While he was vainly trying to think about architecture, some recollection of old astronomy lessons brushed across his brain,--something about stars whose light travels through space for hundreds of years before it reaches the earth and the human eye. The purple and crimson and peacock-green of this window had been shining quite as long as that before it got to him . . . . He felt distinctly that it went through him and farther still . . . as if his mother were looking over his shoulder. He sat solemnly through the hour until twelve, his elbows on his knees, his conical hat swinging between them in his hand, looking up through the twilight with candid, thoughtful eyes.
When Claude joined his company at the station, they had the laugh on him. They had found the Cathedral,--and a statue of Richard the Lion-hearted, over the spot where the lion-heart itself was buried; "the identical organ," fat Sergeant Hicks assured him. But they were all glad to leave Rouen.
B Company reached the training camp at S-- thirty-six men short: twenty-five they had buried on the voyage over, and eleven sick were left at the base hospital. The company was to be attached to a battalion which had already seen service, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Scott. Arriving early in the morning, the officers reported at once to Headquarters. Captain Maxey must have suffered a shock when the Colonel rose from his desk to acknowledge his salute, then shook hands with them all around and asked them about their journey. The Colonel was not a very martial figure; short, fat, with slouching shoulders, and a lumpy back like a sack of potatoes. Though he wasn't much over forty, he was bald, and his collar would easily slip over his head without being unbuttoned. His little twinkling eyes and good-humoured face were without a particle of arrogance or official dignity.
Years ago, when General Pershing, then a handsome young Lieutenant with a slender waist and yellow moustaches, was stationed as Commandant at the University of Nebraska, Walter Scott was an officer in a company of cadets the Lieutenant tools about to military tournaments. The Pershing Rifles, they were called, and they won prizes wherever they went. After his graduation, Scott settled down to running a hardware business in a thriving Nebraska town, and sold gas ranges and garden hose for twenty years. About the time Pershing was sent to the Mexican border, Scott began to think there might eventually be something in the wind, and that he would better get into training. He went down to Texas with the National Guard. He had come to France with the First Division, and had won his promotions by solid, soldierly qualities.
"I see you're an officer short, Captain _Maxey," the Colonel remarked at their conference. "I think I've got a man here to take his place. Lieutenant Gerhardt is a New York man, came over in the band and got transferred to infantry. He has lately been given a commission for good service. He's had some experience and is a capable fellow." The Colonel sent his orderly out to bring in a young man whom he introduced to the officers as Lieutenant David Gerhardt.
Claude had been ashamed of Tod Fanning, who was always showing himself a sap-head, and who would never have got a commission if his uncle hadn't been a Congressman. But the moment he met Lieutenant Gerhardt's eye, something like jealousy flamed up in him. He felt in a flash that he suffered by comparison with the new officer; that he must be on his guard and must not let himself be patronized.
As they were leaving the Colonel's office together, Gerhardt asked him whether he had got his billet. Claude replied that after the men were in their quarters, he would look out for something for himself.
The young man smiled. "I'm afraid you may have difficulty. The people about here have been overworked, keeping soldiers, and they are not willing as they once were. I'm with a nice old couple over in the village. I'm almost sure I can get you in there. If you'll come along, we'll speak to them, before some one else is put off on them."