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Title: My Home in the Field of Honor
Author: Huard, Frances Wilson, 1885-
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "My Home in the Field of Honor" ***

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MY HOME IN THE FIELD OF HONOUR

BY FRANCES WILSON HUARD



I


The third week in July found a very merry gathering at the Chateau de
Villiers. (Villiers is our summer home situated near Marne River, sixty
miles or an hour by train to Paris.)

Nothing, I think, could have been farther from thoughts than the idea of
war. Our May Wilson Preston, the artist; Mrs. Chase, the editor of a
well-known woman's magazine; Hugues Delorme, the French artist; and
numerous other guests, discussed the theatre and the "Caillaux case"
from every conceivable point of view, and their conversations were only
interrupted by serious attempts to prove their national superiority at
bridge, and long delightful walks in the park.

As I look back now over those cheerful times, I can distinctly remember
one bright sunny morning, when after a half-hour's climbing we reached
the highest spot on our property.  Very warm and a trifle out of breath
we sought shelter beneath a big purple beech, and I can still hear H.
explaining to Mrs. Chase:

"Below you on the right runs the Marne, and over there, beyond those
hills, do you see that long straight line of trees?"

"Yes."

"Well, that's the road that lead's from Paris to Metz!"

At that moment I'm confident he hadn't the slightest _arriere pensee_.

On Monday, the 27th, Mrs. Preston, having decided to take her leave, I
determined to accompany her to Paris.  Several members of the house
party joined us, leaving H. and a half-dozen friends at Villiers.  We
took an early morning train, and wrapped in our newspapers we were
rolling peacefully towards the capital when someone called out, "For
Heaven's sake, look at those funny soldiers!"

Glancing through the window, I caught sight of numerous gray-haired,
bushy-bearded men stationed at even distances along the line, while here
and there little groups beneath or around a tent were preparing the
morning meal.

What strange looking creatures they were; anything but military in their
dirty white overalls--the only things that betrayed their calling being
their caps and their guns!

"What on earth are they?" queried an American.

"Oh, only some territorials serving their last period of twenty-nine
days.  It's not worth while giving them uniforms for so short a time!"

"Bah!" came from the other end of the compartment.  "I should think it
was hot enough in the barracks without forcing men that age to mount a
guard in the sun!"

"It's about time for the _Grand manaeuvres_, isn't it?"

And in like manner the conversation rose and dwindled, and we returned
to our papers, paying no more attention to the territorials stationed
along the rails.

A theatre party having been arranged, I decided to stop over in Paris.
The play was _Georgette Lemeunier_ at the Comedie Francaise.  The house
was full--the audience chiefly composed of Americans and tourists, and
throughout the entire piece even very significant allusions to current
political events failed to arouse any unwonted enthusiasm on the part of
the French contingent.  Outside not even an _edition speciale de la
Presse_ betokened the slightest uneasiness.

The next day, that is, Tuesday, the 28th, I had a business meeting with
my friends, Mr. Gautron and Mr. Pierre Mortier, editor of the _Gil
Blas_.  Mr. Gautron was on the minute, but Mr. Mortier kept us waiting
over an hour and when finally we had despaired of his coming I heard
someone hurrying across the court, and the bell was rung impatiently.
Mr. Mortier rushed in, unannounced, very red, very excited, very
apologetic.

"A thousand pardons.  I'm horribly late, but you'll forgive me when you
hear the news.  I've just come from the Foreign Office.  All diplomatic
relations with Germany are suspended.  War will be declared Saturday!"

Mr. Gautron and I looked at each other, then at Mr. Mortier, and smiled.

"No, I'm not joking.  I'm as serious as I have ever been in my life. The
proof: on leaving the Foreign Office I went and had a neglected tooth
filled, and on my way down, stopped at my shoemaker's and ordered a pair
of good strong boots for Saturday morning.  I'll be fit then to join my
regiment."

Our faces fell.

"But why Saturday?"

"Because Saturday's the first of August, and the idea of keeping the
news back is to prevent a panic on the Bourse, and to let the July
payments have time to be realized."

"You don't really believe it's serious, do you?"

"Yes, really.  I'm not fooling, and if I've any advice to give you it's
this: draw out all the money you can from your bank, and take all the
gold they'll give you. You may need it.  I've telephoned to the _Gil
Blas_ for them to do as much for us. The worst of all though is, that
every man on my paper is of an age bound to military service.  War means
that when I leave, staff, printers and all will have to go the same day
and the _Gil Blas_ shuts its doors.  We cease to exist--that's all."

Somewhat disconcerted by this astonishing news, we had some little
difficulty getting down to facts, but when we did business was speedily
dispatched and Mr. Mortier took his leave.  Mr. Gautron carried me off
to luncheon.

"You must come," he protested when I pleaded an engagement.  "You must
come, or my wife and the boys will never believe me."

We found Madame Gautron and her two splendid sons waiting rather
impatiently. We told our news.

"Come, come now.  You can't make us take that as an excuse!"

We protested our sincerity, and went in to luncheon which began rather
silently.

I questioned the boys as to their military duties.  Both were
under-officers in an infantry regiment--bound to join their barracks
within twenty-four hours after the call to arms.

We did not linger over our coffee.  Each one seemed anxious to go about
his affairs.  I left the Gautron boys at the comer of their street, each
carrying his army shoes under his arm.

"To be greased--in case of accident," they laughingly explained.

That was the last time I ever saw them.  They fell "on the Field of
Honour" both the same day, and hardly a month later.

But to return to my affairs.

A trifle upset by what Mr. Mortier had told me, I hurried to the nearest
telephone station and asked for Villiers.  When after what seemed an
interminable time I got the connection, I explained to H. what had
happened.

"For Heaven's sake leave politics alone and take the five o'clock train
home! We need you to make a second fourth at bridge."  H.'s
lightheartedness somewhat reassured me, though for prudence's sake I
went to my bank and asked to withdraw my entire account.

"Why, Madame Huard," said the clerk in surprise, "you   mean to say you
are frightened?"

I explained what I had heard in the morning.

"_Pensez-vous?  Non!_  We would be the first to be notified.  We were
ever so much closer to war two years ago--at Agadir!  There is no cause
for alarm."

He almost persuaded me, but after hesitating a moment I decided to abide
by my original intentions.

"I can always put my money back in a week or so if all blows over and I
find I don't need it," I argued.

"Certainly, Madame--as you will."

And the twenty-eighth of July the _Societe Generale_ gave me all the
gold I requested.

As the five o'clock express hurried me back home I began to understand
the gravity of the situation--for the "queer looking soldiers" were
nearer together all along the railway line, and it dawned on me that
theirs was a very serious mission--namely, that of safeguarding the
steel artery which leads from Paris to the eastern frontier.

At Charly, our station, I was much surprised to see three French
officers in full uniform get off the train and step into the
taxi-autobus which deposits its travelers at the only hotel in the
vicinity.

At the chateau my story failed to make an impression.  The men
pooh-poohed the idea of war, and returned to the evening papers and the
_proces Caillaux_, which was the most exciting question of the moment.
In the pantry the news was greeted with hilarity, and coachman and
gardener declared that they would shoulder their spades and _faire la
guerre en sabots_.

My friend and neighbor, Elizabeth Gauthier, was the only one who took
the matter seriously, and that because she had no less than five
brothers and a husband who would be obliged to serve in case of serious
events.  I felt rather ashamed when I saw her countenance darken, for
after all, she was alone in Villiers with two tiny children; her
husband, the well-known archivist, coming down but for the week-end.
"What is the sense of alarming people so uselessly?" I thought.

Wednesday, the 29th, the papers began to talk of "a tension in the
political relations between France and Germany" which, however, did not
quench the gaiety of a picnic luncheon in the grove by our river.

In the afternoon the old _garde-champetre_ asked for H. in the
courtyard.

"In case of mobilization," said he, "you have three horses and your farm
cart to present to the authorities.  Your cart must have its awnings
complete.  And your horses harnessed with their halters!"

H. laughed and told him that he was giving himself a lot of useless
trouble.

Thursday, the 30th, market day at Charly, the nearest town to Villiers.
We both drove down in the victoria, and were not surprised to see my
officers of the day before seated in the hotel dining-room, finishing
breakfast.

"What are they down here for?" I queried of the proprietor.

"Oh, they belong to the _Etat Major_ and are out here to verify their
maps.  The Mayor has given them an office in the town hall.  They go off
on their bicycles early every morning and only return for meals."

"It's rather a treat to see a uniform out here, where hardly an officer
has appeared since last year when we had Prince George of Servia and his
staff for three days."

The general topic on the market place was certainly _not_ war, and we
drove home somewhat reassured.

Friday, the 31st, however, the tone of the newspapers was serious and
our little village began to grow alarmed when several soldiers on
holiday leave received individual official telegrams to rejoin their
regiments immediately.  Little knots of peasants could be seen grouped
together along the village street, a thing unheard of in that busy
season when vineyards need so much attention. Towards noon the news ran
like wildfire that men belonging to the youngest classes had received
their official notices and we're leaving to join their corps.  Yet there
was no commotion anywhere.

"It will last three weeks and they'll all come home, safe and sound.
It's bothersome, though, that the Government should choose just our
busiest season to take the men out for a holiday!" declared one peasant.

There was less hilarity in the servants' hall when I entered after
luncheon.  At least I fancied so.  The men had gone about their work
quicker than usual, and the women were silently washing up.

"Does Madame know that the _fils Poupard_ is leaving by the four o'clock
train---and that Cranger and Veron are going too?" asked my faithful
Catherine.

"No."

"Yes, Madame--and Honorine is in the wash-house crying as though her
heart would break."

I turned on my heel and walked toward the river.  In the wash-house I
found Honorine  bending over her linen, the great tears streaming down
her face, in spite of her every effort to control them.

"Why, Honorine, what's the matter?"

"He's gone, Madame--gone without my seeing him--without even a clean
pair of socks!"

"Who?"

"My son, Madame!"

And the tears burst out afresh, though in silence.

"Yes, Madame, I found this under the door when I came in at noon.--"  She
drew a crumpled paper from her apron pocket.  I smoothed it out and
read:

"_Je viens de recevior ma feuille.  Je pars de suite.  Je prends les
deux francs sur la cheminee.  Jean._"  (I've just received my notice. Am
leaving at once. Have taken the two francs that are on the mantel.
Jean.)

I cannot say what an impression that brief but heroic note made upon me.
In my mind it has always stood as characteristic of that wonderful
national resolution to do one's duty, and to make the least possible
fuss about it.

At tea-time the male contingent of the house-party was decidedly
restless.

"Let's go up to Paris and see what's going on."

"There's no use doing that.  Elizabeth Gauthier went this morning and
will be back in an hour with all the news.  It's too late to go to town,
anyway!"

"Well, if things don't look better to-morrow I've got to go.  My
military book is somewhere in my desk at home and it's best to have it
_en regle_ in case of necessity," said Delorme.

"Mine's at home, too," echoed our friend Boutiteron.

"We'll all go to-morrow, and make a day of it," decided H.

Just then the silhouette of the three officers on bicycles passed up the
road.

"Let's go out and ask them what's up," suggested someone.

"Pooh!  Do you think they know anything more than we do?  And if they do
know something, they wouldn't tell _you!_  Don't make a fool of
yourself, Hugues!"

Presently Elizabeth Gauthier arrived, placid and cool as though
everything were normal.  "Paris is calm; calm as Paris always is in
August."

"But the papers?  Your husband?  What does he say?"

"There are no extras--Leon doesn't seem over-alarmed, though as captain
in the reserves he would have to leave within an hour after any
declaration of hostilities.  He has a special mission to perform.  But
he's certain of coming down by the five o'clock train to-morrow."

We went in to dinner but conversation lagged.  Each one seemed
preoccupied and no one minded the long silences.  We were so quiet that
the Angelus ringing at Charly, some four miles away, roused us with
something of a shock.

Saturday morning, August 1st, the carryall rolled up to the station for
the early train.  All made a general rush for the papers which had just
arrived and all of us were equally horrified when a glance showed the
headline-Jaures, the Great Socialist Leader, Assassinated.  Decidedly
the plot thickened and naturally we all jumped to the same conclusion--a
political crime.

"There's a stronger hand than the murderer's back of that felony,"
murmured a plain man from the corner of our compartment.

"What makes you say that?"

"Why, can't you see, Monsieur, that our enemies are counting on the deed
to stir up the revolutionary party and breed discord in the country!
It's as plain as day!"

That was rather opening the door to a lengthy discussion, but our
friends refused to debate, especially as we could hear excited masculine
voices rising high above the ordinary tone in the compartments on either
side of us.

The journey drew to a close without any further remarkable incident.  It
seemed to me that we passed more up trains than usual, but were not a
moment overdue. There was nothing to complain of.  As we approached La
Villette and drew into the Gare de l'Est everybody noticed the
extraordinary number of locomotives that were getting up steam in the
yards.  There were rows and rows of them, just as close together as it
was possible to range them, and as far as the eye could see their
glittering boilers extended down the tracks in even lines.  Each one had
a freshly glued yellow label, on which was printed in big black capitals
the name of its home station.  That was the most significant preparation
we had witnessed as yet. Presently we observed that the platforms of
freight and express depots had been swept clear of every obstacles and
the usually encumbered Gare de l'Est was clean and empty as the hand of
man could make it.

In the courtyard our party separated, promising to meet for the five
o'clock express--"Unless something serious prevents."

I accompanied H. to the _Caserne des Minimes_ where he went to see if
his military situation was registered up to date in his _livret_, and
all along the streets leading from the station we met women silently
wiping their eyes.

What a sight the courtyard of that barracks presented!  Some five or six
thousand men of all ages, classes and conditions who up until that
moment had never thought that the loss of a military book entailed the
slightest consequence, had one and all been pushed by that single
thought, "Be ready for duty."  Here they were, boys of twenty and men of
forty, standing in line, braving their all-time enemy, the _gendarme_,
each silently waiting his turn to explain his situation.  To the credit
of the _gendarme_ and all those in authority, it must be said that
contrary to their usual custom they acted like loving fathers with these
prodigal sons of the Republic--possible information without the sign of
a grumble, and advising those who were still streaming in at the door to
come back towards five o'clock, when the line should have advanced a
little.  It was then scarcely ten A. M.!

H. had finished in no time.

"All I've got to do is to go home and wait until I am called for," he
explained as we walked away at a brisk gait.

Like most country people when they come to town I had numerous errands
to do, so we set off towards the _Bazar de l'Hotel de Ville_, renowned
for its farming implements.

At the corner of the Rue des Archives we met Monsieur Gauthier on his
way to his Museum.

"_Grave--tre's grave--la situation, Monsieur_," was all he could say.

"What would you advise us to do?"

"Well, to speak plainly, I should advise you to shut up the chateau,
leave a guardian, and open your Paris apartment.  You're in the east,
you know!  I shall go down by the five train and bring back Elizabeth
and the children.  I'd be easier in my mind if I knew they were in a big
city!  I If you have to leave, Madame Huard would be better off here."

H. was very sober as we left Mr. Gauthier.

"Bah!  Cheer up!  I'm afraid our friend is an alarmist.  You know he has
two young children!"

We entered the Bazar, which is the "biggest" of the big stores in Paris.
Every day in the week, and Sundays included, it is usually so crowded
with buyers and sellers that one has to elbow one's way, and literally
serve one's self.  To our amazement it was empty--literally empty.  Not
a single customer--not a single clerk to be seen. The long stretches of
floor and counters were vacant as though the store were closed.  I
gasped a little in surprise and just as I did so a female voice from
behind a distant desk called out:

"What is your pleasure, Madame?"

I turned, and a little woman in black advanced towards me.

"Yes, I know the place looks queer, but you see all our clerks are young
men and everyone of them has been obliged to join his regiment since
closing time last evening!"

"Leave farming alone and come over to Conard's.  He's bound to have some
news," said H. impatiently.

Conard's is a big publishing firm on the boulevard, renowned as a
meeting place for most of the well-known political men.

Conard greeted us in silence.  He knew no more than we, and we fell to
talking of the latest events and trying to come to a conclusion.  Then
one of the _habitués_ stepped in.

"_Eh bien, Monsieur_, what news?"

The person addressed kept on perusing the titles of the books spread
along the counter, and drawing a long puff from his cigarette and
without lifting his eyes, said, "The mobilization is for four o'clock!
Official.  Have you something entertaining to read on my way to the
front?"

"_What?_"

"Yes, gentlemen."

"War?"'

"It looks very much like it!"

Though almost expected, the news gave us a thrill.  We stood spellbound
and tongue-tied.

What to do?  There were so many decisions to be made at a moment's
notice!  H. was for our coming to Paris, as all the men must necessarily
leave the chateau.

"Mobilization doesn't necessarily mean war, man.  Besides if it does
come it can't last long.  You'd better go back to your place in the
country, Huard.  A big estate like that needs looking after," said
Conard.

"Where do you live?" questioned the gentleman who had given us the news.

"Villiers--sixty miles _east_ of Paris."

"Well, if you decide to go there I advise you to take the soonest train.
The eastern railway belongs to the army, and only the army, beginning at
noon to-day."

H. looked at his watch.  It was nearly eleven, and our next train left
at noon sharp.  We jumped into a taxi.

"Drive to the Gare de l'Est and on the way stop at Tarides!  We must
have maps, good road maps of the entire north and east," said H.,
turning to me.

It seemed as though he had had that thought in common with the entire
Parisian population, for all down the boulevards the bookshops and
stationers were already overflowing with men, chiefly in regimentals,
and as to the shoe-shops and boot-makers--there was a line waiting
outside of each.  Yet there was no excitement, no shouting, not even an
"extra."

What a different sight our station presented to that of two hours
before!  The great iron gates were shut, and guarded by a line of
_sergents de ville_.  Only men joining their regiments and persons
returning to their legitimate dwellings were allowed to pass. And there
were thousands of both.  Around the grillwork hovered dense groups of
women, bravely waving tearless adieux to their men folk.

After assuring himself that there was still a noon train, H. led me to
the restaurant directly opposite the station.

"We'll have a bite here.  Heaven knows what time we shall reach home!"

The room was filled to overflowing; the lunchers being mostly officers.
At the table on our right sat a young fellow whose military harnessings
were very new and very stiff, but  in spite of the heat, a high collar
and all his trappings he managed to put away a very comfortable repast.

On our left was a party composed of a captain, his wife and two other
_freres d'armes_.  That brave little Parisian woman at once won my
admiration, for though, in spite of superhuman efforts, the tears would
trickle down her face, she never gave in one second to her emotion but
played her part as hostess, trying her best to put her guests at ease
and smilingly inquiring after their family and friends as though she
were receiving under ordinary circumstances in her own home.

At a quarter before noon we left them and elbowed our way through the
ever-gathering crowd towards our train.

"The twelve o'clock express--what platform?" H. inquired.

"The ten o'clock train hasn't gone yet, Monsieur!"

"Is there any danger of its _not_ going?"

"Oh, no; but there's every danger of its being the last."

And the man spoke the truth, for as our friend the politician predicted,
at noon military authority took over the station and all those who were
so unfortunate as to have been left behind were obliged to wait in Paris
three mortal weeks. On the Eastern Railway all passenger service was
immediately sacrificed to the transportation of troops.

It seems to me that this was the longest train I have ever seen.  The
coaches stretched far out beyond the station into torrid sunlight. Every
carriage was filled up to and beyond its normal capacity.  There could
be no question of what class one would travel--it was travel where one
could!  Yet no one seemed to mind. I managed to find a seat in it
compartment already occupied by two young St. Cyr students in full
uniform and white gloves, a very portly aged couple and half a dozen men
of the working classes.

"We'll take turns at sitting, Monsieur," said one of them as H. pushed
further on into the corridor.

At the end of five minutes' time the conversation had become general.
Although as yet there had been no official declaration everyone present
was convinced that the news would shortly be made public, and though the
crowd  was certainly not a merry one, it was certainly not sad.  Most of
the men had received their orders in the morning, and had said good-bye
to their loved ones at home.  In consequence, there were no
heart-rending scenes of farewell, no tearful leave-takings from family
and friends, no useless manifestations.

Through the doorway of our stifling compartment, which up until the last
moment was left open for air, we could see the train on the opposite
platform silently, rapidly filling with men, each carrying a new pair of
shoes either slung over the shoulders or neatly tied in a box or paper
parcel.  Then without any warning, without any hilarious vociferations
on the part of its occupants, it quietly drew out of the station, to be
instantly replaced by another train of cars.

Five times we watched the same operation recommence ere the ten o'clock
train decided to leave Paris.  Then as the guard went along the platform
slamming the doors, a boyish face poked its way into the aperture of our
compartment.

"Hello, Louis," said he, addressing one of the workmen.  "Hello, Louis,
you here, too?"

"_Eh bien, cette fois je crois quon y va!  Hein?_"

Our door closed and the trainman whistled.

"_Bon voyage!_" shouted the boy through the window.

"The same to you," replied the other.  That was all.

It was not a very eventful journey.  It was merely hot and lengthy.  We
stopped at every little way station either to let down or take on
passengers.  We were side-tracked and forgotten for what seemed hours
at a time, to allow speedy express trains filled with men and bound for
the eastern frontier to pass on and be gone.

At Changis-St. Jean I put my head out of the window and there witnessed
a most touching sight.  A youngish man in a well-fitting captain's
uniform, accompanied by his wife and two pretty babies, was preparing to
take his leave.  He was evidently well known and esteemed in his little
village, for the curate, the mayor, the municipal council and numerous
friends had come to see him off.  The couple bore up bravely until the
whistle blew-then, clasping each other in an almost brutal embrace, they
parted, he to jump into the moving train mid the shouts of well-wishers,
and she, her shoulders shaking with emotion, to return to her empty
home.

Four months later, almost to a day, I again put my head out of the car
window as we stopped at Changis.  Imagine my surprise on seeing almost
the same group!  I recognized the mayor, the curate and the others, and
a little shiver went down my back as I caught sight of the pretty
captain's wife--her eyes red and swollen beneath the long widow's veil
that covered her face.  That same hopeful little assembly of August
first had once again gathered on the station platform to take possession
of and to conduct to their last resting place the mortal remains of
their heroic defunct.

Naturally, as they did not expect us before six at the château, there
was no carriage to meet us.

"We'll take the hotel taxi as far as Charly, and from there we'll
telephone home," said H. as we got down from the train.

But there was neither hotel trap nor vehicle of any description at the
station. True it was that our train was nearly two hours late!  The idea
of walking some four miles in the broiling sun was anything but amusing,
but there seemed to be nothing else to do.  So after a quarter of an
hour uselessly spent in trying to get a carriage about our lonesome
station, we started off on foot.  We had scarcely gone two hundred yards
when we caught sight of a PARISIAN taxi!  H. hailed him!

"What are you doing down _here?_"

"I brought down a gentleman who was in a hurry.  You see there are no
more trains out of Paris on this line since noon!  And there are not
likely to be any for some time to come."

"Will you take us as far as Charly?"

"If it's on the way to Paris--yes!  I'm in a hurry to get back.  I've
got to join my regiment at the Gaxe du Nord before midnight, but I'd
like to ring in another job like this before that.  It's worth while at
150 per trip!"

"You've got to cross Charly--there's no other way to Paris."

So we made our price and were whisked into our little market-town.

The inhabitants were on their doorsteps or  chatting in little groups,
and we created quite a sensation in our Parisian vehicle.  H. went to
the Gendarmerie at once to see if there was any official news by wire
since we had left town.

"You're the one who ought to bring us news, Monsieur," said the
_brigadier_. "What do they say in Paris?"

"The mobilization will be posted at four o'clock."

A hearty peal of laughter, that was most refreshing in the tension of
the moment, burst from all three gendarmes.

"Well, it's five minutes of four now.  And if what you say is so, I
should think we'd know something about it by this time!  Don't worry.
It's not so bad as you fancy--"

H. shook hands and we left.  At the hotel we got the chateau on the wire
and asked for the victoria at once. As the horse had to be harnessed and
there is a two-mile drive down to Charley, we stopped a moment and spoke
to the proprietress of the hotel.

"How does it happen that your motor was not at the station?" said H.

"Oh," she replied, "our officers hired it early this morning and my
husband bad to drive them post-haste to Soissons.  He hasn't got back
yet!"

Before going farther in my narrative I shall say here, lest I forget it,
that two of the supposed officers were caught within the fortnight and
shot at Meaux as German spies--the third managed to make his escape.

Hearing the carriage coming down the hill, we walked towards the
doorway.  At that same moment we saw the white-trousered _gendarme_
hastening towards the town hall. Catching might of H., he held up the
sealed envelope he held in his band, and shouted, "You were right,
Monsieur.  It has come!"

We jumped into the victoria, but as we crossed the square the
_garde-champetre_ caught the bridle and stopped our turnout.

"One moment, Monsieur."

Then the town-crier appeared, instantly causing the staggering groups to
cluster into one.  He had no need to ring his bell.  He merely lifted
his hand and obtained instant silence, and then slowly read out in deep,
solemn, measured tones, which I shall never forget until my dying day.

"_Extrme urgence.  Ordre de mobilisation generale.  Le premier jour de
la mobilization est le dimanche deux aout!_"

That was all!  It was enough!  The tension of those last two days was
broken. No matter what the news, it was a relief.  And we drove away
'mid the rising hum of hundreds of tongues, loosened after the agonizing
suspense.

The news had not yet reached Villiers when we drove through the village
street. We turned into the chateau and found Elizabeth Gauthier, her
children and almost all the servants, grouped near the entrance ball.
They looked towards us with an appealing gaze.

As H. opened his mouth to answer, the sharp pealing of the _tocsin_,
such as it rings only in cases of great emergency, followed by the
rolling of the drum, told them better than we could that the worst bad
come.

The servants retired in silence and still the bell rang on.  Presently
we could hear the clicking of the sabots on the bard road as the
peasants hurried from the fields towards the _Mairie_.

I can see us all now, standing there in the brilliant afternoon
sunlight--Elizabeth murmuring between her sobs, "O God, don't take my
husband!" little Jules clinging to her skirts, amazed at her distress,
and happy, lighthearted, curly-headed baby Colette, chasing butterflies
on the lawn in front of us!



II


_August first._

The _tocsin_ ceased, but the drum rolled on.

In a moment we had recovered from the first shock, and all went out to
the highroad to hear the declaration.  To H. and me it was already a
thing of the past, but we wanted to see how the peasants would take it.

At Villiers as at Charly, it was the _garde champetre_ who was charged
with this solemn mission, and the old man made a most pathetic figure as
he stood there with his drumsticks in his hand, his spectacles pushed
back, and the perspiration rolling down his tanned and withered cheeks.

"What have you got to say?" queried one woman, who was too impatient to
wait until all had assembled.

"_Bien de bon--_" was the philosophic reply, and our friend proceeded to
clear his throat and make his announcement.

It was received in dead silence.  Not a murmur, not a comment rose from
the crowd, as the groups dispersed, and each one returned to his
lodgings.

We followed suit, and I went with H. towards the servants' hall.

"Give me the keys to the wine cellar," said he.  "And, Nini," he
continued, addressing my youngest maid, aged ten, "Nini, lay a cloth and
bring out the champagne glasses.  The boys shan't go without a last
joyful toast."

There were four of them; four of them whose military books ordered them
to reach the nearest railway station, with two days' rations, as soon as
possible after the declaration of mobilization.  H. had hardly time to
bring up the champagne before we could bear the men clattering down the
stairs from their rooms.  Their luggage was quickly packed--a change of
underclothes and a second pair of shoes composed their trousseaux--and
Julie came hurrying forward with bread, sausages and chocolate!  "Put
this into your bags," she said.  Though no one had told them, all those
who remained seemed to have guessed what to do, for in like manner
George, one of the younger gardeners, had hitched the horses to the farm
cart and drove up to the kitchen entrance.

A moment later Catherine called me aside and tearfully begged permission
to accompany husband and brother as far as Paris.  The circumstances
were too serious to refuse such a request and I nodded my assent.

"Come on, boys," shouted H.  "Ring the farm-bell, Nini, and call the
others in."

Their faces radiant with excitement, they gathered around the long
table.  H. filled up the glasses and then raising his--

"Here's to France, and to your safe return!" said he.

"To France, and our safe return!" they echoed.

We all touched glasses and the frothy amber liquid disappeared as by
magic. Then followed a hearty handshaking and they all piled into the
little cart. George cracked the whip and in a moment they had turned the
comer and were gone.

Gone--gone forever--for in the long months that followed how often did I
recall that joyful toast, and now, a year later, as I write these lines,
I know for certain that none of them will ever make that "safe return."

Elizabeth Gauthier bore up wonderfully under the strain.  She was the
first to admit that after all it would have been too trying to say
good-bye to her husband. H. and I then decided that it was best for her
to bring her children and maid and come over to the chateau where we
would share our lot in common. There was no time for lamenting--for the
sudden disappearance of cook, butler, and the three most important
farm-hands, left a very large breach which had to be filled at once.
There was nothing to do but to "double up," and the girls and women
willingly offered to do their best.

Julie, the only person over thirty, offered to take over the kitchen. To
George and Leon fell the gardens, the stables, the horses, dogs, pigs
and cattle. Yvonne, aged seventeen, offered to milk the cows, make
butter and cheese, look after the chickens and my duck farm, while
Berthe and Nini, aged fourteen and ten, were left to take care of the
chateau!  Not a very brilliant equipment to run as large an
establishment as ours, but all so willing and so full of good humour
that things were less neglected than one might imagine.

The excitement of the day had been such that after a very hasty meal we
retired exhausted at an early hour.  The night was still--so still that
though four miles from the station we could hear the roar of the trains
as they passed along the river front.

"Hark!" said H.  "How close together they are running!"

We timed them.  Scarcely a minute between each.  Then, our ears becoming
accustomed, we were soon able to distinguish the passenger from the
freight trains, as well as the empty ones returning to Paris.

"Listen!  Those last two were for the troops!  That one is for the
ammunition. Oh, what a heavy one!  It must be for the artillery!"  And
we fell asleep before the noise ceased.  Indeed for three long weeks
there was no end to it, as night and day the Eastern Railway rushed its
human freight towards the Eastern frontier.

Sunday morning, August second, found us all at our posts as the sun
rose. Elizabeth and I drove down to Charly for eight o'clock mass, and
all along the road met men and boys on their way to the station.  The
church was full, but there were only women and elderly men in the
assembly; why, we knew but too well, and many wives and mothers had come
there to hide their grief.  Our curate was a very old man, and the news
had given him such a shock that he was unable to say a word after
reaching the pulpit and stood there, tongue-tied, with the tears
streaming down his face for nearly five minutes--finally retiring
without uttering a sound. Not exactly the most fortunate thing that
could have happened, for his attitude encouraged others to give way to
their emotions, and there was a most impressive silence followed by much
sniffling and nose-blowing! All seemed better, though, after the shower,
and the congregation disbanded with a certain sense of relief.

Before leaving home H. told me to seek out the grocer, and to lay in a
stock of everything she dispensed.

"You see," said he, "we're now cut off from all resources.  There are no
big cities where we can get supplies, within driving reach, and our
grocers will have nothing to sell once their stock is exhausted.  We're
living in the hope that the mobilization will last three weeks.  That
will you do if it lasts longer?  It never hurts to have a supply on
hand!"

"All my salt, sugar and gasoline has been put aside for the army.  I was
ordered to do that this morning--but come around to the back door and
I'll see what I can do for you," said my amiable grocery-woman.

