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Title: On the Edge of the War Zone - From the Battle of the Marne to the Entrance of the Stars and Stripes
Author: Aldrich, Mildred, 1853-1928
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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On the Edge of the War Zone

From the Battle of the Marne
to the Entrance of the Stars and Stripes

by
Mildred Aldrich

Author of "A Hilltop on the Marne" "Told in a French Garden"



To The Public
The Friends, Old and New, Whose Persistent And Sympathetic
Demands For News Of Us On The Hilltop "After The Battle," Inspired
The Collecting And Editing Of These Letters,
This Little Book Is Gratefully Dedicated



On the Edge of the War Zone



I



La Creste, Huiry, Couilly. S et M.

September 16, 1914 Dear Old Girl:--

More and more I find that we humans are queer animals.

All through those early, busy, exciting days of September,--can it be
only a fortnight ago?--I was possessed, like the "busy bee," to
"employ each shining hour" by writing out my adventures. Yet, no
sooner was the menace of those days gone, than, for days at a time,
I had no desire to see a pen.

Perhaps it was because we were so absolutely alone, and because,
for days, I had no chance to send you the letters I had written, nor to
get any cable to you to tell you that all was well.

There was a strange sort of soulagement in the conviction that we
had, as my neighbors say, "échappé bien." I suppose it is human. It
was like the first days of a real convalescence--life is so good, the
world is so beautiful. The war was still going on. We still heard the
cannon--they are booming this minute--but we had not seen the
spiked helmets dashing up my hill, nor watched the walls of our little
hamlet fall. I imagine that if human nature were not just like that, Life
could never be beautiful to any thinking person. We all know that,
though it be not today, it is to be, but we seem to be fitted for that,
and the idea does not spoil life one bit.

It is very silent here most of the time. We are so few. Everybody
works. No one talks much. With the cannon booming out there no
one feels in the humor, though now and then we do get shaken up a
bit. Everything seems a long time ago. Yet it is really only nine days
since the French troops advanced--nine days since Paris was saved.

The most amazing thing of all is that our communications, which were
cut on September 2, were reopened, in a sort of a way, on the 10th.
That was only one week of absolute isolation. On that day we were
told that postal communication with Paris was to be reopened with an
automobile service from Couilly to Lagny, from which place, on the
other side of the Marne, trains were running to Paris.

So Amélie gathered up my letters, and carried them down the hill, and
dropped them hopefully in the box under the shuttered window of the
post-office in the deserted town.

That was six days ago, and it is only this morning that I began to feel
like writing to you again. I wanted to cable, but there is no way yet, so
I can only hope that you know your geography well enough not to
have worried since the 7th.

Although we are so shut in, we got news from the other side of the
Marne on Wednesday, the 9th, the day after I wrote to you--the fifth
day of the battle. Of course we had no newspapers; our mairie and
post-office being closed, there was no telegraphic news. Besides, our
telegraph wires are dangling from the poles just as the English
engineers left them on September 2. It seems a century ago.

We knew the Germans were still retreating because each morning
the booming of the cannon and the columns of smoke were further
off, and because the slopes and the hills before us, which had been
burning the first three days of the battle, were lying silent in the
wonderful sunshine, as if there were no living people in the world
except us few on this side of the river.

At no time can we see much movement across the river except with a
glass. The plains are undulating. The roads are tree-lined. We trace
them by the trees. But the silence over there seems different today.
Here and there still thin ribbons of smoke--now rising straight in the
air, and now curling in the breeze--say that something is burning, not
only in the bombarded towns, but in the woods and plains. But what?
No one knows.

One or two of our older men crossed the Marne on a raft on the 10th,
the sixth day of the battle. They brought back word that thousands
from the battles of the 5th, 6th, and 7th had lain for days un-buried
under the hot September sun, but that the fire department was
already out there from Paris, and that it would only be a few days
when the worst marks of the terrible fight would be removed. But they
brought back no news. The few people who had remained hidden in
cellars or on isolated farms knew no more than we did, and it was
impossible, naturally, to get near to the field ambulance at
Neufmortier, which we can see from my lawn.

However, on the 9th--the very day after the French advanced from
here--we got news in a very amusing way. We had to take it for what
it was worth, or seemed to be. It was just after noon. I was working in
the garden on the south side of the house. I had instinctively put the
house between me and the smoke of battle when Amélie came
running down the hill in a high state of excitement, crying out that the
French were "coming back," that there had been a "great victory,"
and that I was to "come and see."

She was in too much of a hurry to explain or wait for any questions.
She simply started across the fields in the direction of the Demi-Lune,
where the route nationale from Meaux makes a curve to run down the
long hill to Couilly.

I grabbed a sunbonnet, picked up my glasses, and followed her to a
point in the field from which I could see the road.

Sure enough--there they were--cuirassiers--the sun glinting on their
helmets, riding slowly towards Paris, as gaily as if returning from a
fête, with all sorts of trophies hanging to their saddles.

I was content to go no nearer. It was no army returning. It was only a
small detachment. Still, I could not help feeling that if any of them
were returning in that spirit, while the cannon were still booming, all
must be well.

Amélie ran all the way to the Demi-Lune--a little more than a quarter
of a mile. I could see her simply flying over the ground. I waited where
I was until she came back, crying breathlessly, long before she
reached me:

"Oh, madame, what do you think? The regiment which was here
yesterday captured a big, big cannon."

That was good news. They really had not looked it.

"And oh, madame," she went on, as she reached me, "the war is
over. The Germans have asked for peace," and she sat right down
on the ground.

"Peace?" I exclaimed. "Where? Who told you that?"

"A man out there. He heard it from a soldier. They have asked for
peace, those Boches, and General Gallieni, he told them to go back
to their own frontier, and ask for it there."

"And have they gone, Amélie?" I asked.

She replied quite seriously that they were going, and she was terribly
hurt because I laughed, and remarked that I hoped they would not be
too long about it.

I had the greatest possible difficulty in making her realize that we
were only hearing a very small part of a battle, which, judging by the
movements which had preceded it, was possibly extending from here
to the vicinity of Verdun, where the Crown Prince was said to be
vainly endeavoring to break through, his army acting as a sort of a
pivot on which the great advance had swung. I could not help
wondering if, as often happens in the game of "snap the whip," von
Kluck's right wing had got swung off the line by the very rapidity with
which it must have covered that long arc in the great two weeks'
offensive.

Amélie, who has an undue confidence in my opinion, was terribly
disappointed, quite downcast. Ever since the British landed--she has
such faith in the British--she has believed in a short war. Of course I
don't know any more than she does. I have to guess, and I'm not a
lucky guesser as a rule. I confess to you that even I am absolutely
obsessed by the miracle which has turned the invaders back from the
walls of Paris. I cannot get over the wonder of it. In the light of the
sudden, unexpected pause in that great push I have moments of
believing that almost anything can happen. I'll wager you know more
about it on your side of the great pond than we do here within hearing
of the battle.

I don't even know whether it is true or not that Gallieni is out there.
If it is, that must mean that the army covering Paris has advanced,
and that Joffre has called out his reserves which have been
entrenched all about the seventy-two miles of steel that guards
the capital. I wondered then, and today--seven days later--I am
wondering still.

It was useless to give these conjectures to Amélie. She was too deep
in her disappointment. She walked sadly beside me back to the
garden, an altogether different person from the one who had come
racing across the field in the sunshine. Once there, however, she
braced up enough to say:

"And only think, madame, a woman out there told me that the
Germans who were here last week were all chauffeurs at the Galeries
Lafayette and other big shops in Paris, and that they not only knew all
the country better than we do, they knew us all by name. One of
them, who stopped at her door to demand a drink, told her so himself,
and called her by name. He told her he had lived in Paris for years."

That was probably true. The delivery automobiles from all the big
shops in Paris came out here twice, and some of them three times a
week. It is no secret that Paris was full of Germans, and has been
ever since that beastly treaty of Frankfort, which would have expired
next year.

After Amélie had gone back to her work, I came into the library and
sat down at my desk to possess my soul with what patience I could,
until official news came. But writing was impossible.

Of course to a person who has known comparatively few restraints of
this sort, there is something queer in this kind of isolation. I am afraid
I cannot exactly explain it to you. As I could not work, I walked out on
to the chemin Madame. On one side I looked across the valley of the
Marne to the heights crowned by the bombarded towns. On the other
I looked across the valley of the Grande Morin, where, on the heights
behind the trees, I knew little towns like Coutevoult and Montbarbin
were evacuated. In the valley at the foot of the hill, Couilly and St.
Germain, Montry and Esbly were equally deserted. No smoke rose
above the red roofs. Not a soul was on the roads. Even the railway
station was closed, and the empty cars stood, locked, on the side-
tracks. It was strangely silent.

I don't know how many people there are at Voisins. I hear that there
is no one at Quincy. As for Huiry? Well, our population--everyone
accounted for before the mobilization--was twenty-nine. The hamlet
consists of only nine houses. Today we are six grown people and
seven children.

There is no doctor if one should be so silly as to fall ill. There are no
civil authorities to make out a death certificate if one had the bad
taste to die--and one can't die informally in France. If anyone should,
so far as I can see, he would have to walk to his grave, dig it, and lie
down in it himself, and that would be a scandal, and I am positive it
would lead to a procès. The French love lawsuits, you know. No
respectable family is ever without one.

However, there has not been a case of illness in our little community
since we were cut off from the rest of the world.

Somehow, at times, in the silence, I get a strange sensation of
unreality--the sort of intense feeling of its all being a dream. I wish I
didn't. I wonder if that is not Nature's narcotic for all experiences
outside those we are to expect from Life, which, in its normal course,
has tragedies enough.

Then again, sometimes, in the night, I have a sensation as if I were
getting a special view of a really magnificent spectacle to which the
rest of "my set" had not been invited--as if I were seeing it at a risk,
but determined to see it through.

I can imagine you, wrinkling your brows at me and telling me that that
frame of mind comes of my theatre-going habit. Well, it is not worth
while arguing it out. I can't. There is a kind of veil over it.

Nor were the day's mental adventures over.

I was just back from my promenade when my little French friend from
the foot of the hill came to the door. I call her "my little friend,"
though she is taller than I am, because she is only half my age.
She came with the proposition that I should harness Ninette and go
with her out to the battlefield, where, she said, they were sadly in
need of help.

I asked her how she knew, and she replied that one of our old men
had been across the river and brought back the news that the field
ambulance at Neufmortier was short of nurses, and that it was
thought that there were still many wounded men in the woods who
had not yet been picked up.

I asked her if any official call for help had come. She said "No," but
she presented so strong a case in favor of volunteering that, at first, it
seemed to me that there was nothing to do but go, and go quickly.

But before she got outside the gate I rushed after her to tell her that it
seemed impossible,--that I knew they didn't want an old lady like me,
however willing, an old lady very unsteady on her feet, absolutely
ignorant of the simplest rules of "first aid to the wounded," that they
needed skilled and tried people, that we not only could not lend
efficient aid, but should be a nuisance, even if, which I doubted, we
were allowed to cross the Marne.

All the time I was explaining myself, with that diabolical dual
consciousness which makes us spectator and listener to ourselves,
in the back of my brain--or my soul--was running this query: "I wonder
what a raw battlefield looks like? I have a chance to see if I want to--
perhaps." I suppose that was an attack of involuntary, unpremeditated
curiosity. I did not want to go.

I wonder if that was not the sort of thing which, if told in the
confessional in ancient times, got one convicted of being "possessed
of the devil"?

Of course Mlle. Henriette was terribly disappointed. Her mother would
not let her go without me. I imagine the wise lady knew that I would
not go. She tried to insist, but my mind was made up.

She argued that we could "hunt for the dead," and "carry consolation
to the dying." I shook my head. I even had to cut the argument short
by going into the house. I felt an imperative need to get the door
closed between us. The habit I have--you know it well, it is often
enough disconcerting to me--of getting an ill-timed comic picture in
my mind, made me afraid that I was going to laugh at the wrong
moment. If I had, I should never have been able to explain to her, and
hope to be understood.

The truth was that I had a sudden, cinematographical vision of my
chubby self--me, who cannot walk half a mile, nor bend over without
getting palpitation--stumbling in my high-heeled shoes over the fields
ploughed by cavalry and shell--breathlessly bent on carrying
consolation to the dying. I knew that I should surely have to be picked
up with the dead and dying, or, worse still, usurp a place in an
ambulance, unless eternal justice--in spite of my age, my sex, and my
white hairs--left me lying where I fell--and serve me good and right!

I know now that if the need and opportunity had come to my gate--as
it might--I should, instinctively, have known what to do, and have
done it. But for me to drive deliberately nine miles--we should have
had to make a wide detour to cross the Marne on the pontoons--
behind a donkey who travels two miles an hour, to seek such an
experience, and with several hours to think it over en route, and the
conviction that I would be an unwelcome intruder--that was another
matter.

I am afraid Mlle. Henriette will never forgive me. She will soon be
walking around in a hospital, looking so pretty in her nurse's dress
and veil. But she will always think that she lost a great opportunity that
day--and a picturesque one.

By the way, I have a new inmate in my house--a kitten. He was
evidently lost during the emigration. Amélie says he is three months
old. He arrived at her door crying with hunger the other morning.
Amélie loves beasties better than humans. She took him in and fed
him. But as she has six cats already, she seemed to think that it was
my duty to take this one. She cloaked that idea in the statement that it
was "good for me" to have "something alive" moving about me in the
silent little house. So she put him in my lap. He settled himself down,
went to sleep, and showed no inclination to leave me.

At the end of two hours he owned me--the very first cat I ever knew,
except by sight.

So you may dismiss that idea which torments you--I am no longer
alone.

I am going to send this letter at once to be dropped in the box in front
of the post-office, where I am very much afraid it may find that of last
week, for we have had no letters yet nor have I seen or heard
anything of the promised automobile postale. However, once a
stamped letter is out of my hand, I always feel at least as if it had
started, though in all probability this may rest indefinitely in that
box in the "deserted village."



II

September 25, 1914


IT is over a week since I wrote you. But I have really been very busy,
and not had a moment.

To begin with, the very day after I wrote to you, Amélie came down
with one of her sick headaches, and she has the most complete sort I
ever met.

She crawled upstairs that morning to open my blinds. I gave one look
at her, and ordered her back to bed. If there is anything that can
make one look worse than a first-class bilious attack I have never met
it. One can walk round and do things when one is suffering all sorts of
pain, or when one is trembling in every nerve, or when one is dying of
consumption, but I defy anyone to be useful when one has an active
sick headache.

Amélie protested, of course; "the work must be done." I did not see
why it had to be. She argued that I was the mistress, "had a right to
be attended to--had a right to expect it." I did not see that either.
I told her that her logic was false. She clinched it, as she thought,
by declaring that I looked as if I needed to be taken care of.

I was indignant. I demanded the handglass, gave one look at myself,
and I was inclined to let it slide off the bed to the floor, à la Camille,
only Amélie would not have seen the joke. I did look old and seedy.
But what of that? Of course Amélie does not know yet that I am like
the "Deacon's One Hoss Shay"--I may look dilapidated, but so long
as I do not absolutely drop apart, I can go.

So I told Amélie that if I were the mistress, I had a right to be obeyed,
and that there were times when there was no question of mistress
and maid, that this was one of those times, that she had been a
trump and a brick, and other nice things, and that the one thing I
needed was to work with my own hands. She finally yielded, but not
to my arguments--to Nature.

Perhaps owing to the excitement of three weeks, perhaps to the fact
that she had worked too hard in the sun, and also, it may be, owing to
the long run she took, of which I wrote you in my letter of last week, it
is the worst attack I ever saw. I can tell you I wished for a doctor, and
she is even now only a little better.

However, I have had what we used to call "a real nice time playing
house." Having nothing else to do, I really enjoyed it. I have swept
and dusted, and handled all my little treasures, touching everything
with a queer sensation--it had all become so very precious. All the
time my thoughts flew back to the past. That is the prettiest thing
about housework--one can think of such nice things when one is
working with one's hands, and is alone. I don't wonder Burns wrote
verses as he followed the plough--if he really did.

I think I forgot to tell you in my letter of last week that the people--
drummed out of the towns on the other side of the Marne, that is to
say, the near-by towns, like those in the plain, and on the hilltops from
which the Germans were driven before the 10th--began to return on
that night; less than a fortnight after they fled. It was unbelievable to
me when I saw them coming back.

When they were drummed out, they took a roundabout route, to
leave the main roads free for the army. They came back over the
route nationale. They fled en masse. They are coming back slowly, in
family groups. Day after day, and night after night the flocks of sheep,
droves of cattle, carts with pigs in them, people in carts leading now
and then a cow, families on foot, carrying cats in baskets, and leading
dogs and goats and children, climb the long hill from Couilly, or thread
the footpaths on the canal.

They fled in silence. I remember as remarkable that no one talked. I
cannot say that they are coming back exactly gaily, but, at any rate,
they have found their tongues. The slow procession has been
passing for a fortnight now, and at almost any hour of the day, as I sit
at my bedroom window, I can hear the distant murmur of their voices
as they mount the hill.

I can't help thinking what some of them are going to find out there in
the track of the battle. But it is a part of the strange result of war,
borne in on me by my own frame of mind, that the very fact that they
are going back to their own hearths seems to reconcile them to
anything.

Of course these first people to return are mostly the poorer class,
who did not go far. Their speedy return is a proof of the morale of the
country, because they would surely not have been allowed to come
back by the military authorities if the general conviction was not that
the German advance had been definitely checked. Isn't it wonderful?
I can't get over it.

Even before they began to return, the engineers were at work
repairing the bridges as far as Chalons, and the day I wrote to you
last week, when Amélie went down the hill to mail your letter, she
brought back the news that the English engineers were sitting astride
the telegraph poles, pipes in mouth, putting up the wires they cut
down a fortnight ago. The next day our post-office opened, and then I
got newspapers. I can tell you I devoured them. I read Joffre's order
of the day. What puzzled me was that it was dated on the morning of
September 6, yet we, with our own eyes, saw the battle begin at noon
on the 5th,--a battle which only stopped at nine that night, to begin
again at four the next morning. But I suppose history will sometime
explain that.

Brief as the news was in the papers, it was exciting to know that the
battle we had seen and heard was really a decisive fight, and that it
was considered won by the English and French--in a rainstorm--as
long ago as the 10th, and that the fighting to the east of us had been
far more terrible than here.

I suppose long before this our myriads of "special telegraph" men
have sent you over details and anecdotes such as we shall never
see. We get a meagre "communiqué official" and have to be content
with that. It is now and then hard for me, who have been accustomed
to something different.

None of our shops is open yet. Indeed almost no one has returned to
Couilly; and Meaux, they say, is still deserted. Yet I cannot honestly
say that I have suffered for anything. I have an abundance of fruit.
We have plenty of vegetables in Père's garden. We have milk and
eggs. Rabbits and chickens run about in the roads simply asking to
be potted. There is no petrol, but I, luckily, had a stock of candles,
and I love candlelight--it suits my house better than lamps. It is over a
fortnight since we had sugar or butter or coffee. I have tea. I never
would have supposed that I could have got along so well and not felt
deprived. I suppose we always have too much--I've had the proof.
Perhaps had there been anyone with me I should have felt it more.
Being alone I did not give it a thought.

Sunday afternoon, the weather being still fine and the distant
booming of the cannon making reading or writing impossible--I am
not yet habituated to it--I went for a walk. I took the road down the hill
in the direction of the Marne. It is a pretty walk--not a house all the
way.

It leads along what is called the Pavé du Roi, dropping down into the
plain of the valley, through the woods, until the wheat fields are
reached, and then rising from the plain, gently, to the high suspension
bridge which crosses the canal, two minutes beyond which lies the
river, here very broad and sluggish.

This part of the canal, which is perfectly straight from Condé to
Meaux, is unusually pretty. The banks are steep, and "tall poplar
trees" cast long shadows across grass-edged footpaths, above which
the high bridge is swung. There is no bridge here across the Marne;
the nearest in one direction is at the Iles-lès-Villenoy, and in the other
at Meaux. So, as the Germans could not have crossed the Marne
here, the canal bridge was not destroyed, though it was mined. The
barricades of loose stones which the English built three weeks ago,
both at the bridgehead and at a bend in the road just before it is
reached, where the road to Mareuil sur Marne turns off, were still
there.

The road along the canal and through Mareuil is the one over which
the German cavalry would have advanced had von Kluck's army
succeeded in crossing the Marne at Meaux, and it was patrolled and
guarded by the Yorkshire boys on September 2, and the Bedfords
from the night of the 3d to the morning of the 5th.

The road from the canal to the river, separated here by only a few
yards, leads through a wide avenue, across a private estate
belonging to the proprietor of the plaster quarries at Mareuil, to a
ferry, beside which was the lavoir. There is a sunken and terraced
fruit garden below the road, and an extensive enclosure for fancy
fowl.

The bank of the river showed me a sad sight. The wash-houses were
sunk. They lay under water, with their chimneys sticking out. The little
river piers and all the row-boats had been smashed and most of them
sunk. A few of them, drawn up on the bank, were splintered into
kindling wood. This work of destruction had been done, most
effectively, by the English. They had not left a stick anywhere that
could have served the invaders. It was an ugly sight, and the only
consolation was to say, "If the Boches had passed, it would have
been worse!" This was only ugly. That would have been tragic.

The next day I had my first real news from Meaux. A woman arrived
at Amélie's, leading two dogs tied together with rope. She was a
music teacher, living at Meaux, and had walked over thirty miles, and
arrived exhausted. So they took her in for the night, and the next
morning Père harnessed Ninette and took her and her weary dogs to
Meaux. It was over two hours each way for Ninette, but it was better
than seeing an exhausted woman, almost as old as I am, finishing
her pilgrimage on foot. She is the first person returning to Meaux that
we have seen. Besides, I imagine Père was glad of the excuse to go
across the Marne.

When he came back we knew exactly what had happened at the
cathedral city.

The picturesque mill bridges across the Marne have been partly
saved. The ends of the bridges on the town side were blown up, and
the mills were mined, to be destroyed on the German approach. Père
was told that an appeal was made to the English commanders to
save the old landmarks if possible, and although at that time it
seemed to no one at all likely that they could be saved, this
precaution did save them. He tells me that blowing up the bridge-
heads smashed all the windows, blew out all the doors, and damaged
the walls more or less, but all that is reparable.

Do you remember the last time we were at Meaux, how we leaned on
the stone wall on that beautiful Promenade des Trinitaires, and
watched the waters of the Marne churned into froth by the huge
wheels of the three lines of mills lying from bank to bank? I know you
will be glad they are saved. It would have been a pity to destroy that
beautiful view. I am afraid that we are in an epoch where we shall
have to thank Fate for every fine thing and every well-loved view
which survives this war between the Marne and the frontier, where
the ground had been fought over in all the great wars of France since
the days of Charlemagne.

It seems that more people stayed at Meaux than I supposed.
Monsignor Morbeau stayed there, and they say about a thousand of
the poor were hidden carefully in the cellars. It had fourteen thousand
inhabitants. Only about five buildings were reached by bombs, and
the damage is not even worth recording.

I am sure you must have seen the Bishop in the days when you lived
in Paris, when he was curé at St. Honoré d'Eylau in the Place Victor
Hugo. At that time he was a popular priest--mondain, clever and
eloquent. At Meaux he is a power. No figure is so familiar in the
picturesque old streets, especially on market day, Saturday, as this
tall, powerful-looking man in his soutane and barrette, with his air of
authority, familiar yet dignified. He seems to know everyone by name,
is all over the market, his keen eyes seeing everything, as influential
in the everyday life of his diocese as he is in its spiritual affairs, a
model of what a modern archbishop ought to be.

I hear he was on the battlefield from the beginning, and that the first
ambulances to reach Meaux found the seminary full of wounded
picked up under his direction and cared for as well as his resources
permitted. He has written his name in the history of the old town
under that of Bossuet--and in the records of such a town that is no
small distinction.

The news which is slowly filtering back to us from the plains is another
matter.

Some of the families in our commune have relatives residing in the
little hamlets between Cregy and Monthyon, and have been out to
help them re-install themselves. Very little in the way of details of the
battle seems to be known. Trees and houses dumbly tell their own
tales. The roads are terribly cut up, but road builders are already at
work. Huge trees have been broken off like twigs, but even there men
are at work, uprooting them and cutting the wood into lengths and
piling it neatly along the roadside to be carted away. The dead are
buried, and Paris automobiles are rapidly removing all traces of the
battles and carrying out of sight such disfigurements as can be
removed.

But the details we get regarding the brief German occupation are too
disgusting for words. It is not the actual destruction of the battle--for
Barcy alone of the towns in sight from here seems to be practically
destroyed--which is the most painful, it is the devastation of the
German occupation, with its deliberate and filthy defilement of the
houses, which defies words, and will leave a blot for all time on the
records of the race so vile-minded as to have achieved it. The
deliberate ingenuity of the nastiness is its most debasing feature. At
Penchard, where the Germans only stayed twenty-four hours, many
people were obliged to make bonfires of the bedding and all sorts of
other things as the only and quickest way to purge the town of danger
in such hot weather.

I am told that Penchard is a fair example of what the Germans did in
all these small towns which lay in the line of their hurried retreat.

It is not worth while for me to go into detail regarding such disgusting
acts.

Your imagination, at its most active, cannot do any wrong to the race
which in this war seems determined to offend where it cannot
terrorize.

It is wonderfully characteristic of the French that they have accepted
this feature of their disaster as they have accepted the rest--with
courage, and that they have at once gone to work to remove all the
German "hall-marks" as quickly as possible--and now have gone
back to their fields in the same spirit.

It was not until yesterday that I unpacked my little hat-trunk and
carefully put its contents back into place.

It has stood all these days under the stairs in the salon--hat, cape,
and gloves on it, and shoes beside it, just as I packed it.

I had an odd sensation while I was emptying it. I don't know why I put
it off so long. Perhaps I dreaded to find, locked in it, a too vivid
recollection of the day I closed it. It may be that I was afraid that, with
the perversity of inanimate things, it had the laugh on me.

I don't believe I put it off from fear of having to repack it, for, so
far as I can know myself, I cannot find in my mind any signs, even,
of a dread that what had happened once could happen again. But
I don't know.

I wish I had more newsy things to write you. But nothing is happening
here, you see.



IlI



October 2, 1914


Well, Amélie came back yesterday, and I can tell you it was a busy
day. I assure you that I was glad to see her about the house again. I
liked doing the work well enough,--for a little while. But I had quite
all I wanted of it before the fortnight was over. I felt like "giving
praise" when I saw her coming into the garden, looking just as
good as new, and, my word for it, she made things hum yesterday.

The first thing she did, after the house was in order, and lunch out of
the way, was to open up the cave in which she had stored her
household treasures a month ago, and I passed a rare afternoon. I
spent a good part of it getting behind something to conceal my silent
laughter. If you had been here you would have enjoyed it--and her.

I knew something was as it should not be when I saw her pushing the
little wheelbarrow on which were all my waste-baskets--I have needed
them. But when I got them back, it about finished my attempts at
sobriety. I told her to put them on the dining-room table and I would
unpack them and put the contents in place. But before that was done,
I had to listen to her "tale of woe."

She had hidden practically everything--clocks, bed and table linen, all
her mattresses, except the ones she and Père slept on, practically all
their clothes, except what they had on their backs and one change. I
had not given it much thought, though I do remember her saying,
when the subterranean passage was sealed up: "Let the Boches
come! They'll find mighty little in my house."

Well--the clocks are rusted. They are soaking in kerosene now, and I
imagine it is little good that will do them. All her linen is damp and
smelly, and much of it is mildewed. As for the blankets and flannels--
ough!

I felt sympathetic, and tried to appear so. But I was in the condition of
"L'homme qui rit." The smallest effort to express an emotion tended
to make me grimace horribly. She was so funny. I was glad when she
finished saying naughty words about herself, and declaring that
"Madame was right not to upset her house," and that the next time
the Boches thought of coming here they would be welcome to
anything she had. "For," she ended, "I'll never get myself into this sort
of a mess again, my word of honor!" And she marched out of the
house, carrying the bottle of eau de Javelle with her. The whole
hamlet smells of it this minute.

I had a small-sized fit of hysterics after she had gone, and it was not
cured by opening up my waste-baskets and laying out the "treasures"
she had saved for me. I laughed until I cried.

There were my bouillion cups, and no saucers. The saucers were
piled in the buffet. There were half-a-dozen decorated plates which
had stood on end in the buffet,--just as color notes--no value at all.
There were bits of silver, and nearly all the plated stuff. There was an
old painted fan, several strings of beads, a rosary which hung on a
nail at the head of my bed, a few bits of jewelry--you know how little I
care for jewelry,--and there were four brass candlesticks.

The only things I had missed at all were the plated things. I had not
had teaspoons enough when the English were here--not that they
cared. They were quite willing to stir their tea with each other's
spoons, since there was plenty of tea,--and a "stick" went with it.

You cannot deny that it had its funny side.

I could not help asking myself, even while I wiped tears of laughter
from my eyes, if most of the people I saw flying four weeks ago might
not have found themselves in the same fix when it came to taking
stock of what was saved and what was lost.

I remember so well being at Aix-les-Bains, in 1899, when the Hotel du
Beau-Site was burned, and finding a woman in a wrapper sitting on a
bench in the park in front of the burning hotel, with the lace waist of
an evening frock in one hand, and a small bottle of alcohol in the
other. She explained to me, with some emotion, that she had gone
back, at the risk of her life, to get the bottle from her dressing-table,
"for fear that it would explode!"

It did not take me half an hour to get my effects in order, but poor
Amélie's disgust seems to increase with time. You can't deny that if I
had been drummed out and came back to find my house a ruin, my
books and pictures destroyed, and only those worthless bits of china
and plated ware to "start housekeeping again," it would have been
humorous. Real humor is only exaggeration. That would surely have
been a colossal exaggeration.

It is not the first time I have had to ask myself, seriously, "Why this
mania for possession?" The ferryman on the Styx is as likely to take it
across as our railroad is to "handle" it today. Yet nothing seems able
to break a person born with that mania for collecting.

I stood looking round at it all when everything was in place, and I
realized that if the disaster had come, I should have found it easy to
reconcile myself to it in an epoch where millions were facing it with
me. It is the law of Nature. Material things, like the friends we have
lost, may be eternally regretted. They cannot be eternally grieved for.
We must "--be up and doing, With a heart for any fate."

All the same, it was a queer twist in the order of my life, that, hunting
in all directions for a quiet retreat in which to rest my weary spirit, I
should have ended by deliberately sitting myself down on the edge of
a battlefield,--even though it was on the safe edge,--and stranger still,
that there I forgot that my spirit was weary.

We are beginning to pick up all sorts of odd little tales of the
adventures of some of the people who had remained at Voisin. One
old man there, a mason, who had worked on my house, had a very
queer experience. Like all the rest of them, he went on working in the
fields all through the menacing days. I can't make out whether he had
no realization of actual danger, or whether that was his way of
meeting it. Anyway, he disappeared on the morning the battle began,
September 5, and did not return for several days. His old wife had
made up her mind that the Germans had got him, when one morning
he turned up, tired, pale, and hungry, and not in any state to explain
his absence.

It was some days before his wife could get the story out of him. He
owns a field about halfway between Voisins and Mareuil, close to the
route de Pavé du Roi, and on the morning that the battle began he
was digging potatoes there. Suddenly he saw a small group of
horsemen riding down from the canal, and by their spiked helmets he
knew them for Germans.

His first idea, naturally, was to escape. He dropped his hoe, but he
was too paralyzed with fear to run, and there was nothing to hide
behind. So he began walking across the field as well as his trembling
old legs would let him, with his hands in his pockets.

Of course the Uhlans overtook him in a few minutes, and called out to
him, in French, to stop. He stopped at once, expecting to be shot
instantly.

They ordered him to come out into the road. He managed to obey. By
the time he got there terror had made him quite speechless.

They began to question him. To all their questions he merely shook
his head. He understood well enough, but his tongue refused its
office, and by the time he could speak the idea had come to him to
pretend that he was not French--that he was a refugee--that he did
not know the country,--was lost,--in fact, that he did not know
anything. He managed to carry it off, and finally they gave him up as
a bad job, and rode away up the hill towards my house.

Then he had a new panic. He did not dare go home. He was afraid
he would find them in the village, and that they would find out he had
lied and harm his old wife, or perhaps destroy the town. So he had
hidden down by the canal until hunger drove him home. It is a simple
tale, but it was a rude experience for the old man, who has not got
over it yet.

I am afraid all this seems trivial to you, coming out of the midst of this
terrible war. But it is actually our life here. We listen to the cannon in
ignorance of what is happening. Where would be the sense of my
writing you that the battle-front has settled down to uncomfortable
trench work on the Aisne; that Manoury is holding the line in front of
us from Compiègne to Soissons, with Castelnau to the north of him,
with his left wing resting on the Somme; that Maud'huy was behind
Albert; and that Rheims cathedral had been persistently and brutally
shelled since September 18? We only get news of that sort
intermittently. Our railroad is in the hands of the Minister of War, and
every day or two our communications are cut off, from military
necessity. You know, I am sure, more about all this than we do, with
your cable men filling the newspapers.

But if I am seeing none of that, I am seeing the spirit of these people,
so sure of success in the end, and so convinced that, even if it takes
the whole world to do it, they will yet see the Hohenzollern dynasty go
up in the smoke of the conflagration it has lighted.

Of course, the vicious destruction of the great cathedral sends
shivers down my back. Every time I hear the big guns in that direction
I think of the last time we were there. Do you remember how we sat,
in the twilight of a rainy day, in our top-floor room, at the Lion d'Or, in
the wide window-seat, which brought us just at a level with that dear
tympanum, with its primitive stone carving of David and Goliath, and
all those wonderful animals sitting up so bravely on the lacework of
the parapet? Such a wave of pity goes over me when I think that not
only is it destroyed, but that future generations are deprived of seeing
it; that one of the greatest achievements of the hands of man, a work
which has withstood so many wars in what we called "savage times,"
before any claims were made for "Kultur," should have been
destroyed in our days. Men have come and men have gone
(apologies to Tennyson)--it is the law of living. But the wilful,
unnecessary destruction of the great works of man, the testimony
which one age has left as a heritage to all time--for that loss neither
Man nor Time has any consolation. It is a theft from future ages, and
for it Germany will merit the hatred of the world through the coming
generations.



IV



October 10, 1914


Amelie and I went up to Paris day before yesterday, for the first time
since the battle,--you see everything here dates "before" and "after"
the battle, and will for a long time.

