By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: With Those Who Wait
Author: Huard, Frances Wilson, 1885-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "With Those Who Wait" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

[Frontispiece: WITH THOSE WHO WAIT]








Copyright, 1918,

By George H. Doran Company

Printed in the United States of America




WITH THOSE WHO WAIT . . . . . . . . . _Frontispiece_













Once upon a time there wasn't any war.  In those days it was my custom
to drive over to Château-Thierry every Friday afternoon.  The horses,
needing no guidance, would always pull up at the same spot in front of
the station from which point of vantage, between a lilac bush and the
switch house, I would watch for the approaching express that was to
bring down our week-end guests.

A halt at the bridge head would permit our friends to obtain a
bird's-eye view of the city, while I purchased a measure of
fresh-caught, shiny-scaled river fish, only to be had of the old
boatman after the arrival of the Paris train.  Invariably there were
packages to be called for at Berjot's grocery store, or Dudrumet's dry
goods counter, and then H. having discovered the exact corner from
which Corot painted his delightful panorama of the city, a pilgrimage
to the spot almost always ensued.

A glance in passing at Jean de la Fontaine's house, a final stop at
"The Elephant" on the quay to get the evening papers, and then passing
through Essommes with its delightful old church, Bonneil and Romery,
our joyful party would reach Villiers just in time for dinner.

A certain mystery shrouded the locality where our home was situated.
Normandy, Brittany, the Châteaux of Touraine, the climate of the
Riviera, have, at various seasons been more attractive, not only to
foreigners, but to the Parisians themselves, so aside from the art
lovers who made special trips to Rheims, there was comparatively little
pleasure travelling in our immediate neighbourhood, and yet what
particular portion of France is more historically renowned?  Is it not
on those same fertile fields so newly consecrated with our blood that
every struggle for world supremacy has been fought?

It would be difficult to explain just why this neglect of the lovely
East; neglect which afforded us the privilege of guiding our friends,
not only along celebrated highways, but through leafy by-paths that
breathed the very poetry of the XVIIth. century, and stretched,
practically untrodden, through Lucy-le-Bocage, Montreuil-aux-Lions,
down to the Marne and La Ferté-sous-Jouarre.

It was wonderful rolling country that rippled back from the river;
abounding not only in vegetation, but in silvery green harmonies so
beloved of the Barbizon master, and sympathetic even by the names of
the tiny hamlets which dotted its vine-covered hills.

Our nearest dealer in agricultural machines lived in a place called
Gaudelu.  We called him "MacCormick" because of his absolute and
loquacious partiality for those American machines, and to reach his
establishment we used to pass through delightful places called le Grand
Cormont, Neuilly-la-Poterie, Villers-le-Vaste.

As I write these lines (July, 1918) the station at Château-Thierry is
all of that city that remains in our hands.  The bridge head has become
the most disputed spot on the map of Europe; "The Elephant" a heap of
waste in No Man's Land, while doubtless from the very place where Corot
painted his masterpiece, a German machine gun dominating the city is
belching forth its ghastly rain of steel.

That very country whose obscurity was our pride is an open hook for
thousands of eager allies and enemies, while on the lips of every wife
and mother, from Maine to California, Belleau Woods have become words
full of fearful portent.  I often wonder then, if the brave Americans
who are actually disputing inch by inch my home and its surroundings
have ever had time to think that a little village known as "Ecoute s'il
pleut," might find its English equivalent in "Hark-how-it-rains!"

Two touching accounts of the second descent upon our country have come
to my hands.  A little orphan peasant lad, under army age, who fled
with our caravan four years since, now pointer in the French
artillery--writes as follows from "Somewhere in France"--June 6, 1918:


Just a line to tell you I am alive and well; unfortunately I cannot say
as much for my grandparents, for you doubtless know what has again
befallen our country.  All the inhabitants have been evacuated.

I am absolutely without news of my grandparents.  I learned to-day
through a word from my brother Alfred that they had been obliged to
leave home and had fled in an unknown direction.  In spite of the
rumour of a new invasion they did not intend to leave Villiers.

My sister left the first, with some of the young girls of the village.
After twenty-four hours in Paris they were evacuated to a village in
the Yonne.

My brother was obliged to go the next day, and at the present time is
at Rozoy-en-Brie.  I believe we made a halt there in 1914 when we fled
as refugees.  After three days at Rozoy, Alfred could stand it no
longer, and with three companions they started home on bicycles, in
order to see what had happened.  They reached Villiers to find every
house empty, and were almost instantly expulsed by shells.  So now we
are all scattered to the four winds of heaven.  I am so sad when I
think of my poor grand-parents, obliged to leave home and to roll along
the high-roads at their age.  What misery!

I am afraid our village is going to suffer much more than it did in
1914.  That horde of scoundrels will spare nothing!  And when will it
all be over?

I hope that my letter will find you well and happy, and I beg you to
believe me gratefully and respectfully yours,

  Maréchal des Logis
  206e Artillerie--28e Batterie
  Secteur 122.

"With the Mayor, and thanks to a neighbour's car, I was able to get
away," writes Monsieur Aman Jean, the well-known painter, who had a
home in Château-Thierry.  "The situation was becoming unbearable and we
three were the last to leave our unfortunate city.  Behind us an army
engineer blew up the post and telegraph office, the military buildings,
the station, the store house, and finally the bridge.  Our eyes were
beginning to smart terribly, which announced the presence of mustard
gas, and told us we had left none too soon.

"I will never forget the sight and the commotion of the road leading
from Château-Thierry to Montmirail.  Interminable lines of army
transports on one side counterbalanced by the same number of fleeing
civilians going in the opposite direction.  Now and then a farm cart
would pull aside to let a heavy military truck get by, and one can
hardly imagine the state of a highway that is encumbered by a double
current of refugees and soldiers hastening towards the front.  The
painful note was made by the unfortunate civilians who had put on their
Sunday clothes, the only way they had of saving them.  As to the
picturesque, it was added by the multitude of little donkeys trotting
beneath the weight of the machine guns, and by the equipment of the
Italian troops.  There were bright splashes of colour here and there,
together with a heroic and lamentable animation.  It impressed me most
violently.  It was wonderfully beautiful and pathetically horrible.

"On one side old people, women and children formed a long straggling
cortège; while on the other--brilliant youth constituted a homogeneous
and solid mass, marching to battle with calm resolution.

"The populations of the East are astonishingly courageous and resigned.
That of Château-Thierry watched the evacuation of the Government
Offices, the banks, the prefecture and the post office without the
slightest alarm.  The retreat was well advanced ere they dreamed of it.
When finally the people realised that the enemy was at their very
gates, they moved out swiftly without any commotion."

The German onslaught at the Marne in 1914 had been terrible but brief.
The life of our entire region was practically suspended while the Hun
wreaked his vengeance, not only on our armies, but our innocent
civilians and their possessions.  Shot and shell, organised looting and
cruelty, were employed to cow the intrepid spirit of the French, but
without success.  When, finally their retreat came, hands were quick to
repair material damage, refugees swiftly returned, and even the
September rains joined in the effort to purify the fields which had
been so ruthlessly polluted.

With the Hun on the Aisne, and a victory to our credit, there wasn't
even a pause for breath.  A new life seemed to surge forth, and all
bent their energies towards effacing every trace of what had seemed
like a hideous nightmare.  Even the Eastern Railway, which had been
closed on account of the destruction of some seven or eight bridges
over the Marne, broke all records by repairing or replacing them in
eleven days' time.  And while this had no direct bearing upon our
situation, the moral effect of even _hearing_ the train-loads of men
and munitions passing through our region, was certainly surprising.

Little by little things began to assume their normal aspect.  Not that
they ever entirely regained it, for there was always the dull rumbling
of the cannon to remind us of bygone terrors, while the establishment
of several emergency hospitals in the vicinity lent an animation to the
highroads, formerly dotted with private cars, but now given over
entirely to ambulances and supply trucks.

As to the uniforms, they quickly became such accustomed sights that a
youthful civilian would have been the novelty.

Buoyed up by the success of our armies, every one expected an early
peace, and even the busiest of us began making projects for the fair
future.  In the odd moments of relief from my somewhat onerous hospital
duties, my only pleasure and distraction was to build castles in the
air, and in the eternal Winter lights I laid many a plan for a little
boudoir next my bedroom, which I had long desired to see realised.

When news of H.'s safety reached me, my imagination knew no limits.

The convalescent patients from all branches of trade, who at different
times had filled the rooms of the château, converted into wards, had
been very deft at repairing everything in the way of furniture that the
Germans had defaced or neglected to appropriate.  There were many
skilful carpenters and cabinet makers among them, and I saw visions of
employing them at their own trade, producing both occupation, which
they craved, and funds which they needed, but were too proud to accept
as gifts, and what a surprise that room would be for H.!

I even pushed my collector's mania so far as to pay a visit to an old
bourgeois who lived in a little city called La Ferté-Milon, quite a bit
north of us.  The walls of his salon were ornamented with some charming
eighteenth century paper representing the ports of France, and in
excellent condition.  I had long coveted it for my boudoir, and in days
before the war had often dickered with him as to price.  I now feared
lest it should have been destroyed or disfigured, and regretted having
wished to drive too keen a bargain, but on finding it intact, I am
ashamed to say the collector's instinct got the better of the woman,
and I used every conceivable argument to persuade him to come to my
price.  The old fellow was as obdurate as ever.

"But," I suggested, "don't you realise what a risk you are taking?
Suppose the Germans were to get back here again before you sell it?
You're much nearer the front than we!  You will not only lose your
money, but the world will be minus one more good thing, and we've lost
too many of those already."

The withering glance with which this remark was received was as good as
any discourse on patriotism.

"The Germans back here?  Never!  Why at the rate we're going now it
will be all over before Spring and you'll see what a price my paper
will fetch just as soon as peace comes!"

Peace!  Peace! the word was on every lip, the thought in every heart,
and yet every intelligence, every energy was bent on the prosecution of
the most hateful warfare ever known.  In all the universe it seemed to
me that the wild animals were the only creatures really exempt from
preoccupation about the fray.  It might be war for man and the friends
of man, but for them had come an unexpected reprieve, and even the more
wary soon felt their exemption from pursuit.  Man was so busy fighting
his own kind that a wonderful armistice had unconsciously arisen
between him and these creatures, and so birds and beasts, no longer
frightened by his proximity, were indulging in a perfect revel of

During the first weeks of the conflict, the "cotton-tails," always so
numerous on our estate, were simply terrified by the booming of the
guns.  If even the distant bombardment assumed any importance, they
would disappear below ground completely, for days at a time.  My old
foxhound was quite disconcerted.  But like all the rest of us they soon
became accustomed to it, and presently displayed a self assurance and a
familiarity undreamed of, save perhaps in the Garden of Eden.


It became a common sight to see a brood of partridges or pheasants
strutting along the roadside like any barnyard hen and chickens, and
one recalled with amazement the times when stretching themselves on
their claws they would timidly and fearfully crane their necks above
the grass at the sound of an approaching step.

At present they are not at all sure that man was their worst enemy.
The Government having decreed that there shall be no game shooting in
the army zone, weazels, pole cats and even fox have become very
numerous, and covey of quail that once numbered ten and fifteen, have
singularly diminished by this incursion of wild animals, not to mention
the hawks, the buzzards and the squirrels.

One Autumn morning I appeared at our gateway just in time to see a
neighbour's wife homeward bound, the corpses of four white hens that
_Maître Renard_ had borrowed from their coop, dangling from her arm.
Her husband heard her coming, and on learning the motive of her wails,
the imprecations brought down on the head of that fox were
picturesquely profane to say the least.  Presently the scene grew in
violence, and then finally terminated with the assertion that the whole
tragedy was the result of the Kaiser's having thrown open the German
prisons and turned loose his vampires on France.

Be that as it may, there was certainly no more enchanting way of
obtaining mental and physical relaxation than in wandering through
those wonderful woodlands that abound in our vicinity, and which
breathed so many inspirations to the Master of Fable, who at one time
was their keeper.  How I wish that good La Fontaine might have seen his
dumb friends under present circumstances.  What fantasies would he not
have woven about them.

Season and the temperature were of little importance.  There was never
a promenade without an incident--never an incident, no matter how
insignificant, that did not remind me of the peculiar phase under which
every living creature was existing.

Once in the very early Spring, taking my faithful Boston bull, we stole
away for a constitutional.  Suddenly my little companion darted up
close to the hedgerow, and on hurrying to the scene to find out the
cause of this departure from her usual dignified demeanour, I found her
standing face to face with a hare!  Both animals, while startled, were
rooted to the spot, gazing at each other in sheer fascination of their
own fearlessness.  It was so amazingly odd that I laughed aloud.  But
even this did not break the spell.  It lasted so long that presently
even I became a little puzzled.  Finally it was the hare who settled
the question by calmly moving away, without the slightest sign of
haste, leaving my bull dog in the most comical state of concern that I
have ever seen.

It was about this time that _Fil-de-Ver_, our donkey, decided to
abandon civilised life in favour of a more roaming career in the woods,
which he doubtless felt was his only true vocation.  He had fared ill
at the hands of the Germans, and during the entire Winter our own boys
had used him regularly to haul dead wood.  This kind of _kultur_ he
resented distinctly, and resolved to show his disgust by becoming more

First he tried it out for a day or two at a time.  Then he was gone a
week, and finally he disappeared altogether.

Being of sociable disposition he joined a little herd of deer which was
the pride and joy of our woods, and one afternoon I came upon this
motley company down by a little lick we had arranged on the brink of a
tiny river that crosses our estate.

As I approached they all lifted their heads.  A baby fawn, frightened,
scurried into the underbrush.  But the others let me come quite close,
and then gently, as though to display their nimbleness and grace,
bounded away mid the tender green foliage, gold splashed here and there
by the fast sinking sun.  _Fil-de-Fer_ stood a moment undecided.
Presently, lifting his hind legs high into the air he gave vent to a
series of kickings and contortions which might have been taken for a
comical imitation, while a second later as though realising how
ridiculous he had been, he fell to braying with despair, and breaking
into a gallop fled in the direction of his new found friends.

Simultaneous with _Fil-de-Fer's_ disappearance came the rumour that the
_Loup-garou_ was abroad and was sowing panic in its wake.  Just what
kind of animal the _Loup-garou_ might be, was somewhat difficult to
ascertain.  No one in our vicinity had ever seen him, and from all I
could gather he seemed to be a strange sort of apocalyptic beast,
gifted with horns, extraordinary force, and the especial enemy of

There was something almost uncanny in the way the peasants would look
at one and lower their voices when speaking of this weird phenomenon,
and presently from having suspected my innocent donkey, I began to
wonder if I were not in the presence of some local popular superstition.

The rumour was still persistent, when one evening at dark there was an
urgent call from Headquarters asking that we send down for four or five
patients that were destined for our hospital.  I do not now recall for
just what reason I went alone, save for a twelve-year-old village lad,
but what I do remember was the respectful moral lecture that I received
from an old peasant woman who met our cart on the high-road just before
we turned off into the Bois du Loup.

Night, black and starless, was upon us before we had penetrated half a
mile into the woods.  My youthful companion began to sing martial airs,
and stimulated his courage by beating time with his feet on the bottom
of the cart.  A chill Autumn rain commenced to fall, tinkling against
the rare leaves that now remained on the trees, blinding both horse and
driver, and greatly impeding our progress.  Presently I noticed that
our lantern had gone out, and fearing lest we be borne down upon by
some swift moving army truck, I produced a pocket lamp and descended
from my seat.

A handful of damp matches, much time and good humour were consumed ere
I succeeded in getting a light, and just as I swung the lantern back
into place, the air was pierced by a high-pitched, blood-curdling

_Le Loup_ . . . !

At the same moment there was a sharp crackling on the opposite side of
the road, and an instant later a wild boar, followed by her young,
brushed past me and darted into the obscurity.

My companion was livid.  His teeth chattered audibly.  He tried to pull
himself together and murmured incoherent syllables.  Personally, I was
a bit unnerved, yet somewhat reassured.  If my eyes had not deceived
me, the mystery of the _Loup-garou_ was now solved.  And yet I felt
quite sure that wild boar were unknown in our region.

At Château-Thierry I made enquiries and from soldiers and foresters
learned that heretofore inhabitants of the Ardennes forest, these
animals had been driven South when man had chosen to make the firing
line of their haunts; and that, prolific breeders, they were now
practically a menace to the unarmed civilian.  From these same lovers
of nature I gathered that for the first time in their recollection
sea-gulls and curlews had likewise been seen on the banks of the Marne.

While the country now abounds in newcomers, many of the old familiar
birds and animals are rapidly disappearing.

Larks are rare visitors these days, and the thrush which used to hover
over our vineyards in real flocks, have almost entirely vanished.  The
swallows, however, are our faithful friends and have never failed to
return to us.

Each succeeding Spring their old haunts are in a more or less
dilapidated condition according to the number of successful visits the
German aviators have chosen to pay us during the Winter, and I fancy
that this upsets them a trifle.  For hundreds of generations they have
been accustomed to nest in the pinions of certain roofs, to locate in a
determined chimney, and it is a most amusing sight to see them cluster
about a ruined spot and discuss the matter in strident chirpings.

Last season, after a family consultation, which lasted well nigh all
the morning, and during which they made repeated visits of inspection
to a certain favourite drain pipe, I suddenly saw them all lift wing
and sail away towards the North.  My heart sank.  Something near and
dear seemed to be slipping from me, and one has said _au revoir_ so oft
in vain.  So they too were going to abandon me!

In one accustomed to daily coping with big human problems, such emotion
may seem trivial, but it was perhaps this constant forced endurance
that kept one up, made one almost supersensitively sentimental.  Little
things grew to count tremendously.

At lunch time I sauntered forth quite sad at heart, when an unexpected
familiar twittering greeted my ear, and I turned northward to see my
little friends circling about the stables.  Life closer to the front
had evidently not offered any particular advantages, and in a few days'
time their constant comings and goings from certain specific points
told me that they had come back to stay.

But if friend swallow may be praised for his fidelity, unfortunately
not so much can be said for another familiar passerby--the wild duck.
October had always seen them flocking southward, and some one of our
household had invariably heard their familiar call, as at daybreak they
would pass over the château on their way from the swamps of the Somme
to the Marais de St. Gond.  The moment was almost a solemn one.  It
seemed to mark an epoch in the tide of our year.  Claude, Benôit,
George and a decrepit gardener would abandon all work and prepare
boats, guns and covers on the Marne.

Oh, the wonderful still hours just before dawn!  Ah, that
indescribable, intense, yet harmonious silence that preceded the
arrival of our prey!

Alas, all is but memory now.  Claude has fallen before Verdun, Benôit
was killed on the Oise, and George has long since been reported missing.

Alone, unarmed, the old gardener and I again awaited the cry of our
feathered friends, but our waiting, like that of so many others, was in
vain.  The wild ducks are a thing of the past.  Where have they gone?
No one knows, no one has ever seen them.  And in the tense hush of the
Autumn nights, above the distant rumble of the cannon rose only the
plaintive cry of stray dogs baying at the moon.

Dogs, _mon Dieu_, I wonder how many of those poor, forgotten, abandoned
creatures having strayed into our barnyard were successively washed,
combed, fed, cared for and adopted.

Some of them, haunted by the spirit of unrest, remained with us but a
moment; others tried us for a day, a week, and still others,
appreciative of our pains, refused to leave at all.

Oh, the heart rending, lonesome, appealing look in the eyes of a poor
brute that has lost home and master!

It is thus that I came into possession of an ill tempered French poodle
called _Crapouillot_, which the patients in our hospital insisted on
clipping like a lion with an anklet, a curl over his nose and a puff at
the end of his tail.  A most detestable, unfortunate beast, always to
be found where not needed, a ribbon in his hair, and despicably bad

He was succeeded by a Belgian sheep dog, baptised _Namur_, who in time
gave place to one of the most hopelessly ugly mongrels I have ever
seen.  But the new comer was so full of life and good will, had such a
comical way of smiling and showing his gleaming white teeth, that in
memory of the joy caused by the Charlie Chaplin films, he was
unanimously dubbed _Charlot_.

The mere sound of his name would plunge him into ecstasies of joy,
accompanied by the wildest yapping and strange capers, which invariably
terminated by a double somersault in the mud so anxious was he to
convince us of his gratitude.  Imagine then what might be obtained by a
caress, or a bowl of hot soup.

Last in line, but by no means least, was a splendid English pointer, a
superb, finely bred animal, who day in, day out would lie by the open
fire, lost in a profound revery that terminated in a kind of sob.
Poor, melancholy _Mireille_, what master was she mourning?  For what
home did she thus pine?  How I respected and appreciated her sadness.
How intensely human she became.

Finally when I could resist no longer I would take her long delicate
head into my hands and gently stroke it, seeking to impart my sympathy.
"I know that you never can be mine," I would murmur, "that you will
ever and eternally belong to him to whom you gave yourself once and
entirely.  But these are sad anxious days for us all; we must bear
together.  And so as my own dogs have often been my only consolation in
like times of misery and despair, oh, how I would love to comfort
you--beautiful, faithful, disconsolate Mireille!"


Cities, like people, seem to have souls, deep hidden and rarely ever
entirely revealed.  How well must one come to know them, stone by
stone, highways, homes and habitants, ere they will disclose their
secret.  I have rejoiced too often in the splendid serenity of St. Jean
des Vignes, felt too deeply the charm of those ancient streets, hoped
and suffered too intensely within its confines that Soissons should not
mean more to me than to the average zealous newspaper correspondent,
come there but to make note of its wounds, to describe its ruins.

Fair Soissons, what is now your fate?  In what state shall we find you?
What ultimate destiny is reserved for your cathedral, your stately
mansions, your magnificent gardens?  What has become of those fifteen
or sixteen hundred brave souls who loved you so well that they refused
to leave you?  _Qui sait_?

One arrived at Soissons in war time by long avenues, shaded on either
side by a double row of stately elms, whose centenary branches
stretching upward formed an archway overhead.  Then came the last
outpost of Army Police, a sentinel stopped you, minutely examined your
passports, verified their visés, and finally, all formalities
terminated, one entered what might have been the City of Death.

Moss and weeds had sprung up between the cobble stone pavings; as far
as eye could see not a human soul was astir, not a familiar noise was
to be heard, not a breath of smoke stole heavenwards from those
hundreds of idle chimneys: and yet life, tenacious ardent life was
wonderfully evident here and there.  A curtain lifted as one passed, a
cat on the wall, a low distant whistle, clothes drying at a window, a
flowering plant on a balcony, sometimes a door ajar, through which one
guessed a store in whose dimly lighted depths shadows seemed to be
moving about; all these bore witness to an eager, undaunted existence,
hidden for the time being perhaps, but intense and victorious, ready to
spring forward and struggle anew in admirable battles of energy and

The Hotel du Soleil d'Or offered a most hospitable welcome.  It was the
only one open or rather, if one would be exact, the only one still
extant.  To be sure there were no panes in the windows, and ungainly
holes were visible in almost all the ceilings, but the curtains were
spotlessly white and the bed linen smelled sweet from having been dried
in the open air.

A most appreciable surprise was the excellent _cuisine_, and as
ornament to the dining-room table, between a pair of tall preserve
dishes, and on either side of the central bouquet, stood an unexploded
German shell.  One of them had fallen on to the proprietor's bed, the
second landing in the pantry, while twenty or thirty others had worked
more efficiently, as could be attested by the ruins of the carriage
house, stables, and what had once been a glass covered Winter garden.

On a door leading out of the office, and curiously enough left intact,
one might read, _Salon de conversation_.  If you were to attempt to
cross the threshold, however, your eye would be instantly greeted by a
most abominable heap of plaster and wreckage, and the jovial proprietor
seeing your embarrassment, would explain:

"My wife and the servants are all for cleaning up, but to my mind it's
better to leave things just as they are.  Besides if we put all to
rights now, when our patrons return they will never credit half we tell
them.  Seeing is believing!  At any rate, it's an out of the way place,
and isn't bothering people for the time being."

And truly enough this mania for repairing and reconstructing, this
instinct of the active ant that immediately commences to rebuild its
hill, obliterated by some careless foot, has become as characteristic
of the French.

The Sisters of St. Thomas de Villeneuve, who were in charge of an
immense hospital, had two old masons who might be seen at all times,
trowel in hand, patching up the slightest damage to their buildings;
the local manager of a Dufayel store had become almost a fanatic on the
subject.  His stock in trade consisted of furniture, china and crockery
of all kinds, housed beneath a glass roof, which seemed to attract the
Boches' special attention, for during the four years of war just past,
I believe that scarcely a week elapsed during which he was not directly
or indirectly the victim of their fire.

The effects were most disastrous, but aided by his wife and an elderly
man who had remained in their employ, he would patiently recommence
scrubbing, sweeping and cleaning, carefully reinstating each object or
fragment thereof, in or as near as possible to its accustomed place.

It was nothing less than miraculous to survey those long lines of
wardrobes that seemed to hold together by the grace of the Almighty
alone; gaze upon whole rows of tables no one of which had the requisite
number of legs; behold mere skeletons of chairs, whose seats or backs
were missing; sofas where gaping wounds displayed the springs; huge
piles of plates each one more nicked or cracked than its predecessor;
series of flower pots which fell to pieces in one's hands if one were
indiscreet enough to touch them.

"I don't see the point in straightening things out so often"--was my
casual comment.

"Why, Madame, what on earth would we do about the inventory when peace
comes, if we were not to put a little order into our stock?" was the
immediate reply.

I was sorry I had spoken.

