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Title: The Flaming Sword in Serbia and Elsewhere
Author: Stobart, Mabel Annie Boulton
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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THE FLAMING SWORD


[Illustration: "THE LADY OF THE BLACK HORSE" (Mrs. St. Clair Stobart)
During the Serbian Retreat, October-December, 1915 _From a painting by
George Rankin_]


THE FLAMING SWORD IN SERBIA AND ELSEWHERE

by

MRS. ST. CLAIR STOBART


   _"And He placed at the east of the Garden of Eden Cherubims,
   and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of
   the Tree of Life."_ (_Genesis_ iii. 24.)



Hodder and Stoughton
London      New      York Toronto
MCMXVI



    I dedicate this book
    to

    H.R.H. ALEXANDER
    CROWN PRINCE OF SERBIA

    in admiration of the courage with which he and the nation which
    he represents have, in spite of all temptations, upheld the
    Ideal of Spiritual Freedom, and in fervent hope that this Ideal
    will soon be realised in that Greater Serbia which will arise
    from the sepulchre of the Past.



PREFACE


I have written this book in the first person, because it would be an
affectation to write in the neuter person about these things which I
have felt and seen.

But if the book has interest, this should lie, not only in the personal
experiences, but in the effect which these have had upon the beliefs
of a modern woman who is probably representative of other women of her
century.

I believe that humankind is at the parting of the ways. One way leads
to evolution--along spiritual lines--the other to devolution--along
lines of materialism; and the sign-post to devolution is militarism.
For militarism is a movement of retrogression, which will bring
civilisation to a standstill--in a _cul-de-sac_.

And I believe that militarism can only be destroyed with the help of
Woman. In countries where Woman has least sway, militarism is most
dominant. Militarism is maleness run riot.

Man's dislike of militarism is prompted by sentiment, or by a sense of
expediency. It is not due to instinct; therefore it is not forceful.
The charge of human life has not been given by Nature to Man.
Therefore, to Man, the preservation of life is of less importance than
many other things. Nature herself sets an example of recklessness with
males; she creates, in the insect world, millions of useless male lives
for one that is to serve the purpose of maleness. It is said that the
proportion of male may-flies to female is six thousand to one. Nature
behaves similarly--though with more moderation--with male human babies.
More males than females are born, but fewer males survive. Is war
perhaps another extravagant device of Nature; or is society, which
encourages war, blindly copying Nature for the same end?

On the other hand, Woman's dislike of militarism is an instinct.

Life--for Woman--is not a seed which can be sown broadcast, to take
root, or to perish, according to chance. For Woman, life is an
individual charge; therefore, for Woman, the preservation of life is of
more importance than many other things.

By God and by Man, the care of life is given to Woman, before and
after birth. With all her being, Woman--primitive Woman--has defended
that life as an individual concrete life; and with all her being,
Woman--modern Woman--must now, in an enlarged sphere, defend the
abstract life of humankind.

Therefore, it is good that Woman shall put aside her qualms, and go
forth and see for herself the dangers that threaten life.

Therefore it is good that Woman shall record, as Woman, and not as
neuter, the things which she has felt, and seen, during an experience
of militarism at first hand.



GUIDE FOR READERS


This book is in five parts.

PART I. deals with preliminaries and military hospital work in
Bulgaria, Belgium, France, and Serbia.

PART II. deals with roadside tent dispensary work in Serbia.

PART III. is a diary of the Serbian retreat.

PART IV. discusses:
    (_a_) The war work of women.
    (_b_) Serbian character.
    (_e_) The evils of war.

PART V. comprises maps and letters and lists of personnel.

The title of the book is taken from Genesis iii. 22-24. Readers will
understand that Part III. does not attempt to deal with the Serbian
retreat as a whole; materials for this were not available. It describes
the day to day doings of one small segment of the historical mosaic.
The book has many imperfections, but if something of the spirit of
the Serbian nation shines through its pages, it will have served its
purpose.



PART I

CHAPTER I


To go through the horrors of war, and keep one's reason--that is hell.
Those who have seen the fiery Moloch, licking up his human sacrifices,
will harbour no illusions; they will know that the devouring deity of
War is an idol, and no true God. The vision is salutary; it purges
the mind from false values, and gives courage for the exorcism of
abominations still practised by a world which has no knowledge of the
God of Life. The abominations which are now practised in Europe, by
twentieth century man, are no less abominable than those practised
of old in the Valley of Hinnom. The heathen passed their sons and
daughters through the fire, to propitiate their deity; the Lord God
condemned the practice. We Christians pass our sons and daughters
through the fire of bloody wars, to propitiate our deities of
patriotism and nationalism. Would the Lord God not also condemn our
practice? But we, alas! have no Josiah to act for the Lord God (2 Kings
xxiii.). The heathen wept at the destruction of Baal, but the worship
of the pure God prevailed. No one believes that his god is false, till
it has been destroyed. Therefore, we must destroy militarism, in and
through this war, and future generations will justify the deed.

I am neither a doctor nor a nurse, but I have occupied myself within
the sphere of war for the following reasons.

After four years spent on the free veldt of the South African
Transvaal, I returned to London (in 1907) with my mind cleared of
many prejudices. The political situation into which I found myself
plunged, was interesting. Both men and women were yawning themselves
awake; the former after a long sleep, the latter for the first time in
history. The men had been awakened by the premonitory echo of German
cannons, and were, in lounge suits, beginning to look to their national
defences. Women probably did not know what awakened them, but the same
cannons were responsible.

For self-defence is the first law of sub-conscious nature; and the
success of Prussian cannons would mean the annihilation of woman as the
custodian of human life.

It was natural that woman's first cry should be for the political vote:
influence without power is a chimera. But it was also natural that at a
moment when national defence was the rallying shibboleth for men, the
political claims of women should be by men disregarded. Political power
without national responsibility would be unwisdom and injustice.

But was woman incapable of taking a responsible share in national
defence?

I believed that prejudice alone stood in woman's way. Prejudice,
however, is not eliminated by calling it prejudice. Practical
demonstration that prejudice is prejudice, will alone dissipate the
phantom.

But what form should woman's share in national defence assume? In
these days of the supremacy of mechanical over physical force, woman's
ability as a fighting factor could have been shown. But there were
three reasons against experimenting in this direction.

Firstly, it would have been difficult to obtain opportunities for the
necessary proof of capacity.

Secondly, woman could not fight better than man, even if she could
fight as well, and, as an argument for the desirability of giving woman
a share in national responsibility, it would be unwise to present her
as a performer of less capacity than man. The expediency of woman's
participation in national defence could best be proved by showing that
there was a sphere of work in which she could be at least as capable as
man.

Thirdly, and of primary importance, if the entrance of women into
the political arena is an evolutionary movement--forwards and not
backwards--woman must not encumber herself with legacies of male
traditions likely to compromise her freedom of evolvement _along the
line of life_.

If the Woman's Movement has, as I believe, value in the scheme of
creation, it must tend to the furtherance of life, and not of death.

Now, militarism means supremacy of the principle that to produce
death is, on occasions--many occasions--more useful than to preserve
life. Militarism has, in one country at least, reached a climax, and
I believe it is because we women feel in our souls that life has a
meaning, and a value, which are in danger of being lost in militarism,
that we are at this moment instinctively asking for a share in
controlling those human lives for which Nature has made us specially
responsible. "Intellect," says Bergson, "is characterised by a natural
inability to comprehend life." Woman may be less heavily handicapped in
an attempt to understand it?

It may well have been the echo of German cannons which aroused woman to
self-consciousness.

Demonstration, therefore, of the capacity of woman to take a useful
share in national defence must be given in a sphere of work in which
preservation, and not destruction of life, is the objective. Such work
was the care of the sick and wounded.

In a former book, _War and Women_, an account has been given of the
founding of the "Women's Convoy Corps," as the practical result of
these ideas. The work which was accomplished by members of this Corps,
in Bulgaria, during the first Balkan War, 1912-13, afforded the first
demonstration of the principle that women could efficiently work in
hospitals of war, not only as nurses--that had already been proved in
the Crimean War--but as doctors, orderlies, administrators, in every
department of responsibility, and thus set men free for the fighting
line.

I had hoped that, as far as I was concerned, it would never be
necessary again to undertake a form of work which is to me distasteful.
But when the German War broke out in August, 1914, I found to my
disappointment, that the demonstration of 1912-13 needed corroboration.
For I had one day the privilege of a conversation with an important
official of the British Red Cross Society, and, to my surprise, he
repeated the stale old story that women surgeons were not strong enough
to operate in hospitals of war, and that women could not endure the
hardships and privations incidental to campaigns.

I reminded him of the women at Kirk Kilisse. "Ah!" he replied, "that
was exceptional." I saw at once that he, and those of whom he was
representative, must be shown that it was not exceptional. But where
there is no will to be convinced, the only convincing argument is the
deed. Action is a universal language which all can understand.

I must, therefore, once more enter the arena; for my previous
experience of war had corroborated my belief that the co-operation
of woman in warfare, is essential for the future abolition of war;
essential, that is, for the retrieval of civilisation. For these
reasons I must not shirk.



CHAPTER II


I had gone to Bulgaria with open mind, prepared to judge for myself
whether it was true that war calls forth valuable human qualities which
would otherwise lie dormant, and whether it was true that the purifying
influence of war is so great, that it compensates the human race for
the disadvantages of war. My mind had been open for impressions of
so-called glories of war.

But the glories which came under my notice in Bulgaria, were butchered
human beings, devastated villages, a general callousness about the
value of human life, that was for me a revelation. This time I should
go out with no illusions about these martial glories.

But how should I go? To my satisfaction I found that the Bulgarian
"first step" had led to an easy staircase, and when I offered the
services of a Woman's Unit to the Belgian Red Cross, I was at once
invited to establish a hospital in Brussels.

The St. John Ambulance Association, at the instigation of Lady Perrott,
and the Women's Imperial Service League (which, with Lady Muir
Mackenzie as Vice-Chairman, had been organised with the view of helping
to equip women's hospital units), together with many other generous
friends, provided money and equipment, and a Woman's Unit was assembled.

I went to Brussels in advance of the unit, to make arrangements, and
was given, as hospital premises, the fine buildings of the University.

The day after arrival, I had begun the improvisation of lecture and
class-rooms into wards, when, that same day, the work was interrupted
by the entry of the Germans, who took possession of the Belgian
Capital. During three days and nights the triumphant army, faultlessly
equipped, paraded through the streets. For some hours I watched it
from the second floor window of a restaurant in the Boulevard des
Jardins Botaniques, together with my husband, who was to act as Hon.
Treasurer, and the Vicar of the Hampstead Garden Suburb, who was to act
as Chaplain to our unit. And my mind at once filled with presage of the
tough job which the Allies had undertaken.

The picture upon which we looked was indeed remarkable. Belgium had
been "safeguarded" from aggression, by treaties with the most civilised
nations of the world. But here now were the legitimate inhabitants of
the capital of Belgium standing in their thousands, gazing helplessly,
in dumb bewilderment, whilst the army of one of these "most civilised"
Governments streamed triumphantly, as conquerors, through their
streets. And in all those streets, the only sounds were the clamping
feet of the marching infantry, the clattering hoofs of the horses of
the proud Uhlans and Hussars, and the rumbling of the wagons carrying
murderous guns.

The people stood silent, with frozen hearts, beholding, as fossils
might, the scenes in which they could no longer move.

For them, earth, air, sky, the whole world outside that never-ending
procession, seemed expunged. No one noticed whether rain fell, or the
sun shone, whilst that piteous pageant of triumphant enmity, passed, in
ceaseless cinema, before their eyes.

All idea of establishing a hospital for the Allies had to be abandoned.
The Croix Rouge was taken over by the Germans, and hospitals would be
commandeered for German soldiers. My one desire was to get in touch
with my unit; for they might, I thought, in response to the cable sent
by the Belgian Red Cross, on the night of our arrival, be already on
their way to join me, and might be in difficulties, surrounded by
the Germans. Whatever personal risk might be incurred, I must leave
Brussels.

The Consuls advised me to remain: they said I should not be able to
obtain a passport from the German General. When I remonstrated, they
shrugged their shoulders and said, "Well, go and ask him yourself!"
I went, and obtained an officially stamped passport for myself and
my two companions, who gallantly, and against my wishes, insisted on
accompanying me, and sharing the risks of passing through the enemy's
lines.

But, notwithstanding our stamped passport, we were, at Hasselt,
arrested as spies, and at Tongres we were condemned to be shot within
twenty-four hours. The story of our escape and eventual imprisonment,
at Aachen, has been told elsewhere, but one remark of the German
Devil-Major Commandant at Tongres, is so illuminative of the spirit of
militarism that it bears repetition.

The Major said, "You are spies"; he fetched a big book from a shelf,
opened it, and pointing on a certain page, he continued, "and the fate
of spies is to be shot within twenty-four hours. Now you know your
fate." I answered cheerily, as though it were quite a common occurrence
to hear little fates like that, "but, mein Herr Major, I am sure you
would not wish to do such an injustice. Won't you at least look at our
papers, and see that what we have told you is true; we were engaged in
hospital work when," etc. He then replied, and his voice rasped and
barked like that of a mad dog, "You are English, and, whether you are
right or wrong, _this is a war of annihilation_."

I shall always be grateful for that phrase, for I recognised in it
an epitome of the spirit of militarism, carried, as the Prussian
arch-representatives of war carry it, to its logical extreme. For,
according to modern militarism, war aims at annihilation of the enemy,
and the enemy includes not only the combatants--these are the least
offensive element--but the non-combatants, the men who represent the
rival commerce, the women who represent the rival culture, and the men
and women who represent codes of honour and humanity which are the
beacons of the rival civilisation--at one and all of these, is aimed
the blow which is delivered through the medium of the proxies in the
field.

We three non-combatants--namely (_a_) a minister of the Holy Church,
(_b_) a university man, who had officiated as judge in Burma, and (_c_)
a woman engaged in hospital work, were now condemned to death, not
because we represented a military danger, but because we represented,
although in humble degree, those qualities of the rival nation, which
had brought that nation to the front of civilisation. War aims at the
annihilation, not of that which is bad, but of that which is best.

The Devil-Major, as we called him, then made us follow him upstairs, to
the top floor, to a room in which we were to spend the night--the last
night? He ordered me to be separated from the others, in another room,
but I was responsible for the position of my companions, and without my
influence--as a woman--death for them was certain, and I resisted the
separation successfully. The Major then drove us into a room that was
bare, except for verminous straw upon the floor. He refused to give us
food, though we had not eaten since the day before, but water in tin
cans was brought to us to drink, and we were told to lie down on the
dirty straw.

The Devil-Major then warned the guards that if we moved, or talked to
each other, they were to shoot us, then he left us for the night.

Sleep was impossible, owing to the ceaseless chiming of half-a-dozen
church clocks, which seemed purposely to have clustered within a few
hundred yards of us. The bells were all hopelessly out of tune, the
tuners being presumably at the front; and every quarter of an hour
all the bells of all the clocks, played different tunes, which lasted
almost till the next quarter's chime was due. The discord was a
nightmare for sensitive ears, but the harsh jangle of these bells, as
they tumbled over each other, brutally callous to the jarring sounds,
and to the irrelevancy of the melodies they played, seemed in keeping
with the discordance--illustrated by our position--between the ideal of
life, designed by God the Spirit, and the botching of that design, by
murderous man.

Was our position, I wondered, another of the glories of war? These
glories, exhibited at that time in Belgium, were, as I noticed, all of
one stamp--devastation, murder of women and children, rapine, every
form of demoniacal torture. All these glories are visualised, and not
exaggerated, in the cartoons of Raemaekers.

But we three escaped by miracles, and returned safely to England.



CHAPTER III


I found that my unit had not yet left London, and I was able in a short
time, with them, to accept an invitation from the Belgian Red Cross to
go to Antwerp. We went out under the auspices of the St. John Ambulance
Association, and established our hospital in the big Summer Concert
Hall, in the Rue de l'Harmonie. Here once again the glories of war were
manifested.

After three weeks' work upon the maimed and shattered remnants of
manhood that were hourly brought to us from the trenches, the German
bombardment of the city began. For eighteen hours our hospital unit was
under shell fire, and I had the opportunity of seeing women--untrained
to such scenes--during the nerve-racking strain of a continuous
bombardment. They took no notice of the shells, which whizzed over our
heads, without ceasing, at the rate of four a minute, and dropped with
the bang of a thousand thunderclaps, burning, shattering, destroying
everything around us.

The story of how these women rescued their wounded, carried them
without excitement, as calmly as though they were in a Hyde Park
parade, on stretchers, and when stretchers failed, upon their backs,
from the glass-roofed hospital, down steep steps, to underground
cellars, has also been told elsewhere.

We saved our wounded, but in the picture of the murderous shells,
dropping at random, here, there, and everywhere; of the beautiful city
of Antwerp in flames, its peaceful citizens, its women and children,
with little bundles of household treasures in their arms, fleeing
terror-stricken from their homes into the unknown: in all this it was
difficult to see glory, except the glory triumphant of the enemy's
superior make of guns--superior machinery.

[Illustration:
_Photo, Vandyk, C._
H.R.H. PRINCE ALEXANDER OF SERBIA]

We lost, of course, all our hospital material, but once again, thanks
to the Women's Imperial Service League and to the St. John Ambulance
Association, now in conjunction with the British Red Cross Society, who
also assisted us; thanks also again to friends and sympathisers, we
were enabled to collect fresh equipment, and as, alas! hospitals could
no longer be worked in Belgium, we offered our services to the French
Red Cross, and were invited to establish our hospital in Cherbourg.

At this port, every day, arrived boat-loads of wounded from the
northern battlefields. Their uniforms indistinguishable with blood,
maimed, blinded, shattered in mind and body, these human derelicts
were lifted from the dark ship's-hold, on stretchers, to the quay,
and thence were transported to hospitals for amputations, a weary
convalescence, or perhaps death. It was again a little difficult to
recognise the glory of it all. And then came Serbia.

We had been working for four months at Cherbourg, when I read one
day that an epidemic of typhus had broken out in Serbia; that the
hospitals were overcrowded with sick and wounded; that one-third of
the Serbian doctors had died, either of typhus, or at the front, and
that nursing and medical help were badly needed. I knew from the moment
when I read that report, that I should go, but I confess that I tried,
at the beginning, to persuade myself that my first duty was to the
Cherbourg hospital. I dreaded the effort of going to London, of facing
the endless red tape, snubs, opposition, the collecting of money, and
a unit, difficulties of all sorts with which I was now familiar. One
of my plays was going to be acted at the theatre in Cherbourg, at
a charity matinée, and I wanted to see it. Also, after a winter of
continuous rain, the sun had begun its spring conjuring tricks, and one
morning before breakfast, as I was walking in the woods, I noticed that
through the damp earth, and the dead beech leaves, myriads of violets,
ferns and primroses were showing their green leaf-buds. I felt a
momentary twinge of joy; and that decided me. This would be a pleasant
place in Spring; many women would be glad to do my work.

The wounded were no longer coming south in such numbers as at first,
owing probably to the dangers of the sea voyage; the hospital was in
thorough order, and the administration could be left in capable hands.
The call had come, and I could no more ignore it, than the tides can
ignore the tugging of the moon.

I went to London (in February, 1915) to see if I was right in my
surmise as to the need for help in Serbia, and I was at once asked by
the Serbian Relief Fund, to organise and to direct a hospital unit,
also to raise a portion of the funds. We were to go to Serbia as soon
as Admiralty transport could be procured. This involved considerable
delay, and it was not till April 1st that we set sail from Liverpool
for Salonica.



CHAPTER IV


The unit numbered forty-five, and comprised seven women doctors--Mrs.
King-May Atkinson, M.B., Ch.B., Miss Beatrice Coxon, D.R.C.P.S.R., Miss
Helen B. Hanson, M.D., B.S., D.P.H., Miss Mabel Eliza King-May, M.B.,
Ch.B., Miss Edith Maude Marsden, M.B., Ch.B., Miss Catherine Payne,
M.B., Miss Isobel Tate, M.D., N.U.I.--eighteen trained nurses, together
with cooks, orderlies, chauffeurs, and interpreters. The principle that
women could successfully conduct a war hospital in all its various
departments, had now been amply proved, and had been conceded even
by the sceptical. The original demonstration had already borne ample
fruit. Units of Scottish women were doing excellent work in France, and
also in Serbia, and even in London, women doctors had now been given
staff rank in military hospitals. The principle was firmly established,
and I thought, therefore, that no harm would now be done by accepting
the services of a few men orderlies and chauffeurs.

Amongst the applications for the post of orderly, were some Rhodes
scholars; and an interesting reversal of traditional procedure
occurred. At the last moment, the scholars asked to be excused,
because, owing to the additional risks of typhus involved in the
expedition to Serbia, they must first obtain permission to run the
risk, from their relatives in America, and for this, they said, there
would not now be time. Our women, on the other hand, braved their
relatives, knowing that a woman's worst foes, where her work is
concerned, are often those of her own household.

Determined, however, to dodge the typhus if possible, I proposed to the
Serbian Relief Fund that our hospital should be housed--both staff and
patients--entirely in tents. It was only a question of raising more
money; and this was obtained through friends and sympathetic audiences.

Typhus infection is carried by lice, and these would naturally be more
difficult to eliminate within already infected houses than in tents
in the open air. Also by the use of tents we should render ourselves
mobile, and be more likely to be of service in emergency; this was
later amply proved.

The Committee of the Serbian Relief Fund agreed to the proposal, and
sixty tents, mostly double-lined, were specially made to order, by
Messrs. Edgington of Kingsway, for wards, staff, X-ray, kitchens,
dispensary, lavatories, baths, sleeping, etc., etc., with camp beds and
outfit.

Lady Grogan and Mrs. Carrington Wilde, who were giving up their lives
to Serbian Relief Fund work, did wonders for our unit, and in every way
helped to make things easy for us. Mr. B. Christian, chairman, also
gave wholehearted support, and the Women's Imperial Service League,
with Lady Muir Mackenzie, Lady Cowdray, Mrs. Carr Ellison, Lady Mond,
Mrs. Ronald McNeill, and their indefatigable secretary, Mrs. McGregor,
were of invaluable service.

The Admiralty transport, for which during six precious weeks we had
waited impatiently, was an old two thousand ton boat, of the Royal
Khedivial Mail Line, only accustomed to carrying passengers from one
port to another, short distances on the Mediterranean coast, and she
could only give us nineteen places. It was arranged, therefore, for the
remainder of the unit to follow overland, and to arrive, if possible,
simultaneously at Salonica.

The captain of our boat received twenty-four hours' notice of the
fact that he was to carry to Salonica a couple of hundred members of
various hospital units. His chief steward, to whom would have been
entrusted the purchase of food stores, was laid up with a broken leg,
and the captain had been obliged himself to go from house to house,
in Liverpool, to find a crew. We were lucky, therefore, to get any
food or any crew at all, and still more lucky in the captain, who,
by his courtesy, and concern for our welfare, compensated for little
deficiencies in the ménu. Besides, one was thankful to be on the way to
work, after so much delay.

But after having waited six weeks for the boat, I nearly lost it at the
last moment. The cabby who drove me and two others from the station
at Liverpool, to the dock, was a fool, and couldn't find the dock in
which the _Saidieh_ was berthed, and for half an hour, in the rain,
our four-wheeler crawled up and down, and in and out of a tangled
maze of nine miles of docks. The horse, the cab, and the cabby were
all extraordinarily old, and when we were at the point farthest from
possibility of help, they all three collapsed. We patched up the horse
and cab, but had more difficulty with the cabby. He couldn't see why we
were so fastidious about sailing in one boat rather than in another,
and time after time he drove, with triumphant flourish of whip, through
the dock gates, and stopped in front of an old coal barge, and was much
hurt by our refusal to get on board. But all this worked a miracle,
for when at last we hit upon the right dock, a short time before the
departure of the _Saidieh_, I was, for the first time in my life,
thankful to find myself on board a steamer.

No places had been reserved for our party, but after a general scramble
with the members of portions of six other hospital units, mostly women,
voyaging with us, we all settled down comfortably to sea-sickness and
submarines. The rough weather provided us with the former, but saved us
from the latter. Submarines were supposed to be waiting for us off the
Scilly Isles, and at first we were afraid that the _Saidieh_ would be
sunk; but later we were afraid she wouldn't.

The units, which kept to themselves in a remarkable way, were a source
of much abstract interest to each other, and to me. It was particularly
satisfactory to notice the unstinting way in which the principle of
women's work in all departments, responsible as well as irresponsible,
of a war hospital, was--as represented on this ship--now acknowledged.
The woman administrator, the woman surgeon, the woman orderly, in
addition, of course, to the woman nurse, who had been the first to win
her position in war work.

I should like incidentally to suggest that uniform for women employed
in public work, should be as compulsory always, as it is for men.
Occasional hobble skirts, and low-cut blouses, reminiscent of the
indecorums of the Society puppet, struck a peculiarly jarring note
amongst a boat-load of people prepared for life-and-death realities, on
a mission of humanity.

Of all these doctors, nurses, orderlies, administrators, chauffeurs,
interpreters, how many would return? One should be taken and the other
left? Laughing, singing, acting, reading, playing cards, flirting,
quarrelling--how many were doing these things for the last time?
Towards what fate were each and all being borne? Were we, as adjuncts
of the Serbian Army, sailing to life or death, to victory or defeat?

How quickly all grew accustomed to, and ignored, the grandeur of
moon, stars, planets, the wonders of a firmament new to most, because
generally hidden by chimney-tops and smoke, and, conscious only of a
little shrunken circle, grew absorbed in trifles. The vastness, the
peace, the tumult, the joy of Nature, all unseen; the main interests,
hair washing, gossip, fancy dress, bridge parties, quality of cigars,
and food. Nobility of character curiously hidden, but ready to spring
forth when pressed by the button of emergency.

A little excitement at first, from rumours of submarines, then boat
drill, a sense of adventure, half enjoyable, half unpleasant, followed
by the comfortable assurance that danger is passed, and enjoyment now
legitimate, for those who are not kept low by sea-sickness. New friends
and sudden confidences, as suddenly regretted; the inevitable Mrs.
Jarley's waxworks, badly acted, but applauded; vulgar songs, mistaken
for humour; real talent shy in coming forward, false coin in evidence;
pride in attention from the captain; the small ambitions, to be top dog
at games, to win a reputation as bridge player, to become sunburnt: all
pursued with the same vigour with which work will later be attacked.

Danger from above, from below, from all around, but none so harmful as
the tongue of a jealous comrade.

The story of one voyage is the story of all voyages. It is the story of
mankind caricatured at close quarters, reflected on a distorting mirror.

The ship's first officer was a Greek; he was keenly on the side of the
Allies. He hoped shortly to enlist, and he told me that it was his
firm conviction that if Greece did not join the Allies immediately the
people would revolt against the King.

The third officer, also a Greek, was a rabid pro-German. His presence
on board seemed particularly undesirable; but the wonder was that there
were not more undesirables on the ship, for anyone could have entered
it at Liverpool.

Rough weather continued till we reached Gibraltar, on April 8th, and,
after one fine day, resumed sway till the 11th, when we sailed past the
Greek coast.

We reached Salonica on April 15th, the various units full of eagerness
to learn their respective destinations.

We were met by the Serbian Consul, Monsieur Vintrovitch, and by the
English Consul-General, Mr. Wratislaw, also by Mr. Chichester, who has
since, alas, succumbed to typhoid.

There was disappointment amongst members of our unit, when they learned
that we were to establish our hospital at Kragujevatz. They would have
preferred Belgrade, as being nearer to the supposed front. Fronts,
however, are movable, and as Kragujevatz was the military headquarters,
we were, I knew, much more likely to get the work we wanted, if we were
immediately under the official army eye; I was, therefore, more than
content to go to Kragujevatz.

We spent that night on board, at the kind invitation of the captain, as
there was a scrimmage for rooms in the hotels. We then had comfortable
time next day in which to find quarters. The portion of the unit
travelling _via_ Marseilles arrived, excellently timed, by Messageries
boat, on Saturday, the 17th. We spent the next few days struggling
with, or trying to find, quay officials, and getting the stores and
equipment unloaded, and placed in railway trucks. It was difficult to
hit upon a working day at the dock, for we were now in one of those
happy lands in which eight days out of every seven, are holidays.
Friday was a fast day--no work; Saturday was a feast day--no work;
Sunday was Sunday--no work; Monday came after Sunday, Saturday and
Friday--therefore no work, a day of recovery was necessary after so
many holidays. One had to be awake all night, to discover an odd moment
when a little work was likely to be smuggled into the day's routine of
happy idleness.

[Illustration:
STOBART UNIT AND CONVALESCENTS OUTSIDE THEIR HOSPITAL AT
ANTWERP. (Concert Hall of Société de l'Harmonie)
Mrs. Stobart showing medals presented by grateful patients. Dr. F.
Stoney on her right; Dr. Ramsey left; Dr. Joan Watts, Dr. Emily Morris,
Dr. Rose Turner and Dr. Helen Hanson behind. Miss S. Macnaughtan in
front, centre]

[Illustration:
_Photo. Dover Street Studios_
STOBART HOSPITAL--SERBIAN RELIEF FUND UNIT No. 3
Mrs. St. Clair Stobart in centre second row, with (from left to right)
Doctors King-May, Payne, Marsden, Atkinson, Tate and Coxon. Dr. Hanson
absent]

But by the evening of Monday, the 19th, everything--tents, equipment,
stores, etc.--was on the trucks and ready to travel with us. And I,
with eleven members, as advance party, left Salonica at 8 a.m. for
Kragujevatz. We had all duly, the night before, performed the rite of
smearing our bodies with paraffin, as a supposed precaution against the
typhus lice. But it is probably a mistake to think that paraffin kills
lice. Paraffin is a good cleanser, and lice, which flourish in dirt,
respect their enemy, but are not killed by it.

The railway journey was interesting, especially to those amongst us who
had never before been away from England.

We were amused to see real live storks nesting on the chimney-tops.
So the German nursery tale, that babies are brought into the world by
storks, down the bedroom chimney, must be true. German fables will
probably in future teach that babies are brought through the barrels
of rifles, double barrels being a provision of Providence for the safe
arrival of twins, which will be much needed for the repopulation of the
country.

We reached Skoplye at 9 p.m. Sir Ralph Paget kindly came to the train
to greet us, and whilst we had some very light refreshments at the
station, he stayed and talked with us. Lady Paget was then, we were
thankful to hear, recovering from the attack of typhus which she had
contracted during her hospital work at Skoplye.

The country through which we passed, was magnificent; mountains,
rivers, gorges, and picturesque houses--one-storied, of sun-dried
brick--with clear air, warm sunshine, and blossoming fruit trees.
Occasionally a ruined village, or a new bridge replacing one that had
lately been destroyed by Bulgarian raids, or newly dug graves of those
killed in the last raid, were reminders that man, with his murderous
works, would see to it that enjoyment of Nature's works should not
enter for long into our programme.

We reached Nish at 7.30 next morning, April 21st. At the station we
were met by Dr. Karanovitch, Chief Surgeon of the Army; Dr. Grouitch,
Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs; Mr. Blakeney, British
Vice-Consul; Professor Todorovitch, Secretary to the Chief Surgeon; Mr.
Petcham, Official of Foreign Affairs; and Dr. Soubotitch, President of
the Red Cross Society.

All were most courteous and hospitable, and during the one and a half
hour's halt they took us to breakfast at the Red Cross Hospital, and
later accompanied us to the station to speed us on our last stage of
the journey to Kragujevatz.

We left Nish at 10 a.m., and reached Kragujevatz at 7 p.m. The scenery
was superb, and we were sorry when the journey came to an end. At the
station, we were met by Colonel Dr. Guentchitch, the head of the Army
Medical Service. He had most thoughtfully arranged sleeping quarters
for the staff in the empty wards of a hospital; but it seemed wiser,
and less trouble to all concerned, for us to stay for the night in our
train, in a siding.

On arrival, the Colonel drove me and the Treasurer and two of our
doctors to see a proposed site for our camp hospital--the racecourse,
then disused, above the town. Excellent--nothing more suitable was
likely to be found. The unit was then invited to dine at the officers'
club mess. Here we met Colonel Harrison, British Military Attaché, and
also Colonel Hunter, who was in charge of the Royal Army Medical Corps
mission. The French and Russian attachés were also there.

It was homely to meet once more the genus military attaché; it was
indeed difficult to imagine conducting a hospital without them. For at
Kirk Kilisse, when we arrived in a starving condition, the British
attaché had found us food, and the Italian attaché, whom, in the dark,
I had mistaken for some one else, had sportingly acted up to the
character of the some one else, and had provided us with straw for
mattresses.

Though some folks find Serbian cooking too rich, the dishes have a
distinctive and pleasing character of their own, and the dinner, after
two days of cold meals, was much enjoyed. It was delightful to find
that the Serbian officers, both medical and military, were cultured
men of quick and sympathetic intelligence. I knew at once that I
should like them. Most of them spoke German, a few talked French,
but all could converse fluently in either one or the other language,
in addition, of course, to their own. One is always reminded abroad
that all other nations are better educated than we are. We are still
so insular, and are still, with the pride of ignorance, proud of our
defect. We have not yet reached the stage of realising that we can
never take a leading part in the councils of Europe, till we can
converse, without interpreters, with the leading minds of Europe.

Next day Colonel Guentchitch took us to see alternative camp sites, but
nothing half as suitable as the racecourse was available, and upon this
we decided.

By the evening of Thursday, April 22nd, we had unpacked, and pitched
some small ridge tents in which to spend the night, refusing the kind
offer of sleeping accommodation in the town, though we again accepted
the officers' hospitality for the evening meal.

The next day was spent in pitching the camp, and the authorities were
pleased, and surprised, because we refused all offers of help in
putting up the tents. We had gone to Serbia to help the Serbians, and
not to be a nuisance. Foreign units which arrive and expect to have
everything done for them, are more bother than they are worth.

The remainder of the unit, with Dr. King-May, arrived from Salonica,
and under the supervision of Dr. Marsden and Miss Benjamin (head
orderly) a small town of tents, gleaming white in the brilliant
sunshine, soon appeared in the local geography.

One long wide street of tents for the staff, then a large interval of
open grass space, and another avenue of ward tents, with a connecting
base line of tents for offices, kitchens, X-ray, and dispensary.



CHAPTER V


The camp was finely situated. We were surrounded on all sides by hills,
not ordinary dead hills, these were alive with picturesque villages,
half-hidden amongst orchards of plum and apple trees. On the far side
of the white, one-storied town of Kragujevatz, the hills to the east,
and south, seemed to be in poetic partnership with the clouds, and all
day long, with infinite variety, reflected rainbow colours and storm
effects--an endless source of joy.

At night, when the tents were lighted by small lanterns, and nothing
else was visible but the stars, the camp looked like a fairy city.

The cuckoo had evidently not been present during Babel building, for
all day long, and sometimes at night, he cuckooed in broad English--a
message from our English spring. But the climax of surprises came when
we found ourselves kept awake by the singing of the nightingales. Was
this the Serbia of which such grim accounts had reached us?

We were ready to open our hospital either for the wounded, or for
typhus patients, and we gave the authorities their choice. Colonel
Guentchitch promptly decided that he would rather not start a new
typhus centre; he wished us to take wounded. We began with fifty, and
these were in a few days increased to one hundred and thirty.

And at once I realised, that the impression which even now largely
prevails in Western Europe as to the bellicose character of the Serbian
nation, is wrong.

The average Serbian peasant-soldier is not the truculent, fierce,
fighting-loving savage so often represented. He does not love fighting,
but he loves, with all the enthusiasm of a poetic nature, his family,
his home, his hectares of land, and his country. He has fought much
in the past, but in defence of these possessions which he prizes. No
one can accuse the Serbian soldier of cowardice, yet his dislike of
fighting, and his love of home, were so marked, that it was easy to
distinguish, by his brisk walk, and cheerful countenance, or by his
slow gait, and depressed attitude, whether a drab-dressed soldier, with
knapsack, walking along the road, was going _Kod kutche_ (home) or--his
ten days' leave at an end--was going once more _y commando_ (to the
front).

Our wounded were the most charming patients imaginable, and it was
always a joy to go into the wards and have a talk with them. They
were alertly intelligent, with a delightful sense of humour, and a
total absence of vulgarity or coarseness. They were all so chivalrous,
courteous and delicate in their behaviour to the nurses, and to us
women generally, and so full of affection and gratitude for the help
given to them, that it was difficult to realise that these were not
officers, but peasants, with little knowledge of the world outside
their own national history.

With this every Serbian peasant is familiar, because it is handed down
from generation to generation, in ballads and heroic legends, by the
bards or guslars.

Our patients were all wonderfully cheerful and happy, and the
convalescents enjoyed their meals in a tent which had been given by
the men working on a ranch in British Columbia. _Popara_ (a national
dish--a sort of porridge of bread and lard), and eggs, bread, and
_pekmez_ (plum jam), and tea or coffee for breakfast; a rich stew of
meat and vegetables, or a roast, and pudding or pastry for dinner; and
again, meat, and stew, or soup, and pudding for supper. On Fridays,
however, the soldiers always refused meat.

Colonel Nicolaivitch (now Serbian Military Attaché in London) told me
the other day that, on one of his visits to our Kragujevatz camp, he
had been talking in one of the wards, with a man who was sitting up
in bed with a bandaged head. He was much enjoying his dinner, and the
Colonel said, "I expect you would like to stay in this hospital half a
year?" "No," replied the man promptly, "a whole year."

The men are not accustomed to play games, except with cards. A card
game called "Jeanne d'Arc" was the favourite. But they loved "Kuglana":
this was a game like skittles, played with nine pins and a large wooden
ball, which was swung between two tall posts. It was made for us at the
arsenal, and gave our convalescents much joy and recreation.

I was a little surprised at the matter-of-fact way in which the men all
accepted women doctors, and surgical operations by women. Indeed, they
highly approved, because women were, they said, more gentle, and yet as
effective as men doctors.

I was also surprised that at first, in April, when the weather was
cold, they did not fear the tents and the open-air life. But the
ward-tents, being double-lined, were as warm as could be wished at
night, or when it rained; and in sunny weather, when the sides were
lifted, gave an open-air treatment which was at once appreciated.

Camp hours were:--

Reveillé at 5.30 a.m.

Breakfast at 6 (the sun was very hot in the middle of the day and it
was better to get the heaviest part of the work done in the cooler
hours).

Lunch at 11.30.

Tea at 4.

Supper at 6.30 (as the town was out of bounds it seemed wise to avoid
the possibility of dull evenings by going early to bed).

Lights out at 9.

Much attention was attracted by our novel form of hospital, and all
day long, visitors, official and otherwise, flocked to see all the
arrangements. These seemed to be highly approved.

The kitchen department was under the supervision of Miss M. Stanley;
dispensary under Miss Wolseley; laundry, Miss Johnstone; linen, Mrs.
Dearmer. The X-ray Department was managed by Dr. Tate and Mr. Agar. The
Secretary was Miss McGlade, and the Hon. Treasurer, John Greenhalgh.

The sanitation was in the hands of Miss B. Kerr, and was a subject of
interested and invariably of favourable criticism. And it required some
system to cope successfully with open-air sanitation, on a fixed spot,
for more than two hundred people. Colonel Hunter, sometimes twice a
day, brought visitors to whom he was anxious to show certain features
in the scheme of which he specially approved. He told me that we were
useful to him as object-lessons, and he cabled home in favourable terms
to the War Office, concerning our hospital work, and also, later,
concerning the dispensary scheme, with which he was well pleased.

It soon, indeed, came to be considered quite the correct thing for
visitors to Kragujevatz to come up and visit the camp, and the only
relief from the monotony of showing people round, was the variety
of language which had to be employed. Sometimes, simultaneously, a
Serbian, who, in addition to his own language, only spoke German,
another who only spoke French, another who could only talk Serbian, and
perhaps an Englishman who could only talk English--these must all be
entertained together. It was like the juggler's feat with balls in the
air.

