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Title: Home Fires in France
Author: Canfield, Dorothy
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                        HOME FIRES IN FRANCE

                        By DOROTHY CANFIELD

Author of "The Bent Twig," "The Squirrel-Cage," "Hillsboro People," etc.


    NEW YORK
    HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
    1918

    COPYRIGHT, 1918,
    BY HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY

    PRINTED IN THE U. S. A.

    THE QUINN & BODEN CO. PRESS
    RAHWAY, N. J.

    DEDICATED
    TO
    GENERAL PERSHING



PUBLISHER'S NOTE


This book is fiction written in France out of a life-long familiarity
with the French and two years' intense experience in war work in France.
It is a true setting-forth of personalities and experiences, French and
American, under the influence of war. It tells what the war has done to
the French people at home. In a recent letter, the author said, "What I
write is about such very well-known conditions to us that it is hard to
remember it may be fresh to you, but it is so far short of the actual
conditions that it seems pretty pale, after all."



CONTENTS


Notes from a French Village in the War Zone

The Permissionaire

Vignettes from Life at the Rear

A Fair Exchange

The Refugee

A Little Kansas Leaven

Eyes for the Blind

The First Time After

Hats

A Honeymoon ... Vive l'Amérique!

La Pharmacienne



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE



NOTES FROM A FRENCH VILLAGE IN THE WAR ZONE


Perhaps the first thing which brought our boys to a halt, and a long,
long look around them, was the age of the place. Apparently it has--the
statement is hardly exaggerated--always been there. As a matter of
historical fact it has been there for more than a thousand years. On
hearing that, the American boys always gasped. They were used to the
conception of the great age of "historical" spots, by which they meant
cities in which great events have occurred--Paris, Rome,
Stratford-on-Avon, Granada. But that an inconsiderable settlement of a
thousand inhabitants, where nothing in particular ever happened beyond
the birth, life, and death of its people, should have kept its identity
through a thousand years gave them, so they said, "a queer feeling." As
they stood in the quiet gray street, looking up and down, and taking in
the significance of the fact, one could almost visibly see their minds
turning away from the text-book idea of the Past as an unreal, sparsely
settled period with violent historical characters in doublet and ruff or
chain mail thrusting broadswords into one another or signing treaties
which condemned all succeeding college students to a new feat of memory;
you could almost see their brilliant, shadowless, New World youth
deepened and sobered by a momentary perception of the Past as a very
long and startlingly real phenomenon, full, scaringly full of real
people, entirely like ourselves, going about the business of getting
born, being married and dying, with as little conscious regard as we for
historical movements and tendencies. They were never done marveling that
the sun should have fallen across Crouy streets at the same angle before
Columbus discovered America as to-day; that at the time of the French
Revolution just as now, the big boys and sturdy men of Crouy should have
left the same fields which now lie golden in the sun and have gone out
to repel the invader; that people looked up from drawing water at the
same fountain which now sparkles under the sycamore trees and saw
Catherine de Medici pass on her way north as now they see the gray
American Ambulance rattle by.... "And I bet it was over these same
cussed hard-heads!" cried the boy from Ohio, trying vainly to ease his
car over the knobby paving-stones.

"No, oh no," answered the town notary reasonably. "The streets of Crouy
were paved in comparatively recent times, not earlier than 1620."

"Oh, the Pilgrim Fathers!" cried the boy from Connecticut.

"And nothing ever happened here all that time?" queried the boy from
California incredulously.

"Nothing," said the notary, "except a great deal of human life."

"Gee! what a lot o' that!" murmured the thoughtful boy from Virginia,
his eyes widening imaginatively.

After the fact that it had been there so long, they were astonished by
the fact that it was there at all, existing, as far as they could see,
with no visible means of support beyond a casual sawmill or two. "How do
all these people earn their living?" they always asked, putting the
question in the same breath with the other inevitable one: "_Where_ do
the people live who care for all this splendid farming country? We see
them working in the fields, these superb wheat-fields, or harvesting the
oats, but you can drive your car for mile after mile and never see a
human habitation. We thought Europe was a thickly populated place!"

Of course you know the obvious answer. The people who till the fields
all live in the villages. If you inhabit such a settlement you hear
every morning, very, very early, the slow, heavy tread of the big
farm-horses and the rumble of the huge two-wheeled carts going out to
work, and one of the picturesque sights of the sunset hour is the
procession of the powerful Percherons, their drivers sitting sideways on
their broad backs, plodding into the village, both horses and farmers
with an inimitable air of leisurely philosophy; of having done a good
day's work and letting it go at that; of attempting no last nervous
whack at the accumulated pile of things to be done which always lies
before every one; with an unembittered acceptance of the facts that
there are but twenty-four hours in every day and that it is good to
spend part of them eating savory hot soup with one's family. According
to temperament, this appearance, only possible, apparently, when you
have lived a thousand years in the same place, enormously reposes or
enormously exasperates the American observer.

You do not see the cows going out to pasture, or coming back at night
through the village streets, because those farmers who have a dairy live
on the outskirts of the town, with their big square courtyards adjacent
to the fields. The biggest farmhouse of this sort in Crouy is lodged in
the remnants of the medieval castle of the old seigneurs (symbol of
modern France!) where at night the cows ramble in peaceably through the
old gate where once the portcullis hung, and stand chewing their cud
about the great courtyards whence marauding knights in armor once
clattered out to rob.

Of course this arrangement whereby country folk all live in villages
turns inside out and upside down most of those conditions which seem to
us inevitable accompaniments of country life; for instance, the
isolation and loneliness of the women and children. There is no
isolation possible here, when, to shake hands with the woman of the next
farm, you have only to lean out of your front window and have her lean
out of hers, when your children go to get water from the fountain along
with all the other children of the region, when you are less than five
minutes' walk from church and the grocery-store, when your children can
wait till the school-bell is ringing before snatching up their books to
go to school.

You do not have to wait for your mail till some one can go to town or
till the R. F. D. man brings it around six hours after it has arrived in
town. The village mail-carrier brings it to you directly it arrives,
just as though you lived in a city. You do not have to wait for your
community news till it filters slowly to your remote door by the
inaccurate medium of the irresponsible grocery-boy. The moment anything
of common interest happens, the town crier walks up your street. At the
sound of his announcing drum or bell you drop your work, stick your head
out of your door, and hear at once, hot off the griddle, as soon as any
one, that there will be an auction of cows at the Brissons on Saturday
next, that poor sick old Madame Mantier has at last passed away, or that
school reopens a week from Monday and all children must be ready to go.
And if one of the children breaks his arm, or if a horse has the colic,
or your chimney gets on fire, you do not suffer the anguished isolation
of American country life. The whole town swarms in to help you, in a
twinkling of an eye. In fact, for my personal taste, I must confess that
the whole town seemed only too ready to swarm in, on any friendly
pretext at all. But then, I have back of me many generations of
solitary-minded farmer ancestors, living sternly and grimly to
themselves, and not a thousand years of really sociable community life.

"But if they are country-people who live in these dry-looking villages,"
asked our American Ambulance boys, "what makes them huddle up so close
together and run the houses into one long wall of buildings that look
like tenement-houses? Why don't they have nice front yards like ours,
with grass and flowers, and people sitting on the front porch, enjoying
life? You can go through village after village here and never see a
thing but those ugly, stony streets and long, high, stone walls, and
bare, stony houses, and never a soul but maybe an old woman with a gunny
sack on her back, or a couple of kids lugging water in a pail."

The best answer to that was to open the door into our own bare, stone
house, which, like all the others on the street, presented to the public
eye an unalluring, long, gray-white, none-too-clean plastered wall,
broken by square windows designed for utility only. The big door opening
showed a stone-paved corridor leading straight to what seemed at first
glance an earthly Paradise of green; an old, old garden with superb
nut-trees, great flowering bushes, a bit of grass, golden graveled
paths, and high old gray walls with grapevines and fruit-trees carefully
trained against them.

Our American visitor stared about him with dazzled eyes. "What a
heavenly place! But who ever would have guessed such a garden was in
Crouy!"

"Oh, but this is not one of the really good gardens of the town," we
assured him. "This is a poor old neglected one compared with those all
around us."

"But where _are_ they?" asked our American incredulously, his vision cut
off by the ten-foot wall.

At this we invited him upstairs to a lofty window at the back of the
house, leaning from which he had a totally new view of the town whose
arid gray streets he had traversed so many times. Back of every one of
these gray-white, monotonously aligned plastered houses stretched a
garden, often a very large one, always a jewel, gleaming, burnished, and
ordered, with high old trees near the house, and flowers and vines; and,
back of this pleasure spot, a great fertile stretch of well-kept
vegetables and fruit. He stared long, our American, reconstructing his
ideas with racial rapidity. On withdrawing his head his first comment
was, usually:

"But for the Lord's sake, how ever do they get the money to pay for
building all those miles of huge stone walls? It must cost every family
a fortune."

Upon learning that those walls had stood exactly there in those very
lines for hundreds of years, requiring only to be periodically kept in
repair, he sank into another momentary reconstructive meditation.

Then came the inevitable American challenge, the brave new note from the
New World which I always rejoiced to hear:

"But what's the _point_ of shutting yourself up that way from your
neighbors and making such a secret of your lovely garden that nobody
gets any good of it but yourself? Why not open up and let everybody who
goes by take pleasure in your flowers and your lawn and see the kids
playing and hear them laughing?"

Of course I always went duly through the orthodox historical and social
explanations. I pointed out that it was only in comparatively late
times--only since that very recent event the French Revolution or the
beginning of our life as a nation--that isolated houses in the fields
would have been safe; that up to that time people were obliged to huddle
together inside the walls of a town at night as a safeguard against
having their throats cut; that an age-old habit of apprehension and
precaution leaves ineradicable marks on life; and that it still seems
entirely natural for French people to conceal their gardens behind
ten-foot stone walls with broken bottles on top, although for
generations the community life has been as peaceful as that of any
drowsy New England village. But, having given this academic explanation,
I went on to hazard a guess that age-old habits of fear leave behind
them more than material marks, like stone walls and broken bottles. They
shape and form human minds into tastes and preferences and prejudices,
the uncourageous origin of which the owners of the minds are far from
divining.

"You know," I said to our boy from home, "they can't understand our open
villages with no fences or walls, with everybody's flowers open to
everybody's view, with our pretty girls showing their fresh summer
dresses and bright, sweet faces to the chance passerby as well as to the
selected few who have the countersign to enter. They can't understand
it, and they don't try to, for they don't like it. They don't like our
isolated houses. They, like all Europeans, apparently like the feeling
of having neighbors near so that they can enjoy shutting them out. They
say they like the feeling of 'being all to themselves'; they have a
passion for 'privacy' which often seems to mean keeping desirable things
away from other people; they can't see how we endure the 'staring eyes
of strangers.'"

At this point I was usually interrupted by the boy from home who cried
out hotly:

"Well, I hope _we_ won't ever get so afraid of people we haven't been
introduced to! I guess we can stand it, not being so darned private as
all that! I don't see that you need take any less satisfaction in a
rosebush because it's given pleasure to a lot of work-people going by in
the morning!"

On which proposition we always cordially shook hands.

"And yet, d'you know," added the boy from home, a little wistfully,
looking down into the green, secluded peace of the walled-in garden,
"there _must_ be something kind o' nice about the quiet of it, being
able to do as you please without everybody looking at you. It sort of
makes our front yards seem like a public park, instead of a home,
doesn't it?"

"Yes," I said sadly, "it does, a little."

Oh, Europe, Europe! seductive old Europe, ever up to thine old game of
corrupting the fresh candor of invading barbarians!

"But, anyhow," ended the boy from home bravely, "I don't care. I think
our way is lots the nicest ... for _everybody_!"

Dear boy from home!

Then we went downstairs and visited our modest establishment, typical in
a small way of all those about us, and although made up of the same
essential features as those of a small American town home, differing in
a thousand ways.

"Why, there are apples on this hedge, real apples!" said the American.
"Who ever heard of apples on a little low hedge plant?"

"Those aren't hedge plants," we told him. "Those are real apple-trees,
trained to grow low, cut back year after year, pruned, watched, nipped,
fertilized, shaped, into something quite different from what they meant
to be. They produce a tenth, a twentieth part of what would grow if the
tree were left to itself, but what golden apples of Hesperides they are!
The pears are like that, too. Here is a pear-tree older than I, and not
so tall, which bears perhaps a dozen pears, but _what_ pears! And you
see, too, when the trees are kept small, you can have ever so many more
in the same space. They don't shade your vegetables, either. See those
beans growing up right to the base of the trees."

The chicken-yard was comforting to our visitors because it was like any
chicken-yard; if anything, not so well kept or so well organized as an
American one. But beyond them is a row of twelve well-constructed brick
rabbit-hutches with carefully made lattice gates and cement floors,
before which visitors always stopped to gaze at the endlessly twitching
pink noses and vacuous faces of the little beasts. I hastened to explain
that they were not at all for the children to play with, but that they
form a serious part of the activities of every country family in the
region, supplying for many people the only meat they ever eat beyond the
very occasional fowl in the pot for a fête-day. They take the place, as
far as I could see, of the American farm family's hog, and are to my
mind a great improvement on him. Their flesh is much better food than
the hog's, and since the animal is so small and so prolific, he provides
a steady succession all the year round of fresh meat, palatable and
savory, not smoked and salted into indigestibility like most of our
country pork. In addition, he costs practically nothing to raise. This
is, under the usual conditions of the French countryside, almost
literally true. They are given those scraps from the kitchen and garden
which hens will not touch, the potato and vegetable parings, the
carrot-tops, the pea-vines after they have stopped bearing, the outer
leaves of the cabbages, and, above all, herbage of all sorts which
otherwise would be lost. Every afternoon, the old women of the town,
armed with gunny sacks and sickles, go out for an hour or so of fresh
air and exercise. The phrase is that they _va à l'herbe_ (go for the
grass). It is often a lively expedition, with the children skipping and
shouting beside their grandmother, or one of the bigger boys pushing
the wheelbarrow, cherished and indispensable accessory of French country
life. They take what with us would be a "walk in the country," and as
they pass they levy toll on every sod beside the road, or in a corner of
a wall; on the fresh green leaves and twigs of neglected thickets; on
brambles and weeds--rabbits adore weeds!--on underbrush and vines. Since
seeing these patient, ruddy, vigorous, white-capped old women at their
work I have made another guess at the cause of the miraculously neat and
ordered aspect of French landscapes. It is an effect not wholly due to
the esthetic sense of the nation. Toward twilight, the procession of old
women and children, red-cheeked and hungry, turns back to the village,
with wheelbarrows loaded and sacks bursting with food which otherwise
would have served no human purpose. No need to give the rabbit, as we do
the hog, expensive golden corn, fit for our own food, and which takes
the heart out of the soil which produces it. The rabbit lives, and lives
well, on the unconsidered and unmissed crumbs from Mother Nature's
table.

The rabbit-hutches being near the kitchen, we usually went next into
that red-and-white-tiled room, with the tiny coal-range (concession to
the twentieth century) with the immense open hearth (heritage of the
past) and the portable charcoal-stove, primitive, universal implement.

"But you can't bake your bread in such a play-stove as that," commented
the American.

And with that we were launched into a new phase of Crouy life, the
close-knit communal organization of a French settlement. Since all these
country people live side by side, they discovered long ago that there is
no need to duplicate, over and over, in each house, labors which are
better done in centralized activity. Instead of four hundred cook-stoves
being heated to the baking-point, with a vast waste of fuel and effort,
one big fire in the village _boulangerie_ bakes the bread for all the
community. These French country women no more bake their own bread than
they make their own shoes. In fact, if they tried to they could not
produce anything half so appetizing and nourishing as the crusty,
well-baked loaves turned out by that expert specialist, the village
bakeress; and they buy those loaves for less than it would cost to
produce them in each kitchen.

In addition to the _boulangerie_ where you buy your bread, there is in
Crouy (and in all other French towns of that size) another shop kept by
a specially good cook among the housewives, where you can always buy
certain cooked foods which are hard to prepare at home in small
quantities. Ham, for instance. In American towns too small to have a
delicatessen shop, how many of us quail before the hours of continuous
heat needed to boil a ham, and the still more formidable enterprise of
getting it all eaten up afterward without a too dreary monotony! I have
known American villages where people said the real reason for church
suppers was that they might taste boiled ham once in a while. In Crouy,
backward, primitive, drainageless community that it is, they cater to
the prime necessity of variety in diet with a competence like that with
which the problem of good bread is solved all over France. Every
Wednesday morning you know that Madame Beaugard has a ham freshly
boiled. You may buy one slice, just enough to garnish a cold salad, or
ten slices to serve in a hot sauce for dinner. On Saturdays she has a
big roast of beef, hot and smoking out of her oven at a quarter of
twelve, and a family or two may thus enjoy this luxury without paying
the usual Anglo-Saxon penalty of eating cold or hashed beef for many
days thereafter. On another day she has beans, the dry beans which are
such a bother to prepare in small quantities and such an admirable and
savory food. She is the village fruit-seller, and when you go to buy
your fruit in her little shop, which is nothing more or less than her
front parlor transformed, you are sure to find something else appetizing
and tempting. Note that this regular service not only adds greatly to
the variety and tastefulness of the diet of the village, but enables
Madame Beaugard to earn her living more amply.

In another big operation of housekeeping the simplest French country
community puts its resources together, instead of scattering them. On
wash days there is no arduous lifting and emptying out of water, no
penetrating odor of soapsuds throughout all the house, no waste of fuel
under hundreds of individual wash-boilers, no solitary drudging over the
washtubs. The French country housekeeper who does her own washing brings
around to the street door her faithful steed, the wheelbarrow, and
loads it up; first the big galvanized boiler full of soiled clothes,
then a wooden box open at one side, filled with clean straw, then the
soap, a flat, short-handled wooden paddle, and a stiff scrubbing-brush.
Leaving the children not yet at school in the charge of a neighbor--for
whom she will perform the same service another day of the week--her head
done up in a kerchief, her skirts kilted high to let her step free, she
sets off down the road for the _lavoir_. I use the French word because
the institution does not exist in English.

This is usually a low stone building, with an open place in the roof,
either covered with glass or open to the air. In the center is a big
pool of water, constantly renewed, which gushes in clean and eddies out
soapy, carrying with it the impurities of the village linen. Here our
housewife finds an assortment of her friends and neighbors, and here she
kneels in the open air, in her straw-filled box, and soaps, and beats,
and rinses, and scrubs at the spots with her scrubbing-brush (they never
use a rubbing-board), and at the same time hears all the talk of the
town, gets whatever news from the outer world is going the rounds, jokes
and scolds, sympathizes and laughs, sorrows with and quarrels with her
neighbors,--gets, in short, the same refreshing and entire change from
the inevitable monotony of the home routine which an American housewife
of a more prosperous class gets in her club meeting, and which the
American housewife of the same class gets, alas! almost never.

And, yes, the clothes are clean! I know it runs counter to all our fixed
ideas and what we are taught in domestic-science classes. I don't
pretend to explain it but the fact remains that clothes soaped and
beaten and rinsed in cold water, boiled in a boiler over the open fire
and dried on the grass, are of the most dazzling whiteness. It is just
another wholesome reminder that there are all kinds of ways to kill a
cat, and that our own, natural and inevitable as it seems to us, may not
even be the most orthodox.

Another such reminder is the fashion in which they manage baths in
Crouy. There are not (you can hear, can't you, the supercilious
Anglo-Saxon tourist saying, "_Of course there are not_"?) any bathrooms
in the houses, nor in the one little inn. And yet the people take plenty
of baths, and in big porcelain bathtubs too, bigger and deeper and
fuller of hot water than those we have in our houses.

Among the many curious little industries of the place is the
_établissement des bains_. As you go down the main street of a morning
you stop in and fill up a little printed card stating that you wish a
hot (or cold) plain (or perfumed or sulphur or starch or what not) bath,
at such and such an hour. The little old woman in charge (note that this
is another way for a little old woman to earn an honest living) notes
your hour, and stokes up her stove according to the schedule of the day.
When you arrive you are shown into an immaculately clean tiled bathroom,
with an enormous tub, lined with a clean sheet (it has been definitely
decided by doctors that this precaution obviates any possibility of
contagion) and filled with clear, sparkling hot water. You can rent your
towels for two cents apiece, and buy a bit of soap for three cents, or
you may bring them from home, if you prefer. Of course, being unused to
this particular way of killing the cat, you feel rather foolish and
queer to be taking a bath in a community bathtub instead of in your own.
But the bath is a fine one; with a cold rub-down at the end, there is no
danger of taking cold; and as you dress, glowing and refreshed, you
cannot put out of your mind some such colloquy as this:

"Yes, of course I prefer a bathtub in my own house. Everybody would. But
suppose I haven't money enough to have one? At home, in a town like
this, you can only get a bath, or give it to your children, if you have
capital enough to buy, install, and keep up a bathroom of your own. Here
you can have an even better one, any time you can spare fifteen cents in
cash. Which method produces the bigger area of clean skin in a given
community?"

You usually end your colloquy by quoting to yourself, laughingly, the
grandly American-minded remark of the boy from Illinois, whose reaction
to the various eye-openers about him was thus formulated:

"Do you know, the thing we want to do at home is to keep all the good
ways of doing this we've got already, and then add all the French ones
too."

We laughed over the youthful self-confidence of that ambition, but, as
the boy from Illinois would say, "Honestly, do you know, there is
something in it."

In one of the few large, handsome houses in Crouy there is something
else I wish we might import into America. Very simply, with no brass
band of a formal organization, secretaries, or reports, the younger
girls of the town are brought together to learn how to sew and cook and
keep their household accounts. The splendid park which looks so lordly
with its noble trees is only the playground for the little girls in
gingham aprons in the intervals of their study; and the fine,
high-ceilinged, spacious old _salon_, a veritable Henry James room, is
employed in anything but a Henry James manner as the workroom where all
the children from the poorer houses round about sit in the sunshine,
setting beautiful fine stitches and chattering like magpies.

A large room at the side has been fitted up--oh, so long before domestic
science "struck" America--as a kitchen, and here the little girls daily
prepare their own luncheons, after having, turn by turn, done the
marketing and made up their small accounts under the supervision of an
expert teacher. Their rosy cheeks and bright eyes testify to the good
training which their own mothers received in this very room, in these
very essentials of life.

The gracious, gray-haired owner of the beautiful home has always been so
busy with her school and workroom that she almost never runs into Paris,
although she is not more than a couple of hours away.

"I've only been there five or six times in my life," she says, shaking
her head in mocking contrition, and turning superb old rings around on
her soft, wrinkled hands. She adds, with a pretty whimsical smile: "To
tell the truth, it bores me awfully when I do go. I have so much to see
to here, that I'm uneasy to be away."

You are to remember that this has been going on for at least two
generations. The quiet-eyed _châtelaine_ of the manor mentions, in
passing, that she is but continuing the work of her aunt who lived there
before her, and who for fifty years gave all her life and property for
her neighbors' children in quite the same way. When you leave you try to
murmur something about what two such lives must have meant to the
community, but this entirely unmodern, unradical, unread provincial
Frenchwoman cuts you short by saying in a matter-of-fact tone, with the
most transparent simplicity of manner:

"Oh, but of course property is only a trust, after all, isn't it?"

Will some one please tell me what are the appropriate sentiments for
good Socialists to feel about such people?

There is another _ouvroir_ (sewing-room) in Crouy of another sort, where
the older girls, instead of being forced to go away from home, as in
most American villages, to work in factories or shops, may earn an
excellent living doing expert embroidery or fine sewing. They are well
paid, and the enterprise is successful commercially because the
long-headed philanthropist at the head of the organization manages to
sell direct to consumers--as will always be done as a matter-of-course
in the twenty-first century--instead of passing the product through the
acquisitive hands of many middlemen. But there is so much to report in
detail about this wholly admirable and modern undertaking that I must
make another story of it. It is really curious how often, in this
little, backward, drainageless French village, an American is brought to
a halt, a long, scrutinizing inspection, and much profitable meditation.

       *       *       *       *       *

So far you have seen Crouy as it was before the war, and as it is now in
the brief intervals between the departure of a regiment going back to
the front and the arrival of another with the trench mud still on its
boots. You have seen the long, gray, stony street filled morning and
evening with horses and laborers going out to work or returning, and in
the meantime dozing somnolent in the sun, with only a cat or dog to
cross it, an old woman going out for the grass, or a long, gray American
Ford Ambulance banging along over the paving, the square-jawed,
clean-shaven boy from the States zigzagging desperately with the vain
idea that the other side of the street cannot be so rough as the one he
is on. You have seen the big open square, sleeping under the airy shadow
of the great sycamores, only the occasional chatter of children drawing
water at the fountain breaking the silence. You have seen the beautiful
old church, echoing and empty save for an old, poor man, his ax or his
spade beside him, as he kneels for a moment to pray for his grandsons at
the front; or for a woman in black, rigid and silent before a shrine, at
whose white face you dare not glance as you pass. You have seen the
plain, bare walls of the old houses, turning an almost blank face to the
street, with closely shuttered or thickly curtained windows.

But one morning, very early, before you are dressed, you hear suddenly,
close at hand, that clear, ringing challenge of the bugle which bids all
human hearts to rise and triumph, and the vehement whirring rhythm of
the drums, like a violent new pulse beating in your own body. The house
begins to shake as though with thunder, not the far-off roar of the
great cannon of the horizon which you hear every day, but a definite
vibration of the earth under your feet. You rush to your street window,
throw open the shutters, and, leaning from the sill, see that all Crouy
is leaning with you and looking up the street.

There, at the turn, where the road leaves the yellow wheat-fields to
enter the village, the flag is coming, the torn, ragged, dingy, sacred
tricolor. Back of it the trumpets, gleaming in the sun, proclaim its
honor. They are here, the poilus, advancing with their quick, swinging
step, so bravely light for all the cruel heavy sacks on their backs and
the rifles on their shoulders. Their four-ranked file fills our street
from side to side, as their trumpets fill our ears, as the fatigue and
courage of their faces fill our hearts. They are here, the splendid,
splendid soldiers who are the French poilus. Everybody's brother,
cousin, husband, friend, son, is there.

All Crouy leans from its windows to welcome them back from death--one
more respite. They glance up at the windows as they pass; the younger
ones smile at the girls' faces; the older ones, fathers certainly, look
wistfully at the children's bright heads. There are certain ones who
look at nothing, staring straight ahead at immaterial sights which will
not leave their eyes.

One detachment has passed; the rumbling has increased till your windows
shake as though in an earthquake. The camions and guns are going by, an
endless defile of monster trucks, ending with the rolling kitchen,
lumbering forward, smoking from all its pipes and caldrons, with the
regimental cook springing up to inspect the progress of his savory
ragoût.

After the formless tumult of the wheels, the stony street resounds again
to the age-old rhythm of marching men. Another detachment....

You dress quickly, seize the big box of cigarettes kept ready for this
time, and, taking the children by the hand, go out to help welcome the
newcomers as they settle down for their three weeks' rest.

I have told you that Crouy has a thousand inhabitants. There are twelve
hundred men in a regiment. Perhaps you can imagine that when the troops
are there men seem to ooze from every pore of the town. There are no
great barracks erected for them, you understand. Somehow Crouy people
make themselves small, move over to the edge, and make the necessary
room. There are seventy soldiers sleeping on straw in the big hall which
was before the war used for a concert-room or for amateur theatricals;
two hundred are housed in what is left of the old _salles de garde_ of
the ruined castle, old guard-rooms which after five hundred years see
themselves again filled with French fighting-men; every barn-loft is
filled with them; every empty shed has a thick layer of straw on the
ground and twenty to thirty men encamped; every empty stable has been
carefully cleaned and prepared for them; every empty room harbors one or
more officers; every attic has ten or fifteen men. One unused shop is
transformed into the regimental infirmary, and hangs out the Red Cross
flag; another sees the quartermaster and his secretaries installed at
desks improvised from pine boards; a sentry stands before the Town Hall
where the colonel has his headquarters, and another guards the fine old
house which has the honor of sheltering the regimental flag.

The street, our quiet, sleepy street, is like an artery pulsing with
rapid vibrations; despatch-riders dash up and down; camions rumble by; a
staff-car full of officers looking seriously at maps halts for a moment
and passes on; from out the courtyard where a regimental kitchen is
installed a file of soldiers issues, walking on eggs as they carry their
hot stew across the street to the lodging where they eat it. Our
green-vegetable woman, that supreme flower of a race of consummate
gardeners, arrives at the house, breathless and smiling, with only an
onion and a handful of potatoes in her usually well-garnished
donkey-cart.

"_Que voulez-vous, madame?_" she apologizes, sure of your sympathy. "The
instant I leave the garden, they set upon me. You can't refuse your own
soldiers, can you! With my Jacques at the front?"

Everywhere, everywhere where there is a scrap of cover from the sky, are
huddled horses, mules, guns, wagons, and camions. Every spreading
chestnut-tree harbors, not a blacksmith, but a dozen army mules tied
close to the trunk. Near the station the ground under the close-set
double line of trees in the long mall is covered to its last inch with
munition-wagons and camions, and to reach the post-office on the other
side of the little shady square you must pick your way back of lines of
guns, set end to end, without an inch to spare. The aviators, whose
machines wheel ceaselessly over the town, can see no change in its
aspect, unless perhaps the streets and courtyards send up to the sky a
gray-blue reflection like its own color. Not another trace of twelve
hundred men with all their impedimenta betrays to the occasional German
airman that Crouy's life is transformed.

Three times a week, in the late afternoon, just before sunset, the
regimental band gives a concert, in our big open square under the
sycamores, where, in the softer passages of the music, the sound of
splashing water mingles with the flutes. All Crouy puts on its Sunday
best and comes out to join itself to the horizon-blue throngs, and the
colonel and his staff stand under the greatest of the sycamores,
listening soberly to the music and receiving paternally the salutes of
the men who saunter near him.

Once during their stay there is a _prise-d'armes_, on the square, when
the men who have especially distinguished themselves are decorated with
the _croix de guerre_. All Crouy goes to see that, too--all Crouy means
now, you must remember, old men, women, little children, and babies--and
stands respectfully, with tear-wet eyes, watching the white-haired
colonel go down the line, pinning on each man's breast the sign of
honor, taking his hand in a comrade's clasp and giving him on both
cheeks a brother's kiss. That is a sight the children there will not
forget, those two, bronzed, grave soldiers' faces, meeting under their
steel casques in the salutation of blood-kin.

       *       *       *       *       *

And once there is a mass said for the regimental dead in the old, old
church. All Crouy goes there too, all Crouy lost in the crowd of
soldiers who kneel in close ranks on the worn stones, the sonorous chant
of whose deep voices fills the church to the last vaulting of the arches
which echoed to the voices of those other Crusaders, praying there for
their dead, six hundred years ago. The acolytes at the altar are
soldiers in their shabby honorable uniforms; the priest is a soldier;
the choir is filled with them singing the responses; in an interval of
the service up rise two of them near the organ, violin in hand, and the
French church rings with the angel's voice of whom but old Johann
Sebastian Bach--oh, generous-hearted, wise poilu musicians, who hate
only what is hateful!

At the end, suddenly, the regimental music is there, wood-wind,
trumpets, and all. The service comes to a close in one great surging
chant, upborne on the throbbing waves of the organ notes. The church
rings to the pealing brass, thrilling violins, the men's deep voices....

Ah, when will it resound to the song of thanksgiving at the end?



THE PERMISSIONAIRE

"_What was in the ground, alive, they could not kill._"


Two weeks after the German retreat from the Aisne was rumored, five days
after the newspapers were printing censored descriptions of the ravaged
country they had left, and the very moment the official bulletin
confirmed the news, Pierre Nidart presented himself to his lieutenant to
ask for a furlough, the long-delayed furlough, due for more than two
years now, which he had never been willing to take. His lieutenant
frowned uneasily, and did not answer. After a moment's silence he said,
gently, "You know, my old fellow, the Boches have left very little up
there."

(Nidart was not an old fellow at all, being but thirty-four, and the
father of two young children. His lieutenant used the phrase as a term
of endearment, because he had a high opinion of his silent sergeant.)
Nidart made no answer to his officer's remark. The lieutenant took it
that he persisted in wanting his furlough. As he had at least three
furloughs due him, it was hard to refuse. There was a long silence.
Finally, fingering the papers on the dry-goods box which served him as
desk, the lieutenant said: "Your wife is young. They say the Germans
carried back to work in Germany all women under forty-five, or those
who hadn't children under three."

Nidart swallowed hard, looked sick, and obstinately said nothing. His
lieutenant turned with a sigh and motioned the _fourrier_ to start the
red tape for the authorization for the furlough. "All right, I think I
can manage a three weeks' 'permission' for you. They're allowing that, I
hear, to men from the invaded regions who haven't taken any furloughs
since the beginning of the war."

"Yes, _mon Lieutenant_. Thank you, _mon Lieutenant_." Nidart saluted and
went back to his squad.

His lieutenant shook his head, murmuring to the _fourrier_: "Those
north-country men! There is no use saying a word to them. They won't
believe that _their_ homes and families aren't there, till they see with
their own eyes ... and when they do see.... I've heard that some of the
men in these first regiments that followed up the Boche retreat across
the devastated regions went crazy when they found their own villages ...
Nidart has just one idea in his head, poor devil!--to go straight before
him, like a homing pigeon, till ..." He stopped, his face darkening.

"Oh, damn the Boches!" the _fourrier_ finished the sentence fervently.

"You see, Nidart is a master-mason by trade, and he built their own
little house. He carries around a snapshot of it, with his wife and a
baby out in front."

"Oh, damn the Boches!" responded the _fourrier_ on a deeper note.

"And like all those village workmen, they got half their living out of
their garden and a field or two. And you've read what the Boches did to
the gardens and fruit-trees."

"Isn't there anything else we can talk about?" said the _fourrier_.

Nidart passed through Paris on his way (those being before the days of
strictly one-destination furloughs) and, extracting some very old bills
from the lining of his shoe, he spent the five hours between his trains
in hasty purchasing. At the hardware shop, where he bought an ax, a
hammer, some nails, and a saw, the saleswoman's vivacious curiosity got
the better of his taciturnity, and she screwed from him the information
that he was going back to his home in the devastated regions.

At once the group of Parisian working-people and bourgeois who happened
to be in the shop closed in on him sympathetically, commenting,
advising, dissuading, offering their opinions with that city-bred,
glib-tongued clatter which Nidart's country soul scorned and detested.

"No, no, my friend, it's useless to try to go back. The Germans have
made a desert of it. My cousin's wife has a relative who was in the
regiment that first followed the Germans after their retreat from Noyon,
and he said ..."

"The Government is going to issue a statement, saying that land will be
given in other parts of France to people from those regions, because
it's of no use to try to rebuild from under the ruins."

"No, not the Government, it's a society for the Protection of the People
in the Invaded Regions; and they are Americans, millionaires, every one.
And it's in America they are offering land, near New York."

"No, near Buenos Aires."

"The Americans want the regions left as a monument, as a place to see.
You'll make much more money as a guide to tourists than trying to ..."

"Your family won't be there, you know. The Boches took all the
able-bodied women back with them; and the children were sent to ..."

"_Give me my change, won't you!_" said Nidart with sudden fierceness, to
the saleswoman. He turned his back roughly on the chattering group and
went out. They shrugged their shoulders. "These country-people. Nothing
on earth for them but their little hole of a village!"

Down the street, Nidart, quickening to an angry stride his soldierly
gait, hurried along to a seed-store.

That evening when he got into the battered, dingy, third-class
compartment of the train going north, he could hardly be seen for the
innumerable packages slung about his person. He pulled out from one
bulging pocket a square piece of bread, from another a piece of cheese,
and proceeded to dine, bent forward with the weight of his burdens and
his thoughts, gazing out through the dirty windows at the flat farming
country jerking by him in the moonlight. It was so soon after the
retreat that the train went no further north than Noyon, and Nidart had
lived far beyond Noyon. About midnight, he rolled off the train,
readjusted his packages and his knapsack, and, after showing his
perfectly regular _sauf-conduit_ to five or six sentries along the way,
finally got out of town.

He found himself on the long, white road leading north. It was the road
down which they had driven once a week, on market-days. Of all the
double line of noble poplar-trees, not one was standing. The utterly
changed aspect of the familiar road startled him. Ahead of him as he
tramped rapidly forward, was what had been a cross-roads, now a gaping
hole. Nidart, used to gaping holes in roads, walked down into this, and
out on the other side. He was panting a little, but he walked forward
steadily and strongly....

The moon shone full on the place where the first village had stood, the
one where his married sister had lived, where he and his wife and the
children used to come for Sunday dinners once in a while. He stood
suddenly before a low, confused huddle of broken bricks and splintered
beams, and looked about him uncomprehending. The silence was intense. In
the instant before he understood what he was seeing, he heard and felt a
rapid vibration, his own heart knocking loudly. Then he understood.

A moment later, mechanically, he began to move about, clambering up and
down, aimlessly, over the heaps of rubble. Although he did not know it,
he was looking for the place where his sister's house had stood.
Presently his knees gave way under him. He sat down suddenly on a
tree-stump. The lopped-off trunk beside it showed it to have been an old
cherry-tree. Yes, his sister's big cherry-tree, the pride of her garden.
A long strip of paper, one end buried in a heap of bits of plaster,
fluttered in the night-wind. It beat against his leg like some one
calling feebly for help. The moon emerged from a cloud and showed it to
be a strip of wall-paper; he recognized the pattern; he had helped his
brother-in-law put it on the bedroom of the house. His sister's four
children had been born within the walls of that bedroom. He tried to fix
his mind on those children, not to think of any other children, not to
remember his own, not to ...

The paper beat insistently and rhythmically against his leg like a
recurrent thought of madness--he sprang up with the gesture of a man
terrified, and stumbling wildly among the formless ruins sought for the
road again.

He walked heavily after this, lifting his feet with an effort. Several
miles further, at the heap of débris which had been Falquières, where
his wife's family had lived, he made a wide detour through the fields to
avoid passing closer to the ruins. At the next, Bondry, where he had
been born and brought up, he tried to turn aside, but against his will
his feet carried him straight to the center of the chaos. When the first
livid light of dawn showed him the two stumps of the big apple-trees
before the door, which his grandfather had planted, he stopped short. Of
the house, of the old walled garden, not a trace beyond the shapeless
heap of stones and plaster. He stood there a long time, staring
silently. The light gradually brightened, until across the level fields
a ray of yellow sunshine struck ironically through the prone branches of
the murdered trees upon the gray face of the man.

At this he turned and, walking slowly, dragging his feet, his head
hanging, his shoulders bent, he followed the road which led like a white
tape laid straight across the plain, towards--towards ... The road had
been mined at regular intervals, deep and broad craters stretching
across it, enough to stop a convoy of camions, not enough to stop a
single soldier, even though he stumbled along so wearily, his cumbersome
packages beating against his legs and arms, even though he walked so
slowly, more and more slowly as he came in sight of the next heaped and
tumbled mound of débris. The sun rose higher....

Presently it shone, with April clarity, on Nidart lying, face downwards,
upon a heap of broken bricks.

For a long hour it showed nothing but that,--the ruins, the prostrate
trees, the man, like them stricken and laid low.

Then it showed, poor and miserable under that pale-gold light, a
wretched ant-like procession issuing from holes in the ground and
defiling slowly along the scarred road towards the ruins; women, a few
old men, a little band of pale and silent children. They approached the
ruins and dispersed. One of the women, leading three children, picked
her way wearily among the heaps of stone, the charred and twisted
beams ... stopped short, both hands at her heart.

And then the sun reeled in the sky to a sound which rang as strangely
from that silent desolation as a burst of song out of hell, scream after
scream of joy, ringing up to the very heavens, frantic, incredulous,
magnificent joy.

       *       *       *       *       *

There they stood, the man and wife, clasped in each others' arms in the
ruins of their home, with red, swollen eyes, smiling with quivering
lips, silent. Now that the first wild cries had gone rocket-like to the
sky and fallen back in a torrent of tears, they had no words, no words
at all. They clasped each other and the children, and wept, constantly
wiping the tears from their white cheeks, to see each other. The two
older children, a little shy of this father whom they had almost
forgotten, drew away constrained, hanging their heads, looking up
bashfully under their bent brows. Nidart sat down on a heap of stone and
drew the little girl to him, stroking her hair. He tried to speak, but
no voice issued from his lips. His wife sat down beside him, laying her
head on his shoulder, spent with the excess of her relief. They were all
silent a long time, their hearts beginning to beat in the old rhythm, a
sweet, pale peace dropping down upon them.

After a time, the youngest child, cowering under the woman's skirts,
surprised at the long silence, thrust out a little pale face from his
shelter. The man looked down on him and smiled. "That's a Dupré," he
said in his normal voice, with conviction, all his village lore coming
back to him. "I know by the Dupré look of his nose. He looks the way my
cousin Jacques Dupré used to, when he was little."

These were the first articulate words spoken. With them, he turned his
back on the unfriendly, unknowable immensity of the world in which he
had lived, exiled, for three years, and returned into the close familiar
community of neighbors and kin where he had lived for thirty-four
years,--where he had lived for hundreds of years. The pulverized wreck
of this community lay all about him, but he opened its impalpable doors
and stepped once more into its warm humanity. He looked at the little
child whom he had never seen before and knew him for kin.

His wife nodded. "Yes, it's Louise and Jacques' baby. Louise was
expecting him, you know, when the mobilization ... he was born just
after Jacques went away, in August. We heard Jacques was killed ... we
have heard everything ... that Paris was taken, that London was
burned.... I have heard twice that you were killed. Louise believed it,
and never got out of bed at all after the baby came. She just turned
over and let herself die. I took the baby. Somebody had to. That's the
reason I'm here now. 'They' carried off all the women my age unless they
had children under three. They thought the baby was mine.'

"But Jacques isn't killed," said Nidart; "he's wounded, with one wooden
leg, frantic to see Louise and the baby...." He made a gesture of blame.
"Louise always was a fool! Anybody's a fool to give up!" He looked down
at the baby and held out his hand. "Come here, little Jeannot."

The child shrank away silently, burrowing deeper into his
foster-mother's skirts.

"He's afraid," she explained. "We've had to make the children afraid so
they would keep out of sight, and not break rules. There were so many
rules, so many to salute and to bow to, the children couldn't remember;
and when they forgot, they were so dreadfully cuffed, or their parents
fined such big fines...."

"_I_ never saluted!" said the boy of ten, wagging his head proudly. "You
have to have something on your head to salute, they won't let you do it
bareheaded. So I threw my cap in the fire."

"Yes, he's gone bareheaded since the first days, summer and winter, rain
and shine," said his mother.

"Here, Jean-Pierre," said his father, wrestling with one of his
packages, "I've got a hat for you. I've been saving it for you, lugged
it all over because I wanted my boy to have it." He extracted from its
brown canvas bag a German helmet with the spike, which he held out.
"And I've got something for my little Berthe, too." He fumbled in an
inner pocket. "I made it myself, near Verdun. The fellows all thought I
was crazy to work over it so, when I didn't know if I'd ever see my
little girl again; but I was pretty sure Maman would know how to take
care of you, all right." He drew out from a nest of soft rags a roughly
carved aluminum ring and slipped it on the child's forefinger.

As the children drew off a little, to compare and examine, their parents
looked into each other's eyes, the deep, united, serious look of man and
wife before a common problem.

"_Eh bien_, Paulette," said the man, "what shall we do? Give up? Move
away?"

"Oh, Pierre!" cried his wife. "You _wouldn't_?"

For answer, he shook himself free of his packages and began to undo
them, the ax, the hammer, the big package of nails, the saw, the trowel,
the paper bags of seeds, the pickax. He spread them out on the clutter
of broken bricks, plaster, splintered wood, and looked up at his wife.
"That's what I bought on the way here."

His wife nodded. "But have you had your breakfast? You'd better eat
something before you begin."

       *       *       *       *       *

While he ate his bread and munched his cheese, she told him, speaking
with a tired dullness, something of what had happened during the years
of captivity. It came out just as she thought of it, without sequence,
one detail obscuring another. "There wasn't much left inside the house
when they finally blew it up. They'd been taking everything little by
little. No, they weren't bad to women; they were horrid and rough and
they stole everything they could, but they didn't mistreat us, only some
of the foolish girls. You know that good-for-nothing family of Boirats,
how they'd run after any man. Well, they took to going with the Boches;
but any decent woman that kept out of sight as much as she could, no, I
wasn't afraid of them much that way, unless they were drunk. Their
officers were awfully hard on them about everything--_hard_! They
treated them like dogs. _We were sorry for them sometimes._"

Yes, this ignorant woman, white and thin and ragged, sitting on the
wreck of her home, said this.

"Did you hear how they took every single thing in copper or
brass--Grandfather's candlesticks, the andirons, the handles of the
clothes-press, the door-knobs, and all, _every one_ of my saucepans and
kettles?" Her voice trembled at this item. "The summer after that, it
was everything in linen. I had just the chemise I had on my back ...
even what was on the clothes-line, drying, they took. The American
Committee distributed some cotton material and I made a couple for me
and Berthe, and some drawers for Jean-Pierre and the baby. That was when
we could still get thread. The winter after that, it was woolen they
took, everything, especially mattresses. Their officers made them get
every single mattress in town, except the straw ones. Alice Bernard's
mother, they jerked her mattress right out from under her, and left her
lying on the bed-ropes. And M. le Curé, he was sick with pneumonia and
they took his, that way, and he died. But the Boches didn't dare not to.
Their officers would have shot them if they hadn't."

