Château Thierry

by Frederick Orin Bartlett

When the United States of America finally declared war against His Satanic Majesty, Wilhelm of Prussia, Carter nodded his approval. The nation’s decision was reached at a time when he was in a particularly generous mood, for things had been coming his way for some time and he had finally settled down comfortably to enjoy them. In the preceding fall he had reached the goal of his ambition, the managership of the New York office of the Atlas Company, where he had been employed for twenty-five years. This carried a salary of seventy-five hundred—some jump from the petty twelve hundred on which he had started; even some jump from the forty-five hundred he had been drawing for the past year.

The increase allowed Carter to make several very satisfactory changes: first, to move from the rented house in Edgemere, where he had lived for five years, to a house of his own in the same town, for which he gave a warranty deed to his wife; to take his son Ben out of a commercial school and send him to Harvard for a liberal education; and to purchase a classy little runabout. There were certain other perquisites, too, which made the world a better place to live in, such as an added servant, a finer table, and, finally, the  privilege of taking the eight-ten to town instead of the seven-fifteen.

Carter enjoyed all these luxuries as only a man can who has worked hard for them and waited long. He had promised them to his pretty wife the day he married her, and now, after twenty years, he had made good. It was worth something to see him, after a substantial breakfast, kiss Kitty good-by on the front porch, give a proprietary look at the neat shingled house, and stroll down the gravelly path at a leisurely pace, stopping at the gate to light a fat cigar and wave a second adieu to the little woman, who was still pretty and who he knew admired him from the crown of his head to the tips of his shoes. She was that kind.

On the eight-ten he was meeting a new class of neighbors—all eight to ten thousand dollar men, with a few above that figure, though the latter generally moved to the Heights at round twelve thousand. They were men whose lives were now polished and round like stones on the seashore within reach of the waves. They varied, mostly, in their dimensions, with of course some differences of political coloring. But they were fast becoming neutral even in politics. With America at war the old issues were disappearing.

Most of the men had long since become used to each other, but Carter, sitting in the smoker—it was almost like a private car reserved for those not due at their offices until nine—was actually thrilled by his associates. And if ever he found an opportunity to refer among them to “my son at Harvard” he was puffed up all the rest of the day. The only thing he regretted  was that the war had done away with football, because in high school the lad had promised to make a name for himself in the game. Still, even that had its redeeming features: his neck was safe. Though the boy was climbing toward six feet and weighed, at eighteen, round one hundred and seventy, he threw himself into the line in those final school games with a recklessness that made Carter, looking on, catch his breath.

Carter had not been able to keep pace with the boy’s physical growth. It still seemed to him but a brief time ago that he had been carrying him round in his arms as a baby. And he had carried him for miles. He had not been able to keep his hands off him. He had loved to feel the downy head against his cheek and the frightened little heart pounding against his own. Night after night he had walked the floor with him with a sense of creation akin to God’s. And when anything was really the matter with the child Carter became a trembling wreck.

Well, those days were something to look back upon now with a smile. They even played their part in the present. They afforded the contrast necessary to allow him to extract to the last drop his final triumphant success. Some of those who had never taken the seven-fifteen did not know what it meant to take the eight-ten.

Carter, who had previously been content with one paper, now bought the Times and the Sun at the station and glanced through the headlines. He had read with a thrill of pride, as did everyone in the whole car on that early spring morning, the President’s declaration of war.

He was sitting beside Culver, of the Second National  Bank, and exclaimed: “Guess that’ll make Wilhelm sit up and take notice, eh?”

Culver was an older man. Carter could have punched him for his response in a level voice: “Yes. But ’tis going to make us sit up and take notice, too.”

“What do you mean?” demanded Carter with a trace of aggressiveness.

“I mean that our resources are going to be tested to the limit before we’re through with this.”

“You wait until the Huns see Uncle Sam with his sleeves rolled up. Wouldn’t surprise me any if they quit.”

Carter shifted his seat to a place near Barclay and Newell, who were leading a group in three cheers for the President. And on his way downtown that day he stopped to buy a flag and pole to be sent to the house. Before he reached his office these flags of red and white and blue had begun to appear in numbers on the tops of buildings and from windows, brightening the dull gray backgrounds as with flowers. It made him want to cheer. It made him walk more erect. The whole downtown atmosphere became vibrant. The declaration of war was the sole topic of conversation in the office, and one of the first things he did was to ring up Kitty and tell her about it.