"That's pleasant," thought I.  "No gasoline--no motor--no electricity!
Privation is beginning early.  But why grumble!  We'll go to bed with
the chickens and won't miss it!"

Madame Leger and I made out a long list of groceries and household
necessities, and she set to work weighing and packing, and finally began
piling the bundles into the trap drawn up close to her side door.

Our dear old Cesar must have been surprised by the load he had to carry
home, but Elizabeth and I decided that a "bird in the hand is worth two
in the bush," and one never could tell what astonishing "order"
to-morrow might bring forth.

How H. laughed when he saw us driving up the avenue.

"I didn't think you'd take me so literally," said he.  "Why, war isn't
even declared, and here we are preparing for a siege!"

"Never mind," I returned, "you must remember that there are twelve
persons to feed, and we'll soon get away with all I've got here."

The afternoon was spent in arranging our apartments.  For convenience
sake, we decided to close part of the chateau and all live as near
together as possible in one wing.  The children and younger servants
seemed to consider the whole as a huge joke--or rather, a prolonged
picnic party, and the house rang with peals of jolly laughter.

Monday, the third, Elizabeth and I tackled the provisions which were
piled high on the table in the servants' hall.  A visit to the storeroom
and a little calculation showed that there were sufficient groceries
already on hand to last the month out.

"Very good," said I.  "Now, the rest we'll divide into three even parts
--that makes September, October and November assured.  By that time
we'll know what precautions to take!"

"Well, I should hope so!" came the smiling reply.  And we set to work.
It all recalled the days of my childhood when I used to play at
housekeeping and would measure out on the scales of my dolls' house so
much rice, so much flour, so much macaroni, etc.  I could hardly believe
I was in earnest.

We were right in the midst of our task when our gardeners appeared
bearing between them a clothes basket full of plums.

"Madame, they can't wait a day longer.  They're ready to cook now."

It was almost a disagreeable surprise, for we were already as busy as we
could be. But there was no way of waiting, or the fruit would be
spoiled.

"Is that all the plums?"

"Ah, no, Madame, there are fully two baskets more.  And in a day or two
the blackberries and black currants must be picked or they'll rot on the
vines."

"Heaven preserve us!" thought I.  "Will we ever come to the end of it
all!"  But by four o'clock the first basket of plums was stoned, the
sugar weighed, and a huge copper basin of _confiture_ was merrily
boiling on the stove.

"Where are you going to hide your provisions now you've got them so
beautifully tied up?" enquired H., his eyes twinkling.

"Hide them?"

"Yes!"

"What for?"

"In case of invasion."

We all simply shook with laughter.

"Well, if the Germans ever reach here there won't be much hope for us
all," I returned.

"No, but joking aside; suppose we suddenly get the French troops
quartered on us, are you calmly going to produce your stock, let it be
devoured in a day or so, and remain empty-handed when they depart?  You
see, it isn't the little fellows who'll suffer.  A big place like this
with all its rooms and its stables is just the spot for a camp!"

That idea had never dawned upon us, and we set to thinking where we
could securely hide our groceries in three different places.  Finally it
was agreed that one part should be put back of the piles of sheets in
the linen closet; the second part hidden on the top shelf of a very high
cupboard in my dressing-room with toilet articles grouped in front of
it; while the third was carried up a tiny flight of stairs to the attic
and there pushed through a small opening into the dark space that leads
to the beams and rafters.  It was all so infantile that we clapped our
hands and were as happy as kings when we had discovered such a good
cachette.

Night was coming on as I stood pouring the last of the plum jam into the
glasses lined up along the kitchen table.  Berthe had counted nearly a
hundred, and I was seriously thinking of adopting jam-making as a
profession, when with much noise and trumpeting, a closed auto whisked
up the avenue and stopped before the entrance.  I hurried to the kitchen
door, untying my apron as I ran, arriving just as an officer jumped from
the motor, and before I had time to recognize him in his new uniform,
Captain Gauthier rushed forward, exclaiming:

"I've come to fetch Elizabeth and the children!"

The others, too, had heard the motor, and in an instant there was quite
an assembly in the courtyard.

"I had great difficulty leaving Paris at all.  My passport is only good
until midnight," the captain was explaining as his wife and H. appeared,
and almost without time for greeting.  "Make haste," he continued,
turning to Madame Gauthier.  "We must be off in a quarter of an hour, or
our machine will never reach town on time."

I hurried with Elizabeth to her apartment, where we woke and dressed two
very astonished children, while the little maid literally threw the
toilet necessities and a few clothes into a huge Gladstone bag.

"Leon evidently doesn't think us safe down here!  You'd better come,
too," murmured Elizabeth as we went downstairs.

In the meantime, H. had questioned our friend as to what had transpired
in Paris within the last twenty-four hours.

"England will probably join us--and there is every possibility of
Italy's remaining neutral," he announced, as we made our appearance. And
then--"You must come to Paris.  You're too near the front here," he
continued, as he piled wife, babies and servant into the taxi.

And so, with hardly time for an adieu, the motor whisked away as it had
come, leaving H. and me looking beyond it into the night.

When I returned to the pantry, I found Nini weeping copiously. Imagining
she had become frightened by the sudden departure of our friends, I was
collecting my wits to console and reassure her, when she burst forth,
"Oh, Madame--Madame--the _pates--_"

"Well?"

"The lovely _pates!_--all burned to cinders!  Such a waste!"

In our excitement we had forgotten to take from the oven two handsome
_Pates de lievre_ of which I was more than duly proud.  And as Nini
expressed it, they were burned to cinders.  How H. chuckled at our first
domestic mishap.

"Fine cooks, you are," said he, turning to Berthe and Nini, who hung
their heads and blushed crimson.  "And it's to you that I'm going to
entrust Madame when I leave!"

Tuesday, the fourth, the drum rolled at an early hour and the
_garde-champetre_ announced the declaration of war.  It was not news to
anyone, for all had considered the mobilization as the real thing.

We were breakfasting when we heard a strange rumbling up the road.  It
was such a funny noise--midway between that of a steam roller and a
threshing machine--that we both went out towards the lodge to see what
was passing by.  We were not a little surprised on perceiving our
gendarmes sitting in an antiquated motor, whose puffing and wheezing
betokened its age.  They stopped when they saw us, and after exchanging
greetings, laughingly poked fun at their vehicle--far less imposing than
their well-groomed horses, but the only thing that could cover between
seventy and eighty miles a day!  From them we learned that the
mobilization was being carried out in perfection, and in all their tours
to outlying villages and hamlets not a single delinquent had been found
--not a single man was missing! All had willingly answered the call to
arms!

Between the excitement and all the work that had to be done at Villiers,
time passed with phenomenal rapidity.  As yet we had had no occasion to
perceive the lack of mail and daily papers, and though I had always had
a sub-conscious feeling that H. would eventually receive his marching
orders, it was rather a shock when they came.  Being in a frontier
department he was called out earlier than expected.  And instead of
being sent around-circuit way to reach his regiment south of Paris, he
was ordered to gain _Chateau Thierry_ at once, and there await
instructions.

Of course I packed and unpacked his bag for the twentieth time since
Sunday, in the hope of finding a tiny space to squeeze in one more
useful article--and then descending, I jumped into the cart and waited
for him to join me.  In spite of the solemnity of the moment, I couldn't
help laughing when he appeared, for disdaining the immaculate costume I
had carefully laid out, he had put on a most disreputable-looking pair
of trousers, and an old paint-stained Norfolk jacket. A faded flannel
shirt and a silk bandanna tied about his throat completed this weird
accoutrement, which was topped by a long-vizored cap and a dilapidated
canvas gunny sack, the latter but half full and slung lightly over one
shoulder. Anticipating my question, he explained that it was useless to
throw away a perfectly new suit of clothes.  When he should receive his
uniform, his civilian outfit ought to be put in safe keeping for his
return.  This was customary in time of peace, but who could tell?--he
might never even get a uniform, let alone hoping to see the clothes
again.

And then, when I began examining the paltry contents of his sack, he
made light of my disappointment, saying that his father, who had served
in the campaign of 1870, had always told him that a ball of strong
string and a jackknife were sufficient baggage for any soldier.  I
supposed he ought to know, and was just going to ask another question,
when--

"Listen," he said, as he put his foot on the step.  "Listen--before I
forget. My will is at my notary's in Paris, and on your table is a
letter to your father--if anything happens to me you know what to do."

We drove away in silence.

I let the horses walk almost all the way home and my thoughts were busy,
very busy along the way.  Here I was alone--husband and friends had
vanished as by magic. My nearest relatives over five thousand miles
away--and communication with the outside world entirely cut off, for
Heaven knew how long.  Evidently there was nothing to do but to face the
situation, especially as all those in my employ save Julie were under
twenty, and looked to me for moral support.  This was no time to
collapse.  If I broke down anarchy would reign at once.

But what to do?  Go on living like a hermit on that great big estate?
The idea appalled me.  It seemed such a useless existence--and in a few
moments' time I had decided to turn the place into a hospital.  But how
and to whom should I offer it?

I stopped at the _Gendarmerie_, where our friends were able to give me
information.

"The nearest sanitary formation was Soissons--the Red Cross Society. The
president would probably be able to help me--"  So I thanked the
_gendarme_ and left there, having decided to drive thence on the morrow.

Soissons is but twenty miles as a bird flies, but almost double that by
the winding roadway, and I was calculating what time I should start and
where I would rest the span, as I entered the yard.

"Anything new, George?" I said, as he took the bridle.

"Nothing, Madame, save that we have received orders that all the horses
must be presented at Chateau Thierry for the revision to-morrow before
ten."

"All the horses?"

"Yes, Madame, with full harnessing, halters and the farm carts."

That was a surprise!  Suppose they are all taken, thought I, I shall be
almost a prisoner.  And my trip to Soissons?

"Don't unharness!" I called, as George drove towards the stable.  "I'm
going back to Charly."

In our little township I managed to buy a lady's bicycle.  "It may come
in handy," I thought.  It was the last machine that was left.  From the
shop I went to the hotel.

"Where's your husband?" I said to the proprietress.

"Why, he's gone with the chauffeur to take our motorbuses and taxi to
the requisition committee."

"What?"

"Yes, Madame."

"But I wanted him to motor me over to Soissons to-morrow!"

"Well, if he gets back to-night and they leave him a single machine,
I'll let you know, Madame."

In the afternoon the drum beat anew and I learned that all the bakers in
the village (there were three of them) having been called to the front,
we were likely to be without the staff of life.  In the presence,
therefore, of the impending calamity, the village government had decided
to take over the bakery--it had found an old man and a very young
apprentice who would do the work, but each citizen was requested to
declare the number of persons composing his household and in order to
economize flour, so much bread would be allowed per bead and each family
must come and fetch his supply at the town hall between eleven and
twelve o'clock!

Needless to say, it must be paid for in cash, though the Board reserved
the right to look after the village poor.  In like manner, all the salt
had been reserved for the army, and we were to be rationed to
seventy-five grammes a week per person!  It all sounded rather terrible,
but when put into practice it was proved that the rations were very
generous and no one had reason to complain.

By four o'clock the next morning there was a perpetual stream of farm
carts down the road leading towards Chateau Thierry.  I dressed and went
to the stables where George and Leon were already harnessing.  More than
once I had a tight feeling in my throat as I patted the glossy backs of
dear old Cesar and my lovely span.

The girls had decorated the carts with huge bunches of poppies, daisies
and corn-flowers and in addition to these tri-color bouquets, a little
branch of laurel was stuck up over each horse's bridle.  There was a
generous distribution of sugar, and each horse was kissed on the tip of
his nose, and then the boys joined the procession on the highroad.

I watched them out of sight.  "Shall we ever get through saying
'good-bye'? When will these departures cease?" thought I, as I turned
from the gate.  But I was given no time to muse, for a most amazing
clamor arose from a gateway a little higher up the road, and glancing in
that direction, I saw old father Poupard leading his horse and cart into
the open.  He was followed by his wife and daughter-in-law, two brawny
peasant women, who were loudly lamenting the departure of their steed!

"No, no!" literally howled mother Poupard.

"This is the last straw!  Both sons gone, and now our horse!  Who's
going to bring in our crop?  The Lord is unjust."

"And brother's babies--poor motherless things--in an orphan asylum at
Epernay! How can we get to them now?  Oh, no!  Oh, no--" wailed Julia.

"Poupard!" exclaimed his wife, drying her tears on the corner of her
apron and fixing her sharp blue eyes on her husband, "Poupard, no
loitering!  If they pay you for your horse, remember, no foolishness.
You bustle back here with the money--we need you to help in the
vineyard."

"This is no time for sprees," wept Julia.

"Father Poupard," admonished his irate mate, brandishing a spade,
"Father Poupard, mind what I say!"

And then in a more moderate tone, but which was distinctly audible some
thirty yards away, "I've put a bottle into your lunch basket.  You won't
need to buy anything more."

There was a distinct emphasis on the word _buy_, which told me that
mother Poupard, evidently accustomed to her husband's ways, had provided
plentifully for his journey but had carefully emptied his pockets before
he started.

I went back to my preserves, but as the day wore on the lack of all
communication with the outside world began to prey on me.  Towards four
o'clock I took my bicycle and started down to Charly.  A quarter of a
mile from our gate, in front of the town hall, a mason had driven two
huge posts, into the ground on either side of the road, and was swinging
a heavy chain between them.

I looked askance at the schoolmaster who stood in the doorway surveying
the work. He explained that he had received instructions to the effect
that all passers-by unknown to this village were to be stopped and asked
for their papers.  The men and boys who remained were to take turns
mounting guard, and thus to help to eradicate the circulation of spies.
Two suspicious motors and a man on a bicycle had already been signaled.
Should they appear and fail to produce their papers, immediate arrest
would follow.  Should they offer the slightest opposition or attempt
escape, the sentinels had orders to shoot.

I enquired if it would be necessary for we to have a _sauf-conduit,_
being bound for Charly, and possibly the station at Nogent, where I
hoped that the soldiers of a passing train would throw me a newspaper.

Mr. Duguey replied that he would gladly present me with the first
passport, and seemed wonderfully taken with my idea about the papers. He
admitted that living in darkness was beginning to get on his nerves,
too, and asked me, in case my plan should prove successful, if I would
be willing to put it on the public sign board so all could see the news.
I acquiesced willingly, and after he had asked a few questions as to
names, age, characteristics and destination, he stamped the seal on my
paper, and I departed.

At Charly the same preparations had been made, and two elderly men,
leaning on their guns, smiled as I presented my paper for their
inspection.

At the hotel, the proprietor had just returned after having waited
nearly twenty-four hours in line to present his machines.  All save one
had been bought for the army.  But with his double-seated taxi he
promised to drive me to Soissons the following morning.

I continued my road, and reached Nogent to find that I was not alone in
my idea about begging the papers.  Several others from neighboring
villages, so I heard, had already succeeded in obtaining a sheet, and
had driven off hastily with their trophies.  My proceeding was very
simple.  It consisted of crossing the rails to the up-train platform, to
stand in line with the other women already assembled, there to wait like
birds on a fence until a train coming from Paris passed by. Then as it
whizzed through the station, we shouted in chorus, "_Les journaux! Les
jour-naux!_"

It worked like magic.  We had hardly been there two minutes when a train
was signaled.

As it approached, we could see that engine and cars were decorated with
garlands of flowers, and trailing vines, while such inscriptions as,
"_Train de Plaisir pour Berlin,_" and numerous caricatures had been
chalked on the varnished sides of the carriages.

Our appeals were not in vain.  With joyful shouts, the boys gladly threw
us the papers which were welcomed like the rain of manna in the desert.
I managed to collect two, _L'Action Franfaise_, and _Le Bonnet Rouge_.

Until others and fresher were procured, the Royalist and the
Revolutionary sheets hung side by side on the public sign board at
Villiers, proving that under the Third Republic, _Liberte', Egalite',
Fraternite_ are not vain words.

The news of the violation of Luxembourg and Belgian territory created
less sensation than one might have expected.  In the circumstances news
of any kind seemed a blessing.

There was still quite a gathering in front of the town hall when the
first carts began to return from the revision.  They were few and far
between, compared with the double line that had driven past in the
morning.  My heart leapt with joy, as I saw George, driving Cesar, turn
into the court.

"Too old, Madame," he said, his eyes shining.  "Though still so game
that they nearly kept him.  He's reserved for a second call."

"And Florentin and Cognac?"

The boy put his hand into his pocket and held out a slip of paper. I
took it and read, "_Bon pour 1,200 francs, prix de 2 chevaux, etc._"

"Well, thank God, we've got one left anyhow," thought I as I entered the
hall. Just then the gate creaked and I could vaguely distinguish in the
deepening twilight the forms of mother Poupard and Julia hurrying
towards the stables.  I followed.

"George!  George!" called Julia.

"Well?" came the answer from within.

"George--where's the old man?" queried mother Poupard in excited tones.

"How do I know?"

"Was our horse taken?  Can you tell us that?"

"I think so; yes."

"Then why didn't Poupard come back with you and Leon in the cart?  Did
you see him?"

"Yes."

"Where was he?"

"In front of a cafe as we drove past."

"Oh, the old villain!  The wretch!  Oh, _mon Dieu,_ what shall we do!
Oh, the wicked old man--if I had him here, I'd thrash him good!"

And mother Poupard began brandishing a pitch-fork with such violence
that I commenced to fear that failing her delinquent spouse, she would
fall upon George to wreak vengeance.

"Oh, the old devil!  Oh--"

"Look here, I'm not his nurse--now clear out, the lot of you!"

The injunction served its purpose, for remembering they were "not at
home," the two women retired in high dudgeon, wailing and lamenting in
such audible tones that their neighbors came out to see what was the
matter, and laughed at mother Poupard's threat of what she would do if
ever she got _le vieux_ into her clutches.

By six A. M. on the Friday I had breakfasted and was ready to leave for
Soissons. The taxi from the Hotel du Balcon made its appearance a few
moments later, and after a visit to the town hall, where we secured the
necessary passports, we set off on our journey.

At the entrance to every little village we were obliged to halt and
exhibit our papers--after which formality the chain would be let down
and we allowed to go our way.

Half an hour later as we crossed Chateau Thierry we could see the rows
of horses that had not yet been examined lined up along the square.  The
commissaries had worked all night and their task was still far from
finished.

Until we reached Oulchy-le-Chateau, the chains were the only outward
signs that betokened the belligerent state of the country, and even then
as those who mounted guard were not in uniform, it seemed rather as
though we were passing a series of toll-gates.  However, as we ran along
the splendid roads between the great fertile plains, I observed that the
harvesting was being done chiefly by women, and that the roads
themselves were empty of any vehicle.  Evidently only those who had an
important errand were allowed on the _routes nationals_, thus kept clear
for the transport of troops or ammunition.

At Oulchy, half-way to Soissons, we halted at a railway crossing to let
a long, lazy train drag out of the station.  When at length the bars
were drawn up, much excitement reigned on the little platform which we
had been unable to see from the other side of the rails.  Young girls
with pails and dippers in their hands stood chattering with women in
wrappers, whose disheveled appearance told plainly that they had been
hastily awakened and had hurried thence without thinking of their
_toilette_.

"What is it?" I asked of the _garde-barriere_.

"Wounded!"

"Wounded?"

"Yes--the first.  Not badly wounded and they are able to travel, but
unable to hold a gun.  And they were all so thirsty!"

Poor fellows, thought I, already out of the ranks and the first week is
not yet passed.

More persuaded than ever of the utility of my mission, I did not stop
longer but pushed on towards Soissons.  Half a mile further up the road,
an elderly man carrying a package, hailed the motor.  We slowed down,
and hat in hand he approached.

"I beg pardon for the liberty I'm taking,"' he said, "but might I ask
where you're bound?"

"Soissons."

"You would be rendering a great service to the municipality if you would
allow me to ride with you in the empty seat.  You see, the youngsters
who are left to reap the crops have broken the only machine in the
community, and we can't go on harvesting until it is repaired or
replaced.  There are no mechanics left, and moreover, no horses that
could take us to Soissons to find one, so I've offered to go on
foot--but that means at least two full days lost before we can continue
our work."

"Get in at once," I said, and we rolled off.

It was not long before I had drawn his history from this village
alderman, an Alsatian by birth, and his tales of the war of 1870 helped
to wile away the time we were obliged to spend idling along the roadside
while our chauffeur repaired our first puncture.  The emergency wheel
clapped on, we were soon en route again. My companion duly uncovered as
we passed the monument to the soldiers of the Franco-Prussian War,
almost hidden in a lovely chestnut grove, in the heart of the forest of
Hartennes.

On the outskirts of Soissons we came upon a squadron of the Ninth
Territorial Regiment, resting after the morning exercises.  These
soldiers much resembled the "bushy-bearded" creatures whom I had seen
guarding the Eastern Railway, save that they were even more picturesque,
for most of them wore straw sombreros.  As we passed the captain on his
horse, my companion lifted his hat and the officer replied with a
salute.

"A friend of yours?" I ventured.

"No. Never saw him before."

"But you bowed, I thought."

"Certainly.  He's an officer on duty in time of war, and all civilians
owe him that courtesy."

I liked that and fancied it were old-time urbanity, though often since I
have seen it proved that the custom is not obsolete.

A little further on we came to a very jolly squadron, the cooks, who
were peeling fresh vegetables and pouring them into immense
wash-boilers, which, when filled, two privates seized by the handles and
carried towards a big barracks some hundred yards distant.

Presently we hit a cobbled road which must have been a joy to all heavy
machines, but which nearly jolted us out of our light vehicle.  Patience
and good humor were very rapidly disappearing when we rounded a curve,
struck the good macadam, and I saw the twin spires of  St. Jean rising
majestically against the clear blue summer sky.

At our right I noticed the entrance gate to a chateau over which hung a
big Red Cross, such as I coveted for my home, and then in a moment we
were already in a _faubourg_ of Soissons.  It was not unlike the
entrance to any other provincial city in ordinary times, save that there
were many red-trousered men mixed in with the other population.  There
were no chains across the road, but four soldiers in uniform mounted
guard.  We showed _patte blanche_ and proceeded to ask for the Red Cross
headquarters.

"Madame Macherez is the president.  You must go to her.  Cross the city
and go out east towards St. Paul.  Her chateau is there."

Naturally we headed straight for our destination, but were stopped every
other minute by police who side-tracked us into back streets.  The big
thoroughfares must be kept clear for the army!

I set down my old friend near the town hall, and told him that I should
be returning about noon.  If he were ready, I would be glad to give him
a lift. Would he meet us in front of the _Hotel du Soleil d'Or?_

He was delighted, and promised to be on time.

We crossed the Aisne; I must say rather heedlessly, little dreaming that
in so short a time it would be the object of such desperate and bloody
disputes--nor so historically famous.

The Chateau de St. Paul sits, or rather, sat back from the road,
surrounded by its lovely garden and a high wall.  I left my motor and
entered the grounds, preceded by a servant who had opened the gate.  In
a small drawing room I presented myself to a very charming young person
already installed behind a desk, though it was scarcely half-past eight,
and explained the object of my visit.

"Madame Macherez will be delighted.  I'm her secretary, and I can assure
you she will do all she can to further your plans.  Would you mind
waiting just a few moments?  She'll be down presently.  You see," she
continued, "we have been up all night.  We suddenly had part of a
regiment quartered on us, and the officers who slept here were coming
and going most of the time.  I beg you will excuse the dust, but they
haven't been gone long enough for us to make things tidy. There were
twenty here, and two hundred men in the outbuildings which makes quite a
_remue menage._"

Just then the president of the _Association des Dames Franpaises_ came
in.

Madame Macherez, a fine looking, elderly woman with iron-gray hair and
clear blue eyes, is the widow of former Senator Macherez.  Her keen
understanding and wonderful business ability have won her the respect
and esteem of two entire nations; both friend and enemy are united in
their praises of this wonderful person.

I was not long in explaining my intentions--I could supply sixty beds,
with room for the double; would take all the management of a hospital,
gladly help with the nursing, but must have a doctor and other
professional aid.

Madame Macherez accepted my proposition, knew just the person I needed,
and taking off her badge pinned it on to the lapel of my coat and made
me a member of her society.

"Now, then, let's get through with the formalities at once.  Here is
your _carte d'identite_. You must paste your photo on to it.  With that
and an armlet stamped from the War Department you will have free access
to all the roads and you won't have to be bothered with other papers.
Let us go at once to the city hall, where they will stamp their seal on
your card, which makes it valid for your identity. From there we must
hunt out the colonel in command and get his seal.  That makes it valid
with military authorities."

The president's motor was waiting outside the door.

"How long shall we be?"

"Ah, an hour at least."

I turned to my chauffeur who was tampering with his punctured tire.

"Go and see if you can't find a new inner tube, and meet me at the
_Hotel du Soled d'Or_ where I will lunch, at eleven."

"But I just put in a new inner tube."

"Have you got an extra one?"

"No, but I've my emergency wheel--"

"Never mind.  Another inner tube may come in handy."

"Very well, Madame."

Madame Maeberez was waiting, so I jumped in next her and we drove to the
town ball.  Though the war was scarcely a week old her office was
already installed in the Hotel de Ville, and several hospitals were well
on the way towards complete organization.  In a big room white-capped
women (the first I had seen of the kind) were counting bandages, linen
and underclothing, laying out huge piles for such and such a hospital.

While Madame M. was answering numerous questions which besieged her on
her entrance, her secretary took note of what was lacking in my
ambulance, promised to forward it at once by motor, and gave me an
agreement to sign.

In the meantime, someone had carried my card to the mayor who affixed
his seal, and my armlet appeared as though by magic.

Now, then, for the colonel!  And we hastened away again at a moment's
notice.

As we drove through the quaint little city, my eye was attracted more
than once by a splendid bit of Louis XIV architecture.  The college, the
convent, the churches and even some private residences were wonderful
examples of that exquisitely decorative period.  As it was my first
visit to Soissons I regretted not having brought my kodak, but when I
spoke of this to Madame Macherez she expressed her delight at my
admiration of her native city, but was extremely glad that I had not
ventured out alone with a camera.  Unknown persons with photographic
paraphernalia were suspicious these times.  It was best to leave such
things at home.

Just then we were winding up a narrow street and the chauffeur was
tooting in vain, trying to persuade a half-dozen soldiers carrying bales
of bay on their backs, to make room for us to get by.  With much evident
reluctance the first man drew a bit to the right, the second vociferated
something in a picturesque patois, and just as we passed the third, I
leaned forward and grabbed the driver by the collar.

"Stop, stop a minute!" I gasped.

He must have thought I was mad, and Madame M. probably imagined I had
suddenly lost my wits, when she saw me plunge out of the motor, race
towards one of the bales, tear it from the carrier's back with a
violence that nearly upset the man, and then, throwing my arms about his
neck, embrace him.

"You?  Already?" gasped H., and then as we realized that we were making
a public spectacle of ourselves, the color rose to our cheeks.

A hasty explanation followed, in which I told my plans.

"And you, what on earth are you doing here?" I questioned.

"Well--just what you see.  All of us from Villiers have been sent to
bring horses to the front, and a fine job it is.  I wish you could see
the nags!  None of them rideable!"

"But after they're delivered--what?"

"I wish I knew myself."

"And when can we meet?"

"I'm afraid that's impossible.  We're off again to-night for God knows
where!"

And H. seeing that he was already far behind his companions, threw me a
hasty adieu and was gone!

The colonel was absent, but would return _tout de suite,_ and Madame
Macberez and I lost nearly an hour waiting.  When he appeared, however,
he was most gracious, excused himself very politely and immediately
stamped my card.  Then having all the necessary papers, I begged Madame
to drop me at the hotel, and to return to her bureau, where I knew there
was work enough for a half-dozen such as she.  She did as I requested,
and we parted--she promising to visit Villiers as soon as she could
dispose of an afternoon.

I was the only woman in the hotel dining room for luncheon.  The food
was good, but the service impossible, as there were some forty men,
mostly officers, very hungry, and only one decrepit waiter to do the
work.  Good humor prevailed, each diner making allowances, and here for
the first time I heard that expression, destined to become so popular as
an excuse for almost anything: _Cest la guerre!_

My chauffeur kept me waiting, but my friend the alderman was on time.
Finally the motor made its appearance.  Something had happened on
leaving St. Paul in the morning and the poor _hotelier_ had searched the
entire city for a mechanic, but to no avail.  All were _au service de
l'armee_.  Finally he had had to patch up things as best he could.  As
to an extra inner tube--such a thing didn't exist. We would have to take
our chances with the wheel he had.

We started, but hadn't gone two hundred yards when a back tire blew off!

Well, thank goodness, we hadn't left town.  So I returned to the hotel,
and while Huberson and the alderman were fixing up damages and adjusting
the emergency wheel, I had time to read all the back numbers of
_Illustration,_ which the _Soled d'Or_ possessed, and commence a
conversation with the proprietress, who sat in the court shelling peas
for dinner.  She was certain that the war would be over in three months
at the utmost!

At length I went out to see if I couldn't be of some assistance in the
motor business, but Huberson said it would be ready in a few moments. As
far as I could make out, my alderman friend was mostly a decorative
personality, for he stood there with his hat on the back of his head,
gesticulating vehemently, but never deigning to help my chauffeur in the
slightest manner.  When I asked him if he knew Soissons well and
inquired if he could direct me to certain grocers where I could perhaps
obtain a few provisions, he insisted on showing me the shops, with an
alacrity which proved his incompetence at motor repairing.

During that short promenade on foot, we encountered the whole Ninth
Territorial Regiment--not under arms but _au repos_.  The men were
seated in front of the barracks reading the papers or idly smoking their
pipes, and all yearning for "something to do."  Their wish, I fear, has
been more than satisfied.

Start number two proved successful and we sped along very comfortably
until we hit that long cobbled road.  The day was exceedingly warm, the
stones sun-baked, and after the first mile or so I saw Huberson looking
nervously at his fore wheel. His anxiety was well founded, for half a
minute later, whizz!--I could feel the rubber splitting!

We stopped and all climbed out.

"It's all up!" he exclaimed.  "Not one--but two tires are burst, and the
shoe of the emergency wheel is flapping like an old dirty rag!"

"Now, in my time--" began the alderman.

"Never mind about your time, old man.  If you want to get back to Oulchy
and that mowing machine before Christmas, you've got to pitch in and
help," cut in Huberson, whose nerves could no longer stand the strain.
Our friend took the hint and began stripping off his coat.  We were
eight miles from Soissons, on the upgrade of a cobbled road, full in the
sun.  It was three P. M. on a stifling August day!

The men must have spent an hour trying to make impossible repairs--they
knew it was no use walking back to Soissons where aid had already been
refused, and it was evident from the condition of the tubes that there
was no hope of mending them.

What to do?

"I'll tell you," said I (and I must admit that I spoke for the sake of
saying something), "I'll tell you!  Suppose you take out the inner tubes
and stuff the shoes with grass!"

The men looked at me as if I had suddenly gone out of my mind.  Their
contempt was so apparent that it wilted me.

"Yes--I'm serious."

And then arose a series of protestations which common sense bade me
heed, but which didn't advance our cause in the slightest.  When we had
lost a full half-hour more arguing the question, I once again
proclaimed my original idea.

The driver glanced at me in despair and shrugged his shoulders.  "The
least we can do is try."