Trains had been running between Paris and Meaux for ten days, and
will soon go as far as Chalons, where the Etat-Major was the last time
we heard of it. Isn't that pretty quick work? And with three big bridges
to build? But the army needed the road, and the engineers were at
work five days after the battle.

There are but few trains--none yet on our branch road--so we had to
go to Esbly. It took two hours to get to Paris--hardly more than twelve
miles. We simply crawled most of the way. We crept through the
tunnel this side of Lagny, and then stood on this side of the Marne,
and whistled and shrieked a long time before we began to wiggle
across the unfinished bridge, with workmen hanging up on the
derricks and scaffoldings in all sorts of perilous positions, and all sorts
of grotesque attitudes. I was glad when we were over.

I found the town more normal than it was when I was there six weeks
ago. If I had not seen it in those first days of the mobilization it would
have seemed sadder than it did, and, by contrast, while it was not the
Paris that you know, it was quiet and peaceful,--no excitement of any
sort in the streets, practically no men anywhere. All the department
shops were open, but few people were in them, and very little to sell.
Many of the small shops were closed, and will be, I imagine, until the
end of the war. All the Austrian and German shops, and there were
many of them, are, of course, closed for good, making wide spaces of
closed shutters in the Avenue de l'Opéra and the rue de la Paix, and
the rue Scribe, where so many of the steamship offices are. That, and
the lack of omnibuses and tramways and the scarcity of cabs, makes
the once brilliant and active quarter look quite unnatural. However, it
gives one a chance to see how really handsome it is.

A great many of the most fashionable hotels are turned to hospitals,
and everywhere, especially along the Champs-Elysées, the flags of
the Red Cross float over once gay resorts, while big white bunting
signs extend across almost every other façade, carrying the name
and number of a hospital.

Every sort of business is running short-handed, and no big office or
bank is open between the hours of noon and two o'clock.

I saw no one--there was no one to see. I finished the little business I
had to do and then I went back to the station and sat on the terrace of
the café opposite, and, for an hour, I watched the soldiers going in at
one gate, and the public--Indian file--presenting its papers at another.
No carriages can enter the courtyard. No one can carry anything but
hand luggage, and porters are not allowed to pass the gates, so one
had to carry one's bundles one's self across the wide, paved court.
However, it is less trying to do this than it was in other days, as one
runs no risk from flying motor-cabs.

We did not leave Paris until six--it was already dark--and there were
few lights along the road. The Germans would love to destroy this
road, which is on the direct line to the front, but I cannot imagine a
bomb from an aeroplane reaching it at night, except by accident.

By the way, the attitude of the public towards these war airships is
queer. It seems a great deal more curiosity than fear. I had heard this
stated, and I had a chance to see it exemplified. Just as Amélie and I
were stumbling in the dusk over the rough pavement of the court, we
heard an aeroplane overhead. Everyone stopped short and looked
up. Some fool called "Une Taube--une Taube!" People already inside
the station turned and ran back to see. Of course, it wasn't a Taube.
Still, the fact that someone said it was, and that everyone ran out to
look up at it, was significant, as I am sure they would have done just
the same if it had really been a German machine.

We came back even more slowly than we had gone up. It took ten
minutes by my watch to cross the bridge at Chalifère. We jigged a bit
and stopped; staggered a bit, and trembled, and stopped; crawled a
bit, and whistled. I had a feeling that if anyone disobeyed the order
pasted on every window, and leaned out, we should topple over into
the stream. Still, no one seemed to mind. With the curtains drawn,
everyone tried to read, by the dim light, a newspaper. It is remarkable
how even ordinary people face danger if a panic can be prevented.
The really great person is the one who even in a panic does not lose
his head, and the next best thing to not being feazed at danger is, I
believe, to be literally paralyzed. Total immobility often passes for
pluck.

It was nearly half past eight when we reached Esbly; the town was
absolutely dark. Père was there with the donkey cart, and it took
nearly an hour and a half to climb the hill to Huiry. It was pitch dark,
and oh, so cold! Both Condé and Voisins, as well as Esbly, had street
lamps--gas--before the war, but it was cut off when mobilization
began, and so the road was black. This ordinary voyage seemed like
journeying in a wilderness, and I was as tired as if I had been to
London, which I take to be the hardest trip for the time it consumes
that I know. I used to go to London in seven hours, and this trip to
Paris and back had taken four hours and a half by train and three by
carriage.

I found your letter dated September 25--in reply to my first one mailed
after the battle. I am shocked to hear that I was spectacular. I did not
mean to be. I apologize. Please imagine me very red in the face and
feeling a little bit silly. I should not mind your looking on me as a
heroine and all those other names you throw at me if I had had time
to flee along the roads with all I could save of my home on my back,
as I saw thousands doing.

But I cannot pick up your bouquets, considering that all I had to do
was "sit tight" for a few days, and watch--at a safe distance--a battle
sweep back. All you must say about that is "she did have luck." That's
what I say every day.

As our railway communication is to be cut again, I am hurrying this
off, not knowing when I can send another. But as you see, I have no
news to write--just words to remind you of me, and say that all is well
with me in this world where it is so ill for many.



V



November 7, 1914


IT was not until I got out my letter-book this morning that I realized
that I had let three weeks go by without writing to you. I have no
excuse to offer, unless the suspense of the war may pass as one.

We have settled down to a long war, and though we have settled
down with hope, I can tell you every day demands its courage.

The fall of Antwerp was accepted as inevitable, but it gave us all a
sad day. It was no use to write you things of that sort. You, I presume,
do not need to be told, although you are so far away, that for me,
personally, it could only increase the grief I felt that Washington had
not made the protest I expected when the Belgian frontier was
crossed. It would have been only a moral effort, but it would have
been a blow between the eyes for the nervous Germans.

All the words we get from the front tell us that the boys are standing
the winter in the trenches very well. They've simply got to--that is all
there is to that.

Amélie is more astonished than I am. When she first realized that
they had got to stay out there in the rain and the mud and the cold,
she just gasped out that they never would stand it.

I asked her what they would do then--lie down and let the Germans
ride over them? Her only reply was that they would all die. It is hard
for her to realize yet the resistance of her own race.

I am realizing in several ways, in a small sense, what the men are
enduring. I take my bit of daily exercise walking round my garden. I
always have to carry a trowel in my sweater pocket, and I stop every
ten steps to dig the cakes of mud off my sabots. I take up a good bit
of my landed property at every step. So I can guess, at least, what it
must be out in the trenches. This highly cultivated, well-fertilized
French soil has its inconveniences in a country where the ground
rarely freezes as it does in New England.

Also I am very cold.

When I came out here I found that the coal dealer was willing to
deliver coal to me once a week. I had a long, covered box along the
wall of the kitchen which held an ample supply of coal for the week.
The system had two advantages--it enabled me to do my trading in
the commune, which I liked, and it relieved Amélie from having to
carry heavy hods of coal in all weathers from the grange outside. But,
alas, the railroad communications being cut--no coal! I had big wood
enough to take me through the first weeks, and have some still, but it
will hardly last me to Christmas--nor does the open fire heat the
house as the salamandre did. But it is wartime, and I must not
complain--yet.

You accuse me in your last letter of being flippant in what seems to
you tragic circumstances. I am sorry that I make that impression on
you. I am not a bit flippant. I can only advise you to come over here,
and live a little in this atmosphere, and see how you would feel. I am
afraid that no amount of imagining what one will or will not do
prepares one to know what one will really do face to face with such
actualities as I live amongst. I must confess that had I had anyone
dear to me here, anyone for whose safety or moral courage I was--or
imagined I was--responsible (for, after all, we are responsible for no
one), my frame of mind and perhaps my acts might have been
different. I don't know. Why, none of the men that Î see have the air of
feeling they are heroes--they just seem to think of it all as if it were
merely "in the day's work."

For example, do you remember that handsome younger brother of
my sculptor friend--the English boy who was in the heavy artillery, and
had been in China and North Nigeria with Sir Frederick Ludgard as an
aide-de-camp, and finally as assistant governor general? Well, he
was with the first division of the British Expedition which landed in
France in the middle of August. He made all that long, hard retreat
from Belgium to the Marne, and was in the terrible Battle of the
Rivers. I am enclosing a letter I have just received from him, because
I think it very characteristic. Besides, if you remember him, I am sure
that it will interest you. I don't know where it is from--they are not
allowed to tell. It came, as army letters do, without any stamp--the
carriage is free--with the round red stamp of the censor, a crown in
the middle, and the words "Passed by the Censor," and the number
printed around it. Here it is:


My dearest M-

October 30, 1914

Last night I heard your account of your experiences between
September 1 and 9, and it made me boil anew with disappointment
that my attempts to reach Huiry on September 4 were frustrated. I
was disappointed enough at the time, but then my regret was
tempered by the thought that you were probably safe in Paris, and I
should only find an empty house at La Creste. Now that I know that I
should have found you--you!!!--it makes me wild, even after this
interval of time, to have missed a sight of you. Now let me tell you
how it came about that you nearly received a visit from me.

I left England August 17, with the 48th Heavy Battery (3d division).
We landed at Rouen, and went by train, via Amiens, to Houtmont, a
few kilometres west of Mauberge. There we detrained one morning at
two o'clock, marched through Malplaquet into Belgium, and came in
contact with the enemy at once.

The story of the English retreat must be familiar to you by now. It was
a wonderful experience. I am glad to have gone through it, though I
am not anxious to undergo such a time again. We crossed the Marne
at Meaux, on September 3, marching due east to Signy-Signets.
Funnily enough it was not until I had actually crossed the Marne that I
suddenly realized that I was in your vicinity. Our route, unfortunately,
led right away from you, and I could not ask to get away while we
were actually on the march, and possibly going many miles in another
direction. The following day, however--the 4th--we retraced our steps
somewhat, and halted to bivouac a short distance west of a village
named La Haute Maison--roughly about six miles from you. I
immediately asked permission to ride over to Huiry. The Major, with
much regret, declined to let me leave, and, since we received orders
to march again an hour later, he was right. We marched all that night.
I have marked out our road with arrows on the little map enclosed.
We reached a place called Fontenay about 8.30 the next morning, by
which time I was twenty miles from you, and not in a condition to want
anything but sleep and food. That was our farthest point south. But,
sad to say, in our advance we went by a road farther east, and quite
out of reach of you, and crossed the Marne at a place called Nanteuil.
I got your first letter about one day's march south of Mons.

Best love, dearest M------. Write again.


Isn't that a calm way to state such a trying experience as that retreat?
It is only a sample of a soldier's letter.

If he were disappointed you can imagine that I was. Luckily I had
seen him in June, when he was here on a visit, having just returned
from North Nigeria, after five years in the civil service, to take up his
grade in the army, little dreaming there was to be a war at once.

If he had come that afternoon imagine what I should have felt to see
him ride down by the picket at the gate. He would have found me
pouring tea for Captain Edwards of the Bedfords. It would have surely
added a touch of reality to the battle of the next days. Of course I
knew he was somewhere out there, but to have seen him actually
riding away to it would have been different. Yet it might not, for I am
sure his conversation would have been as calm as his letters, and
they read as much as if he were taking an exciting pleasure trip, with
interesting risks thrown in, as anything else. That is so English. On
some future day I suppose we shall sit together on the lawn--he will
probably lie on it--and swap wonderful stories, for I am going to be
one of the veterans of this war.

I must own that when I read the letter I found it suggestive of the days
that are gone. Imagine marching through Malplaquet and over all that
West Flanders country with its memories of Marlborough, and where,
had the Dutch left the Duke a free hand, he would have marched on
Paris--with other Allies--as he did on Lille. I must own that history, with
its records of bitter enemies yesterday, bosom friends today, does not
inspire one with much hope of seeing the dreamer's vision of
universal peace realized.

Still, I must confess that the attitude of French and English to one
another today is almost thrilling. The English Tommy Atkins and the
French poilu are delightful together. For that matter, the French
peasants love the English. They never saw any before, and their
admiration and devotion to "Tommee," as they call him, is
unbounded. They think him so "chic," and he is.

No one--not even I, who so love them--could ever accuse the "piou-
piou" of being chic.

The French conscript in his misfits has too long been the object of
affectionate sarcasm and the subject of caricature to be unfamiliar to
the smiles of the whole world.

You see the army outfits are made in three sizes only. So far as my
observation goes none of the three measurements fits anyone today,
and as for the man who is a real "between"--well, he is in a sad box.
But what of that? He doesn't seem to care. He is so occupied today
fighting, just as he did in the days of the great Napoleon, that no one
cares a rap how he looks--and surely he does not.

You might think he would be a bit self-conscious regarding his
appearance when he comes in contact with his smarter looking Ally.
Not a bit of it. The poilu just admires Tommy and is proud of him. I do
wish you could see them together. The poilu would hug Tommy and
plant a kiss on each of his cheeks--if he dared. But, needless to say,
that is the last sort of thing Tommy wants. So, faute de mieux the
poilu walks as close to Tommy as he can--when he gets a chance--
and the undemonstrative, sure-of-himself Tommy permits it without a
smile--which is doing well. Still, in his own way Tommy admires back--
it is mutual.

The Englishman may learn to unbend--I don't know. The spirit which
has carried him all over the world, rubbed him against all sorts of
conditions and so many civilizations without changing his character,
and made of him the one race immune to home-sickness, has
persisted for centuries, and may be so bred in the bone, fibre, and
soul of the race as to persist forever. It may have made his legs and
his spine so straight that he can't unbend. He has his own kind of fun,
but it's mostly of the sporting sort. He will, I imagine, hardly contract
the Frenchman's sort, which is so largely on his lips, and in his
mentality, and has given the race the most mobile faces in the world.

I am enclosing a copy of the little map Captain S------sent me. It may
give you an idea of the route the English were moving on during the
battle, and the long forced march they made after the fighting of the
two weeks ending August 30.

I imagine they were all too tired to note how beautiful the country was.
It was lovely weather, and coming down the route from Haute
Maison, by La Chapelle, to the old moated town of Crécy-en-Brie at
sunset, must have been beautiful; and then climbing by Voulangis to
the Forest of Crécy on the way to Fontenay by moonlight even more
lovely, with the panorama of Villiers and the valley of the Morin seen
through the trees of the winding road, with Montbarbin standing,
outlined in white light, on the top of a hill, like a fairy town. Tired as
they were, I do hope there were some among them who could still
look with a dreamer's eyes on these pictures.

Actually the only work I have done of late has been to dig a little in the
garden, preparing for winter. I did not take my geraniums up until last
week. As for the dahlias I wrote you about, they became almost a
scandal in the commune. They grew and grew, like Jack's beanstalk--
prodigiously. I can't think of any other word to express it. They were
eight feet high and full of flowers, which we cut for the Jour des Morts.
I know you won't believe that, but it is true. A few days later there
came a wind-storm, and when it was over, in spite of the heavy poles
I put in to hold them up, they were laid as flat as though the German
cavalry had passed over them. I was heart-broken, but Père only
shrugged his shoulders and remarked: "If one will live on the top of a
hill facing the north what can one expect?" And I had no reply to
make. Fortunately the wind can't blow my panorama away, though at
present I don't often look out at it. I content myself by playing in the
garden on the south side, and, if I go out at all, it is to walk through
the orchards and look over the valley of the Morin, towards the south.

My, but I'm cold--too cold to tell you about. The ends of my fingers
hurt the keys of my machine.



VI



November 28, 1914

I am sorry that, as you say in your letter of October 16, just received,
you are disappointed that I "do not write you more about the war."
Dear child, I am not seeing any of it. We are settled down here to a
life that is nearly normal--much more normal than I dreamed could be
possible forty miles from the front. We are still in the zone of military
operations, and probably shall be until spring, at least. Our
communications with the outside world are frequently cut. We get our
mail with great irregularity. Even our local mail goes to Meaux, and is
held there five days, as the simplest way of exercising the censorship.
It takes nearly ten days to get an answer to a letter to Paris.

All that I see which actually reminds me of the war--now that we are
used to the absence of the men--I see on the route nationale, when I
drive down to Couilly. Across the fields it is a short and pretty walk.
Amélie makes it in twenty minutes. I could, if it were not for climbing
that terrible hill to get back.

Besides, the mud is inches deep. I have a queer little four-wheeled
cart, covered, if I want to unroll the curtains. I call it my perambulator,
and really, with Ninette hitched in, I am like an overgrown baby in its
baby carriage, and any nurse I ever knew would push a perambulator
faster than that donkey drags mine. Yet it just suits my mood. I sit
comfortably in it, and travel slowly--time being non-existent--so slowly
that I can watch the wheat sprout, and gaze at the birds and the view
and the clouds. I do hold on to the reins--just for looks--though I have
no need to, and I doubt if Ninette suspects me of doing anything so
foolish. On the road I always meet officers riding along, military cars
flying along, army couriers spluttering along on motor-cycles, heavy
motor transports groaning up hill, or thundering down, and now and
then a long train of motor-ambulances. Almost any morning, at nine, I
can see the long line of camions carrying the revitaillement towards
the front, and the other afternoon, as I was driving up the hill, I met a
train of ambulances coming down. The big grey things slid, one after
another, around the curve of the Demi-Lune, and simply flew by me,
raising such a cloud of dust that after I had counted thirty, I found I
could not see them, and the continual tooting of the horns began to
make Ninette nervous--she had never seen anything like that before--
so, for fear she might do some trick she never had done in her life,
like shying, and also for fear that the drivers, who were rushing by
exactly in the middle of the road, might not see me in the dust, or a
car might skid, I slid out, and led my equipage the rest of the way. I
do assure you these are actually all the war signs we see, though, of
course, we still hear the cannon.

But, though we don't see it, we feel it in many ways. My neighbors
feel it more than I do! For one example--the fruit crop this year has
been an absolute loss. Luckily the cassis got away before the war
was declared, but we hear it was a loss to the buyers, and it was held
in the Channel ports, necessarily, and was spoiled. But apples and
pears had no market. In ordinary years purchasers come to buy the
trees, and send their own pickers and packers, and what was not
sold in that way went to the big Saturday market at Meaux. This year
there is no market at Meaux. The town is still partly empty, and the
railroad cannot carry produce now. This is a tragic loss to the small
cultivator, though, as yet, he is not suffering, and he usually puts all
such winnings into his stocking.

We still have no coal to speak of. I am burning wood in the salon--
and green wood at that. The big blaze--when I can get it--suits my
house better than the salamandre did. But I cannot get a temperature
above 42 Fahrenheit. I am used to sixty, and I remember you used to
find that too low in Paris. I blister my face, and freeze my back, just as
we used to in the old days of glorious October at the farm in New
Sharon, where my mother was born, and where I spent my summers
and part of the autumn in my school-days.

You might think it would be easy to get wood. It is not. The army
takes a lot of it, and those who, in ordinary winters, have wood to sell,
have to keep it for themselves this year. Père has cut down all the old
trees he could find--old prune trees, old apple trees, old chestnut
trees--and it is not the best of firewood. I hated to see even that done,
but he claimed that he wanted to clear a couple of pieces of land, and
I try to believe him. Did you ever burn green wood? If you have,
enough said!

Unluckily--since you expect me to write often--I am a creature of
habit.

I never could write as you can, with a pad on my knees, huddled over
the fire. I suppose that I could have acquired the habit if I had begun
my education at the Sorbonne, instead of polishing off there. I
remember when I first began to haunt that university, eighteen years
ago, how amazed I was to see the students huddled into a small
space with overcoats and hats on their knees, a note-book on top of
them, an ink-pot in one hand and a pen in the other, and, in spite of
obstacles, absorbed in the lecture. I used to wonder if they had ever
heard of "stylos," even while I understood, as I never had done
before, the real love of learning that marks the race. Alas! I have to
be halfway comfortable before I can half accomplish anything.

I am thankful to say that the temperature has been moderating a little,
and life about me has been active. One day it was the big threshing-
machine, and the work was largely done by women, and the air was
full of throbbing and dust. Yesterday it was the cider-press, and I
stood about, at Amélie's, in the sun, half the afternoon, watching the
motor hash the apples, and the press squeeze out the yellow juice,
which rushed foaming into big vats. Did you ever drink cider like that?

It is the only way I like it. It carried me back to my girlhood and the
summers in the Sandy River valley. I don't know why it is, of late, that
my mind turns so often back to those days, and with such affection.
Perhaps it is only because I find myself once more living in the
country. It may be true that life is a circle, and as one approaches the
end the beginning becomes visible, and associated with both the
beginning and end of mine there is a war. However it is to be
explained, there remains the fact that my middle distances are getting
wiped out.

In these still nights, when I cannot sleep, I think more often than of
anything else of the road running down the hill by the farm at New
Sharon, and of the sounds of the horses and wagons as they came
down and crossed the wooden bridge over the brook, and of the
voices--so strange in the night--as they passed. There were more
night sounds in those memories than I ever hear here--more crickets,
more turnings over of Nature, asleep or awake. I rarely hear many
night sounds here. From sundown, when people go clattering by in
their wooden shoes from the fields, to daylight, when the birds awake,
all is silence. I looked out into the moonlight before I closed my
shutters last night. I might have been alone in the world. Yet I like it.

The country is lovely here in winter--so different from what I
remember of it at home. My lawn is still green, so is the corbeille
d'argent in the garden border, which is still full of silvery bunches of
bloom, and will be all winter. The violets are still in bloom. Even the
trees here never get black as they do in New England, for the trunks
and branches are always covered with green moss. That is the
dampness. Of course, we never have the dry invigorating cold that
makes a New England winter so wonderful. I don't say that one is
more beautiful than the other, only that each is different in its charm.
After all, Life, wherever one sees it, is, if one has eyes, a wonderful
pageant, the greatest spectacular melodrama I can imagine. I'm glad
to have seen it. I have not always had an orchestra stall, but what of
that? One ought to see things at several angles and from several
elevations, you know.



VII



December 5, 1914

We have been having some beautiful weather.

Yesterday Amélie and I took advantage of it to make a pilgrimage
across the Marne, to decorate the graves on the battlefield at
Chambry. Crowds went out on All Soul's Day, but I never like doing
anything, even making a pilgrimage, in a crowd.

You can realize how near it is, and what an easy trip it will be in
normal times, when I tell you that we left Esbly for Meaux at half past
one--only ten minutes by train--and were back in the station at Meaux
at quarter to four, and had visited Monthyon, Villeroy, Neufmontier,
Penchard, Chauconin, Barcy, Chambry, and Vareddes.

The authorities are not very anxious to have people go out there. Yet
nothing to prevent is really done. It only takes a little diplomacy. If I
had gone to ask for a passport, nine chances out of ten it would have
been refused me. I happened to know that the wife of the big livery-
stable man at Meaux, an energetic--and, incidentally, a handsome--
woman, who took over the business when her husband joined his
regiment, had a couple of automobiles, and would furnish me with all
the necessary papers. They are not taxi-cabs, but handsome touring-
cars. Her chauffeur carries the proper papers. It seemed to me a very
loose arrangement, from a military point of view, even although I was
assured that she did not send out anyone she did not know.
However, I decided to take advantage of it.

While we were waiting at the garage for the car to be got out, and the
chauffeur to change his coat, I had a chance to talk with a man who
had not left Meaux during the battle, and I learned that there were
several important families who had remained with the Archbishop and
aided him to organize matters for saving the city, if possible, and
protect the property of those who had fled, and that the measures
which those sixty citizens, with Archbishop Marbeau at their head,
took for the safety of the poor, the care for the wounded and dead, is
already one of the proudest documents in the annals of the historic
town.

But never mind all these things, which the guides will recite for you, I
imagine, when you come over to make the grand tour of Fighting
France, for on these plains about Meaux you will have to start your
pilgrimage.

I confess that my heart beat a little too rapidly when, as we ran out of
Meaux, and took the route départmentale of Senlis, a soldier stepped
to the middle of the road and held up his gun--baionette au canon.

We stopped.

Were we after all going to be turned back? I had the guilty knowledge
that there was no reason why we should not be. I tried to look
magnificently unconcerned as I leaned forward to smile at the soldier.
I might have spared myself the effort. He never even glanced inside
the car. The examination of the papers was the most cursory thing
imaginable--a mere formality. The chauffeur simply held his stamped
paper towards the guard. The guard merely glanced at it, lifted his
gun, motioned us to proceed--and we proceeded.

It may amuse you to know that we never even showed the paper
again. We did meet two gendarmes on bicycles, but they nodded and
passed us without stopping.

The air was soft, like an early autumn day, rather than December as
you know it. There was a haze in the air, but behind it the sun shone.
You know what that French haze is, and what it does to the world,
and how, through it, one gets the sort of landscape painters love.
With how many of our pilgrimages together it is associated! We have
looked through it at the walls of Provins, when the lindens were rosy
with the first rising of the sap; we have looked through it at the circular
panorama from the top of the ruined tower of Montlhéry; we have
looked through it across Jean Jacques Rousseau's country, from the
lofty terrace of Montmorency, and from the platform in front of the
prison of Philippe Auguste's unhappy Danish wife, at Etampes,
across the valley of the Juine; and from how many other beautiful
spots, not to forget the view up the Seine from the terrace of the
Tuileries.

Sometime, I hope, we shall see these plains of the Marne together.
When we do, I trust it will be on just such another atmospheric day as
yesterday.

As our road wound up the hill over the big paving-stones
characteristic of the environs of all the old towns of France,
everything looked so peaceful, so pretty, so normal, that it was hard
to realize that we were moving towards the front, and were only about
three miles from the point where the German invasion was turned
back almost three months ago to a day, and it was the more difficult
to realize as we have not heard the cannon for days.

A little way out of Meaux, we took a road to the west for Chauconin,
the nearest place to us which was bombarded, and from a point in
the road I looked back across the valley of the Marne, and I saw a
very pretty white town, with red roofs, lying on the hillside. I asked the
chauffeur:

"What village is that over there?"

He glanced around and replied: "Quincy."

It was my town. I ought not to have been surprised. Of course I knew
that if I could see Chauconin so clearly from my garden, why,
Chauconin could see me. Only, I had not thought of it.

Amélie and I looked back with great interest. It did look so pretty, and
it is not pretty at all--the least pretty village on this side of the hill.
"Distance" does, indeed, "lend enchantment." When you come to see
me I shall show you Quincy from the other side of the Marne, and
never take you into its streets. Then you'll always remember it as a
fairy town.

It was not until we were entering into Chauconin that we saw the first
signs of war. The approach through the fields, already ploughed, and
planted with winter grain, looked the very last thing to be associated
with war. Once inside the little village--we always speak of it as "le
petit Chauconin "--we found destruction enough. One whole street of
houses was literally gutted. The walls stand, but the roofs are off and
doors and windows gone, while the shells seem burned out. The
destruction of the big farms seems to have been pretty complete.
There they stood, long walls of rubble and plaster, breeched; ends of
farm buildings gone; and many only a heap of rubbish. The surprising
thing to me was to see here a house destroyed, and, almost beside it,
one not even touched. That seemed to prove that the struggle here
was not a long one, and that a comparatively small number of shells
had reached it.

Neufmortier was in about the same condition. It was a sad sight, but
not at all ugly. Ruins seem to "go" with the French atmosphere and
background. It all looked quite natural, and I had to make an effort to
shake myself into a becoming frame of mind. If you had been with me
I should have asked you to pinch me, and remind me that "all this is
not yet ancient history," and that a little sentimentality would have
become me. But Amélie would never have understood me.

It was not until we were driving east again to approach Penchard that
a full realization of it came to me. Penchard crowns the hill just in the
centre of the line which I see from the garden. It was one of the towns
bombarded on the evening of September 5, and, so far as I can
guess, the destruction was done by the French guns which drove the
Germans out that night.

They say the Germans slept there the night of September 4, and
were driven out the next day by the French soixante-quinze, which
trotted through Chauconin into Penchard by the road we had just
come over.

I enclose you a carte postale of a battery passing behind the apse of
the village church, just as a guarantee of good faith.

But all signs of the horrors of those days have been obliterated.
Penchard is the town in which the Germans exercised their taste for
wilful nastiness, of which I wrote you weeks ago. It is a pretty little
village, beautifully situated, commanding the slopes to the Marne on
one side, and the wide plains of Barcy and Chambry on the other. It is
prosperous looking, the home of sturdy farmers and the small
rentiers. It has an air of humble thrift, with now and then a pretty
garden, and here and there suggestions of a certain degree of
greater prosperity, an air which, in France, often conceals
unexpected wealth.

You need not look the places up unless you have a big map. No
guide-book ever honored them.

From Penchard we ran a little out to the west at the foot of the hill, on
top of which stand the white walls of Montyon, from which, on
September 5, we had seen the first smoke of battle.

I am sure that I wrote some weeks ago how puzzled I was when I
read Joffre's famous ordre du jour, at the beginning of the Marne
offensive, to find that it was dated September 6, whereas we had
seen the battle begin on the 5th. Here I found what I presume to be
the explanation, which proves that the offensive along the rest of the
line on the 6th had been a continuation simply of what we saw that
Saturday afternoon.

At the foot of the hill crowned by the walls of Montyon lies Villeroy--
today the objective point for patriotic pilgrimages. There, on the 5th of
September, the 276th Regiment was preparing its soup for lunch,
when, suddenly, from the trees on the heights, German shells fell
amongst them, and food was forgotten, while the French at St.
Soupplet on the other side of the hill, as well as those at Villeroy,
suddenly found themselves in the thick of a fight--the battle we saw.

They told me at Villeroy that many of the men in the regiments
engaged were from this region, and here the civilians dropped their
work in the fields and snatched up guns which the dead or wounded
soldiers let fall and entered the fight beside their uniformed neighbors.
I give you that picturesque and likely detail for what it is worth.

At the foot of the hill between Montyon and Villeroy lies the tomb in
which two hundred of the men who fell here are buried together.
Among them is Charles Péguy, the poet, who wore a lieutenant's
stripes, and was referred to by his companions on that day as "un
glorieux fou dans sa bravoure." This long tomb, with its crosses and
flags and flowers, was the scene on All Soul's Day of the
commemorative ceremony in honor of the victory, and marks not only
the beginning of the battle, but the beginning of its triumph.

From this point we drove back to the east, almost along the line of
battle, to the hillside hamlet of Barcy, the saddest scene of desolation
on this end of the great fight.

It was a humble little village, grouped around a dear old church, with a
graceful square tower supporting a spire. The little church faced a
small square, from which the principal street runs down the hill to the
open country across which the French "push" advanced. No house
on this street escaped. Some of them are absolutely destroyed. The
church is a mere shell. Its tower is pierced with huge holes. Its bell
lies, a wreck, on the floor beneath its tower. The roof has fallen in, a
heaped-up mass of débris in the nave beneath. Its windows are
gone, and there are gaping wounds in its side walls. Oddly enough,
the Chemin de la Croix is intact, and some of the peasants look on
that as a miracle, in spite of the fact that the High Altar is buried under
a mass of tiles and plaster.

The doors being gone, one could look in, over the temporary barrier,
to the wreck inside, and by putting a donation into the contribution
box for the restauration fund it was possible to enter--at one's own
risk--by a side door. It was hardly worth while, as one could see no
more than was visible from the doorways, and it looked as if at any
minute the whole edifice would crumble. However, Amélie wanted to
go inside, and so we did.

We entered through the mairie, which is at one side, into a small
courtyard, where the school children were playing under the propped-
up walls as gaily as if there had never been a bombardment.

The mairie had fared little better than the church, and the
schoolroom, which has its home in it, had a temporary roofing, the
upper part being wrecked.

The best idea that I got of the destruction was, however, from a
house almost opposite the church. It was only a shell, its walls alone
standing. As its windows and doors had been blown out, we could
look in from the street to the interior of what had evidently been a
comfortable country house. It was now like an uncovered box, in the
centre of which there was a conical shaped heap of ashes as high as
the top of the fireplace. We could see where the stairs had been, but
its entire contents had been burned down to a heap of ashes--burned
as thoroughly as wood in a fireplace. I could not have believed in
such absolute destruction if I had not seen it.

While we were gazing at the wreck I noticed an old woman leaning
against the wall and watching us. Out of her weather-beaten, time-
furrowed old face looked a pair of dark eyes, red-rimmed and blurred
with much weeping. She was rubbing her distorted old hands
together nervously as she watched us. It was inevitable that I should
get into conversation with her, and discover that this wreck had been,
for years, her home, that she had lived there all alone, and that
everything she had in the world--her furniture, her clothing, and her
savings--had been burned in the house.

You can hardly understand that unless you know these people. They
keep their savings hidden. It is the well-known old story of the French
stocking which paid the war indemnity of 1870. They have no
confidence in banks. The State is the only one they will lend to, and
the fact is one of the secrets of French success.

If you knew these people as I do, you would understand that an old
woman of that peasant type, ignorant of the meaning of war, would
hardly be likely to leave her house, no matter how many times she
was ordered out, until shells began to fall about her. Even then, as
she was rather deaf, she probably did not realize what was
happening, and went into the street in such fear that she left
everything behind her.

From Barcy we drove out into the plain, and took the direction of
Chambry, following the line of the great and decisive fight of
September 6 and 7.

We rolled slowly across the beautiful undulating country of grain and
beet fields. We had not gone far when, right at the edge of the road,
we came upon an isolated mound, with a rude cross at its head, and
a tiny tricolore at its foot--the first French grave on the plain.

We motioned the chauffeur to stop, and we went on, on foot.

First the graves were scattered, for the boys lie buried just where they
fell--cradled in the bosom of the mother country that nourished them,
and for whose safety they laid down their lives. As we advanced they
became more numerous, until we reached a point where, as far as
we could see, in every direction, floated the little tricolore flags, like
fine flowers in the landscape. They made tiny spots against the far-off
horizon line, and groups like beds of flowers in the foreground, and
we knew that, behind the skyline, there were more.

Here and there was a haystack with one grave beside it, and again
there would be one, usually partly burned, almost encircled with the
tiny flags which said: "Here sleep the heroes."

It was a disturbing and a thrilling sight. I give you my word, as I stood
there, I envied them. It seemed to me a fine thing to lie out there in
the open, in the soil of the fields their simple death has made holy,
the duty well done, the dread over, each one just where he fell
defending his mother-land, enshrined forever in the loving memory of
the land he had saved, in graves to be watered for years, not only by
the tears of those near and dear to them, but by those of the heirs to
their glory--the children of the coming generation of free France.