"I can make beds for you," he said. "There must be trenches somewhere,
near,"--she nodded,--"they'll have left some wire-netting in an _abri_.
You make a square of wood, and put four legs to it, and stretch the
wire-netting over it and put straw on that. But we had some wire-netting
of our own that was around the chicken-yard."

"Oh, they took that," she explained,--"that, and the doors of the
chicken-house, and they pried off our window-cases and door-jambs and
carried those off the last days, too ... but there was one thing they
wouldn't do, no, not even the Boches, and that was _this_ dirty work!"
She waved her hand over the destruction about her, and pointed to the
trees across the road in the field, all felled accurately at the same
angle. "We couldn't understand much of what happened when they were
getting ready to leave, but some of them had learned enough French to
tell us they wouldn't 'do it'--we didn't know what. They told us they
would go away and different troops would come. And Georges Duvalet's boy
said they told _him_ that the troops who were to come to 'do it' were
criminals out of the prisons that the officers had let out if they would
'do it'--all this time we didn't know what, and somebody said it was to
pour oil on us and burn us, the way they did the people in the barn at
Vermadderville. But there wasn't anything we could do to prevent it. We
couldn't run away. So we stayed, and took care of the children. All the
men who could work at all and all the women too, unless they had very
little children, were marched away, off north, to Germany, with just
what few extra things they could put in a big handkerchief. Annette
Cagnon, she was eighteen, and had to go, but her mother stayed with the
younger children--her mother has been sort of crazy ever since. She had
such a long fainting turn when Annette went by, with a German soldier,
we thought we never could bring her to life...." The rough, tired voice
shook a moment, the woman rested her head again on her husband's arm,
holding to him tightly. "Pierre, oh Pierre, _if we had known what was to
come_,--no, we couldn't have lived through it, not any of us!" He put
his great, working-man's hand on her rough hair, gently.

She went on: "And then the troops who had been here did go away and the
others came, and they made the few of us who were left go down into the
cellars of those old houses down the road. They told us to stay there
three days, and if we went out before we'd get shot. We waited for two
whole days. The water they had given us was all gone, and then old
Granny Arnoux said she was all alone in the world, so it wouldn't make
any difference if she did get shot. She wanted to make sure that her
house was all right. You know what she thought of her house! So she came
up and we waited. And in half an hour we heard her crutches coming back
on the road, and she was shrieking out. We ran up to see. She had
fallen down in a heap. She hasn't known anything since; shakes all the
time as if she were in a chill. She was the first one; she was all
alone, when she saw what they had done ... and _you_ know ..."

Nidart turned very white, and stood up. "God! yes, I know! _I_ was
alone!"

"Since then, ten days ago, the French soldiers came through. We didn't
know them for sure, we were expecting to see the red trousers. I asked
everybody about you, but nobody knew. There are so _many_ soldiers in an
army. Then Americans came in cars and brought us bread, and blankets and
some shoes, but they have leather soles and I make the children keep
them for best, they wear out so. And since then the Government has let
the camions that go through to the front, leave bread and meat and once
a bag of potatoes for us. The préfet came around and asked if we wanted
to be sent to a refugee home in Paris or stay here, and of course I said
stay here. The children and I have come every day to work. We've got the
plaster and bricks cleared out from the corner of the fireplace, and I
cook there, though there isn't any chimney of course, but I think the
tiles of the kitchen floor are mostly all there still. And oh, Pierre,
we have one corner of the garden almost cleared, _and the asparagus is
coming up_! Come and see! They cut down everything they could see, even
the lilac bushes, but what was in the ground, alive, they couldn't
kill."

Nidart put the shovel in his wife's hand, and took up the pickax. "Time
spent in traveling isn't counted on furloughs," he said, "so we have
twenty-one days, counting to-day. The garden first, so's to get in the
seeds."

They clambered over the infernal disorder of the ruins of the house, and
picked their way down and back into what had been the garden. A few
sections of the wall were still standing, its thick solidity resisting
even dynamite petards.

"Oh, see, almost all of the pleached trees are saved!" cried Nidart,
astonished, "that part of the wall didn't fall."

"I'm not sure I pruned those right," said his wife doubtfully, glancing
at them. "I couldn't remember whether you left two or four buds on the
peaches, and I just gave up on the big grapevine. It grew so, it got all
ahead of me!"

"Did they bear well?" asked the man, looking across the trash heap at
the well-remembered trees and vines. "We'd better leave those till some
odd time, they won't need much care. I can do them between other things
some time when I'm too tired to do anything else. Here is where the big
job is." He looked the ground over with a calculating eye and announced
his plan of campaign.

"We won't try to carry the rubbish out. It's too heavy for you, and my
time has got to go as far as it can for the important things. We'll just
pile it all up in a line along the line where the walls used to stand.
All of us know that line! I'll use the pickax, and Maman the shovel.
Jean-Pierre will throw the bigger pieces over on the line, and Berthe
will go after and pick up the littler ones."

They set to work, silently, intensely. When they reached the
currant-bushes, all laid low, Pierre gave a growl of wrath and scorn,
but none of them slackened their efforts. About eleven the big convoy of
camions on the way to the front came through, lurching along the
improvised road laid out across the fields. The workers, lifting their
eyes for the first time from their labors, saw at a distance on the main
road the advance guard of the road-menders already there, elderly
soldiers, gray-haired territorials, with rakes and shovels, and back of
them, shuttle-like, the big trucks with road-metal coming and going.

Reluctantly leaving her work, Paulette went to get the supplies for
dinner, and started an open-air fire in the cleared-out corner of the
chimney. Over this she hung a big pot, and leaving it to boil she
hurried back to her shovel. "The soup-kettle and the flat-irons," she
told her husband, "they were too hard to break and too heavy to carry
away, and they are about all that's left of what was in the house."

"No, I found an iron fork," said Berthe, "but it was all twisted.
Jean-Pierre said he thought he could ..."

"Don't talk," said their father firmly,--"you don't work so fast when
you talk."

At noon they went back to the fire burning under the open sky, in the
blackened corner of the fireplace where it had cooked the food during
the years past. The man looked at it strangely, and turned his eyes
away.

"Now where is your fork, little Berthe?" he said. "I'll straighten it
for you. With that and my kit ..."

"I have my jackknife too," said Jean-Pierre.

They ate thus, dipping up the stew in the soldier's _gamelle_, using his
knife and fork and spoon and the straightened iron fork. The baby was
fed on bread soaked in the gravy, and on bits of potato given him from
the end of a whittled stick. In the twenty minutes' rest which their
captain allowed the little force after the meal, he and Jean-Pierre
whittled out two wooden forks, two-tined, from willow twigs. "That's one
apiece now," said Nidart, "and the asparagus bed is all cleared off. We
have made a beginning."

They went back to work, stooping, straining, heaving, blinded with the
flying plaster, wounded with the sharp edges of the shattered stones.
The sun shone down on them with heavenly friendliness, the light,
sparkling air lifted the hair from their hot foreheads. After a time,
Nidart, stopping for an instant to wipe away the sweat which ran down
into his eyes, said: "The air has a different feel to it here. And the
sun looks different. It _looks_ like home."

At four they stopped to munch the piece of bread which is the
supplementary meal of French working-people at that hour. Nidart
embellished it with a slice of cheese for each, which made the meal a
feast. They talked as they ate; they began to try to bridge over the
gap between them. But they lacked words to tell what lay back of them;
only the dry facts came out.

"Yes, I've been wounded, there's a place on my thigh, here, put your
hand and feel, where there isn't any flesh over the bone, just skin. It
doesn't bother me much, except when I try to climb a ladder. Something
about that position I can't manage ... and for a mason ..."

"I'll climb the ladders," said Jean-Pierre.

"Yes, I was pretty sick. It got gangrene some. They thought I wouldn't
live. I was first in a big hospital near the front, and then in a
convalescent hospital in Paris. It was awfully dull when I got better.
They thought if I had made an application to be _réformé_ and retired I
could be like Jacques Dupré with his wooden leg. But with you and the
children here ... what could I have done with myself? So I didn't say
anything, and when my time was up in the hospital I went back to the
trenches. That was a year ago last winter."

"Berthe and Jean-Pierre had the mumps that winter," said their mother.
"The baby didn't get it. I kept him away from them. The Boches shut us
up as though we had the smallpox. They were terribly strict about any
sickness. The Boche regimental doctor came every day. He took very good
care of them."

"He wanted to give me a doll because I didn't cry when he looked in my
throat," said Berthe.

"Of course she didn't take it," said Jean-Pierre. "I told her I'd break
it all to pieces if she did."

"But she cried afterwards."

"Come," said the father, "we've finished our bread. Back to work."

       *       *       *       *       *

That night, after the children were asleep on straw in the cellar down
the road, their parents came back to wander about in the moonlight over
their ravaged little kingdom. The wife said little, drawing her breath
irregularly, keeping a strained grasp on her husband's arm. For the most
part he succeeded in speaking in a steady voice of material plans for
the future,--how he could get some galvanized roofing out of the nearest
trench _abri_; how he could use the trunks of the felled trees to
strengthen his hastily constructed brick walls, and for roof-beams; what
they could plant in the garden and the field--things which she and the
children could cultivate after he had gone back.

At this reminder of the inevitable farewell again before them, the wife
broke out in loud wailings, shivering, clutching at him wildly. He drew
her down on a pile of rubbish, put his arms around her, and said in a
peremptory tone: "Paulette! Listen! _You are letting the Boches beat
you!_" He used to her the tone he used for his squad, his new soldier's
voice which the war had taught him, the tone which carried the laggards
up over the top. At the steel-like ring of it his wife was silent.

He went on: "There's nothing any of us _can_ do but to go on. The only
thing to do is to go on without making a fuss. That's the motto in the
army, you know. Don't make a fuss." He lifted his head and looked
around at his home dismantled, annihilated. "_Not to give up_,--that and
the flat-irons are about all the Boches have left us, don't you see?"

He was silent a moment and went on with his constructive planning.
"Perhaps I can get enough lime sent on from Noyon to really rebuild the
chimney. With that, and a roof, and the garden, and the allocation from
the Government ..."

"Yes, Pierre," said his wife in a trembling voice. She did not weep
again.

He himself, however, was not always at this pitch of stoicism. There
were times when he looked up suddenly and felt, as though for the first
time, the downfall and destruction of all that had been his life. At
such moments the wind of madness blew near him. The night after they had
moved from the cellar into the half-roofed, half-walled hut, to sleep
there on the makeshift beds, he lay all night awake, crushed with the
immensity of the effort they would need to put forth and with the
insignificance of any progress made. There came before him the long
catalogue of what they had lost, the little decencies and comforts they
had earned and paid for and owned. He sickened at the squalid expedients
of their present life. They were living like savages; never again would
they attain the self-respecting order which had been ravished from them,
which the ravishers still enjoyed. With all his conscious self he longed
to give up he struggle, but something more than his conscious self was
at work. The tree had been cut down, but something was in the ground,
alive.

At dawn he found himself getting out of bed, purposefully. To his wife's
question he answered: "I'm going to Noyon to buy the seed for the field.
We haven't half enough corn. And I can get young cabbage plants there,
too, they say. I can make it in six hours if I hurry."

He was back by ten o'clock, exhausted, but aroused from his waking
nightmare--for that time! But it came again and again.

On the day he began to spade up the field he noticed that two of his
murdered fruit-trees, attached by a rag of bark to the stumps, were
breaking out into leaf. The sight turned him sick with sorrow, as though
one of his children had smiled at him from her deathbed. He bent over
the tree, his eyes burning, and saw that all the buds were opening
trustfully. His heart was suffocating. He said to himself: "They have
been killed! They are dead! But they do not know they are dead, and they
try to go on living. _Are we like that?_"

In an instant all his efforts to reanimate his assassinated life seemed
pitiful, childish, doomed to failure. He looked across the field at the
shapeless, roughly laid brick wall he had begun, and felt a shamed rage.
He was half-minded to rush and kick it down.

"Papa, come! The peonies have begun to come up in the night. The whole
row of them, where we were raking yesterday."

The man found his wife already there, bending over the sturdy, reddish,
rounded sprouts pushing strongly through the loosened earth. She looked
up at him with shining eyes. When they were betrothed lovers, they had
together planted those peonies, pieces of old roots from her mother's
garden. "You see," she said again; "I told you what was in the ground
alive they couldn't kill!"

The man went back to his spading silently, and, as he labored there, a
breath of sovereign healing came up to him from that soil which was his.
The burning in his eyes, the taste of gall in his mouth, he had
forgotten when, two hours later, he called across to his wife that the
ground for the beans was all spaded and that she and Jean-Pierre could
come now with their rakes, while he went back to building the
house-wall.

But that quick scorching passage through fire was nothing compared with
the hour which waited for him in his garden beside the wall on which the
branches of his pleached trees and vines still spread out their
carefully symmetrical patterns. He had put off caring for them till some
odd moment. He and his wife, glancing at them from time to time, had
made estimates of the amount of fruit they would yield, "and for us this
time--we haven't had a single peach or apple from them. The Boche
officers sent their soldiers to get them always."

"Queer they should have left those unharmed," said his wife once, and he
had answered: "Perhaps the man they sent to kill them was a gardener
like us. I know I couldn't cut down a fruit-tree in full bearing, not if
it were in hell and belonged to the Kaiser. Anybody who's ever grown
things knows what it is!"

       *       *       *       *       *

One gray day of spring rains and pearly mists, the fire would not burn
in the only half-constructed chimney. Paulette crouched beside it,
blowing with all her might, and thinking of the big leathern bellows
which had been carried away to Germany with all the rest. Jean-Pierre
shaved off bits from a dry stick and Berthe fed them under the pot, but
the flame would not brighten. Pierre, coming down, cold and hungry, from
the top of the wall where he had been struggling with a section of roof,
felt physically incapable of going on with that work until he had eaten,
and decided to use the spare half-hour for pruning the pleached trees
and vines. Almost at the end of his strength after the long-continued
strained effort to accomplish the utmost in every moment and every hour,
he shivered from the cold of his wet garments as he stood for a moment,
fumbling to reach the pruning-shears. But he did not give himself the
time to warm his hands at the fire, setting out directly again into the
rain. He had been working at top speed ever since the breakfast, six
hours before, of black coffee and dry bread.

Sodden with fatigue and a little light-headed from lack of food, he
walked along the wall and picked out the grapevine as the least tiring
to begin on. He knew it so well he could have pruned it in the dark. He
had planted it the year before his marriage, when he had been building
the house and beginning the garden. It had not been an especially fine
specimen, but something about the situation and the soil had exactly
suited it, and it had thriven miraculously. Every spring, with the first
approach of warm weather, he had walked out, in the evening after his
day's work, along the wall to catch the first red bud springing
amazingly to life out of the brown, woody stems which looked so dead.
During the summers as he had sprayed the leaves, and manured the soil
and watered the roots and lifted with an appraising hand the great
purple clusters, heavier day by day, he had come to know every turn of
every branch. In the trenches, during the long periods of silent
inaction, when the men stare before them at sights from their past
lives, sometimes Nidart had looked back at his wife and children,
sometimes at his garden on an early morning in June, sometimes at his
family about the dinner-table in the evening, and sometimes at his great
grapevine, breaking into bud in the spring, or, all luxuriant curving
lines, rich with leafage, green and purple in the splendor of its
September maturity.

It was another home-coming to approach it now, and his sunken, bloodshot
eyes found rest and comfort in dwelling on its well-remembered
articulations. He noticed that the days of sunshine, and now the soft
spring rain, had started it into budding. He laid his hand on the tough,
knotted, fibrous brown stem.

It stirred oddly, with a disquieting lightness in his hand. The
sensation was almost as though one of his own bones turned gratingly on
nothing. The sweat broke out on his forehead. He knelt down and took
hold of the stem lower down. The weight of his hand displaced it. It
swung free. It had been severed from the root by a fine saw. The sap was
oozing from the stump.

The man knelt there in the rain, staring at this, as though he were
paralyzed. He did not know what he was looking at, for a moment,
conscious of nothing but a cold sickness. He got up heavily to his feet,
then, and made his way to the next vine. Its stem gave way also,
swinging loose with the horrible limpness of a broken limb.

He went to the next, a peach-tree, and to the next, a fine pleached
pear. Everything, everything, peach-trees, apple-trees, grapevines,
everything had been neatly and dextrously murdered, and their corpses
left hanging on the wall as a practical joke.

The man who had been sent to do that had been a gardener indeed, and had
known where to strike to reach the very heart of this other gardener who
now, his hands over his face, staggered forward and leaned his body
against the wall, against the dead vine which had been so harmless, so
alive. He felt something like an inward bleeding, as though that neat,
fine saw had severed an artery in his own body.

His wife stepped out in the rain and called him. He heard nothing but
the fine, thin voice of a small saw, eating its way to the heart of
living wood.

His wife seeing him stand so still, his face against the wall, came out
towards him with an anxious face. "Pierre, Pierre!" she said. She looked
down, saw the severed vine-stem and gave a cry of dismay. "Pierre, they
haven't ... they haven't...!"

She ran along the wall, touching them one by one, all the well-known,
carefully tended stems. Her anger, her sorrow, her disgust burst from
her in a flood of out-cries, of storming, furious words.

Her husband did not move. A deathlike cold crept over him. He heard
nothing but the venomous, fine voice of the saw, cutting one by one the
tissues which had taken so long to grow, which had needed so much sun
and rain and heat and cold, and twelve years out of a man's life. He was
sick, sick of it all, mourning not for the lost trees but for his lost
idea of life. That was what people were like, could be like, what one
man could do in cold blood to another--no heat of battle here, no
delirium of excitement, cold, calculated intention! He would give up the
effort to resist, to go on. The killing had been too thoroughly done.

His wife fell silent, frightened by his stillness. She forgot her own
anger, her grief, she forgot the dead trees. They were as nothing. A
strong, valiant tenderness came into her haggard face. She went up to
him, close, stepping into his silent misery with the secure confidence
only a wife can have in a husband. "Come, Pierre," she said gently,
putting her red, work-scarred hand in his. She drew him away from the
wall, his arms hanging listlessly. She drew him into the sheltered
corner of the room he had half finished. She set hot food before him and
made him eat and drink.

The rain poured down in a gray wall close before them. The heaped-up
ruins were all around them. Inside the shelter the children ate
greedily, heartily, talking, laughing, quarreling, playing. The fire,
now thoroughly ablaze, flamed brightly beside them. The kettle steamed.

After a time Nidart's body began slowly to warm. He began to hear the
children's voices, to see his wife dimly. The horror was an hour behind
him. The blessed, blurring passage of the moments clouded thick between
him and the sound of that neat small saw, the sight of that deft-handed
man, coolly and smilingly murdering ...

He looked at his wife attentively, as she tried to set in order their
little corner saved from chaos. She was putting back on the two shelves
he had made her the wooden forks and spoons which she had cleaned to a
scrupulous whiteness; she was arranging neatly the wretched outfit of
tin cans, receptacles, and formless paper packages which replaced the
shining completeness of her lost kitchen; she was smoothing out the
blankets on their rough camp-beds; she was washing the faces and hands
of the children, of their own children and the little foster-son, the
child of the woman who had given up, who had let herself be beaten, who
had let herself be killed, who had abandoned her baby to be cared for by
another, braver woman.

A shamed courage began slowly to filter back into his drained and
emptied heart. With an immense effort he got up from the tree-stump
which served for chair and went towards his wife, who was kneeling
before the little child she had saved. He would begin again.

"Paulette," he said heavily, "I believe that if we could get some
grafting wax at once, we might save those. Why couldn't we cover the
stumps with wax to keep the roots from bleeding to death, till the tops
make real buds, and then graft them on to the stumps? It's too late to
do it properly with dormant scions, but perhaps we might succeed. It
would be quicker than starting all over again. The roots are there,
still."

He raged as he thought of this poor substitute for his splendid trees,
but he set his teeth. "I could go to Noyon. They must have wax and resin
there in the shops by this time, enough for those few stumps."

The little boy presented himself imploringly. "Oh, let me go! I could do
it, all right. And you could get on faster with the roof. There aren't
but ten days left, now."

He set off in the rain, a small brave spot of energy in the midst of
death. His father went back to his house-building.

The roads were mended now, the convoys of camions rumbled along day
after day, raising clouds of dust; staff-cars flashed by; once in a
while a non-militarized automobile came through, sometimes with
officials of the Government on inspection tours, who distributed
miscellaneous lots of seeds, and once brought Paulette some lengths of
cotton stuff for sheets; sometimes with reporters from the Paris
newspapers; once with some American reporters who took photographs, and
gave some bars of chocolate to the children. Several times people
stopped, foreigners, Americans, English, sometimes women in uniforms,
who asked a great many questions and noted down the answers. Pierre
wondered why those able-bodied young men were not in some army. He had
thought all the able-bodied men in the world were in some army.

For the most part he found all these people rather futile and
uninteresting, as he had always found city people, and paid little
attention to them, never interrupting his work to talk to them, his
work, his sacred work, for which there remained, only too well known, a
small and smaller number of hours. He took to laboring at night whenever
possible.

       *       *       *       *       *

The roof was all on the one tiny room before the date for his return.
The chimney was rebuilt, the garden spaded, raked, and planted. But the
field was not finished. It takes a long time to spade up a whole field.
Pierre worked on it late at night, the moonlight permitting. When his
wife came out to protest, he told her that it was no harder than to
march all night, with knapsack and blanket-roll and gun. She took up
the rake and began to work beside him. Under their tan they were both
very white and drawn, during these last days.

The day before the last came, and they worked all day in the field,
never lifting their eyes from the soil. But their task was not finished
when night came. Pierre had never been so exacting about the condition
of the ground. It must be fine, fine, without a single clod left to
impede the growth of a single precious seed. This was not work which,
like spading, could be done at night in an uncertain light. When their
eyes, straining through the thickening twilight, could no longer
distinguish the lumps of earth, he gave it up, with a long breath, and,
his rake on his shoulder, little Berthe's hand in his, he crossed the
mended road to the uncomely little shelter which was home.

Paulette was bending over the fire. She looked up, and he saw that she
had been crying. But she said nothing. Nor did he, going to lean his
rake against the reconstructed wall. He relinquished the implement
reluctantly, and all through the meal kept the feel of it in his hand.

They were awake when the first glimmer of gray dawn shone through the
empty square which was their window. Pierre dressed hurriedly and taking
his rake went across the road to the field. Paulette blew alive the
coals of last night's fire, and made coffee and carried it across to her
husband with a lump of bread. He stopped work to drink and eat. It was
in the hour before the sunrise. A gray, thin mist clung to the earth.
Through it they looked at each other's pale faces, soberly.

"You must get the seed in as soon as you can, after I'm gone," said the
husband.

"Yes," she promised, "we won't lose a minute."

"And I think you and Jean-Pierre can manage to nail in the window-frame
when it comes. I thought I'd be able to do that myself."

"Yes, Jean-Pierre and I can do it."

"You'd better get my kit and everything ready for me to leave," he said,
drinking the last of the coffee and setting his hand again to the rake.

They had reckoned that he would need to leave the house at ten o'clock
if he were to make the long tramp to Noyon in time for the train. At a
quarter of ten he stopped, and, the rake still tightly held in his hand,
crossed the road. His knapsack, blanket-roll, all the various brown bags
and _musettes_ were waiting for him on the bench hewn from a tree-trunk
before the door. He passed them, went around the little hut, and stepped
into the garden.

Between the heaped-up lines of rubble, the big rectangle of well-tilled
earth lay clean and brown and level. And on it, up and down, were four,
long, straight lines of pale green. The peas were up. He was to see that
before he went back.

He stooped over them. Some of them were still bowed double with the
effort of thrusting themselves up against the encumbering earth. He
felt their effort in the muscles of his own back. But others, only a few
hours older, were already straightening themselves blithely to reach up
to the sun and warmth. This also he felt--in his heart. Under the intent
gaze of the gardener, the vigorous little plants seemed to be vibrating
with life. His eyes were filled with it. He turned away and went back to
the open door of the hut. His wife, very pale, stood there, silent. He
heaved up his knapsack, adjusted his blanket-roll and _musettes_, and
drew a long breath.

"Good-bye, Paulette," he said, kissing her on both cheeks, the dreadful
long kiss which may be the last.

"I will--I will take care of things here," she said, her voice dying
away in her throat.

He kissed his children, he stooped low to kiss the little foster-child.
He looked once more across at the field, not yet seeded. Then he started
back to the trenches.

       *       *       *       *       *

He had gone but a few steps when he stopped short and came back
hurriedly. The rake was still in his hand. He had forgotten his gun.



VIGNETTES FROM LIFE AT THE REAR


I

I was tucking the children into bed after their bath, my rosy, romping,
noisy children, when "le soldat Deschamps" was announced. Deschamps is
the man from the north of France, who had been a coal-miner before the
war, the man whose wife and little boy are still "up there," the man who
has not seen his family since he kissed them the fourth of August three
years ago.

A veil seemed to drop between me and the faces of my rosy, romping,
noisy children....

I went slowly along the hall to our living-room. Yes there he was, poor
Deschamps, the big, powerfully built fellow, a little thinner, a little
more gaunt, a little whiter than when I had seen him last, although that
was only a week ago. He rose up, very tall in his worn gray-blue
uniform, not so neatly brushed as it had been, and put out a flaccid
hand. "Bonsoir, madame ... excuse me for coming again so soon. I know I
ought not to take your time. But when we are allowed to go out ... where
shall I go? I know so few people in Paris" ... as though one would not
be willing to give time when there is so tragically nothing else to give
him!

I say something cordial, take up my sewing, and settle myself for what I
know is coming. Poor Deschamps! He needs only a word or two of sympathy
when out he pours it all in a rush, the heartsick desolation of the
uprooted exile, the disintegrating misery of the home-loving man without
a home. Of late, alas! it does not come out very coherently. "You see,
madame, we were so well off there. What could a man ask for more? My day
in the mine began at four in the morning, but I was free at two in the
afternoon, and I am very strong, as you see, so that I could go on
working out of doors as long as the daylight lasted. We had our own
house paid for, our own! And a big, big garden. I earned ten francs a
day cash in the mines, and we almost lived out of our garden, so we were
saving all the time. Our boy was to have a good schooling. Perhaps, we
thought, he might be like Pasteur. You know his father was a simple
tanner. My wife never had to work for others, never! She could stay
there and have everything clean and pleasant and take care of the boy.
We were so happy and always well.... We both worked in the garden, and
people who garden are never sick. And always contented. And our
garden ... you ought to see it ... all the potatoes we could eat I raised
there, and early ones too! And all the cabbages and some to sell. The
coal company sold us cheap all the manure we wanted from their stables,
and I could make the land as rich, as rich! Such early vegetables!
Better than any you can buy in the towns. And the winter ones ... you
should see how we protect our cabbages in the winter...."

The monologue has carried the big fellow out of his chair now. He is
grasping an imaginary spade, a heap of imaginary cabbages by his side.
"So ... we sprinkle sand first, and then cabbages all laid so ... you
understand...." The voice goes on and on, almost the voice of a person
hypnotized.

I lose my perception of what he is saying as I gaze at his sunken eyes
fixed on homely, much-loved scenes I cannot see.

"The best place for the carrots was the sloping bit of ground near the
big oak...." He sees it, his big oak, there before him. He makes me see
it, and what it meant to him. This was the man whom the twentieth
century forced to march away, to kill, and be killed.

"... And little Raoul used to help; yes, with his little hands he would
pat down the sand and laugh to see his finger-marks."

The voice stops abruptly. In the resultant silence I move uneasily.... I
find Deschamps' talk heartbreaking enough, but his silences terrify me.
I try to arouse him from his bleak brooding reverie....

"You had hares too, didn't you, and hens, and a pig...? That must have
helped out with the living."

He comes to himself with a start. "Oh, it was my wife who kept the
animals. She has such a hand for making them thrive. They were like her
other children. Those little chicks, they never died, always prospered,
grew so fat. We always had one or two to sell when she went to town to
market. Angèle used to dress them herself, so that we could have the
feathers. Then she put them in one of the neat baskets she made from the
willow sprouts on the side of our little stream, with a clean white
cloth over them, as clean as her neckerchief. Angèle is as neat as a
nun, always. Our house shone with cleanness ..." He breaks off abruptly.
"I have shown you the photograph of Angèle and Raoul, haven't I,
madame?"

I hold out my hand and gaze again, as I have so many times before, into
the quiet eyes of the young peasant woman with the sturdy little boy at
her side. "She is very pretty, your wife," I say, "and your little boy
looks so strong and vigorous."

"I hear," he said with a great heave of his broad chest, now so sunken,
"that the Boches have taken all the livestock away from the owners, all
the hens and pigs and hares, and sent them to Germany. Perhaps Raoul and
Angèle have not enough to eat ... perhaps there is even no house there
now ... a cousin of mine saw a refugee from his own region ... who had
seen the place where his house had been!... it had been shelled, there
was ..." His mouth sets hard in an angry line of horror.

I bestir myself. This is the sort of talk Deschamps must not be allowed.

"M. Deschamps," I say, "I shall be writing soon to that group of
American friends who gave the money for your articulated arm. Have you
any message to send them? I think they are planning to send some more
money to help you...."

He waves it away with a great gesture. "Money can't do anything for me,"
he says bitterly, adding quickly: "Not of course that I am not very,
very grateful for the so-costly artificial arm. It means I can earn
their living again, if ever Angèle...."

I break in once more: "But I promised them a statement of all your case,
you know, the dates and places and everything. Could you just run over
them again...?"

But I do not listen as he goes wearily over the old story as familiar to
me now as to him: mobilized the first day, was in the Battle of the
Marne, advanced to B----, was wounded there in the leg, taken to a
hospital in an American ambulance, cured, returned to the trenches;
wounded in the shoulder, taken to the hospital, cured, returned to the
trenches ... all this time with no news whatever from his family,
knowing that his region was occupied by the invaders, hearing stories of
how the women and children were treated.... Fought during the winter of
1914-15, wounded in three places in June, 1915, taken to the hospital
where his arm was amputated. While there, heard indirectly that his wife
and child were still alive. As soon as the articulated arm (paid for out
of my blessed fund of American money) allowed him to work, he had begun
to learn the tinner's trade, since a one-armed man could no longer be a
miner. Now he had passed his apprenticeship and could soon be ready to
earn his living.

I knew all this laborious, heroic, commonplace story already, and looked
through it at the hospital pallor on the haggard face, at the dreadful
soft whiteness of the hands so obviously meant to be hard and brown, at
the slack looseness of the great frame, at a man on the point of losing
his desire to live....

"What use is it to earn money when not a cent can I send to them up
there, when I can hear nothing from Angèle beyond that line on a
post-card once in three months? Madame, you have education, _why_ will
they not allow a wife to write to her husband?"

I have only the old answer to the old question: "We suppose they are
afraid of spies, of people sending information to France."

"But why do they _keep_ Angèle there? Why don't they let women go to
their husbands? What harm can that do? Why do they make it a hell on
earth for them and then refuse to let them go?"

I had for this only the usual murmur: "A few _are_ allowed to come
away."

He struck his hands together. "So few! When they last said they would
allow some women and children to come to France, only a fifteenth part
of those who asked for leave were allowed to come. Why? Why? What has
Angèle to do with the war?"

He gets up for the restless pacing about our little living-room which
always ends his visits. "I think I shall go mad, madame. I am there in
the hospital, two hundred of us in one great room ... oh, they are kind
enough to us, we have enough to eat. But we are not children. It is not
enough to have food and a roof. Two hundred men there ... what a
life ... for fourteen months! Nothing to work for, nothing to live for,
no home, no family, not even a chance to go back to the trenches. The
other men drink as much as they can get money for. I never drank in my
life. Madame, do you suppose it would make me sleep to drink?"

"See here, M. Deschamps," I say, moving to my desk, "I will write again
to the Spanish Embassy. I will tell them again about Angèle and Raoul,
they will send the request to the German authorities in your town ...
perhaps _this_ time ..." It is a perilous stimulant to administer to a
sick heart, but what other have I? So I sit, swallowing the lump in my
throat, and once more make out the application which never has any
result.

"There," I say, putting it into an envelope with hands that are not very
steady--"there, my friend, you mail that. And now you must go, or the
night-nurse will scold you for being late."

He reaches for his cap, his old shabby cap with the bullet hole through
it, and stands fumbling with it, his head hanging. He towers above me,
gaunt, powerful, as pitiably defenseless as any little child. I wink
back the tears which threaten to come, shake his hand hard, and tell him
to be sure to come again the next time he has the "_cafard_". He nods
absently and shuffles to the door. "You will pardon me, madame ... but
when I think that my little Raoul has perhaps not enough to eat, and I
am not ..."

He has gone his lonely way to the hospital bed which is all he has for
home. I go back to the cool dark bedroom and look down at my sleeping
children.

There is no reason for it ... why should I feel guilty to see them rosy
and safe?


II

When I come in from the street, very tired, after a talk with a
war-widow about ways and means for taking care of her children, I find
him in the living-room, the hearty, broad-faced fellow, smiling, giving
me his great, farm-laborer's hand, thanking me for the last package of
goodies ... as though he had not just come through the inferno of the
attack at M----. "The package never arrived at a better moment," he said
gaily. "We had been on awfully short rations for three days ... in a
shell-hole, you know." I know that I do not know it all, but it is
futile to try to draw fine distinctions with Groissard, cheeriest and
simplest of "permissionnaires," always the same, always open-faced and
clear-eyed, always emanating quiet confidence and always seeing it about
him. If there are any tired or disheartened or apprehensive or perplexed
soldiers in the army, they pass unperceived of Groissard's honest eyes.
His companions are all ... to hear him talk ... as brave, as untroubled,
as single-hearted as he. They never complain--that is, if Groissard's
account of them is accurate: they think as little as possible about
anything but food and packages from the rear and jokes. And when they do
think, it is always only to be sure that everybody must hold hard and
stick it out quite to the end. As long as "they" are on French soil, of
course there is nothing else for an honest Frenchman to do. And they are
all honest Frenchmen around Groissard.

"Oh yes, madame," he says simply, balancing my little boy on his knee,
"the spirit of the army is excellent. Why shouldn't it be? We're going
to get them, you know. And you ought to see our regimental fireless
cookers now. They're great! The cooks fill them up at the kitchen at the
rear, quite out of range, you know, where there's no danger of a shell
upsetting the pots, and then the men bring the big fireless cookers up
on mitrailleuse carriages that can go anywhere. They worm their way
clear up to us in the first-line trenches, and our ragoût is piping hot.
It's like sitting down to the table at the farm at home. There's nothing
so good for the spirit of an army as hot _rasta_. And your packages, the
packages madame sends with the money from her American friends ... why,
the days when they come it's like being a kid again, and having a
birthday! And then we get two days out of five for rest at the rear, you
know, except when there is a _very_ big attack going on. We're not so
badly off at all!"

"During those big attacks aren't you sometimes cut off from food
supplies?" I ask.

"Oh, not so often. The longest one was three days and four nights, and
we had our emergency rations for half that time." He tosses my fat
little son up in the air and catches him deftly in his great farm
laborer's hands, butcher's hands. The children adore Groissard, and his
furloughs are festivals for them. As for me, I have an endless curiosity
about him. I can never be done with questioning him, with trying to find
out what is underneath his good-natured acceptance of the present insane
scheme of the universe; I sometimes descend to banalities, the foolish
questions schoolgirls ask. I lower my voice: "Groissard, did you
ever--have you ever had to ... I don't mean firing off your rifle at a
distant crowd, I mean in close quarters...?"

"Have I killed many Boches, you mean, madame?" he breaks through my
mincing, twentieth-century false-modesty about naming a fact I
accept ... since I accept Groissard! "Oh yes, a good many. We fought all
over Mort-Homme, you know; and we were in the last attack on Hill 304.
There was a good deal of hand-to-hand work there, of course." He turns
the delighted baby upside down and right-side up, and smiles sunnily at
the resultant shrieks of mirth.

I try again: "Do you see many prisoners, Groissard?" He is always ready
to answer questions, although he cannot understand my interest in such
commonplace details.

"Yes indeed, madame, ever so many. Just the day before this 'permission'
began, day before yesterday it was, we brought in a squad of twenty
from a short section of trench we had taken. I'm not likely to forget
them for _one_ while! Our cook, who is from the South and loses his head
easily, went and cooked up for them at three o'clock in the afternoon
every last beefsteak we were going to have for dinner that night. We
didn't have a thing but beans left! But we didn't grumble very much,
either. They were the coldest, hungriest-looking lot you ever saw. It
did your heart good to see the way they got around those beefsteaks!"

I gaze at him baffled. "But, Groissard, you kill them. You are there to
kill them! What can you care whether they have beefsteaks or not."

He stops playing with the baby to look at me, round-eyed with
astonishment. "I'm not there to kill _prisoners_!" he says, with an
unanswerable simplicity. And I lose myself again in a maze of conjecture
and speculation.


III

"Oh, it's got to stop, that's all; it's too sickening, too imbecile, too
monstrous!"

It is the _brancardier_ talking, the one who had been a prosperous
sugar-broker before the war, and who has been a first-line
stretcher-carrier since the beginning of the war. If you think you have
any idea what it has meant to be first-line stretcher-carrier for three
years, you have only to hear Paul Arbagnan talk for five minutes to
guess at the extent of your ignorance. He is just back from the front,
on a twenty-four hours' furlough, granted after a terrible fortnight
under incessant fire. He sits in the midst of our family group, beside
his older brother, the despatch-carrier, also here "_en permission_."
The brother was before the war a professor of political economy. From
the worn blue uniforms of both brothers swings the _croix de guerre_
gloriously. The younger one's face is thin and very brown, his blue eyes
look out at us with an irritable flicker. The mud dried on his clumsy
boots crumbles off in great flakes on my polished floor. His hard, grimy
hand with broken nails (which had been so fine and well-kept before the
war) teases and pulls at his close-clipped hair, now as grizzled with
silver as that of a man twenty years his senior.

A harmless elderly relative murmurs something sentimental about the mud
on the floor being sacred earth, like that the Crusaders brought back
from Jerusalem, and the inevitable explosion takes place. "Oh, you
people at the rear, your silly chatter about heroism and holy causes!
You don't know what you are talking about. There ought to be a law to
make all the civilian population keep silence about the war. You have no
idea, not the faintest glimmering of a notion of what life is at the
front! If you _had_...! My _croix de guerre_! Don't you suppose I would
give it back ten times over if I could forget what I feel deliberately
to leave a mortally wounded man to die because I have orders to select
(if my stretcher has not room enough for all) only those who may get
well enough to go back and fight again. Without having known what it is,
you've no right to say a word, to have an opinion or a thought about it,
you safe, clean, soft, gossiping people at the rear! The dirt ...! Why,
the bath I had this morning here in Paris was the first time I have
taken my clothes off, except to hunt for vermin, for twenty-two days. Do
you know what your body is like, what your clothes are like, what your
socks are like, when you have lived and cooked and sweat and slept and
bled in them for twenty-two days? Of course you don't. No civilized
being does. And until you do, less talk from you about the heroism of
the soldier! Filth, that's what war is, and dirty diseases lying in wait
for decent men. And cold, cold day and night, cold that brutalizes, that
degenerates you till you would sell your soul, your mother's soul to be
warm again. And mud, not clean country mud, but filth, and up to your
eyes and beyond, horrible infected mud splashing upon the emergency
bandage you are trying to put on a wound. And the wounded ... see here,
when the newspapers speak complacently of the superb artillery
preparation which after three days of cannon-duel silences the enemy's
batteries, do you know what that means to me? It means I am squatting
all day in an underground shelter, with twenty wounded, the German
shells falling one a minute over my head, my supplies of bandages gone,
my anæsthetics gone, no cotton, not even a cup of water left. To see
them die there, begging for help, calling for their mothers ... to
crouch there helpless, all day long, hearing the shells falling, and
wondering which one will come through the roof--oh, you have plenty of
time to think the whole proposition over, the business you're in. You
have time, let me tell you, to have your own opinion of the imbecility
of setting one highly civilized man down in filth and degradation to
shoot at others. When some idiot of a journalist, reporting the war,
speaks of the warlike ardor of the men, how it is difficult to restrain
them until the order to charge is given ... when we read such paragraphs
in the papers ... if you could hear the snarl that goes up! We 'charge'
when the word of command is given, yes, because we know nothing better
to do, but ..."

The sentimental aunt breaks in resolutely: "Of course, it's very noble
of you, Paul; the fact is simply that you don't or won't recognize your
own courage."

"Courage, nonsense! A rat in a hole, surrounded by other rats
putrefying ... that's what I am in my underground shelter! What else can
I do? What else can we any of us do? We can't get away! There wouldn't be
anywhere to go if we did! But when I think of the people at the rear, how
they don't know, will never know, the sickening hours the troops live
through. See here! No sensitive, civilized being can forget it if he has
only _once_ been wholly filthy, wholly bestial ... and we have been
that, time without number. When I come back to Paris on furlough and
look at the crowds in the Paris streets, the old men with white collars,
and clean skins, the women with curled hair and silk stockings, I could
_kill_ them, when I think that they will have a voice in the future,
will affect what will be done hereafter about war ..."

"Time for your train, Paul," warns the elder brother soberly.

The man who had been reviling the life of a soldier springs instantly to
his feet and looks anxiously at his watch. He claps on his blue steel
casque.

We try to give a light touch to the last of his stay. "How medieval
those helmets make you look!"

He is not to be distracted. "Put it further back, stone-age,
cannibalistic," he cries bitterly, marching out hurriedly so that he may
be promptly at his task.

The elder brother comes back from the door, a dim, patient smile on his
lips. "Oh, Paul, poor boy! He takes it hard! He takes it hard!" he
murmurs. "Who would think to hear him that he is accounted the best
_brancardier_ in his section? He is the one always sent out to do the
impossible, and he always goes, silently, and does it. After this last
engagement, he had shown such _bravoure_, they wanted to have him cited
again, to give him the palms to wear above his _croix_. But he said he
had had his share, that others had done as much as he, and he persuaded
them to give the _croix_ to one of the other _brancardiers_, a stevedore
from Marseilles who can't read or write. You are perhaps not surprised
to know that he is adored by his comrades."

"But is it _true_ ... all he says?" I ask, shivering a little.

"Oh yes, true enough, and more than he says or any one can ever say.
But, but ..." He searches for a metaphor and finds it with a smile.
"See, Paul is like a man with a fearful toothache! He can't think of
anything else. But that doesn't mean there isn't anything else."

I ask him: "But you, who have been through all that Paul sees, what do
_you_ find, besides?" He hesitates, smiling no longer, and finally
brings out in a low tone: "When a mother gives birth to a child, she
suffers, suffers horribly. Perhaps all the world is now trying to give
birth to a new idea, which we have talked of, but never _felt_ before;
the idea that all of us, each of us, is responsible for what happens to
all, to each, that we must stick together for good...." He picks up his
steel helmet, and looks at us with his dim, patient, indomitable smile.
"It is like a little new baby in more ways than one, that new idea. It
has cost us such agony; and it is so small, so weak, so needing all our
protection ... and then also, because ..." his sunken eyes are
prophetic, "because it is _alive_, because it will grow!"


IV

I glance at my calendar in dismay. Is it possible that three months have
gone, and that it is time for Amieux to have another "permission"? How
long the week of his furlough always seems, how the three months between
race away! Of course we have the greatest regard for Amieux. We feel
that his uniform alone (he is a _chasseur alpin_ who has been a
first-line fighter since the Battle of the Marne) would entitle him to
our services, but more than that, his personality commands our respect,
sound, steady, quiet Amieux whose sturdy body is wounded in one place
after another, who is repaired hastily in the nearest hospital and
uncomplainingly goes back to the trenches, his sleeve decorated with
another one of the V-shaped marks which denote wounds. The only trouble
with Amieux as a household hero is a total dearth of subjects of
conversation. You see, he is a glass-blower by profession. We often feel
that if we were not as ignorant of glass-blowing as Amieux is of
everything else, we could get on famously with him. As it is ...

"_Oh bon jour_, M. Amieux," I say, jumping to my feet, "welcome back to
the rear! All well?"

"Yes, madame," he says with as ponderous an emphasis on the full-stop as
that of any taciturn New England farmer.

"Well, has it been hard, the last three months?" I ask.

"No, madame."

I draw a long breath.

"Do the packages we send, the chocolate, the cigarettes, the soap--do
they reach you promptly?"

"Yes, madame. Thank you, madame."

The full-stop is more overpowering with each answer.

I resort to more chatter, anything to fill that resounding silence.
"Here we have been so busy! So many more American volunteers are coming
over for the Ambulance service, my husband has not a free moment. The
children never see him. My little daughter is doing well in school. She
begins to read French now. Of course the little son doesn't go to
school, but he is learning to speak French like a French baby. It has
been so cold here. There has been so little coal. You must have heard,
the long lines waiting to get coal ..." I stop with almost a shrug of
exasperation. As well talk to a basalt statue as to Amieux, impassive,
his rough red hands on his knees, his _musette_ swollen with all the
miscellaneous junk the poilu stuffs into that nondescript receptacle,
his cap still firmly on his head ... formal manners are not specialties
of Amieux. And then I notice that one leg is thrust out, very stiff and
straight, and has a big bulbous swelling which speaks of a bandage under
the puttees.

