This is the last installment of Chapter 10. I'm doing some business traveling and hoping to have some time for writing once I'm back to my hotel in the evening, so my plan is to have the first installment of Chapter 11, which focuses on Henri, up no later than Saturday.
Chateau Ducloux, France. August 26th, 1914. The morning routine was gone. No newspapers were delivered from the station. Madam Ragot and Emilie did not arrive. Philomene considered going out to pick up breakfast things herself, but when she looked out the window she could see only German soldiers in the street, no townspeople. She cut slices of yesterday’s bread and spread them with jam for the children’s breakfast while Grandpere cranked the coffee grinder so that they could make their morning pot of coffee. Pascal stared at this bread and jam without eating and then returned to his room rather than going out into the garden with his sisters as on a usual morning.
It was just as the two adults were sitting down at the table with their pot of coffee that someone pounded on the front door.
They looked at each other.
“Perhaps it’s only someone needing something from the shop,” said Philomene. Naming some harmless explanation seemed to hold more terrible ones at bay.
“Go wait in the kitchen,” said Louis. “The girls are in the back garden. If something bad happens, you can go out through the kitchen door and take them over the garden wall into the next street.”
“But Pascal. He’s in his room.” She was gripping the spoon with which she had been stirring her coffee, holding it like a dagger as if for protection.
“There’s no time. He’ll hear if something happens, and he’s a grown boy now. Look how he came through yesterday.”
“My child, there’s no time.” Louis was moving towards the door as he heard the pounding again, louder this time. Philomene nodded and left the dining room in the other direction, into the kitchen.
He opened the door. Outside in the street was a young man in an officer’s uniform. The shoulder boards and high collar of his field grey tunic were marked with silver braided rank insignia. A buttoned-down holster of polished brown leather hung at his belt, as did a slim, straight sword in a black leather scabbard.
“Good morning. Are you the owner of the Mertens shop?” asked the officer in surprisingly unaccented French.