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THE SILENCE OF
COLONEL BRAMBLE



THE SILENCE OF
COLONEL BRAMBLE

BY ANDRE MAUROIS

TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH
BY THURFRIDA WAKE; VERSES
TRANSLATED BY WILFRID JACKSON



NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY
LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD

MCMXX



Copyright, 1920,
By John Lane Compaky



TO
MY WIFE



BIOGRAPHICAL INTRODUCTION

In its original French " Les Silences du
Colonel Bramble " has already run through
seventeen editions, and a second edition has
been called for in English within a very short
time of publication. The success of the book
has naturally brought many inquiries as to
who is this brilliant young author who has thus
suddenly leaped into fame. In answer to in-
quiries, M. "Andre Maurois " writes:

" My family comes from Alsace. My

grandfather had a factory at Strasbm*g, but

the war of 1870 compelled him to leave Alsace

in order to escape becoming German. He

brought his workmen with him, and set up his

factory at Elbeuf in Nonnandy, and was

awarded the Legion of Honour for having

thus saved a French industry.

vii



viii Biographical Introduction

" I was born in Normandy in 1885. In
1902 I passed my licence es lettres with hon-
ours — equivalent to your ' First ' at Oxford.
In 1903 I received the prij? dfhonneur for Phi-
losophy at the competitive examinations open
to all the Lycees of France — for this there is
no English equivalent.

" I wished to write, but I was needed at the
factory as my father was no longer young, so
I gave up my ambitions and spent eight years
in business. During this period I married
Mile, de Sienkievicz, a daughter of Count C.
de Sienkievicz.

" Then came the war, and I was appointed
interpreter with the IXth (Scotch) Division.
I was with them at Loos and Ypres, and was
given the D. C. M. Finally I was promoted
to the rank of lieutenant and liaison officer.
I had, however, been ill, and was sent to H.Q.
Lines of Communication at Abbeville, where
I remained until the end of the war.

" Military life gave me sufficient leisure to
enable me to take up again my original tastes.



^biographical Introduction ix

and thus, while I was with the Scotch Division,
* Bramble * was written. Then at Abbeville I
wrote another book, called * Ni Ange, ni Bete,'
which has recently appeared in France. I
am now engaged on another book."



THE SILENCE OE
COLONEL BRAMBLE



THE SILENCE OF COLONEL
BRAMBLE



CHAPTER I

THE Highland Brigade was holding its
regimental l)oxing match in a fine old
Flemish barn in the neighbourhood of
Poperinghe. At the end of the evening the
general got on to a chair and, in a clear, audi-
ble voice, said:

" Gentlemen, we have to-day seen some ex-
cellent fighting, from which I think we may
leiirn some useful lessons for the more impor-
tant contest that we shall shortly resume; we
must keep our heads, we must keep our eyes
open, we must hit seldom but hit hard, and
we must fight to a finish."

Three cheers made the old barn shake.
The motors purred at the door. Colonel
Bramble, Major Parker and the French inter-
preter, Aurelle, went on foot to their billets
among the hops and beetroot fields.

13



14 The Silence of Colonel Bramble

" We are a curious nation," said Major
Parker. *' To interest a Frenchman in a box-
ing match you must tell him that his national
honour is at stake. To interest an English-
man in a war you need only suggest that it
is a kind of a boxing match. Tell us that the
Hun is a barbarian, we agree politely, but tell
us that he is a bad sportsman and you rouse
the British Empire."

** It is the Hun's fault," said the colonel
sadly, " that war is no longer a gentleman's
game."

" We never imagined," continued the ma-
jor, " that such cads existed. Bombing open
towns is nearly as unpardonable as fishing for
trout with a worm, or shooting a fox."

" You must not exaggerate, Parker," said
the colonel calmly. " They are not as bad as
that yet."

Then he asked Aurelle politely if the box-
ing had amused him.

" I particularly admired, sir, the sporting
discipline of your men. During the boxing,
the Highlanders behaved as if they were in
church."

