Law and Order: Marseilles, 1917

I’ve added another item to our World War I collection in the North Carolina Digital Collections – a letter from Wilmington native Arthur Bluethenthal to Davey and Arthur, on Jan. 27, 1917. A portion of the letter describes a trip that Arthur Bluethenthal, along with eleven other American soldiers and two British officers, made to French “Night Court”:

One evening in a state of intercollegiate stupor twelve of us, reinforced by two wild English Officers on their way to Egypt, blew into a cafe like a tornado. Ten bottles of wine were ordered and consumed. One of our number stated that he had paid tor them. I was sure he had not, but still it was worth arguing about. The dispute became warmer and warmer, finally rivaling any cheering section I have ever heard in volume of tone and general earnestness of endeavor. We tried to start out, when suddenly a hole in the wall opens and two of the most genial gendarnes I have ever seen, emerge from no place at all. Of course, being in their judgment English officers, it was out of the question to arrest us, but would we be so obliging and considerate as to step around in the Night Court and state our case. We were willing. I was appointed Attorney for the defense, and around we go. It amused me beyond words. We arrived. The gang settled down on the benches and at a sign from the sergeant I opened my case. I touched lightly upon the former hostile relations of England and France, as compared now with the perfect understanding and unity of purpose, with which these two great countries, the one a great republic, and the other a world wide empire were united to wage this war of Righteousness to a successful finish. Driving without a change of pace, and all in my most perfect fluently flowing French, into the case, I told how as strangers we were made to pay double for everything, were cheated right and left, and this case was only one of many we had to put up with, and so on, and if I do say so myself, Lincoln at Gettysburg struck a less noble note.

When I finished the Gendarnes were in tears and even the Sergeant had a lump in his throat. Then the proprietor stated his case. We had not paid at all, nobody had seen us pay, all of which was perfectly true, and on retiring into an ante room and mingling heads with my worthy clients we decided to pay, but so urgent and impassioned had been my pleas that while the rest were filing out, the sergeant called me aside, with a couple of mysterious waves of his hand he produced a bottle of brandy from out of the air, and would we  “Ah Oui je respond.” Then he tells me that he is going to investigate and maybe he could get our money back for us, and would I leave my name and address, he would do his best for us. Waving him aside with my most nonchalant “Tut! Tut! Why my good man air”, I told him if he ever got that money back to keep it as a souvenir of us, and as for my name I was Captain Oliver Optic of the Brighton Life Guard. He called me mon Captain for at least five minutes and I finally got away.

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