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A LITTLE TRAGEDY OF THE WAR, Issue 15657, 23 November 1914
A LITTLE TRAGEDY OF THE WAR
A minor tragedy of tho great war, not without its amusing features, is given by a correspondent to an American journal. It serves as a contrast of the huinaner methods of the French army to those of the Prussians wo read about in the daily cables. An old woman was busy feeding her chickens. “ Yon must come, vite, tamo,” says tho officer in charge of a rounding-up party. “We will give you n lift.” “ But I eannot leave my pullets,” says the old countrywoman, aghast. “They will starve.” “ You must come, tnnto,” repeats tho officer, inflexibly. “I am sorry for you, ma mere; but this bitter time we must make sacrifices. Get your clothes, old lady. We cannot wait now.” “But mv pullets!” Avails the old Aroman again. “ They Avill starve if I am not hero to feed them.” “Como, come, old lady.” says tho officer, and signs to Ids sergeant. “Dismount, Jean, and help her pack.” But the old Avomau bficks up against tho coop, and fiddles a •moment behind her with her left hand. Abruptly she has tho door open, and, Avith a movement wonderfully quick for so old a body, she stops inside among her beloved poultry, and slams to tlio wirecovered door. There is a tumultuous flapping and fluttering of bcAvildered poultry. and the air inside the eont> is full for some moments of dust and feathers. Then the chaos subsides, and the AAonian looks nut defiantly from her refuge Avith tho coop. The officer dismounts and goes fonvard himself to the coop. He does his best to persuade the old Avoman to listen to reason qnd come out; but she is Too old and too frightened and too rooted to year-long custom - and habits. “No, no! I Avill not come. My pullets —they Avill starve,” she says, reiterating endlessly. “ Rut the Germans Avill come, ma more,” he says patiently. “They Avill kill vour pullets and oat them.” “ Never!” screams the old woman. The situation has become impossible. The old woman is insensible to reason, totally unable to face and comnreheml this sudden uoav necessity Avhich war has brought across her quiet life. Site stands in there, backed rigidly against Hie far side of the coop, Avith the chickens croAvding aAvav into the corners, tackling uneasily. Outside the officer stands, silent ; for be has ceased to expostulate. The sergeant, a big, black-boarded man, is crying quite frankly, and several of the other men are in tears. Tims this moment of drama around an old hencoop, and then, suddenly action—- shoAving the iron underneath the surface in those men who are tint ashamed of crying. The officer turns quietly and says three brief words to the sergeant. The sergeant and laati of the men stop forAvard and around the front and sides of the coop. There is a sudden crashing of woodwork, and the coop is torn apart. Then—an old woman screaming Avildly, insanely, and a vast fluttering ami chicking of outraged chickenhood 1 They lift the old Avoman, fighting and kicking, nut of the ruins of the coop, and the soldiers catch the chickens ns they come soaring and chicking out in all directions. The sergeant and his helper take the old woman into her little house, and there help her in pack. A few- minutes later she comes nut, very Avhite-faced and rigid, carrying a small bird-cage and a cloak, Avhile the sergeant carries n bundle on his broad hack, tied np in a bed quilt. Tho old woman is not allowed to pass near the coop, hut is taken to the rear and put aboard a light Avaggon along Avith a number of other unfortunate.*:. The sergeant comes hack, and tho officer whispers something to him. and passes him a couple of 2fl-franc nieces. The l)ig sergeant mutters something, nodding toward the disrupted coop, and after a moment the officer nods, “Very avoll. Jean,” he says. “Just one. hut no more. Wo can't cart all the live stock on the countryside!’’ From tho coop come sounds that indicate unmistakably that chickens are being converted into poultry, and I glance for explanation to the officer. ■' If avc leave them.’’ he tells me. “ they will only he destroyed. They will be better in our camp pot to-night.” Just that he tells mo. Not a whisper about the fact that out of his own pocket ho Ims sent 40 francs to ihe old Avoman to recompense her, for the poultry Avhich she Avas bound to lose. Five mimites later wo were ready to meve on. and I Avent to tho rear to sec one of tile loaded waggons start off to tho soiithAvnrd. In the tail end of it the old Avoman sat upon her big bundle, done up in tho old bed quilt” In one hand aa-.ts her bird cage. The other Avas gripped on the lieutenant’s two gold pieces. In her lan reposed snugly two things—her clock and one of her hens, which the big blackboarded sergeant had hogged for her. The waggon Avent aAvav to the southward. and tho French .soldiers mover] forward on their errand of merer and pain ; for they had to see that all the country for a certain area Avas empty of non-combatants. IVelvo hours later great flames were rising up in the rear. The hen coop and the little farm Avoro going up to heaven in smoke, along Avith many another, on the borders of the great Forest of Compiogne.
A LITTLE TRAGEDY OF THE WAR, Issue 15657, 23 November 1914
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