Almost everybody of note in Serbia visited us at one time or another,
and our visitors' book, now, alas! in the hands of the Germans, was an
interesting record.

His Royal Highness the Crown Prince (Alexander) honoured us with a
visit as soon as he learnt that he would be able to converse in French
or German. He speaks good English, but has presumably not had the same
opportunities of practice in this language. But in the visitors' book,
which he took back to the palace for the purpose, he wrote a page and
a half, in excellent English, describing his impression of the work of
the hospital, and expressing his gratitude for the help given to his
brave soldiers.

A fine fellow this Prince: straightforward, unostentatious, full of
sympathy and quick intelligence; in every way worthy of a throne. He
looked at every detail of the camp with critical interest, then as he
walked, in the scorching sun, from the hospital quarters to the tents
reserved for the staff, he asked, as he looked around, "Have you no
sun-shelters?" We had none, and he immediately turned to a member of
his staff, and told him to see that "ladniaks," or arbours, made of
young trees, and dead branches, were at once arranged for us.

Accordingly, in a few days, a procession of wagons arrived, carrying a
whole forest of young trees for props, and dead branches for roof and
sides; and arbours were erected, and much comfort to us all was the
result.

On the evening of the Prince's visit, the convalescent soldiers
celebrated the event by giving us an impromptu entertainment after
supper. Dressed in their light-coloured pyjamas, scarlet bed-jackets,
and big mushroom-shaped straw hats, they formed, outside our mess tent,
a picturesque group, silhouetted against the white tents which were
aglow with fairy lamps, and looked like inflated stars.

The Serbian national instrument is the gusla, a one-stringed banjo,
played with a bow; the sound is like the plaintive buzzing of a bumble
bee, when, round and round a room, it blindly seeks an exit.

Accompanying himself upon the gusla, one soldier after the other sang,
or rather chanted, in mournful monotone, the old poetic legends in
which the tragic history of their country has been transmitted from
one generation to another; or they sang together, in parts; or they
recited stirring tragedies--always tragedies--of which Serbian history
is composed.

It is wise to allow plenty of time for a Serbian concert, as no
self-respecting guslar cares to deal with less than half-a-dozen
centuries of his national history at one sitting. One guslar, at
this concert, caused us some embarrassment. He wouldn't leave off
"guslaring." We tried every inducement. He paid no heed; and I saw,
with despair, that he meant to carry his country safely into freedom
from Turkish tyranny, and that meant another 500 years. The moon came
and went; but moons might come, and moons might go, he went on for
ever. Finally, in desperation, we all clapped vigorously. Good! He
stopped, placed his gusla on the ground, and joined heartily in the
clapping--but for a moment only. We weren't quick enough, and before we
could take away his instrument, he had picked it up and begun again,
and we were back again at the year 1389.

Every Serbian peasant is a poet, and one of these soldiers recited a
portion of a fine dramatic poem which he had just written and presented
to me. The poem began as an epic of Serbian history, past and present,
and ended in a pæan of gratitude to the Stobart Hospital.

Tragedy, always dominant in Serbian history, gives a sad dignity
to Serbian music, and, in contrast, the songs sung by the unit, as
interludes in the Serbian concert, seemed commonplace.

The fitful moon had now set; the soldiers sat on benches placed
one behind the other, and in the darkness, their faces were almost
invisible. But here and there a lighted cigarette illumined the
war-worn face, and showed the result of hardships and suffering. We did
not then know that the future was to bring a fate more terrible still.

But no entertainment in Serbia can be reckoned a success, if it does
not end in a spontaneous burst of kolo dancing. Two men, with arms
linked, will suddenly begin dancing a slow shuffling step. Another man
will, as suddenly, produce, as though from the skies, a gusla, or a
violin, or a flute, and will start playing, and will play over, and
over, and over again, a dozen bars of the same melancholy tune. This
has a remarkable effect. Immediately, everybody within sound of the
music will, one after the other, join in, in pied piper style, and,
linking arms, form a circle round the proud musician.

There are many varieties of steps, both quick and slow, and the dance
can be extremely graceful in effect. But whether it is well or badly
danced, the kolo is always dignified, with total absence of rowdyism,
vulgarity, or sensuousness.

The kolo and the gusla are to Serbia, what the reel and the bagpipes
are to Scotland. The kolo, like Serbian music and Serbian literature,
reflects the spirit of their tragic history; even when the steps grow
quicker with increased excitement, the feet are scarcely lifted from
the ground; the movements are never movements of joy; the high kick,
the leap, the spring, indicative of a light heart, are always absent.

On this evening, after an hour of the concert, the men suddenly broke
into kolo. To their intense delight, Maika (mother), their name for the
Directress, boldly joined the circle. "Dobro (well done), Maika! dobro!
dobro!" they all shouted in chorus. Nurses, doctors, and orderlies all
promptly followed suit, and as a finale to a successful evening, the
various national anthems of the Allies were sung, and "lights out" bell
rang the "Amen."



CHAPTER VI


One of our most frequent and most welcome visitors was Colonel Dr.
Lazaravitch Guentchitch, Head of the Serbian Army Medical Service.
He had held this post also during the wars of 1912-13-14. He was
brimful of quick and generous sympathy and insight; efficient and
businesslike, with a delightful sense of humour and absence of red
tape, it was always a real pleasure to talk with him. Taken one with
another, indeed, the Serbian officials whom I had the privilege to meet
were--unlike most officials in other countries--human.

Our most frequent visitor was Major Dr. Protitch, Director of the
Shumadia Military Hospital. He was our official inspector, and was
responsible for the evacuation of the convalescent wounded. He came
always officially, once a day, during all the six months of our work at
Kragujevatz, and he never came once too often.

Nothing that could be done for our comfort, or to show the sympathy and
generosity of the officials, was forgotten by him. One morning, soon
after the establishment of the camp, I saw a man carrying a spade, and
another wheeling a barrow filled with earth, coming towards my tent.
When they were in front of it, they stopped. I wondered what they were
going to do, and I tried to remember the Serbian words for "What's your
business?" when Major Protitch came up. He smiled, and told me that
he had heard me say that I was fond of flowers, and that at home, in
England, I had a garden of my own. He was therefore going to plant a
little garden in front of my tent, and in front of one of every two
tents, all up the line, to remind us of our homeland. Barrow loads of
earth were accordingly deposited, and were then planted with violas,
carnations, cinerarias, and many varieties of gay flowers. The gardens
were in shape and size suspiciously like graves: they were, alas! as
shown by later events, symbolic of the graves of many Serbian hopes.

One day Major Protitch invited me and our Treasurer to his Slava feast.
Slava is the anniversary of the day on which the ancestors of the
family were converted to Christianity. We were to be present at the
inauguration ceremony in celebration of his patron saint day. Madame
Protitch was in deep mourning, and for that reason there were to be no
other guests.

At 9 a.m. the Major and his wife, their small son of five years old,
and the priest, and verger, were waiting for us, round a table, in a
wood, outside the little shooting box club-house, which the Major and
his wife had improvised as summer quarters, at the southern end of our
racecourse. After we had wished them "Sretna Slava" (happy feast day)
and shaken hands, the priest led the way into the house, and we all
followed. A tiny room was arranged, in excellent taste, as living and
bedroom. On a small table in the middle of the room, were two large
cakes, a long, fat, brown, unlighted candle, a crucifix, and a saucer
of water. In the latter was a sprig of a faded flower called boziliac.

The priest, who had long hair, and wore a blue embroidered robe, said
a short prayer, and the verger, a Serbian peasant in ordinary dress,
without a collar--probably because the weather was hot--said the
response. Then the big candle was lighted by the little son, who was
nervous, and received surreptitious help from his father. Then came
more prayers by the priest, and responses by the verger, who seemed to
play quite as important a part as the priest; the family only crossed
themselves vigorously at intervals.

Next, the priest immersed the crucifix in the water in the saucer, and
with the wet crucifix sprinkled the Major, and the boy, and various
objects on the table and about the room. He did not sprinkle the wife,
she was scrupulously omitted from all the proceedings. The priest then
made the sign of the cross on both the cakes; took one cake and held it
upside down, and without severing it, made two cross cuts, and poured
a little red wine into the cuts. When this had soaked in, he turned it
right side up again. Then he and the two honoured males, together held
the cake again, and turned it slowly round and round in their hands,
the wife still looking on.

The priest then took the cake and held it sideways, almost, but not
quite severed, to show the cross cuts; he held it thus for the father
and son to kiss, removed it, and gave it to them again to kiss, and
once again for the third time; the cake had then done its duty, and was
replaced on the table.

Then came more prayers, the congregation standing. After this the
priest shook hands with Major Protitch, and the boy, and the religious
ceremony, in which the wife had had no share, was over. She was only
servitor, and now she handed first to the priest, the other cake, made
by herself, of corn, and nuts, and sugar. He helped himself with a
spoon to a small portion; the cake was then handed to me. I found it
delicious, and should have liked more; and then to the others. Madame
Protitch then handed round other cakes, and cognac, and the priest bade
us farewell, and departed. After that we were given orange, sliced, and
spiced, and water, and Turkish coffee. And then we talked, in German.
Our hosts told us that a cake of corn, and nuts, is always made, at
funerals, for the dead, and as the patron saint is dead, he gets the
benefit on his name day. But there is one unfortunate patron saint,
who is an archangel, and therefore he is not dead, and because he is
not dead, he is not entitled to this cake. Who'd be an archangel? But
this means, of course, that the people who have this star turn, for
their patron saint, cannot have this fascinating corn and nut-cake
on their Slava day--all distinctly discouraging to the worship of
archangels.

I asked Madame Protitch how she liked being left out of all the
blessings. She was surprised at my surprise, and I remembered having
read that, in Serbia, the formula used by a man on introducing his
wife used to be: "This is my wife, God forgive me." And in describing
his children, a father would say: "I have three sons and--God forgive
me--three daughters."

The extreme modesty on the part of the husband concerning his wife, may
be due to the fact that a wife was considered to be the property of the
man, and it is, of course, unbecoming to boast of one's possessions.
One should minimise their value as far as possible. Mothers, who are
not regarded as property, are always spoken of, and treated by men with
extreme respect.

That was, however, not an appropriate moment for feminist
propaganda--it's extraordinary how few moments ever are appropriate for
this. I therefore contented myself with saying that in England we were
beginning to have different ideas about the relative position of women,
and of men. I should have liked to add that the world is on its way
to the discovery that the highest interests of men, and of women are
identical, and that it is only the lowest interests of men, that clash
with the highest interests of women.

But in some ways the Serbians are ahead of other European nations in
their respect for women. Major Protitch told me that the Government
were intending to give recognition to the peasant women who, by
working on the farms during the prolonged absence of their men folk, at
the front, had saved the country from famine. Our Government might well
take a hint in this respect. Who could say that there was no woman's
movement in Serbia? It is a woman's movement, moved by men.

Another frequent visitor was the British Military Attaché, Colonel
Harrison. He dined with us almost every night during four months--a
compliment to the cooking--and until he was invalided home--not as
a result of the cooking. He was a good friend to Serbia. He had the
preceding autumn been one of the factors, behind the scenes, partially
responsible for the sudden turn in the fortunes of the Serbian Army. An
interesting book might be written if the true origins of great events
were traced and revealed. We should have to re-learn many pages of
history.

It was largely due to the agitation of Colonel Harrison, who cabled
continuously for ammunition to be sent, that the tables had been turned
on the Austrians. The latter were expecting the usual feeble volleys,
from the depleted Serbian cannons, but instead, on a certain occasion,
a fierce cannonade, with live ammunition, suddenly thundered from the
guns, and the Austrians were so surprised and dismayed that they fled,
and Serbia was--temporarily--saved.

But we had the satisfaction of seeing for ourselves that ammunition
was now being made in large quantities, for Kragujevatz was the home
of a large and excellently appointed arsenal. The director, who stood
about six feet four--a magnificently fine fellow--showed me round the
arsenal one day, and gave me various souvenirs, and then he paid a
return visit to our camp. As a memento of this, he presented me with a
beautiful big bell, cast from cannons taken from the Austrians; it was
inscribed, and will always be a precious possession. During six months
in our camp on the racecourse of Kragujevatz, this bell, with loud but
musical voice, summoned the unit from and to their beds, and to their
meals and prayers; later it journeyed over the mountains of Montenegro
and Albania, hidden in a sack. Its voice was then hushed, for on the
mountains there were no beds, few meals, and prayers were spontaneous;
and now it hangs in an English home as gong, calling us to meals; but
it also serves as muezzin, calling to that form of prayer which is the
only effective prayer--determination--on Serbia's behalf.

Another visitor was Sir Thomas Lipton. He and his yacht had brought
hospital units to Serbia, and he was now touring to see the country.
The officials, when he was expected at Kragujevatz, asked me if I would
meet him at the station, at 5.17 a.m. He and I had recently lunched as
co-guests of Sir Ralph Paget, at Nish, and afterwards Sir Thomas had
shortened a tedious night railway journey by telling amusing stories of
his life's experiences. Also, at a reception given by Lady Cowdray to
our unit before we left for Serbia, he had been present, and had said
kind words to and about us. He was thus an old friend. I always rose at
4.30, to set things going, and to make sure of the joy of seeing the
sun rise--getting up at four, therefore, to meet him, was no hardship.

The sunrise rewarded me as usual. A blaze of crimson over the eastern
hills, followed by a glare of yellow, melting into rainbow colours. I
met the train, and Sir Thomas and his suite breakfasted with us. I hope
we gave him porridge, but I've forgotten. But we showed him the camp;
then he lunched at the officers' mess, inspected the arsenal in the
afternoon, and came back to us for tea and supper.

In the evening, in his honour, we gave a little supper party,
which included Colonels Guentchitch and Popovitch, and Captain
Yovan Yovannovitch, of the Intelligence Department, Mr. Robinson of
_The Times_, and Mr. Stanley Naylor of _The Daily Chronicle_. Sir
Thomas seemed to like the cheery, homely atmosphere of the corporate
supper-table, at which all members of our unit--doctors, nurses,
orderlies, chauffeurs, interpreters, myself and guests--messed, as
always, together. He made one of his happy speeches, and response
was made. After supper we gave an open-air concert, on the grass
space between the hospital and the staff tents. The night was warm
and lovely; the moon was bright, and all Kragujevatz, invited or not
invited, considered it the correct thing to come to the concert.

The Crown Prince had kindly lent us his band, and, in addition to
excellent music by them, the programme included part songs by a
company of theological students, who were now working in hospitals in
Kragujevatz (in lieu of military service), also songs and recitations
by other people.

Our own convalescent soldiers were too shy to perform, but in their
bright-coloured dressing-gowns, or with blankets pinned round them,
they formed a patch of picturesqueness amongst the audience. But they
were not too shy to join in the final impromptu kolo dance. As usual,
at the right moment, the guslar and the kolo-starter dropped from the
skies, and for a few minutes all Kragujevatz were linked arm in arm,
in happy abandonment of care and sorrow, in the magic kolo circle. But
the happiness was of short duration. Has there ever been a time during
the last five hundred years when Serbia could rejoice with a light
heart? Will the time ever come when Serbian swords can be beaten into
ploughshares, and their bayonets into pruning hooks?

Even amongst our comparatively cheerful patients, during this
temporary lull in the fighting, tragedies were occurring in the usual
humdrum fashion. One man who was badly wounded, and unable to leave
his bed, received a letter from home, telling him that his wife, two
children, and a brother, had just died of typhus, and that two other
children, and his mother, all members of the same zadruga (family
community) were dangerously ill with the same disease.

A few hundred yards beyond our camp, four thousand newly dug graves,
containing typhus victims, testified to the virulence of this one
disease in this one town. With curious ingenuity, the typhus fiend
stepped in to carry on the destruction of human life, during the
interlude when the fighting fiend was in abeyance. Is it a wonder
that the Serbian peasant forgets to see the hand of God in all his
suffering? For many centuries the hand of the Turk has been too plainly
the direct cause of his tragedies. There has been no desire to seek
for further causes. Even those of us who have made it our business to
search diligently for God, have not always found Him; but perhaps we
are like the players in "hunt the thimble" game, we cannot find God,
because He is in too conspicuous a place--in our own hearts.

But for centuries, the salvation of the Serbian peasant has been
working itself out on larger lines than those of a narrow theology;
the struggle of his nation has been for that which is the basis of
Christian faith--for Freedom. For the outer frills, the rituals of that
faith, the Serbian peasant has had no time. With us, in England, this
situation is reversed. We have had plenty of time to attend to the
frills, and have perhaps lost sight of that which is the basis of our
common faith.

It is undoubtedly true that in Serbia, religion, if by religion is
meant theological doctrine, and adherence to ritual, has little hold
upon the people. But during centuries of oppression, religious
teaching has been necessarily confined to the monks, and they, to
avoid persecution, have been obliged to seclude themselves amongst
the mountains. And so it has come about, as usual, that the praying
men have been content with prayer, and the men of action with action.
Neither of them has perceived that a combination of prayer, and action,
is necessary for the fulfilment of divine destiny.



CHAPTER VII


Amongst the Serbian soldiers many primitive notions still prevailed.
One day, after one of the big thunder-storms which were frequent during
the spring and summer months, I asked the men in one of the wards,
what was their idea of the origin of thunder? "God must have something
to do in Heaven," replied one man. "We work on earth and He must work
above, so He makes thunder and lightning. He mustn't sit up there and
do nothing."

"No, no," answered another; "it is not God that makes thunder, it's St.
Ilyia; it's he who works the thunder and lightning."

I asked who was St. Ilyia? Didn't I know St. Ilyia? He was a workman,
paid by the day, to work on the land. One evening late, as he was
on his way home, he met a devil. The devil reminded him that he,
the devil, had been best man at his, Ilyia's, wedding. "And I now
congratulate you," the devil added mockingly, "that your wife has
run away with another man." Ilyia was furious, but said nothing, and
walked on. Soon he met another devil. This one reminded him that he had
been first witness at his wedding, and he, too, added mockingly, "I
congratulate you that your wife has run away with another man." Ilyia
was still more furious, but he walked on. Soon he met a third devil.
This devil reminded him that he had been godfather to his, Ilyia's,
child, and he also added mockingly, "I congratulate you that your wife
has run away with another man."

Mad with anger, Ilyia rushed home determined to kill the guilty pair.
He went into his bedroom, and saw a man and woman in the bed. He did
not stop to look, but he killed them both. They were his father and
mother. For a punishment, God made him serve as ferryman, to carry
people across the river in his own village. He must give to each
passenger a melon seed. One day there came a passenger--a devil--in
such a hurry he wouldn't take the seed. "Why won't you take it? But you
must," urged Ilyia. "No," replied the devil, "I am in a hurry to spoil
a wedding, and I have no time to wait." Immediately, in answer, Ilyia
killed the devil, and threw his body into the water. God, however,
pardoned Ilyia, and took him to heaven as His servant, but he must work
the thunder and lightning. So he kept killing all the devils with his
lightning. But one deformed devil always managed to hide away, and one
day this poor devil managed to get to God, and asked Him why He allowed
all the devils to be killed. It is the devils, he argued, who bring the
wars which cause deformities, and the devils who cause all sickness and
poverty, and as it is only the sick and the poor who pray to God--why
get rid of them?

The argument seemed to appeal to God, for He replied, Very well, He
would at any rate not let him, the deformed devil, be killed by Ilyia.

But Ilyia still tries to kill him, and whenever it thunders and
lightens, that is Ilyia trying to kill the deformed devil.

There were several points in this story, upon which I should have liked
enlightenment; but when I began asking questions, I was told, simply,
that it was so, and that it always had been. How, then, could I doubt?
And I assured them that I did not doubt.

Then another man said that there had been a thunderstorm last night,
because Italy was now going to join in the fighting; the thunder and
lightning was a sign that another land was going to shed its blood. I
had thought of that myself, and was glad that they voiced my thought.
Much more interesting and reasonable to believe in concrete causes.

During the night, whilst the thunder-storms had been immediately
overhead, many of the wounded left their beds, and stood and prayed to
God not to let them be killed--presumably by Ilyia, as deformed devils.

It was not strange that a relationship between politics and weather in
Serbia should be assumed, for violence was the keynote of both. When
the sun shone, its heat was fierce, it scorched the body through thick
clothes; when rain fell, it poured in waterspouts, as though the skies
had burst a dam. The wind blew tornadoes, and with the brutality of a
gigantic peg-top, whirled everything within reach, into space, at the
rate of eighty miles an hour. Thunder and lightning had the force of
up-to-date artillery, and the mud was--Balkan.

One Sunday afternoon, I was standing with our chaplain, outside the
tent in which, in two minutes' time, he was to conduct the evening
service. We were choosing the hymns, but we were suddenly interrupted
by a whirlwind of dust, which nearly blinded us, and before we could
close our books, and with a suddenness which is, as a rule, only
permitted on the stage, a tornado, rushing at the rate of eighty miles
an hour, hurled itself point-blank at our camp, and though everybody
immediately rushed to tighten tent ropes, within fifteen seconds,
fifteen tents were blown flat upon the ground, and chairs, tables,
hairbrushes, garments of all sorts, a menagerie of camp equipment, and
personal effects, were flying over the plain, beyond possibility of
recovery. There was no church service that evening.

After a day or two of rain, skirts became a folly and indecency. I
was at first shy, as a guest in a foreign country, of casting the
recognised symbol of feminine respectability. But my work required
me to be constantly on the tramp, around the extensive camp, and one
day, when my skirt had become soaked, and bedraggled, and I could no
longer walk in it, I took it off. I found that with my long boots and
a longish tunic coat, over breeches which matched the coat, the effect
was respectable, and was approved by the rest of the unit, who soon
followed the example on wet days. But it was a little bit of a shock to
me when, on that first morning of audacity, a car drove up to the camp,
and out stepped the representatives of three nations--viz., Sir Ralph
Paget (British Commissioner), Dr. Grouitch (Serbian Foreign Secretary),
and Mr. Strong, who was on a mission to report for Mr. Rockefeller on
the condition of Serbian hospitals. But they didn't seem as shocked
as might have been expected; and I became more than ever confirmed in
the belief that even if skirts are retained by women for decorative
purposes, they will have to be abandoned by workers. The question of
women's work is largely a question of clothes.

But the Serbian soldiers would never sympathise with us in our
abhorrence of mud. "No, no, mud was 'Dobro, dobro' (good, good),
because mud meant rain for crops; also mud had saved them from the
Austrians who, in November last, had not been able to advance their big
guns further, on account of the mud. Yes, mud was 'Dobro, dobro.'"

There never was in any language a word so omnipotent, so deep-reaching
as this word "Dobro." Of what use to worry with phrase books,
grammars and dictionaries; why trouble to learn a difficult language,
written in arbitrary characters, when one simple word could open
all the gates of understanding! With "Dobro" on the tip of the
tongue--every tongue--Serbian and English tongues alike, how could
there be "confusion of tongues"? The heritage of Babel could be
flouted. Diagnosis by doctors, nursing, treatment, orders, warnings,
instructions from and to one and all, within and without the camp;
interchange of ideas; even proposals and acceptance or refusal of
marriage; all could be understood by means of the blessed word "Dobro"
and its negative "Ne-dobro," spoken with appropriate variations of
accent.

[Illustration: THE GERMAN ARMY ENTERING BRUSSELS AUGUST, 1914
(Pontoons passing the German Staff in the Boulevard des Jardins
Botaniques, in front of the Gare du Nord)]

[Illustration: STOBART HOSPITAL AT CHÂTEAU TOURLAVILLE NEAR CHERBOURG
Showing Recreation Tent given by workers on a Ranch in British
Columbia]

Is it a wonder that good understanding prevailed between Serbians and
English? Misunderstandings arise from words. In Serbia there only was
one word--"Dobro"; and I'm longing for the day--"Der Tag"--when we can
go back to Serbia and find that all is indeed once more "Dobro, dobro."

When we first arrived in Serbia, we were much interested in the sight
of many thousands of Austrian prisoners of war, working in every
department of life, and living in apparent freedom. Those who were
officers were often employed in hospitals. In Dr. Protitch's hospital,
one of the prisoners had been Professor of Mathematics, at the
University of Prague. His work now was to count the dirty linen, and he
did it very badly. I suppose even the Professor's mathematics couldn't
make ninety nightshirts that came back from the wash, equal to one
hundred that went out.

We had no commissioned officers in our hospital, but forty Austrian
so-called prisoners helped us in the rough work of the camp, as trench
diggers, stretcher bearers and ward orderlies, etc. These men were
working in a camp hospital controlled by women; they were working
for the enemies of their country, yet they were quite unguarded, and
slept at night, in tents, like the rest of us. But after the first
wonder had evaporated, thoughts of the possible mischief they might
do, never entered our minds. It showed the artificiality of war. These
men--forty thousand or more--were told that by the rules of the game,
they were prisoners, and therefore must keep off Tom Tiddler's ground,
and they obeyed the rules with scarcely any supervision.

There were Serbian Austrians, and Austrian Austrians. The latter spoke
only German, and were less to be trusted politically than the former,
who talked only Serbian. The Serbian Austrians were to all intents
Serbians, and dreaded nothing so much as the prospect of being retaken
by the Austrians--their former masters.

The main distinction between the two is that of religion, Croats or
Serbian Austrians are Catholics, whereas the others belong to the Greek
Church. But all alike were excellent workers, and very happy in their
work. Both they and we grieved terribly when later, owing to political
causes, all our Catholic prisoners were removed from their positions of
freedom, and happy work in our hospital, and were sent, under strict
escort, to dig tunnels on the railway to Roumania, or to other work in
which supervision was feasible.

Amongst these orderlies working for us, was a funny old man called
Jan. He had a wife and children somewhere in Serbia, and he developed
a chronic habit of coming to ask for leave to go and see them. On one
occasion when he came to say good-bye to "Maika" (mother), I noticed
that he was hugging two bottles, which were carefully wrapped in paper.
I asked him what he was carrying, and he answered proudly, "Medicine
for my little ones." "Dear! dear! are they ill?" I asked with some
concern; "I am sorry." "Oh! no. They're not ill. I am only taking
them the medicine as a treat." He had apparently explained his idea
to our dispenser, and she had given him something harmless to satisfy
his fatherly instinct of giving joy. A side-light on the scarcity of
medicines.

Our hospital received several visits from German and Austrian
aeroplanes. Kragujevatz was one of their main objectives, on account of
the arsenal and the Crown Prince.

We, and the town authorities were unprepared for the first Taube
arrival. The day after Sir Thomas Lipton's visit, I went to bed with
typhoid. I had been in bed a week, when one morning, as I lay in my
tent awake, looking out at the camp, I heard a sound--familiar from
memories of Antwerp. In the air above, a whirring of machinery, then a
noise like a chariot of fire cleaving the air, followed by a crash, as
though all the glass-houses of the earth were smashed. Typhoid or no
typhoid, I jumped out of bed to see what had happened, and to take any
measures possible for the safety of the unit, and I saw clouds of smoke
and débris rising from the town.

The unit, who were then getting up, rushed from their tents in their
pyjamas, and watched with interest whilst three biplanes, two German
and one Austrian, dropped bombs in quick succession on the town,
evidently in futile effort to destroy the arsenal and the Crown
Prince's house.

Suddenly we heard a still louder crash close to us, and we saw that
one hundred and fifty yards away, a bomb had fallen just outside our
camp, to the east--close to the wireless station. Another whirr through
the air, and a second crash, and a bomb fell near the wireless on the
other side, a few yards from the last. Some of the shrapnel fell upon
our tents, but no harm was done to us. Our four guards, stationed
at the four corners of our camp, to keep off undesirable visitors,
bravely fired their pop-guns at the machine hawks, but that was all the
attention the Taubes received, and they sailed triumphantly away into
the blue. I then went back to bed to go on with my typhoid. I ought to
have died, but I don't do the things that I ought.

I realised the damage that might be wrought if further Taubes chose to
mistake us for a military camp, and hurl their bombs upon our patients,
and I immediately organised a scheme for the quick evacuation of the
hospital on any future occasion, and sent the new rules to the mess
tent and to all the wards. Five people had been killed and eighteen
wounded as a result of this first attack.

One woman had been on her way to market at Kragujevatz, but when she
heard the bombs, she was frightened, and turned to go home, without
fulfilling her purpose. She was on her way back, and was just outside
our camp, when the bomb near the wireless station fell, and she was
hit. Two of our doctors, and some nurses who had run to look at the
big hole made by the bomb, and to pick up relics, found her staggering
by the hole--bleeding profusely in one arm. The doctors took her into
hospital, and found that she had shrapnel in the lung, as well as a
shattered arm. Moral: had she continued her work, and not turned back,
she would not have been hit.

A few minutes later another woman was brought to us with a smashed leg.
She had with her a tiny baby three months old. It had not been hurt,
but it was a miserable specimen. The mother, by some curious freak of
Nature, disliked the child, and had neglected it. We hoped the mother's
misfortune might be the baby's opportunity of life, and Ginger, the
red-haired nurse in whose charge it was given, made for it a cradle
out of an old packing case, and devoted herself to the baby heart and
soul. (The same nurse, who at Antwerp during the bombardment, had
carried her soldier patients on her back, down steep cellar stairs, to
a place of safety. Later, when our Kragujevatz hospital was evacuated,
and those members of the staff who had not gone with me to the front,
were on their way to the coast, she was shot accidently. The bullet
entered both lungs; she became dangerously ill, and could not be
moved from Mitrovitza; two of our doctors, Iles and Macmillan, Nurse
Bainbridge, and the Rev. J. Rogers, stayed to look after her. They
were all made prisoners, but all--including Ginger, who recovered by a
miracle--returned safely to England in February.)

But even Ginger's devotion could not save the poor mite of a baby who
had been too long neglected. It died, and Ginger cried her eyes out.
The mother remained indifferent, and talked of nothing but her own leg,
and her elder child at home.

We had not long to wait before we had an opportunity of a dress
rehearsal of the scheme of evacuating the hospital. I received one
morning early, a telephone message saying that enemy aeroplanes were on
their way towards us. We waited till we saw them in the distance; then,
owing to the admirable way in which instructions were carried out,
the hospital was cleared of patients and of staff, within a quarter
of an hour of sighting the first aeroplane. Our motor ambulances with
stretchers and ox-wagons, and the two carts which had been generously
presented to the unit by Messrs. Derry and Toms, and which were always
now--when not in use--in readiness, conveyed the wounded soldier
patients, also the women and children patients, from the wards to a
safe distance along the western road; nurses and orderlies went with
them, and brought the patients all back when the aeroplanes departed.
Only the doctors and I and a few members of the staff remained to look
after the camp. We felt a fine sense of security, knowing that our
patients were out of harm's way.

Bombs were as usual dropped upon the town, also upon the new
barracks--a building close to the camp which had been given by the
authorities to us for a winter hospital. Here we kept some of our newly
arrived stores and tents, etc., and these were damaged, and some of the
staff had narrow escapes. Another bomb fell in the camp, but buried
itself in the soft ground, and did not explode. But, certainly in
future, tents should be green or khaki, not white. Our camp must have
been an easy target.

We had one or two other similar alarms, but no great harm was done, and
no serious harm was done to the town. A few shop windows were broken,
and pavements destroyed, and the ground around the arsenal was ploughed
up, but the arsenal itself remained uninjured.

The town was not caught napping twice, but after the first surprise
visit, it arranged a welcome of anti-aircraft guns. On the first two
or three occasions, however, these were ineffective. But one day
Kragujevatz had its revenge. A Taube arrived, as other Taubes had
arrived, full of confidence and bombs. The guns at once fired at her
from all directions, and we watched the woolly clouds puffing behind,
in front, and all round the biplane. Suddenly we saw a burst of flame
in the middle of the machine; we all shouted with excitement, and we
watched the Taube turn upside down, and fall to earth like a torn
umbrella. It had fallen at the entrance to the town; and an officer
dashed up in his car and asked some of us if we should like to see
it at close quarters. By the time we arrived, the townspeople had
surrounded the wreckage, but I photographed as much as could be seen.
I had the misfortune to see also the two aviators, German and Austrian
officers, who were smashed to pulp.



CHAPTER VIII


All this time, we were taking elaborate precautions with our patients
against typhus. An admission tent was set apart; every man, on
entrance, was placed on a mackintosh sheet, he was stripped, his
clothes were at once wrapped in the sheet, labelled, and taken to the
disinfector; the man was bathed in an adjoining portion of the tent,
shaved, and rubbed with paraffin, wrapped in blankets, and sent to the
ward tents; there clean shirts and pyjamas and nurses awaited him.

The doctors who received the patients, and the nurses or staff members
who undressed and washed the newcomers, and I--when I was present at
the reception--all wore a quaint-looking combination garment made of
white batiste, which fastened tightly round the neck, the trouser
feet, and the wrists. Long boots, rubber gloves, and an oilskin bathing
cap completed the fancy dress. This anti-lice armour, together with
other methods, successfully kept at bay the lice which carry typhus
infection.

And against typhoid every possible sanitary precaution was taken, and
water and milk were, of course, scrupulously boiled. The camp was said
to be a model in outdoor sanitation, not only by the local authorities,
who sent up men to take plans of the arrangements, but by Colonel
Hunter and other British and American experts who inspected it. But,
in spite of all our precautions, though we happily kept our patients
free from typhus, and from typhoid, an epidemic of typhoid broke out
amongst the staff. The only theory which seemed to offer a satisfactory
explanation was that the typhoid germ might have entered by means of
uncooked salad, though this had been properly washed in water which had
been boiled.

On June 1st, our young Narednik (Sergeant-Major) appointed to keep
the Serbian records of the hospital, and to look after the Austrian
prisoners, was taken ill with typhus. He must have contracted this in
the town, as no further case occurred. He was removed to a hospital in
Kragujevatz, and another excellent young Narednik came.

On the same day, one of our nurses, and I, also became ill with fever,
and it was naturally feared at first, that typhus had, after all,
forced an entrance. But our complaint was, in Serbian phraseology,
_typhus abdominalis_, and not _typhus exemptimaticus_--in other words,
typhoid or enteric, and not typhus. This was perhaps a less serious
disease, but it was disappointing enough, because every member of
the unit, before leaving England only two months before, had been
inoculated against typhoid.

At first, therefore, we hoped that we should only have one or two
accidental cases, and that the attacks would be slight. But this was
unhappily not to be. One after the other, seventeen women members of
the unit were laid low, and three, including Mrs. Dearmer, died; no
men, and none of the patients, were attacked.

It was a nightmare to hear every day, as I lay ill with my own attack,
that another and still another victim had been laid low. But I shall
never forget the sympathy and kindness of our Serbian official friends.
Many of them, including Colonels Guentchitch and Popovitch, also
Dr. Antitch, the fever expert, came twice daily, and Major Protitch
always twice a day; they brought me flowers and ice--a rare luxury,
as Kragujevatz possessed no ice machine--and sat and talked with me,
and in every conceivable way, showed the truest friendship. Had they
thought the green cheese in the moon good for me, they would have
gone--on chivalrous quest--in search of it. But, thanks to the care of
our own doctors, and nurses, and my own electric constitution, I was
only ill for a short time, and was soon playing the old game of showing
visitors round the camp.

[Illustration:
Photo. Topical
MRS. ST. CLAIR STOBART
Talking to Serbian peasant patients at the Roadside Tent Dispensary at
Kragujevatz. Doctors and Nurses on the left]

[Illustration: THE TRAIN OF WHICH I WAS COMMANDER, AND SOME OF THE
FLYING FIELD HOSPITAL UNIT
With Field Kitchen, Motor Ambulances, Wagons, Oxen, Horses and
Soldiers, leaving Kragujevatz for the front]

The first to be shown round was Prince Alexis Kara Georgevitch. I had
had the pleasure of meeting him, and the Princess, at tea in their
London house, shortly before leaving for Serbia.

I was extremely thankful--if I had to be ill--that I had chosen a time
whilst military events in Serbia were still quiescent. For it had
always been understood, from the time shortly after our arrival, when
confidence in the organisation and the mobility of the hospital had
been established in the minds of the medical-military authorities, that
if military activities should be renewed, a portion of the unit was to
be detached to accompany the Serbian Army, as a flying field hospital,
to the front. Colonel Guentchitch wrote a letter to this effect, and
the prospect of this work kept up the spirits of those who wanted
active military work. And it was fortunate for all of us, in the light
of subsequent events, that our epidemic timed itself thus opportunely.

But, after my recovery, came Mrs. Dearmer's turn. From the first I had
misgivings about her; I felt that she had not the physique to withstand
this type of illness. It was partly on this account that I had been
unwilling to accept her services when first offered.

The circumstances of her offer could scarcely have been more dramatic.
Just before we went to Serbia, the Church League for Woman Suffrage
had, although we were not a suffrage unit, organised a farewell service
for us, with Dr. Dearmer as minister. They also generously collected
more than £500 towards our equipment fund. Before the service began,
Dr. Dearmer asked me to come into the vestry and discuss some details
of the service. He then told me that he had, only an hour or two ago,
been invited to go to Serbia as chaplain to the British units, and he
asked me if he might make his headquarters with our unit. I gladly
agreed. Presently, in his address, he referred to the fact that he
now was also going to Serbia. I did not know that his wife was in the
church, or that she had not known of his appointment. But as I walked
down the aisle, at the conclusion of the service, Mrs. Dearmer, with
tears on her face, came up to me. "This is the first I have heard of my
husband going to Serbia; Mrs. Stobart, you _must_ take me with you--as
an orderly. My sons are both at the front, and now my husband is going,
I must go too."

I'm afraid I was brutal. I pointed at her earrings and pretty chiffons.
"This kind of thing isn't suitable," I said.

"I will leave them all behind, and wear--well, your uniform!" as she
looked bravely at my dull grey clothes.

"But you would have to obey discipline, and as an orderly do all sorts
of things disagreeable to you."

"Oh! I should love discipline, and I wouldn't care what I did; anything
would be better than"--and tears would not be restrained--"being in
that house alone."

"But," I remonstrated, "you are not strong enough, you would never----"

She interrupted. "I never have anything the matter with me, and if a
doctor passes me? Besides, my husband will be there, and if I am not
suitable, you can send me away with him. You'll have no responsibility
for my health."

And--in the end--she came, and was a huge success.

The positions of responsibility were already filled, and, not knowing
at first what work she could do, I asked her to help in the linen
tent. I soon found that she had method and organising power, and I
gave her the control, thankful to be able conscientiously to put her
in a position of some responsibility. Her work was to keep, sort, and
distribute all linen, blankets, and soldiers' clothes. Also to see that
each soldier, when he left the hospital, received his own bundle of
clothes after it had been disinfected. Not such an easy job as perhaps
it sounds. Curious work, too, for a woman who was an artist, successful
in drama, drawing, and romance. But none of her various rôles in life
were better played than her rôle of orderly in a Serbian camp hospital.
She never asserted herself as Mrs. Dearmer, but kept scrupulously to
her new part; in a word, she played the game. I had only known her
slightly, and I had feared difficulties from the artistic temperament.
But she adapted this to the work in hand, and everything that she had
promised, in the aisle of St. Martin's Church, was fulfilled to the
letter. My instinct about her suitability had only been right in regard
to her physique.

I could not see much of her, as I never allowed myself the privilege of
individual friendships, but as I passed to and fro about the camp, I
loved to meet her, and to hear her humorous accounts of various little
troubles. I would often stop her and ask hopefully, "Any grievances
to-day?" just to have the fun of a chat with her. I grew to love her,
and looked forward to the time, when in happier days in England, I
could hope to count her amongst my real friends.

But this was not to be. Like all of us, she had been doubly inoculated
against typhoid, but she took the fever badly. Her husband was at
Salonica, and we warned him of her illness by telegram, and advised
his immediate return. I went to the station to meet him with Dr.
Marsden, who was attending Mrs. Dearmer and, by that time, to our
intense relief, we were able to give him the good news that she was
better. For a time I believed that, even as regarded her physique, she
was going to prove right, and I wrong.