" The true sporting spirit has always some-
thing religious about it," said the major. " A



The Silence of Colonel Bramble 15

few years ago when the New Zealand football
team visited England, and from the first match
beat the English teams, the country was as
upset as if we had lost this war. Every one
in the streets and trains went about with long
faces. Then the New Zealanders beat Scot-
land, then Ireland; the end of the world had
come! However, there remained the Welsh.
On the day of the match there were one hun-
dred thousand persons on the ground. You
know that the Welsh are deeply religious and
that their national anthem, ' Land of our
Fathers,' is also a prayer. When the two
teams arrived the whole crowd, men and
women, exalted and confident, sang this hymn
to God before the battle, and the New Zea-
landers were beaten. Ah, we are a great
nation ! "

" Indeed, yes," said Aurelle, quite overcome,
*' you are a great nation." He added, after
a moment's silence, " But you were also quite
right just now when you said you were a
curious nation in some things, and your opin-
ion of people astonishes us sometimes. You
say, * Brown looks an idiot, but he's not, he
played cricket for Essex.' Or, 'At Eton we
took him for a fool, but at Oxford he sur-



1 6 The Silence of Colonel Bramble

prised us. Do you know he is plus four at
golf, and won the high jump?

"Well?" said the colonel.

" Don't you think, sir, that cleverness — "

" I hate clever people — Oh, I beg your
pardon, messiou."

" That's very kind of you, sir," said Aurelle.

" Glad you take it like that," growled the
colonel into his moustache.

He spoke seldom and always in short sen-
tences, but Aurelle had learnt to appreciate
his dry and vigorous humour and the charm-
ing smile which often lit up his rugged coun-
tenance.

" But don't you find yourself, Aurelle,"
went on Major Parker, " that intelhgence
is over-estimated with you? It is certainly
more useful to know how to box than how to
write. You would like Eton to go in for noth-
ing but learning? It is just like asking a
trainer of racehorses to be interested in cir-
cus horses. We don't go to school to learn,
but to be soaked in the prejudices of our
class, without which we should be useless and
unhappy. We are like the young Persians
Herodotus talks about, who up to the age of



The Silence of Colonel Bramble 17

twenty only learnt three scienees: to ride, to
shoot and to tell the truth."

" That may be," said Aurelle, " but just
see, major, how inconsistent you are. You
despise learning and you quote Herodotus.
Better still, I caught you the other day in the
act of reading a translation of Xenophon in
your dug-out. Very few Frenchmen, I assure
vou— "

*' That's quite different," said the major.
" The Greeks and Romans interest us, not as
objects of study, but as ancestors and sports-
men. We are the direct heirs of the mode of
life of the Greeks and of the Roman Empire.
Xenophon amuses me because he is a perfect
type of the English gentleman, with his hunt-
ing and fishing stories, and descriptions of bat-
tles. When I read in Cicero: * Scandal in
the Colonial Office. Grave accusations against
Sir Marcus Varro, Governor- General of
Sicily,' you can well understand that that
sounds to me like old faniily history. And
who was your Alcibiades, pray, but a Winston
Churchill, without the hats ? "

The scenery round them was very pictur-
esque: the Mont des Cats, the Mont Rouge,



i8 The Silence of Colonel Bramble

and the Mont Noir made a framework for
the hea^y, motionless clouds of an old Dutch
painting. The peasants' houses with their
weather-beaten, thatched roofs faded into the
surrounding fields ; their dull walls had turned
the colom- of yellow clay. The grey shut-
ters bordered with green struck the only vivid
and human note in this kingdom of the
earth.

The colonel pointed with his cane to a new
mine crater; but Major Parker, sticking to
his point, went on with his favourite subject:

'* The greatest service which sport has ren-
dered us is that it has saved us from intellec-
tual culture. Luckily, one hasn't time for
everything, and golf and tennis cut out read-
ing. We are stupid — '*

"Nonsense, major!" said Aurelle.

" We are stupid," emphatically repeated
Major Parker, who hated being contradicted,
*' and it is a great asset. When we are in
danger we don't notice it, because we don't
reflect; so we keep cool and come out of it
nearly always with honour."

" Always," amended Colonel Bramble with
his Scotch curtness.



The Silence of Colonel Bramble 19

And Aurelle, hopping agilely over the enor-
mous ruts by the side of these two Goliaths,
realized more clearly than ever that this war
would end well-



CHAPTER II

"y^LEAR the table," said Colonel Bram-
Ki ble to the orderlies. " Bring the rum,
a lemon, some sugar and hot water,
and keep some more boiling. Then tell my
batman to give me the gramophone and the
box of records."

This gramophone, a gift to the Highlanders
from a very patriotic old lady, was the colo-
nel's pride. He had it carried about after him
everywhere and treated it with delicate care,
feeding it every month with fresh records.

" Messiou," he said to Aurelle, " what
would you Hke? 'The Bing Boys,' * Destiny
Waltz,' or ' Caruso.' "

Major Parker and Dr. O' Grady solemnly
consigned Edison and all his works to a hotter
place; the padre raised his eyes to heaven.

