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by Donald Francis McGrew
Author of "The Grenadier," "The Guns of the Seventy-Third," etc.

I MET the man first when be came in with a batch of recruits for the First Regiment of the Foreign Legion at Sidi-bel-Abbès, Algeria. The girl I had known for some time. He was big, young, blonde, the product of rich American parents of this day and age; she was Spanish youth and fire. They called her "Chiquita of the Legion."

Him being the only American with the bleus—merde! his clothes were cut the way they are cut along Fifth Avenue, and it gave me a gulp in the throat—I was tempted to fall on his neck. But he gave me a slight chill at the outset—he wasn't used to the soldiers' method of self-introduction.

"My God! I heard him groan under his breath. "My God!" And his eyes took in the surroundings.

I read his thoughts. He was sizing up the barracks of the Legion—his home for the next five years. The big yard, all sprinkled with gravel, and bare as the prison parade at Aden; the monstrous unpainted barracks, looming up like so many barns in the middle of a Wyoming plain; the high thick walls like those that clamp in the dead city of Nire; overhead a hot African sun beating down from a glazed blue sky—say! It was a cheerful picture. Three thousand légionnaires in white fatigue clothes couldn't enliven it—their faces had soaked in something as listless as the voice of the muezzin calling to prayer.

"My God!" he muttered again. "Five years——!"

"You'll get used to it," was my cheering comment. "What's your name, now? And bow'd you come to do it?"

He started to turn away from me, but I caught him by the arm.

"Son," I said, "we try to grin and bear one another here. Especially countrymen. Try to get into my company—the ninth— and maybe I can help you out."

Well, he apologized then; and after he was assigned to my company, I was able to help him quite a bit. But all through his bath, and drawing his clothes, he acted like a man in a sick dream, answering me only with short grunts; and when he drew his kit, and stood there moping over that pile of blue trousers, blue tunics, white trousers and kepis, not knowing which strap was which, I had to give him whatfor. On the outside I would have dropped him; but he had good cigarettes, and money —which means wine, in the Legion.

"Buck up," I said. "You're in for it now. Here—here's how you make the paquelage; and this is the way you make your bunk; and here's what you put in your knapsack. You've got it to do—that or prison. So do it."

Perforce he did buck up a little then, but when soup call came, he stuck up his nose at the thought of la gamelle. We old légionnaires were banging on the table with our tins and yelling: "Alles schieb' los! A la soupe, soupe!" at the garde chambre— that famous yell of the Legion—when he hunches me and wants to know where we can buy a good meal.

Instanter my pan had gone to another fellow and we were heading past the sergeant at the gate. Trust me to know where I could get a good meal—after six months in the Legion!

"I'll take you to the Café de la Légion," I told him as we hurried through the yellow sand of the streets and into the alley district.

He stuck up his nose with a wry face— those Spanish Jews and Arabs in the Ghetto district do smell bad—they and the tilth and the heavy, sweet odor of musk and Arab cigarettes; and he cast a longing look back at the better streets.

"You're not welcome back there," I grinned. "Ah, ces malheureux légionnaires! I'll take you to Chiquita's place—Chiquita of the Legion."

"Chiquita?" he says. "That means sweetheart in Spanish, don't it?" I nodded, and he looked at me, grinning cynically.

"The sweetheart of the Legion," he murmured. "Is she——"

"No," I cut in, "she is not. And I added with some heat:

"She's the sweetest, cleanest thing in Sidi-bel-Abbès. The Legion swears by her."

He whistled, looking at me sideways, and begged pardon.

"Tell me about her," he says then; so I told him about Chiquita of the Legion as we walked through the alleys of Sidi-belAbbès.

She was a young Spanish girl, I told him, who had been thrown on her own resources ?when her daddy died mysteriously after some trouble with the Algerian-French government. Some way they'd taken his vineyard. So she gathered together a few chairs and tables, put up the shack which she graced by the name of "Café de la Légion," and started to sell coffee to the foreign soldiers.

It wasn't such good coffee, I pointed out, but it was cheap. And somehow' she had a way of giving a friendly smile—even a coquettish smile—with each cup and still retaining the respect of the légionnaires. She was the only woman in Sidi-bel-Abbès who deemed them worthy of being treated on terms of equality, and the Legion did not forget. Whenever the companies were ordered against the Arabs in the South, many knapsacks full of loot came back across the hot sands to Chiquita. Consequently her walls were hung with purios. draped about among her drawings—oh, he would find hers an interesting place.

"You'll find her interesting, too," I added. "Only be careful she don't become loo interesting. We all fall in love with her now and then—but it's of no use. I think she's in love with her drawings?"