CHAPTER IX


Meantime, Nurse Ferriss, also ill with typhoid, became worse, and, to
the great sorrow of all the camp, on Sunday, July 4th, heart weakness
proved fatal, and she died. She, almost alone of all the nurses, had
not been content with the "Dobro" dumb show language, but had troubled
to learn Serbian, and had made excellent progress. She was engaged to
be married, as soon as her work in Serbia was ended. How little we
guessed that it was not an earthly marriage which would await her at
the end of her camp life.

During the afternoon of her death, a violent thunderstorm, with
torrential rain, fell upon us--the worst of many storms we had
experienced. The heavens seemed to corroborate our sense of tragedy.
The whole sky became black like night, and over the eastern hills,
messages were flashed in hieroglyphics of zig-zag lightning, up and
down the blackness. In the west, blood-red clouds spread themselves
crudely over a dark grey sky; and on the northern side, in curious
opportuneness, a rainbow--in the mythology of our Scandinavian
ancestors, the bridge which led heroes, fallen in battle, to their
heavenly Valhalla--shone, as an inspiration of the Life beyond.

I was glad of the fierceness of the storm, because it distracted the
attention of the Unit; they were obliged to watch carefully their
tautened tent ropes, if they did not want to see their tents whirled
across the plain. Tent ropes are awkward customers when rain and
wind are combined, for until you get used to such conundrums, it is
difficult to see how you can simultaneously obey the rule--to loosen
them during rain, and tighten them during wind.

Nurse Ferriss had died in a large ward tent in which other nurses,
her friends, were also lying ill. From them it was necessary to keep
the news that she was dead. We told them that we had moved her to a
quieter tent. Quite true. On the funeral day, at the time when most
of the members of the Unit were collecting, to join the procession, a
member of another unit, who chanced to be staying with us for a couple
of nights, thoughtfully suggested that he should keep the ears and
eyes of the patients occupied, by singing and playing to them on his
banjo. For ten minutes before I started, as chief mourner, I sat on
Nurse Ferriss's empty bed and listened, with outward ears, to nonsense
about a cat that wouldn't come home at night, and a needle in a hay
stack that wouldn't let itself be found. Then, when the time came for
the procession to start, I said I was busy, and left the banjo party
sitting up in their beds, shouting with laughter at the latest caprices
of the cat.

I then marched with our Unit, to the little chapel attached to Major
Protitch's hospital, for here our dead was lying.

The Kragujevatz authorities, to show their sympathy, had decided to
give a public military funeral, and though I think that funerals and
marriages are occasions which should be sacred to the chief mourners,
it was impossible not to appreciate this testimony of a very real
public sympathy. Colonels Guentchitch, and Popovitch, and Major
Protitch, and Colonel Harrison went with us to the chapel. There were
already assembled the British, French, Italian and Russian Attachés,
medical and military officials, and representatives of the Crown Prince
and of the town, members of other units, and friends of the hospital,
etc. The brass band of the Crown Prince played funeral music as the
coffin was brought from the chapel, and placed for a few minutes
on trestles whilst Dr. Dearmer said a short prayer. Then appeared a
hearse-carriage, drawn by a pair of terribly lean bay horses. More
music whilst the coffin and many beautiful wreaths were placed in
the carriage; and the procession started, to slow music--the same
melancholy bars played over and over again--for the cathedral.

First walked a Serbian soldier carrying a cross, on which was written
the name of the dead, also a wreath, with flaring pink ribbons; then
Dr. Dearmer, carrying his Prayer Book in one hand, and a brown, lighted
candle--given him by a Serbian official--in the other. Candles play
an important part in Serbian death ceremonies. Next I followed as
chief mourner, and our British Military Attaché, who kindly offered to
stay by me, Dr. Coxon, who had attended Nurse Ferriss, then the other
doctors, and Captain Yovannovitch, the Unit, officers, representatives
of the town and general sympathisers.

This was the first walk that I had taken since my illness. The sun was
scorching--at three in the afternoon--and the walk, at snail's pace, on
the rough cobbled streets, seemed interminable. But the streets were
lined with townsfolk, and I felt it was necessary to look stoical. I
thought how it might easily have been myself, instead of poor Ferriss,
inside that ugly nailed-down box. But I would have changed places if I
could. Then I thought of Ferriss's mother, and of her _fiancé_; perhaps
they were writing to her at this moment, planning all kinds of future
happiness; and there she was, lying, just in front of me, in a Serbian
coffin, indifferent to it all.

Now that she was dead, she was saluted by passing officers and
soldiers. I wondered if she wasn't a _little_ pleased at the posthumous
honour, and whether it would always be necessary to reserve honours for
women till after they are dead.

I looked at Dr. Dearmer, walking steadily, his candle still alight,
ahead of me, and the thought flashed across my mind--how awful if--but
she, Mrs. Dearmer, was better now. It was impossible that she should
die.

When we arrived at the cathedral, half-a-dozen great brutal bells,
hanging by themselves, in a frame in the churchyard, began to flop
clumsily, and, as we entered the cathedral gates, they suddenly, all
together, higgledy-piggledy, on different notes, broke into a deafening
jangle, proclaiming in fiendish discord, "Here's the end of all things;
you can't understand life; you can't understand death; there is no
time, or rhyme, or reason anywhere; it's just a jumble, and the end is
death."

The brass band, with its attempt at tune, persisted bravely for a
minute or two, and the disharmony was complete; it reminded me of the
bells during that "last night" at Tongres.

Permission to hold an English service in the Serbian Church, had been
specially obtained from the Archbishop at Belgrade. Never before in the
history of the Church, has the Anglican ritual been performed in the
Church of the Greek orthodox faith. I hoped this was significant of a
future when political alliances would mean unity, not only in worldly,
but in spiritual policy. It testified, however, to a considerable
breadth of view on the part of the Serbian Archbishop, and of the local
chief priest at Kragujevatz.

At the end of the service the representative of the Crown Prince came
up to me and expressed--in French--in graceful phrases the gracious
sympathy of his Royal Master. And the procession formed once more,
and started for the cemetery. Here a temporary resting-place had been
provided; the town had the generous intention of erecting, when the war
was ended, a permanent memorial to the British nurses, and doctors who
had given their lives for Serbia; and this intention will, I am sure,
one day be fulfilled. The final prayers were spoken; all was over; and
we returned to camp.

We found Mrs. Dearmer not so well; temperature 105°. But one of the
nurses, thinking to cheer me, told me that one of the patients--a
consumptive tubercular soldier--had died. This should be a great
relief, she said, as now we had had our three deaths (including the
baby) and according to superstition we needn't have any more. Besides,
Mrs. Dearmer was better again. "Ah, yes; she's all right now," said one
of her nurses to me; "she has sneezed three times, and no invalid ever
sneezes unless getting better." I mentioned this to Dr. Dearmer, and he
reminded me that the child whom Elisha cured had also sneezed.

But on July 9th, after various ups and downs, Mrs. Dearmer grew
seriously worse. Oxygen and other available expedients were tried
without success. Our doctors, also Major Protitch, myself, and Dr.
Inglis (chief of the Scottish Women's Hospital Unit in Kragujevatz),
who was throughout most kind and helpful, sat up all that night,
outside the double-lined ridge tent; I, tramping backwards and
forwards, glad to be occupied, arranging for the continuous supply of
oxygen bags from the arsenal, which was kindly supplying us. While
there's life, there's hope; and all the next day Mrs. Dearmer was still
with us. But when night came, we knew it must be her last. Another long
vigil--now without hope. We sat outside her tent, speaking only rarely,
and in whispers, when something needed to be done, or fetched. At one
time the sky threatened a thunderstorm, but this passed. All Nature was
hushed, waiting--with us. She had loved the wind, and several times, as
she lay ill, she had told me what a joy it was to her to feel the air
blowing through the tent; she couldn't have borne, she said, to have
been ill within closed walls. But to-night there was no wind; it, too,
was waiting, hushed.

The camp was asleep; and silence was only broken by the croaking of
bull-frogs in a mud pond, half a mile away. There was no moon, and dark
clouds hid the stars. For those who kept watch, the whole world was in
darkness, except that at intervals, almost as regular as pulse-beats,
flashes of summer lightning illumined the inside of the death tent;
the camp bed, with its still and silent occupant; the figure bending
low, and whispering in prayer, snatches of "Our Father," his hand in
hers--companions since boy and girlhood, now to part for ever? Oh, no!
Their sons were at the front (one of them has now joined his mother).
Could they, I wondered, feel that this was happening?

I sat a little apart from the other watchers, and prayed--not now that
she should live--life seemed too small a thing to pray for, but that
our souls should be illumined to see the meaning of death. Another
flash of lightning, and I saw that there is no such thing as death.
Death is a misunderstanding of the mind. The body does not die, for the
body has never lived; the body is matter, and inert. Life is a force,
and forces do not die. The body is the habitation of the life-force,
but the quitting by the life-force of the body, is not death. Nothing
has died, since nothing has ceased to live. The life-force cannot
die, or it would not be a life-force. The body cannot die--it has
never lived; yes, yes--death is a misnomer. The word death, together
with the sister words, sunrise and sunset, all perpetuate ancient
ignorance. The sun does not rise, the sun does not set, and--the body
does not die. Why then talk of death as though it were an ending? It is
a transference of life-force from the seen to the unseen. As soon as
matter begins to disintegrate, the life-force passes on--that's all. I
understood.

In the early morning, as a gust of wind swept through the tent--her
tent--the life-force passed; in our stupid, misleading, blundering
language, Mrs. Dearmer--mother, wife, poet, artist, dramatist, and
last, but not least, camp orderly--was dead. But I knew that the
life-force had carried with it all that was real; it had taken to the
Beyond Land the idea, the logos, the norm, the soul, of which the body
that was left, was only a graven image.

Again a public funeral, but this time--a graceful compliment by Dr.
Dearmer--the service was to be conducted by the priests of the Greek
Church, officiating in their own cathedral. A chapel in which to lay
her, with altar, was improvised in the doctors' reading tent, and was
filled with wreaths and crosses of beautiful flowers, sent by friends
and sympathisers.

The military attachés, medical and military officials, public
representatives, members of other units, and general sympathisers,
assembled at the chapel tent at 5 p.m. Four priests, with long hair
and gorgeously embroidered robes, three of blue and one of red, said
preliminary prayers round the altar. Strange that when men symbolise
religion they adopt the garb of women?

The Crown Prince's band played whilst the coffin was lifted to a
hearse-carriage--generally reserved for dead officers--and the
procession, in the same order as before, moved slowly across the
racecourse to the road, and on to the cathedral. Alternately with the
music of the band, a choir of men and women from Kragujevatz, sang
beautiful funeral anthems. We had persuaded Dr. Dearmer to evade the
procession and the cathedral service, and, with Dr. Marsden, to join us
at the grave-side.

Again the same frenzied clanging of discordant bells greeted our
arrival at the cathedral; but inside God's house, harmony and reverence
reigned.

The coffin was placed on trestles in the centre of the nave; the
mourners, as before, standing at a little distance all around. In Greek
churches it is the custom always to stand, at all services; there are
no chairs, no kneeling cushions, no compromises with comfort.

The service lasted an hour; the heat was terrific, and I was thankful
we were not mid-Victorian women, or we should have had sensational
fainting scenes. These would have spoilt the service, which was
extremely beautiful; more sympathetic and compassionate than the cold,
callous, burial prayers of our English ritual, with its theories of
dust and ashes.

The priests stood in line behind the coffin, facing the altar,
and chanted their prayers in the old Slavonic language, common to
Serbia, Bulgaria and Russia, and the trained choir of men and women
in the gallery behind, sang exquisite responses. The music--a great
surprise--was enchanting; it produced that atmosphere of faith and
divine love, of which the best music is a revelation, and bad music the
negation. Better no music than bad music in churches.

Again the representative of the Crown Prince expressed to me his
condolences; and, as we emerged from the cathedral into the material
world once more, the bells jangled forth their discordant message, in
shocking disharmony with the brass band. But I didn't mind them now,
their message had no terrors for me; I was fortified, and knew I could
hold up. We marched slowly forward, now to face the worst part of the
ceremony. For outside the graveyard Dr. Dearmer was awaiting us. It
was a dreadful moment as we drew near, and the band announced to him
that _she_ was there, coming to meet him for the last time. I tried
to interest myself in the fine view of distant hills, showing purple
against the field of ripening Indian corn, near which he stood awaiting
us; but I saw only one figure; I thought my heart would burst. He
joined us, and we entered the cemetery, and moved to the grave-side.
The coffin, before being lowered, was placed inside a wooden case, to
lessen--at Dr. Dearmer's request--the harsh sound of clods of earth
upon the metal. The final prayers were spoken by the Rev. J. Little,
chauffeur of one of our ambulance cars; dust to dust; ashes to ashes;
all was over; the last terrible moment came; we turned, and left her
lying in her Serbian grave alone.



CHAPTER X


That was the last typhoid tragedy within our camp. Nurse V. Bury died
later, as the result of typhoid, in England in her own home. She had,
with others of our staff patients, convalesced under the kind and
hospitable care of Mr. James Berry, B.S., F.R.C.S., and of Mrs. F.
May Dickinson Berry, M.D., B.S., in their fine hospital amongst the
mountains at Vrnjatchka Banja. Mr. and Mrs. Berry had given us much
pleasure by staying with us in our camp on several occasions, and I
always regretted that I was unable to give myself both pleasure and
instruction by visiting their hospital, but I made it a rule never to
leave the camp except on business, and I refused all invitations, even
to teas in Kragujevatz. It seemed wise to make visiting prohibitive
for the unit, because of typhus and for other reasons, (except for the
doctors, who could take care of themselves), and I thought it fair
that I should share the penalty. Also, we were never safe from risk of
Taubes, and I was responsible for the safety of the camp.

It was not until a day in September that the last typhoid tent could
be dismantled. On this happy day, a woman, an orderly from another
unit, arrived without warning in our camp, and asked leave to spend a
few days with us. She had a high temperature, and went at once to bed,
and we found that she had acted cuckoo, and had deliberately come to
lay her typhoid egg in our camp; this, at the moment when we had hoped
at last to clear ourselves of the epidemic, was troublesome. After
some weeks of illness, which she said she enjoyed more than any other
experience in Serbia, she recovered.

The original engagement for members of our unit was for three months,
but at the end of that time, the Crown Prince and the medical-military
authorities requested us and some other British units to remain, and,
with the exception of some members who were invalided home, the members
of our unit almost unanimously agreed to continue for a further period.

We all much regretted that Dr. Hanson was obliged to return to her work
in London. The L.C.C. would not spare her valuable services any longer.
She had been with me at Antwerp, and also at Cherbourg, and when she
left I much missed her enthusiasm and cheery, genial company. She
returned to London _via_ Russia, and the night before she left, Colonel
Guentchitch kindly gave a farewell dinner in her honour. I was also
invited, and I sat next to the Colonel. I was innocently happy till,
at the end of dinner, the Colonel suddenly rose and made a speech, in
Serbian, in praise of Dr. Hanson and our hospital. Applause followed,
then came dead silence. Was anyone going to translate the speech for
us? Apparently not, so I signalled and grimaced to Dr. Hanson to
reply, but she naïvely pretended that she hadn't understood a word of
the speech. Somebody must say something, in some language. Much taken
aback, I jumped up, hesitated for a moment about the language, and
then chose French. But, as the Colonel's points had been made in one
language, I had digested them in a second, and replied to them in a
third, the points must have been very robust if they survived.



PART II

CHAPTER XI


But during all these months, since the establishment of our camp
hospital, we had been occupied not only with military work--wounded
soldiers--but also with civilian work. We had started with one hundred
and thirty wounded within the first few days; but I had at once
realised that as the typhus epidemic was diminishing, there would, in
all probability, not be enough work to absorb all our energies, unless
military activities were resumed.

But it is never of much consequence whether this, that, or the other
thing happens; it is the way in which you treat what happens, that
is important. If you have an ideal, everything will work together
for good. It doesn't so much matter what you do, so long as you do
something. Something, even if it is not the ideal, may lead to the
ideal, whereas inaction leads to nothing. The one and only fatal
disaster is to do nothing.

In a country which had suffered as Serbia had suffered, during years of
continuous warfare, there must be need for help of some kind, the only
question was, in what direction?

The inspiration came the fifth day after our arrival at Kragujevatz. I
was talking with Major Protitch; he was describing the conditions of
the country, and he mentioned that one-third of the Serbian doctors had
died, either of typhus, or at the front, and that the remainder were
all occupied, either with military work, in the hospitals in the towns,
or with administrative work, or at the front; with the result that no
medical aid was available for the peasants in the country districts.

I realised in a moment what that meant. The country was going through
a serious epidemic of typhus, in addition to diphtheria, typhoid, and
other diseases; and in the villages, and small towns, there were no
doctors to prescribe for the patients, or to check the spread of the
infection. Typhus victims, in ox-wagons, still passed our camp all
day long on their way to join the four thousand already buried in the
typhus graveyard, a short distance beyond our hospital.

It was market day at Kragujevatz (Friday, April 30th), and as I said
good-bye to the Serbian doctor, on the edge of our encampment, near the
road, I stood and watched the streams of peasants on their way to the
market; women in Scotch plaid skirts, with coloured or black kerchiefs
on their heads, and children, and old men, all driving pigs and sheep,
or carrying geese and poultry slung on sticks, head downwards, over
their shoulders, or leading oxen which were drawing wagons filled with
barrels of rakiya--the native whisky. And at once an idea came. It was
straightway discussed with our doctors, who approved, and promised
co-operation, and it was at once carried into effect. Unless we seize
time as it passes, it is apt to pass us by. We immediately pitched
a bell tent at the outer edge of the hospital encampment, on the
roadside, improvised a notice board from an old packing case, and, with
the help of an interpreter, wrote, in Serbian, words to the effect,
that if folks would bring their own bottles, medicine and medical
advice would be given gratis. A doctor, a nurse, and an interpreter
took charge of the tent dispensary, and we waited with eager curiosity
to see what happened. The result was that within a few weeks 12,000
people, men, women, and children, came to this roadside dispensary,
either in ox-wagons or walking from distances of fifty, sixty, even
seventy miles--ill with typhus, diphtheria, typhoid, smallpox,
tuberculosis, and every conceivable and inconceivable form of disease.

Besides medicine and general treatment and injections of serum, advice
was given as to hygiene, sanitation, the need for fresh air and
cleanliness, etc. Diphtheria, especially amongst the children, was
rampant. Whole families were being exterminated. One day a man brought
to the dispensary his little girl, who was suffering from diphtheria,
and he asked us to inject her with the serum, of which he had heard
from other peasants. He told us that another child had just died, at
home, of the same sickness; he had been afraid to bring her, but he
had now brought this child to be treated, as it could only die once.
The serum was injected, and next day the child was so much better that
the following day both the father and the mother arrived, in their
ox-wagon, bringing with them their six remaining children, who were all
ill with the same disease. They were, of course, all treated with the
serum, and this little family was thus saved from being blotted out.

The after-effects of neglected typhus are often worse than the original
disease; and amongst ignorant peasants, without doctors, every case
of typhus is a neglected case. One day a man brought his little girl
(Rositza by name) in an ox-wagon from a distance of thirty miles. The
child was suffering from a loathsome-looking leg, the result of neglect
after typhus. The two bones of the leg were as bare of flesh as though
a dog had gnawed them clean; and the foot was a gangrenous mass of
black pulp. Above the knee were huge holes and horrible sores. The
child's mother was dead; the father was going to the front next day,
and he begged us to take Rositza into our hospital that he might go
with a less heavy heart. He quite understood, when he was told, that
the only hope for the child's life was amputation of the leg, and his
eyes filled with tears of gratitude when we told him that there was no
reason why, under our care, her life should not be spared. The leg,
half way up to the thigh, was amputated; Rositza, an intelligent and
charming child of about twelve years of age, recovered rapidly, and
was soon, on crutches, hopping around, mothering other children who
occupied our children's ward tents.

For though we were primarily a military hospital, the military
authorities waived the usual rule as to the exclusion of civilian
patients, and we put up tents respectively for civilian men, for
women, and for children, in order to deal with cases which could
not be peremptorily treated at the dispensary. Our doctors entered
whole-heartedly into the scheme and took it in turns to be on duty by
the roadside.

This dispensary work brought clearly to light the fact that war is
responsible for maiming and killing not only the fighting portion of
the population; it also maims and kills, by slow torture, the women and
children who are responsible for the life, health, and vigour of future
generations.

Roughly speaking, one-half of the peasants who came to be treated for
various diseases, and probably one-half of those who did not come, were
suffering from advanced forms of tuberculosis, the result largely of
neglect during the last few years of warfare.

The small tent soon had to be exchanged for a larger one; this was
curtained into three compartments, one for diagnosis, one with a bed
for more private examination by the doctor, and one for the dispenser
and dresser.

From the first day the dispensary was besieged, especially on
feast-days and fast-days, and most days in Serbia belong to one or
the other category, and then sometimes one hundred and eighty patients
arrived from near and far; they sat on the grass in the shade of some
trees by the roadside, or they stood in a long queue, all waiting their
turn to be seen by the doctor. Some cunning ones arrived in their
ox-wagons during the night, or at dawn, in order to get their names
first on the list. A policeman from the town kept the rota, and saw
that turns were fairly kept.

One of the first arrivals was a girl, who had walked for four hours, to
ask for medicine for her two brothers and for her mother, who were all
ill with typhus. There was no one but herself to tend them, and she had
been obliged to leave them alone during her absence. She would not stay
to rest, but started back on her four hours' return tramp, her face
beaming with happiness as she carried off the precious medicine. Who
would tend her, and the others, if she contracted the disease?

Another day six women arrived in a wagon drawn by two cows, from
a village forty miles distant. They were all seriously ill with
diphtheria, but after the serum injection they climbed back into their
straw lairs for the return journey, as happy as queens.

One man walked sixty miles to come to us, and sixty miles back to his
home, to bring his daughter, who was suffering from swollen glands,
which needed an operation. The girl had no mother, and the father, who
was going to the front in a few days, rejoiced greatly at being able to
leave her in safe hands.

Interesting side-lights were sometimes thrown on the beliefs and
superstitions of the people. A woman came complaining of pains in her
chest. They were not from indigestion, and none of the usual questions
by the interpreter brought any enlightenment. But after much roundabout
talk it was discovered that the woman had lately lost her father and
two brothers, the former from typhus, and the latter at the front. And,
in the customary demonstration of her grief, she had beaten her chest
violently; the force of the triple grief had been too much for the poor
chest, and it felt hurt.

For those who came from long distances, refreshments were provided,
and Miss Anna Beach, one of our orderlies, arranged a stove and tables
near the dispensary, and stood all day in the hot sun, or the rain,
serving tea, and coffee, and bread, and plum jam--all much appreciated,
especially by the children. Mr. Beck distributed refugee garments
to those who were in need, and made himself otherwise useful at the
dispensary.

The people had a great prejudice against going to hospitals. A man, who
brought his twelve-year-old boy, suffering from confluent smallpox,
wept bitterly when he was told he must take him to the hospital in the
town. On another day, a woman brought her daughter, who was at death's
door with diphtheria; and when our doctors said that the girl must stay
with us in hospital, as she was too weak to bear the jolting of the
wagon on the return journey, the woman replied, astonished, "Hospital!
Why, she is much too ill to go to a hospital!" The girl was taken away,
and probably died in the cart on the way home.

But the people soon regarded our hospital in a different light,
probably because of the tents, and also because the doctors were women,
the nurses were devoted, and the atmosphere was homely. Our difficulty
soon was, indeed, in preventing them from coming. One woman travelled
for twenty-four hours, bringing with her in her ox-wagon four of her
children--the eldest eight years old--all ill with malaria; she had
confidently expected that they would all be allowed to come into the
hospital.

Indeed, it became the fashion for people, even of other classes than
the peasants, to come to the dispensary, especially on feast days.
Then, after a time, a spirit of emulation seized the patients, and,
as the best available means of distinction from other patients, was a
surgical operation, they all clamoured for operations, irrespective of
requirements. The doctors often gave offence by refusing to concede
this much-wanted luxury.

One woman, who had been cured of a dislocated shoulder, still demanded
an operation. When she was told that this was not necessary, and that
no operation would be performed, she was angry, and retorted, "Very
well, I shall cure myself." The doctor asked her how she would do this,
and she replied triumphantly, "I shall hold a live frog in my hand as
soon as I get home." Another woman, very ill with diphtheria, came to
the dispensary buoyed by the hope of tracheotomy. She was delighted
when we took her into the hospital and told her that there was a
possibility that her wish might be gratified. The only trouble was that
she had a tiny baby at home; but she had been brought to us by her old
mother, so we sent grannie back for the baby. It was a sickly child,
and we took care of it in the baby ward. The mother was disappointed
of her tracheotomy, but when she recovered and saw her baby again,
her joy and surprise on seeing that it had grown fat and rosy, almost
compensated her for her own disappointment.

Children loved being in the hospital, and when they were there, it
was difficult to get rid of them, especially when they lived great
distances away. Return transport was not easy to arrange, if the
parents were not in a hurry to arrange it. "Ah!" said one small girl
reproachfully to her mother, who at last came to fetch her, "_you_
never give me sheets like this!"

[Illustration: WITH SOME OF OUR SERBIAN SOLDIERS OF THE FIRST SERBIAN
ENGLISH FIELD HOSPITAL]

[Illustration:
_photo by_ _Monsieur Bettich_
WITH COL. TERZITCH COMMANDING OUR SCHUMADIA DIVISION (NOW SERBIAN
MINISTER OF WAR)
Superintending the repitching of his tent near Pirot]

Another child, a boy of about ten years old, who had something the
matter with his knee, had spent a fortnight in the hospital, in the
ward tent reserved for small boys. Life during that fortnight had
been full of joys, and when he was cured, he left with tearful eyes.
One day, about a week later, the doctor on duty in the dispensary,
saw a woman coming towards the tent. She was leading by the hand, a
boy of about ten years old, who was limping extravagantly. The doctor
recognised him at once, and shrewdly guessed the truth. The boy had
worried so much to be allowed to come back, that the mother had tried
the hoax of lameness, in the vain hope of deceiving the doctor.

But it was not only the children who were difficult to move. One old
man firmly refused to go; he said that his daughter's children were
very troublesome at home, and food wasn't too plentiful there, and he
was happier where he was. But as he knew that sooner or later the evil
day must come, he providently secreted under his pillow a little stock
of boiled eggs, saved from his breakfasts, to take with him when the
day came. He was so long in departing that he had a plentiful supply of
rotten eggs to throw at the children.

The peasants had delightful remedies of their own. One day we found
a mouse's nest, and a woman who heard us talking about it, asked us
eagerly what we had done with the young mice? When she heard that they
had been killed, and thrown away, she was very shocked. Of course, they
ought to have been kept to put in the ear for ear-ache. It was stupid
of us not to have thought of that!

The X-ray department, under Dr. Tate and Mr. Agar, was also much in
demand. Indeed, great was the confidence shown by both women and men
in the skill of our women doctors. Some well-to-do people came all
the way from Belgrade to consult them. The women said it was so much
pleasanter to discuss health conditions with one of their own sex. I
chanced one day to ask a young well-dressed girl of about twenty-four,
who was waiting for her turn, what was the matter with her, and she
confided to me that she had been married for three years, and had now
become infected, through her husband, with a terrible disease. She
would not, she said, consult a man doctor, but she had tried many
remedies, remedies from old women and remedies out of books, and now at
last she was hopeful. But, if nothing could be found to cure her she
was going to shoot herself, with a revolver which she had bought for
the purpose.

We were thankful to be able to help so many, but it was sad to think
of the many more who needed help in their homes. Every day we had
illustrations of this need for visiting the people in their homes. One
man came in a wagon with his little boy; both father and son were very
ill with diphtheria, and whilst the doctor was injecting the father
with the serum, the child died in the wagon. The doctor scolded the
father, and told him that he should have brought the boy sooner; but
the poor fellow answered that he had only just returned from the front,
and could not come before. He added that another child had just died at
home, because there had been no one to bring her.

[Illustration: STOBART DISPENSARIES AROUND KRAGUJEVATZ, SERBIA.]



CHAPTER XII


It was clear that if there was this urgent need for help amongst the
peasants in our district, there would be an equally urgent need in
other districts. Therefore, as soon as the success of the Kragujevatz
dispensary was assured, and Colonel Guentchitch and the local
authorities had expressed approval, I determined to extend the work and
to establish a series of roadside tent dispensaries, within an average
radius of thirty miles around Kragujevatz, in the Schumadia district,
the heart of Old Serbia. Accordingly, on May 9th, I cabled home to Mr.
Christian, the Chairman of the Serbian Relief Fund, explaining the
scheme, and asked his Committee to send out, without delay, material,
equipment, and personnel for additional dispensaries. "I should like
twelve," I said, "but I must have six." Colonel Harrison also cabled to
his wife, asking her to collect money for our purpose; she responded
nobly, and in the North of England held meetings which brought in
several thousand pounds.

Each dispensary was to comprise one woman doctor, two nurses, one cook,
one interpreter, and one chauffeur, the latter to drive the motor
ambulance which would convey to the mother hospital at Kragujevatz,
patients who needed operations or prolonged treatment. Tents were
to be used as long as weather permitted, partly to avoid infectious
buildings, partly to escape the difficulty of finding suitable houses,
and also in order that the dispensary could be placed wherever it would
be most likely to be useful--along the roadside, and probably where
cross roads met.

The scheme received the hearty approval of Sir Ralph Paget, who was
acting as British Commissioner for Serbia, and of Colonel Hunter, Chief
of the Royal Army Medical Mission in Serbia. The latter told me that
he had mentioned the dispensary scheme, and also the hospital work, in
despatches to the Foreign Office, and had asked that all facilities
should be granted us. I felt confident, therefore, that the scheme
would be supported.

The Serbian Relief Fund rose to the occasion, and the Chairman cabled
approval and agreed to send material and personnel for six additional
dispensaries. Dr. King-May kindly agreed to go to London and help to
make arrangements for the medical requirements. She left Kragujevatz
on May 20th, and returned on July 23rd. But there was no need to wait
till the latter date to start the new work. Time was of life-and-death
importance to the peasants. The first consignment of stores and
tents came on July 13th, and as Dr. Iles, who had cabled from India
acceptance of service, had arrived on June 29th, we established
a dispensary at Natalintzi, about thirty-five kilometres from
Kragujevatz, on July 14th.

The site had been selected on June 29th by Major Protitch, and the
District Prefect, Dr. Hanson, and myself.

We had intended to go to Natalintzi on the 28th, but the Prefect
remembered that this was a fast day, in commemoration of the Battle
of Kossovo, and that he must attend cathedral service. At Kossovo,
in 1389, more than five hundred years ago, the Serbians had, upon
the field of blackbirds, lost their independence to the Turks. I
little guessed that I should, before long, be riding over that plain
of Kossovo, with the Serbian Army, whilst it once more fought for
independence.

June 28th (15th in the Serbian calendar) was also the anniversary of
the murder of the Archduke Ferdinand and his wife.

A motor drive on a Serbian road is always an interesting adventure,
owing chiefly to the mud, which is, literally, in places feet deep, and
of a substance peculiar to the Balkans, owing partially also to the
neglect of road-mending during many years of warfare. But the motor
will now probably arouse a new conscience about roads. Any road has
been good enough for the ox-wagon, and we shall see in the near future
whether the ox-wagon is the cause of the continuance of bad roads,
or whether the bad roads are the cause of the ox-wagon. Perhaps the
Germans will make themselves useful during their temporary visit to
Serbia, and will remove the question from the vicious circle in which
it now rotates. It is possible that the cloven hoof of the ox has an
advantage over horse hoofs and motors by its power of gripping that
glutinous and skiddy substance euphemistically termed mud.

During our drive to Natalintzi we saw something of the beauty of the
Serbian country. Mountains girt with maple, beech, and oak forests;
valleys fertile with ripening grain--wheat and oats, and endless fields
of the dignified kukurus (Indian corn or maize), its tall, green,
large-leaved stalks hugging the half hidden yellow cobs. And orchards,
and orchards, and always orchards of purple plums.

Maize, vines, and plums are the mainstay of national food and drink.
The people make bread, and porridge from the maize, and rakiya, as
well as wine, from the grapes. Rakiya--with, of course, a different
flavour--is also brewed from plums.

The universal plum also provides huge quantities of jam, known as
pekmez.

We were surprised to find how much land had, in the continued absence
of the menfolk, been cultivated by the women.

Our route to Natalintzi lay through the village of Topola, the village
which fired the first shot in 1804, during the rebellion of the
Serbs, under Kara George (Black George), against the tyranny of the
Turkish janissaries, three years before the Battle of Ivankovatz, the
turning-point in the destiny of Serbia.

A sharp curve in the road brought us in view of a surprise range of
hills. Upon an isolated kopje, which commanded the whole land, an
exquisite church of white marble shone, against a brilliant sky of
blue, silver in the sunlight, which was elsewhere clouded. The marble
had been quarried partly in Serbia and partly in Italy, and the church,
of best Byzantine architecture, had been built by order of King Peter.
The King had also built, not far from the church, a fine hospital and a
school. He had as yet no palace for himself; he had first built houses
for God, for the sick, and for the children; his own house he had left
till last. But it will be built some day. He was living meanwhile
with the Topola priest, sharing an unpretentious, one-storied house,
opposite the church.

We wrote our names in the King's visitors' book, and then spent a
quarter of an hour inside the church. For many months our eyes had
dwelt chiefly upon maimed and diseased bodies--desecrated shrines of
the human spirit. Here, at last, was a shrine of the Greater Spirit,
conceived and perfected with a true sense of religion--the noblest of
the arts.

The proportions of the church were beautiful, and a happy effect of
ethereal atmosphere was produced by some windows of blue glass. But
I wondered if we should not some day look back with curiosity on the
custom of churches. We enclose a small space, within walls of marble,
brick, or stone, and think that we entrap God. We are not far from the
days of Moses and of the mercy seat for God's special use in the Jewish
Ark of the Covenant, and we are, I'm afraid, very far from realisation
of the vision of St. John, of the New Jerusalem, churchless, because
the worship of God should be universal. The absence of cheap, ugly
chairs and pews, interfering with the architectural lines, gives the
interior of Greek churches an æsthetic advantage over Protestant
churches, though the compulsion to stand is, for most people, probably
a grievance. Man adopts more and more the crumpled, sitting posture,
as though he were not happy at getting away from the ape attitude. But
we had no time to spare for thought and sentiment; there never is time
for such essentials of civilisation in these barbaric, anti-Christian
days; and we were soon again on the high road, all thoughts centred on
how we were going to persuade the car to leave a deep mud-hole, into
which it had sunk, in the middle of the road. It ended in the visual
way--ignominiously, with oxen.

We had one narrow escape. We were deep in another mud-hole, when some
peasants who had stopped to help us, remarked casually that a few
hundred yards ahead of us, there was a bridge over a flooded stream,
and that there was a big hole in the centre of the bridge. The warning
was opportune, for the bridge was so narrow that there was barely room
to pass, and the hole could not be avoided; only by emptying the car of
passengers, and by the exercise of much care and skill was the bridge
safely crossed. If we had come upon it unawares, a disaster must have
occurred.

But we arrived safely at Natalintzi. The village consisted of a
picturesque street of one-storied houses, lined on both sides with
acacia trees. We drove first to the café; here we met the Prefect, and
then we all drank Turkish coffee, sitting round small tables on the
pavement under the trees.

Major Protitch and our Kragujevatz Prefect explained to the Natalintzi
Prefect our intention of establishing a roadside dispensary. The
idea was warmly welcomed, and stories were told us of the appalling
need for medical help among the peasants. Meantime the inhabitants of
the village crowded round us, and listened with delightful _naïveté_
to our conversation. They followed us as we moved to see the site
proposed--around the school. But this site was not large enough. The
priest then joined us, and we went to the church. This was at the end
of the street, and a little way back. Around it was a large enclosed
grass space, with fine shady trees; an excellent site, for churchyards
in Serbia are never graveyards, and we promptly accepted it. The
dispensary tent would stand near the road, and tents for doctor and
staff on the other side of the church. The priest kindly offered us
the use, as kitchen, of one of the two tiny rooms, not adjoining the
church, which he used as vestry. This was shaded by a long veranda,
which subsequently served as dining-room. Without further parleying it
was arranged that we should start work as soon as we liked; that is, as
soon as our doctor and stores should arrive.

The Prefect kindly invited us to "slatko" at his house. We were shown
into a drawing-room and were introduced to his wife and daughters, who
at once went out to prepare the slatko tray. The rest of us sat round
the room talking to our host. Presently Madame and the daughters came
back. One of the girls carried a tray upon which was a little silver
dish with jam, and another dish with spoons; also tumblers filled with
water. The girl came first to me, and I was seized with nervousness;
for the life of me I couldn't think what I ought to do. There was
water and jam, but no bread. Would bread follow, or must I now take a
spoonful of jam? And what about the water? Must I dip my fingers in it
or drink it? I slighted the water and concentrated on the jam. I must
do something, immediately. All eyes were fixed on me; I made a dash
for a spoon, plunged it in the jam, and boldly put a spoonful in my
mouth; that seemed right. But the girl didn't go away. Was she waiting
for me to take another spoonful of jam? I should have liked to; it was
my favourite strawberry, and I was hungry. But I glanced at the girl,
and I didn't see consent to that in her face. Ah, yes! The spoon! But
what on earth was to be done with the spoon? Ought I to put it into
the glass of water? The girl was looking at me critically; it was an
awful moment. Dead silence all round the room; the others were all
watching me, to get tips for their own conduct when their turns came.
I was desperate, and the idea came that perhaps I was expected to put
the spoon in my pocket; take it away as a souvenir. Where else could
I put it? I asked myself impatiently. I can't put it down, all jammy,
on the clean napkin on the tray. And then--huge relief--I suddenly
noticed that the little silver basket that held the spoons, had two
partitions, and one was empty! I plumped for the empty half, with
serene confidence, and--thank goodness!--the girl moved on to the next
guest, satisfied.

When we got back to camp, at ten that evening, we found that the doctor
designed for Natalintzi, Dr. Iles, had by a curious coincidence arrived
from India that evening. Tents and stores did not come till July 13th.
But everything was that same day unpacked, stored and repacked, and
the next morning at 4.30 tents, stores, drugs and general equipment
were stowed in a motor lorry from the town. Our own two cars and
another, lent to us by the military authorities, carried the unit,
which comprised doctor, two nurses, a cook, and an interpreter, also
the sanitary inspectress, Miss B. Kerr, to inaugurate the sanitary
arrangements, and Miss Benjamin to put up the tents. With habitual
courtesy, Major Protitch came up at 5 a.m. to see us off and to say
good-bye, as I was to be away for two days.

[Illustration: SERBIAN WOUNDED ARRIVING AT OUR DRESSING STATION FROM
THE BATTLEFIELD NEAR DOBRIDOL]

[Illustration: EVACUATING WOUNDED FROM OUR DRESSING STATION]

We arrived at Natalintzi at 10.30 a.m. after only one serious
breakdown. One of our cars skidded into a ditch, but the motor lorry
pulled it out. I always made a rule, on all occasions, that all carts
and wagons should keep together when travelling. There were sometimes
heartburnings over this, but it was, none the less, a necessary
precaution.

The Prefect and the Mayor received us graciously, and lunched with us
under our church trees, and by the evening all tents were pitched and
stores unpacked. And already next day the success of the dispensary
was assured. The good tidings that medical help was at last available
had spread, and patients at once arrived. Also, that same evening, the
doctor was sent for to attend a woman too ill to be moved; but for the
help she then received the woman would have died.

Here, as always in Serbia, we were reminded of the dominance of war as
a factor in the lives of the people. I asked one old woman who came to
see the doctor, how old she was; she didn't know, but she turned to
another old crony who was standing near and said: "Let's see, in which
war was I born?" Her friend told her it was the 1848 Austrian war; and
thus her age was focussed.