" Anything you like, sir," said Aurelle, " ex-
cept * Caruso.' "

"Why?" said the colonel. "It's a very
good record, it cost twentj'^-two shillings. But



20



The Silence of Colonel Bramble 21

first of all you must hear my dear Mrs. Finzi-
Magrini in ' La Tosca.' Doctor, please reg-
ulate it, I ean't see very well — Speed 61.
Don't scratch the record, for God's sake!"

He sank down on his biscuit boxes, ar-
ranged his back comfortably against a heap
of sacks, and shut his eyes. His rugged face
relaxed. The padre and the doctor were
playing chess, and Major Parker was filling
in long returns for brigade headquarters.
Over a little wood, torn to bits by shells, an
aeroplane was sailing home among fleecy
white clouds in a lovely pale-green sky.
Aurelle began a letter.

" Padre," said the doctor, " if you are go-
ing to the division to-morrow, ask them to send
me some blankets for our dead Boches. You
saw the one we buried this morning? The
rats had half eaten him. It's indecent.
Check to the king."

" Yes," said the padre, " and it's curious
how they always begin at the nose! "

Over their heads a hea\y EngHsh battery
began to bombard the German line. The
padre smiled broadly.

" There'll be dirty work at the cross roads
to-night," he remarked with satisfaction.



22 The Silence of Colonel Bramble

" Padre," said the doctor, " are you not the
minister of a religion of peace and love ? "

" The Master said, my boy, that one
must love one's fellow-man. He never said
that we must love Germans. I take your
knight."

The Reverend John Maclvor, an old mili-
tary chaplain, with a face bronzed by Eastern
suns, took to this life of war and horrors with
the enthusiasm of a child. When the men
were in the trenches he visited them every
morning with his pockets bulging with hymn-
books and packets of cigarettes. "While rest-
ing behind the lines, he tried his hand at bomb-
ing and deplored the fact that his cloth for-
bade him human targets.

Major Parker suddenly stopped his work to
curse Brass Hats and their absurd questions.

" ^Vhen I was in the Himalayas at Chitral,"
he said, " some red-hats sent us a ridiculous
scheme for manoeuvres; among other details
the artillery had to cross a rocky defile hardly
wide enough for a very thin man.

" I wired, ' Scheme received ; send immedi-
ately a hundred barrels of vinegar.' ' Report
yourself to the P.M.O. for mental examina-
tion/ courteously remarked headquarters.



The Silence of Colonel Bramble 23

* Re-read " Hannibal's Campaign," ' I re-
plied."

" You really sent that telegram? " asked
Aurelle. " In the French army you would
have been court-martialled."

" That's because our two nations have not
the same idea of liberty," said the major.
" To us the inalienable rights of man are
humour, sport, and primogeniture."

" At the headquarters of the brigade," said
the padre, " there is a captain who must have
had lessons from you in military correspond-
ence. The other dav, as I had no news of one
of my j^oung chaplains who had left us about
a month, I sent a note to the brigade : ' The
Reverend C. Carlisle was invalided on Sep-
tember 12th. I should like to know if he is
better, and if he has been given a new appoint-
ment.' The reply from the hospital said sim-
ply: ' 1. Condition unchanged. 2. Ultimate
destination unknown.' The officer in trans-
mitting it to me had added, ' It is not clear
whether the last paragraph refers to the unit
to which the Rev. C. Carlisle will be eventually
attached, or to his eternal welfare.' "

The Italian air came to an end with a tri-
umphant roulade.



24 The Silence of Colonel Bramble

"What a voice! " said the colonel, opening
his eyes regretfully.

He carefully stopped the record and put it
affectionately in its case.

" ISTow, messiou, I am going to play ' Des-
tiny Waltz.' "

One could just see outside the Verey lights
gently rising and falling. The padre and the
doctor went on describing their corpses while
carefully manoeuvring the ivory pieces of the
little set of chessmen; the howitzers and
machine-guns broke into the voluptuous
rhythm of the waltz, creating a sort of fan-
tastic symphony highly appreciated by
Aurelle. He continued to write his letter in
easy verses.

" Death is a-f oot ; Fate calls the tune ;
Lose not a minute —
Forget! But wear your black till — June;
You're charming in it.

I will not have you come with tears.

With roses vain;
Young life will ask, in coming years,

Your rose again.

Don't be angry with me, dearest, if I descend to
the lowest level of * romantics ' ; a clergyman and a



The Silence of Colonel Bramble 25

doctor, beside me, are intent on playing the r6le of
the Grave-diggers in Hamlet.

Pity me not, for I shall sleep
Like any child,
'And from my changing earth up leap
The grasses wild.

