The Guns of Europe/Chapter VI

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
The Guns of Europe by Joseph Alexander Altsheler
Chapter VI: Above the Storm

JOHN had slept well in the Arrow, and that fact coupled with his extraordinary situation kept him wide-awake. It was true that he had returned from the dizzy heights of the air, but he was still on the dizzy side of a mountain.

He stood up and tensed and flexed his muscles until he was sure of his physical self. He remembered the weakness in his knees that had sent him down like a little child, and he was so ashamed of himself that he was resolved it should not happen again.

Then he walked to the edge of the little valley which in the far distance had looked like a cleft in the side of the mountain. It was rimmed in by a line of stunted pines, and holding to a pine with each hand he looked over. He saw that sheer stone wall which he had beheld first from above when he was in the Arrow, and far below was the ripple of silvery white that he knew to be the river. To the north lay rolling hills and green country melting under the horizon, the old Europe that men had cultivated for twenty centuries and that was now about to be trodden to pieces by the iron heel of tremendous war.

John understood it. It seemed at the moment that his mind expanding to such an extent could comprehend the vastness of it all, the kingdoms and republics, the famous and beautiful old cities, and the millions of men who did not hate one another involved in a huge whirlpool of destruction. And yet, expand as his mind did, it could not fully comprehend the crime of those who had launched such a thunderbolt of death.

His eyes turned toward the south. It was perhaps not correct to call that little nest in which the Arrow lay a valley. It was a pocket rather, since the cliffs, unscalable by man rose a full half mile above it, and far beyond glimmering faintly in the sunshine he saw the crest of peaks clad in eternal snow.

Truly his view of the Alps was one of which he had never dreamed, and Lannes was right in saying that no man had ever before come into that valley or pocket, unless he had taken wings unto himself as they had done. They were secure where they were, except from danger that could come through the air.

He took the glasses, an uncommonly powerful pair from the locker and examined every corner of the heavens that he could reach. But he saw none of those ominous, black dots, only little white clouds shot with gold from the morning sun, floating peacefully under the blue arch, and now and then some wide-winged bird floating, aslant, from peak to peak. There was peace, peace everywhere, and he went back from the dizzy edge of the precipice to the side of the Arrow. Lannes still slept heavily, and John appreciated his great need of it, knowing how frightful his strain must have been during that long night.

He felt that he was wholly in Lannes' hands, and he did not know the young Frenchman's plans. He might wish to get away early, but John resolved to let him sleep. Whatever they undertook and wherever they went strength and steadiness must be of the utmost importance, and Lannes alone could take them on their flight.

John leaned against a little hillock and watched the country that rolled northward. For the first time in hours he thought of his uncle and Mr. Anson. And yet he was so filled with wonder at his own translation into another element that he did not worry greatly about them. They would hear of him soon, he felt sure, and in a time of such vast anxiety and fear for half a world brief apprehension about a single person amounted to but little.

He dozed a short while, and then awoke with a start and an effort of the will. Lannes still slept like one dead. He felt that the young Frenchman and the Arrow were in his care, and he must fail in nothing. He stood up and walked about in the pocket, shaking the dregs of sleep from his brain. The sun doubled in size from that height, was sweeping toward the zenith. The radiant sky contained nothing but those tiny clouds floating like white sails on a sea of perfect blue. The gold on the snow of the far peaks deepened. He was suffused with the beauty of it, and, for a little space the world war and the frightful calamities it would bring fled quite away.

Lannes awoke about noon, stood up, stretched his limbs and sighed with deep content. He cast a questing glance at the heavens, and then turned a satisfied look on John.

"No enemy in sight," he said, "and I have slept well. Yea, more, I tell you, Yankee that you are, that I have slept magnificently. It was a glorious bed on that grass under the edge of the cliff, and since I may return some day I'll remember it as one of the finest inns in Europe. Have you seen anything while I slept, Monsieur Jean the Scott ?"

"Only the peaks, the hills, the blue sky and three or four big birds which I was unable to classify."

"Let their classification go. When we classify now we classify nothing less than armies. Do you think the Arrow has had sufficient rest?"

"A plenty. It's a staunch little flying machine."

"Then we'll start again, and I think we'll have an easy trip, save for the currents which are numerous and varied in high mountains."

"What country are we in now?"

"A corner of Switzerland, and I mean for us to descend at a neat little hamlet I've visited before. They don't know war has begun yet, and we can get there provisions and everything else we need."