The weather was broiling hot, but many of the peasants wore thick
sheepskin waistcoats lined with wool. I asked an old man how he would
manage to keep warm in winter, if he were not too hot in such a
waistcoat now. He replied, astonished at my question, "In winter I wear
two."

I visited this dispensary again in a week's time, and found that more
than three hundred people had already been treated. All was working
excellently. The peasants had no idea of how to nurse themselves, or
how to take sanitary precautions, and their remedies against disease
were quaint. To cure a headache, they applied a salad of potatoes and
onions, and to heal a wound they rubbed charcoal into it and covered it
with leaves.

A woman patient arrived that day at the dispensary in a serious
condition; she had been accidently shot in the neck, with bullets from
a revolver fired by her neighbour's little boy. It was necessary to
take her to our Kragujevatz hospital, and she was placed in the motor
ambulance which was taking me back. Her nearest relatives agreed to
this; but some of her friends heard that she was being taken to a
hospital; that, in their eyes, meant death, so they rushed up to the
cart as we were starting, and protested and shouted at us and at the
poor woman; a crowd at once collected, and if we had not driven off
promptly, the woman would have been snatched from us.

Another day when I went to visit the dispensary and to take stores,
I found the little unit struggling gallantly with an epidemic of
small-pox, which had broken out in a scattered village three or four
miles from Natalintzi. They asked me to go with them to see some of the
patients. Major Protitch was with me, and we all drove a little way in
the car, and then walked along mud lanes and over fields of kukurus.

One of the nurses (Willis) and the cook (Chesshire) had bravely
encamped in a disused school-house, finding that the journey backwards
and forwards at all hours of the day and night was impracticable. They
met us and took us to a cottage, in which all the members of the family
were either ill, or dying, or dead, from small-pox. The walls, both
outside and inside, were covered with primitive paintings of figures
and of trees. The cottage contained a tiny kitchen-living room and a
tinier bedroom. The windows of the bedroom were all closed, the lesson
of the necessity of fresh air not yet learnt, for in the nurses'
absence the windows were always shut.

In the bedroom were two beds; on one bed a girl of about twenty lay
dying, and on the other was a girl of about twenty-two, also in a
critical condition. Their faces were smothered in confluent small-pox,
their features scarcely recognisable. Another daughter had just died,
and still another, younger, was recovering. Willis and Chesshire had
been making a brave fight for the life of the dying girl, and had
personally fed her day and night, because the relations, in accordance
with custom, had for the last few days refused to give her food,
thinking that death was near. But they had yesterday, in full view of
the girl, who was conscious and had watched the proceedings, prepared
the funeral tray, laid with the girl's favourite food and drink.

The people were curiously ignorant about the danger of infection, and
friends from their own, and from other villages, would come in and sit
on the beds of the small-pox patients, and spend an hour or two, and
then go home and rejoin their families. Small wonder that epidemics
played havoc in the country.

With Major Protitch, we planned a scheme for disinfection of the
village, but without a hospital in which to segregate patients, this
was not an easy job.



CHAPTER XIII


The next dispensary to be started was at Lapovo, an important railway
junction on the Belgrade-Nish line. On Sunday, July 18th, at 5 a.m.,
Colonel Guentchitch, the head of the Army Medical Service, accompanied
me and one of our doctors to Lapovo to choose the site. The day was,
as usual, a feast day, and we stopped on the way, at an artillery
encampment, to watch the soldiers dancing the kolo. One soldier stood
playing the fiddle, whilst fifty or sixty others were holding hands,
and dancing, quite silently, in a circle round him. How could even
their enemies have painted these simple-minded, clean-living peasant
soldiers, as fierce, fighting-loving savages?

A suitable camping-ground was found adjoining and above the railway, on
either side of a long one-storied building which was not yet completed;
this could later be used as hospital with eighty beds.

The doctor of the reserve hospital in Lapovo, two miles from the
station, invited us to lunch under the trees, in the field of the
church compound. A requiem service was being held, and the church was
full of peasant women. Upon the floor were many trays of food--the
favourite cakes and fruits and flowers of the dead. When the service
was over, the women picked up the trays and came outside and handed
the food to their friends. They then carried the remainder of the food
home; they could not take it to the dead in the cemetery, because the
men had been killed in battle.

[Illustration:
THE SERGEANT DISTRIBUTING BREAD WITH THE HELP OF AN ADMONITORY ROD
Bread is on the ground in front of him]

[Illustration: SERBIAN ARMY IN RETREAT CROSSING A BRIDGE NEAR
ANDREAVITZA]

These requiem services for the dead, are held first after forty-two
days from death, in accordance with the old belief that the soul takes
six weeks to reach Heaven; then after six months, and again at the
anniversary of death.

The women wore tartan skirts, very full; short, loose bodices, of a
different colour to the skirt, generally a plain colour, and kerchiefs
which completely covered their hair, and were either brilliantly
coloured, or else were in black to denote mourning. The men often wore
long white tunics, over white trousers, which were tucked into long,
knitted, coloured stockings; and opantsi or soft leather sandals.

A funeral peasant party came to the church whilst we were lunching in
the field. A man in shirt sleeves walked in front, carrying a tray
with the funeral food of the deceased. Next followed a man carrying a
cross, and a wreath bearing the name of the dead; then friends with
flags; then the coffin, carried by men. On the shoulders of each bearer
was pinned a towel, or kerchief, which fluttered in the breeze. Next
came the women in gay colours; black as mourning, except in the head
kerchief, is thought to be a bad omen.

Owing to delay in the arrival of the unit, the camp at Lapovo was
not established till July 28th. Even then the dispensary tents and
stores had not come; but some horribly ancient bell-tents turned up
from somewhere, and with these and with stores from our Kragujevatz
hospital, we began work.

The Doctors Milanovitch and Stoyanovitch met us at the Lapovo Station,
and, with the courtesy usual with Serbian officers and officials,
offered help, and gave us coffee and cakes under the trees in the
garden of the station restaurant. The local Prefect also visited us; he
was beautifully dressed in the peasant costume. The day was hot, and he
wore no coat, but a soft white shirt, and embroidered waistcoat, brown
frieze trousers, tucked into embroidered socks, and leather sandals.
He invited us to his Slava feast next day at noon.

The first night was made a little uncomfortable by a violent
thunderstorm. The rain treated the tents with the disdain which they
deserved, and came straight through, wetting beds and blankets. Next
day, therefore, we encamped in the unfinished building, and though
there was no floor, and there were no windows, it seemed luxury to have
a roof overhead.

Dr. Cockburn, a Canadian doctor, at once won the sympathies of the
peasants, who came in hundreds to the dispensary. The first patient,
however, gave her much amusement. He was a Serbian officer; he asked to
see the doctor, and when she said that she was the doctor, he ran away,
and he never came back.

On Sunday evening we were all invited to supper with Dr. Stoyanovitch.
He was in charge of a hospital to which were attached field ambulances,
for work at the front. We supped out of doors behind the hospital
building, in a large yard, and other guests were officers, the
apothecary, a medical student, in addition to Dr. Stoyanovitch and
Dr. Milanovitch and his wife. At the back of the yard, which was well
shaded with trees, were rows of hooded ox-carts; I was surprised to
hear that these were for ambulance purposes. I little knew how familiar
I should later become with this form of transport for wounded.

The Serbians have a delightful sense of humour, and before we had sat
down to the meal, we were all laughing and joking about our places at
the table. It is the custom for women to sit at one end and men at the
other, but I couldn't allow such a dull arrangement, and I suggested
to our host that we had better intermix, and that I intended anyhow to
sit next him. He laughed, and said that as we might all be suffragettes
he would do as we told him. So we had a "general post" for places,
and fine fun. The night was cool, and lovely, and the moon rose
dramatically over the trees. During supper, music was provided; a young
man, a barber, sat near and played the mandoline beautifully. I asked
how he had learnt to play so well, and our host said that all barbers
played the mandoline well. It annoyed me not to be able to see the
connection between barberism and the mandoline, but I haven't seen it
yet.

After supper, soldiers were called to entertain us by singing, and by
dancing the kolo, and as usual the kolo infection spread, and soon we
were all hand-in-hand, jigging and prancing in the moonlight. Finally,
when we said that we must leave, the soldiers all shouted "Shivela
Engleska!" (Long live England!); we all sang the Serbian and the
English National Anthems; I thanked the soldiers, through the officers,
for their entertainment, and expressed our pleasure at the comradeship
between the Serbian and English nations, and thus ended an interesting
evening. I haven't mixed much in military circles in England, but
I wondered whether it would have been possible in our country, for
officers and men to consort so freely together. This _camaraderie_
was interesting, and if it does not lead to lack of discipline in the
field, the relationship is ideal. I came to the conclusion that in the
German, the British, and the Serbian Armies respectively, three degrees
of discipline are represented, and that of these the German is too
severe, and the Serbian perhaps a trifle too lax.

The next day, before returning to camp, I went with our treasurer, John
Greenhalgh, and the chauffeur, the Rev. J. Little, to the Slava lunch
of the Prefect of Lapovo. The table was laid in the yard, at the back
of the one-storied house. Two other houses, belonging respectively to
our host's brother and to his mother, were within the same enclosure,
in accordance with the old custom of Zadruga, which still prevails to
a limited extent. The priest was performing the inauguration ceremony
in the two other houses, and we waited, sitting at our table, for our
turn. Our host's old aunt, a picturesque old lady, sat with us. On the
white-clothed table was the usual big brown candle, and a bread cake
ornamented with imitation sheaves and covered with a cloth. The wife
and a young son and daughter were preparing the meal. During summer the
kitchen was in an outer shed.

The priest was a long time in the other houses, and to keep us
quiet, we were given beer and cognac, which we pretended to drink,
and bread cake. Our host was dressed in his yesterday's costume and
looked beautiful with his clean, white, soft shirt, no horrid stiff
collar or artificial cuffs. He could only talk Serbian, and we had no
interpreter, but our treasurer, an excellent linguist, and I, had by
now learnt a little Serbian, and conversation didn't flag. But we were
glad when the priest came. He said prayers at the table, then took a
bowl of incense and swung it under our faces; the Prefect next lit the
big candle, and the priest said more prayers, and took the loaf and
cut it, without severing it, into four parts, and he and the Prefect
turned it round and round in their four hands, whilst the priest again
said prayers. They then turned the loaf upside down, and each in turn
three times kissed the side turned towards him. The priest then broke
the loaf in half, put it together again, and replaced it on the table.
A portion of the bread was then cut and handed to us all. That was the
finish. After that our meal proper was served. On Slava days the host
and hostess are not allowed to sit down with their guests; so they
waited on us, and ate afterwards. Soup, stewed beef and vegetables,
stewed chicken, stewed pork, apple pastry, cakes and wine, were the
excellent ménu, and finally coffee and pears, and again coffee.

On Slava days anybody is allowed to claim hospitality, and while we
were lunching, we saw women, and children, and gipsies go to the
kitchen and sit outside, waiting for the food which could not be
refused. Slava feast used to last a week, and was a time of ruination,
but now it only lasts for two days in the country districts, and for
one day in the towns, and as a rule only invited guests come to be fed.

The dispensary was, as usual, a huge success. Later, when war was
renewed, the building--then finished--was made into a hospital, and the
wards were filled with wounded. But Lapovo station was singled out for
attack by the enemy, and, at the order of the authorities, the unit
eventually evacuated the place just before the town was taken.



CHAPTER XIV


The site of the next dispensary was Rudnik: this was chosen on
July 23rd, and the work began on August 19th. On the former date,
the surveying party included Colonels Guentchitch and Popovitch,
Major Protitch and two other officers, our treasurer and Dr. Payne.
The prospective Rudnik doctor (Muncaster) had not yet arrived. We
breakfasted at 3.30 a.m., and immediately afterwards started on our
drive of sixty kilometres to the beautiful mountain village of Rudnik,
2,000 feet above sea level. The day was brilliant, without haze, and
the country through which we passed, was a kaleidoscope of colour
effects, with purple plums and golden corn, and the rich green, shining
kukurus. It is no wonder that Serbians love their country.

We halted at Gorni-Milanovatz, a kilometre off the track, because
Colonel Guentchitch wanted to inspect a hospital in the town. So we
ate a second breakfast at nine o'clock, outside a small hotel, on the
street pavement, under acacia trees. The Prefect of the town sat with
us, and rejoiced to know of our intention to help his people. He said
the district was destitute of doctors. With the exception of the doctor
in the Serbian hospital in the town, who could not leave his work to
visit the country people, there was no medical aid available for the
thousands of peasants in the scattered villages around. He went with
us to Rudnik. The town Commandant also breakfasted with us, and, while
Colonel Guentchitch was visiting his hospital, he told us terrible
tales of the events which had taken place in Milanovatz during the
preceding winter. In December the town was an inferno, filled with
wounded, and with victims of typhus. The Austrians came within five
kilometres, and the Commandant gained personal experience of their
behaviour towards the women and children. His stories as an eye-witness
corroborated the worst that has been told of Austrian atrocities in
Serbia. One hundred and twenty women and children were tied together
and mown down by machine-guns. Again, a crowd of women and children
were driven into a building which was then set on fire; our Commandant
saw their charred corpses the next morning. His own family was at that
time at Kragujevatz, and, thinking that the onrush of the Austrians
was inevitable, he was on the point of starting for home, to shoot his
wife and children, to save them from a worse fate. But the unexpected
happened; ammunition arrived in the nick of time, and Milanovatz,
Kragujevatz and Serbia were saved, alas! only temporarily. Our
Commandant was thus spared, by a narrow margin, from killing his family
at the moment when it was no longer necessary.

From Milanovatz to Rudnik, the mountain views were gorgeous. This
country must not, shall not, fall into the hands of the enemy, was
my constant prayer. The village only contained the inn and half a
dozen cottages, the latter, as usual, models of picturesqueness. One
especially was a great joy: one-storied, with whitewashed walls and
red tiles. It contained two rooms, hung with hand-made tapestries,
and carpeted with rugs from Pirot, near the Bulgarian frontier. I
hoped when I saw the rugs that I might one day go to Pirot and see the
rug-making industry. I little thought how soon I should be there; but
not to see the rug-making.

We chose for our dispensary site, the school's enclosure, from
which there were glorious views towards Valievo, and the south
and south-west. There was not enough level ground for the whole
encampment, the dispensary and kitchen were therefore housed within the
school building, and the staff tents, and mess tents faced a succession
of mountains and valleys, which stretched, as it seemed, to the world's
end.

We lunched in an open shed attached to the small inn, sat awhile during
the heat of the day under the shade of apple trees, and made the return
journey _via_ Milanovatz and Chachak. At the latter town Colonel
Guentchitch inspected another hospital, so we had supper whilst we
waited for him, and we fidgeted at not being able to start home before
8.30, knowing the danger of motoring in the dark along those roads.

One of the officers who drove home in the car behind me, had
optimistically taken with him from Rudnik, a large jar of honey, which
he had, still more optimistically, placed beside him on the seat.
Presently he wanted to get up to go out and help to push the car up a
steep hill, but he was held in his seat by an invisible power. I heard
him say something rather loudly, and I don't think he was praising the
scenery; the jolting in the deep ruts had smashed the jar, and the
honey had surreptitiously spread itself under the Major's beautiful
blue uniform trousers. He stood for the rest of the journey. This car,
which was not ours, required help up every hill, and we only reached
camp at two next morning.

At last the doctors and nurses, cooks and chauffeurs for dispensaries,
arrived from London on Sunday, August 15th, at a moment when the
political horizon was again clouded in Serbia. It had always been
understood that if active hostilities should be renewed, the dispensary
units must be called in. Military considerations were of primary
importance, and all available help would be wanted for the wounded.
Also it would not be desirable to leave small units isolated in
country districts. We had waited three months for the arrival of
personnel and stores wherewith to carry out the dispensary scheme. Had
these arrived too late?

As a measure of precaution our German-speaking Austrian prisoners--with
all the others in the town--were removed on August 17th, much to their
and to our regret, to work, it was said, on the tunnel of the railway
to Rumania, where doubtless supervision, in case of Austrian success,
would be easier. This looked suspicious.

Rudnik was difficult of access, and risk to the little unit must be
avoided. We delayed our expedition for a day or two, and on August
17th, I had another talk with Colonel Harrison, and with Colonel
Guentchitch, and they considered that next day we might carry out our
programme and start work at Rudnik. But torrential rain made the roads
impassable. We therefore again postponed, but early on the morning
of the 19th, our bales of tents, and stores, and the unit members,
were packed in motor lorries and in two cars lent by the military
authorities, and we set out to establish the fourth dispensary.

All through the spring and summer the hedges had been gay with flowers
in wedding colours, but now they were covered with the black-seeded
booryan plant (something like dwarf elder when in flower). Here and
there the yellow rag-wort alternated with the booryan, in a passing
scheme of black and yellow, or the delicate blue chicory flower made a
brave show on the roadside; but the main impression now was blackness:
the hedges were already in mourning for the sights they soon would
witness.

We lunched under some trees, three-quarters of an hour from Rudnik, and
arrived at noon. The long grass in the school enclosure had been cut as
promised--Serbian officials never fail to carry out their promises--and
by 6 p.m. the camp was established. The Prefect welcomed us on
arrival, and placed everything we could want at our disposal.

This unit was especially fortunate in its surroundings, their tent
doors opened to a georama of mountains and valleys which seemed to
stretch to Infinity and to include all the kingdoms of the world and
the glory of them. Mountains did not hide mountains, for we were on
the heights, 2,000 feet above sea-level. Ruins of an old fort on the
kopje of Ostavitza, a few kilometres distant, a reminiscence of Turkish
history, gave the only touch of human reality. The sunset that evening
ignored its usual levantine limitations, and ran riot in flaming
colours of red, and gold, and nameless greens, all over the heavens: a
chord of Nature in the major key; and in antiphon, the mountains gave
response, in colours reflected from heaven and earth and all that in
them is.

Later, when work for the day was finished, and I lay on my camp
bed--the tent doors open--gazing into the black curtain of night,
trying to see things that were invisible, the moon came sailing through
the sky, tacking in and out of banks of storm clouds. Her wireless was
as usual in minor mode. "Joy and colour are ephemeral," was her code
message. "Beauty is death, and death is shade and sorrow. The shade of
a long night draws near. The dews of death are in the air."

I was going to dispute with her, but she abruptly hid behind a
thunder-cloud. An owl in a beech tree hooted; a gust of wind sent
a shiver through the plum trees, and I remembered the stirring in
the mulberry trees--the warning to David of the coming enemy; a
rumbling, like a cannonade, echoed through the mountains; a clap like
the bursting of a thousand bombs boomed overhead--Thor's guns, more
merciful than man's--then immediately came a fall of rain, fierce,
precipitous, as though the dams of heaven had burst; lightning, like a
fiery sword, striking an unseen enemy; then a hush, as sudden as the
onslaught, and a quiet night.

The successful routine of this dispensary was, under Dr. Muncaster,
at once established. From far-off villages and isolated mountain
hamlets, the peasants came bringing their sick in ox-wagons, or walking
incredible distances. Evidently no simpler or more efficacious system
of relief could have been devised.



CHAPTER XV


The site for the fifth dispensary was chosen on August 16th, at
Vitanovatz, about six miles from Kralievo. The method of selecting
localities was always delightfully simple. I tell Colonel Guentchitch
that we are ready to open another dispensary. He at once comes up to
the camp, and in my office tent, we spread a map upon the table; the
need for help is equally great everywhere, and our aim is to choose
a place which shall be easiest of access from as many directions as
possible, and within motor reach of our Kragujevatz hospital. "Now,
Colonel, where is it to be?" He points to a place where cross roads
meet, and we decide to drive there and choose the site next day. Total
absence of red tape, and a delightful camaraderie between us.

On August 16th, Major Protitch came with the exploring party. A village
along the Kralievo road had been suggested, but it was a one-road
place, and uninteresting. "I don't like the look of this, doctor."
"All right, let's drive on farther"; and we continued till we came to
Vitanovatz--a very different proposition. "Oh, this will do; let's get
out here!" We stopped in front of the little inn, asked the landlord to
send for the Prefect, and whilst we waited, we drank Turkish coffee at
little tables in the stoep. Why should Turkish coffee, the only coffee
that is invariably good, be always served in thimble-sized cups?

In a few moments, as though by magic, the Prefect joined us. He was
beautifully dressed, in peasant costume: dark-brown frieze coat,
trousers tucked into embroidered stockings, a waistcoat braided and
hand embroidered, a soft, white shirt, and the leather sandals. Major
Protitch explained our intention, and asked if there was much sickness
amongst the people? "Yes, indeed." "Was there a large population who
would be likely to avail themselves of the dispensary?" "Oh, yes,
there were many villages behind the hills, and every person had to
pass through Vitanovatz to go to the market town of Kralievo, six
miles distant." "And no doctors near?" "None." That settled it. "Now
let's go and find a site. Is there any school building handy in case
of emergency weather in the coming autumn and winter months?" "No."
"Any rooms available later, in case of need, in the inn?" "Yes, three."
We saw these, and they were good, and we engaged them for store-rooms
for drugs, etc., and then we all walked along the road till we came to
a field adjoining the road on our left, a few yards beyond the last
house of the village. Near the road, the field was level, an excellent
place for the dispensary tent, and above a steep slope, beyond the
level stretch, was a fine plateau dotted with apple trees, evidently
intended for our staff tents. A footpath behind the plateau would make
the dispensary doubly accessible for the people. "Excellent; we'll take
this. To whom does it belong?" "To Gospodine --." "Can we see him and
make arrangements?" "No, he's away; but that will be all right." "Very
good, we shall arrive with doctor, nurses, tents and medicines in a few
days." And all was settled.

Later, when we were established, the owner returned, and to his
surprise he saw, as he approached, that his field was dotted with white
tents, and crowded with sick peasants. It happened that I was visiting
the unit. He came up to me, a little perturbed at first, but I pointed
out to him what a good work he was doing, and how lucky he was to have
been the owner of such a suitable field, and he was soon satisfied.

We drove home, _via_ Kralievo, after drinking our tea out of thermos
flasks, under the apple trees. As we reached the top of a small rise
of road, three minutes from our site, a view of the country in front
of us, accustomed as we now were to beautiful scenes, made us hold our
breath. Upon our left, close to us, amongst green-grey willows, the
broad Morava rushed, silver-grey, through a valley which was green with
fields of kukurus; a chain of stately mountains, an untiring guard of
honour, lined the river's route; and above the junction of the Morava
and the Ibar, came Kralievo, with its white one-storied houses, its
round-shaped market-place, its acacia trees, with leaves of delicate
green, and with hanging branches of red seed pods, of an exaggerated
crimson against the clear blue sky.

We drank coffee with a friend of Major Protitch under walnut trees in
the garden of the hospital, and returned to camp by 9.30, p.m., _via_
Milochai, Mirchajevli, Bresnitza, and Knish, along the banks of the
rivers Ibar, Morava, and Grusha.

On August 31st, the big motor lorries lent by the town authorities,
and our own car, and another lent by the military, conveyed dispensary
equipment and unit to start the work at Vitanovatz.

We were up at 3.30 a.m., fortunately, as we had many stickfasts on the
way, but we were established in our tents by the evening. Dr. MacMillan
was in charge, and entered heart and soul into the work, and, as though
by wireless, the people soon knew of the help available, and the field
was at all hours crowded with patients, mostly from long distances,
waiting their turn to be examined.

It was interesting to find that here, as in all other dispensaries, the
women expressed satisfaction that the doctor was of their own sex, and
the men also found that whilst the skill of the women was equal to that
of the men, their gentleness and sympathy were certainly not less. But
there was one point on which the sick people were much puzzled. They
could not understand why the doctor should want to see their tongues.
"But the pain is in my knee, not in my tongue!" said one woman boldly
when told to show her tongue. The doctor gave an explanation which must
have been extra lucid, for thenceforth it was considered good form to
enter the field with the tongue hanging out ready for inspection. How
far along the road it was necessary, in the pursuance of good form, to
begin hanging out the tongue is not recorded.

On August 27th the site for the sixth dispensary was chosen at
Rekovatz. As usual on these occasions we had our first breakfast at
four o'clock, and started at 5 a.m. with Drs. Guentchitch, Popovitch,
and Protitch. We arrived at nine o'clock, after only one breakdown,
and breakfasted at the inn. The Prefect sat with us, and told us that
the only doctor in the district had died last winter of typhus, and
that medical aid was much needed. We were taken to the late doctor's
house, which was well placed in a garden with fine trees and lawns.
His widow was still in residence, and warmly seconded the idea that we
should establish ourselves in our tents in her garden, and make use of
the dispensary rooms at the gate, in the cottage which had served as
dispensary for her husband. She offered us in addition the use of her
outside kitchen, and later, when the lawn became swamped after much
rain, she gave hospitality in her house to the doctor and the nurses.
A clever and delightful woman, and she spoke excellent French. She had
been left without income, and was now employed at the post office as
interpreter at censor work. She was enthusiastically patriotic, but
when the Germans came she had no choice but to remain as a prisoner in
her own land. I have heard that Rekovatz was treated ruthlessly, and I
have often wondered what the fate of Madame has been.

Patients did not wait for us to set up shop, but already that day came
clamouring to the inn for treatment.

We were back in camp by 5 p.m. after paying a visit to Lapovo
Dispensary on the way home. Here, with Dr. Cockburn, arrangements
were discussed with Colonel Guentchitch for building wooden sheds
for kitchen and for wash-houses, etc., in readiness for extension of
dispensary into hospital should hostilities be renewed.

The dispensary at Rekovatz was started on September 4th. The camp
was as usual installed, and in working order, by the evening. The
dispensary, in four little rooms in a cottage at the entrance to the
garden, and the staff in tents. Dr. Stewart was an ideal woman for
the work. In addition to professional skill, she had a keen sense of
humour, patience and enthusiasm, and she soon established a success.
She was sent for the first evening to see a woman who was too ill to
leave her bed. The patient, in a two-roomed cottage, was lying in a
tiny room, without any sign of ventilation, past or present. She was
closely surrounded by friends; they had already put into her hand
the lighted candle--token that she was to die. The doctor opened the
window, forced a passage to the bedside through the mourners, gently
ousted them, and took stock of the patient. Double pneumonia was the
verdict. But there was no reason, except the expressed determination of
the relatives, why death should result, if only fresh air, and food,
and medicines, at regular intervals, could be assured. It seemed almost
a pity to rob the friends of their intended tragedy, but the doctor
removed the candle from the victim's hands, and said that there was no
reason why the woman should not live; but orders must be obeyed. "Who
was in charge?" The mother came forward. "Very well, now you must see
(through the interpreter) that your daughter takes the medicine, which
I will send, every four hours. Do you understand?"

"Yes, but how are we to know when it is four hours?"

"Have you no clocks or watches?"

"None."

"And none in the village?"

"No!"

"Very well, then you must give the medicine every time you eat your
meals."

"We only eat three times a day."

"Then give the medicine three times regularly, and do everything that I
tell you, and she'll get better."

The friends in chorus promised that if she got better they would give
the doctor a pig--a fat pig. The fat pig was earned, and many other
pigs, and fruits, and presents of all kinds were received by the doctor
and her staff from grateful patients.



CHAPTER XVI


There was now only one more dispensary to be established, and on
September 9th I drove with Colonel Dragomiravitz, who was accompanied
by his wife, and little son, to choose the site. We examined the map
before we left, and the Colonel suggested Pruyelina. But when we
reached this place, I didn't like its appearance. There was only the
one road of approach, and Jelendo, a village further along the road,
became our objective. But as we drove, the Colonel remembered that at
Ovcharska Banja there were 150 Bosnian and Herzegovinian refugees,
and that, hidden away amongst the mountains, were many villages, with
neglected populations, and he decided that he would like the dispensary
to be placed at Ovcharska.

Our road lay through Milanovatz and Chachak. At the latter place we
stopped, and Colonel D. and I drank Turkish coffee at the hotel, whilst
Madame took her little boy to spend the day with his grandmother. What
has now become of them?

Beyond Chachak the country was gorgeously beautiful. The road lay
alongside the wide Morava, and we faced, all the time, the forested
Ovcharska mountains, 3,000 feet in height, a surprise of beauty even
in this beautiful country. But when we turned the last corner, and
found ourselves in the Ovcharska valley, I could scarcely contain my
joy. A narrow and thickly-wooded valley, between high mountains, also
densely forested; on the left of the wood, the adventurous Morava was
rushing over boulders, and tumbling down steep rocks, in quest of its
long-looked-for Nirvana, in the sea, and on the right of the road,
which wound in and out amongst the trees of a thick wood, were again
high mountains. Banja is the Serbian for baths, and Ovcharska is a
nucleus of hot springs; they are not mineral, but contain, it is said,
much radium. These springs bubbled here, there, and everywhere.

A few enclosures with wooden huts served as bathing centres, and
peasant women, and men, suffering from rheumatism and other ailments,
were bathing, in perfect faith that cures would follow. There was no
village, but in a clearing of the forest stood one house, used by the
timber contractor. This would, I saw at once, be suitable for emergency
winter quarters. The only other buildings were little wooden cabins,
which had recently been put up for the poor Bosnian and Herzegovinian
refugees. Many of these were, in their picturesque clothes, strolling
and sitting in the sunshine outside their huts.

This place was even more beautiful than Rudnik. But to my intense
disappointment I saw no possible camping-ground for our dispensary. I
told the Colonel; he thought there might be room enough where we stood,
but I knew the necessary dimensions, and it was impossible.

"Very well," he said, "then we must go on to Jelendo." But he was
evidently disappointed.

"Should we be of more use here or at Jelendo?"

"Oh, here undoubtedly," he answered, "because many paths which you
cannot see, and of which you would not dream"--and he looked at the
mountains--"all find their way here; whereas at Jelendo----"

I interrupted: "Very well, you stay here and look for a good rock by
the river, for our lunching place, and I'll come back presently."

I took with me the head man of the place, the timber contractor, and we
followed a little path through the wood for a couple of hundred yards.
I saw there was no clear space as far as the eye could reach. But, by
the side of us, and adjoining the river, where it was cascading down a
precipice, the ground, though covered with trees and scrub, was level.
I turned to my companion and pointed in front, and to the right of me.
"Look here; you see this tree, and this, and this"--and I made a broad
sweep with my hand and pointed to the left. "Please cut down all the
intervening trees. Do you understand?"

"Ja, Gospocho" (Yes, madame).

"The trees must be down by to-morrow evening, because to-morrow I am
going to place here an ambulance"--as the Serbians called it. "May I
rely on this being done?"

"Oh yes, Gospocho, without doubt."

I returned to the Colonel, told him that everything was settled, and
showed him the site; we ate our sandwiches by the river-side, accepted
an invitation to a second lunch, in the house of the wood contractor,
in order not to offend, and started on our homeward drive.

At Chachak we were lucky enough to meet the Prefect of Milanovatz,
the district in which Ovcharska was included. The Colonel and I
therefore asked him to be kind enough to ensure that arrangements for
the clearing of the trees, for our dispensary, should be completed
by to-morrow. He began by saying that he would telegraph to me when
the work was finished. "Oh," I answered laughingly, "I don't want a
telegram; I shall assume that the wood will be cleared by to-morrow.
But, in any event, we are coming to-morrow evening, and if necessary
we will ourselves help to clear the forest." That settled it, and the
Prefect promised to do all I wanted.

[Illustration: OUR FIELD HOSPITAL AT DOBRIDOL WITH TENT FOR WOUNDED ON
LEFT]

[Illustration: ONE OF OUR DOCTORS EXAMINING PATIENTS ARRIVING FROM THE
BATTLEFIELD NEAR JAGODINA]

But, in case of hitch, I asked the unit to be prepared to help cut down
the trees. We accordingly bought and took with us axes and hatchets;
but when we, the dispensary party, arrived next day at Ovcharska, lo
and behold! the site was clear. The place which yesterday had been
forest, was now, though rough, an excellent camp site, and we slept
comfortably in tents, on ground which had perhaps never before been
directly shined on by the sun. Difficult to imagine a better example
of the intelligent response, promptitude, and absence of red tape,
characteristic of Serbian officials.

Dr. Hall was to be the doctor in charge, but she was suffering from
a touch of fever, and for a few days, until she recovered, Dr. Tate
kindly inaugurated the work, with the usual result, crowds of grateful
peasants travelled incredible distances for the magic medicine and
advice.

Our tents faced, on the south-west, an old church and monastery,
picturesquely placed in the trees, about 300 feet up the mountain-side.
On Sunday morning some of us, including one of our chauffeurs, the Rev.
J. Little (Church of England), went to the service. We were a little
early, and as we sat outside the church, on some benches, in a wooden
shelter, the monk came and spoke to us. He was middle-aged, with black,
thick, crimpy hair and beard. Two priests from neighbouring parishes
were with him; one arrived from a long distance, riding a grey pony
and holding up an umbrella, as it was raining heavily. The time for
the service came, and we were shown into the church, and told to stand
near the lectern, on which lay the big prayer book. The elder priest,
with long grey beard, went to the lectern to open the book, and tried
to find the place, with the evident intention of starting the service.
But the sexton by his side, in short sleeves, and peasant dress, had
his own ideas as to who was to take the lead, and though the priest
remonstrated "Cheka, cheka!" (Stop, stop), the sexton opened his
mouth on one side, and emitted a horrible howl, as the first chant.
The old priest gave way, and contented himself with chiming in as best
he could, with a response now and then. One up to the sexton. But
presently the priest seemed to think we'd had enough of the prayers
on that page, and he turned to another page. But that didn't please
the sexton. He licked his thumb and turned the pages back again,
and there was a pretty fluttering of leaves backwards and forwards.
"Cheka, cheka!" remonstrated the priest, as he authoritatively turned
the pages back again. This time the sexton acquiesced, with grumpy
looks. All square. But the sexton ended one up. For, seeing that he was
worsted at the lectern, he looked at the priest with a glance which
said "All right, you'll see!" and walked smilingly out of the church,
and promptly set all the noisy church bells clanging. That was a great
success, for inside the church nothing further was audible, except an
occasional wail, "Gospodine pomiliu" (Lord, have mercy), from the old
priest, whom we had almost forgotten, behind the screen. As a finish
to the service, the priest came out from behind the scenes with a
saucer in which was bread that had been blessed, for the congregation.
He himself gave it to the first three peasants, after they had kissed
an ikon on the wall near; then he seemed to get bored, for he gave
it up and placed the saucer on a desk, and left the people to take
it themselves; and the service was ended. It had been conducted, as
usual, in the old Slavonic language, which no one understood. The
congregation had stood all the time, and taken no part, except that
they occasionally crossed themselves.

Upon the walls of the church were beautiful frescoes of the fifteenth
century, and because they were in bad condition, they were about to be
whitewashed. Equivalent to saying, if you are ill, don't send for the
doctor, murder the patient. The only touch of soulful atmosphere was to
be obliterated.

After the service, the monk invited us to his house, adjoining the
church, and in the corridor we sat at a table, and talked, whilst
cigarettes, rakiya, and coffee were handed round. Mr. Little, our
clergyman chauffeur, who generally drove me, was with us. The priests
thought it very strange that a clergyman should be a chauffeur; they
asked if he was married? He was not. That again was strange to them,
because in Serbia a priest must marry whether he wants to do so or
not. A monk, on the other hand, must not, even if he wants to. A monk
and a priest were both present, so I asked them which of the two had
the worse fate--the one who must marry even if he wouldn't, or he who
mustn't even if he would. They laughed much, but the question was too
difficult; the answer was not contained in their theology.

The priest then wanted to know if English clergymen might marry two
wives? No interpreter was present, and our hosts only spoke Serbian,
and I thought at first that he meant bigamy, and I held up my hands
shocked. But he explained that he meant one wife after the other.
He, himself, if his present wife died, would, he explained, never be
allowed to marry again. Would our priest-chauffeur, who was sure to
marry some day, be allowed to marry again if his first wife died? "Oh,
yes!" I answered, "he may drive tandem but not a pair." I added that
this chauffeur priest was a very lucky man. He marries a wife; she
dies, no matter; he marries a second; she dies, no matter; he marries
a third, and so on to infinity. And when I further added that, indeed,
the only condition set by law as a premise for a priest's marrying with
a dozen successive wives, was the decease of, or divorce from, the
previous wife, our priest said he would like to live in England. "And
I should like to live in Serbia," I replied. "If I were not already
married, I should certainly choose to marry a Serbian priest, for my
husband could not fail to put a high value on me; he would know that,
though I might not be perfect, he could never get a better wife."

The priests then asked us if we would go with them to meet their
Metropolitan (Bishop), who was to pass through Ovcharska. We walked
together with all the monks to the tiny station on the railway, which
ran from Ushitza to Stalatz, and, when the train stopped, we were
introduced to, and talked with, the Bishop; also with two French
doctors who were on their way from Ushitza to Nish. I hoped they
might have some serum syringes, of which we were in need--much of our
dispensary equipment having gone astray at Nish.

As the train was starting, the postman, with letters to be posted in
the train, came leisurely along the line; when he saw that the train
was moving, he gave a spurt, and dropped half the letters on the
ground. He took no notice, but ran on and posted the others. We picked
up those he had dropped, and ran after him and gave them to him. He
could, with an effort, have put them in the box, but he calmly said,
"Sutra" (to-morrow). I wasn't sure whether I envied him his philosophy;
I hadn't time to think it out; I wanted to call on the man and woman
who had given us lunch on our first visit. They were leaving Ovcharska
and going to Chachak, and I wished to make sure of the legacy of their
rooms in case of emergency weather in the winter; also I wanted to buy
from them a sheep. I accomplished both missions, the latter at the
cost of seventeen dinars. A dinar equals about sevenpence. Our sheep,
therefore, cost us nine shillings and tenpence. It was destined for
supper, and our timber friend said it must be roasted whole, according
to custom. He made all the arrangements, and sent us word in the
evening that we must come and watch it roasting. A fire had been
lighted, in a shed, near our friend's house, as rain was still falling
in torrents. The sheep was threaded on a stick, one end of the stick
was made stationary, and the other end was held by a man, who turned it
round and round, over the red ashes of the fire. It only took two hours
to cook. When ready it was carried on the stick by two men, and a third
held over it a big umbrella, to keep off the rain. We thus walked in
procession to our own tents, where our cook--helped, I expect, by one
of our friendly carriers--jointed and carved the poor animal. I can't
say I enjoyed the feast: without the usual sceneries to disguise the
horrors, it was too realistic.

Everything, however, was interesting and picturesque. It was difficult
to imagine where the patients would come from; we seemed to be entirely
surrounded by roadless mountains. But through the forests of beech,
maple, and Turkey oak, narrow paths wound along, and up and down,
the steep mountain sides, and the peasants brought their sick in
wheelbarrows, or on stretchers made of branches, or along the main
road, in ox-wagons.

The first patient was a boy who was terribly burnt, and already in
a serious condition; he would certainly have died but for the help
received.

The whole valley and hillsides were the property of the monks, and they
asked us if we should like them to bless our dispensary work with an
opening ceremony of prayer? We, of course, agreed gratefully.

The monk from our own near monastery, and the monk from the monastery
of Sretenya, distant a two hours' climb up the mountains, together with
the priest from Chachak, also the Prefect of the district, arrived
next day at 2.30 p.m. A heavy shower of rain, as they arrived, made
us take shelter in the mess tent. Our monk's pigs ran squawking past
the tent doors, having been chased out of the kitchen by the cook. "Ah!
my pigs," commented complacently our home monk. "Yes," I replied, also
complacently, "and one day Gospodine Svesternik will come and ask,
'where are my pigs?' and," pointing to my central anatomy, "I shall
reply, 'Here!'" That started conversation pleasantly, and then came
tea. Serbian people like their tea weak, without milk, and with much
sugar; and most of us liked it strong, with milk, and without sugar; so
that gave us something not too difficult to talk about in the Serbian
language. But that tower of Babel business was a confounded nuisance,
and I was glad when the rain left off and we went out to the ceremony.