So saying, we fell to work tearing up grass and weeds.  And that is how
I came to ride over thirty miles on three grass-stuffed tires, which,
thanks to the heat, towards the end of the journey began sending forth
little jets of green liquid much to the astonishment of all those who
saw us pass.



III


The next few days following my eventful trip to Soissons were spent
superintending the installation of my hospital.  For convenience's sake
I decided to utilize the entire ground floor, first because there were
fewer and more spacious apartments, each one being large enough to hold
ten or twelve beds, thus forming a ward; second, because it would be
better to avoid carrying the wounded up a flight of stairs.  The rooms
above could be used in case of emergency.  All this of course
necessitated the moving of most of my furniture and _objets d'art_, as
well as the emptying of H.'s much encumbered studio--I having determined
to keep but a small apartment in the east wing for private use.  It was
really a tremendous undertaking, far worse than any "spring cleaning" I
had ever experienced, especially as I was but poorly seconded by my
much-depleted domestic staff, already more than busy trying to keep the
farm going.

From the boys--George and Leon--I learned that old father Poupard had
not yet put in his appearance since his departure three days before with
his nag, and that mother Poupard had abandoned her belligerent attitude
and had resorted to tears. She could be seen three times a day, on her
return from the fields, standing by the bridge corner, wailing her
distress to any passerby who had time enough to stop and listen. Poupard
now possessed all the qualities of mankind and it was probably through
his noble soft-heartedness that some ill had befallen him.  What a
misfortune, especially as the vines needed so much attention.

Sunday, the ninth, I was preparing to go to early service at Charly (our
own curate had been called to join his regiment) when on crossing the
bridge, a bicycle whisked by the victoria.

"He's coming--he's coming!" called the rider, as he passed us.

"Who?" I said, rising, as George drew up.

"Father Poupard!" called the boy.  "I'm going to tell his wife!"

It was evident that the news had spread like wildfire, for looking up
the street, I could see the villagers hurrying from their cottages.
Already the hum of voices reached my ears, and anxious not to miss what
promised to be a most dramatic meeting, I told George to drive to one
side of the road and stop, and there we would await developments.

In less than a minute mother Poupard appeared.  She was as good as her
word, for now that she knew her lord and master was no longer in danger,
she had cast sentiment to the winds and was actually brandishing that
"big stick!"

"Ah, the good-for-nothing old drunkard!" she vociferated as she ran.
"Just let me lay hands on him!"

Around the bend of the road came the excited peasants.  They pressed so
closely about someone that until they were almost upon us I could not
distinguish who it might be.  Then as mother Poupard pushed her way
through the crowd, it parted and displayed her husband; drunk, but with
pride; delirious, but with glory--proudly bearing his youngest grandson
in his arms, leading the other by the hand.

"Oh, Joseph--" gasped his astonished wife, every bit of anger gone from
her voice.

And then followed a very touching family scene in which the delinquent
was forgiven, and during which time one of the bystanders explained that
father Poupard had walked from Chateau-Thierry to Epernay, to fetch his
orphan grandchildren, and had returned on foot, carrying first one and
then the other accomplishing the hundred miles in not quite four days! A
heroic undertaking for a man over seventy!

The sun rose and set several times ere my interior arrangements were
completed and nothing extraordinary happened to break the monotony of my
new routine.  On Tuesday, the eleventh, the strange buzzing of a motor
told us that an aeroplane was not far distant.  Our chateau lies in the
valley between two hills, so to obtain a clear view of the horizon, I
hurried to the roof with a pair of field glasses.

Presently a tiny black speck appeared and as it grew within the scope of
my glass, it was easy to recognize the shape of a _Taube_.  That was my
introduction to the enemy.

Without waiting a second I rushed to the telephone and asked central at
Charly (the telephones now belonged to the army) to pass on the message
that a German aeroplane had been sighted from the Chateau de Villiers,
and was flying due west, head on for Paris.  The noise had grown louder
and louder, and when I returned to my post of observation, I found most
of the servants assembled, all craning their necks.  On came the
_Taube_, and there we stood, gaping, never realizing an instant that we
were running the slightest risk.  The machine passed directly over our
heads, not low enough, however, for us to distinguish its contents with
the naked eye.

"There's another!" shouted someone.  And turning our backs on the enemy,
we gave our entire attention to a second speck that had suddenly risen
on the horizon.

It was four o'clock in the afternoon and the armored head of the
ever-on-coming aeroplane glittered splendidly in the golden rays of the
afternoon sun.

"_Cest un francais!_" cried George.

"_Non!_"

Allowing that an aeroplane flies at the rate of a mile a minute, one can
easily imagine that we had not long to wait before number two sped over
us.  Through my glass I was able to recognize the tri-color cockade
painted underneath the plane, and when I announced this there went up a
wild shriek of joy.

At that moment a loud report in the west announced that the Germans had
begun their deadly work on undefended territory.

"That's a bomb for the railway crossing at Nanteuil, I'll bet!" said
Leon, and while I was realizing that that projectile might just as well
have been for us, the others were gesticulating and bowling
encouragement to their compatriot some few hundred yards above them, as
though he could bear every word they said:

"Go it, old man!"

"Bring down that cursed blackbird!"  "_Vive la France!_" and other
similar ejaculations were drowned by the noise of the motor.

The chase was on!  It was more exciting than any horserace I ever
witnessed. The Frenchman was rapidly gaining on the other, but would
they come into combat before they vanished from our horizon?  That was
the question that filled us with anguish.

On, on they sped, growing smaller and smaller every second.  Presently
it became impossible to distinguish them apart, but we knew that they
had come within range of each other, for the two specks rose and fell by
turns now soaring high, now dipping precipitately, seeming almost to
touch at times.  Then, just as they were about to disappear, one of them
suddenly collapsed and fell.  Which one, we never knew.

Towards dusk the _garde-champtre_ appeared and left orders that George
and Leon must take their turns at mounting guard.  Four hours right out
of the sleep of a peasant boy especially when he is overworked, is
likely to leave him useless the next day.  It provoked me a little, but
then it was duty and they must obey. The boys came on at eleven and
having decided it would be better to get in an hour or so of rest
beforehand, they retired to the hay loft.  I promised to look in on them
in case they should fail to waken, and at the appointed time I put on my
sweater and went down to find, as I had expected, both youths slumbering
peacefully, blissfully unconscious of the time.  Poor little chaps, it
seemed a pity to wake them, but what was to be done?  Presently an idea
of replacing them myself dawned upon me: a second later it so enchanted
me that I wouldn't have had them wake for anything.  The whole thing was
beginning to be terribly romantic.

Slipping quietly away, I went to my room and got my revolver, and then
going to the south front of the chateau, I softly whistled for my dogs.
Three big greyhounds, a shepherd dog and a setter responded immediately,
and just as I was about to shut the little yellow door, old Betsy, my
favorite Boston bull, came panting around the corner of the house.  With
these five as bodyguard I sauntered up the road in the brilliant
moonlight, arriving in front of the town hall just as the clock was
striking eleven.  I must say that my appearance and announcement rather
shocked two elderly men who had been on the watch since seven o'clock.

Monsieur Demarcq protested that such a thing as a woman mounting guard
had never been beard of, but I swiftly argued him out of that idea. What
was required of me? That I stop every passer-by and every vehicle?
Didn't he think me capable of doing so?  And I pointed to my dogs and my
revolver.  The weight of the argument was so evidently on my side that
they had nothing to do but to submit, and laughingly Mr. Foeter put me
in possession of a heavy old gun, three packages of cartridges, and the
lantern.  Then once again they asked if I couldn't be dissuaded, to
which I jokingly replied that I would set my dogs after them and drive
them home if they didn't make haste to go there at once. That admonition
proved more efficacious than I had dared hope, and assured me that my
faithful beasts rejoiced in a ferocious reputation.

All sorts of fantastic ideas flitted through my brain as I took
possession of my post.  I began, however, by setting the lantern in the
middle of the road, exactly in the center of the chain, as a warning to
any on-comer.  Then by the moonlight, I proceeded to examine my gun.  It
was a very primitive arm, and after carefully weighing it in my hands, I
decided to abandon all thought of stalking up and down the road with
such an implement on my shoulder.  That kind of glory was not worth the
morrow's ache, so I deposited the antiquated weapon in the hallway of
the school house and resolved to rely on my Browning.

Afterwards I came out and seating myself on the bench with my back
against the wall, waited for something to happen.  My dogs seemed to
have comprehended the gravity of my mission, and crouched close to my
feet, cocking their ears at the slightest sound.

Little by little the great harvest moon climbed high behind our old
Roman church, perched on the embankment opposite, bathing everything in
molten silver, and causing the tall pine-trees in the little cemetery
adjacent to cast long black shadows on the road.  Down towards the
Marne, the frogs were croaking merrily somewhere in the distance a night
locust buzzed, and alarmed by the striking of midnight the owls who
nested in the belfry, fluttered out into the night and settling on the
church top, began their plaintive hooting.  Still no one passed.

Such calm reigned that it was almost impossible to believe that over
there, beyond those distant hills, battle and slaughter were probably
raging.

Presently a shiver warned me that I had been seated long enough; so,
marking a hundred steps, I began to pace slowly up and down, watching
the ever-changing firmament.  The first gray streaks of dawn were
beginning to lighten the east when a growl from Tiger made me face about
very abruptly.  I must admit that my heart began beating abnormally, and
the hand in my pocket gripped my revolver as though it were a live
animal and likely to escape.

A second later all the dogs repeated the growl, and then I could hear
the clicking of a pair of sabots on the road.  The noise approached, and
my guardians looked towards me, every muscle in their bodies straining,
waiting for the single word, "_Apporte!_"

"_Couchez!_" I hissed, and awaited developments.

The footsteps drew nearer and nearer, and in a moment the stooping
figure of an old peasant came over the brow of the hill.  The gait was
too familiar to be mistaken.  But what on earth was father Poupard doing
on the highroad at that hour?

When he was within speaking distance I came out from the shadow of the
wall and put the question.  If he had suddenly been confronted with a
spook I do not think the old man could have been more astonished.  He
stopped dead still, as though not knowing whether to turn about and run,
or to advance and take the consequences. Realizing his embarrassment, I
hastily proffered a few words of greeting, and then he chose the latter
prerogative.

"-Vous?_" he said, when at length he found his tongue. "_Vous?_"

"Yes--why not?"

"Who's with you?"

"Nobody.  Why?"

He seemed more embarrassed than ever.  Evidently he hadn't yet "caught
on."

"What can I do for you?" I continued.

He still hesitated, looking first at me and then at a bottle he carried
in his hand.  Finally he resolved to make a clean breast of it.

"Why," he said, "I didn't expect to find a woman here, least of all _une
chatelaine_.  It rather startled me!  You see, I've got into the habit
of coming round towards dawn.  The boys begin to get chilly about that
time, and are glad enough to have a go at my fruit brandy.  They say I'm
too old to mount guard, so I must serve my country as best I can.  Will
you have some--my own brew?"

I declined, but he was not offended; yet he seemed reluctant to go.

"Sit down," I said.  "It won't belong before some of the men will be
passing by on their way to the fields, and then you won't have made your
journey for nothing."

Pere Potipard gladly accepted, and after a generous swig at his brandy,
began telling me about what happened at Villiers during the German
invasion in 1870. As he talked on, night gradually disappeared, and when
the clock in the belfry tolled three A. M. my successors came to relieve
me.  I blew out the lantern and walked home in broad daylight.

The boys looked very sheepish when they learned what had happened, but
as I did not boast of my exploit, merely taking it as a matter of
course, they had no way of approaching the subject, and like many other
things of the kind, it was soon forgotten in the pursuing of  our
onerous daily tasks, and the moral anxiety we were experiencing.

There seemed to be no end to the fruit season that summer.  The lengthy
table in the servants' hall was literally covered with glasses
containing jam and jelly of every description, awaiting their paper
lids.  Nini said there were over five hundred--to me it seemed
thousands, and I was heartily glad of a lull before the hospital should
open.  And I remember distinctly that the last thing I prepared was some
thirty quarts of black currant brandy; that is to say, I had poured the
raw alcohol on to the fruit and set the jars aside to await completion
six months later!  Shortly afterwards I received word by a roundabout
route from Soissons that I might expect my trained nurses and supplies
at any moment.  In the meantime I was without word from H. since that
eventful meeting a week before.

Saturday, the fifteenth of August, was as little like a religious fete
day as one can imagine.  At an early hour the winnowing machine rumbled
up the road to the square beside the chateau.  Under the circumstances
each one must take his turn at getting in his wheat and oats, and there
was no choice of day or hour. Besides, the village had already been
called on to furnish grain and fodder for the army, and the harvest must
be measured and declared at once.  This only half concerned me, for my
hay was already in the lofts before the war began, and two elderly men
who had applied for work as bunchers, had been engaged for the last week
in August.

After service at Charly, I walked across to the post office.  The post
mistress and telegraph operator, a delightful provincial maiden lady,
always welcomes me most cordially, and at present I fancied she might
have some news that had not yet reached Villiers.  (Mind you, since the
second of August we had had but two newspapers, and those obtained with
what difficulty!)  The _bureau_ now belonged to the army, and for a
fortnight Mademoiselle Maupoix and her two young girl assistants had
hardly had time to sleep, so busy were they transmitting ciphered
dispatches, passing on orders, etc.  It was to this physical exhaustion
that I attributed the swollen countenance of my little friend when she
opened the door to her private sitting-room.  It was evident she had
something to tell, but her exquisite breeding forbade that she go
headlong into her subject, before having graciously inquired for my
health, my husband and news of us both since last we met.

"And the war, Mademoiselle, do you know anything about what has
happened?"

Two great tears swelled to Mademoiselle's eyes, which, however, bore a
triumphant expression.

"Madame--the French flag is flying over Mulhouse--but it cost fifteen
thousand lives!  That is official news.  I cannot give you further
details nor say how I obtained what I have told you."

Then the armies had met and war was now a bloody reality!

I shuddered.  Here was news of a victory and all we could do was weep!
Once again the sons of France had generously shed their blood to
reconquer their righteous belongings!

I left Mademoiselle and rode home in silence. Should I tell the
villagers?  Why not?  But how?

The question answered itself, for as we approached the town hall I saw
the school master and a number of elderly men seated on the bench beside
the chain. When we pulled up to give Cesar breathing spell, they all
came clustering around the carriage.  Did I know anything?  Had I heard
anything?

"Gentlemen," I said, with a decided huskiness in my throat, "the French
flag flies over, Mulhouse, but fifteen thousand men are _hors de
combat!_"

Joy, followed almost instantaneously by an expression of sorrow,
literally transfigured all their faces.  Tears sprang to the eyes of
several, falling silently down their furrowed cheeks, and without
uttering a word, as one man they all uncovered!  The respect for the
glorious dead immediately abolished any desire for boisterous triumph.

There was no necessity to add any comment, so I continued my route to
the chateau.

One night towards the end of the following week, I was awakened by the
banging of doors and the shattering of window panes.  A violent storm
had suddenly blown up and the wind was working havoc with unfastened
blinds and shutters.  There was no use thinking of holding a candle or a
lamp.  Besides, the lightning flashed so brightly that I was able to
grope my way through the long line of empty rooms, tighten the
fastenings, and shut the windows.  I had reached the second story
without mishap and without hearing the slightest footstep within doors.
All my little servants were so exhausted that even the thunder had not
roused them. Presently, however, the sound of the gate bell broke on my
ears.

"Pooh," thought I.  "Some tree or branch has fallen on the wire.  Catch
me getting wet going out to see what it is."

The ringing continued, but more violently.  And at regular intervals.  I
went down to the middle window and stuck my head out.  At the same
moment, my dogs made one wild rush towards the gate and a woman's voice
called, "_Madame Huard, ouvrez, s'il vous plait!_"

By the light of another flash, I could distinguish a dripping figure in
white. "Bah! someone is ill or dying and wants me to telephone for a
doctor!"

So I pulled the bell communicating with the servants' quarters, threw on
a few warmer clothes, and went below.  At the foot of the stairs I came
upon George and Leon much disheveled, but wide awake.

"There is someone in distress at the gate," I hurriedly explained. "Call
off the dogs and go and see who it is.  I'll light up in the refectory
and wait for you there."

They obeyed, and in the course of three or four minutes returned,
bringing with them a much-bedraggled but smiling woman on whose coat was
pinned the Red Cross medal.

"I'm the trained nurse.  Madame Macherez sent me here to help with your
hospital."

"Oh!  I'm sure you're welcome, Madame--"

"Guix is my name.  I received my orders to join you here three days ago,
and communications are so bad that I've come most of the way on foot.  I
humbly apologize for arriving at such an hour and in such a state."

I hurried Madame Guix off to her apartment, told the boys to wake Julie
and have her send us a cup of tea and some refreshments in my little
drawing-room. Though it was the middle of August, the rain and dampness
were so penetrating that I did not hesitate to touch a match to a
brushwood fire that is always prepared in my grate.  In a short time my
guest reappeared and as she refreshed herself, I busily plied her with
questions concerning the events of the last two weeks.

Madame Guix, a woman but little over thirty, came from Choisy-le-Roi
(the city of famous Rouget de l'Isle).  _Merciere_ by trade, on the
death of husband and baby she had adopted the career of _infirmiere_,
and at the outbreak of the war found herself in possession of her
diploma and ready to serve.  She had enlisted at the big military
hospital her native town had installed in the school house, and for
three long weeks had sat and waited for something to do.

"Are there no wounded there?"

"Not when I left."

"Have you ever yet had occasion to nurse a soldier?"

"Yes, of course.  Four days after the declaration when the Forty-ninth
Territorials came through Choisy on their forced march to the front, we
were suddenly filled up with cases of congestion.  You see, that
regiment is Composed of men mostly over forty, and what with the heat,
their guns and their sacs, and unaccustomed to such a life, many of them
couldn't stand the strain.  My first patient was a sad little man named
Bouteron.

"Bouteron?  What Bouteron?"

"Marcel Bouteron."

"No!"

"Why?"

"Is he dead?"

"No."

I breathed again.  Thank God!   Bouteron, Bouteron, our Jolly little
Bouteron, gaiety itself, who three weeks ago was the very life and soul
of our last house party!  Was it possible?  Already "down and out!"  And
to think that this strange woman should bring me the news.  I drew my
chair nearer to Madame Guix and for two long hours we talked, as only
women can.

From Choisy she had sought to exercise her _métier_ to better advantage
by approaching the front, so had addressed herself to Madame Macherez in
Soissons. From there she had been sent to me.  Did she think there was
any possibility of nursing wounded in our hospital?  We were so far
south.

She was confident that we would not be empty long.  Bloody battles were
being waged from Alsace throughout the entire north.  Belgian territory
had been violated and Liege was putting up a heroic defense.

But our doctor and the pharmaceutical products?  From where and when
would they arrive?  Food and bedding would go a long way, but were
hardly sufficient to start a hospital!

We were to count on Madame Macherez for both.  She had promised to do
her utmost to reach us with our supplies, but the rules of circulation
on the roads were so severe that even Red Cross supply cars had to stand
in line and await permits.  In the meantime we must organize as best we
could.

The following morning a few moments' intercourse proved to me that
Madame Guix's competence extended far beyond the bounds of her _métier_.
She was a splendid worker, and no task was too difficult, so long as it
furthered our purpose--namely, that of being ready in case of
emergency.

By noon we had decided that it would be useless to count upon my
servants to help in the hospital.  They already had all they could do.
So I went and asked our mayor if he knew of any women who, _de bonne
volonte_, would come and assist us. Madame Guix volunteered to teach
them the rudiments of bandaging between two and five on the coming
afternoons, and we would establish a _roulement_ so that the little time
that each disposed of might be properly and efficiently utilized.

The drum beat and made the announcement, and at two the same afternoon
we had the satisfaction of welcoming some twenty women.  In the meantime
every bit of old linen I possessed was brought down and put on the
dining room table, then measured and torn in _formes rilglementaires_
ready to be sterilized and put aside.  Half a dozen bands were left out
as models and it was with these that Madame Guix commenced her
demonstrations.  She soon put her listeners at ease, and presently all
were anxious to try a hand at bandaging.  The naive clumsiness of these
poor souls was extremely pathetic, but such was their patriotism that
they never considered themselves ridiculous for a single instant, and
stood there fumbling the long linen rolls with bands that were hands
more accustomed to wielding a spade or directing a plough.  Again and
again they would recommence certain difficult proceedings, taking turns
at playing the dummy, and offering as models calves and biceps of which
many an athlete might have been proud.

Of the score of women but two or three really acquired any facility, but
we considered that sufficient, for in time of need the others could
easily be put to work at necessary matters which were of less vital
importance.

From the windows of the dining-room where the _cours_ was held, we could
look down the driveway and see all the children of the neighborhood
standing on the wall of the moat, craning their necks in the hope of
catching a glimpse of what was going on in the chateau.  It was
evidently an interesting diversion, for every afternoon they reappeared,
in spite of George's threats to send for the _gendarmes_.  The little
demons seemed to know that the gendarmes were too busy to give them any
attention, and I assure you, they profited by their liberty. Little John
Poupard and his five-year-old brother were the leaders of the band, and
I trembled lest some day their curiosity lead to a tragic end!

Nor were my fears in vain, for one afternoon we beard a shriek and a
splash, followed by cries of terror, and we knew for certain that some
one had fallen into the moat.  The embankment is not eight feet high,
and at that season of the year there is more mud than water in the
river, so I was certain that whoever had fallen in was in no danger of
drowning--but nevertheless I hastened with the others to the spot.

George, who had also heard the noise, reached the scene of action before
we did, and on our arrival we found him knee deep in the mud, preparing
to hoist a little limp body on to the bank.

Johnny Poupard!

"Good heavens!" thought I.  "Decidedly that family had no intention of
letting the village rust for want of dramatic situations!"

"He's merely fainted; more frightened than hurt," declared Madame Guix,
who had literally pounced upon him.  "Now then, ladies," she said,
turning towards the women who stood gaping at us, "now then, here's a
splendid opportunity to distinguish yourselves."

And so little John Poupard was carried into the infirmary.  As first
patient you may be sure that be received every attention.  Some ammonia
was held under his nose.  This soon brought him around and after
carefully sounding all his bones, Madame Guix decided that there were no
fractures.  And the bandaging began!

It makes me smile when I think of it all now--for the only wounds Johnny
possessed were a few scratches on his bands, knees and head, caused by
his sudden contact with a patch of stinging nettles which had sprung up
on the river banks.

Under ordinary circumstances, the child would probably have picked
himself up and walked home, forgetting his woes an hour later.  But real
live models who are actually in pain, are few and far between,
especially at "courses" such as ours, and the amount of professional
skill that was expended on that little urchin ought to have cured six of
his kind.  But it all made the women so happy!

At the end of half an hour, Johnny Poupard looked more like an Egyptian
mummy than a human being, so much so that when his grandmother arrived
upon the scene of action, she very nearly fainted and all but became
patient number two at Auxiliary Hospital No. 7!

We had some little difficulty reassuring her, but when her prodigal
grandson sat up and asked for bread and jam, she forgot her anxiety and
began scolding him for daring to give her such a fright, and us so much
trouble.

* * * *

Towards the end of the third week in August the mobilization was
considered finished and the Eastern Railroad opened again to the public;
its time tables of course being limited and subject to instant change,
the company refusing to be responsible for delays.  To us at the chateau
this meant very little, save that we would receive our mail and the
daily papers more frequently.  However, several friends who fancied I
was unsafe alone and so far from the capital, kindly ventured to start
to Villiers to try to persuade me to come up to town. It took them seven
hours to reach Meaux (thirty miles from Paris); they were obliged to
sleep there because it was because it was announced that their train
went no further--and worse than all, they were eighteen hours getting
home.

"Wheren't people furious?" I questioned, when afterwards they told me of
their adventure.

"Not in the slightest.  Everyone bore it patiently as part of his
tribute to his country.  'The army first' was their motto."

The first batch of mail brought me any number of stale letters, which
had arrived and been held in Paris over three weeks.  Invitations to a
house party in Belgium and things of that kind that seemed so strangely
out of place now. The two most important documents, however, came, one
from my cousin, Marie Huard (Superior at the Convent of the Infant Jesus
at Madrid) and the other from Elizabeth Gauthier.

My cousin had taken upon herself to locate and communicate with every
member of the Huard family called to arms (and they are numerous, when
one considers that H. has no less than twelve married uncles!) and she
enclosed me a sort of map, or family tree, indicating the names, ages,
regiments, etc., of some fifty cousins, begging me to write and
encourage them from time to time.

Elizabeth Gauthier's letter bore a black border--and I trembled as I
opened it. She was in Paris alone, and mourning the loss of her eldest
brother, killed at the battle of Mulhouse, the ninth of August.  Her
solitude preyed upon her, and she announced her departure for her
sister's chateau in Burgundy.

That was the first real sadness that the war had brought me so far.  It
quite upset me, for Jean Bernard was not only a delightful friend, but
one of the most promising engineers of the younger generation in France.
Both family, friends and country might well deplore such a loss.

Even the making and hoisting of a huge Red Cross flag over the chateau
failed to arouse my enthusiasm all that day.  The blow was too cruel and
had stimulated fears which heretofore had lain dormant within me.

The next day, however, I was not permitted to brood over my grief, for
Yvonne (she of the poultry farm) fell ill with a severe attack of
sciatica, which kept her in her bed, every movement producing a scream
of agony.

Of course Madame Guix was there to lend a hand, but that hardly altered
the situation, so I was obliged to ask the boys to give another "pull"
and try to be equal  to the work.  Lleon accepted with such alacrity
that for the first time it dawned on me that perhaps he had a soft spot
in his heart for my pretty little goose girl, and this unsuspected
romance, interwoven with the joys and anxieties of the moment, seemed
all the more charming.

To cap the climax of misfortune, old Cesar had run a nail into his hoof
and Madame Guix spent most of her time between injections of oxygen on
the first floor, and iodine and flaxseed poultices in the stables.  This
of course meant that all errands outside the village must be made on
bicycle, and George was "mustered into service."  Towards noon on the
27th he made his first return trip from Charly, bringing the mail and
the papers, and a very excited countenance.

"Madame, I've seen one!" he shouted, as I appeared in the doorway.

"Seen what?"

"_Un casque a' point!_"

"A what!"

"Yes--a pointed helmet.  I was standing by the post office in Charly
when a long line of motors passed by on the road to Paris.  I recognized
the Belgium uniform, and one of the soldiers leaned out and held up a
German helmet!  What a trophy!"

"The Belgians!  What on earth are they doing down here?" thought I.  And
George guessed my question.

"Oh," he continued, "you see their regiment was cut in two by the
Germans at Charleville and those who escaped managed to get motors and
are on their way home--by a round-about route to Antrwerp via Havre.
The hotel keeper said so. She offered some wine to one motor full that
stopped."

If that were true it was an amazing bit of news!  Then things were not
going as well as the now very reticent papers led one to suppose.  But
it all seemed so very distant that I refused to worry.

However, I was about to seek out Madame Guix and tell her what George
had reported when an amusing sight caught my eye.

From her open window, towards which she had asked that we push her bed,
Yvonne amused herself by calling her ducklings.

"Bour-ree--bour-ree!"

Then from the farmyard a good two hundred yards distant, would rise the
reply, "Quack!  Quack!  Quack!"

Big and small recognized the call of their little mistress and hastened
to respond.

"Bouree-bour-ree-bouree!" called Yvonne again and again.

Evidently the ducks decided to hold a consultation and send delegates to
see what on earth prevented their friend from caring for them in person
since they could hear her voice.  For as I looked across the lawn
towards the door, imagine my surprise on catching sight of some thirty
or forty Rouenese ducks of all sizes waddling up the steps and into the
vestibule.

"Bour-ree, bouree!" Yvonne continued.

"Quack, quack, quack!" came the reply, and when I reached the entrance
hall, I found them all clustered together at the foot of the staircase,
their beads cocked on one side, awaiting a decision of their drake
before undertaking to mount the marble stairway.

That same afternoon the _cour d'infirmieres_ transported itself to the
lawn in front of the chateau.  It was too splendid weather to stay
indoors.  The demonstrations were finished and most of the women had
retired, when one of those who remained lifted her finger and asked for
silence.  "Listen," she said, "the cannon!"  She didn't need to go any
further.  In less than a second's time we were straining our ears
towards the east!

"There!" she said, "there it goes again!"

Three of us had heard a sound which strangely resembled the popping of a
cork at a very great distance.  Remembering my grandmother's Indian
stories, I stretched out on the grass with my ear to the ground.  This
time I heard the rolling so distinctly that my face must have altered,
for two of the woman shuddered and took hasty leave.

In a second I guessed that they were off to tell the news--so I made
light of it by declaring that it must be the trying-out of some heavy
artillery at Chalons; but when Madame Guix and I found ourselves alone,
we looked at each other with interrogation points in our eyes.

We thought of our hospital, of our supplies, of our perfect uselessness
unless Soissons could yet reach us--and I resolved to go down to the
druggist at Charly and see what could be done.  The following morning,
Saturday, the twenty-ninth--I betook myself to Charly and there managed
to beg the elements of a rudimentary infirmary from the old pharmacist,
who must have thought me crazy.  Absorbent cotton I was able to procure
in small rolled packages from the draper, and promising to send the boys
down in the afternoon with a small band cart, I returned home, without
having observed anything abnormal save the frequent passage of autos
towards Paris--all going top speed and loaded with the queerest
occupants and baggage.

On my return great excitement reigned around our gate, for a private
automobile containing wounded had halted on seeing our Red Cross flag,
and Madame Guix welcomed them in.

They were _petit blesses_, all able to travel, probably suffering more
from heat and privation than from their wounds.  They had no orders to
stop, but hoped we would let them rest a bit before going further--and
could we give them something to eat?

All this was very fortunate considering our precarious situation and we
gladly did the best we knew how.  There were six poor chaps belonging to
different regiments, but all so tired that it seemed cruel to prevent
their snatching a rest by plying them with questions.  We could do that
later on.

The lads were hardly stretched out when another motor drew up before the
gate. This one contained besides three privates a young officer with his
arm in a sling, and he asked if we could give them water.  Leon told
them that they would be very welcome if they would care to come in and
rest--there were already a half-dozen wounded asleep in the house.  At
these words the lieutenant jumped down and asked for the _medicin-chef_.
He was rather startled when I appeared, and told him that there was no
military authority as yet installed at the chateau.

"Then I must take all the responsibility of the men," he said very
kindly but firmly.  "I'm sorry, but they cannot remain here.  I must
deliver them safe at some big center outside the zone of operations."

The time had come for questions--and I learned with amazement that Liege
had fallen, Belgium was invaded, and that hard fighting was going on at
St. Quentin, but eighty miles away.  "The cannon of yesterday was no
target practice," thought I.  The men all seemed so hopeful, though,
that we never felt a qualm.

"As you will, Monsieur," I said, and the weary boys were wakened and
hurried off before we had time to ask names, addresses or any further
details.

All this had transpired so rapidly that we had had no time to call in
our assistants, and presently Madame Guix and I found ourselves alone in
the empty vestibule.



IV

Nothing further happened that afternoon.  Madame Guix's course went on
as usual, with perhaps a little more animation in the conversation, and
much speculation as to when and where those who had stopped at the
chateau had been wounded.  No one really knew.  To tell the truth,
though later Madame Guix and I had asked them, the soldiers themselves
had but a very indistinct idea of time and date or whereabouts.

