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The Amazing Interlude

Chapter 16
Time passed quickly, as always it does when there is work to do. Round the ruined
houses the gray grass turned green again, and in travesties of gardens early spring flowers
began to show a touch of color.
The first of them greeted Sara Lee one morning as she stood on her doorstep in the early
sun. She gathered them and placed them, one on each grave, in the cemetery near the
poplar trees, where small wooden crosses, sometimes surmounted by a cap, marked many
graves.
Marie, a silent subdued Marie, worked steadily in the little house. She did not weep, but
now and then Sara Lee found her stirring something on the stove and looking toward the
quiet mill in the fields. And once Sara Lee, surprising that look on her face, put her arms
about the girl and held her for a moment. But she did not say anything. There was
nothing to say.
With the opening up of the spring came increased movement and activity among the
troops. The beach and the sand dunes round La Panne were filled with drilling men,
Belgium's new army. Veterans of the winter, at rest behind the lines, sat in the sun and
pared potatoes for the midday meal. Convalescents from the hospital appeared in motley
garments from the Ambulance Ocean and walked along the water front, where the sea, no
longer gray and sullen, rolled up in thin white lines of foam to their very feet. Winter
straw came out of wooden sabots. Winter-bitten hands turned soft. Canal boats
blossomed out with great washings. And the sentry at the gun emplacement in the sand
up the beach gave over gathering sticks for his fire, and lay, when no one was about, in a
hollow in the dune, face to the sky.
So spring came to that small fragment of Belgium which had been saved, spring and
hope. Soon now the great and powerful Allies would drive out the Huns, and all would be
as it had been. Splendid rumors were about. The Germans were already yielding at La
Bassee. There was to be a great drive along the entire Front, and hopefully one would
return home in time for the spring planting.
A sort of informal council took place occasionally in the little house. Maps replaced the
dressings on the table in the salle a manger, and junior officers, armed with Sara Lee's
box of pins, thrust back the enemy at various points and proved conclusively that his
position was untenable. They celebrated these paper victories with Sara Lee's tea, and
went away the better for an hour or so of hope and tea and a girl's soft voice and quiet
eyes.
Now and then there was one, of course, who lagged behind his fellows, with a yearning
tenderness in his face that a glance from the girl would have quickly turned to love. But
Sara Lee had no coquetry. When, as occasionally happened, there was a bit too much
fervor when her hand was kissed, she laid it where it belonged--to loneliness and the
 
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