You may know a finer way to go. I do not. Surely, since Death is, it is
better than dying of old age between clean sheets. Near the end of
the route we came to the little walled cemetery of Chambry, the scene
of one of the most desperate struggles of the 6th and 7th of
September. You know what the humble village burying-grounds are
like. Its wall is about six feet high, of plaster and stone, with an
entrance on the road to the village. To the west and northwest the
walls are on the top of a bank, high above the crossroads. I do not
know the position of the pursuing French army. The chauffeur who
drove us could not enlighten us. As near as I could guess, from the
condition of the walls, I imagine that the French artillery must have
been in the direction of Penchard, on the wooded hills.

The walls are pierced with gun holes, about three feet apart, and
those on the west and southwest are breeched by cannon and shell-
fire. Here, after the position had been several times stormed by
artillery, the Zouaves made one of the most brilliant bayonet charges
of the day, dashing up the steep banks and through the breeched
walls. Opposite the gate is another steep bank where can still be
seen the improvised gun positions of the French when they pushed
the retreat across the plain.

The cemetery is filled with new graves against the wall, for many of
the officers are buried here--nearly all of the regiment of Zouaves,
which was almost wiped out in the charge before the position was
finally carried,--it was taken and lost several times.

From here we turned east again towards Vareddes, along a fine road
lined with enormous old trees, one of the handsomest roads of the
department. Many of these huge trees have been snapped off by
shells as neatly as if they were mere twigs. Along the road, here and
there, were isolated graves.

Vareddes had a tragic experience. The population was shockingly
abused by the Germans. Its aged priest and many other old men
were carried away, and many were shot, and the town badiy
damaged.

We had intended to go through Vareddes to the heights beyond,
where the heroes of the 133d, 246th, 289th, and of the regiment
which began the battle at Villeroy--the 276th--are buried. But the
weather had changed, and a cold drizzle began to fall, and I saw no
use in going on in a closed car, so we turned back to Meaux.

It was still light when we reached Meaux, so we gave a look at the old
mills--and put up a paean of praise that they were not damaged
beyond repair--on our way to the station.

As we came back to Esbly I strained my eyes to look across to the hill
on which my house stands,--I could just see it as we crawled across
the bridge at the Iles-lès-Villenoy,--and felt again the miracle of the
battle which swept so near to us.

In my innermost heart I had a queer sensation of the absurdity of my
relation to life. Fate so often shakes its fist in my face, only to
withhold the blow within a millimetre of my nose. Perhaps I am
being schooled to meet it yet.

I brought back one fixed impression--how quickly Time had laid its
healing hand on this one battlefield. I don't know what will be the
effect out there where the terrible trench war is going on. But here,
where the fighting turned, never to return--at least we believe it never
will--it has left no ugly traces. The fields are cleaned, the roads are
repaired. Rain has fallen on ruins and washed off all the marks of
smoke. Even on the road to Vareddes the thrifty French have already
carried away and fagotted the wrecked trees, and already the huge,
broken trunks are being uprooted, cut into proper length, and piled
neatly by the roadside to be seasoned before being carted away.
There was nothing raw about the scene anywhere. The villages were
sad, because so silent and empty.

I had done my best to get a tragic impression. I had not got it. I had
brought back instead an impression heroic, uplifting, altogether
inspiring.

By the time you come over, and I lead you out on that pilgrimage, it
will be even more beautiful. But, alas, I am afraid that day is a long
way off.



VIII



December 30, 1914


I would wish above all things, if some fairy gave me the chance, to be
a hibernating animal this year, during which the weather has almost
called an armistice along our front, locked from the Swiss border to
the sea.

There is but one consolation, and that is that, costly and terrible as
have been the first four months of the war, three of the great aims of
the German strategy have been buried too deep ever to be dug up--
their hope of a short war is gone; they did not get to Paris, and now
know that they never will; they did not, and never can get to Calais,
and, in spite of their remarkable feats, and their mighty strength, in
the face of those three facts even their arrogance cannot write
"victory" against their arms.

I have to confess that I am almost as cold as the boys out there in the
rain and the mud. I have managed to get a little coal--or what is called
coal this year. It is really charbon de forge--a lot of damp, black dust
with a few big lumps in it, which burns with a heavy, smelly, yellow
smoke. In normal times one would never dignify it by the name of
coal, but today we are thankful to get it, and pay for it as if it were
gold. It will only burn in the kitchen stove, and every time we put any
on the fire, my house, seen from the garden, appears like some sort
of a factory. Please, therefore, imagine me living in the kitchen. You
know the size of a compact French kitchen. It is rather close quarters
for a lady of large ideas.

The temperature of the rest of the house is down almost to zero.
Luckily it is not a cold winter, but it is very damp, as it rains
continually. I have an armchair there, a footstool, and use the kitchen
table as a desk; and even then, to keep fairly warm, I almost sit on
top of the stove, and I do now and then put my feet in the oven.

I assure you that going to bed is a ceremony. Amélie comes and puts
two hot bricks in the foot of the bed. I undress in the kitchen, put on
felt shoes, and a big wrap, and, with my hotwater bottle in one hand
and a book in the other, I make a dash for the arctic regions, and
Amélie tidies up the kitchen, locks the doors behind her, and takes
the keys away with her.

I am cosy and comfy in bed, and I stay there until Amélie has built the
fire and got the house in order in the morning.

My getting up beats the lever de Marie Antoinette in some of its
details, though she was accustomed to it, and probably minded less
than I do. I am not really complaining, you know. But you want to
know about my life--so from that you can imagine it. I shall get
acclimated, of course. I know that.

I was in Paris for Christmas--not because I wanted to go, but because
the few friends I have left there felt that I needed a change, and
clinched the matter by thinking that they needed me. Besides I
wanted to get packages to the English boys who were here in
September, and it was easier to do it from Paris than from here.

While I was waiting for the train at Esbly I had a conversation with a
woman who chanced to sit beside me on a bench on the quai, which
seemed to me significant.

Today everyone talks to everyone. All the barriers seem to be down.
We were both reading the morning paper, and so, naturally, got to
talking. I happened to have an English paper, in which there was a
brief account of the wonderful dash made by the Royal Scots at Petit
Bois and the Gordon Highlanders at Maeselsyeed Spur, under cover
of the French and British artillery, early in the month, and I translated
it for her. It is a moral duty to let the French people get a glimpse of
the wonderful fighting quality of the boys under the Union Jack.

In the course of the conversation she said, what was self-evident,
"You are not French?" I told her that I was an American. Then she
asked me if I had any children, and received a negative reply.

She sighed, and volunteered that she was a widow with an only son
who was "out there," and added: "We are all of us French women of
a certain class so stupid when we are young. I adore children. But I
thought I could only afford to have one, as I wanted to do so much for
him. Now if I lose that one, what have I to live for? I am not the sort of
woman who can marry again. My boy is a brave boy. If he dies he will
die like a brave man, and not begrudge the life he gives for his
country. I am a French mother and must offer him as becomes his
mother. But it was silly of me to have but this one. I know, now that it
is too late, that I could have done as well, and it may be better, with
several, for I have seen the possibilities demonstrated among my
friends who have three or four."

Of course I did not say that the more she had, the more she might
have had to lose, because I thought that if, in the face of a disaster
like this, French women were thinking such thoughts--and if one
does, hundreds may--it might be significant.

I had a proof of this while in Paris. I went to a house where I have
been a visitor for years to get some news of a friend who had an
apartment there. I opened the door to the concierge's loge to put my
question. I stopped short. In the window, at the back of the half dark
room, sat the concierge, whom I had known for nearly twenty years, a
brave, intelligent, fragile woman. She was sitting there in her black
frock, gently rocking herself backward and forward in her chair. I did
not need to put a question. One knows in these days what the
unaccustomed black dress means, and I knew that the one son I had
seen grow from childhood, for whom she and the father had
sacrificed everything that he might be educated, for whom they had
pinched and saved--was gone.

I said the few words one can say--I could not have told five minutes
later what they were--and her only reply was like the speech of the
woman of another class that I had met at Esbly.

"I had but the one. That was my folly. Now I have nothing--and I have
a long time to live alone."

It would have been easy to weep with her, but they don't weep. I have
never seen fewer tears in a great calamity. I have read in
newspapers sent me from the States tales of women in hysterics, of
women fainting as they bade their men goodbye. I have never seen
any of it. Something must be wrong with my vision, or my lines must
have fallen in brave places. I can only speak of what I see and hear,
and tears and hysterics do not come under my observation.

I did not do anything interesting in Paris. It was cold and grey and
sad. I got my packages off to the front. They went through quickly,
especially those sent by the English branch post-office, near the
Etoile, and when I got home, I found the letters of thanks from the
boys awaiting me. Among them was one from the little corporal who
had pulled down my flags in September, who wrote in the name of
the C company, Yorkshire Light Infantry, and at the end of the letter
he said: "I am sorry to tell you that Captain Simpson is dead. He was
killed leading his company in a charge, and all his men grieved for
him."

That gave me a deep pang. I remembered his stern, bronzed, but
kindly face, which lighted up so with a smile, as he sat with me at tea
on that memorable Wednesday afternoon, and of all that he did so
simply to relieve the strain on our nerves that trying day. I know
nothing about him--who he was--what he had for family--he was just a
brave, kindly, human being, who had met me for a few hours, passed
on--and passed out. He is only one of thousands, but he is the one
whose sympathetic voice I had heard and who, in all the hurry and
fatigue of those hard days, had had time to stop and console us here,
and whom I had hoped to see again; and I grieved with his men for
him.

I could not write last week. I had no heart to send the usual greetings
of the season. Words still mean something to me, and when I sat
down, from force of habit, to write the letters I have been accustomed
to send at this season, I simply could not. It seemed to me too absurd
to even celebrate the anniversary of the days when the angel hosts
sang in the skies their "Peace on earth, good will to men" to herald
the birth of Him who added to religion the command, "Love one
another," and man, only forty miles away, occupied in wholesale
slaughter. We have a hard time juggling to make our pretensions and
our acts fit.

If this cold and lack of coal continues I am not likely to see much or
write much until the spring campaign opens. Here we still hear the
guns whenever Rheims or Soissons are bombarded, but no one
ever, for a minute, dreams that they will ever come nearer.

Though I could not send you any greetings last week, I can say, with
all my heart, may 1915 bring us all peace and contentment!



IX



January 21, 1915


I have been trying to feel in a humor to write all this month, but what
with the changeable weather, a visit to Paris, and the depression of
the terrible battle at Soissons,--so near to us--I have not had the
courage. All the same, I frankly confess that it has not been as bad
as I expected. I begin to think things are never as bad as one
expects.

Do you know that it is not until now that I have had a passport from
my own country? I have never needed one. No one here has ever
asked me for one, and it was only when I was in Paris a week ago
that an American friend was so aghast at the idea that I had, in case
of accident, no real American protection, that I went to the Embassy,
for the first time in my life, and asked for one, and seriously took the
oath of allegiance. I took it so very seriously that it was impressed on
me how careless we, who live much abroad, get about such things.

I know that many years ago, when I was first leaving the States, it
was suggested that such a document might be useful as an
identification, and I made out my demand, and it was sent after me to
Rome. I must have taken the oath at that time, but it was in days of
peace, and it made no impression on me. But this time I got a great
big choke in my throat, and looked up at the Stars and Stripes over
the desk, and felt more American than I ever felt in my life. It cost me
two dollars, and I felt the emotion was well worth the money, even at
a high rate of exchange.

I did practically nothing else in Paris, except to go to one or two of the
hospitals where I had friends at work.

Paris is practically normal. A great many of the American colony who
fled in September to Bordeaux and to London have returned, and the
streets are more lively, and the city has settled down to live through
the war with outward calm if no gaiety. I would not have believed it
would be possible, in less than five months, and with things going
none too well at the front, that the city could have achieved this
attitude.

When I got back, I found that, at least, our ambulance was open.

It is only a small hospital, and very poor. It is set up in the salle de
récréation of the commune, which is beside the church and opposite
the mairie, backed up against the wall of the park of the Château de
Quincy. It is really a branch of the military hospital at Meaux, and it is
under the patronage of the occupant of the Château de Quincy, who
supplies such absolute necessities as cannot be provided from the
government allowance of two francs a day per bed. There are twenty-
eight beds.

Most of the beds and bedding were contributed by the people in the
commune. The town crier went about, beating his drum, and making
his demand at the crossroads, and everyone who could spare a bed
or a mattress or a blanket carried his contribution to the salle. The
wife of the mayor is the directress, the doctor from Crécy-en-Brie
cares for the soldiers, with the assistance of Soeur Jules and Soeur
Marie, who had charge of the town dispensary, and four girls of the
Red Cross Society living in the commune.

The installation is pathetically simple, but the room is large and
comfortable, with four rows of beds, and extra ones on the stage, and
it is heated by a big stove. Naturally it gets more sick and slightly
wounded than serious cases, but the boys seem very happy, and
they are affectionately cared for. There is a big court for the
convalescents, and in the spring they will have the run of the park.

About the twelfth we had a couple of days of the worst cannonading
since October. It was very trying. I stood hours on the lawn listening,
but it was not for several days that we knew there had been a terrible
battle at Soissons, just forty miles north of us.

There is a great difference of opinion as to how far we can hear the
big guns, but an officer on the train the other day assured me that
they could be heard, the wind being right, about one hundred
kilometres--that is to say, eighty miles--so you can judge what it was
like here, on the top of the hill, half that distance away by road, and
considerably less in a direct line.

Our official communiqué, as usual, gave us no details, but one of the
boys in our town was wounded, and is in a near-by ambulance,
where he has been seen by his mother; she brings back word that it
was, as he called it, "a bloody slaughter in a hand-to-hand fight." But
of course, nothing so far has been comparable to the British stand at
Ypres. The little that leaks slowly out regarding that simply makes
one's heart ache with the pain of it, only to rebound with the glory.

Human nature is a wonderful thing, and the locking of the gate to
Calais, by the English, will, I imagine, be, to the end of time, one of
the epics, not of this war alone, but of all war. Talk about the "thin red
line." The English stood, we are told, like a ribbon to stop the German
hordes,--and stopped them.

It almost seems a pity that, up to date, so much secrecy has been
maintained. I was told last week in Paris that London has as yet no
dream of the marvellous feat her volunteer army achieved--a feat that
throws into the shade all the heroic defenses sung in the verse of
ancient times. Luckily these achievements do not dull with years.

On top of the Soissons affair came its result: the French retreat
across the Aisne caused by the rising of the floods which carried
away the bridges as fast as the engineers could build them, and cut
off part of the French, even an ambulance, and, report says, the men
left across the river without ammunition fought at the end with the
butts of their broken guns, and finally with their fists.

Of course this brings again that awful cry over the lack of preparation,
and lack of ammunition.

It is a foolish cry today, since the only nation in the world ready for
this war was the nation that planned and began it.

Even this disaster--and there is no denying that it is one--does not
daunt these wonderful people. They still see two things, the Germans
did not get to Paris, nor have they got to Calais, so, in spite of their
real feats of arms--one cannot deny those--an endeavor must be
judged by its purpose, and, so judged, the Germans have, thus far,
failed. Luckily the French race is big enough to see this and take
heart of grace. God knows it needs to, and thank Him it can.

Don't you imagine that I am a bit down. I am not. I am cold. But, when
I think of the discomfort in the hurriedly constructed trenches, where
the men are in the water to their ankles, what does my being cold in a
house mean? Just a record of discomfort as my part of the war, and it
seems, day after day, less important. But oh, the monotony and
boredom of it! Do you wonder that I want to hibernate?



X



March 23, 1915


Can it be possible that it is two months since I wrote to you? I could
not realize it when I got your reproachful letter this morning. But I
looked in my letter-book, and found that it was true.

The truth is--I have nothing to write about. The winter and its
discomforts do not inspire me any more than the news from the front
does, and no need to tell you that does not make one talkative.

It has been a damp and nasty and changeable winter--one of the
most horrid I ever experienced. There has been almost no snow.
Almost never has the ground frozen, and not only is there mud, mud
everywhere, but freshets also. Today the Marne lies more like an
open sea than a river across the fields in the valley. One can imagine
what it is like out there in the trenches.

We have occasional lovely sunny days, when it is warmer out-of-
doors than in--and when those days came, I dug a bit in the dirt,
planted tulips and sweet peas.

Sometimes I have managed to get fuel, and when that happened, I
was ever so cosy in the house. Usually, when the weather was at its
worst, I had none, and was as nicely uncomfortable as my worst
enemy could ask.

As a rule my days have been divided into two parts. In the forenoon I
have hovered about the gate watching for the newspaper. In the
afternoon I have re-chewed the news in the vain endeavor to extract
something encouraging between the lines,--and failed. Up to date I
have not found anything tangible to account for such hope as
continues to "spring eternal" in all our breasts. It springs, however,
the powers be thanked. At present it is as big an asset as France
has.

A Zeppelin got to Paris last night. We are sorry, but we'll forget it as
soon as the women and children are buried. We are sorry, but it is not
important.

Things are a bit livened up here. Day before yesterday a regiment of
dragoons arrived. They are billeted for three months. They are men
from the midi, and, alas! none too popular at this moment. Still, they
have been well received, and their presence does liven up the place.
This morning, before I was up, I heard the horses trotting by for their
morning exercise, and got out of bed to watch them going along the
hill. After the deadly tiresome waiting silence that has reigned here all
winter, it made the hillside look like another place.

Add to that the fact that the field work has begun, and that, when the
sun shines, I can go out on the lawn and watch the ploughs turning
up the ground, and see the winter grain making green patches
everywhere--and I do not need to tell you that, with the spring, my
thoughts will take a livelier turn. The country is beginning to look
beautiful. I took my drive along the valley of the Grande Morin in the
afternoon yesterday. The wide plains of the valley are being
ploughed, and the big horses dragging ploughs across the wide fields
did look lovely--just like a Millet or a Daubigny canvas.

Since I wrote you I have been across to the battlefield again, to
accompany a friend who came out from Paris. It was all like a new
picture. The grain is beginning to sprout in tender green about the
graves, which have been put in even better order than when I first
saw them. The rude crosses of wood, from which the bark had not
even been stripped, have been replaced by tall, carefully made
crosses painted white, each marked with a name and number. Each
single grave and each group of graves has a narrow footpath about
it, and is surrounded by a wire barrier, while tiny approaches are
arranged to each. Everywhere military signs are placed, reminding
visitors that these fields are private property, that they are all planted,
and entreating all politely to conduct themselves accordingly, which
means literally, "keep off the wheat."

The German graves, which, so far as I remember, were unmarked
when I was out there nearly four months ago, have now black disks
with the number in white.

You must not mind if I am dull these days. I have been studying a
map of the battle-front, which I got by accident. It is not inspiring. It
makes one realize what there is ahead of us to do. It will be done--but
at what a price!

Still, spring is here, and in spite of one's self, it helps.



XI



May 18, 1915


All through the month of April I intended to write, but I had not the
courage.

All our eyes were turned to the north where, from April 22 to
Thursday, May 13--five days ago--we knew the second awful battle at
Ypres was going on. It seems to be over now.

What with the new war deviltry, asphyxiating gas--with which the
battle began, and which beat back the line for miles by the terror of its
surprise--and the destruction of the Lusitania on the 7th, it has been a
hard month. It has been a month which has seen a strange change
of spirit here.

I have tried to impress on you, from the beginning, that odd sort of
optimism which has ruled all the people about me, even under the
most trying episodes of the war. Up to now, the hatred of the
Germans has been, in a certain sense, impersonal. It has been a
racial hatred of a natural foe, an accepted evil, just as the uncalled-for
war was. It had wrought a strange, unexpected, altogether
remarkable change in the French people. Their faces had become
more serious, their bearing more heroic, their laughter less frequent,
and their humor more biting. But, on the day, three weeks ago, when
the news came of the first gas attack, before which the Zouaves and
the Turcos fled with blackened faces and frothing lips, leaving
hundreds of their companions dead and disfigured on the road to
Langtmarck, there arose the first signs of awful hatred that I had
seen.

I frankly acknowledge that, considering the kind of warfare the world
is seeing today, I doubt very much if it is worse to be asphyxiated
than to be blown to pieces by an obus. But this new and devilish arm
which Germany has added to the horrors of war seemed the last
straw, and within a few weeks, I have seen grow up among these
simple people the conviction that the race which planned and
launched this great war has lost the very right to live; and that none of
the dreams of the world which looked towards happiness can ever be
realized while Prussia exists, even if the war lasts twenty years, and
even if, before it is over, the whole world has to take a hand in it.

Into this feeling, ten days ago, came the news of the destruction of
the Lusitania.

We got the news here on the 8th. It struck me dumb.

For two or three days I kept quietly in the house. I believe the people
about me expected the States to declare war in twenty-four hours. My
neighbors who passed the gate looked at me curiously as they
greeted me, and with less cordiality as the days went by. It was as if
they pitied me, and yet did not want to be hard on me, or hold me
responsible.

You know well enough how I feel about these things. I have no
sentimentality about the war. A person who had that, and tried to live
here so near it, would be on the straight road to madness. If the world
cannot stop war, if organized governments cannot arrive at a code of
morals which applies to nations the same law of right and wrong
which is enforced on individuals, why, the world and humanity must
take the consequences, and must reconcile themselves to the belief
that such wars as this are as necessary as surgical operations. If one
accepts that point of view--and I am ready to do so,--then every
diabolical act of Germany will rebound to the future good of the race,
as it, from every point of view, justifies the hatred which is growing up
against Germany. We are taught that it is right, moral, and, from
every point of view, necessary to hate evil, and, in this 20th century,
Germany is the most absolute synonym of evil that history has ever
seen. Having stated that fact, it does not seem to me that I need say
anything further on the subject.

In the meantime, I have gone on imitating the people about me. They
are industriously tilling their fields. I continue cutting my lawn,
planting my dahlias, pruning my roses, tying up my flowering peas,
and watching my California poppies grow like the weeds in the fields.

When I am not doing that, with a pot in one hand, and the tongs in
the other, I am picking slugs out of the flower-beds and giving them a
dose of boiling water, or lugging about a watering-pot. I do it
energetically, but my heart is not in it, though the garden is grateful all
the same, and is as nice a symbol of the French people as I can
imagine.

We have the dragoons still with us. They don't interest me hugely--not
as the English did when they retreated here last September, nor as
the French infantry did on their way to the battlefield. These men
have never been in action yet. Still they lend a picturesqueness to the
countryside, though to me it is, as so much of the war has been, too
much like the decor of a drama. Every morning they ride by the gate,
two abreast, to exercise their lovely horses, and just before noon they
come back. All the afternoon they are passing in groups, smoking,
chatting, and laughing, and, except for their uniforms, they do not
suggest war, of which they actually know as little as I do.

After dinner, in the twilight, for the days are getting long, and the
moon is full, I sit on the lawn and listen to them singing in the street at
Voisins, and they sing wonderfully well, and they sing good music.
The other evening they sang choruses from "Louise" and "Faust,"
and a wonderful baritone sang "Vision Fugitive." The air was so still
and clear that I hardly missed a note.

A week ago tonight we were aroused late in the evening, it must have
been nearly midnight, by an alerte announcing the passing of a
Zeppelin. I got up and went out-of-doors, but neither heard nor saw
anything, except a bicycle going over the hill, and a voice calling
"Lights out." Evidently it did not get to Paris, as the papers have been
absolutely dumb.

One thing I have done this week. When the war began I bought, as
did nearly everyone else, a big map of Germany and the battle-fronts
surrounding it, and little envelopes of tiny British, Belgian, French,
Montenegrin, Servian, Russian, German, and Austrian flags,
mounted on pins. Every day, until the end of last week, I used to put
the flags in place as well as I could after studying the day's
communiqué.

I began to get discouraged in the hard days of last month, when day
after day I was obliged to retreat the Allied flags on the frontier, and
when the Russian offensive fell down, I simply tore the map off the
wall, and burned it, flags and all.

Of course I said to myself, in the spirit I have caught from the army,
"All these things are but incidents, and will have no effect on the final
result. A nation is not defeated while its army is still standing up in its
boots, so it is folly to bother over details."

Do you ever wonder what the poets of the future will do with this war?
Is it too stupendous for them, or, when they get it in perspective, can
they find the inspiration for words where now we have only tightened
throats and a great pride that, in an age set down as commercial,
such deeds of heroism could be?

Who will sing the dirge of General Hamilton in the little cemetery of
Lacouture last October, when the farewell salute over his grave was
turned to repel a German attack, while the voice of the priest kept on,
calm and clear, to the end of the service? Who will sing the
destruction of the Royal Scots, two weeks later, in the battle of
Ypres? Who will sing the arrival of General Moussy, and of the
French corps on the last day of that first battle of Ypres, when a
motley gathering of cooks and laborers with staff officers and
dismounted cavalry, in shining helmets, flung themselves pellmell into
a bayonet charge with no bayonets, to relieve the hard-pressed
English division under General Bulfin? And did it. Who will sing the
great chant in honor of the 100,000 who held Ypres against half a
million, and locked the door to the Channel? Who will sing the bulldog
fighting qualities of Rawlinson's 7th division, which held the line in
those October days until reinforcements came, and which, at the end
of the fight, mustered 44 officers out of 400, and only 2336 men out
of 23,000? Who will sing the stirring scene of the French Chasseurs,
advancing with bugles and shouting the "Marseillaise," to storm and
take the col de Bonhomme in a style of warfare as old as French
history? And these are but single exploits in a war now settled down
to sullen, dull trench work, a war only in the early months of what
looks like years of duration.

Doesn't it all make your blood flow fast? You see it tempts me to
make an oration. You must overlook my eloquence! One does--over
here, in the midst of it--feel such a reverence for human nature today.
The spirit of heroism and self-sacrifice lives still amongst us. A world
of machinery has not yet made a race incapable of greatness. I have
a feeling that from the soil to which so many thousands of men have
voluntarily returned to save their country's honor must spring up a
France greater than ever. It is the old story of Atlas. Besides, "What
more can a man do"--you know the rest. It is one of the things that
make me sorry to feel that our own country is evidently going to avoid
a movement which might have been at once healthy and uplifting. I
know that you don't like me to say that, but I'll let it go.



XII



June 1, 1915


Well, I have really had a very exciting time since I last wrote you. I
have even had a caller. Also my neighbor at Voulangis, on the top of
the hill, on the other side of the Morin, has returned from the States,
to which she fled just before the Battle of the Marne. I even went to
Paris to meet her. To tell you the actual truth, for a few days, I
behaved exactly as if there were no war. I had to pinch myself now
and then to remind myself that whatever else might be real or unreal,
the war was very actual.

I must own that Paris seems to get farther and farther from it every
day. From daybreak to sunset I found it hard to realize that it was the
capital of an invaded country fighting for its very existence, and the
invader no farther from the Boulevards than Noyon, Soissons, and
Rheims--on a battle-front that has not changed more than an inch or
two--and often an inch or two in the wrong direction--since last
October.

I could not help thinking, as I rode up the Champs-Elysées in the sun
--it was Sunday--how humiliated the Kaiser, that crowned head of
Terrorizers, would be if he could have seen Paris that day.

Children were playing under the trees of the broad mall; automobiles
were rushing up and down the avenue; crowds were sitting all along
the way, watching the passers and chatting; all the big hotels, turned
into ambulances, had their windows open to the glorious sunny
warmth, and the balconies were crowded with invalid soldiers and
white-garbed nurses; not even arms in slings or heads in bandages
looked sad, for everyone seemed to be laughing; nor did the crippled
soldiers, walking slowly along, add a tragic note to the wonderful
scene.

It was strange--it was more than strange. It seemed to me almost
unbelievable.

I could not help asking myself if it could last.

Every automobile which passed had at least one soldier in it. Almost
every well-dressed woman had a soldier beside her. Those who did
not, looked sympathetically at every soldier who passed, and now
and then stopped to chat with the groups--soldiers on crutches,
soldiers with canes, soldiers with an arm in a sling, or an empty
sleeve, leading the blind, and soldiers with nothing of their faces
visible but the eyes.

By every law I knew the scene should have been sad. But some law
of love and sunshine had decreed that it should not be, and it was
not.

It was not the Paris you saw, even last summer, but it was Paris with
a soul, and I know no better prayer to put up than the cry that the
wave of love which seemed to throb everywhere about the soldier
boys, and which they seemed to feel and respond to, might not--with
time--die down. I knew it was too much to ask of human nature. I was
glad I had seen it.

In this atmosphere of love Paris looked more beautiful to me than
ever. The fountains were playing in the Place de la Concorde, in the
Tuileries gardens, at the Rond Point, and the gardens, the Avenue
and the ambulances were bright with flowers. I just felt, as I always do
when the sun shines on that wonderful vista from the Arc de
Triomphe to the Louvre, that nowhere in the world was there another
such picture, unless it be the vista from the Louvre to the Arc de
Triomphe. When I drove back up the hill at sunset, with a light mist
veiling the sun through the arch, I felt so grateful to the fate which had
decreed that never again should the German army look on that
scene, and that a nation which had a capital that could smile in the
face of fate as Paris smiled that day, must not, cannot, be conquered.

Of course after dark it is all different. It is then that one realizes that
Paris is changed. The streets are no longer brilliantly lighted. There
are no social functions. The city seems almost deserted. One misses
the brightness and the activity. I really found it hard to find my way
about and recognize familiar street corners in the dark. A few days of
it were enough for me, and I was glad enough to come back to my
quiet hilltop. At my age habits are strong.

Also let me tell you things are slowly changing here. Little by little I
can feel conditions closing up about me, and I can see "coming
events" casting "their shadows before."

Let me give you a little example.

A week ago today my New York doctor came down to spend a few
days with me. It was a great event for a lady who had not had a visitor
for months. He wanted to go out to the battlefield, so I arranged to
meet his train at Esbly, go on with him to Meaux, and drive back by
road.

I started for Esbly in my usual sans gêne manner, and was disgusted
with myself on arriving to discover that I had left all my papers at
home. However, as I had never had to show them, I imagined it
would make no difference.

I presented myself at the ticket-office to buy a ticket for Meaux, and
you can imagine my chagrin when I was asked for my papers. I
explained to the station-master, who knows me, that I had left them at
home. He was very much distressed,--said he would take the
responsibility of selling me a ticket if I wanted to risk it,--but the new
orders were strict, and he was certain I would not be allowed to leave
the station at Meaux.

Naturally, I did not want to take such a risk, or to appear, in any way,
not to be en règle. So I took the doctor off the train, and drove back
here for my papers, and then we went on to Meaux by road.

It was lucky I did, for I found everything changed at Meaux. In the first
place, we could not have an automobile, as General Joffre had
issued an order forbidding the circulation inside of the military zone of
all automobiles except those connected with the army. We could
have a little victoria and a horse, but before taking that, we had to go
to the Préfet de Police and exhibit our papers and get a special sauf-
conduit,--and we had to be diplomatic to get that.

Once started, instead of sliding out of the town past a guard who
merely went through the formality of looking at the driver's papers, we
found, on arriving at the entrance into the route de Senlis, that the
road was closed with a barricade, and only one carriage could pass
at a time. In the opening stood a soldier barring the way with his gun,
and an officer came to the carriage and examined all our papers
before the sentinel shouldered his musket and let us pass. We were
stopped at all the cross-roads, and at that between Barcy and
Chambry,--where the pedestal of the monument to mark the limit of
the battle in the direction of Paris is already in place,--we found a
group of a dozen officers--not noncommissioned officers, if you
please, but captains and majors. There our papers, including
American passports, were not only examined, but signatures and
seals verified.

This did not trouble me a bit. Indeed I felt it well, and high time, and
that it should have been done ten months ago.

It was a perfect day, and the battlefield was simply beautiful, with the
grain well up, and people moving across it in all directions. These
were mostly people walking out from Meaux, and soldiers from the
big hospital there making a pilgrimage to the graves of their
comrades. What made the scene particularly touching was the
number of children, and the nurses pushing babies in their carriages.
It seemed to me such a pretty idea to think of little children roaming
about this battlefield as if it were a garden. I could not help wishing
the nation was rich enough to make this place a public park.

In spite of only having a horse we made the trip easily, and got back
here by dinner-time.

Two days later we had an exciting five minutes.

It was breakfast time. The doctor and I were taking our coffee out-of-
doors, on the north side of the house, in the, shade of the ivy-clad
wall of the old grange. There the solitude is perfect. No one could see
us there. We could only see the roofs of the few houses at
Joncheroy, and beyond them the wide amphitheatre-like panorama,
with the square towers of the cathedral of Meaux at the east and
Esbly at the west, and Mareuil-lès-Meaux nestled on the river in the
foreground.

You see I am looking at my panorama again. One can get used to
anything, I find.

It was about nine o'clock.

Suddenly there was a terrible explosion, which brought both of us to
our feet, for it shook the very ground beneath us. We looked in the
direction from which it seemed to come--Meaux--and we saw a
column of smoke rising in the vicinity of Mareuil--only two miles away.
Before we had time to say a word we saw a second puff, and then
came a second explosion, then a third and a fourth. I was just rooted
to my spot, until Amélie dashed out of the kitchen, and then we all ran
to the hedge,--it was only a hundred feet or so nearer the smoke, and
we could see women running in the fields,--that was all.

But Amélie could not remain long in ignorance like that. There was a
staff officer cantoned at Voisins and he had telephonic
communication with Meaux, so down the hill she went in search of
news, and fifteen minutes later we knew that a number of Taubes had
tried to reach Paris in the night, that there had been a battle in the air
at Crépy-les-Valois, and one of these machines had dropped four
bombs, evidently meant for Meaux, near Mareuil, where they had
fallen in the fields and harmed no one.

We never got any explanation of how it happened that a Taube
should be flying over us at that hour, in broad daylight, or what
became of it afterward. Probably someone knows. If someone does,
he is evidently not telling us.

Amélie's remark, as she returned to her kitchen, was: "Well, it was
nearer than the battle. Perhaps next time--" She shrugged her
shoulders, and we all laughed, and life went on as usual. Well, I've
heard the whir-r of a German bomb, even if I did not see the machine
that threw it.

The doctor did not get over laughing until he went back to Paris. I am
afraid he never will get over guying me about the shows I get up to
amuse my visitors. I expect that I must keep a controlling influence
over him, or, before he is done joking, the invisible Taube will turn into
a Zeppelin, or perhaps a fleet of airships.



XIII



June 20, 1915


Having an American neighbor near by again has changed life more
than you would imagine.

She is only five miles away. She can come over on horseback in half
an hour, and she often arrives for coffee, which is really jolly. Now
and then she drives over unexpectedly, and carries me back with her
for the night. I never feel like staying longer, but it changes the
complexion of life. Besides, we can talk about our native land--in
English--and that is a change.

