“Fall out and stand by to be assigned to billets,” was the order our captain passed down the column to us early one morning in May, 1918.
The order to “fall out” was literally obeyed by most of us, for we were tired only as soldiers could be who had ridden in wobbly French camions and hiked alternately for two days and nights.
We were changing sectors, and had been given to understand that our next taste of front line warfare would be the real thing. However, that morning as we plodded our weary way into the sleepy little town of Merlant, we were not thinking of what the future had in store for us, we were more concerned whether or not we were soon to have rest and sleep.
The clock in the village church tower was chiming the haur of four, and I could just discern the outlines of the tile-roofed cement dwellings on either side of the narrow, winding streets as we were at last sent in details to different billets throughout the village.
I happened to be one of the fortunate party of eight quartered in a large roomy barn loft. There was an abundance of sweet smelling hay about, and we soon had very comfortable beds made. After that it was only a matter of minutes before most of my “bunkies” were claiming their well earned rest.
I was just falling asleep when I came back to consciousness with a start. I had certainly heard some kind of an unusual sound. My sleep-fagged brain was about to dismiss it being only a friendly rat, when I heard it again, this time more distinctly.
I rubbed my eyes and looked about. My eyesight gradually became accustomed to the semi-darkness. and what I saw made me think at first that T was dreaming. There was an old French woman leaning over one of my comrades, crooning a low, sweet melody as if to himself.
She was very small and bent with age, and carried a cane with which to steady herself. She had “mother” written all over her, from the little lace cap that covered her snow-white hair to the large wooden shoes that encased her disproportionately small feet.
She went to each one of the sleeping men, all the time crooning her own beautiful melody, and tucked the covers around them.
When she came to me I feigned sleep, but could not keep down a large lump that kept rising in my throat.
When everything was to her satisfaction she cast one more lingering glance over the assemblage. wiped her age dimmed eyes and hobbled her way painfully down the ladder and into the court beyond.
During our few days stay in Merlant I became fast friends with the little old lady. I learned that she and her aged husband owned the barn in which we were billeted, and lived in three small rooms adjoining it. All the fellows called her “mama” which seemed to please her very much.
HOW TO JOIN
Anyone in the division who did not get in as a charter member of the Second Division Association, can join by sending his application, with two dollars, to the secretary of the association. Be sure to send your organization and your holiie address.
Those who have left the division, and who are with other organizations, as well as those who have gone home, can join by sending their applications to the Secretary, Second Division Headquarters, A. P. 0. 710, American E. F., with two dollars for initiation fee and first year’s dues.
It is necessary that the organization to which the applicant belonged and his home address be given.
One day she opened an old family bible on her sewing table and took from between its leaves two photographs and handed them to me. They were the pictures of two stalwart young Poilus. I knew without asking they were her sons.
“Pour la France?” I queried.
“Pour la France.” She answered.
—Sgt. Oliver B. Carr, 18th Co. Fifth Marines.
SIXTH MACHINE GUN BATTALION
Our well-known Sam, he of motorcycle -fame, ;s now sporting a cigar-holder, and when he has it in use one has to get permission from Henry to speak to him. Poor Sam! And he used to be such a nice fellow!
Corporal Dern would not trade his job at the message center for a captaincy, because he is the first one to see if his orders are in for his return to his little wife, and also has first look at the daily billof-fare which Mess Sergeant Booth brings in.
We all miss “Murphy” from the headquarters office. No more filing papers behind the radiator.
Oh, how Lieutenant Keown likes to jug these Dutchmen!
We are justly proud of our battalion, for we won two first prizes, one second, and two fourth prizes at the Army Show.
Our handsome Lieutenant Lucas is back from a leave in Paree. He brought back suits for our baseball team.
Someone charged Mess Sergeant Booth with putting sugar in the coffee the other day, and it was not April Fools’ day either. We’ll have -to investigate that matter of wasting supplies.
Speaking of celebrities, may I introduce our Damon and Pythias? Meet Corporal Mason and Private Amen.