“Well, old girl, we’ve done it!” he exclaimed.

“Done what?” she asked anxiously.

“Declared war,” he announced, as though in some way he had been personally concerned in the act. “Guess that will make the Huns rub their eyes.”

“War?” trembled Kitty. 

“You bet! Fritzie waited a little too long with his apologies that last time.”

In the succeeding days Carter followed the nation’s preparations for the task ahead with a feeling of reflected glory. His favorite phrase was: “We’re going at it man-fashion.”

He was keen for conscription and liked to speak of a possible army of two million. When the First Liberty Loan came along he subscribed for a thousand dollars. He would have taken more, but he found that his personal expenses had taken in the last few months a decided jump. It was costing him more than twice as much to maintain his new house as it had his old. Besides that, Ben’s expenses at college were a considerable item. His car, too, was costing more than he had anticipated, and he had added unconsciously a lot to his everyday expenditures. He was smoking better cigars, eating better lunches and wearing better clothes. At the same time each one of these items was costing more. However, his new position in a way called for these things, and, besides, he was entitled to them. He had worked hard for them and they were the fair reward of attainment.

Carter had hoped to do better on the Second Liberty Loan, but when the time came he found it difficult to take out even another thousand. He rather resented the way Newell, the overzealous member of the local committee, harried him about it. When Newell suggested that he double the amount the man was presuming to know Carter’s circumstances better than he himself knew them. 

He had answered rather tartly:

“I’m capable of deciding my investments for myself.”

In the interval between the two loans both the servants had asked for an increase in wages, and Carter had been forced to pay it or see them go. Kitty had suggested that she be allowed to get along with one and undertake some of the housework herself, but he had set his foot down on that.

“You’ve had your share of housework, little woman,” he said. “It’s time you took a rest and enjoyed yourself.”

But the servants were not the only ones who held Carter up. The grocer, the butcher and the iceman all conspired against him. When the Government began to take control under Hoover and fix prices for some of the essentials Carter was outspoken in his approval.

“It’s time something of the sort was done to check the food pirates,” he declared to Culver.

“Where’s this government control going to stop?” questioned the latter.

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” replied Carter aggressively.

“It’s a type of paternalism, and that’s dangerous,” suggested Culver.

Carter replied with a glittering generality: “Your Uncle Sam has rolled up his shirt sleeves and means business.”

Carter always chuckled contentedly over the cartoons of the tall, lank figure with the lean face, grimly  set jaws and starred top hat. It expressed for him in a human way his own patriotism. It filled him with pride and gave him confidence. It satisfied his traditional conception of Americanism. He even saw in the face a reflection of his own ancestors who had fought at Bunker Hill and through the Civil War. It was distinctly New England, but New England was still in his mind distinctly America.

And yet Carter was puzzled at first when he read the names appearing in the final draft lists—puzzled and a bit worried. These names were not like those that were signed to the Declaration of Independence or those who fell at Bunker Hill. Decidedly they were more like those found in to-day’s New York directory. This might have been expected, and yet it gave Carter something of a shock until one afternoon he saw a regiment of khaki-clad men marching down Fifth Avenue. Then he felt a lump in his throat that prevented him from cheering as loud as he wished. In uniform and marching to the stirring music of a military band these men were, every mother’s son of them, Americans. He saw the same lean faces, the same lank, sinewy bodies, the same clear eyes and set jaws. Their lips were sealed, so that it did not matter what language they spoke. In khaki they were all Americans—the same who fought at Bunker Hill.

The sight sent Carter home with a renewed enthusiasm, which helped him survive the shock of the news that the cook had, without notice, packed up her trunk and left to take some sort of job in a factory. But fortunately he had brought along with him a  sirloin steak, which, broiled, made a very satisfactory dinner. A week later the second girl left.

Mrs. Carter took it good-humoredly, even with a certain amount of relief. She had turned to Red Cross work and one thing or another, but still she missed the care of her own home. Furthermore, she had been genuinely disturbed by the way the expenses had been creeping up. But Carter stormed round and spent half the next day trying to find some new girls. The agencies showed him a few old women and shook their heads.

“We can’t compete with the factories,” they said sadly.

“But, hang it all, what’s a man going to do?” he inquired petulantly.

The agencies, perforce, left him to answer that for himself.