Outside the dispensary tent, a small table had been placed; upon it
was a white cloth, and on this stood a silver candlestick holding the
familiar long brown candle, with the Serbian arms marked upon it. The
sexton now lighted the candle. Upon the table was also an old silver
crucifix, with red beads let in (I should have loved to have that
crucifix), and a bowl of water containing a sprig of the national
plant--boziliac. The monk, on whose land we were stationed, put on a
beautiful pale blue silk embroidered robe, and removed his tall black
cap. The priest then took an incense vessel, filled with ashes, and
swung it in front of us all in turn; prayers were then said by our
monk, whilst untuneful responses were chanted by the other two. Then
more incense swinging, and prayers, and sprinkling of the holy water
from the plant, in all directions. Then our monk, holding the crucifix
in one hand and the holy plant in the other, suddenly came and stood
close in front of me. Good gracious! Evidently something was expected
of me. For a minute I was frightened, but if in doubt in Serbia, kiss.
I kissed the crucifix whilst he pressed the wet plant to my forehead.
Evidently a good guess, for he passed on, and the act was repeated on
the forehead of each one in turn. Finally our monk made a charming
little speech about the benefits which the people would derive from
the dispensary, and expressed his gratitude and appreciation. The
other monk then took my hand and also spoke, with much feeling, of the
gladness and gratitude which had filled their hearts at our coming to
help their people, and the ceremony was over. They allowed me to take a
photograph of them; but unfortunately this photo, with all photos taken
during the first six months in Serbia, is now in the hands of the enemy.

The monks gave us pressing invitations to visit them in their mountain
monasteries, and I had every intention of accepting their hospitality
the next time I came to the dispensary. But I returned to camp on
September 16th, the day following the benediction ceremony, and I
never, alas! went again to my beloved Ovcharska.

The dispensaries were now all inaugurated, and the scheme, in full
working order, was in every way fulfilling our highest hopes. The
greatest, in fact the only, difficulty had been the delay in arrival
of the dispensary medical equipment; this went wrong at Nish and
elsewhere, and we had trouble to secure the necessary scales and serum
syringes, etc. But miracles always happened at moments when things
looked blackest, and by one means and another obstacles had been
overcome.

The six new motor ambulances for the use of the six new dispensaries,
only arrived on September 17th. They had arrived at Salonica without a
note of authorisation for their delivery, and the port officials had
refused to deliver them till weeks had been wasted in communication
with London. And even on September 17th, the spare parts had not
arrived. We had, therefore, been obliged to work the dispensaries, and
to keep up communications, with the one camp ambulance that was left.



CHAPTER XVII


We were now dealing, as seen upon the sketch, with a large area of
the Schumadia District, and 20,000 people had already passed through
our hands. If the work could only be continued through the winter,
substantial results might be expected for the poor suffering peasants.
But rumours of a massing of Bulgarian troops on their frontier, and of
Germans and Austrians on the Danube front, grew more substantial. If
fighting eventuated, all our dispensary work must be stopped, and once
more the unfortunate peasants must be left to their fate. But whatever
happened, the scheme was an established success, and it was comforting
to think that it could be restarted as soon as the war is over.

From talks which I had with various officials, I knew that tragedies
were already hovering not far away, and, in order to be ready for
eventualities, I visited Rudnik, Vitanovatz, Rekovatz, and Lapovo,
respectively, on 19th, 21st, 23rd and 24th September, to arrange,
either for winter quarters, if hostilities were not resumed (frosts
had already begun), or for plans of evacuation if fighting began.
Colonel Guentchitch drove with me to Vitanovatz; he told me that
the Austrians, and probably also the Germans, were massing on the
Danube, and that fighting was imminent. Our help, he said, would soon
be urgently needed. On the 24th, Major Protitch came early to the
camp and asked me to go and see the Chief, at the office of the Army
Medical Department. On my way, therefore, to Lapovo, I stopped at the
office. Colonel Guentchitch was there and he immediately told me that
the military situation had become serious, that the Serbian Army was
now mobilising, and he asked if I would, with a portion of the unit,
accompany the Army as a flying field hospital to the front. It had
always been understood, as before mentioned, that our mobile camp was
to be utilised in this way, if hostilities should be resumed, and, in
fulfilment of the promise which had been made soon after we had arrived
at Kragujevatz, I replied that I should be glad to perform service in
whichever way was to the Serbian authorities most serviceable.

The Bulgarians had not allowed foreigners to accompany their field
hospitals, and I knew that it was unusual to ask foreign units to
undertake this work. I, therefore, all the more appreciated the tribute
now paid to our unit and to our country.

But a further compliment was yet to come. "We shall be glad,"
continued the Colonel, "if you will take command of the column. We ask
you--without supervision of Serbian officers--to take entire charge of
material and equipment, as well as of the staff--British and Serbian.
This is, I believe," he continued, "the first time in history that
such an appointment has been offered to a woman; but, new times, new
customs, and," he added simply, "we know that you can do it." As I
listened to these words I wondered if I really was in Serbia, in a
country which had for many hundred years been under Turkish rule,
and subject to Turkish traditions concerning women. I expressed my
appreciation of the confidence shown, my hope that I might prove worthy
of it, and my gladness at being able to show, even in a small way, the
sympathy which existed between our nation and the Serbian people.

Colonel Guentchitch then arranged how many of the unit from the Stobart
Hospital, would be required. Two women doctors, four women nurses, one
woman cook, two interpreters, one secretary and two women orderlies;
and, in addition, a commissariat under-officer, and a treasurer
(nicknamed Sandford and Merton), a Serbian dispenser, a sergeant, and
sixty Serbian soldiers were to accompany us. The latter were to serve
as ambulance men and as drivers for the thirty oxen and horse wagons
which would be used as transport for hospital material, tents and
stores.

As the dispensaries must at once be called in, the seven motor
ambulances which had just arrived from England for the dispensaries,
would now, together with their chauffeurs, be without work. Six of
these motors, together with their corresponding chauffeurs, were
therefore at once requisitioned for the transport of our future
wounded, and for the conveying of our own staff from place to place.
This left the Stobart Hospital the richer, with one of the new
ambulances in addition to the one which had hitherto sufficed for all
the dispensary and camp work. The six motor ambulances were, of course,
indispensable for the field hospital work. But the spare parts for
these had even now not yet arrived from Salonica, though they were
supposed to be on their way, and we must trust to their being forwarded
to us. We received them later in Palanka.

I felt considerable reluctance at the thought of leaving the hospital,
of which, during six months, I had been in charge, and I expressed my
hesitation to Colonel Guentchitch. "But," he replied promptly, "you
are needed for the more important work; we will see that no harm comes
to the Stobart Hospital." It had been working for six months, and
the routine was firmly established; all the doctors and nurses and
orderlies and interpreters from the various dispensaries would now be
set free, to give additional help, and Dr. King-May, who would be left
in charge, was very capable of continuing the work.

There was no time for hesitation, and I accepted the more difficult
service, glad of the opportunity of giving practical proof of British
sympathy with the brave Serbian Army.

Colonel Guentchitch immediately telephoned to Colonel Pops Dragitch,
who at once came to the Army Medical Office and gave the details as
to the numbers of oxen and wagons, etc., available. He also arranged
for me to meet him next morning at the 6th Reserve Hospital, with our
doctors, to see the equipment. I was told to hold myself in readiness
to leave in two days' time, if necessary. Thus, within a few minutes,
all was settled.

Serbian officers act upon the principle "Trust all in all, or not at
all." From that first moment in the Army Medical Office, to the last
sad moment of surrendering the command at Scutari, complete confidence
was shown, and had I been a male fellow-officer, I could not have been
treated with greater trustfulness.

I continued that morning in the car to Lapovo, and with Dr. Cockburn
discussed arrangements for the future hospital in the building,
which was now ready for beds; returned to camp by 4 p.m.; settled
which tents and what stores should be taken; at 5 o'clock discussed
further arrangements with Colonels Guentchitch and Pops Dragitch and
Major Protitch, who all came up to the camp; and finally tackled the
most difficult job of the day, when, after supper, with the doctors,
the selection of the staff for the flying field hospital, had to be
made. Heart-burnings and disappointments were inevitable, for almost
everybody from the camp and from the dispensaries wanted to be chosen,
and almost everybody thought that they had special claims. Special
physical fitness for the work at the front, as well as the requirements
of the hospital left behind, had to be taken into consideration.
The doctors selected were Drs. Payne and Coxon; nurses--Cockerill,
Collins, Giles, Newhall and Kennedy (six more nurses were on the way
from England to replace them); chauffeurs--Little, Marshall, Colson,
Holmstrom, Jordan, and Miss Sharman; cook--Mrs. Dawn; orderlies--Miss
Benjamin and Miss Chapple; interpreters--Vooitch and George; and the
secretary was John Greenhalgh.

At 9 the next morning (Saturday, September 25th) Dr. May and Dr. Payne
went with me to meet Colonel Dragitch, to see the equipment at the
6th Reserve Hospital, and they were much pleased with the drugs and
surgical instruments. A full inventory was to be given us later.

On September 27th, the flying hospital unit was due at the Reserve
Hospital for full-dress inspection by Colonel Pops Dragitch and Colonel
Guentchitch. Oxen and horse wagons were packed with tents and stores,
and the motor ambulances with personal kit, and by 9 a.m. we were
on the parade ground. All the other wagons and oxen and horses were
already there. We drew up in line, and the Colonels seemed pleased
with the arrangements. Colonel Dragitch then called the sixty soldiers
who were to serve with us, and when they were drawn up in line he
introduced them to their Commandant, and told them that they must yield
obedience and be amenable to discipline. And, through the Colonel, I
made a little reply speech to the men, and our unit returned to camp.

At 5 that evening Major Popovitch, Principal Medical Officer of the
Schumadia Division, came to see me, and to ask me to go with him next
day to see the Colonel who was in command of the division, which was
now at Aranjelovatz. Accordingly, next morning early, I called for
Major Popovitch in the car, and together we drove to the Colonel's
headquarters in the picturesque little town of Aranjelovatz, about
sixty kilometres distant. On the way we met large convoys of cavalry,
artillery with their fodder, etc., all on their way to the Bulgarian
front; this was, I now learnt, to be our destination. Up to that
moment, however, it was not known officially whether the Bulgarians
were mobilising as a measure of precaution, or which side they might
eventually join. If they joined the Serbians, our unit might perhaps go
on to Constantinople; if they were neutral, we might be sent through
Rumania against Austria. The third possibility, that they might fight
Serbia, was unfortunately the most likely, and in that case our
destination would be in the direction of Sofia.

Colonel Terzitch had visited the Stobart Hospital; I was therefore not
a stranger to him; but though my experience of Serbian officers had
invariably been of the happiest, Colonel Terzitch had a great military
reputation, and I rather feared that at such a critical moment he might
be preoccupied, stern, and unsympathetic towards a woman. But I found
him one of the most delightfully human men I have ever met in any
country. He received me as an old friend, and at once said how happy
he was to know that he was to have our unit with him. There was here
no grudging acceptance of service, but genuine appreciation of our
desire to show practical sympathy. He at once telephoned to ascertain
whether the unit could be conveyed by train to the destination now
revealed--Pirot, near the Bulgarian frontier--or whether we must
proceed by road. It was arranged that a train should be put at our
disposal, and that we should leave for the front, and be ready at
two hours' notice at any moment that we received word from Colonel
Guentchitch. The Commandant invited me to lunch with him and with all
the other officers of the staff, and he suggested that meanwhile I
might like to see the fountain of mineral water known as Kisala, and
the Hydropathic Hotel, now a hospital, which were in the town. Major
Popovitch came with me, and he also showed me his house, in which
he and his family had lived during the summer. He, with his wife and
children, had left it three days ago for Kragujevatz. I had seen the
children that morning when they came to the gate of his home, to see
him start in the car with me. From the moment, a few days later, when
he left for Pirot, he has never seen them again, and can obtain no news
of them. He only knows that his two houses and all his property have
been destroyed, and that his wife and children are in the hands of
an unscrupulous enemy. All the married officers who took part in the
retreat are suffering similar torture.

The lunch that day was an interesting function, because most of the
thirty officers were also going to the front. I noticed that their
uniforms varied in colour, and Colonel Terzitch explained that it was
not possible to get enough material of any one pattern, so everybody
had to get the nearest match available.

The party included the Colonel's mother, a charming old lady, wearing
an old-fashioned Turkish head-dress. I wondered if she would be shocked
at the idea of my going with the army, but I gathered that, though
Serbian women have not yet been launched into the activities of their
sisters in the West, they are sympathetic, and I have no doubt that
when the war is over, their lives will be fashioned upon Western rather
than--as of old--upon Eastern lines.

Everybody, though earnest, was in good spirits, and I parted, after
lunch, from Colonel Terzitch and Major Popovitch on the understanding
that we should next meet at Pirot. Two officers returned with me in the
car to Kragujevatz, one of them commissioned to see that benzine for
our motor ambulances was requisitioned, and the other to do business
with Colonel Guentchitch.

Next morning, September 29th, Colonels Dragitch, Milanovitch and
Pankovitch, and Colonel Guentchitch came to the camp to say that we
were to start as soon as a train was available. Colonel Guentchitch
brought with him medals for the Stobart Unit, and these he kindly
distributed, in appreciation of the services performed by all the
various members.

During these days arrangements were in process for evacuating the
civilian patients from the hospital in order to make room for wounded,
for recalling the dispensary units, for staffing and starting the new
hospital at Lapovo; also for establishing the winter quarters for the
Stobart Hospital, which was to be transferred to the new barracks, on
the other side of the main road which ran along the southern border of
our encampment.

On Thursday, September 30th, we knew that we might expect marching
orders at any moment. At seven that morning we sighted two German
aeroplanes coming towards us. All the patients, as usual, were
evacuated within five minutes. Five people were killed and ten were
wounded by the bombs, in Kragujevatz.

Some of these bombs had fallen near our camp, and Colonel Guentchitch
and other officers came up to be assured that all was well. We had a
narrow escape the next day. Again, at 7 a.m., German aeroplanes arrived
and began dropping bombs on the town; the intention being, presumably,
to destroy the arsenal. But this time they thought our camp worthy of
attention. This was tiresome, as we received that morning the order to
be at the railway station with the convoy, ready to embark at 3 p.m.
The motor ambulances, all in line, would have made an easy target, so
we distributed them and hid them as best we could. One bomb fell in the
camp, but luckily buried itself in a soft place; another exploded in
the middle of our stores, and spare tents, in the new barracks, missing
three of the unit, who had just been sorting these stores, by less
than a minute. Tents were burnt, and marmalade destroyed, and holes
made in the walls, but otherwise no harm was done. I didn't hear how
many people were killed in the town, but one man who was brought to us
injured, died before he could be moved from the stretcher.

As soon as we were rid of one set of aeroplanes another lot arrived,
but they had the decency to clear off in time for us to collect our
cortège and be ready at two o'clock to start for the station.

The six Ford motor-ambulances were to carry the staff of twenty-one
with their personal baggage; our own ox-wagons and one cart, drawn by
two horses, took our personal food, stores, and tents; all the rest
of the thirty wagons, including water-cart and oxen and horses, were
to meet us at the station. We had been given by the director of the
arsenal a field-kitchen on wheels, which had been taken last autumn
from the Austrians. This went with us and was a valuable asset.

It was an interesting moment, when, at the sound of the whistle, the
little company assembled, said good-bye to the remaining unit and
jumped into the ambulances, which were numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, for
easy identification by their respective crews, and started for the
front (on Friday, October 1st).

Good-bye to our beautiful white camp, in which so many scenes had been
enacted--of sorrow, and of work, and some of play; and in which hopes
for the Serbian future had fluctuated, now on one side, now on the
other, of the balance.

What fate would befall us, and those who were left behind, before we
met--if ever--again? But those who were left behind would, at least,
I trusted, be protected from harm, for they would be under special
supervision, and Kragujevatz was the Military Headquarters. Besides,
the enemy would never reach Kragujevatz!

But for one and all there was one word--Good-bye. God be with you; and
He was.



PART III

CHAPTER XVIII


The sixty soldiers were already at the station when we arrived, also
Colonel Pops Dragitch, and Colonel Guentchitch followed, to watch the
embarkation of wagons and motors on the train. We were not to leave
till early next morning, so we went in relays to the camp for supper,
leaving the others in charge of the goods; and we slept that night in
our carriages on the train.

The hospital was to be officially known as "The First Serbian-English
Field Hospital (Front)--Commandant Madame Stobart," and we were
attached to the Schumadia Division (25,000 men). The oxen and horses
were entrained at dawn, but the train did not start till eight o'clock
(Saturday, October 2nd). Colonels Guentchitch and Pops Dragitch came to
say good-bye. We little guessed that we should next meet at Scutari,
near the coast, in Albania, after three months of episodes more tragic
than any which even Serbia has ever before endured. I was amused at
being told that I was the commander of the train, and that no one would
be allowed to board it, or to leave it, without my permission. I don't
remember much amusement after that.

We reached Nish at seven that evening, and during the train's halt
of an hour and twenty minutes, we dined in the station restaurant.
Members of the Second British Farmers' Unit, which had been working at
Belgrade, with Mr. Wynch as Administrator, were at the station on their
way to England.

After Nish the line was monopolised by military trains, in which were
Serbian soldiers, dressed in every variety of old garments, brown or
grey--the nearest approach to uniform producible. They reminded me of
the saying of Emerson, "No army of freedom or independence is ever well
dressed."

We arrived at Pirot at 3 a.m. (Sunday, October 3rd). I was interested
and also glad to find that I was not going to be coddled by the
military authorities. The assumption was that I knew all about
everything, and didn't need to be told; so I assumed it too.

As soon as the train stopped at Pirot, I called the sergeant, and
then immediately I realised that I was face to face with a quaint
little embarrassment. In the hospital at Kragujevatz, and at all
the dispensaries, the soldiers and the people had always called me
"Maika." For the position I then held this word was appropriate enough;
but now, as Commander of an army column, might not other men hold
our men to ridicule if they were under the orders of "Maika"? The
sergeant appeared in answer to my summons. He saluted. "Ja, Maika?"
he answered. There was no time for hesitation; there never should be;
act first and find the reason afterwards is often the best policy, and
I quickly determined to remain "Maika." The word "Maika" is already,
to Serbian hearts, rich with impressions of the best qualities of
the old-fashioned woman; it would do no harm to add to this a few
impressions of qualities of authority and power not hitherto associated
with women. It was a risk, but I risked it, and I never had cause for
regret. I then told the sergeant to disembark the men, oxen, horses,
and wagons, while the chauffeurs saw to the handling of the motors. I
hoped that meantime a message would arrive giving the order for the
next move; but, as nothing happened, I started off at 5 a.m. in one
of the cars, with Dr. Coxon and the interpreter, to try and find the
Staff Headquarters. Colonel Terzitch having, at Aranjelovatz, said I
should find him at Pirot, I went into the town and asked at various
public offices where Colonel Terzitch could be found, but no one could,
or would, give any information, and we were eventually driving off on
a false scent, and in a wrong direction, when I stopped an officer,
who was driving towards us in his carriage, and I asked him to direct
us. He gave us the information we wanted, and we ultimately tracked
the Staff to their Headquarters, in their tents in a field about five
kilometres from Pirot, at the moment when Major Popovitch was starting
to meet us. Our train had arrived earlier than was expected, and he
said he was glad we had pushed on. He took us at once to see the
Commandant, who was awaiting us, and he gave us a hearty welcome. He
was in the tent which we had given him, but it was wrongly pitched.
So we took it down and put it up in the right way, whilst the Colonel
told his soldiers to watch and see how it should be done. Then he took
us to have slatko (jam) and coffee in the ognishta; a circular fence,
made of kukurus, enclosed a wood fire, which was crackling busily in
the middle; in a circle round the fire was a trench, about three feet
deep and two feet wide, with a bank all round, levelled as a seat. We
sat either on dry hay on the bank, or on stools, our feet comfortably
touching ground in the trench. The usual slatko and glasses of water,
followed by Turkish coffee and cigarettes, were handed round. We were
so delighted with the ognishta that the Colonel said he would tell his
men to build one for us in our camp, and later in the afternoon this
was done.

Meantime we returned to the station, to bring out the convoy. The
Colonel and Major Popovitch met us on the road and helped us to choose
a site for the camp, about half a mile away from, and on a hill
above their Headquarters. It was necessary to protect ourselves from
aeroplanes by sheltering as much as possible near trees, and we found,
on a reaped wheat-field adjoining a vine-field, a gorgeous site which
gave us the protection of a hedge and of some trees, with a view to the
east over a valley which divided us from Pirot, and the mountains of
Bulgaria beyond.

From over these mountains we might at any moment hear the sound of guns
telling of the outbreak of hostilities between Bulgaria and Serbia.
The Allies had played into the hands of Bulgaria, and, by refusing to
let Serbia strike at her own time, had given Bulgaria the advantage of
striking at her time, chosen when support from Germany and Austria on
the Danube front, would make the position of Serbia hopeless.

The Colonel had hospitably invited us all to lunch with him, but we
couldn't burden him to that extent; and the camp work had to be done.
Eight of us, therefore--the doctors, two nurses, two chauffeurs, the
secretary, and myself--took advantage of the hospitality, and enjoyed
an excellent lunch in a cottage which the officers were using as
mess-room.

By the evening our first camp was installed, and next day, Monday,
October 4th, Major Popovitch and various officers from Pirot came
up, while the nurses were busy preparing dressings and cleaning the
surgical instruments in the hospital tent, to see the arrangements.
They seemed much pleased. The Pirot officers came up in an English car
made in Birmingham.

We only had as patients a few sick soldiers, but there was plenty to
do otherwise in arranging the men's routine of work and meals. The
soldiers always did what they were told, but they needed constant
prodding. In the morning early, for instance, I went to see if the
horses and oxen were being properly fed, and I found that the hay and
oats sent was insufficient; there was not enough to go round. Though
the men knew this, they had said and done nothing, but had tethered the
horses on barren ground, and left the oxen foodless in the same empty
field. They were surprised when I told them that they must take all the
animals to a pasture.

But they were quite as careless with their own food. They had eaten no
hot meal since we left Kragujevatz; but, even now, when they had the
chance, they were contenting themselves with bread and cheese, because
the cook was too lazy to prepare hot food, and I had to insist on a
meal being cooked. I made them light a fire, clean a big cauldron, and
stew sheep and potatoes, with plenty of paprika or red pepper; then I
told them I should come and taste it later. This I did, and the stew
was excellent.

We were encircled by mountains, and near us, to the east, the beautiful
little village of Suvadol, 1,300 feet above the sea, nestled snugly in
its orchards of plums and apples.

The whole valley between us and Pirot was alive with bivouacs of armed
men, all ready to march on Bulgaria. At any moment we might hear the
rumbling of cannons over the hills, telling us that war had begun. But,
as yet, the mountains were silent, their secrets hidden in the blue
mist, which, in the evening, under the sunset colours, quickened into
rainbows.

On Wednesday, October 6th, we waited all day for news. We noticed that
the grey dots in the valley below were fast disappearing; something
was evidently happening down there. And that evening our turn came.
At seven o'clock twenty-four of us, including the Commissaire and
Treasurer (Sandford and Merton, the inseparables), and the Serbian
dispenser, were sitting in our picturesque ognishta, round the wood
fire, which held a tripod with a cheery kettle for after-supper tea.
The opening of our ognishta faced the Bulgarian mountains, but the
night was dark, and everything beyond our tiny firelit circle was
invisible. We had nearly finished supper, and some of us were lighting
cigarettes, when a drab-dressed soldier--an orderly from Staff
Headquarters--appeared in the entrance. He handed to me a small, white,
square envelope, addressed to the Commander of the Column. I opened it
and took out a slip of paper; I put my signature upon the envelope as
a token of receipt, and gave it to the messenger, and he disappeared.
The interpreter, Vooitch, came and stood behind me, and we read the
slip of paper in silence; then he whispered the translation. I shall
never forget the looks of eager expectation on the faces which were
illumined by the firelight. "What does it say?" "We move from here at
five o'clock to-morrow morning," was the answer. The destination, must,
of course, not be revealed. Immediately, when the precious tea had been
drunk, we all went out and began preparations. As every one was new to
the work, it was better to do all we could before going to bed. The men
were called, and dispensary and kitchen tents and their contents were
packed, and also my tent, to save time in the morning.

From midnight to 3.30 a.m. I rested in the dug-out, round the fire,
looking out over the dark valley to the invisible mountains. What a
silence! Would it soon be broken by a murderous sound echoing through
the valley? Were those men, those peasant soldiers in the plain below,
already rushing to be destroyed, shattered into ugly fragments, by
other men--other peasant soldiers--who would also be shattered into
ugly fragments soon? Yes, soon, very soon, Hell would be let loose--in
the name of Heaven.

I rose at 3.30 to ensure that everyone should be in time at his or
her own job, and punctually at five o'clock all was ready for the
start. With human beings, as with all animals, habit is second nature;
whatsoever thing is done at the beginning, that same thing, rather
than some other thing, comes most easily at all times. "As it was
in the beginning, is now and ever shall be," is the text for most
folks. I took care, therefore, that the start should be methodical.
At the sound of the whistle, the convoy drew up in line; first, the
ox-wagons, loaded with tents and stores and general equipment, the
leading wagon carrying the Red Cross flag; next, the horse-drawn
wagons, also with stores and provisions; in these rode the dispenser,
Sandford and Merton, and the interpreter; then the motor ambulances, in
which travelled the twenty-one members of the British Staff with their
personal kit.

Colonel Terzitch had kindly, the night before, sent up four riding
horses; no one had said that I was to ride, but it was obvious that I
couldn't control the column of men and of slow-moving wagons if I was
sitting comfortably inside a swiftly-moving motor-car. I therefore made
up my mind to ride at the head of the convoy always, and to take the
lead in every deed, for better or for worse, and to share with the men
the practical difficulties of the road. So I took one horse, the black
one, for myself, and how thankful I was that I was not dependent on a
side saddle; gave two to the armed orderlies, who had been told to keep
near me always, and one I reserved for Vooitch or for Sandford, whose
duty it was to ride in advance and procure food for men and cattle.

Dawn was breaking as the wagons and ambulances came into line in single
file; I mounted my horse, shouted "Napred!" (forward), and, followed by
the two mounted orderlies, took the lead out of the field and over the
ditch, which we had levelled, into a narrow lane which turned abruptly
to the right and led down a steep hill into the main road.

Out of the folds of the mountains in the east, white mists were slowly
rising, and reflecting colours of purple, and pink, and mauve, from
the heralding rays of the rising sun. The valley plains, which had
yesterday been alive with bivouacs, were now deserted, the men in
thousands were already in procession on the road.

As we reached the bottom of the hill and struck the main road, Colonel
Terzitch and our P.M.O. were starting from their encampment, and
joining the road, in a carriage drawn by two horses. They waved us a
salute, and we took our place in the line already formed behind the
ambulance column. In front of this column came the pioneers, engineers,
and other auxiliaries, then all the other various columns of our
division; behind us were the butchers and the bakers; there were no
candlestick-makers.

Our destination was Stananitza, 40 kilometres distant, and the road lay
through Pirot. Where was now the carpet-making industry? I had little
thought that day at Rudnik, when I so much wished to go to Pirot, that
I should visit the place so soon, but that carpet-seeing would not be
on the programme.

Congestion of convoys was great, and progress was slow; we were for
hours crawling and stopping, and crawling, crawling, crawling through
the town. I realised at once that there would be difficulty in keeping
the column together owing to the different paces respectively of
the cars, the horses, and the oxen. The cars wanted to go fast, the
oxen wanted to go slow, and the horses neither fast nor slow; but
I determined that first day that, as I myself couldn't go at three
different paces, and as I was responsible for the safety of all, we
must, by one means or another, keep together. The wagon horses had no
objection to going at oxen pace, and the motors compromised by driving
on for half an hour and then waiting, or else by starting half an hour
after the rest of us. This plan was adopted throughout, with the result
that during the whole of the next three months we never lost any of the
convoy.

[Illustration: BURYING OUR DEAD BY THE ROADSIDE]

[Illustration: THE HISTORIC PLAIN OF KOSSOVO]



CHAPTER XIX


After Pirot the country was magnificent: narrow roads wound round and
round, ascending the high mountains, and from view-points on the hills,
we could see behind us, and before us, only interrupted by the curves
of the mountain road, endless columns of the Serbian Army; this was
not visible as soldiers, oxen, guns, and transport, but as the sinuous
movement of a grey serpent winding itself round and round the mountain
passes.

I was surprised at finding that there were to be no outspans. In South
Africa it was the invariable rule to rest the oxen for two hours after
every three hours of trek. But now we were told that we must only halt
when the columns ahead of us halted, and that was very occasionally,
for a quarter of an hour at a time. Meals, therefore, were not a
prominent feature of the day.

When night fell we were still trekking, and from 5 p.m. the roads were
atrocious, and in the pitchy darkness it was impossible to see the
holes into which one's horse must stumble. We reached our goal at 9
o'clock: sixteen hours in the saddle without being tired was a good
beginning. We were directed to our camping site, which was amongst
herds of other convoys; but as the ground was swampy, and there was no
room for tents, and we had to move off again at five next morning, we
didn't unpack the tents, but slept in the cars. One of the chauffeurs
had good luck: he fell into a hole six feet deep, invisible in the
darkness, and didn't break his neck; he only cut his head.

There wasn't much time for sleep; there were many things to arrange,
and I was up again at 3.30 next morning; it was better to make sure
that the men were up, and that fires were lighted, for hot coffee,
and eggs, in case there should be no time to eat during the day. And
our cook, Mrs. Dawn, from that first day to the last, when we reached
Medua, was splendid. She loyally complied with my wish that, as meals
during the day were uncertain, we must always, however early the
start, have hot coffee and porridge before we left. This meant that
she must rise an hour earlier than anybody else--except myself and the
soldiers--and she and I were always in rivalry as to who was up first.

The road ran along narrow passes, between precipitous rocky mountains;
in these were many large caves. Goats were grazing on the hillsides,
and I noticed, away up on the sky-line, on the top of a high mountain,
a solitary man, herding his flock of goats, which had found a patch of
green grass amongst the barren rocks. He belonged to another world.
I don't know why, but I have often thought of that man, and wondered
if he is still up there upon his hill-top, happily detached from the
sordid, worrying, cruel world below.

We heard that day sounds of distant firing, and we were told that our
Army had beaten back 2,000 Austrians in the north-east corner. It
rained all day, and as we had again been told that we were to push on
without halting, we were glad to reach Knasharevatz at 9 p.m. I had
sent the dispenser, who talked German, in advance, to find a camping
site, but when we reached the town he had disappeared. The streets were
in darkness, the rain was merciless, and things were looking rather
gloomy, when an officer in a blue cloak rode up with a message from
Colonel Terzitch, saying that the latter would like to see me.

The Colonel was quartered in a house in the middle of the town; so I
halted the column, and rode on with the officer. When we reached the
house, I was conscious for the first time that the rain was pouring
off my hat-brim like a water-spout, that my gloves were so sodden I
couldn't take them off, and that my general appearance was a little
aqueous. I didn't mind, but I hoped that the Colonel and the P.M.O.
wouldn't feel sorry. They, however, were as usual, splendidly tactful;
they just said enough to let me know that they knew that I knew that
they knew what we were all thinking, and then they told me that they
had arranged for us all to dine at a restaurant, and that we had better
sleep in our cars in the market square; the men and wagons would take
up quarters in a street near by. The P.M.O. came downstairs with me,
and I hoped he wouldn't come out and see me mount; my coat was heavy
with rain, and I had begun to suspect that I might not find it as easy
as usual to spring lightly over the saddle, after a second day of
sixteen hours continuously in the wet. He came; but he didn't discover.

I rode back to the doctors and the others with the good news of a
real dinner ahead of us, and then we ate the real dinner in the
restaurant--the Café de Paris--and went to bed on the stretchers, in
the cars, in the square, much to the interest of the native population,
who were most of them looking at English women for the first time.

We breakfasted early in the café, and at eight the P.M.O. came and
told me confidentially that we should be moving on to-day, and that we
had better buy food and stores to take with us. In the meantime, we
could, he said, go to a little house, with a field adjoining, for the
cars, just outside the town, and have a wash and brush up, and await
the order to move. The unit much appreciated the washing interval,
and when they were installed, and baths and hair brushing and clothes
washing were in full swing, I drove back to the town with cookie, and
bought meal, sardines, coffee, bread, etc. We were much helped in our
purchasing by a Serbian artist friend, Monsieur Bettich, who was with
the Headquarters Staff. We met him in the street, and he told us which
were the best shops, and came with us and bargained for us. He was a
fine artist; I had seen some of his pictures for sale at the Red Cross
depôt at Nish, and I had bought two wonderful scenes of soldier life,
little thinking that I should ever meet the artist. These pictures are
now, alas! in German hands, with many other prized possessions. We
talked to each other in German.

We had now only one interpreter, as the man who had been sent to us
at the last moment at Kragujevatz, because I did not want to deprive
the Stobart Hospital of its tried men, was suffering from phthisis and
tuberculosis, and we had to send him back to Kragujevatz from Pirot.

Before we had quite finished our shopping, our artist friend caught
sight of the cavalry moving from the town in the direction of Nish, so
he suddenly said "Good-bye! The Staff will be off directly. I must go.
You'll be going too. Meet again." I returned at once to the unit, and
all day we waited, expecting orders, but none came. At four o'clock,
the Major in command of the ambulance column, which always immediately
preceded us on the road, came and asked if I had received any orders.
He said that the Headquarters Staff had already started for Nish,
in their carriages, and he couldn't understand why he had not heard
anything. I guessed that we'd been forgotten, so I sent one of the cars
and the interpreter, to follow the Staff, and to ask for orders. At 6
p.m. the messenger came back, with the reply that we were to move at
once towards Nish. The orderly to whom the original message had been
entrusted, had either forgotten it or taken it elsewhere. The P.M.O.
was glad that I had asked for information.

I sent word to the ambulance column, and they, in the absence of their
Major, who was in the town, started off on trek at once; but when
the Major returned, he was annoyed at having been forgotten, and he
recalled them and said he was going to wait till the official order
came. That was his affair; but his wagons were horse-drawn, so I knew
he could catch us up.

I started the column on the road, and went on ahead with the cars to
overtake the Staff and get orders. We had a quick supper in the town at
our café on the way. While we were mustering and about to start, a man
and two women, who said they were members of a Danish hospital unit,
came up and asked questions, to which they received no answers. I was
suspicious of them, because they told us, as though they were pleased,
that Belgrade had been taken by the Germans and Austrians, and that the
Armies of the Allied French and English had arrived at Salonica, but
that they had been refused permission to pass through Greece, though
Nish was beflagged in readiness for their arrival. I didn't at the time
believe them, though I had begun to wonder why we were on the road to
Nish instead of to Sofia.

The road, in the dark, was a trial for the cars--tremendous hills with
hairpin corners--and several times we feared the cars would break down.
But the chauffeurs showed great pluck, and as they kept together, they
helped each other successively. At 10.30 p.m., when we reached the
summit of a place called Vesibaba, we found an encampment all asleep,
and we were told by the guards that this was Staff Headquarters; so
we ran the cars under a shed and went to bed in them. The rest of
the column arrived at two next morning. I rose early to get news of
our next move, and had a talk with a friendly major of a telegraph
section, who was cleaning his teeth outside his tent. I wouldn't allow
him to interrupt such an enjoyment, so he finished the operation, and
when his man had taken away the basin, he insisted on giving me a cup
of coffee, and then we walked up and down the road--no one else was
up--and discussed the political and military situation. Venizelos had
just resigned, and it seemed likely that there would be a reaction on
the part of the people in his favour. An orderly from Headquarters then
came up and presented to me the fateful, white, square envelope--the
order to move on, at 6 a.m., to Malça. Breakfast was now ready, and we
were on the road by six, forming part of the everlasting grey-brown
procession.

The road was downhill, less interesting than hitherto, but better for
the cars, and we reached Malça at five o'clock. The only excitement had
been the appearance of two Bulgarian aeroplanes, which were receiving
attention from the guns at Nish, but they were not hit.



CHAPTER XX


On arrival at Malça we were told to bivouac in a field adjoining the
road, just outside the village. It had rained all day, and we ate
our supper in the rain, round a wood fire, which had been difficult
to light. We sat on the shafts of the wagons, or on anything that
presented itself as a seat above the soaking ground, and the night was
so dark, that we took the substance of the seat on trust. In the middle
of supper there was a sudden earthquake, and two of the nurses were
shot from their seat, over the fire, to the other side. We found that
they had, unawares, seated themselves on the back of a weary ox, who
had apparently found the fire a trifle too hot, and had uprisen. It
was not worth while, we were told, to put up tents, so again we slept
in the cars, and we revelled in the luxury of seven hours of sleep. I
always now, and for the next three months, slept in my day clothes, as
the order to move generally came at night, and time spent in dressing
could be better spent in hastening the preparations for departure. I
learned, during this journey, to economise in dressing and in sleeping,
as well as in eating.

Next morning (Monday, October 11th) I was up at four o'clock, and
though the men had been told that we were to start at five, I found
them all asleep, near the wagons, round their wood fires. No hay had
been fetched, and this would mean a serious delay. I saw that the
occasion required an exhibition of a little majorly wrath. So I sent
for all the men, and, through the interpreter Vooitch, made them
understand that a command must be obeyed. When I began speaking, I was
not genuinely angry, and I only gave them the external fierce eye and a
firm voice; but feelings quickly adapt themselves to contortions of the
muscles, and I soon found that I was giving them the real thing, with
excellent results. I had not the rifle butt or stick to back me up, but
the men understood. But by the time that they had fetched the hay to
take with us, for the oxen and horses, and had hauled a stuck wagon out
of the mud, we were late. We did not start till 5.30, with the result
that the Bakers' Column, which should have been behind us, was ahead of
us--a terrible disgrace. But we caught them up, and I made them allow
us to pass them, and we were never late again.

We reached Nish at 10 a.m., and found that the town was indeed
beflagged in honour of the arrival of the Allies! We guessed that
they would not arrive now, and for many weeks to come, those flags
of welcome drooped metaphorically in our hearts, reproducing that
indescribable feeling of mingled hope, disappointment, and humiliation
that we felt as we rode through Nish that day.

We outspanned beside the Red Cross railway station, on a plain which
was covered with encamped columns--cavalry, infantry, pioneers,
engineers, bakers, etc.--all belonging to the Schumadia Division.

The President of the Red Cross, Doctor Soubotitch, who had visited the
Stobart Hospital at Kragujevatz, at once sent a kind message, asking me
and our secretary, J. G., to lunch with him and to meet the Commander
of our division, Colonel Terzitch, and our P.M.O. The two latter were
hurrying to leave by train for the north of Serbia. The secret was
now revealed that our division, which was reckoned the best in the
Serbian Army, had been ordered to the Danube front to meet the combined
German and Austrian attack, which was now inevitable. We went with the
President to the station to bid the Colonel and the Major God-speed.
Our column was to follow during the day, when its turn for a train
should come. Meanwhile, Doctor S. generously, from the Red Cross depôt,
filled some blanks in our medical and food stores; he also gave us some
extra clothing for the soldiers.

He had suffered much since we had seen him at Kragujevatz. He had lost
his only son, the only child, from typhoid; and his wife, distracted
with grief, had died soon afterwards. His house was a house of ghosts.
He showed us the room in which his wife had died, and the room in
which his son had lived. But he could now, he said, face the future
fearlessly, for he had nothing left to fear from death. The only living
things which were left to him to love were two beautiful and well-bred
ponies, which had belonged to his boy. These were capering playfully
in the field, and came up to be petted when he called them. Were these
also lost to him when Nish was captured by the enemy? In memory of
his beloved, he had given all his fortune to a foundation for Serbian
doctors, and was then living on his doctor's income. He will now have
lost that too.

At the station we saw the first wounded arrive by train from Belgrade.
We spoke to them, and they told us that it was true that Belgrade had
been taken by the Germans. They also added that the German infantry
were of an inferior class, but that the artillery was, as always,
terribly strong.