They launched the Arrow, and once more took flight, now into the maze of mountains. Their good craft frequently rocked and swayed like a ship at sea and John remembered Lannes' words about the currents. Reason told him that intervening peaks and ridges would make them break into all forms of irregularity, and he was glad when they hovered over a valley and began to descend.

He saw about half a mile below them a small Swiss village, built on both sides of a foaming little river, and, using the glasses as they dropped down, he also saw the whole population standing in the streets, their heads craned back, staring into the skies. The effect was curious, that of the world turned upside down.

"The place has four or five hundred inhabitants, and it is a good village," said Lannes. "I have been here four times before, and they know me. Also they trust me, though through no merit of mine. They have seen flying machines often enough to know that they are not demons or monsters, but not often enough to lose their curiosity concerning1 them. We shall descend in the midst of an audience, inquisitive but friendly."

"Which you like."

Lannes laughed.

"You judge me right," he said. "I do love the dramatic. Maybe that's one reason why I'm so fond of flying. What could appeal to the soul more than swimming through the air, held up on nothing, with a planet revolving at your feet? Why a man who is not thrilled by it has no soul at all! And how grand it is to swoop over a village, and then settle down in it softly and peacefully like some magnificent bird, folding its wings and dropping to the ground! Isn't it far more poetical than the arrival of a train which comes in with a clang, a rattle, and smoke and soot?"

John laughed in his turn.

"You do put it well for yourself, Philip," he said, "but suppose our machine broke a wing or something else vital. A mile or a half mile would be a long drop."

"But you'd have such a nice clean death. There would never be a doubt about its completeness."

"No, never a doubt. Have you picked your port ?"

" 'Port' is a good enough place. We'll land on that little park, squarely in the center of the population."

"You're truly in love with the dramatic. You want an audience whenever it's safe."

"I admit it. There is something about the old Roman triumph that would have made a mighty appeal to me. Think of a general, young, brilliant, garlanded, coming into Rome along the Appian Way, with the chariots before him, the captive princes behind him, miles of beautiful young girls covered with roses, on either side, and then the noble villas, and the patricians looking down from the porticoes, the roar of Rome's thunderous million acclaiming him, and then the Capi- toline with the grave and reverend senators, and the vestals and the pontifex maximus, and all the honors for the victory which his brain and courage have won for the state."

"I'm not so sure that I'd like it, Philip."

" 'De gustibus non disputandum,' as somebody wrote, John. Well, here we are, settling down gently in the place something or other, and just as I told you all the people are around it, with their eyes and mouths wide open."

The aeroplane settled softly upon the grass amid great and sincere cheers, and John looked about curiously. He had returned to the world from space, a space inhabited only by Lannes, himself and the two Germans, one of whom was now dead. That pocket in the mountain had not counted. It was like a bird's nest in a tree, and this was the solid, planetary world, upon which he had once dwelled.

An elderly man of fine appearance, and with a long brown beard, reaching almost to his waist, stepped forward. Lannes lifted the cap and glasses that hid his head and face and greeted him in French.

"It is I, Philip Victor Auguste Lannes, Herr Schankhorst," he said politely. "You will remember me because I've dropped out of the skies into your village before. The young1 gentleman with me is one of those strange creatures called Yankees, who come from far across the ocean, and who earn money by the sweat of their brows in order that we may take it from them."

There was such a mellow tone in his voice, and the friendly gleam in his eyes was so wonderful that neither Herr Schankhorst nor his people could resist him. It seemed that most of them understood French as they raised another cheer, and crowded around the two men of the sky, plainly showing their admiration.

None mentioned the war, and it was clear that the news of it had not yet penetrated to that remote valley in the high mountains. Lannes introduced John by his right name and description to Herr Schankhorst who was the burgomaster and then, still followed by the admiring crowd, they hurried away to the little inn, two stalwart youths being first detailed to keep watch over the Arrow.

"They're proud of their trust and they'll guard it as they would their lives," said Lannes in English to John. "Meanwhile we'll have dinner in this inn, which I know from experience to be the best, and we'll have the burgomaster and the Protestant clergyman to dine with us. This is German-speaking Switzerland, but these people fear the Germans and they don't fear us. So, we're welcome."

The inn was small, but the food and drink were of the best. John was well supplied with gold, and he did not hesitate to spend it for the burgomaster, the Lutheran clergyman, Lannes and himself.