"Drawings?" he said real quick. "You mean she does them herself?"

"Yes," I said. "Crude pieces of work, but very good for one who has never had any instruction."

"Ha!" he exclaimed then. "This is getting interesting. An undiscovered genius, perhaps, with beauty—surely she has beauty—who cooks your meals and does a crayon of you—in the city of the Foreign Legion. Très bien, mon camarade—let us hurry."

His eyes began to sparkle, and his lips to quirk at the corners; and after we'd taken aboard some wine and arrived at last at Chiquita's, he'd begun to act like a real live young American who'd never "stuck up his hand" in the Legion.

CHIQUITA——I remember how she looked that night, and how he bowed to her in a sort of humorous mocking way when I introduced him; and how her eyes sparkled when she laughed and tossed her black head at him in return. They made a picture, those two, with us red-trousered légionnaires in the background. I sha'n't soon forget it.

Chiquita—she was a picture, a little colored masterpiece; only she laughed at you out of the canvas. She was real, which is better than the result of a brush. For some reason she used to affect a Moorish costume without a veil—possibly because it was cooler—a sort of white-hemmed blue overgarment that hung from her head and over the shoulders to her ankles. Underneath that was a shorter garment of heavy purple, which in turn covered baggy trouserlets of yellow silk, caught up and fastened at the ankle. It went well with her olive cheeks and black eyes; she was all color and piquancy and life sitting up there with her little slippers poised on the rungs of her high stool.

Riordan? He saw it, never fear. And she saw him. Which was natural enough, too. There aren't many big blond Americans come into the Legion who show unmistakable earmarks of culture and urbanity, and have blue eyes that sparkle and red lips that curve besides. Voila! Who made the world the way it is, anyway?

"This is excellently done," he made a beginning, going over to one of the etchings. "And this—the touch here is very, very good. Surely mademoiselle has been with a master?"

Well! Did we have that meal? We did. Chiquita was indeed glad to serve us—she told us so—and she did, while the other poor devils of légionnaires sat around and envied us. The taste of that meal stuck in my memory.

But between mouthfuls I got Riordan's story. It was simple enough, as was mine. I got a berth at Bassorah on the Persian Gulf as supercargo on the tramp Wizard out of Seattle. A little fight ashore at Oran tied me up with the French authorities. It was either jail or the Legion. Young Riordan, he'd had a berth spending the old man's money and dabbling in art in France until the "art" of Monte Carlo soaked him—that and some chit of a girl. Instead of a bullet and a last sad note, he decided to become a soldier of fortune. "Lord!" he sighed. "I couldn't see anything but the governor's face across the pond. Then I got dreams—ye gods, dreams——"

"Of maybe bringing a commission home to the old man through some glor-ee-yus deed on distant battlefield?" I filled in the pause for him. "And they commenced opening up your eyes even at Marseilles." "Don't mention it," he grimaced. "Let's have wine—red wine—I still have a little money, at any rate. We'll drink—we'll all drink to the Legion, Eh—Señorita Chiquita?"

"To the Legion!" she laughed; and I saw her eying him covertly from her stool when he turned away.

She sold no wines, but for the first time she allowed her légionnaires to send out for it. So we made merry until time to go to barracks. Now and then when she wasn't so busy she and Riordan stepped around to the pictures, talking of "lines" and "backgrounds" and "tones" and other things alien to us; then Riordan got to singing songs and playing on Chiquita's guitar to an audience that by that time crammed the place full. Chiquita did a roaring business that night—what time she wasn't laughing with Riordan.

"She's got real talent." he told me on the way home. "Gad! I'm quite interested. If she only had a chance in Paris, now; or Florence——"

"Most likely she never will," I commented.

"No, I guess not." Then he seemed to dismiss the matter, and started humming a tune.

He didn't hum a tune in the morning, though. He got his first dose of gymnastique des bleus, and it went as follows:

Awake just before six. Coffee in bed— no breakfast; then reveille, sweep out from under your bunk, get ready and fall in for drill neatly and completely uniformed and equipped for drill—all in ten minutes. One button wrong meant barrack arrest, la cellule or the Zephyrs, according to the temper of the sergeant. Then out to the drill grounds, and the command, "Formez les faisceaux. Sac à terre!" ("Lay down your knapsacks and pile arms.") Then, "Pas gymnastique! En avant! Marche!"

Yes, that's all. "At the double—march." Just that and nothing more. A run that is kept up, on no breakfast, for thirty-minute stretches, interspersed with boxing and Swedish gymnastics until first soup call at ten o'clock. Lungs bursting, head splitting—Nom du bon Dieu, the Legion! It has crumpled many a man's lungs like paper.