Among the other numerous places of interest was the store of a dealer
in haberdashery and draperies.  An honest, well equipped old fashioned
French concern, whose long oak counters were well polished from
constant use.  The shelves were piled high with piece after piece of
wonderful material, but not a single one of them had been exempt from
the murderous rain of steel; they were pierced, and pierced, and
pierced again.

"So pierced that there is not a length sufficient to make even a cap!"
explained Madame L., "but you just can't live in disorder all the time,
and customers wouldn't like to see an empty store.  Everything we have
to sell is in the cellar!"

And true enough this subterranean existence had long ceased to be a
novelty, and had become almost a habit.

From the basement windows of every inhabited dwelling protruded a stove
pipe, and the lower regions had gradually come to be furnished almost
as comfortably as the upper rooms in normal days.  Little by little the
kitchen chair and the candle had given way to a sofa and a hanging
lamp; beds were set up and rugs put in convenient places.

"We live so close to the trenches that by comparison it seems like a
real paradise to us," gently explained Madame Daumont, the pork
butcher.  Her _charcuterie_ renowned far and wide for its hot meat
patès, ready just at noon, had been under constant fire ever since the
invasion, but had never yet failed to produce its customary ovenful at
the appointed hour.

"At the time of the battle of Crouy," she confessed, "I was just on the
point of shutting up shop and leaving.  I'm afraid I was a bit hasty,
but three shells had hit the house in less than two hours, and my old
mother was getting nervous.  The dough for my patés was all ready, but
I hesitated.  Noon came, and with it my clientèle of Officers.

"'_Eh bien, nos patés_?  What does this mean!'

"'No, gentlemen, I'm sorry, but I cannot make up my mind to bear it
another day.  I'm leaving in a few moments.'

"'What?  Leaving?  And we who are going out to meet death have got to
face it on empty stomachs?'

"They were right.  In a second I thought of my own husband out there in
Lorraine.  So I said to them 'Come back at four o'clock and they'll be

And then gently, and as though to excuse herself, she added--

"There are moments though when fear makes you lose your head, but there
doesn't seem to be anything you can't get used to."

"You soon get used to it" was the identical expression of a young
farmer's aid who sold fruit, vegetables and flowers beneath an archway
that had once been the entrance to the Hotel de la Clef.  She had
attracted my attention almost immediately, the brilliant colours of her
display, and her pink and white complexion, standing out so fresh and
clear against the background of powder-stained stones and chalky ruin

The next day, after an extra heavy nocturnal bombardment, we went out
in search of a melon.  A shell had shattered her impromptu showcase,
dislocated a wall on one side of the archway, which menaced immediate
collapse.  In fact, the place had become untenable.

"Oh, it's such a nuisance to have to look for another sure spot," was
the only lament.  "Just see, there's a whole basket of artichokes gone
to waste--and my roses--what a pity!"

An explosion had gutted the adjacent building leaving an immense breach
opening on to the street from what had once been an office or perhaps a

"Just wait a moment," she pleaded, "until I get set up inside there.
You can't half see what I've got out here."

Five minutes later I returned and explained the object of my quest.

"We've only got a very few, Madame, our garden is right in their range,
and we had a whole melon patch destroyed by splinters, only day before
yesterday.  I had three this morning, but I sold them all to the
gentleman of the artillery, and I've promised to-morrow's to the
Brigade Officers.  I hardly think I shall be able to dispose of any
more before the end of the week.  But why don't you go and see 'Père
François'?  He might have some."

"You mean old Père François who keeps the public gardens?"

"Yes, Madame."

"Oh, I know him very well.  I've often exchanged seeds and slips with
him.  Does he still live where he used to?"

"I believe so."

We were not long seeking him out, and in response to our knocking his
good wife opened the door.

"Oh, he's out in his garden," was her reply to our queries.  "You can't
keep him away from it.  But he's going crazy, I think.  He wants to
attend to everything all by himself now.  There isn't a soul left to
help him, and he'll kill himself, or be killed at it as sure as I'm
alive.  You'll see, the shells won't miss him.  He's escaped so far but
he may not always be so lucky.  He's already had a steel splinter in
his thumb, and one of them tore a hole in his cap and in his waistcoat.
That's close enough, I should think.  But there's no use of my talking;
he just won't listen to me.  He's mad about gardening.  That's what he

On the old woman's assurance that we would find him by pounding hard on
the gateway leading to the Avenue de la Gare, we hastened away, leaving
her to babble her imprecations to a lazy tabby cat who lay sunning
itself in a low window box.

The old fellow being a trifle deaf we were destined to beat a rather
lengthy tattoo on the high iron gate.  But our efforts were crowned
with success, for presently we heard his steps approaching, his sabots
crunching on the gravel path.

His face lighted up when he saw us.

"Oh, I remember you, of course I do.  You're the lady who used to have
the American sweet peas and the Dorothy Perkins.  I know you!  And the
dahlias I gave you?  How did they turn out?"

I grew red and sought to change the conversation.  Perhaps he saw and

"Come and see mine anyway!"

That sight alone would have made the trip worth while.

"I cut the grass this very morning so as they'd show off better!
They're so splendid this year that I've put some in the garden at the
Hotel de Ville."

Further on the _Gloire de Dijon, La France_ and _Maréchal Niels_ spread
forth all their magnificent odorous glory onto the balmy air of this
Isle de France country, whose skies are of such exquisite delicate
blue, whose very atmosphere breathes refinement.

I felt my old passion rising;--that passion which in times gone by had
drawn us from our sleep at dawn, and scissors and pruning knife in
hand, how many happy hours had H. and I thus spent; he at his fruit
trees, I at my flower beds, cutting, trimming, scraping, clipping;
inwardly conscious of other duties neglected, but held as though
fascinated by the most alluring infatuation in the world--the love of
nature.  Here now in this delightful garden kept up by the superhuman
efforts of a faithful old man, the flame kindled anew.

In an instant H. had discovered the espaliers where _Doyenné du
Cornice_ and _Passe Cressane_ were slowly but surely attaining the
required degree of perfection beneath Père François' attentive care.
As I stood open mouthed in wonder before the largest bush of fuchsias I
had ever yet beheld, an explosion rent the air, quickly followed by a
second, the latter much closer to us.

"Boche bombs!  Come quick," said Père François without seeming in the
least ruffled.

Led by the old man we hastened to a tiny grotto, in whose depths we
could hear a fountain bubbling.  Legion must have been the loving
couples that have visited this spot in times gone by, for their vows of
fidelity were graven in endearing terms on the stony sides of the
retreat.  _Léon et Marguerite pour toujours, Alice et Théodore, Georges
et Germaine_ were scrawled above innumerable arrow-pierced hearts.

"All things considered, I'd rather they'd send us over a shell or two
than bomb us from above!" ejaculated Père François, who spoke from

"It was one of those hateful things that hit my Japanese pepper tree on
the main lawn, and killed our only cedar.  The handsomest specimen we
had here!  It makes me sick every time I throw a log of it on to the
fire in the Winter.  I can't tell you how queer it makes me feel.  Of
course, it's bad enough for them to kill men who are their enemies, but
think of killing trees that it takes hundreds of years to grow.  What
good can that do them?"

The Boche deemed at a safe distance, we visited the vegetable garden
where we purchased our melon and were presented with any number of
little packets containing seeds.  We protested at the old man's
generosity and sought to remunerate him.

"Nothing of the kind; I wouldn't think of accepting it.  It's my
pleasure.  Why it's been ages since I had such a talk as this.  I'm so
glad you came.  So glad for my roses too!" and he started to cut a
splendid bouquet.

"I've been saying to myself every day," he continued, "Isn't it a pity
that nobody should see them?  But now I feel satisfied."

At the gateway we held out our hands which he took and shook most
heartily, renewing his protestations of delight at our visit, and
begging us to "Come again soon."

"To be happy one must cultivate his garden," murmured H., quoting
Voltaire as we made off down the road.  And within a day or two we
again had an excellent proof of this axiom when we discovered that Abbé
L. still resided in his little home whose garden extended far into the
shadow of St. Jean des Vignes.

That worthy ecclesiastic gave over every moment that was not employed
in the exercise of his sacred functions to the joys of archaeological
research, and was carefully compiling a history of the churches in the
arrondissement of Soissons and Château-Thierry.  He had been our guest
at Villiers, and I remember having made for him an imprint of two
splendid low-relief tombstones which date back to the 15th century, and
were the sole object and ornament of historic interest in our little
village chapel.

This history was the joy and sole distraction of his entire existence,
and he never ceased collecting documents and photographs, books, plans
and maps, all of which though carefully catalogued, threatened one day
to take such proportions that his modest dwelling would no longer
suffice to hold them.

We found him comfortably installed behind a much littered kitchen table
in a room that I had heretofore known as his dining room.  I was a bit
struck by its disorder, and the good man was obliged to remove several
piles of papers from the chairs before inviting us to be seated.

"I trust you will forgive this confusion," he begged, "but you see a
shell hit my study yesterday noon, and has forced me to take refuge in
this corner of the house which is certainly far safer."

"I've had an excellent occasion to work," he continued.  "Our duties
are very slight these days, and the extreme quiet in which we live is
most propitious for pursuing the task I have undertaken."

"But, Monsieur l'Abbé," we cried.  "What a paradox!  And the

"Really, you know, I've hardly suffered from it--except when that shell
struck the house the other morning.  Of course, the whole edifice
shook, and at one time I thought the roof was coming through upon my
head.  My ink bottle was upset and great streams trickled to the floor.
But Divine intervention saved my precious manuscript which I was in the
very act of copying, and although my notes and files were a bit
disarranged, they were easily sorted and set to rights.  So you see
there was nothing really to deplore and God has graciously seen fit to
let me continue my work.  It is such a joy to be able to do so."

Strange placidity! the immediate countryside for miles around having
long since been delivered up to brutal destruction, wanton waste,
hideous massacre, and a goodly number of the churches of which the
pious man was taking so much pains to record the history, were now but
anonymous heaps of stone.

All the way home I could not refrain from philosophising on the
happiness of life, perfect contentment, and the love of good.  My
reflections, while perhaps not particularly deep nor brilliant, were
none the less imbued with a sense of gratitude to the Almighty, and
filled with pity and respect for poor human nature.

It is certain that for such people, the idea of escaping the terrors,
the dangers and the sight of most horrible spectacles, had not weighed
an instant in the balance against the repugnance of altering life-long
habits, or abandoning an assemblage of dearly beloved landscapes and

Naturally enough, a certain number of commercial minded had remained
behind, tempted by the possibility of abnormal gain through catering to
the soldier; and to whatever had been their habitual merchandise, was
soon added a stock of mandolins, accordions, cheap jewelry, kit bags,
fatigue caps and calico handkerchiefs--in fact all that indispensable,
gaudy trumpery that serves to attract a clientèle uniquely composed of

But, besides these merchants, there were still to be counted a certain
number of well-to-do citizens, professors, government employés, priests
and magistrates, all simple honest souls who had stayed because they
were unable to resign themselves to an indefinite residence away from
Soissons, and there was no sacrifice to which they were not resolved in
advance, so long as it procured them the joy of remaining.

I accompanied the President of the local French Red Cross Chapter on a
visit to a lady who was much interested in an _ouvroir_, and who lived
in a splendid old mansion located near the ruins of the Palais de

The little bell tinkled several times, resounding clearly in the
deathlike silence, and presently a young maid-servant made her
appearance at a small door that opened in the heavy portico.

"Is Madame at home?"

"Oh, no, Madame!  Why didn't Madame know that both Monsieur and Madame
left for the seashore last evening?  Shall I give Madame their address
at Houlgate?  They've been going there for the last twenty years.  They
will be back the first of September as usual."

"How stupid of me," exclaimed my companion.  "I might have known
though.  We shall discover what we wish to know from Madame V."

We found the last mentioned lady and her daughter in a pretty dwelling
on the boulevard Jeanne d'Arc.  After presentations and greetings:

"You are not leaving town this Summer?"

"Not this season; unfortunately our country house is at present
occupied by the Germans, and as the mountains are forbidden, and the
sea air excites me so that I become quite ill, I fear we shall have to
remain at home, for the time being at least.  The garden is really
delightfully cool though--we sit out there and sew all day."

I asked permission to admire the exquisite embroidered initials which
both mother and daughter were working.

"I'm so glad you like them.  Do you know we found that monogram on an
old 18th century handkerchief?  We merely enlarged it, and really feel
that we have something quite unusual.  But my table cloths are well
worth it, they were the very last that were left at the Cour Batave.  I
doubt if any finer quality will ever be woven."

"Your daughter will have a wonderful trousseau."

"She will have something durable at least, Madame, a trousseau that
will stand the test of time and washing," replied the good mother
smiling blandly, touched by my appreciation.

"I still have sheets which came down to me from my great grand-mother,
and I hope that my own great grand-sons will some day eat from this
very cloth."

"But they will never guess under what strange circumstances it was
hemmed and embroidered," gently proffered the young girl raising her
big blue eyes and smiling sweetly.

"Bah, what difference does that make so long as they are happy and can
live in peace?  That's the principal thing, the one for which we're all
working, isn't it?"

Such is the spirit that pervades all France.  It is simple,
undemonstrative heroism, the ardent desire of a race to last in spite
of all.  What more imperturbable confidence in its immortality could be
manifested than by this mother and daughter calmly discussing the
durability of their family linen, within actual range of Teuton gunfire
that might annihilate them at any moment?

As we were about to leave Monsieur S. came up the front steps.  He had
been out in company of a friend, making his habitual daily tour of the
city.  Like most middle aged, well-to-do bourgeois his attire was
composed of a pair of light trousers, slightly baggy at the knee, and a
bit flappy about the leg; a black cutaway jacket and a white piqué
waistcoat.  This classic costume usually comports a panama hat and an
umbrella.  Now Monsieur S. had the umbrella, but in place of the panama
he had seen fit to substitute a blue steel soldier's helmet, which
amazing military headgear made a strange combination with the remainder
of his civilian apparel.  Nevertheless he bowed to us very skilfully,
and at that moment I caught sight of a leather strap, which slung over
one shoulder, hung down to his waist and carried his gas mask.


For several days I laboured under the impression that this mode was
quite unique, but was soon proved mistaken, for on going to the Post
Office to get my mail (three carriers having been killed, there were no
longer any deliveries) I discovered that it was little short of
general.  Several ladies had even dared risk the helmet, and the whole
assembly took on a war like aspect that was quite apropos.

Thus adorned, the octogenarian Abbé de Villeneuve, his umbrella swung
across his back, his cassock tucked up so as to permit him to ride a
bicycle, was a sight that I shall never forget.

"Why, Monsieur le Curé, you've quite the air of a sportsman."

"My child, let me explain.  You see I can no longer trust to my legs,
they're too old and too rheumatic.  Well then, when a bombardment sets
in how on earth could I get home quickly without my bicycle?"

As visitors to the front, we were guests of the French Red Cross
Society while in Soissons.  The local president, whose deeds of heroism
have astonished the world at large, is an old-time personal friend.

A luncheon in our honour was served on a spotless cloth, in the only
room of that lady's residence which several hundred days of constant
bombardment had still left intact.  Yet, save for the fact that paper
had replaced the window panes, nothing betrayed the proximity of the
German.  Through the open, vine grown casement, I could look out onto a
cleanly swept little court whose centre piece of geraniums was a
perfect riot of colour.

Around the congenial board were gathered our hostess, the old Curé de
St. Vast, the General in command of the Brigade, his Colonel, three
Aides-de-Camp, my husband and myself.

Naturally, the topic of conversation was the war, but strange as it may
seem, it was we, the civilians, that were telling our friends of the
different activities that were afoot and would eventually bring the
United States to the side of the Allies.

Towards the middle of the repast our enemies began sending over a few
shells and presently a serious bombardment was under way.  Yet no one

Dishes were passed and removed, and though oft times I personally felt
that the pattering of shrapnel on the tin roof opposite was
uncomfortably close, I was convinced there was no theatrical display of
bravery, no cheap heroism in our companions' unconsciousness.  They
were interested in what was being said--_voilà tout_.

Presently, however, our hostess leaned towards me and I fancied she was
about to suggest a trip cellarward, instead of which she whispered that
on account of the bombardment we were likely to go without dessert
since it had to come from the other side of town and had not yet

Then a shell burst quite close, and at the same time the street bell
rang.  The _cordon_ was pulled, and through the aperture made by the
backward swing of the great door, I caught sight of a ruddy cheeked,
fair haired maiden in her early teens, bearing a huge bowl of fresh
cream cheese in her outstretched hands.

Steadily she crossed the court, approached the window where she halted,
smiled bashfully, set down her precious burden, and timidly addressing
our hostess:

"I'm sorry, Madame," said she, "so sorry if I have made you wait."

And so it goes.

I remember a druggist who on greeting me exclaimed:

"A pretty life, is it not, for a man who has liver trouble?"  And yet
he remained simply because it was a druggist's duty to do so when all
the others are mobilised.

There was also the printer of a local daily, who continued to set up
his type with one side of his shop blown out; who went right on
publishing when the roof caved in, and who actually never ceased doing
so until the whole structure collapsed, and a falling wall had
demolished his only remaining press.

Monsieur le Préfet held counsel and deliberated in a room against whose
outside wall one could hear the constant patter of machine gun bullets
raining thick from the opposite bank of the river.  Monsieur Muzart,
the Mayor, seemed to be everywhere at once, and was always the first on
the spot when anything really serious occurred.

Add to these the little dairy maids, who each morning fearlessly
delivered the city's milk; or the old fellow on whom had devolved the
entire responsibility of the street-cleaning department and who went
about, helmet clad, attending to his chores, now and then shouting a
hearty "_Whoa Bijou_" to a faithful quadruped who patiently dragged his
dump cart, and over whose left ear during the entire Summer, was tied a
bunch of tri-colour field flowers.

I had almost forgotten to mention two extraordinary old women, whom I
came upon seated out in a deserted street, making over a mattress,
while gently discussing their private affairs.  It was the end of a
warm July afternoon.  A refreshing coolness had begun to rise from the
adjacent river, and in the declining sunlight I could see great swarms
of honey bees hovering about a climbing rose bush whose fragrant
blossoms hung in huge clusters over the top of a convent wall near by.
I could not resist the temptation.  Pressed by the desire to possess I
stepped forward and was about to reach upward when a masculine voice,
whose owner was hidden somewhere near my elbow called forth:

"Back, I say!  Back! you're in sight!"

I quickly dived into the shadow for cover just in time to hear the
bullets from a German machine gun whizz past my ear!

"You can trust them to see everything," murmured one of the old women,
not otherwise disturbed.  "But if you really want some roses just go
around the block and in by the back gate, Madame."

How in the presence of such calm can we believe in war?

Ah, France! elsewhere perhaps there may be just as brave--but surely
none more sweetly!


The little village was just behind the lines.  The long stretch of
roadway, that following the Aisne finally passed through its main
street, had been so thoroughly swept by German fire that it was as
though pockmarked by ruts and shell holes, always half full of muddy

A sign to the left said--

    _Chemin, défilé de V._--

There could be no choice; there was but to follow the direction
indicated, branch out onto a new highway which, over a distance of two
or three miles, wound in and out with many strategic contortions; a
truly military route whose topography was the most curious thing
imaginable.  If by accident there happened to be a house in its way it
didn't take the trouble to go _around_, but _through_ the edifice.

One arrived thus in the very midst of the village, having involuntarily
traversed not only the notary's flower garden, but also his
drawing-room, if one were to judge by the quality of the now much faded
wall paper, and the empty spots where portraits used to hang.

The township had served as target to the German guns for many a long
month, and was seriously _amoché_, as the saying goes.  "Coal scuttles"
by the hundred had ripped the tiles from almost every roof.  Huge
breaches gaped in other buildings, while some of them were completely
levelled to the ground.  Yet, in spite of all, moss, weeds and vines
had sprung up mid the ruins, adding, if possible, the picturesque to
this scene of desolation.  One robust morning glory I noted had climbed
along a wall right into the soot of a tumble-down chimney, and its
fairylike blossoms lovingly entwined the iron bars whereon had hung and
been smoked many a succulent ham.

The territorials (men belonging to the older army classes), had
installed their mess kitchens in every convenient corner: some in the
open court-yards and others beneath rickety stables and sheds, where
the sunlight piercing the gloom caught the dust in its rays and made it
seem like streams of golden powder, whose brightness enveloped even the
most sordid nooks and spread cheer throughout the dingy atmosphere.

Fatigue squads moved up and down the road, seeking or returning with
supplies, while those who were on duty, pick and shovel in hand, moved
off to their work in a casual, leisurely manner one would hardly term

Of civilians there remained but few.  Yet civilians there were, and of
the most determined nature: "hangers-on" who when met in this vicinity
seemed almost like last specimens of an extinct race, sole survivors of
the world shipwreck.

At the moment of our arrival an old peasant woman was in the very act
of scolding the soldiers, who to the number of two hundred and fifty (a
whole company) filled to overflowing her modest lodgings, where it
seemed to me half as many would have been a tight squeeze.  It was
naturally impossible for her to have an eye on all of them.  In her
distress she took me as witness to her trials.

"Just see," she vociferated, "they trot through my house with their
muddy boots, they burn my wood, they're drying up my well, and on top
of it all they persist in smoking in my hay-loft, and the hay for next
Winter is in!  Shouldn't you think their Officers would look after
them?  Why, I have to be a regular watch-dog, I do!"

"That's all very well, mother," volunteered a little dried up Corporal.
"But how about _their_ incendiary shells?  You'll get one of them
sooner or later.  See if you don't!"

"If it comes, we'll take it; we've seen lots worse than that!  Humph!
That's no reason why you should mess up a house that belongs to your
own people, is it?  I'd like to know what your wife would say if she
caught you smoking a pipe in her hay loft?"

Shouts of laughter from the culprits.  Then a tall, lean fellow, taking
her side, called out:

"She's right, boys, she had a hard enough job getting the hay in all by
herself.  Put out your pipes since that seems to get on her nerves.
Now then, mother, there's always a way of settling a question between
honest people.  We won't smoke in your hay any more; that is, provided
you'll sell us fresh vegetables for our mess."

The old woman was trapped and had to surrender, which she did, but most
ungraciously, all the while moaning that she would more than likely die
of starvation the following Winter.  So a moment later the group
dispersed on hearing the news that the "Auto-bazaar" had arrived.

This auto-bazaar certainly contained more treasures than were ever
dreamed of in ancient Golconda.  There was everything the soldier's
heart might desire, from gun grease and cigarette paper down to wine
and provisions; the whole stored away in a literal honey-comb of
shelves and drawers with which the sides were lined.

The men all hurried forward.  Loaded with water bottles, their hands
full of coppers, they clustered about it.

From his dominating position at the rear end of the truck, the
store-keeper announced:

"No more pork pie left!"

This statement brought forth several indignant oaths from the

"It's always that way, they're probably paid to play that joke on us.
It was the same story last time!  We'll send in a complaint.  See if we

But these grumblings were soon outvoiced by the announcement--

"Plenty of head-cheese and camembert.  Now then! boys, who's ready?"

The effect was instantaneous.

Smiles broke out on every countenance.  The good news was quickly
spread abroad, and presently the sound of plates and dishes, clinking
cups, and joyful laughter recalled a picnic which we had organised in
the vicinity, one warm July afternoon some four years ago.

A military band rehearsing a march in an open field just behind us
added life and gaiety to the scene, and reminded me of the
"Merry-go-round," the chief attraction of that defunct country fair,
and upon which even the most dignified of our friends had insisted

After all, could it be possible that this was the very midst of war?
Was it such a terrible thing, since the air fairly rung with merriment?

"Make room there," called a gruff voice, not far distant.

"Stand aside!  Quick now!"

The crowd parted, and a couple of stretcher bearers with their sad
human burden put an end to my soliloquy.  My afternoon was stained with
blood.  On their litter they bore a lad whose bloodless lips,
fluttering eyelids, and heaving breast, bespoke unutterable suffering.

One must have actually witnessed such sights to realise the enormity of
human agony, grasp the torment that a stupid bit of flying steel can
inflict upon a splendid human frame--so well, so happy, so full of hope
but a second since.  Oh, the pity of it all!

"Who is it?" the men whisper.

"Belongs to the 170th.  They replaced us.  He was caught in the _Boyau
des Anglais_."

"That's a wicked spot, that is!"

"Is he one of ours?" questioned a man from an upper window, stopping an
instant in the act of polishing his gun.

"No," answers some one.

The enquirer recommenced his work, and with it the refrain of his song,
just where he had left off.

"_Sur les bords de la Riviera_," sang he blithely.

Little groups formed along the wayside.  Seated on the straw they
finished their afternoon meal, touching mugs, and joking together.
Near them the artillerymen greased and verified their axles; others
brushed and curried the horses.  In one spot a hair dresser had set up
his tonsorial parlor in the open, and his customers formed in line
awaiting their turns.

Further on the _permissionaires_ blacked their boots and furbished
their raiment, making ready to leave for home.  Swarms of humming birds
and bees clustered about a honeysuckle vine which clung to the
fragments of a fence near by, and whose fragrance saturated the air.

The friend, whose regiment number we had recognised, and stopped to
see, came up from behind and touched me on the shoulder.

"Well, of all things!  What on earth are you doing here?"

We explained our mission, and then inquired about mutual acquaintances.

"Pistre?  Why he's with the munitions in the 12xth.  We'll go over and
see him.  It's not far.  But hold on a minute, isn't Lorrain a friend
of yours?"

We acquiesced.

"Well, his son's my lieutenant.  I'll go and get him.  He'd be too
sorry to miss you."

