WHEN AUTUMN CAME I was still in Normandy. Now the fields were golden with ripe grain, the orchards heavy with red-cheeked cider apples. Here, in the open country, only a few scars of battle met the eye -- some scraps of rusted metal in the ditches, the shattered segment of a tank, half hidden by a hedgerow. It was good to view this healing of the ravaged earth, yet one could not escape a vague sense of regret that so slight a testimony should here endure to the invasion -- that great, exalted effort which had freed this fruitful French countryside.
But when we reached the Lion Rouge in the little village near Avranches which was our destination for the night, I came upon a shred of evidence which drew me up. . . and made me smile. Written on the ground-glass panel of my bedroom door, I noticed these cryptic words: " Johnnie Brown, GI, stays here."
The scrawl was in pencil and could easily have been erased. The fact that it remained interested me, and after supper I ventured into the kitchen and mentioned the matter to Madame Delnotte, who owned this simple inn.
As though debating whether or not I were worthy of her confidence, Madame studied me, her sallow features illumined by a gleam from the copper pans which lined the wall. She glanced toward her daughter, Claire, who sat mending some linen at the table. Then, slowly, with an air of quiet reminiscence, she answered me.
Yes, Johnnie had been one of that great American army engaged