been sure. But I am sure now, and I am sure, too, that he knows--"

"Love--in these times, Derry--isn't building a nest--and singing songs in the tree tops on a May morning; it goes beyond just the man and the woman; it even goes beyond the child. It goes as far as the future of mankind. What the future of the world will be depends not so much on how much you love Jean or she loves you, or on how much I loved and was loved, but on how much that love will mean to the world. If we can't give up our own for the sake of the world's ideal then love hasn't meant what it should to you and to me, Derry--"

She rose as a group of men approached. "They want me to sing for them. You won't mind?"

"My dear girl, I have heard of you everywhere. I believe that some of the fellows say their prayers to you at night--"

She stood up and sang. Her hair caught the light from the room back of her. She gave them a popular air or two, a hymn, "The Marseillaise--"

He missed nothing in her then. In spite of her paleness, the old fire was there, the passion of patriotism--there was, too, a new note of triumphant faith.

She needed no candles now, no red and white and blue for a background--she did not even need her beauty, her voice was enough--

When she sat down and the men had gone she said to Derry, "Do you remember when I last sang the 'Marseillaise' for you?"

"Yes."

He brought out from his pocket a tiny object and set it on the step, so that the light from the open door shone on it.

"You gave it to me, Drusilla."

"Oh, my little tin soldier."

"And after all, he came to the wars--"

Very proudly the little soldier shouldered his musket.

He had indeed come to the wars, and the winds of France blew upon him, the stars of France were over his head, the soil of France was beneath his feet.

_Trutter-a-trutt, trutter-a-trutt_--blew all the bugles of France, and the little tin soldier was at last content!

Derry had, too, in his pocket a letter from Jean; he read to Drusilla the part that belonged to her.

"Tell Drusilla that there's a chair in our dream house for her. I often shut my eyes and see her in it, and I see Daddy and you, Derry, all home safe from the war and the world at peace--"

"Safe and at home and the world at peace--. Will the time ever come, Derry?"

"You know it will come. It must--"

It was three days later that Dr. McKenzie motored over for a late supper with Drusilla and Derry. They were served by the old woman who had mothered the lonely girl.

"To think," the Doctor said, as they sat at their frugal board, "to think that we three should be here in the midst of all this; and yet a year ago I was wondering what to do with the rest of my life, Drusilla was running around telling people what kind of pictures to put on their walls, and what kind of draperies to put at their windows, and Derry was trying to pretend that he was not an elegant idler; and now--we are seeing a world made over--"

"You are seeing the world of men made over," said Drusilla, "but the most wonderful thing is seeing the women made over."

"I don't want to see the women made over," the Doctor groaned. "They are nice enough as it is. I want my little Jean gay and smiling--and Derry tells me that she is a nun in a white veil."

"She is more than that," Derry said, and a great light came into his eyes. "I sometimes feel that she and Drusilla are holding hands across the sea--two brave women in different spheres."

Drusilla, wise Drusilla pondered. "Perhaps the war will teach men like Bruce that women aren't playthings--"

"Don't be too hard on me, Drusilla."

"I am not hard. I am telling the truth."

"I'll forgive you, because in these weeks you've taught me a lot--" Bruce McKenzie's world would not have recognized in this tired and serious gentleman its twinkling, teasing man of medicine. Weary feet on the stones--

"I must go to them," Drusilla said.

She went out on the step. They saw the men cluster about her--French and English, Scotch--a few Americans.

Her voice soared:

"In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the sea, With the glory in his bosom which transfigures you and me. As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free-- While God is marching on--"

"Look," said the Doctor. "Do you see their faces, Derry?"

Gazing up at her as if they drank her in, the men listened. She was the daughter of a nation of dreamers, the daughter of a nation _which made its dreams come true_.

Tired and spent, they saw in her hope personified. They saw America coming fresh and unworn to fight a winning battle to the end. So they turned their faces towards Drusilla. She was more to them than a singing woman. Behind her stood a steadfast people--and God was marching on.


(The end)
Temple Bailey's novel: Tin Soldier

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