He disappeared and a few moments later returned followed by his
superior, a handsome little nineteen year old officer, who came running
up, his pipe in his mouth, his drinking cup still in his hand.  The lad
blushed scarlet on seeing us, for he doubtless recalled, as did I, the
times not long gone by, when I used to meet him at a music teacher's,
his long curls hanging over his wide sailor collar.

The idea that this mere infant should have command over such a man as
our friend Nourrigat, double his age, and whose life of work and
struggle had been a marvel to us all, somewhat shocked me.

I think the little chap felt it, for he soon left us, pleading that he
must be present at a conference of officers.

"A brave fellow and a real man," commented Nourrigat, as the boy moved
away.  "His whole company has absolute confidence in him.  You can't
imagine the calm and prestige that kid possesses in the face of danger.
He's the real type of leader, he is!  And let me tell you, he's pretty
hard put sometimes."

And then in a burst of genuine enthusiasm, he continued:

"It's wonderful to be under twenty, with a smart little figure, a
winsome smile, and a gold stripe on your sleeve.  The women willingly
compare you to the Queen's pages, or Napoleon's handsome hussars.  That
may be all very well in a salon, or in the drawings you see in 'La Vie
Parisienne,' but it takes something more than that to be a true
officer.  He's got to know the ropes at playing miner, bombarder,
artilleryman, engineer, optician, accountant, caterer, undertaker,
hygienist, carpenter, mason--I can't tell you what all.  And in each
particular job he's got to bear the terrible responsibility of human
lives; maintain the discipline and the moral standard, assure the
cohesion of his section.  Moreover, he's called upon to receive orders
with calm and reserve under the most difficult and trying
circumstances, must grasp them with lightning speed and execute them
according to rules and tactics.  A moment of hesitancy or
forgetfulness, and he is lost.  The men will no longer follow him.  I
tell you it isn't everybody that's born to be a leader!"

"But, was he educated for the career?" we questioned.

"I don't think so.  I imagine he's just waiting for the end of the war
to continue his musical studies--that is if he comes out alive."

"And you?"

"I?  Why I've no particular ambition.  I suppose I could have gone into
the Camouflage Corps if I'd taken the trouble to ask.  But what's the
use of trying to shape your own destiny?"

"You've gotten used to this life?"

"Not in the least.  I abominate and adore it all in the same breath.
Or, to be more explicit, I admire the men and abhor the military
pictures, the thrilling and sentimental ideas of the warrior with which
the civilian head is so generously crammed.  I love military servitude,
and the humble life of the men in the ranks, but I have a genuine
horror of heroes and their sublimity.

"Just look over there," he went on, waving his hand towards a long line
of seated _poilus_ who were peacefully enjoying their pipes, while
wistfully watching the smoke curl upward.  "Just look at them, aren't
they splendid?  Why they've got faces like the 'Drinkers' in the
Velasquez picture.  See that little fellow rolling his cigarette?
Isn't he the image of the Bacchus who forms the centre of the painting?
That's Brunot, and he's thinking about all the god-mothers whose
letters swell out his pockets.  He can't make up his mind whether he
prefers the one who lives in Marseilles and who sent him candied
cherries and her photograph; or the one from Laval who keeps him well
supplied with devilled ham which he so relishes.  The two men beside
him are Lemire and Lechaptois--both peasants.  When they think, it's
only of their farms and their wives.  That other little thin chap is a
Parisian bookkeeper.  I'd like to bet that he's thinking of his wife,
and only of her.  He's wondering if she's faithful to him.  It's almost
become an obsession.  I've never known such jealousy, it's fairly
killing him.

"That man Ballot, just beyond"--and our friend motioned up the
line--"that man Ballot would give anything to be home behind his
watch-maker's stand.  In a moment or so he'll lean over and begin a
conversation with his neighbour Thevenet.  They've only one topic, and
it's been the same for two years.  It's angling.  They haven't yet
exhausted it.

"All of them at bottom are heartily wishing it were over; they've had
enough of it.  But they're good soldiers, just as before the war they
were good artisans.  The _métier_ is sacred--as are the Family and
Duty.  'The Nation, Country, Honour' are big words for which they have
a certain repugnance.

"'That's all rigmarole that somebody hands you when you've won the
Wooden Cross and a little garden growing over your tummy,' is the way
they put it in their argot.  'The Marseillaise, the Chant du Depart are
all right for the youngsters, and the reviews--and let me tell you, the
reviews take a lot of furbishing and make a lot of dust.  That's all
they really amount to.'

"When they sing, it's eternally 'The Mountaineers' who, as you know,
are always 'there,' 'Sous les Ponts de Paris,' 'Madelon' and other
sentimental compositions, and if by accident, in your desire to please,
you were prone to compare them to the heroes of Homer, it's more than
likely your pains would be rewarded by the first missile on which they
could lay their hands and launch in your direction.  They will not
tolerate mockery.

"No"--he went on, filling his pipe, and enunciating between each puff.
"No, they are neither supermen nor heroes; no more than they are
drunkards or foul mouthed blackguards.  No, they are better than all
that--they are men, real men, who do everything they do well; be it
repairing a watch, cabinet-making, adding up long columns of figures or
peeling potatoes, mounting guard, or going over the top!  They do the
big things as though they were small, the small things as though they
were big!

"Two days ago the captain sent for two men who had been on patrol duty
together.  He had but one decoration to bestow and both chaps were in
hot discussion as to who should _not_ be cited for bravery.

"'Now, boys, enough of this,' said the captain.  'Who was leading, and
who first cut the German barbed wire?'


"'Well then, Dubois, what's all this nonsense?  The cross is yours.'

"'No, sir, if you please, that would be idiotic!  I'm a foundling,
haven't any family.  What's a war cross more or less to me?  Now Paul
here keeps a café; just think of the pleasure it will give his
clientèle to see him come back decorated.'

"The captain who knows his men, understood Dubois' sincerity, and so
Paul got the medal.

"I believe it was Peguy who said that 'Joan of Arc' has the same
superiority over other saints, as the man who does his military service
has over those who are exempt.'  But it's only the soldiers who really
understand that, and when they say _On les aura_, it means something
more from their lips, than when uttered by a lady over her tea-cups, or
a reporter in his newspaper."

During this involuntary monologue we had strolled along the road which
Nourrigat had originally indicated as the direction of our friend
Pistre.  Presently he led us into the church, a humble little village
sanctuary.  A shell had carried away half the apse, and sadly damaged
the altar.  The belfry had been demolished and the old bronze bell
split into four pieces had been carefully fitted together by some
loving hand, and stood just inside the doorway.

St. Anthony of Padua had been beheaded, and of St. Roch there remained
but one foot and half his dog.  Yet, a delightful sensation of peace
and piety reigned everywhere.  From the confessional rose the murmur of
voices, and the improvised altar was literally buried beneath garlands
of roses.

In what had once been a chapel, a soldier now sat writing.  His note
books were spread before him on a table, a telephone was at his elbow.

Chalk letters on a piece of broken slate indicate that this is the
"_Bureau de la 22e_."

An old bent and withered woman, leaning on a cane, issued from this
office-chapel as we approached.

"Why that's mother Tesson," exclaimed Nourrigat.  "Good evening,
mother; how's your man to-day?"

"Better, sir.  Much better, thank you.  They've taken very good care of
him at your hospital."

The old couple had absolutely refused to evacuate their house.  The
Sous-Prefet, the Prefet, all the authorities had come and insisted, but
to no avail.

"We've lost everything," she would explain.  "Our three cows, our
chickens, our pigs.  Kill us if you like, but don't force us to leave
home.  We worked too hard to earn it!"

And so they had hung on as an oyster clings to its rock.  One shell had
split their house in twain, another had flattened out the hayloft.  The
old woman lay on her bed crippled with rheumatism, her husband a victim
of gall stones.  Their situation was truly most distressing.

But there were the soldiers.  Not any special company or
individual--but the soldiers, the big anonymous mass--who took them in
charge and passed them on from one to another.

"We leave father and mother Tesson to your care," was all they said to
the new comers as they departed.  But that was sufficient, and so the
old couple were nursed, clothed and fed by those whom one would suppose
had other occupations than looking after the destitute.

[Illustration: A VILLAGE ON THE FRONT]

Three times the house was brought to earth.  Three times they rebuilt
it.  The last time they even put in a stove so that the old woman would
not have to bend over to reach her hearth.  New beds were made and
installed, the garden dug and planted.  The old man was operated upon
at the Division Hospital, and when he became convalescent they shared
the contents of their home packages with him.

Who were they?  This one or that one?  Mother Tesson would most surely
have been at a loss to name the lad who returned from his furlough
bringing two hens and a rooster to start her barnyard.  She vaguely
remembered that he was from the south, on account of his accent, and
that he must have travelled across all France with his cage of chickens
in his hand.

They entered her home, smoked a pipe by her fireside, helped her to
wash the dishes or shell peas; talked a moment with her old man and
left, saying _au revoir_.

Another would come back greeting her with a cordial "_Bonjour, mère

"Good day, my son," she would reply.

And it was this constantly changing new found son who would chop wood,
draw water from the well, write a letter that would exempt them from
taxes, or make a demand for help from the American Committees.

Thus the aged pair had lived happily, loved and respected, absolutely
without want, and shielded from all material worry.  And when some poor
devil who has spent four sleepless nights in the trenches, on his
return steals an hour or two from his well earned, much craved sleep,
in order to hoe their potato patch, one would doubtless be astonished
to hear such a man exclaim by way of excuse for his conduct--

"Oh, the poor old souls!  Just think of it!  At their age.  What a

We found Pistre making a careful toilet with the aid of a tin pail full
of water.

"This is a surprise, on my soul!"

We hastened to give him news of his family and friends.

Presently he turned towards Nourrigat.

"How about your regiment?  Stationary?"

"I fancy so.  We were pretty well thinned out.  We're waiting for

"What's become of Chenu, and Morlet and Panard?"

"Gone! all of them."

"Too bad!  They were such good fellows!"

And our friends smiled, occupied but with the thought of the living
present.  Paris, their friends, their families, their professions, all
seemed to be forgotten, or completely over-shadowed by the habitual
daily routine of marches and halts, duties and drudgery.  They were no
longer a great painter and a brilliant barrister.  They were two
soldiers; two atoms of that formidable machine which shall conquer the
German; they were as two monks in a monastery--absolutely oblivious to
every worldly occupation.

We understand, we feel quite certain that they will be ours again--but
later--when this shall all be over--if God spares them to return.

At that same instant two boys appeared at the entrance to the
courtyard.  They may have been respectively ten and twelve years of
age.  The perspiration trickled from their faces, and they were bending
beneath the weight of a huge bundle each carried on his back.

"Hello, there, fellows," called one of them.

A soldier appeared on the threshold.

"Here Lefranc--here are your two boxes of sardines, and your snuff.
There isn't any more plum jam to be had.  Oh, yes, and here's your
writing paper."

The child scribbled something in an old account book.

"That makes fifty-three sous," he finally announced.

Other soldiers now came up.

The boys were soon surrounded by a group of eager gesticulating

"Oh, shut up, can't you?  How can a fellow think if you all scream at
once?  Here--Mimile"--and he turned to his aid.  "Don't you give 'em a

Then the tumult having subsided, he continued--

"Now then, your names, one at a time--and don't muddle me when I'm
trying to count!"

Pistre quickly explained that this phenomenon was Popaul called
"Business"--and Mimile, his clerk, both sons of a poor widow who washed
for the soldiers.  In spite of his tender years "Business" had
developed a tendency for finance that bespoke a true captain of
industry.  He had commenced by selling the men newspapers, and then
having saved enough to buy first one and then a second bicycle, the
brothers went twice a day to Villers Cotterets, some fifteen miles
distant, in quest of the orders given them by the soldiers.  At first
the dealers tried to have this commerce prohibited, but as the lads
were scrupulously honest, and their percentage very modest, the
Commandant not only tolerated, but protected them.

Mimile was something of a Jonah, having twice been caught by bits of
shrapnel, which necessitated his being cared for at the dressing

"All his own fault too," exclaimed Business, shrugging his shoulders.
"He's no good at diving.  Doesn't flatten out quick enough.  Why I used
to come right over the road last Winter when the bombardment was on
full tilt.  I was then working for the Legion and the Chasseurs.  No
cinch let me tell you!  It used to be--'Popaul here--Popaul
there--where's my tobacco?  How about my eau-de-Cologne?'  There wasn't
any choice with those fellows.  It was furnish the goods or bust--and I
never lost them a sou's worth of merchandise either!"

Business knew everything and everybody; all the tricks of the trade,
all the tricks of the soldiers.  He had seen all the Generals, and all
the Armies from the British to the Portuguese.

He had an intimate acquaintance with all the different branches of
warfare, as well as a keen memory for slang and patois.  He nourished
but one fond hope in his bosom--a hope which in moments of expansion he
imparts, if he considers you worthy of his confidence.

"In four years I'll volunteer for the aviation corps."

"In four years?  That's a long way off, my lad.  That's going some, I
should say," called a _poilu_ who had overheard the confession.

"Look here, Business, did I hear you say it won't be over in four
years?" asked another.

"Over?  Why, it'll have only just begun.  It was the Americans on the
motor trucks who told me so, and I guess they ought to know!"

We watched him distribute his packages, make change and take down his
next day's orders, in a much soiled note-book, and with the aid of a
stubby pencil which he was obliged to wet every other letter.  When he
had finished a soldier slipped over towards him.

"I say, Paul," he called out to him, "would you do us the honour of
dining with us?  We've got a package from home.  Bring your brother
with you."

Business was touched to the quick.

"I'm your man," he answered.  "And with pleasure.  But you must let me
furnish the _aperatif_."

"Just as you say, old man."

Brusquely turning about, the future tradesman sought for his clerk who
had disappeared.

"Mimile," he shouted, "Mimile, I say, run and tell mamma to iron our
shirts and put some polish on our shoes.  I'll finish to-day's job by


Not satisfied with the havoc wrought in Soissons and other cities of
the front, the Boche is now trying to encircle the head of Paris with
the martyr's crown.  The capital, lately comprised in the army zone,
has been called upon to pay its blood tax, and like all the other
heroic maimed and wounded, has none the less retained its good humour,
its confidence and its serenity.

"It will take more than that to prevent us from going to the cafés,"
smiled an old Parisian, shrugging his shoulders.

And this sentiment was certainly general if one were to judge by the
crowd who literally invaded the _terrasses_ between five and seven, and
none of whom seemed in the least preoccupied or anxious.

_Aperatifs_ have long since ceased to be anything save pleasant
remembrances--yet the custom itself has remained strong as a tradition.
Absinthes, bitters and their like have not only been abolished, but
replaced--and by what?  Mineral waters, fruit syrups and tea!

The waiters have been metamorphosed into herbalists.  Besides, what am
I saying, there are really no more waiters, save perhaps a few decrepit
specimens whom flatfoot has relegated beyond the name, their waddling
so strangely resembles that of ducks.  All the others are serving--at
the front.

From my seat I could see two ferocious looking, medal bespangled
warriors ordering, the one a linden flower and verbena, the other
camomile with mint leaf.  And along with the cups, saucers and
tea-pots, the waiter brought a miniature caraffe, which in times gone
by contained the brandy that always accompanied an order of coffee.  At
present its contents was extract of orange flower!

There may be certain smart youth who brag about having obtained kirsch
for their _tilleul_, or rum in their tea, but such myths are scarcely

Naturally there is the grumbling element who claim that absinthe never
hurt any one, and cite as example the painter Harpignies, who lived to
be almost a hundred, having absorbed on the average of two a day until
the very last.

But all have become so accustomed to making sacrifices that even this
one is passed off with a smile.  What can one more or less mean now?
Besides, the women gave up pastry, didn't they?

One joked the first time one ordered an infusion or a lemon vichy, one
was even a bit disgusted at the taste.  And then one got used to it,
the same as one is ready to become accustomed to anything; to trotting
about the darkened streets, to going to bed early, to getting along
without sugar, and even to being bombed.

There is a drawing by Forain which instantly obtained celebrity, and
which represents two French soldiers talking together in the trenches.

"If only they're able to stick it out!"


"The civilians!"

And now at the end of four long years it may be truly said of the
civilian that he has "seen it through."  Not so gloriously, perhaps,
but surely quite as magnificently as his brothers at the front.

In a country like France, where all men must join the army, the
left-behind is not an indifferent being; he is a father, a brother, a
son, or a friend; he is that feverish creature who impatiently waits
the coming of the postman, who lives in a perpetual state of agony,
trembles for his dear ones, and at the same time continues his
business, often doubling, even trebling his efforts so as to replace
the absent, and still has sufficient sense of humour to remark:

"In these days when every one is a soldier, it's a hard job to play the

Last summer an American friend said to me:

"Of course, there are some changes, but as I go about the streets day
in and day out, it hardly seems as though Paris were conscious of the
war.  It is quite unbelievable."

But that very same evening when slightly after eleven, Elizabeth and I
sauntered up the darkened, deserted Faubourg St. Honoré--

"Think," she said, catching my arm, "just think that behind each and
every one of those façades there is some one suffering, hoping,
weeping, perhaps in secret!  Think of the awful moment when all the
bells shall solemnly toll midnight, every stroke resounding like a
dirge in the souls of those who are torn with anxiety, who crave
relief, and patiently implore a sleep that refuses to come."

The soldiers know it, know but too well the worth of all the energies
expended without thought of glory; appreciate the value of that
stoicism which consists in putting on a bold front and continuing the
every-day life, without betraying a trace of sorrow or emotion.

Many a husband is proud of his wife, many a brother of his sister, and
many a son of his father and his mother.

Even those, who all things considered would seem the farthest from the
war, suffer untold tortures.  How often last autumn did H. and I pay
visits to old artist friends, men well into the sixties with no
material worries, and no one at the front; only to find them alone in
one corner of their huge studios, plunged in profound reveries, and
utterly unconscious of the oncoming night, or the rain that beat
against the skylights.

"I know, I know, it's all very well to shake yourself and say you must
work.  It's easy enough to recall that in 1870 Fantin Latour shut
himself up and painted fruit and flowers, and by emulation, buoyed up
perhaps by this precedent, you sit down and sketch a still life.  What
greater joy than to seek out a harmony, find the delicate suave tones,
and paint it in an unctuous medium.  Yes, it's a joy, but only when
head and heart are both in it!  The museums too, used to be a source of
untold pleasure, but even if they were open you wouldn't go, because
the head and the heart are 'Out there' where that wondrous youth is
being mowed down--'Out there' where lies our every hope, 'Out there'
where we would like to be, all of us!  'Tis hardly the moment to paint
ripe grapes and ruddy apples, and to feel that you're only good for
that!  It's stupid to be old!"

And many, many a dear old man has passed away, unnoticed.  When one
asks the cause of a death friends shrug their shoulders,

"We scarcely know, some say one thing, some another--perhaps the war!"

"In proportion you'll find that there are as many deaths on the
Boulevard as in the trenches," said our friend, Pierre Stevens, on
returning from Degas' funeral.

I would you might go with me, all you who love France, into one of
those Parisian houses, where after dinner when the cloth has been
removed, the huge road maps are spread out on the dining-room table,
and every one eagerly bends over them with bated breath, while the
latest _communiqué_ is read.  Fathers, mothers, grandmothers, and
little children, friends and relatives, solemnly, anxiously await the
name of their _secteurs_--the _secteurs_ where _their_ loved ones are
engaged.  How all the letters are read, re-read and handed about, each
one seeking a hidden sense, the meaning of an allusion; how dark grows
every brow when the news is not so good--what radiant expanse at the
word victory.

And through fourteen hundred long days this same scene has been
repeated, and no one has ever quailed.

The theatres have cellars prepared to receive their audiences in case
of bombardment, and one of our neighbours, Monsieur Walter, has just
written asking permission in my absence to build an armoured dug-out in
the hallway of my home.

"It is precisely the organisation of this dugout that prompts my
writing to you, _chère Madame_.

"So much bronchitis and so many other ills have been contracted in
cellars, that I hesitate to take my children down there; but on the
other hand, I dare not leave them upstairs, where they would be
altogether too exposed.  It is thus that I conceived the idea of asking
your permission to transform into a sort of 'Dug-out dormitory'--(if I
may be permitted the expression) the little passage way, which in your
house separates the dining-room from the green room.  To have something
absolutely safe, it would be necessary to give the ceiling extra
support, then set steel plates in the floor of the little linen room
just above and sandbag all the windows.

"Naturally, I have done nothing pending your consent.  Useless to say,
we will put everything in good order if you return, unless you should
care to use the dug-out yourself.  My wife and I shall anxiously await
your reply."

And this in Paris, June 28th, 1918!

I do not know what particular epoch in world war events served as
inspiration to the author of a certain ditty, now particularly popular
among the military.  But decidedly his injunction to

  "Pack all your troubles in an old kit bag,
  And smile, smile, smile,"

has been followed out to the letter, in the case of the Parisian, who
has also added that other virtue "Patience" to his already long list of

With the almost total lack of means of communication, a dinner downtown
becomes an expedition, and a theatre party a dream of the future.

During the Autumn twilights, on the long avenues swept by the rain, or
at street corners where the wind seizes it and turns it into miniature
water spouts, one can catch glimpses of the weary, bedraggled Parisian,
struggling beneath a rebellious umbrella, patiently waiting for a cab.
He has made up his mind to take the first that goes by.  There can be
no question of discrimination.  Anything will be welcome.  Yes,
anything, even one of those evil-smelling antiquated hackneys drawn by
a decrepit brute who will doubtless stumble and fall before having
dragged you the first five hundred yards, thereby bringing down the
pitiless wrath of his aged driver, not only on his own, but your head.

Taxis whizz by at a rate which leads one to suppose that they had a
rendezvous with dame Fortune.  Their occupants are at the same time
objects of envy and admiration, and one calls every latent cerebral
resource to his aid, in order to guess where on earth they were to be
found empty.  And how consoling is the disdainful glance of the
chauffeur who, having a fare, is hailed by the unfortunate, desperate
pedestrian that has a pressing engagement at the other end of town.

If one of them ever shows signs of slowing up, it is immediately
pounced upon and surrounded by ten or a dozen damp human beings.

Triumphantly the driver takes in their humble, supplicating glances
(glances which have never been reproduced save in pictures of the
Martyrs), and then clearing his throat he questions:

"First of all I've got to know where you want to go.  I'm bound for

Nobody ever wants to go to Grenelle.

If some one tactfully suggests the Avenue de Messine, he is instantly
rebuffed by a steady stare that sends him back, withered, into the
second row of the group.  A shivering woman, taking all her courage
into her hands, suggests the Palais d'Orsay, but is ignored while a man
from behind calls forth "Five francs if you'll take me to the Avenue du

The chauffeur's glance wavers, it seems possible that he might
entertain the proposal.  The gentleman steps forward, already has his
hand on the door handle, when from somewhere in the darkness, helmet
clad, stick in his hand, kit bag over one shoulder, a _poilu
permissionaire_ elbows his way through the crowd.  There is no
argument, he merely says,

"Look here, old man, I've got to make the 6.01 at the Gare du Nord;
drive like hell!"

"You should worry.  We'll get there."

Now, the Gare du Nord is certainly not in the direction of Grenelle.
On the contrary it is diametrically opposite, geographically speaking.
But nobody seems to mind.  The chauffeur is even lauded for his
patriotic sentiments, and one good-hearted, bedraggled creature
actually murmurs:

"I only hope the dear fellow does make it!"

"What does it matter if we do have to wait a bit--that's all we've
really got to do, after all," answers an elderly man moving away.

"It would be worse than this if we were in the trenches," chimes in
some one else.

"My son is in water up to his waist out there in Argonne," echoes a
third, as the group disbands.

And yet people do go to the theatre.

Gemier has made triumphant productions, with the translations of the
Shakesperean Society, and true artist that he is, has created
sensational innovations by way of _mise-en-scène_ in the "Merchant of
Venice" and "Anthony and Cleopatra."

It's a far cry now to the once all too popular staging à la Munich.

Lamy and Le Gallo were excruciatingly funny in a farce called "My
God-son," but the real type of theatrical performance which is
unanimously popular, which will hold its own to the very end, is the

How on earth the authors manage to scrape up enough comic subjects,
when sadness is so generally prevalent, and how they succeed in making
their public laugh spontaneously and heartily, without the slightest
remorse or _arrière pensée_, has been a very interesting question to me.

Naturally, their field is limited, and there are certain subjects which
are tabooed completely; so the trifling event, the ridiculous side of
Parisian life, have come to the fore.  Two special types, the slacker
and the profiteer, or _nouveau riche_, are very generally and very
thoroughly maltreated.  If I am any judge, it is the _embusqué_, who is
the special pet, and after him come the high cost of living, the lack
of fuel, the obscurity of the streets, the length of women's skirts,
etc.--all pretexts for more or less amusing topical songs.

As to the war itself, they have made something very special of it.
Thanks to them the trenches become a very delightful spot populated by
a squadron of nimble footed misses, who, booted, spurred,
helmet-crowned and costumed in horizon blue, sing of the heroism and
the splendid good humour of the _poilu_ while keeping time to a martial

There is invariably a heavy comedian who impersonates the jovial
_chef_--preparing a famous sauce in which to dish up "Willy" the day he
shall be captured; the soldier on furlough who is homesick for the
front; the wounded man who stops a moment to sing (with many frills and
flourishes) the joys of shedding one's blood for his country.

Attacks are made to well known accompaniments--Bombardments perpetrated
in the wings by the big bass drum, and both though symbolic, are about
as unreal as possible.

Nobody is illusioned, no one complains.  On the contrary, they seem
delighted with the show they have paid to see.  Furthermore, the better
part of the audience is composed of soldiers, wounded men,
convalescents, and _permissionaires_, and they all know what to expect.