That night I was awakened by the low rumbling of heavy carts on the road
in front of the chateau.  Fancying that perhaps it was artillery on its
way to the front, I put on my dressing gown and went as far as the gate.
There in the pale moonlight I beheld a long stream of carriages and
wagons of every description piled high with household goods, and filled
with women and children.  The men walked beside the horses to prevent
collision, for as far as eye could see, the lamentable _cortege_
extended down the hill.

What did this mean?

"Who are you?" I called to one of the men as they passed.

"Belgians--refugees."

Refugees!  My mind flew back to descriptions of the French Revolution
and the Reign of Terror, when so many people fled for their lives!  What
nonsense!  Were we not in the twentieth century?  Wasn't there a Peace
Palace at The Hague?  My thoughts became muddled.

Opening the gate, I went out and accosted another man.

"Won't you come in and rest?"

"No, we can't.  We must make our twenty miles by dawn--and rest during
the heat of the day."

"But why do you leave home?"

"Because the savages burned us out!"

Bah, the man must be dreaming!

I turned back and addressed myself to another:

"What's your hurry?" I queried

"They're on our heels!" came the reply.

Surely this one was madder than the other!

A third did not deign to reply, sturdily marching on ahead, his eyes
fixed on the road in front of him.

On top of a farm cart half filled with bay I saw the prostrate form of a
woman with two others kneeling beside her ministering to her wants.  In
the trap that followed was the most sorrowful group of old men and
middle-aged women I ever hope to see.  All were sobbing.  Besides them
rode two big boys on bicycles.  I stopped one of these.

"What's the matter with her?" I questioned, pointing to the woman on the
cart.

"She's crazy."

"?"

"Yes, lost her mind."

"How, when, where?"

"Two days ago, when we left X.  (Try as I may, I cannot recall the name
of the little Belgian town be mentioned.)  She was ill in bed with a
fever when the Germans set fire to the place--barely giving us time to
hoist her into the cart. Her husband lingered behind to scrape a few
belongings together.  In spite of our efforts, she would stand up on the
cart, and suddenly we heard an explosion and she saw her house burst
into flame.  She fainted.  Outside in the woods we waited an hour, but
her husband never came.  Perhaps it's just as well, for when she woke up
her mind was a blank!"

Ye gods!  I rubbed my eyes.  It couldn't be possible that all this was
true!  I was asleep!  It was merely a horrible nightmare.  But no--the
carts rolled on in the pale moonlight carrying their heavy burdens of
human misery.

It was more than I could stand.  All thought of sleep had vanished, so I
went and woke Madame Guix.  We dressed and descended to the kitchen,
where with a few smoldering embers, we soon managed to light a good
fire.  Water was set to boil and in half an hour's time we carried out
to the bridge two huge pails of hot coffee, a pail of cold water, and
one of wine.  No one refused our offerings, and the hearty "God bless
you's" of those kindly souls brought tears to our eyes more than once.

Dawn, Monday, August 31st, found us still at our posts.  I rang the farm
bell, assembled my servants, and told them we would abandon all but the
most necessary farm work and minister to the wants of the refugees.  By
eight o'clock they had peeled and prepared vegetables enough to fill two
huge copper pots, and the soup was set to boil.  And still the long line
of heavy vehicles followed one another down the road: moving vans,
delivery wagons, huge drays, and even little three-wheeled carts drawn
by dogs, rolled on towards the south.

When asked where they were going, most of the people replied, "Straight
ahead of us, _a' la grace de Dieu_."

By the morning the heat had grown intolerable and a splendid looking man
got down from a cart and came towards me.  Might he turn his party into
the drive and rest a bit in the shade?

I was only too willing, and gladly offered hot soup and stewed fruit to
any who would accept.

Two long heavy drays each drawn by a pair of the handsomest big bay
horses with creamy manes that I have ever seen, pulled up in the
courtyard.  Impromptu seats had been arranged in the wagons and from
these climbed down some twenty or thirty old women, children and men,
worn out by the fatigue, anxiety, and want of sleep. My heart went out
to them, and in a generous moment I was about to offer them my beds so
they could get a good rest before starting off again, but on second
thought it dawned on me that I must keep them for the army!  What a
pretty thing it would be if another auto full of wounded suddenly
appeared and found all my wards occupied!

I explained my position.  They grasped it at once.  It was too good of
me.  They were all well and needed no beds--would I let them sleep in
the bay for a few hours?

But better still, I suggested, if the boys would carry a dozen or so
extra mattresses I possessed into the harness room, the women might lie
there, and the men could take to the hay.

They had food, plenty of it, bought on the way from village dealers who
had not yet been seized with panic and shut up shop.  So I told them
that instead of building individual fires they might cook their noonday
meal on my huge range. They might also use my kitchen utensils and china
if they would wash up, and thus save unpacking their own.  Apparently
this was unheard of generosity and I cannot tell you how many times that
morning my soul was recommended to the tender protection of the Blessed
Virgin.

While the women prepared the meal, George had taken the men to the
wash-house, where soap and water worked miracles on their dusty faces;
one by one all the members of the group disappeared in that direction
and when they gathered around the long table in the refectory, it was
altogether a different company to that of an hour before.

As they sat down it came over me that none of us had eaten since the
night before, and dropping onto a chair, I suddenly realized that I was
tired.  Berthe and Nini, however, wanted to know where I would lunch,
and were rather startled when I informed them to lay a cloth on the
kitchen table and to bring out all the cold meat, cheese, bread, butter
and jam in the larder.  It would be a stand-up picnic lunch for everyone
to-day, and what was more, it was very likely to be picnic dinner; so
Julie was ordered to put two chickens to roast and some potatoes to
boil--both needed but little attention and would always be ready when we
might need them.

The meal passed in silence in both rooms, and the "washing up" was done
in no time.  Then as they all retired to take their naps, the man who
had first asked me if they might turn into the chateau, and who seemed
to be the leader of the party, came into the kitchen and, hat in hand,
begged a word or so with me.

He had come not only to express the gratitude of his compatriots, but
also his astonishment that I should welcome strangers so cordially.  I
tried to side-track the conversation which was very embarrassing, but he
would hear none of it.

"We are not gypsies, you know, Madame."  I smiled and told him that that
was more than evident.  "Look at our horses and our dogs!"  And the good
fellow proceeded to inform me that he was the keeper of a big estate
that belonged to Madame Pyrme (sister of the senator of that name),
situated in the little village of Hanzinell, Belgium.  He even offered
to show his papers, but I shook my head.  His open-hearted sincerity
and frank countenance were sufficient.

But why had they come away?  That was what interested me.

Because their country was invaded and one by one the towns and villages
had been bombarded, looted and burned until little or nothing remained.
Because all men under fifty were carried away as hostages or prisoners;
because he had seen little children slain, and young girls tortured;
because anything was better than falling helpless into the hands of such
an enemy.

"Madame, at Charleroi I've seen the blood running in the gutters like
rain after a storm and that not a week ago!"

It was impossible not to believe him.  His eye was not that of a coward.
He told his story simply; he was almost reticent, and I had even to
encourage him at times to make him finish a phrase.  Finally I asked him
where he intended going, and why so far away.  Didn't he think he was
safe here?

No--_jamais!_  Yesterday in the night they had heard the cannon growing
closer and closer.  They knew the sound.  The Germans were advancing. It
was Paris they wanted and nothing would stop them till they reached
their goal.

"Except the French army," I said, with pride.

"God grant you speak the truth, Madame!"  But in the meantime he seemed
to consider that one was far safer in the way of some gigantic
mowing-machine than on the path of the German army.  He had come to tell
me the truth and to warn me that I ought to make ready to leave.

"You are helpless here, Madame.  Three women, three little girls, and
two boys! It's tempting fate."

I couldn't seem to see it his way, however.  The papers though very
mysterious, had given us no cause for alarm.  As yet we had not seen a
single trooper.  If it were true that the French were retreating we
would leave when the army appeared. That would be time enough.

"Why, my good fellow," I said reassuringly, "if the Germans ever reach
here Paris is doomed--and the war will be over!"

"Perhaps--"

"Besides, I can't go.  I've got a hospital on my hands, though the
wounded are lacking.  Haven't you seen our Red Cross flag?  And if that
isn't sufficient, I can prove that I'm an American born.  That ought to
be protection enough for anyone!"

I must admit that the incredulous smile that rose to his lips rather
angered me, and I sought still another excuse.

"Furthermore, one of my little maids is too ill to move, and I don't see
us walking off with folded arms, and that's what would happen if I
followed your advice, for the only horse the Army has left me is over
twenty and so lame that he can't walk two steps.  If he could I'd have
had to present him for the second inspection at Chateau Thierry on
Wednesday."

The poor fellow shook his head at my apparent foolhardiness, but was too
polite to argue further.  He said that his party would be off in an hour
and asked me if I possessed a road-map that he might consult.  I gladly
showed him the one we had bought with H. the day of our hasty trip from
Paris, since then pinned to the wall of the refectory.  I noticed that
he studied it very carefully, noting all the little sidetracks where he
thought his drays could pass, and thus avoid following in line behind
the thousands of other vehicles that encumbered the main roads.

Again he thanked me for all I had done, caressed my beautiful
greyhounds, and left me his card so that we might meet when all was
over.  Afterwards when I went into the court, I heard someone in the
stable with George, and looking in, I saw my friend of a few moments
before examining my horse's hoof and telling my boy what would make the
sore heal quickly.  He was bound to do his best for me!

By five o'clock the stables and grounds were empty, and our friends
gone. Hanzinell had joined the column which had slackened a bit during
the heat of the day, but had redoubled in volume since the sun had gone
behind the hills.

We had a moment's breathing space, during which we gave our entire
attention to Yvonne, who was writhing with agony on her bed next my
room.  For three days now Madame Guix had administered mild doses of
morphine, but that treatment could not continue very long.  Water bags,
friction and massage had proved fruitless against sciatica, so we
resolved to try a warm bath, with the result that our patient was almost
immediately eased but too weak to support the heat. She fainted in the
tub and had to be carried back to bed.  We were still working over her
when Nini appeared and said I was wanted below.  When Yvonne's eyelashes
began to flutter, I left Madame Guix and regained the kitchen, now
become the head-quarters.

More refugees!  Would I let them come in?  They were traveling without a
map or guide and dared not venture along the roads at night.

Of course they were welcome, and the same hospitalty that had greeted
the refugees from Hanzinell was offered to those from Thuilly-the whole
village was there!--mayor, curate, smith and baker, all accompanied by
different members of their immediate families, driven from home by the
cruel invaders.  Terrified by the horrors they had witnessed, exhausted
by their perilous journey, they were disinclined to talk; and as for
myself, I was so busy, preoccupied and thoroughly spent, that curiosity
was forgotten.  Here were people in need of what comforts I could offer.
I gave and asked no questions.

What was most evident at present was the fact that rations were shorter
among this party than among those who had stopped in the morning, and
certainly not for the lack of funds.  All of them had money--gold
a-plenty.

They had found less to buy--_voila tout_.  They were glad to accept the
vegetable soup, rabbit stew and cooked fruit that we had prepared but
insisted on paying for their portions, which of course I refused, much
to their dismay, and I am certain the servants were well repaid for
their trouble.

And what were their plans?  To go as far south as possible.  Perhaps
they would eventually cross to Morocco or Canada.  Why not?  The whole
village was there--all the men had their trades.  They would colonize,
for it was useless to think of going "home."  They no longer possessed
one, and who could tell--the war might last a year or more?

At that assertion I protested.  A year?  Never!  Why, the finances of
the country couldn't stand it, and I went on to state how, when in
England during the Agadir crisis three years previous, I had heard
competent authorities state that three months was the very limit for the
duration of hostilities!  That somewhat cheered them--especially as I
announced the Russian advance, and on the map we noted the rapid
progress of the famous "steam roller," which, if it continued as it had
begun, would certainly reach Berlin by Christmas!  (I offer these
statements without comment.)

Before they retired Madame Guix asked if there were any who felt the
slightest ill, for it were better to nip sickness in the bud, and she
cheerfully lanced festers and pricked blisters, bathed, powdered and
bandaged the feet of some dozen old and decrepit men and young children
unaccustomed to such forced marching and unable to take proper care of
themselves for want of time and hot water!  At that moment I felt she
was heroic and I must say I admired her patience and endurance, for the
sights witnessed were anything but agreeable. Poor souls!  And they
hoped to reach Marseilles on foot.

The Kaiser and his entire army might have ridden over us rough shod and
we would have felt nothing, so soundly did we sleep for the first couple
of hours after we touched our beds.  By two A. M. (September first),
however, there was much moving about in the barns and stables, and my
dogs, who were restless, began scratching at my door to be released.
Anxious that no one leave without a cup of hot coffee, Madame Guix and I
repaired to the kitchen as dawn broke, and an hour later we bade
farewell to our "lodgers for a night."  I bethought me of my kodak, and
as the sun peeped through the clouds I caught a snapshot of my departing
guests as they turned the corner of the chateau.

They joined in behind the stream of other carts which we were now
accustomed to seeing.  In fact, this general exodus no longer astonished
us.  It seemed as if the panic had spread over the whole of Flanders
like a drop of oil on a sheet of paper.  To us, who consider ourselves
as living in the suburbs of Paris, Belgium is so far away!

I wound off my film and was returning towards the house, when two very
distinguished looking girls stepped off their bicycles and asked for
directions. I gave them with pleasure and in turn ventured a few
questions.

They were from St. Quentin!  That startled me.  They had been _en route_
two days. They had not seen the Germans, but the town had been
officially evacuated.  A man on a bicycle had sped by them the day
before and announced the bombardment and destruction of their native
city!  Hard fighting at La Fere.

St. Quentin!  Then the Germans were on our soil!  The Belgians were
right--they were evidently advancing rapidly.  But why worry?  We were
safe as long as we had the French army between us and them.

Thought as yet the day was but a couple of hours old, I was weary.  This
business of  hotel-keeping on so large it scale with so little
assistance was beginning to tell on my strength.  I opened the gate and
told George and Leon to welcome any who wished to come in, and then
repairing to the kitchen, I sat down and began helping the others
prepare vegetables.  The discovery that in spite of all their good will
guests had necessarily left many traces of their passage, brought me to
my feet again, and we were all hard at work when a haggard female face
looked in at the kitchen window.

"Is there a doctor here?"

"No,--but--"

The woman burst into tears. Madame Guix and I hurried out into the
court.  "My baby--I can't seem to warm her," moaned the poor mother.
"She hasn't eaten anything since yesterday."

And stretching out her arms, the woman showed us an infant that she had
been carrying in her apron.  It was dead.

I had difficulty in overcoming my emotion, but Madame Guix took the poor
little corpse into her arms, and I helped the mother to an arm chair in
the refectory.

A cup of strong coffee brought back a little color to her wan cheeks and
she told us she was from Charleville.  The Taubes had got in their
sinister work to good advantage among the civil population but they were
merely the forerunners of another and heavier bombardment.  The
townspeople had fled in their night clothes.

"Are you alone?"

"Yes--I'm not a native of Charleville.  My husband and I have only been
married a year.  He left the second of August and the baby was born the
tenth.  She's only three weeks old."

No wonder the mother looked haggard--one hundred and fifty miles on
foot, with a newborn infant in her arms, fleeing for her life before the
barbarous hordes!

I pressed another cup of coffee with a drop of brandy in it upon her.
She looked appealingly at both of us and then drank.

"Was your husband good to you?" asked Madame Guix.

"Ah, yes, Madame."

"Do you love him well enough to endure another sacrifice like a true
wife and mother that you are?"

"Yes."

And then we told her that her baby bad gone--gone to a brighter Country
where war is unknown.  She looked at us in amazement, and burying her
head on her arm, sobbed silently but submissively.

"Come, come, you must sleep--and when you are rested we will help you to
find room in a cart which will take you towards your parents."

She cast a long, loving look at her first born, and let herself be led
away.

All we could do was to make an official declaration of the death at the
town hall. A small linen sheet served as shroud, a clean, flower-lined
soap box formed that baby's coffin, and Greorge and I were the grave
diggers and chief mourners, who laid the tiny body at rest in the little
vine-grown churchyard. War willed it thus.

When I got back from the cemetery I found another load of refugees
installed in the courtyard.  This time they proved to be a hotel keeper
and her servants from the Ardennes.  They, however, had foreseen that
flight was imminent and had carefully packed a greater part of their
household belongings and valuables onto several wagons, taking care that
all were well balanced and properly loaded so as to carry the maximum
weight without tiring the horses.  They needed less attention than the
others had required, for when I explained that the house was theirs,
they went about their work swiftly and silently, getting in no one's way
and attending to every want of their mistress, who sat in her coupe and
gave orders.

Later on they were joined by the occupants of numerous other equipages,
all from the same district--but with whom I had but little intercourse.
From one poor woman, however, I learned that her two daughters, aged
sixteen and seventeen, had been lost from the party for two days.  They
were in the cart with the curate who had stopped to water his horse,
thus losing his place in line.  When they had reached the spot where the
road forked, which direction had he taken? What had become of them?  She
pinned her name and route on the refectory wall, begging me to give it
to them if they ever inquired for her.  To my knowledge they never
passed.

At luncheon Madame Guix announced that Yvonne was better.  Far from
well, but better.  That was a load off my mind.

The mother of the poor little infant we had buried was peacefully
slumbering on a cot in the hospital, and presently Leon came in to say
that old Cesar had put his hoof on the ground for the first time in four
days.  Bravo!  I felt much relieved.

And still the carts rolled down the valley, their noise echoing between
the hills. To-day there was no respite: right on through the heat of
noon they rumbled past, thicker and faster it seemed to me.

"Bother them!" I thought.  "They make so much noise that we couldn't
hear the cannon if it were only a mile distant."  And hoping that
perhaps I might seek some assurance from that sound, I was about to set
off for the highest spot in the park to listen.  At the door, however, I
was accosted by one of the two men who, for several days had been
bundling my hay in the stable lofts.  He pleaded illness. Would I pay
him and let him go?  He would come back to-morrow and finish if he felt
better.

As there was nothing unusual in his request, I settled his account and
told him to go and rest.  I now know that he was a German spy, and have
recently learned that a fortnight later he was caught and shot at
Villers-Cotterets.

I wonder what possessed me to make that long weary climb.  Evidently I
found out what I wanted to know, but the news was anything but
reassuring.  I heard the cannon distinctly: so distinctly that I was a
trifle unnerved.  Not only had my ears caught the long ever-steady
rolling (already observed three days since) but I had been able to make
out a difference in the caliber of each piece that fired, and added to
it all was a funny clattering sound, as when one drags a wooden stick
along an iron barred fence.  _La Fere_ is putting up a heroic defense, I
thought, blissfully unconscious of the fact that it is utterly
impossible to hear a cannon at that distance--at half, no, even a
quarter of that distance.  Judge then for yourselves what was its
proximity to Villiers!

For two days now the course in nursing had been abandoned, not for lack
of enthusiasm but because each housewife had more than she could attend
to at home. The chateau was not the only place where refugees halted,
and all the villagers had done their best to make the travelers
comfortable.  From where I stood overlooking the two valleys, I could
see the interminable line of carts on all roads within scope of my view,
and in every farm yard as well as on the side of the main thoroughfares,
vehicles were drawn up and thin columns of blue smoke rising heavenward,
told that the evening meal was under way.

The population of my own courtyard had quadrupled by five o'clock.
People from St. Quentin, Ternier, Chauny--each with a tale of horror and
sorrow--sought refuge for the night.  Madame Guix was permanently
established in the dispensary, and a line was formed as in front of the
city clinics, each one waiting his turn, hoping that she might be able
to relieve his suffering.  At dusk a cart turned into the drive and a
gray-haired man asked if we had a litter on which to carry his son to
the house.

"What was the matter?" I inquired.

"A cough--such a bad cough."

I went with him towards the wagon, and there beheld the sad spectacle of
a youth in the last stages of tuberculosis.  Thin beyond description, a
living skeleton, the poor boy turned his great glassy eyes towards me in
supplication.  I drew the father aside.  It was best to be frank.  I
shook my head and said it would be useless to move his son.  We had no
doctor, and his illness was beyond our competence.  Cover him well, and
try to reach a big city as soon as possible.

As I turned away, a sturdy youth tapped me gently on the arm, begging
shelter for his great-grandmother, a woman ninety-three years old, whom
he had carried on his back all the way from St. Quentin.  A cot in the
entrance hall was all prudence permitted me to offer, and it was
charming to see how tenderly the young fellow bore the poor little
withered woman to her resting-place.  She was so dazed that I fear she
hardly realized what was happening, but tears of gratitude streamed down
her cheeks when her boy appeared with a bowl of hot soup, coaxing her to
drink, like a child, and finally curling up on the rug beside her bed.

Five times that evening the great refectory table was surrounded by
hungry men and women; five times I ladled out soup and vegetables to
forty persons, and five times we all helped to wash up.  So when all was
finally cleaned away, and Madame Guix and I fell exhausted onto two
kitchen chairs, it was well onto eleven P. M.

My clever nurse informed me that she had arranged for the departure in a
cart of the mother whose baby we had buried, and I in turn told her of
my climb in the park and the approach of the cannon.  It was evident
that the Germans were bearing down on us, and swiftly.  When we looked
at the map and saw the names of the cities, towns and villages whose
populations had succeeded each other down the road, it was clear that
the French must be beating a forced retreat, or (and this was unlikely)
panic had spread so quickly that the whole north of France was now
moving south on a fool's errand.  We cast this second hypothesis aside.
We had heard too many tales of woe and seen too much misery to believe
anything of the sort.  Well, and then what?  Our case was simple--either
the Germans would be stopped before they reached us, or the French army
would put in an appearance, in which latter case it would be time enough
to leave, unless we were officially evacuated before!  Having adopted
this simple line of conduct, we retired, quite satisfied and not in the
least uneasy.

In the cool gray dawn of Wednesday morning, September second, when I
opened my shutters and looked out into the little square that faces the
chateau, I was amazed to see that the refugees who had halted there were
in carts and wagons whose signs were most familiar.  They came from
Soissons!

"Hello," thought I, "I'll go and see what they have to say!  Things must
be getting very bad if a big city like Soissons suddenly takes to its
heels." (Soissons is but little over twenty miles from Villiers.)  As I
came down stairs I heard the drum roll, and George, who just then
appeared with the milk, announced that the requisition of horses which
should have taken place at Chateau-Thierry that morning, was
indefinitely postponed.  That was hardly reassuring, especially as it
was the first official news we had received in a long time.

So busy were we helping those who had slept at the chateau to depart,
that I had no time to put my first intentions into execution, and when
finally I had a moment, I looked out of the window and saw that my
friends from Soissons had vanished.  They, too: well, well, well!

I was not astonished; in fact I gave the matter but little heed.  We had
taken our resolutions the night before and had no time to stop every
five minutes and question as to whether we were right or wrong.  At
noon, however, when an old peasant woman called me through the kitchen
window and announced that all Charly was leaving post haste, I must
admit that I winced, but only for a second.  If I had listened to all
the different rumors that had been noised abroad within the last week I
would have been a fit subject for a lunatic asylum by then!

Resolved, however, to get at the core of the matter, I sent George to
Charly (our market town, four miles away) to see what he could find out.
He returned on his bicycle at luncheon time, bearing the following
astonishing information.

The hotel keeper and his wife, alarmed by the arrival of the Soissonais,
had taken their auto and started for that city in quest of news.
They had returned an hour later, having been unable to pass
Oulchy-le-Chateau, fifteen miles from Charly, where all the bridges were
cut or blown up!  They were making their preparations for departure.

"And," continued George, in an excited tone, "as I came past the
_Gendarmerie_ the _brigadier_ called to me and said good-bye.  All the
_gendarmes_ had received orders to leave at once for their depot at--."
(The name of some town the other side of the Marne, which I cannot
remember.)

Instead of frightening me this information stimulated my nerves, which
were beginning to be depressed by much work and little news.

"Good," I said.  "Now then, we can expect the soldiers at any minute.
Poke up the fire, Julie, and we'll fall to work to have hot soup ready
when our boys arrive."

Then we were really going to be in the excitement.  How glorious to be
able to help--for in my mind ours was the only solution possible to the
question.

I set to work with renewed vigor and, as on the day before, we were
constantly in demand by refugees requiring treatment and attention.  How
well I remember a group of four, two men and two women, who staggered
into the court and timidly knocked at the window.  Three of them were
glad to accept soup and wine, but the fourth, a middle-aged woman, sank
down on the steps and buried her head in her hands.

"Why doesn't one of you men relieve her of that heavy parcel she has
strapped to her shoulders?" I asked.

"She won't let us touch it.  She's never put it aside a minute since we
left home six days ago!"

"Is it as precious as all that?" I queried, eyeing the huge flat package
which might have been the size of the double sheet of some daily paper.

"It's her son's picture.  He's gone to the army and she's alone in the
world."

"But why on earth is she carrying frame, glass, and all?  It must be
nearly killing her in this heat!"

"Madame," said the woman's friend solemnly, "she worked six months and
put all her savings into that frame!  Do you wonder she did not wish to
leave it behind!"

I opened a side door and showed them a foot path across the hills, a
short cut which carriages could not take, and was just turning the key
in the lock when the telephone rang.

That was the first time since the second of August!  What could it mean?
Probably the arrival of wounded.  I literally flew to answer the call.

I had some little difficulty recognizing Mademoiselle Mauxpoix' voice:
it was trembling with emotion.  She greeted me politely and then begging
me not to be too alarmed, she announced that she had just received
official orders to put all her telephones and telegraphic apparatus out
of working order--to damage them so that repairs would be impossible.

"I have ten minutes more left," she continued.  "A government motor is
coming at four o'clock to take me, my employees and my books to Tours."

"But, Mademoiselle--"

She did not heed my interruption.  "You cannot stay, Madame Huard!  You
must not! No woman is safe on their path.  I know this better than you,
for I have been receiving official reports for more than a month!  The
worst is true!  For the love of heaven, go--you've still got a chance
though there's hard fighting going on in the streets of Chateau Thierry!
For God's sake, don't hesitate. Adieu."

She was gone!  And I stood there dazed!

"Hard fighting at Chateau-Thierry!  That's only seven miles from here,"
I counted.

Go?  Go where?  How?  Go and abandon my post, with Yvonne still too ill
to move, and all the others depending on my help?  Go?  By what means,
when my only horse was too lame to cross the courtyard!  It was far
better to stay and defend one's belongings!

And then as I slowly returned through the corridors, it occurred to me
that in spite of my desire to stay I might be forced out.  Suppose the
chateau should suddenly become the target for the German guns?  Well, we
could all take to the cellars, as the others had done in 1870.  But--and
here was the point--suppose the French took possession and gave us women
but a few minutes to leave before the battle began.  Then what!  Here
was food for reflection.  I resolved to take Madame Guix and the two
boys into my confidence.  Four heads were better than one!

They received the news calmly, and I almost caught a glimpse of a
twinkle in George's and Leon's eyes.  The excitement pleased them.

If what Mademoiselle Mauxpoix had said was true, the Germans were now on
their way to Villiers.  It was evident that the French were putting up a
stubborn resistance, but there was little hope of their stopping them
before they reached our vicinity.  Battle meant destruction of lives and
property.  Well, since we still possessed the former, it was high time
to think of saving the latter.  The sun was fast sinking behind the pine
trees.  In an hour it would be dark.  What I decided to do must be done
at once.

"George and Leon, bring down my two big trunks, and tell Nini to hitch
the donkey to his flat cart and drive to the side door."  I had resolved
to save what I could of H.'s work, and going to the studio closet, I
began selecting the portfolios containing mounted drawings and etchings.
It was useless to think of the paintings.  They were too big.  The
trunks were full in no time.  I had no other receptacles, so reluctantly
closed the but half empty cupboards, consoling myself with the thought
that all this was possibly useless preparation, and praying Heaven that
I had made a good choice among the portfolios in case the worst came.

The boys put the trunks onto the cart and set off in the direction of a
sand quarry, where I knew we could dig in safety, and easily cause a
miniature landslide, which would cover all traces of our hidden
treasure.  I promised to join them in an hour--the time I judged it
would take them to make so large an excavation, and returning to my
room, gathered my jewels and papers into a little valise, and put them
beside my fur coat and my kodak.  A few other trinkets and innumerable
photographs were locked away in my desk, and perceiving that it would be
utterly impossible to carry them with me, I wondered how on earth I
might protect them.  Suddenly I bethought me of a tiny silk American
flag that my mother had given me years before, when as a child I left
home for my first trip to Europe.  I found it where I hoped, and
shutting one edge of it into the drawer, I let the stripes hang downward
and pinned the following inscription into its folds:

"I swear that the contents of this desk are purely personal and can be
of value to no one but myself.  I therefore leave it under the
protection of my country's flag."

I felt very proud when I had done this and then hurried into my
dressing-room where I hastily filled my suit-case with a few warm
underclothes, a change of costume, and an extra pair of shoes.  I had
about finished and was heartily glad that this useless job was over,
when on glancing out of the window I caught sight of fuzzy-haired Madame
La Miche driving up the avenue in her dog cart.

Madame La Miche and her husband run a big stock farm near Neuilly St.
Front, some fifteen miles from Villiers.  I had often seen her at
poultry and agricultural shows, where their farm products usually
carried off any number of prizes.  It was she who sold me my cows hardly
a year since.

"You?" I said, as she drew up to the steps.

"Yes.  En route--like all the others.  Our entire fortune is in live
stock and I'm going to try to save as much as I can.  May we come in?"

Certainly--and a half-hour later one of the largest farms in France had
been moved bodily into my pasture land!  The whole thing was conducted
in a very orderly manner by M. La Miche, who on horseback drew up the
rear of this immense cavalcade composed of some two hundred white oxen,
hitched two abreast, seventy or eighty horses, as many mares with young
colts, and heaven knows how many cows and calves; all accompanied by the
stable bands.  Poor tired beasts, how greedily they drank the cool water
of our spring, and how willingly the cunning little colts, whose tender
hoofs had been worn to the quick by their unheard-of journey, allowed
the men to tie up their feet in coarse linen bandages with strips of old
carpet for protection.

Madame La Miche had been officially evacuated at noon, so I did not
hesitate to tell her what I had heard.  She was not surprised, and said
she intended leaving at midnight, but her animals, unaccustomed to such
exercise, must have a few hours' rest.

In the kitchen I found George and Leon, who had accomplished their task
sooner than I expected.  Relying on their word that it was impossible to
tell where they had buried the trunks, I did not go back to the sand
quarry.  Half a mile was a distance to be considered, under the
circumstances.

While all this had been going on, Madame Guix had taken Julie into her
confidence and asked her if she would follow us if we were obliged to
leave. Julie is a native of Villiers, and her husband and children live
in a little house near by. She had consulted her lord and they were
willing to lend their big dray horse if they could all join our party.
Of course we agreed and while it was light, we decided to put some bags
of oats into the bottom of our hay cart, to cover these with hay, and
then all the servants could pile on, the boys taking turns at walking
since Yvonne must have room to be stretched out.

How I hated all this business!  Madame Guix then counted the number of
persons composing our party, and sent Nini to fetch as many blankets and
pillows. These, with a box containing salt, sugar, chocolate, and other
dry provisions, a valise packed with a few bandages and a little
medicine, were put onto a little light farm-cart to which we might
harness Cesar in case of great emergency.

