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Action Front Boyd Cable

As Others See

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A few Frenchmen, who spoke more or less English, found themselves in enormous French and English demand, while Private 'Enery Irving, who had hitherto borne some reputation as a French speaker--a reputation, it may be mentioned, largely due to his artful knack of helping out spoken words by imitation and explanatory acting--found his bubble reputation suddenly and disastrously pricked. He made some attempt to clutch at its remains by listening to the remarks addressed to him by a Frenchman, with a most potently intelligent and understanding expression, by ejaculating "Nong, nong!" and a profoundly understanding "Ah, wee!" at intervals in the one-sided conversation. He tried this method when called upon by a puzzled private to interpret the torrential speech of a Frenchman, who wished to know whether the Towers had any jam to spare, or whether they would exchange a rum ration for some French wine. 'Enery interjected a few "Ah, wee's!" and then at the finish explained to the private.

"He speaks a bit fast," he said, "but he's trying to tell me something about him coming from a place called Conserve, and that we can have his 'room' here--meaning, I suppose, his dug-out." He turned to the Frenchman, spread out his hands, shrugged his shoulders, and gesticulated after the most approved fashion of the stage Frenchman, bowed deeply, and said, "Merci, Monsieur," many times. The Frenchman naturally looked a good deal puzzled, but bowed politely in reply and repeated his question at length. This producing no effect except further stage shrugs, he seized upon one of the interpreters who was passing and explained rapidly. "He asks," said the interpreter, turning to 'Enery and the other men, "whether you have any conserve et rhum--jam and rum--you wish to exchange for his wine." After that 'Enery Irving collapsed in the public estimation as a French speaker.

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When the Towers were properly installed, and the French regiment commenced to move out, a Tower Bridge officer came along and told his men that they were to be careful to keep out of sight, as the orders were to deceive the Germans opposite and to keep them ignorant as long as possible of the British-French exchange. Private Robinson promptly improved upon this idea. He found a discarded French kepi, put it on his head, and looked over the parapet. He only stayed up for a second or two and ducked again, just as a bullet whizzed over the parapet. He repeated the performance at intervals from different parts of the trench, but finding that his challenge drew quicker and quicker replies was obliged at last to lift the cap no more than into sight on the point of a bayonet. He was rather pleased with the applause of his fellows and the half-dozen prompt bullets which each appearance of the cap at last drew, until one bullet, piercing the cap and striking the point of the bayonet, jarred his fingers unpleasantly and deflected the bullet dangerously and noisily close to his ear. Some of the Frenchmen who were filing out had paused to watch this performance, laughing and bravo-ing at its finish. Robinson bowed with a magnificent flourish, then replaced the kepi on the point of the bayonet, raised the kepi, and made the bayonet bow to the audience. A French officer came bustling along the trench urging his men to move on. He stood there to keep the file passing along without check, and Robinson turned presently to some of the others and asked if they knew what was the meaning of this "Mays ongfong" that the officer kept repeating to his men. "Ongfong," said 'Enery Irving briskly, seizing the opportunity to reestablish himself as a French speaker, "means 'children'; spelled e-n-f-a-n-t-s, pronounced ongfong."

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