Now don't imagine that I have been lonely. I have not. I was quite
contented before she returned, but I have never concealed from you
that the war is trying. I needed, now and then, to exchange words
with one of my own race, and to say things about my own country
which I'd be burned at the stake before I 'd say before a French
person.

Beside, the drive from here to Voulangis is beautiful. We have three
or four ways to go, and each one is prettier than the other.
Sometimes we go through Quincy, by the Château de Moulignon, to
Pont aux Dames, and through the old moated town of Crécy-en-Brie.
Sometimes we go down the valley of the Mesnil, a hilly path along the
edge of a tiny river, down which we dash at a breakneck speed, only
possible to an expert driver. Indeed Père never believes we do it. He
could not. Since he could not, to him it is impossible to anyone.

Just now the most interesting way is through Couilly and St. Germain,
by the Bois de Misère, to Villiers-sur-Morin, whence we climb the hill
to Voulangis, with the valley dropping away on one side. It is one of
the loveliest drives I know, along the Morin, by the mills, through the
almost virgin forest.

The artillery--territorials--is cantoned all along here, at Villiers, at
Crecy, and at Voulangis. The road is lined with grey cannon and
ammunition wagons. Every little way there is a sentinel in his box, and
horses are everywhere.

Some of the sentinel boxes are, as we used to say in the States, "too
cute for words." The prettiest one in the Department is right here, at
the corner of the route Madame, which crosses my hill, and whence
the road leads from the Demi-Lune right down to the canal. It is
woven of straw, has a nice floor, a Gothic roof, a Gothic door, and the
tiniest Gothic window, and a little flag floating from its peak.

It is a little bijou, and I did hope that I could beg, borrow, steal,
or buy it from the dragoon who made it. But I can't. The lieutenant
is attached to it, and is going to take it with him, alas!

I happened to be at Voulangis when the territorials left--quite
unexpectedly, as usual. They never get much notice of a relève.

We were sitting in the garden at tea when the assemblage general
was sounded, and the order read to march at four next morning.

You never saw such a bustle,--such a cleaning of boots, such a
packing of sacks, such a getting together of the officers' canteens--
orderlies getting about quickly, and trying to give demonstrations of
"efficiency" (how I detest the very word!), and such a rounding up of
last things for the commissary department, including a mobilization of
Brie cheese (this is its home), and such a pulling into position of
cannon--all the inevitable activity of a regiment preparing to take the
road, after a two months' cantonnement, in absolute ignorance of the
direction they were to take, or their destination.

The last thing I saw that night was-the light of their lanterns, and the
last thing I heard was the march of their hob-nailed boots. The first
thing I heard in the morning, just as day broke, was the neighing of
the horses, and the subdued voices of the men as the teams were
harnessed.

We had all agreed to get up to see them start. It seemed the least we
could do. So, well wrapped up in our big coats, against the chill of four
o'clock, we went to the little square in front of the church, from which
they were to start, and where the long line of grey cannon, grey
ammunition, camions, grey commissary wagons were ready, and the
men, sac au dos, already climbing into place--one mounted on each
team of four horses, three on each gun-carriage, facing the horses,
with three behind, with their backs to the team. The horses of the
officers were waiting in front of the little inn opposite, from which the
officers emerged one by one, mounted and rode to a place in front of
the church. We were a little group of about twenty women and
children standing on one side of the square, and a dead silence hung
over the scene. The men, even, spoke in whispers.

The commander, in front of his staff, ran his eyes slowly over the line,
until a sous-officier approached, saluted, and announced, "All ready,"
when the commander rode to the head of the line, raised one hand
above his head, and with it made a sharp forward gesture--the
unspoken order "en avant"--and backed his horse, and the long grey
line began to move slowly towards the Forêt de Crécy, the officers
falling into place as it passed.

Some of the men leaned down to shake hands as they went by,
some of the men saluted, not a word was spoken, and the silence
was only broken by the tramp of the horses, the straining of the
harnesses, and rumble of the wheels.

It was all so different--as everything in this war has been--from
anything I had ever dreamed when I imagined war. Yet I suppose that
the future dramatist who uses this period as a background can get his
effects just the same, without greatly falsifying the truth. You know I
am like Uncle Sarcey--a really model theatre audience. No effect,
halfway good, passes me by. So, as I turned back at the garden gate
to watch the long grey line winding slowly into the forest, I found that I
had the same chill down my back and the same tightness over my
eyes and in my throat, which, in the real theatre-goers, announce that
an effect has "gone home."

The only other thing I have done this month which could interest you
was to have a little tea-party on the lawn for the convalescent boys of
our ambulance, who were "personally conducted" by one of their
nurses.

Of course they were all sorts and all classes. When I got them
grouped round the table, in the shade of the big clump of lilac bushes,
I was impressed, as I always am when I see a number of common
soldiers together, with the fact that no other race has such intelligent,
such really well-modelled faces, as the French. It is rare to see a fat
face among them. There were farmers, blacksmiths, casters,
workmen of all sorts, and there was one young law student, and the
mixed group seemed to have a real sentiment of fraternity.

Of course, the law student was more accustomed to society than the
others, and became, naturally, a sort of leader. He knew just what to
do, and just how to do it,--how to get into the salon when he arrived,
and how to greet his hostess. But the rest knew how to follow suit,
and did it, and, though some of them were a little shy at first, not one
was confused, and in a few minutes they were all quite at their ease.
By the time the brief formality of being received was over, and they
were all gathered round the tea-table, the atmosphere had become
comfortable and friendly, and, though they let the law student lead the
conversation, they were all alert and interested, and when one of
them did speak, it was to the point.

When tea was over and we walked out on the lawn on the north side
of the house to look over the field of the battle in which most of them
had taken part, they were all ready to talk--they were on ground they
knew. One of them asked me if I could see any of the movements of
the armies, and I told him that I could not, that I could only see the
smoke, and hear the artillery fire, and now and then, when the wind
was right, the sharp repeating fire of rifles as well as mitrailleuses,
and that I ended by distinguishing the soixante-quinze from other
artillery guns.

"Look down there, in the wide plain below Montyon," said the law
student. I looked, and he added, "As nearly as I can judge the ground
from here, if you had been looking there at eleven o'clock in the
morning, you would have seen a big movement of troops."

Of course I explained to him that I had not expected any movement in
that direction, and had only watched the approach from Meaux.

Beyond that one incident, these wounded soldiers said no word about
battles. Most of the conversation was political.

When the nurse looked at her watch and said it was time to return to
the hospital, as they must not be late for dinner, they all rose. The law
student came, cap in hand, made me a low bow, and thanked me for
a pleasant afternoon, and every man imitated his manner--with
varying degrees of success--and made his little speech and bow, and
then they marched up the road, turning back, as the English soldiers
had done--how long ago it seems--to wave their caps as they went
round the corner.

I did wish that you could have been there. You always used to love
the French. You would have loved them more that afternoon.

It is wonderful how these people keep up their courage. To me it
seems like the uplift of a Holy Cause. They did expect a big summer
offensive. But it does not come, and we hear it rumored that, while we
have men enough, the Germans have worked so hard, while the
English were recruiting, that they are almost impregnably entrenched,
and that while their ammunition surpasses anything we can have for
months yet, it would be military suicide to throw our infantry against
their superior guns. In the meantime, while the Allies are working like
mad to increase their artillery equipments, the Germans are working
just as hard, and Time serves one party as well as the other. I
suppose it will only be after the war that we shall really know to what
our disappointment was due, and, as usual, the same cry consoles
us all: "None of these things will change the final result!" and most
people keep silent under the growing conviction that this "may go on
for years."

One thing I really must tell you--not a person mentioned the Lusitania
at the tea-party, which was, I suppose, a handsome effort at
reticence, since the lady of the house was an American, and the
Stars and Stripes, in little, were fluttering over the chimney.

I take note of one remark in your last letter, in reply to mine of May
18. You twit me with "rounding off my periods." I apologize. You must
remember that I earned my bread and salt doing that for years, and
habit is strong. I no longer do it with my tongue in my cheek. My word
for that.



XIV



August 1, 1915


Well, dear girl, not a bit of news to tell you. I have really done nothing
this last month but look at my flowers, superintend the gathering of
my plums, put up a few pots of confiture, mow the lawn, and listen to
the guns, now and then, read the communiqués, and sigh over the
disasters in the east and the deadlock at Gallipoli.

At the end of the first year of the war the scene has stretched out so
tremendously that my poor tired brain can hardly take it in. I suppose
it is all clear to the general staff, but I don't know. To me it all looks
like a great labyrinth,--and the Germans are at the gates of Warsaw.
Of course this does not "alter the final result"--when that comes--but it
means more destruction, more land to win back, and, I imagine, such
desolation in Poland as makes even the Belgian disaster look, by
comparison, small.

Oddly enough, while we know that this will brace up the Germans,
fighting all about their borders on invaded territory, it does not effect
the faith of the people here, who have even the courage to turn aside
from their own grief, with tears in their eyes, to pity Poland. What a
price Belgium pays for her courage to be honorable, and at what a
price Poland must accept her independence! Everyone is philosophical
here, but one does not have to be heartless to be that.

I find it ironical that my flowers bloom, that gay humming-birds hover
over my Mas de Perse, that I have enough to eat, that sleep comes
to me, and that the country is so beautiful.

Our dragoons have ridden away--on to the front, I am told, and
silence has settled down on us.

I am well--there ends the history of a month, and I am not the only
one in France leading a life like that,--and still the cannon are
pounding on in the distance.



XV



August 6, 1915


Well, the sans gêne days seem to be passed.

Up to now, as I have told you, the sauf-conduit matter, except on the
last day I was at Meaux, was the thinnest sort of formality. I had to
have one to leave the commune, but the blank forms were lying
around everywhere. I had only to stop at the hotel at Couilly, step into
the café, pick up a form and ask the proprietor to fill it out, and that
was all that was necessary. I might have passed it on to anyone, for,
although my name was written on it, no one ever took the trouble to
fill out the description. The ticket-seller at the station merely glanced
at the paper in my hand when I bought a ticket, and the gendarmes at
the ticket window in Paris, when there were any,--often there were
none--did no more. Of course, the possession of a sauf-conduit
presupposes all one's papers en règle, but I never saw anyone
examining to make sure of that.

All this is ended. We are evidently under a new régime.

I had my first intimation yesterday, when I had a domiciliary visit from
the gendarmes at Esbly. It was a very formal, thorough affair, the two
officers treating me, at the beginning of the interview, as if I were a
very guilty person.

I was upstairs when I saw them arrive on their wheels. I put down my
sewing, and went down to be ready to open the door when they
knocked. They didn't knock. I waited a bit, then opened the door.
There was no one on the terrace, but I heard their voices from the
other side of the house. I went in search of them. They were
examining the back of the house as if they had never seen one like it
before. When they saw me, one of them said sharply, without the
slightest salute: "There is no bell?"

I acknowledged the self-evident fact.

"How does one get in, since you keep your door locked?" he added.

"Well," I replied, with a smile, "as a rule, one knocks."

To that his only reply was: "Your name?"

I gave it to him.

He looked on his paper, repeated it--mispronouncing it, of course,
and evidently sure that I did not know how to pronounce it myself.

"Foreigner," he stated.

I could not deny the charge. I merely volunteered "Américaine."

Then the inquiry continued like this. "Live here?"

"Evidently."

"How long have you lived here?"

"Since June, 1914."

That seemed to strike him as a very suspicious date, and he stared at
me hard for a moment before he went on: "What for?"

"Principally because I leased the house."

"Why do you remain here in war-time?"

"Because I have nowhere else to go," and I tried not to smile.

"Why don't you go home?"

"This is my home."

"Haven't you any home in America?"

I resisted telling him that it was none of his business, and did my best
to look pathetic--it was that, or laugh--as I answered: "Alas! I have
not."

This seemed to strike both of them as unbelievable, and they only
stared at me as if trying to put me out of countenance.

In the meantime, some of the people of Huiry, interested always in
gendarmes, were standing at the top of the hill watching the scene,
so I said: "Suppose you come inside and I will answer your questions
there," and I opened the door of the salon, and went in.

They hesitated a moment, but decided to follow me. They stood, very
stiffly, just inside the door, looking about with curiosity. I sat down at
my desk, and made a motion to them to be seated. I did not know
whether or not it was correct to ask gendarmes to sit down, but I
ventured it. Evidently it was not correct, for they paid no attention to
my gesture.

When they were done looking about, they asked me for my papers.

I produced my American passport. They looked at the huge steel-
engraved document with great seriousness. I am sure they had never
seen one before. It impressed them--as well it might, in comparison
with the civil papers of the French government.

They satisfied themselves that the picture affixed was really I--that the
name agreed with that on their books. Of course, they could not read
a word of it, but they looked wise. Then they asked me for my French
papers. I produced my permis de séjour--permitting me to stay in
France provided I did not change my residence, and to which was
affixed the same photograph as that on my passport; my declaration
of my civil situation, duly stamped; and my "immatriculation," a leaf
from the register on which all foreigners are written down, just as we
would be if admitted to a hospital or an insane asylum.

The two men put their heads together over these documents--
examined the signatures and the seals with great gravity--with evident
regret to find that I was quite en règle.

Finally they permitted me to put the documents all back in the case in
which I carry them.

I thought the scene was over. Not at all. They waited until I shut the
case, and replaced it in my bag--and then:

"You live alone?" one asked.

I owned that I did.

"But why?"

"Well," I replied, "because I have no family here."

"You have no domestic?"

I explained that I had a femme de ménage.

"Where is she?"

I said that at that moment she was probably at Couilly, but that
ordinarily when she was not here, she was at her own home.

"Where is that?" was the next question.

So I took them out on to the terrace again, and showed them
Amélie's house.

They stared solemnly at it, as if they had never seen it before, and
then one of them turned on me quickly, as if to startle me. "Vous êtes
une femme de lettres?"

"It is so written down in my papers," I replied.

"Journaliste?"

I denied my old calling without the quiver of an eyelash. I hadn't a
scruple. Besides, my old profession many a time failed me, and it
might have been dangerous to have been known as even an ex-
journalist today within the zone of military operations.

Upon that followed a series of the most intimate questions anyone
ever dared put to me,--my income, my resources, my expectations,
my plans, etc.--and all sorts of questions I too rarely put to myself
even, and never answer to myself. Practically the only question they
did not ask was if I ever intended to marry. I was tempted to volunteer
that information, but, as neither man had the smallest sense of
humor, I decided it was wiser to let well enough alone.

It was only when they were stumped for another single question that
they decided to go. They saluted me politely this time, a tribute I
imagine to my having kept my temper under great provocation to lose
it, went out of the gate, stood whispering together a few minutes, and
gazing back at the house, as if afraid they would forget it, looked up
at the plaque on the gate-post, made a note, mounted their wheels,
and sprinted down the hill, still in earnest conversation.

I wondered what they were saying to one another. Whatever it was, I
got an order early the next morning to present myself at the
gendarmerie at Esbly before eleven o'clock.

Père was angry. He seemed to feel, that, for some reason, I was
under suspicion, and that it was a man's business to defend me. So,
when Ninette brought my perambulator to the gate, there was Père,
in his veston and casquette, determined to go with me and see me
through.

At Esbly I found a different sort of person--a gentleman--he told me
he was not a gendarme by métier, but a volunteer--and, although he
put me through practically the same paces, it was different. He was
sympathetic, not averse to a joke, and, when it was over, he went out
to help me into my baby cart, thanked me for troubling myself,
assured me that I was absolutely en règle, and even went so very far
as to say that he was pleased to have met me. So I suppose, until the
commander at Esbly is changed, I shall be left in peace.

This will give you a little idea of what it is like here. I suppose I
needed to be shaken up a bit to make me realize that I was near
the war. It is easy to forget it sometimes.

Amélie came this morning with the tale that it was rumored that all
foreigners were to be "expelled from the zone des armées." It might
be. Still, I am not worrying. "Sufficient to the day," you know.



XVI



September 8, 1915


You have the date quite right.

It is a year ago today--this very 8th of September--since I saw the
French soldiers march away across the hill, over what we call the
"Champs Madame"--no one knows why--on their way to the battle
behind Meaux.

By chance--you could not have planned it, since the time it takes a
letter to reach me depends on how interesting the censor finds it--
your celebration of that event reached me on its anniversary.

You are absolutely wrong, however, to pull such a long face over my
situation. You write as if I had passed through a year of misery. I have
not. I am sure you never got that impression from my letters, and I
assure you that I am writing exactly as I feel--I have no façade up for
you.

I own it has been a year of tension. It has been three hundred and
sixty-five days and a fourth, not one of which has been free from
anxiety of some sort or other. Sometimes I have been cold.
Sometimes I have been nervous. But all the same, it has been fifty-
two weeks of growing respect for the people among whom I live, and
of ever-mounting love of life, and never-failing conviction that the sum
of it is beauty. I have had to fight for the faith in that, but I have kept
it. Always "In the midst of life we are in Death," but not always is death
so fine and beautiful a thing as in these days. No one would choose
that such things as have come to pass in the last year should be, but
since they are, don't be so foolish as to pity me, who have the chance
to look on, near enough to feel and to understand, even though I am
far enough off to be absolutely safe,--alas! eternally a mere spectator.
And speaking of having been cold reminds me that it is beginning to
get cold again. We have had heavy hailstorms already, hail as big
and hard as dried peas, and I have not as yet been able to get fuel.
So I am looking forward to another trying winter. In the spring my
coal-dealer assured me that last winter's situation would not be
repeated, and I told him that I would take all the coal he could get me.
Having said that, I took no further thought of the matter. Up to date he
has not been able to get any. The railroad is too busy carrying war
material.

I was pained by the tone of your last letter. Evidently mine of the
Fourth of July did not please you. Evidently you don't like my politics
or my philosophy, or my "deadly parallels," or any of my thoughts
about the present and future of my native land. Destroy the letter.
Forget it, and we'll talk of other things, and, to take a big jump--

Did you ever keep cats?

There is a subject in which you can find no offence, and if it does not
appeal to you it is your own fault.

If you never have kept cats, you have missed lots of fun, you are not
half educated, you have not been disciplined at all. / A cat is a
wonderful animal, but he is not a bit like what, on first making his
acquaintance, you think he is going to be, and he never becomes it.

Now I have been living a year this September with one cat, and part
of the time, with two. I am wiser than I used to be. By fits and starts I
am more modest.

I used to think that a cat was a tame animal, who lapped milk, slept,
rolled up ornamentally on a rug, now and then chased his tail, and
now and then played gracefully with a ball, came and sat on your
knee when you invited him, and caught mice, if mice came where he
was.

All the cats I had seen in the homes of my friends surely did those
things. I thought them "so pretty," "so graceful," "so soft," and I
always said they "gave a cosy look to a room."

But I had never been intimate with a cat.

When the English soldiers were here a year ago, Amélie came one
morning bringing a kitten in her apron. You remember I told you of
this. He was probably three months old--so Amélie says, and she
knows all about cats. She said off-hand: "C'est un chat du mois de
juin." She seems to know what month well-behaved cats ought to be
born. So far as I know, they might be born in any old month. He was
like a little tiger, with a white face and shirt-front, white paws and
lovely green eyes.

He had to have a name, so, as he had a lot of brown, the color of the
English uniform, and came to me while the soldiers were here, I
named him Khaki. He accepted it, and answered to his name at
once. He got well rapidly. His fur began to grow, and so did he.

At first he lived up to my idea of what a kitten should be. He was
always ready to play, but he had much more originality than I knew
cats to have. He was so amusing that I gave lots of time to him. I had
corks, tied to strings, hanging to all the door knobs and posts in the
house, and, for hours at a time, he amused himself playing games
like basket-ball and football with these corks. I lost hours of my life
watching him, and calling Amélie to "come quick" and see him. His
ingenuity was remarkable. He would take the cork in his front paws,
turn over on his back, and try to rip it open with his hind paws. I
suppose that was the way his tiger ancestors ripped open their prey.
He would carry the cork, attached to the post at the foot of the
staircase, as far up the stairs as the string would allow him, lay it
down and touch it gently to make it roll down the stairs so that he
could spring after it and catch it before it reached the bottom. All this
was most satisfactory. That was what I expected a cat to do.

He lapped his milk all right. I did not know what else to give him. I
asked Amélie what she gave hers. She said "soup made out of bread
and drippings." That was a new idea. But Amélie's cats looked all
right. So I made the same kind of soup for Khaki. Not he! He turned
his back on it. Then Amélie suggested bread in his milk. I tried that.
He lapped the milk, but left the bread. I was rather in despair. He
looked too thin. Amélie suggested that he was a thin kind of a cat. I
did not want a thin kind of a cat. I wanted a roly-poly cat.

One day I was eating a dry biscuit at tea time. He came and stood
beside me, and I offered him a piece. He accepted it. So, after that, I
gave him biscuit and milk. He used to sit beside his saucer, lap up his
milk, and then pick up the pieces of biscuit with his paw and eat them.
This got to be his first show trick. Everyone came to see Khaki eat
"with his fingers."

All Amélie's efforts to induce him to adopt the diet of all the other cats
in Huiry failed. Finally I said: "What does he want, Amélie? What do
cats, who will not eat soup, eat?"

Reluctantly I got it--"Liver."

Well, I should think he did. He eats it twice a day.

Up to that time he had never talked even cat language. He had never
meowed since the day he presented himself at Amélie's and asked
for sanctuary.

But we have had, from the beginning, a few collisions of will-power.
The first few weeks that he was a guest in my house, I was terribly
flattered because he never wanted to sleep anywhere but on my
knees. He did not squirm round as Amélie said kittens usually did. He
never climbed on my shoulders and rubbed against my face. He
simply jumped up in my lap, turned round once, lay down, and lay
perfectly still. If I got up, I had to put him in my chair, soothe him
a bit, as you would a baby, if I expected him to stay, but, even then,
nine times out of ten, as soon as I was settled in another chair,
he followed, and climbed into my lap.

Now things that are flattering finally pall. I began to guess that it was
his comfort, not his love for me, that controlled him. Well--it is the old
story.

But the night question was the hardest. He had a basket. He had a
cushion. I have the country habit of going to bed with the chickens.
The cat came near changing all that. I used to let him go to sleep in
my lap. I used to put him in his basket by the table with all the care
that you would put a baby. Then I made a dash for upstairs and
closed the doors. Ha! ha! In two minutes he was scratching at the
door. I let him scratch. "He must be disciplined," I said. There was a
cushion at the door, and finally he would settle' down and in the
morning he was there when I woke. "He will learn," I said. H'm!

One night, while I was in my dressing-room, I neglected to latch the
bedroom door. When I was ready to get into bed, lo! there was Khaki
on the foot of the bed, close against the footboard, fast asleep. Not
only was he asleep, but he was lying on his back, with his two white
paws folded over his eyes as if to keep the lamplight out of them.
Well--I had not the heart to drive him away. He had won. He slept
there. He never budged until I was dressed in the morning, when he
got up, as if it were the usual thing, and followed, in his most dignified
manner, down to breakfast.

Well, that was struggle number one. Khaki had scored.

But, no sooner had I got myself reconciled--I felt pretty shamefaced--
when he changed his plans. The very moment I was ready for bed he
wanted to go out. He never meowed. He just tapped at the door, and
if that did not succeed, he scratched on the window, and he was so
one-idea-ed that nothing turned him from his purpose until he was let
out.

For a time I used to sit up for him to come in. I was ashamed to let
Amélie know. But, one night, after I had been out in the garden with a
lantern hunting for him at midnight, I heard a gentle purring sound,
and, after looking in every direction, I finally located him on the roof of
the kitchen. Being a bit dull, I imagined that he could not get down. I
stood up on a bench under the kitchen window, and called him. He
came to the eaves, and I could just reach him, but, as I was about to
take him by a leg and haul him down, he retreated just out of my
reach, and said what I imagined to be a pathetic "meow." I talked to
him. I tried to coax him to come within reach again, but he only went
up the roof to the ridgepole and looked down the other side and said
"meow." I was in despair, when it occurred to me to get the step-
ladder. You may think me impossibly silly, but I never supposed that
he could get down.

I went for the key to the grange, pulled out the ladder, and hauled it
along the terrace, and was just putting it up, when the little devil
leaped from the roof into the lilac bush, swayed there a minute, ran
down, scampered across the garden, and dashed up a pear tree,
and--well, I think he laughed at me.

Anyway, I was mad. I went in and told him that he might stop out all
night for all I cared. Still, I could not sleep for thinking of him--used
to comfort--out in the night, and it was chilly. But he had to be
disciplined.

I had to laugh in the morning, for he was playing on the terrace when
I opened the door, and he had a line of three first-class mice laid out
for me. I said: "Why, good morning, Khaki, did mother make him stay
out all night? Well, you know he was a naughty cat!"

He gave me a look--I fancied it was quizzical--rolled over, and
showed his pretty white belly, then jumped up, gave one look up at
the bedroom window, scampered up the salon shutter, crouched on
the top, and, with one leap, was through the bedroom window. When
I rushed upstairs--to see if he had hurt himself, I suppose,--he was
sitting on the foot of the bed, and I think he was grinning.

So much for disciplining a cat.

However, I had learned something--and, evidently, he had also. I had
learned that a cat can take care of himself, and has a right to live a
cat's life, and he learned that I was dull. We treat each other
accordingly. The truth is--he owns me, and the house, and he knows
it.

Since then he asks for the door, and gets it when he asks. He goes
and comes at his own sweet will. When he wants to come in, in the
daytime, he looks in at all the windows until he finds me. Then he
stands on his hind legs and beats the window with his paws until I
open it for him. In the night, he climbs to the bedroom window, and
taps until he wakens me. You see, it is his house, not mine, and he
knows it. What is the drollest of all--he is never one minute late to his
meals.

He is familiarly known to all my neighbors as "the Grand Duc de
Huiry" and he looks the part. Still, from my point of view, he is not an
ideal cat. He is not a bit caressing. He never fails to purr politely when
he comes in. But he is no longer playful. He never climbs up to my
shoulder and rubs against my face as some of Amélie's commoner
cats will do. He is intelligent and handsome--just a miniature tiger,
and growls like a new arrival from the jungle when he is displeased--
and he is a great ratter. Moreover Amélie has decided that he is an
"intellectuel."

One morning, when he had been out all night, and did not return until
almost breakfast-time, he was sitting on my knee, making his toilette,
while I argued the matter with him. Amélie was dusting. I reproached
him with becoming a rôdeur, and I told him that I should be happier
about him if I knew where he was every night, and what he did.

He yawned as if bored, jumped off my knees and began walking
round the library, and examining the books.

"Well," remarked Amélie, "I can tell you where he goes. He has a
class in Maria's grange, where the wheat is stored--a class of mice.
He goes every evening to give conferences on history and the war,
and he eats up all the stupid pupils."

I had to laugh, but before I could ask her how she knew, Khaki
jumped up on top of the lowest line of books, and disappeared
behind.

Amélie shrugged her shoulders, and said: "Voila! He has gone to
prepare his next conference." And he really had chosen a line of
books on history.

You see Amélie knows beasties better than I do. There really is a sort
of freemasonry between certain people and dumb animals. I have not
a bit of it, though I love them. You would adore to see Amélie play
with cats. She knows how. And as for her conversation with them, it is
wonderful. I remarked the fact to her one day, when her morning
salutations with the cats had been unusual. She replied, with her
customary shrug: "Eh bien, Madame, toujours, entre eux, les bêtes
se comprennent."

So much in brief for cat number one. Number two is a different
matter.

In the spring, four kittens were born at Amélie's. They were all sorts of
mongrels. There was a dear little fluffy, half angora, which I named
Garibaldi, and Amélie, as usual, vulgarized it at once into "Didine."
There was a long-legged blue kitten which I dubbed Roi Albert. There
was a short-legged, sturdy little energetic striped one which I called
General Joffre, and a yellow and black fellow, who was, of course,
Nicolas. I regretted there weren't two more, or three.

Garibaldi was about the dearest kitten I ever saw. He attached
himself to me at once. When he was only a round fluffy ball he would
try to climb into my lap whenever I went to see the kittens. The result
was that when he was still very young, he came to live with me, and I
never saw so altogether loveable an animal. He has all the cat
qualities I ever dreamed of. As Amélie says: "II a tout pour lui, et il ne
manque que la parole." And it is true. He crawls up my back. He will
lie for hours on my shoulder purring his little soft song into my ear. He
will sit beside me on my desk, looking at me with his pretty yellow
eyes, as if he and I were the whole of his world. If I walk in the
garden, he is under my feet. If I go up to Amélie's he goes too.

His attachment has its drawbacks. He tries to sit on my book when I
am reading, and longs to lie on the keyboard of my machine when I
am writing. If I try to read a paper when he is on my lap he
immediately crawls under it, and gets between my eyes and the print.
I am terribly flattered, but his affection has its inconveniences.
Needless to say, Khaki hates him, and never passes him without
growling. Luckily Didine is not a bit afraid of him. Up to date they have
never fought. Didine has a great admiration for Khaki, and will tag
him. The difference in their characters is too funny. For example, if
Didine brings a mouse into the garden Khaki never attempts to touch
it. He will sit apart, indulgently watching Didine play with his prey,
torment it, and finally kill it, and never offer to join in the sport. On
the contrary, if Khaki brings in a mouse, Didine wants to join in the fun
at once. Result--Khaki gives one fierce growl, abandons his catch
and goes out of the garden. Difference, I suppose, between a
thoroughbred sport and, well, a common cat.

I could fill a volume with stories about these cats. Don't worry. I shall
not.

You ask me if I have a dog. Yes, a big black Caniche named Dick, a
good watch-dog, but too fond of playing. I call him an "india-rubber
dog," because when he is demanding' a frolic, or asking to have a
stone thrown for him--his idea of happiness--he jumps up and down
on his four stiff legs exactly like a toy woolly dog on an elastic.

He is a good dog to walk with, and loves to "go." He is very obedient
on the road for that reason--knows if he is naughty he can't go next
time.

So now you have the household complete. I'll warrant you won't be
content. If you are not, there is no satisfying you. When I pour all my
political dreams on paper, and shout on to my machine all my
disappointments over the attitude of Washington, you take offence.
So what can I do? I cannot send you letters full of stirring adventures.
I don't have any. I can't write you dramatic things about the war. It is
not dramatic here, and that is as strange to me as it seems to be to
you.



XVII



October 3, 1915


We have been as near to getting enthusiastically excited as we have
since the war began.

Just when everyone had a mind made up that the Allies could not be
ready to make their first offensive movement until next spring--
resigned to know that it would not be until after a year and a half, and
more, of war that we could see our armies in a position to do more
than continue to repel the attacks of the enemy--we all waked up on
September 27 to the unexpected news that an offensive movement
of the French in Champagne had actually begun on the 25th, and
was successful.

For three or four days the suspense and the hope alternated. Every
day there was an advance, an advance that seemed to be supported
by the English about Loos, and all the time we heard at intervals the
far-off pounding of the artillery.

For several days our hearts were high. Then there began to creep
into the papers hints that it had been a gallant advance, but not a
great victory, and far too costly, and that there had been blunders,
and we all settled back with the usual philosophy, studied the map of
our first-line trenches on September 25, when the attack began,--
running through Souain and Perthes, Mesnil, Massiges, and Ville sur
Tourbe. We compared it with the line on the night of September 29,
when the battle practically ended, running from the outskirts of
Auderive in the west to behind Cernay in the east, and took what
comfort we could in the 25 kilometres of advance, and three hilltops
gained. It looked but a few steps on the map, but it was a few steps
nearer the frontier.

Long before you get this, you will have read, in the American papers,
details hidden from us, though we know more about this event than
about most battles.

You remember the tea-party I had for the boys in our ambulance in
June? Well, among the soldiers here that day was a chap named
Litigue. He was wounded--his second time--on September 25, the
first day of the battle. He was nursed in our ambulance the first time
by Mlle. Henriette, and yesterday she had a letter from him, which she
lets me translate for you, because it will give you some idea of the
battle, of the spirit of the poilus, and also because it contains a bit of
news and answers a question you asked me several weeks ago,
after the first use of gas attacks in the north.


A l'hôpital St. André de Luhzac,

September 30, 1915 Mademoiselle,

I am writing you tonight a little more at length than I was able to do
this morning--then I had not the time, as my nurse was waiting beside
my bed to take the card to the post. I wrote it the moment I was able,
at the same time that I wrote to my family. I hope it reached you.

I am going to tell you in as few words as possible, how the day
passed. The attack began the 25th, at exactly quarter past nine in the
morning. The preparatory bombardment had been going on since the
22d. All the regiments had been assembled the night before in their
shelters, ready to leap forward.

At daybreak the bombardment recommenced--a terrible storm of
shells of every calibre--bombs, torpedoes--flew overhead to salute
the Boches, and to complete the destruction which had been going
on for three days.

Without paying attention to the few obus which the Boches sent over
in reply to our storm, we all mounted the parapets to get a view of the
scene. All along our front, in both directions, all we could see was a
thick cloud of dust and smoke. For four hours we stood there, without
saying a word, waiting the order to advance; officers, common
soldiers, young and old, had but one thought,--to get into it and be
done with it as quickly as possible. It was just nine o'clock when the
officers ordered us into line, ready to advance,--sac au dos, bayonets
fixed, musettes full of grenades and asphyxiating bombs. Everyone of
us knew that he was facing death out there, but I saw nowhere the
smallest sign of shrinking, and at quarter past nine, when we got the
signal to start, one cry: "En avant, et vive la France!" burst from
thousands and thousands of throats, as we leaped out of the
trenches, and it seemed to me that it was but one bound before we
were on them.

Once there I seem to remember nothing in detail. It was as if, by
enchantment, that I found myself in the midst of the struggle, in heaps
of dead and dying. When I fell, and found myself useless in the fight, I
dragged myself, on my stomach, towards our trenches. I met
stretcher-bearers who were willing to carry me, but I was able to
crawl, and so many of my comrades were worse off, that I refused. I
crept two kilometres like that until I found a dressing-station. I was
suffering terribly with the bullet in my ankle. They extracted it there
and dressed the ankle, but I remained, stretched on the ground, two
days before I was removed, and I had nothing to eat until I reached
here yesterday--four days after I fell. But that could not be helped.
There were so many to attend to.

I will let you know how I get on, and I hope for news from you. In the
meantime I send you my kindest regards, and my deep gratitude.

Your big friend,

LlTIGUE, A.


I thought you might be interested to see what sort of a letter a real
poilu writes, and Litigue is just a big workman, young and energetic.

