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The Amazing Interlude

Chapter 11
The girl was singularly adaptable. In a few days it was as though she had been for years
in her little ruined house. She was very happy, though there was scarcely a day when her
heart was not wrung. Such young-old faces! Such weary men! And such tales of
wretchedness!
She got the tales by intuition rather than by words, though she was picking up some
French at that. Marie would weep openly, at times. The most frequent story was of no
news from the country held by the Germans, of families left with nothing and probably
starving. The first inquiry was always for news. Had the American lady any way to make
inquiry?
In time Sara Lee began to take notes of names and addresses, and through Mr. Travers, in
London, and the Relief Commission, in Belgium, bits of information came back. A
certain family was in England at a village in Surrey. Of another a child had died. Here
was one that could not be located, and another reported massacred during the invasion.
Later on Sara Lee was to find her little house growing famous, besieged by anxious
soldiers who besought her efforts, so that she used enormous numbers of stamps and a
great deal of effort. But that was later on. And when that time came she turned to the
work as a refuge from her thoughts. For days were coming when Sara Lee did not want to
think.
But like all big things the little house made a humble beginning. A mere handful of men,
daring the gibes of their comrades, stopped in that first night the door stood open, with its
invitation of firelight and candles. But these few went away with a strange story--of a
beautiful American, and hot soup, and even a cigarette apiece. That had been Henri's
contribution, the cigarettes. And soon the fame of the little house went up and down the
trenches, and it was like to die of overpopularity.
It was at night that the little house of mercy bloomed like a flower. During the daytime it
was quiet, and it was then, as time went on, that Sara Lee wrote her letters home and to
England, and sent her lists of names to be investigated. But from the beginning there was
much to do. Vegetables were to be prepared for the soup, Marie must find and bring in
milk for the chocolate, Rene must lay aside his rifle and chop firewood.
One worry, however, disappeared with the days. Henri was proving a clever buyer. The
money she sent in secured marvels. Only Jean knew, or ever knew, just how much of
Henri's steadily decreasing funds went to that buying. Certainly not Sara Lee. And Jean
expostulated only once--to be met by such blazing fury as set him sullen for two days.
"I am doing this," Henri finished, a trifle ashamed of himself, "not for mademoiselle, but
for our army. And since when have you felt that the best we can give is too much for such
a purpose?"
 
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