I glance at it. "Rheumatism? Too much water in the trenches?"

He looks down at it without a flicker on his face. "No, madame, a
wound."

"Really? How did it happen this time?"

He looks faintly bored. They always hate to tell how they were wounded.
"Oh, no particular way. A shell had smashed up an _abri_, and while I
was trying to pull my captain out from under the timbers another shell
exploded near by."

"Did you save the captain?"

"Oh yes. He was banged up around the head. He's all right now."

"Were you there with him? How did it happen you weren't buried under the
wreck too?"

"I wasn't there. I was in a trench. But I saw. I knew he was there."

I am so used to Amieux's conversational style that I manage even through
this arid narration to see what had happened. "Do you mean to say that
you left the trench and went out under shell-fire to rescue your
captain! And they didn't give you a decoration! It's outrageous not
recognizing such bravery!"

He shuffles his feet and looks foolish. "The captain wanted to have me
cited all right. He's a _chic type_, but I said he'd better not."

"Don't you want the _croix de guerre_?" I cry, astounded at such apathy
even from Amieux.

"Oh, I wouldn't mind. It's my mother."

"Don't you suppose your mother would _love_ to have her son decorated?"
I feel there must be some absurd misunderstanding between us, the man
seems to be talking such nonsense.

"Well, you see, my mother ... my only brother was killed last winter.
_Maman_ worries a good deal about me, and I told her, just so she could
sleep quietly, you know, I have told her my company isn't near the front
at all. I said we were guarding a munitions depot at the rear."

"Well ..." I am still at a loss.

"Well, don't you see, if I get the _croix de guerre_ for being under
fire, _maman_ would get to worrying again. So I told my captain I'd
rather he'd give it to one of the other fellows."


V

I had just come from several hours spent with one of the war-blind, one
of those among the educated, unresigned war-blind, who see too clearly
with the eyes of their intelligence what has happened to them. I had
been with him, looking into his sightless face, pitting my strength
against the bitterness of his voice; and I was tired, tired to the
marrow of my bones, to the tip of every nerve.

But the children had not been out for their walk and the day was that
rare thing in a Paris March, a sunshiny one, not to be wasted. "Come,
dears," I told them as I entered the apartment, "get on your wraps.
We'll all go out for a play while the sun is still high."

I walked along the street between them, my little daughter and my little
son, their warm soft hands in mine. The sparrows chattered in the bare
trees above us, the sparrows who even in this keen air felt the coming
of spring which was foretold by the greening of the grass in the public
squares. My children chattered incessantly, like the sparrows. Perhaps
they felt the spring too. _I_ did not want to feel the spring. We turned
away from the Seine and walked on one side of the open square before
Notre Dame.

"Mother, I caught my ball twenty-three times to-day without missing."

"Muvver, I see a white horse, a _big_ white horsie!"

"Mother, do you like arithmetic as well as history? _I_ don't."

"Muvver, I have a little p'tend doggie here, trotting after me, a little
brown p'tend doggie."

"Mother, O _mother_, let me tell you what happened at school to-day,
during recess!"

Through the half-heard ripple of clear little voices, there came upon me
one of those thunder-claps of realization which, since the beginning of
the war, have brought wiser and stronger people than I to the brink of
insanity--realization for an instant (longer than an instant would carry
any one over the brink) that the war is really going on, realization of
what the war really means, one glimpse of the black abyss. I felt very
sick, and stood still for an instant, because my knees shook under
me....

But those wiser and stronger ones had not little children of their own
to draw them away from that black gulf.... I was pulled at by impatient
little hands, lucid, ineffably pure eyes were turned up to mine, the
clear little voices grew louder, "Muvver, muvver, I'm losing my mitten!"

"Mother, why are you standing still? _This_ isn't a good place to play!
There! A little nearer the big church is some sand. And a bench for
you."

How could I go on this everyday commonplace life, eating, drinking,
sleeping, caring for the children, cheering them ... in such a wicked
and imbecile world! I looked up and down the bare, sun-flooded square.
All about me were other women, caring for little children. And for the
most part, those other women were in mourning. But they were there under
that cruel, careless sunshine, caring for their children, cheering
them....

I put the little mitten on; I walked forward to the bench, the little
singing voices died away to a ripple again. "Oh, this is fine! See,
little brother, here is a cave already. Let me have that stick!" "No,
me! _Me!_"

That was what was sounding in my ears. But what I heard was a muffled
voice saying scornfully: "Re-education ... courage, taking up our lives
again ... oh yes, whatever you please to imagine to distract our
attention! But we are finished men, done for ... lost!"

My children played before me in the sunshine, but what I saw were the
scarred, mutilated, sightless faces of young men in their prime, with
long lives of darkness before them. And as I sat there, then, that
instant, other young men in their prime were being blinded, were being
mutilated for life.

My fatigue deepened till it was like lead upon me. Under it I was cold.
The sun did not warm me. It fell like a mockery upon a race gone mad,
upon a world bankrupt in hope. Yes, what we suffered was not the worst,
not even what _they_ suffered, the men at the front; what was worst was
the fact that the meaning of it all was hopelessness, was the end, a
black end to all we had looked forward to, striven for ... paralysis,
death in life. And an indifferent sun shining down on it, as it had on
our illusions.

       *       *       *       *       *

After a time the children tired of sand. "Mother, mayn't we go in the
big church? You never have taken us inside. What does it look like?"

Their restless upspringing life thrust my paralysis aside as an
upspringing young tree cleaves the boulder which would hamper it. We
pushed open the heavy leather door and stepped into the huge cavern, our
eyes so full of the glare of the sunshine that, as we walked forward up
the nave, we could see nothing but velvety darkness, faintly scented
with mold and incense.

The silence was so intense that I could hear my sore, angry heart
beating furiously in my breast....

Further along before us, where rich-colored patches lay, on the stone
pavement, there was the light from the great rose-windows.... We stood
there now, our eyes slowly clearing, the blackness slowly fading out
into twilight, to a sweet, clear translucent dimness which hid nothing.

Silence, long, shadowy veiled aisles, hushed immensity ...

A great calm hand seemed laid on my shoulder, so that my fever sank, my
pulses were quieted. I stood motionless, feeling slowly pulsating
through me a vaster rhythm than the throbbing irregularity of my own
doubting heart. A great soundless benediction was breathed upon me out
of the man-wrought beauty around and above me.

Up, up, up, I raised my eyes, following the soaring of the many-columned
pillars, and something in my heart burst its leaden bonds and soared up
out of my breast....

Yes, here was beauty, here was that beauty I had forgotten and
denied ... _and men had made it_! It had nothing to do with the glare
of the indifferent sun, with the callous face of our calamity. Men had
made this beauty, imperfect, warring, doubting, suffering, sinning men
had upreared this perfect creation. They had created this beauty out of
their faith in righteousness, and they would again create other beauty,
out of other manifestations of righteousness, long after this war was a
forgotten nightmare....

"What is that shining on your face, mother?"

I put my hand up. My cheeks are wet. "Tears, dear."

"O mother, why do you cry?"

"Because I am very happy, my darling."



A FAIR EXCHANGE


The energetic, well-dressed man who walked so quickly in spite of his
gray hair was quite out of breath from the unusual experience of
mounting stairs on foot, when he stepped into the anteroom. There he
looked about him with a keenly observant eye. The room had obviously not
been intended as the entrance to modern offices. Its dingy, paneled
walls and darkened carved ceiling dated at least from the time when the
ancestors of the newcomer were hunting Indians in the untracked forests
of Massachusetts. It was a forlorn cheerless apology for a convenient,
well-equipped business waiting-room. And yet the intelligent, keen eyes
now looking at it saw in it ... what? Something he could not analyze,
something he tried to express. "What the devil is it about their little
old holes...?" he asked himself with the fresh vivid curiosity which was
his habit about phenomena new to him.

A one-armed young soldier, in a worn blue uniform, with a patch over one
eye, rose up from the cane-bottomed chair, took from the white-pine
table a small pad of paper and held it out to the newcomer sketching a
bow. The older man looked the other way sedulously. He was a very
tender-hearted person (except of course for his business competitors)
and the constant sight of the maimed wreckage of young manhood made him
sick.

On the pad of paper was printed "Nom du Visiteur," with a blank
following it, and, underneath, "Objet du la visite." Mr. Hale's French
was limited, but he made out that he was to write down who he was and
what his business was, and generously he admired the little detail of
office administration which he had never happened to see in an American
business office. "That beats sending in a message by the office-boy, all
right!" he thought to himself as he wrote. "They are funny people! Just
when you get absolute proof that they can't do business any more than a
sick cat, you run into something that makes you wonder."

He had written on the pad "Randolph Metcalf Hale, President of the
Illinois Association of Druggists," and, underneath that, "On business
connected with closer commercial relations of France and the United
States." As he handed the slip of paper back to the young soldier he
thought, "I might about as well get a rubber stamp for that last, and
save writing it over so often."

The uniformed messenger limped out of the room. "Oh Lord! and a wooden
leg, along with only one eye and one arm," thought Mr. Hale, wincing at
the too familiar sound of the halting gait. He thrust his hands deep
into his pockets and stood meditatively looking down at his own
vigorous, well-clad legs.

The soldier came back and motioned the visitor to follow him. They went
along a narrow corridor with occasional steps up and other steps down,
with large old windows looking out through time-dimmed panes upon a
stone-paved court with an old gray stone fountain. The American shook
his head. "Never anything new! Always cutting their clothes out of their
grand-father's left-overs and sewing them up by hand; that's it,
everything hand-made!"

He was ushered into an office where a man of about his own age, with a
black beard, streaked with white, rose up and came towards him with
outstretched hand.

"Ninth to-day," noted the American mentally. He amused himself by
keeping statistics on the fabulous amount of handshaking accomplished in
French business life.

Then he explained his presence. Partly because he accounted it a crime
to take longer than necessary to state your business, and partly because
he had stated it so many times, he packed a succinct account of himself
into comparatively few phrases.

"Like almost everybody else in America, Monsieur Portier, I want to help
make up to France for the way she's been having the rough end of all
this war. But everybody does best at his own sort of help; and I didn't
come over for reconstructing villages or taking care of refugees. That
sort of work's got to be done, of course, but there are a lot of our own
folks at that already. Anyhow, not knowing your language, or your folks,
I'd make a poor job of trying to fix up their personal lives. That's not
my specialty. But I _have_ a specialty, and that's the American toilet
preparations business. And it occurred to me out there in Evanston that
perhaps getting American business along my line joined up closer with
French business would be as good a turn as I could do for France. After
all, though it does give you the horrors to see the poor boys with their
legs and arms shot off, that doesn't last but one generation. But
_business_ now ... all the future is there!" His eye kindled. He had
evidently pronounced his _credo_. The attentive Frenchman behind the
desk nodded, acquiescing in carefully accurate English: "Precisely, Mr.
Hale. You had the very same idea which induced my Government to organize
this committee of which I am secretary. I am more than at your
disposition."

"I know it," said the American without further expression of gratitude
than this recognition, "and that's why I'm here. I've got to a place
where I need some help. It's this way. I've done a lot of straight
business, I mean paying business. And I've managed that all right. I've
got the rails laid for our sending over drug specialties you don't have
here and for shipping to the States the toilet preparations specialties
I find here. But now I'm here I want to do _more_ than just regular
business. Now that I _see_ your country and take in what the war's been,
and think what you've been up against ... well, Monsieur Portier, I tell
you I want to _do_ something for France!"

He said this with a simple, heartfelt sincerity which moved the
Frenchman to lean from his chair and give him a silent handshake of
appreciation. The American forgot to add this to his total for the day,
going on earnestly with his story: "And so, I keep my eyes open all the
time for little good turns I can do. I don't mean charity ... honestly,
I think that does about as much harm as good, though of course we have
to go through the motions in a time like this. I mean business good
turns, such as I'd like to have anybody do me, look at my concern with a
fresh eye and tell me how I could make it better, or else tell me where
I could find a bigger market. You understand? Like that. Now I've been
doing business with a big chemical factory out in the country near
Paris. The nearest place to it, for me, is Versailles ... maybe you
happen to know Versailles?"

The Frenchman nodded gravely. Yes, he had a married sister living in
Versailles. "Well, there's a little drug-store out there, one of these
peaceful, sleepy-looking, home-and-mother French drug-stores, with a big
cat dozing in the window, and somebody in a white apron putting up pills
behind the counter, and so far as anybody from _my_ part of the world
can see, not enough business doing from one week's end to another, to
buy a postage-stamp."

The Frenchman laughed. "Oh, it's a very good business in France being a
_pharmacien_."

"That's what everybody tells me, and that's what gets me. _One_ of the
things that gets me! In _our_ country when there is any business being
done you hear the wheels going 'round.' I can't get used to this smooth
European way of doing it and not letting on. Well, my main interest in
life being the toilet preparations business I hardly ever go by one
without stopping in. You never know when you're going to run onto
something worthwhile. Well, out there in Versailles, I certainly did. I
ran onto a genius. Yes, sir, that's not too much to say; a genius! Any
man who can make a cold cream like that ..."

He interrupted himself to ask: "You don't happen to be up on cold cream?
No? It's a pity, because you can't appreciate what that man is doing. By
George, I never saw anything like it, and I've dealt in cold creams for
thirty years! It's got anything in America beaten a mile! The two great
faults of cold cream, you see, are being greasy and being crumbly. This
isn't either. And it keeps! He showed me some he'd had for four years in
a pot, with just a flat earthenware lid laid on top, and you wouldn't
believe it, Monsieur Portier, but it hadn't changed an atom, not an
_atom_! And the fineness of it! The least little pinch between your
fingers, and it just sinks right into your pores before your eyes! It's
_like_ cream, thick, rich cream off a three-days-set pan of milk, and
yet it don't run! And the perfume! Monsieur Portier, I give you my word
for it, and I know what I'm talking about, the perfume that little old
druggist out in his dinky little old shop has got into his cold cream is
the only _refined_ cold cream perfume I ever smelled! It makes all the
others smell like a third-rate actress. It's got a ... it's got a ..."
He hesitated, searching for exactly the right word and brought it out
with enthusiasm, "it's got a _clean_ smell, if you get me, like a nice
girl after a bath! I've got daughters of my own," he added in whimsical
justification of his metaphor.

The Frenchman had been watching him with appreciative eyes. "Mr. Hale, I
see that, like so many of your countrymen, you are a real artist in your
line, and you have the artist's flavor."

The American was disconcerted by this characterization. "Who? Me? I know
a good thing when I see it, that's all, and that's _business_, that's
not art."

The Frenchman smiled with the amused, respectful sympathy which men of
his race so often feel for their American contemporaries. "Well, and
what did you do when you discovered this miraculous cold cream?"

Mr. Hale laughed, a young, vigorous laugh which made his gray hair seem
a paradox. "Well, you've guessed it. I threw a fit, first of all. I was
taken off my feet, and I wouldn't be surprised if I acted like a cat
over catnip. So I decided I'd better go away and cool off before I did
anything rash. I bought a couple of pots and went back to the hotel to
sleep on it. That's something I always try to do, Monsieur Portier,
before I let myself in for a _big_ proposition; and I meant this to be
big, all right. I wanted to see if that cold cream seemed as good after
twenty-four hours as it did at first. Well, it did, and _then_ some! So
I got the Swede porter at my hotel, who can talk some English, to go
back with me. And I started in to ask the old fellow all about it.
Right there I struck a difference. After the way I'd gone on, an
American, when I went back the next day, would have been wondering what
I was trying to take away from him; but my old friend was just as
pleased as a mother is when you tell her she's got a pretty baby. In
fact he reminded me of that, the way he talked. So glad to tell me all
about it. I got the impression before he got through that it was a
member of the family. I don't mean, of course, that he told me how he
made it. I wouldn't have let him if he'd started to. But he told me
everything else. To begin with, he told me that his folks have been
pharmacists right there for more than a hundred years! _A hundred years_
in that little shop in that little street in that little town! I tell
you, Monsieur Portier, I never can get used to the way your people stay
put."

The Frenchman looked grave. "Perhaps too much so, Mr. Hale."

"Anyhow, he said they had the recipe, the first recipe for that cold
cream in his great-grandfather's handwriting. He said there'd been some
talk always in the family about its having come from his
great-grandfather's father, who had sold toilet specialties to Marie
Antoinette, the queen, you know. He said he himself didn't take much
stock in that story because everybody in France, more or less, claimed
to have a great-grandfather who'd had dealings with Marie Antoinette,
but I just thought to myself what a good smart advertisement agency
could do with that item ... you could see it on every billboard between
New York and San Francisco ... 'Marie Antoinette's own cold cream,
rediscovered recipe.' If you've been in America, you can imagine."

"Yes," said the Frenchman, "I can imagine."

"He said, of course, they had not stuck absolutely to that recipe just
as it stood. His grandfather had made some changes, experimented with it
all his life, and his father had changed the proportions, just little
shadings, with years in between, to think them over and to be sure they
were right. But he himself had changed it the most, because modern
chemistry had let him substitute for one ingredient that had never been
just right, something else that exactly filled the bill. Do you know,
Monsieur Portier, as he stood there telling me how, for a hundred years,
three generations of his folks had concentrated on that, I said to
myself: 'By George, there's a _reason_! No wonder it's better than any
of our get-there-quick products. They've certainly got us beat.'"

To this handsome tribute the Frenchman replied dubiously: "It is very
generous, Mr. Hale, to say such a thing. But since taking over the work
on this committee I have had periods of great depression when it has
seemed to me that no power on earth, not even American energy from which
I hope a great deal, could ever move our trades-people from their
century-old habits of business inertia and lack of enterprise."

"Well, I understand that, too," agreed the American sympathetically; "I
certainly do, because that's just what I've come to see you about. We
went on with our confab, my old friend and I, and he showed me his books
to show how the sale of the cold cream had grown since they began on it.
It seems they've had quite a lot of their customers for sixty or seventy
years. Not Versailles people at all, you know, people from all over,
people who had tried it once and never would have another, and I don't
blame them. He's got quite a lot of aristocrats on his list. He showed
me names on his account book that made it look like a history of France.
Well, the sum-total of it came to this. His grandfather sold on an
average three hundred pots a year, which was good for those days; in his
father's time it went up, so he said, astonishingly, to fifteen hundred
pots a year; but he had done even better, and in his little
factory-laboratory that he'd had to enlarge, he made four thousand pots
a year and sold them all. 'More than _ten times_ what his grandfather
had done.'"

In repeating these statistics he reproduced with an ironical exactness
the tone of self-congratulation of the pharmacist. The man before him
fell into the little trap, remarking innocently: "That is indeed making
a remarkable enlargement."

The American sat up straight in his chair so suddenly that he gave the
effect of having leaped to his feet. "_Remarkable!_ Why, it was all I
could do to keep from sitting right down and crying. Remarkable! Why,
with the article he has there, the family ought to have been
millionaires a generation ago! Anybody with a particle of business
imagination would have put it on the bathroom shelf of every family in
Christendom." He went on, more quietly: "I said something of that to the
old fellow and I tried, through that hotel porter, to make him
understand what my proposition was, to take up his cold cream. To take
it up strong. I outlined my plan for the advertising campaign, I told
him some of the figures of our toilet preparations market, and I told
him I'd guarantee him in less than six months' time to have a demand for
fifteen hundred gross pots and by the end of the first year it would
pass the four thousand gross mark. I told him just how I could get him
credit on the easiest terms for the enlargement of his plant ... one of
our Merchants' Associations is prepared to give credit to French and
Belgian firms, and I was just starting in to explain how it wouldn't be
any risk for him at all, and absolute certain big profits for him and
his son ... he's got a son at the front now who's passed his
pharmacist's examination and is ready to go on with his father's
business...."

He stopped short for a moment, staring into space as though recalling
the scene.

"Well," prompted the French listener, "what did he say?"

"He said, as near as I could make out from what the hotel porter told
me, he said _he didn't want to_," replied the American, in the carefully
restrained voice of one who recounts an enormity so patent that there is
no need for emphasis to bring out its monstrousness. "Yes, from what
the hotel porter said, I took it that he said he didn't want to! It
wasn't that he was afraid of losing money, or that he suspected a skin
deal ... at least that was what he _said_ ... nor that he doubted a
single thing I said, it was just that he guessed he didn't feel like it
to-day, thank you."

He reached for his hat and stood up. "There, Monsieur Portier, there's
where I am. I started to argue, of course. I tried to get at what in
hell was the matter anyhow. But I soon saw I was up against something
too big for that hotel porter to manage. So I came to see if you would
go back with me, or send somebody who's got good sense and business
experience, and help me make that proposition all over again. It must be
of course that that hotel porter got the thing all balled up, the way he
put it. I ought to have known better than to trust it to a Swede,
anyhow."

Monsieur Portier looked at the calendar on his desk. "Yes, I shall be
glad to go out with you. Let me see, to-day is Monday, next Thursday
afternoon."

The visitor's face dropped. "Not till _Thursday_!" he cried, as though
that date were in the next century. "I was hoping you could go right
back with me now. I've got a taxi waiting downstairs."

The Frenchman's face wore for an instant a look of consternation which
changed into a rather curious, strained expression. Then he said with
the accent of heroism, laughing a little, "Yes, Mr. Hale, there is
really no valid reason for my not going with you now, _at this
instant_, and I will!" He seemed to regard the resolution as an
extraordinary one, adding whimsically, as he put on his overcoat, "Ah,
you can never, never understand, my dear Mr. Hale, the awful effort of
will it costs a European to do something the moment it is suggested
instead of putting it off till the next week."

"No," said the American heartily, "that's something I never will
understand."

       *       *       *       *       *

As they approached the shining windows of the pharmacy, where as a
matter of fact a big, beautifully cared-for cat was sleeping in the sun,
the Frenchman exclaimed: "Oh, it's Monsieur Réquine's pharmacy! I've
known him for years, ever since my sister came to live in Versailles. I
didn't think it could be he because you spoke of him always as old."

"Isn't he?" asked the American.

"Fifty-two. Is that old? I hope not."

"Fifty-two! I'm fifty-four myself! That's one on me!"

"What made you think him old? His hair isn't white. He hasn't any
wrinkles. Really, I'm curious to know."

The American stopped on the curbstone, pondering, his alert mind
interested by the little problem in self-analysis. "What _did_ make me,
I wonder?" He glanced in through the open door and said: "Well, just
look at him as he stands there, his hands clasped over his stomach,--you
can see for yourself. It's a kind of settled-down-to-stay look that I'm
not used to seeing unless a man is so old that he can't move on any
more."

The Frenchman looked at the druggist and then at the man beside him.
"Yes, I see what you mean," he admitted. He said it with a sigh.

They entered the shop. The druggist came forward with a smile, and shook
hands heartily with them both. "Eleven," noted the American mentally.

"Monsieur Réquine," said the French visitor, "can't we go through into
your salon, or perhaps out into your garden for a little talk?" Mr.
Réquine glowed with hospitality. "Yes, yes, delighted. I'll just ask my
wife to step here to mind the shop."

"_His wife!_" asked the American, "to wait on customers?"

A well-dressed, tall, full-bosomed woman of forty-odd, with elaborately
dressed black hair and a much powdered, intelligent face came in answer
to the call and installed herself back of the counter with her knitting.

"Yes, and she knows as much about the business end as he does, you may
be sure," said the Frenchman as they went through a door at the back of
the shop, emerging, not, as the American expected, into a storeroom, but
into an attractive parlor. They passed through the salon, into an
exquisitely kept little dining-room and out into a walled garden which
made the American pass his hand over his eyes and look again. While
their host was installing them at the little round green iron table
under a trellis overgrown by a magnificent grapevine, Mr. Hale's eyes
traveled from one point to another of the small paradise before him. It
could not have been more than a hundred feet wide and three hundred
long, but like a fabled spot in the "Arabian Nights" it shone
resplendent with incredible riches. The stone walls, ten feet high, were
carpeted to the top with a mantle of glistening green leaves, among
which hung peaches and pears, glorious to the view, rank on rank, such
fruit as the American had never thought could exist. On each side of the
graveled path down the center were flowering plants, like great bouquets
each. Back of them were more fruit-trees, none more than eight feet
tall, bearing each a dozen or more amazing apples, as brightly colored
as the flowers. Around the trees were vegetables, carrots, salads,
cabbages, every specimen as floridly full-leafed and perfect as the
incredible pictures Mr. Hale had seen, and disbelieved in, on the front
of seed catalogues.

From the other end of the garden, drenched in sunshine, came the humming
of bees. Above their heads a climbing rose covering the end of the house
sent down a clear, delicate perfume from its hundred flowers.

The American's eyes came back from their inspection of all this and
rested with a new expression on his rather snuffy, rather stout and
undistinguished host. "Will you please tell Monsieur Réquine from me,"
he said to his companion, "that I never saw such a garden in my life?"

Monsieur Réquine waved the tribute away with sincere humility. "Oh, it's
nothing compared to those all about me. I can't give it the time I would
like to. Later on, when I am retired, and my son has the business ..."
his gesture seemed to indicate wider horizons of horticultural
excellence before which the American's imagination recoiled breathless.

The straw-colored liqueur had been poured out into the glasses,
which were, so Mr. Hale noticed, of extremely fine and delicate
workmanship ... "and his wife tending shop!" The two Frenchmen drank
with ceremonious bowings and murmured salutations. Mr. Hale consumed his
fiery draught silently but with a not ungraceful self-possession. He was
at his ease with all kinds of ways of taking a drink.

Then, drawing a long breath, taking off his hat and putting his elbows
on the table, he began to expound and the French official with him to
translate. The bees hummed a queer, unsuitable accompaniment to his
resonant, forceful staccato.

He talked a long time. The patches of sunlight which fell through the
vines over their heads had shifted their places perceptibly when he
stopped, his head high, his gray eagle's eyes flashing.

The elderly Frenchman opposite him had listened intently, his fat,
wrinkled hands crossed on his waistcoat, an expression of thoughtful
consideration on his broad face and in his small, very intelligent brown
eyes. When the American finished speaking, he bent his head courteously
and said: "Mr. Hale, you have spoken with great eloquence. But you have
forgotten to touch on one matter, and that is the reason for my doing
all that you outline so enthusiastically. Why _should_ I?" It was
evidently a genuine and not a rhetorical question, for he paused for a
reply, awaiting it with sincere curiosity on his face. He received none,
however, the fluent American being totally at a loss. "Why _should_
you?" he said blankly. "I don't believe I understand you." The two
exchanged a long puzzled look across the little table, centuries and
worlds apart.

"Why, I mean," Monsieur Réquine went on finally, "I don't see any
possible reason for embarking in such a terrifyingly vast enterprise as
you outline; no reason for, and many against. To speak of nothing else,
I am absolutely, morally certain that my cold cream" (he spoke of it
with respect and affection) "would immediately deteriorate if it were
manufactured on such an inhuman scale of immensity as you plan, with
factories here and factories there, run by mercenary superintendents who
had no personal interest in its excellence, with miscellaneous workmen
picked up out of the street haphazard. Why, Mr. Hale, you have no idea
of the difficulties I have, as it is, to get and train and keep serious,
conscientious work-people. I should be lost without the little nucleus
of old helpers who have been with our family for two generations and who
set the tone of our small factory. They have the reputation and fine
quality of our cold cream at heart as much as we of the family. They
help us in the selection of the newer, younger workers whom we need to
fill the ranks, they help us to train them in the traditions and methods
of our work, and with patience teach them, one by one, year by year, the
innumerable little fine secrets of manipulation which have been worked
out since my grandfather began the manufacture there in that room back
of you in 1836. Our recipe is much of course, it is all important; but
it is not all. Oh no, Mr. Hale, it is not all. We put into our cold
cream beside the recipe, patience, conscience, and pride, and that
deftness of hand that only comes after years of training. You cannot buy
those qualities on the market, not for any price. To think of my recipe
put into the hands of money-making factory superintendents and a rabble
horde of riffraff workmen!... Mr. Hale, you must excuse me for saying
that I am astonished at your proposing it, you who have shown by your
generous appreciation of its qualities that you are so worthy a member
of our guild."

He paused, stirred from his usual equable calm and waited for an answer.
But he still received none. The American was staring at him across an
unfathomable chasm of differences.

Monsieur Réquine continued: "And as for me personally, I am almost as
astonished that you propose it. For nothing in all the world would I
enter upon such a life as you depict, owing great sums of money to begin
with, for no matter how 'easy' your business credit may be made in the
modern world, the fact remains that I should lie down at night and rise
up in the morning conscious that thousands of men had intrusted their
money to me, that I might easily, by one false step or piece of bad
judgment, lose forever money which means life to poor women or old men.
Such a fiery trial would shrivel me up. It would be my death, I who have
never owed a penny in my life. And then what? Even with the utmost
success which you hold out, I should have a life which, compared with
what I now have, would be infernal; rushing to and fro over the face of
the earth, away from home, my wife, my children, homeless for half the
time, constantly employed in the most momentous and important decisions
where in order to succeed I must give all of myself, all, _all_, my
brain, my personality, my will power, my soul ... what would be left of
me for leisure moments? Nothing! I should be an empty husk, drained of
everything that makes me a living and a human being. But of course there
would not be any leisure moments.... I see from what you so eloquently
say that I would have become the slave and not the master of that
invention which has come down to me from my fathers; that instead of its
furnishing me and my work-people with a quiet, orderly, contented life,
I should only exist to furnish it means for a wild, fantastic growth,
like something in a nightmare, because a real growth is never like that,
never!

"Mr. Hale, do you know what I do of an evening, in the summer? I leave
the shop at half-past five or six, and I step into my garden, where I
work till half-past seven, when I am most exquisitely hungry. We dine
here under this vine, my wife, my daughters, and my son (he who is now
at the front). Afterwards we sit and chat and exchange impressions of
the day, as the moon comes up or the stars come out. Perhaps some of the
young friends of the children drop in for a game of cards. My wife and I
sit down at the other end of the garden on the stone bench where we sat
when she came here as a bride, where my father and mother sat when they
were bride and groom. The stars come out. I smoke my pipe and watch
them. Mr. Hale, it is very surprising, the things which come into your
head, if you sit quietly and watch the stars come out. I would not miss
thinking them for anything in the world. We talk a little, my wife
knits. We meditate a great deal. We hear the gay voices of our children
coming to us mingled with the breath of the roses. We have finished
another day, and we are very glad to be there, alive, with each other,
in our garden. When we come in, my wife makes me a cup of tisane and
while I sip that I read, sometimes a little of Montaigne, sometimes a
little of Horace, sometimes something modern. And all that while, Mr.
Hale, there is in our home, in our hearts, the most precious
distillation of peace, the ..."

For some moments the American had been surging inwardly, and he now
boiled over with a great wave of words. "Will you just let me tell you
what you've been describing to me, Monsieur Réquine? The life of an old,
old man ... and you're younger than I am! And will you let me tell you
what I'd call your 'peace'? I'd call it laziness! Why, that's the kind
of life that would suit an oyster right down to the ground! And, by
George, that's the kind of life that gave the Boches their strangle-hold
on French commerce before the war. They _weren't_ afraid of good credit
when it was held out to them! They had it _too_ easy, with nobody to
stand up against them but able-bodied men willing to sit down in their
gardens in the evenings and meditate on the stars, instead of thinking
how to enlarge their business! I'll bet they didn't read Horace instead
of a good technical magazine that would keep them up to date. Why,
Monsieur Réquine, I give you my word, I have never looked inside my
Horace since the day I took the final exam in it! I wouldn't _dream_ of
doing it! What would business come to if everybody sagged back like
that? You don't seem to realize what business is, modern business. It's
not just soulless materialistic money-making, it's the great, big, wide
road that leads human beings to progress! It's what lets humanity get a
chance to satisfy its wants, and get more wants, and satisfy them, and
get more, and conquer the world from pole to pole. It's what gives men,
grown men, with big muscles, obstacles of their size to get through. It
gives them problems that take all their strength and brain power to
solve, that keeps them fit and pink and tiptoe with ambition and zip,
and prevents them from lying down and giving up when they see a hard
proposition coming their way, such as changing a small factory into a
big one and keeping the product up to standard. Business, modern
business keeps a man _alive_ so that when he sees a problem like that he
doesn't give a groan and go and prune his roses, he just tears right in
and _does_ it!"

Monsieur Réquine listened to the translation of this impassioned _credo_
with the expression of judicial consideration which was evidently the
habitual one upon his face. At the end he stroked his beard meditatively
and looked into space for a time before answering. When he spoke, it was
with a mildness and quiet which made him indeed seem much the older of
the two, a certain patient good humor which would have been impossible
to the other man. "Mr. Hale, you say that my conception of life looks
like laziness to you. Do you know how yours looks to me? Like a circle
of frenzied worshipers around a fiery Moloch, into whose maw they cast
everything that makes life sweet and livable, leisure, love, affection,
appreciation of things rare and fine. My friend, humanity as a whole
will never be worth more than the lives of its individuals are worth,
and it takes many, many things to make individual lives worth while. It
takes a mixture, and it needs, among other elements, some quiet, some
peace, some leisure, some occupation with things of pure beauty like my
roses, some fellowship with great minds of the past...." His eyes took
on a dreamy deepening glow. "Sometimes as I dig the earth among my
fruit-trees, the old, old earth, a sentence from Epictetus, or from
Montaigne comes into my head, all at once luminous as I never saw it
before. I have a vision of things very wide, very free, very fine.
Almost, for a moment, Mr. Hale, almost for a moment I feel that I
understand life."

The American stood up to go with a gesture of finality. He put his hat
firmly on his head and said in pitying valedictory: "Monsieur Réquine,
you're on the wrong track. Take it from me that nobody can understand
life. The best thing to do with life is to live it!"

The Frenchman, still seated, still philosophic, made a humorous gesture.
"Ah, there are as many different opinions as there are men about what
that means, to 'live life'!"

       *       *       *       *       *

In the cab going back to Paris the American said little. Once he
remarked almost to himself, "The thing I can't get over is that his
damned cream _is_ better than anything we make."

The French official emerged from a thoughtful silence of his own to
comment: "Mr. Hale, the generosity of that remark is only equaled by its
perspicacity! It makes me more than ever concerned for the future of
French commerce."

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening Monsieur Réquine was stooping over a dwarf-apple tree,
string in one hand, pruning shears in the other. He was clipping away
all except one of the vigorous young shoots. That one he then laid along
a wire, strung about a foot from the ground and tied it fast at several
points so that in growing it would follow the exact line traced by the
horizontal wire. When he finished he gathered up all the clipped shoots,
put them under his arm, and stood looking at the severely disciplined
little tree, which did not look in the least like a tree any more. The
sight apparently suggested an analogy to his mind, for he said in the
tone of one who makes an admission: "It's true one does it for
apple-trees and vines." After considering this for a moment, he shook
his head with decision, "But not for human beings, no."

And yet his brow was far from clear as he betook himself to the stone
bench at the end of the garden.

When his wife went out later to join him, she missed the glow of his
pipe and inquired, a little troubled, "Why, René, you've forgotten to
light your pipe! what's the matter?"

"Adèle, do you remember, just before the order for mobilization came,
how Robert wanted to travel a year in America to study American business
and to see something of other conditions? Perhaps I was wrong not to
consent. I've been sitting here thinking it over. Perhaps when he comes
back [they always forced themselves to say "when" and never "if"]
perhaps we would better let him go, before he settles down to take my
place." He took her hand and held it for a moment. "Do you know, Adèle,
after all, the world changes, perhaps more than we realize, here in
Versailles."

That evening Mr. Hale sat in his hotel bedroom with all the electric
lights blazing, and filled sheet after sheet with elaborate
calculations. He was concerned with an important detail of transatlantic
transportation to which he did not believe half enough attention had
been paid: the question as to what form of carrier is the best for
certain breakable objects which he was arranging to send in large
quantities into the States. The quantities were so large that if he
could effect a small saving of space, with no increase of the breakage
per cent., the sum-total would be considerable.

He figured out the relative cubic contents in boxes of a given dimension
and in barrels, having always had a leaning towards barrels himself. He
looked up technical tables as to the relative weight of sawdust,
powdered cork, and excelsior, together with the statistics as to the
relative amount of breakage with each sort of packing. His days were so
filled with "seeing people" that he often thought the evenings were the
only times he had to do "real work," the careful, minute, infinitely
patient, and long-headed calculations which had made him the wealthy man
he was.

The room was very hot and close, with all its windows and shutters
closed and its curtains drawn to keep the light from showing in the
street, a recent air-raid having tightened up the regulations about
lights. The American's face was flushed, his eyes hot and smarting, his
collar first wilted, and then laid aside. But he was accustomed to pay
small heed to discomforts when there was work to be done, and continued
obstinately struggling with the problems of cubic feet contained in a
compartment of a ship's hold of given dimensions with given curves to
the sides. The curve of the sides gave him a great deal of trouble, as
he had quite forgotten the formulæ of abstract mathematics which would
have solved the question, never having concerned himself with abstract
mathematics since the day he had taken the final examination in that
subject.

He sat up, wiping his forehead, rubbing his eyes. Behind the lids, for
an instant shut, there swam before his eyes the garden in which he had
sat that afternoon, green and hidden and golden. The perfume from the
roses floated again about him.

He opened his eyes on the gaudy, banal hotel bedroom, cruelly lighted
with the hard gaze of the unveiled electric bulbs. He felt very tired.

"I've half a notion to call that enough for to-night," he said to
himself, standing up from the table.

He snapped off the electric lights and opened the shutters. A clear,
cool breath of outdoor air came in silently, filling the room and his
lungs. The moonlight lay in a wide pool at his feet and on the balcony
before his window. He hesitated a moment, glanced out at the sky, and
pulled an armchair out on the balcony.

There was a long silence while he puffed at a cigar and while the moon
dropped lower. At first he went on thinking of cubic feet and relative
weights, but presently his cigar began to glow less redly. After a time
it went out unheeded. The hand which held it dropped on the arm of the
chair, loosely.

The man stirred, relaxed all his muscles, and stretched himself out in
the chair, tipping his head back to see the stars.

He sat thus for a long, long time, while the constellations wheeled
slowly over his head. Once he murmured meditatively, "Maybe we _do_ hit
it up a little too fast."

He continued looking up at the stars, and presently drew from the
contemplation of those vast spaces another remark. It was one which had
often casually passed his lips before, but never with the accent of
conviction. For never before had he believed it. He said it earnestly,
now, in the tone of one who states with respect a profound and pregnant
truth: "Well, it takes all kinds of people to make a world."



THE REFUGEE


When we had seen her last, just before the war, she could have stood for
the very type and symbol of the intelligent, modern woman; an energetic
leader for good in her native town (a bustling industrial center in the
north of France); unsentimental, beneficent; looking at life with clear,
brightly observant, disillusioned eyes; rather quick to laugh at
old-fashioned narrowness; a little inclined to scoff at too fervently
expressed enthusiasms, such as patriotism; very broad in her sympathies,
very catholic in her tastes, tolerant as to the beliefs of others,
radical as to her own, above all, a thoroughgoing internationalist;
physically in the prime of her life, with a splendid, bold vigor in all
her movements.

Now, after less than three years of separation, she sat before us,
white-haired, gaunt, shabby, her thin face of a curious grayish brown
which none of us had ever seen before, her thin hands tightly clasped,
her eyes burning and dry--the only dry eyes in the room as she talked.

       *       *       *       *       *

Much of what she told us I may not repeat, for she said, with a quick
gesture of terror, dreadful to see in one who for forty years had faced
life so indomitably: "No, no, don't publish what I say--or at least be
very careful; choose only those things that can't hurt the people who
are up there, still in 'their' power."

"Why not publish what you say?" I asked her, rather challengingly. "I
don't think people in general understand half enough what the life of
the invaded provinces is. One never sees any really detailed
descriptions of it."

She answered bitterly, "Doesn't the reason for that silence occur to
you?"

"No, it doesn't. I never have understood why so little is given to the
public about the sufferings of the invaded populations."

She looked at me strangely, the half-exasperated, half-patient look one
gives to a child who asks a foolish, ignorant question, and explained
wearily: "If those who escape tell what they have seen up there, those
who are left suffer even worse torments. 'They' have spies everywhere,
you know; no, that's not melodramatic nonsense, as I would have thought
it three years ago, it's a literal fact. Very probably that little
messenger-boy who brought the letter in here a moment ago is one. Very
probably your baker is one. Anywhere in the world whatever is printed
about what 'they' do to our people in their power is instantly read by
some German eyes, and is instantly sent to German headquarters in the
invaded regions. And it's the same with our poor, little, persistent
attempts to express a little bit of what we feel for France. For
instance, one of my friends who escaped at the risk of her life told
about how we tried in our orphan asylum to keep the children mindful of
France, how after closing hours, when the doors were shut, we took out
the French flag from its hiding-place and told the children about France
and whatever news of the war we had managed to hear. That article
appeared, a half-column, in an obscure provincial newspaper with no
indication as to which town was meant. In less than two weeks, from
German headquarters in Brussels, went out a sweeping order to search to
the last corner of the cellar every orphan asylum in the invaded
regions. It was two o'clock in the morning when the searching squad in
our town knocked at the doors. The flag was found, and our little
collection of patriotic French recitations; and before dawn the
superintendent, a splendid woman of fifty-seven, the salt of the earth,
had disappeared. She was sent to a prison camp in Germany. Three months
later we heard she was dead. Do you understand now why you must not
repeat most of what I tell you, must give no clue as to how we hide our
letters, how we get news from France; above all, say nothing that could
give any idea of who I am? 'They' would do such dreadful things to
Marguerite and little Julien and old Uncle Henri if 'they' knew that I
have talked of the life there, of what 'they' have done to our people."

No, until the world turns over and we have awakened from the hideous
nightmare no one may speak aloud of certain matters up there in Belgium
and in the invaded provinces of France. But there are some things she
told us which I may pass on to you, and I think you ought to know them.
I think we all ought to know more than we do of what life is to the
people who are awaiting deliverance at our hands. There are certain
portions of her narration, certain detached pictures, brief dialogues
and scenes, which may be set down in her own words. Your imagination
must fill in the gaps.

"The first months were the worst--and the best. The worst because we
could not believe at first that war was there, the stupid, imbecile
anachronism we had thought buried with astrology and feudalism. For me
it was like an unimaginably huge roller advancing slowly, heavily,
steadily, to crush out our lives. During the day, as I worked with the
wounded, I threw all my will power into the effort to disbelieve in that
inexorable advance. I said to myself: 'No, it's not possible! They
_can't_ have invaded Belgium after their promises! Modern peoples don't
do that sort of thing. No, it's not possible that Louvain is burned!
Wild rumors are always afloat in such times. I must keep my head and not
be credulous. The Germans are a highly civilized people who would not
dream of such infamies as those they are being accused of.' All that I
said to myself, naïvely, by day. At night, every hour, every half-hour,
I started up from sleep, drenched in cold sweat, dreaming that the
crushing roller was about to pass over us. Then it came, it passed, it
crushed.

"But there were other, better things about those first months. For one
thing, we had hope still. We hoped constantly for deliverance. Every
morning I said to the girl who brought the milk, 'Are they here yet?'
'They' meant the French troops coming to deliver us. Yes, at first we
expected them from one day to the next. Then from one week to the next,
then from one month to the next. Finally, now, we have no strength left
for anything but silent endurance. Besides that hope, which kept us
alive those first months, we were not yet in that windowless prison
which 'they' have succeeded in making our own country to us. We had news
of France and of the outside world through the French and English
prisoners. They were brought into our improvised hospital to have their
wounds dressed before they were put on the train to be sent forward to
their German prisons. As we cared for them we could get news of the
battles; sometimes we heard through them of the men of our families;
always they were a link with the world outside. We did not know what a
priceless boon that was.

"But even this slight contact was soon forbidden us. We showed too
openly the comfort it brought us. Free people, as we had always been, we
were not then trained, as tyranny since has trained us, to the wretched
arts of secrecy. We did too much for those prisoners. The people in the
streets crowded about them too eagerly, showed them too many kindnesses.
'They' decided that our one link with the outside world must be broken.
Fewer and fewer prisoners were sent; finally we saw none--for weeks and
weeks none at all. We knew nothing but what 'they' told us, saw no other
world, were hypnotized almost into believing that no other world
existed.

"The last ones who came through--that is one of my memories. We never
knew by what chance they were sent through our town. One day we looked,
and there in our street were half a dozen French soldiers, with bloody
heads and arms, limping along between Boche guards on their way to the
hospital. All our people rose like a great wave and swept towards them.
The guards reversed their rifles and began clubbing with their butt
ends--clubbing the old women who tried to toss food to the prisoners,
clubbing the little children who stretched out handfuls of chocolate,
clubbing the white-haired men who thrust cigarettes into the pockets of
the torn, stained French uniforms.

"We were beginning to practise some of the humiliating arts of a captive
people then; we remembered that shouting in the streets is not allowed,
that no French voice must be heard in that French town, and in all that
straining, pressing, yearning crowd there was not a sound, not even a
murmur of joy, when the Boche guards occasionally relaxed their
vigilance for a moment and some of our presents reached the prisoners.

