Battlefront: part four
A Figure from the Common Lot
“Answer me a question,” Müller cut him short. “Because I am curious to know. You have political ambitions?”
Honoré considered. “What good does it do to have political ambitions?”
“That is not for a soldier to say. You are a journalist, and all journalists I have heard of are politicians at heart.”
“I am making a living.”
“Then you are a businessman. Why do you not make a better living?”
Other people, Honoré thought at once. I make the best living I am allowed. He said: “Why do you ask?”
“Because you ask me. What happened at the battle of Mars-la-Tour? I saw men of my own company fired upon by the French artillery. Since that day, I have been thinking…why do we do the things we do?”
“Well, then, I will take your advice,” Honoré told Müller.
Müller regarded him wearily. “Have I given advice? I would not take it.”
“I mean,” Honoré explained, “I will make my living my business.”
If Tweedloe had forbidden him to name the Gazette, Honoré could yet hint broadly. He searched for, in the midst of this bedlam, a low-ranking officer, tapped the corporal on the shoulder and presented Müller’s letter of introduction. He made a show, even, for having been repulsed and threatened with arrest, of standing straighter, nodding with a brisk bob of the chin, and a thoughtful frown…just as though he’d been given some definite instruction (which, in a way, he had). When he climbed onto a transport wagon, he waved this letter, using it to point the driver’s attention to the officer with whom he’d been seen conversing a moment earlier. Thus he had found Dupuy, and come nearer Mac-Mahon’s headquarters, in a shorter time, than it had taken him to reach Beaumont from Reims. Unfortunately, Dupuy had pocketed the letter.
Dupuy, Honoré found, disliked his old friend Captain Müller, just as much as Müller disliked Dupuy.
The Comte de Boussac threw his anchor into the branches of an oak. He did this himself. Such moments called for silence, and Boussac glanced at the disobedient André; a glance of omen sufficient to set his assistant trembling. André would soon be asked to handle the remaining ballast. The weight of responsibility had produced an involuntary exclamation. Owens, the senior of the aeronaut’s two assistants, stood at the ready, unspeaking. Boussac, glass to his eye, calculated. He leaned over the rim of the car. He examined the rope looped to the car’s side, and satisfied himself that its coils were slack and orderly. The moment had arrived which called for exertion. Owens took the great man’s coat. He did not need to be told to do so. Owens was a reverent and forbearing servant, and Boussac valued him. It was less often that his volatile temper lighted upon Owens. André, slow and timorous, invited rebuke. Boussac nevertheless did not, in Owens’s presence, conceal his low opinion of the English.
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)