The plain, which had been crowded on our arrival, was gradually
discharging its convoys into the trains, which steamed north one after
the other in quick succession. But on the Station platform, as the
trains departed, there were no demonstrations, no bands, no singing of
"Auld Lang Syne." In Serbia there was no need of fictitious aids to
sentiment. The work was performed silently, almost automatically; war
was no novelty in Serbia.

We might expect our turn to leave at any time after midnight. We placed
corporals, in watches, at the station all through the night to warn us,
but one, two, three o'clock came and there was no signal. We rested in
the cars, and made ourselves hot coffee at 2.30 a.m., found that we
should not be called for some hours, and slept till six. Still no call,
so later I drove into Nish to pay my respects to the British Minister,
Sir Charles Des Graz, whom I had met when he visited us at Kragujevatz,
and I told him of my appointment with the Serbian Army. I found that
he, too, was very human, with no artificial stiffness or convention. He
was not shocked, but much interested on hearing that I was in command,
and called his secretary from the next room and told him that I held
rank equal to that of major. We discussed the political situation,
and asked and answered questions of interest to us both. He asked,
as though it were incredible, if it were true that the Bulgars had
attacked on the front we had just left. They had not done so as yet.
Sir Ralph Paget was still away, or I should have called also on him.

We were to leave in the next train after the Ambulance Column of
which Major A. was in command; and at 5 p.m. some of us went to the
station to watch their embarkation. This was prolonged, and we talked
to two friendly French doctors who were with Major A. Eventually
the train steamed out of the station, and I turned to go and see
the stationmaster about our train, when, to my surprise, I saw the
short, stout, French doctor standing on the platform, still talking
animatedly with one of our doctors. "Didn't you mean to go with your
column?" I asked surprised. He turned round and saw that the train had
gone--without him. It was obviously his own fault, but that was not
his opinion, and for a time it looked as though the fury of the coming
war, was to be channelled in the rage of one French doctor against the
Serbian nation. But I pointed out hurriedly, in passing, what luck it
was for him, and for us, that he had been left behind, because now he
could travel with us in our third-class carriages, instead of in the
cattle truck which would have been his fate.

At that moment the stationmaster rushed up with worried face. "Would
I," he asked, "be so very good as to let the Bakers' Column go before
us, because the next train contained more trucks than we should need,
and they were needed by the bakers?" Our column was already waiting to
embark, drawn up in line outside the station, impatient to be off after
so much delay; but, of course, I agreed to the stationmaster's request,
and we made room for the bakers to pass. We spent the interval eating
supper and pacifying the French doctor for the "insult" of having been
left behind. By the time supper was finished, he was so far mollified
that he was willing to restrict his vengeance to the person of the
Major, and to let off the Serbian nation. So I had hopes that after a
night's journey under the same pacifying influences, there would be
hope even for the Major.

We had great difficulty in getting the cars on to the trucks, which
were too small, and the horrible suggestion was made that the cars must
be left behind and follow later. I knew what that would mean: we should
never see them again, and we could not evacuate the wounded or carry
the staff without them. So I insisted firmly that the barriers of the
trucks must be removed, and that the trucks must be hacked into the
necessary size. And the stationmaster, wearied and overworked, without
time for sleep or food, was a marvel of patience and good temper. He
let us do what we liked, and our chauffeurs, who were also marvels of
resourcefulness, hammered and unscrewed and manipulated, in one way and
another, so that before long the task was accomplished, and the cars
were all safely on board. Then, as we were at last about to start, we
heard shouts of horror, and looking towards the tail end of the long
train, which had at the moment no one near it, we saw flames of fire
leaping in the air--one of the trucks, containing one of our wagons
and, alas! some petrol barrels, was blazing fiercely. At this last
moment was our equipment to be destroyed and our work to be stopped?
The hood of the wagon was burned and some of the soldiers' clothes, but
the petrol was rescued before the fire reached it, the fire was soon
extinguished, and no great harm was done.

We left at 7 p.m., and slept as best we could on the narrow wooden
seats of the third-class carriages. Our destination had not been
officially mentioned, and my instructions were to stay in the train
until it stopped. But I knew that we were bound for Belgrade or
Semendria. At 8.30 next morning, (Wednesday, October 13th) the train
stopped at a station called Velika Plana (Big Hill), and we saw, to
our surprise, that the Bakers' Column was outspanned on the platform.
Nothing happened, and nobody came with orders, so I asked the engine
driver if he had received orders to stop here. He said "Yes"; and he
thought we had better disembark, as we were not going any farther. I
asked the station commandant, and he said also that we must leave the
train; no more trains were to run north; but he had no further orders
for us. Something had evidently happened to cause a change in the
plans, as Major A.'s column had passed through and gone on safely.

I then disembarked the column, left the interpreter with them, and rode
to the town with the German-speaking dispenser, and an orderly, to see
the officer in command of the military station. He knew nothing, and we
were discussing what could best be done, when the telegraphic machine
rapped out a message telling him to tell me to proceed at once, by
road, to a place called Palanka. I was to communicate a similar order
to the bakers. I returned to the column, who were waiting ready to
leave, and while we were making the final arrangements, German Taubes
dropped bombs upon the line close to us. But at 10.30 a.m. we left the
station. From that moment, and until we reached Brindisi, three months
later, on our return to England, we did not board another train.

We gave our French friend a front seat in one of the cars; his wrath
against the Major was now modified to sarcasm; the Major's life was
saved. And I should not like to swear that at the end of the day, when
the doctor rejoined his unit, he did not express even gratitude to the
Major for the opportunity that had been given him to "learn English."



CHAPTER XXI


We reached Palanka, a clean, cheery little town, at 1.30 p.m. We drew
up in the square, in the middle of the town, and I rode on to see the
officer at the military station, to ask for orders. He knew nothing, so
I went on to the central telephone station, rang up Headquarters Staff,
who were, I discovered, at Michaelovatz, and talked to our P.M.O., who
told me to put up our hospital in a field near the railway station,
and to arrange to send a motor-ambulance at six to-morrow morning, to
Michaelovatz to bring back wounded. That looked like business, and
greatly cheered the doctors and nurses, who were getting restless for
want of work. We pitched the camp before dusk, and had a peaceful night.

At six the next morning (Thursday, October 14th) I drove with one car,
and Dr. Payne with another, to Headquarters--a run of three-quarters
of an hour. Colonel Terzitch and our P.M.O. and our artist friend were
finishing coffee. They gave us some, and showed us two German prisoners
who had just come in. Fighting had begun, and it seemed that though
our one division of 25,000 men was confronted with 100,000 Germans and
Austrians under von Mackensen, with their biggest artillery, we were
holding our own fairly well. Wounded were coming along the road in
ox-carts from the battle-field, and along the road were also streams of
fugitives flying from the bombarded villages.

The P.M.O. came with me in the car to choose a site for our hospital,
nearer to Michaelovatz and the front, than Palanka. We found a
camping-place opposite a wood, near Aranya, twenty minutes' run from
Palanka. I then went back to the latter town to bring out the column,
and we were on the site, the southern side of a sheltering wood, by
two o'clock. Tents were pitched before dusk, and immediately streams
of wounded began arriving, and continued to come all through the
night, and the next day and night. They drove up, in rough, springless
ox-wagons, from the battle-field, were removed by the ambulance men,
and placed inside our hospital tent. The doctors received them,
diagnosed them, and treated them; the nurses dressed their wounds; the
cook gave them food and drink (popara and bread, and tea or coffee;
and, in the middle of the day, soup or stew); the chauffeurs then drove
those who were fit to travel, to the nearest evacuation hospital in
Palanka, and the others (fifty) spent the night in our tents, and were
transported next day.

Rain fell all day and all night; the mud was horrible, and the wind
unpleasantly cold; fugitives, in increasing numbers, streamed along the
road; and the thunder of the guns was continuous. But I never heard
anyone say anything about the guns; no one gave a thought to anything
but work. There were that day one hundred wounded to be tended.

To our relief a courier from Kragujevatz arrived with the spare parts
of the motors, and some benzine, and we took the opportunity of sending
back by him some tents, which we could spare, to lighten the wagons;
also we regretfully parted from one nurse and one orderly. They were
both satisfactory in every way, but it was desirable to economise space
in the cars, as we were likely to be continuously on the move, and
there was likelihood that their services might now be much needed in
the hospital at Kragujevatz, or at Lapovo.

On Saturday afternoon, October 16th, a mounted orderly from
Headquarters brought, in the usual white, square envelope, the order
to move on to Barchinatz. We left at 3.15, and arrived at 7 p.m.,
pitched our tents, in the dark and the rain, and had supper at nine. We
heard, to our intense satisfaction, that the Germans had been beaten
back, and that the French and English were fighting the Bulgars. But
our joy did not last long. On Sunday, October 17th, the mounted orderly
arrived; he brought with him the order to evacuate the camp; I signed
the envelope, and he left. Then, as usual on these occasions, I took
out the sectional map, provided by Headquarters, to see the direction
and the distance of the place to which the column must be moved.
Hitherto the direction had been northerly, and that meant, of course,
that we were advancing, and approaching the enemy's country. That was
good, and the officers and we had sometimes joked about the restaurants
we should patronise when we reached Vienna or Buda-Pesth. But now,
to my dismay, the map showed that Dobrido, the village to which we
were to move, was in a southerly direction. This meant retreat. We
hoped, of course, that this was only a temporary check; but from the
moment of that first retreat, we never advanced again. But, it must
be remembered, to the everlasting credit of the Serbian Army, that
though the retreat continued for nearly three months, the Army did not
content itself with retreating, but fought rearguard actions all the
time. Military experts will appreciate the wear and tear to body and
mind entailed in such a performance. We, of course, also, throughout
that time, put up our hospital tents, and received and evacuated the
wounded. Colonel Terzitch looked in on his way to new Headquarters; he
was as cheery as usual. He said that we were making a slight retreat,
because one of our regiments, composed of elderly soldiers, with poor
guns, had given way. He thought all would soon be well again.

We found this time a delightful camp site in a space enclosed by a fine
wood. The routine was always the same on arrival at our destination.
Shortly before reaching the village, or place designated, I would ride
on, with the interpreter and the sergeant, and choose a site. When the
column arrived in front of it, I would beckon to them to follow, and,
by hand gestures, indicate the positions respectively for the oxen and
horses and the wagons. The position for the motors was decided with
the leading chauffeur. The site for hospital tent, kitchen, and staff
quarters was then quickly arranged with the doctors, cook, and nurses.
Tents were immediately pitched, wood fires were lighted, the surgical
boxes were brought to the hospital tent, unpacked, and the contents,
arranged by the nurses and the hospital orderlies; kitchen stuff was
unpacked in the kitchen by the cook; the doctors put on their white
coats, the nurses their aprons; our Red Cross flag, on a pole, was
placed in the ground near the hospital tent, and everything was ready
for business.

Frequently, and also on this occasion, Major A.'s column was encamped
not far from us. He was this time on the other side of the main road.
There were no wounded that day, and he and the two French doctors, and
the Serbian artist had tea with us round our camp fire. Mons. Bettich
stayed the night with us, because we could not drive him back to
Headquarters until morning. He was amused at seeing four of the party,
after supper, playing bridge, sitting on a ground-sheet by the camp
fire, near the shelter of an ox-wagon, as though, he said, they were
in their London drawing-rooms. "Ah! you English!" We talked about the
arrogance of the Germans, and he told us, as an example, a story of a
German officer who had lately been taken prisoner; he was, as usual,
well treated and was allowed to write a letter to his friends at home;
but in the letter he made reference to the Serbian people as "those
Hottentots."

The next day (October 18th) things seemed to be going badly. Piteous
processions of refugees, from villages bombarded and threatened by the
Germans, were streaming southwards along the roads. In one village only
30 women and children had remained out of a population of 3,000 people.
Grenades had fallen in Michaelovatz, which only yesterday had been the
headquarters of the Staff; and the thundering of the guns, only five
miles away, was continuous. But everybody consoled themselves with the
belief that the Allies would soon be here and put things straight. The
metaphorical flags of welcome were already fluttering in our minds.

We again received wounded; amongst them was the commander of a
division. His foot was badly injured with shrapnel. After the doctors
had done what they could for him, he asked to see me, in order to
express gratitude for the help of our hospital. Tears were in his
eyes, and when he brushed them away, he hastened to explain that his
tears had come, not from fear of death, but because he could not go
back to his regiment. We drove him and all the other wounded, in
the motor ambulances to Palanka station, and they left by train for
hospitals farther south. During that evening, and throughout the night,
we were kept busy; 102 badly wounded men arrived in batches from the
battle-field close at hand. We could see the German captive balloons
hovering in the air near us. It was not surprising that some of the
soldiers were already dead when they were taken out of the rough,
springless wagons. The jolting over bad roads, in the cold and rain,
whilst huddled together, half a dozen badly wounded men in one small
cart, was bound to be disastrous. Moreover, some of the wagons had high
sides, and no opening even at the ends, and the patients, perhaps with
broken legs or smashed heads, must be hauled up and over the high
sides in the dark, in any fashion that came first.

We buried our dead near the roadside, without coffins, in their torn
and bloodstained uniforms. When possible we placed a candle in their
hands, and we made plain wooden crosses and wrote upon these the name,
the regiment and place of death. The Serbian soldier likes to be buried
near the main road, because then he thinks he will not be forgotten by
passers by. But surely the Serbian soldier will never be forgotten;
the sacrifices he has made in the cause of freedom have made his name
immortal.

We continued to evacuate the wounded till 11 p.m. Then the chauffeurs
rested till 5 a.m., when they began again. Headquarters lent us a large
Diesel French car, which held 10 patients, and this was a great help,
as the Fords, on the bad roads, could only safely take four patients at
a time.

We were glad to receive that day a second interpreter (George). He
knew very little English, but two interpreters were essential. One
was always needed in the hospital, and I wanted one for general work,
for, though I had learnt some Serbian, I never risked giving important
orders, or rebuking the men in a language of which I was not master;
ridicule must, at all costs, be kept out of the relationship between
us. I was obliged on that day, for instance, to correct, through the
interpreter, one of the corporals; I had given him leave to visit his
family, who lived near, and he returned 12 hours after his leave had
expired, riding one of our horses. The P.M.O., to whom I reported him,
said that he was to be punished by being sent at once to the front (he
stayed with us, however, to the end).

But my broken Serbian was sometimes effective enough. On one occasion,
when the wounded had been arriving continuously all through the night,
I noticed, about 3.30 a.m., that the wood fires upon which kettles
of water were kept boiling, for tea and coffee for the patients, were
all getting low. I called a soldier and told him to make up all the
fires. He replied that the fires had eaten all the wood; there was no
more wood left. The answer to that was easy in Serbian, for there were
plenty of trees of all sizes around us as we stood. I pointed to a
good-sized tree close to us. "Isn't that wood?" I asked severely. He
shook his head, and that meant "Yes." "Very well, then, cut it down."
He shook his head again, and fetched an axe and cut it down, and we had
as much wood as we wanted.

George brought us the news that at our Kragujevatz hospital 180 newly
wounded soldiers had just arrived, and that at Lapovo already 80
were in the new building. He also told us that the Allies had taken
Strumnitza from the Bulgarians and that England had declared war
against Bulgaria. Could this be believed?

By noon (Tuesday, the 19th) our wounded were all evacuated. This was
fortunate, as at one o'clock came the order to move on at once. News
from the front was bad; the Germans were pressing on, and were now
close behind us. The guns sounded very near. We had not far to go, only
to Uvidno, a two hours' trek. It was difficult to find a camp site;
the whole country near the roadside was mud swamp from the continued
rain. We pitched the hospital tent between the road and a wood, and
three tents, one for the doctors, one for the men, and one for the
women, were pitched in the shelter of the wood. The cars stayed on the
road. There were not many wounded that afternoon--that was a bad sign.
It meant that the enemy were giving no time for collecting them from
the field; they were also firing on the ambulance parties, and only
the least severely wounded came straggling in, as best they could, by
themselves. We evacuated them when their wounds were dressed, from our
own and also from Major A.'s hospital, which was on the other side of
the road.



CHAPTER XXII


The news grew more and more serious. The Bulgars had taken Vranya, the
Germans were at Valievo, and also at Michaelovatz, close behind us.
The Serbs had been badly beaten in the morning. An unending stream
of refugees passed along the road, and whole families of women and
children, babies in arms, infants that could just toddle, boys and
young girls, all sheltered at night near us in the wood, constructing
as best they could, rough arbours of branches, for protection from rain
and wind. We had no time for practical sympathy with these forlorn
people, who would, in all probability, never see their homes or
their menfolk again. All this was another horrible side-light on the
"glories" of war.

The situation was growing hourly worse. Where were the French and
English troops? We received marching orders, and were off again by
6 a.m. (October 20th) for Gliebovatz, two miles to the north of
Palanka. It was again difficult, owing to mud, and rain, and wind, and
no shelter, to find suitable ground for tents, oxen, and the men's
bivouacs. Major A., who had, from the first been pessimistic as to
the military situation, was now much depressed. He told us that the
Bulgars were already near to Nish; that they had cut the line; that
the Serbian Government had left Nish; and that the Germans were only
three kilometres behind us. The French doctors, however, were always
delightfully optimistic, and they and we made a point of trying to
laugh the Major out of his forebodings.

On the 20th we received no wounded--again a bad sign, though there was
not much firing. We expected marching orders every minute, and we did
not put up all the tents. Most of the staff slept in the cars.

On Thursday, October 21st, at 9 a.m., we received the order to go to
Palanka, and to establish our dressing-station in the Casino, opposite
to the Hotel Serbia, in which Major A.'s column was placed. Rooms for
the staff were found in the Hotel Central. I slept in the car, as
usual. The cars were drawn up in the yard of a private house. There
was a small veranda and a kitchen belonging to the house, and here we
cooked and ate our food.

Palanka, when we entered it, was already evacuated in readiness for the
Germans. The houses were deserted, the shops shuttered, the mud churned
by thousands of oxen, horses, and wagons, into gelatinous paste, was
a foot deep. Heavy rain was falling. In the main street a continuous
stream of fugitives--old men, women and children--were splashing
through the mud, carrying their bundles of household treasures on their
backs, and driving hurriedly before them their precious pigs, and goats
and little flocks of sheep.

The news from the front, which was, alas! behind us, continued to be
bad. Work, therefore, for doctors and nurses was slack; there is never
time, in a retreat, to collect all the wounded. At this point we were
troubled to know how to carry the benzine for the cars. It was too
heavy for the wagons, and we optimistically decided to send some of it
by train to Lapovo, to await us there. I stopped a refugee woman with
her cart and commandeered her, against payment, to take some barrels to
the station. The barrels left for Lapovo, but we never saw them again,
because Lapovo was in the enemy's hands before we reached it.

[Illustration: BROKEN BRIDGE AT FRONTIER BETWEEN MONTENEGRO AND ALBANIA
Our route lay across the basaltic rocks]

[Illustration: SERBIAN SOLDIER (2nd RESERVE) DURING THE RETREAT]

Our P.M.O. seemed this day more than usually sad, chiefly on
account of the people. He calculated that at least half a million
unoffending peasants must die of starvation. This has proved to be an
underestimate. But as we should probably, he said, be remaining that
day in Palanka, he asked if I would like to go and exchange greetings
with our commander. The latter was as delightful, and cheery as usual,
and it was easy to understand one, at least, of the reasons why he made
a good commander. I was much interested in all he told me about the
general position; some day, when the situation was more favourable, I
was, he said, to go with him and watch a battle at close quarters.

Shortly after I had left Headquarters the mounted orderly came up with
the white envelope: marching orders, and we moved on immediately. This
was inopportune, as Dr. Coxon was in need of boots, and, at the moment,
she and I were on the point of breaking into a locked and shuttered
boot shop. We were obliged to go without the boots; the doctor's
crimeless record was left unsullied, but her feet were left unshod, and
this at the time seemed more important.

We arrived at dusk, after much trouble with the cars owing to the
mud, and took up quarters near some old stone quarries. The guns were
growing noisy again, and it was curiously interesting to watch the fire
from shell and shrapnel on the hills close behind Palanka. Wounded
came again during the night, and we evacuated fifty in our cars and
in wagons supplied by the ambulance column, to Ratcha. The wounds
were terrible, and some men were already dead when they arrived. The
transport of the wounded was always an anxiety, lest the job should not
be completed, and the motors should not have returned, before the next
order to move should come, as that would complicate the question of
staff transport.

I went to bed at one a.m. and was up again at four. I saw that Major A.
was on the move, and I knew that our order must come soon. Just then a
captain of infantry arrived, and said that we ought to go at once; he
had been given orders to dig trenches on the place of our encampment.
I told him that he could dig his trenches, but we could not go until
the order came. We made ready for departure, and packed everything
except the surgical dressings, and then more wounded came, so they
were tended. One man died at dawn, and we buried him. At 6 o'clock the
order came to go towards Ratcha, to a place only distant 1½ hours. We
encamped in a field by the roadside, and immediately wounded arrived.

The outstanding feature of this camp was the behaviour of the
dispenser. I noticed during the morning that he was haranguing in a
loud voice, and that all the men were gathered in a circle listening
to him and laughing. I went to see what was happening, and I found
that he was drunk. When he saw me, he stopped talking and ran away
and jumped on an unsaddled horse, saying that he was going to ride to
Headquarters. The soldiers and I followed him, and the former held
the horse, and I told him to dismount immediately. He refused, and
promptly pulled a loaded revolver from his pocket. At that moment a
friend, with whom he had been drinking, an under-officer from another
column encamped close to us, came up and persuaded him to dismount.
He took him off to his camp, and said that he would keep him until
he had recovered. I took the revolver, and found that it was loaded
with five cartridges, and I sent it with a messenger to the P.M.O. In
the evening, when I was in the car preparing for a few hours' sleep,
the dispenser suddenly arrived and demanded his revolver, and when I
told him that it was in the possession of the P.M.O., he was furious
and vowed vengeance. He would smash the cars and destroy everything
we had, etc., but I got rid of him. The sergeant and the soldiers
were very angry, and volunteered to put extra guards round my car,
and no more was heard of him. When a fitting opportunity came he was
removed. That was the only case of drunkenness I saw from start to
finish of that three months' retreat, and he, the dispenser, was not
a Serbian proper: he was an Austrian Serb, and, like most of these
semi-Austrians, he was hyper-nervous of falling into Austrian hands.

The next morning (October 24th) at 5.45, we again retreated, this time
to a field beyond Ratcha. The roaring of the guns was now terrific,
and the scenes along the roads, which were crowded with refugees,
who were all mixed up with the retreating convoys of the army, were
heartrending. But this day, for the first time since we left Pirot, the
sun shone, and we were at least physically warm for a few hours.

In the afternoon we witnessed a strange sight. A German aeroplane
was flying over our heads, when suddenly from behind some clouds, a
French biplane appeared, and the two flew towards each other. And
then, as though to hide from us on earth the prostitution of science
to murderous ends, both birds of prey dived into a huge white cumulus
cloud and disappeared; and immediately, though both biplanes remained
invisible, the sound reached us of pit-pit-pit-pit from their spiteful
quick-firing guns, as the aviators played hide and seek amongst the
clouds. Strange to think that even the heavens are now invaded by the
murderous machines of man. We watched for a long time, but we never saw
anything emerge from the thick cloud.

That day we heard a rumour that the Germans had been driven out of
Ratcha by two regiments who had rushed on them with bayonets, in
disregard of the general order to retreat. I tried to believe it was
true. On the evening of that day, when again marching orders arrived,
I wondered, as I opened the white envelope, whether, on the strength
of the last rumour of a German repulse, we might not at last be going
to have the joy of an advance. No one who has not experienced the
depressing effect of retreating, day after day, in the home country of
the retreating army, can picture the eagerness with which the slightest
hope of a change of fortune will be hailed. But, alas! a glance at the
order soon dissipated hope.

The direction of the place detailed for the next halt was still
southerly. It was nine p.m. when the order came. Immediately
everything, tents, surgical boxes, kitchen materials, etc., were packed
in readiness for departure, when suddenly, as we were about to start,
a batch of fifty badly wounded soldiers arrived in ox-wagons, from
the battle-field, to be dressed. We could hear that the Germans were
now close behind us; their big guns were banging ominously, as the
wagons discharged their burdens on the ground, and disappeared. At
once I gave the order for the necessary surgical boxes to be unpacked.
The night was cold, and dark, and by the light of hurricane lamps,
the doctors and the nurses set to work and cut away the torn and
bloodstained garments and dressed the wounds of the gory, groaning,
battered objects, who were placed upon the ground, round impromptu
bonfires, which we made of hay, and straw, and wood, to give warmth.
One man was already dead; I ordered a grave to be dug, saw that it was
the regulation depth--three feet--and then sent to another column for a
priest. For the Serbian soldier is like many another of us, he is not
particular about saying his prayers during his lifetime, but he is very
particular that prayers should be said over his dead body. Then I stood
beside the priest, a few yards behind the scrimmage round the bonfires,
whilst he, in his gay embroidered robe, chanted, all out of tune, in
the old Slavonic language, which no one now understands, the words of
the Greek Church burial service. He held the prayer book in one hand,
and read by the light of a small piece of tallow candle held in the
other. The groans of the wounded, and the thunder of the guns, coming
ever nearer and nearer, made an effective accompaniment. The only
incongruity was the frequent repetition in the priest's prayers, of the
word "Allelujah!" Why "Allelujah!"? I asked myself in the intervals of
my "Amen" responses, as the scene round those bonfires burnt itself
upon my mind.

The Germans were coming on fast behind us. They had taken Palanka in
the afternoon, and there was no doubt that as we had received the
order to move, a couple of hours ago, we ought not now to be here; but
we still had our fifty wounded to evacuate. We had been told in the
morning that we were to send all the wounded to a hospital along the
road leading to Kragujevatz, in a south-westerly direction. It was
evidently, then, intended that the retreat should follow that route.
But now the orders were to move the column to a place which was, as the
map disclosed, along the road leading to Krushievatz, in a southerly
direction. I knew that the Germans had, since the morning's order,
taken Palanka, close behind us, and that if I now obeyed the morning's
order, and sent the wounded and the chauffeurs along the Kragujevatz
road, they would almost certainly be cut off by the enemy. I also knew
that to disobey a military command is to incur grave responsibility;
but I incurred it, in obedience to common sense; and as there was no
time for hesitation, I decided at once that the wounded must come
along the Krushievatz road with us. I was sure that there would be a
hospital, sooner or later, along that road.

But how were we to move the patients? Three of our motors had gone with
wounded, earlier in the afternoon, along the Kragujevatz road, and had
not yet returned. That left us with only three motors for the staff
and for the wounded. The ox-wagons which had brought the patients from
the field had disappeared, and, owing to the nearness of the enemy,
no other wagons would be available unless Major A. could spare some.
He was stationed a quarter of a mile away, across some marshy fields.
I must ask him; a messenger would be useless; I must go myself. I
tumbled into half a dozen ditches and a bog or two, in the dark, and
found him. But he was in the same straits as we were, with many wounded
and no transport; he could give no help. I ran back to our column.
There was only one thing to be done, if the whole hospital was not to
be taken by the enemy. The staff, who usually travelled in the motor
ambulances, must walk, until the three motors from the Kragujevatz road
caught us up, the worst wounded must go in the motors, those who could
crawl, must crawl, and as for the others--well! the usual miracle made
everything quite simple, for at that moment empty artillery wagons
were passing, and they gladly took the residue of the wounded; and two
soldiers were left to tell the three cars to follow on.

The road was abominable, with mud and holes, and narrow and broken
bridges, and in the dark, dangerous. We were continually, all through
the night, obliged to lift the wounded out of the ambulances, and carry
them over the dangers, and hold our breath whilst the motors--those
wonderful Ford cars, wonderfully handled--performed acrobatic feats
inconceivable to orthodox chauffeurs at home. The three other motors
caught us up after we had been trekking for two or three hours, and
the staff were again able to ride. This was, fortunately, just before
we came to a bridge which was the scene of six motor miracles. I was
riding, as always, in front of the column, and when I was half-way
across the bridge, I discovered, just in time, that the planks
on either side, a few yards in front of me, had been broken off,
presumably by the wheels of the heavy gun-wagons which had preceded
us. There was no parapet, and the bridge was so narrow, that it seemed
doubtful whether there was room for a car, even if it could steer
straight enough, to avoid the precipice on either side. If the wheels
skidded in the mud, the car must overturn; and just beyond the bridge
there was a mud-hole three or four feet deep; and there was no other
road. The wagons, being warned, passed safely, though some stuck in the
mud-hole and had to be dug out. But the men then cut branches of trees
and found some kukurus stalks. We stopped the mud-holes with the trees,
and laid the kukurus on the skiddy mud on the bridge, and the road was
now mended for the motors. The wounded were lifted out and carried on
stretchers over the bridge; the first chauffeur had a final good look
at the place, then mounted the car and made a dash. Well done indeed!
We breathed again--he was safely past the precipice, and only stuck in
the hole beyond. That was nothing, for the advantage of a Ford is that
you can lift it out of mud-holes. It seemed impossible, however, that
the other five chauffeurs should all be equally skilful and equally
lucky. And what about the nerve of the woman chauffeur? It was as good
as the men's, and that is saying much. And we left that danger safely
behind.

There were plenty of others ahead of us, and continually, all through
the night, the cars had to be pushed and lifted out of mud-holes.
Sometimes, as a variety, a wagon would overturn and block the road;
but everything developed the wholesome habit of righting itself, and
we reached Gradatz at 9.15 next morning. I was growing accustomed to
small allowances of sleep, and I never felt physical fatigue; but on
this occasion, although I was not tired, I grew sleepy about four in
the morning, when the road became less dramatic, and I was surprised to
find how uncomfortable it was trying to keep awake on horseback. I fell
asleep for a second or two, then felt myself swaying in the saddle,
pulled myself together and gave my mind some active thoughts, only to
fall asleep again and go through the same performance. But by the time
we arrived I was thoroughly awake.



CHAPTER XXIII


Our encampment was in a field, near a small stream, with high hills
on the other side of the road. The sun was shining inspiringly when
we arrived, and after the wounded, who had come with us, had been
attended, we had some coffee, and a couple of hours' rest was the next
order. We were only about six miles from Lapovo, and I sent George
with a note to Doctor Cockburn, asking for news, and telling her that
we were near. I was on my way to take a rest, when an officer, who was
riding past, stopped when he saw our camp. He dismounted and came up
to me, so I stayed to give him some breakfast and to talk with him. He
was very depressed; he did not see how his country could be saved; and
he horrified me by bringing out of his pocket a loaded revolver--he
said he should end his life if the Germans took possession of the land.
I tried to comfort him, both with food and cheery thoughts, placing
most reliance on the former. He had eaten nothing since mid-day of
yesterday, and at first he refused food, but I compelled him to eat
a good breakfast, and I hope that happier thoughts were the result.
Serbian officers, though particular about their food in peace time,
seem to ignore the importance of food when their swords are girt. My
friend rode away, and I was just going to rest for an hour, when at
noon the Staff mounted orderly rode up; I knew what that meant--instant
departure.

I was not surprised, for the guns were making a deafening noise close
at hand. We had already despatched our last wounded, so we packed and
were away within half an hour. There was no time for lunch. Berzan,
the other side of Batuchini, was our goal. Rain was again falling,
but we found it a good plan to take the Serbian view that rain was a
blessing (because it checked the progress of the big German guns), and
we accepted it cheerfully. We had travelled a few kilometres along
the road, when we met a convoy coming towards us in obvious haste. It
was curious that they should be coming towards us, as the retreat was
general. The under officers who were in charge shouted to me as they
passed, that we had better turn back at once. It was not possible, they
said, to go through Batuchini, the next village, as this was now under
bombardment, and the shells were dropping in the street through which
we must pass. Our sergeant, and dispenser, and Sandford and Merton,
all came up and urged that we should go back, according to the advice
of the returning column; but I had been told to go to Berzan, and no
other road led there. I did not know enough of the language to argue in
it--it is a mistake to know enough of any language to argue in it--but
I listened to what the men had to say, and then I replied firmly,
"Napred!" (Forward!), and led on. When we reached the village, shells
were, it is true, whizzing over our heads and falling clumsily rather
close to us; a brisk cannonade was going on round the corner, and
cannon fire was spitfiring busily on the near hill. But this was a good
thing, as it had the effect of hurrying the drivers, who were a bit
scared, and we reached our destination rather quicker than we should
otherwise have done, at 4 p.m., hungry for the delayed lunch.

We pitched camp in a field at the back of a disused café, specially
designated in the orders as our site. The approach was down a narrow
by-lane, which was a bog of mud. Wounded arrived at once and kept us
busy with the hospital, and evacuation work, but when the cars finally
came back, about 11 p.m., we sat round the wood fire and enjoyed a
supper of turkeys, which had been spitted over the wood fire by our
cheery cook.

I had a few days previously sent a messenger with a note to Doctor
May, at Kragujevatz, asking for news. He now returned with a letter,
saying that our hospital there was then being evacuated, and that the
military authorities were sending the unit to Novi Bazaar. They were
sent ultimately under the charge of Doctor Curcin to Petch, and thence
over the mountains to Scutari, Medua, and Brindisi. The unit say that
no words can praise too highly the kindness and devotion of Doctor
Curcin, and he says that he cannot cease to marvel at the courage and
resourcefulness of the women who, under his care, faced indescribable
difficulties with invariable cheerfulness and good temper.

The messenger from Lapovo had also now returned with the bad news
that our hospital there had been evacuated, by order of the military
authorities, two days before he arrived, whilst Lapovo was being
heavily bombarded. Doctor Cockburn and her little unit ultimately
joined the Kragujevatz party, and escaped to England under Doctor
Curcin's care. We, ourselves, now at Berzan, expected marching orders
every minute; the firing line was close upon us, and the guns made such
a noise it was difficult to sleep. The quartette (dispenser, sergeant,
Sandford and Merton) all came up and suggested that we should move on
without waiting for orders. But the shells were not dropping in our
camp, and I saw no reason for interfering with the arrangements for
evacuation made at headquarters. It would never do to allow a panic or
"skedaddle" principle to invade our camp. That would be a worse enemy
than the Germans. And--in House of Commons language--my answer was in
the negative.

The order to move came at nine next morning, Wednesday, October 29th,
and the speed with which the column put itself this day in marching
order was exemplary. Rain was falling in torrents as we trekked along
the muddy road to Bagrdan. Would this place also be evacuated, or
should we be able to buy some much-needed articles of clothing here?
But from the first moment of retreat, during the next three months, we
never entered a town or village that had not either just been evacuated
or that was not about to be evacuated for the enemy. Houses deserted,
shops shuttered, all eyes, as it were, closed, that they should not see
the scenes of sorrow as the fugitives fled in silence through their
streets; that they should not witness the galling spectacle of the
triumphant entry of the enemy. Evacuation meant, of course, cessation
of all means of communication with the outer world. During three months
we were without letters, or news of any sort from home. Powers of mind,
soul, body, were all concentrated, driven inwards, on the tragedy in
which we had literally a walking part.

It was terrible enough to see town after town abandoned to the enemy;
I pictured what we should feel if our English towns from Newcastle
to Falmouth, were all to fall, in regular routine, as prizes to the
triumphant Germans. But the abandonment of stations on the railway
line, the main artery of national life, that seemed an even sadder
sight.

When we arrived at Bagrdan the station was already dismantling. We
encamped, according to instructions, in a field near the station, but
when heavy rain made the ground a swamp, I asked permission to shelter
in the station rooms. In the morning these were not available, and we
were obliged to do the best we could with sodden tents, but in the
afternoon we were allowed to take possession, because by then the
station was dismantled in readiness for evacuation.

The line behind the station, to the north, had already been cut;
bridges, as we could hear from the noise of explosions, were then being
blown up; the telegraphic and telephonic apparatus was destroyed, and
the station entrance hall, and waiting rooms were littered with the
débris of torn official documents, and old telegraphic paper strips.

The last train, filled with wounded whom we had tended during the day,
left in the evening, as usual, in silence--no scene. The stationmaster
was leaving in the guard's van. He knew that the next train to leave
the station would be working under German rule; he knew that for
himself exile and ruin stared him in the face; but, as the engine
puffed and snorted, and the train began slowly to move, he called to me
and to a few remaining officials on the platform, "Sbogom!" (Good-bye!)
and nothing else. But could other words have added to the pathos? Was
not the history of a gigantic crime against his nation revealed in that
one word?

Next day was full of interest. For, though our division was holding its
own fairly well, another division, the Drinske, was having a bad time,
and all the morning, streams of cavalry from our division passed along
the road. They were to cross the Morava river, three-quarters of a mile
down the line from Bagrdan, by pontoons, and go to the rescue. Then a
rumour reached us that 25,000 Bulgars had been taken prisoners, and
that there were now no more Bulgars on the Serbian front, and that the
French and English were on their way to help us! Much too good to be
true, and I began to suspect that these rumours were floated to keep up
the spirits of the soldiers from time to time.

At seven the next morning, came the order to move the column to the
other side of Bagrdan. Rain continued all that day, and I was thankful
to be able to commandeer three small houses for shelter for hospital
and staff in the village. The wagons and oxen outspanned in a field
behind the hospital houses. There were many wounded and some dead, and
these we buried in graves half filled with water, in the rain.

Major A. and his column appeared again, and told us that they had
journeyed by another route, and had been obliged to wade through a
river, neck deep, to get here.

As usual, I slept in the car. This was stationed in the one and only
street, outside the house belonging to a teacher. He had already sent
away his children, and his wife was to leave next day. He said that he
should wait till the last moment in case of a miracle. He showed us his
honey hives, of which he was very proud. Several had been stolen in the
night, and if he left the town he would lose everything.

The firing on the near hill was now terrific, and there seemed very
little chance of the miracle, though another rumour, that English guns
were on their way, gave us hope.

The teacher's wife left at seven next morning, October 30th. We moved
at 8.15. We were told to encamp on the other side of a bridge, near
Kriva Alpregan. The bridge was difficult to find, and the whole country
was a swamp, but we found the bridge, and as there was no village, we
took shelter in a wood. Between the field and the wood, was a deep and
broad ditch of mud, which we had to cross continually, but we were glad
of the shelter of the trees. We put up a hospital tent between the
road and the wood, and a mess tent amongst the trees, and we lit our
kitchen and dining-room fires inside the tent, and enjoyed a supper of
little chickens spitted on a stick, the only way of roasting which was
available. We generally arranged that the field-kitchen should cook
for the soldiers once a day, when possible, their much-loved stew, when
outside fires were difficult, and we then managed for ourselves.

That field was a sea of liquid mud whilst rain was falling, and it
became a gelatinous pulp when it began to dry. I slept in the car on
the road, and all night long, in a continuous stream, wagons rumbled
past me with guns, with fodder, with all the material for the existence
of an army of 200,000 men, and intermixed with these were wagons filled
with fugitives.

In the morning I had seen the P.M.O. His news was extremely gloomy.
The rumour of Bulgarian defeat was quite untrue, and my friend, though
outwardly calm, was suffering anxiety not only about the life of his
nation, his heart was also filled with fears as to the safety of his
wife and children, who were in Kragujevatz when the town was taken
by the Germans. Communication with them was, of course, impossible.
Thousands of other officers and men were suffering a similar anxiety.
How could I help sharing some of this grievous load of sorrow? I think
my ears will never lose the sound of creaking carts, and rumbling wagon
wheels, for in the sound, as I lay awake that night, and many other
nights, there was mingled with every revolution of the wheels, the
anxiety and the misery which were gnawing at the heart of this exiled
nation.



CHAPTER XXIV


On Sunday, October 31st, the order to leave for Voliovtza came at 10.30
a.m. On the road, Major A. and one of the French doctors, who were both
riding, joined us, and we pitched our respective camps on either side
of the road, just outside Jagodina. While we were pitching our tents, a
German aeroplane dropped bombs within a few yards of Major A.'s camp.
No harm was done, though in Jagodina many were injured, and six people
were killed, including the brother of one of our men, by bombs dropped
a few minutes later by this same aeroplane.

