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For The Honor Of France 1891   By: (1849-1913)

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FOR THE HONOR OF FRANCE.

By Thomas A. Janvier

Copyright, 1891, by Harper & Brothers

"Pardon! Madame does not know that this is a smoking carriage?"

"But yes. Monsieur is very good. It is that my husband would smoke. He is an old soldier. He smokes all the time. Ciel! They are like chimneys, these old soldiers. This man of mine regrets that he cannot smoke when he is asleep!"

While Madame delivered this address she continued also to mount the steps, and as she finished it she seated herself in the corner of the carriage opposite to me. She was short and round and sixty years old, and smiling like the sun on a fine day. Her dress was the charming dress of Aries, but over her kerchief she wore a silk mantle that glittered with an embroidery of jet beads. This mantle was precious to her. Her first act upon seating herself was to take it off, fold it carefully in a large handkerchief, and lay it safely in the netting above her head. She replaced it with a red knitted shawl, partly as a shield against the dust, and partly as a protection against the fresh wind that was blowing briskly down the valley of the Rhône.

In a moment her husband followed her, bowing to me as he entered the carriage. Seating himself beside her, and giving her plump hand a little affectionate pat, he said: "It is all right, little one. Marie will receive her jelly in good condition. I myself saw that the basket was placed right side up in the carriage. The jelly will not spill." Then, turning to me, he added: "My wife makes a wonderful jelly of apricots, Monsieur. We are taking some of it to our married daughter, who lives in Avignon."

He was a well set up old boy, with a face most pleasantly frank, close cut gray hair, short gray whiskers, and a bristling white mustache. Across his forehead, cutting through his right eyebrow, was a desperate scar, that I at once associated in my own mind with the red ribbon of the Legion that he wore in the button hole of his black frock coat. He looked the officer in retreat, and the very gentleness and sweetness of his manner made me sure that he had done some gallant fighting in his time.

As the train pulled out from the station it was at Tarascon that they had joined me he drew forth from his pocket a black little wooden pipe and a tobacco bag. This was my opportunity. I also drew forth a pipe and a tobacco bag. Would Monsieur accept some of my tobacco? I asked. I had brought it, I added, from America; it was tobacco of the Havana.

"Monsieur then is an American. That is interesting. And his tobacco is from the Havana, that is more interesting still. My cousin's son has been for many years in America. His name is Marius Guiraud; he lives in San Francisco; possibly Monsieur and he have met?"

Monsieur regretted that he had not had this pleasure, and explained that his home was in New York three times as far from San Francisco as Marseilles was from Paris.

"Name of a name! Is it possible? How vast this America must be! And they tell me " Here he struck a wax match and paused to light his pipe. He drew a dozen whiffs in silence, while on his face was the thoughtful look of one whose taste in tobacco was critical and whose love for it was strong.

"Thunder of guns, but it is good!" he exclaimed, as he took the pipe from his mouth and passed it lightly back and forth beneath his nose. "Had we smoked tobacco like this in the Crimea we should have whipped those rascal Russians in a single week. Ah, that we often were without tobacco was the hardest part of all. I have smoked coffee grounds and bay, Monsieur, and have been thankful to get them I myself, who well know what is good and what is not good in a pipe! This tobacco it is divine!"

"Monsieur served in the Crimea?"

"This is the proof of it," he said, a little grimly, touching the scar on his forehead.

"And this," his wife added, touching the bit of red ribbon in his button hole. "He was the bravest man in all that war, Monsieur, this old husband of mine... Continue reading book >>




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