But if, when summer hours grow few,

And dusk is long.
Your gaze, madonna-calm, should do

Your beauty wrong,

Nor lend that sadness to your face

I cherish yet.
Forget, then, for a little space,

That you forget."

" Do you like my waltz, messiou? " said the
colonel.

" Very much indeed, sir," said Aurelle sin-
cerely.

The colonel gave him a grateful smile.

" I'll play it again for you, messiou. Doc-
tor, regulate the gramophone slower, speed
59. Don't scratch the record. For 2/0U, this
time, messiou."



CHAPTER III

BoswELL. " Why then, sir, did he talk so? "
Johnson. " Why, sir, to make you answer as you
did."

THE batteries were asleep; Major Parker
was answering questions from the bri-
gade; the orderlies brought the rum,
sugar and boiling water; the colonel put the
gramophone to speed 61 and Dr. O'Grady
talked about the Russian Revolution.

" It is unprecedented," said he, " for the
men who made a revolution to remain in power
after it is over. Yet one still finds revolu-
tionaries: that proves how badly history is
taught."

" Parker," said the colonel, " pass the port."
" Ambition," said Aurelle, " is after all not
the only motive that inspires men to action.
One can be a revolutionary from hatred of a
tyrant, from jealousy, or even from the love
of humanity."

26



The Silence of Colonel Bramble 27

Major Parker abandoned his papers.

" I admire France very much, Aurelle, espe-
cially since this war; but one thing shocks me
in yom* country, if you will allow me to speak
plainly, and that is your jealousy of equality.
When I read the history of your Revolution
I am sorry I was not there to kick Robespierre
and that horrible fellow Hebert. And your
sans-culottes. Well, that makes me long to
dress up in purple satin and gold lace and
walk about the Place de la Concorde."

The doctor allowed a particularly acute
attack of hysteria on the part of Madame
Finzi-Magrini to pass, and went on:

" The love of humanity is a pathological
state of a sexual origin which often appears
at the age of puberty in nervous and clever
people. The excess of phosphorus in the sys-
tem must get out somewhere. As for hatred
of a tyrant, that is a more human sentiment
which has full play in time of war, when force
and the mob are one. Emperors must be mad
fools to decide on declaring wars which sub-
stitute an armed nation for their Praetorian
Guards. That idiocy accomplished, despotism
of course produces revolution until terrorism
leads to the inevitable reaction."



28 The Silence of Colonel Bramble

" You condemn us then, doctor, to oscillate
between rebellion and a coup d'etat? '^

" No," said the doctor, " because the Eng-
lish people, who have ah*eady given the world
Stilton cheese and comfortable chairs, have in-
vented for our benefit the Parliamentary sys-
tem. Our M.P.'s arrange rebelhons and
coups d'etat for us, which leaves the rest of
the nation time to play cricket. The Press
completes the system by enabhng us to take
our share in these tumults by proxy. All these
things form a part of modern comfort and in
a hundred years' time every man, white, yel-
low, red or black, will refuse to inhabit a room
without hot water laid on, or a countrj'' with-
out a Parliament."

" I hope you are wrong," said Major Par-
ker. " I hate poHticians, and I want, after
the War, to go and live in the East, because
nobody out there pays any attention to a gov-
ernment of babblers."

" My dear major, why the devil do you mix
your personal feehngs with these questions?
Politics are controlled by laws as necessary as
the movements of the stars. Are you an-
noyed that there are dark nights because you
happen to prefer moonlight? Humanity lies



The Silence of Colonel Bramble 29

on an uncomfortable bed. "When the sleeper
aches too much he turns over, that is a war
or an insurrection. Then he goes to sleep
again for a few centuries. All that is quite
natural and happens without much suffering,
if one does not mix up any moral ideas with
it. Attacks of cramp are not virtues. But
each change finds, alas, its prophets who, from
love of humanity, as Aurelle says, put this
miserable globe to fire and sword."

" That's very well said, doctor," said Au-
relle, "but I return the compliment; if those
are your sentiments, why do you take the trou-
ble to belong to a party? Because you are a
damned socialist."

" Doctor," said the colonel, " pass the port."

" Ah," said the doctor, " that's because I
would rather be persecutor than persecuted.
You must know how to recognize the arrival
of these periodical upheavals and prepare.
This war will bring socialism, that is to say,
the total sacrifice of the aristocrat to the Levia-
than. This in itself is neither a blessing nor a
misfortune: it is a cramp. Let us then turn
over with a good grace, as long as we feel we
shall be more comfortable on the other side."

