MORNING IN THE MEADOW
As summer came on, life seemed less and less sad to the people of
Fontanelle. With the coming of the Americans the outlook had so
changed that, although the war was not yet over, they could look
forward to the future with some degree of hope. The news brought
from Rheims by occasional refugees was always sad. The Germans
con tinued to shell the defenseless city, and the Cathedral
sustained more and more injuries, but the beautiful stained-glass
windows had been carefully taken down, the broken pieces put
together as far as possible, and the whole shipped to safer
places in France. The statue of Jeanne d'Arc within the church
had also been taken from its niche, while the one before the
Cathedral doors still remained unharmed by shot and shell.
It comforted Mother Meraut to think of that valiant figure
standing alone amid such desolation. She had other things to
comfort her as well. With food and fresh air the roses bloomed
again in the cheeks of her children. Soon, too, the gardens began
to yield early vegetables. In the morning, instead of hearing the
sound of guns, they were awakened by bird-songs, or by the
crowing of cocks and the bleating of goats. These were pleasant
sounds to the people of Fontanelle, for they brought memories of
peaceful and prosperous days, and the promise of more to come.
The rebuilding of the village was begun by the end of June, and
the sound of saws and hammers cheered them with the prospect of
comfortable homes before cold weather should come again. The work
proceeded slowly, for the workers were few, even though their
good friend the Commandant gave them all the help he could. There
were now a multitude of little chicks running about on what had
been the stately lawns of the Chateau, and there were twenty new
little rabbits in the rabbit-hutch. As the rabbits could not
forage for themselves, it was necessary for others to forage for
them, and this work fell to the lot of Pierre and Pierrette.
One summer morning one of the roosters crowed very, very early,
and the Twins, having no clock, supposed it was time for them to
get up and go for fresh leaves and roots for the rabbits, as they
did every day. They rose at once, and the sun was just peering
above the eastern horizon as they came out of the stable door.
They went to the rabbit-hutch, and the rabbits, seeing them,
stood up on their hind legs and wiggled their noses hungrily.
"Rabbits do have awful appetites," said Pierre, a little
ruefully, as he looked down at the empty food-box. "Just think
what a pile of things we brought them yesterday."
"There's nothing to do but get them more, I suppose," answered
"I know where there's just bushels and bushels of water-cress,"
said Pierre, "but it's quite a long distance off. You know the
brook that flows through the meadow between here and camp? It's
just stuffed with it, and rabbits like it better than almost
"Let's go and get some now," said Pierrette. "We can take the
clothes-basket and bring back enough to last all day."
Pierre went for the basket, and the two children started down the
road which ran beside the meadow toward the camp. It was so early
that not another soul in the village was up. Even the rooster had
gone to sleep again after his misguided crowing. One pale little
star still winked in the morning sky, but the birds were already
winging and singing, as the children, carrying the basket between
them, set forth upon their quest.
When they reached the brook, they set down the basket, took off
their wooden shoes, and, wading into the stream, began gathering
great bunches of the cress. They were so busy filling their
basket that they did not notice the sun had gone out of sight
behind a cloud-bank, and that the air was still with that strange
breathless stillness that precedes a storm. It was not until a
loud clap of thunder, accompanied by a flash of light ning,
suddenly broke the silence, that they knew the storm was upon
them. When they looked up, the meadow grasses were bend ing low
before a sudden wind, and the trees were swaying to and fro as if
in terror, against the background of an angry sky.
"Wow!" said Pierre. "I guess we're in for it! We can't possibly
get home before it breaks."
"Oh," gasped Pierrette, as another peal of thunder shook the air,
"I don't want to stay out in it. What shall we do?"
Pierre looked about him. A little distance beyond the brook,
toward the camp, there was a straw-stack with a rough straw-
thatched shed beside it, half hidden under a group of small
trees. Pierre pointed to it. "We'll leave the basket here," he
said, "and hide under the straw until the storm is over. Then we
can come back again, get it, and go home."
Another clap of thunder, louder still, sent them flying on their
way, and they did not speak again until they were under the
shelter of the shed. The first big drops fell as they reached it,
and then the storm broke in a fury of wind and water. The
children cowered against the stack itself as far as possible out
of reach of the driving rain.