At ten Riordan dragged himself in and threw himself on the bunk like a dead man. He kept twisting himself from side to side with the agony of his pumping lungs. His face was gray and lined and old.

"My God!" he groaned. "It killed one man this morning—hemorrhage of the lungs."

"They figure they have plenty more," I told him.

"But what's it for?" he demanded in a wail.

"To harden you so you can march."

"'Run,' the corporal said, 'run or die.'

" "Sure. March or die—c'est la Légion."

"And what's for this afternoon?"

"For you," I said, "rudimentary instructions; for me, either a twenty-four-kilometer march, or corvée. Cleaning the sewers of the Arab prison, building a villa for some fat Levantine, piling forage for the native Spahi cavalry. For five centimes a day."

"My God!" he groaned. "And that's what I graduate to when I get turned for full duty."

He stared into space as I have seen convicts stare in the Death's Row, then turned back to me.

"Do they ever fight?" he asked.


"Sometimes? Say—what is this Legion for?"

"For?" I said. "My son, it is for France. It is for students of social conditions to talk about—and do nothing. It is for escaped convicts. It is for hungry men who sell their souls for five centimes a day. It is for cheap colonization projects. It is for building roads and cities. It is for the protection and filthy service of filthy Arabs and harping Jews who spit on the men that protect them. It is for fools. Work or die, march or die, fight and die—c'est la Legion!"

"And if you buck——"

"La cellule, the Zephyrs, or the prison battalion."

"La cellule!" His face contorted into a horrible grimace. "I went past the cells. Thirty men in a room nine by twelve. I could smell them thirty feet away."

La garnelle went then, and we broke off. He didn't turn up his nose at it this time. No. He fell on it like a wolf.

And so his life as a légionnaire began.

From that time he was two distinct personalities—by day gloomy, silent, a machine, coming to life only at night. Wine, red wine, and the sympathy of Chiquita— he lived for the nights. And so, it seemed, did she. He'd sing songs, and talk to her about her pictures—oh, one could see how things were going. If he happened to be detained on guard, her face would fall.

Well, one night the sergeant at the gate sent me back to repolish my shoes, and Riordan went on ahead. It was then that I saw with my own eyes how far things had gone.

The sun was just setting when I left the gate. The big molten disk swung down back of the hook in the nearby Thessala mountains, and its slanting rays played over the flat roofs of Sidi-bel-Abbès like spears from a sea of gold. I remember how the place looked that evening; and when I reached the Café de la Légion, those two were alone in the dim interior. They didn't hear me. And how could they? She was standing on tiptoe, crushed against his breast, his lips on hers. Even the dimness couldn't hide the light in hex face. I could see her tremble from ankles to head; then her eyes closed——

I coughed, and they turned to me—she red and sweet and confused. She ran into the kitchen, while he and I bridged the awkwardness over a liter of wine. But 1 told him a few things later.

Said I:

"You'd best treat her right. She isn't merely Chiquita—she's an ideal to these men who have come to believe that there's no more good in the world. Treat her wrong and they'll tear you to pieces."

He merely shrugged, with a remark about handling his own affairs, so I didn't mention it again.

Then one night some one stole the remainder of his money from under his pillow.

That was the beginning of the end. Perforce he had to stay at the barracks more now, as he had no money to hire his washing and polishing done. The only time you get to do that in is after second soup call in the evening. He'd never done a day's work in his life, and "policing up" didn't come natural to him; pretty soon he got to getting into trouble with the noncoms, and finally they soaked him two days' cellule for a dirty kit.

He came out of there smelling to heaven, covered with vermin. His eyes were two grim black holes in a pasty ashen mask.

° "It's the last straw," he swore. "They ran me around with a knapsack filled with sand on my back. God! I can hear that corporal's, 'A droit—droit!'—I'll hear it in my dreams. I'm going."

"Got money?" I asked.


"Then you're crazy. Without it you'll buck the desert; starvation that will drive you to Spanish farmers who are only too glad to give you up; the Arab gendarmes who will turn you in for the prize-money, and Arab tribes that will cut you up for your clothes. Even if you pass them you have to have papers at the ports, unless you can smuggle aboard. Why don't you wait until you get money from home?"

He wouldn't listen to the last. He seemed afraid of his daddy. He only shook his head, muttering to himself, then finally took himself off to town.

"I'll find some way," he swore.

He did, too. He came to me an hour later in the canteen, and took me off to one side. His face was beaming.

"She's going to lend me the money," he said, firing it all at me at once. "And get me a suit of civilian clothes, and——"

"Hold on," I said, leading him out of there. "You'll be giving this away. You come with me down to Chiquita's—you two kids will need Tommy Patten to keep your heads cool."