You remember you asked me if the Allies would ever bring
themselves to replying in sort to the gas attacks. You see what Litigue
says so simply. They did have asphyxiating bombs. Naturally the
most honorable army in the world cannot neglect to reply in sort to a
weapon like that. When the Boches have taken some of their own
medicine the weapon will be less freely used. Besides, today our men
are all protected against gas.

I had hardly settled down to the feeling that the offensive was over
and that there was another long winter of inaction--a winter of the
same physical and material discomforts as the first--lack of fuel,
suspense,--when the news came which makes my feeling very
personal. The British offensive in the north has cost me a dear friend.
You remember the young English officer who had marched around
me in September of last year, during the days preceding the battle of
the Marne? He was killed in Belgium on the morning of September
26--the second day of the offensive. He was in command of an anti-
aeroplane battery advanced in the night to what was considered a
well-concealed position. The German guns, however, got the range.
Shrapnel nearly wiped out the command, and the Captain was
wounded in the head. He died at the hospital at Etaples half an hour
after he arrived, and lies buried in the English cemetery on the dunes,
with his face towards the country for which he gave his young life.

I know one must not today regret such sacrifices. Death is--and no
one can die better than actively for a great cause. But, when a loved
one goes out in youth; when a career of achievement before which a
really brilliant future opened, is snapped, one can still be proud, but it
is through a veil of tears.

I remember so well that Sunday morning, the 26th of September. It
was a beautiful day. The air was clear. The sun shone. I sat all the
morning on the lawn watching the clouds, so small and fleecy, and
listening to the far-off cannon, not knowing then that it meant the "big
offensive." Oddly enough we spoke of him, for Amélie was examining
the cherry tree, which she imagined had some sort of malady, and
she said: "Do you remember when Captain Noel was here last year
how he climbed the tree to pick the cherries?" And I replied that the
tree hardly looked solid enough now to bear his weight. I sat thinking
of him, and his life of movement and activity under so many climes,
and wondered where he was, little thinking that already, that very
morning, the sun of his dear life was told, and that we should never,
as I had dreamed, talk over his adventures in France as we had so
often talked over those in India, in China, and in Africa.

It is odd, but when a friend so dear as he was, yet whom one only
saw rarely, in the étapes of his active career, goes out across the
great bourne, into the silence and the invisible, it takes time to realize
it. It is only after a long waiting, when not even a message comes
back, that one comprehends that there are to be no more meetings
at the cross-roads. I moved one more portrait into the line under the
flags tied with black--that was all.

You hardly knew him, I know, but no one ever saw his upright figure,
his thin, clear-cut features, bronzed by tropic suns, and his direct
gaze, and forgot him.



XVIII



December 6, 1915


It is two months since I wrote--I know it. But you really must not
reproach me so violently as you do in yours of the 21st of November,
just received.

To begin with, there is no occasion for you to worry. I may be
uncomfortable. I am in no danger. As for the discomforts--well, I am
used to them. I cannot get coal very often, and when I do I pay
twenty-six dollars a ton for it, and it is only imitation coal, at that. I
cannot get washing done oftener than once in six weeks. Nothing
dries out-of-doors in this country of damp winters. I am often forced to
live my evenings by candle-light, which is pretty extravagant, as
candles are costly, and it takes a good many to get through an
evening. They burn down like paper tapers in these days.

When I don't write it is simply because I have nothing more
interesting than things like that to tell you. The situation is chronic,
and, like chronic diseases, much more likely to get worse than to get
better.

You should be grateful to me for sparing you, instead of blaming me.

I might not have found the inspiration to write today if something had
not happened.

This morning the town crier beat his drum all over the hill, and read a
proclamation forbidding all foreigners to leave the commune during
the next thirty days without a special permit from the general in
command of the 5th Army Corps.

No one knows what this means. I have been to the mairie to enquire
simply because I had promised to spend Christmas at Voulangis,
and, if this order is formal, I may have difficulty in going. I have no
desire to celebrate, only there is a child there, and the lives of little
children ought not to be too much saddened by the times and events
they do not understand.

I was told at the mairie that they had no power, and that I would have
to address myself to Monsieur le General. They could not even tell
me what form the request ought to take. So I came home, and wrote
the letter as well as I could.

In the meantime, I am distinctly informed that until I get a reply from
headquarters I cannot go out of the commune of Quincy-Segy.

If I really obey the letter of this order I cannot even go to Amélie's. Her
house is in the commune of Couilly, and mine in Quincy, and the
boundary line between the two communes is the path beside my
garden, on the south side, and runs up the middle of my road from
that point.

It is annoying, as I hardly know Quincy, and don't care for it, and
never go there except to present myself at the mairie. It is further off
the railroad line than I am here. Couilly I know and like. It is a pretty
prosperous village. It has better shops than Quincy, which has not
even a pharmacie, and I have always done my shopping there. My
mail comes there, and the railway station is there, and everyone
knows me.

The idea that I can't go there gives me, for the first time since the
battle, a shut-in feeling. I talked to the garde champêtre, whom I met
on the road, as I returned from the mairie, and I asked him what he
thought about the risk of my going to Couilly. He looked properly
grave, and said:

"I would not, if I were in your place. Better run no risks until we
understand what this is to lead to."

I thanked him, with an expression just as serious and important as
his. "I'll obey," I said to myself, "though to obey will be comic."

So I turned the corner on top of the hill. I drove close to the east side
of the road, which was the Quincy side, and as I passed the entrance
to Amélie's court I called to Père to come out and get Ninette and the
cart. I then climbed out and left the turn-out there.

I did not look back, but I knew Père was standing in the road looking
after me in amazement, and not understanding a bit that I had left my
cart on the Quincy side of the road for him to drive it into Couilly,
where I could not go.

"I'll obey," I repeated to myself, viciously, as I strolled down the
Quincy side of the road and crossed in front of the gate where the
whole width of the road is in my commune.

I hadn't been in the house five minutes before Amélie arrived.

"What's the matter?" she demanded, breathlessly.

"Nothing."

"Why didn't you drive into the stable as usual?"

"I couldn't."

"Why couldn't you?"

"Because I am forbidden to go to Couilly."

I thought she was going to see the joke and laugh. She didn't. She
was angry, and I had a hard time to make her see that it was funny.
In fact, I did not really make her see it at all, for an hour later,
wanting her, I went up to the Quincy side of the road, leaned against
the wall, opposite her entrance, and blew my big whistle for ten
minutes without attracting her attention.

That attempt at renewing the joke had two results. I must tell you that
one of the few friends who has ever been out here felt that the only
annoying thing about my being so absolutely alone was that, if
anything happened and I needed help, I had no way of letting anyone
know. So I promised, and it was agreed with Amélie, that, in need, I
should blow my big whistle--it can be heard half a mile. But that was
over two years ago. I have never needed help. I have used the
whistle to call Dick.

I whistled and whistled and whistled until I was good and mad. Then I
began to yell: "Amélie--Mélie--Père!" and they came running out,
looking frightened to death, to find me, red in the face, leaning against
the wall--on the Quincy side of the road.

"What's the matter?" cried Amélie.

"Didn't you hear my whistle?" I asked.

"We thought you were calling Dick."

The joke was on me.

When I explained that I wanted some fresh bread to toast and was
not allowed to go to their house in Couilly for it, it ceased to be a joke
at all.

It was useless for me to laugh, and to explain that an order was an
order, and that Couilly was Couilly, whether it was at my gate or down
the hill.

Père's anger was funnier than my joke. He saw nothing comic in the
situation. To him it was absurd. Monsieur le Général, commandant de
la cinquième armée ought to know that I was all right. If he didn't
know it, it was high time someone told him.

In his gentle old voice he made quite a harangue.

All Frenchmen can make harangues.

It was difficult for me to convince him that I was not in the slightest
degree annoyed; that I thought it was amusing; that there was
nothing personally directed against me in the order; that I was only
one of many foreigners inside the zone des armées; that the only way
to catch the dangerous ones was to forbid us all to circulate.

I might have spared myself the breath it took to argue with him. If I
ever thought I could change the conviction of a French peasant, I
don't think so since I have lived among them. I spent several days
last summer trying to convince Père that the sun did not go round the
earth. I drew charts of the heavens,--you should have seen them--
and explained the solar system. He listened attentively--one has to
listen when the patronne talks, you know--and I thought he
understood. When it was all over--it took me three days--he said to
me:

"Bien. All the same, look at the sun. This morning it was behind
Maria's house over there. I saw it. At noon it was right over my
orchard. I saw it there. At five o'clock it will be behind the hill at
Esbly. You tell me it does not move! Why, I see it move every day.
Alors--it moves."

I gave it up. All my lovely exposition of us rolling through space had
missed. So there is no hope of my convincing him that this new
regulation regarding foreigners is not designed expressly to annoy
me.

I often wonder exactly what all this war means to him. He reads his
newspaper religiously. He seems to understand. He talks very well
about it. But he is detached in a way. He hates it. It has aged him
terribly. But just what it means to him I can't know.



XIX



Christmas Day, 1915


Well, here I am, alone, on my second war Christmas! All my efforts to
get a permis de sortir failed.

Ten days after I wrote you last, there was a rumor that all foreigners
were to be expelled from the zone of military operations. My friends in
Paris began to urge me to close up the house and go into town,
where I could at least be comfortable.

I simply cannot. I am accustomed now to living alone. I am not fit to
live among active people. If I leave my house, which needs constant
care, it will get into a terrible condition, and, once out of it, there is
no knowing what difficulty I might have to get back. The future is all
so uncertain. Besides, I really want to see the thing out right here.

I made two efforts to get a permission to go to Voulangis. It is only
five miles away. I wrote to the commander of the 5th Army Corps
twice. I got no answer. Then I was told that I could not hope to reach
him with a personal letter--that I must communicate with him through
the civil authorities. I made a desperate effort. I decided to dare the
regulations and appeal to the commander of the gendarmes at Esbly.

There I had a queer interview--at first very discreet and very
misleading, so far as they were concerned. In the end, however, I
had the pleasure of seeing my two letters to Monsieur le General
attached to a long sheet of paper, full of writing,--my dossier, they
called it. They did not deign to tell me why my letters, sent to the army
headquarters, had been filed at the gendarmerie. I suppose that was
none of my business. Nor did they let me see what was written on the
long sheet to which the letters were attached. Finally, they did stoop
to tell me that a gendarme had been to the mairie regarding my case,
and that if I would present myself at Quincy the next morning, I would
find a petition covering my demand awaiting my signature. It will be
too late to serve the purpose for which it was asked, but I'll take it for
Paris, if I can get it.

For lack of other company I invited Khaki to breakfast with me today.
He didn't promise formally to come--but he was there. By devoting
myself to him he behaved very well indeed, and did not disturb the
table decorations. Luckily, they were not good to eat. He sat in a chair
beside me, and now and then I had to pardon him for putting his
elbow on the table. I did that the more graciously as I was surprised
that he did not sit on it. He had his own fork, and except that, now and
then, he got impatient and reached out a white paw to take a bit of
chicken from my fork just before it reached my mouth, he committed
no grave breach of table manners. He did refuse to keep his bib on,
and he ate more than I did, and enjoyed the meal better. In fact, I
should not have enjoyed it at all but for him. He had a gorgeous time.

I did not invite Garibaldi. He did not know anything about it. He is too
young to enjoy a "function." He played in the garden during the meal,
happy and content to have a huge breakfast of bread and gravy; he
is a bread eater--thoroughly French.

I even went so far as to dress for Khaki, and put a Christmas rose in
my hair. Alas! It was all wasted on him.

This is all the news I have to send you, and I cannot even send a
hopeful message for 1916. The end looks farther off for me than it did
at the beginning of the year. It seems to me that the world is only now
beginning to realize what it is up against.



XX



January 23, 1916


Well, I have really been to Paris, and it was so difficult that I ask
myself why I troubled.

I had to await the pleasure of the commander of the Cinquième
Armée, as the Embassy was powerless to help me, although they did
their best with great good will. I enclose you my sauf-conduit that you
may see what so important a document is like. Then I want to tell you
the funny thing--/ never had to show it once. I was very curious to
know just how important it was. I went by the way of Esbly. On buying
my ticket I expected to be asked for it, as there was a printed notice
beside the window to the ticket-office announcing that all purchasers
of tickets must be furnished with a sauf-conduit. No one cared to see
mine. No one asked for it on the train. No one demanded it at the exit
in Paris. Nor, when I returned, did anyone ask for it either at the
ticket-office in Paris or at the entrance to the train. Considering that I
had waited weeks for it, had to ask for it three times, had to explain
what I was going to do in Paris, where I was going to stay, how long,
etc., I had to be amused.

I was really terribly disappointed. I had longed to show it. It seemed
so chic to travel with the consent of a big general.

Of course, if I had attempted to go without it, I should have risked
getting caught, as, at any time, the train was liable to be boarded and
all papers examined.

I learned at the Embassy, where the military attaché had consulted
the Ministry of War, that an arrangement was to be made later
regarding foreigners, and that we were to be provided with a special
book which, while it would not allow us to circulate freely, would give
us the right to demand a permission--and get it if the military
authorities chose. No great change that.

The visit served little purpose except to show me a sad-looking Paris
and make me rejoice to get back.

Now that the days are so short, and it is dark at four o'clock, Paris is
almost unrecognizable. With shop-shutters closed, tramway windows
curtained, very few street-lights--none at all on short streets--no
visible lights in houses, the city looks dead. You 'd have to see it to
realize what it is like.

The weather was dull, damp, the cold penetrating, and the
atmosphere depressing, and so was the conversation. It is better
here on the hilltop, even though, now and then, we hear the guns.

Coming back from Paris there were almost no lights on the platforms
at the railway stations, and all the coaches had their curtains drawn.
At the station at Esbly the same situation--a few lights, very low, on
the main platform, and absolutely none on the platform where I took
the narrow-gauge for Couilly. I went stumbling, in absolute blackness,
across the main track, and literally felt my way along the little train to
find a door to my coach. If it had not been for the one lamp on my
little cart waiting in the road, I could not have seen where the exit at
Couilly was. It was not gay, and it was far from gay climbing the long
hill, with the feeble rays of that one lamp to light the blackness.
Luckily Ninette knows the road in the dark.

In the early days of the war it used to be amusing in the train, as
everyone talked, and the talk was good. Those days are passed.
With the now famous order pasted on every window:

Taisez-vous! Méfiez-vous.
Les oreilles ennemies vous écoutent

no one says a word. I came back from Paris with half a dozen officers
in the compartment. Each one, as he entered, brought his hand to
salute, and sat down, without a word. They did not even look at one
another. It is one of the most marked changes in attitude that I have
seen since the war. It is right. We were all getting too talkative, but it
takes away the one charm there was in going to Paris. I've had no
adventures since I wrote to you Christmas Day, although we did
have, a few days after that, five minutes of excitement.

One day I was walking in the garden. It was a fairly bright day, and
the sun was shining through the winter haze. I had been counting my
tulips, which were coming up bravely, admiring my yellow crocuses,
already in flower, and hoping the sap would not begin to rise in the
rose bushes, and watching the Marne, once more lying like a sea
rather than a river over the fields, and wondering how that awful
winter freshet was going to affect the battle-front, when, suddenly,
there was a terrible explosion. It nearly shook me off my feet.

The letter-carrier from Quincy was just mounting the hill on his wheel,
and he promptly tumbled off it. I happened to be standing where I
could see over the hedge, but before I could get out the stupid
question, "What was that?" there came a second explosion, then a
third and a fourth.

They sounded in the direction of Paris.

"Zeppelins," was my first thought, but that was hardly the hour for
them.

I stood rooted to the spot. I could hear voices at Voisins, as if all the
world had rushed into the street. Then I saw Amélie running down the
hill. She said nothing as she passed. The postman picked himself up,
passed me a letter, shrugged his shoulders, and pushed his wheel up
the hill.

I patiently waited until the voices ceased in Voisins. I could see no
smoke anywhere. Amélie came back at once, but she brought no
explanation. She only brought a funny story.

There is an old woman in Voisins, well on to ninety, called Mère R---.
The war is too tremendous for her localized mind to grasp. Out of
the confusion she picks and clings to certain isolated facts. At the first
explosion, she rushed, terrorized, into the street, gazing up to the
heavens, and shaking her withered old fists above her head, she
cried in her shrill, quavering voice: "Now look at that! They told us the
Kaiser was dying. It's a lie. It's a lie, you see, for here he comes
throwing his cursed bombs down on us."

You know all this month the papers have had Guillaume dying of that
ever-recurring cancer of the throat. I suppose the old woman thinks
Guillaume is carrying all this war on in person. In a certain sense she
is not very far wrong.

For a whole week we got no explanation of that five minutes'
excitement. Then it leaked out that the officer of the General Staff,
who has been stationed at the Chateau de Condé, halfway between
here and Esbly, was about to change his section. He had, in the park
there, four German shells from the Marne battlefield, which had not
been exploded. He did not want to take them with him, and it was
equally dangerous to leave them in the park, so he decided to
explode them, and had not thought it necessary to warn anybody but
the railroad people.

It is a proof of how simple our life is that such an event made
conversation for weeks.



XXI



February 16, 1916


Well, we are beginning to get a little light--we foreigners--on our
situation. On February 2, I was ordered to present myself again at the
mairie. I obeyed the summons the next morning, and was told that
the military authorities were to provide all foreigners inside the zone
des armées, and all foreigners outside, who, for any reason, needed
to enter the zone, with what is called a "carnet d'étrangère," and that,
once I got that, I would have the privilege of asking for a permission
to circulate, but, until that document was ready, I must be content not
to leave my commune, nor to ask for any sort of a sauf-conduit.

I understand that this regulation applies even to the doctors and
infirmières, and ambulance drivers of all the American units at work in
France. I naturally imagine that some temporary provision must be
made for them in the interim.

I had to make a formal petition for this famous carnet, and to furnish
the military authorities with two photographs--front view,--size and
form prescribed.

I looked at the mayor's secretary and asked him how the Old Scratch
--I said frankly diable--I was to get photographed when he had
forbidden me to leave my commune, and knew as well as I that there
was no photographer here.

Quite seriously he wrote me a special permit to go to Couilly where
there is a man who can photograph. He wrote on it that it was good
for one day, and the purpose of the trip "to be photographed by the
order of the mayor in order to get my carnet d'étrangère," and he
solemnly presented it to me, without the faintest suspicion that it was
humorous.

Between you and me, I did not even use it. I had still one of the
photographs made for my passport and other papers. Amélie carried
it to Couilly and had it copied. Very few people would recognize me by
it. It is the counterfeit presentment of a smiling, fat old lady, but it is
absolutely réglementaire in size and form, and so will pass muster. I
have seen some pretty queer portraits on civil papers.

We are promised these carnets in the course of "a few weeks," so,
until then, you can think of me as, to all intents and purposes, really
interned.

It may interest you to know that on the 9th,--just a week ago--a
Zeppelin nearly got to Meaux. It was about half past eleven in the
evening when the drums beat "lights out," along the hillside. There
weren't many to put out, for everyone is in bed at that hour, and we
have no street-lights, but an order is an order. The only result of the
drum was to call everyone out of bed, in the hope "to see a Zeppelin."
We neither heard nor saw anything.

Amélie said with a grin next morning, "Eh, bien, only one thing is
needed to complete our experiences--that a bomb should fall shy of
its aim--the railroad down there--and wipe Huiry off the map, and write
it in history."

I am sorry that you find holes in my letters. It is your own fault. You do
not see this war from my point of view yet--alas! But you will. Make a
note of that. The thing that you will not understand, living, as you do,
in a world going about its daily routine, out of sight, out of hearing of
all this horror, is that Germany's wilful destruction is on a
preconceived plan--a racial principle. The more races she can reduce
and enfeeble the more room there will be for her. Germany wants
Belgium--but she wants as few Belgians as possible. So with Poland,
and Servia, and northeast France. She wants them to die out as fast
as possible. It is a part of the programme of a people calling
themselves the elect of the world--the only race, in their opinion,
which ought to survive.

She had a forty-four years' start of the rest of the world in preparing
her programme. It is not in two years, or in three, that the rest of the
world can overtake her. That advantage is going to carry her a long
way. Some people still believe that advantage will exist to the end. I
don't. Still, one of the overwhelming facts of this war is to me that:
Germany held Belgium and northeast France at the end of 1914, and
yet, all along the Allied fronts, with Germany fighting on invaded
territory, they cried: "She is beaten!" So, indeed, her strategy was. At
the end of 1915 she had two new allies, and held all of Servia,
Montenegro, and Russian Poland, and still the Allies persisted: "She
is licked, but she does not know it yet." It is one of the finest proofs of
the world's faith in the triumph of the Right that so many believe this
to be true.

You are going to come some day to the opinion I hold--that if we want
universai peace we must first get rid of the race that does not want it
or believe in it. Forbidden subject? I know. But when I resist
temptation you find holes in my letters, and seem to imagine that I am
taking no notice of things that happen. I notice fast enough, and I am
so interested that I hope to see the condemnation, already passed in
England, against Kaiser, Kronprinz and Company, for "wilful murder,"
executed, even if I cannot live to see Germany invaded.

This is what you get for saying, "You make no comment on the
overrunning of Servia or the murder of Edith Cavell, or the failure of
the Gallipoli adventure." After all, these are only details in the great
undertaking. As we say of every disaster, "They will not affect the final
result." It is getting to be a catch-word, but it is true.

Germany is absolutely right in considering Great Britain her greatest
enemy. She knows today that, even if she could get to Paris or
Petrograd, it would not help her. She would still have Britain to settle
with. I wonder if the Kaiser has yet waked up to a realization of his
one very great achievement--the reawakening of Greater Britain? He
dreamed of dealing his mother's country a mortal blow.

The blow landed, but it healed instead of killing.

This war is infernal, diabolical--and farcical--if we look at the deeds
that are done every day. Luckily we don't and mustn't, for we all know
that there are things in the world a million times worse than death,
and that there are future results to be aimed at which make death
gloriously worth while. Those are the things we must look at.

I have always told you that I did not find the balance of things much
changed, and I don't. I am afraid that you cannot cultivate, civilize,
humanize--choose your word--man to such a point that, so long as he
is not emasculated, his final argument in the cause of honor and
justice will not be his fists--with or without a weapon in them--which is
equivalent to saying, I am afraid, that so long as there are two men
on earth there will always be the chance of a fight.

Thus far February has been a droll month. I have seen Februaries in
France which have been spring-like, with the chestnut trees in bud,
and the primroses in flower, and lilacs in leaf. This February has been
a strange mixture of spring awkwardly slipping out of the lap of winter
and climbing back again. There have been days when the sun was
so warm that I could drive without a rug, and found furs a burden;
there have been wonderful moonlit nights; but the most of the time,
so far, it has been nasty. On warm days flowers began to sprout and
the buds on the fruit-trees to swell. That made Père sigh and talk
about the lune rousse. We have had days of wind and rain which be-
longed in a correct March. I am beginning to realize that the life of a
farmer is a life of anxiety. If I can take Père's word for it, it is always
cold when it should not be; the hot wave never arrives at the right
moment; when it should be dry it rains; and when the earth needs
water the rain refuses to fall. In fact, on his testimony, I am convinced
that the weather is never just right, except to the mere lover of nature,
who has nothing to lose and nothing to gain by its caprices.

The strange thing is that we all stand it so well. If anyone had told me
that I could have put up with the life I have been living for two winters
and be none the worse for it, I should have thought him heartless.
Yet, like the army, I am surely none the worse for it, and, in the army,
many of the men are better for it. The youngsters who come home on
leave are as rugged as possible. They have straightened up and
broadened their chests. Even the middle-aged are stronger. There is
a man here who is a master mason, a hard-working, ambitious,
honest chap, very much loved in the commune. He worked on my
house, so I know him well. Before the war he was very delicate. He
had chronic indigestion, and constantly recurring sore throats. He
was pale, and his back was beginning to get round. As he has five
children, he is in an ammunition factory. He was home the other day.
I asked him about his health, he looked so rosy, so erect, and strong.
He laughed, and replied: "Never so well in my life. I haven't had a
cold this winter, and I sleep in a board shanty and have no fire, and I
eat in a place so cold my food is chilled before I can swallow it. My
indigestion is a thing of the past. I could digest nails!"

You see I am always looking for consolations in the disaster. One
must, you know.



XXII



March 2, 1916


We are living these days in the atmosphere of the great battle of
Verdun. We talk Verdun all day, dream Verdun all night--in fact, the
thought of that great attack in the east absorbs every other idea. Not
in the days of the Marne, nor in the trying days of Ypres or the Aisne
was the tension so terrible as it is now. No one believes that Verdun
can be taken, but the anxiety is dreadful, and the idea of what the
defence is costing is never absent from the minds even of those who
are firmly convinced of what the end must be.

I am sending you a Forain cartoon from the Figaro, which exactly
expresses the feeling of the army and the nation.

You have only to look on a map to know how important the position is
at Verdun, the supposed-to-be-strongest of the four great fortresses--
Verdun, Toul, Epinay, and Belfort--which protect the only frontier by
which the Kaiser has a military right to try to enter France, and which
he avoided on account of its strength.

Verdun itself is only one day's march from Metz. If you study it up on
a map you will learn that, within a circuit of thirty miles, Verdun is
protected by thirty-six redoubts. But what you will not learn is that this
great fortification is not yet connected with its outer redoubts by the
subterranean passages which were a part of the original scheme. It is
that fact which is disturbing. Every engineer in the French army
knows that the citadel at Metz has underground communications with
all its circle of outer ramparts. Probably every German engineer
knows that Verdun's communication passages were never made.
Isn't it strange (when we remember that, even in the days of walled
cities, there were always subterraneans leading out of the fortified
towns beyond the walls--wonderful works of masonry, intact today,
like those of Provins, and even here on this hill) that a nation which
did not want war should have left unfinished the protection of such a
costly fortress?

You probably knew, as usual, before we did, that the battle had
begun. We knew nothing of it here until February 23, three days after
the bombardment began, with the French outer lines nine miles
outside the city, although only twenty-four hours after was the full
force of the German artillery let loose, with fourteen German divisions
waiting to march against the three French divisions holding the
position. Can you wonder we are anxious?

We have been buoyed up for weeks by the hope of an Allied
offensive--and instead came this!

The first day's news was bad, so was that of the 24th. I have never
since the war began felt such a vibrant spirit of anxiety about me. To
add to it, just before midnight on the 24th snow began to fall. In the
morning there was more snow on the ground than I had ever seen in
France. It was a foot deep in front of the house, and on the north
side, where it had drifted, it was twice that depth. This was so unusual
that no one seemed to know what to do. Amélie could not get to me.
No one is furnished with foot-gear to walk in snow, except men who
happen to have high galoshes. I looked out of the window, and saw
Père shovelling away to make a path to the gate, but with an iron
shovel it was a long passage. It was nine o'clock before he got the
gate open, and then Amélie came slipping down. Père was busy all
day keeping that path open, for the snow continued to fall.

This meant that communications were all stopped. Trains ran slowly
on the main lines, but our little road was blocked. It continued to snow
for two days, and for two days we had no news from the outside
world.

On the morning of the 27th one of our old men went to the Demi-
Lune and watched for a military car coming in from Meaux. After
hours of waiting, one finally appeared. He ran into the road and hailed
it, and as the chauffeur put on his brakes, he called:

"Et Verdun?"

"Elle tient," was the reply, and the auto rushed on.

That was all the news we had in those days.

When communications were opened the news we got was not
consoling. First phase of the battle closed six days ago--with the
Germans in Douaumont, and the fighting still going on--but the spirit
of the French not a jot changed. Here, among the civilians, they say:
"Verdun will never fall," and out at the front, they tell us that the
poilus simply hiss through their clenched teeth, as they fight and fall,
"They shall not pass." And all the time we sit inactive on the hilltop
holding that thought. It's all we can do.

We were livened up a bit last week because the village clown was on
his home leave. He is a lad of twenty-three with a young wife and a
little three-year-old girl, who has learned to talk since "dada" saw her,
and is her father right over--full of fun, good-humor, and laughter.

I have told you that we almost never hear war talk. We did hear some
while our local clown was home, but how much was true and how
much his imagination I don't know. Anyway, his drollery made us all
laugh. His mother-in-law had died since he left, and when his wife
wept on his shoulder, he patted her on the back, and winked over his
shoulder at his admiring friends, as he said: "Chut, ma fille, if you are
going to cry in these days because someone dies, you'll have no time
to sleep. Only think of it, the old lady died in bed, and that is
everything which is most aristocratic in these days."

I regret to say that this did not console wife one bit.

As he never can tell anything without acting it out, he was very comic
when he told about the battle in which the Prussian Guard was wiped
out. He is in the artillery, and he acted out the whole battle. When he
got to the point where the artillery was ordered to advance, he gave
an imitation of himself scrambling on to his gun, and swaying there,
as the horses struggled to advance over the rough road ploughed
with shell, until they reached the field where the Guard had fallen.
Then he imitated the gesture of the officer riding beside the guns, and
stopping to look off at the field, as, with a shrug, he said: "Ah, les
beaux gars" then swung his sabre and shouted: "En avant!"

Then came the imitation of a gunner hanging on his gun as the gun-
carriage went bumping over the dead, the sappers and pétrole
brigade coming on behind, ready to spray and fire the field, shouting:
"Allez aux enfers, beaux gars de Prusse, et y attendre votre kaiser!"

It was all so humorous that one was shocked into laughter by the
meeting of the comic and the awful. I laughed first and shuddered
afterward. But we do that a great deal these days.

I don't think I told you that I had found a wonderful woman to help me
one day in the week in the garden. Her name is Louise, and she was
born in the commune, and has worked in the fields since she was
nine years old. She is a great character, and she is handsome--very
tall and so straight--thirty-three, married, with three children,--never
been sick in her life. She is a brave, gay thing, and I simply love to
see her striding along the garden paths, with her head in the air,
walking on her long legs and carrying her body as steadily as though
she had a bucket of water on her head. It is beautiful.

Well, Louise has a brother named Joseph, as handsome as she is,
and bigger. Joseph is in the heavy artillery, holding a mountain-top in
Alsace, and, would you believe it, he has been there twenty months,
and has never seen a German.

Of course, when you think of it, it is not so queer, really. The heavy
artillery is miles behind the infantry, and of course the gunners can't
see what they are firing at--that is the business of the officers and the
eyes of the artillery--the aeroplanes. Still, it is queer to think of
firing big guns twenty months and never seeing the targets. Odder
still, Joseph tells me he has never seen a wounded or a dead
soldier since the war began. Put these little facts away to ponder on.
It is a war of strange facts.



XXIII



April 28, 1916


I have lived through such nerve-trying days lately that I rarely feel in
the humor to write a letter.

Nothing happens here.

The spring has been as changeable as even that which New England
knows. We had four fairly heavy snowstorms in the first fortnight of
the awful fighting of Verdun. Then we had wet, and then unexpected
heat--the sort of weather in which everyone takes cold. I get up in the
morning and dress like a polar bear for a drive, and before I get back
the sun is so hot I feel like stripping.

There is nothing for anyone to do but wait for news from the front. It is
the same old story--they are see-sawing at Verdun, with the Germans
much nearer than at the beginning--and still we have the firm faith
that they will never get there. Doesn't it seem to prove that had
Germany fought an honest war she could never have invaded
France?

Now, in addition, we've all this strain of waiting for news from Dublin.
The affairs of the whole world are in a mess.

There are many aspects of the war which would interest you if you
were sitting down on my hilltop with me--conditions which may seem
more significant than they are. For example, the Government has
sent back from the front a certain number of men to aid in the farm
work until the planting is done. Our commune does not get many of
these. Our old men and boys and women do the work fairly well, with
the aid of a few territorials, who guard the railway two hours each
night and work in the fields in the daytime. The women here are used
to doing field work, and don't mind doing more than their usual stunt.

I often wonder if some of the women are not better off than in the
days before the war. They do about the same work, only they are not
bothered by their men.

In the days before the war the men worked in the fields in the
summer, and in the carrière de plâtre, at Mareuil-lès-Meaux, in the
winter. It was a hard life, and most of them drank a little. It is never
the kind of drunkenness you know in America, however. Most of them
were radical Socialists in politics--which as a rule meant "ag'in' the
government." Of course, being Socialists and French, they simply
had to talk it all over. The café was the proper place to do that--the
provincial café being the workingman's club. Of course, the man
never dreamed of quitting until legal closing hour, and when he got
home, if wife objected, why he just hit her a clip,--it was, of course, for
her good,--"a woman, a dog, and a walnut tree,"--you know the
adage.

Almost always in these provincial towns it is the woman who is thrifty,
and often she sees but too little of her man's earnings. Still, she is, in
her way, fond of him, tenacious in her possession of him, and
Sundays and fête days they get on together very handsomely.

All the women here, married or not, have always worked, and worked
hard. The habit has settled on them. Few of them actually expect their
husbands to support them, and they do not feel degraded because
their labor helps, and they are wonderfully saving. They spend almost
nothing on their clothes, never wear a hat, and usually treasure, for
years, one black dress to wear to funerals. The children go to school
bareheaded, in black pinafores. It is rare that the humblest of these
women has not money put aside.

You don't have to look very deep into the present situation to discover
that, psychologically, it is queer. Marriage is, after all, in so many
classes, a habit. Here are the women of the class to which I refer
working very little harder than in the days before the war. Only, for
nearly two years they have had no drinking man to come home at
midnight either quarrelsome or sulky; no man's big appetite to cook
for; no man to wash for or to mend for. They have lived in absolute
peace, gone to bed early to a long, unbroken sleep, and get twenty-
five cents a day government aid, plus ten cents for each child. As
they all raise their own vegetables, keep chickens and rabbits, and
often a goat, manage to have a little to take to market, and a little time
every week to work for other people, and get war prices for their
time,--well, I imagine you can work out the problem yourself.'

Mind you, there is not one of these women, who, in her way, will not
assure you that she loves her husband. She would be drawn and
quartered before she would harm him. If anything happens to him she
will weep bitterly. But, under my breath, I can assure you that there is
many a woman of that class a widow today who is better off for it, and
so are her children. The husband who died "en hero," the father dead
for his country, is a finer figure in the family life than the living man
ever was or could have been.

Of course, it is in the middle classes, where the wives have to be
kept, where marriage is less a partnership than in the working classes
and among the humbler commercial classes, that there is so much
suffering. But that is the class which invariably suffers most in any
disaster.

I do not know how characteristic of the race the qualities I find among
these people are, nor can I, for lack of experience, be sure in what
degree they are absolutely different from those of any class in the
States. For example--this craving to own one's home. Almost no one
here pays rent. There is a lad at the foot of the hill, in Voisins, who
was married just before the war. He has a tiny house of two rooms
and kitchen which he bought just before his marriage for the sum of
one hundred and fifty francs--less than thirty dollars. He paid a small
sum down, and the rest at the rate of twenty cents a week. There is a
small piece of land with it, on which he does about as intensive
farming as I ever saw. But it is his own.