Major A.'s mother and sister were living at Jagodina, having fled there
from Belgrade, from the Austrians, some months earlier. The Major was
now much troubled, because it seemed that they must remain in the town.
Where, he asked, could they go? If they went south, they ran grave risk
of being captured by the Bulgars. If they stayed in Jagodina, they
would, it is true, be taken by the Germans, but they preferred the
Germans, as the lesser, they said, of two evils.

This time we were able to pitch our bivouac on dry ground, on short,
sheep-eaten grass by the roadside; and we received at once some
wounded. But it was discomforting to find that the number of our
patients was in inverse ratio to our losses in the field. This evening
we only had a dozen, and they walked in. They told us that the severely
wounded were being left upon the field; the enemy would give no time
for collecting them, and they were, as usual, firing on the ambulance
parties. Only those men, therefore, came for treatment who could move
themselves. Also wagons for transport, usually commandeered from the
local peasants, had now all been taken away by the refugees for their
own uses. Fighting was continuous, and the thought of the wounded
lying untended on the field, was nearly unbearable. I knew that fierce
battles had been raging near us, and yet there were only a few wounded
in our dispensary tent. I spoke next morning about this condition of
affairs to Major A., but he said, and I knew that it was true, that the
P.M.O. was doing all that was possible. I was for the moment, however,
sorely tempted to go with our own ambulance cars to the battle-field
and pick up as many wounded as we could, but I remembered in time,
that I had been entrusted with the command of a column which had its
own deputed work, and that such command had, for the first time, been
entrusted to a woman; it would be a dereliction of my responsibilities
if, for any purpose, I neglected these to take upon myself somebody
else's responsibilities. I resisted the temptation, but with a sore
heart.

The French doctors and Major A. spent the morning with us, the former
and we trying to assure the Major that the situation must change for
the better before long. He, however, was convinced, and rightly so,
that his country was doomed. In the afternoon J. G. and I went over
to his (the Major's) camp and had coffee in an arbour, placed in a
vineyard of American vines; these were of a light green colour, and
looked beautiful against the purple mists upon the mountains. They had
been imported as a check to the vine pest, the phylloxera.

On Tuesday, November 2nd, the situation looked desperate. It had never
looked so black. Even rumours as to the arrival of the Allies, were now
less frequent, though poor old King Peter, remembering, no doubt, how
a year ago he had, by his presence at the front, inspired his troops
to further effort, drove that afternoon past our camp to the trenches,
saluting us as he drove past, and told the men that if they would only
stick to it bravely for a few more days, help would be forthcoming. But
it was obvious to us all that the Serbian Army, with its inferiority of
artillery, might check, but it could not stem the tide of the enemy's
advance. The big guns now roared and thundered mercilessly, louder and
nearer, almost continuously day and night. I could never understand
why, being so near, the enemy did not make a dash and cut off our
retreat. It might be expected any minute, and the tenacious defence
that was made by this Serbian Army, in the face of terrific odds, was
indeed worthy of admiration.

The Germans had taken Kragujevatz; this town had, whilst we were there,
seemed to us like a second home, and now it was, together with its
inhabitants, who had been so friendly to us, in the enemy's hands;
all our wealth of hospital material and equipment was being fingered
by Germans, and German soldiers were bivouacked within our much-loved
tents upon the racecourse; and--and this was the saddest thought of
all--the fine arsenal was now being used to fashion German munitions
to be used against our Serbian friends. The Germans were also at
Milanovatz, and our dispensary headquarters at Rudnik would be in their
possession.

From our present position we could watch the battles raging on the near
hills; these were ablaze with fire from shell and shrapnel. We were
already, as Major A. pointed out, surrounded on three sides. Could
we--that is, could the Army--possibly escape?

The Major thought it was impossible, but the French doctors were as
usual delightfully optimistic. They had, with me, confidence in the
Serbian _état-major_, which had formerly done excellently against the
Turks, the Bulgars, and the Austrians; and they were not likely to fail
us now. They must have some way of escape up their sleeve; the retreat
was being conducted in such a dignified fashion, it was clear that the
control was in capable hands. But faith was a useful companion.

Then came a sudden influx of severely wounded--96 that day up to 10.30
p.m., and with a bound, up went the spirits of the doctors and the
nurses. But it was piteous to see these wounded. We knew that most of
them must die, for there was no time for them to rest anywhere; they
were evacuated from station to station. After we had treated them they
must, according to our instructions, continue, in the ox-wagons which
had brought them, to Treshnitza--14 kilometres distant. Two officers
were in a pitiful condition--their brains were bulging through their
skulls, and they had also been shot in the stomach. They must die in
the carts.

At sunset I climbed a small hill with Major A., and on three sides we
saw the battle--many battles--raging. White smoke, and black smoke,
and flashes of fire, were belching forth, with thunders, and roaring,
and occasional silences, which were worse than the noises, for in the
silence you could feel the agony of the wounded--the passing of the
dead. On the fourth side, and just below us, was a sight which would, a
few years ago, have been no less remarkable. By the side of the road,
along which were passing at that moment, guns damaged in the action
which we had just been watching, the various columns of an army in
retreat, and refugees in flight, we saw a small white camp. Moving in
and out, quietly, and leisurely, amongst the tents, were some women,
who seemed to have no concern with the tumult that was raging all
around them. One of them was cooking supper over an open wood fire. She
was apparently joking with the Serbian cook-orderly and threatening
to hit him on the head with the frying-pan. An ox-wagon stopped in
front of--ah! yes!--that was a Red Cross flag. Immediately, a woman
in a long white coat, and two women in white aprons, stepped out from
the tent nearest the road. The white-coated woman climbed up on the
wheel of the wagon, and stooped down to examine a mangled form, which
was immediately taken out, placed upon a stretcher, and carried into
the tent. And we realised that the picture formed a tiny fragment of
the European mosaic of war; it was a scene in the routine of the First
Serbian-English Field Hospital.

That evening we ate supper in the open, round the fire, but it was
difficult to take our eyes off the absorbing scenes that were being
enacted all around us. Occasionally an extra loud and startling
outburst of cannon-roar, quite close to us, made us jump; but no one
took any further notice, and we went on with our supper. After supper
we received a message that we were to hold ourselves in readiness to
depart at any moment, and we accordingly packed our hospital tent. But
the wounded continued to arrive. For this we were always thankful, and
the doctors and nurses now attended them in the open, by the light of
hurricane lanterns; our acetylene gas lamp was packed. But then came
a further order that we were not to move until the morning, so we put
up the hospital tent again, for it was raining, and shelter for the
wounded must be provided.



CHAPTER XXV


Between Bagrdan and Jagodina, rain had fallen almost incessantly, and
though rain was, the Serbian soldiers always said, the best friend they
had, because it checked the progress of the big German guns, it had a
depressing influence on the men, and made the roads almost impassable,
with deep, gelatinous, marvellous, mud. We had, on this night, put up
the tent, and I had just gone to my car for an hour or two of rest,
when the dreaded orderly rode up to the car and presented the order to
leave at once. It was 1.30 a.m. I sent for Vooitch, who always aroused
the soldiers; camp was immediately struck, and I rode round as usual,
to see--a little difficult in the darkness--that nothing was left
behind, then I sounded the whistle to collect the unit, and as the
oxen and horse-wagons and motor-ambulances came into line in single
file, I shouted "Napred!" (Forward!) and, followed by the two mounted
orderlies, took the lead. Within twenty minutes of receiving the order
to move, we were on the march. Rain was, as usual, falling, and the
night was so dark, I could scarcely see my horse's head, as our column
jolted over ditches, and struck into the road. One of the orderlies,
riding a little behind me, held the lantern to throw light upon the
road immediately in front, to give us warning of danger from mud-holes,
and broken bridges, and we entered Jagodina.

The usual story: abandoned by its inhabitants; houses shuttered and
deserted; the whole town in darkness, except that along the walls of
the houses, wherever space permitted, camp fires had been lighted,
and refugees, women, children and old men, were crouched in groups,
sleeping, or sitting in silence, waiting for the dawn. The fires
illumined the faces of the fugitives and showed suffering not easy
to forget. When the camp fires were left behind, the darkness was
complete, and even objects immediately in front were only visible
because they showed black against the shining mud. It was a world of
shadows, and of dreariness, of wet and cold. And never for a moment had
the sounds ceased, of the creaking of wagons, and the squish, squish of
oxen-hoofs pressing glutinous mud. Sometimes my horse would stumble,
in the dark, over a little flock of sheep that was being driven with
a convoy for the purposes of food; or a scared and tiny shrew mouse,
absorbed in its own affairs, would dart across the road and escape
death by a miracle.

I looked behind me, and saw, only darkness and sorrow, columns, and
confusion. Thousands of unoffending people were suffering heartache,
separation, desolation; and, as the guns reminded me, thousands of
brave men were, a couple of miles away from us, facing at this moment,
a murderous death. How could I help asking myself where, in all this
hell, is God?

And immediately the answer came. As if in purposeful response, the
mountains in the east threw off the blackness of the night, and showed
rich purple against the lightening sky. Over the mountains rose clouds
of gold, and pink, and aerial blue, and as the rays of sunlight shot
triumphantly into the sky, white mists, thick and soft, that had lain
hidden, became, for a moment of pure joy, bathed in all the rainbow
colours; and one daring cloud of brilliant gold spread itself in the
shape of a great dragon across the dark sky. Glories and beauties
everywhere, if we could only catch the meaning.

But while I was wondering at it all, the glories vanished; the time
for understanding had not yet come; the hills became commonplace, the
prosaic light of day was with us, and I saw once more the nightmare
picture of drab-dressed, mud-stained soldiers, splashing with their
sandalled feet, in the sloppy mud; sometimes stumbling, then rising,
smothered with mud, without a word; weren't there worse troubles than
that? "Hleba!" (Bread!) "None for three days," were the first words I
heard.

I don't know whether I liked least trekking by day, or by night. By day
nothing of the horrors by which one was surrounded, was left to the
imagination, but by night there were added difficulties. For, apart
from danger from the enemy, the roads, or tracks, were full of risks
and hazards, even when by daylight these were visible in advance; but
they were dangerous when one was dependent on the light of a small
lantern, to reveal mud-holes, boulders, fallen trees, precipices, or
broken bridges.

Also, there was at night the added danger that in the darkness, the
column might be intercepted by other greedy columns butting their
way through. But the officers of other convoys were always extremely
courteous: they frequently helped us to recover a place in the line,
and we were fortunate in never losing, even temporarily, any of the
column.

Commanders of other columns often urged me to sleep during night treks
in the wagons, or, like the staff, in the motor ambulances, but I
preferred to be at the head of the column by night as well as by day;
partly because it was obviously the only way in which one could be
always on the alert, and partly, also, in order that the men should
feel that I was not asking them to endure what I would not endure
myself, and that I was sharing with them the practical difficulties of
the road.

We reached Treshnitza at 9 a.m. Wednesday, November 3rd, after the
night's trek. The cars had a troublous time with mud and holes and
were, on several occasions, hauled out by the oxen.

The P.M.O. came to see us as soon as we arrived, and he asked us to
take some wounded officers next day in the cars to Krushievatz. It was
dreadful to look at the map, and see how far south we had now been
driven.

We had commandeered the empty village school-house for dispensary and
kitchen, and the column was camped in the orchard behind. The P.M.O.
laughingly said we had found a better site than they had, though
they--Headquarters Staff--were only a couple of hundred yards away.

Next morning early, we sent off the two wounded majors in motors to
Krushievatz; we ourselves received the order to leave at 11.30 a.m. for
Shanatz, and we met the returning motors on the road.

In the afternoon, as we were trekking steadily, having been told not
to halt till we reached Shanatz, I saw by the side of the road, on
a grass common, a hay-cart, a woman, and half a dozen soldiers. The
woman was evidently in trouble: she was weeping, gesticulating, and
shouting through her tears at the soldiers, who were in possession
of the hay-cart. I guessed what had happened, so I halted the column
and asked the woman to tell me what was the matter. I found, as I had
suspected, that the soldiers had bought hay from her--for the sum of
three dinars--and when it came to payment, they had discovered that
they had no change, only a ten dinar-note, called in Serbian "banka." I
told the soldiers if they didn't pay the woman what they owed her, they
must leave to her the hay, or I should report them to the commander,
and I took their names and regiments. But they swore that they had no
change. I didn't believe them, and there was not time to investigate,
but I couldn't let the woman be robbed, so I said I would buy the hay
and pay for it, and I gave her three dinars. "Now then," I said, "the
hay is mine," and I shouted to our men to come and take it off the
cart. Our men were delighted; they leaped to the road and ran quickly
to the cart. This worked magic, for hay was difficult to procure, and
in an instant, the leader of the dinarless soldiers, produced three
dinars; they had, he said, got hidden in his pocket; I handed them to
the woman, telling her that she could also keep the other three, and I
graciously allowed the soldiers to take away the hay.

[Illustration: HEADQUARTERS OF THE MONTENEGRIN POLICE (AT PETCH) ON
RIGHT, GAOLBIRD'S HOUSE ON LEFT]

[Illustration: CONVERTING FOUR-WHEELED WAGONS INTO TWO-WHEELED CARTS,
IN CEMETERY AT PETCH]

The evening colours were a recompense for a wet and dreary day; this
side of the broad Morava, yellow beech leaves, caught by the red rays
of the setting sun; beyond the river, green-grey mountains, and over
these a rainbow, which seemed unwilling to touch the bloodstained
earth, and dispersed amongst the clouds. Along the road everything was
drab and dead, or dying; the ghost-like procession of convoys and of
fugitives was not dead, for it was moving; but it was movement without
life, for the soul was stunned.

The town of Varvarin, which we reached at 6 p.m., was in darkness;
shuttered and deserted; mud and rain, as usual, in possession. We
halted in the broad, main street, ambulance wagons all in line, in a
foot and a half of mud, for the column to eat some food, for which
there had been no time all day. Immediately on arriving, I received a
message that a certain artillery major had been waiting for some hours
to shake hands with me. He had once visited our camp at Kragujevatz.
I remembered him as a vivacious and intelligent officer, and I was
proud that, in the midst of his strenuous work of placing batteries
in defence of the retreating Army, he had time to think of his
English comrade. It seemed that Serbian officers, indeed, in whatever
circumstances they found themselves, always did the right thing at the
right moment. They were truly chivalrous, not with the chivalry which
rushes to open the door to let you out, but with the chivalry which
leaves the door open for you to come in.

The congestion of convoys on the other side of the pontoon bridge,
leading to Krushievatz, was terrific. A narrow mud lane led to the
bridge, and when we arrived at the entrance to the lane, at about
8 p.m., we found that the column ahead of us, were taking things
philosophically and had lighted fires in the road, and were cooking
food, and warming themselves; the oxen were lying across the road.
There was no possibility of getting past them, though Shanatz, as I
then discovered, was on the left bank of the (Western) Morava, and we
should therefore not cross by the pontoon. But we eventually moved,
and we reached Shanatz, a tiny scattered village, at 3 in the morning,
to my great relief, for no other convoys had followed us, and, as
the night passed, I had begun to be afraid that we had taken a wrong
road. On arrival, we roused the Prefect, and he gave us the keys of
the school-house, for our hospital, and we requisitioned a couple
of rooms for the staff. Wounded were waiting for us. We cleaned the
schoolroom; the doctor and the nurses who were on night duty attended
to the patients, who were also given hot coffee and food; and the oxen,
wagons, and men, settled in the school enclosure. I went to rest in the
car at 5 a.m. and was up again at 6.

The Morava, broad and magnificent, flowed by the side of the village,
and in the evening, after dark, some of us seized the rare opportunity
of a bathe and a wash.



CHAPTER XXVI


The situation was growing more and more serious. We had retreated
forty miles in the last two days, evidently not without reason, as the
Germans had entered Jagodina, at noon, on the day we had passed through
at 2.30 a.m. and, as there were other columns behind us, that did not
leave a large margin of safety. I was always aware that delay caused
by mistake in taking the wrong road, or by dalliance with accidents,
would be fatal; but neither in our column, nor in any column that I saw
during three months of retreat, was there ever anything but calmness
and apparent unconcern. Had there at any time been panic, the narrow
defiles would have been catacombed with dead, in addition to the
thousands who perished from other causes.

But remarkable indeed was the dignity and orderliness with which, from
start to finish, the retreat of the Serbian Army was conducted. And
the silence! Hour after hour, day and night after day and night, week
after week, thousands upon thousands of soldiers, trudging wearily
beside their slow-paced oxen, or with their regiments of infantry, or
driving their gun-carriages, or, as cavalry, riding their horses--in
silence. No laughter, no singing, no talking; the silence of a funeral
procession, which indeed it was; a silence only broken by the cries
of the drivers to their oxen: "Svetko! Belia! Napred! Desno! Levo!"
("Svetko! Belia! Forward! To the right! To the left!") and the
ceaseless rumbling of wagon wheels, which sounded like the breaking
of an angry sea on a distant pebble beach. I have, since my return,
re-read accounts of the retreat of Napoleon's army from Moscow, and
though we were spared some of the horrors they endured, there were
two features in our Serbian retreat, which were happily absent in the
other. For the retreat in which we took part was the retreat, not
only of the Serbian Army, but of the Serbian nation. This meant that
thousands of women, children, and old men, driven from their homes by
the advancing enemy, were, in ever-increasing numbers, as we progressed
southwards, adding to the difficulties of the safe retreat of the Army,
by mixing with the columns of artillery, cavalry, infantry, engineers,
field hospitals, and swelling the procession.

Wagons filled with household treasures, beds, blankets, chairs,
frying-pans, even geese, slung head downwards at the back of the cart,
or balancing themselves with curious dignity, upon the uneven surfaces
of indiscriminate luggage; a look of pained astonishment on their
faces, at their rude removal from their own comfortable pastures.

Or, more frequent and more painful still, wagons filled with little
children; the oxen, weary and hungry, led by women, also weary, hungry,
and foot-sore. I saw one woman, dragging by the rope, two tired oxen
drawing a wagon, in which were eight small children. I saw a tiny boy
leading two tiny calves, which were drawing a tiny cart containing a
tiny baby, who was strapped to the cart. I saw a woman, evidently not
wealthy enough to possess a cart and oxen of her own, carrying her two
babies, one on her back, and one in front; and, in one of the crushes
which frequently occurred, the baby on her back, was knocked off by the
horns of a passing ox.

We wondered, at Shanatz, why we were on that side of the river, with
no bridge near us, when all the other columns were travelling towards
Krushievatz on the other side. We received no orders all that day, and
I wondered more and more, for there was always the possibility that
the order might have gone astray. But at 3 a.m. on Saturday, November
6th, the order came to start at once for Kupçi, beyond Krushievatz, via
the pontoon bridge, which we had left on our way here.

It was still dark when we reached the bridge. A lengthy convoy of
artillery was crossing, and behind them again were endless other
convoys. We halted, and it seemed likely that hours would pass before
we should get a chance of butting in. But, to my joy, I found that the
artillery column was under the command of my Varvarin Major. He saw
us, and at once came up and said that he would arrange for us to cross
the bridge immediately after his guns. We had not more than an hour
to wait. A short, steep bank of mud, and we were up on the approach
road to the bridge. I was told to dismount, and, following close upon
the guns, and followed by our own Red Cross wagons, I led my horse
across the pontoon. Dawn was breaking, and I was glad, for my eyes
would surely never again see such a sight. Purple mountains, wrapped in
white mists, and crowned with soft pink clouds; the broad grey river,
rushing wildly to its fate; and a bridge of boats. Upon the bridge,
dimly visible in the growing light, soldiers, leading wagons which were
carrying cannons and heavy guns--motives of murder and destruction
dominant--closely followed by women leading Red Cross wagons--the cross
of Christianity waving in the breeze.

On the other side of the bridge, refugees, streaming along the road
from Stalatz to Krushievatz, converged with the stream of columns
and refugees who crossed the bridge, and made confusion even more
confounded than before. But I found my friend, the Major, waiting for
me on the other side. He had seen his column safely across, and now he
would, he said, ride with us to Krushievatz, to show us the road out
of the town. He did this, and then rode off to place his battery for a
rearguard action.

The town was a solid mass of convoys and fugitives, and it was anxious
work steering the column safely through, intact. The road leading
through the town was broader than usual, and the wagons of refugees and
of columns were jammed together three abreast in hopeless tangle. "Many
oxen were come about us; lean bulls of Basan closed us in on every
side."

Later, the Headquarters Staff overtook us, and I rode for a while
beside our Divisional Commander. He told me quietly, as though he were
talking of the death of a distant relative, that Nish had been taken
by the Bulgars; those flags of welcome which we had seen, were now
welcoming our enemies. Where, we asked each other, were the French and
the English? But not a word of bitterness passed his lips; "there was
doubtless some good reason," was his only comment. And I could only say
what I always said, "Never mind, we shall get it all back one day," but
I sometimes almost wished, for the first time in my life, that I was
not English.

We arrived at Kupçi at 3 p.m. The noise of the guns was continuous,
and in the afternoon we also heard violent explosions--the destruction
of the powder factory, before the entrance of the Germans, who took
possession in the evening.

The river Raçina ran close beside our bivouac, and after dark we had
time for another bathe. The artillery major had tea with us; he was a
cheery philosopher, and no one could have guessed the feelings that
were gnawing at his heart, whilst we exchanged experiences and joked
about minor incidents of the trek. One of the cars had broken down
during the day (the raybestos band had given way), as we came through
Krushievatz, and we had had difficulty in commandeering animals to drag
it. Eventually we secured four cows; but after a few miles, the owner
came and took them away, and we had been obliged to readjust our oxen
transport arrangements on the road, not an easy matter, in the crush of
convoys, all clamouring to push on. But the sick car was safely steered
into camp, and the chauffeurs, by working at it till 10 p.m., put
things straight again.

Amongst the refugees who swarmed along the road, were thousands of
Austrian prisoners. They were under orders to evacuate themselves
from place to place, according to instructions from the various
military stations, to which they must report every evening; but they
were without guards. They were mostly Serbian-Austrian soldiers, and
their one dread was that they might fall into the hands of their
former rulers. But their plight was now pitiable. Food for everyone
was getting more and more difficult to procure, even for money; for
prisoners without means, it was almost unprocurable. They had to rely
on scanty bread rations. Half a dozen of these prisoners straggled into
our camp at Kupçi, and their eager gratitude when we gave them some
food--which we could ill spare--was horrible to witness.



CHAPTER XXVII


That evening I had a talk with the Commander and the P.M.O. They
told me confidentially that the situation for the Army was, at this
point, critical. The road from Kupçi to Blatzi led through a narrow
defile, and there was grave fear that the Germans, who were already
at Krushievatz, might overtake us in the rear, and enclose us on the
northern entrance, and that the Bulgars might dash across from Nish,
which was now in their hands, and cut us off on the southern exit.
The Austrians also were on their way to Mitrovitza, and might wish to
have a hand in drawing the net around us, and in annihilating or, at
least, capturing the Serbian Army. Hope of help from the Allies was now
extremely faint, and all efforts must be concentrated in the endeavour
to save the army, intact, if possible. I must, therefore, I was
told, push the column through the defile as speedily as possible--as
speedily, that is, as the oxen and the congestion of convoys would
permit.

But the order to move did not come till next evening at 4.30. We were
bivouacked near a narrow bridge on the main road, over which convoys
of artillery, cavalry, infantry, pioneers, bakers, butchers, field
hospitals, etc., with their innumerable oxen, and horse wagons streamed
ceaselessly day and night. Whilst I was waiting for our column to
collect, I saw two men busy under the bridge. I was not sure if they
ought to be there, and I jumped down into the ditch to see what they
were doing. One of them had now climbed a ladder and was placing
something in the rafters overhead; the other man was standing with
something mysterious in his hands. It was melinite explosive, and the
men told me that they were going to blow up the bridge as soon as our
column and a few others had passed; the Germans were close behind us.

By this time our convoy was ready to start, but it was one thing to
be ready, and quite another thing to have the chance of starting. It
was not an easy matter to force, with the column intact, an entrance
into the line, and to prevent other and more influential columns from
shunting us aside. The sergeant, who should have done the shouting and
protesting, was slack and afflicted with amiability, and amiability,
though it may be useful at garden-parties, is not an effective weapon
with a retreating army. But we eventually forced an entrance, and left
Kupçi at 5 p.m. on November 7th.

During night treks the staff slept in the motor ambulances; the
sergeant slept in one of the wagons, and I did not miss him. The
mounted orderlies took it in turns, respectively, to sleep in a wagon,
or to ride behind me and carry the lantern, which showed the only light
available upon the road in front of us. The second interpreter was
useless. I liked him best when he was asleep. But Vooitch was always at
hand. He, too, was slightly tainted with amiability, but it was not of
the paralytic kind, and he was excellently helpful. I could always rely
upon his help by day or by night.

The cars had that night a difficult time, as the road was for the
greater part of the way too narrow for them to pass other columns and
go ahead, and in places where it was broader, a solid phalanx of wagons
blocked the way.

When we entered the gorge (Maidevo end) it was pitchy dark, and the
murky mountains, almost meeting overhead, shook their sides, echoing
and re-echoing the thunder of the guns. The Psalmist's words flashed
through my mind, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow
of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me"--and He always was.

On our right, the narrow road adjoined precipitously the river (Raçina)
which, below us, surged, white-lipped, frightened, impatient to reach
the freedom of the sea. The mountains descended vertically, from hidden
heights, to the river's farther bank, and on our left, they towered
perpendicularly by the roadside.

It seemed laughable to try to lighten such darkness with one small,
flickering lantern, but nothing is less perfect for being small, and
the orderly, Millyvoy, rode as usual behind me, throwing the best light
available on the pitfalls immediately in front, and the rest of the
column followed close behind.

It was raining, but there were other things to think of. Progress was
at snail's pace; there was no one in control of the way, and wagons
belonging to Army columns, or to refugees, all intermingled, blocked
every inch of the road, either in single file or two deep, according as
the breadth of road allowed.

A stoppage in front, caused increased congestion and confusion behind,
as everybody then tried to pass everybody else, and the result was an
entanglement of wagon-wheels and a general jumble, which was as big a
nightmare as human brain could picture--with the cannons bellowing on
every side.

If a wagon stuck in the mud, which was sometimes two feet deep, it
held up the whole procession for miles. Then the drivers, urged by the
impatience of those behind, lightened the load by pitching the contents
of the wagon into the river. The example was contagious, and soon
barrels of benzine, packing cases--some, alas! containing food--tents,
chairs, beds, were hurled indiscriminately over the precipice, and
bobbed, or floated, or sank, in the narrow swift-flowing waters. If
a wheel came off, the wagon, with its contents, was hurled over the
precipice. It was necessary to watch carefully, lest our own drivers
should adopt this simple method of easing the burden of their oxen, and
use their discretion as to what should be discarded.

Undercurrents of anxieties were always struggling to gain possession of
my mind; the anxiety to procure bread, meat, hay, wood, shelter, for
my weary, hungry column; anxiety for the health of the staff; anxiety
lest the cars should break down, or benzine fail; anxiety lest any of
the convoy should be left behind; anxiety to secure position in the
line, the narrow line of flight; and above all, anxiety lest the column
should, owing to error on my part, be captured by the enemies. But, as
it's impossible to have more than one real anxiety at a time, I reduced
all these to one--the anxiety to save that tiny portion of the brave
army which had been entrusted to my care. For what were our troubles
compared to the sufferings of this driven nation? For them the future
held no break in the darkness and chaos which were only transient for
us.

And this night I understood, as I had never understood before, the
meaning of the words, "brought to silence by their enemies." For the
multitude in front, and the multitude behind uttered, as they fled, no
sound, except cries of encouragement to their oxen. "Ide! Terrai! Stoi!
Chovai!" ("Go on! Hurry up! Stop! Get out of the way!") Grief, when it
wails, is pitiful enough, but grief borne in silence, betrays a tenser
tragedy. Had the misery in those breaking hearts, been uttered in a
single cry, that cry caught and re-echoed through the mountains, must
have broken the drum of the ear of God.

And, as I rode through the black night, amongst this suffering host, in
rain, in wind, in cold, in storm, deafened by the roaring of the guns,
which reverberated from rock to rock, all through the defile, thoughts,
though not consecutive, had a fierce intensity. The thought dominant
in my mind was the irreligion of the world. Crimes--the most gigantic
crimes were triumphant everywhere in Europe, and the exponents of
religion were silent. For prayer is smoke unless it is determination,
and religion is only sentiment if it is divorced from action. "Thy will
be _done_," is the ideal prayer.

During the first part of the night, I was joined by our friend, the
artillery major. He had placed his guns, and as we passed his camp,
he had been about to sit down to supper, but he saw us passing, and
he joined me, and rode with me for an hour, for a talk--a talk which
I shall never forget. For this Serbian officer was a philosopher,
well-read, and with an intellectual breadth of vision, and depth of
thought, which would certainly have been unusual in an army major of
Western Europe.

There was, that night, neither moon nor stars. Black clouds hung over
the mountains, which were dimly discernible, precipitous, close upon
either side of us. The darkness was complete, and all night long the
guns thundered ceaselessly against the mountain sides. (At home,
canaries were singing in their cages.) Death was near for many; it
might also be near for us. At any moment annihilation of our columns
was possible; the scene of what might happen, in this narrow gorge,
if the enemies overtook us--from both ends--was easily imagined.
We both knew the peril of the situation, but we did not talk about
that. And perhaps it was because, in the physical world, there was
no light visible, that we sought light in the realm of thought, and
discussed the problems of death, and of life beyond. He was one of
those few who can discuss without argument; we both knew that we knew
nothing; but we listened with eager interest to each other's guesses
concerning the great truths which are still so dramatically withheld
from our conscious intelligence. Why are they withheld? Is the God
who withholds them--is the God who is now permitting our European
holocaust--is He, in fact, all-powerful? Can anyone be all-powerful
unless he exists without conditions? But why crave an all-powerful
God? May not all-powerfulness have to go the way of jealousy, anger,
and all the other human attributes with which primitive man endowed
his deity? May not the germs of human evolution be within the human
soul, for us to develop or to neglect at will? Eve was free to take,
or to reject, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge--material knowledge;
are not we, perhaps, also free to take, or to reject, the fruit of
the Tree of Life--spiritual life? It is largely because we are taught
that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, that we tumble
into crimes of militarism. To leave ourselves in God's hands, is often
an excuse for idleness, and the result is that we find ourselves in
the hands of a war-lord. Autocratic government is giving place to
democratic government, on earth; may not our view of an autocratic God
also be doomed to disappear? If the Kingdom of Heaven is within us,
the King of Heaven must be there too, reigning not in solitary glory,
in empty space, but within each one of us. The souls of men are the
prism which should refract the radiant Spirit of God, and we must not
be disappointed when, in times of trouble, the human spectrum shows
the dark lines only. If we knew more about the laws of Nature, we
should know that the dark lines are due to local conditions, which give
invaluable proof of the Universal Law of Light.

My constant ejaculations--"Chovai! Stoi! Terrai! Napred!" ("Get out of
the way! Stop! Go on! Forward!") were like tugs at the tether, which
tied us to the material world, reminding us that we still had small
material parts to play.

I was specially interested during our talk to find that it was not only
in the older, and, as it might be thought, more effete civilisations
of Western Europe, that a consciousness of the incongruity of war
with twentieth century ideas, is becoming current. This officer,
representative of the best traditions of Eastern European soldierhood,
described how he had formerly been an enthusiastic lover of war, a
believer in its glories, and had once even sacrificed a good position
on the Staff, in order to be in the thick of the fighting line. And
now, though he suffered, as his personal record testified, from no lack
of courage or virility, war, in his eyes, was murder, and its glories
tinsel. I compared this Serbian major with our German devil-major at
Tongres. Which of the two was the more truly civilised? I realised
that Kipling's "East is East, and West is West, and never the twain
shall meet" does not apply to the east and west of Europe. The west of
Europe must, and will, unite with the Slav portion of the east, as a
safeguard against the Central Powers of darkness. This war is bringing
clearly before human consciousness in the east, as well as in the west
of Europe, the fact that it is logically impossible for civilised
mankind to preserve simultaneously two opposed standards of conduct:
for individuals, a high form of morality, in which life, honour, and
justice are revered; and for nations, a cynical non-morality, in which
murder, dishonour, and injustice are inculcated as the highest virtues.
We must raise the international standard or we shall inevitably debase
the individual standard of human right and wrong.

The fate of humankind, whilst this war lasts, is in the balance.
The fight between the Allies and the Central Powers is not merely
a struggle between one form of civilisation and another; between a
society which believes in full-blown militarism, and a society which
believes in a milder form of militarism. There is more than that
at stake. The struggle is between militarism and human evolution.
Europe is in travail--the travail preceding the birth of a new race.
We prayed God that the birth might not be still-born. For fear of
this, and for this reason alone, deliverance must not be prematurely
forced. The Central Powers, the arch exponents of militarism, must be
vanquished.

My friend and I were agreed, that in the future, militarism must be
exterminated, root and branch, if mankind is not to regress towards a
monstrous sub-humanity. There was no one and nothing to contradict us,
and we felt that if we lived a thousand years, our thoughts would never
be more appropriately leaded to plumb the depths of the sea of Truth.

After an hour, the Major left me, and went back to his murderous guns,
and as I rode on alone, I welcomed the ideas which we had exchanged,
to a place in my memory, but I warned them that they were not there
for ornament; ideas are lumber until they are expressed in action.
The thinker should also be the doer; the world's trouble is that too
often thinkers only think and doers only do. Society understands how to
translate into action its hatreds--the hatreds of a minority; it has
not yet learned to translate into action the love and sympathy of the
majority of mankind. Hatred is expressed easily enough in war; love
has no such dramatic mouthpiece. Hatred is positive; love still only
negative in expression. Love is still blind, and the poets shouldn't
joke about it. Love has not yet seen that there is a greater love than
for a man to lay down his life for his friend; to take up your life for
someone who is not your friend, requires a more difficult sacrifice.

The warmongers have an advantage over the peacemongers; they don't
talk, they act; the peacemongers don't act, they talk; and until their
talk is translated into action, they will be ineffective in conquering
war. It's no use sweeping, unless you get rid of the dust.



CHAPTER XXVIII


The crush of wagons in the gorge grew worse and worse, as the night
went on, till at 1 a.m. all movement stopped, and the block seemed
permanent. Were the Bulgars closing in upon us in front? Or were the
Albanians taking this easy opportunity of attacking convoys? There were
no officers about, and the soldiers of our column and of neighbouring
columns, who were unaware of the full danger of the situation, all
assumed that there was a bad hole or a broken bridge ahead of us, and
that the stoppage was irremediable. But nothing is irremediable till
all remedies have been tried, and then others can probably be invented.

There was barely room to pass, but I rode forward with Vooitch,
scraping and bruising my legs against the wagon wheels and hard wooden
pack-saddles, to try and discover the reason for the long halt. If
there was a serious reason, it was as well to be prepared. But we
found, as we had suspected, that a little way up the line, some of the
oxen had decided that, enemies or no enemies, it was now bedtime, and
they were calmly lying across the road, and the complacent drivers,
in the absence of officers, had acquiesced, as there was no space by
the side of the road, on which the animals could rest. The soldiers
were seated around the promptly lighted fires; they were not sleeping,
they never seemed to sleep; or eating, one seldom saw them eat; they
were gazing into the red ashes, in apparent ignorance, or indifference
to their pending fate. There was only one remedy. Vooitch and I were
both wearing thick boots. We dismounted, and with the optimism of Mark
Twain when he tried to push the glacier forward with his stick, we
walked along the line of the columns ahead of us, kicked the oxen out
of their slumbers, called the men from their dreams, and provoked a
move; we may thus possibly have prevented the capture of some of the
rearguard columns.

We then journeyed continuously, except for short compulsory halts, due
to congestion of convoys, all through that night, and the next day,
till 6 o'clock in the evening--a 25 hours' ride--till we reached Ravni,
in an opening which ended the first, or Maidevo, half of the gorge.
This opening was also the entrance to the second, or Yankova, portion
of the defile.

We bivouacked by the side of a small river. We economised time in
those days, and pitched as few tents as possible--one for hospital,
one for doctors, one for men, and one for women. This evening we
made our kitchen in the open, under a large walnut tree, by the side
of the stream. Four or five officers, including the Colonel who had
been the head of the powder factory at Krushievatz, joined us for
supper, and we gave them blankets, and straw, and the shelter of the
hospital tent, for the night. The Colonel, like most officers, had
been obliged to leave his wife and children in Krushievatz. How could
he have transported them, and where could he have taken them? He hated
the Germans, although, or was it because, he had a German wife, but
he trusted, he said, that they would be cavaliers. But he was nervous
and excited. Is it a wonder? He asked the question which I always
dreaded, "Where are the English?" And I could only reply, as always,
"Oh! they'll turn up some day." But I never, during our three months'
retreat, heard either officer, or soldier, utter a word of bitterness,
or reproach, about the non-arrival of the Allies. They always said,
with quiet dignity, that there was some good reason why they had not
yet been able to send help.

We were, of course, happy to offer these officers hospitality, and we
were glad to be able to show, even in a tiny way, British sympathy with
the Serbian nation. But now our little stock of stores was coming to
an end, and there was no prospect of renewal, and on this evening we
shared our last pot of jam with these Serbian friends. Could they, we
asked, have a more practical proof of sympathy than that?

Some of the oxen were lame, and I found that it was because the men had
carelessly omitted to reshoe them. Next morning, therefore, early, I
summoned all the drivers, and told each man to bring his oxen before
me, that I might examine their feet. Oxen parade. I then reminded
them that the time might come, any day, when we in our turn should be
in pursuit of the enemy, and how would they feel if they had to stay
behind because their oxen were lame? I was told it was not possible
to shoe them now, and this, that, and the other plausible excuse was
offered. But this was no time for excuses; fierce eye and deep voice
were summoned, and then at once the sergeant acquiesced. "Ja! Ja!
Dobro! Dobro!" ("Yes! Yes! All right! All right!") Then I heard him
murmur to Vooitch, as he shrugged his shoulders, "It's no use. If she
says it's got to be done, we've got to do it." And it was done. (I
knew there were shoes and a smith in another column near us.) That
little affair was scarcely finished, when I heard that one of the
kitchen boys was playing cards, when he had been told by the cooks to
fill the lamps. Fierce-eye business again. I don't believe in corporal
punishment, but I couldn't begin teaching the Serbian soldiers abstract
reasons for the necessity of obedience, and obedience was essential.
So, hoping to teach the sergeant a little elementary discipline, I
called him, put my whip in his hand, and took him with me to the
bivouac tent in which the delinquent was playing truant, and told him
he was to use the whip if I gave the word. We arrived in front of the
kitchen sleeping tent, and there, sure enough, was the naughty Nicola,
playing cards with three other soldiers. Very fierce eye, and very
fierce voice this time. They could play cards, I told them, in leisure
hours, not in work time; I took away the cards, tore them in pieces,
and told the sergeant to use the whip. He thought it would be a pity to
discriminate between Nicola and the others, and he belaboured all four,
and we had no illegitimate card-playing after that.

My next job that same morning concerned Sandford and Merton. We had,
two days ago on the trek, failing to find oxen, commandeered some cows
to help draw the wagons, as our oxen were exhausted. They had with them
two calves, and last night, on arrival, Sandford and Merton had killed
the calves, and, with their own little group of friends, they had eaten
them, without asking permission and--here was the rub--without offering
us any veal. Sandford was stout and lazy, and was catering very badly
for us, and if we had relied on his services, we and the cattle should
have fared badly, and now food was getting scarcer, and he gave
himself less, instead of more, trouble. So I took the opportunity of
a fierce-eye talk. I used to disbelieve in the necessity for anger,
but, with the soldiers, I found that an ounce of anger was worth a
ton of argument. But, for the sake of the interpreter, the wrath had
to be broken up into sections, else Vooitch forgot what I had said
and, then he invented, and his inventions were not the same as mine.
But to bring the wrath duly to the boil, then let it wait, simmering,
whilst the interpreter translated, then again boil and simmer, boil and
simmer, in quick alternation, as often as required, needed, in order to
be effective, a little stage management. So far, I had got on without
"damn," for which I didn't know the Serbian.

