My determined pair of travellers, Ronald Fry and his young friend Mervyn Watson, in my novel, The Merry Millionaire, are in Toulon, France, just for one day, as a port of call during their voyage to Egypt on the RMS Orontes.
After a day sightseeing, they’re told of a notorious nightclub in the old town, and decide to give it a go, although Ron thinks it could be a bit too gay for the likes of him, seeing he is close to his forty seventh birthday.
Known as ‘Les Dancing Dubois,’ apparently it is popular with young French and German sailors, which certainly has whetted our pair’s appetite.
Earlier in the evening, Mervyn and Ron dine at a Quayside restaurant, and chance to hear, played on the restaurant gramophone, a sad song, sung by Edith Piaf, a singer as yet unknown to both of them.
By coincidence, the act the cabaret singer at ‘Le Dancing Dubois,’ happens to be performing that night includes the same mournful refrain and, after a captivating and stimulating end of the show, Ron and Mervyn are keen to keep the song in their minds as a memory of a most enjoyable evening.
As a result, and as the hour is late and the shops are closed, Ron and Mervyn return to the restaurant in order to they might purchase the record they heard earlier, the couple impressed when the waiter gives it to them as a present.
Quite captivated by now by the sound of Edith Piaf, Ron exploits the translation talents of a fellow passenger in order he and Mervyn might enjoy her song translated into English. It’s then they discover the song is called, ‘Mon Legionnaire,’ and its sentiment is as sad as it sounds.
This is what they heard that night, and I’m not at all surprised they were so entranced.