As a matter of fact Carter was not wholly unselfish in his desire to relieve his wife of the housework—particularly the culinary part of it. She did her conscientious best, but she had never been able satisfactorily to master the fine art of cooking. Possibly it was because she herself was more or less indifferent to what she ate. A slice of bread and a cup of tea were enough at any time to satisfy her, so that when she did cook it was always for him and without any other personal interest in the result. Sometimes she forgot; in fact, more often than not she forgot. Perhaps it was only some one little thing, like leaving the baking powder out of the biscuits or the sugar out of the pies. Or if she did get everything in, perhaps she failed to  remember in time that the mixture was in the oven. When she began fooling round with war recipes she found herself even more bewildered. Lord knows, it calls for deft fingers and inborn skill to make a good pie crust out of honest wheat flour, with all thought of economy thrown to the winds. It requires nothing short of genius to produce the same results with substitutes for everything except the apples.

She tried all one afternoon and created something that had a fairly good surface appearance. She waited anxiously until Carter tasted it, and then asked: “How do you like it, Ben?”

“You want the truth?” he returned.

“Of course there is no white flour in the crust, but——”

“There isn’t anything in it that ought to be in a pie,” he declared. “It tastes to me as though it were made out of sawdust and motor oil.”

He did not eat it. It might have been possible had he been starving, but he was in no such unfortunate condition. A man does not ask for apple pie because of its calory content, but because he wants apple pie. It is a matter of taste. A primary essential is, then, not that it shall look like apple pie, but that it shall have the flavor of apple pie. He had been fond of apple pie all his life, and it certainly seemed like an innocent enough addiction. That was equally true of doughnuts and coffee for breakfast. He had enjoyed them all his life until they had become an integral part of the morning meal. As a result of long practice Mrs. Carter had finally succeeded in perfecting herself  in the art of doughnut making. But now instead of frying them in fat, she began to use an excellent vegetable substitute. Not only that, but she followed this by using a sirup for the sugar, and using eighty per cent barley flour and twenty of wheat. She had been given the recipe by the local conservation board and been assured that the product was very satisfactory.

From the viewpoint of the conservation board that may have been true, but to Carter it was nothing short of criminal to allow these balls of fried barley flour to masquerade under the same name.

“Don’t call ’em doughnuts,” he growled, “’cause they aren’t. Invent a new name for them.”

“War doughnuts?” suggested Mrs. Carter anxiously.

“War nothing!” sputtered Carter. “They don’t even belong to the same family.”

Whereupon he turned to his coffee, sweetened with a new kind of sticky substance that tasted like an inferior grade of molasses. There were those who maintained that it was just as good as sugar for sweetening. They were liars—bold-faced liars or they had lost their sense of taste. They belonged to the same class as people who maintained that coffee was better without sugar—that so one enjoyed the taste of the native berry. One might just as well argue that flapjacks for the same reason were best without sirup; cake without frosting; bread without butter.

Carter found his breakfast spoiled for him at precisely the period in life when he was prepared most to enjoy his breakfast. This was extremely irritating. It sent him to the office every morning with a grouch  that did not wear off until toward noon, when it was renewed by having to pay twice what he should for a tasteless lunch. His cigars were the only thing that held up well in flavor, and he began to smoke too many of them.

Carter still followed each day’s news of the nation’s part in the great war with honest pride. He liked the big way his country was going about its preparations. He rolled the dramatic figures over his tongue and gloated over the scale of the various projects. Six hundred millions appropriated for airplanes!

“We’ll show ’em,” he announced to Culver. “We’ll have the air over there black with planes!”

And that job at Hog Island! They were planning to build fifty ways there inside of a year—just put them down on a marshy island.

“Nothing small about your Uncle Sam,” he chuckled.

When the inevitable scandals began to be whispered and congressional investigations were started, Carter frowned.

“If these stories are true,” he declared, “the grafters ought to be lynched; if they’re not we ought to lynch the darn-fool congressmen who are interrupting the game.”

The investigations took place, changes were made, and the work went on, with the investigations soon forgotten. Nothing could check the onward movement. Pershing landed in France, and soon was followed by his men. Work on the same gigantic scale was begun on the other side. Docks were built, railroads laid down overnight, warehouses put up almost between  dawn and twilight. This vanguard saw big and built big, and when the news of its accomplishment began to filter across to the men at home it made every American feel bigger.