"Then they came to the hospital--it was a great mansion before the
war--and went limping painfully through the broad doors and up the long
stone staircase. Outside the doors stood the military car which was to
take them to the station--stood the Boche guards--and the crowd, silent,
motionless, waiting for the moment when those soldiers who stood for
France should reappear. All demonstrations of feeling were forbidden by
the invaders, yes, but there was no demonstration--only a great silent
crowd waiting. The Boche guards looked about them uneasily, but there
was no violation of any order to report. Every one waited silently.
Twilight fell, darkness fell, the crowd grew larger and larger, filled
the street, but gave no further sign of life. Not one of 'their' rules
was broken, but as far as we could see there were upturned faces, white
in the dusk. An hour passed, two hours passed, and then the moment was
there. The lights flared up in the great hall of the hospital--all the
lights at once, as if to do justice to a grand fête, an occasion of
supreme honor. At the top of the stairway, very pale in that great
light, with bandaged heads and arms, appeared those soldiers who stood
for France.

"From all that silent, rigidly self-controlled crowd went up a sigh like
a great stir of the ocean. The prisoners came limping down the stairway.
France was passing there before our eyes, perhaps for the last time.
A thousand handkerchiefs fluttered as silent salute to France, a
thousand heads were bared to her. The weary soldiers stood very erect
and returned a silent military salute. In their prison car they passed
slowly along between the dense ranks of their fellow-countrymen, looking
deeply, as though they too thought it might be for the last time, into
those French eyes. Then they were gone. We had not broken one of 'their'
rules--not one. But 'they' never allowed another French soldier to pass
through our town.

"Once after that we had a passing glimpse of English soldiers, a group
of wretchedly ill men, with their wounds uncared for, stumbling along to
the station. They were not taken to the hospital to be cared for; 'they'
are always much harder on the English prisoners than on any others.
Those were the days early in the war, when there were still things to
buy in the shops, when we still had money to spend. How we all rushed to
buy good chocolate, cigarettes! How desperately we tried to throw them
to the prisoners! But there was no relaxation, that time, of the guard.
Not once did we succeed. There was a double line of guards that day, and
they held us far, far at a distance with their rifle butts. It was
horrible--the silence of the crowd, rigorously observing the rule
against demonstrations of any sort; not a sound except the thud of rifle
butts on human flesh. Old M. B---- had his arm broken that day.

"With my hands full of cigarettes and chocolate, I followed them all the
way to the station, my heart burning with pity for the poor men who
looked at us with such sick, tired, despairing, hungry eyes. We threw
them what we dared. Nothing reached them--nothing. At the station they
waited, fainting with fatigue, with loss of blood, with hunger, with
thirst, ringed around with soldiers, bayonets fixed. There we stood, we
women and children and old men, our hands full of food and comforts--no,
you never know how sickeningly your heart can throb and still go on
beating. I had never thought I could hate as I did in that hour, a
helpless spectator of that unnecessary cruelty. Since then I have had
many lessons in how deeply even a modern woman can be forced to hate.

"The train came, the wounded men were driven aboard their cattle car.
The train disappeared. They were gone. I walked home smiling--we never
let 'them' see how 'their' tortures make us suffer. Later Julien, my
little Julien--he was twelve then--found me still weeping furiously. He
bent over me, his little body all tense and fierce. 'Don't cry so,
auntie! Don't cry so! It won't last. It will soon be over.'

"That was two years ago.

       *       *       *       *       *

"None of us Frenchwomen were allowed to stay long in hospital work. For
one reason or another, we were all forbidden to go on caring for the
wounded. I had the honor of being the very first to be put out of the
door.

"One of the officers in charge said to me one day, some four or five
months after the beginning, 'Ah, madame, we shall soon be good friends
now.'

"The idea made me fall a step backward. 'What, monsieur? What do you
mean?'

"'Yes, France and Germany will soon be friends. I know with absolute
certainty that Germany has offered a third of Belgium to France and that
France is more than satisfied to accept and end the war.'

"That is always one of the horrors up there. 'They' can tell you any
news they please as 'absolute certainties.' Since we know nothing of
what is going on except what they choose to tell us, we have no proofs
to fling back at them; no proofs but moral ones, and 'they' find moral
proofs ridiculous, of course.

"I stiffened and said, 'No, monsieur. No; France will never do that,
never! You cannot understand why France will never do it, nor why I am
sure that she never will. But it is true.'

"He laughed a little, as you would laugh at a child's impractical
notions, and said: 'Oh, but France _has_ done it, madame! You will see
the announcement in a few days.'

"That cool assumption, my helplessness to refute him with facts, made me
for an instant beside myself. I said, very hotly: 'Monsieur, if France
ever does that, I will renounce my French blood. I will make myself an
American.' He was still smiling indulgently at my heat. 'Oh, why,
madame? Why?'

"'Because if France should do that, it would be as much a disgrace for
an honest person to be French as now to be German.'

"He all but struck me with his whip.

"And five minutes later, still in my nurse's uniform, I was standing in
the street, with the door of the hospital closed behind me. I can't say
I was particularly regretful, either."

She looked down at her skirt of threadbare, coarse black stuff. "Do you
know where I got this skirt? After a year of war I had nothing, nothing
left in my wardrobe. We gave away to the poorer ones every garment we
could possibly spare. And there was nothing, nothing left in any of the
shops to buy. And I had no money to buy if there had been. How was I
going to get an overcoat for Julien and a skirt for myself? The
scrubwoman in Uncle Henri's office noticed the patches and darns on my
last skirt, and said the American Committee had some clothes to
distribute. I went there--yes, I--holding out my hand like any beggar.
Bless Americans! There is no shame in being helped by them! They gave me
there an overcoat that I made over for Julien and enough of this cloth
for a skirt. It is the only one I have had for two years. Do you know
what I saw all the time I sat sewing on that charity garment, come from
so far? Across the street from our house is the great warehouse where
the cloth from the----woolen mills was stored. All day long German
automobile trucks stood in front of that building, while from the
windows German soldiers threw down bale after bale of cloth. As soon as
a truck was full it would start forward on its journey to the station,
where the cloth was loaded on trains and sent to Germany. An empty one
immediately took its place. Heavy woolens, light woolens, blankets,
cashmeres, flannels, serges, twill, black, brown, blue, white,
figured--hundreds and hundreds of bales. I never knew there were so many
kinds of woolen cloth. I never had seen so much all together in my life
as I saw tossed down from the windows of that four-story building during
those three days. For it took three days of incessant work to steal all
that cloth--three long days--just the time it took me to prepare those
two charity garments sent from America."

       *       *       *       *       *

She held up a thick, square, brownish cracker, and said: "Look well at
that. You have never seen anything more important to human lives. That
is the free American biscuit. It is distributed at ten every morning to
every school-child, to every teacher, in the region under German rule.
None have had enough to eat. There are no biscuits distributed on
Sundays and vacation days. Those are hard days for the children to live
through. They beg desperately to go to school, even when they are sick,
so they may not miss their biscuit. It is by far the best thing they
have to eat all day, the most palatable, the only complete food. The
change in the school-children since they have had this added to their
diet--it is miraculous! The experts say the biscuits are a carefully
compounded product of many grains, which make it a complete aliment. We
know better than that. It is manna from heaven.

"And here," she held up a red woolen knitted cap, such as American
school-children wear in small towns during the winter. "Somehow the
American Committees managed so that there was such a cap for every one
of us. They have become the national head-dress. Hundreds and hundreds
of them--and every one knit in America and sent to us. Bless America!

"Our lights? There was soon, of course, no kerosene for us, no fats to
make candles. And you know the long, long, dark winters in the north of
France? Do you know what we did, praying that the American Committee
would forgive us and realize that blackness is too dreadful to people
whose nerves are almost worn through? We set aside a part of the lard
and bacon the Committee provided for us; we melted it, put home-made
cotton wicks in it, and--there we had a light, a little glimmering
taper, but enough to save our reason in the long evenings. Bless
America!

"The schools have kept on, you know; every teacher at her post, not a
day missed (even when the town was bombarded). Every year the
examinations have been set--they use old examination papers sent from
Paris before the war--and diplomas have been given. And besides that, at
home we have tried our best to keep the life of our children what the
life of French children ought to be. I remember last year, during the
summer, Aunt Louise taught a group of children in our part of the town
to sing the 'Marseillaise.' The studio of my cousin Jean is at the back
of the house and high up, so that she thought the children's voices
could not be heard from the street. The Mayor heard of what she was
doing, and sent word that he would like to hear them sing. The news
spread around rapidly. When he arrived with the city council, coming in
one by one, as though merely to make a call, they found the big studio
full to overflowing with their fellow-citizens--the old men and women
who are all the fellow-citizens left there. There must have been two or
three hundred of them, the most representative people of the town, all
in black, all so silent, so old and sad. The children were quite abashed
by such an audience, and filed up on the little platform shyly--our
poor, thin, shabby, white-faced children, fifty or sixty of them.

"There was a pause, the children half afraid to begin, the rest of us
thinking uneasily that we were running a great risk. Suppose the
children's voices should be heard in the street, after all. Suppose the
German police should enter and find us assembled thus. It would mean
horrors and miseries for every family represented. The Mayor stood near
the children to give them the signal to begin--and dared not. We were
silent, our hearts beating fast.

"Then all at once the littlest ones began in their high, sweet treble
those words that mean France, that mean liberty, that mean life itself
to us:

"'_Allons, enfants de la Patrie!_' they sang, tilting their heads back
like little birds; and all the other children followed:

"'Against us floats the red flag of tyranny!'

"We were on our feet in an instant. It was the first time any of us had
heard it sung since--since our men marched away.

"I began to tremble all over, so that I could hardly stand. Every one
there stared up at the children; every one's face was deadly white to
his lips.

"The children sang on--sang the chorus, sang the second stanza.

"When they began the third, 'Sacred love of our fatherland, sustain our
avenging arms!' the Mayor's old face grew livid. He whirled about to the
audience, his white hair like a lion's mane, and with a gesture swept us
all into the song.

"'Liberty, our adored liberty, fight for thy defenders!' There were
three hundred voices shouting it out, the tears streaming down our
cheeks. If a regiment of German guards had marched into the room, we
would not have turned our heads. Nothing could have stopped us then. We
were only a crowd of old men and defenseless women and children, but we
were all that was left of France in our French town.

"Letters? You know 'their' rule is that none are allowed, that we may
neither write nor receive news from our dear ones. But that rule, like
all their rules, is broken as often as we can. There are numbers of
secret letter-carriers, who risk their lives to bring and take news. But
it is horribly risky. If a letter is found on you, you are liable to a
crushing fine, or, worse yet, to imprisonment, and, if you have children
or old people dependent on you, you dare not risk leaving them. You
might as well cut their throats at once and spare them the long
suffering. Even if the letter is not found on you, there is risk if you
try to send or receive one. They are not, of course, addressed, so that
if the letter-carrier is discovered all those to whom he is bringing
mail may not be incriminated. But if he is caught 'they' always
threaten him with atrocious punishments which will be remitted if he
will disclose the names of those who have employed him. Generally the
poor letter-carriers are loyal even to death, suffering everything
rather than betray their trust. But some of them are only young boys,
physically undermined by hardship and insufficient food, like all our
people, and they have not the physical strength to hold out against days
of starvation, or floggings, or exposure--naked--to intense cold. They
give way, reveal the names of the people who are receiving letters--and
then there are a dozen more homes desolate, a dozen more mothers
imprisoned, a dozen more groups of children left.

"And yet we all used to get letters before the rules became so terribly
strict as at present. I have had six in the three years--just six. They
were from my mother--I could not live without knowing whether my old
_maman_ was alive or not. Curious, isn't it, to think that I would have
been imprisoned at hard labor if any one had known that I had received a
letter from my old mother?

"Of course you must never carry them on you, if out of doors, for there
is always a chance that you may be searched. On the trolley line between
our town and the suburb, ----, which I used to take once a week to go to
see Pauline when she was so ill, it often happened. The car would stop
at a sudden cry of '_Halte!_' and soldiers with bayonets would herd us
into a nearby house. Women--German women, brought from Germany
especially for such work--were waiting for us women passengers. We were
forced to undress entirely, not a garment left on our poor humiliated
old bodies, and everything was searched, our purses opened, our shoes
examined, our stockings turned inside out. If anything which seemed
remotely incriminating was found--an old clipping from a French
newspaper, a poem which might be considered patriotic--a scrap of a
letter, we were taken away to prison; if not, we were allowed to dress
and go on our way."

We gazed at her, pale with incredulity. It was as though Americans had
heard that such treatment had been accorded Jane Addams or Margaret
Deland. "Were _you_ ever searched in that way?" we faltered.

She had an instant of burning impatience with our ignorance. "Good
Heavens, yes; many and many times! How absolutely little idea you have
of what is going on up there under their rule! That was nothing compared
to many, many things they do--their domiciliary visits, for instance. At
any hour of the day or night a squad of soldiers knock at your door
suddenly, with no warning. They search your house from top to bottom,
often spending three hours over the undertaking. They look into every
drawer, take down all the clothes from the hooks in the closets, look
under the carpets, behind the bookcases, shake out all the soiled
clothes in the laundry bag, pull out everything from under the kitchen
sink, read every scrap of paper in your drawer and in your waste-paper
basket--it's incredible. You watch them, with perfect stupefaction at
the energy and ingenuity they put into their shameful business. And what
they find as 'evidence' against you! It is as stupefying. They always
read every page of the children's school copy-books, for instance, and
if they find a 'composition' on patriotism, even expressed in the most
general terms, they tear out those pages and take them away to be filed
as 'evidence.'

"You must know that they can and do often enter for these searching
visits at night when every one is in bed; perhaps you can guess how
tensely the mothers of young girls endeavor not to offend against the
least of 'their' innumerable rules, lest they be sent away into exile
and leave their children defenseless. But it is almost impossible to
avoid offending against some rule or other. Anything serves as ground
for accusation--a liberal book, a harmless pamphlet found in the
bookcase, the possession of a copper object forgotten after the summons
to give up all copper has gone out, a piece of red, white, and blue
ribbon, a copy of the 'Marseillaise,' a book of patriotic poems; but,
above all, the possession of anything that serves to point to
communication, ever so remote, with the outside world. That is the
supreme crime in their eyes. A page of a French or English newspaper is
as dangerous to have in the house as a stick of dynamite.

"Many men, women, and young girls are now in a German prison somewhere
for the crime of having circulated little pamphlets intended to keep up
the courage of the inhabitants. These little sheets no longer exist, but
what exists in spite of all these repressive measures is the unshaken
faith in our future, the most utter confidence that the Allies will
rescue us out of the hand of our enemies."

What she told us about the deportations I may not repeat for fear of
bringing down worse horrors on the heads of those she left behind. You
may be thankful that you have not to read that story.

Only two incidents am I permitted to transcribe for you--two incidents
which, perhaps, sum up the whole vast and unimaginable tragedy.

"We have tried, you know, to keep the children as busy as possible with
their studies, so that they would not have leisure to brood over what
they see and hear every day. I've had little Marguerite go on with her
English lessons steadily and read as much English as possible. One of
the books her teacher gave her was 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.' She looked up
from it one day, with a pale face, and said, in a sad, wondering voice:
'Why, auntie, this might have been written about us, mightn't it? It
tells about things that happen to us all the time--that we have seen.
The men who are flogged and starved and killed, the mothers trying in
vain to follow their daughters into captivity, the young girls dragged
out of their fathers' arms--it's all just like what the Germans do to
us, isn't it?'"

And the other is that last hour at the railway station, when she stood
beside the railway tracks, with her little Julien beside her (he was
fourteen then), and told him in a fierce, choked voice, "Look, Julien!
Look, remember! Never forget what you are seeing to-day," as they
watched the soldiers drive into the cattle cars the old men, women, and
adolescents torn from their homes in such haste that they had no change
of clothing, no food, often not even their hats and wraps. "We stood
there, those who were not 'taken,' the great helpless crowd of women and
children, agonizing in that dreadful silence which is the last refuge of
our poor battered human dignity up there. I was suffocating, literally
unable to breathe. You do not know what hate and pity and horror you can
feel and still live!

"The wheels of the train began grindingly to turn, the train
advanced--it could not have been more unendurable to us if it had gone
over our own bodies.

"And then some miraculous wind of high-hearted courage swept through
that train-load of weak, doomed, and defenseless human beings. From
every crevice, from every crack, waved a hand, fluttered a handkerchief,
and from the train with one voice, the 'Marseillaise' went up in an
indomitable shout.

    "'_Allons, enfants de la Patrie._'

"The sound of the singing and the sound of the train died away in the
distance.

"We did not weep--no, we have never shown them how they can torture us.
Not a tear was shed.

"But the next day our insane asylum at L---- was filled to overflowing
with new cases of madness."



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN


Between 1620 and 1630 Giles Boardman, an honest, sober, well-to-do
English master-builder found himself hindered in the exercise of his
religion. He prayed a great deal and groaned a great deal more (which
was perhaps the Puritan equivalent of swearing), but in the end he left
his old home and his prosperous business and took his wife and young
children the long, difficult, dangerous ocean voyage to the New World.
There, to the end of his homesick days, he fought a hand-to-hand battle
with wild nature to wring a living from the soil. He died at fifty-four,
an exhausted old man, but his last words were, "Praise God that I was
allowed to escape out of the pit digged for me."

His family and descendants, condemned irrevocably to an obscure struggle
for existence, did little more than keep themselves alive for about a
hundred and thirty years, during which time Giles' spirit slept.

       *       *       *       *       *

In 1775 one of his great-great-grandsons, Elmer Boardman by name,
learned that the British soldiers were coming to take by force a stock
of gunpowder concealed in a barn for the use of the barely beginning
American army. He went very white, but he kissed his wife and little boy
good-bye, took down from its pegs his musket, and went out to join his
neighbors in repelling the well-disciplined English forces. He lost a
leg that day and clumped about on a wooden substitute all his
hard-working life; but, although he was never anything more than a poor
farmer, he always stood very straight with a smile on his plain face
whenever the new flag of the new country was carried past him on the
Fourth of July. He died, and his spirit slept.

       *       *       *       *       *

In 1854 one of his grandsons, Peter Boardman, had managed to pull
himself up from the family tradition of hard-working poverty, and was a
prosperous grocer in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The struggle for the
possession of Kansas between the Slave States and the North announced
itself. It became known in Massachusetts that sufficiently numerous
settlements of Northerners voting for a Free State would carry the day
against slavery in the new Territory. For about a month Peter Boardman
looked very sick and yellow, had repeated violent attacks of
indigestion, and lost more than fifteen pounds. At the end of that time
he sold out his grocery (at the usual loss when a business is sold out)
and took his family by the slow, laborious caravan route out to the
little new, raw settlement on the banks of the Kaw, which was called
Lawrence for the city in the East which so many of its inhabitants had
left. Here he recovered his health rapidly, and the look of distress
left his face; indeed, he had a singular expression of secret happiness.
He was caught by the Quantrell raid and was one of those hiding in the
cornfield when Quantrell's men rode in and cut them down like rabbits.
He died there of his wounds. And his spirit slept.

       *       *       *       *       *

His granddaughter, Ellen, plain, rather sallow, very serious, was a sort
of office manager in the firm of Walker and Pennypacker, the big
wholesale hardware merchants of Marshallton, Kansas. She had passed
through the public schools, had graduated from the High School, and had
planned to go to the State University; but the death of the uncle who
had brought her up after the death of her parents made that plan
impossible. She learned as quickly as possible the trade which would
bring in the most money immediately, became a good stenographer, though
never a rapid one, and at eighteen entered the employ of the hardware
firm.

She was still there at twenty-seven, on the day in August, 1914, when
she opened the paper and saw that Belgium had been invaded by the
Germans. She read with attention what was printed about the treaty
obligation involved, although she found it hard to understand. At noon
she stopped before the desk of Mr. Pennypacker, the senior member of the
firm, for whom she had a great respect, and asked him if she had made
out correctly the import of the editorial. "_Had_ the Germans promised
they wouldn't ever go into Belgium in war?"

"Looks that way," said Mr. Pennypacker, nodding, and searching for a
lost paper. The moment after, he had forgotten the question and the
questioner.

Ellen had always rather regretted not having been able to "go on with
her education," and this gave her certain little habits of mind which
differentiated her somewhat from the other stenographers and typewriters
in the office with her, and from her cousin, with whom she shared the
small bedroom in Mrs. Wilson's boarding-house. For instance, she looked
up words in the dictionary when she did not understand them, and she had
kept all her old schoolbooks on the shelf of the boarding-house bedroom.
Finding that she had only a dim recollection of where Belgium was, she
took down her old geography and located it. This was in the wait for
lunch, which meal was always late at Mrs. Wilson's. The relation between
the size of the little country and the bulk of Germany made an
impression on her. "My! it looks as though they could just make one
mouthful of it," she remarked. "It's _awfully_ little."

"Who?" asked Maggie. "What?"

"Belgium and Germany."

Maggie was blank for a moment. Then she remembered. "Oh, the war. Yes, I
know. Mr. Wentworth's fine sermon was about it yesterday. War is the
wickedest thing in the world. Anything is better than to go killing each
other. They ought to settle it by arbitration. Mr. Wentworth said so."

"They oughtn't to have done it if they'd promised not to," said Ellen.
The bell rang for the belated lunch and she went down to the dining-room
even more serious than was her habit.

She read the paper very closely for the next few days, and one morning
surprised Maggie by the loudness of her exclamation as she glanced at
the headlines.

"What's the matter?" asked her cousin. "Have they found the man who
killed that old woman?" She herself was deeply interested in a murder
case in Chicago.

Ellen did not hear her. "Well, thank _goodness_!" she exclaimed.
"England is going to help France and Belgium!"

Maggie looked over her shoulder disapprovingly. "Oh, I think it's awful!
Another country going to war! England a Christian nation, too! I don't
see how Christians _can_ go to war. And I don't see what call the
Belgians had, anyhow, to fight Germany. They might have known they
couldn't stand up against such a big country. All the Germans wanted to
do was just to walk along the roads. They wouldn't have done any harm.
Mr. Schnitzler was explaining it to me down at the office."

"They'd promised they wouldn't," repeated Ellen. "And the Belgians had
promised everybody that they wouldn't let anybody go across their land
to pick on France that way. They kept their promise and the Germans
didn't. It makes me _mad_! I wish to goodness our country would help
them!"

Maggie was horrified. "_Ellen Boardman_, would you want _Americans_ to
commit murder? You'd better go to church with me next Sunday and hear
Mr. Wentworth preach one of his fine sermons."

Ellen did this, and heard a sermon on passive resistance as the best
answer to violence. She was accustomed to accepting without question any
statement she found in a printed book, or what any speaker said in any
lecture. Also her mind, having been uniquely devoted for many years to
the problems of office administration, moved with more readiness among
letter-files and card-catalogues of customers than among the abstract
ideas where now, rather to her dismay, she began to find her thoughts
centering. More than a week passed after hearing that sermon before she
said, one night as she was brushing her hair: "About the Belgians--if a
robber wanted us to let him go through this room so he could get into
Mrs. Wilson's room and take all her money and maybe kill her, would you
feel all right just to snuggle down in bed and let him? Especially if
you had told Mrs. Wilson that she needn't ever lock the door that leads
into our room, because you'd see to it that nobody came through?"

"Oh, but," said Maggie, "Mr. Wentworth says it is only the German
_Government_ that wanted to invade Belgium, that the German soldiers
just hated to do it. If you could fight the German Kaiser, it'd be all
right."

Ellen jumped at this admission. "Oh, Mr. Wentworth does think there are
_some_ cases where it isn't enough just to stand by, and say you don't
like it?"

Maggie ignored this. "He says the people who really get killed are only
the poor soldiers that aren't to blame."

Ellen stood for a moment by the gas, her hair up in curl-papers, the
light full on her plain, serious face, sallow above the crude white of
her straight, unornamented nightgown. She said, and to her own surprise
her voice shook as she spoke: "Well, suppose the real robber stayed down
in the street and only sent up here to rob and kill Mrs. Wilson some men
who just hated to do it, but were too afraid of him not to. Would you
think it was all right for us to open our door and let them go through
without trying to stop them?"

Maggie did not follow this reasoning, but she received a disagreeable,
rather daunting impression from the eyes which looked at her so hard,
from the stern, quivering voice. She flounced back on her pillow, saying
impatiently: "I don't know what's got into you, Ellen Boardman. You look
actually _queer_, these days! What do _you_ care so much about the
Belgians for? You never heard of them before all this began! And
everybody knows how immoral French people are."

Ellen turned out the gas and got into bed silently.

Maggie felt uncomfortable and aggrieved. The next time she saw Mr.
Wentworth she repeated the conversation to him. She hoped and expected
that the young minister would immediately furnish her with a crushing
argument to lay Ellen low, but instead he was silent for a moment, and
then said: "That's rather an interesting illustration, about the
burglars going through your room. Where does she get such ideas?"

Maggie disavowed with some heat any knowledge of the source of her
cousin's eccentricities. "I don't _know_ where! She's a stenographer
downtown."

Mr. Wentworth looked thoughtful and walked away, evidently having
forgotten Maggie.

In the days which followed, the office-manager of the wholesale hardware
house more and more justified the accusation of looking "queer." It came
to be so noticeable that one day her employer, Mr. Pennypacker, asked
her if she didn't feel well. "You've been looking sort of under the
weather," he said.

She answered, "I'm just _sick_ because the United States won't do
anything to help Belgium and France."

Mr. Pennypacker had never received a more violent shock of pure
astonishment. "Great Scotland!" he ejaculated, "what's that to _you_?"

"Well, I live in the United States," she advanced, as though it were an
argument.

Mr. Pennypacker looked at her hard. It was the same plain, serious,
rather sallow face he had seen for years bent over his typewriter and
his letter-files. But the eyes were different--anxious, troubled.

"It makes me sick," she repeated, "to see a great big nation picking on
a little one that was only keeping its promise."

Her employer cast about for a conceivable reason for the aberration.
"Any of your folks come here from there?" he ventured.

"Gracious, _no_!" cried Ellen, almost as much shocked as Maggie would
have been at the idea that there might be "foreigners" in her family.
She added: "But you don't have to be related to a little boy, do you, to
get mad at a man that's beating him up, especially if the boy hasn't
done anything he oughtn't to?"

Mr. Pennypacker stared. "I don't know that I ever looked at it that
way." He added: "I've been so taken up with that lost shipment of nails,
to tell the truth, that I haven't read much about the war. There's
always _some_ sort of a war going on over there in Europe, seems to me."
He stared for a moment into space, and came back with a jerk to the
letter he was dictating.

That evening, over the supper-table, he repeated to his wife what his
stenographer had said. His wife asked, "That little sallow Miss Boardman
that never has a word to say for herself?" and upon being told that it
was the same, said wonderingly, "Well, what ever started _her_ up, I
wonder?" After a time she said: "_Is_ Germany so much bigger than
Belgium as all that? Pete, go get your geography." She and her husband
and their High School son gazed at the map. "It looks that way," said
the father. "Gee! They must have had their nerve with them! Gimme the
paper." He read with care the war-news and the editorial which he had
skipped in the morning, and as he read he looked very grave, and rather
cross. When he laid the paper down he said, impatiently: "Oh, damn the
war! Damn Europe, anyhow!" His wife took the paper out of his hand and
read in her turn the news of the advance into Northern France.

Just before they fell asleep his wife remarked out of the darkness, "Mr.
Scheidemann, down at the grocery, said to-day the war was because the
other nations were jealous of Germany."

"Well, I don't know," said Mr. Pennypacker heavily, "that I'd have any
call to take an ax to a man because I thought he was jealous of me."

"That's so," admitted his wife.

       *       *       *       *       *

During that autumn Ellen read the papers, and from time to time broke
her silence and unburdened her mind to the people in the boarding-house.
They considered her unbalanced on the subject. The young reporter on the
Marshallton _Herald_ liked to lead her on to "get her going," as he
said--but the others dodged whenever the war was mentioned and looked
apprehensively in her direction.

The law of association of ideas works, naturally enough, in Marshallton,
Kansas, quite as much at its ease as in any psychological laboratory. In
fact Marshallton was a psychological laboratory with Ellen Boardman, an
undefined element of transmutation. Without knowing why, scarcely
realizing that the little drab figure had crossed his field of vision,
Mr. Pennypacker found the war recurring to his thoughts every time he
saw her. He did not at all enjoy this, and each time that it happened he
thrust the disagreeable subject out of his mind with impatience. The
constant recurrence of the necessity for this effort brought upon his
usually alert, good-humored face an occasional clouded expression like
that which darkened his stenographer's eyes. When Ellen came into the
dining-room of the boarding-house, even though she did not say a word,
every one there was aware of an unpleasant interruption to the habitual,
pleasant current of their thoughts directed upon their own affairs. In
self-defense some of the women took to knitting polo-caps for Belgian
children. With those in their hands they could listen, with more
reassuring certainty that she was "queer," to Miss Boardman's comments
on what she read in the newspaper. Every time Mr. Wentworth, preaching
one of his excellent, civic-minded sermons on caring for the babies of
the poor, or organizing a playground for the children of the factory
workers, or extending the work of the Ladies' Guild to neighborhood
visits, caught sight of that plain, very serious face looking up at him
searchingly, expectantly, he wondered if he had been right in announcing
that he would not speak on the war because it would certainly cause
dissension among his congregation.

One day, in the middle of winter, he found Miss Boardman waiting for him
in the church vestibule after every one else had gone. She said, with
her usual directness: "Mr. Wentworth, do you think the French ought to
have just let the Germans walk right in and take Paris? Would you let
them walk right in and take Washington?"

The minister was a young man, with a good deal of natural heat in his
composition, and he found himself answering this bald question with a
simplicity as bald: "No, I wouldn't."

"Well, if they did right, why don't we help them?" Ellen's homely,
monosyllabic words had a ring of despairing sincerity.

Mr. Wentworth dodged them hastily. "We _are_ helping them. The
charitable effort of the United States in the war is something
astounding. The statistics show that we have helped...." He was going on
to repeat some statistics of American war-relief just then current, when
Mr. Scheidemann, the prosperous German grocer, a most influential member
of the First Congregational Church, came back into the vestibule to look
for his umbrella, which he had forgotten after the service. By a reflex
action beyond his control, the minister stopped talking about the war.
He and Miss Boardman had, for just long enough so that he realized it,
the appearance of people "caught" discussing something they ought not to
mention. The instant after, when Ellen had turned away, he felt the
liveliest astonishment and annoyance at having done this. He feared that
Miss Boardman might have the preposterous notion that he was _afraid_ to
talk about the war before a German. This idea nettled him intolerably.
Just before he fell asleep that night he had a most disagreeable moment,
half awake, half asleep, when he himself entertained the preposterous
idea which he had attributed to Miss Boardman. It woke him up, broad
awake, and very much vexed. The little wound he had inflicted on his
own vanity smarted. Thereafter at any mention of the war he
straightened his back to a conscious stiffness, and raised his voice if
a German were within hearing. And every time he saw that plain, dull
face of the stenographer, he winced.

On the 8th of May, 1915, when Ellen went down to breakfast, the
boarding-house dining-room was excited. Ellen heard the sinking of the
_Lusitania_ read out aloud by the young reporter. To every one's
surprise, she added nothing to the exclamations of horror with which the
others greeted the news. She looked very white and left the room without
touching her breakfast. She went directly down to the office and when
Mr. Pennypacker came in at nine o'clock she asked him for a leave of
absence, "maybe three months, maybe more," depending on how long her
money held out. She explained that she had in the savings-bank five
hundred dollars, the entire savings of a lifetime, which she intended to
use now.

It was the first time in eleven years that she had ever asked for more
than her regular yearly fortnight, but Mr. Pennypacker was not
surprised. "You've been looking awfully run-down lately. It'll do you
good to get a real rest. But it won't cost you all _that_! Where are you
going? To Battle Creek?"

"I'm not going to rest," said Miss Boardman, in a queer voice. "I'm
going to work, in France."

The first among the clashing and violent ideas which this announcement
aroused in Mr. Pennypacker's mind was the instant certainty that she
could not have seen the morning paper. "Great Scotland--not much you're
not! This is no time to be taking ocean trips. The submarines have just
got one of the big ocean ships, hundreds of women and children drowned."

"I heard about that," she said, looking at him very earnestly, with a
dumb emotion struggling in her eyes. "That's why I'm going."

Something about the look in her eyes silenced the business man for a
moment. He thought uneasily that she had certainly gone a little dippy
over the war. Then he drew a long breath and started in confidently to
dissuade her.

At ten o'clock, informed that if she went she need not expect to come
back, she went out to the savings-bank, drew out her five hundred
dollars, went down to the station and bought a ticket to Washington, one
of Mr. Pennypacker's arguments having been the great difficulty of
getting a passport.

Then she went back to the boarding-house and began to pack two-thirds of
her things into her trunk, and put the other third into her satchel, all
she intended to take with her.

At noon Maggie came back from her work, found her thus, and burst into
shocked and horrified tears. At two o'clock Maggie went to find the
young reporter, and, her eyes swollen, her face between anger and alarm,
she begged him to come and "talk to Ellen. She's gone off her head."

The reporter asked what form her mania took.

"She's going to France to work for the French and Belgians as long as
her money holds out ... all the money she's saved in all her life!"

The first among the clashing ideas which this awakened in the reporter's
mind was the most heartfelt and gorgeous amusement. The idea of that
dumb, back-woods, pie-faced stenographer carrying her valuable services
to the war in Europe seemed to him the richest thing that had happened
in years! He burst into laughter. "Yes, sure I'll come and talk to her,"
he agreed. He found her lifting a tray into her trunk. "See here, Miss
Boardman," he remarked reasonably, "do you know what you need? You need
a sense of humor! You take things too much in dead earnest. The sense of
humor keeps you from doing ridiculous things, don't you know it does?"

Ellen faced him, seriously considering this. "Do you think all
ridiculous things are bad?" she asked him, not as an argument, but as a
genuine question.

He evaded this and went on. "Just look at yourself now ... just look at
what you're planning to do. Here is the biggest war in the history of
the world; all the great nations involved; millions and millions of
dollars being poured out; the United States sending hundreds and
thousands of packages and hospital supplies by the million; and nurses
and doctors and Lord knows how many trained people ... and, look! who
comes here?--a stenographer from Walker and Pennypacker's, in
Marshallton, Kansas, setting out to the war!"

Ellen looked long at this picture of herself, and while she considered
it the young man looked long at her. As he looked, he stopped laughing.
She said finally, very simply, in a declarative sentence devoid of any
but its obvious meaning, "No, I can't see that that is so very funny."

At six o'clock that evening she was boarding the train for Washington,
her cousin Maggie weeping by her side, Mrs. Wilson herself escorting
her, very much excited by the momentousness of the event taking place
under her roof, her satchel carried by none other than the young
reporter, who, oddly enough, was not laughing at all. He bought her a
box of chocolates and a magazine, and shook hands with her vigorously as
the train started to pull out of the station. He heard himself saying,
"Say, Miss Boardman, if you see anything for me to do over there, you
might let me know," and found that he must run to get himself off the
train before it carried him away from Marshallton altogether.

A fortnight from that day (passports were not so difficult to get in
those distant days when war-relief work was the eccentricity of only an
occasional individual) she was lying in her second-class cabin, as the
steamer rolled in the Atlantic swells beyond Sandy Hook. She was
horribly seasick, but her plans were all quite clear. Of course she
belonged to the Young Women's Christian Association in Marshallton, so
she knew all about it. At Washington she had found shelter at the
Y.W.C.A. quarters. In New York she had done the same thing, and when she
arrived in Paris (if she ever did) she could of course go there to stay.
Her roommate, a very sophisticated, much-traveled art student, was
immensely amused by the artlessness of this plan. "I've got the _dernier
cri_ in greenhorns in my cabin," she told her group on deck. "She's
expecting to find a Y.W.C.A. in _Paris_!"

But the wisdom of the simple was justified once more. There was a
Y.W.C.A. in Paris, run by an energetic, well-informed American spinster.
Ellen crawled into the rather hard bed in the very small room (the
cheapest offered her) and slept twelve hours at a stretch, utterly worn
out with the devastating excitement of her first travels in a foreign
land. Then she rose up, comparatively refreshed, and with her foolish,
ignorant simplicity inquired where in Paris her services could be of
use. The energetic woman managing the Y.W.C.A. looked at her very
dubiously.

"Well, there might be something for you over on the rue Pharaon, number
27. I hear there's a bunch of society dames trying to get up a
_vestiaire_ for refugees, there."

As Ellen noted down the address she said warningly, her eyes running
over Ellen's worn blue serge suit: "They don't pay anything. It's work
for volunteers, you know."

Ellen was astonished that any one should think of getting pay for work
done in France. "Oh, gracious, no!" she said, turning away.

The directress of the Y.W.C.A. murmured to herself: "Well, you certainly
never can tell by _looks_!"

At the rue Pharaon, number 27, Ellen was motioned across a stony gray
courtyard littered with wooden packing-cases, into an immense, draughty
dark room, that looked as though it might have been originally the coach
and harness-room of a big stable. This also was strewed and heaped with
packing-cases in indescribable confusion, some opened and disgorging
innumerable garments of all colors and materials, others still tightly
nailed up. A couple of elderly workmen in blouses were opening one of
these. Before others knelt or stood distracted-looking, elegantly
dressed women, their arms full of parti-colored bundles, their eyes full
of confusion. In one corner, on a bench, sat a row of wretchedly poor
women and white-faced, silent children, the latter shod more miserably
than the poorest negro child in Marshallton. Against a packing-case near
the entrance leaned a beautifully dressed, handsome, middle-aged woman,
a hammer in one hand. Before her at ease stood a pretty girl, the
fineness of whose tightly drawn silk stockings, the perfection of whose
gleaming coiffure, the exquisite hang and fit of whose silken dress
filled Ellen Boardman with awe. In an instant her own stout cotton hose
hung wrinkled about her ankles, she felt on her neck every stringy wisp
of her badly dressed hair, the dip of her skirt at the back was a
physical discomfort. The older woman was speaking. Ellen could not help
overhearing. She said forcibly: "No, Miss Parton, you will not come in
contact with a single heroic poilu here. We have nothing to offer you
but hard, uninteresting work for the benefit of ungrateful,
uninteresting refugee women, many of whom will try to cheat and get
double their share. You will not lay your hand on a single fevered
masculine brow...." She broke off, made an effort for self-control and
went on with a resolutely reasonable air: "You'd better go out to the
hospital at Neuilly. You can wear a uniform there from the first day,
and be in contact with the men. I wouldn't have bothered you to come
here, except that you wrote from Detroit that you would be willing to do
_any_thing, scrub floors or wash dishes."

The other received all this with the indestructible good humor of a girl
who knows herself very pretty and as well dressed as any one in the
world. "I know I did, Mrs. Putnam," she said, amused at her own
absurdity. "But now I'm here I'd be _too_ disappointed to go back if I
hadn't been working for the soldiers. All the girls expect me to have
stories about the work, you know. And I can't stay very long, only four
months, because my coming-out party is in October. I guess I _will_ go
to Neuilly. They take you for three months there, you know." She smiled
pleasantly, turned with athletic grace and picked her way among the
packing-cases back to the door.

Ellen advanced in her turn.

"Well?" said the middle-aged woman, rather grimly. Her intelligent eyes
took in relentlessly every detail of Ellen's costume and Ellen felt them
at their work.

"I came to see if I couldn't help," said Ellen.

"Don't you want direct contact with the wounded soldiers?" asked the
older woman ironically.

"No," said Ellen with her habitual simplicity. "I wouldn't know how to
do anything for them. I'm not a nurse."

"You don't suppose _that's_ any obstacle!" ejaculated the other woman.

"But I never had _any_thing to do with sick people," said Ellen. "I'm
the office-manager of a big hardware firm in Kansas."

Mrs. Putnam gasped like a drowning person coming to the surface. "You
_are_!" she cried. "You don't happen to know short-hand, do you?"

"Gracious! of course I know short-hand!" cried Ellen, her astonishment
proving her competence.

Mrs. Putnam laid down her hammer and drew another long breath. "How much
time can you give us?" she asked. "Two afternoons a week? Three?"

"Oh, _my_!" said Ellen, "I can give you all my time, from eight in the
morning till six at night. That's what I came for."

Mrs. Putnam looked at her a moment as though to assure herself that she
was not dreaming, and then, seizing her by the arm, she propelled her
rapidly towards the back of the room, and through a small door into a
dingy little room with two desks in it. Among the heaped-up papers on
one of these a blond young woman with inky fingers sought wildly
something which she did not find. She said without looking up: "Oh, Aunt
Maria, I've just discovered that that shipment of clothes from
Louisville got acknowledged to the people in Seattle! And I can't find
that letter from the woman in Indianapolis who offered to send
children's shirts from her husband's factory. You said you laid it on
your desk, last night, but I _cannot_ find it. And do you remember what
you wrote Mrs. Worthington? Did you say anything about the shoes?"

Ellen heard this but dimly, her gaze fixed on the confusion of the desks
which made her physically dizzy to contemplate. Never had she dreamed
that papers, sacred records of fact, could be so maltreated. In a reflex
response to the last question of the lovely, distressed young lady she
said: "Why don't you look at the carbon copy of the letter to Mrs.
Worthington?"

"_Copy!_" cried the young lady, aghast. "Why, we don't begin to have
time to write the letters _once_, let alone _copy_ them!"

Ellen gazed horrified into an abyss of ignorance which went beyond her
utmost imaginings. She said feebly, "If you kept your letters in a
letter-file, you wouldn't ever lose them."

"There," said Mrs. Putnam, in the tone of one unexpectedly upheld in a
rather bizarre opinion, "I've been saying all the time we ought to have
a letter-file. But do you suppose you could _buy_ one in Paris?" She
spoke dubiously from the point of view of one who had bought nothing but
gloves and laces and old prints in Paris.

Ellen answered with the certainty of one who had found the Y.W.C.A. in
Paris: "I'm sure you can. Why, they could not do business a _minute_
without letter-files."

Mrs. Putnam sank into a chair with a sigh of bewilderment and fatigue,
and showed herself to be as truly a superior person as she looked by
making the following speech to the newcomer: "The truth is, Miss ..."

"Boardman," supplied Ellen.

"Miss Boardman, the fact is that we are trying to do something which is
beyond us, something we ought never to have undertaken. But we didn't
know we were undertaking it, you see. And now that it is begun, it must
not fail. All the wonderful American good-will which has materialized in
that room full of packing-cases must not be wasted, must get to the
people who need it so direly. It began this way. We had no notion that
we would have so great an affair to direct. My niece and I were living
here when the war broke out. Of course we gave all our own clothes we
could spare and all the money we could for the refugees. Then we wrote
home to our American friends. One of my letters was published by chance
in a New York paper and copied in a number of others. Everybody who
happened to know my name"--(Ellen heard afterwards that she was of the
holy of holies of New England families)--"began sending me money and
boxes of clothing. It all arrived so suddenly, so unexpectedly. We had
to rent this place to put the things in. The refugees came in swarms. We
found ourselves overwhelmed. It is impossible to find a single
English-speaking stenographer who is not already more than overworked.
The only help we get is from volunteers, a good many of them American
society girls like that one you ..." she paused to invent a sufficiently
savage characterization and hesitated to pronounce it. "Well, most of
them are not quite so absurd as that. But none of them know any more
than we do about keeping accounts, letters ..."

Ellen broke in: "How do you keep your accounts, anyhow? Bound ledger, or
the loose-leaf system?"

They stared. "I have been careful to set down everything I could
_remember_ in a little note-book," said Mrs. Putnam.

Ellen looked about for a chair and sat down on it hastily. When she
could speak again, after a moment of silent collecting of her forces she
said: "Well, I guess the first thing to do is to get a letter-file. I
don't know any French, so I probably couldn't get it. If one of you
could go ..."

The pretty young lady sprang for her hat. "I'll go! I'll go, Auntie."

"And," continued Ellen, "you can't do anything till you keep copies of
your letters and you can't make copies unless you have a typewriter.
Don't you suppose you could rent one?"

"I'll rent one before I come back," said Eleanor, who evidently lacked
neither energy nor good-will. She said to Mrs. Putnam: "I'm going,
instead of you, so that you can superintend opening those boxes. They
are making a most horrible mess of it, I know."

"Before a single one is opened, you ought to take down the name and
address of the sender, and then note the contents," said Ellen, speaking
with authority. "A card-catalogue would be a good system for keeping
that record, I should think, with dates of the arrival of the cases. And
why couldn't you keep track of your refugees that way, too? A card for
each family, with a record on it of the number in the family and of
everything given. You could refer to it in a moment, and carry it out to
the room where the refugees are received."

They gazed at her plain, sallow countenance in rapt admiration.