They had been there but a few moments, when they heard a new
sound in addition to the roar of the wind and the patter of the
rain upon the leaves. It was the dull tread of heavy footsteps,
and they were surprised to see a man running toward the straw-
stack, his head bent to shield his face from the rain, under the
brim of an old hat. His clothes were rough and unkempt, and
altogether his appearance was so forbidding that the children
instinctively dived under the straw at the edge of the stack like
frightened mice, and burrowed backward until they were completely
hidden, though they could still peep out through the loose straw.
The man reached the shed almost before they were out of view, but
it was evident that he had not seen them, for he did not glance
in their direction. He took off his hat and shook the rain-drops
from it. Then he wiped his face and neck with a soiled
handkerchief and sat down on the edge of a bench that had once
been used for salting cattle. He sat still for a little while,
with his feet drawn up on the bench and his hands clasping his
knees, the better to escape the rain. Then he began to grow
restless. He walked back and forth and peered out into the rain
in the direction of the camp. The children were so frightened
they could hear their own hearts beat, but they had been in
danger so many times, and in so many different ways that they
kept their presence of mind, and were able to follow closely his
every move. Soon they heard the sound of more footsteps, and
suddenly there dashed under the shed a soldier in the uniform of
France. It was evident that the first man expected him, for he
showed no surprise at his coming, and the two sat down together
on the bench and began to talk.
The wind had now subsided a little, and though they spoke in low
tones the children could hear every word.
"Whew!" said the soldier as he shook his rain-coat. "Nasty
"All the better for our purposes," answered the other man.
"There's less chance of our being seen."
"Not much chance of that, anyway, so early in the morning as
this," answered the soldier, looking at his watch. "It's not yet
"Best not to linger, anyway," said the other man. "That Captain
of yours has the eyes of a hawk. I was up at camp the other day
selling cigarettes and chocolate, and he eyed me as if he was
struck with my beauty."
"I wish you'd keep away from camp," said the soldier,
impatiently. "It isn't necessary, and you might run into some one
who knew you back in Germany. There are all kinds of people in
the Foreign Legion. I tell you, it isn't safe, and besides, I can
get all the information we need without it."
"All right, General," responded the other, grinning. "But have
you got it? That's the question. I expect that buzzard will be
flying around again over this field in a night or so,—the moon
is 'most full now, and the nights are light,—and I've got to be
able to signal him just how to find the powder magazine and the
other munitions. Then he can swoop right over there and drop one
of his little souvenirs where it will do the most good and fly
away home. I advise you to keep away from that section of the
"Here is the map," said the soldier, drawing a paper from his
pocket, "and there are also statistics as to the number of men
and all I can find out about plans for using them. Take good care
of it. It wouldn't be healthy to be found with it on you."
The first man pocketed the paper. "That's all, is it?" he asked.
"All for this time, anyway," answered the soldier.
The man looked at him narrowly.
"Well," said the soldier, "what's the matter? Don't I look like a
"You'd deceive the devil himself," answered the man with a short
laugh. "No one would ever think you were born in Bavaria. Don't
forget and stick up the corners of your mustache, though. That
might give you away. When do you think you can get over to see
"I don't know," answered the soldier sharply, " but I'll meet you
here day after to-morrow at the same hour. Auf Wiedersehen," and
he was gone.
After his departure, his companion lingered a moment, lit a
cigarette, looked up at the sky, and, seeing that the shower was
nearly over, strolled off in the opposite direction.
The children, looking after him, saw him come upon their basket
near the brook, examine it carefully, and then look about in
every direction as if searching for the owners. Seeing no one, he
gave it a kick and passed on. They watched him, not daring to
move until he turned toward the river and was out of sight. Later
they saw a boat come from the shelter of some bushes on the bank,
and slip quietly down the stream with the man in it.
When they dared move once more they crawled out from under the
straw, and Pierrette said, "Well, what do you think of that?"
"Think!" Pierre said, choking with wrath. "I think he's a
miserable dog of a spy! They are both spies! And they are going
to try to blow up the whole camp! You come along with me." He
seized Pierrette by the hand, and the two flew over the wet
meadow toward the distant camp.
"Whatever should we do if we met that soldier?" gasped Pierrette,
breathless with running and excitement.