" That's a perfectly absurd theory," said



30 The Silence of Colonel Bramble

Major Parker, angrily sticking out his square
chin, " and if you adopt it, doctor, you must
give up medicine! Why try and stop the
course of diseases? They are also, according
to you, periodic and necessary upheavals. But
if you pretend to fight against tuberculosis do
not deny me the right to attack universal suf-
frage."

At this moment a R.A.M.C. sergeant en-
tered and asked Dr. O' Grady to come and see
a wounded man: Major Parker remained mas-
ter of the situation. The colonel, who had a
horror of argmnents, seized the opportunity
to talk about something else.

" Messiou," he said, " what is the displace-
ment of one of your largest cruisers? "

" Sixty thousand tons, sir," hazarded
Aurelle wildly.

This knock-out blow put the colonel out of
action, and Aurelle asked Major Parker why
he objected to universal suffrage,

" But don't you see, my dear Aurelle, that
it is the most extravagant idea that humanity
has ever conceived? Our political system will
be considered more monstrous than slavery in
a thousand years. One man, one vote, what-



The Silence of Colonel Bramble 3P

ever the man is! Do you pay the same price
for a good horse as for a crock? "

" Have vou ever heard the immortal rea-
soning of our Courteline ? ' WTiy should I
pay twelve francs for an umbrella when I can
get a glass of beer for six sous?

"Equal rights for men!" continued the
major vehemently. " A^Tiy not equal courage
and equal intelligence while you are about it? "

Aurelle loved the major's impassioned and
pleasant harangues and, to keep the discussion
going, said that he did not see how one could
refuse a people the right to choose their
leaders.

"To control them, Aurelle, yes; but to
choose them, never 1 An aristocracy cannot be
elected. It is or it isn't. \\Tiy, if I were to
attempt to choose the Commander-in-Chief or
the Superintendent of Guy's Hospital, I
sliould be shut up ; but, if I wish to have a voice
in the election of the Chancellor of the Ex-
chequer or the First Lord of the Admiralty,
I'm a good citizen! "

" That is not quite correct, major. Minis-
ters are not elected. Mind, I agree with you
tliat our political system is imperfect; but so



32 The Silence of Colonel Bramble

are all human affairs. And then, ' La pire
des Chamhres vaut mieux que la meilleure des
anfichambres/ '*

" I piloted round London lately," replied
the major, " an Arab chief who honoured me
with his friendship, and when I had shown him
the House of Commons and explained what
went on there, he remarked, ' It must give you
a lot of trouble cutting off those six hundred
heads when you are not pleased with the
Government/ "

" Messiou," said the colonel, exasperated,
" I am going to play ' Destiny Waltz,' for
you."

• • • • •

Major Parker remained silent while the
waltz unrolled its rhythmic phrases, but he
ruminated over his old resentment against that
" horrible fellow Hebert " and, as soon as the
record had ground out its final notes, he
started a new attack on Aurelle.

" WTiat advantage," he said, " could the
French have found in changing their govern-
ment eight times in a century? Revolutions
have become a national institution with you.
In England, it would be impossible. If a
crowd collected at Westminster and made a



The Silence of Colonel Bramble 33

disturbance, the policeman would tell them to
go away and they would do so."

" What an idea! " said Aurelle, who did not
Hke Revolutions, but who thought he ought
to defend an old French lady against this hot-
headed Saxon. " You must not forget, major,
that you also cut off your King's head. No
policeman intervened to save Charles Stuart,
as far as I know."

" The assassination of Charles I," said the
major, " was the sole work of Ohver Crom-
well; now Oliver was a very good cavahy colo-
nel, but he knew nothing of tVe real feelings
of the English people, which they showed
pretty plainly at the time of the Restoration.

" Cromwell's head, which had been em-
balmed, was stuck on a pike on the top of
Westmmster Hall. One stormy night the
wind broke the shaft of the pike and the head
rolled to the feet of the sentry. He took it
home and hid it in the chimney of his house,
where it remained until his death. It passed
through various hands till it came into the
possession of a friend of mine, and I have
often sat at tea opposite the head of the Pro-
tector still on its broken pike. One could
easily recognize the wart which he had on his



34 The Silence of Colonel Bramble

forehead and there still remains a lock of chest-
nut hair."

" Humph," grunted the colonel, at last in-
terested in the conversation.

" Besides," continued the major, " the Eng-
lish Revolution does not compare in any way
with the French one: it did not weaken the
ruling classes. As a matter of fact, all the
had business of 1789 was caused by Louis
XIV. Instead of leaving your country the
strong armour of a landed gentry he made


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