"She says she's going with me, too," he blurted then.

"Wait until we get there before you tell me any more," I said. "Then we'll straighten out the plans."

Well, she confirmed what he had said, siting there on his knee back in the little café kitchen. Man, she was happy— glancing down at him, and him looking up now and then rather red as to face. Hers— the color came and went in her cheeks like the soft glow-lights of the Ranabas off Marsel-Leroo, and every now and then the round aims would tighten 'round his neck with a little spasmodic jerk, and her red lips touch all over his face in a hundred little kisses. All the while she prattled on like a happy little kid. Thank the good God, she said, she had saved enough to meet this one time in her life. She had not imagined the good God would be so good to her. Spain—the Spain her father had talked about—with Dick; and an inexpensive little villa—oh, life had turned out to be a wonderful thing.

At last, though, I had to cut in on her and throw the cold water of common sense on her outlook. They were taking grave chances. They must take every possible precaution against possible detection and capture.

"That's what I told her," Riordan broke in eagerly. "She wants to go with me. They may put the two departures together if we go, as she suggests, by carts to the coast and then over to Spain in a hired fishing-smack. It is best for me to take chances on a steamer and have her follow on another boat."

"No!" she cried. "How do you know what boats are in Oran? You would have to leave there as soon as possible on the first boat. Perhaps it would be one right to France. With no papers—no. I will not listen. You could not cable, for all messages are censored here. Listen—" and she turned in appeal to me—"see if this is not the best plan."

She was to take his measure, get his clothes, then leave the cafe in charge of a girl friend. She would then go into the country on a visit to some trustworthy friends of her father's. The Arabs they employed formerly worked for her family, and these could easily be induced to take them via cart train to Tjecamen, near Oran on the coast. They would travel at night with Dick under cover in case they met a patrol. Three days she would wait at her friend's, so that there might be no connection between the two departures; then he was to come. Her Arab friends could easily arrange with the fisherman at the coast to take them to Spain.

"She's right," I told Riordan. "But now—what's going to happen when you get to Spain?"

She buried her face in his neck so quick I could not see his eyes.

"What but one thing?" he retorted. "We'll be married; then I'll cable the governor that I'm off to a new start. He'll come across then, I'm sure."

"H'm," I said. "Why don't you get married here?"

He looked out from behind her shoulder pretty quickly at that.

"Why!" he exclaimed. "That would expose us sure. No one could help putting the two departures together then. Find one, find the other."

I had to admit that he was right, but on the way home I put my hand on his arm and stopped him.

"That girl is risking her savings, and running chances of the prison battalion for helping a légionnaire desert," I said—"for you."

"She won't have it any other way," he muttered.

"No," I said. "She won't. She's that kind. The governor won't have any cause to be ashamed of the kind of grandchildren she's going to bring him—if she does."

"I wish she'd listen to coming on another boat," he muttered in a troubled tone. "She's got the best plan," I said. "Best come on now and go to sleep."

The next morning we heard that Chiquita would be gone for a time from the Café. We knew then the first move was on. But during the next three days Riordan was so fidgety I had to keep an eye on him for fear he'd forget some part of his uniform and get thrown into cells again. He fretted himself about a possible slip here and a slip there until he had me on the raw edge myself.

FINALLY, though, the night came. And how he did polish and primp to make sure of passing inspection at the gate! I had to warn him for fear his very eagerness would warn the corporal of our squad that something unusual was afoot, and had to shake him up again when we got beyond the gate.

"Don't run," I scolded. "Stroll along like I do. I'll lead you out all right."

"Oh!" he said. "Are you going beyond the walls?"


"But if they catch you——"

"Pouf! Two days' barracks arrest for stealing grapes. You need me. You're too excited."

"I'm afraid you'll be caught, he insisted; but I wouldn't listen.

So we made for the city walls by alley routes, slipped by a patrol, and went up and over and away through the vineyards. I couldn't hold him back then—he hit up the Legions' double time, and I had to follow.

We made those two miles in no time, keeping in the shadows as much as possible. Then we heard a swift rustling of soft garments, and Chiquita was in his arms.

I let her have him a minute; but time was precious. I saw the shadowy carts and Arabs waiting near by. I urged him to hurry.

"Change quickly," I told him, "and bring back every piece of your uniform so I can see that it finds its way to the quartermaster. If you get caught you don't want to be tried for stealing your kit."

He slipped into the shadows, and Chiquita ran to me and clutched at my arm. I was so good to help—she would never forget—surely the good God would not allow him to be caught.