The woman who works in my garden owns her place. She has been
paying for it almost ever since she was married,--sixteen years ago,--
and has still forty dollars to pay. She cultivates her own garden, raises
her own chickens and rabbits, and always has some to sell. Her
husband works in the fields for other people, or in the quarries, and
she considers herself prosperous, as she has been able to keep her
children in school, and owes no one a penny, except, of course, the
sum due on her little place. She has worked since she was nine, but
her children have not, and, when she dies, there will be something for
them, if it is no more than the little place. In all probability, before
that time comes, she will have bought more land--to own ground is
the dream of these people, and they do it in such a strange way.

I remember in my girlhood, when I knew the Sandy River Valley
country so well, that when a farmer wanted to buy more land he
always tried, at no matter what sacrifice, to get a piece adjoining what
he already owned, and put a fence around it. It is different here.
People own a piece of land here, and a piece there, and another
piece miles away, and there are no fences.

For example, around Père Abelard's house there is a fruit garden and
a kitchen garden. The rest of his land is all over the place. He has a
big piece of woodland at Pont aux Dames, where he was born, and
another on the route de Mareuil. He has a field on the route de
Couilly, and another on the side of the hill on the route de Meaux, and
he has a small patch of fruit trees and a potato field on the chemin
Madame, and another big piece of grassland running down the hill
from Huiry to Condé.

Almost nothing is fenced in. Grain fields, potato patches, beet fields
belonging to different people touch each other without any other
barrier than the white stones, almost level with the soil, put in by the
surveyors.

Of course they are always in litigation, but, as I told you, a lawsuit is a
cachet of respectability in France.

As for separating a French man or woman from the land--it is almost
impossible. The piece of woodland that Abelard owns at Pont aux
Dames is called "Le Paradis." It is a part of his mother's estate, and
his sister, who lives across the Morin, owns the adjoining lot. It is of
no use to anyone. They neither of them ever dream of cutting the
wood. Now and then, when we drive, we go and look at it, and Père
tells funny stories of the things he did there when he was a lad. It is
full of game, and not long ago he had an offer for it. The sum was not
big, but invested would have added five hundred francs a year to his
income. But no one could make either him or his sister resolve to part
with it. So there it lies idle, and the only thing it serves for is to add
to the tax bill every year. But they would rather own land than have
money in the bank. Land can't run away. They can go and look at it,
press their feet on it, and realize that it is theirs.

I am afraid the next generation is going to be different, and the
disturbing thing is that it is the women who are changing. So many of
them, who never left the country before, are working in the
ammunition factories and earning unheard-of money, and spending it,
which is a radical and alarming feature of the situation.

You spoke in one of your recent letters of the awful cost of this war in
money. But you must remember that the money is not lost. It is only
redistributed. Whether or not the redistribution is a danger is
something none of us can know yet; that is a thing only the future can
show. One thing is certain, it has forcibly liberated women.

You ask how the cats are. They are remarkable. Khaki gets more
savage every day, and less like what I imagined a house cat ought to
be. He has thrashed every cat in the commune except Didine, and
never got a scratch to show for it. But he has never scratched me. I
slapped him the other day. He slapped back,--but with a velvet paw,
never even showed a claw.

Didn't you always think a cat hated water? I am sure I did. He goes
out in all weathers. Last winter he played in the snow like a child, and
rolled in it, and no rainstorm can keep him in the house. The other
day he insisted on going out in a pouring rain, and I got anxious about
him. Finally I went to the door and called him, and, after a while, he
walked out of the dog's kennel, gave me a reproachful look as if to
say, "Can't you leave a chap in peace?" and returned to the kennel.
The one thing he really hates is to have me leave the house. He goes
where his sweet will leads him, but he seems to think that I should be
always on the spot.



XXIV



May 23, 1916


I begin to believe that we shall have no normal settled weather until
all this cannon play is over. We've had most unseasonable hailstorms
which have knocked all the buds off the fruit-trees, so, in addition to
other annoyances, we shall have no fruit this year.

There is nothing new here except that General Foch is in the
ambulance at Meaux. No one knows it; not a word has appeared in
the newspapers. It was the result of a stupid, but unavoidable,
automobile accident. To avoid running over a woman and child on a
road near here, the automobile, in which he was travelling rapidly in
company with his son-in-law, ran against a tree and smashed. Luckily
he was not seriously hurt, though his head got damaged.

On Thursday Poincaré passed over our hill, with Briand, en route to
meet Joffre at the General's bedside. I did not see them, but some of
the people at Quincy did. It was a lucky escape for Foch. He would
have hated to die during this war of a simple, unmilitary automobile
accident, and the army could ill afford just now to lose one of the
heroes of the Marne. Carefully as the fact has been concealed, we
knew it here through our ambulance, which is a branch of that at
Meaux, where he is being nursed.

Three months since the battle at Verdun began, and it is still going
on, with the Germans hardly more than four miles from the city, and
yet it begins to look as if they knew themselves that the battle--the
most terrible the world has ever seen--was a failure. Still, I have
changed my mind. I begin to believe that had Germany centred all
her forces on that frontier in August, 1914, when her first-line troops
were available, and their hopes high, she would probably have
passed. No one can know that, but it is likely, and many military men
think so. Isn't it a sort of poetic justice to think that it is even
possible that had Germany fought an honorable war she might have
got to Paris? "Whom the gods destroy, they first make mad."

I do nothing but work in the garden on rare days when it does not
rain, and listen to the cannon. That can't be very interesting stuff to
make a letter of. The silence here, which was so dear to me in the
days when I was preparing the place, still hangs over it. But, oh, the
difference! Now and then, in spite of one's self, the very thought of all
that is going on so very near us refuses to take its place and keep in
the perspective, it simply jumps out of the frame of patriotism and the
welfare of the future. Then the only thing to do is to hunt for the visible
consolations--and one always finds them.

For example--wouldn't it seem logical that such a warfare would
brutalize the men who are actually in it? It doesn't. It seems to have
just the contrary effect. I can't tell you how good the men are to one
another, or how gentle they are to the children. It is strange that it
should be so, but it is. I don't try to understand it, I merely set it down
for you.



XXV



June 16, 1916


You can imagine how trying and unseasonable the weather is when I
tell you that I not only had a fire yesterday, but that I went to bed with
a hotwater bottle. Imagine it! I have only been able to eat out-of-doors
once so far.

This is not a letter--just a line, lest you worry if you do not hear that I
am well. I am too anxiously watching that see-saw at Verdun, with the
German army only four miles from the city, at the end of the fourth
month, to talk about myself, and in no position to write about things
which you know. One gets dumb, though not hopeless. To add to our
anxieties the crops are not going to be good. It was continually wet at
planting time, and so cold, and there has been so little sun that
potatoes are rotting in the fields already, and the harvest will be
meagre. The grain, especially that planted last fall, is fairly good, but,
as I told you, after the tempest we had, there is to be no fruit. When I
say none, I absolutely mean none. I have not one cherry. Louise
counted six prunes on my eight trees, and I have just four pears and
not a single apple. Père's big orchard is in the same condition. In
addition, owing to the terrible dampness,--the ground is wet all the
time,--the slugs eat up all the salad, spoil all the strawberries, and
chew off every young green thing that puts its head above the
ground, and that in spite of very hard work on my part. Every morning
early, and every afternoon, at sundown, I put in an hour's hard work,--
hard, disgusting work,--picking them up with the tongs and dropping
them into boiling water. So you see every kind of war is going on at
the same time. Where is the good of wishing a bad harvest on
Germany, when we get it ourselves at the same time? However, I
suppose that you in the States can help us out, and England has jolly
well fixed it so that no one can easily help Germany out.



XXVI



August 4, 1916


Well, here we are in the third year of the war, as Kitchener foresaw,
and still with a long way to go to the frontier.

Thanks, by the way, for the article about Kitchener. After all, what can
one say of such an end for such a man, after such a career, in which
so many times he might have found a soldier's death--then to be
drowned like a rat, doing his duty? It leaves one simply speechless. I
was, you see. I hadn't a comment to throw at you.

It's hot at last, I'm thankful to say, and equally thankful that the news
from the front is good. It is nothing to throw one's hat in the air about,
but every inch in the right direction is at least prophetic.

Nothing to tell you about. Not the smallest thing happens here. I do
nothing but read my paper, fuss in the garden, which looks very
pretty, do up a bundle for my filleul once in a while, write a few letters,
and drive about, at sundown, in my perambulator. If that is not an
absurd life for a lady in the war zone in these days, I 'd like to know
what it is.

I hope this weather will last. It is good for the war and good for the
crops. But I am afraid I shall hope in vain.



XXVII



September 30, 1916


This has been the strangest summer I ever knew. There have been
so few really summer days. I could count the hot days on my fingers.
None of the things have happened on which I counted.

What a disappointment poor Russia has been to the big world, which
knew nothing about her except that she could put fifteen millions of
men in the field. However, as we say, "all that is only a detail." We are
learning things every day. Nothing has opened our eyes more than
seeing set at naught our conviction that, once the Rumanian frontier
was opened to the Russians, they would be on the Danube in no
time.

Do you remember how glibly we talked of the "Russian steam-roller,"
in September, 1914? I remember that, at that time, I had a letter from
a very clever chap who told me that "expert military men" looked to
see the final battle on our front, somewhere near Waterloo, before the
end of October, and that even "before that, the Russian steam-roller
would be crushing its way to Berlin." How much expert military men
have learned since then!

Still, wasn't it, in a certain sense, lucky that, in spite of the warning
of Kitchener, we did not, in the beginning, realize the road we had
to travel? As I look back on the two years, it all looks to me more
and more remarkable, seen even at this short perspective, that the
Allied armies, and most of all, the civilians behind the lines have, in
the face of the hard happenings of each day, stood up, and taken
it as they have, and hoped on.

I have got into a mood where it seems simply stupid to talk about it,
since I am, as usual, only eternally a spectator. I only long to keep my
eyes raised in a wide arc towards the end, to live each day as I can,
and wait. So why should I try to write to you of things which I do not
see, and of which only the last, faint, dying ripples reach us here?

You really must not pity me, as you insist upon doing, because
military restrictions draw a line about me, which I may not cross at my
own sweet will. I am used to it. It is not hard. For that matter, it is
much more trying to my French neighbors than it is to me.

I seem never to have told you that even they may not leave the
commune without a sauf-conduit. To be sure, they have only to go to
the mairie, and ask for it, to get it.

For months now the bridge over the Marne, at Meaux, has been
guarded, and even those going to market cannot cross without
showing their papers. The formality is very trying to them, for the
reason that the mairie opens at eight, and closes at twelve not to
reopen again until three and close at six. You see those hours are
when everyone is busiest in the fields. The man or woman who has to
go to market on Saturday must leave work standing and make a long
trip into Quincy--and often they have three or four miles to go on foot
to do it--just at the hour when it is least easy to spare the time.

To make it harder still, a new order went out a few weeks ago. Every
man, woman, and child (over fifteen) in the war zone has to have,
after October 1, a carte d'identité, to which must be affixed a
photograph.

This regulation has resulted in the queerest of embarrassments. A
great number of these old peasants--and young ones too--never had
a photograph taken. There is no photographer. The photographer at
Esbly and the two at Meaux could not possibly get the people all
photographed, and, in this uncertain weather, the prints made, in the
delay allowed by the military authorities. A great cry of protestation
went up. Photographers of all sorts were sent into the commune. The
town crier beat his drum like mad, and announced the places where
the photographers would be on certain days and hours, and ordered
the people to assemble and be snapped.

One of the places chosen was the courtyard at Amélie's, and you
would have loved seeing these bronzed old peasants facing a
camera for the first time. Some of the results were funny, especially
when the hurried and overworked operator got two faces on the
same negative, as happened several times.

Real autumn weather is here, but, for that matter, it has been more
like autumn than summer since last spring. The fields are lovely to
see on days when the sun shines. I drove the other day just for the
pleasure of sitting in my perambulator, on the hillside, and looking
over the slope of the wide wheat fields, where the women, in their
cotton jackets and their wide hats, were reaping. The harvesting
never looked so picturesque. I could pick out, in the distance, the tall
figure of my Louise, with a sheaf on her head and a sickle in her
hand, striding across the fields, and I thought how a painter would
have loved the scene, with the long rays of the late September
sunset illuminating the yellow stretch.

Last Wednesday we had a little excitement here, because sixteen
German prisoners, who were working on a farm at Vareddes,
escaped--some of them disguised as women.

I wasn't a bit alarmed, as it hardly seemed possible that they would
venture near houses in this district, but Père was very nervous, and
every time the dog barked he was out in the road to make sure that I
was all right.

Oddly enough, it happened on the very day when two hundred
arrived at Meaux to work in the sugar refinery. The next day there
was a regular battue, as the gendarmes beat up the fields and woods
in search of the fugitives.

If they caught them, they don't tell, but we have been ordered to
harbor no strangers under a severe penalty. But that condition has
really existed since the war broke out, as no one is even allowed to
engage a workman whose papers have not been visé at the mairie.

I have had to have a wood fire today--it is alarming, with winter
ahead, and so little fuel, to have to begin heating up at the end of
September--three weeks or a month earlier than usual.



XXVIII



November 25, 1916


It is raining,--a cold and steady downpour. I don't feel in the least like
writing a letter. This is only to tell you that I have got enough
anthracite coal to go to the end of February, and that the house is
warm and cosy, and I am duly thankful to face this third war-winter
free from fear of freezing. It cost thirty-two dollars a ton. How does
that sound to you?

I have planted my tulip bulbs, cleaned up the garden for winter and
settled down to life inside my walls, with my courage in both hands,
and the hope that next spring's offensive will not be a great
disappointment.

In the meantime I am sorry that Franz Josef did not live to see this
war of his out and take his punishment. I used to be so sorry for him
in the old days, when it seemed as if Fate showered disasters on the
heads of the Hapsburgs. I wasted my pity. The blows killed everyone
in the family but father. The way he stood it and never learned to be
kind or wise proved how little he needed pity.

All the signs say a cold winter. How I envy hibernating animals! I want
to live to see this thing out, but it would be nice to crawl into a hole,
like a bear, and sleep comfortably until the sun came out in the
spring, and the seeds began to sprout, and the army was thawed out,
and could move. In the silence on this hilltop, where nothing happens
but dishwashing and bedmaking and darning stockings, it is a long
way to springtime, even if it comes early.

I amused myself last week by defying the consign. I had not seen a
gendarme on the road for weeks. I had driven to Couilly once or
twice, though to do it I had to cross "the dead line." I had met the
garde champêtre there, and even talked to him, and he had said
nothing. So, hearing one day that my friend from Voulangis had a
permission to drive to the train at Esbly, and that she was returning
about nine in the morning, I determined to meet her on the road, and
at least see how she was looking and have a little chat. I felt a longing
to hear someone say: "Hulloa, you,"--just a few words in English.

So if you could have seen the road, just outside of Couilly, Thursday
morning, just after nine, you would have seen a Southern girl sitting in
a high cart facing east, and an elderly lady in a donkey cart facing
west, and the two of them watching the road ahead for the coming of
a bicycle pedalled by a gendarme with a gun on his back, as they
talked like magpies. It was all so funny that I was convulsed with
laughter. There we were, two innocent, harmless American women,
talking of our family affairs and our gardens, our fuel, our health, and
behaving like a pair of conspirators. We didn't dare to get out to
embrace each other, for fear--in case we saw a challenge coming--
that I could not scramble back and get away quickly enough, and we
only stayed a quarter of an hour. We might just as well have carried
our lunch and spent the day so far as I could see--only if anyone had
passed and had asked for our papers there would have been trouble.
However, we had our laugh, and decided that it was not worth while
to risk it again. But I could not help asking myself how, with all their
red tape, they ever caught any real suspect.

Do you remember that I told you some time ago about Louise's
brother, Joseph, in the heavy artillery, who had never seen a Boche?
Well, he is at home again for his eight days. He came to see me
yesterday. I said to him: "Well, Joseph, where did you come from this
time?"

"From the same place--the mountains in Alsace. We've not budged
for nearly two years."

"How long are you going to stay there?"

"To the end of the war, I imagine."

"But why?" I asked.

"What can we do, madame?" he replied. "There we are, on the top of
a mountain. We can't get down. The Germans can't get up. They are
across the valley on the top of a hill in the same fix."

"But what do you do up there?" I demanded.

"Well," he replied, "we watch the Germans, or at least the aeroplanes
do--we can't see them. They work on their defenses. They pull up
new guns and shift their emplacements. We let them work. Then our
big guns destroy their work."

"But what do they do, Joseph?"

"Well, they fire a few shots, and go to work again. But I'll tell you
something, madame, as sure as that we are both living, they would
not do a thing if we would only leave them in peace,--but we don't."

"Well, Joseph," I asked, "have you seen a Boche yet?"

"Oh, yes, madame, I've seen them. I see them, with a glass, working
in the fields, ploughing, and getting ready to plant them."

"And you don't do anything to prevent them?"

"Well, no. We can't very well. They always have a group of women
and children with every gang of workmen. They know, only too well,
that French guns will not fire at that kind of target. It is just the same
with their commissary trains--always women at the head, in the
middle, and in the rear."

Comment is unnecessary!



XXIX



December 6, 1916


Well, at last, the atmosphere on the hilltop is all changed. We have a
cantonnement de régiment again, and this time the most interesting
that we have ever had,--the 23d Dragoons, men on active service,
who are doing infantry work in the trenches at Tracy-le-Val, in the
Forêt de Laigue, the nearest point to Paris, in the battle-front.

It is, as usual, only the decorative and picturesque side of war, but it
is tremendously interesting, more so than anything which has
happened since the Battle of the Marne.

As you never had soldiers quartered on you--and perhaps you never
will have--I wish you were here now.

It was just after lunch on Sunday--a grey, cold day, which had
dawned on a world covered with frost--that there came a knock at the
salon door. I opened it, and there stood a soldier, with his heels
together, and his hand at salute, who said: "Bon jour, madame, avez-
vous un lit pour un soldat?"

Of course I had a bed for a soldier, and said so at once.

You see it is all polite and formal, but if there is a corner in the house
which can serve the army the army has a right to it. Everyone is
offered the privilege of being prettily gracious about it, and of letting
it appear as if a favor were being extended to the army, but, in case
one does not yield willingly, along comes a superior officer and
imposes a guest on the house.

However, that sort of thing never happens here. In our commune the
soldiers are loved. The army is, for that matter, loved all over France.
No matter what else may be conspué, the crowd never fails to cry
"Vive l'Armée!" although there are places where the soldier is not
loved as a visitor.

I asked the adjutant in, and showed him the room. He wrote it down
in his book, saluted me again with a smiling, "Merci bien, madame,"
and went on to make the rounds of the hamlet, and examine the
resources of Voisins, Joncheroy, and Quincy.

The noncommissioned officers, who arrange the cantonnements, are
very clever about it. They seem to know, by instinct, just what sort of
a man to put in each house, and they rarely blunder.

All that Sunday afternoon they were running around in the mud and
the cold drizzle that was beginning to fall, arranging, not only quarters
for the men, but finding shelter for three times as many horses, and
that was not easy, although every old grange on the hilltop was
cleaned out and put in order.

For half an hour the adjutant tried to convince himself that he could
put four horses in the old grange on the north side of my house. I was
perfectly willing, only I knew that if one horse kicked once, the floor of
the loft would fall on him, and that if four horses kicked once, at least
three walls would fall in on them. That would not be so very important
to me, but I'd hate to have handsome army horses killed like that on
my premises.

He finally decided that I was right, and then I went with him up to
Amélie's to see what we could do. I never realized what a ruin of a
hamlet this is until that afternoon. By putting seven horses in the old
grange at Père's,--a tumble-down old shack, where he keeps lumber
and dead farm wagons,--he never throws away or destroys anything--
we finally found places for all the horses. There were eleven at
Père's, and it took Amélie and Père all the rest of the afternoon to run
the stuff out of the old grange, which stands just at the turn of the
road, and has a huge broken door facing down the hill.

I often mean to send you a picture of that group of ruins--there are
five buildings in it. They were originally all joined together, but some of
them have had to be pulled down because they got too dangerous to
stand, and in the open spaces there is, in one place, a pavement of
red tiles, and in another the roof to a cellar, with stone steps leading
up to it. Not a bit of it is of any use to anyone, though the cellars
under them are used to store vegetables, and Amélie keeps rabbits
in one.

It was while we were arranging all this, and Amélie was assuring them
that they were welcome, but that she would not guarantee that the
whole group of ruins would not fall on their heads (and everything
was as gay as if we were arranging a week-end picnic rather than a
shelter for soldiers right out of the trenches), that the adjutant
explained how it happened that, in the third year of the war, the
fighting regiments were, for the first time, retiring as far as our
hill for their repos.

He told us that almost all the cavalry had been dismounted to do
infantry work in the trenches, but their horses were stalled in the rear.
It had been found that the horses were an embarrassment so near to
the battle-front, and so it had been decided to retire them further
behind the line, and send out part of the men to keep them exercised
and in condition, giving the men in turn three weeks in the trenches
and three weeks out.

They had first withdrawn the horses to Nanteuil-le-Haudrouin a little
northwest of us, about halfway between us and the trenches in the
Forêt de Laigue. But that cantonnement had not been satisfactory, so
they had retired here.

By sundown everything was arranged--four hundred horses along the
hilltop, and, they tell us, over fifteen thousand along the valley. We
were told that the men were leaving Nanteuil the next morning, and
would arrive during the afternoon.

It was just dusk on Monday when they began riding up the hill, each
mounted man leading two riderless horses.

It was just after they passed that there came a knock at the salon
door.

I opened it with some curiosity. When you are to lodge a soldier in a
house as intimately arranged as this one is, I defy anyone not to be
curious as to what the lodger is to be like.

There stood a tall, straight lad, booted and spurred, with a crop in one
gloved hand, and the other raised to his fatigue cap in salute, and a
smile on his bonny face,--as trig in his leather belted bleu de ciel tunic
as if ready for parade, and not a sign of war about him but his
uniform.

"Bon jour, madame" he said. "Permit me to introduce myself. Aspirant
B------, 23d Dragoons."

"Regular army?" I said, for I knew by the look of him that this was a
professional soldier.

"St. Cyr," he replied. That is the same as our West Point.

"You are welcome, Aspirant," I said. "Let me show you to your room."

"Thank you," he smiled. "Not yet. I only came to present myself, and
thank you in advance for your courtesy. I am in command of the
squad on your hill, replacing an officer who is not yet out of the
hospital. I must see my men housed and the horses under shelter.
May I ask you, if my orderly comes with my kit, to show him where to
put it, and explain to him how he may best get in and out of the
house, when necessary, without disturbing your habits?"

I had to laugh as I explained to him that locking up, when soldiers
were in the hamlet, was hardly even a formality, and that the orderly
could come and go at his will.

"Good," he replied. "Then I'll give myself the pleasure of seeing you
after dinner. I hope I shall in no way disturb you. I am always in before
nine," and he saluted again, backed away from the door, and
marched up the hill. He literally neither walked nor ran, he marched.

I wish I could give you an idea of what he looks like. At first sight I
gave him nineteen years at the outside, in spite of his height and his
soldierly bearing and his dignity.

Before he came in at half past eight his orderly had brought his kit,
unpacked and made himself familiar with the lay of the house, and
made friends with Amélie. So the Aspirant settled into an armchair in
front of the fire--having asked my permission--to chat a bit, and
account for himself, and it was evident to me that he had already
been asking questions regarding me--spurred, as usual, by the
surprise of finding an American here. As the officers' mess is at the
foot of the hill, at Voisins, that had been easy.

So, knowing intuitively, just by his manner and his words, that he had
asked questions about me--he even knew that I had been here from
the beginning of the war--I, with the privilege of my white hairs, asked
him even how old he was. He told me he was twenty--a year older
than I thought--that he was an only son, that his father was an officer
in the reserves and they lived about forty-five miles the other side of
Rheims, that his home was in the hands of the Germans, and the
house, which had been literally stripped of everything of value, was
the headquarters of a staff officer. And it was all told so quietly, so
simply, with no sign of emotion of any sort.

At exactly nine o'clock he rose to his feet, clicked his heels together,
made me a drawing-room bow, of the best form, as he said: "Eh,
bien, madame, je vous quitte. Bon soir et bonne nuit." Then he
backed to the foot of the stairs, bowed again, turned and went up
lightly on the toes of his heavy boots, and I never heard another
sound of him.

Of course in twenty-four hours he became the child of the house. I
feel like a grandmother to him. As for Amélie, she falls over herself
trying to spoil him, and before the second day he became "Monsieur
André" to her. Catch her giving a boy like that his military title, though
he takes his duties most seriously.

The weather is dreadful--cold, damp, drizzly, but he is in and out, and
the busiest person you can imagine. There isn't a horse that has to
have his feet washed that he isn't on the spot to see it done properly.
There isn't a man who has a pain that he isn't after him to see if he
needs the doctor,--and I don't need to tell you that his men love him,
and so do the horses.

I am taking a full course in military habits, military duties, and military
etiquette. I smile inside myself sometimes and wonder how they can
keep it up during these war times. But they do.

This morning he came down at half past seven ready to lead his
squad on an exercise ride. I must tell you that the soldier who comes
downstairs in the morning, in his big coat and kepi, ready to mount his
horse, is a different person from the smiling boy who makes me a
ballroom bow at the foot of the stairs in the evening. He comes down
the stairs as stiff as a ramrod, lifts his gloved hand to his kepi, as he
says, "Bon jour, madame, vous allez bien ce matin?"

This morning I remarked to him as he was ready to mount: "Well,
young man, I advise you to turn up your collar; the air is biting."

He gave me a queer look as he replied: "Merci,--pas réglementaire,"--
but he had to laugh, as he shook his head at me, and marched out to
his horse.

You do not need to be told how all this changes our life here, and yet
it does not bring into it the sort of emotion I anticipated. Thus far I
have not heard the war mentioned. The tramping of horses, the
moving crowd of men, simply give a new look to our quiet hamlet.

This cantonnement is officially called a "repos" but seems little like
that to me. It seems simply a change of work. Every man has three
horses to groom, to feed, to exercise, three sets of harness to keep in
order, stables to clean. But they are all so gay and happy, and as this
is the first time in eighteen months that any of them have, slept in
beds they are enjoying it.

Of course, I have little privacy. You know how my house is laid out--
the front door opens into the salon, and the staircase is there also.
When the Aspirant is not on duty outside he has to be here where he
can be found, so he sits at the salon desk to do his writing and fix up
his papers and reports, and when he is not going up and down stairs
his orderly is. There seems always to be a cleaning of boots, brushing
of coats, and polishing of spurs and rubbing up of leather going on
somewhere.

It did not take the men long to discover that there was always hot
water in my kitchen, and that they were welcome to it if they would
keep the kettles filled, and that I did not mind their coming and going--
and I don't, for a nicer crowd of men I never saw. They are not only
ready, they are anxious, to do all sorts of odd jobs, from hauling coal
and putting it in, to cleaning the chimneys and sweeping the terrace.
When they groom the horses they always groom Gamin, our dapple-
grey pony, and Ninette, which were never so well taken care of in
their lives--so brushed and clipped that they are both handsomer than
I knew. Though the regiment has only been here three days every
day has had its special excitement.

The morning after they got here we had a royal ten minutes of
laughter and movement.

In the old grange at the top of the hill, where they stabled seven
horses, there had been a long bar across the back wall, fixed with
cement into the side walls, and used to fasten the wagons. They
found it just right to tie the horses. It was a fine morning, for a wonder.
The sun was shining, and all the barn doors were open to it. The
Aspirant and I were standing on the lawn just before noon--he had
returned from his morning ride--looking across the Marne at the
battlefield. The regiment had been in the battle,--but he was, at that
time, still at St. Cyr. Suddenly we heard a great rumpus behind us,
and turned just in season to see all the horses trotting out of the
grange. They wheeled out of the wide door in a line headed down the
hill, the last two carrying the bar to which they had been attached, like
the pole of a carriage, between them. They were all "feeling their
oats," and they thundered down the hill by us, like a cavalry charge,
and behind them came half a dozen men simply splitting with
laughter.

Amélie had been perfectly right. The old grange was not solid, but
they had not pulled the walls down on themselves, they had simply
pulled the pole to which they were attached out of its bed.

The Aspirant tried not to smile--an officer in command must not, I
suppose, even if he is only twenty. He whistled gently, put up his
hand to stop the men from running, and walked quietly into the road,
still whistling. Five of the horses, tossing their heads, were thundering
on towards the canal. The span, dragging the long pole, swerved on
the turn, and swung the pole, which was so long that it caught on the
bank. I expected to see them tangle themselves all up, what with the
pole and the halters. Not a bit of it. They stopped, panting, and still
trying to toss their heads, and the Aspirant quietly picked up a halter,
and passed the horses over to the men, saying, in a most nonchalant
manner: "Fasten that pole more securely. Some of you go quietly
down the hill. You'll meet them coming back," and he returned to the
garden, and resumed the conversation just where it had been
interrupted.

It had been a lively picture to me, but to the soldiers, I suppose, it had
only been an every day's occurrence.

My only fear had been that there might be children or a wagon on the
winding road. Luckily the way was clear.

An hour later, the men returned, leading the horses. They had
galloped down to the river, and returned by way of Voisins, where
they had stopped right in front of the house where the Captain was
quartered, and the Captain had been in the garden and seen them.

This time the Aspirant had to laugh. He slapped one of the horses
caressingly on the nose as he said: "You devils! Couldn't you go on a
lark without telling the Captain about it, and getting us all into
trouble?"

To make this all the funnier, that very night three horses stabled in a
rickety barn at Voisins, kicked their door down, and pranced and
neighed under the Captain's bedroom window.

The Captain is a nice chap, but he is not in his first youth, and he is
tired, and, well--he is a bit nervous. He said little, but that was to the
point. It was only: "You boys will see that these things don't happen,
or you will sleep in the straw behind your horses."

This is the first time that I have seen anything of the military
organization, and I am filled with admiration for it. I don't know how it
works behind the trenches, but here, in the cantonnement, I could set
my clocks by the soup wagon--a neat little cart, drawn by two sturdy
little horses, which takes the hill at a fine gallop, and passes my gate
at exactly twenty-five minutes past eleven, and twenty-five minutes
past five every day. The men wait, with their gamelles, at the top of
the hill. The soup looks good and smells delicious. Amélie says that it
tastes good. She has five soldiers in her house, and she and Père
often eat with them, so she knows.

From all this you can guess what my life is like, and probably will be
like until the impatiently awaited spring offensive. But what you will
find it hard to imagine is the spirit and gaiety of these men. It is hard
to believe that they have been supporting the monotony of trench life
for so long, and living under bombardment,--and cavalry at that,
trained and hoping for another kind of warfare. There is no sign of it
on them.



XXX



December 17, 1916


Well, we did not keep our first division of dragoons as long as we
expected. They had passed part of their three weeks out of the
trenches at Nanteuil, and on the journey, so it seemed to us as
though they were hardly settled down when the order came for them
to return. They were here only a little over a week.

I had hardly got accustomed to seeing the Aspirant about the house,
either writing, with the cat on his knees, or reading, with Dick sitting
beside him, begging to have his head patted, when one evening he
came in, and said quietly: "Well, madame, we are leaving you in a
day or two. The order for the relève has come, but the day and hour
are not yet fixed."

But during the week he was here I got accustomed to seeing him sit
before the fire every evening after dinner for a little chat before
turning in. He was more ready to talk politics than war, and full of
curiosity about "your Mr. Wilson," as he called him. Now and then he
talked military matters, but it was technique, and the strategy of war,
not the events. He is an enthusiastic soldier, and to him, of course,
the cavalry is still "la plus belle arme de France." He loved to explain
the use of cavalry in modern warfare, of what it was yet to do in the
offensive, armed as it is today with the same weapons as the infantry,
carrying carbines, having its hand-grenade divisions, its mitrailleuses,
ready to go into action as cavalry, arriving like a flash au galop, over
ground where the infantry must move slowly, and with difficulty, and
ready at any time to dismount and fight on foot, to finish a pursuit
begun as cavalry. It all sounded very logical as he described it.

He had been under bombardment, been on dangerous scouting
expeditions, but never yet in a charge, which is, of course, his
ambitious dream. There was an expression of real regret in his voice
when he said one evening: "Hélas! I have not yet had the smallest
real opportunity to distinguish myself."

I reminded him that he was still very young.

He looked at me quite indignantly as he replied: "Madame forgets that
there are Aspirants no older than I whose names are already
inscribed on the roll of honor."

You see an elderly lady, unused to a soldier's point of view, may be
very sympathetic, and yet blunder as a comforter.

The relève passed off quietly. It was all in the routine of the soldiers'
lives. They did not even know that it was picturesque. It was late last
Friday night that an orderly brought the news that the order had come
to move on the morning of the eleventh--three days later,--and it was
not until the night of the fifteenth that we were again settled down to
quiet.

The squad we had here moved in two divisions. Early Monday
morning--the eleventh--the horses were being saddled, and at ten
o'clock they began to move. One half of them were in full equipment.
The other half acted as an escort as far as Meaux, from which place
they led back the riderless horses.

The officers explained it all to me. The division starting that day for the
trenches dismounted at Meaux, and took a train for the station
nearest to the Forêt de Laigue. There they had their hot soup and
waited for night, to march into the trenches under cover of the
darkness. They told me that it was not a long march, but it was a hard
one, as it was up hill, over wet and clayey ground, where it was
difficult not to slip back as fast as they advanced.

On arriving at the trenches they would find the men they were to
relieve ready to march out, to slip and slide down the hill to the
railway, where they would have their morning coffee, and await the
train for Meaux, where they were due at noon next day--barring
delays.

So, on the afternoon of the twelfth, the men who had acted as escort
the day before led the horses to Meaux, and just before four o'clock
the whole body arrived on the hill.

This time I saw men right out of the trenches. They were a sorry sight,
in spite of their high spirits. The clayey yellow mud of three weeks'
exposure in the trenches was plastered on them so thick that I
wondered how they managed to mount their horses. I never saw a
dirtier crowd. Their faces even looked stiff.

They simply tumbled off their horses, left the escort to stable them,
and made a dash for the bath-house, which is at the foot of the hill, at
Joncheroy. If they can't get bathed, disinfected, and changed before
dark, they have to sleep their first night in the straw with the horses,
as they are unfit, in more ways than I like to tell you, to go into
anyone's house until that is done, and they are not allowed.

