Chateau Aubrey: Part 2, Chapter 2

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Five months into the war and the original atmosphere of excitement still hung over Rouen. Newspapers were printing stories about how France was close to taking back Alsace and Lorraine, and how the Germans (the huns and bosch as they were called) were fleeing and victory was near. James believed that he would arrive at the front just in time for the last, and most glorious, stretch of the war. He and his brother in law, Georges, went to recruiting office which had been set up at the Mairie, where they were given uniforms and were told to report for basic training by a certain date.

For Catharine and Madeleine, the date of her husband’s departure came all too quickly. They left on a bright, frosty, morning in January from the Gare de Rouen. James kissed his wife on the lips and Baby Marianne on the forehead.

“Goodbye, my loves,” he said to them, “Don’t be sad, Madeleine. I’m going to shoot lots of bosch and they’ll give me medal.”

“More likely they’ll shoot you for insubordination,” Catharine but in.

“If I bumped you off, they’d give me the damn Legion of Honor.”

“Now, now, why so pettish, my dear?” Georges asked his wife, “Is is because I’m going away?”

“You didn’t have to join up as well.”

“And miss out on probably the most exciting thing that will happen in our lifetime.”

“I don’t see any excitement. All I see is that countless men will die and you all are acting like it’s a carnival.”

Georges kissed his wife and then boarded the train saying that he’ll write to her soon.

“Take this before you go,” Madeleine said to James as he was about to board the train. She gave him the engagement ring he gave her almost three years before with a hair ribbon of her’s tied to it. He kissed it and then stashed it in his pocket.

“Goodbye Mado,” he said to her, “Look after our little pearl for me.”

“I will. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

A band began to play La Marseillaise as the train pulled out of the station. Madeleine handed Marianne over to Nounou and then ran to find the window where she could see her husband and continued to run alongside the train as it pulled away. When she reached the end of the platform, she stopped and panted.

James’s enthusiasm look a hit as the train left Rouen. He had been excited about going off to war but then it hit him that he was getting go of everything which made his life worth living.

Mimi comforted Madeleine who was in tears and the Chevalier stroked her arm. Madame and Catharine stood stoically.

Catharine was proud of herself for remaining calm during this ordeal and thought about how much better she appeared in contrast to her maudlin sister who was making a nuisance of herself by desperately trying to get everyone’s sympathy. But she was incapable of feeling a fraction of what Madeleine felt for James.

A smartly kitted out officer asked Catharine when the next army train would be arriving. She told him that it would be arriving in a quarter of an hour.

“Captain Bernard Mathieu,” he introduced himself.

“Madame Thomas,” she responded.

He took her hand and kissed it before going on his way.

“Do you know that stunning raven beauty in red?” he asked a fellow officer.

“Madame Thomas?” he answered, “She was Catharine d’Aubrey before she was married. Her father’s the Chevalier d’Aubrey.”  

“What a looker.”  

“Do you know of a Bernard Mathieu?” Catharine asked her mother.

“Mathieu,” Madame pondered, “A very wealthy family. His father fought with your father back in ‘71.”

Mathieu and Catharine had taken a momentary interest in each other, he in her social position and she in his wealth.  

New York City-Summer 1899

The spring and summer of 1899 were a time of mounting tensions between workers and owners at the Ackerman factories. Workers were troubled by layings off and rumors of wage cuts due to money troubles. A few of the hotheads among the machinists attributed these money troubles to the demands of old man Ackerman’s mistress.

“Why should our money go to some greedy tart,” they all grumbled, “When our wives and children barely have enough.”

One of these hotheads was Laurie. He arranged for the Gaiety Hall theater to host a rally to which Ackerman himself who invited to; Mr. Ackerman politely declined.  

“Who is profiting from your labors?” He asked during his speech, “Is it you?”

“No!” the crowd responded.

“Is it your wives and children?”

“No!”

Sarah, who he had been courting for the past several months, greeted him with a kiss as he descended the stage, a spectacle which made the audience cheer. Rosa approached him also, on the arm of her husband, Will Murray, a handsome young man, a year or two older than Laurie, with a fair, fashionable mustache.

The two men shook hands.

“Fine speech you made there,” Murray said.

“Thank You,” Laurie responded.

“And who is your lady friend?” Rosa asked.

“This is Miss Sarah Faber.”

“Pleased to meet you.”

Rosa then gave them her good news: She and Will were expecting a baby. Sarah sweetly gave her congratulations and Laurie again shook Will’s hand.

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