Gilman, James W. (ed.) / The Wisconsin literary magazine
Volume XIX, Number 5 (March 1920)
Russel, C. M.
Mademoiselle Beauquis, pp. 119-122
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
Based on date of publication, this material is presumed to be in the public domain. For information on re-use see: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/Copyright