"Eleanor," said Mrs. Putnam, "bring back cards for a card-catalogue,
hundreds of cards, thousands of cards." She addressed Ellen with a
respect which did honor to her native intelligence. "Miss Boardman,
wouldn't you better take off your hat? Couldn't you work more at your
ease? You could hang your things here." With one sweep of her white,
well-cared-for hand she snatched her own Parisian habiliments from the
hanger and hook, and installed there the Marshallton wraps of Ellen
Boardman. She set her down in front of the desk; she put in her hands
the ridiculous little Russia leather-covered note-book of the
"accounts"; she opened drawer after drawer crammed with letters; and
with a happy sigh she went out to the room of the packing-cases, closing
the door gently behind her, that she might not disturb the
high-priestess of business-management who already bent over those
abominably mis-used records, her eyes gleaming with the sacred fire of
system.

There is practically nothing more to record about the four months spent
by Ellen Boardman as far as her work at the _vestiaire_ was concerned.
Every day she arrived at number 27 rue Pharaon at eight o'clock and put
in a good hour of quiet work before any of the more or less irregular
volunteer ladies appeared. She worked there till noon, returned to the
Y.W.C.A., lunched, was in the office again by one o'clock, had another
hour of forceful concentration before any of the cosmopolitan great
ladies finished their lengthy _déjeuners_, and she stayed there until
six in the evening, when every one else had gone. She realized that her
effort must be not only to create a rational system of records and
accounts and correspondence which she herself could manage, but a
fool-proof one which could be left in the hands of the elegant ladies
who would remain in Paris after she had returned to Kansas.

And yet, not so fool-proof as she had thought at first. She was
agreeably surprised to find both Mrs. Putnam and her pretty niece
perfectly capable of understanding a system once it was invented, set in
working order, and explained to them. She came to understand that what,
on her first encounter with them, she had naturally enough taken for
congenital imbecility, was merely the result of an ignorance and an
inexperience which remained to the end astounding to her. Their
good-will was as great as their native capacity. Eleanor set herself
resolutely, if very awkwardly, to learn the use of the typewriter. Mrs.
Putnam even developed the greatest interest in the ingenious methods of
corraling and marshaling information and facts which were second nature
to the business-woman. "I never saw anything more fascinating!" she
cried the day when Ellen explained to her the workings of a system for
cross-indexing the card-catalogues of refugees already aided. "How _do_
you think of such things?"

Ellen did not explain that she generally thought of them in the two or
three extra hours of work she put in every day, while Mrs. Putnam ate
elaborate food.

It soon became apparent that there had been much "repeating" among the
refugees. The number possible to clothe grew rapidly, far beyond what
the "office force" could manage to investigate. Ellen set her face
against miscellaneous giving without knowledge of conditions. She
devised a system of visiting inspectors which kept track of all the
families in their rapidly growing list. She even made out a sort of
time-card for the visiting ladies which enabled the office to keep some
track of what they did, and yet did not ruffle their leisure-class
dignity ... and this was really an achievement. She suggested, made out,
and had printed an orderly report of what they had done, what money had
come in, how it had been spent, what clothes had been given and how
distributed, the number of people aided, the most pressing needs. This
she had put in every letter sent to America. The result was enough to
justify Mrs. Putnam's naïve astonishment and admiration of her brilliant
idea. Packing-cases and checks flowed in by every American steamer.

Ellen's various accounting systems and card-catalogues responded with
elastic ease to the increased volume of facts, as she of course expected
them to; but Mrs. Putnam could never be done marveling at the cool
certainty with which all this immense increase was handled. She had a
shudder as she thought of what would have happened if Miss Boardman had
not dropped down from heaven upon them. Dining out, of an evening, she
spent much time expatiating on the astonishing virtues of one of her
volunteers.

Ellen conceived a considerable regard for Mrs. Putnam, but she did not
talk of her in dining out, because she never dined anywhere. She left
the "office" at six o'clock and proceeded to a nearby bakery where she
bought four sizable rolls. An apple cart supplied a couple of apples,
and even her ignorance of French was not too great an obstacle to the
purchase of some cakes of sweet chocolate. With these decently hidden in
a small black hand-bag, she proceeded to the waiting-room of the Gare de
l'Est where, like any traveler waiting for his train she ate her frugal
meal; ate as much of it, that is, as a painful tightness in her throat
would let her. For the Gare de l'Est was where the majority of French
soldiers took their trains to go back to the front after their
occasional week's furlough with their families.

No words of mine can convey any impression of what she saw there. No one
who has not seen the Gare de l'Est night after night can ever imagine
the sum of stifled human sorrow which filled it thickly, like a dreadful
incense of pain going up before some cruel god. It was there that the
mothers, the wives, the sweethearts, the sisters, the children brought
their priceless all and once more laid it on the altar. It was there
that those horrible silent farewells were said, the more unendurable
because they were repeated and repeated till human nature reeled under
the burden laid on it by the will. The great court outside, the noisy
echoing waiting-room, the inner platform which was the uttermost limit
for those accompanying the soldiers returning to hell,--they were not
only always filled with living hearts broken on the wheel, but they were
thronged with ghosts, ghosts of those whose farewell kiss had really
been the last, with ghosts of those who had watched the dear face out of
sight and who were never to see it again. Those last straining, wordless
embraces, those last, hot, silent kisses, the last touch of the little
child's hand on the father's cheek which it was never to touch again ...
the nightmare place reeked of them!

The stenographer from Kansas had found it as simply as she had done
everything else. "Which station do the families go to say good-bye to
their soldiers?" she had asked, explaining apologetically that she
thought maybe if she went there too she could help sometimes; there
might be a heavy baby to carry, or somebody who had lost his ticket, or
somebody who hadn't any lunch for the train.

After the first evening spent there, she had shivered and wept all night
in her bed; but she had gone back the next evening, with the money she
saved by eating bread and apples for her dinner; for of course the sweet
chocolate was for the soldiers. She sat there, armed with nothing but
her immense ignorance, her immense sympathy. On that second evening she
summoned enough courage to give some chocolate to an elderly shabby
soldier, taking the train sadly, quite alone; and again to a white-faced
young lad accompanied by his bent, poorly dressed grandmother. What
happened in both those cases sent her back to the Y.W.C.A. to make up
laboriously from her little pocket French dictionary and to learn by
heart this sentence: "I am sorry that I cannot understand French. I am
an American." Thereafter the surprised and extremely articulate Gallic
gratitude which greeted her timid overtures, did not leave her so
helplessly swamped in confusion. She stammered out her little phrase
with a shy, embarrassed smile and withdrew as soon as possible from the
hearty handshake which was nearly always the substitute offered for the
unintelligible thanks. How many such handshakes she had! Sometimes as
she watched her right hand, tapping on the typewriter, she thought:
"Those hands which it has touched, they may be dead now. They were
heroes' hands." She looked at her own with awe, because it had touched
them.

Once her little phrase brought out an unexpected response from a
rough-looking man who sat beside her on the bench waiting for his train,
his eyes fixed gloomily on his great soldier's shoes. She offered him,
shame-facedly, a little sewing-kit which she herself had manufactured, a
pad of writing-paper and some envelopes. He started, came out of his
bitter brooding, looked at her astonished, and, as they all did without
exception, read in her plain, earnest face what she was. He touched his
battered trench helmet in a sketched salute and thanked her. She
answered as usual that she was sorry she could not understand French,
being an American. To her amazement he answered in fluent English, with
an unmistakable New York twang: "Oh, you are, are you? Well, so'm I.
Brought up there from the time I was a kid. But all my folks are French
and my wife's French and I couldn't give the old country the go-by when
trouble came."

In the conversation which followed Ellen learned that his wife was
expecting their first child in a few weeks ... "that's why she didn't
come to see me off. She said it would just about kill her to watch me
getting on the train ... and anyhow she's not fit to walk. Maybe you
think it's easy to leave her all alone ... the poor kid!" The tears
rose frankly to his eyes. He blew his nose.

"Maybe I could do something for her," suggested Ellen, her heart beating
fast at the idea.

"Gee! Yes! If you'd go to see her! She talks a little English!" he
cried. He gave her the name and address, and when that poilu went back
to the front it was Ellen Boardman from Marshallton, Kansas, who walked
with him to the gate, who shook hands with him, who waved him a last
salute as he boarded his train.

The next night she did not go to the station. She went to see the wife.
The night after that she was sewing on a baby's wrapper as she sat in
the Gare de l'Est, turning her eyes away in shame from the intolerable
sorrow of those with families, watching for those occasional solitary or
very poor ones whom alone she ventured to approach with her timidly
proffered tokens of sympathy.

At the Y.W.C.A. opinions varied about her. She was patently to every eye
respectable to her last drop of pale blood. And yet _was_ it quite
respectable to go offering chocolate and writing-paper to soldiers you'd
never seen before? Everybody knew what soldiers were! Some one finally
decided smartly that her hat was a sufficient protection. It is true
that her hat was not becoming, but I do not think it was what saved her
from misunderstanding.

She did not always go to the Gare de l'Est every evening now. Sometimes
she spent them in the little dormer-windowed room where the wife of the
New York poilu waited for her baby. Several evenings she spent chasing
elusive information from the American Ambulance Corps as to exactly the
conditions in which a young man without money could come to drive an
ambulance in France ... the young man without money being of course the
reporter on the Marshallton _Herald_.

It chanced to be on one of the evenings when she was with the young wife
that the need came, that she went flying to get the mid-wife. She sat on
the stairs outside, after this, till nearly morning, shaken to her soul
by the cries within. When it was quiet, when the mid-wife let her in to
see the baby, she took the little new citizen of the Republic in her
arms, tears of mingled thanksgiving and dreadful fear raining down her
face, because another man-child had been born into the world. Would _he_
grow up only to say farewell at the Gare de l'Est? Oh, she was not sorry
that she had come to France to help in that war. She understood now, she
understood.

It was Ellen who wrote to the father the letter announcing the birth of
a child which gave him the right to another precious short furlough. It
was Ellen who went down to the Gare de l'Est, this time to the joyful
wait on the muddy street outside the side door from which the returning
_permissionnaires_ issued forth, caked with mud to their eyes. It was
Ellen who had never before "been kissed by a man" who was caught in a
pair of dingy, horizon-blue arms and soundly saluted on each sallow
cheek by the exultant father. It was Ellen who was made as much of a
godmother as her Protestant affiliations permitted ... and oh, it was
Ellen who made the fourth at the end of the furlough when (the first
time the new mother had left her room) they went back to the Gare de
l'Est. At the last it was Ellen who held the sleeping baby when the
husband took his wife in that long, bitter embrace; it was Ellen who was
not surprised or hurt that he turned away without a word to her ... she
understood that ... it was Ellen whose arm was around the trembling
young wife as they stood, their faces pressed against the barrier to see
him for the last time; it was Ellen who went back with her to the silent
desolation of the little room, who put the baby into the slackly hanging
arms, and watched, her eyes burning with unshed tears, those arms close
about the little new inheritor of humanity's woes....

       *       *       *       *       *

Four months from the time she landed in Paris her money was almost gone
and she was quitting the city with barely enough in her pocket to take
her back to Marshallton. As simply as she had come to Paris, she now
went home. She _belonged_ to Marshallton. It was a very good thing for
Marshallton that she did.

She gave fifty dollars to the mother of baby Jacques (that was why she
had so very little left) and she promised to send her ten dollars every
month as soon as she herself should be again a wage-earner. Mrs. Putnam
and her niece, inconsolable at her loss, went down to the Gare du Quai
d'Orsay to see her off, looking more in keeping with the elegant
travelers starting for the Midi, than Ellen did. Her place, after all,
had been at the Gare de l'Est. As they shook hands warmly with her, they
gave her a beautiful bouquet, the evident cost of which stabbed her to
the heart. What she could have done with that money!

"You have simply transformed the _vestiaire_, Miss Boardman," said Mrs.
Putnam with generous but by no means exaggerating ardor. "It would
certainly have sunk under the waves if you hadn't come to the rescue. I
wish you _could_ have stayed, but thanks to your teaching we'll be able
to manage anything now."

After the train had moved off, Mrs. Putnam said to her niece in a
shocked voice: "Third class! That long trip to Bordeaux! She'll die of
fatigue. You don't suppose she is going back because she didn't have
_money_ enough to stay! Why, I would have paid anything to keep her."
The belated nature of this reflection shows that Ellen's teachings had
never gone more than skin deep and that there was still something
lacking in Mrs. Putnam's grasp on the realities of contemporary life.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ellen was again too horribly seasick to suffer much apprehension about
submarines. This time she had as cabin-mate in the unventilated
second-class cabin the "companion" of a great lady traveling of course
in a suite in first-class. This great personage, when informed by her
satellites' nimble and malicious tongues of Ellen's personality and
recent errand in France, remarked with authority to the group of people
about her at dinner, embarking upon the game which was the seventh
course of the meal: "I disapprove wholly of these foolish American
volunteers ... ignorant, awkward, provincial boors, for the most part,
knowing nothing of all the exquisite old traditions of France, who
thrust themselves forward. They make America a laughing-stock."

Luckily, Ellen, pecking feebly at the chilly boiled potato brought her
by an impatient stewardess, could not know this characterization.

       *       *       *       *       *

She arrived in Marshallton, and was astonished to find herself a
personage. Her departure had made her much more a figure in the town
life than she had ever been when she was still walking its streets. The
day after her departure the young reporter had written her up in the
_Herald_ in a lengthy paragraph, and not a humorous one either. The
Sunday which she passed on the ocean after she left New York Mr.
Wentworth in one of his prayers implored the Divine blessing on "one of
our number who has left home and safety to fulfil a high moral
obligation and who even now is risking death in the pursuance of her
duty as she conceives it." Every one knew that he meant Ellen Boardman,
about whom they had all read in the _Herald_. Mr. Pennypacker took, then
and there, a decision which inexplicably lightened his heart. Being a
good business-man, he did not keep it to himself, but allowed it to leak
out the next time the reporter from the _Herald_ dropped around for
chance items of news. The reporter made the most of it, and Marshallton,
already spending much of its time in discussing Ellen, read that "Mr.
John S. Pennypacker, in view of the high humanitarian principles
animating Miss Boardman in quitting his employ, has decided not to fill
her position but to keep it open for her on her return from her errand
of mercy to those in foreign parts stricken by the awful war now
devastating Europe."

Then Ellen's letters began to arrive, mostly to Maggie, who read them
aloud to the deeply interested boarding-house circle. The members of
this, basking in reflected importance, repeated their contents to every
one who would listen. In addition the young reporter published extracts
from them in the _Herald_, editing them artfully, choosing the rare
plums of anecdote or description in Ellen's arid epistolary style. When
her letter to him came, he was plunged into despair because she had
learned that he would have to pay part of his expenses if he drove an
ambulance on the French front. By that time his sense of humor was in
such total eclipse that he saw nothing ridiculous in the fact that he
could not breathe freely another hour in the easy good-cheer of his
carefree life. He revolved one scheme after another for getting money;
and in the meantime let no week go by without giving some news from
their "heroic fellow-townswoman in France." Highland Springs, the
traditional rival and enemy of Marshallton, felt outraged by the tone of
proprietorship with which Marshallton people bragged of their delegate
in France.

So it happened that when Ellen, fearfully tired, fearfully dusty after
the long ride in the day-coach, and fearfully shabby in exactly the same
clothes she had worn away, stepped wearily off the train at the
well-remembered little wooden station, she found not only Maggie, to
whom she had telegraphed from New York, but a large group of other
people advancing upon her with outstretched hands, crowding around her
with more respectful consideration than she had ever dreamed of seeing
addressed to her obscure person. She was too tired, too deeply moved to
find herself at home again, too confused, to recognize them all. Indeed
a number of them knew her only by her fame since her departure. Ellen
made out Maggie, who embraced her, weeping as loudly as when she had
gone away; she saw Mrs. Wilson who kissed her very hard and said she was
proud to know her; she saw with astonishment that Mr. Pennypacker
himself had left business in office hours! He shook her hand with energy
and said: "Well, Miss Boardman, very glad to see you safe back. We'll be
expecting you back at the old stand just as soon as you've rested up
from the trip." The intention of the poilu who had taken her in his arms
and kissed her, had not been more cordial. Ellen knew this and was
touched to tears.

There was the reporter from the _Herald_, too, she saw him dimly through
the mist before her eyes, as he carried the satchel, the same he had
carried five months before with the same things in it. And as they put
her in the "hack" (she had never ridden in the hack before) there was
Mr. Wentworth, the young minister, who leaned through the window and
said earnestly: "I am counting on you to speak to our people in the
church parlors. You must tell us about things over there."

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, she did speak to them! She was not the same person, you see, she
had been before she had spent those evenings in the Gare de l'Est. She
wanted them to know about what she had seen, and because there was no
one else to tell them, she rose up in her shabby suit and told them
herself. The first thing that came into her mind as she stood before
them, her heart suffocating her, her knees shaking under her, was the
strangeness of seeing so many able-bodied men not in uniform, and so
many women not in mourning. She told them this as a beginning and got
their startled attention at once, the men vaguely uneasy, the women
divining with frightened sympathy what it meant to see all women in
black.

Then she went on to tell them about the work for the refugees ... not
for nothing had she made out the card-catalogue accounts of those
life-histories. "There was one old woman we helped ... she looked some
like Mrs. Wilson's mother. She had lost three sons and two sons-in-law
in the war. Both of her daughters, widows, had been sent off into
Germany to do forced labor. One of them had been a music-teacher and the
other a dressmaker. She had three of the grandchildren with her. Two of
them had disappeared ... just lost somewhere. She didn't have a cent
left, the Germans had taken everything. She was sixty-seven years old
and she was earning the children's living by doing scrub-woman's work in
a slaughter-house. She had been a school-teacher when she was young.

"There were five little children in one family. The mother was sort of
out of her mind, though the doctors said maybe she would get over it.
They had been under shell-fire for five days, and she had seen three
members of her family die there. After that they wandered around in the
woods for ten days, living on grass and roots. The youngest child died
then. The oldest girl was only ten years old, but she took care of them
all somehow and used to get up nights when her mother got crazy thinking
the shells were falling again."

Ellen spoke badly, awkwardly, haltingly. She told nothing which they
might not have read, perhaps had read in some American magazine. But it
was a different matter to hear such stories from the lips of Ellen
Boardman, born and brought up among them. Ellen Boardman had _seen_
those people, and through her eyes Marshallton looked aghast and for the
first time believed that what it saw was real, that such things were
happening to real men and women like themselves.

When she began to tell them about the Gare de l'Est she began helplessly
to cry, but she would not stop for that. She smeared away the tears with
her handkerchief wadded into a ball, she was obliged to stop frequently
to blow her nose and catch her breath, but she had so much to say that
she struggled on, saying it in a shaking, uncertain voice, quite out of
her control. Standing there before those well-fed, well-meaning,
prosperous, _safe_ countrymen of hers, it all rose before her with
burning vividness, and burningly she strove to set it before them. It
had all been said far better than she said it, eloquently described in
many highly paid newspaper articles, but it had never before been said
so that Marshallton understood it. Ellen Boardman, graceless,
stammering, inarticulate, yet spoke to them with the tongues of men and
angels because she spoke their own language. In the very real, very
literal and wholly miraculous sense of the words, she brought the
war--_home_--to them.

       *       *       *       *       *

When she sat down no one applauded. The women were pale. Some of them
had been crying. The men's faces were set and inexpressive. Mr.
Wentworth stood up and cleared his throat. He said that a young citizen
of their town (he named him, the young reporter) desired greatly to go
to the French front as an ambulance driver, but being obliged to earn
his living, he could not go unless helped out on his expenses. Miss
Boardman had been able to get exact information about that. Four hundred
dollars would keep him at the front for a year. He proposed that a
contribution should be taken up to that end.

He himself went among them, gathering the contributions which were given
in silence. While he counted them afterwards, the young reporter,
waiting with an anxious face, swallowed repeatedly and crossed and
uncrossed his legs a great many times. Before he had finished counting
the minister stopped, reached over and gave the other young man a
handclasp. "I envy you," he said.

He turned to the audience and announced that he had counted almost
enough for their purpose when he had come upon a note from Mr.
Pennypacker saying that he would make up any deficit. Hence they could
consider the matter settled. "Very soon, therefore, our town will again
be represented on the French front."

The audience stirred, drew a long breath, and broke into applause.

Whatever the rest of the Union might decide to do, Marshallton, Kansas,
had come into the war.



EYES FOR THE BLIND


She woke in the morning to the sound of her alarm clock, an instrument
of torture which, before the war, she had never heard. At once there
descended upon her two overpowering sensations, one an intense desire to
stay in bed and rest, the other the realization that she had no time to
lose if she was to be at her office on time. She was up at once, and
began making a hasty toilet with cold water. It was so hasty that she
had no time to think, even in passing, of the old days when waking up
meant ringing for some one to open shutters, close windows and bring hot
water, breakfast, and the mails. By the time she had finished her
Spartan toilet, her _concierge_, very sleepy-eyed and frowsy, rang at
the door and handed in a bowl of _café au lait_ and a piece of bread,
with the morning paper folded across the tray. The Directrice sat down
in her cheerless dining-room and ate her breakfast, reading, eagerly at
first, and then grimly, the communiqué of the day. "No advance anywhere
along the lines; a few _coups-de-main_ here and there--indecisive
results." Another day like all the others had begun, a day when hope was
forbidden, when the only thing left was to endure and do the task at
hand. For her, personally, there was nothing to fear in the lists of
the dead, because she had found there, two long years before, the name
which alone gave meaning to her life.

She put on her hat without looking in the mirror. This is a strange
action in a Frenchwoman, but the Directrice was already preoccupied by
the work awaiting her in her office. As she walked rapidly along through
the rain, she was turning over in her mind the possibilities for one of
her charges, Philippe, the childlike one who was perfectly willing to
sit down there in the comfortable home provided for him and allow
himself to be forever supported. It was not, Heaven knows, that our
Directrice would not have liked forever and ever to have him supported
and cared for like any child. But she had the instinctive grasp on the
exigencies of human nature which is characteristic of her nation, and
she knew that if he were to be again a normal human being, he must be
roused to a sense of responsibility for his own life, in spite of the
dreadful calamity which war had brought him. But how could he _be_
aroused? He had shown no interest in learning how to be a professional
knitter; he had only dabbled in clay-modeling; his typewriting continued
indifferent--what could there be which she had not yet tried?

Never before, until the war took away not only the meaning of her life
but all her goods, had she known what it was to walk at that dismally
early hour in the morning through a dismally rainy street. But now she
was so absorbed with the needs of another that she did not at all feel
the rain in her face or see the mud on her shoes, and had not even the
most passing pang of pity for herself, losing her youth from one day to
another, with very little to hope for and,--alas!--nothing left to fear.

As she turned into the door of her institution, she had an inspiration.
The only thing to do for Philippe was to turn to account the inimitable
charm of his personality, since that was about all the equipment he
seemed to have. Why could not he be a traveling salesman? But how
_could_ a blind man be a traveling salesman? Ah, that was the thing for
the Directrice to contrive! That was why she was there!

       *       *       *       *       *

She was, as usual, the first person to arrive at her office, although
the blind men, just coming out from breakfast, were already standing
idling about the hall before going to their classes, lighting cigarettes
and chatting. They recognized her quick, light, steady step, and all
their blind and mutilated faces lit up with welcome. Hers also. Although
they could not see it, she gave to every one the smile, the animated
look, the pretty, sideways toss of her head, the coquettish poise of her
upright little figure, which she would have given to him seeing. It was
strange to see her there, all those blind faces turned towards her, and
hers irradiating a light and warmth--Well, perhaps, they saw it, after
all.... Then she dismissed them to their work, with peremptory
affection. "Off with you now, boys; don't stand fooling around here.
There isn't a minute to lose, with all you have to do." They nodded,
saluted, and dispersed like obedient children.

She went into her office to begin the day's work. The light which had
transformed her face died out into fatigue, as she sat opening one after
another of the innumerable letters which lay on her desk, most of them
pitiful, some of them very foolish, all from people who were clamoring
for help. The stenographers came in; the professors began to arrive; the
telephone bell rang tyrannically over and over; one of the men came
groping his way back from his class to complain fretfully that his
teacher had treated him with insufficient respect; another arrived, his
cane tapping in front of him, beaming with pride, and held out a
perfectly typewritten page to show his progress; a third one limped to
the door to say he had a sore throat, and please would the Directrice
take care of it herself and not turn him over to the nurse, who did not
understand him? The minutes passed,--an hour, a precious hour was gone,
and nothing yet accomplished!

The telephone rang again, the Directrice was called and received over
the wire a communication from a lady who announced herself as the
Marquise de Rabat-Sigur, _née_ Elizabeth Watkins. That considerable
personage said she would like to do something for the war-blind
("everybody in my set has an _aveugle de guerre_") and on being
questioned as to her competence, stated squarely that all she could do
was to take them out for walks, and please, if she did, she would like a
good-looking one, not one of those with the dreadfully mutilated faces.
The Directrice turned away from the telephone, a hard line of scorn at
the corner of her lips, her eyes very tired and old. She had not as yet
been able to attend to any of her letters.

She now began dictating rapidly the answer to one of them when the
bare-kneed boy-scout page came hurriedly to say that Pigier, the one who
had the bad face-wounds, was worse, was in one of his "spells," and the
nurse could do nothing with him. Blindness always comes of course from
head-wounds, and head-wounds mean the disorganization of all the nervous
centers. The Directrice left her work and went upstairs into the sick
man's room and sat down by his bed. The great-shouldered, massively
muscled fellow clutched at her like a scared child, and began in a
rapid, hysteric whisper to tell her of the awful things he saw in his
eternity of blackness. For he was not really blind, he told her, he saw,
yes he saw, but only not what was really there ... dreadful things,
horrible things, dead men in the trenches after an attack, corpses
rotting in the rain, artillery wagons driving headlong over men only
half-dead--he told all these visions to her, all, and as he spoke he
felt them grow faded, harmless, unreal. But she grew pale as she
listened, and turned rather sick.

When he had poured out all his terrors and she had assured him--as she
had forty times before--that they were all imaginary, just the result of
his nerves not being settled yet; that as soon as he got back his
appetite and could take more exercise out of doors, and learn to roller
skate in the gymnasium, he would find they would all disappear. Having
transferred to her all his horrors, he felt himself immensely lightened
and comforted. He promised her that if she went with him to the
gymnasium, he would get up and dress and see if he could learn to stand
up on the roller skates. She left him, her imagination full of new
nightmare images to beset her next sleepless night, and hurried down to
her office again, making a hopeful calculation that while he was
dressing--this is a lengthy process with a newly blinded man--she could
certainly have time to answer some letters.

As she entered her office, a pretty young girl, richly dressed, with a
sweet, child's face, flushed with emotion, sprang up, grasped her arm
and said, in a trembling voice of nervous determination: "Madame, you do
not know me, but I have come to you at a critical moment in my life. I
have decided that I will either go into a convent, or marry a blind man.
I have plenty of money, I can support a blind man." At the expression
which came into the face of the Directrice, her voice rose hysterically.
"Don't laugh at me! Don't try to dissuade me. I detest the life at home.
My family do not understand me. I have run away from home this morning
to tell you this. My decision is irrevocable."

The Directrice, feeling herself a thousand years old in worldly wisdom,
summoned all her patience and sat down to tell her what she had told all
the other pretty, child-faced young ladies who had come with such fixed
determination. She said clearly and firmly that it was not to be
thought of; that her visitor was far too young to make any such
decision; that it would be unfair to any blind man to put him in a
position where he would certainly soon feel himself a terrible drag on a
young life; that she would not go into a convent, either, but would stay
at home with her parents, like a sensible girl, until she married a man
like herself. These were the words she pronounced, very simple,
common-sense, conversational words, which would have had no effect in
any one's else mouth. But what she was spoke more loudly than what she
said. The Directrice did not wear the black and penitential garb of a
Mother Superior, but she had acquired, through intensive experience, all
of a Mother Superior's firm, penetrating authority and calm manner. Not
a trace of the amused scorn she felt for the silly child penetrated to
the surface of her quiet manner. In ten minutes, the girl was crying,
quite relieved that her visit had come to nothing, and the Directrice
was calling for a cab to take her home. She herself put the weeping
child into the carriage, and stood looking after it with a tolerant
smile on her firm lips. "Was I ever as young as that?" she asked herself
as she went back to her office.

As she turned again to the letter from the important members of the
American colony who wanted to be put on the Governing Committee of the
institution because of the other distinguished names there, her blind
man, the one who had had the horrors, appeared at the door, dressed,
still animated with the new energy given him by his Directrice, and held
out his hand to her. She jumped up laughing--how could she manage that
laugh!--and told him he looked as though he were leading her out to
dance. By this device she managed so that, while in reality leading him,
he seemed to be leading her down the steps and across the courtyard, to
the gymnasium.

While the instructor put on his roller skates and he started on his
first round, she stayed, her face all a-sparkle with fun and interest,
calling out joking encouragements to him, and making such merry fun of
his awkwardness that he laughed back at her. One quite forgot for the
moment that he had not only no eyes, but very little face left.

Then, seeing him well started, already taking an interest in the new
sport, she turned back across the courtyard. Now that it was no longer
needed, the sparkle and animation had all gone from her face again. She
looked very old and tired, and cross and severe; and one of the
volunteer teachers (a wealthy woman, coming in to give a half-hour of
English in the intervals of her shopping and dressmaking expeditions)
thought what a disagreeable-looking woman the Directrice was.

Then, for half an hour, she was, by some extraordinary chance, left
uninterrupted in her office, and dictated rapidly the answers to her
morning mail. In order to accomplish as much as possible in this
unheard-of period of quiet, she became a sort of living flame of
attention. The real meaning of each letter was sucked out of it by a
moment's intense scrutiny. She had but a moment, in each case, to make
the decision, sometimes a very important one. The wealthy American lady
who wanted to be on the Committee was referred vaguely to some
far-distant authority, who would in turn refer her to some one else, and
so put her off without offending her; because if it is possible, wealthy
people, no matter how preposterous or self-seeking, must not be
offended. The money which Providence has so curiously placed in their
hands means too much to the needy charges in the care of the Directrice.
She who, before the earthquake changes in her life, had been so scornful
of self-seeking and pretentiousness, had now learnt a hundred adroit
ways of setting those evil forces to turn the wheels of her mill. This
was the part of her work she hated the most....

Another letter was from a blinded soldier in one of the hospitals, sent
by one of his friends, since the authorities of the hospital would not
permit him to write. He wanted to come to the Directrice's institution,
and a clique in the hospital, who were jealous of it, were combining in
a thousand subterranean ways to prevent his going there. It is very easy
for two or three seeing people to circumvent a blind man. The Directrice
did not answer this letter--she put it aside with a bright light of
battle in her eyes and a slightly distended nostril.

Four begging letters from people who had no claim on her or the
institution; two from inventors--one of whom had quite simply discovered
the secret of perpetual motion, which, he thought, would be of especial
benefit to blind people,--the other had invented a typewriter
wonderfully adapted for the blind, a detailed description of which he
forwarded. In her lightning survey the Directrice perceived that the
machine weighed seventy pounds, threw the letter violently in the
waste-paper basket, and turned to the next. Over this one she lingered a
moment, her face softening again. It was from one of her graduates, who
had come into the institution with the horrors, who had clung to her
like a dead weight for the first month of his stay, but who, before the
end of his six months' sojourn there, had become perfect master of the
knitting machine. Just before leaving, he had married the nurse who had
taken care of him in the hospital, the Directrice being, of course,
chief witness at the wedding. And now, after a year, he wrote her to
make a report. They earned their living well, he and his wife, he had
bought three other knitting machines and had a little workroom in his
house, where he, his wife and two employees carried on a lucrative
business; that is, his wife did until the arrival of a baby--such a
healthy, hearty little boy whom they had called Victor, because the
Directrice's name is Victorine; and please, will she be his
godmother?... Yes, there are good moments in the life of the Directrice,
moments when there is no mask on her face, either of courageous smiling
or of bitter fatigue; when she is, for just a moment, a very happy
woman, happy in a curious, impersonal way which was as little within her
capacities before the war as all the rest of her laborious, surcharged
life.

And then, somehow, it was lunch time. Where had the morning gone? She
must needs go in now and sit down at one of the long tables, looking up
and down the line of blind faces, watching the fumbling hands trying so
hard to learn the lesson of self-reliance in the new blackness. She had
acquired an almost automatic dexterity in turning a cup so that the
handle will be in the right place for the groping hand, in cutting up a
morsel of meat on the plate of the man beside her, while engaging him in
lively conversation so that he shall not notice it, in slipping the
glass under the water carafe which is being awkwardly tilted by one of
those dreadful searching hands. Through some last prodigy of dexterity
she ate her own lunch while she did this. There were four of the long
tables, and every day she must sit at a different one, or the others
will be jealous.

After lunch she stood for a few minutes in the big hall, laughing and
talking with the men, helping them light their cigarettes, listening to
their complaints or their accounts of the triumphs of the morning. As
she went back into her office, she saw that one of them was following
her, and her experienced eye saw by his shambling gait, by the listless
way in which he handled his little bamboo cane, by every slack line of
his body, what the trouble was. He had the "_cafard_"--the blues--and
nobody could do anything for him but the Directrice. She was very tired
herself, and for just a moment she reflected that if she had an
instant's time, she would probably have the worst fit of "_cafard_" ever
known to man. But she had _not_ an instant's time, so, without seeming
to note the cloud on his face, she pulled open the drawer where she
always kept some device against these evil hours. This time it was a new
invention for writing Braille by hand. She told her "pensionnaire" that
she was so glad he happened to come, because she had been wanting his
opinion on the advisability of this. "See, it is intended to be used
thus,"--she put it in his hands,--"and the little bar is made of such
and such an alloy instead of the aluminum that is usually used, with
such and such claimed benefits." Did he think, now, that it would be
better than the standard one they were using, and what did he think
about the advisability of giving the inventor a chance to make a few
samples? With that she was launched upon a history of the inventor's
life, what a hard time he had had, how eager he was to do something for
the blind, and she wondered if perhaps her blind men there would be
willing to give him an interview. The inventor would consider it such an
honor. But in the meantime, of course, let him look carefully at the
little invention, so that he can have the best judgment possible to give
the inventor. The west wind of this new interest in another's life, this
new importance for himself, blew away visibly before her eyes the black
clouds of disheartenment. Her blind man was only a boy, after all. He
took the little Braille plaque under his arm and, tapping briskly before
him, felt his way to the door, saying, over his shoulder importantly,
that he would try to find half an hour's time to give the inventor,
although his days were really very much occupied. The Directrice looked
after him with speculative eyes. "Now I have used up that device, what
shall I do for the next one?"

Suddenly she realized that this was the visiting hour for the hospital
where the blind man was being held in durance by the little plot against
him. The fighting light came into her eyes again, she clapped on her
hat--you will note it is the second time this day she has put on her hat
without looking at herself in the glass--and swept out to do combat, all
her firm, small, erect person animated by the same joy in battle which
had sent her crusading forefathers into the fight singing and tossing
their swords up into the air. She was gone an hour and a half, and when
she came back, although she looked several degrees more tired even than
before, a grim satisfaction sat upon her hard, small mouth. She had won
her point. The blind man was to be allowed to come.

But there was Philippe, the man with whom she had begun the day. By
looking out of the window, she could see him idling, as usual, in the
garden, ostensibly taking a lesson in English from a volunteer
professor, and in reality doing his best mildly to flirt with her. The
Directrice frowned and smiled at the same time. What an absurd, lovable
fellow he was! Thank Heaven, there was one of her "pensionnaires" whom
it was impossible to take tragically. She gave a few orders for the
disposition of the office work, wondered when she would ever have time
really to go over her accounts thoroughly, and went out again to
interview the head of a big wholesale groceries firm. In the old days,
when she and hers lived in a château, they bought _en gros_ their
supplies from this firm, and the head of it still had a respectful
attention for any one of her name. This time she looked at herself when
she put on her hat, looked very intently, rearranged her hair, noticed
with impatience, quite impersonally, that the gray was beginning to show
more every day, put on a little touch of powder and bit her lips to make
them red. Then she took a fresh pair of gloves and put on a crisp veil.
Thus accoutered, looking inimitably chic, the grande dame entirely in
spite of her few inches, she went forth to triumph. After a long
conversation with the big grocer, she extracted from him a promise to
try Philippe as a traveling salesman. She felt very young and almost
gay, as she brought back this news. "If Philippe cannot sell anything to
anybody, whether he wants it or not, I am much mistaken," she thought,
watching him out of the window, wheedle a would-be stern professor of
typewriting into lounging there instead of going back for the lesson.
Somehow, in the intervals of this day, which you will see to have been
reasonably full, she had worked out all the details with what device in
Braille Philippe could take down his orders, what kind of a typewriter
he could carry about him to copy them, how he could be met at the
station by such a volunteer to settle him in his hotel, and at the other
station by another--our Directrice had a network of acquaintances all
over France. Philippe came strolling into the room, very handsome,
showing only by the unmoving brightness of his clear dark eyes that he
was blind. "See here, Philippe," she said, pulling him into a chair
beside her as though he were a child.

"Yes, yes." Philippe agreed to the new plan. "_There_ is something
really sensible! That's a life that amounts to something! That is
something that a man can do and take an interest in! Thank Heaven, I
never need to take another English lesson as long as I live. I will go
at once and work hard at my typewriter! How soon before I can begin? You
know that I am engaged. I must earn enough to be married as soon as
possible." Yes, she knew, although she knew also that it was the third
time that Philippe had been engaged to be married since he was blinded!
She reflected how curiously little a temperament like his is changed by
any outward event.

Just at this moment of amused relaxation, when the Directrice was
looking young and carefree, she glanced out of her window and saw a very
handsomely dressed, tall woman descend from a very handsome limousine
and make ready to enter. Have I said that our Directrice can look very
cross and tired? She can also look terrifying, in spite of her small
stature.

She went rapidly down the steps and across the courtyard, giving the
impression of a very much determined mother-hen bristling in every
feather to defend her brood. On her side, the woman who came to meet her
gave the impression of a hawk, with a thin, white face, whitened to
pallor by powder, and with shallow, black eyes.

"Madame," said the Directrice, "you are not to enter here to-day, nor
any other day."

"You have no right to keep me out," said the other.

The Directrice did not deny this; but she repeated sternly: "You are not
to enter here, nor to see Auguste Leveau anywhere at all. He has a wife
and two children. He is not only blind, but as weak as water. But I am
not. You are not to enter."

The woman in the sables broke out into a storm of vulgar language, at
which the Directrice advanced upon her with so threatening an air that
she literally turned tail and ran back to her car, although she was
shouting over her shoulder as she fled. The small, erect figure stood
tense and straight like a sentry on guard until the car moved away, the
occupant shouting out of the window the direst threats of revenge.

A gleaming car came up from another direction, and another handsomely
dressed woman descended, greeting the Directrice in an affectionate,
confidential manner. She said: "Oh, my dear, I am so glad to find you
here. I always come to you, you know, when I am in difficulties! What
would happen to me without your good advice! A friend of mine from the
provinces, an engineer by profession, wants so much to come and see your
weaving workroom, because he is interested in machinery and thinks
perhaps he may do something for the blind in that part of France--not
_here_, you know, not the slightest idea of stealing your ideas and
duplicating your work here. When will you allow us to come, when he can
really look at the machinery without bothering the men?" That was what
she said, but this was what the Directrice understood very distinctly:
"My search for the Légion d'Honneur is getting on famously. If I can
only just add a weaving-room to my outfit before the Minister of the
Interior comes for his visit, I am sure I'll get the red ribbon, and
then I won't have to bother any more about these tiresome war-blind."

The Directrice answered guardedly: "Why, yes; come into my office, and I
will see what will be the best time."

As she walked across the courtyard with her visitor, chatting about the
difficulties of war-time housekeeping in Paris, she was thinking: "Yes,
she only wants it to make a temporary show in order to get the Légion of
Honor. But what of that! Let her have it. But if she opens a
weaving-room, she must have blind there to operate the looms, and if she
takes them up only to drop them, what will become of them? Let me see
what I can do about that. Perhaps this is the way to get her to pay for
the installation of a new weaving-room. As soon as she gets what she
wants out of it, we could perhaps take it over and add the men to the
number we care for here. I wonder if the American Committee would be
willing to send more money for that. Yes, it's worth taking the risk."

But nothing of this elaborate calculation appeared in her smooth,
affable manner as, having come to her decision, she announced, after
gravely looking through a card catalogue, that Thursday afternoon at a
certain hour would be the best time to see the looms. "And if you don't
mind, Mrs. Wangton," she said, "I am just going to treat you like an old
friend of the institution and let you and your engineer wander about at
your pleasure, without anybody bothering to escort you." That was what
she said. What she thought was: "There, that will give them a chance to
steal the names of the makers and the dimensions of the looms as much as
they please."

Her visitor confounded herself in effusive expressions of gratitude and
friendliness, which the Directrice received with a smile. She went away,
sweeping her velvet gown over the stone steps and looking down with
anticipatory eyes on that spot of her well-filled bosom where she hoped
to pin the coveted red ribbon. The Directrice let her go with almost an
audible sniff of contempt, and turned again to work.

This time it was a plan to be worked out whereby the blind could learn
certain phases of the pottery trade at Sèvres. It involved a number of
formalities and administrative difficulties which only one who has been
in contact with French bureaucratic methods can faintly imagine. Our
Directrice plunged into it headlong, and did not stir from her desk
until she saw with a start that it was dinner time. And she had not yet
looked over her accounts, the complicated accounts of a big, expensive,
many-arteried institution. However, long ago, all her friends had
stopped asking her to go to dinner or to go to hear music. They had
learned that she rarely spent the evening in any other way than
finishing up what work she had not found time to do during the day. She
was assured of several hours more of quiet.

She went out to dinner (one meal a day in the company of many mutilated
and blinded men is as much as one woman can stand) and had a solitary
meal in a quiet restaurant, turning her glass about meditatively between
the courses and wondering if she dared ask enough from the philanthropic
American manufacturer to settle Benoit in the country. With his tendency
to tuberculosis, that was the only safe life for him and his family. She
made a mental calculation of what his pension would come to, and how
much he could earn by his trade. Then, if he kept chickens, and a
garden, and rabbits, and if he could get a house for six thousand
francs ... by the time she had finished her dinner she had thought out a
plan and a definite and businesslike proposition to put to the
well-disposed American. Out of the depth of her experience with
philanthropic people, she said to herself as she walked out: "I think
I'd better tell him that we will put a bronze plaque on the house
announcing that it is his gift to one of the war-blind. _That_ ought to
settle him."

At her office the evening passed very rapidly, between her account books
and the sauntering in and out of one and another of the blind men. At
ten o'clock, tired to the marrow of her bones, she stood up, dreading
the effort to get home and get to bed, and yet looking forward to sleep
as the one certain blessing of life. As she went out of the door she saw
two shadowy forms standing in the summer starlight, and recognized two
of her charges. "Come, come, children," she said; "it is bedtime. You
must get to bed and sleep and get back your strength."

"But we _can't_ sleep," one of them told her. "We go to bed and lie
awake and get the '_cafard_' worse and worse." The other one suggested
timidly: "We thought that perhaps, before you went home, you might take
us for a little turn about the lake in the park?" Our Directrice
accomplished the last violent action of her violent day. There was not
an instant's hesitation before she said cordially: "That's an excellent
idea! Just what I would like to do myself. One always sleeps so much
better for a bit of a walk in the fresh air."

Taking one on one arm and the other on the other, she set off, the two
men towering above her little upright figure. At first they talked as
they strolled beside the little lake. Then, as the Directrice had hoped,
the enchantment of the hot, still night fell on them all. The men walked
silently, breathing in the good smell of the stirred earth and watered
paths. Their blind eyes looked steadily into the blackness, no blacker
than their every day; their scarred, disfigured faces were hidden by the
darkness.

The Directrice looked up at the stars, and, for the first time in all
that long day, thought for an instant of herself. The night brought to
her a sudden stabbing recollection of another night, before the war,
before the end of the world, when the starlight had fallen white on the
clear road leading her straight and sure to her heart's desire. The
road before her feet now seemed as black as that before her blind men.
But she stepped out bravely and held her head high.

The blind men leaned on her more and more. She could feel by the touch
of their hands on her arms, that they were relaxing, that the softness
of the night air had undone the bitter tension of their nerves. Now was
the time to take them back. Now they would sleep well.

"Come, my friends," she said, and led them back to their door, through
which, the next morning, she would enter early to another such day as
the one she had just passed. And after that another, and then
another....

       *       *       *       *       *

In her bed, that hot night, in the stuffy little Paris bedroom, she was
quite too tired to sleep, and so, knitting her forehead in the
blackness, she wondered how she could best place Brousseau, he who had a
weak heart, and three little children dependent on him.



THE FIRST TIME AFTER


The little newspaper in his home town put the matter thus: "Our young
fellow-citizen Louis Vassard has returned from the hospital to his home.
He received a bad head-wound in the battle of Verdun and unfortunately
has lost his eyesight."

Of course the family meant to keep from him this casual method of
announcing the end of his world, as they meant to keep everything from
the newly blinded man, but he overheard the item being read aloud in the
kitchen, and took a savage pleasure in its curt brevity. He liked it
better, he told himself disdainfully, than the "sympathy" which had
surrounded him since his return home. He cast about for an adjective
hateful enough, and found it: "snivelling sympathy"--that was the word.
He rejoiced in its ugliness, all his old sensitive responsiveness
curdled into rage.