"Tut, tut," I said, "everything is going to be all right." I assured her that I was confident they would make it all right.

That is what I told her—but I sha'n't soon forget standing there with that girl all atremble beside me. It isn't any too pleasant playing a sort of helpless foster-father to a young girl that's sincere and true and good and playing a game for her lover with all her possessions and freedom at stake. No, it isn't so pleasant—especially when you feel all her fears and anxieties, and being a man and older, and wiser, you see a lot more she hasn't guessed at as yet. She was that dose to me—the trembling of her hands—the faint, sweet odor that came from her hair——

Then, after an age, Riordan appeared. She ran to meet him and then walked back with him toward me.

My eyes were on him, inspecting. The clothes weren't any too good, being secondhand; still they fitted well enough as far as I could see. But I wasn't noticing that as much as something that was making itself felt in his manner—something that chilled me; and when he handed me his uniform bundle with a remark about his new shoes hurting his feet, a strange silence fell on us all—a silence that made me sick at heart.

She, too, felt it. She looked up at him, wide-eyed.

"What is it?" she whispered.

"Chiquita," he said, and stopped. His voice was strange and husky. Then—"I found the money in the clothes."

"Yes, yes, five hundred francs. You must handle the purse now."

"But I want that you should take half of it. I——"

He paused, then went on with a rush:

"I have been thinking about this all along. It is not best that we go together. I can go on to one of the up-country stations and then to Oran by rail—oh, I'll make it all right—I'll cable you when I am safe."

I remained silent. I was not amazed, for I had been halfway expecting this; but I looked at her. She stared at him in utter unbelief—it was as if he had struck her a blow.

Never have I seen greater misery depicted in a human face. She had guessed the truth at last. There was at least something honest enmeshed in the bottom of the boy. His face and eyes were poor liars even if his words did evade. He had never intended to take her with him.

"Dick!" she cried very low. I can hear it yet. It had sadder notes than the Wongo lament of the women on Leno-La-Nee.

A great anger seized me then.

"You cur!" I choked; and was on him like a wolf.

Big he was, but he stood no show with me in that Tage. He went down, fighting, but with me on top, my bayonet at his throat.

Then Chiquita grabbed my arm.

"No!" she screamed. "No! Would you——"

"No, I'll not kill him," I said. "But I'll make him put on that uniform again and go back to barracks." And I tightened my grip on his throat.

H'm... Yes, Haig and Haig, Willard. Four fingers... Yes...

Well, I expect you're wondering what came next. I didn't think she'd want me to hurt him—that's a woman's way—but I wasn't prepared for what followed.

"Let him up," she said, and her voice was that strange and quiet I did so in a sort of trance. I have heard the same tones in the voices of priests when they give the absolution.

He got up stiffly, with a murderous look at me, but stood still—her voice held him, too. So they remained, she looking at him as if she couldn't look enough; then she spoke.

"You do not know what love is," she told him. "Some day you may learn. I will always love you, no matter what you do. No—" to me as I tried to speak— "you must let him go. Five years—for him—in the Legion? Nom du bon Dieu, it would kill him. No! You must keep the money—Dick. Now please go!"

Yes, that's what that little girl said to him out there under the stars in that Algerian night. A girl that was born in the provinces and had never seen her native Spain. A girl born near—Beard of the Prophet—the Foreign Legion! Yes. And even in the temperate zone you get to thinking that all that's good and noble is pictured on the stage.

As for him, he mumbled something—he couldn't talk—and stumbled off through the darkness, while she watched him, still and dry-eyed.

No, she didn't break down. If she did, she kept it from me.

Ah! One needs a drink, remembering a scene like that. A little more ice, Willard. Thanks... It sticks in the memory...

Well—it stuck in his memory, too. Yes, he made it all right. Made it to Florence and the American colony. Quite a group of artist friends, he found. And he cabled his father, who, instead of sending him money, came a-footing on the next boat to take care of that prodigal son. Wouldn't trust him until he'd seen him. The boy 'fessed up then and made a clean breast of the whole affair.

Then he wrote me.

No, I won't tell you what he wrote. He sent me the money with which I later made my getaway. But I won't tell you what he wrote. I wouldn't want a man to tell what I said if I penned him a letter straight from the bottom of my heart, like that boy did. Doggoned if it didn't make me feel almost as good as Chiquita did when he wrote to her.

Yes, he saw his mistake. A little time away from her had opened his eyes. He sent for her. They're up there now in a villa, daubing at pictures together. Those two, and the kid——

What? You thought the yarn was going to have an unhappy ending. Why——

I must have been in love with her, then? You're a liar!