The two vehicles when loaded were run into an empty carriage house,
whose door I locked, rather ashamed of my precautions.

Night had fallen and the incoming stream of refugees demanded our every
attention. Madame Guix was occupied with two women whose physical
condition was such that it was impossible to refuse them beds, come what
might--and as I crossed the vestibule in search of some instruments, the
shadow of a woman and two little girls came up the steps.  "Could I give
them lodgings?" begged the poor soul.  I looked at her--she was so
frightened that it was most pathetic, and the two curly-beaded children
clung to her skirts and shivered.

"I've never been alone before," she explained, and her teeth fairly
chattered with terror.  "I can pay, and pay well--I've thirty thousand
francs in gold on me."

"Then, for Heaven's sake, don't let anyone know it!" I said, very
abruptly.  "I don't want money, but there are others who may.  Be
careful--a fortune like that may lead to your destruction.  Hide it!"

She stared at me in amazement.  Evidently the idea that dishonesty
existed never occurred to her.  She thanked me for the advice and hoped
she had not offended me, and begged me to take pity on her.

"Did anyone see you come in here?"

She thought not.

"For if they did I fear you will have to share the common lot.  I have
no reason to give you preference.  The others might protest."

I stuck my head out of the doorway.  When I turned around, those three
helpless creatures stood clinging to one another in the big empty
vestibule, making a most pitiable group.

"Go up two flights of stairs--turn to your left and follow the corridor
to the end.  The last door on your left opens into a room with a huge
double bed.  It was too big for our hospital.  That's the only reason we
didn't bring it down. It's at your disposal.  Don't thank me.
Good-night."

When I got a moment I went to Yvonne's room.  "Did she think she could
get up a little: long enough to take some dinner?  Perhaps she might put
on a few clothes and make an effort to walk around her room."  Ten days
in bed had made her very weak.  She must try to gain a little strength.
She promised and I departed. The idea of carrying her out bodily was
anything but encouraging!

At six-thirty the public distribution of soup recommenced.  Who my
guests were I have no idea.  There were more than a hundred of them.
That was clear enough from the dishes that were left.  Just as the last
round had been served, George came in to say that the village was
beginning to get uneasy--people from Neuilly St. Front and
Lucy-le-Bocage and Essommes had already passed down the road, and the
peasants looked to the chateau for a decision!

I went out to the gate.  Yes, true enough, our neighbors from Lucy (five
miles distant) had joined the procession.  Then there was a break, and a
lull, such as had not occurred for two days, and in the silence I again
recognized the same clattering sound that had caught my ear on the hill
top the afternoon before. This time it was much more distinct, but was
soon drowned out by the rumbling of heavy wheels on the road.

Surely this time it was artillery!

I wrapped my shawl closer about me and sat down on the low stone wall
that borders the moat, while little groups of peasants, unable to sleep,
clustered together on the roadside.

Nearer and nearer drew the clanking noise and presently a whole regiment
of perambulators, four abreast, swung around the corner into the
moonlight.

Domptin!

Domptin, our neighboring village, one mile up the road, had caught the
fever and was moving out wholesale, transporting its ill and decrepit,
its children and chattels, in heaven knows how many baby carriages!

I had never seen so many in all my life.  The effect was altogether
comic, and Madame Guix and I could not resist laughing--much to the
dismay of these poor souls who saw little amusement at being obliged to
leave home scantily clad in night clothes.

They passed on, without further comment, and the last man had hardly
turned the corner when a scream coming from up the road drew us to our
feet, and sent us running in that direction.  Almost instantly, the
figure of an old white-capped peasant woman appeared in the distance.
She was wringing her hands and crying aloud.  When we were within ear
shot, I caught the word, "Uhlans!"

"Uhlans!  Where?"

"_Dans le bois de la Mazure!_" (A half-mile from Villiers.)

"How do you know?"

"Saw their helmets glittering in the moonlight!"

"What rot!  They're Frenchmen--dragoons.  You don't know your own
countrymen when you see them!  Did you approach them?"

"No."

"Then what in the name of common sense sent you flying down here to
scare us like that?  You've got no business spreading panic broadcast.
If you don't turn around and scamper home, the way you came, I'll have
you arrested.  _Allez!_"

My nerves had stood the strain as long as possible.  This false alarm
had roused my anger and in a jiffy I could see how thousands of people
had been deceived, and were now erring homeless along the roads of
France!

"You can do what you like," I said, turning to the others, "but I've had
enough of this for one day--I'm going to bed.  Good-night, gentlemen."

"The _chatelaine_ is going to bed, the _chatelaine_ is going to bed!"
"Let all go to bed," and similar phrases were echoed among the groups
and presently we all separated, after many cordial _a demain_.

The clock in the village church was striking midnight when I finally
retired, after calling my greyhounds and Betsy into my room, and
assuring myself that they all had on their collars, and that their
leashes were hanging on my bed post.

Nini, the little traitor, had evidently told Yvonne of my preparations
for departure, and the two girls, whose beds were in the next room to
mine, had been unable to close their eyes, for as I blew out my lamp, I
could hear their childish voices repeating the rosary:

"Hail Mary full of Grace--the Lord is with Thee..."

* * * * *

I may have slept an hour.  Then I can dimly remember hearing a wild yelp
from my dogs, and when I found myself in the middle of my room rubbing
my eyes, Yvonne was calling, "Madame!  Madame!" in terrified tones.  My
pets were mad with excitement, and the sound of the farm bell was
ringing in my ears!

"Silence!" I yelled.

Everything but the bell ceased.

Heedless of my attire, I rushed to a back window and repeated my
command.

The bell stopped.

"Who are you that you dare wake us like that!" I scolded.

A boy between eighteen and nineteen let go the rope and stepped beneath
the window.  I could see his blond hair in the moonlight.

"Are you Madame Huard?"

"Yes."

"I've come with a message from your husband."

I grew cold as ice.  Good God, what had happened?



V

In a bound I was down stairs and had opened the front door.

"Is H. wounded?" I gasped.

"No, Madame."

I breathed again.

"Where was he when you saw him?"

"On the road between Villers-Cotterets and La Ferte Milon."

"What's your message?"

The boy put his hand to his breast pocket and drew forth a slip of
paper.  The full moon shining on the white facade of the chateau threw
such a brilliant reflection that I recognized a sheet from a sketch
book, and could distinguish the following words scribbled in pencil:

"Give bearer fifty francs, then in the name of the love you bear me,
evacuate now; go south, not Paris."

The last words were underscored three or four times.

"What time was it when H. gave you this?"

"Noon or thereabouts."

"How did you come?  On foot?"

"No, bicycle."

"But it's after midnight!"

"I know, but I got lost and had three bad punctures."

Here were marching orders for fair, and if I intended obeying enough
time had already been lost.  To stay in spite of everything was to be
responsible for all the young lives that looked to me, for protection.
Could I promise it?  No. Then go it was!

At that same moment and as though to reinforce my decision, the strange
clattering noise I had observed growing nearer and nearer during the
last two days broke on the night air.

"Hark!" said the boy.  "_La mitrailleuse!_"

"The machine guns!" I echoed.

"_Oui, Madame._"

That sufficed.  "We'll be leaving in ten minutes.  Go to the kitchen.
I'll send someone to look after you and we'll go together."

All this had transpired in less time than it takes to tell it.  Awakened
by the bell, the refugees in the stables came pouring into the
courtyard.  A second later, George, lantern in hand, came running
towards me.

"Tell Leon to harness Cesar--then go and wake Julie and say that we are
leaving in ten minutes.  I expect her, and her family, with their horse,
to be ready. The courtyard in ten minutes.  Mind!"

On the landing I met Madame Guix already fully dressed.

"_Nous partons,_" was all I said.  She understood and followed me
towards Yvonne's room.

The two children, their teeth chattering, looked towards us in terror.

"Nini, put on the warmest clothes you possess and help Madame Guix to
dress Yvonne.  Then go to the kitchen and wait there without moving."

My own toilet was brief, and five minutes later, lamp in hand, I was
pounding on all the doors of the long corridors, fearful lest some one
be forgotten and locked in the house.  When I reached the second floor I
bethought me of the woman and her two children, and as I advanced I
called, "Don't be frightened. This is merely a warning!"

The poor soul must have been dreaming, for when I touched her door she
screamed, and as I opened it and held the lamp over my head, I could see
the two little creatures clinging to their mother, who on her knees
begged, "Take me, but spare my babies!"

I had some difficulty in reassuring her, but finally succeeded, and left
her to go below to the hospital.

At the first alarm, the women who were sleeping there had fled in
terror, and when assured that all were gone, for safety's sake I went up
into the vestibule and standing at the foot of' the stairs, called, "All
out!  All out!  I'm closing up and leaving!"

No one answering, I judged that my summons had been obeyed, and so
hurried back to my own room to fetch jewels, kodak and pets.  On my way
down I opened H.'s wardrobe and grabbed several overcoats, confident
that the boys would forget theirs and need them.

In the courtyard I found Julie and her family already perched on the
hay-cart, where Yvonne had been hoisted and lay moaning, well covered in
a blanket.  Both horses were hitched and my servants waiting orders.
Beside ours, other big drays were being prepared for flight, yet there
was no confusion--no loud talking--no lamenting.  I then told the boys
to hurry to the farm yard and open all the gates so that the poultry and
cows could have free access to the entire estate, which is closed in by
a wall.  I was thus certain that though they might feel hungry they,
would not die for want of food or water during the short time I intended
to be gone.

This done, I went to the kitchen where I found Nini, who had obeyed
orders not to move but who had presence of mind enough to lay out bread
and jam and wine for the famished youth who had brought the message.

In the lamplight I caught sight of my road maps on the refectory wall,
and setting my jewel box on the table I began unpinning and carefully
folding them and put them in the pocket of my motor coat.  Almost at the
same instant, the lamp flickered and Leon came in to say that all the
dogs were found save the beagle hound and three fox terrier puppies,
who, frightened by the bell and the commotion, had hidden in the hay
lofts.  We went out, and I called and whistled in vain--none of them
appeared.

All this had taken more time than I expected.  The wagons full of
refugees had disappeared, and we were alone.

"_En route!_" I called, climbing into the _charette_, a big lump rising
in my throat.

"_En route!_" called George.

Once again I counted our party to be sure all were there, and then
slowly the heavy-laden hay-cart pulled out of the courtyard onto the
high road.

The first ten steps that my horse took he limped so painfully that my
heart sank in my boots.

What nonsense, this departure!  The poor beast would break down and we'd
have to shoot him by the wayside, and other similar cheerful thoughts
fled through my brain as we jogged up the narrow village street.

In front of the town hall I halted, first of all to rest my steed,
secondly to await George and Leon, who had remained behind to shut the
entrance doors and bolt the gate, and finally because I was astonished
to see all the windows illuminated.

I Jumped down and approaching one of the panes looked through and saw
the entire municipal council seated in a semi-circle, their faces grave
with anxiety. Presently the boys, accompanied by H.'s messenger, rode up
on their bicycles and handed me the keys.  I entered the room where Mr.
Duguey, the schoolmaster and town clerk, greeted me.

"Gentlemen, I've come to give you the keys to my estate.  I've received
a message from my husband begging me to leave at once."

"Then make haste, Madame, while there is still time.  We are just about
to beat the call to arms and warn the population that those who hope to
escape must leave at once.  Though we have no official orders to do this
we have taken it on ourselves, for we now know for certain that the
Uhlans have surrounded the village and are awaiting daylight to take
possession.  They are probably bivouacking on the heights in your park."

Then the old peasant woman had not lied!  Those were really Uhlans she
had seen in the _bois de la Mazure_.  Ye gods, and here I was trying to
get away with a lame horse!  Thank heaven, the Marne was not far!  I
would cross it and then await developments.

The clock in the little church struck two and an owl hooted mournfully
in the belfry as silently our cortege plodded up the steep incline. When
we reached the summit I could not resist turning around and casting a
long affectionate glance on my lovely home-shining like a fairy palace
in its setting of wonderful trees.  Who could tell?  I might never see
it again!

George, too, must have been penetrated with the same sentiment, for he
rode up close to the cart and grasping the mud guard, turned on his
saddle and wistfully shaking his bead, gave vent to his feelings by the
following very inelegant but extremely expressive ejaculation:

"_Quels cochons!  vous chasser d'une propriete parcille!_"

A long shiver of emotion crept down my spine, and though it was but the
second of September I instinctively drew the fur collar of my coat
closer about my throat.

In front of me I could bear the wheels of our heavy-laden hay-cart
creaking as the big farm horse plodded on.  Its occupants were silent,
and thanks to the moon and the lantern which hung up high behind, I
could see Julie and Madame Guix nodding with sleep.

My own poor beast limped on and besides thinking of all that I had left
undone at the chateau and planning how and where we could go, I had the
constant vision of his silent suffering in front of me.  At every little
incline I would get down and throwing the reins over the neck of Betsy,
my bull dog, who occupied the seat beside me, I would give Cesar his
head and take my place with the boys behind.  He seemed to be grateful.

Let it be said, however, that as our journey advanced the hoof, at first
so tender from much poulticing, became firmer and firmer, and instead of
increasing, the lameness rather grew less.

We crossed our little market town of Charly amid dead silence.  Not a
light in a single window, not a sound anywhere.  We seemed to be the
only souls astir, and the foolhardiness of this midnight departure when
everyone else was tucked up snug in his bed, angered me.  I was seized
with a mad desire to turn about and go home.

Just then George asked me which direction I intended taking, and
remembering H.'s imperative "Go south," we turned sharp and headed for
the first bridge across the Marne.

High in front of me rose the dark wooded hills of Pavant, descending
abruptly to that narrow strip of fertile plain which borders the river
on both sides, but now half-veiled in a heavy blue mist.  Below me the
swift current sped onward like a silver arrow, and before so impressive
a spectacle I could not help thinking how meager is the art of the scene
painter and dramatist which tries to depict a real battlefield.  For
battlefield I felt this was, and my overstrained nerves no longer
holding my imagination in check, I could already see human forms
writhing in agony, and hear the moaning of souls on the brink of
Eternity. As though to vivify this hallucination, the dying moon
suddenly plunged behind a cloud, lighting the landscape but by strange
lugubrious streaks, and in the distance behind us a long low rumble
warned me that my dream might soon be a terrible reality.

The Marne crossed, a weight was lifted from my shoulders, and settling
back against the pile of blankets in my rig, I let the horse follow his
own sweet will and we started to zig-zag up a steep incline.  At the end
of five minutes' time I was so benumbed by the cold that sleep was
impossible, so I left my seat and joined the others who, all save
Yvonne, had been obliged to descend to relieve their horse.  What a
climb that was--seven long kilometers from right to left, winding around
that hill, as about a mountain, ever and again finding ourselves on a
narrow ledge overlooking the valley.  The fog had spread until literally
choked up between the bills and I could hardly persuade myself that it
was not the sea that rolled below me.  Even the signal lamps on the
distant railway line rose out of the labyrinth like a lighthouse in
mid-ocean, making the illusion complete.

Dawn was breaking as we reached the summit and pausing for a moment's
breath, we could see people with bundles hurrying from cottages and farm
yards, while the fields seemed dotted with horses and carts that sprang
out of the semi-darkness like specters, following one another to the
highway.  In less than no time the long caravan had re-formed and was
again under way.

We brought up the rear, preceded by five hundred snow-white oxen.  There
was no way of' advancing faster than the _cortege_.  It was stay in line
or lose your place, and as the sun rose over the plains, I was so
impressed by the magnificence of our procession that I forgot the real
cause of our flight and never for an instant realized that I now formed
an intimate part of that column which but a few hours since inspired me
with such genuine pity.

As we passed through a small agglomeration of houses that one might
hardly call a village, I recognized several familiar faces on the
doorsteps, and presently comprehended why Charly was so dark and silent
the night before.  It was empty--evacuated--and the greater part of its
inhabitants were here on the roadside, preparing to continue their
route.

Where were we going?  I think none of us had a very definite idea.  We
were following in line on the only road that crossed this wonderfully
fertile country. The monotony of the landscape, the warmth of the sun,
added to the gentle swing of my cart calmed my nerves and I fell back
into a heavy sleep.

When I opened my eyes I could hear water running over a dam, and see
below me and but a very short distance away, a river flowing through a
valley.  Someone said it was the Petit Morin; another announced that we
had come seventeen kilometers and a third proffered that it was 6:30 A.
M.--time for breakfast.  We ought not to attack the opposite hill on
empty stomachs.

Accordingly we crossed the Petit Morin and broke ranks in front of two
little cottages that bordered the river at the entrance of an electric
power house.  At the same time, a small covered gig halted beside our
big cart and from it descended the mother of the two little girls she
who had so much gold.

Did I mind if she followed in our wake?

Of course not.

She was still as timid and frightened as the night before, and it didn't
take much questioning to learn that she had never had a pair of reins in
her hands before in her life.

The boys took all the horses down to the river and carefully bathed
their knees and legs.  In the meantime, coffee had been found and
ground, someone had scurried about and found a house where milk could be
had, and on an iron tripod that I had sense enough to bring along, water
was set to boiling.

It was very amusing that first picnic breakfast, and my! what appetites
we had. The summer lodgers in one of the cottages gazed upon us in
amazement--all save one little girl who, so it seems, had had a
presentiment that some ill would befall her and for two days had not
ceased weeping.

The meal over, each one went to my cart and taking possession of a
blanket and pillow, rolled up in it and went fast asleep in the
brilliant sunshine.  How we blessed those warm, penetrating rays, for we
had suffered much from the damp cold all night.

Left alone, I overhauled my wagon and made the discovery that my jewel
box was missing.  That did not alarm me much, for I was confident that I
had left it on the refectory table, and would find it--like my silver
chests--just where I had left them.

My road map showed us to be at La Tretoire, midway between Charly and
Rebais, but as there were no provisions to be had in so small a place, I
decided to push on to the township where we might be able to get
lodgings.  This, however, must be done before noon, or we would be
obliged to sleep out of doors again, for it would be impossible to
travel through the heat of the day.  Accordingly, at half past eight, I
roused the boys and we started up the hill, bag and baggage.

It was much the same kind of scene as at Pavant, only we were less
excited and far more exhausted than at the outset of our trip.  Each one
stalked on, gritting his teeth and wiping the big beads of perspiration
from his brow.  By ten we reached the top and calling George, who had
been walking beside the leader since we left home, I told him to take my
place in the _charette_ and I would mount my bicycle.

Leaving orders to follow the straight road to Rebais, I pushed on ahead,
promising to do my best, and an hour later found myself on the outskirts
of the little town--very weary and almost overcome by the heat.  In the
hurry of my departure from Villiers I had wrapped a scarlet chiffon
scarf about my head, never thinking that a hat would be a very useful
article in the daytime.  For sixty minutes, then, as I had pedaled along
that endless road, the sun had beaten down upon my head and shoulders,
and when I came upon a public pump, I dropped down in the grass beside
it, after wringing out my handkerchief in its refreshing water and
bathing my burning face and arms.

When I finally made my entrance into Rebais, I found that thousands of
other persons had probably had the same idea as I and it took but little
time to discover that all rooms, whether private or public, were
occupied.  The place was overflowing with refugees.  The line outside
the baker's shop warned me that I had a dozen hungry mouths dependent
upon me and yesterday's supply of bread was well nigh exhausted, let
alone being stale.  I took my place among the others and stood for a
good hour waiting for the second ovenful to finish baking.

Certainly no greasy pig at a county fair was ever more difficult to
manage than that long nine-pound loaf of red hot bread.  There was no
way of handling it--it burned everything it touched.  No sooner did I
put it under one arm than I was obliged to change it to the other post
haste.  Add to this the fact that I had not ridden a bicycle since a
child, and realize that whether walking or riding the bread was equally
hot and equally cumbersome.  It was too long to fit into the handlebars,
besides how could I hold it there?  Too soft to be tied with string that
I might buy.  At one moment I thought seriously of picking up my skirt
and carrying the bread as peasant women do grass and fodder, but alas, a
1914 skirt was too narrow to permit this. At length when almost
disheartened and I had stood my loaf against the side of a house to
cool, I recognized a familiar voice back of me, and George appeared on
his wheel to announce that my party had camped in a young orchard two
miles outside of Rebais, neither man nor beast being capable of going
any farther.  We clapped our loaf into an overcoat that was strapped to
the back of his machine, and swinging it between us, soon joined the
others.

Our noonday repast was composed of cold bam and fried potatoes.  I think
I never ate better, though I must confess that the latter were stolen
from a neighboring field.  By two o'clock a dozen weary inhabitants of
Villiers were stretched out on their rugs and peacefully dreaming!  We
had decided to rest before determining what to do for the night.

I was awakened by a stiff feeling in my neck, and opened my eyes to find
that the sun was rapidly disappearing in the west.  I had slept soundly
four hours and was much refreshed, though the bumps in the ground had
bruised me, and I could hardly move my head.

Yvonne had stood the journey so far very well though unable as yet to
walk, but as the cool of the evening came on I began to worry lest a
night out of doors set her screaming with pain.  So as I laced my boots,
I decided to go back to Rebais and make another desperate attempt to
lodge her at least.

"Did Madame see Maitre Baudoin this morning," asked Leon, to whom I
imparted my plans.

I gasped!  What a fool I was!  My mind was so upset that I had forgotten
that my own notary was a prominent personality in Rebais.

A quarter of an hour later I turned into the public square and beheld
Maitre Baudoin and his wife standing on the doorstep watching the exodus
of numerous refugees.

"Madame Huard!" they exclaimed.  "You?  What on earth has happened?"

I explained in a few words.

"Why, come right in.  We were just going to sit down to dinner."

I said I was not alone, and must first look after the others.  Without
waiting a second, Maitre Baudoin crossed over to the town hall and soon
returned with a key in his hand.

"Here, here's the key to a bakery--there are rooms above.  Your people
can lodge there and you come in with us.  All this will be over in a day
or so; the news is good to-day.  The Germans will never reach the
Marne!"

I went and fetched our delighted caravan, and after safely depositing
them in their new residence, I was crossing the main street to join my
friends, when a big military auto whisked into the middle of the square
and halted.  Ten seconds later it was followed by a dozen others, and by
the time I had reached the Baudoins' the place was literally lined with
motors, containing officers and orderlies.  We were just sitting down
when some one pounded on the door and a deep authoritative voice called
out, "You're to lodge a general and two officers!"  And we could hear
the man hastily chalking the names on the door.

Madame Baudoin looked from me to her husband, her eyes wide open with
astonishment.  The meal was forgotten and we hurried out into the
twilight to seek news.  The _Etat Major_ of a cavalry division was to
bivouac at Rebais, would be leaving at midnight.

My friends understood, and they who had not as yet seen a soldier since
the war began, realized for the first time that they were now in the
midst of the retreating army.  I begged them to make ready for flight
and they hurried homewards while I returned to the bakery to hold
council.

As I reached the door, someone touched me on the shoulder and an
officer, pointing to the Red Cross armlet I was wearing, said:

"Go to the hospital at once.  We need your services.  Wounded."

"Very well, sir," I replied, and stepped inside.

"Madame Guix!  Madame Guix!" I called in the stairway from the shop.

The others came clattering down all excitement, saying that Madame Guix
had been recognized by her uniform and sent flying to the hospital.

Just then a shadow barred the entrance door and turning I saw an army
chauffeur standing there.

"A piece of bread for God's sake," he begged.

"What?"

"Yes, I'm nearly dead of hunger.  We've had no time to cook our food,
and bread has been lacking for two days."

I looked about me--the bread boxes were empty.  I had no right to do so,
but I opened all the cupboards.  The least I could do was pay, if the
bakers appeared. I found a stale loaf and chopped it in four with the
big knife near the counter. The way that poor fellow bit into it brought
tears to my eyes.

"Wait a minute," I said as he turned away, and I rushed out to the court
where my cart was standing.  In a moment I was back with a slice of ham
and some sweet chocolate and Julie came up with a glass of water.

I was about to ask questions when another form appeared, followed by
still another.

"Bread--oh, for heaven's sake, bread!" they implored.  Apparently there
was no reason why I should not go on with my new trade until all the
hungry chauffeurs in the army were satisfied.  But remembering the
wounded, I turned over my job to Julie, with orders to deal out the
bread as long as it lasted and to go lightly with the chocolate, as my
provision was not endless.

What a different aspect the main square presented to that of an hour
before! Motors were lined up four deep on all sides, and I was obliged
to elbow my way through the crowds of gapers, refugees, and officers
that thronged the street.

"Have you come for the wounded?" questioned a white-capped sister as I
closed the convent door and strode up the steps.

"Yes, sister."

"Heaven be praised!  Come this way, quickly.  Your nurse is here, but
cannot suffice alone.  We're of no use--there are only five of us to
look after the almshouse, and a hundred refugees.  We know nothing of
surgery or bandaging."

All this was said sweetly and quietly as we hurried down a long
corridor.  In the middle of a big, well-lighted room stood Madame Guix
bandaging the arm of a fine looking fellow, who shut his eyes and grated
his teeth as she worked.  On a half-dozen chairs sat as many men, some
holding their heads in their hands, some doubled in two, others
clenching their fists in agony.  Not a murmur escaped them. The floor in
several places was stained with great red patches.

"Quick, Madame Huard.  We must stop the hemorrhages at all costs.  The
wounds are not bad, since the men have come on foot, but one never can
tell with this heat."

A sister tied a white apron around me and in a second I had washed my
hands and begun.  The first shirt I split, my heart leapt to my lips.  I
was neither a novice nor a coward, but the sight of human blood flowing
so generously and given so ungrudgingly, gave me a queer feeling in my
throat.  A second later that had all passed over and as I worked I
questioned the young fellows as to home and family and finally at what
place they had been wounded.  Some did not know, others named unfamiliar
corners, but La Tretoire startled me.  Our morning halt!  Then the
invaders had crossed the Marne?  For these were not wounds from
exploding shell but Mauser bullets and pistol shots!

Meanwhile the sisters brought iron beds and soft mattresses into the
next room, and each boy in turn was put to rest.  Fortunately there was
nothing very serious, for we had no doctor and knew not where to find
one.  When we reached our last patient he was so limp that we feared he
would faint.  Imagine, if you can, what it is to cut away a stout pair
of trooper's boots, and undress an almost helpless man whose clothes are
fairly glued to the skin with blood, dirt and perspiration.

"Hold the ammonia closer to his nose," said Madame Guix, tugging at a
wire that served as boot lace.

"I'm afraid he's exhausted.  There he goes--" I had just time to catch
the body as it slid from the chair.

Madame Guix grasped his wrist.

"His pulse is good.  Hold fast till I get my needle."

The boy's lips parted and a familiar sound filled the room.

"He's not fainted!" I gasped.  "He's asleep!  Snoring!"

Poor little fellow, a bullet in the shoulder and one in the shin, and
yet fatigue had overcome the pain!  When we finally had to wake him, he
apologized so nicely for the trouble he had given us, and sighed with
delight when he touched the cool linen sheets.

"You must have found me a pretty mess.  I haven't been out of my saddle
for three weeks, and we've been fighting every minute since we left
Charleroi."

Our patients all asleep, Madame Guix and I sought a moment's rest in the
open. A door in the corridor led out into a lovely old-world garden,
surrounded on four sides by a delicately plastered cloister. The harvest
moon shone down, covering everything with a silver sheen, and such quiet
and calm reigned that it was almost impossible to believe that we were
not visitors to some famous landscape, leisurely enjoying a long-planned
trip.

We were given no time to dream, however, for hasty footsteps in the
corridor and the appearance of a white-robed sister carrying a gun, told
us that our task was not yet finished.

On a bench in the cloister, his head buried in one arm, the other tied
up in an impromptu sling, we found a blue-coated soldier.  He was the
image of despair, and though we gently questioned him, he only shook his
head from side to side without answering.  Finally I sat down on the
bench beside him and gently stroking his well arm, pleaded that he would
tell us his trouble so that we might help him.  He drew his head up with
a jerk, and turning on me with an almost furious look in his big black
eyes, he snapped, "Are you married?"

"Yes."

"Then you know what it is.  My God, my wife and babies, shut up in
Valenciennes. It isn't this that's killing me," he continued, slapping
his bandaged arm. "It's only a flesh wound in the shoulder.  But it's
the other--the other thoughts.  I've seen them at their work, the pack
of cursed cowards! but if they ever touch my wife!  Perhaps they have,
the dirty blackguards, and I'm not there to defend her. Curse them all!"

And he beat his fist on his knees in rage.  Then anger, and agony having
reached paroxysm, his lips trembled, his mouth twitched, and brusquely
throwing his arm around my neck, he buried his head on my shoulder and
burst into tears.

The first instant of surprise over, it would have been stupid to be
offended. The circumstances were such that it was impossible not to be
moved.

I had never seen a man weep before; I never want to again.  For a full
quarter-hour he sobbed like a child--this great sturdy fellow of
thirty-five, and through the mist in my eyes I could see that my
companion had turned her back on us and was fumbling for her
handkerchief in her pocket.

Then little by little the choking sound disappeared, his shoulders
ceased to heave and shake, and a moment later our soldier lifted his
head and blubbered an apology.

"Forgive me--you've done me so much good.  I know I'm a fool, but it had
to come--I just couldn't stand it another minute--" and other similar
phrases, which we nipped in the bud by asking if he would like a cup of
hot soup, or come into the dispensary when we could bandage his wound.

"Anywhere where it's light.  I want you to see her picture--she'd think
you're great."

And so before he would let us touch his wound, we had to feel in his
breast pocket and draw forth a wallet from which he produced the
cherished photographs.

At length we completed his bandaging and I left Madame Guix to add the
finishing touches and went to the kitchen where Soeur Laurent was
standing over a huge range, ladling soup from two immense copper
boilers.  There were men, women and children holding out cups and mugs,
a half-dozen dusty cavalrymen were skinning two rabbits in one corner,
and as many other soldiers were peeling vegetables which they threw into
another pot full of boiling water.

This was no time to ask permission.  The poor sister was already half
distracted by the demands of the famished refugees and combatants, so
taking a ladle from the wall, I dipped into the pot and strained some
bouillon into a few cups that I found in a cupboard.  I intended giving
this to our patients should they wake and call for drink, and I was just
lifting my tray to go when a loud thumping on the front door made me set
it down in haste.

I looked at Soeur Laurent, who was preparing to answer the summons, much
to the dismay of the soldiers.

"I'll go," I called, and hurried out into the vestibule and down the
wide white marble steps.  As I threw back the huge oak door someone
brushed past me, calling "Two men and a stretcher," and there in the
brilliant moonlight I beheld the most ghastly spectacle I had as yet
witnessed.

Thrown forward in his saddle, his arms clasped about the horse's neck,
was the form of a dragoon.  The animal that bore him had once been
white, but was now so splashed with blood that it was impossible to tell
what color was his originally. Both man and beast were wounded, badly
wounded, and how they had come here was a miracle.

The alarm had reached the kitchen and hurrying forward, the troopers
soon lifted their comrade from his mount and carried him in.  A lance
had pierced his thigh and the horse's flank, which meant that it had
been a hand-to-hand fight, and the blood still flowing freely, proved
that the combat was not an hour old!

Madame Guix and I were doing our best when the white face's of my notary
and his wife appeared at the door of the dispensary.

"Madame Huard, we've come to tell you you must go!"

"Go?"