"No you can't pay your share," he said to Lannes, "because you haven't any share. Remember, I've been a free passenger in the Arrow, which belongs to you, and it's my time to settle the bill."

"Have your way," said Lannes.

They had been speaking in English, and Lannes politely explained to their guests that his comrade was an obstinate Yankee, a member of a nation, noted for its stubborness, but the most delightful of people when you let them have their way, which after all was a way that generally harmed nobody.

The burgomaster and the clergyman smiled benevolently upon John and John smiled back. He had noticed already that Americans were popular among the great masses of the people in Europe. It was only those interested in the upholding of the classes who frowned upon them and who tried to write or talk them down. He was keen enough too, despite his youth, to deduce the reasons for it.

Here in this little town he was looked upon with favor because he was from America, and soon he was busy answering questions by the burgomaster and clergyman about his own land.

They made no reference to any war or approaching war, and he surmised that they had no thought of such a tremendous catastrophe—Lannes informed him later that they had neither telegraph nor telephone— and John following the cue of his comrade made no reference to it. They ate with sharp appetites, but an end had to come at last. Then Lannes went out into the town to buy his supplies, leaving John to entertain the guests.

John felt deeply that little period of rest and kindly simplicity and the time was soon to come, when he would look back upon it as the greenest of green spots in the desert.

Lannes returned in an hour and announced that they were ready for another flight. They went back to the Arrow which the stalwart youths were still guarding, proud of their trust.

"Must you really go?" said the burgomaster to Lannes. "Why not stay with us until tomorrow? Look, the clouds are gathering on the mountains. There may be a storm. Better bide with us till the

morrow."

"We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your kindness," said Lannes, as he and John took their seats, "and under any other circumstances we would stay, but Herr Schankhorst there is a call for us, a call that is sounding all over Europe, a call louder than any that was ever heard before on this old continent."

Lannes raising his voice spoke in clear, loud tones, and he had the impressive manner that he knew so well how to assume. The crowd, eager and expectant, pressed nearer, all about the Arrow. John saw that the dramatic instinct, always alive within his partner, had sparkled into flame.

"And there is reason for this call," continued Lannes, raising his voice yet further, until the most distant were sure to hear, every syllable. "The trumpet is sounding throughout Europe. You may well thank the good God that you dwell here in your little valley, and that all around you the mountains rise a mile above you. There were many trumpets when the great Napoleon rode forth to war, but there are more now."

A gasp arose from the crowd, and John saw faces whiten.

"All Europe is at war," continued Lannes. "The nations march forth against one another and the continent shakes with the tread of twenty million soldiers. But stay here behind your mountain walls, and the storm will pass you by. Now push!"

Twenty youths shoved the Arrow with all their might and the plane rising gracefully in the air, soared far above the village. John looked down and again he saw the whole population with heads craned back and eyes turned upward, but he knew now that they were swayed by new and powerful emotions.

"Lannes," he said, "I never saw such an actor as you are."

"But think of the opportunity! How could I overlook such a chance! They knew absolutely nothing of the war, did not dream of it, and here was I with the chance to tell them the whole tremendous truth, and then to shoot suddenly up into the air far beyond their hearing. It was the artistic finish that appealed to me as much as the announcement. Tell your great news and then disappear or become silent. Don't linger over it, or you will mar the effect."

"We're leaving the valley out of sight, and I judge by the sun that our course is northwesterly."

"Right my brave aviator, but I don't think you'll be able to use the sun much longer for reckoning. The worthy burgomaster was right. Look behind you and see how the clouds are gathering!"

John gazed at the vast mass of the Alps, stretching their tremendous rampart across the very heart of Europe. The Arrow had gone higher, and deep down in the south he saw the ridges and sharp peaks stretching on apparently to infinity. But it was a wild and desolate world. Even as he looked the far edges dropped away in the gloom of advancing clouds. The gray of the horizon became black and sinister.

But he looked on, his gaze held by the sublimity of the mountains and the powerful spell, cast by an historic imagination. He was not only gazing upon the heart of Europe, but upon the heart of great history. There, where that long black line led through the clefts the army of Hannibal was passing. He shut his eyes and he saw the dark Carthaginian with his deep eyes, his curly perfumed beard, a scarlet robe wrapped around him, its ends dropping upon his horse, his brothers and the captains riding just behind him, and behind them the Carthaginian sacred band, the Spaniards, the Gauls, the Celts, the wild Numidians shivering on their barebacked horses, the monstrous elephants, the women, and all the strange and heterogeneous elements which the fire and genius of the great leader fused into an army unconquerable by the bravest and best soldiers of antiquity, a great man holding a great nation at bay for half a life time.