"Look stupid," said Pierre promptly. "He didn't see us, and he'd
never dream we had seen him; but, by our blessed Saint Jeanne,
this is where I get even with the Germans! Let's find Jim and
Reveille was just sounding as they entered the camp and presented
themselves at the door of Uncle Sam's tent. During the weeks that
had elapsed since their arrival in France, Jim and Uncle Sam had
acquired a fair working knowledge of the language, and, though it
still remained a queer mixture of French and English, they and
the children managed to understand each other very well.
"Bonjour, kids!" cried Uncle Sam in astonishment, when he saw the
two children at the tent door. "What on earth are you doing here?
Don't you know visitors are not expected in camp at this hour?"
"Sh—sh!" said Pierre, laying his finger on his lips. "Nobody
must see us! We have important news!"
Uncle Sam sat up in bed. "Why, I believe you have," he said,
looking attentively. at their pale faces. "Just wait a minute
while I get my clothes on. Here, you—Jim," he added, poking a
recumbent figure in the adjoining cot. "Roll out! It's reveille!"
Jim sat up at once and rubbed his eyes, and, after a hurried
consultation, the two men turned the two children with their
faces to the wall in one corner of the tent, while they made a
hasty toilet in the other.
"Now, then, out with it," said Uncle Sam a few moments later.
"Que vooly-voo? What's up?"
Jim sat down beside him on the edge of the cot, and the two men
listened in amazement to the story the two children had to tell.
When they had finished, Uncle Sam wasted no words. "Come with me
to the Captain tooty sweet," he said. And Jim added, as he patted
the Twins tenderly on the head, "By George, mes enfants, you
ought to get the war cross for this day's work."
A few moments more, and the children and Uncle Sam were ushered
by an orderly into the presence of the Captain, who was just in
the act of shaving. Uncle Sam's message to him had been so
imperative that they were admitted at once to his presence, even
though his face was covered with lather and he was likely to fill
his mouth with soap if he opened it. Uncle Sam saluted, and the
Twins, wishing to be as polite as possible, saluted too. The
Captain returned the salute, and went on shaving as he listened
to their story, grunting now and then emphatically instead of
speaking, on account of the soap. When Pierre came to what the
soldier had said under the shed, he was so much interested that
he cut his chin.
"So that's their program, is it?" he sputtered, soap and all,
mopping his chin. "But how on earth did you happen to be in such
a place as that at such an hour in the morning?"
Pierre explained about the rabbits and the cress, and Uncle Sam
added: "They're from Fontanelle. Their father is a soldier
wounded at the Marne, and they lived under fire in Rheims for
eight months before coming here. They're some kids, believe me!
They know what war is."
"Yes," said the Captain, "I remember them; they came up the river
some weeks ago." Then he turned to the children. "Would you know
that soldier if you were to see him again?" he asked.
"Oh, yes," said the children.
"Very well," said the Captain, "the men will go to breakfast
soon. You stay with Sam and watch them, and if you see that man
go by you step on Sam's foot. No one must see you do it. Be sure
you don't make a mistake now," he added, "and if you really do
unearth the rascal, it's the best day's work you ever did, for
yourselves as well as for France. Sam, you report to me
afterwards, and be sure you give no occasion for suspicion to any
"Yes, sir," said Sam, and saluted. Pierre and Pierrette saluted
The Captain returned the salute with ceremony. "You are true
soldiers of France," he said to the Twins as they left his tent.
If their comrades were surprised to see Uncle Sam standing with
two children by his side while the others passed into the mess
tent with cups and plates in hand, no one said anything. It was a
little irregular to be sure—but then—Americans were always
unexpected! For a long time the men filed by, and still there was
no sign of the face they sought. At last, however, Pierre came
down solidly on Uncle Sam's right foot, and at the same time
Pierrette touched his left with her wooden shoe. There, right in
front of them, carrying his plate and cup, and twirling his
mustache, was the man they sought!
The Twins stood still, and not by the quiver of an eyelash did
they betray any excitement until the man had passed into the
tent. Then Uncle Sam said to them, "Now you scoot for home, or
your Mother will be worried to death! Tell your Father and Mother
all about it, but don't tell another soul at present." The
children flew back across the meadow, picked up their basket of
cress, and when they reached the Chateau, fed the hungry rabbits.
Then they found their Father and Mother and told them their
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