These new arrivals had twenty-four hours' rest, and then, on
Thursday, they acted as escort to the second division, and with that
division went the Aspirant, and the men they relieved arrived Friday
afternoon, and now we are settled down for three weeks.

Before the Aspirant left he introduced into the house the senior
lieutenant, whom he had been replacing in the command on my hill, a
man a little over thirty--a business man in private life and altogether
charming, very cultivated, a book-lover and an art connoisseur. He is
a nephew of Lêpine, so many years préfet de police at Paris, and a
cousin of Senator Reynault, who was killed in his aeroplane at Toule,
famous not only as a brave patriot, but as a volunteer for three
reasons exempt from active service--a senator, a doctor, and past
the age.

I begin to believe, on the testimony of my personal experiences, that
all the officers in the cavalry are perfect gentlemen. The lieutenant
settled into his place at once. He puts the coal on the fire at night. He
plays with the animals. He locks up, and is as quiet as a mouse and
as busy as a bee.

This is all my news, except that I am hoping to go to Paris for
Christmas, and to go by the way of Voulangis. It is all very uncertain.
My permission has not come yet.

It is over a year since we were shut in. My friends in Paris call me
their permissionaire, when I go to town. In the few shops where I am
known everyone laughs when I make my rare appearances and
greets me with: "Ah, so they've let you out again!" as if it were a huge
joke, and I assure you that it does seem like that to me.

The soldiers in the trenches get eight days' permission every four
months. I don't seem to get much more,--if as much.



XXXI



January 10, 1917


I went to Paris, as I told you I hoped to do. Nothing new there. In spite
of the fact that, in many ways, they are beginning to feel the war, and
there is altogether too much talk about things no one can really know
anything about, I was still amazed at the gaiety. In a way it is just now
largely due to the great number of men en permission. The streets,
the restaurants, the tea-rooms are full of them, and so, they tell me,
are the theatres.

Do you know what struck me most forcibly? You'll never guess. It was
that men in long trousers look perfectly absurd. I am so used to
seeing the culotte and gaiters that the best-looking pantaloons I saw
on the boulevards looked ugly and ridiculous.

I left the officer billeted in my house to take care of it. The last I saw
of him he was sitting at the desk in the salon, his pipe in his mouth,
looking comfortable and cosy, and as if settled for life. I only stayed a
few days, and came home, on New Year's Eve, to find that he had
left the night before, having been suddenly transferred to the staff of
the commander of the first army, as officier de la liaison, and I had in
his place a young sous-officier of twenty-two, who proves to be a
cousin of the famous French spy, Captain Luxe, who made that
sensational escape, in 1910, from a supposed-to-be-impregnable
German military prison. I am sure you remember the incident, as the
American papers devoted columns to his unprecedented feat. The
hero of that sensational episode is still in the army. I wonder what the
Germans will do with him if they catch him again? They are hardly
likely to get him alive a second time.

I wonder if the German books on military tactics use that escape as a
model in their military schools? Do you know that in every French
military school the reconnaisance which Count Zeppelin made in
Alsace, in the days of 1870, when he was a cavalry officer, is given
as a model reconnaissance both for strategy and pluck? I did not,
until I was told. Oddly enough, not all that Zeppelin has done since to
offend French ideas of decency in war can dull the admiration felt by
every cavalry officer for his clever feat in 1870.

Last Thursday,--that was the 4th,--we had our second relève.

The night before they left some of the officers came to say au revoir,
and to tell me that the Aspirant, who had been with me in December,
would be quartered on me again--if I wanted him. Of course I did.

Then the senior lieutenant told me that the regiment had suffered
somewhat from a serious bombardment the days after Christmas,
that the Aspirant had not only shown wonderful courage, but had had
a narrow escape, and had been cité à l'ordre du jour, and was to
have his first decoration.

We all felt as proud of him as if he belonged to us. I was told that he
had been sent into the first-line trenches--only two hundred yards
from the German front--during the bombardment, "to encourage and
comfort his men" (I quote), and that a bomb had exploded over the
trench and knocked a hole in his steel helmet.

I don't know which impressed me most--the idea of a lad of twenty
having so established the faith in his courage amongst his superior
officers as to be safe as a comfort and encouragement for the men,
or the fact that, if the army had had those steel casques at the
beginning of the war, many lives would have been saved.

The Aspirant came in with the second detachment the night before
last--the eighth. The regiment was in and all quartered before he
appeared.

We had begun to fear something had happened to him, when he
turned up, freshly shaved and clean, but with a tattered overcoat on
his arm, and a battered helmet in his hand.

Amélie greeted him with: "Well, young man, we thought you were
lost!"

He laughed, as he explained that he had been to make a toilet, see
the regimental tailor, and order a new topcoat.

"I would not, for anything in the world, have had madame see me in
the state I was in an hour ago. She has to see my rags, but I spared
her the dirt," and he held up the coat to show its rudely sewed-up
rents, and turned over his helmet to show the hole in the top.

"And here is what hit me," and he took out of his pocket a rough
piece of a shell, and held it up, as if it were very precious. Indeed, he
had it wrapped in a clean envelope, all ready to take up to Paris and
show his mother, as he is to have his leave of a week while he is
here.

I felt like saying "Don't," but I didn't. I suppose it is hard for an
ambitious soldier of twenty to realize that the mother of an only son,
and that son such a boy as this, must have some feeling besides
pride in her heart as she looks at him.

So now we are settled again, and used to the trotting of horses, the
banging of grenades and splitting of mitrailleuses. From the window
as I write--I am up in the attic, which Amélie calls the "atelier,"
because it is in the top of the house and has a tiny north light in the
roof--that being the only place where I am sure of being undisturbed--
I can see horses being trained in the wide field on the side of the hill
between here and Quincy. They are manoeuvring with all sorts of
noises about them--even racing in a circle while grenades and guns
are fired.

In spite of all that, there came near being a lovely accident right in
front of the gate half an hour ago.

The threshing-machine is at work in front of the old grange on the
other side of the road, just above my house. The men had come
back from breakfast, and were starting the machine up just as two
mounted soldiers, each leading two horses, rode out of the grange at
Amélie's, and started down the hill at a trot. The very moment the
horses were turning out to pass the machine,--and the space was
barely sufficient between the machine and the bank--a heedless man
blew three awful blasts on his steam whistle to call his aids. The
cavalry horses were used to guns, and the shrill mouth whistles of the
officers, but that did not make them immune to a steam siren, and in
a moment there was the most dangerous mix-up I ever saw. I
expected to see both riders killed, and I don't know now why they
were not, but neither man was thrown, even in spite of having three
frightened horses to master.

It was a stupid thing for the man on the machine to do. He would
have only had to wait one minute and the horses would have been by
with a clear road before them if they shied. But he "didn't think." The
odd thing was that the soldiers did not say an ugly word. I suppose
they are used to worse.

You have been reproaching me for over a year that I did not write
enough about the war. I do hope that all this movement about me
interests you. It is not war by any means, but the nearest relation to it
that I have seen in that time. It is its movements, its noise, its clothes.
It is gay and brave, and these men are no "chocolate soldiers."



XXXII



January 30, 1917


My, but it is cold here! Wednesday the 24th it was 13 below zero, and
this morning at ten o'clock it was 6 below. Of course this is in
Centigrade and not Fahrenheit, but it is a cold from which I suffer
more--it is so damp--than I ever did from the dry, sunny, below zero
as you know it in the States. Not since 1899 have I seen such cold as
this in France. I have seen many a winter here when the ground has
hardly frozen at all. This year it began to freeze a fortnight ago. It
began to snow on the 17th, a fine dry snow, and as the ground was
frozen it promises to stay on. It has so far, in spite of the fact that
once or twice since it fell the sun has shone. It looks very pretty, quite
unnatural, very reminiscent of New England.

It makes life hard for us as well as the soldiers, but they laugh and
say, "We have seen worse." They prefer it to rain and mud. But it
makes roading hard; everything is so slippery, and if you ever
happened to see a French horse or a French person "walking on ice"
I don't need to say more.

Well, the unexpected has happened--the cavalry has moved on.
They expected--as much as a soldier ever expects anything--to have
divided their time until March between our hill and the trenches in the
Forêt de Laigue. But on the twenty-second orders began to rush in
from headquarters, announcing a change of plan; a move was
ordered and counter-ordered every few hours for three days, until
Thursday afternoon, the twenty-fifth, the final order came--the whole
division to be ready to mount at seven-thirty the next morning, orders
for the direction to come during the night.

You never saw such a rushing about to collect clothes and get them
dried. You see it has been very hard to get washing done. The Morin,
where the wash-houses are, is frozen, and even when things are
washed, they won't dry in this air, and there is no coal to heat the
drying-houses.

However, it was done after a fashion. Everyone who had wood kept a
fire up all night.

On Wednesday afternoon I had a little tea-party for some of the sous-
officiers--mere boys--a simple goodbye spread of bread and butter
and dry cookies,--nothing else to be had. I could not even make
cake, as we have had no fine sugar for months. However, the tea
was extra good--sent me from California for Christmas--and I set the
table with all my prettiest things, and the boys seemed to enjoy
themselves.

They told me before leaving that never since they were at the front
had they been anywhere so well received or so comfortable as they
have been here, and that it would be a long time before they "forgot
Huiry." Well, we on our side can say that we never dreamed that a
conscript army could have a whole regiment of such fine men. So you
see we are all very much pleased with each other, and if the 23d
Dragoons are not going to forget us, we are as little likely to forget
them.

Thursday evening, before going to bed, the Aspirant and I sat at the
kitchen table and made a lot of sandwiches, as they are carrying
three days' provisions. They expected a five hours' march on the first
day, and a night under the tents, then another day's march, during
which they would receive their orders for their destination. When the
sandwiches were done, and wrapped up ready for his orderly to put in
the saddlebags, with his other provisions, he said: "Well, I am going
to say goodbye to you tonight, and thank you for all your kindness."

"Not at all," I answered. "I shall be up in the morning to see you start."

He protested. It was so cold, so early, etc. But my mind was made
up.

I assure you that it was cold,--18 below,--but I got up when I heard
the orderly arrive in the morning. I had been awake for hours, for at
three o'clock the horses were being prepared. Every man had three
to feed and saddle, and pack. Orderlies were running about doing the
last packing for the officers, and carrying kits to the baggage-wagons.
Amélie came at six. When I got downstairs I found the house warm
and coffee ready. The Aspirant was taking his standing. It was more
convenient than sitting in a chair. Indeed, I doubt if he could have sat.

I had to laugh at the picture he made. I never regretted so much that I
have not indulged in a camera. He was top-booted and spurred. He
had on his new topcoat and his mended helmet--catch a young
soldier who has been hit on the head by his first obus having a new
and unscarred one. He was hung over with his outfit like a Santa
Claus. I swore he could never get into the saddle, but he scorned my
doubts.

To the leather belt about his waist, supported by two straps over his
shoulders, were attached his revolver, in its case with twenty rounds
of cartridges; his field glasses; his map-case; his bidon--for his wine;
square document case; his mask against asphyxiating gas; and, if
you please, his kodak! Over one shoulder hung a flat, half-circular
bag, with his toilet articles, over the other its mate, with a change, and
a few necessary articles.

He looked to me as if he would ride two hundred pounds heavy, and
he hasn't an ounce of extra flesh on him.

I laughed even harder when I saw him mounted. In one side of the
holster was his gamelle; in the other, ammunition. The saddlebags
contained on one side twenty pounds of oats for the horse; on the
other three days' provisions for himself. I knew partly what was in that
bag, and it was every bit as heavy as the horse's fodder, for there
were sandwiches, sugar, coffee, chocolate, tinned meat, peas, corn,
fruit, etc. Behind the saddle was rolled his blanket, inside his section
of tent cover,--it takes six of them to make a real tent. They are
arranged to button together.

I was sitting in the bedroom window when he rode on to the terrace. I
had to laugh as I looked down at him.

"And why does madame laugh?" he asked, trying to keep a sober
face himself.

"Well," I replied, "I am only wondering if that is your battle array?"

"Certainly," he answered. "Why does it surprise you?"

I looked as serious as I could, as I explained that I had supposed,
naturally, that the cavalry went into action as lightly equipped as
possible.

He looked really indignant, as he snapped: "That would be quite
unnatural. What do you suppose that Peppino and I are going to do
after a battle? Wait for the commissary department to find us? No,
madame, after a battle it will not be of my mother nor home, nor even
of you, that we will be thinking. We shall think of something to eat and
drink." Then he added, with a laugh, "Alas! We shan't have all these
nice things you have given us. They will have been eaten by
tomorrow."

I apologized, and said I'd know better another time, and he patted his
horse, as he backed away, and said to him: "Salute the lady,
Peppino, and tell her prettily that you had the honor of carrying Teddy
Roosevelt the day he went to the review." And the horse pawed and
bowed and neighed, and his rider wheeled him carefully as he saluted
and said: "Au revoir, I shall write, and, after the war, I shall give
myself the pleasure of seeing you," and he rode carefully out of the
gate--a very delicate operation, as only half of it was open. Laden
as the horse was, he just made it, and away he galloped down the
hill to Voisins, where the cavalry was assembling.

I stayed in the window a few minutes to wave a goodbye to the men
as they led each their three horses down the hill. Then I put on my
heaviest coat, a polo cap, all my furs and mittens, thrust my felt shoes
into my sabots, and with one hand in my muff, I took the big French
flag in the other and went through the snow down to the hedge to
watch the regiment pass, on the road to Esbly.

Even before I got out of the house the news came that the 118th
Regiment of infantry, the boys who retook Vaux in the great battle at
Verdun, had been marching in from Meaux, and were camped,
waiting to take up the billets the 23d Dragoons were vacating.

I stood in the snow for nearly half an hour, holding up the heavy flag,
which flapped bravely in the icy wind, and watching the long grey line
moving slowly along the road below. I could see half a mile of the line
--grey, steel-helmeted men, packed horses, grey wagons--winding
down the hill in the winter landscape, so different from the France I
had always known. Hardly a sound came back--no music, no colors--
the long, grey column moved in a silent, almost colorless world. I
shifted the heavy flag from one hand to the other as my fingers got
stiff, but, alas! I could not shift my feet. Long before the line had
passed I was forced to fasten the flag to a post in the hedge and
leave it to float by itself, and limp into the house. As a volunteer color-
bearer I was a failure. I had to let Amélie take off my shoes and rub
my feet, and I had hard work not to cry while she was doing it. I was
humiliated, especially as I remembered that the boys had a five
hours' march as their first étape, and a bivouac at the end of it.

I had intended to go out later on the route Madame to watch the
cavalry coming down from the hills on the other side of the Morin, but
I could not face the cold. There is nothing heroic about me. So I
contented myself with helping Amélie set the house in order.

Needless to tell you that no one knows what this unexpected big
movement of troops means.

It is inevitable that we should all imagine that it concerns the coming
spring offensive. At any rate, the cavalry is being put back into its
saddles, and the crack regiments are coming out of Verdun--the
famous corps which has won immortal fame there, and written the
name of Verdun in letters of flame in the list of the world's great
battles, and enshrined French soldiers in the love of all who can be
stirred by courage in a noble cause, or know what it means to have
the heart swell at the thought of the "sacred love of home and
country."

Although I have sworn--and more than once--that I will not talk politics
with you again, or discuss any subject which can be considered as its
most distant blood relation, yet every time you reiterate "Aren't the
French wonderfully changed? Aren't you more and more surprised at
them?" it goes against the grain.

Does it never occur to you that France held her head up wonderfully
after the terrible humiliation of 1870? Does it never occur to you what
it meant to a great nation, so long a centre of civilization, and a great
race, so long a leader in thought, to have found herself without a
friend, and to have had to face such a defeat,--a defeat followed by a
shocking treaty which kept that disaster forever before her? Do you
never think of the hidden shame, the cankering mortification of the
consciousness of that nation across the frontier, which had battened
on its victory, and was so strong in brute force, that, however brave a
face one might put on, there was behind that smiling front always a
hidden fear of Germany--an eternal foe, ever gaining in numbers and
eternally shaking her mailed fist.

No nation so humiliated ever rose out of her humiliation as France
did, but the hidden memory, the daily consciousness of it, set its
outward mark on the race. It bred that sort of bravado which was
eternally accusing itself, in the consciousness that it had taken a
thrashing it could never hope to avenge. Count up the past dares that
France has had to take from Germany, so strong in mere numbers
and physical strength that to attempt to fight her alone, as she did in
1870, meant simply to court annihilation, and fruitlessly. That does not
mean that France was really afraid, but only that she was too wise to
dare attempt to prove that she was not afraid. So many things in the
French that the world has not understood were the result of the
cankering wound of 1870. This war has healed that wound. Germany
is not invincible, and the chivalrous, loving aid that rallied to help
France is none the less comforting simply because since 1914 all
nations have learned that the trend of Germany's ambition was a
menace to them as well as to France.



XXXIII



February 2, 1917


I had hardly sent my last letter to the post when news came that the
23d Dragoons had arrived safely at their new cantonnement, but here
is the letter, which will tell the story. Sorry that you insist on having
these things in English--they are so very much prettier in French.


With the Army, January 29
Dear Madame,

Bravo for the pretty idea you had in flinging to the winter breezes the
tri-colored flag in honor of our departure. All the soldiers marching out
of Voisins saw the colors and were deeply touched. Let me bear
witness to their gratitude.

How I regret La Creste. One never knows how happy he is until
afterward. I am far from comfortably installed here. I am lodged in an
old deserted château. There are no fires, and we are literally
refrigerated. However, we shall not stay long, as I am returning to the
trenches in a day or two. It will hardly be warm there, but I shall have
less time to remember how much more than comfortable I was at
Huiry.

We made a fairly decent trip to this place, but I assure you that, in
spite of my "extreme youth," I was near to being frozen en route. We
were so cold that finally the whole regiment had to dismount and
proceed on foot in the hope of warming up a bit. We were all, in the
end, sad, cross, and grumbly. You had spoiled us all at Huiry and
Voisins. For my part I longed to curse someone for having ordered
such a change of base as this, in such weather. Wasn't I well enough
off where I was, toasting myself before your nice fire, and drinking my
tea comfortably every afternoon?

However, we are working tremendously for the coming offensive. And
I hope it will be the final one, for the Germans are beginning to show
signs of fatigue. News comes to us from the interior, from a reliable
source, which indicates that the situation on the other side of the
Rhine is anything but calm. More than ever now must we hang on, for
the victory is almost within our clutch.

Accept, madame, the assurance of my most respectful homage,

A------B------.


So you see, we were all too previous in expecting the offensive. The
cavalry is not yet really mounted for action. But we hope all the same.

The 118th is slowly settling down, but I'll tell you about that later.



XXXIV



February 10, 1917


Well, the 118th has settled down to what looks like a long
cantonnement. It is surely the liveliest as well as the biggest we ever
had here, and every little town and village is crowded between here
and Coulommier. Not only are there five thousand infantry billeted
along the hills and in the valleys, but there are big divisions of
artillery also. The little square in front of our railway station at
Couilly is full of grey cannon and ammunition wagons, and there
are military kitchens and all sorts of commissary wagons along
all the roadsides between here and Crécy-en-Brie, which is the
distributing headquarters for all sorts of material.

As the weather has been intolerably cold, though it is dry and often
sunny, the soldiers are billeted in big groups of fifty or sixty in a room
or grange, where they sleep in straw, rolled in their blankets, packed
like sardines to keep warm.

They came in nearly frozen, but they thawed out quickly, and now
they don't mind the weather at all.

Hardly had they got thawed out when an epidemic of mumps broke
out. They made quick work of evacuating those who had it, and stop
its spreading, to the regret, I am afraid, of a good many of the boys.
One of them said to me the day after the mumpy ones were taken
over to Meaux: "Lucky fellows. I wish I had the mumps. After Verdun
it must be jolly to be in the hospital with nothing more dangerous than
mumps, and a nice, pretty girl, in a white cap, to pet you. I can't think
of a handsomer way to spend a repos than that."

When I tell you that these soldiers say, "Men who have not been at
Verdun have not seen the war yet," and then add that the life of the
118th here looks like a long picnic, and that they make play of their
work, play of their grenade practice, which they vary with football, play
of their twenty miles hikes, I give you leave to laugh at my way of
seeing the war, and I'll even laugh with you.

That reminds me that I never see a thousand or so of these boys on
the big plain playing what they call football that I don't wish some
American chaps were here to teach them the game. All they do here
is to throw off their coats and kick the ball as far, and as high, as
possible, and run like racers after it, while the crowd, massed on the
edge of the field, yells like mad. The yelling they do very well indeed,
and they kick well, and run well. But, if they only knew the game--
active, and agile, and light as they are--they would enjoy it, and play it
well.

I had one of the nicest thrills I have had for many a day soon after the
118th arrived.

It was a sunny afternoon. I was walking in the road, when, just at the
turn above my house, two officers rode round the corner, saluted me,
and asked if the road led to Quincy. I told them the road to the right at
the foot of the hill, through Voisins, would take them to Quincy. They
thanked me, wheeled their horses across the road and stood there. I
waited to see what was going to happen--small events are interesting
here. After a bit one of them said that perhaps I would be wise to step
out of the road, which was narrow, as the regiment was coming.

I asked, of course, "What regiment?" and "What are they coming
for?" and he answered "The 118th," and that it was simply "taking a
walk."

So I sauntered back to my garden, and down to the corner by the
hedge, where I was high above the road, and could see in both
directions. I had hardly got there when the head of the line came
round the corner. In columns of four, knapsacks on their backs, guns
on their shoulders, swinging at an easy gait, all looking so brown, so
hardy, so clear-eyed, the men from Verdun marched by.

I had thought it cold in spite of the sun, and was well wrapped up, with
my hands thrust into my big muff, but these men had beads of
perspiration standing on their bronzed faces under their steel
helmets.

Before the head of the line reached the turn into Voisins, a long shrill
whistle sounded. The line stopped. Someone said: "At last! My, but
this has been a hot march," and in a second every man had slipped
off his knapsack and had a cigarette in his mouth.

Almost all of them dropped to the ground, or lay down against the
bank. A few enterprising ones climbed the bank, to the field in front of
my lawn, to get a glimpse of the view, and they all said what everyone
says: "I say, this is the best point to see it."

I wondered what they would say to it if they could see it in summer
and autumn if they found it fine with its winter haze.

But that is not what gave me my thrill.

The rest was a short one. Two sharp whistles sounded down the hill.
Instantly everyone slipped on his sac, shouldered his gun, and at that
minute, down at the corner, the military band struck up "Chant du
Départ." Every hair on my head stood up. It is the first time I have
heard a band since the war broke out, and as the regiment swung
down the hill to the blare of brass--well, funnily enough, it seemed
less like war than ever. Habit is a deadly thing. I have heard that
band--a wonderful one, as such a regiment deserves,--many times
since, but it never makes my heart thump as it did when, so
unexpectedly, it cut the air that sunny afternoon.

I had so often seen those long lines marching in silence, as the
English and the French did to the Battle of the Marne, as all our
previous regiments have come and gone on the hillside, and never
seen a band or heard military music that I had ceased to associate
music with the soldiers, although I knew the bands played in the
battles and the bugle calls were a part of it.

We have had all sorts of military shows, which change the
atmosphere in which the quiet about us had been for months and
months only stirred by the far-off artillery.

One day, we had a review on the broad plain which lies along the
watershed between the Marne and the Grande Morin, overlooking the
heights on the far side of both valleys, with the Grande Route on one
side, and the walls to the wooded park of the handsome Château de
Quincy on the other. It was an imposing sight, with thousands of
steel-helmeted figures sac au dos et bayonnette au canon, marching
and counter-marching in the cold sunshine, looking in the distance
more like troops of Louis XIII than an evolution from the French
conscript of the ante-bellum days of the pantalon rouge.

Two days later we had the most magnificent prise d'armes on the
same plain that I have ever seen, much more stirring--though less
tear-moving--than the same ceremony in the courtyard of the
Invalides at Paris, where most foreigners see it. At the Invalides one
sees the mutilés and the ill. Here one only saw the glory. In Paris, the
galleries about the court, inside the walls of the Soldiers' Home, are
packed with spectators. Here there were almost none. But here the
heroes received their decorations in the presence of the comrades
among whom they had been won, in the terrible battles of Verdun. It
was a long line of officers, and men from the ranks, who stood so
steadily before the commander and his staff, inside the hollow
square, about the regimental colors, to have their medals and
crosses fastened on their faded coats, receive their accolade, and
the bravos of their companions as their citations were read. There
were seven who received the Légion d'Honneur.

It was a brave-looking ceremony, and it was a lovely day--even the
sun shone on them.

There was one amusing episode. These celebrations are always a
surprise to the greater part of the community, and, in a little place like
this, it is only by accident that anyone sees the ceremony. The
children are always at school, and the rest of the world is at work, so,
unless the music attracts someone, there are few spectators. On the
day of the prise d'armes three old peasants happened to be in a field
on the other side of the route nationale, which skirts the big plain on
the plateau. They heard the music, dropped their work and ran
across the road to gape. They were all men on towards eighty--too
old to have ever done their military service. Evidently no one had
ever told them that all Frenchmen were expected to uncover when
the flag went by. Poor things, they should have known! But they
didn't, and you should have seen a colonel ride down on them. I
thought he was going to cut the woollen caps off their heads with his
sabre, at the risk of decapitating them. But I loved what he said to
them.

"Don't you know enough to uncover before the flag for which your
fellow citizens are dying every day?"

Isn't that nice? I loved the democratic "fellow citizens"--so pat and
oratorically French.

I flung the Stars and Stripes to the French breezes on the 7th in
honor of the rupture. It was the first time the flag has been unfurled
since Captain Simpson ordered the corporal to take it down two years
ago the third of last September. I had a queer sensation as I saw it
flying over the gate again, and thought of all that had happened since
the little corporal of the King's Own Yorks took it down,--and the
Germans still only forty-two miles away.



XXXV



February 26, 1917


What do you suppose I have done since I last wrote to you?

I have actually been to the theatre for the first time in four years.
Would you ever have believed that I could keep out of the theatre
such a long time as that? Still, I suppose going to the theatre--to a
sort of variety show--seems to you, who probably continue to go once
or twice a week, a tame experience. Well, you can go to the opera,
which I can't do if I like, but you can't see the heroes of Verdun not
only applauding a show, but giving it, and that is what I have been
doing not only once but twice since I wrote you.

I am sure that I have told you that our ambulance is in the salle de
récréation of the commune, which is a small rectangular room with a
stage across one end. It is the only thing approaching a theatre which
the commune boasts. It is well lighted, with big windows in the sides,
and a top-light over the stage. It is almost new, and the walls and
pointed ceiling are veneered with some Canadian wood, which looks
like bird's-eye maple, but isn't.

It is in that hall that the matinées, which are given every other Sunday
afternoon, take place. They are directed by a lieutenant-colonel, who
goes into it with great enthusiasm, and really gets up a first-class
programme.

The boys do all the hard work, and the personnel of the ambulance
aids and abets with great good humor, though it is very upsetting. But
then it is for the army--and what the army wants these days, it must
have.

Luckily the men in our ambulance just now are either convalescent,
or, at any rate, able to sit up in bed and bear excitement. So the beds
of the few who cannot be dressed are pushed close to the stage, and
around their cots are the chairs and benches of their convalescent
comrades. The rest of the beds are taken out. The big military band is
packed into one corner of the room. Chairs are put in for the officers
of the staff and their few invited guests--there are rarely more than
half a dozen civilians. Behind the reserved seats are a few benches
for the captains and lieutenants and the rest of the space is given up
to the poilus, who are allowed to rush when the doors are opened.

Of course the room is much too small, but it is the best we have. The
wide doors are left open. So are the wide windows, and the boys are
even allowed to perch on the wall opposite the entrance, from which
place they can see the stage.

The entire programme is given by the poilus; only one performer had
a stripe on his sleeve, though many of them wore a decoration. What
seems to me the prettiest of all is that all the officers go, and applaud
like mad, even the white-haired generals, who are not a bit backward
in crying "Bis, bis!" like the rest.

The officers are kind enough to invite me and the card on my chair is
marked "Mistress Aldrich." Isn't that Shakesperian? I sit among the
officers, usually with a commandant on one side and a colonel on the
other, with a General de Division, and a Général de Brigade in front of
me, and all sorts of gilt stripes about me, which I count with curiosity,
now that I have learned what they mean, as I surreptitiously try to
discover the marks that war has made on their faces--and don't find
them.

The truth is, the salle is fully as interesting to me as the performance,
good as that is--with a handsome, delicate-looking young professor of
music playing the violin, an actor from the Palais Royale showing a
diction altogether remarkable, two well-known gymnasts doing
wonderful stunts on horizontal bars, a prize pupil from the
Conservatory at Nantes acting, as only the French can, in a well-
known little comedy, two clever, comic monologists of the La Scala
sort, and as good as I ever heard even there, and a regimental band
which plays good music remarkably. There is even a Prix de Rome in
the regiment, but he is en congé, so I 've not heard him yet. I wonder
if you take it in? Do you realize that these are the soldiers in the ranks
of the French defence? Consider what the life in the trenches means
to them!

They even have artists among the poilus to paint back drops and
make properties. So you see it is one thing to go to the theatre and
quite another to see the soldiers from Verdun giving a performance
before such a public--the men from the trenches going to the play in
the highest of spirits and the greatest good humor.

At the first experience of this sort I did long to have you there. It was
such a scene as I could not have believed possible in these days and
under these conditions if I had not actually taken part in it.

As soon as the officers had filed in and taken their seats the doors
and windows were thrown open to admit "la vague," and we all stood
up and faced about to see them come. It was a great sight.

In the aisle down the centre of the hall--there is only one,--between
the back row of reserved seats, stood Mlle. Henriette, in her white
uniform, white gloved, with the red cross holding her long white veil to
the nurse's coiffe which covered her pretty brown hair. Her slight, tall,
white figure was the only barrier to prevent "la vague" from sweeping
right over the hall to the stage. As they came through the door it did
not seem possible that anything could stop them--or even that they
could stop themselves--and I expected to see her crushed. Yet two
feet from her, the mass stopped--the front line became rigid as steel
and held back the rest, and, in a second, the wave had broken into
two parts and flowed into the benches at left and right, and, in less
time than it takes you to read this, they were packed on the benches,
packed in the windows, and hung up on the walls. A queer murmur,
half laugh and half applause, ran over the reserved seats, and the
tall, thin commandant beside me said softly, "That is the way they
came out of the trenches at Verdun." As I turned to sit down I had
impressed on my memory forever that sea of smiling, clean-shaven,
keen-eyed, wave on wave of French faces, all so young and so gay--
yet whose eyes had looked on things which will make a new France.

I am sending you the programme of the second matinée--I lost that of
the first.

I do wish, for many reasons, that you could have heard the recitation
by Brochard of Jean Bastia's "L'Autre Cortege," in which the poet
foresees the day "When Joffre shall return down the Champs
Elysées" to the frenzied cries of the populace saluting its victorious
army, and greeting with wild applause "Pétain, who kept Verdun
inviolated," "De Castelnau, who three times in the fray saw a son fall
at his side," "Gouraud, the Fearless," "Marchand, who rushed on the
Boches brandishing his cane," "Mangin, who retook Douaumont,"
and "All those brave young officers, modest even in glory, whose
deeds the world knows without knowing their names," and the soldier
heroes who held the frontier "like a wall of steel from Flanders to
Alsace,"--the heroes of Souchez, of Dixmude, of the Maison du
Passeur, of Souain, of Notre Dame de Lorette, and of the great
retreat. It made a long list and I could feel the thrill running all over
the room full of soldiers who, if they live, will be a part of that
triumphal procession, of which no one talks yet except a poet.

But when he had pictured that scene the tempo of the verse
changed: the music began softly to play a Schumann Reverie to the
lines beginning: "But this triumphal cortège is not enough. The return
of the army demands another cortège,"--the triumph of the Mutilés--
the martyrs of the war who have given more than life to the defence
of France--the most glorious heroes of the war.

The picture the poet made of this "other cortège" moved the soldiers
strangely. The music, which blended wonderfully with Brochard's
beautiful voice, was hardly more than a breath, just audible, but
always there, and added greatly to the effect of the recitation. There
was a sigh in the silence which followed the last line--and an almost
whispered "bravo," before the long shouts of applause broke out.

It is the only number on any programme that has ever touched, even
remotely, on war. It came as a surprise--it had not been announced.
But the intense, rather painful, feeling which had swept over the
audience was instantly removed by a comic monologue, and I need
not tell you that these monologues,--intended to amuse the men from
the trenches and give them a hearty laugh,--are usually very La
Scala--that is to say--rosse. But I do love to hear the boys shout with
glee over them.

The scene in the narrow streets of Quincy after the show is very
picturesque. The road mounts a little to Moulignon, and to see the
blue-grey backs of the boys, quite filling the street between the grey
walls of the houses, as they go slowly back to their cantonnements,
makes a very pretty picture.

It does seem a far cry from this to war, doesn't it? Yet isn't it lucky to
know and to see that these boys can come out of such a battle as
Verdun in this condition? This spirit, you see, is the hope of the future.
You know, when you train any kind of a dog to fight, you put him
through all the hard paces and force him to them, without breaking
his spirit. It seems to me that is just what is being done to the men at
the front.



XXXVI



March 1, 1917


Well, I have been very busy for some time now receiving the
regiment, and all on account of the flag. It had been going up in the
"dawn's early light," and coming down "with the twilight's last
gleaming" for some weeks when the regiment marched past the gate
again. I must tell you the truth,--the first man who attempted to cry
"Vivent les Etats-Unis" was hushed by a cry of "Attendez-patience--
pas encore," and the line swung by. That was all right. I could afford
to smile,--and, at this stage of the game, to wait. You are always
telling me what a "patient man" Wilson is. I don't deny it. Still, there
are others.

The first caller that the flag brought me was on the morning after the
regiment marched by it. I was upstairs. Amélie called up that there
was "un petit soldat" at the door. They are all "les petits soldats" to
her, even when they are six feet tall. She loves to see them coming
into the garden. I heard her say to one of them the other day, when
he "did not wish to disturb madame, if she is busy," "Mais, entrez
donc. Les soldats ne gênent jamais ma maîtresse."

I went downstairs and found a mere youngster, with a sergeant's
stripe on his sleeve, blushing so hard that I wondered how he had got
up the courage to come inside the gate. He stammered a moment.
Then he pointed to the flag, and, clearing his throat, said:

"You aire an Américaine?"