"Yes, it is two o'clock and the general who was quartered on us slept
four hours and has gone.  When leaving he warned us that the battle
would be on here by morning.  We who have a motor are safe, but you who
have but horses must flee at once!"

"But I can't leave the wounded!"

"But you must.  The worst that can happen to them is to be made
prisoners--more than likely they will be carried away by one of our
emergency ambulances.  But think of all the young people who look to you
for protection!  You cannot desert them; you must go!"

I looked at Madame Guix.

"Go, Madame Huard, you must.  You owe it to the others.  None of you
need me and I can be of service here, so if the sisters will keep me
I'll stay."

Reluctantly I shook hands with my nurse, and hastened down the steps.
Maitre Baudoin and his wife took leave of me at the comer, and I elbowed
my way between the horses of a cavalry regiment, whose riders were sound
asleep on the hard cobble pavement beside them.

On the further side of the square noisy rolling sounds told me that the
artillery was crossing the city, and mounting a doorstep, I beheld
battery after battery of the famous Seventy-fives clattering out of
sight over the road we had come by in the morning.  When I got down, I
found my way blocked by the 18th Chasseurs a cheval, who, four abreast
and lance in hand, were setting out for battle.  They were anything but
a beaten army--most of them were softly humming some popular song, while
others were calmly filling their pipes and still others catching forty
winks in their saddles.  One or two I noticed wore no caps, and their
heads were bound in blood-stained bandages.

There seemed to be no end to them and I was beginning to get anxious
about our departure.  Plunging my hand into my coat pocket I touched a
piece of stale bread and a bit of chocolate, forgotten since the day
before, and hunger having seized me, I began gnawing my crust.

"Say, sister, give us a bite," called one young chap from his horse as
he passed.

"Are you really hungry?"

"You bet!"

Without hesitating I offered my crust.

"Hurray for the girl with the red scarf!" called another.  "Come on with
us. We'll make room for you."  "We need a mascot," and other similar
jolly phrases passed from mouth to mouth as gaily the flower of young
France went forth to death.

When finally they had disappeared I rushed across the street to find
George and Emile (H.'s messenger) engaged in a conversation with the
driver of an army supply wagon drawn up within an inch of the bakery
steps.  Beside him on the seat sat a huge dragoon, his bead done up in a
blood-stained towel.

"We're lost," he was explaining.  "Been cut off from our regiment for
three days."

"Poor regiment!" I murmured, and calling the boys, I told Emile to wake
the others and come down quickly to help hitch the horses.  He was only
gone a second, and I could hear him calling.

"_Allons, allons, Madame part de suite._"

Then he reappeared carrying a lantern.

"Where the devil did you get the light?" growled George.

"In their room."

"Then how in the name of heaven do you expect those people to dress and
roll up their belongings in the dark?" I scolded.  "Here, George, go
back with the lantern."

George obeyed orders, and Emile, rather sheepishly, skulked away in the
direction of the stable yard.  I heard a sliding door pushed open,
followed by a long low whistle, and a second later Emile reappeared, his
eyes popping out of his head with astonishment.

"There's a horse missing--been stolen!"

"No!  Impossible!"

"The stable's empty!"

I hurried to the spot, and found that he told the truth.

"George!" I called, as my boy came around the corner of the house.
"George, Cesar's been stolen!"

"Who says so, Madame?"

"Emile--the stable's empty."

Calmly and easily George walked over towards Emile, and taking him by
the collar, shook him violently.  "Look here, you!  What do you mean by
frightening Madame like that?  Are you her servant?  No!  Well, then,
mind your own business!"

And opening a second door alongside the other, we found Cesar and
Sausage munching their oats.

It was no easy job harnessing in the dark and backing the heavy carts
out of the narrow yard into the still narrower street.  But in ten
minutes our caravan was again en route.

We crossed the public square, now almost empty of men, horses and
motors, and took the only road leading south.

The first gray streaks of daylight lighted the east as we turned the
corner, and we were obliged to pull suddenly to the extreme right, for a
heavy Parisian motorbus swung round the bend and rushed on past us.

Straining my eyes, I perceived that there was not one but hundreds of
them, following each other at top speed down the hill.  There were armed
men standing inside them, armed men on the platforms and steps, armed
men even on the roofs and it was indeed a strange sight to see
_Madeleine-Bastille_ and the _Galeries Lafayette_ out here in the open
country, jammed full of grim infantrymen preparing for the fray.

Suddenly a tremendous explosion rent the air and shook the ground so
that the horses stopped and trembled.

"There goes the bridge at Nogent!" cried George.  "No--the power house
at La Tretoire!"

"_En avant!_" I called, knowing that the signal for battle had now been
given.



VI

We had gone about two miles when the sight of my greyhounds tied behind
the farm cart made me think of my little Boston bull.

"Where's Betsy?" I asked of those perched on the hay.

Julie, Nini and Yvonne grew white.

It took little time to discover that no one had seen her that morning.
It was evident she had been forgotten--left to die tied to the brass
rail inside an abandoned bakery, for it was there I had fastened her on
arriving the night before.  Pedaling ahead till I reached Leon who led
the procession--

"Keep straight on this road.  If it should fork, take the direction of
the La Ferte Gauche.  I'll be back in no time."  Then turning about, I
started a parallel race with an autobus, much to the delight of the
occupants.

Useless to say that my adversary gained on the up-grade, turned the
corner, was gone, and was followed by another long before I reached the
public square, breathless and full of anxiety.

Rebais was empty--not even a tardy refugee straggled by the wayside, and
before I reached the bakery I could hear the plaintive howls of my
little brute.

What a joyful welcome I received.  What hilarious waggings of that
little screw tail!  But, there was no time to be lost, for the problem
now was how Betsy was to catch up with the procession.  She was too
heavy for me to carry under my arm, and too old and puffy to be expected
to follow a bicycle--but it was one or the other, and tying her leash to
the handle bar, off we started, after an encouraging pat on the head and
the promise of a lump of sugar if she would only "be a good girl."

On we sped, past the huge lumbering motorbuses, which terrified the poor
animal who tugged vehemently at her string, at times almost choking
herself.

In half an hour we had caught up with the caravan, and as I lifted poor
exhausted Betsy on to the hay, Nini roused from her dozing and pointing
to the east, said, "Oh, look! what a big fire!"

"You silly child, it's the sun rising; go back to sleep," I said,
terrified by what I had seen, but unwilling to alarm the others
uselessly.

At the skyline of an immense plain that stretched on our left, huge
columns of flame burst heavenward, covered a moment later by dense black
smoke. Fortunately, however, the sun peeped over the horizon almost
instantly, thereby diminishing the intensity of the conflagration.  But
Nini was not to be thus hoodwinked.

"See," she continued, "what funny little fluffy clouds those are!"

"Nini, if you don't go to sleep at once you'll have to get down and
walk, and let one of the boys take your place.  They'll be only too glad
to, I know."

Nini obeyed instantly.  She had come away with but one pair of shoes (in
spite of my admonition to take all the footwear she possessed) and that
pair of shoes pinched.

Funny little fluffy clouds indeed!  The shaking of the earth beneath my
feet and a second of reflection told me, they were not clouds, before
they would be directed westward was but shells--and how long it would be
a question that chilled the blood in my veins.

The town we were heading for--La Ferte Gauche--lay southeast.  Though I
had no glass, it was evident that it was now under the enemies' fire,
and we might just as well run our necks into a noose as keep on in that
direction.  It was southwest--or nothing.

Without offering any explanation I rode ahead and told Leon to follow
me.  Then turning abruptly to the right, I took the first side path that
was wide enough for our cart wheels, and in and out, up and down, we
followed it for over an hour, until coasting down a steep incline, I
found myself in the midst of a delightful little village, nestled
between two hills on the border of a river.

The shops were just opening and people were going about their work as if
nothing unusual were happening.  They gazed in astonishment at this
hatless bicyclist, who wore a Red Cross armlet, and when I went into the
baker shop, I was filled with joy at the sight of all the crisp loaves
lined up in their racks ready for delivery.

Refugees?

They hadn't seen any.  Someone had heard an unaccustomed movement of
wagons during the night, that was all.

A signpost, as I turned into the square, told me that I was at
Jouy-sur-Morin, and a few moments later, I came upon a group of
gentlemen in frock coats standing talking on an embankment below the
church.  If it had been in the afternoon instead of five A. M., I should
have thought this assembly perfectly in harmony with the landscape.  In
fact they looked so much like H.'s caricatures of his provincial
compatriots that I couldn't help smiling as I passed.  This mutational
gathering of the municipal council was the only outward sign of anxiety
to be found in this picturesque township.

The arrival of our caravan produced quite a sensation among the early
risers at Jouy, thought the enthusiasm for telling their story had
somewhat subsided among my servants.  They were footsore, sleepy, and
hungry.

The gentlemen in frock coats were too busy in their own affairs to give
us much attention, and I was about to leave when one of them called me
over and asked a few questions.  Anxious to be off, I answered briefly.
The man probably took me for a poor demented female; how could he think
otherwise down here in his little valley, where not a sound of gun and
shell had penetrated as yet?

History will tell you how, a few hours later, Jouy-sur-Morin was the
scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the Marne.

At the dairy, my appearance aroused much curiosity, and when I brought
out the money to pay for my milk, the woman held up her hand.  "No,
never; I couldn't take pay from such forlorn creatures as you!"

This unexpected pity brought the blood to my cheeks.  I was hot with
indignation. Until now we had wanted for nothing, and with gold in my
pocket charity was an insult.  I straightened my tie, looked at my dusty
boots, and realized for the first time that my face was drawn with
fatigue and anxiety--that my hair, though tidy, was sadly out of curl.
Leaving my change on the table, I turned on my heel and departed.
Explanations were tiresome and useless.

We crossed a railroad track and then the river--the Grand Morin--and in
a grass-grown granite quarry halted for breakfast, sheltering ourselves
from the blistering sun in the shade of the immense rocks.

The boys took the horses down to the river to drink and bathe, and a few
seconds later came back for towels and soap.

What a happy idea!  A quarter of a mile higher up the bank I found a
well secluded spot, and plunged into the refreshing current.  It was the
first time I had had my boots off since leaving Villiers.  Thanks to a
small pocket glass and a fresh white blouse, I made myself quite
presentable and as I approached our camp, the appetizing odor of fresh
fried country sausage tickled my nostrils and made me glad to be alive.

Hot coffee accompanied by buttered toast had been prepared by the girls
during my absence, and we needed no coaxing to persuade us to do the
meal justice. Already accustomed to this gypsy life, George's dry humor
began to show itself, and now and again the silence would be broken by
peals of laughter, caused by some quaint joke.

We lingered lovingly over the repast, and I was trying to decide whether
or not we would push on at once or wait and rest until afternoon when
suddenly my question was answered for me.

While we had been clearing up and loading the carts a long train of
freight cars had noiselessly glided down the rails opposite our quarry,
and had halted without pulling into the station.  There was nothing
abnormal in this, and from where we sat a trifle below the level of the
track, we could see but little of what was going on on the opposite
platform.  Standing upright in my charette, carefully folding a blanket
so as to take up the least possible space, my eye was attracted by
several red specks scurrying up a steep incline.  A moment afterwards my
gaze drifted downward and I realized that from the innocent looking
freight cars hundreds of armed soldiers were disembarking and spreading
themselves out, _en tirailleurs_, preparing an attack in ambush.  I had
seen this same pretty feat successfully accomplished at the _grand
manauvres_, the year before, but it was another thing entirely when one
grasped that these men were in dead earnest.

Just then a buggy, containing a disheveled woman and collarless man,
galloped over the crossing and sped westward.  The occupants, whom I
hailed, did not deign a reply, but beckoning with their arms, enjoined
me to follow them.

"It's time to break camp," I said, "if we intend to reach the next town
before it gets too hot."

So off we started, preceded by a heavy delivery wagon, a _Familistere_
from the north, which crossed the rails just as we were pulling onto the
road.  It was a big covered affair, filled to overflowing with bedding
and household utensils--and even the top was loaded with huge boxes and
baskets of provisions.  Behind it walked, or rather trotted, three stout
women and a man, the former half-crazed with heat and anxiety, mopping
their brows and their tears as the _cortege_ advanced.

An hour and a half of steady climbing quite exhausted them, and when we
reached the level, the three graces collapsed by the roadside, still
weeping copiously. I observed this as I approached, and presently saw
their companion mounted on the high hind wheel of their wagon, gazing
intently towards the east through a pair of field glasses.

"What can you see?" I asked as the _charette_ passed by them.

"Come and have a look.  It's worth while.  My wife and family are too
frightened."

I halted, and climbing up by the spokes reached the top, and steadying
myself with my left hand, took the proffered glass with my right.

From one extremity to the other of the wide plains, from which we were
separated by the valley of the Grand Morin, those same long columns of
dense black smoke rose lazily in the brilliant sunlight.  Into some
determined spot the enemy was pouring a perfect rain of shot and shell,
and the dust rising after each explosion formed a curtain that blotted
out the rest of the landscape.  Below, the _Senegalais_ had disappeared
in ambush, but now and again the distant clattering of the
_mitrailleuse_ told us they were at their deadly work.  And to think,
all this was happening on ground we had traveled over only a few hours
since!  And I had been fool enough to go back to Rebais--alone to
recover my dog!

I shuddered as I got down.  What was the use of trying to hurry?  We
couldn't go any faster than the horses, and if we overworked them now we
would have to rest longer later on.  So, urging our poor old nags, we
trudged along the sun-baked roads between the high grown wheat fields of
the Brie country.

Still another couple of hours and we had reached Choisy-en-Brie, found a
stable for our animals, and we ourselves stretched out on our blankets
beneath the friendly shadow of the big stone church.

I had finished luncheon and was just dozing off when a motor horn roused
me from my lethargy.  A second later I recognized Maitre Baudoin and his
wife, the latter holding their four-year-old daughter on her knees, her
grandmother sitting alone in the back seat which was piled high with
important documents, and their maid strapped to the steps of the car.

We set up a shout which stopped them.  "We stayed until a shell burst on
the house next door, then we thought it was time to go,"' explained
Maitre Baudoin.

"What time did you leave Rebais?"

"Forty minutes ago.  You'd better be moving, too."

"Sorry, but I can't.  The horses must rest."

"Well, don't wait too long. Adieu."

"Adieu," and they were off.

I returned to my blanket and again was just closing my eyes when the
unexpected sound of Gregorian chant made me sit up.  Nearer and nearer
it drew, louder and louder rose the priests' voices, and then a
much-befringed and flower-laden hearse, preceded by the clergy and
followed by the mourners (the men in evening dress and the women in
their Sunday clothes), rounded the corner, passed in front of us, and
halted before the main door of the church.

I couldn't help smiling.  The incongruity of this pompous _enterrement
de premiere classe, en musique_, when the city was imminently menaced by
a German bombardment, bordered on the pathetic and the ridiculous.
However, the family of the defunct did not think so, and their deceased
parent was chanted to eternity with all the rites and ceremonies that
his will had provided for.

Personally I was delighted at the idea of going to sleep to the sound of
the organ, which pierced the thick granite walls and almost drowned the
rumble of the cannon, to which we had now become so accustomed that we
had ceased to be alarmed.

"_Des soldats!_" cried someone.

In a second I was on my feet.

"Where?"

"Two-on bicycles, going into the hotel opposite."

I reached there as soon as they did.  Their story was brief.

"We're the forerunners of a cavalry depot, being transferred to Rozoy
from Montmirail.  It's getting too hot down there!  How far is it to
Rozoy?"

I pulled out my map.

"Seventeen kilometres."

"Oh, Lord!"

And the poor fellows wiped the great beads of perspiration from their
dusty necks and faces.

"Bring up a bottle of wine.  I'll stand for the drinks," called a man
from a corner of the cafe.

"What regiment do you belong to?"

"_L'Escadron du train._"

My heart leapt with expectancy.

"Do you know a man named H.?"

"No."

My disappointment was even greater than my joy.

"How many horses are you taking to Rozoy?"

"Two hundred and some."

"At what time will they pass here?"

"They're due in half an hour, if they don't get cornered by the Boches
on the way. We had a close call ourselves."  And swallowing their
glasses of white wine and water, they were on their bicycles and gone,
before we could get any further details.

I had now had enough experience to know that it was high time to take to
the road if we didn't wish to be captured.  Yet it seemed unfair to go
and leave some two-score innocent people praying for the soul of their
dear departed to a long drawn-out musical accompaniment.  So while the
boys were harnessing I entered the sanctuary and approaching the chancel
by a side aisle, beckoned an altar boy and whispered in his ear words to
the effect that the curate would better hurry his mass and thereby give
his flock time to escape the invaders.

I said this calmly, and hoped he would follow my example in delivering
my message, but imagine if you can the effect produced by this
frightened individual, who, lifting his hands in the air, cried out in
terror, "_Vite, vite, Monsieur le Cure'! Voila' les Prussiens!_"

I didn't wait to see what happened, but went out and joined my group,
which was making ready to start.  How far advanced was mass when I
entered the church I did not observe, but what I do know is that it
finished abruptly after my warning, and the poor hearse horse never
before galloped towards the cemetery of Choisy at such a pace nor in
such an undignified manner.  As to the mourners, they fairly flew beside
it, greatly diminished in number, the others scattering like chaff
before the wind.

The half-hour's interval allowed by the cyclists for the horses to
arrive was far overlapped by the time we once again took the road, but
the sound of the cannonade had gradually grown closer.

Wearied by this constant changing of camp, I made up my mind to go far
enough in this next move to be able to really rest for a day or so.
Consulting my map, I discovered Jouyle-Chatel to be at what I judged a
safe distance--nearly thirty kilometres and considerably south of Paris.
The afternoon was still young, so we would have time to make the town
before dark.  At any rate, I told George to accompany me and explained
that he and I would ride ahead full speed, and arrange for beds and a
dinner by the time the others should arrive.  They were instructed not
to let the dark halt them, but to come on.  Secretly I hoped that this
would be our last stretch and that we would be able to remain at Jouy
until it was wise to start homeward.

It was an uneventful trip from Choisy to Jouy.  The roads were
excellent, though very undulating and the only incident that marked our
journey was an intoxicated individual who jumped across our path and,
putting his hand on my handle bar, demanded tearfully what I had done
with his wife and children.

I declared myself innocent in the matter, which angered him
considerably.

"Now I know you're a spy!  Get down--"  George did not give him time to
finish the phrase, but with a well-measured blow, sent him sprawling in
the brambled ditch and we beat a hasty retreat without looking back.

It was night by the time we reached Jouy, and at the entrance of the
city I enquired for the best hotel.

"_Le Grand Turc_--but the proprietress is closing up, making ready to
leave."

"What!  Here?  You don't mean to say the scare has reached this place,
too?"

"Well, we've had so many refugees these days that the women got
frightened and want to go."

George and I parted company, he to see what he could find since the best
hotel was denied us, and I, undaunted, started off to try to persuade
the proprietress to let us in.

After much rattling at the door handles and pounding on the shutters, an
acrid female voice enjoined me to be gone.

"I'm closing up and leaving."

"Leaving?  What for?"

"To escape the Germans!"

"How foolish!  They'll never reach here.  I've just come from the Marne
and expected to find board and lodgings for my staff until the war is
over."

That encouraged her and cracking the door, she put her head out.

"I belong to the Red Cross.  Here's my badge and my _carte didentite_.
Don't you think you could find room for me?"

"Well, we're packing up, but we'll have to wait for our horses, which
are at a farm seven miles from here.  The farmer said he'd come if there
was any danger."

"Well, you see there isn't or he'd be here by now."

My hostess seemed convinced and opening the door a little wider, let me
pass.

"How many of you are there?"

"Fourteen."

"Good heavens!  Fourteen rooms?  Never!"

"I don't ask that, my good woman.  If you can find a bed for me and
happen to have a bay loft or covered shed, the others will be glad
enough to sleep there. As to the meals, we have our own provisions and
will cook outside.  It's a little late to-night, however, so if you
could manage to give them a cup of hot soup and an omelet when they
arrive, I'd make it worth your while."

She consented to the compromise, and sent one of her daughters to
prepare my room. I then dispatched George, whose bicycle bell I heard
ringing in the street, to the city gate to await and conduct the
remainder of our party.  In the hour that elapsed before their arrival I
gained in the hostess's good graces by lancing a festered finger and
bandaging her small daughter's skinned knee.

When the others arrived, George, who had not been idle during his wait,
told me that Jouy was almost empty of inhabitants, and that most of the
people from Mery-sur-Marne, a village near Villiers, were lodging for
the night on bales of hay in the school house and town hall.

Our meal over, none of us needed persuading to retire and the idea of a
bed lured me early to my room.

Naturally a light sleeper, I was constantly awakened by the coming and
going and the conversation of our proprietress, who kept on packing
right through the night. Another time I was roused by a bell ringing up
and down the street, which passed beneath my window, and a deep
masculine voice that enjoined all the people from Mery to hurry to the
town hall.  The wagons were leaving in a quarter of an hour.

"Poor fools," thought I, and rolled over in my bed.

As it grew light, I could gee the interminable stream of refugees
passing up the road, and when I had dressed and hastened to the
courtyard I found the others had already kindled a fire and tea was
awaiting me.

"At what time should we start, Madame?"

"Start where?"

"I haven't the slightest intention of going any farther.  Haven't you
all had enough of this kind of traveling?"

The reply was affirmative and unanimous!

"The noise of the cannon is hardly audible this morning, which is a very
encouraging sign, I'm sure, so we'll try to make ourselves comfortable
until it's safe to go home."

And leaving Julie in charge, I set off by myself, glad of a moment's
solitude.

In my wanderings I found the church door open, and entering, rejoiced in
the peace that reigned within.  It calmed my anxiety and as I withdrew
my thoughts were clearer, and the burden of my responsibility seemed
lightened.

On my way to the hotel I was accosted by a woman who, with a baby in her
arms, was leading a cow behind her.

"Don't you want some milk?"

"I hardly think so."

"Please take it.  You see, I've only saved my baby and my cow, and I
have to milk the latter twice a day.  I can't carry all she gives, so I
keep what's necessary and throw the rest away.  It seems like such a
waste."

I agreed with her, and directed her towards the hotel court.  She would
take no remuneration and thanking me, hastened on her way.

As I watched her go someone touched me on the arm and asked me if I
would go to the town hall; there were two refugees who needed
assistance.  There I found a very old couple, brother and sister, the
eldest aged ninety-two, the other two years younger.  They were from
Mery, had lodged in a private house in Jouy, and were so decrepit that
they had not arisen in time to catch the wagons which bore away their
fellow townsmen the night before.  That had so upset the old man that he
had broken down and lay moaning on the straw, while the mild little
woman explained that the being left behind was not what troubled her,
but it was her purse and belongings that had been carried off in the
carts.

I comforted them as best I could, promising to send them hot milk and
biscuits, and wondering what else I could do for them.  Any way they
should not starve, as long as we remained in Jouy.

Luncheon was well under way when I returned to the hotel.  In a pot,
standing on an iron tripod in the middle of the paved court, a rabbit
was gently stewing. In another, a fricassee of chicken smelled
temptingly good.  The women and girls were peeling potatoes and onions,
which were to cook in the sauce and a peal of laughter went up from the
merry group when a few moments later George and Emile appeared, covered
with flour and dough from head to foot, and each bearing a bottle of
white wine under his arm.

"What on earth have you boys been up to?"

"Behold in us the city bakers!" said George with a wave of the hand and
he and his companion struck an attitude which again drew forth much
hilarity from the onlookers.

"It's no joke--there wasn't a baker left in the place, so we found an
old fellow who said he'd show us how, and the dough is now setting.  By
three o'clock we'll have fresh bread, you see if we don't!"

From the window the proprietress and her daughters watched our impromptu
kitchen with interest.  We formed such an amusing group that, handing my
kodak to Leon, I told him to catch us as I bent over to taste the sauce.

Snap went the shutter!

At that same instant a shriek rose from the interior of the hotel.
Looking up I saw that the proprietress and her two daughters had
disappeared.

"_Au secours!  Au secours!_"

The boys and I made a rush for the house.  As we entered the _grande
sale_, we saw a man bearing a human form in his arms staggering through
the door.  Through the blood and dust that smeared the unfortunate boy's
clothing, I recognized the uniform of a chasseur.  Not even an emergency
bandage stopped the stream that was flowing from his cheek.

"Quick--a mattress!" I shouted.

The proprietress stood as though nailed to the doorway leading to the
kitchen.

"Is he wounded?"

"No matter--a mattress!"

"But he might soil it--"

"Then I'll pay for it--but for the love of heaven, be quick!"

Just then the boy's head lurched forward and the blood poured from his
mouth. Leon jumped to help the old man who was holding him, and I had
just time to catch the proprietress as she swooned on the floor.

"Put the boy on the billiard table and stuff this blanket under his
head," I said, grabbing the article mentioned from the top of a bundle
near by.  "Come in here!" I called to the two daughters who were
blubbering in the next room, terrified at what they had seen.  "Come in
here--lay her flat, loosen her clothes, and dash some cold water over
her.  She's not dead and I've no time to bother with her."

While others laid the wounded man out on the table, I rushed for my
emergency case which I had fortunately thought to bring along.

With a sharp pair of scissors, I cut away the bloody garments and with a
little warm water washed my patient so I could see what was the matter.
He was but half conscious, and his eyes rolled wildly and his hand
grasped mine and wrung it in agony.

I discovered a tiny cheek wound and was congratulating myself that
perhaps the bullet had lodged in the flesh, when on turning his head
gently to one side, I was almost nauseated by the terrible wound that
greeted my eyes.

Either a Mauser pistol or an explosive bullet fired at but short
distance had entered the cheek and gouged its way through the lad's
head, carrying away part of the ear and well--let us not go any further.

"Is there a doctor in the place still?" I called to the cook who stood
looking in at the door.  "Run and see if you can get him--for I'm
incompetent here. Quick! It's life or death!"

And while she was gone I stuffed cotton and iodine into the tremendous
cavity, hoping to stop the hemorrhage.  As I bandaged, I questioned the
man who had brought him.

"Where did you pick him up?"

"Amillis--a mile and a half from here.  The Uhlans fired into me, too,
when they saw me help him.  Look at the sole of my shoe!  They're
following close on behind."

I stepped to the window.  "George and Leon!  Quick!  Drop everything.
Hitch and get out of here like lightning!  I'll follow in this man's
cart.  Hitch and I'll tell you where to go."

Fricasseed chicken and rabbit stew were forgotten and I could hear my
people running wildly about the court, obeying orders.

The doctor appeared.  I explained.  "Shall I unbandage?"

"Useless."

"Then don't say so out loud, as he's not yet unconscious."

The poor fellow gripped my hand as proof.  The physician blushed
scarlet.

"I'll give him an injection of ether and then you take him in your cart
to the nearest hospital--it's Provins--twenty miles from here."

He jabbed in the needle, and then handing it with a phial to me:
"Here--take this. I'm clearing out.  Got a wife and baby to save.  Keep
his heart going--there's a ghost of a chance.  Adieu!"

I stood petrified.

"Take him away, I'm closing up!  Take him away--" screamed the hostess,
who had recovered from her swoon.

I looked at the old man who had brought the boy.

"Where are you going with your cart?"

"To Coulommiers--to save my sister-in-law and her children."

"Good God, man!  Can't you see that if this boy was wounded at Amillis
your road to Coulommiers is cut off!"

"It may not be."

"There's no time to argue.  My wagons are full to overflowing.  Are you
going to let this boy stay and be finished by the Germans, or are you
going to let me put him in your cart and drive to a hospital?"

"But Provins must be occupied by this time.  It's east of here."

"I never had any intention of going there.  I'm heading for Melun."

"Melun?"

"Yes."

"Good heavens!  That's seventy kilometers!  My poor sister-in-law! My
horse!" wailed the old fellow.

"Now then--one, two, three--" said I, gently patting my Browning which I
had drawn from my outside pocket.  "Will you do it gracefully?  That's
right.  Now stop your crying.  I'll release you as soon as I can find
someone else to take me on.  The important thing is to get out of here
and quick!  It may be too late now."

The boys had fetched a mattress, had found pillows and a sheet,
somewhere, and gently we laid the dying man on the old farm cart.

"You boys take your bikes and go ahead.  Tell the refugees you meet to
pull to the right and not encumber the whole road.  We're rushing a
wounded man to the hospital.  When I think you've got the way clear I'll
drive on full speed.  Tell our carts to head for Melun and keep on going
till they get there.  I can't bother with them.  We'll meet at the first
bridge over the Seine."

They departed, and climbing in beside my patient, who writhed in agony,
now lurching from one side, now rolling to the other, I tried to make
him as comfortable as possible.  All the other carts had departed ere we
got away, and my tearful driver kept on grumbling and lamenting.

Two hundred yards from the hotel, where the road makes a sharp turn, we
halted abruptly, for we had come upon a group composed of my boy George
and three French chasseurs.  Two were on horseback, their naked swords
glittering in the sunlight; the third on a bicycle--and all three, as
well as George, were shrieking excitedly at a phlegmatic Tommy Atkins
who, seated on a milestone, was calmly smoking his pipe.  Behind him,
his horse was peacefully nibbling grass. At the sight of my armlet and
the agitated white sheet in the wagon, the chasseurs approached in
haste.

"What have you got there?  Our comrade, Ballandreau?"

"Yes."  (I had seen the boy's name in his military book.)

"Is he dead?"

"No."

"Badly wounded?"

"Yes."

"_Parlez-vous anglais?_" they fairly bawled, all three at once.

"Yes."

"Then, for God's sake, tell that blockhead sitting on the stone and
whose horse has gone lame, to seize the bicycle of that peasant standing
there, and follow us."

I translated politely.

"Why?" queried the Englishman, drawing on his pipe.

"Why?" I demanded of the chasseurs.

"Why?  Do you see that?" said one on a bicycle, wheeling around and
pointing down the road behind us.  "Do you see that?  That's the Uhlans.
The ones that got Ballandreau a half-hour ago, the ones that got my
horse and the ones that will get us all if we stop here much longer."

"The Uhlans!" I cried to Tommy, showing him the advancing forms of a
half-dozen cavalrymen, whose black leather helmets shone in the sun a
mile up the road.

"There are seven of them--on patrol--seven hundred following!  Come, old
fellow, it's now or never!"

"And I--where shall I go?" I said, jumping into the cart, George
following.

"To the devil if you like, but quick!"

The warning came none too soon.  We had been seen, and sharp, whizzing
noises in the grass, and over our beads told us that our German pursuers
had no intention of letting us get away.

"Down on your knees, man!" I yelled, pulling the old fellow with me as
we ducked to the level of the dashboard.  And unfastening a breastpin, I
jabbed it mercilessly into the flanks of our nag, who bounded forward,
nearly, throwing us out.

Whizz!  Whizz!  Whizz!

It was as if a cloud of locusts were bumming about us.

Then when I lifted my eyes, on top of the steep incline we were
ascending, I could see several uniformed horsemen and back of them a
huge column of smoke.

"Heavens!" I gasped, "we're caught this time--but it's too late now to
turn about. We're prisoners for sure!"

Two cavalrymen then appeared and calmly started down the road in our
direction. A second later I recognized the British uniform and breathed
again.

"Go back!" I yelled.  "Go back!  The Germans are on our heels!"

Astonished at bearing their native tongue, the men approached.