Near me sat two of the latter--healthy looking lads, wind burned and
tanned, their uniforms sadly faded and stained, their helmets scarred
and indented.  Both wore the Croix de Guerre, and the Fourragère or
shoulder strap, showing the colours of the military medal, which at
that time being quite a novelty, caught and held the eyes of all who
surrounded them.

From scraps of their conversation I learned that they had left the
battle front of the Somme that very morning, were merely crossing
Paris, taking a midnight train which would land them home some time the
following day.

I even managed to gather that their papers had reached them at the very
moment when they came out of the trenches, that they had not even had
time to brush up, so great was their fear of missing the last train.

Less than twenty-four hours ago, then, they had really been in
it--standing out there in the mud, surrounded by rats and the putrid
odour of dead bodies, the prey not only of the elements, but of enemy
bombs and shells, expecting the end at any instant; or curled up, half
frozen in a humid, slimy dug-out, not long enough to permit stretching
out--scarcely deep enough to be called a shelter.

Would they not be disgusted?  Ready to protest against this disfigured
travesty of their war?

I feel quite certain they never gave it a thought.  Blissfully
installed in their comfortable orchestra seats they didn't intend to
miss a word of the entire performance.  And when finally in an endless
chain of verses, a comedian, mimicking a _poilu_ with his kit on his
back, recited his vicissitudes with the army police, and got mixed up
in his interpretation of R.A.T., G.Q.G.--etc., they burst into round
after round of applause, calling and recalling their favourite, while
their sides shook with laughter, and the tears rolled down their cheeks.

These same faces took on a nobly serious aspect, while a tall, pale,
painted damsel draped in a peplum, evoked in ringing tones the glorious
history of the tri-colour.  I looked about me--many a manly countenance
was wrinkled with emotion, and women on all sides sniffed audibly.  It
was then that I understood, as never before, what a philosopher friend
calls "the force of symbols."

An exact scenic reproduction of the war would have shocked all those
good people; just as this impossible theatrical deformation, this
potpourri of songs, dances and orchestral tremolos charmed and
delighted their care-saturated souls.

Little girls in Alsatian costume, and the eternally sublime Red Cross
nurse played upon their sentimentality; the slacker inspired them with
disgust; they shrieked with delight at the _nouveau riche_; and their
enthusiasm knew no bounds when towards eleven-fifteen arrived the
"Stars and Stripes" accompanied by a double sextette of khaki-coloured
female ambulance drivers.  Tradition has willed it thus.

If the war continue any length of time doubtless the United States will
also become infuriated with the slacker, and I tremble to think of the
special brand of justice that woman in particular will have in store
for the man who does not really go to the front, or who, thanks to
intrigue and a uniform, is spending his days in peace and safety.

Alas, there are _embusqués_ in all countries, just as there are
_nouveaux-riches_.  In Paris these latter are easily discernible.  They
have not yet had time to become accustomed to their new luxuries;
especially the women, who wear exaggerated styles, and flaunt their
furs and jewels, which deceive no one.


"They buy everything, so long as it is expensive," explained an
antiquity dealer.  "They want everything, and want it at once!"

The few old artisans still to be found who are versed in the art of
repairing antiques, are rushed to death, and their ill humour is almost
comic, for in spite of the fact that they are being well paid for their
work, they cannot bear to see these precious treasures falling into the
hands of the vulgar.

"This is for Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So," they inform you with an ironical
smile, quite certain that you have never heard the name before.

It would almost seem as if a vast wave of prosperity had enveloped the
country, were one to judge of the stories of millions made in a minute,
fortunes sprung up over night, new factories erected where work never
ceases; prices paid for real estate, monster strokes on the Bourse.
Little wonder then that in May just past, with the Germans scarcely
sixty miles from Paris, the sale of Degas' studio attained the
extraordinary total of nearly two million dollars; an Ingres drawing
which in 1889 brought eight hundred and fifty francs, selling for
fourteen thousand, and a Greco portrait for which Degas himself gave
four hundred and twenty francs in 1894, fetching eighty-two thousand

Yes, such things happen even in France, and one hears but too often of
fortunes accumulated in the past four years--but alas! how much more
numerous are those which have been lost.  The _nouveaux-pauvres_ far
outnumber the _nouveaux-riches_; but these former seem to go into

The Parisian bourgeois was essentially a property owner.  His delight
was in houses; the stone-front six-story kind, the serious rent-paying
proposition, containing ten or a dozen moderate-priced apartments, and
two good stores, from which he derived a comfortable income.  Such was
the ultimate desire of the little shop-keeper, desire which spurred him
on to sell and to economise.

A house, some French rentes, government bonds (chiefly Russian in
recent years) and a few city obligations, were the extent of his
investments, and formed not only the nucleus but the better part of
many a French fortune.

Imagine then the predicament of such people under the moratorium.  Few
and far between are the tenants who have paid a sou of rent since
August, 1914, and the landlord has no power to collect.  Add to this
the ever increasing price of living, and you will understand why many
an elderly Parisian who counted on spending his declining years in
peace and plenty, is now hard at work earning his daily bread.

Made in a moment of emergency, evidently with the intention that it be
of short duration, this law about rentals has become the most
perplexing question in the world.  Several attempts have been made
towards a solution, but all have remained fruitless, unsanctioned; and
the property owners are becoming anxious.

That men who have been mobilised shall not pay--that goes without
saying.  But the others.  How about them?

I happen to know a certain house in a bourgeois quarter of the city
about which I have very special reasons for being well informed.

Both stores are closed.  The one was occupied by a book-seller, the
other by a boot-maker.  Each dealer was called to the army, and both of
them have been killed.  Their estates will not be settled until after
the war.

The first floor was rented to a middle-aged couple.  The husband,
professor in a city school, is now prisoner in Germany.  His wife died
during the Winter just passed.

On the second landing one entered the home of a cashier in a big
National Bank.  He was the proud possessor of a wife and three pretty
babies.  The husband, aged thirty-two, left for the front with the rank
of Lieutenant, the first day of the mobilisation.  His bank kindly
consented to continue half salary during the war.  The lieutenant was
killed at Verdun.  His employers offered a year and a half's pay to the
young widow--that is to say, about six thousand dollars, which she
immediately invested in five per cent government rentes.  A
lieutenant's yearly pension amounts to about three hundred dollars, and
the Legion of Honour brings in fifty dollars per annum.

They had scarcely had time to put anything aside, and I doubt if he
carried a life insurance.  At any rate the education of these little
boys will take something more than can be economised after the bare
necessities of life have been provided.  So how is the brave little
woman even to think of paying four years' rent, which when computed
would involve more than two-thirds of her capital?

The third floor tenant is an elderly lady who let herself be persuaded
to put her entire income into bonds of the City of Vienna, Turkish
debt, Russian roubles, and the like.  I found her stewing up old
newspapers in a greasy liquid, preparing thus a kind of briquette, the
only means of heating which she could afford.  Yet the prospect of a
Winter without coal, possibly without bread, did not prevent her from
welcoming me with a smile, and explaining her case with grace and
distinction, which denoted the most exquisite breeding.  Her maid, she
apologised as she bowed me out, was ill of rheumatism contracted during
the preceding Winter.

The top apartment was occupied by a government functionary and his
family.  As captain in the infantry he has been at the front since the
very beginning.  His wife's family are from Lille, and like most
pre-nuptial arrangements when the father is in business, the daughter
received but the income of her dowry, which joined to her husband's
salary permitted a cheerful, pleasant home, and the prospect of an
excellent education for the children.

The salary ceased with the Captain's departure to the front; the wife's
income stopped when the Germans entered Lille a few weeks later.  They
now have but his officer's pay, approximately eighty dollars per month,
as entire financial resource.  Add to this the death of a mother and
four splendid brothers, the constant menace of becoming a widow, and I
feel certain that the case will give food for reflection.

All these unfortunate women know each other; have guessed their mutual
misfortunes, though, of course, they never mention them.  Gathered
about a single open fire-place whose welcome blaze is the result of
their united economy, they patiently ply their needles at whatever
handiwork they are most deft, beading bags, making filet and mesh
laces, needle-work tapestry and the like, utilising every spare moment,
in the hope of adding another slice of bread to the already too frugal

But orders are rare, and openings for such work almost nil.  To obtain
a market would demand business training which has not been part of
their tradition, which while it tempts, both intimidates and revolts
them.  Certain desperate ones would branch out in spite of all--but
they do not know how, dare not seem so bold.

And so Winter will come anew--Winter with bread and sugar rations at a
maximum; Winter with meat prices soaring far above their humble pocket

Soup and vegetable stews quickly become the main article of diet.  Each
succeeding year the little mothers have grown paler, and more frail.
The children have lost their fat, rosy cheeks.  But let even a local
success crown our arms, let the _communiqué_ bring a little bit of real
news, tell of fresh laurels won, let even the faintest ray of hope for
the great final triumph pierce this veil of anxiety--and every heart
beat quickens, the smiles burst forth; lips tremble with emotion.
These people know the price, and the privilege of being French, the
glory of belonging to that holy nation.


When after a lengthy search our friends finally discover our Parisian
residence, one of the first questions they put is, "Why on earth is
your street so narrow?"

The reason is very simple.  Merely because la rue Geoffrey L'Asnier was
built before carriages were invented, the man who gave it its name
having doubtless dwelt there during the fourteenth or fifteenth
century, as one could easily infer after inspecting the choir of our
parish church.  But last Good Friday, the Germans in trying out their
super-cannon, bombarded St. Gervais.  The roof caved in, killing and
wounding many innocent persons, and completely destroying that choir.

Elsewhere a panic might have ensued, but residents of our quarter are
not so easily disturbed.  The older persons distinctly recall the
burning of the Hotel de Ville and the Archbishop's Palace in 1870.  And
did they not witness the battles in the streets, all the horrors of the
Commune, after having experienced the agonies and privations of the
Siege?  I have no doubt that among them there are persons who were
actually reduced to eating rats, and I feel quite certain that many a
man used his gun to advantage from between the shutters of his own
front window.

Their fathers had seen the barricades of 1848 and 1830, their
grandfathers before them the Reign of Terror--and so on one might
continue as far back as the Norman invasion.

The little café on the rue du Pont Louis-Philippe serves as meeting
place for all the prophets and strategists of the quarter, who have no
words sufficient to express their disdain for the Kaiser's heavy

"It's all bluff, they think they can frighten us!  Why, I, Madame, I
who am speaking to you--I saw the Hotel de Ville, the Theatre des
Nations, the grain elevators, all in flames and all at once, the whole
city seemed to be ablaze.  Well, do you think that prevented the
Parisians from fishing in the Seine, or made this café shut its doors?
There was a barricade at either end of this street--the blinds were up
and you could hear the bullets patter against them.  The insurgents,
all covered with powder, would sneak over and get a drink--and when
finally their barricade was taken, it was the Republican soldiers who
sat in our chairs and drank beer and lemonade!  _Their_ guns, humph!
Let them bark!"

It is at this selfsame café that gather all the important men of our
district, much as the American would go to his club.  They are serious
_bourgeois_, well along in the fifties, just a trifle ridiculous,
perhaps on account of their allure and their attire.  But should one
grow to know them better he would soon realise that most of them are
shrewd, hard-working business men, each burdened with an anxiety or a
sorrow which he never mentions.

They too love strategy.  Armies represented by match safes, dominoes
and toothpicks have become an obsession--their weakness.  They are
thorough Frenchmen and their critical sense must be unbridled.  They
love their ideas and their systems.  They would doubtless not hesitate
to advise Foch.  Personally, if I were Foch, I should turn a deaf ear.
But if I were a timid, vacillating, pessimistic spirit, still in doubt
as to the final outcome, I should most certainly seat myself at a
neighbouring table and listen to their conversation that I might come
away imbued with a little of their patience, abnegation, and absolute

Nor does the feminine opinion deviate from this course.  I found the
same ideas prevalent in the store of a little woman who sold umbrellas.
Before the war Madame Coutant had a very flourishing trade, but now her
sales are few and far between, while her chief occupation is repairing.
She is a widow without children, and no immediate relative in the war.
Because of this, at the beginning she was looked down upon and her
situation annoyed and embarrassed her greatly.  But by dint of search,
a most voluminous correspondence, and perhaps a little bit of intrigue,
she finally managed to unearth two very distant cousins, peasant boys
from the Cevennes, whom she frankly admitted never having seen, but to
whom she regularly sent packages and post cards; about whom she was at
liberty to speak without blushing, since one of them had recently been
cited for bravery and decorated with the _Croix de Guerre_.

This good woman devotes all the leisure and energy her trade leaves
her, to current events.  Of course, there is the official _communiqué_
which may well be considered as the national health bulletin; but
besides that, there is still another, quite as indispensable and fully
as interesting, made up of the criticism of local happenings, and
popular presumption.

This second _communiqué_ comes to us direct from Madame Coutant's,
where a triumvirate composed of the scissors-grinder, the
woman-who-rents-chairs-in-St.-Gervais, the sacristan's wife, the
concierge of the Girls' School, and the widow of an office boy in the
City Hall, get their heads together and dispense the news.

The concierges and cooks while out marketing, pick it up and start it
on its rounds.

"We are progressing North of the Marne"; "Two million Americans have
landed in France," and similar statements shall be accepted only when
elucidated, enlarged and embellished by Madame Coutant's group.  Each
morning brings a fresh harvest of happenings, but each event is
certified or contradicted by a statement from some one who is "Out
there," and sees and knows.

Under such circumstances an attack in Champagne may be viewed from a
very different angle when one hears that Bultot, the electrician, is
telephone operator in that region; that the aforesaid Bultot has
written to his wife in most ambiguous phraseology, and that she has
brought the letter to Madame Coutant's for interpretation.

But it is more especially the local moral standards which play an
important part and are subject to censorship in Madame Coutant's
circle.  The individual conduct of the entire quarter is under the most
rigid observation.  Lives must be pure as crystal, homes of glass.  It
were better to attempt to hide nothing.

That Monsieur L., the retired druggist, is in sad financial straits,
there is not the slightest doubt; no one is duped by the fact that he
is trying to put on a bold face under cover of war-time economy.

That the grocer walks with a stick and drags his leg on the ground to
make people think he is only fit for the auxiliary service, deceives no
one; his time will come, there is but to wait.

Let a woman appear with an unaccustomed furbelow, or a family of a
workman that is earning a fat salary, eat two succulent dishes the same
week, public opinion will quickly make evident its sentiments, and
swiftly put things to rights.

The war must be won, and each one must play his part--do his bit, no
matter how humble.  The straight and narrow paths of virtue have been
prescribed and there is no better guide than the fear of mutual
criticism.  That is one reason why personally I have never sought to
ignore Madame Coutant's opinion.

It goes without saying that the good soul has attributed the
participation of the United States in this war entirely to my efforts.
And the nature of the advice that I am supposed to have given President
Wilson would make an everlasting fortune for a humourist.  But in spite
of it all, I am proud to belong to them; proud of being an old resident
in their quarter.

"Strictly serious people," was the opinion passed upon us by the
sacristan's wife for the edification of my new housemaid.

It is a most interesting population to examine in detail, made up of
honest, skilful Parisian artisans, _frondeurs_ at heart, jesting with
everything, but terribly ticklish on the point of honour.

"They ask us to 'hold out'," exclaims the laundress of the rue de Jouy;
"as if we'd ever done anything else all our lives!"

These people were capable of the prodigious.  They have achieved the

With the father gone to the front, his pay-roll evaporated, it was a
case of stop and think.  Of course, there was the "Separation fee,"
about twenty-five cents a day for the mother, ten cents for each child.
The French private received but thirty cents _a month_ at the beginning
of the war.  The outlook was anything but cheerful, the possibility of
making ends meet more than doubtful.  So work it was--or rather, extra
work.  Eyes were turned towards the army as a means of livelihood.
With so many millions mobilised, the necessity for shirts, underwear,
uniforms, etc., became evident.

Three or four mothers grouped together and made application for three
or four hundred shirts.  The mornings were consecrated to house work,
which must be done in spite of all, the children kept clean and the
food well prepared.  But from one o'clock until midnight much might be
accomplished; and much was.

The ordinary budget for a woman of the working class consists in
earning sufficient to feed, clothe, light and heat the family, besides
supplying the soldier husband with tobacco and a monthly parcel of
goodies.  Even the children have felt the call, and after school, which
lasts from eight until four, little girls whose legs must ache from
dangling, sit patiently on chairs removing bastings, or sewing on
buttons, while their equally tiny brothers run errands, or watch to see
that the soup does not boil over.

Then when all is done, when with all one's heart one has laboured and
paid everything and there remains just enough to send a money-order to
the _poilu_, there is still a happiness held in reserve--a delight as
keen as any one can feel in such times; i.e., the joy of knowing that
the "Separation fee" has not been touched.  It is a really and truly
income; it is a dividend as sound as is the State!  It has almost
become a recompense.


What matter now the tears, the mortal anxieties that it may have cost?
For once again, to quote the laundress of the rue de Jouy--

"Trials?  Why, we'd have had them anyway, even if there hadn't been a

In these times of strictest economy, it would perhaps be interesting to
go deeper into the ways of those untiring thrifty ants who seem to know
how "To cut a centime in four" and extract the quintessence from a
bone.  My concierge is a precious example for such a study, having
discovered a way of bleaching clothes without boiling, and numerous
recipes for reducing the high cost of living to almost nothing.

It was in her lodge that I was first introduced to a drink made from
ash leaves, and then tasted another produced by mixing hops and
violets, both to me being equally as palatable as certain brands of
grape juice.

Butter, that unspeakable luxury, she had replaced by a savoury mixture
of tried out fats from pork and beef kidney, seasoned with salt,
pepper, allspice, thyme and laurel, into which at cooling was stirred a
glass of milk.  Not particularly palatable on bread but as a seasoning
to vegetable soup, that mighty French stand-by, I found it most
excellent.  Believe me, I've tried it!

Jam has long been prepared with honey, and for all other sweetening
purposes she used a syrup of figs that was not in the least
disagreeable.  The ration of one pound of sugar per person a month, and
brown sugar at that, does not go very far.

The cold season is the chief preoccupation of all Parisians, and until
one has spent a war winter in the capital he is incapable of realising
what can be expected from a scuttle full of coal.

First of all, one commences by burning it for heating purposes,
rejoicing in every second of its warmth and glow.  One invites one's
friends to such a gala!  Naturally the coal dust has been left at the
bottom of the recipient, the sack in which it was delivered is well
shaken for stray bits, and this together with the sittings is mixed
with potter's clay and sawdust, which latter has become a most
appreciable possession in our day.  The whole is then stirred together
and made into bricks or balls, which though they burn slowly, burn

The residue of this combustible is still so precious, that when
gathered up, ground anew with paper and sawdust, and at length
amalgamated with a mucilaginous water composed of soaked flax-seed, one
finally obtains a kind of pulp that one tries vainly to make ignite,
but which obstinately refuses to do so, though examples to the contrary
have been heard of.

The fireless cooker has opened new horizons, for, of course, there is
still enough gas to start the heating.  But none but the wealthy can
afford such extravagance, so each one has invented his own model.  My
concierge's husband is renowned for his ingenuity in this particular
branch, and people from the other side of the Isle St. Louis, or the
rue St. Antoine take the time to come and ask his advice.  It seems to
me he can make fireless cookers out of almost anything.  Antiquated
wood chests, hat boxes, and even top hats themselves have been utilised
in his constructions.

"These are real savings-banks for heat"--he explains pompously--for he
loves to tackle the difficult--even adjectively.  His shiny bald pate
is scarce covered by a Belgian fatigue cap, whose tassel bobs in the
old man's eyes, and when he carried his long treasured gold to the
bank, he refused to take its equivalent in notes.  It was necessary to
have recourse to the principal cashier, who assured him that if France
needed money she would call upon him first.  Then and then only would
he consent to accept.

He is a Lorrainer--a true Frenchman, who in the midst of all the
sorrows brought on by the conflict, has known two real joys: the first
when his son was promoted and made lieutenant on the battle field; the
second when his friends the Vidalenc and the Lemots made up a quarrel
that had lasted over twelve years.

"I was in a very embarrassing position," he explained, "for I held both
families in equal esteem.  Fortunately the war came and settled
matters.  When I say fortunately, of course, you understand, Madame,
what I mean.  '_A quelquechose malheur est bon_.'"

And in truth the original cause of difference between the Lemots,
drapers, and the Vidalenc, coal and wood dealers, had been lost in the
depths of time.  But no hate between Montague and Capulet was ever more
bitter.  The gentle flame of antipathy was constantly kept kindled by a
glance in passing, a half audible sneer, and if the Vidalenc chose the
day of the White Sale to hang out and beat their stock of coal sacks,
one might be certain that the Lemots would be seized with a fit of
cleanliness on the coldest of winter days, and would play the hose up
and down the street in the freezing air about an hour or so before the
Vidalencs would have to unload their coal wagons.

The younger generation, on leaving school every afternoon, would also
see to it that the family feud be properly recognised, and many and
bitter were the mutual pummelings.

Reconciliation seemed an impossibility, and yet both were hardworking,
honest families, economical and gracious, rejoicing in the friendship
of the entire quarter, who, of course, were much pained by the

Even the mobilisation failed to bring a truce and the unforgettable
words of "Sacred Unity" fell upon arid ground.

But how strange, mysterious and far reaching are the designs of
Providence.  Young Vidalenc was put into a regiment that was brigaded
with the one to which belonged Monsieur Lemot.

The two men met "Out there," and literally fell into each other's arms.

A letter containing a description of this event arrived in the two
shops at almost the same moment.  That is to say the postman first went
to Father Vidalenc's, but by the time the old man had found his
spectacles, Madame Lemot had received her missive, and both were
practically read at once.  Then came the dash for the other's shop, the
paper waving wildly in the air.

Of course, they met in the street, stopped short, hesitated, collapsed,
wept and embraced, to the utter amazement of the entire quarter who
feared not only that something fatal had happened, but also for their
mental safety.

Later in the day the news got abroad, and by nightfall every one had
heard that Father Vidalenc had washed Madame Lemot's store windows, and
that Madame Lemot had promised to have an eye to Vidalenc's accounts,
which had been somewhat abandoned since the departure of his son.

When Lemot returned on furlough there was a grand dinner given in his
honour at Vidalenc's, and when Vidalenc dined at Lemot's, it was
assuredly amusing to see the latter's children all togged out in their
Sunday best, a tri-colour bouquet in hand, waiting on their doorstep to
greet and conduct the old man.

Unfortunately there was no daughter to give in matrimony so that they
might marry and live happily ever after.  But on my last trip home I
caught a glimpse of an unknown girlish face behind Madame Lemot's
counter, and somebody told me it was her niece.

It would not only be unfair, but a gross error on my part to attempt to
depict life in our quarter without mentioning one of the most notable
inhabitants--namely Monsieur Alexandre Clouet, taylor, so read the sign
over the door of the shop belonging to this pompous little person--who
closed that shop on August 2nd, 1914, and rallied to the colours.  But
unlike the vulgar herd he did not scribble in huge chalk letters all
over the blinds--"The boss has joined the army."  No, indeed, not he!

Twenty four hours later appeared a most elaborate meticulous sign which


  wishes to inform his numerous
  customers that he has joined the ranks
  of the 169th infantry, and shall do
  his duty as a Frenchman.

His wife returned to her father's home, and it was she who pasted up
the series of neat little bulletins.  First we read:


  is in the trenches but his health is

  He begs his customers and friends
  to send him news of themselves.
  Postal Sector 24X.

I showed the little sign to my friends who grew to take an interest in
Monsieur Clouet's personal welfare, and passing by his shop they would
copy down the latest news and forward it to me, first at Villiers, and
afterwards to the States.

It is thus that I learned that Monsieur Clouet, gloriously wounded, had
been cared for at a hospital in Cahors, and later on that he had
recovered, rejoined his depot and finally returned to the front.

One of my first outings during my last trip sent me in the direction of
Monsieur Clouet's abode.  I was decidedly anxious to know what had
become of him.  To my surprise I found the shop open, but a huge
announcement hung just above the entrance.


  gloriously wounded and decorated
  with the Military Medal, regrets to
  state that in future it will be
  impossible for him to continue giving his
  personal attention to his business.

  His wife and his father-in-law will
  hereafter combine their efforts to give
  every satisfaction to his numerous

I entered.  For the moment the wife and the father-in-law were
combining their efforts to convince a very stout, elderly gentleman
that check trousers would make him look like a sylph.

"Ah, Madame, what a surprise," she cried, on seeing me.

"But your husband?" I queried.  "Is it really serious--do tell me!"

"Alas, Madame, he says he'll never put his foot in the shop again.  You
see he's very sensitive since he was scalped, and he's afraid somebody
might know he has to wear a wig!"


The Boche aeroplane was by no means a novelty to the Parisian.  Its
first apparitions over the capital (1914) were greeted with curious
enthusiasm, and those who did not have a field glass handy at the time,
later on satisfied their curiosity by a visit to the Invalides, where
every known type of enemy machine was displayed in the broad court-yard.

The first Zeppelin raid (April 15th, 1915) happened toward midnight,
and resulted in a good many casualties, due not to the bombs dropped by
the enemy, but to the number of colds and cases of pneumonia and
bronchitis caught by the pajama-clad Parisian, who rushed out half
covered, to see the sight, thoughtlessly banging his front door behind

But the first time that we were really driven to take shelter in the
cellar was after dinner at the home of a friend who lives in an
apartment house near the Avenue du Bois.  We were enjoying an impromptu
concert of chamber music, when the alarm was given, swiftly followed by
distant but very distinct detonations, which made hesitation become

The descent to the basement was accomplished without undue haste, or
extraordinary commotion, save for an old Portuguese lady and her
daughter who lost their heads and unconsciously gave us a comic
interlude, worthy of any first-class movie.