At the close of his freshman year in June, Ben came back home, and that personal interest took the place of every other in Carter’s mind. The boy was looking fine. Drill with the Harvard regiment had taken the place of athletics and had left him as rugged and tanned as a seasoned soldier. Carter proudly took the boy to town with him on the eight-ten and introduced him to the crowd. Then he introduced him to everyone in the office, including Stetson, the second vice president. There was some design in this. He was preparing the way for an opening here for Ben as soon as the lad was through college. With the benefit of the experience Carter could give him the boy ought to climb high in the Atlas.

Ben had acquired poise in this last year. He met these men with an assurance and charm of manner tempered with respectful deference that surprised his father. It was clear that the boy made a very pleasant impression.

At lunch Ben repeated to his father some of the experiences he had heard from college mates who had gone over to drive ambulances. The boy was full of it and his cheeks grew flushed as he talked. Carter became disturbed.

“That’s all very well,” broke in Carter; “but those fellows might have made themselves more useful if they had waited until they were of age. Both President  Lowell and the War Department are advising men to wait and finish their college courses, aren’t they?”

“Yes,” admitted Ben; “they advise that.”

“Well, it’s sound advice,” declared Carter. “A man with a college education and Plattsburg on top of that is worth twenty ambulance drivers. Officers are what we need.”

“I suppose so,” agreed Ben abstractedly.

The reply left Carter more comfortable. The boy was only just nineteen, and that gave him two more years before he was twenty-one. By that time the war would be over. Carter was sure of it. The nation by then would be in full stride, and when that time came that was to be the end. Of course, if by any chance the war should be prolonged—why, then the boy would have to go. But that contingency was two years off—two long years off. In the meanwhile the boy could feel that he was getting his training. He was going to make a better officer for waiting. He would gain in experience and judgment—two most necessary qualifications for an officer. Carter proceeded to enlarge on that subject. But the boy listened indifferently. Carter’s position, however, was sound, and the more he talked the more he convinced himself of this, so that he succeeded in putting himself enough at ease to talk of the war in a general way.

“Sort of makes a man glad he’s an American to be living in these days, eh, Ben?”

“You bet!” nodded Ben.

“The rest of the world thought we’d gone soft, but your old Uncle Sam has shown that he still has fighting  stuff in him. It took us some time to get stirred up, but once started—woof!”

“We’ve got a big job on our hands,” said Ben.

“The bigger the better,” declared Carter. “It takes a big job to wake us up.”

The boy was surprised and encouraged by his father’s aggressive attitude, and yet when he ventured to reintroduce the subject of ambulance service he saw his father shy off again. He was puzzled by this and went away after lunch to meet his chum Stanley.

A week later, as Carter was about to settle down on the front porch for an after-dinner smoke, Ben came along, took his arm and led him down the graveled path toward the road—out of sight of the house, where Mrs. Carter was washing the dishes. The boy kept his father’s arm in an unusually demonstrative manner until he stopped beneath an electric light.

Then he asked quite casually: “Dad, got your fountain pen with you?”

“Eh?”

The lad held out a paper.

“What in thunder is this?” demanded Carter.

“My enlistment papers, dad. I went down to the Marine Recruiting Office the other day and passed my physical. Now—they’ve left a place along the dotted line for you to sign because I’m under age.”

The thing that astonished Carter most after the initial shock was a feeling of helplessness. It was as though his relations with his son had suddenly changed and the son had become the father. He was a foot shorter than the boy anyway, and now he felt two feet  shorter. He saw a new light in the boy’s eyes, heard a fresh note of dominance. And yet it was only a brief time ago—a pitifully brief time ago—that he had been holding this same boy in his arms as a baby. Now he stood at the lad’s mercy, even though he still saw below the stalwart figure of the boy-man the downy-headed baby.

Carter gulped back a lump in his throat.

“Good Lord!” he choked. “I can’t. I can’t. You’re all I’ve got.”

The young man placed a steady hand upon his father’s shoulder.

“You must take this thing right, dad,” he said firmly.

“In another year——”

“I’d never forgive myself if I waited,” cut in Ben. “I’ve heard too much from the fellows who’ve been over there and seen. I want you to understand that it isn’t the adventure of the thing that gets me. It’s the right of it. I’m strong enough for the game, and that’s all that counts. Another year wouldn’t make me any more fit.”

“You’d be ready for Plattsburg—in a couple of years.”

“Maybe,” Ben nodded; “but somehow—well, I just hanker to use my arms and legs rather than my head. The way I feel, nothing short of a chance with the bayonet will satisfy me. That’s why I went in for the Marines.”