"Thank heaven, here's someone to direct us," they said as they came
alongside and saluted.

I replied with a nod.

"We're lost," they said, "cut off from our brigade."

"That's nothing.  How many of you are there?  Enough to fight?  The
Germans are coming on hard and fast."

"We're only two and our horses are done for.  We were driven out of
Coulommiers this morning."

My driver threw up his hands and sobbed.

"Our friend John's horse went lame and we left him at the bottom of the
hill while we came up to reconnoiter.  We can't leave him down there all
alone."

"He's gone--gone--I swear it.  Followed the French chasseurs on my
bicycle, leading his mount!"

"Thank God!"

"Now then, how far the Germans will come is a question.  They'll
probably go in and occupy the town, and there's just one thing for us to
do--bolt."

Whizz!  Whizz!  Whizz--the lead fairly splashed around us!

Leon and Emile rode back to say that the road ahead was clear.

"Les Boches," I said, pointing down the hill.

"Come on, you cowards!" yelled my boys defiantly, George brandishing the
rifle of my wounded man.

"Oh, Madame, ask the Englishmen for their revolvers.  They've got their
rifles--that's five of us armed, and Monsieur's revolver makes six!
It's almost man to man.  Ah, please, Madame!" they implored.

In the excitement of the moment I nearly lost my head and consented.  I
was worked to such a point that any solution would have seemed a relief.
The Britishers saw me put my hand in my pocket.

"No!  No!" they pleaded.  "You can't--if we're caught you won't be
killed--but murdered, tortured!  We're the only ones who have a right to
fire!"

"But they've been peppering my cart regardless of my sex!"

"That's perhaps their way of waging war, but not ours.  Now then, off
you go--quickly."

We disappeared behind a clump of trees and tore down the clear road as
fast as our horses would carry us.  George sneaked back on his wheel to
see if our aggressors were following, and came back radiant to announce
that after coming halfway up the bill, they had turned about and were
cantering to take possession of Jouy--as I had predicted.

"Where's our nearest barracks?" enquired one of the Scotsmen.  (I now
saw that I had to do with the Scots a little.)  We slowed down a little.


"Where is our nearest barracks?" enquired one of the Scotsmen.

"How on earth do you expect me to know?  Up until I met you I hardly
realized there were any British troops on the continent!"

"Where are you bound for?"

"Melun. There's a big French garrison there in time of peace.  You'll
always be sure of getting orders there--unless we meet someone on the
road."

They thought that was the best idea, and fell back, cantering behind my
caravan with which I had now caught up.

On we trotted-up hill and down dale for several hours, my poor wounded
boy still writhing on his bed of agony.

Towards four o'clock we had reached a long smooth stretch where we could
see right and left for several miles over the plains.  Presently, on a
crossroad that ran perpendicular to ours, I spied a motor wagon.  It was
soon followed by another and then another, and pressing forward we
reached the crossing in time to see Harrods' Stores, Whitley's, Swan &
Edgar, and an interminable number of English Army supply motors coming
straight towards us.

Knowing that it would be impossible to pass before the whole long line
had gone by, I crossed over and now saw that the Scots Grays would soon
find friends.  I called Leon and pulling out a card, told him to pedal
back and dig out a bottle of champagne I had hidden in our hay cart, and
to present it to our soldier friends as a bracer and a souvenir.  And
then we pushed ahead.

Two minutes later, to my utter surprise, a heavy motor horn tooted on
the road behind me and looking back, I saw a private car emerge from
behind one of the English motors, and whirl down in our direction.  It
was a four-seater affair with but two occupants, a chauffeur and a woman
wearing a streaming white veil.

"Quick!" I shrieked, grabbing the reins and pulling our cart full into
the middle of the road.  "They've got to take me and the boy to Melun!"

Seeing his deliverance so near, my old friend obeyed at once.

The motor, stupefied by our actions, slowed down.

"Get out of the way!" yelled the chauffeur.  "Are you crazy!  Out or
I'll run you down!"

"Never!  Look here.  I don't care where you're bound for, but you've got
to make room for me and a dying man in your machine.  It's Melun--or
nothing!"

"Wounded!  Heaven, the Germans!  We're caught!  Go on, quick, quick, I
say!" shrieked the woman.

The chauffeur made a movement as though to skid past us.

"No, you don't," I said, once again producing my trusty Browning.

The woman hid her face in her hands.

"Now then, either you can make room for us or I'll blow off your tires
and you'll have to get down and walk like all the rest of us!"

My gray-headed driver was jubilant.

"That's right, Madame, you've hit it!" he encouraged.

There just wasn't any choice.  The chauffeur got down and began piling
the gasoline cans behind on the back seat to one side.  Then, each of us
grabbing a corner of the mattress, we hoisted the sufferer onto the
machine, covering him with a sheet.  Try as we would, though, we could
not get him to bend his knees, and in consequence all during the trip
the poor chauffeur received constant kicks from the agonized soul we
were rushing towards surgical aid.

"Now then," I said, turning to my old driver.  "Thank you for your cart,
and bon voyage to Coulommiers.  George, tell my people to meet me in
Melun."

And hatless, coatless, with but one golden louis in my pocket (I had
confided my bag to Julie when the wounded man had arrived at Jouy), I
started on our record-breaking trip to Melun.



VII


It was an exciting trip, that race for life and death--for every moment
I knew my wounded boy was growing weaker, and every convulsive kick
meant the disappearance of so much life blood.  During the numerous
adventures which befell us between the time we left Jouy-le-Chatel and
our encountering the motor, my hypodermic needle had received such
violent treatment that it refused service.  So when we turned into
Mormont at top speed, I was obliged to ask my driver to slow down and
inquire for a doctor.  We were directed by a couple of gaping women on
the borders of the little city, who didn't quite understand our mission.
However, they must have been soon enlightened, for as we crossed the
public square the British Red Cross ambulances were pouring in and
lining up in battle array.  Behind them came a steady stream of
ammunition wagons, both horse and motor trucks, and from Mormont to
Melun the line was unbroken.

The doctor was absent, but his wife willingly filled his place and with
new hope dawning we backed out of the yard and sped southward.

What was the landscape we passed through I really couldn't say.  I had a
dreamy sensation of having run down a refugee's dog, and hearing its
owner wishing us in warmer climes--as well as the feeling that my
blood-stained apron and the agitated white sheet beside me created much
curiosity among the drivers and occupants of the A. S. C. motors that
took up all one side of the road.

One by one the mile posts whizzed past and finally we came into Melun.

"Where's the nearest hospital?" I enquired of a group of soldiers
loitering outside a barracks.

"Give it up!  All evacuated!"

Our driver needed no more--and so we pushed on into the town, while I
pantomimed to those behind that I had a wounded man in my arms.

In front of the city hall stood a noisy gathering, and in reply to our
questions, a middle-aged man jumped on to the step.

"Go ahead--I'll guide you.  All the seven hospitals in Melun were
transferred to Orleans this morning.  The mixed hospital is all that is
left."

After what seemed an interminable time we finally pulled up a long hill
and after much parleying I succeeded in turning over my patient to the
medical authorities.

Through the half open door of the little stuffy office where I was
conducted I could see a white-aproned doctor and a nurse properly
bandaging my boy.  When my _compagnons de route_ had departed, I walked
out into the ward and straight up to the bedside.

"Is there any hope?"

"Not one chance in a million!  Would to heaven we had the right to spare
them such suffering!  Morphine is no longer helpful in his case!"

It was a shock to hear this.  The lad, who a couple of hours before was
unknown to me, suddenly became very dear.  I turned about to hide my
emotion, but was startled out of it by the double line of white beds on
which were writhing men and boys in the most awful agony, yet not a
sound broke from their lips.  In the middle of the room a second doctor,
a  slight man with a pointed beard, stood washing his hands and then
began drawing on a pair of long rubber gloves.  He crossed over to a
basin and, after sterilizing his instruments, looked around for an aid.

"Can I do anything for you, doctor?"

Not in the least surprised by my audacity he asked, "Are you a nurse?"

"No."

"Have you ever seen an operation."

"Yes."

I lied.

"Have you a good temperament?"

"Yes."

"Then come over here and hold this basin."  I obeyed, and then Doctor
Jean Masbrennier began a series of operations which will remain graven
in my memory forever.

As he worked he talked--and informed me that the Red Cross Society had
been hastily evacuated in the morning, doctors and all.  Only those who
were unable to be moved had been left behind, and only two civilian
doctors were left to attend them.  But one nurse remained to do all the
bandaging.  That was why I had been rung into service.  It took but
little time to find a mutual acquaintance in the person of Elizabeth
Gauthier, and the doctor had long been familiar with H.'s work.

It would be useless to describe the horrors that I witnessed, or try to
do justice to the heroic way those first glorious wounded of this
lengthy war accepted their fate.  I cannot, however, resist mentioning
the endurance of a big black Senegalais, who won the admiration of both
doctors and neighbors by refusing morphine or cocaine, and insisting on
having the seven bullets that were lodged in his neck and throat
withdrawn thus--never uttering a murmur!

When it was over, and we finally laid him back on his pillow, the tears
were rolling down his cheeks and he squeezed my hand in his big black
paw and then gently drew it to his lips.

How many wounded were there?  I did not count.  All I remember was that
I promised to come the next day and write letters to wives, mothers and
sweethearts of at least a dozen men and boys.

It was late when the last basin was emptied and Dr. Masbrennier untied
his apron.

As we were washing up, I asked if he would be good enough to guide me
out of the hospital and tell me where there was a respectable restaurant
to which a woman might go alone.

"I have neither hat, coat, nor gloves.  They're coming in the carts."

"That's so; perhaps you haven't had anything since lunch and I've been
making you work on an empty stomach!"

"Worse than that!" I laughed.

"What?"

"Nothing since breakfast at Jouy-le-Chatel."

"Good God, woman!"  And taking me by the arm, he hurried me down the
hall.

As we passed out of the entrance door, a superior officer stopped Dr.
Masbrennier and though I advanced out of earshot the words, "evacuation"
and "to-night" were distinctly audible.  A second later my companion
caught up with me.

"So sorry I can't accompany you, but the whole hospital goes to Orleans
immediately.  Must make room for the new-comers!  I'll 'phone home.  The
_gouvernante_ will make you comfortable."  And he continued to give me
explicit directions how to reach his house.

"You'd better come to Orleans where we can look after you."

"Sorry, but I've gone far enough south."

"_Alors au revoir et grand merci._"

"_Au revoir._"

And a second later I found myself outside in the chilly darkness.

For the first time in my life I had the sensation of being utterly
alone.  No one on earth knew where I was and if I had not had faith in
Dr. Masbrennier's promise of a warm dinner, I should gladly have
indulged in a little fit of despair.  And so I wandered on down the
dingy, black streets of Melun, where not a lamp post nor shop window was
lighted, not a human being seemed astir.  Where was my little troupe?
How and when would we all meet?

Thus ruminating I came to a bridge.  A sentry flashed a pocket lamp in
my face.

"_On ne passe pas!_"

I showed my armlet and he stepped aside.

Halfway across I distinguished two human forms leaning over the railing,
and following their example I perceived a half-dozen _hommes du genie_
hard at work mining the foundation of the center arch.  So these bridges
were to be blown up, too!  What was I to do?  Stay on the other side and
wait for my caravan or cross over and risk my chances alone?  A
reflector from below swung upward, illuminating the bridge.

"George!" I gasped.

One of the two figures straightened abruptly!  In a second the boys had
recognized me.  "What are you doing here?  Where are the others?"

I poured out a dozen eager questions, not giving them time to reply.
When almost breathless I stopped and they explained that the caravan had
been halted on the outskirts of Melun.  No refugees were allowed in
after nightfall. Fortunately the boys bethought themselves of my wounded
man's clothes and arms, and thanks to these they were allowed to pass
and deliver them to the gendarmerie.  Remembering that I had friends at
Barbizon they had sent the others there by a round-about route, and had
come on to find me.

"But how did you get here?"

"Cesar brought us."

"Where is he?  And Betsy?"

"Oh, we found a dentist who had an empty stable. He took them in.  Betsy
refused to leave the cart.  She's never had such a picnic in her life:
been traveling all day in a ten pound box of lump sugar!"

All worry had vanished, now that I found my line of conduct traced for
me.  The chief thing at present was to get something to eat.  So we
pushed ahead up the hill in the ever-deepening obscurity.  We walked on
in silence for what seemed an interminable distance.  Once I fancied I
had mistaken directions and was about to despair when the tramp of feet
coming toward us revived hope.  A second later a brawny arm turned a
lantern into my face and a huge police dog growled close to my heels.

"Are you the person who is going to Dr. Masbrennier's?"

"Yes."

"_Tres bien_.  Are these boys with you?"

"Yes."

"Then follow me.  We're closing up the doctor's house, but I'll look
after you."

Without further ado we trudged on behind our guide, who after another
hundred yards, turned into a gateway and led us up the stone steps of a
sumptuous dwelling.  Opening the door, he lit the electric light and
stepped into the vestibule.

"Come in," he said.  "I'll be back in a moment."  And he disappeared.

There we stood, Leon, George and myself, waiting for something to
happen, for someone to appear.  Five--ten--fifteen minutes must have
elapsed--still not a sound anywhere.  I was just beginning to wonder if
we had not been the dupes of some practical joke, when from a room
opening into the vestibule a light shone forth.  The curtains parted and
our friend of the highroad appeared.

"Isn't much--but such as it is you're welcome.  Sit down and make
yourselves comfortable."  And again he disappeared.

On a snowy white table cloth three covers were laid and a tempting
supper composed of bread and butter, cheese, a bottle of white wine, and
a huge basket of most luscious hothouse grapes and pears--gladdened our
hungry gaze.  We did not need a second invitation!  We fell to with a
vengeance and at the end of a quarter-hour hardly a crumb remained.

"When you've finished, come upstairs; Madame will take the first door to
the right.  You boys come up a flight higher," called a voice from
above.

We obeyed, and before retiring I waited a good half-hour hoping our
friend would reappear.  But no one came--so bolting my door, I offered
up a prayer of thanks and was soon fast asleep.

Sunday morning, September sixth, the sun was high in the heavens when I
peeped from beneath my lace-bordered sheets and cocked my ear at the
familiar sound of the cannon.  It was a long continuous roar, and now
that I had become accustomed to distancing I estimated that the battle
was on at Mormont.  And I was not mistaken.  A little later official
news confirmed my guess.

Finding no bell in my room, I opened the door to see a pitcher of hot
water sitting before it, and on a chair beside it, a new comb, a clean
linen duster, and a pocket handkerchief.  A brief note told me that I
would find breakfast in the dining-room, and requested that I leave word
on the table saying at what time I would be in for luncheon.  Decidedly
the mystery deepened--for not a sound could be heard save in the garden
where I spied George and Leon, who informed me that the house was empty,
and "a gorgeous house, Madame!" they ejaculated in admiration.

Though partially abandoned, Melun was full of life, thanks to the
presence of numerous British troops and that same long line of A. S.
C.'s now quadrupled on the highroad--two lines going, two lines coming.

As I picked my way between them, and crossed the street, my attention
was arrested by a French peasant who was conversing by means of the sign
language with the handsome driver of one of those vans, while several
children were clamoring to be allowed to sit on the seat a moment, "just
to see how it seemed."

"Can I be of any assistance?"

"Rather!  Seems good to hear English, thank you."

"Really?"

"Yes.  Might I ask where you come from?"

"The States."

"Do you know Cleveland?"

"Yes."

"Well, I've got a mother and three brothers buried in that cemetery.
Colonials, you know.  I'm English--from Bath--oldest son.  Couldn't see
things their way. Done better perhaps if I'd joined the others out
there."

I smiled at this unexpected and impromptu confession.  The boy saw it
and reddened.

"Is there anything particular you want me to say to this man for you?"
said I quickly, to cover his embarrassment.

"No, thank you.  But there's one thing you might be able to tell me."

"What?"

"Do you think we'll be 'home' in time to eat Christmas dinner?"

"Rather!"

"Thank you so much!  Good-bye."

"Good-bye and good luck to you."

And after snapping his photograph I started on down the street in haste,
for I could see George and Leon, who had gone on ahead, now running
towards me.

"_Vite_, Madame.  They need you!"

"Who?"

"The English.  They can't make people understand."

I pressed forward, and came upon a crowd of gapers standing outside a
shop. Within two English officers were arguing in their native tongue
with an irate butcher, who waved one arm wildly in the air, and
brandished a huge knife in the other, shouting frantically all the
while,

"La' voila-la voila!" said George and Leon, almost dragging me forward,
proud to exhibit my accomplishments.  "_La voila!  Vous etes sauves._"

My greatest desire was to turn about and run, but the crowd parted to
let me through.

"Would you mind, Madame?" pleaded the lieutenant.  "We need your
assistance to make this man understand that we're drafting meat for the
army.  We'll pay cash, but be might just as well give it gracefully, for
we have the right to force his ice box if he refuses."

I explained gently, and when things were calm was about to slip away.
The officer touched me on the shoulder.

"I'm sorry, Madame, but I'm afraid we'll have to draft you, too.  Our
time is limited and if a scene like this happen at every shop we'll be
punished for tardiness!  Here's my order to draft an interpreter," and
he put his hand into his pocket.

I was somewhat abashed.

"Might I ask when you will release me?"

"Just as soon as we've the supply we need."

"Will you give me ten minutes to arrange my affairs here?"

"Certainly.  But remember you're on parole!"

Outside I explained the situation to George and Leon, and scribbling a
note to friends in Barbizon, told the boys to drive over and reassure
the others--make them comfortable at the _Clef d'Or,_ and tell them to
expect me that evening.

"Whatever happens, wait there until I come.  There's no danger of the
Germans reaching Barbizon, I fancy!"

And that is how from nine in the morning until late in the afternoon I
sat perched on the front of a British Army Supply truck, much to the
amusement of the other Tommy Atkins we encountered in Melun and the
neighboring villages.

My officer friends very courteously drove me to the hospital where I
learned that my poor wounded _chasseur_ Ballandreau had passed away in
the night, and towards five o'clock, when their task was completed, they
offered me tea and proposed to drive me to Barbizon.  As we jolted down
the hill towards the railway crossing our attention was attracted by a
huge gathering of citizens and soldiers, and above the roar of our
motor, we could hear the rolling of a drum. Silence reigned instantly
and an officer in uniform in the middle of the group read out a short
message from a paper he held in his hand.  What he said we could not
hear, but the mad shout of joy that went up when he had finished made us
eager to learn the news.  Like lightning "Paris saved--the Germans
retreating" ran from mouth to mouth, and the delirious excitement that
seized that crowd was absolutely indescribable.  Young and old, English,
and French, peasant and bourgeois, fell on each other's necks and
exchanged a joyous embrace.  The awful tension of the last month was
broken and the word victory was uttered by thousands of throats,
suddenly grown husky with emotion.

My arrival and the news I bore created a sensation among my servants and
the remaining inhabitants of Millet's famous village.  Barbizon was
dead--literally deserted, for not a single member of that delightful
summer colony remained, several hotels were closed, and the others as
empty as in the heart of winter. The proprietress of the _Clef d'Or_
made me a very tempting offer for a _sejour_, but I judged, and rightly,
that since the German retreat had begun, we would best follow on close
behind the victorious army, for if we waited until order was restored,
patrols would be organized and we who had no papers to identify us would
not be allowed to pass.

Before retiring I announced my intention of starting homeward, and the
joy that illuminated those anxious faces somewhat calmed my own
misgivings, for now that our adventure was safely over, I couldn't help
worrying about the absent.

When I touched my bed, I bethought me of my lodging the night before,
and realized that I knew neither the name nor address of the generous
person in whose sumptuous domicile I had been so cordially received and
graciously cared for.  How and whom was I to thank?

Leon, Emile and a sturdy butcher boy from Charly who had joined the
others on the road, had now determined to enlist--so I could but
encourage their patriotic sentiments, and went with them to the
recruiting office to furnish proof of their identity.

Evidently many other youths under military age had been inspired with
the same idea, for there was a long line outside the door, and as we
stood and waited, we examined with interest the mounts of the English
cavalry regiment lined up in the street awaiting their riders.  George
and Leon were eagerly fingering a long coil of rope thrown on the pommel
of one saddle, when a deep voice from behind them ejaculated,

"Guess you ain't ever seen the likes of that before.  That's a lasso."

I explained, and then looking round, beheld a long, lanky individual,
his hands on his hips, literally taking us all in.

"Do you think you can tell 'em what that is, sister?"

"I fancy so."

"Then you must be from home!"

"If you mean the States--yes."

"To h--with the States!  The State--Texas!"

I didn't find it necessary to translate that.  "Say, you haven't by any
chance got a razor about you?" he inquired.  I replied that I was not in
the habit of carrying such articles on my person.

"No offense meant--but since you speak this language, perhaps you could
persuade one of them kids to go and buy me one."

I said I thought I might, and my compatriot producing an American double
eagle, enjoined Leon to be quick and he'd make it worth his while.

"You see," he explained, "a razor is all I need to complete my outfit.
Got a Winchester, two revolvers, a Bowie knife, a lance and a lasso.
Razor's flat and easy to carry.  Might be useful, too.  Nothing like
being properly armed.  If I've got to sell my hide you bet I'll sell it
dear!"

Leon returned and I was about to ask my friend to give us a little
exhibition of his skill with the rope, when the call to arms obliged him
to leave.  So enjoining me to give his regards to Broadway, he departed
much pleased with the world in general and himself in particular.

From various sources, though none of them official, I learned that the
road as far as Coulommiers was clear.  That was all we wanted to know,
so after seeing the boys off for Orleans, a very much diminished caravan
started on its homeward journey.  The horses, after two days' rest, were
quite giddy, and the carts being light, they carried us on the new road
north as far as Pezarches with but few halts.  The country we passed
through, though abandoned by its inhabitants, showed no traces of
invasion.  The Germans had not been able to push so far west.  I counted
on making Coulonimiers to sleep, but night closed in early and with it
came a chilly drizzle, which sent us in search of lodgings.  Not a soul
was to be seen anywhere, and as all the houses were shut, I deemed it
unwise to force a door.  So we pushed ahead into the border of the
forest, hoping that the rain would soon cease.

Presently someone discovered an abandoned hermitage, through whose low
doorway we crept, and spreading out our blankets on the floor, prepared
to make a night of it--glad of shelter from the dampness.

"Hark!" hissed George, just as we were dropping off to sleep.

We all sat up.

"There!  That's the third bullet that's landed on this roof!"

Ra-ta-pan-Ratapan!  There was no mistaking the sound--even through the
wind and rain that raged outside.

George crawled on his knees toward the opening, and a second later
jumped back, clapping his hand to his head with a low shriek.

"He's shot!" cried Julie.

I leaped forward, grabbed the lantern, and holding it to the spot,
opened the boy's clenched fingers.  As they parted, a heavy horse
chestnut burr fell to the floor with a loud thump!

We were too nervous to appreciate the humor of the situation, and had
some little difficulty composing ourselves to rest.

As we approached Coulommiers the next morning the horrors of war became
more and more evident.  On both sides of the roadway the fields were
strewn with bay and straw.  Every ten paces the earth was burned or
charred, and in some places the smoke still rose from dying campfires.
Bones, bottles and tin preserve cans in extraordinary quantities were
strewn in every direction, and a half mile before we reached the town
itself, a dead horse lay abandoned in a ditch.

At this point we were hailed by a party of bedraggled refugees who
warned us that it would be useless to try to enter Coulommiers.

"We're from Neuilly--St. Front, on our way home, but there doesn't seem
much chance of our getting any further.  The place is in the hands of
the military authorities--with orders to let no one pass."

We halted, and George went on ahead and interviewed a sentry, returning
with a negative reply, and the information that Coulommiers was in a
pretty mess after the looting.

"It can't be worse than _La Ferte Gauche._"  And above the almost
deafening roar of the cannon an elderly man told us bow his caravan had
been caught by the Germans, stripped of everything they possessed,
separated from their women folk, and with armed sentries back of them
had been forced to work at the building of a temporary bridge to replace
the one the French had blown up.

"I got off easy--with only a few welts from a raw-hide," he murmured,
"but my brother (and he pointed to a very stout masculine figure rolled
in a blanket and sitting motionless on the steps of an abandoned road
house)--"my brother's nearly done for!  You see he's near-sighted and
not used to manual labor, and every time he missed his nail with the
hammer, the German coward would jab him in the ribs with the point of
his bayonet.  Seventy-two wounds!"

"And your women?"

"God knows what they did to them!  My wife hasn't stopped sobbing since
we met. She's dazed--I can't make her talk."

As he rambled on with his haphazard story, glad of fellow sympathy, I
spied a line of British Army Supply carts advancing up the road.  The
leader came to a halt and getting down, the driver entered the first of
the abandoned dwellings before which we were standing.  Presently he
reappeared.

"Just my luck!  I say"--(and this addressed to our group with a sort of
blank, hopeless expression)  "I don't suppose any of you Frenchies know
where I could get a cup of tea!"

I laughed outright, much to his astonishment.

"Not anywhere around here, unless you're willing to wait until I can
build fire enough to make you one!"

The man blushed crimson.

"Ah--I couldn't think--"

"No trouble.  Get one of your men to make a blaze, and, boasting aside,
I'll brew you a cup such as you haven't had since you left England."

No sooner said than done, and quarter of an hour later, a half-dozen
Tommy Atkins were sipping hot Kardomah with sugar and condensed milk
from tin mugs.

"You're certainly right--the French don't know how to do it, at least in
these parts.  I had a teapotful yesterday morning that was as near a
mixture of stewed herbs and Hunyadi water I ever hope to taste.  And
now, isn't there something we can do for you?"

"Tell me where you're bound for?"

The man brought out a note-book and pointed to a name.

"La Ferte-sous-Jouarre?"

"Yes, that's it.  I wouldn't dare tackle it."

"Is the road clear?  Can we go there?  It's only fifteen kilometers from
my home."

"I don't know if they'll let you by--but if you're clever and follow on
close behind us with your Red Cross armlet, there's just a
chance--that's all."

I didn't need a second bidding and after warning my people not to talk
if we met sentries but to have faith in me, we pushed ahead.  Our army
friends with better horses soon left us in the rear, but undaunted we
proceeded, finally reaching the heights that overlooked La Ferte--and
led into the village, Jouarre, perched on the side of the hill running
towards the Marne.

Oh, the pitiful sights that met our gaze as we wended our way along
those glorious roads, now full of ruts and knee-deep in mud!  As far as
eye could see the entire country had served as a huge camp for the
invader, and when forced to flee he had sacked and destroyed everything
within his reach.  The wonderful fertile fields had been soiled,
polluted, and among other damning evidences of their fury, the smoking
ruins of every farm house stood like specters in the brilliant sunshine.

At the entrance to La Ferte our road was barred by two sentinels,
elderly peasants, by their looks.  I played mum and tapped my Red Cross
armlet.

"_Non, on ne passe pas!_"

I beckoned them and fumbled among my papers for my _carte d'identite_.
They approached the cart, but as they did so, my faithful Betsy let
forth an angry growl.

"Down!" I commanded in English.  "Down!  I say!  They're not going to
hurt me!"

Those phrases were my undoing!

"Oh, ho!" said my interlocutors.  "And after that you think you're going
to get past us?  We've had enough Boches in this place.  You can come
in--but between us!"

And jumping up on either side of me, one of them took the reins and
started forward.  This being taken for a spy was an altogether new and
very disagreeable sensation.

"But, gentlemen," I protested calmly, "I'm known in this place.  If
there's an inhabitant left I'll be identified in a second.  How green
you'll feel if you drag me before an officer and find you're mistaken!"

They were unrelenting.

I invoked my identity card.

No, they had heard me speak in a foreign tongue and all foreign tongues
to them were German!

And so we entered La Ferte.

Doors and windows no longer existed--the former had been dashed to
splinters by the butt ends of guns, while the latter were shattered to
powder and from their apertures swung bed clothing, personal adornment
and household belongings in shreds and tatters--all willfully soiled by
mud and filth.

It was useless to try to drive our cart up the main street, so calling a
passing comrade, my detainers bid him hold my horse until they returned
after having _fait leur affaire_, as they expressed it.

The plate glass windows of every store lay in thousands of pieces below
their sashes, and the entire stock of merchandise whether furniture or
drapery, groceries or dairy products, had been hurled through them into
the middle of the thoroughfare.  Above these were piled pell-mell
bedding and chairs, wardrobes and wash basins, all splintered and
broken--the whole making the most pitiable conglomeration I ever hope to
witness.  One plucky dealer was already boarding up the great yawning
cavities that were once show windows, and here and there a frightened
female face peeped out from behind the ruins of her commerce.

"Madame Huard!" cried a familiar voice behind me.  "_Mon Dieu_--you!"

I turned and recognized my pastry baker's wife.

"_Oui, moi; arretee._"

"Arrested!"

"Yes, unless you will be good enough to inform these gentlemen who I
am?"

"_Est-il possible!  Est-il possible!_  Why, of course, I know you--how
dare they!"

"You see," I said, turning to the _auxilaires_.

But they were inflexible, bidding my friend follow on if she could swear
to my identity.  She obeyed, but our group had attracted the attention
of a couple of small boys who darted out of an alley way like rats from
a cellar, calling, "_L'espionne--l'espionne!_"

Thank fortune, at that instant we came upon an officer, whom I accosted
at a distance, explained my case and produced my card and my pastry
baker.  He understood in a moment, and hastily discharged my custodians.

"I cannot scold them.  They're over zealous, but we've been so horribly
betrayed all along.  You understand, I'm sure.  Please accept my
apologies, Madame!"

I bowed and he departed.  Then I turned to my friend.

"You've heard the news, I suppose, Madame?"

"No--what?"

She suddenly grew white.

"Quick--out with it, woman!"

She hesitated.

"Is H.--?"

"_Non_, not that, Madame, but a quarter of an hour ago it was noised
about that the enemy are still retreating, and that we were pounding
into their headquarters--le chateau de Villiers."

I felt myself whitening.  The woman saw it, and catching me by the arm.
"Come, come," she said.  "You're tired; perhaps it isn't true, so many
false alarms have been launched.  Come and have a cup of coffee--you'll
excuse our back room--it's all we have left."

I gladly followed her, picking my way through what had once been one of
the most enticing of provincial pastry shops, the good soul apologizing
all the time, as if she had been responsible for the damage.  As she
prattled on, though my own brain was swimming I now and then grasped
such phrases as three days of looting, two days' bombardment.  As she
passed me a cup of coffee, she explained that the invaders had not been
satisfied with violently appropriating all personal articles which they
had found to their liking, but after having drunk all the wine in the
cellars, they had willfully cut open the bags of flour and thrown it
pell-mell in every direction.

"And, Madame, they got into my reserve of eggs--five thousand of them--"
she wept, "five thousand!  All my winter's store.  I wouldn't have
minded if they had eaten them but to see them purposely crushed and
wasted.  Two of those wretches spent half a day bringing them up from
the cellar in their helmets, and then dragging me out, would hurl them
at the walls and windows, savagely rejoicing in my distress!"

I couldn't remain indoors--I had but one thought--get to Villiers or see
someone who knew for certain what had happened there.

Again I crossed the shop, paddling through that sticky yellow slime in
which bits of furniture and clothing floated like croutons in a gigantic
nauseating omelet.

Outside, towards the end of the street that opened on to the quay, great
animation reigned.  A bugle sounded and I could hear the tramp of
soldiers' feet.