Mind and eye ran down the long line of the ages. He saw Goths and Vandals, Germans and Gauls pouring through the passes upon Italy, and then almost in his own time he saw that other, the equal of Hannibal, almost exactly the same age, leading another army over the mighty mountains into the rich plains below. He watched the short figure of Napoleon, and behind him the invincible French youth, born of the republic, dragging their cannon through the snow to victory. "Open your eyes, John, are you going to sleep?" "I was never further from sleep, and my eyes were so wide open that I saw more than I ever did before in my life."

"And what did you see, my wise John ?"

"I saw generals and nations crossing the mountains down there. I saw through a space of many centuries, and the last I saw was your Napoleon leading his troops over the Great St. Bernard to Marengo."

Lannes' eyes flamed like stars.

"And the great marshal whose name I bear was there with him," he said. "It was near Marengo that he won his Dukedom of Montebello. Napoleon cannot come back, but victory may perch again on the banners of France."

John understood him. He knew how Frenchmen must have writhed through all the years over Grave- lotte and Sedan and Metz. He knew how deeply they must have felt the taunt that they were degenerate, and the prediction of their enemies that they would soon sink to the state of a second class power. He knew how Americans would have felt in their place, and, while he had never believed the sneers, he knew they had been made so often that some Frenchmen themselves had begun to believe them. He understood fully, and the ties that were knitting him so strongly to Lannes increased and strengthened.

"They were really republicans who won the victories of Napoleon," he said, "and you have been a republic again for forty-four years. Republics give life and strength."

"I think they do, and so does a liberal monarchy like that of England. Freedom makes the mind grow. Well, I hope we've grown so much that with help we'll be able to whip Germany. What's become of the Alps, John?"

"The clouds have taken 'em."

There was nothing now in the south but a vast bank of gray, and presently John felt drops of rain on his face. Besides, it was growing much colder. He did not know much about flying, but he was quite sure that in the midst of a great storm of wind and rain they would be in acute danger. He looked anxiously at Lannes, who said reassuringly:

"We'll go above it, John. It's one of the advantages of flying. On earth you can't escape a storm, but here we mount so high that it passes beneath us. After you get used to flying you'll wonder why people trust themselves on such a dangerous place as the earth."

John caught the twinkle in his eye, but he was learning fast, and his own heart thrilled too as they swung upward, rising higher and higher, until the thin air made the blood beat heavily in his temples. At last he looked down again. The earth had vanished. Vast clouds of gray and black floated between, and to John's startled eyes they took on all the aspects of the sea. Here the great swells rolled and tumbled, and off far in the north stretched a vast smooth surface of tranquility. But beneath him he saw flashes of light, and heard the heavy mutter as of giant guns. High above, the air was thin, cold and motionless.

A troubled world rolled directly under them, and the scene that he beheld was indescribably grand and awful. The clouds were in conjunction, and thunder and lightning played as if monstrous armies had crashed together. But here they sailed steadily on a motionless sea of air. He shared the keen pleasure that Lannes so often felt. The Arrow suddenly became a haven of safety, a peaceful haven away from strife.

"Aren't you glad you're not down there?" asked Lannes.

"Aye, truly."

"The winds that blow about the world, and the clouds that float where the winds take them appear to be having a terrible commotion, but we are safe spectators. Monsieur Jean the Scott, I wonder if the time will ever come when we'll have a flying machine that can manufacture its own air to sail in. Then it could rise to any height."

"Phil, you're dreaming!"

"I know I am but I'm not dreaming any more than you were just now when you saw Napoleon and his army crossing the Alps. Besides who can forecast the achievements of science? Why, man who was nothing but a savage yesterday is just getting a start in the world! Who can tell what he'll be doing a million years from now? Think of going on, and on in the void, and maybe arriving on Venus or Mars!"

"In that case we'll find out whether that Mars canal story is true or not."

Lannes laughed.

"I come back to earth," he said, "or rather I come back to a point a safe distance above it. How's our storm making out?"

'It seems to be moving westward."

"And we're flying fast toward the north. We'll soon part company with the storm, and then we'll drop lower. But John, you must take the glasses and watch the skies all the time."

"Which means that we'll fly near the French border, and that I've got to be on the lookout for the Taubes and the dirigibles."

