Easter in Calais; it sounded like the title of a “B” movie. Monique would be there, Jacques was expected, and the Countess would entertain us all. At least that was what I was dreaming as the train entered Calais station. Flanders was beautiful in the spring time; however, traveling at night I saw little.
I pulled my brown hat down over my eyes and lifted the collar of my coat. The salt borne breeze off of the channel cut through human foil even on warm days, but my abundant clothing adequately protected me and also gave me ideal cover.
“Monsieur, pouvoir je porte votre valise.” Jacques’ voice surprised me as I stepped onto the platform. He was dressed in porter’s cap and clothing and was pushing a small handcart.
I nodded my head and handed him my bag. What was Jacques doing at the station? He kept walking with the cart.
“Comment le voyage était-il ?” His inquiry about my trip was a common question of the porters in the station; however, I barely heard him as it was all I could do to keep up with his pace, and I knew the question had multiple meanings.
“Fine, merci,” A polite response was all I could get out - we were nearly jogging through the station. I tried to control my voice when I whispered, “Why are you meeting the train today?” I needed to know why he was there. Jacques was too important to risk.
“Monique m'a envoyé.” Monique, I might have figured. She was the risk taker.
“It’s too dangerous.” I tried to emphasize the danger, but it was hard to be emphatic in a whisper while running.
“C'était le seul moyen, nous avons besoin de se déplacer rapidement.” He told me that it was the only way, and that we needed to move quickly. He had to concentrate with English; in a rush he always resorted to French.
We exited the station and I followed him into the taxi area along the curbing.
“My dear friend Jacques, where are we headed?”
“La Ferme de Wolphus, Zouafques. Twenty kilomètres. We have a coach.”
Good, I thought. A farm., we could be there in less than an hour.
A gray Mercedes suddenly pulled to the curb alongside of us, however, it kept rolling. Jacques took my bag, opened the back door and jumped in. “L'hâte, entrer.” He called to me over his shoulder. I took his hand and jumped into the car.
Seconds later we were headed into the French countryside away from the city. I recognized the driver; another friend of Monique’s.
“Jacques, I am so glad to see you.” Finally, I was able to greet him..
“Je suis content pour vous voir aussi, monsieur. Excuse me. Yes, my friend, it is good we are together once again. The Lord has blessed us with your arrival.”
“How many Jacques, how many are with us now?”
“Over one hundred in Paris monsieur, fifty in Strasbourg, a dozen in Nancy and Bordeaux. But, we are winning just one at a time. Monique said she knows of more, others who escaped, and might join us. But, she fears that there are few in Northern Provinces.”
Monique was better connected than I, her college years roaming France had paid off. She knew more about France and particularly Paris than many natives, and her French was without accent.
On the highway ahead we could see a mass of people blocking the road. Our driver looked back over his shoulder at us.
“Qui l'est ?” “Who is it?” Jacques asked both in French and English.
“Je ne sais pas monsieur, je ne pense pas qu'ils ont des armes.” He didn’t know, but he saw no weapons.
“Avoid them,” I said to the driver; I hoped he understood a little English.
Unexpectedly, one of the men in the road lifted a hand and pointed to a hillside. Jacques tapped the shoulder of our driver and our car slowed.
Jacques rolled down his window. A tall man in the center of the road had tears in his eyes. He pointed to the hill. Three crosses graced the top of a knoll. The sun was rising over the ridgeline and illuminated the crosses into crimson silhouette.
“Monsieur,” Jacques took my arm, “Monique was wrong.”
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