Carter glanced up. He saw those lips, which had once been so tender and soft, now sternly taut. 

“Have you told your mother?” asked Carter.

“No, dad. I want it all settled first.”

“I—I don’t know what it will do to her,” Carter struggled on feebly.

“She’ll take it right,” declared the boy with conviction. “She’ll take it right because—because it’s for women like her that we’re going over there.”

Carter did not reach for the paper, even then. He merely found it in his hands. He drew out his fountain pen and the name he scrawled upon the dotted line might have been written by a man of eighty.

“That’s the good old dad,” Ben whispered hoarsely as he replaced the paper in his pocket. “You’re a brick.”

Carter tried to see it that way. There were moments even when he thought he was going to feel proud. A day or two later, when Newell, Culver and the others on the eight-ten heard of it, they hurried up to him and shook his hand with such phrases as “The boy has the right stuff in him, Carter,” and “He makes us glad we live in Edgemere.” All Carter could do was to turn away.

The boy’s going left a great big hollow place in Carter—a hollow that only grew bigger when he began to receive the lad’s enthusiastic letters from the training camp. He missed him in a way that disturbed every detail of his daily life. When he woke up in the morning it was with a sense of some deep tragedy hanging over him—as though the boy were dead. This sent him downstairs depressed and irascible. His coffee with its abominable sirup tasted more bitter  than ever. The mere sight of the war doughnuts irritated him. It was as though they made mock of him. Half the time the omelet was burned, for Kitty was becoming more forgetful than ever, and more often than not did not remember the omelet at all until she smelled it smoking. She did her best to cheer Carter up, until she found the wisest thing to do was to say nothing. As a matter of fact everything she said sounded to him as hypocritical as all the confounded war substitutes with which he found himself more and more hemmed in. Newell particularly was full of new recipes for foods and drinks that he claimed were as good as the original articles, and was forever pulling clippings from his pockets on the morning train.

“You ought to get your wife to try this, Carter,” he broke out one day. “It’s a new recipe for cake without sugar, wheat or butter. Ellen made some last night and you couldn’t tell it from the real stuff.”

“What do you call the real stuff?” demanded Carter.

“Why, the cake we used to get before the war.”

“And you mean to say you can’t tell the difference?”

“Well, of course this isn’t quite so tasty, but it’s a darned good substitute.”

“You’re welcome,” growled Carter.

Newell appeared astonished. Later he repeated the conversation to Manson, and concluded: “Do you know, if the beggar didn’t have a boy in the Marines I’d say he was pro-German.”

“Nonsense!” answered Manson.

“Well, he wasn’t any too keen about the Second  Liberty Loan when I saw him. He only took a thousand.”

“So? I thought he’d be good for five, anyway.”

The Government was already beginning to talk about the Third Liberty Loan. Somewhat fretfully Carter read the preliminary announcements. Where was this thing going to stop, anyway? He was not any more than keeping even with the game now. And even so, he was not getting so much out of life as he had been getting before.

On top of that they sent the boy across. After an interval of silence Carter received a cable one day announcing his safe arrival at a port in France. It took the starch all out of him. It was like one of those nightmares he used to suffer when he dreamed of the boy in some great danger and was forced to stand by, dumb and paralyzed, powerless to help. It was like that exactly, only this was reality. Day by day and mile by mile this intangible merciless power called war was dragging the boy nearer and nearer his destruction. It was barbaric. It was wrong. This boy was his.

Now he was at a port in France. Until the last few years that would not have been anything to worry about. He had wished the boy to travel. France had always stood to Carter as a land of sunshine and holidays—a sort of pre-honeymoon land to the more fortunate. To-day a port in France seemed like a port in hell.

On the eight-ten they kept asking about the boy, and when Carter told Barclay that Ben was over  there, Barclay answered: “Lucky dog. That ought to make you proud.”

Carter made no reply. That was in March, just before the big Hun offensive. When that broke Carter did not dare read the papers for a while. Those were bad days. America had then been in the war nearly a year, and yet it was possible for those gray hordes to dash at and into the allied lines. They did it again and again, until the world stood aghast and Carter himself stood aghast. It made no difference whether he read the papers or not, for hourly bulletins were passed round the office and scarcely anything else was talked of.