The hospital had been hell, nothing less, intolerable physical agony
constantly renewed; and of course home, where he was petted and made
much of and treated like a sick child, home was not hell; but sickened
and embittered, resenting with a silent ferocity the commiserations of
those about him, he felt sometimes that hell was the better place of the
two.

The most galling of all his new humiliations was that he was never
allowed to be alone. His ears, sharpened like all his other senses by
the loss of his sight, heard the silly whispering voices at the door. "I
can't stay any longer," whispered his aunt, who for an hour had been
stupefying him with her dreary gabble; "come, it's your turn," and he
heard the dragging step of his old cousin advancing with a stifled sigh
to do his duty by their martyred hero. Or it was the light irregular
step of his little sister, irritated at being forced to do what would
have been a pleasure if she had been left free.

He dared not protest against this as hotly as he felt, because, his
self-control hanging by a thread, he knew that if he let himself go at
any point he would be lost, would be raving and shrieking to be killed
like the man in the bed next him at the hospital. He swallowed down his
rage and his humiliation and only said coldly: "You don't need to mount
guard on me like that, all the time. I'm blind, I know, but I'm not an
imbecile ... yet!" He shocked them by his brutal, outspoken use of the
word, and they drove him frantic by beating about the bush to avoid it,
always saying to others that he "had had a bad head-wound and his eyes
were affected." He said once sternly: "Why should you think I'm ashamed
to hear the word? You don't suppose it's any doings of mine, being
blind!"

But no matter how brusquely or roughly he spoke he could never anger
them. He felt often and often that if only he could hurt them, startle
them into irritability, he would be relieved. But they never varied from
the condescending amiability one shows to children and sick people. He
sickened and shivered at the thought of the glances of pitying
comprehension with which they probably accompanied those never-varying
soft answers.

And always they stayed with him! Even when for a few moments they
pretended to go away and leave him, he heard the breathing and the
imperceptible stirrings of some one left on guard. Or he imagined that
he heard them, and scorned to grope his way to see. Instead he sat
motionless, his mask of pride grimmer and harder than ever.

Next after their always being there, he hated their efforts to cheer him
up. That had been the phrase of the doctor at the hospital, when they
went there to take him away: "Now he must be cheered up. He mustn't be
left to brood. He needs cheerful company about him." Of course there was
his mother ... and he was so young that only a few years of intense
growth separated him from the time when he ran to his mother for
consolation. Certainly his mother could not be accused of attempting too
much to cheer him up, the poor mother who, try as she might, had not yet
mastered herself so that she could command her voice when she looked
into the tragic sightless face of her son. Himself poised on the brink
of hysteria, he dreaded more than anything in the world the sound of
that break in his mother's voice. Oh yes, he realized it perfectly, it
was not their fault, it was not that they did the wrong things, it was
only that he hated everything they did, if they spoke cheerfully or
wept, were silent or laughed. He was like a man all one raw sore, to
whom every touch is torture.

He often woke up in the morning feeling that he could not go on another
day, that he _could_ not.... Every one about him commented on his
remarkable quiet. "He never complains, he talks about all kinds of
things, he has the newspaper read to him every morning," they reported
to visitors. They did not see the sweat on his forehead as he listened.

       *       *       *       *       *

One day they had taken him out of doors, on the bench at the end of the
garden. It was his little sister's turn to "be with poor Louis," the
little sister who would have been so unconsciously droll and diverting
if she could have been natural. He said to her: "Oh, go and play, Celia!
Why don't you bring your hoop out here? Or your jumping-rope?" But the
conscientious, sensitive child, drugged by the thick fumes of
self-sacrifice which filled the house, was incapable of being herself.
She sat on the bench beside her big brother, holding his hand, talking
affectedly, with an artificial vivacity, in as close an imitation as
possible of her elders. The man to whom she chattered, winced, shrugged
his shoulders, and fell into a morose silence.

But Celia, after all, was only eight years old, and at that age honest
human nature is hard to stifle. Over across the road in the meadow was
Jacques with his new net, hunting butterflies. And ... she stood on
tiptoe to see ... yes, he seemed to have caught ... oh, could it be
that blue and black variety they hadn't yet found? She darted away, ran
back, caught her brother's hand: "Louis, just a minute! I won't be gone
but just a moment!" she cried, and was off, her little feet pattering
down the path to the road.

       *       *       *       *       *

Why, he was alone! It was the very first time since ... he did not
finish the sentence, shrinking away in terror from the word, now that
there was no need for bravado.

He stood up wildly. He must get away at once, to find some hidden spot,
to be more and yet more alone. He knew that from the house they could
not see the bench ... oh, he knew every inch of the ground around the
house from having played all over it from his childhood. He knew too
that on the other side of the hedge there was an open field with a big
clump of chestnut-trees, further along, opposite the hole in the hedge
where you could scramble through.

He started down the path. It was the first time he had taken a step
without having some one rush to lead him. His heart beat fast.

He followed the path, feeling his way with his cane. There was the hole
in the hedge. Somehow, he was through, and walking on sod, soft, soft,
under his feet; no, something round and hard was there. He fumbled,
picked it up; a chestnut. He must be near the clump of trees. Alone he
had found the way!

He turned to the left. In the old days there was a little hollow where
the brook ran, a little hollow all thickly overgrown with ferns just
large enough to hide a boy who was playing robbers. If he could only
find that place and lie down in the ferns again! Scorning to put out his
hands to grope, he stepped forward slowly into the black infinity about
him. After a few steps, something brushed lightly against his hanging
hand. He stooped and felt in his fingers the lace-like grace of a
fern-stalk. The sensation brought back to him with shocking vividness
all his boyhood, sun-flooded, gone forever.

He flung himself down in the midst of the ferns, the breaking-point come
at last, beating his forehead on the ground.... It was the first time
that he could throw aside the racking burden of his stoicism. At last he
was alone, entirely alone in the abyss where henceforth he was to pass
his days and nights. Dreadful tears ran down from his blind eyes upon
the ferns. He was alone at last, he could weep. At last this was not
rage, this was black, black sorrow.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now they were shed, the tears, the great scalding flood of them had
fallen. The man lay on his face in the ferns like a dead body on a
battlefield, broken, drained dry of everything, of strength, of
stoicism, of suffering, even of bitterness. For the moment there was
nothing left ... nothing but the consciousness of being alone, empty and
alone in the blackness.

And yet was he alone, quite alone? Something in the black gulf stirred
and made a rustle of leaves high over his head. The little sound came
clear to his ears. Then three clear whistling notes dropped down to him,
a thrush trying his voice wistfully, dreaming of the summer past. The
angel-pure perfection of those notes sounded across the black gulf with
ineffable radiance. The prostrate man at the foot of the tree heard them
ringing out in the echoing, empty rooms of his heart. They seemed the
first sounds he had ever heard, the presage of something new, of
everything new. He did not stir, but he held his breath to listen.

The bird did not sing again. And yet there was no silence as he had
thought. Listening for the bird's note, he heard the delicate murmur of
the leaves, light arpeggios accompanying the singing voice of the little
brook, now suddenly quite loud in his ears. He felt the fern-stalks
stirring against his cheek and divined their supple submission to the
wind. The chestnut was still in his hand, unimaginably smooth, polished,
flawless. The breeze lifted his hair in a movement gentler than anything
human ... his blackened house was no longer empty of all things.

Presently his young body wearied of immobility. He found himself on his
back, stretched out on the good earth, his arms crossed under his head,
his eyes turned toward the sky he would never see again. His muscles
were all relaxed as they had not been for months, every taut nerve was
loosened. The wind blew softly among the leaves, across his forehead.
On a sudden caprice, the thrush again sent down its three perfect notes,
like an enchanted flute....

       *       *       *       *       *

They ushered him into the moment he had inexpressibly longed for,
inexpressibly feared, the moment when he must stop hating and raging,
must stop pretending to be hard, when he must at last be honest with
himself, must face what there was to face, must say out the word he had
never dared to say in his heart, although his proud lips had brought it
out so many times, when he must announce to his terrified heart: "I am a
blind man. What does it mean to be blind?"

Above his body, infinitely tired, infinitely reposed by his paroxysm of
sorrow, his mind soared, imperious, eagle-like, searching. What was the
meaning of it? He looked squarely at it like a brave man, and knew that
he had the courage to look at it. With an effort of all his being, he
began to think; with all his force, with all his will, with all his
energy, to think. With the action he felt a stirring of life in all
those empty chambers of his being.

The moments passed. The thrush sang once, stirred in the trees, flew to
another, sang again, and was not heard. The blind eyes staring up at the
sky saw nothing material, and yet began to see. A dim ray glowed in the
blackness.

After a time he said hurriedly to himself, nervously anxious lest he
should let the clue out of his hand: "Our senses are not ourselves; we
are not our senses. No; they are the instruments of our understanding.
To be blind means that I have one less instrument than other men. But a
man with a telescope has one more than other men, and is life worthless
to them because of that?"

He paused breathless with the effort of the first thought of his own
since, since.... "And our senses, even the best of them are like an
earthworm's vague intuitions beside scientific instruments, a
thermometer, a microscope, a photographic plate. And yet with what they
give us, poor, imperfect as it is, we make our life, we make our life."

He took one more poor stumbling step along the path he divined open to
him: "A man with understanding, without a telescope, without a
microscope can see more than a fool with both instruments." Aloud he
said gravely, as though it were a statement of great value: "The use one
makes of what one has, that is the formula. That is my formula."

There was a pause, for him luminous. He told himself quietly, without
despair: "And as for understanding, for really seeing what is, aren't we
all groping our way in the dark? Am I blinder than before?" It seemed to
him that something within him righted itself, balanced, poised. His
sickness left him. He knew an instant's certainty ... of what? Of
himself? Of life? If so it was the first he had ever known in all his
life. Strange that it should come new, when....

Then all this fell away from him. He thought no more. He lay on the
earth now, not like a dead man on a battlefield, but like a child on its
mother's knees. He felt the earth take him in her arms, and he closed
his eyes, abandoning himself to her embrace.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sound of distant voices roused him from his dreaming doze. He turned
on his elbow to listen. The old aunt, the old cousin were talking
together: "Oh, the naughty little girl, off there in the meadow chasing
butterflies! How heartless children are! To leave her poor brother all
alone, when he needs so to be cheered!"

The blind man lying in the ferns broke out into a laugh, a ringing young
laugh, without irony, without bitterness.

It was the first time he had laughed since ... since his blindness.



HATS


My attention was first attracted to him by the ring of his voice as he
answered the question a woman near me put to him, amiably trying to
start a conversation: "And may I ask, Mr. Williams, what are you in
France for, Red Cross, or Y.M.C.A., or perhaps reconstruction work? I'm
refugees, myself. It's always interesting to know other people's
specialties. You often have so much in common. The only branches I
_don't_ know anything about are orphans and the blind."

To this the distinguished-looking, gray-haired man responded gravely,
"Madame, I am in France for hats."

"_Hats!_" exclaimed the war-worker.

"Hats," he reaffirmed quietly.

She looked at him wildly and moved to another part of the room towards a
recognizably tagged young woman in a gray uniform.

The timbre of his voice struck curiously on my ear. I cannot express its
quality other than to say it made the voices of the rest of us sound
like those of college professors and school-teachers; and I don't
pretend to know exactly what I mean by that.

He aroused my curiosity. I wanted to investigate, so I began looking
vague, letting my eyes wander, and answering at random. Presently the
earnest talker holding forth to me grew indignant at my lack of
attention, broke off abruptly, and went away. I turned to the man with
the different voice and asked, "What in the world makes you come to
France for hats, _just now_ in the midst of the war?"

He answered with instant decision, "Because the only hats worth buying
are made in Paris."

"_Now?_ with France bleeding to death, how _can_ they make hats, invent
new fashions!"

His eye kindled. "Madame, a good French modiste on her deathbed could
make a better hat than any one in New York ever could."

I pondered this. His accent was indubitably American, not to say New
York. But there are cases of French people who have spent part of their
childhood in the States who speak perfectly. "You must be at least
partly of French extraction to be able so to understand and admire
France," I ventured.

He opposed a rather startled and very emphatic negative. "Me? Not much!
I'm as American as they make 'em. Born on lower Broadway and brought up
in the New York public schools. I don't know anything about France,
except that we have to come here to get the right styles in hats. I
don't even speak any French except to say '_combien_' and enough to
count."

I was put off the scent entirely. "Oh, I thought from the way you spoke
that you knew France well. This is your first visit, then?"

He was silent a moment, making a mental calculation.

Then he said: "This is my fifty-first visit to Paris. I have come twice
a year for a little more than twenty-five years."

"Always for hats?" I queried, my imagination reeling at this vista.

"Always for hats," he said seriously.

I tried to be facetious. "Dear me! You must know all there is to know
about hats."

He shook his head. "Nobody knows anything about hats." He added, very
much in earnest, "Style is one of the great obscure mysteries of life."

This had always been one of my observations, but one I have petulantly
and impatiently deplored. I had never thought to hear it expressed with
such heartfelt gravity and weight by a man of such evident vigor of
personality.

I said, laughing uneasily, "It makes one very self-conscious about one's
own hat, to know oneself in the presence of such a connoisseur."

He reassured me: "Oh, I never look at hats except in the way of
business." In his turn he looked vague, and let his eyes wander,
evidently much bored with my remarks. In another moment he would have
turned away, but just then an acquaintance came up to me, addressing me
by name, and my new interlocutor broke in with a quite human eagerness,
"Oh, are you Mr. John P. Hulme's niece?"

"Why, do you know my Uncle John?" I cried astonished.

"He's one of the best business friends I have," he assured me, "and I
have often seen the picture of you and the children he has on his desk.
You must let me go to see them. I've got grown-up children of my own. It
will be a real treat to me to know some American children here."

In this casual manner, slipping in on the good graces of my little son
and daughter, I entered a world the very existence of which I had never
suspected, long and frequent as had been my sojourns in Paris; the world
of hat-buyers. And I had for guide the very dean and master of the
guild, to whom the younger aspirants looked up, whose sure, trained
instinct was their despair and inspiration.

It was perhaps his influence, dominating that circle, which made them
all so serious and intent on mastering their profession, so respectful
of their chosen occupation, so willing to give it the very best of their
judgment and taste. This was the more remarkable as, with the exception
of my new friend, they were quite the opposite of serious-minded men and
women, and, in the intervals of the exercise of their profession,
enjoyed rather more than was good for their health, morals, and
pocketbooks, the multiple occasions offered by a great city to damage
those possessions. I was not at all in sympathy with what seemed to me
the indifference of their relaxations in a country so stricken as
France; but I could not withhold my astonished admiration for the
excellent seriousness with which they approached their business. I
would have blushed to disclose to them the light shallow femininity of
my careless, rather slighting attitude towards "la mode." Also I was
amazed at the prodigious financial importance of their operations. The
sums which, without a blink, they paid out for hats, and the number of
hats they thus secured and the further sums which they looked forward to
paying into the coffers of the United States Customs, sounded to me as
unbelievable as those nightmare calculations as to the distance of the
stars from the earth or how much it has cost to build the Panama Canal.

"All that for _hats_!" I cried, "and every year, twice a year!"

"Oh, this is only the smallest part of what goes into hats," the expert
assured me. "What I'm buying now are only single models, you understand;
the successful ones, the well-chosen ones, will be copied by the hundred
dozen in the States and in Canada. That chenille toque you saw me buy
the other day..."

"That little, plain, ugly scrap of a thing you paid a hundred dollars
for?" I asked, giddy again with the remembered shock of that price.

"Yes. Well, probably that will be very widely copied, at first in New
York and then everywhere. It's a fair guess to say, that being a model
that's sure to be popular, there will be at least twenty thousand toques
like it sold in different places in the States for five dollars apiece."

I was staggered. "A hundred thousand dollars spent in _one_ season,
just for _one_ out of all the different models of women's hats!" My old
superficial scorn for "the style" disappeared in an alarmed dismay at
its unsuspected scope. "Why, that's _terrible_! It's appalling! When
there isn't enough money to make the schools what they ought to be, nor
to take care of the sick, nor to keep up the...."

He showed an unexpected humanity. "Yes, it is awful," he agreed
gravely--"very, very awful. And still more awful is the way we live
right along beside such an awful force and never have the slightest idea
that it rules our lives and not what we wish or decide."

For all my consternation I found this excessive. "Oh, come, it's not so
bad as _that_!" I cried.

"Yes, it is," he assured me with his formidable quiet certainty. "Yes,
it is. It goes beyond anything we can imagine. It's the greatest force
in the world, this desire, this absolute necessity to be in the style.
Nothing else can stand up against it for a moment, not hunger, not fear,
not love, not religion. They only exist so far as they don't get in the
way of being in the style. The minute they interfere with that, over
they go like a pack of cards in a tornado! What do you think a man is
doing when he works all his life for his family? Is he earning their
livings? Not much. He's enabling them to keep in style, and if he
doesn't he is a failure. What do you really want for your children? That
they may grow up to develop all the best they have in them ... yes, _if_
that doesn't prevent their being in style."

I found all this so outrageous that I could only stare a silent protest.

"I don't mean just my small part of it, hats," he explained, "although
hats are always, so to speak, the crest of the tidal wave. It's
everything. Style rules everything. Of course all material things,
furniture, clothes, the way houses are built and gardens laid out and
parks made and pictures painted. Everybody can _see_ with his own eyes
how _they_ are all determined by whatever the style happens to be in
that century or year, and not by anything we want or need. But more than
that, too. Everything goes together. We talk and eat and act according
to the kind of furniture we have; for instance, when rough-hewn Morris
furniture was the rage and we all had to have it or dry up and blow away
with envy, don't you remember how the athletic blowsy styles in clothes
and manners came in too, and it was all the thing to go to a funeral in
a striped shirt and yellow shoes and the girls' shirtwaists bloused over
in front as though they had forgotten to tuck them in, and how bulging
pompadours straggled down in every woman's eyes?"

"Do you mean," I was ready to laugh at him, "that you think that our
Morris furniture influenced us so deeply as all that? Even Morris would
be surprised to hear so much claimed for it."

He was scornful of my incapacity to grasp the scope of his idea. "No,
Lord no! The Morris furniture hadn't anything more to do with it than a
tree bent double with the storm has to do with making the wind blow. I
mean that the same thing that _made_ us mortgage our souls to have
Morris furniture just then, made us also talk slang and wear yellow
shoes to funerals."

"Well, what _did_ make us?" I challenged him.

He answered monosyllabically, solemnly, with his redoubtable, arresting
conviction, "The style did."

We were both silent a moment as if in the presence of Niagara or the
ocean.

Then I said, in a feebler challenge, "Well, what _is_ 'the style'?"

He professed the admirable ignorance of a wise man in the face of
mystery.

"I wish I knew. It looks to me like a big current that takes in
everything, that is so big we don't know it's there, just the way people
didn't use to know the world was round, because it is too big to see.
And it carries us along like dry leaves and where it's going to, nobody
knows. We know just as much about it, as we do about where water runs
underground; which is to say, nothing. But when it comes to that part of
style that makes hats and dresses, there are a few people who can hold a
hazel-rod and have it point downwards, and they are oftener right than
the rest of us. And every one of those few is French and lives in Paris.
Don't ask me why! That's the way it is. And it would be enough sight
more convenient for _me_, let me tell you, if it were otherwise."

I understood this exclamation, having learned by this time how great an
affliction to Mr. Williams personally were these semi-annual trips to
France. He knew nothing of Paris outside of the great modistes' shops,
and he cared less. Since he knew no French the theaters were closed to
him. Since he was mildly musical (he played the violin a little)
concerts helped a little to allay his ennui; but only a little. Being a
family man of very domestic tastes, he took slight part in the very
cheerful proceedings with which the other buyers whiled away the hours
between business operations, and although he was invited to their gay
suppers in expensive restaurants, he struck an austere note there,
drinking only water, not smoking, and eating sparingly of simple dishes,
quite evidently counting the hours till he could get back to America and
to his garden in Westchester County.

In spite of this lack of appreciation of what was offered him, he was
very frequently invited to the nightly feasts of his young confrères,
and they hung about him eagerly because of their superstitious reverence
for what they called his "hunch." "Whatever Grandpa says is going to go,
goes," was their expressed belief. They tried by ingenious devices to
exploit his scent for the style, to be within earshot when he was making
selections, to suborn the milliners into showing them the models he had
selected. Such crude, outright efforts at getting the better of him he
defeated with a wary dexterity, getting up and leaving a shop abruptly
if one of his rivals began to loiter too near him, and letting it be
known that he would buy no more from any milliner who reproduced "his"
models for one of the other American buyers. This last precaution was
not necessary, for the sense of professional honor and jealousy is not
keener among doctors themselves than among Paris fashion-makers, nor was
the capacity for darkly guarding secrets more developed in Renaissance
Italian poisoners than in a twentieth-century modiste's shop on the
Place Vendôme. Also Mr. Williams, who had seen a whole generation of
modistes grow up and disappear into old age, enjoyed the very high
esteem of those quick-eyed, quick-fingered, quick-witted ladies with the
wonderful simple coiffures and the wonderful simple hats. This was not
solely because of the very large sums of money which were at his
disposition and which he spent with Napoleonic decision and despatch.
They respected his competence also. "There is one who can appreciate our
work!" they said of him. "He always picks out the best. There is one who
could have made hats, himself!" A characterization which the American
would have repudiated with energy if he could have understood a word
they were saying.

But although, as a matter of business acuteness, he refused to allow
himself to be exploited in small ways by his young competitors, he was
always ready to expound his philosophy to them and to lay down the
general lines along which they might develop as he had. Not infrequently
their elaborate dinners, where too much had been eaten and drunk by the
elaborately dressed women and smooth-shaven, young-old men, ended by the
question flung despairingly at Mr. Williams' impassive respectability,
"Grandpa, how the dickens _do_ you _do_ it? Tell us!"

He always told them, at length, in detail, as long as they would listen,
although they never understood one word of what he said. Hoping to catch
him off his guard and to cull some valuable short-cut tip to success,
they lent ears as attentive as their somewhat bemused condition would
let them, as long as their patience held out.

"The trouble with most of you young people," he was wont to say,
presenting as he went on the abhorrent spectacle of a man at the Café
Riche taking occasional sips from a glass of water, "is that you don't
realize that you are up against a _big thing_, the biggest thing there
is. You think you can just josh along somehow, pick out what looks good
to you, what you think would be pretty for your best girl to wear, and
have it go. Nothing like that! What _you_ like, what _you_ think is
pretty, hasn't a thing to do with what's going to happen. What's going
to happen, _happens_, whether anybody likes it or not, and the only
thing for us to do is to keep our ears to the ground _hard_ and try to
guess three or four months sooner than most people. Nobody can guess
further ahead than that and mighty few people even as far as that. Most
people don't know what style is coming till it hits them in the eye.
Now, to make a good guess you've got to keep your eyes open to
everything, everything, and then sort of gather yourself together and
listen, hold your breath and listen, as if you were eavesdropping folks
who were trying to keep a secret from you; as if you had to catch a very
faint A sounded way off that you could tune your own fiddle to. And
you've got to get passive all over, the way the hypnotizers tell you to
do, let yourself go, don't try to have any ideas of your own, don't try
to swim against the current, don't try to hurry things up by swimming
faster than the current. No power on earth can hurry that current, nor
make it bring anything but what it's going to bring! And it's up to us,
let me tell you, to take what it does bring! I've seen lots of styles
that nobody liked, not the modistes who made them, not the buyers who
took them to the States, not the hundreds of thousands of American women
who paid out their husbands' good money to buy them. And yet those
styles had just as big a vogue and lasted just as long as any others,
and the buyers who tried to dodge them and who chose what looked
prettier to them got everlastingly stung. And aren't there styles that
everybody just hates to see disappear, comfortable, decent, becoming
styles? But do they stay in, just because we'd like to have them? You
know they don't.

"And it's no use trying to do anything on your own hook. There was old
man Blackmar, head of the Blackmar and Jennings Ribbon Company; he could
manufacture ribbons to beat any French factory going, _if_ he got the
designs from France. Every time he tried to have one designed by a
perfectly good American designer, the ribbon didn't sell. It didn't look
so very different, but it wouldn't sell. You'd have thought he'd have
learned something out of seeing that happen every time he tried it,
wouldn't you? But he never did. Why, I was honestly sorry for him, five
or six years ago when all of a sudden the styles went dead against
ribbons or any other trimming for hats. It pretty near ruined him,
coming after the modistes had been piling everything they could buy on
top of their hats. But he didn't know enough to take his medicine
without making a face. He couldn't get it through his head that he was
up against a bigger proposition than _he_ was, than anybody is. He came
to me and he said: 'Williams, I'll give you fifteen thousand dollars,
cash, in your hand, if you'll steer things over in Paris so's to bring
hat-trimmings back into style; ribbons of course if you can, but if not,
most any kind of trimmings. I can alter our machines to do braids and
such. This craze for just the naked hat-shapes with one little rag of an
ornament, I tell you, it'll send me into the bankruptcy court.'

"I was very sorry for him and I said so, and I said I'd do anything to
help him out except try to slap back the Hudson river with the flat of
my hand. He said he was sick of hearing me always get off that same old
guff, and if I really wanted to, I could. 'Why, they tell me every
modiste in Paris calls you "uncle." With plenty of money you could get
on the right side of them and get them to launch trimmed styles.'

"I just threw up my hands at that. I saw he didn't know any more about
the innerds of his business than a babe unborn. I said to him: 'Why,
old man, you don't suppose for a minute that the modistes in Paris
_invent_ the styles, make 'em up out of their heads? They haven't got
any more to say about what it's to be than you or me. All they can do is
to take the style that's going to arrive in six months, and put it into
silk and felt and straw. They can't have it the way they _want_ it any
more than the priestess of something-or-other could say what she wanted,
when they put her over the oracle-hole, filled her up with gas, and told
her to make an oracle.'

"Blackmar was sore as a boil at me, and said if I wouldn't do it he'd
give the job to Pierce. Pierce was buying for Condit and Vergary in
those days. I said he could throw away all the money he wanted to, but
_I_ wouldn't help him spill it.

"Well, Pierce tried to swing the deal, bucking the universe all alone,
and so proud to have the chance to. He went to all the best modistes in
Paris and said he'd give--well, I'm ashamed to tell you what he gave--if
they would make him models all trimmed up, heavy and expensive with
handsome trimmings. Of course, at first they said they couldn't do it,
the hats wouldn't be in style. And he said if they made the hats that
way and sent them out with their names in gilt letters in the lining,
they would be in style, would _be_ the style. Didn't everything they
made set the fashion? They tried to explain to him that that was because
they took the greatest pains to make things that were in fashion, but
Lord! he couldn't talk their language. He just kept on insisting and
holding out those banknotes, and by and by they said, well, to get rid
of him they _would_. And he came to my hotel and bragged all over me
like a man who's cornered the wheat-market.

"They did make him trimmed models: and as they were the best modistes in
the world they were as pretty hats as ever you saw. They were all
trimmed up as per agreement with ribbons that would make a dead woman
sit up and reach out her hand. Pierce took me into his office before
they were packed, to show them to me, and he said, '_Now_, Grandpa, what
you got to say?' And I said, 'You let me know four months from now how
much money you've made on them.'

"About six weeks after that, back in New York, I went into his office
and there, by George, were all but two of his fifteen models. None of
the American manufacturers would have them, not at any price. They'd
send their head milliner to see them and she'd say, 'Oh, what perfectly
lovely ribbon,'--but no, thanks, she didn't want to buy the model,
because they wouldn't sell. They weren't what were being worn that
season. Pierce said: 'Great Scott! look at the labels. They come from
all the best modistes in Paris'; and she'd say she couldn't help that;
if they weren't what was being worn they wouldn't sell. And before three
months were up he'd given them to the janitor's little girl for dolls'
clothes. There you are."

There were evident signs of inattention from his audience by this time,
but he went on: "And young Hammond, he tried to tear the teeth off the
buzz-saw with his fingers, too. And _he_ got what was coming to him. He
had a great idea, regular perpetual motion scheme for economy, of how he
could beat the game and he hypnotized old John Harbine into standing for
it. It was as simple as bread and milk. Hammond would take up a Paris
modiste, somebody on a back-street somewhere, get her under contract to
be 'Harbine's,' and Harbine's alone. Then they'd put her name in the
hands of the best advertising agency in New York and let things rip.
Well, they started out as though they were going to a fire. You couldn't
see the spokes, the wheels went around so fast. The advertising people
delivered the goods, put the best people on their force on the job. I
remember they had one college-graduate woman that could write ads that
would make you pay five dollars for a strawberry basket--_once_! She
wrote up their great find in Paris, wrote it up like a magazine
short-story--modiste who up to the time Hammond had spotted her had been
so exclusive you couldn't find her with a microscope, had only worked
for the pure-bloods among the French aristocracy, no mere Americans had
ever known her name (you can bet your life they hadn't)--you can imagine
the kind of patter, the sort of thing women suck up by the barrelful.
And then, owing to unheard-of prices offered by Harbine's out of that
disinterested devotion to American womanhood which is Harbine's great
quality, she had finally consented to send a few hats, never more than a
dozen a season, to Harbine's, where the first collection would be on
exhibition March 21st, and which would be exactly copied to order in
imported materials with all the inimitable _chic_ of the original
models, for such low prices as from fifteen dollars up.

"It was well done. I'm bound to admit that ad.-writer got just the right
esthetic, superior tone into it. And as for Hammond, he ought to have
been a stage-manager. He got some of the people back of me sort of
worried. They came to me, 'Look-y here, Grandpa, sure you're not missing
a point in the game? How _about_ this Suzette Rellot person?'

"I said: 'Her real name is Marie Duval and she used to sew in linings at
Reboux', that's who _she_ is. If she _could_ have trimmed hats you can
bet your life Reboux would have developed her years ago. Reboux has
candles burning in every church in Paris, praying Heaven to send her
apprentices that she can do something with! And if she _can't_ trim hats
you can bet your life old man Harbine is going to lose some money, a lot
of it in one clip, and he and Jimmy Hammond will part company with a
bang.'

"Well, I was over here in Paris when their great opening came off. But I
heard about it. Nothing lacked. They all but served free champagne. But
when I went back only a month later, the talk was already going around
among folks on the ins, that there was something the matter with the
Rellot collection. The women weren't just crazy about the hats and the
modistes wouldn't look at them. Later on, what was left of them were
sent down to South America--Colombia, I think. Women just hatching out
from mantillas will stand for anything with a French label on it! And
that summer Jimmy Hammond decided he'd go in for life-insurance."

When he had talked as long as this I was usually the only person left
listening, the rest having yawned, turned to each other, or melted away.
But I listened, always, open-mouthed with astonishment and wonder.
Before putting on my hats in those days I used to look at them hard,
with respect, almost with alarm, feeling heavy on my head the weight of
their unsuspected significance. Wondering what the great expert's
opinion would be about the plain, everyday hats of ordinary women I
asked him one day: "Tell me, can you descend to small beer? What do you
think of the hats you see, not in those wonderful, silk-hung studios,
but those you see on the heads of the women in the streets, on mine? Is
this hat I have on stylish? I warn you I bought it off a counter for
less than four dollars."

He answered instantly, without giving a glance at my headgear: "You are
a healthy, normal woman and you're wearing it. Of course it's in style.
If it weren't, and you had to wear it, you'd be sick abed."

"You exaggerate, you are always exaggerating," I protested. "You only
know women who _care_ about the styles. I never bother my head about my
hats! I just walk into almost any shop and buy the first hat that
doesn't make me look too queer."

"You don't have to bother yourself about it," he told me, his accent
tinged with weary bitterness. "_We_ do the bothering! Months beforehand.
An army of us, able-bodied men, smart women, pretty young girls, we all
of us give up our lives to fixing things so you can walk into most any
shop and pick up most any hat and find it doesn't make you look too
'queer,' which is your way of saying that it doesn't make you look out
of style."

"There are moments," I told him, in a half-serious indignation, "when I
find you too absurd for words, the victim of the most absurd
hallucinations! All this portentous talk about the world-wide conspiracy
to make people keep up with the style. As if the style had any
importance for sensible people!"

"If you knew more about the capital and brains that are invested in that
conspiracy, you'd take it seriously, all right," he assured me with
melancholy, "and as for not taking the styles seriously, how many
thousand dollars would it take to pay you to go around in the street one
day, just one day, in the big bustle your mother used to be ashamed to
go outdoors without?"

I lost myself in horrified contemplation of the grotesque vision he had
conjured up and forgot to refute him. Perhaps I couldn't.

Towards the end of his stay he was very much troubled by persistent
rumors that the boat on which he was to sail would be torpedoed on the
way to New York. He acknowledged, with the fatigued frankness of his
sixty years past, that he was mortally afraid of the passage and that
his fear would deprive him of sleep all the way over. "No sane man
likes to be killed," he complained, "let alone be blown up and burned to
death and drowned into the bargain! I'm a family man! I want to go on
earning a living for my wife and children!"

The evening before he went away he was so fretful about this and so
outspoken about his dread, that I asked him, "Why don't you wait over a
boat?"

"Oh, what's the use? One boat's as likely to go down as another. And,
anyhow, I've got to get home. And then come over again for the next
season, curse the luck!"

I thought him again a little absurd. "Oh, come, the heavens wouldn't
fall if you missed one or two seasons!"

He turned grave, and after a moment's hesitation, opened a door which I
had thought locked and nailed up, and showed me that the room in his
heart which I had thought was certainly empty and vacant was a queer,
dimly lighted little chapel, with queer, dim little candles burning
before what was recognizably an ideal.

"Oh, it's no time for anybody to lie down on the job," he said offhand.
I did not dream that he was referring to the war. I had become convinced
that his curious, specialized world held no place for the horror and
apprehension which filled the lives of the rest of us. Nor had I ever
seen him give any signs of the shocked pity which most people feel at
the sight of the war-maimed men, the black-clad, white-faced
war-orphans and the widows with blurred eyes. I had thought he saw in
France, only and uniquely, hats. So I asked in genuine ignorance of his
meaning: "How do you mean, this being no time to lie down on the job?
What job?"

He sat back in his chair and looked at the ceiling; thereafter, as he
talked, transferring his gaze to his finger-tips, joined with nicety.
"Well, I guess I mean something about like this. If we humans are to get
on at all, get any further away from having tails and living in trees,
we've got to knock down the partitions and make one big room of the
world, the same way each nation is one big room, with the blacksmith
trading his horseshoes for clothes and not trying to be a tailor
himself. Take farmers. Maybe you can't remember, but _I_ can, when old
farmers in Connecticut raised nearly every single thing they used all
the year around, and were proud of being such idiots. Nowadays the
Connecticut farmer don't waste his time trying to grow corn in a climate
where you're liable to get frosts in early September; he leaves the
farmer in Iowa to do that, and he raises the best apples in the world
and with the money he makes that way, he buys him oranges that a Florida
farmer has raised. It's my opinion that we've got to come to that on a
big, big scale. And if we do come to it there won't be any more wars.
Now, I don't know anything about anything but hats, and so I don't try
to have an opinion about the League of Nations, nor how the trick is
going to be turned by the statesmen--if there are any such--but if it
_is_ going to be turned, it's going to take everybody's shoulder to the
wheel, you can be sure. And I've got a shoulder. What's got to be done
is to get it through everybody's head that every nation ought not to
learn to produce anything but what it can produce best, and that
self-defense ought not to force it to make a botch of trying to do what
another nation could do better. Now, _one_ of the things that France can
produce better than other people (and it happens to be the thing that I
know about) is hats. I don't know whether it's because she's been at the
business of running the styles so long, so much longer than anybody else
so that she's got all her fibers settled together, just right to catch
the note, the way the wood in an old violin trembles all over at sounds
that leave the wood in the leg of a chair perfectly calm. Mind, I don't
say the violin is any more important than a chair. As far as I'm
concerned personally, if I had to choose I'd rather have the chair. What
I'm trying to say is that they are _different_. And we've got to get
used to the idea that _because things are different it doesn't mean one
is better than the other and they ought both to be like the best one_.
Now, maybe it's the other way around, that France has been at this
business of setting styles so long because she's had the gift to begin
with. Anyhow, what's sure is that they do it better, everything along
that line, ribbons, braids, straws, hats, dresses, furniture, houses,
parks--original designs don't come from anywhere but France. But France
is at war and pretty nearly gone under. She's got to make her designs
with one hand and fight for her life with the other."

He paused. "Well, I don't feel just like picking out that time to stop
coming to France to get her designs and to do my part to keep up the
taste for them, at home."

I found no sufficiently admiring comment to make on this, and kept a
respectful silence.

He went on, rubbing his hand back and forth over his gray hair: "But all
that is only my guess at it. What's my guess worth? Nothing. But it's
all I've got to go by, and so I _do_ go by it. I don't _know_ anything
about anything but hats, and I can't but just make a guess at them."

He folded his hands before him and sighed. "There is a lot too much in
hats for any one man to understand."



A HONEYMOON ... VIVE L'AMERIQUE!


I never knew many of the mere facts of their existence; where all their
money came from, nor the extraordinary romance which must have lain back
of them. Nor did I care to. They were too epic a pair for realism to
touch. I find on thinking them over that I never quite came to believe
in their actual existence; and yet, whatever value this slight sketch of
them may have will be due to its literal truthfulness to fact.

My first sight of them was on a very cold day in the second year of the
war when they suddenly filled with their resplendent presence the dreary
room which was known as my "office." For several difficult months,
against all the obstacles which made up everyday life in war-time
France, I had been laboring to organize and get into shape a Braille
printing establishment which would provide books for those most tragic
of war-victims, the blind. Together with a crew of devoted volunteers I
had tugged at the task, struggling like everybody else in France with a
universal shortage of supplies, which began with able-bodied men and ran
down to tacks and cheesecloth. There was also the difficulty of getting
the "Authorization from the Government" before drawing your breath; but
unless you have experienced this potent brake on enterprise, there is no
use trying to describe it to you.

And yet, somehow, we had managed to get along, had added to our two
plaque-making machines a couple of presses (very poor, both of them),
had scrambled together a home-made device for wetting and drying the
paper, had hunted down enough men to run the machines, had trained
enough proof-readers and assembled enough voluntary editors, so that
after a fashion we were really printing. The magazine, liberally bedewed
with our blood and sweat, came out once a month; and although the two
presses broke down with great frequency, we managed, by dint of
incessant repairing, to keep at least one in shape to do tolerable work.
We really had something patched-up, ungainly, but reasonably valid to
show the sightseers who came through on the weekly visiting day, when
all the rest of the institution was open to visitors.

I took my two Olympian guests for the usual idle, visiting-day couple. I
went the rounds with them, pointing out with a weary satisfaction our
various makeshifts. When I found that they listened receptively, I
indulged in considerable self-pity over our difficulties, past and
present. On their part they asked a good many pointed questions about
the business end of our enterprise, about the financial status of the
institution, about the probability of permanence for the venture. They
came back to the "office" with me, the goddess in sables taking the
solitary chair, while her mate sat down on the edge of my little table,
stretching out before him legs clad in cloth of a fineness I had
forgotten could exist. Quite casually, like the diamonds and pearls of
the fairy-tales, amazing words now issued from their lips. "See here,"
said he of the broadcloth overcoat, "this is no way to do business. You
can't get good work done with any such junk as those two presses! Why, I
wouldn't take them as a gift, not for old iron! And turned by
hand-power! Isn't that Europe for you? Why, for twenty-five cents a day
of electric current, you could do ten times the work you are doing now,
and have women run the presses! Go find a modern electric press that a
man can look at and not think he's Benjamin Franklin come to life again,
and let us know how much it costs."

He handed me his card as he spoke.

The goddess quitted my rickety, cane-bottomed chair and from her superb
height dropped down on me, "You know, the kind that opens and shuts its
jaws like a whale; perhaps you've seen them in printing establishments
at home." She tempered her assumption of my ignorance by a smile out of
the loveliest eyes imaginable and added: "My father was a printer out
West. I used to play 'round in his shop. That's how I happen to know."

Gazing up at her fascinated, I noted how deep the little lines of
kindliness were at the corners of her smiling gray eyes, and how, beyond
the usual conventional coating of powder, no effort had been made to
hide the fact that the beautiful face was not in its first youth. The
consequent effect of honesty and good faith was ineffable, and had its
perfect counterpart in the extraordinary simplicity and directness of
her gentle manner. She drew her regal fur up around her long neck and
her husband put his hat back on his thick white hair. "While you're
about it, you'd better get those two plaque-making machines
electrified," he remarked. "Any electrician could do it for you. There's
no sense in having your operators push down that pedal for every letter
they make. Man-power again! Europe!"

I realized that they were moving towards the door and shook myself out
of my entranced silence. "But you _can't_ buy a press of that kind in
Paris!" I called after them, all the bitterness of my past struggles in
my voice. "You can't buy anything in war-time France. There hasn't been
a press or anything else manufactured in France for two years! Don't you
know that all the factories are making munitions?"

Mr. Robert J. Hall--that was the name on the card--came back to me and
said earnestly: "Money can't _do_ everything, but I tell you that it can
buy anything buyable if you've got enough of it. Now we'll give you
money enough to buy that press. It's up to you to find it." From the
doorway his wife smiled to mitigate his intense seriousness and said
again, "It's the kind that opens and shuts its jaws, you know." The door
swung shut behind them to a last call-to-arms, "Go to it!" from Mr.
Hall.

Five minutes later a proof-reader coming found me still standing,
staring at their card.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

I took her by the arm. "Look here," I said, "did I just show two
visitors around the place?"

"Do you mean that awfully good-looking man with the white hair and the
royal-princess-effect in sables and eyes like Trilby's?"

I nodded, reassured. I had not dreamed them!

       *       *       *       *       *

Of course I went to it. Of course I found the press. After such a
galvanic shock, I could have found, if that had been my need, a
featherbed on the Arc de l'Étoile. I have too many other things to tell
you about the Halls to describe the hunt after the press, although in
its way that was epic, too. Enough to say that after three weeks of
impassioned concentration on the subject during which I ate, drank,
slept, and lived printing-press, it was located, a second-hand one in
excellent condition, in a loft in the remotest corner of a remote
industrial region of Paris. It was quite exactly what we needed, a
thousand times better than anything we had dreamed of having. I felt
almost a reverent admiration to see it opening and shutting its great
jaw, and spewing out perfect raised-type pages, at least twelve times
faster than our wretched hand press; doing in one day the work of two
weeks!

But the price! Like all war prices it was five times what it was worth
when new. I hadn't the least idea that my extraordinary visitors would
buy it for us. Why in the world should they? In fact, by that time I
had gone back to thinking that I had dreamed them.

However, I betook myself to their hotel, into their private
sitting-room, bright with chintz and copper and flowers. I found Mrs.
Hall without her hat even lovelier than before, a little gray in her
thick soft hair as honestly shown as the faint, fine lines of simple
kindness in her clear skin. She wore a dark-blue satin dress richly
embroidered, evidently a creation from one of the great Paris houses.
She assured me cordially that she was awfully glad to see me.

Sitting on the edge of the Beauvais tapestry chair like the poor
relation on a begging expedition which I felt myself to be, I timidly
told of my search, trying to be amusing about it. Now that I was there I
dared not mention the price. Finally, however, having run out of
expedients to put off that dangerous moment, I brought out haltingly the
sum needed, and began to say, excusingly, that I thought I might get
_part_ of that from....

Mr. Robert J. Hall moved to the writing-table and took out a check-book.
"I'll tack another thousand francs on to that," he said over his
shoulder as he wrote, "I haven't been able to sleep nights for thinking
of those operators punching down the pedals by main strength and
awkwardness."

There was a silence as he wrote. Mrs. Robert J. Hall examined her
glistening nails, looked out of the window, and, with a tact for which I
was grateful, did not once glance at my face. I fancy that my
expression, instead of gratitude, must have been stupefaction. Mr. Hall
blotted his check, detached it, and handed it to me--the little bit of
blue paper through which I saw as in a vision hundreds of the terribly
needed raised-type books put into those terribly empty hands. I could
find no words at all. "It's ... it's just like a miracle!" I was
stammering, when some one knocked at the door, a timid, hesitating
knock, such as mine had been.

The sound seemed to alarm the Halls. "Good Lord, I bet it's the abbé!"
said Mr. Hall.

"You don't happen to speak French, do you?" asked his wife hastily. "Oh,
you do? It's all right then. It's the curé of a town in the war-zone and
we want to help him with some war-orphans, but we have the most awful
time trying to make him understand about business details. It's
perfectly terrible, not speaking the languages."

We turned to meet a short, elderly, double-chinned ecclesiastic who
carried his bulky body with the impersonal professional dignity of his
calling, but was not otherwise in the least impressive. The conversation
began.

It consisted of an attempt on the part of Mr. Hall to get the curé to
"come to the point," as he expressed it, and name a sum, and of
terror-stricken evasions on the part of the curé to do any such thing
for fear of losing their interest. This fencing centered about a large
house which the curé needed to fit up for the reception of a number of
war-orphans. "How much will it cost?" asked Mr. Hall patiently, over
and over, evidently seeing no reason for his not receiving a direct
answer. Upon my pressing the abbé hard, he finally brought out the sum,
miserably, in a faltering voice which made me want to shake his hand. I
knew how he felt.

