The young man watched the horizon carefully, or what was left of it. He was walking along what used to be a quiet country road, now completely destroyed. He did not know the village it led to, but he knew that he had to keep his eyes on the horizon. If he looked down, or back the way he came, who knows what horrors he might find. He made a point to ignore the cries of the sick and injured, as if he looked into their eyes, even for a second, he would become off-task. They would make him question his morality. For what he was about to do was against everything he had ever stood for.
Jacques had seen others just like him along his seemingly endless journey. No, they weren't like him at all. They were all cruel and selfish and hateful, treating their fellow countrymen like dirt. Whereas he was different to all of them. He was...oh...He sighed. He needed to stop kidding himself. He was exactly the same as the traitors. Wasn't he just now going to betray his country? And for what? A reward from those bloody Germans? Was he that naive that he thought he could stop it all? All the murder and the cruelty was too much to bear. Jacques sometimes thought at moments like this that it would be better for the whole world if he were to die. He was a soldier. sooner or later it was bound to happen. So why the hell was he still alive? Surely God would have killed him by now if He realised all the pain and suffering he had caused. Then Jacques shook his head. He had never quite believed in God, and this war had confirmed his worst fears. If God existed, why didn't he stop all this? If He had any compassion, He would bring this bloodshed to an end, and Jacques could go back to his family in Brittany. Then Jacques realised he couldn't turn back time, and things could never be the same again. His family were all dead, and nothing he could do would ever bring them back. This was why he had stopped believing in God. Even if He did stop the war, He could not bring people back to life. Jacques did not want them to go to heaven, or wherever you went when you died. He wanted them to be sitting in their cottage on the coast, waiting for him to come home.
His little sister would be sitting on her father's lap, and his brother would most likely be making mischief somewhere. His mother would be making supper in the kitchen, singing one of the English songs she knew from her childhood. And this was why Jacques felt so guilty about giving up the Allies secrets. His mother was English, so that made him likely to probably have the blood of some soldier fighting at the front. To give up these secrets would be like giving up a piece of his heart. But times were tough. He barely had enough to eat, and soon, France would become another Germany. There would be death and destruction everywhere you looked. But those things were happening anyway. If selling those secrets meant a quick end to this terrible war, so be it. Jacques was a lone wolf. He didn't need anybody. If someone was willing to pay for something, he'd gladly give it away.
Then his concentration slipped for only a moment. He found himself looking straight into the big brown eyes of a frightening child. He guessed he was about eight or nine years old. If one looked past the fact that he was almost black with mud, the boy could have been his little brother. The boy's face suddenly became afraid, and his eyes stared at something Jacques couldn't see. He looked down to see what it was and discovered the boy was absolutely terrified of his rifle. Jacques gently laid it down on the floor, and the boy's face relaxed. Still, Jacques was right about not looking at the road. As soon as he'd laid eyes on that child, and seen the pure innocence and sorrow in his soul, he wanted to help him. Jacques might get a slightly better life if he sold the battle plans to the Germans, but this child wouldn't. In a few months time, Jacques would be walking down another road, being careful this time not to look down, and would come across a corpse. This child, leave it a couple of weeks, and he would be dead. He could not leave a fate so horrible to happen to someone who had done nothing wrong. It would be hard. They would have to live on the streets, scrounging any food they could get. God knows where that food would come from. The country was running out of the most staple things, like bread and clean water. But anything would be better than leaving this poor boy to die.
The boy reached out his hand to be pulled up. Jacques took it and recoiled in horror as he realised it had only three fingers and no thumb. It looked like the handiwork of an enemy bomb. How long had this little boy been suffering? The wound didn't look too healthy, either. Jacques took a bandage out of his kitbag and used it to wrap up the boy's hand. Blood soaked through it in a matter of seconds. This was what made Jacques change his mind. He hoisted the child onto his shoulders and turned around. His rifle stayed on the ground. The boy looked relieved. Jacques walked back the way he came, back towards Paris. If he was to die, he might as well die fighting with his friends. The Germans would not be getting anywhere near the Allies' battle plans after all.
"What's your name?" he asked the eight-year-old who now had his arms wrapped around his neck.
"Martin. Martin Dupont." the boy said happily, glad to have someone protecting him.
"Well, Martin. It looks like I have a companion." And Jacques Beauvais smiled for the first time in months. At last he had something, or rather someone, to live for.