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Tuesday
Nov192013

Nightfall

The battle had reached little Belverne, just a few kilometers away. Nights were tense, German soldiers bunking in every home and barn. While they waited for liberation, the Etobonais were afraid to sleep in their own homes.

Wednesday, October 18

We risked sleeping in our own house last night.  At five o’clock, sinister screaming sound, incredible boom!  A section of the school was pulverized, all the windows blown out.  We ran down to the cellar, where the old boche Karl met us in his nightshirt.

The Cossacks pass by in a flooding rain.  They’re wearing incredible get-ups, even women’s overcoats.

Knowing that I was having terrible problems with my knee, old Henri took it upon himself to go look for the Doktor of the unit.  He’s a handsome man with a beautiful black beard.  He advises me to … rest.

Thursday, October 19

Every evening now, at nightfall, we have a band of Germans staying at our house.  What’s the most disagreeable is to listen to them “chewing the fat” together.  But we have to put up with it.

In the rain, the Cossacks have come back at the gallop on their little horses.  As hard as it is to say, it’s a beautiful sight.  But, they’re better off seen from afar.  From close up, they have frightening faces.

Some people from Belverne tell us that the village has been severely damaged.  Up to 10 shells on a single home.  The adjutant Mignerey has been mortally wounded.  Lots of livestock killed.

At Etobon, a shell that didn’t explode fell into Juliette Surleau’s bedroom, making a little hole in the floor; from there, it destroyed the sofa and an oak buffet, went a little way into the wall, bounced back to the ceiling, and from there to the stove, which it reduced to rubble.  The three boches who terrorize the house, sitting around a table in the middle of the room, didn’t have a single scratch.

Friday, October 20

Robert Chevalley, the man from the cemetery at Héricourt, leaning on his crutches, now moves around the village.  To the boches who question him, he says he was wounded in a bombardment in Paris.

At night, we abandon our house to our “renters.”  Everything is open, doors and cupboards.  There’s the woodworker Karl, half deaf, and young Willy, who’s had enough of war, both of them nurses.  Sleeping in the stable, there’s the big peasant George, of the supply service, as dirty as he is cunning, always the first in line at distributions, where he grabs the largest portion.  Just as well, as he takes neither hay nor oats from us.  Sometimes he even gives us food, thanks to which we can feed Jarko, in his hideout in the pines.

Monday, October 23

This morning, a lieutenant and interpreter came to give orders to the mayor.  Since they had already shot him, it’s me, the vice mayor, who receives these idiots.  They want me to organize a communal potato harvest.  Half for them, half for the owners of the fields. 

This evening, as I was going to set the clock in the tower, I had to take care not to step on the bodies of two German officers laid out at the foot of the steps where they put the stretchers.  There are two more at Mignerey’s place, and two have been in front of the school all day.  Strange!

Before supper, we open the stable door and say, “George, essen …”  “Ya, ya …”  And in he comes.  We never need to look any farther than the stable for him; he’s always cleaning, sweeping.  The stable has never been so clean.  And he feeds and waters our cows and cuts up beets for them.  Perfectly domestic, a widower with two children.  Since he doesn’t understand a word of French, I say to him sometimes, “You’re a good beast, George …”  “Ya, ya.”  “When you’re taken prisoner, you’ll come be a servant at our house.”  “Ya, ya.”

As for Karl and Willy, they’re at the infirmary all day long, in our friends the Christens’ house.

Today, the road to Vernes was blown up.  I have to say that the Germans are mining the land around Chenebier in an extraordinary manner.  They’re putting them everywhere.  And it was while they were placing a huge anti-tank mine, under the road to Vernes, that it exploded prematurely, killing an officer, a sergeant-major, and several soldiers.  You can’t win them all!

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