I owned it.

"I haf seen the flag--I haf been so surprised--I haf had to come in."

I opened the door wide, and said: "Do," and he did, and almost with
tears in his eyes--he was very young, and blonde--he explained that
he was a Canadian.

"But," I said, "you are a French Canadian?"

"Breton," he replied, "but I haf live in Canada since sixteen." Then he
told me that his sister had gone to New Brunswick to teach French
seven years ago, and that he had followed, that, when he was old
enough, he had taken out his naturalization papers, and become a
British subject in order to take up government land; that he had a
wheat farm in Northern Canada--one hundred and sixty acres, all
under cultivation; that he was twenty when the war broke out, and
that he had enlisted at once; that he had been wounded on the
Somme, and came out of the hospital just in season to go through
the hard days at Verdun.

As we talked, part of his accent wore away. Before the interview was
over he was speaking English really fluently. You see he had been
tongue-tied at his own temerity at first. When he was at ease--though
he was very modest and scrupulously well-mannered--he talked well.

The incident was interesting to me because I had heard that the
French Canadians had not been quick to volunteer, and I could not
resist asking him how it happened that he, a British subject, was in
the French army.

He reddened, stammered a bit, and finally said: "After all I am French
at heart. Had England fought any other nation but France in a war in
which France was not concerned it would have been different, but
since England and France are fighting together what difference can it
make if my heart turned to the land where I was born?"

Isn't the naturalization question delicate?

I could not help asking myself how England looked at the matter. I
don't know. She has winked at a lot of things, and a great many more
have happened of late about which no one has ever thought. There
are any number of officers in the English army today, enrolled as
Englishmen, who are American citizens, and who either had no idea
of abandoning their country, or were in too much of a hurry to wait for
formalities. I am afraid all this matter will take on another color after
"this cruel war is over."

This boy looked prosperous, and in no need of anything but kind
words in English. He did not even need cigarettes. But I saw him turn
his eyes frequently towards the library, and it occurred to me that he
might want something to read. I asked him if he did, and you should
have seen his eyes shine,--and he wanted English at that, and
beamed all over his face at a heap of illustrated magazines. So I was
able to send him away happy.

The result was, early the next morning two more of them arrived--a
tall six-footer, and a smaller chap. It was Sunday morning, and they
had real, smiling Sunday faces on. The smaller one addressed me in
very good English, and told me that the sergeant had said that there
was an American lady who was willing to lend the soldiers books. So I
let them loose in the library, and they bubbled, one in English, and the
other in French, while they revelled in the books.

Of course I am always curious about the civil lives of these lads, and
it is the privilege of my age to put such questions to them. The one
who spoke English told me that his home was in London, that he was
the head clerk in the correspondence department of an importing
house. I asked him how old he was, and he told me twenty-two; that
he was in France doing his military service when the war broke out;
that he had been very successful in England, and that his employer
had opposed his returning to France, and begged him to take out
naturalization papers. He said he could not make up his mind to jump
his military service, and had promised his employer to return when his
time was up,--then the war came.

I asked him if he was going back when it was over.

He looked at me a moment, shook his head and said, "I don't think
so. I had never thought of such a thing as a war. No, I am too French.
After this war, if I can get a little capital, I am going into business
here. I am only one, but I am afraid France needs us all."

You see there again is that naturalization question. This war has set
the world thinking, and it was high time.

One funny thing about this conversation was that every few minutes
he turned to his tall companion and explained to him in French what
we were talking about, and I thought it so sweet.

Finally I asked the tall boy--he was a corporal and had been watching
his English-speaking chum with such admiration--what he did in civil
life.

He turned his big brown eyes, on me, and replied: "I, madame? I
never had any civil life."

I looked puzzled, and he added: "I come of a military family. I am an
orphan, and I am an enfant de troupe."

Now did you know that there were such things today as "Children of
the Regiment"? I own I did not. Yet there he stood before me, a
smiling twenty-year old corporal, who had been brought up by the
regiment, been a soldier boy from his babyhood.

In the meantime they had decided what they wanted for books. The
English-speaking French lad wanted either Shakespeare or Milton,
and as I laid the books on the table for him, he told his comrade who
the two authors were, and promised to explain it all to him, and there
wasn't a sign of show-off in it either. As for the Child of the Regiment,
he wanted a Balzac, and when I showed him where they were, he
picked out "Eugénie Grandet," and they both went away happy.

I don't need to tell you that when the news spread that there were
books in the house on the hilltop that could be borrowed for the
asking, I had a stream of visitors, and one of these visits was a very
different matter.

One afternoon I was sitting before the fire. It was getting towards
dusk. There was a knock at the door. I opened it. There stood a
handsome soldier, with a corporal's stripes on his sleeve. He saluted
me with a smile, as he told me that his comrades had told him that
there was an American lady here who did not seem to be bored if the
soldiers called on her.

"Alors," he added, "I have come to make you a visit."

I asked him in.

He accepted the invitation. He thrust his fatigue cap into his pocket,
took off his topcoat, threw it on the back of a chair, which he drew up
to the fire, beside mine, and at a gesture from me he sat down.

"Hmmm," I thought. "This is a new proposition."

The other soldiers never sit down even when invited. They prefer to
keep on their feet.

Ever since I began to see so much of the army, I have asked myself
more than once, "Where are the fils de famille"? They can't all be
officers, or all in the heavy artillery, or all in the cavalry. But I had
never seen one, to know him, in the infantry. This man was in every
way a new experience, even among the noncommissioned officers I
had seen. He was more at his ease. He stayed nearly two hours. We
talked politics, art, literature, even religion--he was a good Catholic--
just as one talks at a tea-party when one finds a man who is
cultivated, and can talk, and he was evidently cultivated, and he
talked awfully well.

He examined the library, borrowed a volume of Flaubert, and finally,
after he had asked me all sorts of questions--where I came from; how
I happened to be here; and even to "explain Mr. Wilson," I responded
by asking him what he did in civil life.

He was leaning against the high mantel, saying a wood fire was
delicious. He smiled down on me and replied: "Nothing."

"Enfin!" I said to myself. "Here he is--the 'fils de famille' for whom I
have been looking." So I smiled back and asked him, in that case, if it
were not too indiscreet--what he did to kill time?

"Well," he said, "I have a very pretty, altogether charming wife, and I
have three little children. I live part of the time in Paris, and part of
the time at Cannes, and I manage to keep busy."

It seemed becoming for me to say "Beg pardon and thank you," and
he bowed and smiled an "il n'y a pas de quoi," thanked me for a
pleasant afternoon--an "unusual kind of pleasure," he added, "for a
soldier in these times," and went away.

It was only when I saw him going that it occurred to me that I ought to
have offered him tea--but you know the worth of "esprit d'escalier."

Naturally I was curious about him, so the next time I saw the
Canadian I asked him who he was. "Oh," he replied, "he is a nice
chap; he is a noble, a vicomte--a millionaire."

So you see I have found the type--not quite in the infantry ranks, but
almost, and if I found one there must be plenty more. It consoled me
in these days when one hears so often cries against "les
embusqués."

I began to think there was every type in the world in this famous
118th, and I was not far from wrong.

The very next day I got the most delicious type of all--the French-
American--very French to look at, but with New York stamped all over
him--especially his speech. Of all these boys, this is the one I wish
you could see.

Like all the rest of the English-speaking Frenchmen--the Canadian
excepted--he brought a comrade to hear him talk to the lady in
English. I really must try to give you a graphic idea of that
conversation.

When I opened the door for him, he stared at me, and then he threw
up both hands and simply shouted, "My God, it is true! My God, it is
an American!!"

Then he thrust out his hand and gave me a hearty shake, simply
yelling, "My God, lady, I'm glad to see you. My God, lady, the sight is
good for sore eyes."

Then he turned to his comrade and explained, "J'ai dit à la dame,
'Mon Dieu, Madame,'" etc., and in the same breath he turned back to
me and continued:

"My God, lady, when I saw them Stars and Stripes floating out there, I
said to my comrade, 'If there is an American man or an American
lady here, my God, I am going to look at them,' and my God, lady, I'm
glad I did. Well, how do you do, anyway?"

I told him that I was very well, and asked him if he wouldn't like to
come in.

"My God, lady, you bet your life I do," and he shook my hand again,
and came in, remarking, "I'm an American myself--from New York--
great city, New York--can't be beat. I wish all my comrades could see
Broadway--that would amaze them," and then he turned to his
companion to explain, "J'ai dit à Madame que je voudrais bien que
tous les copains pouvaient voir Broadway--c'est la plus belle rue de
New York--ils seront épatés--tous," and he turned to me to ask
"N'est-ce pas, Madame?"

I laughed. I had to. I had a vivid picture of his comrades seeing New
York for the first time--you know it takes time to get used to the Great
White Way, and I remembered the last distinguished Frenchman
whom the propaganda took on to the great thoroughfare, and who, at
the first sight and sound and feel of it, wanted to lay his head up
against Times Square and sob like a baby with fright and
amazement. This was one of those flash thoughts. My caller did not
give me time for more than that, for he began to cross-examine me--
he wanted to know where I lived in America.

It did not seem worth while to tell him I did not live there, so I said
"Boston," and he declared it a "nice, pretty slow town," he knew it,
and, of course, he added, "But my God, lady, give me New York
every time. I've lived there sixteen years--got a nice little wife there--
here's her picture--and see here, this is my name," and he laid an
envelope before me with a New York postmark.

"Well," I said, "if you are an American citizen, what are you doing
here, in a French uniform? The States are not in the war."

His eyes simply snapped.

"My God, lady, I'm a Frenchman just the same. My God, lady, you
don't think I'd see France attacked by Germany and not take a hand
in the fight, do you? Not on your life!"

Here is your naturalization business again.

I could not help laughing, but I ventured to ask: "Well, my lad, what
would you have done if it had been France and the States?" He
curled his lip, and brushed the question aside with:

"My God, lady! Don't be stupid. That could never be, never, on your
life."

I asked him, when I got a chance to put in a word, what he did in New
York, and he told me he was a chauffeur, and that he had a sister
who lived "on Riverside Drive, up by 76th Street," but I did not ask
him in what capacity, for before I could, he launched into an
enthusiastic description of Riverside Drive, and immediately put it all
into French for the benefit of his copain, who stood by with his mouth
open in amazement at the spirited English of his friend.

When he went away, he shook me again violently by the hand,
exclaiming: "Well, lady, of course you'll soon be going back to the
States. So shall I. I can't live away from New York. No one ever could
who had lived there. Great country the States. I'm a voter--I'm a
Democrat--always vote the Democratic ticket--voted for Wilson. Well,
goodbye, lady."

As he shook me by the hand again, it seemed suddenly to occur to
him that he had forgotten something. He struck a blow on his
forehead with his fist, and cried: "My God, lady, did I understand that
you have been here ever since the war began? Then you were here
during the battle out there? My God, lady, I 'm an American, too, and
my God, lady, I 'm proud of you! I am indeed." And he went off down
the road, and I heard him explaining to his companion "J'ai dit à
madame," etc.

I don't think any comment is necessary on what Broadway does to
the French lad of the people.

Last night I saw one of the most beautiful sights that I have ever
seen. For several evenings I have been hearing artillery practice of
some sort, but I paid no attention to it. We have no difficulty in
distinguishing the far-off guns at Soissons and Rheims, which
announce an attack, from the more audible, but quite different, sound
of the tir d'exercice. But last night they sounded so very near--almost
as if in the garden--that, at about nine, when I was closing up the
house, I stepped out on to the terrace to listen. It was a very dark
night, quite black. At first I thought they were in the direction of
Quincy, and then I discovered, once I was listening carefully, that they
were in the direction of the river. I went round to the north side of the
house, and I saw the most wonderful display--more beautiful than any
fireworks I had ever seen. The artillery was experimenting with signal
lights, and firing colored fusées volantes. I had read about them, but
never seen one. As near as I could make out, the artillery was on top
of the hill of Monthyon--where we saw the battle of the Marne begin,--
and the line they were observing was the Iles-lès-Villenoy, in the river
right at the west of us. When I first saw the exercises, there were half
a dozen lovely red and green lights hanging motionless in the sky. I
could hear the heavy detonation of the cannon or gun, or whatever
they use to throw them, and then see the long arc of light like a chain
of gold, which marked the course of the fusée, until it burst into color
at the end. I wrapped myself up, took my field-glasses, and stayed
out an hour watching the scene, and trying to imagine what exactly
the same thing, so far as mere beauty went, meant to the men at the
front.

In the morning I found that everyone else had heard the guns, but no
one had seen anything, because, as it happens, it was from my lawn
only that both Monthyon and the Iles-lès-Villenoy could be seen.



XXXVII



March 19, 1917


Such a week of excitement as we have had. But it has been uplifting
excitement. I feel as if I had never had an ache or a pain, and Time
and Age were not. What with the English advance, the Russian
Revolution, and Zeppelins tumbling out of the heavens, every day
has been just a little more thrilling than the day before.

I wonder now how "Willie,"--as we used to call him in the days when
he was considered a joke,--feels over his latest great success--the
democratic conversion, or I suppose I should, to be correct, say the
conversion to democracy, of all Russia? It must be a queer sensation
to set out to accomplish one thing, and to achieve its exact reverse.

Yesterday--it was Sunday--just capped the week of excitement. It was
the third beautiful day in the week,--full of sunshine, air clear, sky
blue.

In the morning, the soldiers began to drop in, to bring back books and
get more, to talk a little politics, for even the destruction of the
Zeppelin at Compiègne, and the news that the English were at
Bapaume, was a bit damped by the untimely fall of Briand.

The boys all looked in prime condition, and they all had new uniforms,
even new caps and boots. The Canadian, who usually comes alone,
had personally conducted three of his comrades, whom he formally
introduced, and, as I led the way into the library, I remarked, "Mais,
comme nous sommes chic aujourd'hui," and they all laughed, and
explained that it was Sunday and they were dressed for a formal call.
If any of them guessed that the new equipment meant anything they
made no sign. I imagine they did not suspect any more than I did, for
they all went down the hill to lunch, each with a book under his arm.
Yet four hours later they were preparing to advance.

It was exactly four in the afternoon that news came that the French
had pierced the line at Soissons--just in front of us--and that Noyon
had been retaken--that the cavalry were à cheval (that means that
the 23d Dragoons have advanced in pursuit)--and, only a quarter of
an hour after we got the news, the assemblage général was
sounded, and the 118th ordered sac au dos at half past six.

For half an hour there was a rush up the hill--boys bringing me back
my books, coming to shake hands and present me with little
souvenirs, and bring the news that the camions were coming--which
meant that the 118th were going right into action again. When a
regiment starts in such a hurry that it must take a direct line, and
cannot bother with railroads, the boys know what that means.

I know you'll ask me how they took the order, so I tell you without
waiting. I saw a few pale faces--but it was only for a moment. A group
of them stood in front of me in the library. I had just received from the
front, by post, the silk parachute of a fusée volante, on which was
written: "A Miss Mildred Aldrich Ramassé sur le champ de bataille à
20 metres des lignes Boches. Souvenir de la patrouille de Février 22,
1917," and the signature of the Aspirant, and that was the only way I
knew he had probably been on a dangerous mission.

It was the first time that I had ever seen one any nearer than in the
air, during the exercises by night of which I wrote you, and one of the
boys was explaining it, and its action, and use, and everyone but me
was laughing at the graphic demonstration. I don't know why I didn't
laugh. Usually I laugh more than anyone else.

Sometimes I think that I have laughed more in the last two years than
in all the rest of my life. The demonstrator looked at me, and asked
why I was so grave. I replied that I did not know--perhaps in surprise
that they were so gay.

He understood at once. Quite simply he said: "Well, my dear
madame, we must be gay. What would we do otherwise? If we
thought too often of the comrades who are gone, if we remembered
too often that we risked our skins every day, the army would be
demoralized. I rarely think of these things except just after an attack.
Then I draw a deep breath, look up at the sky, and I laugh, as I say to
my soul, 'Well, it was not to be this time, perhaps it never will be.' Life
is dear to each of us, in his own way, and for his own reasons. Luckily
it is not so dear to any of us as France or honor."

I turned away and looked out of the window a moment--I could not
trust myself,--and the next minute they were all shaking hands, and
were off down the road to get ready.

The loaded camions began to move just after dark. No one knows
the destination, but judging by the direction, they were heading for
Soissons. They were moving all night, and the first thing I heard this
morning was the bugle in the direction of Quincy, and the news came
at breakfast time that the 65th Regiment--the last of the big fighting
regiments to go into action at Verdun, and the last to leave, was
marching in. The girl from the butcher's brought the news, and "Oh,
madame," she added, "the Americans are with them."

"The what?" I exclaimed.

"A big American ambulance corps--any number of ambulance
automobiles, and they have put their tents up on the common at
Quincy."

You can imagine how excited I was. I sent someone over to Quincy at
once to see if it was true, and word came back that Captain Norton's
American Corps Sanitaire--forty men who have been with this same
division, the 31st Corps--for many months--had arrived from Verdun
with the 65th Regiment, and was to follow it into action when it
advanced again.

This time the cantonnement does not come up to Huiry--only to the
foot of the hill at Voisins.

Of course I have not seen our boys yet, but I probably shall in a few
days.



XXXVIII



March 28, 1917


Well, all quiet on the hilltop again--all the soldiers gone--no sign of
more coming for the present. We are all nervously watching the
advance, but controlling our nerves. The German retreat and the
organized destruction which accompanies it just strikes one dumb. Of
course we all know it is a move meant to break the back of the great
offensive, and though we knew, too, that the Allied commanders were
prepared for it, it does make you shiver to get a letter from the front
telling you that a certain regiment advanced at a certain point thirty
kilometres, without seeing a Boche.

As soon as I began to read the account of the destruction, I had a
sudden illuminating realization of the meaning of something I saw
from the car window the last time I came out from Paris. Perhaps I did
not tell you that I was up there for a few days the first of the month?

Of course you don't need to be told that there has been a
tremendous amount of work done on the eastern road all through the
war. Extra tracks have been laid all the way between Paris and
Chelles, the outer line of defenses of the city--and at the stations
between Gagny and Chelles the sidings extend so far on the western
side of the tracks as to almost reach out of sight. For a long time the
work was done by soldiers, but when I went up to Paris, four weeks
ago, the work was being done by Annamites in their saffron-colored
clothes and queer turbans, and I found the same little people cleaning
the streets in Paris. But the surprising thing was the work that was
accomplished in the few days that I was in Paris. I came back on
March 13, and I was amazed to see all those miles and miles of
sidings filled with trucks piled with wood, with great posts, with planks,
with steel rails, and what looked the material to build a big city or two.
I did not wonder when I saw them that we could not get coal, or other
necessities of life, but it was not until I read of the very German-like
idea of defending one's self on the property of other people that I
realized what all that material meant, and that the Allies were
prepared for even this tragic and Boche-like move. I began to get little
cards and letters back from the 118th on the twenty-third. The first
said simply:


Dear Madame,

Here we are--arrived last night just behind the line,--with our eyes
strained towards the front, ready to bound forward and join in the
pursuit.

Of course I have seen the Americans--a doctor from Schenectady
and forty men, almost all youngsters in their early twenties. In fact
twenty-two seems to be the popular age. There are boys from
Harvard, boys from Yale, New England boys, Virginia boys, boys from
Tennessee, from Kentucky, from Louisiana, and American boys from
Oxford. It is a first-line ambulance corps,--the boys who drive their
little Ford ambulances right down to the battlefields and receive the
wounded from the brancardiers, and who have seen the worst of
Verdun, and endured the privations and the cold with the army.

When a Virginia man told me that he had not taken cold this winter,
and showed me his little tent on the common, where, from choice, he
is still sleeping under canvas, because he "likes it," I could easily
believe him. Do you know,--it is absurd--I have not had a cold this
winter, either? I, who used to have one tonsilitis per winter, two
bronchitis, half a dozen colds in my head, and occasionally a mild
specimen of grip. This is some record when you consider that since
my coal gave out in February we have had some pretty cold weather,
and that I have only had imitation fires, which cheer the imagination
by way of the eyes without warming the atmosphere. I could fill a
book with stories of "how I made fires in war time," but I spare you
because I have more interesting things to tell you.

On the twenty-sixth we were informed that we were to have the 65th
Regiment cantoned on the hill for a day and a night. They were to
move along a bit to make room for the 35th for a few days. It was
going to be pretty close quarters for one night, and the adjutant who
arranged the cantonnement was rather put to it to house his men.
The Captain was to be in my house, and I was asked, if, for two days
--perhaps less--I could have an officers' kitchen in the house and let
them have a place to eat. Well,--there the house was--they were
welcome to it. So that was arranged, and I put a mattress on the floor
in the atelier for the Captain's cook.

We had hardly got that over when the adjutant came back to look
over the ground again, and see if it were not possible to canton a
demi-section in the granges. I went out with him to show him what
there was--a grange on the south side, with a loft, which has already
had to be braced up with posts, and which I believe to be dangerous.
He examined it, and agreed: a grange on the north side, used for
coal, wood, and garden stuff, with a loft above in fair condition, but
only accessible by ladder from the outside. He put up the ladder,
climbed it, unlocked the door, examined it, and decided that it would
do, unless they could find something better.

So soldiers came in the afternoon and swept it out, and brought the
straw in which they were to sleep, and that was arranged.

It was about seven the next morning when they began to arrive. I
heard the tramp of their feet in the road, as they marched, in sections,
to their various cantonnements. I put a clean cap over my tousled
hair, slipped into a wadded gown and was ready just as I heard the
"Halte," which said that my section had arrived. I heard two growly
sounds which I took to be "A droite, marche!"--and by the time I got
the window open to welcome my section I looked down into an Indian
file of smiling bronzed faces, as they marched along the terrace,
knapsacks and guns on their backs, and began mounting the ladder.

Soon after, the Captain's cook arrived with his market baskets and
took possession of the kitchen, and he was followed by orderlies and
the kits, and by the officer who was to be the Captain's table
companion.

As Amélie had half a section cantoned in her courtyard she was busy
there, and I simply showed the cook where things were, gave him
table cloths and napkins, and left him to follow his own sweet will, free
to help himself to anything he needed. If you remember what I told
you about my house when I took it, you can guess how small I had to
make myself.

I can tell you one thing--on the testimony of Amélie--the officers eat
well. But they pay for it themselves, so that is all right. The cook was
never idle a minute while he was in the house. I heard him going up
to bed, in his felt shoes, at ten o'clock--Amélie said he left the kitchen
scrupulously clean--and I heard the kitchen alarm clock, which he
carried with him going off at half past five in the morning.

I had asked the Captain when the regiment was to advance, and he
said probably the next morning, but that the order had not come.
Twice while I was at dinner in the breakfast room, I heard an orderly
come in with despatches, but it was not until nine o'clock that the
order "sac au dos" at half past ten the next morning--that was
yesterday--was official, and it was not until nine in the morning that
they knew that they were leaving in camions--which meant that they
were really starting in the pursuit, and the American division was to
follow them.

The officers had a great breakfast just after nine--half a dozen
courses. As they did not know when, if ever, they would sit down to a
real meal at a table again they made their possibly last one a feast.
As they began just after nine and had to be on the road at half past
ten I don't need to tell you that the cook had no time to clear up after
himself. He had just time--with his mouth full of food--to throw his
apron on the floor, snatch up his gun and his knapsack and buckle
himself into shape as he sprinted up the hill to overtake his company.

As for me--I threw on a cape and went across the road to the field,
where I could see the Grande Route, and the chemin Madame
leading to it. All along the route nationale, as far as I could see with
my field-glass, stood the grey camions. On the chemin Madame the
regiment was waiting. They had stacked their guns and, in groups,
with cigarettes between their lips, they chatted quietly, as they waited.
Here and there a bicyclist was sprinting with orders.

Suddenly a whistle sounded. There was a rattle of arms as the men
unstacked their guns and fell into line, then hundreds of hobnailed
boots marked time on the hard road, and the 65th swung along to the
waiting camions, over the same route I had seen Captain Simpson
and the Yorkshire boys take, just before sundown, on that hot
September day in 1914.

As I stood watching them all the stupendousness of the times rushed
over me that you and I, who have rubbed our noses on historical
monuments so often, have chased after emotions on the scenes of
past heroism, and applauded mock heroics across the footlights,
should be living in days like these, days in which heroism is the
common act of every hour. I cannot help wondering what the future
generations are going to say of it all; how far-off times are going to
judge us; what is going to stand out in the strong limelight of history? I
know what I think, but that does not help yet.

Do you know that I had a letter from Paris this week which said: "I
was looking over your letters written while we were tied up in London,
in August, 1914, and was amused to find that in one of them you had
written 'the annoying thing is, that, after this is over, Germany will
console herself with the reflection that it took the world to beat her.'"
It is coming truer than I believed in those days,--and then I went
back to dishwashing.

You never saw such a looking kitchen as I found. Léon, the officers'
cook--a pastry cook before he was a soldier--was a nice, kindly, hard-
working chap, but he lacked the quality dear to all good house-
keepers--he had never learned to clean up after himself as he went
along. He had used every cooking utensil in the house, and such a
pile of plates and glasses! It took Amélie and me until two o'clock to
clean up after him, and when it was done I felt that I never wanted to
see food again as long as I lived. Of course we did not mind, but
Amélie had to say, every now and then, "Vive l'armée!" just to keep
her spirits up. Anyway it was consoling to know that they have more
to eat than we do.

The American corps had to leave one of their boys behind in our
ambulance, very ill with neuritis--that is to say, painfully ill. As the
boys of the American corps are ranked by the French army as
officers this case is doubly interesting to the personnel of our
modest hospital. First he is an American--a tall young Southerner
from Tennessee. They never knew an American before. Second,
he is not only an honorary officer serving France, he is really a
lieutenant in the officers' reserve corps of his own State, and
our little ambulance has never sheltered an officer before.

The nurses and the sisters are falling over one another to take care
of him--at least, as I always find one or two of them sitting by his bed
whenever I go to see him, I imagine they are.

The amusing thing is that he says he can't understand or speak
French, and swears that the only words he knows are:

Oui, oui, oui,
Non, non, non,
Si, si, si,
Et voilà,
Merci!

which he sings, in his musical southern voice, to the delight of his
admiring nurses. All the same, whenever it is necessary for an
interpreter to explain something important to him, I find that he has
usually got the hang of it already, so I've my doubts if he has as little
French as he pretends. One thing is sure his discharge will leave a
big void in the daily life of the ambulance.

This is growing into a long letter--in the quiet that has settled on us I
seem to have plenty of time--and the mood--so, before I close, I must
say something in reply to your sad sentence in your last letter--the
reply to mine of December regarding our first big cantonnement. You
say "Oh! the pity of this terrible sacrifice of the youth of the world!!
Why aren't the middle-aged sent first--the men who have partly lived
their lives, who leave children to continue the race?" Ah, dear old girl
--you are indeed too far off to understand such a war as this. Few men
of even forty can stand the life. Only the young can bear the strain.
They not only bear it, they thrive on it, and, such of them as survive
the actual battles, will come out of it in wonderful physical trim. Of
course there are a thousand sides to the question. There are
hospitals full of the tuberculous and others with like maladies, but
those things existed before the war, only less attention was paid to
them. It is also a serious question--? getting more serious the longer
the war goes on--as to how all these men will settle into civil life again
--how many will stand sedentary pursuits after years in the open, and
how they will settle back into the injustices of class distinctions after
years of the equality of the same duty--fighting for their country.
Still if the victory is decisive, and the army is satisfied with the
peace conditions, I imagine all those things will settle themselves.

Well, Congress meets on Monday. There is no doubt in anyone's
mind of the final decision. I only hope it won't drag too long. I have
taken my flags down just to have the pleasure of putting them up
again.

I had this letter closed when I got my first direct news from the front
since the advance.

Do you remember how amused I was when I saw the Aspirant
equipped for his march in January? I was told afterward that my idea
of a light equipment for the cavalry in battle was "theoretically
beautiful," but in such a war as this absolutely impracticable. Well I
hear today that when the cavalry advanced it advanced in a
"theoretically beautiful" manner. It seems that the order was
unexpected. It caught the cavalry in the saddle during a manœuvre,
and, just as they were, they wheeled into line and flew off in pursuit of
the Boches. They had nothing but what was on their backs--and
ammunition, of course. The result was that they had forty-eight hours
of real suffering. It was harder on the officers than on the men, and
hardest of all on the horses. All the soldiers always have a bidon with
something in it to drink, and almost invariably they have a bite or so in
their sacks. No officer ever has anything on him, and none of them
carries a bidon except on a march. For forty-eight hours in the chase
they suffered from hunger, and, what was worse still, from thirst. As
the weather was nasty and they were without shelters of any kind--not
even tents--they tasted all the hardships of war. This must comfort
the foot soldiers, who are eternally grumbling at the cavalry. However,
the officer who brought back the news says the men bore it with
philosophical gaiety, even those who on the last day had nothing as
well as those who in forty-eight hours had a quarter of a biscuit. The
horses were not so philosophical--some of them just lay down and
died, poor beasts. I assure you I shall never laugh again at a
cavalryman's "battle array."



XXXIX



April 8, 1917


The sun shines, and my heart is high. This is a great day. The Stars
and Stripes ace flying at my gate, and they are flying over all France.
What is more they will soon be flying--if they are not already--over
Westminster, for the first time in history. The mighty, unruly child, who
never could quite forgive the parent it defied, and never has been
wholly pardoned, is to come back to the family table, if only long
enough to settle the future manners of the nations about the board,
put in, I suppose, a few "don'ts," like "don't grab"; "don't take a bigger
mouthful than you can becomingly chew"; "don't jab your knife into
your neighbor--it is not for that purpose"; "don't eat out of your
neighbor's plate--you have one of your own,"--in fact "Thou shalt not--
even though thou art a Kaiser--take the name of the Lord thy God in
vain"; "thou shalt not steal"; "thou shalt not kill"; "thou shalt not
covet," and so on. Trite, I know, but in thousands of years we
have not improved on it.

So the Stars and Stripes are flying over France to greet the long
delayed and ardently awaited, long ago inevitable declaration which
puts the States shoulder to shoulder with the other great nations in
the Defence of the Rights of Man, the Sacredness of Property, the
Honor of Humanity, and the news has been received with such
enthusiasm as has not been seen in France since war broke over it.
Judging by the cables the same enthusiasm which has set the air
throbbing here is mounting to the skies on your side of the ocean. We
are a strangely lucky nation--we are the first to go into the great fight
to the shouts of the populace; to be received like a star performer,
with "thunders of applause."

Well--

"God's in his heaven, All's right with the world."--and--we are no
longer in the war zone. As soon as a few formalities are filled, and I
can get a carte d'identité, I shall be once more free to circulate. After
sixteen months of a situation but one step removed from being
interned, it will be good to be able to move about--even if I don't want
to.

To give you some idea how the men at the front welcome the news,
here is a letter which has just come,--written before Congress had
voted, but when everyone was sure of the final decision.


At the Front, April 4, 1917
Dear Madame:


It has been a long time since I sent you my news. The neglect has
not been my fault, but due to the exceptional circumstances of the
war.

At last we have advanced, and this time as real cavalry. We have
had the satisfaction of pursuing the Boches--keeping on their flying
heels until we drove them into St. Quentin. From the 18th to the 28th
of March the war became once more a battle in the open, which was
a great relief to the soldiers and permitted them to once more
demonstrate their real military qualities. I lived through a dozen days
filled to overflowing with emotions--sorrow, joy, enthusiasm. At last I
have really known what war is--with all its misery and all its beauty.
What joy it was for us of the cavalry to pass over the trenches and fly
across the plains in the pursuit of the Germans! The first few days
everything went off wonderfully. The Boches fled before us, not
daring to turn and face us. But our advance was so rapid, our
impetuosity such, that, long before they expected us, we overtook the
main body of the enemy. They were visibly amazed at being caught
before they could cross the canal at St. Quentin, as was their plan,
and they were obliged to turn and attempt to check our advance, in
order to gain sufficient time to permit their artillery to cross the canal
and escape complete disaster.

It was there that we fought, forcing them across the canal to entrench
themselves hastily in unprepared positions, from which, at the hour I
write, our wonderful infantry and our heavy artillery, in collaboration
with the British, are dislodging them.

Alas! The battles were costly, and many of our comrades paid with
their lives for our audacious advance. Be sure that we avenged them,
and cruel as are our losses they were not in vain. They are more than
compensated by the results of the sacrifice--the strip of our native soil
snatched from the enemy. They died like heroes, and for a noble
cause.

Since then we have been resting, but waiting impatiently to advance
and pursue them again, until we can finally push them over their own
frontier.

Today's paper brings us great and comforting news. At last, dear
madame! At last your marvellous country is going to march beside us
in this terrible war. With a full heart I present to you my heartiest
congratulations. At last Wilson understands, and the American
people--so noble, and always so generous--will no longer hesitate to
support us with all their resources. How wonderfully this is going to
aid us to obtain the decisive victory we must have, and perhaps to
shorten the war.

Here, in the army, the joy is tremendous at the idea that we have
behind us the support of a nation so great, and all our admiration, all
our gratitude goes out to your compatriots, to the citizens of the great
Republic, which is going to enter voluntarily into this Holy War, and so
bravely expose itself to its known horrors.

Bravo! et vivent les Etats-Unis!

My greetings to Amélie and Papa: a caress for Khaki and Didine, and
a pat for Dick.

Receive, madame, the assurance of my most respectful homage.

I am feeling today as if it were no matter that the winter had been so
hard; that we have no fuel but twigs; that the winter wheat was frozen;
that we have eaten part of our seed potatoes and that another part of
them was frost-bitten; that butter is a dollar a pound (and none to be
had, even at that price, for days at a time); that wood alcohol is sixty-
five cents a litre, and so on and so forth. I even feel that it is not
important that this war came, since it could not be escaped, and that
what alone is important is--that the major part of the peoples of the
world are standing upright on their feet, lifting their arms with a great
shout for Liberty, Justice, and Honor; that a war of brute force for
conquest has defeated itself, and set free those who were to have
been its victims. It is not, I know, today or tomorrow that it will all
end; it is not next year, or in many years, that poor Poland's three
mutilated parts can be joined and healed into harmony; and oh! how
long it is going to be before all the sorrow and hatred that Germany
has brought on the world can be either comforted or forgotten! But at
least we are sure now of the course the treatment is going to take--so
the sun shines and my heart is high, and I do believe that though joy
may lead nowhere, sorrow is never in vain.





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