"And he guessed right the very first time. That's more of your American slang. Yes, John, the hosts of the air are abroad, and we must not have another encounter with the Germans. Before night we'll be approaching the battle lines, and the air will be full of scouts. Perhaps it will be better to do the rest of our traveling at night. We might drop down in a wood somewhere, and wait for the twilight."

"That's true Philip, but there's one question I'd like to ask you."

"Go ahead."

"Just how do you classify me? I belong to America, which has nothing to do with your gigantic war, and yet here I am scouting through the air with you, and exposed to just as much danger as you are."

"I don't think I could have answered that question about classification yesterday, John, but I can without hesitation today. You're an Ally. And you're an Ally because you can't help it. Germany represents autocracy and France democracy. So does England who is going to help us. You've risked your life over and over again with me, a Frenchman, one who would look upon the defeat of the German empire as almost the millennium. You may like the German people, but all your principles, all your heart-beats are on our side. When we get to some convenient place you'll write to your uncle and friend at Munich that you've joined England and France in the fight against German militarism. Oh, you needn't protest! It's true. I know you. You're quiet and scholarly, but your soul is the soul of adventure. I've seen how you responded to the thrill of the Arrow, how you're responding at this very moment. I know with absolute certainty, Monsieur Jean the Scott, that you'll be fighting on the side of England and France. So you'd better make up your mind to stick to me, until we reach the French army."

John was silent a moment or two. Then he reached out and grasped Lannes' free hand.

"I was thinking of doing the things you predict," he said, "and to keep you from being a false prophet, Phil, old man, I'll do them."

Lannes returned his strong grasp.

"But if the English come into the war on your side," continued John, "I think I'll join them. Not that I'm overwhelmingly in love with the English, but they speak our American language, or at least variations of it. In the heat of battle I might forget the French word for, retreat, but never the English."

Lannes smiled.

"You won't be running, old fellow," he said. "You're right of course to join the English since they're close kin to you, but I have a feeling, John Scott, that you and I will see much of each other before this war is over."

"It may be so. I'm beginnig to think, Phil, that lots of things we don't dream about happen to us. I certainly never expected a week ago to be in the middle of a great war."

"And you expected least of all, Monsier Jean the Scott, to be sailing smoothly along in the air far above the clouds., and with a terrific storm raging below."

"No, I didn't. If a man had predicted that for me I should have said he was insane. But I think, Phil, the storm is leaving us or we've left it. That big ball of darkness giving out thunder and fire is moving fast toward the west."

"So it is, and there's clear air beneath us. And the Alps are reappearing in the south."

"Right you are, Philip. I can see a half dozen peaks, and there is another, and now another. See, their white heads coming out of the mists and vapors, whole groups of them now!"

"Don't they look from here like a friendly lot of old fellows, John, standing there and nodding their snowy pates to one another, just as they've done for the last million years or more!"

"You hit the nail on the head, Phil. Understand that? It's one of our phrases meaning that you've told the exact truth. There goes that wicked storm, farther and farther to the west. Soon the horizon will swallow it up."

"And then it will go on toward Central France. I hope it won't damage the vineyards. But what a fool I am to be talking about storms of weather, when the German storm of steel is about to sweep over us!"

"You don't talk very hopefully, when you speak of a German invasion at once."

"But I am hopeful. I expect the invasion because we are not ready. They accuse us French of planning a surprise attack upon Germany. What nonsense, when we're not even prepared to defend ourselves! The first sound of this war will show who was getting ready to attack. But John we'll drive back that invasion, we and our allies. I repeat to you that the French of 1914 are not the French of 1870. The Third Republic will command the same valor and devotion that served the First. But here I am talking like an old politician. Get the glasses, John, and look at our field of battle, the heavens. It's all in the light now, and we can't afford another encounter with the Taubes."

John took a long look. The passage of the storm had purified the air which was now of dazzling clearness, a deep, silky blue, with a sun of pure red gold that seemed to hang wonderfully near. Lannes permitted the Arrow to drop lower and lower, until the earth itself sprang up into the light.

John saw again the green hills, the blue lakes and the streams, neat villages and splendid country houses. It was his planet, and he was glad to come once more where he could see it.

"It was fine up there above the clouds," he said to Lannes, "but after all I've got a very kindly feeling for the earth. It's like meeting an old friend again."

"Comes of use and habit. I suppose if we lived on Venus or Mars we'd have the same kind of attachment. But like you, John, I'm glad to see the earth again. The scenery is more varied than it is up in the heavens. What do you see through the glasses, John ? Don't miss anything if it's there. It's too important."