"Look!" cried my friend.  "Look, all that is left of the Institut St.
Joseph, the pride of La Ferte."

Across the river between the broken spans of the bridge, my eye fell
upon the gutted remains of what had once been a most exquisite bit of
eighteenth century architecture.  The mansion which had sheltered Louis
XVI and Marie Antoinette on their eventful return from Varennes, was now
a smoking pile of ashes!

"And to think we had to do it!  Oh, curse their hides!" muttered an
elderly man close to my elbow.

"We?"

"Yes."

"?"

"Why, when they had to get out of here they crossed the Marne, destroyed
the bridge and entrenched themselves in the houses along the bank.  The
English caught them like rats in a cage, but at what a price!  One
fellow that's rowed across says he can bear them moaning, but you bet
they can rot there before we'll go to 'em.  Begging your pardon for the
language!"

A dozen men of the _genie_ were busy constructing a temporary arch
between two spans, and just as soon as a plank was laid a regiment from
Cherbourg (almost all reservists) filed over one by one.  The population
gave them an ovation, and it was a curious sight to see these care-worn,
haggard-faced people simply going mad with joy, while around them was
heaped desolation.

"I hope you haven't come for your tea service, Madame?"

I turned and recognized my china dealer, who smiled cynically as he
motioned towards his shop.

"It doesn't pay to be a glass merchant these days.  It only took two
shells to send twenty years' earnings into splinters!  There's not a
whole goblet or plate in the entire establishment!  But I wouldn't have
cared if they hadn't maltreated the women.  I--"

"Come and see!" cried another.  "Durant's house has tumbled down and his
wife and family are smothering in the cellar.  Quick!"

There was a general rush in that direction, but I pushed on towards the
bridge. It was evident my carts could not cross, but there was just a
hope that they would let George and me through with our bicycles.

I accosted the sentry who stood mounting guard beside a motor which was
thrown up on the side of the road, twisted and distorted like a tin toy
one has walked on.

No, the bridge was for the army only.

I insisted.

An officer came to my rescue, but could only confirm the sentry's
orders.

"You're not safe even here.  This is the firing line.  We don't know yet
for certain whether we are going to hold the ground we gained. Villiers?
Still in the Germans' hands."

I sighed and was about to turn away.  "Then where's the nearest bridge
across?"

"Meaux."

"But that's thirty kilometres west!  I'm only fifteen from home here!"

"I wish I could help you, but there's no use trying to leave here unless
you go that way."

Then Meaux it must be, and though our trip was considerably lengthened,
anything was better than inaction.



VIII


It was with much reluctance that we turned our backs on La Ferte the
following morning and headed our horses westward.

Naturally the right of way was reserved for the army, and the roads
bordering the Marne were now lined with soldiers, guns, ambulances and
supply vans rushing to the front.  After being side-tracked and halted
no less than two score times, we finally reached Trilport, where the
invaders had done but little material damage. The terrified civil
population was even exultant, for two nights previously an automobile
containing four German officers sped through the town, in the direction
of Paris, and ignorant of the fact that the English had destroyed the
bridge, had been precipitated into the river.  The affair seemed to be
considered as a huge joke, and the chief amusement now consisted in
hanging over the broken side and contemplating the gruesome spectacle of
a half-submerged motor, and four human bodies lying inanimate on some
rocks, rapidly swelling, thanks to heat and the current.

"When we're sure they're good and dead, we'll bury 'em," explained a man
whom I questioned.

As I write this phrase, now that more than a year has elapsed, it seems
cruel and heartless, but on the spur of the moment, and after all that
each one had endured, it was but justice.

Though barges were being rapidly brought into position so as to form a
temporary bridge, I felt it would be a good two days before we could get
across, and so following the course of the river, we wended our way in
and out, round about, this time through peaceful country, until we
reached Meaux.

My heart leaped with joy when on approaching I saw the cathedral
standing unharmed, like a guardian above the peaceful little city.

The Germans had made but a brief stay here, merely an _entrée_ and
_sortie_, and had been received by Bishop Marbeau, in such a fashion as
is likely to be recorded in history and place his name beside that of
his famous predecessor, Bossuet.

One or two stray shells had fallen into the place, but the harm done was
insignificant.  The most picturesque and melancholy sight was along the
river front, where to head off the enemy's approach the French had been
obliged to blow up those ancient bridges, landmarks of the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries, for, like the Ponte Vecchio at Florence, they were
lined with houses and mills, whose pointed roofs and apparent beams had
weathered nearly five hundred years!  Strange as it may seem, it was
they that resisted the most, and, though the dynamite had severed their
connection with land and shattered their pale-blue window panes, not a
house had collapsed, and as they stood in the sun's dying blaze, they
seemed to say, "Touch me, if you dare!"

Washboats, rowboats, barges and every available means of navigation had
been sunk or put out of working order and though the enemy was hardly
ten miles distant, men and women were busily engaged in setting them
afloat.

Once again all we could do was to stand and gaze at the opposite bank
and after assuring ourselves that there was no possible way of crossing,
we hastily departed for Lagny.

That night we slept in a shed hospitably offered by a lone peasant
woman, and the next morning triumphantly crossed the river and set our
faces homeward.

Branching northward into the open country we chose all the by-roads and
short cuts where our carts would pass, in order to avoid the long
streams of ambulances and ammunition vans, as well as in the hope of
finding better thoroughfares.  A drizzling rain had set in the night
before, making the roads, which up until now had been covered with a
thick layer of dust, slippery and uncomfortable.  Highways which
heretofore had been seldom trodden, were full of ruts and bumps, and
from Langy to Villiers there was hardly a corner but what showed signs
of the invaders' passage.  Over these green and fertile fields whose
crops had proudly waved their heads about the lovely Marne, were strewn
straw and empty bottles in unimaginable quantities.  Thousands of
blackened or charred spots dotting the countryside, told of campfires
and hasty bivouacs, and as we silently plodded on towards Charny, the
growing evidences of recent battle met our saddened gaze.

Here a shell had burst on the road, in the midst of a bicycle squadron,
scattering men and machines to the four winds of Heaven.  A little
mound, a rough-hewn cross, marked the spot where some sixty soldiers lay
in their last peaceful sleep, while the _melee_ of tangled wire and iron
which had once been machines, as well as blood-stained garments, bits of
shell, and even human flesh, made a gruesome and indescribable picture.

Souvenirs?  The idea never entered my head.  And my kodak, which I had
been so prompt to use to commemorate various events, seemed a vulgar,
inquisitive instrument, and was left unheeded in the bottom of the cart.
Each step brought us face to face with the horrors of warfare.  Towards
Villeroy a number of battered Parisian taxicabs gave us the first hint
of General Gallieni's clever maneuver which helped save the capital--and
then the wind brought towards us a nauseating odor, which paralyzed our
appetites, and sent us doggedly onwards: the stench of the battlefield.

The girls in the cart drew closer together, shivering, though the air
was warm and muggy.  Even old Cesar seemed to feel the awe of that
Valley of Shadow, and no one murmured as we passed the first bloated
carcasses of dead horses and came upon that far more horrid sight--human
bodies--swelled to twice their natural size, lying as death had met
them, some in piles, others farther apart--all unrecognizable, but once
proud mothers' petted darlings.  I think they were our enemies.  I did
not stop to investigate; the flies bothered us so terribly, and long low
mounds with red kepis piled upon them told of the graves of France's
defenders.  Far ahead I could discover groups of men with shovels,
hastily burying those who remained.  To the right a lazy column of dense
smoke rose reluctantly in the heavy air.  I fancied it came from a
funeral pyre; we certainly smelled tar and petrol.  The ground beneath
rocked with the thundering of the distant cannon, and as one peal burst
louder a flock of jet black crows mounted heavenward, mournfully cawing
in the semi-twilight.

So we continued, a silent, foot-sore, rain-soaked community.  With the
growing remoteness of imminent danger came the reaction of all we had
passed through, and deep down in our hearts we welcomed the idea of
entering a village.

A village!  Alas!  As we reached the road leading to Barcy, there was a
rift in the clouds, and a long golden ray shot through an enormous
breach in the church tower, flickered a moment upon a group of roofless
houses, and was gone.  Night closed in.

Our spirits sank.  Yvonne began to moan with agony, her sciatica had
returned with the dampness, and Nini for some unknown reason, began
sobbing as though her heart would break.  I could see the moment not far
distant when our whole party, seized with fear, would become
panic-stricken, and that idea, together with the one of camping in the
sodden fields surrounded by grim death, was anything but reassuring.

"Come on," I urged.  "Surely Barcy is not entirely deserted."

What mud!  What a road--sometimes entirely gutted, sometimes so
obstructed with gasoline cans, hubs of wheels and scraps of iron, that I
was obliged to lead Cesar by the bridle, while the others would walk
ahead and clear a passage. Their progress was snail-like, for there was
little oil left in our lantern and they hesitated before casting the
refuse into the ditch for fear of profaning some unknown hero's grave.

And so, stumbling and halting, we came into Barcy.  As we passed in
front of the battered church we could see the huge bronze bell lying
amid a pile of beams, at the foot of the belfry.  The _cadran_ of the
clock tower was midway between the ruins of the edifice itself and those
of what had once been the town hall.  Not a living soul was to be seen
anywhere.  Stay--yes--there in front of us was a masculine figure.

I called "Monsieur!"

He halted an instant.  Then shook his head and skulked away.

Through an oiled paper that had replaced the panes of a shattered window
in a house which no longer had a second story I caught sight of a
flickering light. I boldly knocked on the door.

"_Qui est la?_--" asked a high-pitched, trembling female voice.

"I, Madame H. of Villiers."

"I don't know you--go your way."

"But we are refugees."

"I have nothing left.  _Allez-vous-en!_"

That was categorical, to say the least.  So on we went, past the charred
ruins of one-time happy homes.

As we rounded a corner our lantern cast a dim glow on to the drawn
shutters of a half-collapsed structure.

"Stop a moment," said Julie; "there's something written on those
blinds."

I approached, and holding the light as close as possible I read the
following sign, chalked in huge white letters:

"Attention.  No Loitering.  Looters will be shot on the spot!"

That was the last straw, and though it was obvious that the warning was
intended for the troops now miles away, it sent us ahead with uncanny
celerity.

Our advance was short-lived, however, for it soon became evident that
our horses were fagged out.  Yet where to go became an agonizing
question, for though we were still within the limits of the village, not
a roof was to be seen.  There seemed to be but one thing to do, and so,
halting, I fumbled in the bottom of the cart and brought forth a handful
of dry straw, and my precious bottle of brandy. Thanks to these, a match
and a sheltering wall, a flame managed to blaze up, and from somewhere
in the vicinity Julie procured a bundle of brush and an old broom.

With the heat our spirits rose.  The girls dried themselves as best they
could before the welcome fire, and though still awed by our
surroundings, we nibbled a crust of dry bread and some stale cheese.

Then silently Nini and Yvonne crept back into the cart, covered
themselves with hay and a blanket, opened an umbrella above their beads,
and soon were fast asleep.  The others begged me to share their bed
beneath the cart, but tormented by the thought of what had become of H.,
racked by the anxiety of what the future held in store, I could not
resign myself to rest, and the first gray streaks of that cool September
dawn found me seated on a stone, staring at the glowing embers of our
watch-fire.

Again the wind shifted in our direction, bringing with it that same
loathsome smell.  I shivered and pulled myself together, and after
carefully scrutinizing my road-map, decided that there was just a chance
of reaching Villiers before night, but only if we started at once.  This
living in suspense was beginning to tell on my nerves and anything, even
the assurance of dreaded misfortune, would have seemed a relief.  After
the state in which we had found Barcy there was little doubt that our
part of the country had been treated the same way. Perhaps it was still
in the Germans' hands; we had no way of knowing to the contrary.

I roused the servants and told them of my intention, and in a few
moments a pot of coffee was boiling on the tripod.  In spite of the
early hour I did not hesitate to add a little brandy in each cup, for
after twenty-four hours of continual rain a stimulant was not only
necessary but welcome.  I tried to coax the dogs to take some, they
seemed so wet and miserable, but they spurned my offer, and stood
looking at me with most pitiful and mournful eyes.

Presently Tiger disappeared behind the wall, and a second later we heard
a low growl.  With childlike temerity Nini jumped up to see what was the
cause of his alarm, and then almost instantly I heard her gasp, "_Un
mort!_"

That brought us to our feet and in a bound I was on the spot just in
time to see her fearlessly approaching the prostrate form of a German
soldier, the upper extremity of whose body was hidden beneath the top of
a tin wash boiler.  The child raised the lid, beheld, as we did, a
headless human trunk, and fell into a swoon.

We were well on our road before she came to her senses, and there were
moments when I almost wished she might remain dormant until we had
passed beyond the gruesome plain that stretches between Barcy and
Vareddes--now a historic battlefield.

What a weird and wonderful sight it presented that gloomy September
morning. Behind us Barcy, whose every edifice was decapitated or so
degraded as to look like a gigantic sieve.  Around us and on all sides
fields fairly ploughed up by shot and shell, and every fifty yards it
seemed to me rose a freshly covered mound, extending as far as eye could
see.  On these new-made graves were piled hundreds of red soldier caps,
and here and there a hastily hewn wooden cross bearing such inscriptions
as these, scrawled in lead pencil on a smooth space whittled by a jack
knife:

_Aux Braves du 248_

When an officer was found and identified, he was buried alone and his
name was carefully written on the cross, but more often we saw graves
marked thus:

-Ici reposent deux offlciers et quarante hommes du 28 ... ieme._

Sometimes the tomb was in the ditch (to save digging) and once we saw
the Parisian _pompiers_ burying some German corpses in the very trench
they had dug and died in.

Overhead tangled electric wires swung dangerously near the road, the
poles shattered or knocked agog, while in the distance the stumps of a
once-majestic row of poplars made the horizon look like a grinning
toothless face.

Time and again we were obliged to leave the road to avoid accident by
passing over unexploded shells, and I shall always recall a gigantic oak
tree which though still standing was cleft in twain by a 77-shell
embedded intact in the yawning trunk; the impact, not the explosion, had
caused the rift.

The farther we advanced the more evident became the signs of recent
conflict. Hay stacks seemed to have been a favorite target as well as
refuge.  One we saw was almost completely tunneled through, and the
blood bespattered sides of the opening told that the occupant had been
caught as in a trap.  Around these stacks were scattered the remains of
old boots and shoes, scarlet blood-soaked rags, dry beans, bits of soap,
playing cards and songs.  Oh, lighthearted sons of France, it can be
truly said that death held no terrors for you, since from Barcy to
Soissons the ground you loved and so valiantly defended was strewn white
with hundreds of thousands of tender ditties and _chansons de route_.

From Vareddes we passed on to Congis, the only living soul we met being
a little old white-haired parish priest, who had set himself the task of
blessing each new-made grave.

"If this rain continues some of them will be so effaced in a fortnight
that we shall never find them.  See--this cross is but two bits of
straw, bound together by a shoe string!"

And he held up the fragile ornament for my inspection.

"These are more durable," and he showed another relic made of a bayonet
sheath, crossed on the blade itself!

"And you--Monsieur le Cure--bow is it you are here?"

"Alas--would to God they had taken me in the place of our boys!  Seven
of them, Madame, carried off as hostages.  I was too old to be of use!"

"And the women?"

The poor little man hung his bead.

"Twere better they had died!"

I understood and shuddered.

"God speed you, my daughter, and never cease to thank Him for preserving
you!"

Again we went our way.

Lizy-sur-Ourq, which we reached in the late forenoon, presented a more
animated, though hardly more pleasing spectacle.  On the tracks in front
of the station dozens of flat cars and freight trains had been purposely
run together.  Some had telescoped, others mounted high in piles, one
upon the other, their locomotives as well as their contents being
smashed and damaged--the whole scene presenting the aspect of a gigantic
railway wreck.

On the steps of the station, seated gun in hand, three soldiers sat
playing a game of cards.  Across the street a sentry mounted guard in
front of a large door over which floated a Red Cross flag.

"What's in there?" I asked.

"Prisoners and wounded."

"Can I be of any assistance?"

"Hardly--only flesh wounds."

I peeked into the courtyard.

In one corner lounging upon the ground were a dozen untidy, unshaven
men, whom I recognized by their uniforms to be Germans.  One man cast an
insolent glance toward me and turned his back.  Two others smiled and
pointed toward the bread they held in their hands.  On some straw in a
couple of drays lay five or six individuals, their arms in slings, their
heads bandaged.

"Nothing serious," explained a sergeant.  "We're waiting for our men to
clear up the tracks and the _genie_ to throw a bridge across the canal.
Then we'll evacuate them."

He was neither sad nor triumphant.

"Were you in the battle?"

"Rather!"

"How did your regiment come off?"

"We're all that are left--forty-four of us," and he pointed toward the
station where work was rapidly progressing.

From them I procured some _singe_ or army beef, and we halted an hour to
rest the horses and eat our luncheon.  We were beginning to reach
familiar territory and the idea of getting home put new life into our
tired limbs, and made each moment of delay seem uselessly long.

From Lizy ours was a straight road and we made rapid progress.  The
depressing signs of battle became fewer and fewer.  It was evident that
the rush had been northwest, for while we encountered numerous proofs of
the armies' passage, graves and shells, trenches and corpses gradually
began to disappear.  At Cocherel, however, the enemy had burned a
grocery shop when they had failed to find what they wanted.  The few men
who remained had suffered much from ill treatment and passing by the
open gate of a splendid estate I cast a glance up the long avenue and
saw a sight which gave me a pang at the heart.  On the green in front of
the chateau lay a battered billiard table and a grand piano, both turned
on end, and much the worse for having served as a defense against a rain
of shot.  Around them were strewn broken furniture, pictures, linen and
bottles in such a sorry mess that I dared not even think what Villiers
might now look like.

Curiosity was quenched.  We cast a second glance, and turned our faces
eastward.

The afternoon was well advanced when we reached Montreuil-aux-Lions, our
home country.  We found that here less damage had been done from heavy
artillery, but all the edifices had suffered from close-range rifle
fire.  An English sentry was pacing up and down in front of the town
hall.  Over the entrance was nailed a Turkish towel on which a Red Cross
was stained with human blood!

"Prisoners?" I asked.

"All wounded, thank you," was the courteous reply.

I sought out my friend the inn-keeper who held up his hands in
astonishment, bade us enter and made us partake of a warm meal.  The
first we had had since we left home!

"But how did you come to be spared?" I queried.

"Because I was good to them."

"Bah!  How could you?"

"I didn't intend to, but, you see, they tricked me.  It was early
morning when half a dozen officers on horseback rode up to the door.
'Where are our Allies?' they asked.

"I thought of course they were Englishmen.  The uniform was unfamiliar
to me, but they all spoke perfect French.  Unwittingly I gave them the
requested information, and they asked me to bring up some good wine.
Then they threw a gold piece on to the table, and when I had poured out
my Burgundy, they begged me to touch glasses with them.

"'Ah, gentlemen, it is a pleasure to offer you the best I have.  Thank
God, it is not for German stomachs!'

"To my surprise, an uproarious laugh greeted my statement and brought my
glass down with a shock.

"'Poor fellow!' they tittered.  'Come, drink to our success and the
Kaiser's health!'

"I think they realized my fright and agony.  They did not force me--but
laughed anew, drank and were gone."

"What regiments drove them out?"

"The English.  _Quels gaillards!_  And clean!  Well!"

"What do you mean?"

"Yes, they nearly used up all the water in Montreuil washing!"

"Do you know anything of Villiers?"

"No.  I spent most of my time in the cellar during the fight, and since
they've been gone I'm living in terror lest they return."

"Have you seen no one from down there?"

"No, not a soul."

"Do you think Villiers was bombarded?"

He shrugged his shoulders.  "I know the English troops that were here
headed in that direction."

This suspense was too agonizing!  I fear I so abbreviated my stay at
Montreuil that the good inn-keeper was offended.  I jumped on to my
bicycle and knowing that the roads were now familiar to all, abandoned
my little party, bidding them hurry to join me at home.

On, on I sped, through the slippery mud, looking neither right nor left,
but straight ahead in the hope of recognizing a familiar face or form.

Twilight was deepening when I entered Bezu-le-Gury (our nearest home
town), which seemed to show apparently but few signs of pillaging.  I
did not even dismount to make inquiries, but pedaled on till I reached
the summit of that long, long hill that leads straight down to my home.
Excitement lent a new impulse to my energy, and my heart thumped hard as
I recognized familiar cottages still standing.  This raised my hopes and
sent me rocket-like down that steep incline.

Still not a soul in sight--no noise save that of the guns roaring in the
distance.

But what was that in the semi-darkness ahead of me?  A dog?  Could it be
true? I back-pedaled and whistled--a long, low, familiar howl greeted my
ears and brought the tears to my eyes.

And then my poor old beagle hound came trotting up the road to welcome
me--his tail wagging joyously and a long frayed cord dangling from his
collar.

This was a relief and somewhat steadied and prepared me for what was to
come. Through a gap in the trees I caught a glimpse of the roofs below.
And so I rounded the corner and started on my last hundred yards.

The broken and tangled grill of our stately gateway told of the
invaders' visit. A few paces further and the chateau come into full
view.

Yes, it was standing, but only the shell of that lovely home I had fled
from but fourteen days before.

Dropping my machine I rushed towards the entrance hall, cast one glance
through the broken panes into the vestibule, and turned away in despair.

All the willful damage that human beings could do had been wrought on
the contents of my home.

The spell was broken.  My nerves relaxed and heedless of the filth I
dropped on to the steps and wept.



IX


I think it was the stench from within that first roused me from my grief
and made me realize that this was war and no time for tears.  I tried to
comfort myself with the thought that at least I had a roof to cover me,
but this was poor consolation.

Pulling myself together, I started across the lawn towards the village
in search of aid, for a second glance told me that it was useless even
to think of entering the house, so great was the filth and disorder.

Slowly I pushed onward, my head bent, my heart heavy with sorrow and
worry. Twenty paces in front of me I discerned a low mound and then,
horror of horrors, a huge black cross stood forth in the semi-darkness.
A grave--a  German grave. Some poor souls interred on my greensward; but
why, since our little cemetery is but a couple of hundred yards up the
road?

Villiers is not a cheerful village even in time of peace, but on this
particular evening (September 14, 1914) it was even darker than ever. My
eyes growing accustomed to the obscurity could see that most of the
houses, though damaged from the battle, were still standing and in one
or two windows the glow of a light gladdened my gaze.

I went straight to the town hall where I pounded on the door and called
my name. A familiar shuffling of feet told me that Monsieur Duguey had
remained faithful to his post as town clerk (the only acting official
since the army was mobilized) and when he opened the door and saw me,
his eyes lit up with joy. Holding a candle high over his head, he smiled
and then his face fell.

"_Pauvre Madame,_" he said.  "Have you seen the chateau?"

I nodded.

"Ah, the vandals!  Not war, but highway robbery, I call it.  We poor
peasants had little to lose, but with you, Madame, it is different."

And then he told me how but a few hours after I had left the Germans
took possession of the chateau and how for five nights and days in a
ceaseless stream the flower of the Prussian army had poured down the
road towards the coveted capital.

At dawn on that eventful September morning an officer had ridden up to
the town hall, called for the mayor or his representative, and on
Monsieur Duguey's appearance, had demanded so much fodder for the
horses, so much champagne for the officers, and Charles Huard!

M. Duguey was taken hostage to respond to the first two demands and on
having sworn on the cross that both my husband and I were absent, he was
ordered to lead the way to our home, where for forty-eight hours he was
detained as prisoner in the kitchen, while a staff of German noblemen
raised riot in our home.

Taunted and insulted by the soldiers who mounted guard in the kitchen
where a chef prepared the general's food, he was bid hold his tongue and
his temper by this same chef, who, for eleven years, had cooked at a
well known hotel on the rue de Rivoli!  No wonder he spoke good French.

"_Pauvre Madame!_  Perhaps you've come back too soon!  If we only knew
they would not return!"

The cannon in the distance shook the house as though to corroborate his
statement.

"Is there anyone left to help me clean place to sleep in?"

"I'll go.  There are only one or two women who remained behind, but I
presume sorry they did!  What a God-send you got away!"

I understood and was thankful.

Monsieur Duguey put his candle into lantern, shouldered a broom, and
taking blanket, led the way towards the chateau.

Want of words to express our fears and distress sealed our lips as we
picked our way into a filthy, can-strewn, bottle-littered courtyard,
towards a wing of the chateau where I had chosen to sleep.

I hardly know what we plodded through the corridor.  My companion pushed
things, into heaps in one corner of the room, and when I saw him sweep
off a mattress and throw his blanket upon it, I realized that my bed was
made.

"You are not afraid, Madame?"

"No."

"Then _a demain_. I will come and help you.  I fear, however, that I
must leave you in darkness, for there are no matches in the village.  We
have to borrow light for our fires, and our stock of candles is nearly
gone.  They are only the butts the Germans left behind!"

Exhausted I fell asleep, to be awakened with a start towards dawn by the
clatter of horses' feet on the paved court beneath my window.

Cavalry?

I listened.

Yes, surely.  But what cavalry?  Ours?

Curiosity got the better of me, and I put my head out of the empty sash
to behold a most pathetic sight.  There in the pouring rain stood some
twenty shivering horses, once fine animals' but now wounded and broken.
The lamentable little group, left-behinds of the invaders, was headed by
my old gray donkey, who had gathered them together and was now leading
them towards warmth and shelter.  This sympathy among animals moved me
deeply, and I started down to see what I could do to alleviate their
suffering.

I am ashamed to say, however, that I never reached the stable, for the
sights of filth and horror that I met on the way so distracted me that I
pushed on through the whole house, anxious to see really how much damage
had been done.

I was still making my disheartening rounds when the others drove into
the yard, and the wails of lamentation rose long and loud from their
lips.

How can one describe it?  It seems almost impossible.  Too much has
already been said, too little is really known, so I shall content myself
with a few brief statements.

Above all I would have it understood that the chateau was first occupied
by General von Muck and his staff.  The names crayoned on the doors of
my bedrooms in big red letters bear testimony--as well as some soiled
under-linen and a _glassentuch_ marked v. K.--and numerous papers
stamped with the Imperial seal. These latter are all orders or reports
belonging to the third army corps, and were left behind in the
precipitation of the flight!

As I now am able to see the matter in a cooler frame of mind, I realize
that not only was efficiency carried out in warfare but in looting--for
it seems that everything we possessed was systematically classified as
good, bad or indifferent--the former and the latter being carefully
packed into huge army supply carts, which for five long days stood
backed up against our doorstep, leaving only when completely laden with
spoils.

Then what remained was thrown into corners and willfully soiled and
smeared in the most disgusting and nauseating manner.

A proof of the above-mentioned efficiency can be given in a description
of my husband's studio, where I found all the frames standing empty--the
canvases having been carefully cut from them with a razor, and rolled
for convenience' sake.

Useless to mention that tapestries, silver, jewels, blankets and
household, as well as personal linen, were considered trophies of war.
That to me is far more comprehensible than the fact that our chateau
being installed with all modern sanitary conveniences, these were
purposely ignored, and corridors and comers, satin window curtains and
even beds, were used for the most ignoble purposes.

Everywhere were sickening traces of sodden drunkenness.  On the table
beside each bed (most of them now bereft of their mattresses) stood
champagne bottles, and half emptied glasses.  The straw-strewn
drawing-room much resembled a cheap beer garden after a Saturday night's
riot, and the unfortunate upright piano was not only decked with empty
champagne bottles but also contained some two to three hundred pots of
jam poured down inside--glass and all, probably just for a joke. Oh,
_Kultur!_

I think that and the fact that most of my ducks and small animals had
been killed and left to lie and rot, were the things that most angered
me, and every time the guns boomed I prayed ardently for revenge!

And 'twas I, who believing in Teuton chivalry, had imagined my
love-letters, protected by my country's emblem, would be respected!  My
poor little rosewood desk had been mercilessly jabbed with bayonets, and
its contents strewn from one end of the village to the other.  As to the
Stars and Stripes, when we finally disgorged the pipes of certain
sanitary apparatus that one does not usually mention in polite society,
they were found there in a lamentable condition and carried to the
wash-house with a tongs.

What a destitute little village we were.  Mine was but the common lot,
for each one had lost in proportion to his fortune.  Yet there was no
lamenting.  There was work to be done, for the vintage season was coming
on and the vines in most places had been respected.  The German officers
had even announced the fact that our country was already annexed, and
that this was to be the champagne to commemorate the triumph of the
Fatherland!

My little servants took hold of their filthy job and worked unceasingly
though it was a thankless task--for soap and soda did not exist, and
food, save the vegetables and a little pork, was hard to get.

A week sped by, and then one afternoon a military auto drove up to the
door.  As I saw it enter the yard, I trembled lest it bring bad tidings
of H., but a kindly officer reassured me, by stating that though he
brought only word of mouth, my husband was still in the land of the
living.  He also announced that it was his duty to requisition my
property as a French emergency hospital and that he would be obliged if
I would put all the beds I owned at his disposal.  A doctor and some
_infirmiers_ would be sent immediately to put the place in working
order.  Would I help?  And did I know of anyone I would care to have
with me?

"You will be voluntary prisoners, you know, for this is the _zone de
operations_, and you will not be allowed to leave."

I bethought me of Madame Guix.  Was she still alive?

My friend said he would be glad to accompany me to Rebais, as that was
as near as any place for recruiting a nurse.

And so again I whisked across the Marne.  This time _en grande vitesse_,
and in little over an hour was greeted by the gentle superior who 'mid
the ruins of all the neighboring houses was quietly continuing her work
in the convent.

Yes. Madame Guix was there--a heroine, so I learned, loved and respected
by every soul who had been obliged to remain in that unfortunate town. I
found her ministering to twenty-six severely wounded men--French,
English and Germans--quite alone to do all the work, an eighty-year-old
doctor coming in but once every two days.

"I cannot leave them," said she, pointing to the soldiers, when I asked
her to ally forces in the reconstitution of my hospital.  "But just as
soon as they are able to be removed, I will come, I promise."

In the parlour below, the Sister Superior told me of the invasion, while
I waited the return of the military motor which was to bear me home.

"She is wonderful," said Soeur Laurent, referring to Madame Guix.
"Wonderful--afraid of nothing.  Once at the beginning of the invasion
she was put against the wall and a brute of a German aimed and pulled
the trigger of a gun he had found in a corner.  She had accidentally
covered it with a wounded man's great coat!  He accused her of hiding
arms!  Then in the thick of the battle, she went out into the German
lines and sought a doctor for our men--feeling herself incompetent. The
whole German medical staff came in and felicitated her on her courage
and devotion, before they left.  I tell you all this because she never
will!"

A couple of days later a doctor and the _infirmiers_ arrived, the latter
not picked men, since in ordinary life they are a tax collector, a super
at the Theatre de Belleville, an omnibus painter, a notary's clerk and a
barber!  But they are all "good fellows," ready to work with no choice
as to the "job."

Madame Guix duly made her appearance, and our hospital was declared
open.

From loans and requisitions we accumulated a hundred beds, and for
fifteen months now, by begging and strictest economy, we have managed to
keep alive and to care, as best we can and in our primitive way, for all
those of France's brave sons who come to us, sick or wounded.  With
God's help, we shall go on doing so until the day of our complete
victory.

The End





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