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Gilman, James W. (ed.) / The Wisconsin literary magazine
Volume XIX, Number 5 (March 1920)

Russel, C. M.
Mademoiselle Beauquis,   pp. 119-122


Page 119

WISCONSIN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Mademoiselle Beauquis
ICC T IS the policy of the commandant of the Aix
les Bains leave area to allow the men on leave
as much freedom as possible. This policy will be fol-
lowed as long as you observe the discretion of gentle-
men and Americans."
The adjutant's voice droned to a close. The men
filed through the military police office for registration,
and then moved off in groups toward their assigned
lodgings in tow of red-banded military policemen.
Private John Markham wormed his shoulders into
a more comfortable position under the straps of his
pack, and trailed along in the rear of the group of
which he had been made a member. He was alone.
He had lost the other three men from his outfit in the
confusion of detraining, and he had made no effort to
find them again. He wanted to be alone, to be en-
tirely free from every restraint. No more sickening
first call, fatigue, drill, stables, school or assembly for
retreat for a whole week, and a chance to get away
from the infernal monotony of olive drab.
The men ahead of him turned, and Markham
looked up to find them entering a pretty little villa.
He pushed through the door with them to find a prim
and almost tiny young woman gesticulating and talk-
ing with explosive emphasis to the unmoved M. P. who
leered down at her with, "No compree, kid, you'll
have to talk about oofs or van blank if you expect me
to get you."
"Perhaps I can assist Mademoiselle, if she will al-
low me," and, propping his pack in a corner, Private
Markham took command of the situation.
"What? Monsieur, the American, speaks the French
so well? Ah, you will win my utmost gratitude if you
will but tell your comrades what rooms to occupy as I
direct."
This was soon accomplished, and the girl turned to
her interpreter.
"And now, Monsieur, by a little manuevering, I have
left you a room to yourself. You will find it on the
right at the head of the stair. Thus, I am able to show
my gratitude."
Markham thanked her, and turned to get his pack.
The M. P. was leaving.
"You sure are sitting pretty here, buddie," he grin-
ned over his shoulder, "Take it from me, these French
Janes are all right,-in France, but they wouldn't rate
very high back in God's country where you can talk
to a girl without using both hands and a phrase book.
Mebbe 111 call on you this week to 'parley vu' a little
for me to my Jeanne. I can't tell her all I want to my-
self. Well, 'Bong Jure', and make the most of your
luck. She sure is a neat little chicken." And the arm
of the military law swaggered through the door.
Markham looked around for the girl as he went up
the stars. She was sitting in an alcove at the end of
the hall, reading a book.
"Must be the daughter of the house," he mused as
he went to his room.
For two days Markham reveled in the hospitality
of the Y. M. C. A. He nearly ruined his digestion
with candy, and he lunched four or five times each day
on soft white biscuit, boiled eggs, cookies and hot
chocolate. He smoked cigars almost continuously,
and lounged in easy chairs, while he listened to the
French orchestra work itself to a frenzy in interpreting
the great composers to unappreciative ears, and drag
through American jazz to the huge delight of the aud-
ience. He took in the "movies" and the vaudeville
shows, and watched the dances. He did not dance;
he pitied the Y. M. C. A. girls too much to add his
stumbling, hob-nailed steps to their worries. At times
he wished he could talk with the girls, but they always
seemed so busy that he did not like to bother them.
He stopped occasionally in the cafes where he lingered
over a glass of malaga or cherry brandy, while he lis-
tened to veterans of 1870 bewail their loss of prestige
to the younger warriors, and smiled at the naive utter-
ances of the Americans. He jotted down many notes
in a worn book, and chronicled at length the story of
an artillery mule-skinner who had wandered past the
front line trenches at night. The big Missourian told
the story well.
"An' this guy pops up, an' says to me, 'Where yuh
goin', buddy?' An' I tells him I'm on my way to the
first battalion headquarters, an' he says, 'You're wrong
there, buddy, you're on your way into Germany, ant
this is a listenin' post. You gotta whisper or they'll
fire on us,' 'Whisper, hell,' says I, 'I gotta turn four
mules around.'"
The third day Private Markham awoke wondering
what he would do for excitement for the next twelve
hours or so. His appetite for sweets and dainties had
become dulled, and the crush and noise at the concerts
and shows were beginning to pall. The other men
were still rushing on in the whirl. He could think of
no friend who would feel as he did, and would wish
to get away for quiet walks and discussions. At last
he got out of bed, dressed, and went to breakfast.
119
March 1920


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