Roused from her sleep, the younger woman with self preservation
uppermost in her mind, had slipped on an outer garment, grabbed the
first thing she laid her hands on, and with hair streaming over her
back, dashed down five long flights of stairs.

At the bottom she remembered her mother, let forth an awful shriek, and
still holding her bottle of tooth wash in her hands, jumped into the
lift and started in search of her parent.

In the meantime, the latter on finding her daughter's bed empty, had
started towards the lower floors, crossing the upward bound lift, which
Mademoiselle was unable to stop.

Screams of terror, excited sentences in Portuguese--in which both gave
directions that neither followed, and for a full ten minutes mother and
daughter raced up and down in the lift and on the stairway, trying
vainly to join one another.

A young lieutenant home on leave, at length took pity on them and
finally united the two exhausted creatures who fell into each other's
arms shrieking hysterically:

"If we must die--let us die together!"

The concierges and the servants began arranging chairs and camp stools
around the furnace; the different tenants introduced themselves and
their guests.  Almost every one was still about when the signal was
given, and this cellar where the electric lamps burned brightly soon
took on the aspect of a drawing-room, in spite of all.  One lone man,
however, stood disconsolate, literally suffocating beneath a huge
cavalry cape, hooked tight up to his throat.  As the perspiration soon
began rolling from his forehead, a friend seeking to put him at his
ease, suggested he open up his cloak.

The gentleman addressed cast a glance over the assembled group,
broadened out into a smile, and exclaimed--

"I can't.  Only got my night shirt underneath."

The hilarity was general, and the conversation presently became bright
and sparkling with humorous anecdotes.

The officers held their audience spellbound with fear and admiration;
the women talked hospital and dress, dress and hospital, finally
jesting about the latest restrictions.  One lady told the story of a
friend who engaged a maid, on her looks and without a reference, the
which maid shortly became a menace because of her propensity for
dropping and breaking china.

One day, drawn towards the pantry by the sound of a noise more terrible
than any yet experienced, she found the girl staring at a whole pile of
plates--ten or a dozen--which had slipped from her fingers and lay in
thousands of pieces on the floor.

The lady became indignant and scolded.

"Ah, if Madame were at the front, she'd see worse than that!" was the
consoling response.

"But we're not at the front, I'll have you understand, and what's more
neither you nor I have ever been there, my girl."

"I beg Madame's pardon, but my last place was in a hospital at Verdun,
as Madame will see when my papers arrive."

General laughter was cut short by the sound of two explosions.

"They're here.  They've arrived.  It will soon be over now," and like
commentaries were added.

A servant popped the cork of a champagne bottle, and another passed
cakes and candied fruit.

An elderly man who wore a decoration, approached the officers.

"Gentlemen," said he, "excuse me for interrupting, but do any of you
know the exact depth to which an aeroplane bomb can penetrate?"

The officers gave him a few details, which, however, did not seem to
satisfy the old fellow.  His anxiety became more and more visible.

"I wouldn't worry, sir, if I were you.  There's absolutely no danger
down here."

"Thank you for your assurance, Messieurs," said he, "but I'm not in the
least anxious about my personal safety.  It's my drawings and my
collection of porcelains that are causing me such concern.  I thought
once that I'd box them all up and bring them down here.  But you never
can tell what dampness or change of temperature might do to a water
colour or a gouache.  Oh! my poor Fragonards!  My poor Bouchers!
Gentlemen, never, never collect water colours or porcelains!  Take it
from me!"

At that moment the bugle sounded--"All's well," and as we were
preparing to mount the stairs, the old man accosted the officers anew,
asking them for the titles of some books on artillery and fortification.

"That all depends to what use you wish to apply them."

"Ah, it's about protecting my collection.  I simply must do something!
I can't send them to storage, they wouldn't be any safer there, and
even if they were I'd die of anxiety so far away from my precious

"Good-nights" were said in the vestibule, and the gathering dispersed
just as does any group of persons after a theatre or an ordinary
reception.  But once in the street, it was absolutely useless to even
think of a taxi.  People were pouring from every doorway, heads stuck
out of every window.

"Where did they fall?  Which way?"

In the total obscurity, the sound of feet all hurrying in the same
direction, accompanied by shouts of recognition, even ripples of
laughter, seemed strangely gruesome, as the caravan of curious hastened
towards the scene of tragedy.

"No crowds allowed.  Step lively," called the _sergeants-de-ville_, at
their wits' end.  "Better go back home, they might return.  Step
lively, I say!"

It happened thus the first few visits, but presently the situation
became less humorous.  One began to get accustomed to it.  Then one
commenced to dislike it and protest.

Seated by the studio fire, we were both plunged deep in our books.

"_Allons_!" exclaimed H.  "Do you hear the _pompiers_?  The Gothas

We stiffened up in our chairs and listened.  The trumpets sounded
shrilly on the night air of our tranquil Parisian quarter.

"Right you are.  That means down we go!  They might have waited until I
finished my chapter, hang them!  There's no electricity in our cellar,"
and I cast aside my book in disgust.

Taking our coats and a steamer rug we prepared to descend.  In the
court-yard the clatter of feet resounded.

The cellar of our seventeenth century dwelling being extremely deep and
solidly built, was at once commandeered as refuge for one hundred
persons in case of bombardment, and we must needs share it with some
ninety odd less fortunate neighbours.

"Hurry up there.  Hurry up, I say," calls a sharp nasal voice.

That voice belonged to Monsieur Leddin, formerly a clock maker, but now
of the _Service Auxiliare_, and on whom devolved the policing of our
entire little group, simply because of his uniform.

His observations, however, have but little effect.  People come
straggling along, yawning from having been awakened in their first
sleep, and almost all of them is hugging a bundle or parcel containing
his most precious belongings.

It is invariably an explosion which finally livens their gait, and they
hurry into the stairway.  A slight jam is thus produced.

"No pushing there!  Order!" cries another stentorian voice, belonging
to Monsieur Vidalenc, the coal dealer.

"Here! here!" echo several high pitched trebles.  "_Très bien, très
bien_.  Follow in line--what's the use of crowding?"

Monsieur Leddin makes another and still shriller effort, calling from

"Be calm now.  Don't get excited."

"Who's excited?"

"You are!"

"Monsieur Leddin, you're about as fit to be a soldier as I to be an
Archbishop," sneered the butcher's wife.  "You'd do better to leave us
alone and hold your peace."

General hilarity, followed by murmurs of approval from various other
females, which completely silenced Monsieur Leddin, who never reopened
his mouth during the entire evening, so that one could not tell whether
he was nursing his offended dignity or hiding his absolute incompetence
to assume authority.

Places were quickly found on two or three long wooden benches, and a
few chairs provided for the purpose, some persons even spreading out
blankets and camping on the floor.

The raiment displayed was the typical negligée of the Parisian working
class; a dark coloured woollen dressing gown, covered over with a shawl
or a cape, all the attire showing evidence of having been hastily
donned with no time to think of looking in the mirror.

An old lantern and a kerosene lamp but dimly lighted the groups which
were shrouded in deep velvety shadows.

Presently a man, a man that I had never seen before, a man with a long
emaciated face and dark pointed beard, rose in the background, holding
a blanket draped about him by flattening his thin white hand against
his breast.  The whole scene seemed almost biblical, and instantly my
mind evoked Rembrandt's masterpiece--the etching called 'The Hundred
Florin Piece,' which depicts the crowds seated about the standing
figure of our Saviour and listening to His divine words.

But the spell was quickly broken when an instant later my vision
coughed and called--

"Josephine, did you bring down the 'Petit Parisien,' as I told you?"

Ten or fifteen minutes elapsed, and then a rather distant explosion
gave us reason to believe that the enemy planes were retiring.

"_Jamais de la vie_!  No such luck to-night.  Why we've got a good
couple of hours ahead of us, just like last time.  You'll see!  Much
better to make yourself as comfortable as possible and not lose any
sleep over it."

The tiny babies had scarcely waked at all, and peacefully continued to
slumber on their mothers' knees, or on improvised cots made from a
blanket or comforter folded to several thicknesses.

The women soon yawned, and leaning their backs against the wall nodded
regularly in spite of their efforts not to doze off, and each time,
surprised by the sudden shock of awakening would shudder and groan

Tightly clasped in their hands, or on the floor between their feet lay
a bag which never got beyond their reach, to which they clung as
something sacred.  Certain among them were almost elegant in their grey
linen covers.  Others had seen better days, while still others dated
back to the good old times of needlework tapestry.  There were carpet,
kit and canvas bags, little wooden chests with leather handles, and one
poor old creature carefully harboured a card-board box tied about with
a much knotted string.

What did they all contain?  In France amid such a gathering it were
safe to make a guess.

First of all, the spotless family papers--cherished documents
registering births, deaths and marriages.  A lock of hair, a baby
tooth, innumerable faded photographs, a bundle of letters, a scrap of
paper whereon are scrawled the last words of a departed hero, and way
down underneath, neatly separated from all the rest, I feel quite sure
the little family treasure lies hidden.  Yes, here is that handful of
stocks and bonds, thanks to which their concierge bows to them with
respect; those earnings that permit one to fall ill, to face old age
and death without apprehension, the assurance the children shall want
for nothing, shall have a proper education--the certitude that the two
little rooms occupied can really be called home; that the furniture so
carefully waxed and polished is one's own forever.  Bah! what terrors
can lack of work, food shortage, or war hold for such people?  Thus
armed can they not look the horrid spectres square in the face?  The
worst will cost but one or two blue bank notes borrowed from the little
pile, but because of the comfort they have brought they will be
replaced all the more gayly when better days shall come.

All this ran through my brain as I watched those hands--big and small,
fat and thin, young and old, clasping their treasure so tightly, and I
couldn't help feeling that gigantic convulsive gesture of thousands of
other women, who all over the great Capital at that same moment were
hugging so lovingly their little all; the fruit of so much toil and so
much virtue.

My reflections were cut short by a deafening noise that roused my
sleeping companions.  The children shrieked, and the women openly

"That was a close call," commented Monsieur Neu, our concierge.

Five or six boys wanted to rush out and see where the bomb had fallen.
They were dissuaded, but with difficulty.

An elderly man had taken his six year old grandson on to his knee, and
that sleepy little Parisian urchin actually clapped his hands and
crowed over the shock.

"Jiminy, that was a fine one!"

"That's right, my child," pompously exclaimed the grandsire.  "Never,
never forget the monsters who troubled your innocent sleep with their
infamous crimes."

"Oh, cut it out, grandpop," was the somewhat irreverent reply.  "Aren't
you afraid you might miss forty winks?" and then turning to his mother,
"I say, mamma, if one of them lands on our house, you promise you'll
wake me up, won't you?  I want to see everything, and last time and the
time before, I missed it!"

"Yes, darling, of course, but go to sleep, there's a good boy."

A tall, good-looking girl over in one corner openly gave vent to her

"The idiots! the idiots! if they think they can scare us that way!
They'd far better not waste their time, and let us sleep.  It isn't a
bit funny any more, and I've got to work just the same to-morrow, Boche
or no Boche!"

Two rickety old creatures clasped each other in arms, and demanded in
trembling voices if there was any real danger!  This produced a ripple
of merriment.

Monsieur Duplan, the butcher, then asked the ladies' permission to
smoke, the which permission was graciously accorded.

"Why, if I'd only thought, I'd have brought down another lamp and my
work.  It's too bad to waste so much time."

"I have my knitting.  You don't need any light for that."

"Where on earth did you get wool?  How lucky you are!"

From Monsieur Leddin's lips now rose a loud and sonorous snore.

"Decidedly that man is possessed of all the charms," giggled a
sarcastic neighbour.

"Yes, it must be a perfect paradise to live with such an angel, and to
feel that you've got him safe at home till the end of the war.  I don't
wonder his poor little wife took the children and went to Burgundy."

"Why isn't he at the front?" hissed some one in a whisper.


"There are lots less healthy men than he out there.  The fat old
plumber who lived on the rue de Jouy, and who can hardly breathe, was

"And the milkman who passed a hundred and three medical inspections and
finally had to go."

"If you think my husband is overstrong, you're mistaken."

"And mine, Madame, how about him?"

Something told me that Monsieur Leddin's fate was hanging in the
balance on this eventful evening.

"Shake him up, Monsieur Neu, he doesn't need to sleep if we can't.
We've all got to work to-morrow and he can take a nice long nap at his

"Oh, leave him alone," put in Monsieur Laurent, the stationer, who was
seated near me.  "Just listen to those fiendish women.  Why they're
worse than we are about the slackers.  After all, I keep telling them
there must be a few, otherwise who's going to write history?  And
history's got to be written, hasn't it?"

"Most decidedly," I replied.

And having at length found a subject of conversation that I had deigned
approve, he continued,

"Just think of what all the poor kids in generations to come will have
to cram into their heads!  The names of all the battles on all the
Fronts and the dates.  It makes me dizzy!  I'm glad it's not up to me.
I like history all well enough, but I'd rather make it than have to
learn it."

Monsieur Laurent did not speak lightly.  He had veritably helped to
make history, having left his right foot and part of his leg "Out
there" on the hills of Verdun.

I asked him how he was getting along since his return.

"Better than ever!  Excellent appetite--never a cold--never an ill.
I'll soon be as spry as a rabbit.  Why, I used to be too heavy, I
always fell asleep after luncheon.  That campaign set my blood to
rights.  I'm ten years younger," he exclaimed, pounding his chest.

"That's a good strong-box, isn't it?" and he coughed loudly to
thoroughly convince of its solidity.

"France can still count on me!  I was ready for war, and I shall be
prepared for peace."

"Just wait till it gets here," murmured some woman.


"It'll come, it's bound to come some time," he cried, evidently
pursuing a favourite theme.  "And we'll like it all the better for
having waited so long."

Monsieur Laurent has firm faith in the immediate business future.

"_Voilà_! all we've got to do is to lay Germany out flat.  Even then
the economical struggle that will follow the war will be terrible," he
prophesies.  "The French must come to the fore with all the resources
of their national genius.  As to myself, I have my own idea on the

We were fairly drinking in his words.

"You've all doubtless seen the sign that I put up in my window?"

We acquiesced.

"Well, it was that sign that opened my eyes."

I was all attention by this time, for I distinctly remembered the above
mentioned sign.  It had puzzled and amused me immensely.  Painted in
brilliant letters, it ran as follows:


  _For men having their left foot
  amputated and wearing size No. 9.
    3 shoes for the right foot--two
    black and one tan; excellent
    quality, almost like new.
  For sale, or exchange for shoes
  belonging to the left foot.  Must be
  of same quality and in like condition._

"I haven't yet made any special effort to ascertain whether there are
more amputations of the left than of the right foot," continued
Monsieur Laurent; "I suppose it's about equal.  Well, my plan is just
this.  As soon as there's peace I'm going to set up shop on the rue St.
Antoine, or the Place de la Bastille.  I'll call it 'A la botte de
l'amputé,' and I sell my shoes separately instead of in pairs.  There's
a fortune in it inside of five years."

"Just hear him raving," sighed his wife.  "You know well enough,
Laurent, that just so soon as the war is over we're going to sell out,
and with the money, your pension, and what we've saved up, we'll go out
to the Parc St. Maur, buy a little cottage and settle down.  I'll raise
a few chickens and some flowers, and you can go fishing in the Seine
all day long."

"But the economical struggle?"

"You let the economical struggle take care of itself.  Now, with your
mad idea, just suppose those who had a right foot all wanted tan shoes,
and those who had a left couldn't stand anything but black?  I'd like
to know where you'd be then?  Stranger things than that have happened."

Laurent gazed at his wife in admiration.

"With all your talk about the future, it seems to me we've been down
here a long time since that last explosion."

One woman looked for her husband but could not find him.  The Rembrandt
Christhead had also disappeared.

A tall fifteen year old lad who stood near the door informed us that
they had slipped out to see.

"So has Germain."

"Then you come here!  Don't you dare leave me," scolded the mother.
"Can you just see something happening to him with his father out there
in the trenches?"

Monsieur Neu and two other men soon followed suit.

The big boy who had so recently been admonished managed to crawl from
beneath his mother's gaze and make his escape.

"If ever I catch him, he'll find out what my name is," screamed the
excited woman, dashing after him into the darkness.

Then, presently, one by one we took our way towards the hall, and the
cellar seemed empty.

The tall boy came back to the entrance, all excitement.

"We saw where it fell!" he panted.  "There are some wounded.  The
police won't let you go near.  There's lots and lots of people out
there.  Where's mamma?"

"She's looking for you!"

He was off with a bound.

The instinct to see, to know what is going on is infinitely stronger
than that of self preservation.  Many a soldier has told me that, and I
have often had occasion to prove it personally.

Some of the women started towards the street.

"We're only going as far as the door," said they by way of excuse.
"You're really quite safe beneath the portico."  And they carried their
babies with them.

So when the final signal of safety was sounded, there remained below
but a few old women, a couple of very small children, and Monsieur
Leddin, whom nothing seemed to disturb.

The mothers returned to fetch their children.  The old ladies and
Monsieur Leddin were aroused.

"_C'est fini_!  _Ah_!"

And in the courtyard one could hear them calling as they dispersed.

"Good-night, Madame Cocard."

"Good-night, Madame Bidon."

"Don't forget."

"I won't."

"Till next time."

"That's it, till next time."

A young woman approached me.

"Madame, you won't mind if I come after them to-morrow, would you?" she
begged with big wistful eyes.  "The stairway is so dark and so narrow
in our house, I'm afraid something might happen to them."

"Mercy me! you're surely not thinking of leaving your babies alone in
the cellar?"

"Oh, Madame, it's not my babies.  Not yet," and she smiled.  "It's my
bronze chimney ornaments!"

"Your what?"

"Yes, Madame, my chimney ornaments.  A clock and a pair of
candlesticks.  They're over there in that wooden box all done up
beautifully.  You see Lucien and I got married after the war began.  It
was all done so quickly that I didn't have any trousseau or wedding
presents.  I'm earning quite a good deal now, and I don't want him to
think ill of me so I'm furnishing the house, little by little.  It's a
surprise for when he comes home."

"He's at the front?"

"No, Madame, in the hospital.  He has a bad face wound.  My, how it
worried him.  He wanted to die, he used to be so handsome!  See, here's
his photograph.  He isn't too awfully ugly, is he?  Anyway I don't love
him a bit less; quite the contrary, and that's one of the very reasons
why I want to fix things up--so as to prove it to him!"


The Moulin Rouge no longer turns.  The strains of sounding brass and
tinkling cymbal which once issued incessantly from every open café, and
together with the street cries, the tram bells and the motor horns of
the Boulevards Exterieurs, formed a gigantic characteristic medley,
have long since died away.  The night restaurants are now turned into
workrooms and popular soup kitchens.  Montmartre, the heart of Paris,
as it used to be called, Montmartre the care-free, has become drawn and
wizened as a winter apple, and at present strangely resembles a little
provincial city.

If it were true that "There is no greater sorrow than recalling happy
times when in misery," doubtless from France would rise but one long
forlorn wail.  The stoic Parisian _poilu_, however, has completely
reversed such philosophy, and unmindful of the change his absence has
created, delights in the remembrance of every instant, dreams but of
the moment when he shall again be part of the light-hearted throngs who
composed the society of the Butte.  Time and again I have seen heavy
army trucks lumbering down the avenue, bearing in huge chalk letters on
either side of the awning-covered sides, such inscriptions as--_Bon
jour, Montmartre.  A bientot la Cigale--Greetings from the Front_--and
like nonsense, denoting not only a homesick heart, but a delicate
attention towards a well beloved.

A few months might have made but little difference, but each succeeding
year of war has brought indelible changes.  Gone forever, I fear, are
the evenings when after dinner at the Cuckoo, we would stand on the
balcony and watch the gradual fairy-like illumination of the panorama
that stretched out before us.  The little restaurant has closed its
doors, but the vision from the terrace is perhaps more majestic, for as
the last golden rays of twilight disappear, a deep purple vapour rising
from the unknown, rolls forward and mysteriously envelops the _Ville
Lumière_ in its sumptuous protecting folds.  Alone, overhead the star
lamp of a scout plane is the only visible light.

The old Moulin de la Galette has cast aside its city airs and taken on
a most rural aspect, while the _maquis_, or jungle on whose site a
whole new white stone quarter had been projected, is now but a mass of
half finished, abandoned foundations, wherein the children of the
entire neighbourhood gather to play at the only game which now has a
vogue, i.e., "War."

_La petite guerre_ they call it.

We came upon them quite by accident one afternoon, and discovered two
hostile bands occupying first line trenches.

Of course, as no one wished to be the Boche, it looked for a time as
though the campaign would have to be deferred, but so violent was the
love of fray that it was soon decided that the _opposite_ side in both
cases would be considered Hun, and thus the difficulty was solved.

It goes without saying that the school which is first dismissed
occupies the better positions.  The others must rely upon their
strength and valour to win out.

The first attack was with hand grenades in the form of pebbles.
Patrols advanced into No Man's Land, crawling and crouching until with
a yell the belligerents met.  Prisoners were taken on both sides.

"What forces have we in front of us?" demanded an important looking
twelve year old General of an enemy soldier who was brought before him.

Dead silence ensued.

"If he refuses to answer, turn him upside down until he does."

The order was executed.

From the opposite trench came shrieks of "Boche!  Boche!--it's only the
Boche who maltreat prisoners."

The aforementioned who was rapidly developing cerebral congestion, made
sign that he would speak.

"Turn him right side up!"

The young executioner obeyed, but still held a firm grip on the
unfortunate lad's collar.

"Now, then, how many of you are there in your trenches?"

"Enough to make jelly out of your men if there are many like you!"
shrieked the captive, struggling to escape.

"Take him behind the lines, don't be rough with him.  Respect is due
all prisoners," ordered the General, whose eye had caught a glimpse of
his army being menaced by the blond headed enemy.

"Look out, boys!  Down with your heads!  They're sending over some
'coal scuttles.'  Dig in I say and keep a sharp look out!  What's the
matter back there?"

"It's little Michaud.  He's wounded!"

"Don't cry, Michaud, go out by the connecting trench to the dressing
station.  It's not far."

The hail of "coal scuttles" having subsided, the General mounted to his
observation post.

"Hey!  Michel!  Gaston! hey there, the artillery!" he yelled.  "Get in
at them quick.  Go to it, I say.  Don't you see they're going to
attack!  What's artillery for, anyway?"

"We can't fire a shot.  They're pounding on our munitions dump."

"What difference does that make?"

Under heavy fire the artillery achieved the impossible, which actually
resulted in bloodshed.  But their determination was soon rewarded, for
the patent "Seventy Fives," represented by huge slabs of sod, soon
rained into the enemy trenches, sowing panic and disorder.

Profiting by the confusion, our General grabbed up a basket and began
distributing munitions.

"Attention!  Listen to me!  Don't any one fire until I give the word.
Let them approach quite close and then each one of you choose your man.
Dentu, if you're too short, stand on a stone or something!"

The artillery wreaking havoc in his midst, the enemy decided to brusque
matters and attack.  He left his trenches shouting, "_Vive la France!
En avant!  Aux armes, mes citoyens!  A bas le Boche!_"

"Attention!  Are you ready?  Fire!" commanded our General.

Bing! bang! a veritable tornado of over-ripe tomatoes deluged the
astonished oncomers, who hesitated an instant and then fell back.  The
standard bearer having received one juicy missile full in the face,
dropped his emblem and stared wild-eyed about him.  From the head and
hair of the enemy General, whose cardboard helmet had been crushed to a
pulp, streamed a disgusting reddish mess.  The other unfortunate
wounded were weeping.

"_En avant à la bayonette_!  _Vive la France_!  We've got them, they're
ours," shrieked the delighted commander, who owed his rank to the fact
that his parents kept a fruit stand.

It was victory for certain, and a proudly won triumph.  The mêlée was
hot and ferocious, many a patch or darn being put in store for certain
patient, all-enduring mothers.

The dressing station was full to overflowing.  Here the feminine
element reigned supreme, their heads eclipsed beneath a stolen dish
cloth, a borrowed towel, or a grimy handkerchief.  And here too, little
Michaud, his pate enveloped in so many yards of bandage that he seemed
to be all turban, sat on an impromptu cot, smiling benignly while
devouring a three sou apple tart, due to the generosity of the Ladies'
Red Cross Emergency Committee, which had taken up a collection in order
to alleviate the sufferings of their dear hero.

To be perfectly frank, almost all the supply of dressings had been
employed on Michaud's person at the very outbreak of hostilities, so,
therefore, when the stock ran short and more were needed, they were
merely unrolled from about his head.

Leaving him to his fate, we advanced a bit in order to communicate with
one of the glorious vanquished.

"They think they've got us," he explained, "but just you wait and see!
I know a shop on the Avenue de Clichy where you can get rotten eggs for
nothing!  They don't know what's coming to them--they don't!"

Thus for these little folks the very state of their existence is the
war.  They do not talk about it because they are living it.  Even those
who are so fortunate as to recall the happy times when there was no
conflict, scarcely assume a superiority over their comrades who cannot
remember that far distant epoch.

"My papa'll be home next week on furlough if there isn't an attack," or
"Gee, how we laughed down cellar the night of the bombardment," are
common phrases, just as the words, "guns, shells, aeroplanes and gas,"
form the very elements of their education.  The better informed
instruct the others, and it is no uncommon occurrence to see a group of
five or six little fellows hanging around a doorway, listening to a
gratuitous lecture on the 75, given by an elder.