America had been in the war nearly a year. Uncle Sam had appropriated billions upon billions of dollars; had built shipyards the size of which staggered belief; had talked of destroyers and airplanes in terms of thousands; had established vast military camps and already drafted millions of men; had turned almost every industry in the country over to war work; had taken over the railroads and whatever else was needed.

Uncle Sam had been working with his jaws set and his sleeves rolled up and flags flying from almost every housetop between the Atlantic and the Pacific; with men marching down the streets and bands playing and half the politicians of the country turned into Fourth of July orators.

Yet this thing was happening over there. Lines that had been thought impregnable were falling daily. City after city was being overrun. If the Huns paused it was only for breath, and to dash on once more. Nearer  and nearer they came to Paris, until the city heard the sound of their guns; nearer and nearer, until they came to Château-Thierry.

Carter reached a point where almost his faith in God was shaken. He did not know exactly just what his faith in God was, but it stood for something outside himself representative of justice—just as his patriotism stood for something outside himself representative of honor. Not to be in the slightest sacrilegious, God was a figure crowned with thorns just as Uncle Sam was a figure crowned with a starred top hat. Both were invincible. Yet both stood aside, helpless, before the Huns’ advance.

They waited helplessly until the gray wolves reached Château-Thierry. Then the news was cabled across that the Marines were holding this line—not only technically but actually. Again and again the wolves came on and staggered back.

The Marines were there—the American Marines—and they were holding.

The first report brought the sweat to Carter’s brow. Somewhere in that line without much doubt his son Ben was standing. The little boy he had carried in his arms was under that merciless fire of shrapnel and explosive shells and gas. Carter had read a good deal about the gas shells—the yellow and the blue and the green cross kind. It was devilish stuff. It burned into the lungs and the eyes and the skin. He remembered when it had first been used—had been sent sneaking across the allied lines like some ancient superstition made real. From that moment he had been for war.  He talked war with everyone he met, usually ending with the exclamation: “Uncle Sam won’t stand for that sort of dirty work!”

As a matter of fact Uncle Sam had stood for it a good many months after that, and for acts even more barbaric. But now your Uncle Sam was right on the spot and Ben was on the spot. The two were one!

This was what Carter got hold of, suddenly, unexpectedly, unconsciously, as a man sees a vision. Uncle Sam was there not in the form of a middle-aged farmer in a starred top hat, but as one of the Marines, a tough, wiry young American fighter. And among these Marines was Ben, holding this ghastly line as in his play days he had helped to hold the football line. Uncle Sam was there as Carter’s boy—blood of his blood and flesh of his flesh and soul of his soul. And so in a sense Carter himself was there. This was his fight too. He and Uncle Sam were one! He and the nation were one. He and the brilliant flags flying unharmed here in the streets of New York were one. As far as Carter individually was concerned he was essentially all there was of the nation—just as, individually and as far as his own soul was concerned, he was all there was of God. But because of this, because the thought made him so big, he took in the others too—his boy, Kitty, his neighbors, the state and the United States, and finally God himself. And this God not only stood for justice and honor but was justice and honor, and Carter was He and He was Carter.

Now God and Carter and the boy and the Marines and the nation were all standing side by side behind a  little town that until now had been no more conscious of itself than Carter had been. It had been merely Château-Thierry—a tiny village where simple men and women had gone about their humble business of living with little thought of the world at large. Now it was finding itself a turning point in the history of the world, with the sinewy young men from a country that had not been discovered when Château-Thierry already was hoary with age, rushing there to help keep it true. And with Carter some four thousand miles away staring from his office window and, quite unconscious of the business of the Atlas Company, praying not that the boy might be kept safe for his own sake, but that he might be spared to fight his best—Carter’s best, the nation’s best, God’s best.

The Marines held, and then they did a little better; they began to advance. They say that Foch himself was none too sure of what these lads would find it possible to do. These men were getting their baptism of Hun fire, which is comparable to no fire this side of hell and which possibly may have introduced some new ideas into hell itself. Certainly neither Dante nor Milton revealed any conception of mustard gas.

Creeping forward on all fours the Marines advanced. It was grim business these boys were about, while the flags flew dreamily in the streets of New York and a thousand other cities from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico—flew dreamily and prettily for safe men to look up at and for safe women and children to smile at contentedly. It was serious business they were about to  the right and left of that old town, while the machines sped up and down Fifth Avenue bright in the summer sun. And yet when at length the cables flashed across the ocean the news that the old town had been won and all that meant, there was little in the message to hint of that grim business. And there was no mention at all of individuals—of the boy Ben who lay in a bit of woods like one asleep, his hair all tousled and his face dirty as he used to come in from play. But that night Carter went home with his head held high and his eyes alight.