"I see in the north just under the horizon four black specks. It's too far away for me to tell anything about 'em, but they move just as those two Taubes did before their shape became clear."

"More Taubes. That's certain. And it's time for us to get away. We're almost on the border John and the German aeroplanes and dirigibles are sure to have gathered."

"There's a forest a little to the right of us. Suppose we go down there."

Lannes examined the forest.

"It seems fairly large," he said, "and I think it will make a good covert. But whether good or bad we must drop into it. The German airships are abroad and we can take no chances."

The Arrow descended with increased speed. John still used the glasses, and he searched every nook of the forest, which like most of those of Europe had little undergrowth. It contained no houses at all, but he picked out an open space near the center, large enough for the landing of the Arrow, which he pointed out to Lannes.

"I suppose you'd call it a respectable forest," said John. "I see some trees which are at least a foot through, near the ground. Luckily it's summer yet and the foliage is thick. If I were one of you Europeans I'd never boast about my trees."

"Some day I'm going to run over to that America of yours, and see whether all you tell me about it is true. Steady now, John, I'm about to make the landing, and it's my pride to land more gently every time than I did the time before."

They slid down softly and alighted on the grass. Lannes' triumph was complete, and his wonderful eyes sparkled.

"The best I've done yet," he said, "but not the best I will do. John, what time is it ?"

"Half-past five."

"With our long evenings that makes considerable daylight yet. Suppose you take your automatic, and examine the woods a little. I'd go with you, but I'm afraid to leave the Arrow here alone. Leave the glasses with me though."

John, after regaining his land legs, walked away among the woods, which evidently had been tended with care like a park, bearing little resemblance, as he somewhat scornfully reminded himself to the mighty forests of his own country. Still, these Europeans, he reflected were doing the best they could.

The region was hilly and he soon lost sight of Lannes, but he threshed up the wood, thoroughly. There was no sign of occupancy. He did not know whether it lay in Germany or France, but it was evident that all the foresters were gone. A clear brook ran through a corner of it, and he knelt and drank. Then he went back to Lannes who was sitting placidly beside the Arrow.

"Nothing doing," said John in the terse phrase of his own country. "At imminent risk from the huge wild animals that inhabit it I've searched all this vast forest of yours. I've forded a river three feet wide, and six inches deep, I've climbed steep mountains, twenty feet high, I've gone to the uttermost rim of the forest, a full half-mile away on every side, and I beg to report to you, General, that the wilderness contains no human being, not a sign of any save ourselves. Strain my eyes as I would I could not find man anywhere."

Lannes smiled.

"You've done well as far as you've gone," he said.

"I could go no farther."

"You said you saw no sign of man."

"None whatever."

"But I do."

"Impossible!"

"Not impossible at all. Why don't you look up?"

John instantly gazed into the heavens, and he was startled at the sight he beheld. The population of the air had increased suddenly and to a wonderful extent. A score of aeroplanes were outlined clearly against the sky, and as he looked the distant drumming noise that he had heard in Dresden came again to his ears. A monstrous black figure cut across his vision and soon sailed directly overhead.

"A Zeppelin!" he said.

"A huge fellow," said Lannes. "The aeroplanes are German too, or there would soon be trouble between them and the Zeppelin."

"Should we take to flight?"

"No, it's too late. Besides, I think we're safe here. The foliage is so dense that they're not likely to see us. This forest must lie in Germany, and I judge that the heads of their armies have already passed to the west of us. The planes may be scouting to see whether French cavalry is in their rear. Do you hear that? I say, John, do you hear that?"

From a far point in the west came a low sound which swelled gradually into a crash like thunder. In a few moments came another, and then another and then many. They could see no smoke, no fire, and the very distance lent majesty to the sound.

John knew well what it was, the thudding of great guns, greater than any that had been fired before by man on land. Lannes turned ashy-pale.

"It's the cannon, the German cannon!" he said, "and that sound comes from France. The Kaiser's armies are already over the border, marching on Paris. Oh, John! John! all the 'time that I was predicting it I was hoping that it wouldn't come true, couldn't come true! You Americans can't understand! In your new country you don't have age-old passions and hates and wrongs and revenges burning you up!"

"I do understand. It must be a serious battle though. All the planes are now flying westward, and there goes the Zeppelin too."

"Which leaves us safe for the present. Besides, the twilight is coming."