"That's not true," cuts in one.  "It's not that at all, the
_correcteur_ and the _debouchoir_ are not the same thing.  Not by a
long sight!  I ought to know, hadn't I, my father's chief gunner in his

"Ah, go on!  Didn't Mr. Dumont who used to teach the third grade, draw
it all out for us on the blackboard the last time he was home on leave?
What do you take us for?  Why he's even got the _Croix de Guerre_ and
the 'Bananna.'" [1]

Nor is the _communiqué_ ignored by these budding heroes.  On the
contrary, it is read and commented upon with fervour.

In a little side street leading to the Seine, I encountered a ten year
old lad, dashing forward, brandishing the evening paper in his hand.

"Come on, kids, it's time for the _communiqué_," he called to a couple
of smaller boys who were playing on the opposite curb.  The children
addressed (one may have been five, the other seven, or thereabouts)
immediately abandoned their marbles, and hastened to join their
companion, who breathlessly unfolded the sheet.

"Artillery combats in Flanders----" he commenced.

The little fellows opened their big candid eyes, their faces were drawn
and grave, in an intense effort of attention.  Their mouths gaped
unconsciously.  One felt their desire to understand, to grasp things
that were completely out of reach.

"During the night a spirited attack with hand grenades in the region of
the Four de Paris," continued the reader.  "We progressed slightly to
the East of Mort Homme, and took an element of trenches.  We captured
two machine guns, and made several prisoners."

"My papa's in Alsace," piped one listener.

"And mine's in the Somme."

"That's all right," inferred the elder.  "Isn't mine at Verdun?" and
then proudly, "And machine gunner at that!"

Then folding his paper and preparing to move on:

"The news is good--we should worry."

Yes, that's what the little ones understood best of all, "the news is
good," and a wonderful, broad, angelic smile spread out over their
fresh baby faces; a smile so bewitching that I couldn't resist
embracing them--much to their surprise.


"I just must kiss you," I explained, "because the news is good!"

From one end to the other of the entire social scale the children have
this self same spirit.

Seated at the dining-room table, a big spot of violet ink on one cheek,
I found little Jules Gauthier carefully copying something in a note

"What are you doing there, Jules?"

"Writing in my book, Madame."

"What are you writing?"

"About the war, everything I can remember."

At that particular moment he was inscribing an anecdote which he had
just heard some one telling in his mother's drawing room.

"The President of the Republic once asked General de Castelnau, 'Well,
General, what shall you do after the war is over?'

"'Weep for my sons, Mr. President.'"

"But, Jules, why do you write such things?" I queried.

"Because it's splendid, and I put down everything I know or hear that's
beautiful or splendid."

And true enough, pêle mêle with portraits he had cut out and pasted,
plans for aeroplanes that he had drawn, were copies of extraordinary
citations for bravery, memorable dates and descriptions of battles.

In the Summer of 1915, my friend Jeanne took her small baby and her
daughter Annette, aged five, to their little country home on the
seashore in Brittany.  The father, over military age, remained in town
to look after some patriotic work.

Help was hard to get, and Jeanne not over strong was torn between
household duties and her infant son, so that Annette, clad in a bathing
suit and sweater, spent most of her time on the beach in company with
other small people of her own years.

Astonished at seeing the little one so much alone, certain kind-hearted
mothers invited her to partake of their bread, chocolate and other
dainties provided for the gouter of their own offspring, and as the
child gladly and continually accepted, her apparent abandon became a
subject of conversation, and they decided to question Annette.

"Where is your mother, dear?"

"She's home, very ill."

"Oh, really.  I'm so sorry, what's the trouble--nothing serious, I

"I think it must be--you see she has had her three brothers killed and
now grandpa has enlisted."

"Dear me, how terrible!  And your papa?"

"Oh, he's in town working for the government.  One of his brothers was
killed and the other is blind.  Poor old grandma died of the shock."

Moved by the lamentable plight of so young a mother, the good ladies
sought to penetrate her seclusion, offer their condolences, and help
lift the cloud of gloom.

Imagine then their surprise at being received by my smiling,
blond-haired friend, who failed to comprehend their mournful but
astonished looks.

At length Annette's story was brought to light, and Jeanne could but
thank them for their trouble, at the same time explaining that neither
she nor her husband had ever had brothers, and that their parents had
been dead these many years.

"You naughty, wicked girl!" scolded Jeanne, as her tearful progeny was
led forward.  "You wicked, wicked girl--what made you tell such lies?"

The culprit twisted her hands; her whole body fairly convulsed with
restrained sobs.

"Answer me at once!  Do you hear me?"

Annette hesitated, and then throwing herself in her mother's arms,
blurted out, "Oh, mamma, I just couldn't help it!  All the others were
so proud of their _poilus_, and I haven't any one at the front; not
even a god-son!"

It seems highly probable that children who have received such an
education will ultimately form a special generation.  Poor little
things who never knew what "play" meant, at a time when life should
have been all sunshine and smiles; tender, sensitive creatures brought
up in an atmosphere of privation and tears.

Those who were between ten and fifteen years of age at the outbreak of
the war have had a particularly hard time.

In the smaller trades and industries, as well as on the farms, with a
father or an elder brother absent, these youngsters have been obliged
to leave school or college, and hasten to the counter or the plough.
And not only have they been called upon to furnish the helping hand,
but in times of moral stress they have often had to give proof of a
mature judgment, a courage, a will power, and a forebearance far beyond
their years.

After a ten months' absence, when I opened up my Parisian home, I found
it necessary to change or replace certain electric lighting
arrangements.  As usual I called up the Maison Bincteux.

"_Bien, Madame_, I shall send some one to look after it."

The next morning my maid announced _La Maison Bincteux_.

When I reached the hallway, I found the aforesaid _Maison_ to be a lad
some fifteen years old, who might easily have passed for twelve, so
slight was his build.  His long, pale, oval face, which seemed almost
unhealthy, was relieved by a pair of snapping blue eyes.

"Did you bring a letter?"

"Oh, no, Madame, I am Monsieur Bincteux's son."

"Then your father is coming later?"

"Oh, no, Madame, he can't, he is mechanician in the aviation corps at
Verdun.  My oldest brother is in the artillery, and the second one has
just left for the front--so I quit school and am trying to help mother
continue the business."

"How old are you?"

"I belong to the Class of 1923," came the proud reply.

"Oh, I see.  Come right in then, I'll show you what I need."

With a most serious and important air he produced a note book, tapped
on the partitions, sounded the walls, took measures and jotted down a
few lines.

"Very well, Madame, I've seen all that's necessary.  I'll be back
to-morrow morning with a workman."

True to his word he appeared the next day, accompanied by a decrepit,
coughing, asthmatic specimen of humanity, who was hardly worthy of the
honorable title his employer had seen fit to confer.

Our studio is extremely high, and when it was necessary to stretch out
and raise our double extension ladder, it seemed as though disaster
were imminent.

We offered our assistance, but from the glance he launched us, I felt
quite certain that we had mortally offended the manager of the _Maison
Bincteux_.  He stiffened every muscle, gave a supreme effort, and up
went the ladder.  Truly his will power, his intelligence and his
activity were remarkable.

After surveying the undertaking, he made his calculations, and then
addressing his aid:

"We'll have to bore here," he said.  "The wires will go through there,
to the left and we'll put the switches to the right, just above; go
ahead with the work and I'll be back in a couple of hours."

The old man mumbled something disobliging.

"Do what I tell you and don't make any fuss about it.  You're better
off here than in the trenches, aren't you?  We've heard enough from
you, old slacker."

The idea that any one dare insinuate that he ought to be at the front
at his age, fairly suffocated the aid electrician, who broke into a fit
of coughing.

"Madame, Madame," he gasped.  "In the trenches?  Why I'm seventy-three.
I've worked for his father and grandfather before him--but I've never
seen his like!  Why only this very morning he was grumbling because I
didn't ride a bicycle so we could get to places faster!"

At noon the _Maison Bincteux_ reappeared, accompanied by the General
Agent of the Electric Company.  He discussed matters in detail with
this awe inspiring person--objected, retaliated, and finally terminated
his affairs, leaving us a few moments later, having accomplished the
best and most rapid job of its kind I have ever seen.

With the Class of 1919 now behind the lines, by the time this volume
goes to press, there is little doubt but that the class of 1920 shall
have been called to the colours.  All these lads are the little fellows
we used to know in short trousers; the rascals who not so many summers
since climbed to the house-tops, swung from trees, fell into the river,
dropped torpedoes to frighten the horses or who when punished and
locked in their rooms, would jump out the window and escape.

Then, there were those others, "the good boys," whose collars and socks
were always immaculate, romantic little natures that would kiss your
hand with so much ceremony and politeness, blushing if one addressed
them affectionately, spending whole days at a time lost in fantastic

To us they hardly seem men.  And yet they are already soldiers,
prepared to make the supreme sacrifice, well knowing from father,
brothers or friends who have gone before, all the grandeur and
abnegation through which their souls must pass to attain but an
uncertain end.

Any number of what we would call mere children have been so imbued with
the spirit of sacrifice, that they have joined the army long before
their Class was called.  Madame de Martel's grandson, the sons of
Monsieur Barthou, Louis Morin, Pierre Mille, to mention but a few in
thousands, all fell on the Field of Honour before attaining their
eighteenth year.

And each family will tell you the same pathetic tale:

"We tried to interest him in his work--we provided all kinds of
amusements; did everything to keep him here; all to no avail.  There
was just one thought uppermost in his mind--Enlist--Serve.  He was all
we had!"

Little Jacques Krauss promised his mother he would not go until he had
won his baccalaureate, and my friend lived in the hope that all would
be over by the time the "baby" had succeeded.  But, lo! the baby,
unknown to his parents, worked nights, skipped a year, passed his
examination, and left for the front, aged seventeen years and three
months!  He had kept his word.  What could they do?

In another household--my friends the G's., where two elder sons have
already been killed, there remained as sole heir, a pale, lanky youth
of sixteen.

With the news of his brothers' death the flame of vengeance kindled,
and then began a regime of overfeeding, physical exercises, and medical
supervision, that would have made many a stouter heart quail.

Every week the family is present when the chest measure is taken.

"Just one more centimetre, and you'll be fit!" exclaims the
enthusiastic father, while on the lashes of the smiling mother form two
bright tears which trickle unheeded down her cheeks.

There reigns a supernatural enthusiasm among all these youths; an
almost sacred fire burns in their eyes, their speech is pondered but
passionate.  They are so glad, so proud to go.  They know but one
fear--that of arriving too late.

"We don't want to belong to the Class that didn't fight."

And with it all they are so childlike and so simple--these heroes.

One afternoon, in a tea room near the Bon Marché, I noticed a soldier
in an obscure corner, who, his back turned to us, was finishing with
vigorous appetite, a plate of fancy cakes and pastry.  (There was still
pastry in those days--1917.)

"Good!" thought I.  "I'm glad to see some one who loves cakes enjoying

The plate emptied, he waited a few minutes.  Then presently he called
the attendant.

She leaned over, listened to his whispered order, smiled and
disappeared.  A moment later she returned bearing a second well laden

It was not long before these cakes too had gone the way of their

I lingered a while anxious to see the face of this robust sweet tooth,
whose appetite had so delighted me.

He poured out and swallowed a last cup of tea, paid his bill and rose,
displaying as he turned about a pink and white beardless countenance,
that might have belonged to a boy of fifteen--suddenly grown to a man
during an attack of measles.  On his breast was the _Medaille
Militaire_, and the _Croix de Guerre_, with three palms.

This mere infant must have jumped from his school to an aeroplane.  At
any rate, I feel quite certain that he never before had been allowed
out alone with sufficient funds to gratify his youthful passion for
sweetmeats and, therefore, profiting by this first occasion, had
indulged himself to the limit.  Can you blame him?

[1] The "Bananna"--slang for the Medaille Militaire--probably on
account of the green and yellow ribbon on which it hangs.


To go from Le Mans to Falaise, from Falaise to St. Lo; from St. Lo to
Morlaix, and thence to Poitiers would seem very easy on the map, and
with a motor, in times gone by it was a really royal itinerary, so
vastly different and picturesque are the various regions crossed.  But
now that gasolene is handed out by the spoonful even to sanitary
formations, it would be just as easy for the civilian to procure a
white elephant as to dream of purchasing sufficient "gas" to make such
a trip.

There is nothing to do but take the train, and that means of locomotion
not only requires time, but patience and considerable good humour.
Railway service in France has been decidedly reduced, and while
travelling is permitted only to those persons who must needs do so, the
number of plausible motives alleged has greatly augmented, with the
result that trains are crowded to the extreme limit.  To tell the
truth, a good third of the population is always moving.  For how on
earth is one to prevent the parents of a wounded hero from crossing the
entire country to see him, or deny them the right to visit a lad at his
training camp?

This then accounts for the appearance of the Breton peasant's
beribboned hat and embroidered waistcoat on the promenades of the
Riviera, the Arlesian bonnet in the depths of Normandy, the Pyrenese
cap in Lorraine.

All this heterogeneous crowd forms a long line in front of the ticket
office, each one encumbered with a basket or a bag, a carpetsack or a
bundle containing patés and sausages, pastry and pickles, every known
local dainty which will recall the native village to the dear one so
far away.

It is thus that from Argentan to Caën I found myself seated between a
stout motherly person from Auvergne, and a little dark man from whose
direction was wafted so strong an odour of garlic that I had no
difficulty discerning from what region he hailed.  Next to him were a
bourgeois couple whose mourning attire, red eyes and swollen faces
bespoke plainly enough the bereavement they had just suffered.  Silent,
indifferent to everything and everybody, their hands spread out on
their knees, they stared into the ghastly emptiness, vainly seeking
consolation for their shattered dream, their grief-trammelled souls.

A heavily built couple of Norman farmers occupied the seats on either
side of the door, and then came a tall young girl and her mother, a
Belgian soldier, and finally a strange old creature wearing an
antiquated starched bonnet, a flowered shawl, and carrying an umbrella
such as one sees but in engravings illustrating the modes and customs
of the eighteenth century.  She was literally buried beneath a
monumental basket which she insisted upon holding on her knees.

Every available inch of floor space was covered with crocks and kits
full of provisions, and in the rack above our heads were so many boxes
and bundles, bags and bales, remaining aloft by such remarkable laws of
equilibrium that I feared lest any moment they fall upon our heads, and
once this catastrophe occurred there seemed to be little hope of
extricating oneself from beneath the ruins.

The conversation was opened by the Norman farmer who offered to relieve
the little old woman of her basket and set it safely between his feet.

"_Oh, non merci_," she piped in a thin little wavering treble, and an
inimitable accent which made it impossible to guess her origin.

"Oh, no, Monsieur, thank you," she continued.  "It's full of cream
tarts and cherry tarts, and custard pies made right in our own home.
I'm taking them to my boy, and as we stayed up very late to make them
so that they would be quite fresh, I should hate to have any of them
crushed or broken.  He did love them so when he was little!"

"Our son was just the same.  As soon as he was able to eat he begged
them to let him have some _brioche_.  But his fever was too high when
we got there, and he couldn't take a thing.  'That doesn't matter,' he
said to his mother.  'Just the sight of them makes my mouth water, and
I feel better already.'"

My Provençal neighbour could no longer resist.  His natural
loquaciousness got the better of his reserve.

"Well, the first thing my son asked for was olives, so I brought him
enough to last, as well as some sausage which he used to relish.  Oh,
if only I could bring him a little bit of our blue sky, I'm sure he
would recover twice as quickly."

The mother of the young girl now sat forward and asked the Norman
farmer's wife where and how her son had been wounded.

"He had a splinter of shell in his left thigh.  He'd been through the
whole campaign without a scratch or a day of illness."

The woman's eyes sparkled with pride and tenderness.

The short man beside me, who informed me he was a native of Beaucaire
on the Rhone, had one son wounded and being cared for in a hospital at
Caën, a second prisoner in Germany, and two sons-in-law already killed.

According to a letter which the dear old flowered shawl spelled out to
us word by word, her grandson had been wounded in seven different
places, and had had one hand and one leg amputated.  But he hastened to
add that he was not worrying a bit about it.

The young girl's mother had one son in the ranks, and a second, aged
seventeen, had enlisted and was about to leave for the front.  She and
her daughter were on their way to embrace him for the last time.

The Belgian soldier was just getting about after an attack of typhoid
fever, and the motherly person on my left was travelling towards her
husband, a territorial of ripe years whose long nights of vigil beneath
bridges and in the mud of the Somme had brought him down with
inflammatory rheumatism.  Their son, they prayed, was prisoner--having
been reported missing since the 30th of August, 1914.  This coarse,
heavy featured woman of the working classes, cherished her offspring
much as a lioness does her young.  She told us she had written to the
President of the Republic, to her Congressman, her Senator, to the King
of Spain, the Norwegian Ambassador, to the Colonel of the Regiment, as
well as to all the friends of her son on whose address she had been
able to lay hand; and she would keep right on writing until she
obtained some result, some information.  She could not, would not,
admit that her boy was lost; and scarcely stopping to take breath she
would ramble on at length, telling of her hopes and her disappointments
to which all the compartment listened religiously while slowly the
train rolled along through the smiling, undulating Norman country.

Each one did what he could to buoy up the mother's hopes.

The little Southerner seemed to possess a countless number of stories
about prisoners, and he presently proceeded to go into minute detail
about the parcels he sent to his own son, explaining the regulation as
to contents, measures and weights, with so much volubility that the
good soul already saw herself preparing a package to be forwarded to
her long lost darling.

"You can just believe that he'll never want for anything--if clothes
and food will do him any good.  There's nothing on earth he can't have
if only we can find him, if only he comes back to us."

And growing bolder as she felt the wealth of sympathy surrounding her,
she looked over and addressed the woman in mourning, who at that moment
smiled gently at her.

"We thought we knew how much we loved them, didn't we, Madame?  But
we'd never have realised how really deep it was if it hadn't been for
this war, would we?"

The woman continued to smile sadly.

"More than likely you've got somebody in it too," persisted the stout
Auvergnate, whose voice suddenly became very gentle and trembled a

"I _had_ three sons.  We have just buried the last one this morning."

All the faces dropped and a ghastly silence fell upon the group.  Each
one looked straight into the distance ahead of him, but the bond of
sympathy was drawn still tighter, and in the moment of stillness that
ensued I felt that all of us were communing with Sorrow.

Between Folligny and Lamballe, we were quite as closely huddled between
three soldiers on furlough, a stout old priest, a travelling salesman,
and a short gentleman with a pointed beard, a pair of eyeglasses and an
upturned nose.

At one moment our train halted and waited an incredible length of time
vainly whistling for the tower-man to lift the signal which impeded our

The travelling salesman who was cross and weary finally left his seat,
grumbling audibly.

"We'll never in the world get there on time.  It's certain I shall miss
my connection!  What a rotten road!  What management!"

"It's the war," murmered the priest pulling out a red checked
handkerchief in which he buried his nose.

"You don't have to look far to see that," responded the other, still

"Oh, it's plain enough for us all right.  Those who are handling
government jobs are the only fellows who don't know it, I should say."

"Bah! each of us has his troubles--each of us has his Cross to bear,"
murmured the Father by way of conciliation, casting his eyes around the
compartment, much as he would have done upon the faithful assembled to
hear him hold forth.

"Pooh! it's you priests who are the cause of all the trouble.  It was
you who preached and got the three year service law voted."

The poor Curate was fairly suffocated with surprise and indignation.
He was so ruffled he could hardly find a word.  In the meantime the
travelling salesman taking advantage of his silence, continued:

"Yes, it was you and the financiers, and it's nothing to brag about

The man with the upturned nose now wheeled about sharply.  His blood
was up and he strangely resembled a little bantam cockerel.

"Monsieur," he snapped, and his voice was clear and cutting, "if any
one had a right to express a complaint on any subject whatsoever, it
would certainly be the soldiers who are seated in this compartment.
Now as they have said nothing, I cannot admit that you, a civilian,
should take such liberties."

"But, Monsieur----"

"Yes, Monsieur, that's exactly what I mean, and as to the sentiments to
which you have given voice they are as stupid as they are odious.  We
all know now that war was inevitable.  The Germans have been preparing
it for forty years."



The two glared fixedly at each other for an instant; the one was very
red, the other extremely pale.  Then they turned about and resumed
their places in each corner.  The priest produced his breviary, the
soldiers finished a light repast composed of bread and cheese.

They were all three peasants, easily discernible from the way they
slowly chewed and swallowed, or caught up a crumb of cheese on the
point of their knives.  They had sat silent and listened to the
outbursts without turning an eyelash.  Then presently one of them
lifted his head and addressing his companions in a deep bass voice:

"Well," said he, "this makes almost two days now that we've been on the

"What have you got to kick about?" retaliated the other, shutting his
knife and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.  "You're as well
off here as you were in the trenches of Bois Le Pretre, aren't you?"

The third one said nothing, but recommenced carving a cane which he had
abandoned for an instant, and which he was terminating with more
patience than art, though the accomplishment of his task seemed to give
him infinite pleasure.

As the commercial traveller had predicted, we were hours late and in
consequence missed our connection, but the platform of a station where
two lines meet, offers, under such circumstances, so diverse and
diverting a spectacle that we hardly regretted the delay.  It is here
that any one interested in physiognomy can best study and judge the
masses, for it is as though the very texture from which France is woven
were laid bare before him.  This spectacle is constantly changing,
constantly renewed, at times deeply moving.  No face can be, or is,
indifferent, in these days and one no longer feels himself a detached
individual observer; one becomes an atom of the crowd, sharing the
anxiety of certain women that one knows are on their way to a hospital
and who half mad with impatience are clutching the fatal telegram in
one hand, while with the fingers of the other they thrum on one cheek
or nervously catch at a button or ornament of their clothing.

Or again one may participate in the hilarious joy of the men on
furlough, who having discovered the pump, stand stripped to the waist,
making a most meticulous toilet, all the while teasing a fat,
bald-headed chap to whom they continuously pass their pocket combs with
audible instructions to be sure to put his part on the left side.

The waiting-rooms literally overflow with soldiers--some stretched out
on the benches, some on the floor; certain lying on their faces, others
on their backs, and still others pillowing their heads on their

One feels their overpowering weariness, their leaden sleep after so
many nights of vigil; their absolute relaxation after so many
consecutive days in which all the vital forces have been stretched to
the breaking point.

From time to time an employé opens the door and shouts the departure of
a train.  The soldiers rouse themselves, accustomed to being thus
disturbed in the midst of their slumber.  One or two get up, stare
about them, collect their belongings and start for the platform,
noiselessly stepping over their sleeping companions.  At the same time
newcomers, creeping in behind them, sink down into the places which
they have just forsaken, while they are still warm.

On a number of baggage trucks ten or a dozen Moroccan soldiers have
seated themselves, crosslegged, and draped in their noble burnous, they
gently puff smoke into the air, without a movement, without a gesture,
without a sound, apparently utterly oblivious to the noisy employés, or
the thundering of the passing trains.

On the platform people walk up and down, up and down; certain among
them taking a marked interest in the old-fashioned, wheezing
locomotives which seem fairly to stagger beneath the long train of
antiquated coaches hitched behind them.

Here, of course, are to be found the traditional groups in evidence at
every station; a handful of people in deep mourning on their way to a
funeral; a little knot of Sisters of Charity, huddled together in an
obscure corner reciting their rosary; families of refugees whom the
tempest has driven from their homes--whole tribes dragging with them
their old people and their children who moan and weep incessantly.
Their servants loaded down with relics saved from the disaster in
heavy, clumsy, ill-tied bundles, are infinitely pitiable to behold.
They are all travelling straight ahead of them with no determined end
in view.  They seem to have been on the way so long, and yet they are
in no haste to arrive.  Hunger gnawing them, they produce their
provisions, and having seated themselves on their luggage, commence a
repast, eating most slowly, the better to kill time while waiting for a
train that refuses to put in an appearance.

The _buffet_ is so full of noise, smoke and various other odours, that
having opened the door one hesitates before entering.  There is a long
counter where everything is sold; bread, wine, cider, beer and
lemonade; sandwiches, patés, fruit and sweetmeats.  One makes his
choice and pays in consequence.  At the side tables the civilians are
lost mid the mass of blue uniforms.

[Illustration: MONSIEUR AMÉDÉ]

This is a station in Normandy, and for the boys of this region nothing
can substitute a good big bowl of hot vegetable soup, seasoned with the
famous _graisse normande_ and poured over thin slices of bread, the
whole topped off with a glass of cider or "pure juice" as they call it.
It is a joy to see them seated about the board, their elbows on the
table, their heads bent forward over the steaming bowl, whose savoury
perfume as it rises to their nostrils seems to carry with it a
veritable ecstasy, if one were to judge by the beatific expression on
every countenance.

"That goes right to the spot, doesn't it?"

From another table a voice responds:

"Yes, fellows, it's better than a kick in the shins, every time!"

The last mouthful gone, the cider bottles empty, they tighten the
straps of their kit bags and rise regretfully from their seats.

"_Allez_.  Off again, boys!  _C'est la guerre_!" and they shuffle away
humming and filling their pipes.

From the direction of the _buvette_, or bar comes noisy laughter
followed by oaths.  The uncertain voice of a seemingly intoxicated
individual dominates all others.  Yet nothing but soft drinks are sold.

"As the Colonel of the 243rd used to say," it continues, "'Soldiers of
my regiment, repose upon your arms!'  My arms are the bottle!  My
bottle and my wife are the only things worth while when I'm on
furlough.  I----"

His voice disappeared an instant, dimmed by the rising tumult.  Then
suddenly it broke forth anew--

"Attention!  Present arms, here comes a coal scuttle.  Now
then,--flatten out on the back of your stomach!"