The Halls consulted each other with a look of intimate understanding.
"All right," said the husband, "all right, _on condition_ that he can
get the funds from his diocese to keep the thing going if we set it on
foot." To me, he added: "The more we see of this sort of thing, the more
we see you've got to go slow at times. These Europeans are so
impractical that first thing you know they've used the money you give
them to get themselves into some fool scheme, without half seeing their
way through. We make it a rule not to give anything to a concern which
isn't on a good, sound, business basis. What's the use?"

I turned to the waiting priest, who had been wildly trying to guess from
our faces what we were saying, and translated Mr. Hall's philosophy of
philanthropy. I found a little difficulty in hitting on the exact French
phrase to express "a good, sound, business basis" but evidently I made
myself understood, because the old man's lips began to tremble eagerly.
"Oh yes, yes, madame, tell them that I can bring a letter to-morrow from
my bishop guaranteeing the support ... if only the house can be secured
and fitted up."

Mr. Hall sent back through me: "Well, you tell him that the minute he
shows me that letter from his bishop, I'll give him a check for the
house, and some over for extras."

I translated this exactly as it was said.

For an instant the curé kept a solemn silence, his eyes looking through
us and beyond. I knew what he was seeing, a big sheltering house with
happy, rescued children playing in the garden. The graceless, stout old
man looked very touching to me.

Then he came back to a sense of the inherent probabilities of things,
and appealed to me in a trembling voice, as to one who at least spoke
his language and to this degree was more of the real world than these
amazing strangers: "Are you sure you told them correctly? It is such a
great sum! And nobody else has been willing to ... Madame, do you ...
_do you really think they will do it_?"

I showed him the check still in my hand. "They have just given me this
for the war-blind," I said. I found my own voice not entirely steady.

Then it was my turn to look out of the window while he took his agitated
departure. I tried not to listen, but I could not help hearing that he
gave them his blessing. I wondered how he managed it, being but half
their height.

I was still at the window when he emerged from the hotel entrance into
the open square below. He stood looking up and down wildly, forgetting
to put his broad-brimmed, flat-crowned hat on his head although it was
raining. Then, as though at random, he crossed the wet asphalt and
vanished down a side street. He staggered a little as he walked. I knew
just how he felt.

When I turned back from the window, the Halls asked, offhand and as
though it would be doing them a favor, to accompany them on an
automobile trip out to the front, near St. Quentin. (I had been trying
vainly for three months to get a _sauf-conduit_ which would let me get
to the front.) "We want to take some money out to the villages the
Germans blew up when they retreated last month; and seeing how quick we
got the curé fixed up with somebody to talk French, we thought it would
be nice if you could go with us." This from Mrs. Hall. Her husband
continued, as if in explanation of a slightly eccentric taste: "You see,
we like to dodge the committee-and-report effect in war-relief. It takes
so long for those big shebangs to get into action, don't you think?

"And we like to manage so that the spending of the money we give isn't
in the hands of one of these self-satisfied young women in uniform who
know all about Elmira, New York, but do they about the Department of the
Aisne? It's unscientific, I know, but in such cases as these people who
have been cleaned out by the Germans, we like to put the money right in
the fists of the people who need it; and then go away and leave them to
spend it the way they want to. If my house burned down, I don't believe
I'd enjoy having a foreigner tell me how to build it over, and you
needn't tell me they like our ideas any better."

I was by this time in the state of silent stupor which was the effect
not infrequently produced on me by the Halls. I found no words to tell
them how precisely their invitation fell in with my wishes, and they
took my momentary hesitation for doubt. "We've got a _very_ comfortable
car," urged Mrs. Hall. "I don't think it would tire you much!"

And Mr. Hall added: "Honestly, it would make me a lot more satisfied if
you would. You haven't any idea what a fool you feel just to poke money
under people's noses and not be able to say anything to them!"

I thought to myself it was a sort of "foolishness" which I could well
endure, but before I could put this idea into words we were deep in a
discussion of ways and means, what clothes to wear, whether cameras
would be permitted, what to do about food. The date for the expedition
was set. My call was over. Dazed, their check still clutched tightly in
my hand, I was emerging from the hotel entrance into the street. I think
I must have staggered a little as I walked, but the resplendent
doorkeeper did not seem to notice. He was probably quite used to this
phenomenon as a feature of the departure of visitors to the Halls.

       *       *       *       *       *

This is not the place to tell you of that phantasmagoric trip to the
front, the nightmare of the dynamited villages, the carefully and
expertly murdered fruit-trees and vines, the ravaged gardens and fields,
the grimly enduring women and old men who toiled feebly with an
invincible determination to bring a beginning of order out of the
hideous chaos which had been their homes. For me the recollection of all
that horror of desolation is shot through with the incredible presence
of the Halls, resplendent in health and good looks and wealth and good
will, brightly interested in everything, cut off by their untouched
prosperity from any grinding comprehension of what they saw, but somehow
not needing to be ground into comprehension like the rest of us, somehow
not needing to put on the sackcloth of bitterness and passion in order
to feel fellowship.

They kept vaguely reminding me of something ... and on the last night
out I learned what it was.

Everywhere the gesture was the same. The car rolled into a new set of
ruins, as like the ones we had just left as one part of hell must be
like another. Mrs. Hall always began at once to take photographs,
methodically noting down the name of the village which had stood there.
Mr. Hall got out from his pocket the wallet containing more cash than I
had ever seen together in my life, and I went off with the French
officer escorting me to find the mayor of the ruined town. For the most
part, the real mayor had been carried off by the Germans for forced
labor, and we found some substitute, chosen by the remnant of the
citizens left. Usually it was a white-haired man, once it was a woman,
lean, energetic, stern, who had lost one eye through the explosion of a
dynamite petard. Always we found a worker at his work ... ah, the noble
procession of valiant old men we saw in their shirt-sleeves, in worn,
faded, patched overalls, hammer or mason's trowel in their knotted
hands, sweating and toiling among the ruins.

The same thing always happened. I explained the Halls' mission. The
mayor opposed to my account the prompt defense of a total incredulity.
Things didn't happen that way, he always explained to me, as we walked
towards the car, he wiping his hands on his overalls. He told me that
nobody gave help at once, that people came and looked and exclaimed and
said how awful and said they would write articles, and others came and
took notes and said they would report to a committee in Paris, and
others said that if a report were written by the mayor and viséed by the
_sous-prefet_ and signed by the _Deputé_ and sent through the Ministry
of the Interior ... by this time we were beside the car, where the
mayor's eyes were always instantly fascinated by Mrs. Hall's tall
beauty.

Mr. Hall shook him by the hand and left in it big, crisp, crackling
French banknotes, at which the old man gazed hypnotized, while I tried
to express to him something of the kindliness in the hearts of the two
shining messengers from another world. During this time Mrs. Hall always
took our photographs again.

Then we shook hands all around. The mayor tried convulsively to express
his thanks, and failed. The automobile moved forward. We were off to a
repetition of the scene.

When our time-limit was up, we scurried back towards Paris in order to
reach the city before the hour set in our _sauf-conduits_. The car
rushed forward over the long, level road, dimly shining in the
starlight, the flanking poplars shadowy, the cold, pure air blowing hard
in our faces. Mrs. Hall and I were in the tonneau, looking up at the
stars, incredibly steady above our world of meaningless misery. Then it
was that I learned of what they had reminded me. Mrs. Hall said to me,
evidently thinking it the simplest and most matter-of-fact explanation
of their being in France, of their life there, "You see, we haven't been
married so very long, only three months ago. And we were awfully happy
to be married. Of course all newly married folks are, but we had special
reasons. And we wanted to have a very special kind of honeymoon, the
nicest kind anybody ever had. It seemed silly to go to Florida, or to
the Yellowstone, or yachting, or to Hawaii, or to Japan for
cherry-blossom time, or any of the things you usually do. We'd done all
those anyhow, but more than that, when you read the newspapers about the
war and think that our country isn't taking any part in it you don't get
much good out of cherry-blossoms or surf-riding, do you? We wanted to do
what would give us the very best time we ever had, to celebrate our
being married. That's what honeymoons are for, of course. And we decided
that what we would like best, seeing that our Government isn't doing
anything, would be to come to France and help out. So we did."

She was silent for a moment, while I slowly took in the significance of
what she had said. Then she went on: "And we like it even better than we
thought. We are happier even than we expected. It has been perfectly,
perfectly lovely."

Then I knew of what they had reminded me. They had reminded me of
America, they _were_ America incarnate, one side of her, the dear,
tender-hearted, uncomprehending America which did not need to understand
the dark old secrets of hate and misery in order to stretch out her
generous hand and ease her too happy heart by the making of many gifts.

Of course, such an extraordinary phenomenon did not go unheeded by the
sharp eyes of the elegant and cosmopolitan circle in Paris war-relief
work. That circle had as well trained a predatory capacity for emptying
fat pocketbooks as the prettiest girl who ever sold ten-cent bouquets
for five dollars at a church fair. It was with something of the same
smiling security in levying philanthropic blackmail that they began to
close in on the Halls. I heard excited talk of them everywhere.
Everybody's mouth watered at the stories of their "easiness" and plots
to entrap them were laid by every cosmopolitan mondaine who now felt
about her own pet "war-work" the same competitive pride she had had (and
would have again as soon as the new fad was no longer new) for her
collection of pet dogs, or Egyptian rings.

A scouting party from another charitable institution, one of the very
"chic" _oeuvres_, nosing around our institution to make sure they were
losing no points in the game, stumbled on our new press and were as
awestruck as I had been by its costliness and speed. After this, all the
information which I had about the Halls, scanty and highly improbable as
you will see it to have been, was repeatedly pumped from me by one past
mistress after another in the art of pumping.

I became so curious as to what the reaction of the Halls to this world
would be, and as to what this world would make of the Halls, that one
afternoon I took the time off to go to one of those horribly dull
afternoon teas in which fashionably disposed charitable ladies made up
for the absence of their usual pre-war distractions. I did not see the
guests of honor at first, and stood dismally taking my tea, submerged in
the talk customary at such affairs, for the most part complaints of war
inconveniences ... the hardship it was to have so few taxis in Paris,
how inconsiderate the Government had been to forbid cakes and candy on
two days a week, how the tailors and dressmakers were profiting by the
high prices to ask preposterous ones, "even of their old clients," how
hard it was to get coal enough to have a fire in one's _cabinet de
toilette_ ... it was one of the days when we had heard of the failure of
a great French offensive, and of the terrible shortage of hospital
supplies at the front! My tea and sandwiches were ashes in my mouth!
Through the window I saw a one-armed soldier with his head in bandages
hobbling by the house, and I found myself bitterly longing for a bolt
from heaven to descend and consume the whole worthless lot of us. Then
I caught sight of the Halls.

They towered above the crowd and above the very small but very important
person who was monopolizing them, none other than the Duchesse de
Sazarat-Bégonine, who was obviously engaged in opening upon them, one
after another, her redoubtable batteries of persuasion. Do not let this
casual mention of so well known a title lead you to the very erroneous
idea that I move in the aristocratic society which she adorns. Nothing
could be further from the truth. The very fact that I know the Duchesse
de Sazarat-Bégonine is a startling proof of the extent to which, in the
pursuit of her war-relief work, she has wandered from her original
circle! It shows, as nothing else could, what a thorough sport she was
in the pursuit of her new game, stopping at nothing, not even at
promiscuous mingling with the obscure. She was, if you will allow me the
expression, the _as des as_ of the fashionable war-relief world in
Paris. As in the case of Guynemer, when she mounted her aerial steed in
pursuit of big cash donations to her _oeuvre_, all lesser lights
abandoned hopes for theirs.

She had so many different weapons in her arsenal that she was
irresistible; her château full of the memories of those distinguished
thieves, intriguers, and murderers, the illustrious ancestors of her
husband; her far-renowned collection of historic snuffboxes, her
wonderful Paris house with its rigorously select circle, to enter which
any woman there would have given her ears; her astonishing and
beautiful jewelry; the reputation of having been in her youth the _bonne
amie_ of one of the best-known of the Bourbon pretenders (or was it a
Napoleonic) ... ah, when the Duchesse started out to bring down a
wealthy philanthropist for her Home for One-armed and Tubercular
Soldiers, she never missed her aim. It was not to be doubted that people
who had succumbed without a struggle to the snuffy old parish priest
with his war-orphans, would put up no resistance to this brilliant
onslaught.

When I perceived the Halls corraled by this well-known personage, I
shamelessly moved closer so that I could overhear what was being said.
This was little enough on the part of the two Halls. Mrs. Hall smiled
silently down on her short and majestic interlocutor. Mr. Hall's
strongly marked face was inscrutable. However, the great lady was quite
used to respectful attention from those of her excompatriots with whom
she deigned to converse, and she continued to talk with her habitual
certainty of herself. At the moment when I came within earshot, she was
retailing to them exactly how many hundreds of wounded heroes had passed
through "her" hands to their eternal benefit; exactly the praises the
Minister of War had given her when her red ribbon was bestowed; exactly
how she had attacked and driven from the field a Spanish lady of wealth
who had had the presumption also to attempt to aid one-armed and
tubercular soldiers; how imitators had tried to "steal" her methods of
outdoor work for the tubercular, and how she had defeated their fell
purpose by allowing no more visitors to that institution without a card
from her personally....

At this point my attention was called away by an acquaintance who asked
me in a whisper if those people whom the Duchesse had so ruthlessly
grabbed were really the extravagantly rich and queer Americans everybody
was talking about, attached to no institution, who gave as they pleased,
dodging recognition and decorations, mavericks of the fashionable
war-relief world, breaking all the time-honored traditions of that
society.

When I could resume my eavesdropping, the Duchesse was embarked upon her
snuffboxes, graciously dropping down from the pinnacle of her lofty
exclusiveness an actual invitation to the two nobodies before her to
call on her and see that world-famed collection, comprising snuffboxes
used by the Duc de Talleyrand, the Duc de St. Simon, the Marquis de la
Rochefoucauld....

About this time I detected an inward glow in Mr. Hall's steady eyes. He
said grimly, "I don't happen to be acquainted with any of those
gentlemen, but in our country snuff-taking is accounted a rather low
form of amusing yourself."

The Duchesse was brought up short, not in the least by any intimation
that she might not be extracting her usual due of admiration, but by a
great desire to laugh at the unsophistication of the barbarians. For my
part I went warm all over with cheerfulness, and stepped forward to
present my cordial greetings to the Halls. Mrs. Hall soon fell back a
step or two with me, leaving Mr. Hall looking down severely on the
jewel-covered woman before him. There was a shade of anxiety on Mrs.
Hall's usually clear face. "You don't suppose," she murmured to me,
"that Robert will be taken in by that horrid, common old woman and give
some money to her? Men are so blind, even the best of them!"

I must have laughed out at this, for the Duchesse turned and came
towards us, carrying off Mrs. Hall the moment thereafter, with her
wonderful irresistible assurance of conferring a distinction. I said to
Mr. Hall, moved by the most genuine curiosity: "What do you think of the
celebrated Duchesse de Sazarat-Bégonine? You know she is accounted
perhaps the most chic of all chic Parisiennes. Is there any other city
where a woman of her age could set the style for the most exclusive
society?"

Mr. Hall did not seem interested in the chic-ness of the great lady. He
was silent for a moment, watching over the heads of the crowd his wife
listening to the Duchesse, her kind eyes bent attentively downward. Then
he said, with decision, "If that bragging old harridan gets a cent out
of my wife, I'll ... I'll spank Margaret."

I thought then that my cup of diverted satisfaction, was quite full; but
it ran over splashingly when, half an hour later, separated by the crowd
from the Halls, I heard the Duchesse near me, announcing confidently to
a friend: "Oh, no difficulty whatever. The simplest fish who ever
swallowed down the bait in one gulp. Hooked? My dear, they are in my
basket already!"

I went away on that, full of threadbare meditations on the little child
who had been the only one to see that the Emperor had really nothing on.

       *       *       *       *       *

Although, after this, our Braille printing establishment continued to
benefit by casual visits from the Halls, visits followed usually by some
sound suggestion for improvement, accompanied by a check, they were
strictly Scriptural as regards the ignorance of the right hands of the
doings of the left, and I had little idea of what were their occupations
in other directions. Once in a while they carried me off to dinner in
some famous restaurant where otherwise I would never have set foot, and
where my war-tired and gloomy spirits received a lesson in the art of
cheer. There was in those delicate and costly repasts a sort of robust
confidence in the ultimate rightness of things ... or at least I used to
have this fancy to explain to myself the renewed courage which came to
me after such evenings, and which may have been simply the result of a
really hearty meal after a good deal of penitential and meager fare.

I needed all the courage and calmness I could extract from any source
during those days, for it was at that time that my old school friend,
Marguerite Moysset, was notified that her husband was killed in a
skirmish on the Champagne front. Marguerite had already lost, almost at
the beginning of the war, her only child, a boy of nineteen. The death
of her husband left her desperately poor and inexpressibly alone. She
had not wept for her boy's death nor did she shed a tear now for her
husband whom she had almost extravagantly adored. She shut herself up in
a white, stern horror which frightened us, all her well-meaning friends
who hovered about her in those clumsy ministrations which often do more
harm than good but which nevertheless one dares not omit.

Paradoxically enough it was the much-dreaded moving out of the old
apartment, full of memories of the twenty happy years passed there, and
the moving into the two little rooms on the fifth floor of a dingy old
tenement house in a poor quarter of the city, which did more for
Marguerite than all our foolish efforts. At least it aroused her to a
sort of shocked and horrified life, and carried her out of her own
misery.

Not long after she had gone there to live I found her with four,
pale-faced, dirty little children in one of her two rooms. She was
heating water on her charcoal stove. "I'm going to give them a bath,"
she said to me, pronouncing the commonplace words with a strange wild
accent. "Do you know they have never had a bath, all over their bodies,
in their lives?" I stayed to help her, wondering at the curious
expression on her face. She was, as she had been ever since the blow had
fallen, still very white, but now that pallor was like white heat. After
the children were clean, Marguerite dressed them in coarse, clean, new
clothes, which she told me she had sold her watch to buy, "the
church-bell strikes so near that I don't need a watch any more," and
gave them each a piece of bread and jam. They took their departure then,
stricken into an astonished silence, and Marguerite turned to me with an
angry toss of her head, "Do you know what the war is?" she asked me
fiercely. "_I_ know! It is the punishment we have called down on
ourselves. I see now that the war has only intensified everything that
existed before, it has _changed_ nothing fundamentally. We were living
as hideously in a state of war before as now, except that it was not
physically bloody. There were children in this awful house then as now,
without baths, without food, without decency, while I was giving all my
energy that one little boy might have everything, everything that he
could wish."

At this I could not repress a protest, calling up the very modest
comforts of her simple home. She brushed me aside. "It was luxurious,
sinfully, wickedly luxurious to live so while other human beings were
living as they were in this house. Oh, I see it so plainly, we were all
living with all our might according to the horrible Prussian maxim that
you have a right to anything you're strong enough to keep other people
from sharing. All the Germans did was to carry it to its logical,
murdering conclusion, and show us what we really were."

I could not, Heaven knows, deny this, but I ventured a palliative
murmur. "But at least we are ashamed of it. We tried to hide it. We
never gloried in it, as the Prussians do."

"I am ashamed of it _now_," she told me somberly, "now when I have
nothing, nothing to use as help but my two hands. I am ashamed of it now
when it is too late."

The black misery on her face was such that I brought out the foolish
phrase I had been repressing all during the weeks since the news had
come: "Marguerite dearest, why do you keep such a dreadful calm?
Wouldn't it do you _good_ to cry?"

"_I?_" she said bitterly. "I haven't the right to cry! Look at my
neighbors!"

The next time I went back I found her two little rooms full of children,
three small babies on the bed, and a dozen or more of different ages
playing together, while Marguerite, in a long black apron, stirred a
soup-pot on the charcoal fire.

"Their mothers are working!" She gave me this as all-sufficient
explanation, adding: "But there are so many, many more that I can't
help! If only I had more room to take them in ... and more soup ... and
more bread! But with children it's wicked to start more than you can
carry on, and ... I've made the calculation.... I can't possibly help
any more than there are here!"

I noticed that the feverish, wild look had gone from her eyes, that she
looked steadied--infinitely tragic--but quiet, purposeful. The children
had brought her back into real life again.

On a sudden impulse I left her, and went to telephone the Halls, asking
them to meet me near there. While I waited for them, I found myself very
much agitated, my head whirling with possibilities for Marguerite's
future, my legs a little unsteady under me. I revolved the best way to
"approach" them, the most tactful manner of presenting the matter to
them; I brought to mind all the painfully acquired war-relief lore about
"managing" people with money, I tried to recall what I knew of them so
that I might guess at some weakness of theirs to exploit. Perhaps I
could promise to get recognition for them from the French Ministry of
the Interior ... what _was_ the exact name of that medal they give to
foreign philanthropists, of course not the red ribbon, but still....

In the midst of these cheap calculations, their taxi drove up to the
curb, they stepped out, and I perceived that I had forgotten what they
were. It was not surprising. I lived in a world where there were few
reminders of such as they. Mr. Hall looked at me out of his honest eyes,
and said with his honest American accent, "Well, what's doing?" and I
found myself without preamble giving them the facts, naked facts,
without an adjective to qualify them, without a single picturesque
arrangement. I did not even make an appeal to them. I simply told them
all that had happened since the death of Marguerite's husband. I even
hid nothing of what Marguerite had said which might seem a criticism of
their way of life and of mine. I told them all. When I finished, they
glanced at each other, their good look of deep understanding which, in
the cold, ill-smelling city street was like a gust of warm,
country-scented air across my face. Mrs. Hall said, "I wonder if she'd
mind our going to see her?" Mr. Hall qualified: "Of course if you think
best not to ... we're not acquainted with her. We don't want to seem to
butt in."

We found her giving those little people their noonday meal, hot soup and
bread. Having only her small kitchen table and four bowls, the children
came in relays. The fear of those who waited, lest the soup should give
out before their turn, was painful to see. Marguerite glanced at my
companions, surprised, and gave me a questioning, half-challenging look.
The Halls stood quietly in one corner of the dark little kitchen and
watched the white-faced clean little mites, all their ineffably clear
child's eyes turned on the tall, pale foster-mother, bending over them,
serving them, stooping to catch a timidly murmured request, smoothing a
little cheek, tying and untying their bibs, wiping their lips ... every
gesture pregnant with passionate motherliness. To me she wore the look
of a mother who returns to her brood after an absence and, finding them
ill-cared for and unhappy, strives burningly and remorsefully to give
them their lost due of love and care.

With the last relay of four occurred a tragedy. Scrape as she might,
Marguerite could not bring out of the kettle more than enough for three
bowls. For a moment, there was silent consternation. Then, sighing,
without any suggestion from Marguerite, these children of the poor,
began dipping from their portions into the empty bowl. There was on
their thin little faces a patient and unsurprised resignation. When all
the bowls were equally full, they set to eagerly, a natural childlike
greediness coming at last into their eyes. I glanced at Mr. Hall and saw
that his lips were moving as though in some exclamation, but I could not
catch what it was.

When the last drop had been scraped up from the last bowl and
Marguerite's long white fingers were once more immersed in dishwater, I
ventured to bring my visitors to her and introduce them. They asked a
few questions which Marguerite answered in her careful book-English,
astonished and a little nettled, I could see by their directness and
lack of ceremony.

Yes, she said, turning a second glance of interrogation on me ... who
_were_ these strangers in her house?... yes, there were other lodgings
to be had in the house where she could care for more children, the whole
top floor was a big, deserted factory loft with skylights letting in the
sun and with windows opening on a flat-roof terrace where the children
could play. But of course that was out of the question. The rent was
very high, it would cost a great deal to heat the room, and where could
she get money to feed any more?... "Even with the number I have, you
saw...."

"Yes," they said hastily, they had seen! I took it from their accent
that they would not soon forget what they had seen.

Mrs. Hall looked at her husband, their serious, eloquent glance. He
nodded, cleared his throat, and took out his wallet, that famous wallet!
I remember exactly what he said, it being of the most masterly brevity,
and I mean to set it down textually as he said it. What I cannot set
down is the inimitable, straight, clear gaze out of his eyes, as he
looked at Marguerite, everything but their common humanity forgotten. He
said: "Madame, my wife and I want to help you help these children. I am
going to leave five thousand francs with you to-day, for you to rent
anything, buy anything, do anything you think best for the children. And
there will always be plenty more where that came from, for you to go
on."

Having said all that he had to say, he was silent, laying down on the
table with his card, the five big banknotes, and putting on them one of
the children's soup-bowls. I noted especially the gentleness with which
he touched the coarse, yellow earthenware, as though it were of great
value. I wondered intensely how Marguerite could thank them. I did not
venture to look at her face.

Marguerite did not thank them at all. She stood perfectly motionless for
a moment, and then, putting her hands over her face, she broke into a
storm of loud sobs. The tears ran down between her thin fingers and
fell on the coarse yellow bowl and on the banknotes....

Mrs. Hall pulled at my arm. Mr. Hall opened the door, and I found myself
stumbling down the steep, dark stairs, holding desperately to the greasy
railing. We groped our way down, step by step, in darkness and in
silence, until, nearly at the bottom, I called back, with a quavering
attempt at a jest, "But how about the necessity of a sound business
basis?"

From the fetid darkness above me, dropped down Mr. Hall's clarion
American accent, "Oh, damn a sound business basis!"

I found myself obliged to wink back the tears which came along with my
laughter.

Emerging into the gray light of the narrow street, I turned to wait for
my companions, but when I saw the expression of their faces I knew I
should not be missed, and while they stood to hail a cab I made hasty
farewells and betook myself to the nearest Métro station, my ears
ringing as though I had been hearing the loud, triumphant note of
trumpets.

I was about to dive into the anthole of the subway entrance when I heard
my name called and saw Mrs. Hall's chic little toque thrust out of a cab
window. "We forgot to tell you," she called across the street to me,
"that we are very much obliged to you indeed for telephoning us."

With this inimitable farewell they vanished again from my view until
months after this I ran across them, for the last time. I was at the
Gare de Lyon, seeing off a blind soldier whom, with his family, we had
been able to place in a home in the country. As usual with the poor, to
whom journeys are considerable events, we had been fearfully ahead of
time because they were in a panic for fear of losing their train. I had
settled our protégés with all the innumerable valises, baskets,
packages, roll-ups, and wraps which are the accompaniment of a French
family, even the humblest, _en voyage_, had bidden them godspeed, and
was going back along the platform to the exit when I was confronted by a
familiar royal effect in furs, followed by a mountain of magnificent
baggage on a truck.

"Hello!" said Mr. Hall. "You on the move too?"

I explained my presence and turned back to walk with them to their
train. "We are going to Italy," explained Mrs. Hall, "and for once we
are going to try and _take_ Italy something, instead of just getting the
most out of her the way we have done and everybody else has done all
these tourist years."

(I had some reflections of my own about what Italian hotel keepers and
guides had taken from me, but I kept them to myself, recognizing that as
usual I was on a very different plane from the Golden Age of my
companions.)

"You see," explained Mr. Hall in their astonishing, matter-of-fact
manner, "you see one of our enterprises at home in the States is making
a lot more money than ever before because of the war-manufacturing ...
now that the Government is in the war, at last, thank the Lord! Of
course, that money's got to go somehow to make up for some of the harm
the war is doing. And it's such a lot that it can swing a big
proposition. We've thought it over a lot, Margaret and I, and we've
decided to put it into helping the reforestation movement in Italy." I
had only a blank glare to greet this idea, so totally unexpected was it
to me. They hastened to expand, both of them talking at once, with a
fresh, eager interest. I gleaned the idea in broken bits of phrases,
"... terrible floods in Italy every few years ... tops of the mountains
bare and eroded ... campaign of education needed ... a thousand young
pines to the acre ... forty millions needed ... a fine Italian forestry
society already existing to direct the work, but without funds since the
war ... hundreds of thousands of acres to be reclaimed...." My head
whirled, but the main outlines were clear.

"_En voiture!_" shouted an employee running down the _quai_.

They scrambled into their car hastily, but turned at the door for last
remarks. "We've left a deposit in the bank for your friend with the
tenement-house children," they suddenly remembered to assure me, "enough
for a couple of years, and then, whenever she needs it, we're right
here."

Mrs. Hall, on a sudden impulse, stooped low to give me a good-bye kiss.
"I _do_ hope your husband gets back all right from the front!" she said
earnestly, divining the constant anxiety of my every moment, and then,
her eyes shining, "Oh, my dear, I wonder if anybody ever was so lucky as
to have such a perfectly, perfectly lovely honeymoon as Robert and I!"

The train began very slowly to move. I walked along beside it, dreading
to see the last of those clear eyes. They smiled and waved their hands.
They looked like super-people, the last inhabitants of the world before
the war, the only happy human beings left.

I looked after them longingly. The smooth, oily movement of the train de
luxe was accelerated. They were gone.

I went soberly back into the big echoing station and out into the dingy
winter Paris street.

I had not gone ten steps before I was quite sure again that I had made
them up, out of my head.



LA PHARMACIENNE


When the war broke out, Madeleine Brismantier was the very type and
epitome of all which up to that time had been considered "normal" for a
modern woman, a _nice_, modern woman. She had been put through the
severe and excellent system of French public education in her native
town of Amiens, and had done so well with her classes that when she was
nineteen her family were thinking of feeding her into the hopper of the
system of training for primary teachers. But just then, when on a visit
in a smallish Seine-et-Marne town, she met the fine, upstanding young
fellow who was to be her husband. He was young too, not then quite
through the long formidable course of study for pharmacists, so that it
was not until two years later, when Madeleine was twenty-one and he
twenty-five, that they were married, and Madeleine left Amiens to live
in Mandriné, the town where they had met.

Jules Brismantier's father had been the principal pharmacist there all
his life, and Jules stepped comfortably into his father's shoes, his
business, and the lodgings over the pharmacy. If this sounds common and
"working-class" to your American ears, disabuse yourself; the habitation
over the pharmacy was as well ordered and well furnished a little
apartment as ever existed in a "strictly residential portion" of any
American suburb. The beds were heir-looms, and were of mahogany, there
were several bits of excellent furniture in the small, white-paneled
salon, and three pretty, brocade-covered chairs which had come down from
Madeleine's great-grandmother; there was a piano on which Madeleine, who
had received a good substantial musical training, played the best music
there is in the world, which is to say, German (Jules, like many modern
young Frenchmen, had a special cult for Beethoven); and there was a
kitchen--oh, you should have seen that kitchen, white tiles on the walls
and red tiles on the floor and all around such an array of copper and
enamel utensils as can only be found in well-kept kitchens in the French
provinces where one of the main amusements and occupations of the
excellent housewives is elaborate cooking. Furthermore, there was in the
big oaken chests and tall cupboards a supply of bedding which would have
made us open our eyes, used as we are to our (relatively speaking)
hand-to-mouth American methods. Madeleine had no more than the usual
number of sheets, partly laid aside for her, piece by piece, when the
various inheritances from provincial aunts and cousins came in, partly
left there in the house, in which her mother-in-law had died the year
before Madeleine's marriage, partly bought for her (as if there were not
already enough!) to make up the traditional wedding trousseau without
which no daughter of a respectable bourgeois provincial family can be
married. So that, taking them all together, she had two hundred and
twenty sheets, every one linen, varying from the delightfully rough old
homespun and home-woven ones, dating from nobody knew when, down to the
smooth, fine, glossy ones with deep hemstitching on the top and bottom,
and Madeleine's initials set in a delicately embroidered wreath. Of
course she had pillow-slips to go with them, and piles of woolen
blankets, fluffy, soft and white, and a big puffy eiderdown covered with
bright satin as the finishing touch for each well-furnished bed.
Madeleine pretended to be modern sometimes, and to say it was absurd to
have so many, but in her heart, inherited from long generations of
passionately home-keeping women, she took immense satisfaction in all
the ample furnishings of her pretty little home. What woman would not?

Now, although all this has a great deal to do with what happened to
Madeleine, I am afraid you will think that I am making too long an
inventory of her house, so I will not tell you about the shining silver
in the buffet drawers, nor even about the beautiful old walled garden,
full of flowers and vines and fruit-trees, which lay at the back of the
pharmacy. The back windows of the new bride's habitation looked down
into the tree-tops of this garden, and along its graveled walks her
children were to run and play.

For very soon the new family began to grow: first, a little blue-eyed
girl like Madeleine; then, two years later, a dark-eyed boy like
Jules--all very suitable and as it should be, like everything else that
happened to Madeleine. She herself, happily absorbed in her happy life
and in the care of all her treasures, reverted rapidly to type, forgot
most of her modern education, and became a model wife and mother on the
pattern of all the other innumerable model wives and mothers in the
history of her provincial family. She lived well within their rather
small income, and no year passed without their adding to the modest
store of savings which had come down to them because all their
grandmothers had lived well within _their_ incomes. They kept the titles
relative to this little fortune, together with what cash they had, and
all their family papers, in a safe in the pharmacy, sunk in the wall and
ingeniously hidden behind a set of false shelves. They never passed this
hiding-place without the warm, _sheltered_ feeling which a comfortable
little fortune gives,--the feeling which poor people go all their lives
without knowing.

You must not think, because I speak so much of the comfortableness of
the life of this typical French provincial family, that there was the
least suspicion of laziness about them. Indeed, such intelligent comfort
as theirs is only to be had at the price of diligent and well-directed
effort. Jules worked hard all day in the pharmacy, and made less money
than would have contented an American ten years his junior. Madeleine
planned her busy day the evening before, and was up early to begin it.
The house was always immaculate, the meals always on time (this was
difficult to manage with Madeleine cooking everything and only a
rattle-headed young girl to help) and always delicious and varied.
Jules mounted the stairs from the pharmacy at noon and in the evening,
his mouth literally watering in anticipation. The children were always
as exquisitely fresh and well-cared for as only French children of the
better classes can be, with their hair curled in shining ringlets and
their hands clean, as those of our children are only on Sunday mornings.
Madeleine's religion was to keep them spotless and healthful and
smiling; to keep Jules' mouth always watering in anticipation; to help
him with his accounts in the evenings, and to be on hand during the day
to take his place during occasional absences; to know all about the
business end of their affairs and to have their success as much at heart
as he; to keep her lovely old garden flowering and luxuriant; to keep
her lovely old home dainty and well ordered; and, of course, to keep
herself invariably neat with the miraculous neatness of French women,
her pretty, soft chestnut hair carefully dressed, her hands white and
all her attractive person as alluring as in her girlhood.

Madeleine saw nothing lacking in this religion. It seemed to her all
that life could demand of one woman.

In the spring of 1914, when Raoul was five years old and Sylvie eight,
Madeleine was once more joyfully sorting over the tiny clothes left from
their babyhood. All that summer her quick fingers were busy with fine
white flannel and finer white nainsook, setting tiny stitches in small
garments. Every detail of the great event was provided for in advance.
As usual in French families, in all good families everywhere, the
mother-to-be was lapped around with tenderness and indulgence. Madeleine
was a little queen-regnant whose every whim was law. Of course she
wanted her mother to be with her, as she had been for the arrival of
Sylvie and Raoul, although her mother was not very well, and detested
traveling in hot weather; and she wanted the same nurse she had had
before, although that one had now moved away to a distant city. But
Madeleine did not like the voice of the nurse who was available in
Mandriné, and what French daughter could think of going through her
great, dreadful hour without her mother by her to comfort and reassure
her and to take the responsibility of everything! So of course the nurse
was engaged and her railway fare paid in advance, and of course
Madeleine's mother promised to come. She was to arrive considerably in
advance of the date, somewhere about the middle of August. All this was
not so unreasonable from a money point of view as it sounds, for when
they made up the weekly accounts together they found that the business
was doing unusually well.

All through the golden July heats Madeleine sewed and waited. Sometimes
in the pharmacy near Jules, sometimes in the garden where Raoul and
Sylvie, in white dresses, ran and played gently up and down the paths.
They played together mostly and had few little friends, because there
were not many "nice" families living near them, and a good many that
weren't nice. Of course Madeleine kept her children rigorously separated
from these children, who were never in white but in the plainest of
cheap gingham aprons, changed only once a week, and who never wore
shapely, well-cut little shoes, but slumped about heavily in the
wooden-soled, leather-topped "galoches" which are the national foot-gear
for poor French children. Like many good mothers in France (are there
any like that elsewhere?) Madeleine looked at other people's children
chiefly to see if they were or were not "desirable" playmates for her
own; and Sylvie and Raoul were not three years old before they had also
learned the art of telling at a glance whether another child was a nice
child or not, the question being settled of course by the kind of
clothes he wore.

July was a beautiful month of glorious sun and ripening weather. For
hours at a time in her lovely green nest, Madeleine sat happily, resting
or embroidering, the peaches pleached against the high stone walls
swelling and reddening visibly from one day to the next, the lilies
opening flaming petals day by day, the children growing vigorously.
Jules told his pretty wife fondly that she looked not a day older than
on the day of their marriage, ten years before. This was quite true, but
I am not so sure as Jules that it was the highest of compliments to
Madeleine.

The last week of July came, the high-tide moment of lush growth.
Madeleine was bathed in the golden, dreamy content which comes to happy,
much-loved women in her condition. It was the best possible of worlds,
she had the best possible of husbands and children, and she was sure
that nobody could say that she had not cultivated her garden to be the
best possible of its kind. The world seemed to stand still in a sunny
haze, centered about their happiness.

Drenched in sunshine and peace, their little barque was carried rapidly
along by the Niagara river of history over the last stretch of smooth,
shining water which separated them from the abyss.

       *       *       *       *       *

I dare not tell you a single word about those first four days in August,
of the utter incredulity which swiftly, from one dreadful hour to the
next, changed to black horror. Their barque had shot over the edge, and
in a wild tumult of ravening waters they were all falling together down
into the fathomless gulf. And there are not words to describe to you the
day of mobilization, when Jules, in his wrinkled uniform, smelling of
moth-balls, said good-bye to his young wife and little children and
marched away to do his best to defend them.

There are many things in real life too horrible to be spoken of, and
that farewell is one.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was Madeleine in the empty house, heavy with her time of trial
close upon her; with two little children depending on her for safety and
care and cheer; with only a foolish little young maid to help her; with
such a terrible anxiety about her husband that the mere thought of him
sent her reeling against the nearest support.

Almost at once came the Mayor in person, venerable and white-bearded, to
gather up the weapons in all the houses. To Madeleine, wondering at
this, he explained that he did it, so that _if_ the Germans came to
Mandriné he could give his word of honor there were no concealed arms in
the town.

It was as though thunder had burst there in the little room. Madeleine
stared at him, deathly white. "You don't think ... you don't think it
possible that the Germans will get as far as _this_!" The idea that she
and the children might be in danger was inconceivable to her. Monsieur
le Maire hastened to reassure her, remembering her condition, and
annoyed that he should have spoken out. "No, no, this is only a measure
of precaution, to leave nothing undone." He went away, after having
taken Jules' shotgun, her little revolver, and even a lockless,
flintless old musket which had belonged to some of the kin who had
followed Napoleon to Russia. As he left, he said, "Personally I have not
the faintest idea they will penetrate as far as Mandriné--not the
_faintest_!"

Of course when Jules left, _no_ one had the faintest idea that his
peaceful home town would see anything of the war. That horror, at least,
was spared the young husband and father. But during the fortnight after
his departure, although there were no newspapers, practically no trains,
and no information except a brief, brief announcement, written by hand,
in ink, posted every day on the door of the Town Hall, the air began to
be unbreathable, because of rumors, sickening rumors, unbelievable
ones ... that Belgium was invaded, although not in the war at all, and
that Belgian cities and villages were being sacked and burned; that the
whole north country was one great bonfire of burning villages and farms;
then that the Germans were near! Were nearer! And then all at once,
quite definitely, that they were within two days' march.

Every one who could, got out of Mandriné, but the only conveyances left
were big jolting farm-wagons piled high with household gear; wagons
which went rumbling off, drawn by sweating horses lashed into a gallop
by panic-stricken boys, wagons which took you, nobody knew where, away!
away! which might break down and leave you anywhere, beside the road, in
a barn, in a wood, in the hands of the Germans ... for nobody knew where
they were. The frightened neighbors, clutching their belongings into
bundles, offered repeatedly to take Madeleine and the children with
them. Should she go or not? There was nobody to help her decide. The
little fluttering maid was worse than nothing, the children were only
babies to be taken care of. After her charges were all in bed, that last
night, Madeleine wrung her hands, walking up and down the room,
literally sick with indecision. What ought she to do? It was the first
great decision she had ever been forced to make alone.

The last of the fleeing carts went without her. During the night she had
come to know that the first, the most vital of all the innumerable and
tragic needs of the hour was the life of the unborn baby. She was forced
to cling to the refuge she had. She did not dare fare forth into the
unknown until she had her baby safely in her arms.

And perhaps the Germans would not come to Mandriné.

       *       *       *       *       *

For two days the few people left in town lived in a sultry suspense,
with no news, with every fear. M. le Curé had stayed with his church; M.
le Maire stayed with the town records, and his white-haired old wife
stayed to be with her husband (they had never been separated during the
forty years of their marriage); good fresh-faced Sister Ste. Lucie, the
old nun in charge of the little Hospice, stayed with some bedridden
invalids who could not be moved; and there were poor people who had
stayed for the reason which makes poor people do so many other things,
because they could not help it, because they did not own a cart, nor a
wheelbarrow, nor even a child's perambulator in which to take along the
old grandfather or the sick mother who could not walk. Soeur Ste.
Lucie promised to come to be with Madeleine whenever she should send the
little maid with the summons.

Madeleine sickened and shivered and paled during these two endless days
and sleepless nights of suspense. There were times when she felt she
must die of sheer horror at the situation in which she found herself,
that it was asking too much of her to make her go on living. At such
moments she shook as though in a palsy and her voice trembled so that
she could not speak aloud. There were other times when she was in an
unnatural calm, because she was absolutely certain that she was dreaming
and must soon wake up to find Jules beside her.

The children played in the garden. They discovered a toad there, during
that time, and Madeleine often heard them shouting with laughter over
its antics. The silly little maid came every few moments to tell her
mistress a new rumor ... she had heard the Germans were cannibals and
ate little children, was that true? And was it true that they had a
special technique for burning down whole towns at once, with kerosene
pumps and dynamite petards? One story seemed as foolish as the other to
Madeleine, who hushed her angrily and told her not to listen to such
lies. Once the little maid began to tell her in a terrified whisper what
she had heard the Germans did to women in Madeleine's condition ... but
the recital was cut short by a terrible attack of nausea which lasted
for hours and left Madeleine so weak that she could not raise her head
from the pillow. She lay there, tasting the bitterness of utter
necessity. Weak as she was, she was the strongest of their little band.
Presently she rose and resumed the occupations of the day, but she was
stooped forward for very feebleness like an old woman.

She told herself that she did not believe a single word the
terror-stricken little maid had told her; but the truth was that she
was half dead with fear, age-old, terrible, physical fear, which had
been as far from her life before as a desire to eat raw meat or to do
murder. It was almost like a stroke of paralysis to this modern woman.

For two whole days the town lay silent and helpless, waiting the blow,
in an eternity of dread. On the morning of the third day the sound of
clumsily clattering hoofs in the deserted street brought Madeleine
rushing downstairs to the door of the pharmacy. An old farmer, mounted
on a sweating plow horse, drew rein for an instant in the sun and,
breathing hard, gave the news to the little cluster of white-faced women
and old men who gathered about him. Madeleine pressed in beside her
poorer neighbors, closer to them than at any time in her life, straining
up to the messenger, like them, to hear the stroke of fate. Its menacing
note boomed hollowly in their ears. The Germans were in the next town,
Larot-en-Multien, only eight miles away. The vanguard had stopped there
to drink and eat, but behind them was an ant-like gray horde which
pressed steadily forward with incredible haste and would be in Mandriné
within two hours.

He gathered up his reins to go on, but paused to add a brief suggestion
as to what they might expect. The Germans were too hurried to burn or to
destroy houses; they were only taking everything which was easily
portable. They had robbed the church, had taken all the flour from the
mill, all the contents of all the shops, and when he left (the sight of
the shining plate-glass windows of the pharmacy reminded him) they were
just in the act of looting systematically the pharmacy of Larot, taking
down all the contents of the shelves and packing them carefully into a
big camion.

He rode on. The women dispersed, scurrying rapidly each to her
dependents, children, or sick women, or old men. The Mayor hurried away
to carry a few more of his priceless town records to the hiding-place.
The priest went back to his church. For an instant Madeleine was left
alone in the empty street, echoing to disaster impending. She looked at
the pharmacy, shining, well ordered, well stocked, useful, _as Jules had
left it_.

At the call to action her sickness vanished like a mere passing
giddiness. Her knees stiffened in anger. They should not carry off
everything from the Mandriné pharmacy! What could the town _do_ without
remedies for its sick? The mere first breath from the approaching
tornado annihilating all in its path crashed through the wall which had
sheltered her small, comfortably arranged life. Through the breach in
the wall she had a passing glimpse of what the pharmacy was; not merely
a convenient way for Jules to earn enough for her and the children to
live agreeably, but one of the vital necessities of the community life,
a very important trust which Jules held.

And now Jules was gone and could not defend it. But she was there.