When Carter opened the front door he was greeted with the smell of smoke from the kitchen. He hurried out there and found Mrs. Carter standing almost in tears before the charred remains of what had evidently been intended for a pie of some sort. She looked up anxiously as Carter entered. Her blue eyes began to fill with tears.

“Oh, Ben,” she quavered, “I’m so sorry. I—I’ve been saving flour and sugar for a week to have enough to make you a real apple pie. And then—and then I forgot it. And—and——”

She made a despairing gesture toward the jet-black evidence of her unpardonable thoughtlessness. And then before Carter’s accusing glance she shrank back and hid her face in the folds of her blue gingham apron.

Carter stared from her to the pie and then back to her. Fresh from the victory of Château-Thierry, this was such a pitiful travesty! She was crying—she, the mother of his son who had fought with the Marines  this day, was crying in fear of his anger because she had spoiled in the baking an apple pie.

Good Lord, to what depths had he sunk! To what pitiful depths of banality had he dragged her!

He strode to her side and seized her in his arms fiercely as a baffled lover.

“Kitty,” he cried hoarsely, “look up at me!”

In amazement she obeyed. The clutch of his arms took her back twenty-five years. He saw the springtime blue of her eyes.

“Kitty,” he pleaded, “can you forgive me?”

“Forgive—you?” she stammered, not understanding.

“For making you think it matters a picayune what I have to eat. Little woman—little woman, we took Château-Thierry to-day!”

She drew back a little as though expecting evil news to follow. But the news had not yet come.

“We,” he repeated—“you and I and Ben and the Marines and Uncle Sam and God—all together. We not only held the beasts but drove them back. It’s in the papers to-night.”

“And Ben——” she faltered.

“He must have been there,” he answered.

“He—he——”

But she did not finish her timorous question. She caught the contagion of the fire in her husband’s eyes and sealed her lips. And he, stooping, kissed those lips as he used to kiss them before the boy came.

The next morning Carter drank his coffee black, and when Kitty brought on the war doughnuts he shoved them aside. 

“Don’t make any more,” he said. “Cut ’em out altogether. That’s the trick.”

And when on the eight-ten Newell came round with a recipe for making frosting without sugar, Carter refused to listen.

“Look here, Newell,” he protested, “those confounded things don’t interest me.”

“They don’t?” returned Newell ominously.

“Not a little bit,” Carter continued calmly.

“You mean to tell me you aren’t interested in conservation?”

“Did I say that?”

“Well, it amounts to the same thing, doesn’t it?”

“Not on your tintype!” replied Carter. “Look here, Newell, you’ve been talking pretty plain to me lately and perhaps I’ve deserved it, but it leaves me free to give you a few ideas of my own. What we’ve got to do is to face this war—not duck it. We aren’t going to win with substitutes but with sacrifices. The trouble with you and your crowd—the trouble with me—is that we’ve been trying to eat our cake and save it too. What’s the use of those fool recipes of yours? The time has come to give up cake and pie and doughnuts—then why in thunder not give them up and be done with it?”

“But the Government doesn’t ask that,” cut in Newell.

“Who’s the Government?” demanded Carter.

“Why—why——”

“You are. I am,” Carter cut in, answering his own question. “That’s all there is to it. And if you want  to understand how important you are, just multiply yourself by a hundred million. That’s what Hoover does. Do it for yourself.”

Newell smiled a little maliciously.

“Perhaps you’re right, old man. By the way, I’m on this Third Liberty Loan committee, and if you’ll tell me how much I can look ahead for from you it would help.”

“Ten thousand dollars,” answered Carter. “In the meantime, if you hear of anyone who wants to buy a house, let me know.”

“You aren’t going to leave us?”

“Not if I can hire a cheap place round town,” answered Carter.

“Say—but you are plunging,” exclaimed Newell uncomfortably.

“We can’t let that Château-Thierry victory go for nothing,” answered Carter quietly.

At last—at last Carter himself had declared war. That was why when he received a cable to the effect that Private Ben Carter was reported seriously wounded the man could sign his name firmly to the receipt.

The time had come for the Huns to take seriously the entry of the United States into the war.

Frederick Orin Bartlett.