An instant later the man appeared at the threshold of the dining room.

He was a heavily built, big jointed, husky Norman farmer-soldier, with
his helmet pulled down low over his eyes, so that the upper part of his
face was completely hidden from view.

Suddenly he pushed it far back on his head, and casting a sweeping
glance over the assembled diners, he called forth in stentorian tones
that made every one turn around:

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!"

The cashier behind the counter, who evidently foresaw trouble, called
out to him in shrill tones:

"You've made a mistake, go back to the _buvette_.  You've nothing to do
out here!"

Removing his helmet, the gallant knight made the lady a sweeping bow.

"Your servant, Madame.  Your humble servant," he continued.  "Cyprien
Fremont, called Cyp for short."

"Did you hear what I said?  Now then, take yourself off," cried the
ungracious adored one.

But the _poilu_ was not to be so silenced.

Putting his hand to his heart and addressing the assembly:

"Ungrateful country!" he cried, "is it thus that you receive your sons
who shed their blood for you?"

"That's all right, but go and tell it elsewhere.  Go on, I say!"

"I've only got one more word to say and then it will be over."

But before he could utter that word his companions seized him and
dragged him back from whence he came.  As he disappeared from view, we
heard him announce his intention of "doing some stunts"--which offer
was apparently joyously accepted, followed by more laughter and several

Suddenly the most terrific noise of falling and breaking glass and
china brought every one to his feet.  Excited voices could be heard
from the direction in which Cyprien had vanished.  The army police
dashed in, followed by the station master and all the employés.  A
lengthy discussion was begun, and having finished our dinner we left
matters to adjust themselves and sauntered forth onto the platform.

Here we found our Cyprien surrounded by his companions, who were busy
disinfecting and binding up the wounds that he had received when the
china cabinet had collapsed upon him.  One of the men poured the
tincture of iodine onto a hand held fast by a friend.  Two others were
rolling a bandage about his head, while the patient, far from subdued,
waved the only free but much enveloped hand that he possessed, beating
time to the air that he was literally shouting and in whose rather bald
verse the station master's wife was accused of the grossest infidelity.

"Shh!  Cyprien," his friends enjoined; "shut up a bit, can't you?"

But it was no easy thing to impose silence upon Cyprien when he had
made up his mind to manifest a thought or an opinion.

"You'll get us all into trouble, old man, see if you don't.  Cut it
out, won't you?  See, here comes an officer."

The officer approached them.

"It's not his fault, sir," began one of the fellows, before his
superior had time to ask a question.  "I assure you, it's not his
fault.  He's just back from Saloniki--his first furlough in a year,
sir.  It must have gone to his head.  I swear he hasn't had anything
but cider to drink, sir."

"But that's no excuse for making all this noise.  Show me his military

The officer took it, ran through the pages, and then approached Cyprien.

At the sight of the gold braid Cyprien stood up and saluted.

"Before you went to Saloniki, I see you fought at Verdun."

"Yes, sir."

"And at Beausejour?"

"Yes, sir."

"And Vauquois?"

"Yes, sir."

The eyes of the two veterans met; the officer's glance seeking to
pierce that of the soldier in front of him.  Then suddenly, in an
irresistible burst of sympathy and respect, he thrust out his hand and
caught up one of Cyprien's bandaged pair.

"I was there, too," was all he said.

Instantly sobered, our hero straightened up and literally crushed his
superior's fingers in his mighty fist.

"Come with me," said the officer; "I know a place where you can rest
until it's time to leave.  And you boys here," said he turning towards
them, "you'll see to it that he doesn't miss his train."

Night, inky black, fathomless night, had now settled about us.  In the
distance one could just discern the red and green signal lamps--at
closer range the burning tip of a cigar or cigarette.  The soldiers
turned up their collars.  The wind shifting to the north was piercing
cold.  One had to walk briskly up and down to avoid becoming chilled.
Way at the other end of the platform the flare of fugitive matches
revealed shadows moving about as though searching for something upon
the ground.

"What are you looking for?"

"A third-class return ticket for Royan.  That old lady over there has
lost hers."

We turned about to see a poor old wrinkled soul, in her native Norman
costume, wringing her hands in distress.

"What a misfortune!  Oh dear, oh dear, what a misfortune!  What will
become of me now?  What shall I do?"

And to each inquisitive newcomer she babbled forth her story of a
wounded grandson whom she was on her way to visit.  The curate and
another man of her village had seen to her expenses.  They had
purchased her ticket and handed it to her with strict instructions not
to lose it.  For safety's sake she had knotted it in the corner of her
handkerchief--and now it wasn't there!

The inquirer then examined her handkerchief, made her stand up and
shake her clothing, turn her pockets inside out, empty her baskets and
her handbag; and still not willing to trust the thoroughness of his
predecessors he would begin looking all over the immediate vicinity,
match in hand.  So presently nearly two hundred men, forgetting their
soreness and fatigue, were down on their knees scouring every nook and
cranny.  The sleepers were awakened, the drinkers routed out and put to
work, scanning every inch of ground.

A loud and persistent ringing of an electric bell sounded on the air.

"Hey there, fellows!" called a tall Zouave.  "Get together, the train
is announced, and since we can't find grandma's ticket we can't leave
the old girl alone in the dark, so come on, chip in--we'll make it up
to her.  She says it cost forty-two francs and ten centimes.  Are you

And removing his helmet he started to make the rounds.  In an instant
coppers and silver rang in the steel recipient.

"Stop! that's enough."

They retired to count.

"Chic--there's some left over!"

"Never mind, she'll buy something for the kid with it."

Some one purchased the ticket.

"There now, grandma, a new ticket and enough to buy your boy a cake
with, so you should worry!  But as you're too young to travel alone,
we're going to take you in with us.  We just happen to be going your
way.  Here Ballut, Langlois!  Quick there--take her baskets.  Now then,
don't let go my arm--here comes the train.  Sh! don't cry, there's
nothing to bawl about, we're all good fellows--all of us got grandmas
who'd make just as big fools of themselves if they had to travel."

And with infinite care and tenderness a dozen hands hoisted their
precious burden into the dimly lighted wooden-benched compartment.

Yes, travelling in France under such circumstances is to me more
interesting than ever, for when it is not one's fellow passengers who
hold the attention, there are always those thousand and one outside
incidents which the eye retains involuntarily.  War factories and
munition plants sprung from the ground as though by magic; immense
training camps in course of construction, aviation fields over which so
cleverly hover those gigantic, graceful war birds, who on catching
sight of the train fly low and delight the astonished passengers by
throwing them a greeting, or, challenging the engineer, enter into a

But above all, there is the natural panorama; that marvellous
succession of hills and vales, hamlets and rivers, fields and gardens,
so wonderfully harmonious beneath the pearl tinted sky.  How it all
charms and thrills, and how near the surface is one's emotion on
hearing a soldier voice exclaim:

"What a country to die for!"

So the hours sped by, and at length we reached our destination.  P----
is a flourishing little city, perched on the side of a rocky hill, with
a broad landscape spreading out at its feet.

The best hotel is called "L'hotel des Hommes Illustres"--and its façade
is adorned with the statues of the above mentioned gentlemen carved in
stone.  The proprietor, who built the edifice and paid the bill, having
been sole judge in the choice of celebrities, the result is as
astonishing as it is eclectic, and though absolutely devoid of beauty,
thoroughly imposing.

We arrived before our luggage, which was conveyed by so old and puffy a
horse that we considered it criminal not to leave our cab and finish
the hill on foot.  At the top of a monumental staircase we entered the
hotel office, behind whose desk were enthroned two persons of most
serious aspect; the one, stout and florid of complexion with a long
nose and an allure worthy of Louis XIV, proudly bore upon her head such
an extraordinary quantity of blond hair arranged in so complicated a
fashion that I trembled to think of the time required to dress it.  The
other, sallow faced, with a long curved chin, might have been taken for
a Spanish Infanta, pickled in vinegar and allspice.

The formality of greetings accomplished, princess number one produced a
book in which we were to sign our names.  The dignity and importance
she attached to this ceremony would certainly not have been misplaced
in a Grand Chamberlain preparing the official register for the
signature of Peace preliminaries.

This, together with the manner in which she took note of our names,
drying them with a spoonful of gold sand, gave me the illusion that I
had just performed some important rite.

"One or two rooms?" she queried.

"One big room, Madame."

"With or without bath?" demanded the co-adjutor, whose voice possessed
a contralto quality utterly out of keeping with her pale blond hair and

"With bath, please."

A new register was opened.  Both bent over it closely, each showing the
other a different paragraph with her fore finger.  Finally they
murmured a few inaudible syllables and then shook their heads.

"Would you prefer number six or number fourteen?" finally asked the

We looked at each other in astonishment, neither being superstitious
about numbers, but it would have been painful to announce to these
ladies that the matter was totally indifferent to us.  They had been so
condescending as to allow us a choice.

"Number six has a balcony and two windows.  Number fourteen has one
window and a bathroom," the princess informed us.

"But," continued the Infanta, "it is our duty to inform you that hot
water has been forbidden by the municipal authorities, and that cold
water is limited to two pitchers per person, per room."

I said I would take number six, which arrangement terminated the
ladies' mental indecision, and seemed to please them greatly.  They
smiled benignly upon us.

The smaller one, whom I have called the coadjutor, because her throne
was less elevated than the princess', put her finger on a button and a
violent ringing broke the silence of the vast hallway.  No one answered.

Three times she repeated the rings, with an imperious movement.

"Be kind enough to go and call Monsieur Amédé, Mademoiselle Laure."

On her feet, Mademoiselle Laure was even smaller than when seated.  She
crossed the vestibule, opened a door, and her strong voice resounded
along an empty corridor from which issued the odour of boiling

"Monsieur Amédé!" she shouted anew, but not even an echo responded.

"Mademoiselle Laure, ask for the head waiter."

Mademoiselle Laure recrossed the vestibule and opening a door
diametrically opposed to the other, called:

"Monsieur Balthazard!"

Monsieur Balthazard appeared, his shirt sleeves rolled up beyond his
elbow, wiping his hands on a blue gingham apron.  He was a little slim
man who may have been sixty years old.  A glass eye gave him a
sardonic, comic or astonished air, according to the way he used his
good one, which was constantly moving, at the same time that it was
clear and piercing.

"Monsieur Balthazard--what an attire for a head waiter!"

"Madame, I was just rinsing the wine barrels."

"And how about the errands for the people in rooms twenty-four and

A noise at the hall door attracted our attention.  It was as though
some one were making desperate and fruitless attempts to open it.

"There he is now," exclaimed Monsieur Balthazard.  "I'll go and let him
in.  He's probably got his hands full."

Monsieur Amédé, literally swamped beneath his bundles, staggered into
the vestibule.  To the different errands confided to his charge by the
hotel's guests had undoubtedly been added the cook's list, for an
enormous cabbage and a bunch of leeks completely hid his face, which
was uncovered only as he let them fall to the ground.

When he had finally deposited his treasures, we discovered a small lad
about fourteen or fifteen years of age, dressed in a bellboy's uniform
which had been made for some one far more corpulent of stature.  The
sleeves reached far down over his hands, the tight fitting, gold
buttoned jacket strangely resembled a cross between a bag and an
overcoat, and though a serious reef had been taken in the trousers at
the waist line, the legs would twist and sway--at times being almost as
ample as those worn by the Turkish sultanas.

Our coachman now arrived with our luggage.

"Monsieur Amédé, take this luggage and accompany Monsieur and Madame to
number six."

The child gathered up his new burden and started upstairs.

We followed, helping him pick up the various objects which successively
escaped his grasp.

"Goodness, it seems to me you're awfully young to be doing such heavy

"Oh," said he, wiping his brow, "I'm very lucky.  My mother is cook
here, and Monsieur Balthazard is my uncle.  With old fat Julia, the
maid, and Mathilde, the linen woman, we're all that's left.  All the
men have gone to war, and the women into the powder mills.  We keep the
hotel going, we do."

Monsieur Amédé was full of good will, and a desire to help me all he
could.  He explained to us that he was now building the solid
foundation of a future whose glories he hardly dare think, so numerous
and unfathomable did they seem.  Unfortunately, however, we were
obliged to note that he seemed little gifted for the various
occupations to which he had consecrated his youth--and his glorious
future--for in less than five minutes he had dropped a heavy valise on
my toes, and upset an ink-well, whose contents dripped not only onto
the carpet but onto one of my new bags.  In trying to repair damages,
Monsieur Amédé spoiled my motor veil and got several large spots on the
immaculate counterpane, after which he bowed himself out, wiping his
hands on the back of his jacket, assuring us that there was no harm
done, that no one would scold us, nor think of asking us for damages.

We saw him again at dinner time, when disguised as a waiter he passed
the different dishes, spilling sauce down people's necks, tripping on
his apron and scattering the handsome pyramids of fruit hither and yon.
Lastly he took a plunge while carrying out an over-loaded tray, but
before any one could reach him he was on his feet, bright and smiling,

"I'm not hurt.  No harm done.  I'll just sweep it up.  It won't stain."

In the meantime quiet, skilful Uncle Balthazard strained every nerve in
a herculean effort to keep his temper and serve thirty persons all at

It was touching to hear the old man murmur, "Gently, boy--go gently,"
as his youthful protégé stumbled from one blunder to another.  "Go
gently, you can be so clever when you're not in a hurry!"

Monsieur Amédé almost caused us to miss the train next evening in spite
of the numerous warnings from the princess behind the desk, who had
arranged the hour of our departure.  That brilliant young man who had
been sent ahead with our luggage was nowhere to be found when our train
was announced.  My husband, a woman porter, a soldier on furlough who
knew him, started out to scour the immediate surroundings of the
station, finally locating him in a backyard near the freight depot, his
hands in his pockets, excitedly following a game of nine-pins at which
a group of convalescent African soldiers was playing.

Of course he immediately explained that there was no harm done since
the train was twenty minutes late, and when finally it arrived and he
handed our baggage into the compartment, he accidentally let slip a
little wooden box containing an old Sevres vase, which I had purchased
at an antiquity dealer's that very morning.

He picked it up, exclaiming:

"Lucky it's not fragile."

And lifting his cap, on whose visor one might read "Hotel des Homines
Illustres," he cheerfully wished us a _Bon voyage_.


Before the war it used to be Aunt Rose's victoria that met us at the
station; a victoria drawn by a shiny span and driven by pompous old
Joseph, the coachman, clad in a dark green, gold-buttoned livery and
wearing a cockade on his hat.  Aunt Rose's coachman, and the Swiss at
Notre Dame were classed among the curiosities of the city, as could be
attested by the numerous persons who hastened to their doorstep to see
the brilliant equipage pass by.

But this time we found the victoria relegated beside the old "Berline"
which Aunt Rose's great-grandmother had used to make a journey to
Italy; the horses had been sent out to the farm, where they were
needed, and Joseph, fallen from the glory of his box, attired in a
striped alpaca vest, and wearing a straw hat, half civilian, half
servant, seemed a decidedly puffy old man, much aged since our last

"Monsieur and Madame will be obliged to take the omnibus.  Will
Monsieur kindly give me the baggage check?"

Then as I fumbled in my purse--

"Monsieur and Madame will find many changes, I fear."

But in spite of his prophecy to us there seemed little difference.  The
rickety old omnibus rattled and bumped noisily over the pointed cobble
pavements, the tiny city merely seemed asleep behind its drawn blinds
and its closed shutters.  At the corner of the square in front of the
château the old vegetable vendor still sold her products seated beneath
her patched red cotton parasol; the Great Dane watchdog lay in exactly
the same place on the tinker's doorstep.  Around the high church tower
the crows circled and cawed as usual, while the bell of its clock
which, as we passed, slowly struck three, was echoed by the distant
hills with the same familiar sound.

The omnibus deposited us at the entrance to the big roomy edifice which
Aunt Rose called "home."

The broad façade, evenly pierced by its eighteen long French windows,
had a genial, inviting appearance, while the soft rose colour of the
bricks, the white stone trimming, the iron balconies, mingled here and
there with bas-reliefs and sculptures, were in perfect harmony with the
tall slanting slate roof and majestic chimneys, the whole forming one
of those delightful ensembles constructed by local architects during
the 17th century for the pleasure and comfort of a large French
bourgeois family.

Aunt Rose herself, leaning upon an ivory-headed cane, but bright eyed
and alert as ever, awaited us at the top of the steps.  From her we
soon learned that we had missed our friends the M.'s by but a day, and
that little André, son of our cousins in Flers, had announced his visit
for the following Monday.

At this point Friquet, her old Pomeranian favourite, crept down from
his cushion and approached us.

"He doesn't bark any more, so you know he must be getting old," smiled
Aunt Rose, caressing her pet.

"My poor Victoire is getting on, too, I fear.  Her nephew is stone
blind since the battle of the Marne.  Joseph has lost two of his
grandsons; of course, he didn't tell you--he doesn't want any one to
speak of it--but he's very much upset by it.  Nicholas and Armandine do
nothing but worry about their poor little Pierre, who hasn't given a
sign of life for three months now--so I fear you will have to be very
patient and very indulgent guests."

The delightful old lady led us to our room, "the psyche room" we, the
youngsters, used to call it on account of the charming grisaille wall
paper, dating from the end of the Empire period, and representing in
somewhat stiff but none the less enchanting manner the amorous
adventures of that goddess.

I have always had a secret feeling that many a time, urged by her
confessor, Madame de C. had been upon the point of obliterating or
removing those extremely chaste nude images.  But at the last moment
rose up the horror of voluntarily changing anything in the homestead,
transforming a whole room that she always had known thus, and perhaps
the unavowed fear of our ridicule and reproach, had made her renounce
her project.

"Brush up quickly, and come right down to tea.  We've got so many
things to talk over.  You've so much to tell me!"

So a quarter of an hour later, tea-cup in hand, we must needs go into
the details of our trips, inform her of our hopes and fears, tell of
all the different things we had seen--what America was going to
do--what it had already accomplished.  And with her marvellously quick
understanding, her vivacious intelligence, the old lady classified the
facts and the anecdotes, asked us to repeat dates and numbers, that she
might the better retain them in her splendid memory.

All through dinner and the long evening she plied us with questions,
kept the conversation running along the same lines, returning now and
then to a certain theme, or certain figures, and asking us to go into
even more detail.

"I know I'm an abominable old egoist," at length she apologised.  "But
you'd forgive me if only you realised how much happiness your stories
will bring, and to how many people.  I imagine that you haven't had
much time for correspondence with our family--but that's all an old
woman like myself is good for these days."

"Our family" consisted in relationship to the 'nth degree of all the
H's, de C's, B's and F's that were then in existence, some of them such
distant cousins that Aunt Rose herself would never have recognised them
had they met.  And besides these people there were her friends, her
servants, her farmers, possibly a group of three hundred persons with
whom the good soul corresponded, giving news of the ones to the others,
announcing misfortunes or joys--a living link between us all.

Left a widow when still quite young, Aunt Rose had lived with and
respected the memory of her husband.  Though she had had many an offer,
she had never cared to remarry.  But unable to stand the damp climate
of Normandy, she had returned to her family homestead in this little
city of the Bourbonnais, in whose suburbs she possessed quite a fortune
in farm lands.  Alone in the world, with no immediate family, she had
devoted herself not only to her own, but to her husband's relatives.
Her home had always been the _havre de grace_, known and venerated by
them all; a meeting place for reconciliation between persons whose
self-control had escaped them; the shelter for prodigal and repentant
sons who awaited the forgiveness of their justly wrathful sires; the
comforting haven that seemed to assuage the pangs of departure and
bereavement.  But above all it was the one spot for properly
celebrating family anniversaries, announcing engagements, and spending
joyous vacations.

The war had been the cause of a great deal of hard work in this respect.

"Why, I receive more letters than a State functionary," Aunt Rose
informed me when I came upon her early the next morning, already
installed behind her huge flat-topped desk, her tortoise-shell
spectacles tipped down towards the end of her very prominent nose.

"For nearly four years I've been writing on the average of twenty
letters a day and I never seem to catch up with my correspondence.
Why, I need a secretary just to sort out and classify it.  You haven't
an idea the different places that I hear from.  See, here are your
letters from the United States.  Léon is in the Indo-Chinese Bank in
Oceania.  Albert is mobilised at Laos, Quentin in Morocco.  Jean-Paul
and Marcel are fighting at Saloniki; Emilien in Italy.  Marie is
Superior in a convent at Madrid; Madeline, Sister of Charity at Cairo.
You see I've a world-wide correspondence.

"Look," she continued, opening a deep drawer in one side of her desk,
"here are the letters from my _poilus_ and, of course, these are only
the answered ones.  The dear boys just love to write and not one of
them misses a week without doing so.  I'm going to keep them all.
Their children may love to have them some day."

Then she opened a smaller drawer, and my eye fell upon a dozen or
fifteen packages, all different in size and each one enveloped in white
tissue paper, carefully tied about with grey silk ribbon.

"These were written by our dear departed," she said simply.

In an instant they passed before my eyes, those "dear departed."  Big,
tall William, so gay and so childish, he who used to play the ogre or
the horse, or anything one wished: a person so absolutely indispensable
to their games that all the little folk used to gather beneath his
window early in the morning, crying in chorus: "Uncle William!  Uncle
William! do wake up and come down and play!"


Jean-François, the engineer; Philippe, the architect; Honoré, whom we
dubbed "Deshonoré," because he used always to return empty-handed when
we went hunting together.  Gone, gone forever!

Aunt Rose picked up one of the smaller packages.

"These were from little Jacques."  And two bright tears trembled on her

"You remember him, of course, my dear.  He was an orphan, he never knew
his mother.  I always supposed that is what made him so distant and
reserved.  Jean, his guardian, who is very severe, used to treat him as
he did his own children--scolding him often about his indolence, his
lack of application to his studies.

"I used to have him here with me during his vacations.  He loved this
old house--and I knew it.  Sometimes when you would all start out for
some excursion I'd see him coming back towards the gate:

"'You're not going with them then, Jacques?'

"'No, thank you, Aunt Rose, it's so nice in your drawing-room.'

"When he was just a little baby I often wanted to take him onto my lap
and laugh and play with him.  But he was so cold and distant!  A funny
little mite, even with boys of his own age.  Nobody seemed to
understand him exactly; certain people even thought that his was a
surly nature.

"He spent his last furlough here, and I found quite a change in him.
He was more robust and tanned.  A splendid looking fellow, and I was so
proud of him.

"'Aunt Rose,' he asked even before we embraced, 'is there any one else
stopping with you?'

"'Why no, child, and I'm afraid you'll find the house very empty.  If
only I'd known you were coming I most certainly should have invited
your cousins.'

"'Oh, I'm so glad you didn't!  I much prefer being alone with you.'

"He came and went in the house, but never could be persuaded to go
outside the yard.  I should have loved to have taken him with me and
shown his War Cross to some of my old friends.  But he wouldn't hear of

"'Pooh!' he would laugh when I would suggest such a thing.  'If ever
they come near me I'll tell them I've got "trench pest"--and then
you'll see them clear out.'

"He went down in the kitchen and I'd hear him pottering around.  I
never knew him so gay and happy.

"'Tante Rose, I'm going to sing you "La Madelon" and the "Refrain de la
Mitraille."  It was Planchet, the tinsmith, who composed it!'

"He'd sit for hours in that big blue armchair, blinking at the fire,
and then suddenly he'd come to earth and explain:

"'Aunt Rose, what a pleasure to be here.'

"When finally he had to go back, he caught me and whispered in my ear,
as I kissed him:

"'Next time, Tante, you promise me not to invite any one, won't you?'

"Poor child, he will never come back, and his friend Planchet, the
tinsmith, saw him fall with a bullet through his heart.  It was he who
wrote me the sad news.

"Well, my dear, what mystery the soul hides within itself!  In one of
the cupboards of the room he occupied I found two note books and a
diary filled with verses he had never shown to any one, never admitted
having written.  How little we guessed what he was about when we
scolded him for his indolence and inattention.  If you only knew what
accents, what harmonious phrases he found to depict the shades of our
trees, the rippling of the river, the perfume of the flowers and his
love for us all.

"There is a whole chapter devoted to the old homestead.  He seemed to
feel everything, divine everything, explain everything.  None of us
understood him.  There is no use pretending we did.  Not one among us
would ever have guessed that so splendid and delicate a master of the
pen lived and moved amongst us."

Aunt Rose looked straight out onto the sun-lit court, the great tears
trickling down her cheeks.

For a long time neither of us spoke.

Like its mistress, Aunt Rose's home lives to serve the war.  The
culinary realm is always busily engaged preparing _patés_ and
_galantines_, _rillettes_ and sausages.  "For our boys," is the answer
almost before the question is put.  "They're so glad to get home-made
dainties, and are always clamouring for more--no matter how much you

"Since they must eat preserved food, we might as well send them
something we make ourselves, then we're sure it's the best.  Why, I'd
be ashamed to go out and buy something and send it off without knowing
who had handled it."  This was the cook's idea of patriotism, which I
shared most heartily, having at one time had nothing but "bully beef"
and dried beans as constant diet for nearly a fortnight.

The coachman and inside man sealed the crocks and tins, prepared and
forwarded the packages.

"Oh, there's one for everybody!  Even the boys of the city who haven't
got a family to look after them.  They must be mighty glad Madame's
alive.  We put in one or two post cards, views of the town.  That
cheers them up and makes them feel they're not forgotten here in R----."

One afternoon on descending into the kitchen we beheld two sturdy
looking fellows seated at table and eating with ravenous appetite.  One
was an artilleryman who had but a single arm, the other a _chasseur_,
whose much bandaged leg was reposing upon a stool.