She ran back into the shop, calling for her little maid, in a loud,
clear voice such as had not issued from her throat since Jules had gone
away. "Simone! Simone!"

The maid came running down the stairs and at the first sight of her
mistress expected to hear that her master had returned or that the
French troops were there, so like herself did Madeleine seem, no longer
stooping and shivering and paper-white, but upright, with hard, bright
eyes. But it was no good news which she brought out in the new ringing
voice. She said: "The Germans will be here in two hours. Help me quickly
hide the things in the cellar ... you know, the further room ... and we
can put the hanging shelves over the door so they won't know there is
another part to the cellar. Bring down the two big trays from the
kitchen. We can carry more that way. Then light two or three candles up
and down the cellar stairs. It won't do for me to fall, these last
days."

She was gathering the big jars together as she spoke, and taking out the
innumerable big and little drawers.

In a moment the two women, one who had been hardly strong enough to
walk, the other scarcely more than a child, were going slowly down the
cellar stairs, their arms aching with the weight of the trays and then
running back upstairs in feverish haste. Shelf after shelf was cleared
of the precious remedies that meant health, that might mean life, in the
days to come. The minutes slipped past. An hour had gone.

From her attic windows from where she could see the road leading to
Lorat-en-Multien, a neighbor called down shrilly that dust was rising
up in thick clouds at the lower end. And even as she called, silently,
composedly, there pedaled into the long main street five or six men in
gray uniforms on bicycles, quite calm and sure of themselves, evidently
knowing very well that the place had no defenders. Madeleine saw the
white hair of M. le Curé and the white beard of M. le Maire advance to
meet the invaders.

"We can't do any more here," she said. "Down to the cellar now, to mask
the door. No, I'll do it alone. Somebody must be here to warn us. We
mustn't be caught down there." She turned to go, and came back. "But I
can't move the hanging shelves alone!"

Simone ventured, "Mlle. Sylvie? Could she watch and tell us?"

Madeleine hesitated a fraction. Sylvie, like her mother, had been asked
to do very little with herself except to be a nice person.

Then, "Sylvie! Sylvie!" called her mother with decision.

The little girl came running docilely, her clear eyes wide in candid
wonder.

Madeleine bent on her a white, stern face of command. "The Germans are
almost here. Simone and I have been hiding papa's drugs in the cellar
and we've not finished. Stay here ... pretend to be playing ... and call
to us the moment you see the soldiers coming. _Do you understand?_"

Sylvie received her small baptism of fire with courage. Her chin began
to tremble and she grew very white. This was not because she was afraid
of the Germans. Madeleine had protected her from all the horrid stories
which filled the town, and she had only the vaguest baby notions of what
the Germans were. It was her mother's aspect, awful to the child, which
terrified her. But it also braced her to effort. She folded her little
white lips hard and nodded. Madeleine and the maid went down the cellar
stairs for the last time.

When they came back, the troops were still not there, although one could
see beyond the river the cloud of white dust raised by their myriad
feet. The two women were covered with earth and cobwebs, and were
breathing heavily. Their knees shook under them. Taking the child with
them, they went up the stairs to the defenseless home. They found
five-year-old Raoul just finishing the house-and-farmyard which he and
Sylvie were beginning when she was called down. "If only I had three
more blocks to do this corner!" he lamented.

       *       *       *       *       *

Twenty minutes from that time they heard heavy, rapid footsteps enter
the shop below and storm up the stairs. There was a loud knocking, and
the sound of men's voices in a strange language.

Madeleine went herself to open the door. This was not an act of bravery
but of dire necessity. There was no one else to do it. She had already
sent the children to the most remote of the rooms, and at the sound of
those trampling feet and hoarse voices Simone had run away, screaming.
Madeleine's fingers shook as she pushed back the bolt. A queer pulse
began to beat very fast in the back of her dry throat.

The first Germans she had ever seen were there before her. Four or five
tall, broad, red-faced men, very hot, very dusty, in gray, wrinkled
uniforms and big boots, pushed into the room past her. One of them said
to her in broken French: "Eat! Eat! Drink! Very thirsty. Quick!" The
others had already seized the bottles on the sideboard and were drinking
from them.

Madeleine went into the kitchen and brought back on a big tray
everything ready-cooked which was there: a dish of stew, cold and
unappetizing in its congealed fat, a long loaf of bread, a big piece of
cheese, a platter of cooked beans.... The men drinking at the sideboard
cried aloud hoarsely and fell upon the contents of the tray, clutching,
cramming food into their mouths, into their pockets, gulping down the
cold stew in huge mouthfuls, shoveling the beans up in their dirty hands
and plastering them into their mouths, already full....

Some one called, warningly, from below. The men snatched up what bottles
were at hand, thrust them into their pockets, and still tearing off huge
mouthfuls from the cheese, the bread, the meat, they held, and
masticating them with animal noises, turned and clattered down the
stairs again, having paid no more attention to Madeleine than if she had
been a piece of the furniture.

They had come and gone so rapidly that she had the impression of a
vivid, passing hallucination. For an instant she continued to see them
there still, in lightning flashes. Everywhere she looked, she saw yellow
teeth, gnawing and tearing at food; bulging jaw-muscles straining; dirty
foreheads streaked with perspiration, wrinkled like those of eating
dogs; bloodshot eyes glaring in physical greed.

"Oh, les sales bêtes!" she cried out loud. "The dirty beasts!"

Her fear left her, never to come back, swept away by a bitter contempt.
She went, her lip curling, her knees quite strong under her, to reassure
Simone and the children.

The house shook, the windows rattled, the glasses danced on the
sideboard to the thunder of the innumerable marching feet outside, to
the endless rumble of the camions and artillery. The volume of this wild
din, and the hurried pulse of straining haste which was its rhythm,
staggered the imagination. Madeleine scorned to look out of the window,
although Simone and the children called to her from behind the curtains:
"There are millions and millions of them! They are like flies! You
couldn't cross the street, not even running fast, they are so close
together! And how they hurry!"

Madeleine heard some one come up the stairs and enter the hall without
knocking. She found there a well-dressed man with slightly gray hair who
informed her in correct French, pronounced with a strong accent, that he
would return in one hour bringing with him four other officers and that
he would expect to find food and drink ready for them. Having said this
in the detached, casual tone of command of a man giving an order to a
servant, he went away down the stairs, unfolding a map.

Madeleine had all but cried an angry refusal after him, but, as brutally
as on a gag in her mouth, she choked on the sense of her absolute
defenselessness in the face of physical force. This is a sensation which
moderns have blessedly forgotten, like the old primitive fear of
darkness or of thunder. To feel it again is to be bitterly shamed.
Madeleine was all one crimson flame of humiliation as she called Simone
and went into the kitchen.

They cooked the meal and served it an hour later to five excited, elated
officers, spreading out maps as they ate, laughing, drinking
prodigiously and eating, with inconceivable rapidity, such vast
quantities of food that Simone was sure she was serving demons and not
human beings and crossed herself repeatedly as she waited on table. In
spite of all their haste they had not time to finish. Another officer
came up the stairs, thrust his head in through the door, and called a
summons to them. They sprang up, in high feather at what he had said,
snatching at the fruit which Simone had just set on the table. Madeleine
saw one of her guests crowd a whole peach, as big as an apple, into his
mouth at once, and depart, choking and chewing, leaning over so that the
stream of juice which ran from his mouth should not fall on his
uniform.

Simone shrieked from the kitchen, "Oh, madame! The garden! The garden!"

Madeleine ran to a window, looked down, and saw long rows of horses
picketed in the garden. Two German soldiers were throwing down hay from
the gable end of the Mandriné livery-stable which overlooked the wall.
The horses ate with hungry zest, stamping vigorously in the flowerbeds
to keep off the flies. When they had finished on the hay, they began on
the vines, the little, carefully tended fruit-trees, the bushes, the
flowers. A swarm of locusts could not have done the work more
thoroughly.

As she stood there, gazing down on this, there was always in Madeleine's
ears the incessant thundering rumble of the passing artillery....

Through the din there reached her ears a summons roared out from below:
"Cellar! Cellar! Key!"

She was at white heat. She ran downstairs, forgetting all fear, and,
raising her voice to make herself heard above the uproar outside, she
shouted with a passionate wrath which knew no prudence: "You low, vile
thieves! I will not give you one thing more!"

Her puny defiance to the whirlwind passed unnoticed. The men did not
even take the time to strike her, to curse her. With one movement they
turned from her to the cellar door, and, all kicking at it together,
burst it open, trooped downstairs, returning with their arms full of
bottles and ran out into the street.

And all the time the very air shook, in almost visible waves, to the
incessant thundering rumble of the artillery passing.

Madeleine went upstairs, gripping the railing hard, her head whirling.
She had scarcely closed the door behind her when it was burst open and
five soldiers stormed in, cocked revolvers in their fists. They did not
give her a look, but tore through the apartment, searching in every
corner, in every closet, pulling out the drawers of the bureaus,
tumbling the contents on the floor, sweeping the cupboard shelves clear
in one movement of their great hands, with the insane haste which
characterized everything done that day. When they had finished they
clattered out, chalking up something unintelligible on the door. Raoul
and Sylvie began to cry wildly, their nerves undone, and to clutch at
their mother's skirts.

Madeleine took them back into their own little room, undressed them and
put them to bed, where she gave them each a bowl of bread and milk. All
this she did with a quiet air of confidence which comforted the
children. They had scarcely finished eating when they fell asleep, worn
out. Madeleine heard Simone calling for her and went out in the hall. A
German soldier, desperately drunk, held out a note which stated that
four Herr-Lieutenants and a Herr-Captain would eat and sleep there that
night, dinner to be sharp at seven, and the beds ready.

After delivering this he tried to put his arm around Simone and to drag
her into the next room. Simone struggled and screamed, shriek after
shriek, horribly. Madeleine screamed too, and snatching up the poker,
flung herself on the man. He released his hold, too uncertain on his
feet to resist. Both women threw themselves against him, pushing him to
the door and shoving him out on the narrow landing, where he lost his
balance and fell heavily, rolling over and over, down the stairs.

Madeleine bolted the door, took a long knife from the kitchen table, and
waited, her ear at the keyhole, to see if he tried to come back.

This was the woman, you must remember, who less than a month before had
been sitting in the garden sewing on fine linen, safe in an unfathomable
security.

The man did not attempt to return. Madeleine relaxed her tense crouching
attitude and laid the knife down on the table. The perspiration was
streaming down her white cheeks. It came over her with piercing horror
that their screams had not received the slightest response from the
outside world. No one was responsible for their safety. No one cared
what became of them. It made no difference to any one whether they had
repelled that man, or whether he had triumphed over their resistance....

And now she must command her shaking knees and trembling hands to
prepare food for those who had sent him there. Of all the violent
efforts Madeleine had been forced to make none was more racking than to
stoop to the servility of this submission. She had an instant of frenzy
when she thought of locking the door and defying them to enter, but the
recollection of the assault on the thick oaken planks of the cellar
door, and of its splintering collapse before those huge hobnailed boots,
sent her to the kitchen, her teeth set in her lower lip. "I never will
forgive them this, never, never, never!" she said aloud passionately,
more passionately than she had ever said anything in her life, and she
knew as she spoke that it was not of the slightest consequence to any
one whether she would or not.

At seven the meal was ready. At half-past seven the four officers
entered, laughing, talking loudly, jubilant. One of them spoke in good
French to Madeleine, complimenting her on her soup and on the wine. "I
told my friends I knew we would find good cheer and good beds with
Madame Brismantier," he told her affably.

Astonished to hear her name, Madeleine looked at him hard, and
recognized, in spite of his uniform, a well-to-do man, reputed a Swiss,
who had rented a house for the season, several summers back, on a
hillside not far from Mandriné. He had professed a great interest in the
geology of the region and was always taking long walks and collecting
fossils. Jules had an amateur interest in fossils also, and this,
together with the admirably trained voice of the Swiss, had afforded
several occasions of social contact. The foreigner had spent an evening
or two with them, singing to Madeleine's accompaniment. And once, having
some valuable papers left on his hands, he had asked the use of the
Brismantier safe for a night. He had been very fond of children, and
had had always a jolly greeting for little Raoul, who was then only a
baby of two. Madeleine looked at him now, too stupefied with wonder to
open her lips. A phrase from "An die ferne Geliebte," which he had sung
very beautifully, rang in her ears, sounding faint and thin but clear,
through the infernal din in the street.

She turned abruptly and went back into the kitchen. Standing there,
before the stove, she said suddenly, as though she had but just known
it, "Why, he was a spy, all the time!" She had not thought there were
such people as spies outside of cheap books.

She was just putting the roast on the table when some one called loudly
from the street. The men at the table jumped up, went to the window,
leaned out, exchanged noisy exultant words, cursed jovially, and turned
back in haste to tighten the belts and fasten the buttons and hooks
which they had loosened in anticipation of the feast. The spy said
laughingly to Madeleine: "Your French army runs away so fast, madame,
that we cannot eat or sleep for chasing it! Our advance guard is always
sending back word to hurry faster, faster!"

One of the others swept the roast from the table into a brown sack, all
crammed their pockets full of bread and took a bottle under each arm. At
the door the spy called over his shoulder: "Sorry to be in such a hurry!
I will drop you a card from Paris as soon as the mails begin again."

They clattered down the stairs.

Madeleine bolted the door and sank down on a chair, her teeth chattering
loudly. After a time during which she vainly strove to master a mounting
tide of pain and sickness, she said: "Simone, you must go for Sister
Ste. Lucie. My time has come. Go by our back door, through the alley,
and knock at the side door of the Hospice ... you needn't be gone more
than three minutes."

Simone went downstairs, terribly afraid to venture out, even more afraid
to be left alone with her mistress. Madeleine managed to get into the
spare bedroom, away from the children's room, and began to undress, in
an anguish of mind and body such as she had not thought she could endure
and live. But even now she did not know what was before her. In a short
time Simone came back, crying and wringing her hands. A sentry guarded
the street and another the alley. They had thrust her back into the
house, their bayonets glittering, and one had said in French,
"Forbidden; no go out till daylight." She had tried to insist, to
explain, but he had struck her back with the butt end of his rifle. Oh,
he had hurt her awfully! She cried and cried, looking over her shoulder,
tearing at her apron. It was evident that if there had been any
possibility for her to run away, she would have done it, anywhere,
anywhere....

       *       *       *       *       *

Madeleine's little boy was born that night. She, who of course must
needs have her mother to take all the responsibility, and the nurse
whose voice was agreeable to her, went through her fiery trial alone,
with no help but the foolish little Simone, shivering and gasping in
hysteria. She was nothing but a pair of hands and feet to be animated by
Madeleine's will-power and intelligence. In those dreadful hours
Madeleine descended to the black depths of her agony but dared never
abandon herself even to suffer. At every moment she needed to shock
Simone out of her panic by a stern, well-considered command.

She needed, and found, strange, unguessed stores of strength and
resolution. She felt herself alone, pitted against a malign universe
which wished to injure her baby, to prevent her baby from having the
right birth and care. But she felt herself to be stronger than all the
malignity of the universe. Once, in a moment's lull during the fight,
she remembered, seeing the words, zig-zag like lightning on a black
sky,--a sentence in the first little history-book she had studied as a
child,--"The ancient Gauls said they feared nothing, not enemies, not
tempest, not death. Until the skies fell upon their heads, they would
never submit." ... "They were my ancestors!" said the little Gaulish
woman, fighting alone in the darkness. She clenched her teeth to repress
a scream of pain and a moment later told Simone, quite clearly, in a
quiet tone of authority, just what to do, again.

Outside, all night long, there thundered the rumbling passage of the
artillery and camions.

In the morning, when Sylvie and Raoul awoke, they found Simone crouched
in a corner of their mother's room, sobbing endlessly tears of sheer
nervous exhaustion. But out from their mother's white, white face on the
pillow looked triumphant eyes. She drew the covers down a little and
lifted her arm. "See, children, a little new brother."

As she spoke she thrust out of her mind, with a violence like that with
which she had expelled the ruffian from the door, the thought that the
little brother would probably never see his father. It was no moment to
allow herself the weakness of a personal sorrow. She must marshal her
little forces. "Come, Sylvie dear. Simone is all tired out; you must get
us something to eat, and then you and Simone must bring in all you can
of what is left in the kitchen and hide it here under mother's bed." She
had thought out her plan in the night.

During the next days Madeleine was wholly unable to stand on her feet.
From her bed she gave her orders--desperate, last-resort orders to a
defeated garrison. The apartment was constantly invaded by ravenously
hungry and thirsty men, but her room was not entered. The first morning
the door to her room had been opened brusquely, and a gray-haired
under-officer entered hastily. He stopped short when he saw Madeleine's
drawn white face on the pillow, with the little red, bald head beside
her. He went out as abruptly as he had gone in and chalked something on
the door. Thereafter no one came in; although not infrequently, as
though to see if the chalked notice were true, the door was opened
suddenly and a head with a spiked helmet thrust in. This inspection of a
sick woman's room could and did continually happen without the slightest
warning. Madeleine was buffeted by an angry shame which she put aside
sternly, lest it make her unfit to nurse her baby.

They lived during this time on what happened to be left in the kitchen,
after that first day of pillage, some packages of macaroni, tapioca, and
cornstarch, part of a little cheese, some salt fish, two or three boxes
of biscuits, a little sugar, a little flour. They did unsavory cooking
over the open fire till their small supply of wood gave out. The
children submitted docilely to this régime, cowed by their mother's
fierce command not for an instant to go out of her sight. But the little
maid, volatile and childish, could not endure life without bread. She
begged to be allowed to go out, to slip along the alley to the Hospice
and beg a loaf from Sister Ste. Lucie. There must be bread somewhere in
town, she argued, unable to conceive of a world without bread. And in
the daytime the sentries would let her pass.

Madeleine forbade her to leave the room, but on the third day when her
mistress was occupied with the baby she slipped out and was gone. She
did not come back that day or the next. They never saw or heard of her
from that moment.

Madeleine and the children continued to live in that one room, shaken by
the incessant rumble of the passing artillery wagons and by the
hurrying tread of booted feet. They heard now and again incursions into
the other rooms of their home, and as long as there were loud voices and
trampling and clattering dishes, the children crept into bed beside
Madeleine and the baby, cowering together under the poor protection of
their mother's powerless arms. They never dared speak above a whisper
during those days. They heard laughing, shouting, cursing, snoring in
the rooms all around them. Once they heard pistol shots, followed by a
great splintering crash of glass and shouts of wild mirth.

Madeleine lost all count of the days, of everything but the diminishing
stock of food. She tried repeatedly to sit up, she tried to put her feet
to the floor, but she felt her head swim and fell back in bed. She had
little strength left to struggle now. The food was almost gone, and her
courage was almost gone. As though the walls of the room were closing in
on her, the approach of the spent, beaten desire to die began to close
in on her. What was the use of struggling on? If she could only kill the
children and herself ... there was no hope.

       *       *       *       *       *

One morning Sylvie said in a loud, startled whisper: "Oh, _maman_, they
are going the other way! Back towards Lorat ... and yet they are still
hurrying as fast as ever ... faster!"

Madeleine felt her hair raise itself on her scalp. She sat up in bed.
"Sylvie, _are you sure_?"

And when the child answered, always in her strained whisper, "Yes, yes,
I am sure," her mother sprang out of bed with a bound and ran to the
window.

It was true. The dusty-gray tide had turned. They were raging past the
house, the horses straining at the heavy artillery wagons, lashed into a
clumsy canter by the drivers, leaning far forward, straining, urging;
the haggard men, reeling in fatigue, stumbling under their heavy packs,
pressing forward in a dog-trot; the officers with red angry faces,
barking out incessant commands for more haste ... and their backs were
turned to Paris!

The Frenchwoman, looking down on them, threw her arms up over her head
in a wild gesture of exultation. They were going back!

She felt as strong as ever she had in her life. She dressed herself, set
the wretched room in some sort of order, and managed to prepare an
edible dish out of soaked tapioca and sugar. The children ate it with
relish, comforted by their mother's new aspect.

About two o'clock that night Madeleine awoke to an awful sense of
impending calamity. Something had happened, some tremendous change had
come over the world. She lay still for a long moment, hearing only the
beating of her own heart. Then she realized that she heard nothing but
that, that the thunder of the trampling feet had stopped. She got out of
bed carefully, trying not to waken the children, but Sylvie, her nerves
aquiver, heard and called out in a frightened whisper, "_Maman, maman!_
What is it?" She caught her mother's arm, and the two went together to
the window. They leaned out, looked to right and left, and fell to
weeping in each other's arms. Under the quiet stars, the village street
was perfectly empty.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning Madeleine made the children swallow a little food
before, all together, the baby in his mother's arms, they ventured out
from their prison-room. They found their house gutted and sacked and
sullied to the remotest corner. The old brocade on the chairs in the
salon had been slit to ribbons by sword-slashes, the big plate-glass
windows over the mantel-pieces had each been shattered into a million
pieces, all the silver was gone from the drawers, every piece of linen
had disappeared, the curtains had been torn down and carried away, and
every bit of bedding had gone, every sheet, every blanket, every
eiderdown quilt. The mattresses had been left, each having been cut open
its entire length and sedulously filled with filth.

The kitchen, emptied of all its shining copper and enamel utensils, was
one litter of splintered wood, remnants of furniture which had been cut
up with the ax for fuel. Madeleine recognized pieces of her mahogany
beds there. Through the kitchen window she looked down into the walled
space which had been the garden and saw it a bare, trampled stable-yard,
with heaps of manure at each end. She looked at all this in perfect
silence, the children clinging to her skirts, the baby sleeping on her
arm. She looked at it, but days passed before she really believed that
what she saw was real.

A woman's voice called quaveringly from the landing: "Madame
Brismantier, are you there? Are you alive? The Germans have gone."
Madeleine stepped to the landing and saw old Sister Ste. Lucie, her face
which had always been so rosy and fresh, as gray as ashes under her
black-and-white coif. She leaned against the wall as she stood. At the
sight of the sleeping baby in Madeleine's arms, the gray face smiled,
the wonderful smile which women, even those vowed to childlessness, give
to a new mother. "Oh, your baby came," she said. "Boy or girl?"

"Yes," said Madeleine, "he came. A boy. A nice little boy." For one
instant the two women stood there in that abomination of desolation,
with death all around them, looking down at the baby, and smiling.

Then Soeur Ste. Lucie said: "There is nothing left in the pharmacy, I
see. I thought maybe they might have left something, by chance, but I
see everything is smashed to pieces. You don't happen to have any
supplies up here, do you? We need bandages horribly at the Hospice, for
the wounded. There are forty there."

Madeleine knew the minute size of the little Hospice and exclaimed:
"_Forty!_ Where do you put them?"

"Oh, everywhere, on the floor, up and down the hall, in the kitchen. But
we haven't a thing except hot water to use for them; all the sheets were
torn up two days ago, what they hadn't stolen! If I only had a little
iodine, or any sort of antiseptic. Their wounds are too awful, all
infected, and nothing ..."

Without knowing it Madeleine took a first step forward into a new life.
"There's plenty of everything," she said. "I hid them all in the far
room of the cellar."

"God grant 'they' didn't find them!" breathed the nun.

Madeleine lighted a candle, left the sleeping baby in the charge of
Sylvie, and went with Soeur Ste. Lucie down into the cellar. They
found it littered and blocked with emptied and broken bottles. A strange
hoarse breathing from a dark corner frightened them. Lifting her candle,
Madeleine brought to view a German soldier, dead-drunk, snoring, his
face swollen and red. The women let him lie as an object of no
importance and turned to the hanging shelves. They heaved a long sigh;
the blind was still there, untouched. Madeleine's device was successful.

As they looked among the heaped-up supplies from the pharmacy for
bandages and antiseptics, Soeur Ste. Lucie told Madeleine very briefly
what had been happening. Madeleine listened in a terrible silence.
Neither she nor the nun had strength to spare for exclamations. Nor
could any words of theirs have been adequate. The news needed no
comment. M. le Maire was dead, shot in front of the Town Hall, on the
ground that there had been weapons found in one of the houses. "You know
in the Bouvines' house they had some Malay creeses and a Japanese sword
hanging up in M. Bouvines' study, things his sailor uncle brought back.
The Mayor never thought to take those down, and they wouldn't give him
time to explain. M. le Curé was dead, nobody knew or ever would know
why--found dead of starvation, strapped to a bed in an attic room of a
house occupied by some German officers. Perhaps he had been forgotten by
the person who had tied him there...." The nun's voice died away in
sobs. She had been brought up under M. le Curé's protection all her life
and loved him like a father.

Madeleine sorted bandages in silence, her throat very dry and harsh.
Later Soeur Ste. Lucie went on, trying to speak more collectedly: "The
worst of trying to care for these wounded is not being able to
understand what they say."

"How so?" asked Madeleine, not understanding in the least.

"Why, I don't speak German."

Madeleine stopped short, her hands full of bandages. "Are they _German_
wounded? Are we getting these things for _German soldiers_?"

Soeur Ste. Lucie nodded gravely. "Yes, I felt just so, too, at first.
But when I saw them wounded, bleeding, so sick, worn out.... How would
you like German women to treat your husband if he should be wounded in
Germany? We are all nothing but wretched sinners in the sight of God.
And are we not taught to do good to our enemies?"

Of all this (which meant in reality simply that Soeur Ste. Lucie was a
warm-hearted woman whose professional habit had been for forty years to
succor the afflicted) Madeleine took in very little at the time,
although it was to come back to her again and again. At the moment she
thought that she did not believe a single word of it. She certainly did
not at all think that we are the best of us but wretched sinners, and
she had as remotely academic a belief as any other twentieth-century
dweller in the desirability of doing good to your enemies. The idea of
Jules wounded in Germany did indeed bring a flood of confused emotions
into her mind. If Germany should be invaded, would Frenchmen be stamping
into strangers' houses and taking the food out of the mouths of the
owners, would they...?

"Well," said Soeur Ste. Lucie, impatient of her trance-like stare.

It was none of what she had been thinking which now moved Madeleine to
say automatically, "Oh, of course we'll have to give them the bandages
and the peroxide." She could not have named the blind impulse which
drove her to say this, beyond that a sort of angry self-respect was
mixed with it. Her head ached furiously, whirling with fatigue and lack
of food, her back ached as though it were being beaten with hammers. She
renounced any attempt to think.

"Here," said Soeur Ste. Lucie, staggering herself with exhaustion.
"The baby is only a few days old. You're not fit to be doing this."

Madeleine, who had lain flat on her back for two weeks after the birth
of the other two children, shook her head. "No, no, I can do it as well
as you. You look fearfully tired."

"I haven't had my clothes off for ten days," said the nun. "And I'm
sixty-two years old."

In the street door, with her basket of bandages on her arm, Soeur Ste.
Lucie stood looking around her at the desolate filth-strewn shop, the
million pieces of glass which had been its big windows covering the
floor, its counter hacked and broken with axes. She said: "We haven't
any mayor and the priest is dead, and we haven't any pharmacy and the
baker is mobilized, and there isn't one strong, well man left in town.
How are we going to live?"

Madeleine took another step, hesitating, along the new road. She leaned
against the counter to ease her aching body and put back her hair to
look around her at the wreck and ruin of her husband's business. She
said in a faint voice: "I wonder if I could keep the pharmacy open. I
used to help Jules with the accounts, I know a little about where he
bought and how he kept his records. I wonder if I could--enough for the
simpler things?"

"You have already," said the nun, as she went away, "and the first
things you have given out are bandages for your enemies. God will not
forget that."

Madeleine received this with an impatient shrug. She was not at all glad
that her first act had been to help the suffering among her enemies. She
had hated doing it, had only done it because of some confused sense of
decency. She heartily wished she had not had it to do. But if it had
been necessary, she would have done it again ... and yet to do it for
those men who had murdered M. le Maire, so blameless and M. le Curé--so
defenseless!... No, these were not the same men who lay bleeding to
death in the Hospice to whom she had sent bandages. _They_ had not
murdered ... as yet!

Her head throbbed feverishly. She renounced again the effort to think,
and thrusting all this ferment down into her subconsciousness she turned
to the urgent needs of the moment. It seemed to her that she could not
breathe till she had set the pharmacy as far as possible in the order
Jules had left it. This feeling, imperious and intense, was her only
refuge against her certainty that Jules was killed, that she would never
see him again. Without an attempt to set to rights even a corner of the
desolated little home, upstairs, she began toiling up and down the
cellar stairs carrying back the glass jars, the pots, the boxes, and
bottles and drawers. It seemed to her, in her dazed confusion, that
somehow she was doing something for Jules in saving his pharmacy which
he had so much cared for, that she was almost keeping him from dying by
working with all her might for him there....

In the middle of the morning she went upstairs and found that Sylvie,
working with Raoul, had cleared the kitchen of the worst of the rubbish.
In a pot-closet under the sink there were two old saucepans which had
not been stolen. Madeleine made a fire, stoically using her own
broken-up furniture, and, putting a few potatoes (the last of their
provisions) on to boil, sat down to nurse the hungry baby.

"_Maman_ dear," said Sylvie, still in the strained whisper of the days
of terror. She could not speak aloud for weeks. "_Maman_ dear," she
whispered, "in the salon, in the dining-room, I wanted to try to clean
it, but it is all nasty, like where animals have been."

"Hush!" said her mother firmly. "Don't think about that. Don't look in
there. It'll make you sick if you do. Stay here, tend the fire, watch
the baby, and play with Raoul." She outlined this program with decision
and hurried back downstairs to go on with the execution of one conceived
in the same spirit. If she could only get the pharmacy to look a little
as it had when Jules had left it, it seemed to her that Jules would seem
less lost to her.

She shoveled the incredible quantity of broken glass back through the
shop into what had been her garden, hardening herself against a qualm of
horror at the closer view of the wreckage there. The two big sycamore
trees had been cut down and sawn into lengths to use for fuel in the
open fire, the burned-out embers of which lay in a black ring where the
arbor had stood.

She went back to her work hastily, knowing that if she stopped for an
instant to look, she would be lost.

At noon she went upstairs, and with the children lunched on potatoes and
salt.

She was putting the last of the innumerable drawers back in its place,
after having tried it in all the other possible places, when a poorly
dressed, rough-haired, scrawny little boy came into the shop. Madeleine
knew him by sight, the six-year-old grandson of Madame Dulcet, a
bedridden, old, poor woman on Poulaine Street. The little boy said that
he had come to get those powders for his grandmother's asthma. She
hadn't slept any for two nights. As he spoke he wound the string about a
top and prepared to spin it, nonchalantly. Looking at his cheerful,
dirty little face, Madeleine felt herself a thousand years old,
separated for always and always from youth which would never know what
she had known.

"I don't know anything about your grandmother's asthma powders," she
said. The little boy insisted, astonished that a grown person did not
know everything. "_He_ always kept them. Grandmère used to send me twice
a week to get them. Grandmère will scold me awfully if I don't take them
back. She's scolding all the time now, because the Germans took our
soup-kettle and our frying-pan. We haven't got anything left to cook
with."

The memory of her immensely greater losses rose burningly to Madeleine's
mind. "They took _all my sheets_!" she cried impulsively,--"every one!"

"Oh," said the little boy indifferently, "we never had any sheets,
anyhow." This did not seem an important statement to him, apparently;
but to Madeleine, her old world shattered, emerging into new horizons,
beaten upon by a thousand new impressions, it rang loudly. The Germans,
then, had only put her in the situation in which a woman, like herself,
had always lived ... and that within a stone's throw of these
well-filled linen-closets of hers! There was something strange about
that, something which she would like to ponder, if only her head did not
ache so terribly. The little boy said, insistently, "_He_ always gave
me the powders, right away!"

Through obscure complicated mental processes, of which she had only the
dimmest perceptions, _Jules_ had always given the powders ... how
strange it was that precisely a bedridden woman who had most need of
them should have owned no sheets ... there came to her a great desire to
send that old woman the medicine she needed. "You go outside and spin
your top for a while," she said to the child; "I'll call you when I'm
ready."

She went upstairs. Holding her skirts high to keep them out of the
filth, she picked her way to the bookcase. Books were scattered all
about the room, torn, cut, trampled on, defiled; but for the most part
those with handsome bindings had been chosen for destruction. On the top
shelf, sober in their drab, gray-linen binding, stood Jules' big
record-books, intact. She carried down an armful of them to the
pharmacy, and opened the latest one, the one which Jules had put away
with his own hand the day he had left her.

The sight of the pages covered with Jules' neat, clear handwriting
brought a rush of scalding tears to her eyes. Her bosom heaved in the
beginning of sobs. She laid down the book, and, taking hold of the
counter with all her strength, she forced herself to draw one long,
regular breath after another, holding her head high.

When her heart was beating quietly again, quietly and heavily, in her
breast, she opened the book and began studying the pages. Jules set
everything down in writing, it being his idea that a pharmacist had no
other defense against making those occasional mistakes inevitable to
human nature, but which must not occur in his profession.

Madeleine read: "March 10, sold 100 quinine pills to M. Augier. Stock
low. Made 100 more, using quinine from the Cochard Company's
laboratories. Filled prescription...." Madeleine's eyes leaped over the
hieroglyphics of the pharmaceutical terms and ran up and down the pages,
filled with such items, looking for the name Duguet. She had almost
given up when she saw, dated July 30, 1914, the entry: "Made up fresh
supply Mme. Duguet asthma powders, prescription 457. Dr. Millier. Drawer
No. 17."

Madeleine ran behind the counter and pulled out No. 17. She found there
a little pasteboard box marked, "Duguet."

"Oh, boy, little boy!" she called.

When the child came in she asked, "Did your grandmother ever get any
other medicine here?"

"No," said the grandson of the bedridden woman, "she hasn't got anything
else the matter with her."

"Well," said the pharmacist's wife, "here is her medicine." She put the
box in his hand.

"Oh, we never get more than four at a time," he told her. "She never has
the money to pay for more. Here it is. Granny hid it in her hair so the
Germans wouldn't get it. She hid all we have. She's got more than _five
francs_, all safe."

He put a small silver coin in her hand and departed.

The mention of the meager sum of hidden money made Madeleine think of
her own dextrously concealed little fortune. She had noticed at once on
entering the shop that the arrangement of false shelves which concealed
the safe had not been detected, and was intact. She pushed the spring,
the shelves swung back, and disclosed the door of the safe just as
usual. She began to turn the knob of the combination lock. It worked
smoothly and in a moment the heavy door swung open. The safe was
entirely empty, swept clear of all the papers, titles, deeds, bonds
which had covered its shelves.

As actually as though he stood there again, Madeleine saw the polite
pseudo-Swiss geological gentleman, thanking Jules for the temporary use
of his excellent safe.

She was petrified by this new blow, feeling the very ground give way
under her feet. A cold, cold wind of necessity and stress blew upon her.
The walled and sheltered refuge in which she had lived all her life was
utterly cast down and in ruins. The realization came to her, like
something intolerable, indecent, that _she_, Madeleine Brismantier, was
now as poor as that old bedridden neighbor had been all her life ...
_all her life_....

Somehow, that had something to do with those sheets which she had had
and the other woman had not ... her mind came back with a mortal
sickness to the knowledge that she had now nothing, nothing to depend
upon except her own strength and labor--just like a _poor_ woman. She
_was_ a poor woman!

       *       *       *       *       *

Somebody was weeping and tugging at her skirts. She looked down blindly.
It was Raoul, her little son. He was sobbing and saying: "Sylvie said
not to come, but I couldn't stand it any more. I'm hungry! I'm hungry,
and there isn't a thing left upstairs to eat! I'm hungry! I'm hungry!"

Madeleine put her hand to her head and thought. What had happened? Oh
yes, all their money had been stolen, all ... but Raoul was hungry, the
children must have something to eat. "Hush, my darling," she said to the
little boy, "go back upstairs and tell Sylvie to come here and look out
for the shop while I go out and find something to eat."

She went down the silent, empty street, before the silent empty houses
staring at her out of their shattered windows, and found not a soul
abroad. At the farm, in the outskirts of town, she saw smoke rising from
the chimney and went into the courtyard. The young farmer's wife was
there, feeding a little cluster of hens, and weeping like a child. She
stared at the newcomer for a moment without recognizing her. Madeleine
looked ten years older than she had a fortnight ago.

"Oh, madame, we had three hundred hens, and they left us just these
eight that they couldn't catch! And they killed all but two of our
thirty cows; we'd raised them ourselves from calves up. They killed them
there before the very door and cooked them over a fire in the courtyard,
and they broke up everything of wood to burn in the fire, all our hoes
and rake handles, and the farm-wagon and ... oh, what will my husband
say when he knows!"

Madeleine had a passing glimpse of herself as though in a convex mirror,
distorted but recognizable. She said, "They didn't hurt you or your
husband's mother, did they?"

"No, they were drunk all the time and they didn't know what they were
doing mostly. We could hide from them."

"Then your husband will not care at all about the cows and pigs and
farm-wagons," said Madeleine very firmly, as though she were speaking to
Sylvie. The young farmer's wife responded automatically to the note of
authority in Madeleine's voice. "Don't you think he will?" she asked
simply, reassured somewhat, wiping away her tears.

"No, and you are very lucky to have so much left," said Madeleine. "I
have nothing, nothing at all for my children to eat, and no money to buy
anything." She heard herself saying this with astonishment as though it
were the first time she had heard it.

The young wife was horrified, sympathetic, a little elated to have one
whom she had always considered her superior come asking her for aid; for
Madeleine stood there, her empty basket on her arm, asking for aid,
silently, helplessly.

"Oh, we have things left to _eat_!" she said. She put some eggs in
Madeleine's basket, several pieces of veal left from the last animal
killed which the Germans had not had time entirely to consume, and,
priceless treasure, a long loaf of bread. "Yes, the wife of the baker
got up at two o'clock last night, when she heard the last of the Germans
go by, and started to heat her oven. She had hidden some flour in
barrels behind her rabbit hutches, and this morning she baked a batch of
bread. It's not so good as the baker's of course, but she says she will
do better as she learns."

Madeleine turned back down the empty, silent street before the empty
silent houses with their wrecked windows. A child came whistling along
behind her, the little grandson of the bedridden Madame Duguet.
Madeleine did what she had never done before in her life. She stopped
him, made him take off his cap and put into it a part of her loaf of
bread and one of the pieces of meat.

"Oh, meat!" cried the child. "We never had meat before!"

He set off at a run and disappeared.

As she passed the butcher-shop, she saw an old man hobbling about on
crutches, attempting to sweep up the last of the broken glass. It was
the father of the butcher. She stepped in, and stooping, held the
dustpan for him. He recognized her, after a moment's surprise at the
alteration in her expression, and said, "Merci, madame." They worked
together silently a moment, and then he said: "I'm going to try to keep
Louis' business open for him. I think I can till he gets back. The war
_can't_ be long. You, madame, will you be going back to your parents?"

Madeleine walked out without speaking. She could not have answered him
if she had tried. In front of the Town Hall she saw a tall old woman in
black toiling up the steps with a large package under each arm. She put
down her basket and went to help. It was the white-haired wife of the
old mayor, who turned a ghastly face on Madeleine to explain: "I am
bringing back the papers to put them in place as he always kept them.
And then I shall stay here to guard them and to do his work till
somebody else can come." She laid the portfolios down on a desk and said
in a low, strange voice, looking out of the window: "It was before that
wall. I heard the shots."

Madeleine clasped her hands together tightly, convulsively, in a gesture
of utter horror, of utter sympathy, and looked wildly at the older
woman. The wife of the mayor said: "I must go back to the house now and
get more of the papers. Everything must be in order." She added, as
they went down the steps together: "What will you do about going on with
your husband's business? Will you go back to live with your mother? We
need a pharmacy so much in town. There will be no doctor, you know. You
would have to be everything in that way."

This time Madeleine answered at once: "Yes, oh yes, I shall keep the
pharmacy open. I already know about the accounts and the simple things.
And I have thought how I can study my husband's books on pharmacy, at
night after the children are in bed. I can learn. Jules learned."

She stooped to pick up her basket. The other woman went her way.
Madeleine stepped forward into a new and awful and wonderful world along
a new and thorny and danger-beset path into a new and terrifying and
pleasureless life.

A wave of something stern and mighty swelled within her. She put down
her head and walked forward strongly, as though breasting and conquering
a great wind.



BY DOROTHY CANFIELD

THE BENT TWIG

The story of a lovely, opened-eyed, opened-minded American girl.

     "The romance holds you, the philosophy grips you, the
     characters delight you, the humor charms you--one of the most
     realistic American families ever drawn."--_Cleveland
     Plaindealer._


THE SQUIRREL-CAGE

An unusual personal and real story of American family life.

     "We recall no recent interpretation of American life which has
     possessed more of dignity and less of shrillness than
     this."--_The Nation._


HILLSBORO PEOPLE

With occasional Vermont verse by SARAH N. CLEGHORN.

     "No writer since Lowell has interpreted the rural Yankee more
     faithfully."--_Review of Reviews._


THE REAL MOTIVE

Unlike "Hillsboro People," this collection of stories has many
backgrounds, but it is unified by the underlying humanity which unites
all the characters.


UNDERSTOOD BETSY

Illustrated by ADA C. WILLIAMSON.

     "Children will read it eagerly for the story of a very real
     little girl. Parents will find it worth a whole shelf of books
     on child training. Teachers will get more than one pointer from
     its pages, and anyone with a grain of humor can't afford to
     miss it."--_Publishers' Weekly._



BY SIMEON STRUNSKY


PROFESSOR LATIMER'S PROGRESS

The "sentimental journey" of a middle-aged American scholar upon whose
soul the war has come down heavily, and who seeks a cure--and an
answer--in a walking trip up-State.

     "The war has produced no other book like 'Professor Latimer's
     Progress,' with its sanative masculine blend of deep feeling,
     fluid intelligence, and heart-easing mirth, its people a joyous
     company. It is a spiritual adventure, the adventure of the
     American soul in search of a new foothold in a tottering world.
     We have so many books of documents, of animus, or argument;
     what a refreshment to fall in, for once in a way, with a book
     of that quiet creative humor whose 'other name' is
     wisdom."--_The Nation._


LITTLE JOURNEYS TOWARDS PARIS (1914-1918)


By W. HOHENZOLLERN, translated and adapted for unteutored minds by
SIMEON STRUNSKY.

     "If only the Germans could be supplied with translations of
     this exquisite satire they would die laughing at the grisly
     joke on themselves. Not only funny, it is a final reductio ad
     absurdum of the Hun philosophy."--_Chicago Tribune._


BELSHAZZAR COURT

Or Village Life in New York City

Graceful essays about the average citizen in his apartment house, in the
street, at the theater, the baseball park, with his children, etc.



BY MARGARET WIDDEMER

_NOVELS_

THE WISHING-RING MAN

A romance of a New England summer colony.

     "Margaret Widdemer, who says she likes happy stories, proves it
     by writing them for other people to read.... The book is full
     of charm, amusing incident, and gay conversation; and the
     interest in the situation holds to the last half page."--_N.Y.
     Evening Post._


YOU'RE ONLY YOUNG ONCE

Miss Widdemer's new novel is the story of youth's romance as it came to
the five girls and three boys of a happy American family.


_POETRY_

FACTORIES, AND OTHER POEMS

Second printing.

     "An art which speaks ever so eloquently for itself.... Splendid
     effort both in thought and execution, and ranks with the cry of
     the children as voiced by Mrs. Browning."--_San Francisco
     Chronicle._

     "Among the foremost of American versifiers when she touches the
     great passionate realities of life."--_Living Age._


THE OLD ROAD TO PARADISE

_In Press._



By ROMAIN ROLLAND


JEAN-CHRISTOPHE

Translated from the French by GILBERT CANNAN. In three volumes.

     This great trilogy, the life story of a musician, at first the
     sensation of musical circles in Paris, has come to be one of
     the most discussed books among literary circles in France,
     England and America.

     Each volume of the American edition has its own individual
     interest, can be understood without the other, and comes to a
     definite conclusion.

     _The three volumes with the titles of the French volumes
     included are_:

     JEAN-CHRISTOPHE

     DAWN--MORNING--YOUTH--REVOLT

     JEAN-CHRISTOPHE IN PARIS

     THE MARKET PLACE--ANTOINETTE--THE HOUSE

     JEAN-CHRISTOPHE: JOURNEY'S END

     LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP--THE BURNING BUSH--THE NEW DAWN


_Some Noteworthy Comments_

     "'Hats off, gentlemen--a genius.' One may mention
     'Jean-Christophe' in the same breath with Balzac's 'Lost
     Illusions'; it is as big as that.... It is moderate praise to
     call it with Edmund Gosse 'the noblest work of fiction of the
     twentieth century.' A book as big, as elemental, as original
     as though the art of fiction began to-day. . We have nothing
     comparable in English literature. ."--_Springfield Republican._

     "If a man wishes to understand those devious currents which
     make up the great, changing sea of modern life, there is hardly
     a single book more illustrative, more informing and more
     inspiring."--_Current Opinion._

     "Must rank as one of the very few important works of fiction of
     the last decade. A vital compelling work. We who love it feel
     that it will live."--_Independent._

     "The most momentous novel that has come to us from France, or
     from any other European country, in a decade."--_Boston
     Transcript._

_A 32-page booklet about Romain Rolland and Jean-Christophe, with
portraits and complete reviews, on request._





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