"They are wounded men on convalescent leave," explained Armandine.
"The poor fellows need a little humouring so that they'll build up the
quicker, and an extra meal surely can't hurt!"

This was certainly the opinion of the two invalids who had just
disposed of a most generous bacon omelet, and were about to dig into a
jar of _paté_.

Armandine and Nicholas watched them eat with evident admiration, fairly
drinking up their words when between mouthsful they would stop for
breath and deign to speak.  Their rustic eloquence was like magic balm
poured onto a constantly burning, ulcerated sore.

"Your son?  Why, of course, he'll turn up!" the artilleryman assured

"But he hasn't written a line!"

"That's nothing.  Now just suppose that correspondence is forbidden in
his sector for the time being."

"I know, but it's three months since we heard from him.  We've written
everywhere, to all the authorities, and never get any returns--except
now and then a card saying that they're giving the matter their
attention.  That's an awfully bad sign, isn't it?"

"Not at all, not at all," chimed in the _chasseur_.  "Why, some of the
missing have been found in other regiments, or even in the depots, and
nobody knows how they got there.

"Three months?  Why, that's not long.  After the battle of the Marne my
poor old mother had them say Heaven knows how many masses for the
repose of my soul; for four months and three days she never heard a
thing of me, and I'd written her regularly every week.

"Yes, and what are you going to do if the letter carrier gets killed,
or the Boche locate the mail waggon on the road every other delivery?
Nobody's going to inform you of the accident."

"And that does happen often?"

"Almost every day."

"Quite a common occurrence; there's nothing for you to worry about yet,
really now."

So "hope springs eternal" in the breasts of the bereaved parents, whose
smile gradually broadens out into a laugh when the artillery-man
recounts some grotesque tale, and gives his joyous nature free rein.

The convalescents who came to this particular city must have
recuperated in the minimum of time, if _régime_ had anything to do with
the re-establishment.  In every house the cloth was always on the
table, the door open in sign of welcome.

"Come in and have a bite with us," people would call to them as they
passed by.

Certain among them were being treated for severe cases and had been in
the city a long time.  The townspeople were proud of their progress and
their cure, almost as proud as of their notary, who on leaving for the
front was only a second lieutenant, but now had command of a battalion
of _chasseurs_.  Nor must one forget Monsieur de P.'s son, cited for
bravery among the aces, and least of all ignore Monsieur Dubois, who
having lost both sons, shut up his house, settled his business and
without telling any one went off and enlisted as a simple private at
sixty-two years of age.

In coming to this distant little city I had sought to find repose for
my somewhat shattered nerves; dared hope for complete rest beneath this
hospitable, sympathetic roof.  But the war was everywhere.  Yes, far
from the sound of the guns one's eyes are spared the spectacles of
horror and desolation, but there is not a soul who for a single instant
really escapes the gigantic shiver that has crept over all the world.
Out here, far removed from the seat of events, life necessarily becomes
serious and mournful.  The seemingly interminable hours lend themselves
most propitiously to reflections, foster distress and misgivings, and
one therefore feels all the more keenly the absence of the dear ones,
the emptiness due to the lack of news.

There are but two moments when real excitement ripples the apparent
calm of the little city; one in the morning when the paper boy
announcing his approach by blowing his brass horn, runs from door to
door distributing the dailies, while people rush forth and wait their
turns impatiently.

The evening _communiqué_ arrives at 8 P. M.  An old white-haired
postman pastes it upon the bulletin board outside the post office.
Long before the hour one can hear steps echoing on the pavement, as
men, women and children, old people on crutches, cripples leaning on
their nurses' arms, hasten in the same direction, moved by the same
anxious curiosity.  When the weather is inclement one turns up his
trousers, or removes her best skirt.  It is no uncommon sight to see
women in woollen petticoats with a handkerchief knotted about their
heads standing there umbrella in hand, patiently awaiting the news.

A line forms and each one passes in front of the little square piece of
paper, whose portent may be so exhilarating or tragic.  Then some one
clears his throat, and to save time reads the bulletin for the benefit
of the assembled group.

Here again the strategists are in evidence.

Monsieur Paquet, the jeweller, having served his three years some three
decades ago at Rheims, has a wonderfully lucid way of explaining all
the operations that may be made in that region, while Monsieur Morin,
the grocer, whose wife comes from Amiens, yields the palm to no one
when that sector is mentioned.

Each one of these gentlemen has a special view on the subject, each
favours a special mode of combat, and each, of course, has his
following among the townspeople.  But the masses give them little heed.

Monsieur Paquet's persistent optimism or Monsieur Morin's equally
systematic pessimism do not touch them in the least.  The French soul
has long since known how to resist emotions.  Sinister rumours shake it
no more than do insane hopes and desires.

"All we know is that there's a war," exclaimed a sturdy housewife
summing up her impressions, "and we've got to have victory so it will

"Amen," laughs an impudent street gamin.

Slowly the crowd disperses, and presently when the gathering is
considerably diminished a group steps forward, presses around the
bulletin board and comments on the _communiqué_ in an incomprehensible

By their round, open faces, their blond hair and that unspeakable air
of honesty and calm resolution, one instantly recognises the Belgians.
Yes, the Belgians, come here in 1914, the Belgians who have taken up
their abode, working anywhere and everywhere, with an incomparable
good-will and energy.  But they have never taken root, patiently
waiting for the day when once again they may pull out their heavy drays
that brought them down here, whose axles they have never ceased to
grease, just as they have always kept their magnificent horses shod and
ready to harness, that at a moment's notice old women and children may
be hoisted into the straw and the whole caravan thread its way
northward towards the native village; that village of which they have
never ceased to talk, about which they tell the youngsters, who
scarcely remember it now.

"Ah, Madame," exclaimed one poor old soul in a phrase that might have
seemed comic if it hadn't been so infinitely profound and touching.
"Ah, Madame, even if there isn't anything left, it will be our village
just the same!"

Alas!  I know but too well the fate of such villages at the front,
occupied by the enemy, crushed beneath his iron heel, or subjected to
his gun fire.


It was Aunt Rose's custom to spend one week out of every four at her
country seat.  With the war had come the shortage of labour, and now
that her head man had been mobilised it was necessary for some one to
take direct control, superintend and manage these valuable farm lands
which must do their share towards national support.

It needed no urging to persuade us to accompany her.

"My farmers haven't the time to make the trip to town individually, so
I get a list of their wants and my coming saves them so much trouble."

So early one morning a big break was driven up to the door, and in less
than five minutes it was so full of bundles and packages that I had my
doubts as to our all fitting in, not to mention the word "comfortably."
And when finally we did jog away it took every effort of the broad
backed dray horse, who had been sent from the farm, to pull us up the
long sunny hills, so frequent in this region.

The village which would be our ultimate destination was twelve miles
from any station, and the nearest railway a funny little two-foot-gauge
road, whose locomotives were comic to behold, their vociferous attempts
at whistling not even frightening the baby calves who stood and stared
at them indifferently as they passed.  Furthermore, the line was no
longer in public service, save on market days at Le Donjon.

Our route lay through an admirable, undulating country which seemed to
be totally deserted, for not even a stray dog crossed our path.  Far in
the distance, however, from time to time one might hear the throb of a

"They are winnowing almost everywhere today," explained Aunt Rose,
"taking advantage of the good weather.  We shall doubtless find every
one very busy at Neuilly."

The thrashing machine had been set up on the public square, and all
along the last mile before entering the village we met great loads of
wheat and oats, drawn by huge white oxen, who in turn were led by what
seemed to me to be very small boys.  The latter, stick in hand, walked
in front of their beasts, and swelling their youthful voices would
intone a kind of litany which the animals apparently understood and

The brilliant noonday sun shone down and bathed everything in gold.

In the shadow of the little church the engine, attended by two
white-bearded men, churned along, from time to time sending forth a
shrill whistle.  Women with bandana handkerchiefs tied down closely
about their heads, unloaded the carts, and lifting the heavy sheaves in
their brawny arms, would carry them to the machine, where others,
relieving them, would spread them out and guide them into the aperture.

Two handsome girls that might have served as models for goddesses
stood, pitch-fork in hand, removing the chaff.  The breeze blowing
through it would catch the wisps and send them dancing in the air,
while the great generous streams of golden grain flowing from the
machine seemed like rivers of moulten metal.

The children and tiny babies lay tucked away in the straw, sound asleep
beneath a giant elm that shaded one corner of the square.  Now and
again a woman would leave her companions and wiping the perspiration
from her brow, approach this humble cradle, lift her infant in her
arms, and seeking a secluded spot, give it suckle.

I cannot tell how long I stood watching this wonderful rustic
spectacle, so rich in tone and colouring, so magnificent in its
simplicity, so harmonious in movement.  There was no undue noise--every
motion seemed regulated, the work accomplished without haste but with
an impressive thoroughness.  Here then was the very source of the
country's vitality.  Elsewhere the war might crush and destroy lives,
cities and possessions, but this was the bubbling spring-head from
whence gushed forth, unrestrained, the generative forces; stronger than
war, stronger than death, life defiantly persistent.  And I was seized
with an immense pride, an unlimited admiration for these noble, simple
women of France who had had the courage to set forth such a challenge!

For it is the women who have done it, of that there can be no doubt.

[Illustration: MAXENCE]

The census indicates that in 1914 the total number of inhabitants
within this little village was seven hundred and fifty.  Of these, one
hundred and forty men were mobilised, and forty-five have already been
killed.  The masculine element, therefore, has been reduced to a

Thevenet, the carpenter, grocery man and choir leader, gifted with a
strong voice and a shock of curly black hair, but lame in both legs, is
certainly, when seated behind his counter, the noblest specimen of the
stronger sex that the village possesses.

His pupil, disciple and companion, called Criquet, is, as his pseudonym
indicates, extremely small of stature, and though he regularly presents
himself before the draft boards, he has invariably been refused as far
too small to serve his country in the ranks.

Of course, there are quite a number of sturdy old men, who have had
ample occasion to do their bit by helping their daughters or their
sons' wives on their farms.  So in the village itself there remains
hardly any one.

Old man Magnier is so bent with rheumatism that each movement is
accompanied by an alarming cracking of his bones, and one is tempted to
ask him not to stir for fear of suddenly seeing him drop to pieces, as
would an antiquated, over-dry grandfather clock, on being removed from
a long stay in the garret.

Monsiau, the inn-keeper, is ready and willing to do almost anything but
he is so terribly stout that the slightest physical effort causes him
to turn purple and gasp for breath.  He therefore remains seated,
nodding like a big Buddha, half dozing over the harangues of his friend
Chavignon, the tailor, whose first name, by the way, is Pacifique.  But
in order to belie this little war-like appellation, Chavignon spends
most of the time he owes to the trade dreaming of impossible plans and
preparing ghastly tortures, to which the Kaiser shall be submitted when
once we have caught him.

Bonnet, the hardware dealer, in spite of his seventy-eight years, comes
and goes at a lively pace--coughing, grumbling, mumbling--always in a
hurry, though he never has anything special to attend to.

And finally there is Laigut; Laigut whom one consults when at his wits'
end, simply because he knows everything in general, and nothing in
particular, his knowledge covering all the arts and sciences as resumed
in the Grand Encyclopedia.  He is a little man with spectacles, and a
short grey beard, costumed winter and summer alike in the same suit of
worn brown velvet, a rabbit skin cap on his head, his feet shoved into
wooden sabots.

His reputation before the war was not what one would call spotless.
His passion for fowl (other people's on principle) had led to his being
strongly suspected.  He was a poacher, as well, always ready to bring
you the hare or the pike you needed, at a fixed date and hour, more
especially when the shooting and fishing seasons were closed.

His was one of those hidden geniuses which the war had revealed.
Otherwise we should never on earth have suspected him of being so
capable.  But be it requested that he repair a sewing machine, a
bicycle or a watch; sharpen a pair of scissors, put in a pane of glass,
make over mattresses, shear a horse, a dog or a human, paint a sign,
cover an umbrella, kill a pig or treat a sprain, Laigut never
hesitates, Laigut is always found competent.  Add to this his commerce
in seeds and herbs, his talent for destroying snakes and trapping
moles, the fact that he is municipal bell ringer and choir boy, and you
will have but a feeble idea of the activities of this man whose field
seems so unlimited.

In a little old shed behind his house he carefully stores the
innumerable and diverse objects which are confided to his care, and
contrary to what one might suppose, he bears no malice for the lack of
esteem bestowed upon him in times gone by.  Not at all.  His breadth of
character is equalled only by the diversity of his gifts.  From time to
time a fowl may still disappear, but none save _Maître Renard_ is now
accused.  In these days there are so many foxes about!

If I may seem to have gone deep into detail concerning these people it
is only because I am anxious to make better understood what life means
in a village without men.  That is to say without valid men who care
for the cattle, steer the plough, keep the furrows of equal depth and
straight as a die; rake, hoe and sow; reap, harvest and carry the heavy
burdens, in fact, perform all the hard, fatiguing labour that the
upkeep of the soil requires.

And yet, in spite of their absence, not a foot of ground has been
neglected.  The cattle are robust and well cared for, the harvests
reaped and brought to cover, the taxes and the rents have been paid,
and down under the piles of linen in those big oak cupboards lie many
blue bank notes, or several bonds of the National Defense.  And France
has crossed the threshold of her fifth year of war.

To whom is this due?  The women.

There were no training schools to teach them how to sow or reap--no
kindly advisors to take the husbands' places and tell them what animals
to keep and feed, at what time to sell, or at what price.  They had to
learn from hard experience, taxing their intuition and great common
sense to the utmost.

And with it all they are so shy and modest; at heart a little bit
ashamed when you speak to them in terms of admiration for what they
have done.

"We didn't really know what to do at the end of that first year when we
found there wasn't any one to take care of the ground," explained Julie
Laisné, who lives just behind Aunt Rose.

"I would have tried to plough, been glad to do it, but I was afraid the
others would make fun of me," said Anna Troussière.

"That's just the way I felt about it," exclaimed Julie.  "I nearly went
crazy when I knew time was flying, winter coming, and no wheat in.
I've no doubt it was the same with all the others.  Then one day the
news ran round like lightning that Anna was out ploughing her fields,
with her kid and her grandfather to help her.  Nobody took the time to
go and see if it was true.  Each one got out her plough.  Of course,
the first furrows were not very straight, but soon we got used to it,
and Lord, how we laughed over my first attempts, when my husband came
home the next fall on furlough."

I wish that some great master of the pen might paint in words as simple
as the Golden Legend, in stanzas as pure as the Litanies of the Holy
Virgin, the picture of this little Julie, up and about with the first
rays of dawn, always hard at work, and whom when night has closed in I
have often come upon, bending over beneath her tallow candle, writing
to the dear one at the front.  To this task as to all the others she
concentrates her every effort and attention, anxious that no news be
forgotten,--news which is as fresh and naïve as the events and the
nature that inspires it.  "The sow has had twelve little pigs, the
donkey has a nail in its hoof, little Michel has a cold, and butter now
sells for forty-three sous the pound."

Her farm is too small and brings in too little for her to dream of
taking on some one to help.  But she keeps three cows, and three
calves; a dozen or two pigs, a donkey and all the chickens she can
afford to feed.  Forty acres is quite a responsibility for so small a
person, and it requires lots of courage to replace the missing muscle,
to till the soil, care for the kitchen garden and the animals, and send
three small children off to school on time, all of them washed and
combed, without a hole in their stockings or a spot on their aprons.
It needs something more than courage to be able to sing and dissimulate
one's anxieties, to hide in one corner of that envelope that will be
opened by him "Out there," a little favourite flower, tenderly cared
for, nursed to maturity.

"Bah!" she laughs as I sympathise.  "It might be bad if one were all
alone in his troubles.  But we're all in the same boat, down here!"

Yes, all of them have done their duty--more than their duty, the
impossible.  In other villages it is just the same--in other Provinces.
From one end to the other of France such marvels have been accomplished
that the government decided that so much devotion merited recompense.

So one fine morning a motor was seen to stop in front of the Café
Lacroix, a gentleman in uniform (some say it was the Préfet)
accompanied by two other men, got down and walked over to the town hall
that is near the church.

A few moments later Criquet was dispatched on bicycle to Anna
Troussière's and Claudine Charpin's, with orders to bring them back
with him.

He soon returned accompanied by the two frightened creatures, who
fearing ill news had not unrolled their sleeves nor removed the
handkerchief from their heads, but jumped on their bicycles and
hastened to the town hall.

Then suddenly the gentleman in uniform appeared on the steps, made them
a little speech, and stepping down pinned a medal on their heaving
breasts.  He thrust a diploma which bore their names into their
trembling fingers, shook hands with them most cordially, and mounting
in his car, drove away in a cloud of dust.

Every one, much excited, gathered around the two women.  The medals
were handed about, commented upon.

"Beautiful," exclaimed Criquet who is something of a wag.  "I think
they're made of bronze.  Too bad they're not chocolate so you might
give us all some."

"Claudine," said Anna Troussière, "it's time we went home if we don't
want to be teased to death.  Goodness, if only we'd known, we might
have brushed up a bit!"

But the incident did not end there.  The government, anxious to show
its gratitude, offered to send them help, in the shape of war
prisoners.  The proposition was tempting.  A bourgeois who had several
big farms said he would accept four.  This almost caused a revolution.
The four Germans were quartered in a shed and an old territorial
mounted guard over them.

"They were good fellows," Julie explained when she told me the story.
"Hard workers too.  Very kind to the animals and understanding
everything about a farm.  I don't know--I used to have a funny feeling
when I saw them.  But, poor souls, I don't suppose they wanted the war,
they'd probably have much rather been home and yet they were as
obliging as could be.  Always ready to lend a hand when there was a
hard job to be tackled.

"They made rather a good impression, and two or three of our women
farmers had almost decided to send for some.  Well, this lasted until
the next Sunday.  As they were all catholics, of course they came to
church, and were seated on the first bench, with their sentinel at the
end.  Everything went finely until the Curate got up to preach, first
reading the announcements for the week.  When he asked that prayers be
said for Jules Lefoulon and Paul Dupont, both from our parish and both
killed on the Field of Honour, and we looked up we could see the four
Boche sitting calmly in front of us--I can't tell you what it meant!
Every one was weeping.  Of course, we didn't let them feel it.  They
saluted every one most politely, you could almost see that they weren't
bad men--but every one said, 'No, none of their help needed.  We've got
on without them up till now.  I fancy we can see it through.'"

Even Madame Fusil, the baker, who was in most urgent need of
assistance, resolved to be equal to her task alone.  It is her little
daughter who delivers the bread to all the numerous patrons, quite a
complicated undertaking for so young a child, who must drive her poor
old nag and his load down many a bumpy side path.  One can hear her
little voice all over the country side.  "Here Jupiter--get up, I say."

I met her one morning in the Chemin du Moulin, whip in hand, pulling
old Jupiter by the bridle.  But Jupiter had decided to take a rest.
Nothing could make him budge, nothing, neither cries nor complaints,
sweetmeats nor menaces.  Jupiter was as determined as he was obstinate.

The unfortunate child was red with indignation, almost on the verge of

"_Oui, oui,_" she fairly sobbed, "he just ought to be sent to the
front.  That would teach him a lesson.  He does it on purpose, I do
believe.  He knows well enough I'll be late to school!  It's already
half past seven.  I've got three more deliveries to make, and must take
him home and unharness him!"

"What time did you start out, child?"

"Why, four o'clock as usual, Madame.  But I'm sure to be late this

I promised that as I was passing by the school I would step in and tell
Madame Dumont, the head mistress, the reason of her tardiness.  She
felt much better after that, and presently our combined efforts got
Jupiter to move.

True to my word I sought out Madame Dumont, and found the good woman
already extremely busy at this early hour.

A peasant mother and her three children all arrayed in their Sunday
best, were grouped together at one end of the garden, smiling blandly
into the lens of a camera which the school mistress set up and prepared
to operate.

"There--that's it--smile!  Click!  It's all over.  Now then, Magloire,
climb up on a chair.  Hold yourself quite straight, dear, so your papa
will see how much you've grown."

Magloire was photographed with her nose in the air, her mouth wide
open, her other features registering the most complete lunacy.  Joseph,
her brother, at whom they fairly shrieked in order to make him smile,
produced the most singular contortion of the mouth that I have ever
seen, which denoted an extreme gift for mimicry, rare in so young a

Little Marie was taken on her mother's lap, and I thought of the
ecstasy of the brave fellow to whom one day the postman would bring the
envelope containing the glorious proofs.  With what pride he will show
them to his companions, how he will gloat over his Magloire and his
Joseph, his petite Marie and his _bonne femme_.  Then, drawing away
from the others, he will study them again, each one in turn.  Nights
when on duty, those cold nights of vigil, way out there in Saloniki,
when fatigue and homesickness will assail him, he will slip his hand
down into his pocket, and his rough fingers will touch the grease
stained envelope that contains the cherished faces of his dear ones.

It all recalled other powder-blackened hands clenched forever about
soiled remnants of envelopes, from which protruded the edge of a
precious photograph.  A shiver ran down my spine as the brave mother
and her three little ones passed by me on their way to change their
clothes--assume their humble dress.

"_Merci, Madame Dumont.  Merci bien._"

"At your service, Madame Lecourt."  And Madame Dumont turned to examine
her mail.  Rather voluminous in size, but with the Mayor, his
substitute, and her husband at the front, she had become town clerk,
and the quantity of paper and printed matter a village like this daily
receives, is quite unbelievable.  Quickly the little school mistress
ran through the envelopes, finally breathing a deep sigh of relief.

"Ah, nothing this mail, thank Heaven!"

"Why, what were you expecting?"

"Oh, I wasn't expecting anything, but I live in terror of finding that
fatal official bulletin announcing the death of some man in our
community.  Each time I leave the house, the eyes of every living soul
are fairly glued to me.  The women here love me, I know, and yet I feel
that I frighten them.

"If on going out I start up the road, those who live below here breathe
again, relieved.  You cannot imagine the tricks I must resort to in
order not to arouse false suspicions.  Then, as soon as I open their
door they know the reason of my coming, and what poor miserable
creatures I often take in my arms and try vainly to console.

"Ah, Madame, the wives you can cope with, say things to, put their
babies in their arms.  But the mothers, Madame, the mothers!"

"And no one complains, Madame Dumont?"

"No one, Madame, they all know that we've got to win this war."

All along the road home I walked slowly, lost in reverie.  But I had no
time for musing after my arrival, for Aunt Rose met me at the doorstep,
a small boy by her side.

"Listen, my dear," she cooed, "I've a great favour to ask you.  Would
you mind walking around to the farms and telling them that Maxence will
be here to-morrow morning?  His little boy has just come over to tell

The coming of Maxence produced an indescribable enthusiasm wherever I
announced the news.  Maxence is the only blacksmith in Neuilly.  Of
course he's serving in the artillery, but during his quarterly ten-day
_permissions_, he tries to cover all the work that is absolutely
indispensable to the welfare of the community.  He arrived much
sun-burned and tanned, accompanied by two other chaps who were not
expected, having travelled two days and two nights without stopping.

They seated themselves before a succulent repast prepared by Madame
Maxence, and in the meantime the crowd began gathering in the shop.

"Get in line!  Get in line!" he called to them joyfully.  "Give me time
to swallow my coffee and I'll be with you."

Abandoning his uniform, he put on his old clothes, his sabots and his
leather apron, and for ten long days the hammer beat incessantly upon
the anvil.

Sometimes between strokes he would look up and smile, calling out:

"Why, they won't even give me time to catch a mess of fish, or go to
see my grandmother at Paray!"

There is always some tool to be repaired, a last horse to be shod.

"What do you know about this for a furlough!  And every time it's the
same old story."

The others, all those whom I have seen return from the front, do
exactly as did Maxence.

Pushing open the gate, they embrace their pale and trembling wives,
cuddle the children in their arms, and then five minutes later one can
see Jean or Pierre, clothed in his working suit, seized and subjected
by the laws of his tradition.

Sunday though, the whole family must go to Mass.  The careful housewife
has brushed and cleaned the faded uniform, burnished the helmet, put
new laces in the great thick-soled shoes.  The children cling to their
father, proud of his warlike appearance.  Then afterwards, of course,
there are many hands to be shaken, but no extraordinary effusions are

"Ah, home at last, old man!"

"You're looking splendid.  When did you get here?"

"Did you come across Lucien, and Bataille's son?"

They hardly mention the war.  They talk of the weather, the crops, the
price of cattle, but never of battle.  I have even found a certain
extraordinary dislike for discussion of the subject.  Or when they can
be persuaded to speak, they laugh and tell of some weird feat.

"There are those who make the shells, those who shoot them, and those
who catch them.  We're doing the catching just at present.  There
doesn't seem to be much choice!"

They return, just as they came, without noise, without tears.

"Gigot's son's gone back this morning."

"Is that so?  How quickly time flies!"

They take the road with a steady step, loaded down beneath their
bundles.  But they never turn their heads for a last good-bye.

"Aren't you going to mend my pick-axe, Maxence?" queried an old

"Sorry, mother, but I've got to leave."

"Well, then, it'll be for next time."

"If next time there is!"

There is that terrible conditional "If" in all such village
conversations, just the same as in every conversation all over France.

Two years ago still another "If" hung on every lip.  The hope that it
entertained seemed so vastly distant that no one dared give it open
utterance.  But each in his secret soul nurtured and cherished the
idea, until at length those whispered longings swelled to a mighty
national desire,

"If only the Americans . . ."

They have not hoped in vain.  The Americans have come.


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "With Those Who Wait" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.