Our Artillery Major looked in for coffee and a talk after mid-day
dinner. News was as bad as ever, but he was as cheery as usual. There
were only a few wounded, and that was the worst sign of all.

At 4 p.m. came the order to move on. Night treks seemed now to be the
rule, and this night we must tackle the second half (Yankova portion)
of the defile.

The first stretch of road was terrible for the cars, very soft, and
deep in mud and holes, but the soldiers all helped to push and carry,
and the chauffeurs, as usual, mastered all difficulties. Before we
entered the gorge, we passed our divisional commander, who was watching
some of the artillery wagons enter the main road, from a by-track to
the hills, where the guns had been in position, and as we were held up,
we had a short talk. He was, as always, delightfully genial, friendly
and cheerful. If we passed safely through the gorge to-night, the Army
would, he said, probably be saved. There was renewed hope that the
French and English--and even the Russians were mentioned--were on their
way from Salonika. Possibly we might join them at Velles. He also gave
me the good news that our dispenser was to be removed next day.

The congestion last night had been so great, and had caused such
dangerous delay, that to-night steps were taken by officers to control
the way, and to get the columns in a single line, to allow of passing
up and down. Officers were also stationed at intervals to prevent
wagons and refugees from butting in from side-roads and causing
confusion, which it would take a Dante to describe.

The cars were allowed to go short distances ahead and await us at
intervals, but in view of the possibility of capture by enemies, at
either end of the gorge, it was not desirable that they should be
beyond easy reach of the rest of the column. The guns were making
their usual din, resounding noisily against the mountain sides, as we
entered the gorge, but the valley seemed less full of forebodings than
yesterday, and we reached Blatzi at the astonishingly early hour of
eleven p.m.

I left the column outside the town, and went on with Vooitch to find
shelter. But the town was choked with troops, and every house, though
deserted by its own inhabitants, was full of soldiers. Eventually we
found a side lane for the encampment, and by one o'clock we were all
asleep. At six the next morning, some officers vacated two rooms in a
house near, and we took possession, for kitchen and hospital. Wounded
arrived, and we had to evacuate them to Kurshumlya, about twenty
kilometres distant.

Major A. and the French doctors were bivouacked at the other end of
the town, and came to see us at tea-time--the former much depressed,
the latter still full of optimism. A cousin of our Artillery Major, so
like him that he might have been a twin brother, presented himself,
and from talks with him and with other officers, I gathered that the
situation was extremely black. The numbers of the infantry were rapidly
diminishing; 1,000 had been left, dead and wounded, on the field near
Bagrdan. It had been impossible to move the wounded; the Germans had
fired on the ambulance parties. Officers were now reduced in numbers
by one third. The absorbing consideration still was, "should we meet
the French and English before the Bulgars caught us up?" Skoplye was
already in Bulgarian hands, and now I heard for the first time that,
if there was no hope of being joined by the Allies, the Army must
retreat across the Montenegrin mountains, to the coast of Albania. But
conversation still ended always with the hope that the Allies would
come.



CHAPTER XXIX


We left Blatzi at 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, November 11th, for Tulari,
half-way to Kurshumlya. The road was less bad, and shortly after
passing the Nish turning, we were temporarily cheered by an officer
who, as he rode past, told us that he had heard that the Allies had
taken Nish; but, of course, it was not true. We arrived at Tulari,
at 1.30, in pelting rain and sleet. The fields were all under water,
and we were lucky to secure rooms in two of the few small houses of
which the village was composed. We were kept busy with wounded and
evacuations and burials. Major A.'s column arrived a little later, and
one of the French doctors had supper with us. He told us that the other
doctor was mislaid: he had ridden in advance, and had evidently lost
the convoy. He turned up, in a starved condition, two days later.

We left Tulari at 2 p.m. on November 12th for Barbatovatza, and the
order said that we were to go via Choongula. But the first 200 yards
of road were, fortunately, so bad with mud and holes that, though the
cars tried, as in duty bound, they could not get through it, and I was
obliged to let them separate from the rest of the column, and go _via_
Kurshumlya along the main road. And the road followed by the column
was throughout so bad that it would have been impossible, even for our
wonderful cars and chauffeurs; the authorities, when they ordered us
to take this track, must have forgotten that we had cars with us, for
there was no attempt at road, and the way lay over ploughed fields, and
the mud was often up to the axles of the wagon wheels. The oxen had
heavy labour all the time, and in many places we had to outspan oxen
and, with their help, drag the wagons one after the other out of deep
bogs.

There were so few other columns going our way, and the firing line was
so near to us, that I wondered if I had, after all, made a mistake in
taking this route. But I had acted according to instructions. The way
for some distance ran along a high plateau, parallel with the road on
which we had travelled from Blatzi. On our left was another plateau,
and all around, and in the distance, were mountains which were now
snow-capped. Blatzi village seemed to be ablaze, and the hills between
us and it were red with the fire of cannons, and reeking with shrapnel
smoke. But the view was magnificent: dead, yellow leaves of the scrub
of Turkey oak--not the common oak, nothing was ever common--made a
gorgeous show of colour against the dark blue mountains.

At 4.30 p.m. the daylight vanished. There were no roads, but tracks led
in all directions, over ploughed fields, and through woods, and it was
difficult in the darkness to know which to take. But, by good luck, we
steered straight, and at 10 p.m. I saw with joy the fires of bivouacked
columns, and knew that we were near our goal; and, to my intense
relief, the cars containing the British Staff arrived an hour later.

We encamped under trees by the roadside. At one o'clock, when I was
about to go to bed in the car, an officer came up. He was very excited,
and asked why in the name of--I think he said Heaven--we had encamped
in this place? He had been told, he said, to put his guns here, in
position for a big battle that was to be fought early in the morning
against the Germans. I told him that we, too, were here by order. That
must, he said, be a mistake. So I showed him my order paper, and he
shrugged his shoulders and went away. Major A. was encamped on the
other side of the road, and I went across. I heard sounds like small
guns being fired in quick succession. I tracked them to their source,
inside a tent, and found the Major, the two French doctors, and one or
two other officers, all asleep. I woke the Major, told him what the
Captain had said, and asked him if he thought that the Captain had
known what he was talking about. The unshaved Major sat up in bed,
much interested, and suggested that I should send a line of enquiry
to Headquarters Staff, who were lodged in the school-house near; and
he asked me to let him know the result. I went, with Vooitch, to the
buildings in which the P.M.O. was supposed to be, and I asked the
guard, who was walking up and down outside, if the Staff were there.
He said, "Yes." "Were they asleep?" "Yes." So I said "Thank you," and
came away, and went to bed. If they were sleeping there couldn't be
any hurry for us; all must be well, and I took a four hours' rest.
But it was sometimes a little difficult on such occasions. For I was,
above all things, anxious to avoid giving the impression that we were
nervous. We were not; but, at the same time, I must not, for the sake
of my own pride, expose the column to unnecessary risk.

In the morning I had a talk with our P.M.O. He had now, he said, lost
everything. His house and possessions in Arangelovatz had been taken by
the Germans, and, worse still, in Kragujevatz, not only his house and
property, but his wife and five children were in the Germans' hands. I
knew that the pessimism of both the P.M.O. and of Major A., with whom I
also talked that morning, was only too well grounded, and I felt half
ashamed to be able to talk cheerfully, whilst I was only suffering
vicariously; but I always argued with them, that France and England
were big nations, and that they would not have intervened, and have
sent troops to Salonika to help Serbia, if they had not meant to aid
effectually; their prestige was at stake, and they would never allow
Serbia to be expunged.

On the other hand, all Serbians realised that England had not yet
begun to understand the groundwork of Serbian politics. Even admitting
that England felt now goodwill towards Serbia, it was a goodwill which
was accidental, and due to extraneous circumstances, rather than
to appreciation of the motives which had actuated Serbia in taking
the field against superior enemies. And nothing in all history is
more wonderful than the way in which the Serbian people have, during
centuries, struggled, then suffered passively when struggle was
useless, then struggled again for their ideal; for an ideal which must
have been sub-conscious in the minds of a people who had lived for
centuries scattered amongst their tyrannical conquerors--the ideal of
race freedom.

The Serbian people could, at a price, have bought exemption from this
present annihilation, but at a price which would have killed for ever,
hope of the eventual freedom, not only of the four million Serbian and
Montenegrin Slavs, but of the seven million Slavs, now living in a
neighbouring and hostile State.

All Serbians also realised that England still had only a superficial
acquaintance with the Serbian character, and was still in the habit
of judging them by the unfortunate act which had first brought their
nation to the knowledge of the British public. Of that act they had
heard only through newspaper comments circulated by their enemies: the
extenuating circumstances had never been learned.

But England had not only exaggerated the shortcomings of the Serbians,
she had also exaggerated the virtues of the Bulgarians, and probably
never believed till the latter crossed the Serbian frontier, that
which every Serbian peasant had known from the beginning of the
war--namely, that the ambitions of the German Ferdinand were not based
upon the ideals of a democratic people, but upon the designs of a
Prince who was in sympathy with the military autocracy of the Central
Empires. Every Serbian knew that between Bulgo-German autocracy, and
Serbian democracy, there could be no affinity. England would, they
knew, discover this in time, but meanwhile Serbia was being sacrificed.

The confidence with which Serbians believed that when England
understood the ideal for which Serbia was struggling, she would extend,
not only the little finger, but the whole hand, of fellowship, moved
me almost more than their sufferings. And if, as a nation, we do not
fulfil the expectation that we, who have won our own freedom, shall
help the Serbians to win theirs, we can never look a democratic country
in the face again.

But the continuous retreating could not fail to have a depressing
influence on everybody, except those who were commanders, and this
morning at Barbovatz we had an illustration of the different spirit
which actuates respectively a defeated or a victorious soldier. One of
the ambulance men came up and suggested that the big brown tent which
had been brought for hospital purposes, should now be abandoned. It
filled two wagons on the treks; the oxen were growing weak with the
continuous journeying; corn was never now obtainable, and hay only in
insufficient quantities, with the result that the roads were already
strewn with the dead bodies of oxen and of horses. The man said, and
truly, that we did not use this tent now--there was never time to put
it up--and the other tents were large enough. But it belonged to the
Serbian hospital equipment, and I would not abandon it till we were
compelled. "What you say is all very well," I said, "while we are
retreating, but when we, in our turn, pursue----" "Ah!" interrupted
the man eagerly, "I will carry it on my own back then."

We had a momentary gleam of hope that afternoon, from a rumour that
the German troops had withdrawn from our front, and had gone, it was
thought, to meet the Russians, who were believed to be advancing from
Negotina, through Rumania. The Austrians, without the Germans, would
be manageable. But this, like all other rumours of good news, was
false. It served, however, as a temporary tonic to the spirits. It is
always easier to bear disaster than the fear of disaster. Disaster
has a bracing influence, but fear paralyses action, and I came to the
conclusion that these rumours served a useful purpose.

We left next morning, November 14th, at five o'clock, for Spantzi, only
a two hours' trek. We found a dry field for the camp, and a farmhouse
for kitchen. The guns were very near and noisy that day.



CHAPTER XXX


Next morning, November 15th, we moved, at five o'clock, for Marzovatz,
where we arrived at 8 a.m. We were lucky in finding a delightful
camping-place, in an orchard, surrounded by fine mountains. Our oxen
were getting exhausted, so I sent the corporal to try and find others,
also additional wagons, as the animals could no longer pull their full
loads.

We now heard, to our regret, that our division, which had all this time
borne the brunt of the fighting, was to have a rest, and the Drinske
division was to take the first line. This would probably mean fewer
wounded for us, and our doctors and nurses would grow restive.

At 9.30 that evening, Monday, November 15th, the order came to go on
to Podyevo, some distance beyond Kurshumlya. We were away by 10 p.m.
The night was fine, but very cold. Kurshumlya, as we passed through,
was in darkness, and deserted except for the usual groups of refugees,
huddled round camp fires, in the streets. One of the cars broke down in
the town, and we had to leave the car with a Serbian soldier-chauffeur
who had turned up and had offered his services. He was to repair it, or
find oxen, and bring it on as soon as possible. If the Germans overtook
him before he had done his work, he must destroy the car and follow
us. But we never saw the car again. The man mended it, and was on his
way to join us, when, on a steep and narrow road, it stuck, and some
officers, who were following, blew it up with gunpowder and set fire to
it, to prevent it from falling into the enemy's hands.

Our way lay through a narrow gorge, and the road was atrocious, and,
in the dark, dangerous; and as the chauffeurs were exhausted, with the
constant strain, and lack of sleep, we decided at 3 a.m. to call a halt
till dawn at 5.30. After that came a steep hill up to Prepolatz, the
old Turkish frontier.

At the base of this hill lay Banya, and a long stretch of flat muddy
road, which was blocked, from end to end, with a solid phalanx of
wagons, all motionless, as if they were carved in stone. Round the far
corner the hill began, and what was happening there, no one could see.
I was waiting on my weary horse for our turn to move, when a young
captain of a commissariat column came up, and in excellent English,
invited me to come and drink a glass of tea with him in his camp by
the side of the road. He recognised me because he had visited our
Kragujevatz hospital in the old days. He was encamped with his large
column in a sea of mud, and we sat round his fire on little stools
which sank deep into the slush; but I enjoyed the tea, which helped to
keep me awake during a weary halt.

It was sometimes a little difficult to discriminate between times
when it was right that we should be shunted out of the line by a more
important column, and times when we must hold our own. For artillery
columns, of course, we always gave way, but sometimes extra officious
under-officers, in control of columns, would try and bounce us out of
the line illegitimately, and that required the fierce-eye business.
Serbian officers were invariably courteous, and though I refused to
take undue advantage of sex, they often smuggled us into the line when
we might otherwise have had long to wait.

At Banya, our Artillery Major's double, who was also an artillery
officer, appeared, and he immediately arranged that our column should
follow his convoy, and others had to stand aside. Soon after that, the
Major arrived, and rode with me for a little while on his way again to
place his guns. He introduced me to another officer who had lately been
embarrassed by the arrival from Berlin of his German wife and seven
children, who were all now travelling with the convoy.

The cars, as usual, took the hill wonderfully, and went on and waited
for the column at Prepolatz, near the old Turkish fort. This was the
boundary of Old Serbia, the entrance to the newer Serbia of recent
conquests, and my heart ached for our Serbian comrades, who must
now say good-bye to the best-loved and most-prized portion of their
country, and leave it, with all that was most precious to them, in the
enemy's hands; knowing that the enemy would now eat bread from corn
which they had not sown, and drink wine from vineyards which they had
not planted; whilst the sowers and the planters, the owners of this
fertile soil, were fleeing, a spectral nation to a spectral land,
without clothes, without money, without food; but, all honour to them,
never without hope, because they were never without an ideal. Will the
day ever come, I wondered, when "the arrogance of the proud shall cease
and the haughtiness of the terrible be laid low?"

The Major and I were glad to rejoin the cars which carried the food,
and to eat a hurried sandwich. I had had nothing since the captain's
glass of tea in the early morning; the Major never seemed to eat.
We reached Dubnitz at 9.30 p.m.--a twenty-four hours' trek. Our
field-kitchen oxen had broken down, and we had to send others to help
bring the field kitchen in. It arrived next morning after we had left
for Dole Luzhan, and it followed us.

We left at 8 o'clock, on a twelve hours' trek. A snow blizzard, with
intense cold, made the conditions unpleasant for us, and deadly for the
beasts. Continued cold, exhaustion from forced marches, and increasing
lack of food, made the track a shambles. The well-aimed ball of death
was knocking down oxen and horses, like ninepins, all along the road.
One of our riding horses died also to-day from cold and exhaustion. It
was bad enough to see these poor beasts dead along the road, but it was
still worse to see them dying, and to know that all they needed for
restoration to life, was warmth and rest and food. I thought of the
Blue Cross Society, but even they could have done nothing, as there was
no time; enemies on three sides were always close behind us.

When we arrived at the village we found that the cars, which had gone
on in advance, were standing in two feet of water. The chauffeurs and
the staff had gone into a cottage to dry their clothes, and in the
meantime, a stream which ran across the road had expanded into a lake.
The cottage was also surrounded by the flood, and the doctors and
nurses were carried out by the gallant chauffeurs, who then waded up to
their knees and rescued the cars.

We found camping-ground for the column in an Arnaut (Albanian) village,
and we ourselves slept in the cars upon the road; the snow was too deep
for tent pitching.



CHAPTER XXXI


We left next morning, at nine, for Prishtina. Progress was very slow,
the road being more than ever blocked with columns and refugees. The
cold all day was bad enough, and but for straw-covered stirrups and
my wonderful rubber canvas boots, worn over three pairs of stockings,
I must have had frozen feet, but between 4 and 10 p.m. the cold was
intense.

Amongst many memorable days, that day stands conspicuous, for at dusk
we began to cross the historic battlefield of Kossovo. Upon this
desolate plain, which extends southwards to Skoplye, was fought, in
1389, the Waterloo of Serbia, the battle of Kossovo Polye (the field
of blackbirds). Upon this plain, the Serbs had suffered, at the hands
of the Turks, a defeat which robbed them of nationhood during nearly
500 years; a defeat which must have been the harder to bear because it
came after 200 years of flourishing empire; this empire had begun with
the Nemanya dynasty, under Stephen, in 1196, and had reached its zenith
under another famous Stephen--Stephen Dushan--who died mysteriously in
1355.

It was only in 1878, and, strangely enough, through the Treaty of
Berlin, that the Serbs regained their independence.

This Kossovo battle, more than any other in Balkan history, seems to
have gripped the imagination of both Turks and Serbians, conquerors
and defeated. Poets relate that the Turkish Amurath the First, though
a Sultan, and presumably accustomed to such pastimes, was enjoying a
honeymoon when he received news that the Serbs and Albanians had routed
his legions, in the fastnesses of the Black Mountain; he, therefore,
bade a hurried farewell to his bride, and, as there were no cars or
aeroplanes in those days, he galloped to Kossovo, accompanied, it is
said, by so many men "that a horseman could not ride from one wing of
his army to the other in a fortnight. The plain of Kossovo was one mass
of steel; horse stood against horse, man against man; the spears formed
a thick forest; the banners obscured the sun; there was no space for a
drop of water to fall between them."

But also on King Lazar's side, many Serbs, Bosnians, and Albanians
were banded together. They must have made a formidable array, for
legends record that at the last moment, Amurath hesitated to attack
the allied hosts, and that his doubts were only allayed by a dream
which came to one of his counsellors, bidding him to "conquer the
infidels." Lazar, also, seems to have been in touch with the heavenly
powers. They, metaphorically, rang him up just before the battle should
have begun, and asked him if he would rather have a heavenly, or an
earthly kingdom. If he chose the latter, he would be victorious over
the Sultan, but he could not have both, and if he wanted a heavenly
kingdom, he must submit to being defeated by the Sultan. Lazar appears
to have asked the exchange to hold the line whilst he made up his
mind; he finally decided upon the Kingdom of Heaven. The poets seem
universally to have approved his choice, but though it may have been
wisdom for himself, it was bad luck for his army, his dukes, and his
nine brothers-in-law, who perished with him. He should either not have
fought, or he should have fought meaning to win.

And now, when we set foot upon that steppe, it seemed that those 500
years that had passed since the first Kossovo day, had been expunged.
For the Serbian Army, now defeated by the allies of those same Turks,
was still, like a ghost from the past, fleeing across the silent
plain. The panoplies had fallen from their horses, the armour from
their men: it was now a skeleton army, in skeleton clothes, but it
was carrying the same soul, of the same nation, to guard as a holy
treasure, till the day of the Lord shall come. In the darkness, the
physical wonders of the place would have been hidden, but for the white
snow which outlined the low hills, and transformed their rolling ridges
into the foamy waves of a tempestuous sea, which seemed, on both sides
of the narrow road, to be advancing in tidal waves to engulf us, as we
moved slowly onwards, co-partners in that spectral flight.

At every few yards, corpses of oxen and of horses, and bodies of
oxen and of horses not yet dead, but unable to rise, kept the image
of Death foremost in the mind; and then, as though to give her cold,
green-blooded sanction to the scene, the moon rose over the hillocks,
sailed defiantly across the sky, revealed dead horrors of the present,
and recalled to the eye of the imagination, horrors which had lain
hidden during 500 years.

The moon revealed, also, one picture of dumb and hopeless misery never
to be forgotten. Apart from our funeral procession, nothing living, not
even the famous blackbirds, had been visible during mile after mile,
mile after mile, in all the wide expanse till, at a turn in the road,
I saw, a hundred yards to our left, standing up to his fetlocks in the
snow, abandoned, because it could no longer pull, a lean bay horse. It
was too weak to move, and it knew that if it lay down it would never
rise, but must succumb to a lingering death from cold and hunger; so
it stood, staring into nothingness, knowing that no help would come.
It was the dumbness of the misery that appealed, and I realised that
the misery of many of us who are suffering in this war, is almost as
dumb as the misery of that poor beast. And we shall remain dumb until
we have the courage to wrest the flaming sword from the hands of the
cherubim who guard the Tree of Life. The dictionaries tell us that
cherubim are second-class angels, so there ought to be no difficulty,
if the attack were only determined enough.

It was 9 p.m. when, cold and hungry, we sighted the picturesque town
of Prishtina, with its square-roofed houses and narrow streets. At
the entrance there was bad congestion--a phalanx of wagons were all
struggling to pass through a narrow alley, and whilst waiting our turn,
one of our men, who had gone on with the cars in advance, gave me a
shock. He told me that our two women doctors, and the nurses, were all
in a Turkish harem. It was true, and they much enjoyed the hospitality
of a kindly old Turkish gentleman.

The only possible site for the wagons for the night was in a muddy
square. I slept, as always, in the car, in one of the side streets, but
not till our faithful cook had given me some much-needed supper, as we
sat on little stools in the mud, round a fire which the soldier-cook,
Demetrius, had lighted for us in the street.

Next morning, early, a camping-site must be found, and I rode with
Vooitch along the Prizrend road. Very soon we saw, on our left, a large
hospital building, with an open grass space between it and the road.
This was the military hospital; we went in and asked the commandant to
allow us to encamp in the garden. He agreed, and he also kindly gave
us a room in the hospital for sleeping quarters for the doctors and
nurses, and in the garden a round summer house, which could be used as
kitchen, dining-room and sleeping-room for some of the men.

At Prishtina we were now, as I understood, at the parting of the ways.
If there was still hope of our joining the Allies, the Army would
continue on its southward journey, _via_ Prizrend, and we noticed, on
our arrival at the hospital site, that all the convoys were passing
along this road, in front of our camp, and that was a good sign. But
if this hope must be abandoned, then all hope of victory and all hope
of saving Serbia was at an end, and the only aspiration would be to
save the Army; for this there was only one road of salvation open--over
the mountains of Montenegro and Albania to the coast. This road, which
branched off from the Prizrend road, nearly opposite our camp, was at
present lifeless, and that was good.

In the town we met, to our astonishment, our Doctor MacMillan and Mr.
Rodgers. They gave us the news that Nurse Clifton had been accidentally
shot (as before mentioned). She was now lying ill at Mitrovitza, and
they had been to Prishtina for stores, and were now on their way
gallantly to rejoin her and Doctor Iles, and Nurse Bainbridge, with
the certainty of being taken prisoners by the Austrians, as "Ginger,"
though better, was too ill to be moved. (They returned safely to London
in February, 1916.)

Next day a young German officer strolled into our mess hut. He was
a prisoner, but the only restraint upon him was that he must report
himself at the military station every night. During the day he was as
free as we were, and he came and took meals with us several times.
His views upon the military position were interesting: the war had
been brought on by England; France had been the first to violate
Belgian territory; and the war would be finished in a month; there was
no chance at all for the Allies; we could not win; the Germans had
practically won already. Our hospital party would certainly be taken
prisoners in a few days. We told him that some of us had enjoyed one
experience of being prisoners in German hands, and that, though we had
no intention of being taken prisoners by anybody, we would rather fall
into the hands of the Bulgarians, the Turks, or the Austrians, than of
the Germans. We told him of our devil-major at Tongres, and he replied,
"Ah! you'll find you will be much better treated this time; you mark my
words." We have marked them ever since.

Other visitors were two blue-jackets from Admiral Trowbridge's unit,
which had done such fine work on the Danube. They were now, with their
guns, also in the general retreat, and were encamped near Prishtina.

But all day long, columns were still passing along the road in front
of us, towards Prizrend. "Terrai! Ide! Desno! Levo!" ("Get on! Make
a move! To the right! To the left!") was in our ears all day and all
night.

The difficulty of getting hay for the animals became greater every
day. I found this evening, when I went my round, that nothing had been
provided for the oxen, or the horses, for the night, or for the next
morning. So I routed Sandford out of his slumbers, and sent him to
neighbouring villages to search for fodder. He must have hated me. But
I have never wished to be popular; popularity is a drag on the wheel of
effort.

Prishtina was, of course, in process of being evacuated, and though we
were too late for food stores, we secured for the soldiers, from the
Red Cross depôt, a number of under-garments which were much needed.
There were, unfortunately, no boots, and the men's footgear was
deplorable.

November 20th arrived, and still I received no order to move. I was a
little uneasy lest the message should have miscarried, as the P.M.O.
had told me, when we first arrived, that we should be moving on at
once, and I noticed that the convoys which had, a day or two ago,
passed along the southern road to Prizrend, were now returning, and
taking the western road towards Montenegro. That was disquieting, for
I guessed that it might mean that the dice were loaded against us, that
the Allies had failed us, and that the intention of the Serbian Army to
continue southwards, through Prizrend to Monastir, there to join with
the Allies, must be abandoned. The Bulgarians were already at Skoplye,
and it was obvious that, if the Serbian Army risked encountering the
victorious Bulgars, and was not successful, the fate of the Army would
be sealed, for the road of retreat to Montenegro and Albania would then
be blocked by the Germans and the Austrians.

The moment of decision for the Headquarters Staff, between going south,
and risking the annihilation of the Army, upon which the existence of
a future Serbia depended, or going west, and abandoning their beloved
country to the enemy, must have been as bitter as any moment even in
Serbia's tragic history. We should learn the decision when our order
came to move.

But still no order came, though the columns all around us, artillery,
cavalry, and the pontoons on the other side of the hospital building,
had all gone. All the staff of the military hospital had gone. The
Secretary was a Russian. He was very bitter, and consequently unjust,
to the French and English. He said that the former were drinking
absinthe, and the latter whisky, at home, whilst Serbia perished. He
was busy evacuating his hospital, and he kept urging me to go, and
not to wait for the order. He said we should certainly be cut off by
the Bulgars, if we did not get away at once. Convoys which had gone
towards Prizrend, had been recalled, and all were now hurrying to the
Montenegrin frontier. Could I not hear that the Bulgarian guns sounded
louder and louder as they drew nearer every hour? But I wouldn't go
till the order came.

All that day I tried in vain to procure more oxen and wagons, as the
men said our oxen could not possibly carry all the material, but
without success, and I was obliged at last, reluctantly, to abandon the
large brown tent. The Russian Secretary allowed me to put it in his
hospital, which was then empty.

And still no order came. On the evening of Sunday the 21st, I sent
an orderly to try and find the Headquarters Staff, and to enquire if
there were any instructions for us. The man came back saying that
our order had been sent yesterday. "Has the P.M.O. sent the order
by you now, or given you a message?" "No, he said it would come." I
could not, therefore, leave, as I had not instructions as to where to
go, and didn't even know whether our road would be towards Prizrend,
or Montenegro. I couldn't send the orderly again that night, as the
Headquarters were a long distance away. We only had three riding horses
now, and they were exhausted, and must be spared for the next trek. And
every hour the Bulgarian guns thundered louder and nearer on one side
of us, and the German guns on the other.

Early next morning (Monday, November 22nd) I sent the orderly to
Headquarters, and told him that he must this time bring back a written
order, and at 7 a.m. he returned with the small white envelope. He had
seen the Divisional Commander, who was very angry when he heard that we
had received no order. We ought, he said, to have left two days ago,
and I must now make up for lost time.

Then came an exciting moment; were we to go towards Prizrend or
Montenegro? I have never opened an envelope with more acute anxiety,
for the fate of the Serbian Army, and of the Serbian people, would be
disclosed. And if the fate of my own army and my own people had been
contained in that small envelope, I could not have felt more deeply
concerned.

The order said: "Take your column at once to Petch (near the
Montenegrin frontier) _via_ Valorno Han, Kievo, Lapushnik, and Dresnik,
and _don't halt till you get to Dresnik_." That was, I knew, the
temporary death sentence of the Serbian nation. It meant that our
backs, the backs of the Serbian Army, would now be turned to hope,
Allies, and victory, and we must face--better not think of what we
might have to face. Thoughts and energies must be concentrated in
saving all we could of the Serbian Army, for future effort. This
thought must be our beacon to lead us on with firm step and determined
heart.

We were ready to start when the messenger returned at 7 a.m. (Monday,
November 22nd), but the difficulty of getting into the line was great,
because convoys and fugitives were now converging from all directions,
on this one road of escape.

The cars went on first; they were to wait for us after half an hour's
run; but when we came to the first cross road, we discovered that they
had taken the wrong turn, so I had to send messengers flying after
them, and we waited for them, with the column, by the side of the
road, on an open plain. The cars returned, but we could not get back
on to the road or regain our position in the line. We were by then
surrounded by a solid block of convoys, on the plain beside the road. A
glove could not have been dropped clear, amongst that chaos of wagons,
horses, oxen, soldiers and refugees.

When the cars arrived I sent for the sergeant; he couldn't be found,
so I searched, and found him playing cards with the sergeants of
other columns. He said it was hopeless to expect to move to-day; some
of the columns had been already waiting here for two days; we had
better make up our minds to spend the night here. It was true that the
columns around us had outspanned their oxen, and the men were sitting
complacently round their ubiquitous fires, though the Bulgarian guns
were dinning louder and louder every minute in their ears. It certainly
looked hopeless to expect that jumble of wagons, animals and men, ever
to disentangle themselves and break away into the serried line of
convoys, artillery, transport, and refugees, which were all streaming
without a break, along the road beside them. A more complete nightmare
it would be difficult to picture. But I told the sergeant that we must
get on at once; our oxen must not be outspanned; I didn't care what
other columns did; if they chose to be taken by the Bulgars, that
was their affair. He said it was impossible to get on to the road;
we couldn't move either forward or backward, and between us and the
road, and parallel with the road, was a broad deep ditch. There was,
he said, nothing to be done but to wait patiently--the fatal doctrine
of Kismet, by which he had been all his life impregnated. He was never
resourceful, and now despair had paralysed him. But I had no intention
of calmly letting the column be captured by the Bulgars, so I examined
the ditch near to us, sent for some of the soldiers, told them to bring
spades, and then ordered them to level the ditch. This was soon done. I
then warned the column to be ready to move at a moment's notice, and,
with Vooitch, I stood on the road watching an opportunity to break in.
We stopped an officer who was commanding a passing column and asked
him to insist on our having a place after his column; as we were a
hospital we had, by right, precedence over many others. He responded
by immediately stopping the columns behind him, and he gave us a place
just behind the carriage in which was riding the General of the Kossovo
Division. I heard afterwards that some thousands of the people whom we
left behind on the plain, when we crossed that ditch, were captured by
the Bulgars.



CHAPTER XXXII


But the congestion occasioned by the retreating of all the various
convoys of an army 200,000 strong, with their innumerable oxen and
horse wagons, plus the fugitives, with or without wagons, along bad and
narrow roads, was now the more dangerous, because four enemies--the
Germans, the Austrians, the Bulgars and, henceforth, the Arnauts or
Albanians, who made sporadic and murderous raids upon the convoys for
the sake of loot--were all close upon our heels. From Barchinatz, in
the north of Serbia, to Scutari, near the coast of Albania, the sad
cortège was winding its way, like a writhing snake, without beginning
and without end, slowly, at oxen's pace, along roads, which sometimes
looked impassable, with mud, and holes, and broken bridges.

The poor old Kossovo General had a narrow escape from drowning, or
from a bad ducking, soon after we began to follow him. We came to a
swollen river, over which there was no bridge; the water came over the
steps of the four-seated pony carriage in which he drove, and, as the
bottom of the stream was mud and boulders alternately, the carriage
nearly overturned many times. I was ready to rescue him, but I expected
every minute to be submerged myself. When I had forded safely through,
leading a way for the others, I found that the fool of a sergeant had
let another column break in, and intercept our rear wagons, which ran
the risk of being left behind; so once more I was obliged to plunge
into the water and splash up and down, and risk being overturned by
angry, desperate drivers, and riders, whilst I insisted on our wagons
getting a passage, and showed the drivers the treacherous places to
avoid. The General soon got ahead of us, and we never saw him again.

We travelled all through the day and all through the night, with the
exception of an outspan during two hours from 11 to 1 p.m., when we had
supper by the roadside.

At 5 a.m. (Tuesday, November 23rd) we waited for the cars, which had
stayed behind to rest awhile, but they got blocked, and did not reach
us till 10 o'clock a.m. The cold during the night had been intense, and
I was often obliged to dismount and to walk, in the thick mud, to keep
my feet from freezing. Soon after starting again on Tuesday, November
23rd, we came to a wooden bridge, from which some planks had been
removed by the column ahead of us, for firewood. An army on the march
will commit any crime for firewood, and to a Serbian soldier, firewood
seems of more importance than even bread. Before the cars could pass,
we had to cut down some trees, which were, fortunately, available, and
mend the bridge. It seemed certain that the time would come when the
cars must be abandoned. How would the staff and their baggage then be
carried? The wagons could carry no more; but I always remembered the
old woman, who complained that "she 'ad indeed 'ad many troubles in
'er life, though"--she added, as an afterthought--"most of 'em 'ad
never com'd off." We, too, had a few troubles that day which didn't
come off. At one deep and bridgeless stream across the road, steep mud
banks led to it and from it; the cars made dashes and scrambled through
marvellously, but some of the wagons overturned in mid-stream. The
drivers then waded into the water, above their knees, to drag up the
fallen oxen, shouting "Ide! Ide! Terrai! Terrai!" and beating the poor,
panting beasts till they struggled to their feet and scrambled out
somehow. When they were out, they couldn't be given time to recover
breath, because of the multitudes following behind.

Evening came and no outspan could yet be made, and it was now obvious
that a second night must be spent without sleep. Sometimes our column,
with others, would be shunted to the side of the road, to make way
for artillery transport, which must, of course, have precedence. At
twilight, on this evening, at the top of a steep descent, we had been
thus halted, but finally, an officer in command at this point of the
road, ordered way to be made for us, and we started, in the dark, on a
narrow road, which was worse than anything we had yet met, with deep
holes and mud up to the axles. I could not believe that the cars could
possibly get through, but Mr. Little walked ahead with me, and said it
might possibly be done. The cars made the descent safely and, finding
that a road which was being reserved for artillery was better than the
road which we and all the other columns must follow, we obtained leave
for the cars to take that road and to meet us at Dreznik. And thankful
I was that this was done, for the road on which we travelled would have
been impossible, even for our wonderful cars and chauffeurs.

There were now only five motors, and they were overweighted. So J.
G. and Mr. Little came with the column and drove in one of the horse
wagons. At the bottom of the descent, the road ceased and became a
track across a narrow, swampy, grass plain. Here there was a congestion
of convoys which blocked us from 2 to 5 a.m. This was a blessing, as
the animals were exhausted. Rugs and coats were in the cars, but we sat
round the fire on some straw, made coffee, and pretended that there was
no frost and that we were quite warm.

Before dawn (on Wednesday the 24th) came the moment when we had to take
advantage of other columns who might be dozing, and get into the line
before them. There was no road, only a track through beech scrub and
up a steep ascent. I was accompanied, for a portion of the way, by the
Artillery Major, whose wife and family had lately joined him; two of
his sons, well-grown and well-mannered boys of about 15 and 16, were
with him, in Serbian uniform.

On the top of the hill, when we reached an opening in the forest,
we were told that we must halt while the road ahead of us was being
mended. That sounded hopeful, and we always cheered the men with
every scrap of hope that came our way. Meantime I was invited by some
officers to have breakfast with them--coffee, and little chunks of
fat bacon and bread--a huge treat. Soon afterwards we continued our
journey--the mended road was, alas! like all other good news, only a
rumour--over ploughed fields, feet deep in mud.

In the middle of the day, after a time of terrible straining for the
oxen and horses, we were about to outspan for an hour's rest, but I
was told we mustn't stop, even for a quarter of an hour. The animals,
however, were exhausted, and we gave them a ten minutes' breathing
interval, and the men time to swallow some food, and we went on. Would
Kievo ever come in sight?

We continued all through that day (Wednesday, November 24th) in one
ceaseless struggle with mud and ploughed fields, and through scrub
of Turkish oak and beech woods--no road anywhere. Towards evening
we climbed a steep hill through scrub, and reached a plateau which
would, under normal circumstances, have given great joy, for a more
gorgeous view it would be impossible to find. At first I thought that
the snow-white peaks in the high heaven, to the west, and south, were
fleecy clouds, but I soon saw that they were snow-capped mountains,
away up in the sky at an incredible height, as far away from this
troubled earth as they could get. I envied them. But there was no time
to look at scenery. Before us was a steep descent, and thousands of
wagons, converging from tracks running east and west, were streaming
down the steep hill and blocking us. I rode down, and then up and down
again, for some time, vainly trying to find an officer who could break
the line for us; when I saw an officer in the distance, he had always
ridden away by the time I reached the place. But eventually we got into
line and descended, and found ourselves once more upon a road.

At 9 p.m. (Wednesday the 24th) the oxen could go no farther, and we
outspanned for two hours in a wood by the side of the road, and we
slept in the wagons for those two hours till 11 p.m. Then into the
line again. But soon we were shunted to make room for artillery, and
the difficulty of getting a place again was greater than ever. Some of
the columns comprised two to three hundred wagons each. The sergeant,
as usual, suggested that we should wait till to-morrow, but at 2. a.m.
(Thursday the 25th) I found an officer of a munition column sitting
by his fire by the roadside; I sat and talked with him for a while
(J. G. and Mr. Little were asleep in the wagon), and then, when the
chance came, he helped us into the line again. I am afraid that this
officer will have a poor opinion of the intelligence of Englishwomen
if he judged by my conversation that night; for I had been without
sleep for seventy hours, and sometimes I couldn't prevent myself from
dozing in the middle of a sentence, and then I had to try and tack the
interrupted words correctly on to the next sentence, and I don't feel
sure that they always fitted.

At 6 a.m. (on Thursday the 25th) we halted, again blocked. Some
officers on the other side of the road were drinking coffee. I could
manage to keep awake whilst moving, but during a halt it was too
difficult; the officers saw me trying to keep awake, and dozing every
few minutes on my horse, and one of them, who was Commander of the
Staff of the Schumadia Division, second reserve (our division was first
line), came across and made friends. He asked how we managed always
to get a place in the line; he had noticed, he said, that we were
generally to the front, and he then asked if I would allow him to join
our column; he only now had eight horse wagons and carriages left,
and he would not, he said, incommode us. I was, of course, glad, and
he rode with us to Dreznik, which we reached at 4 p.m. on Thursday,
November 25th. We had left Prishtina at seven on the morning of Monday,
the 22nd, and had thus travelled continuously, with only occasional
short halts, during three days and nights, but though I had been 81
hours without sleep or rest, I was quite fresh and untired, and the
only inconvenience I had felt was from occasional fits of sleepiness
when nothing important had to be done.



CHAPTER XXXIII


We were disappointed to find that the cars had not arrived, but we
discovered that the road which they had been told to take did not
come to Dreznik; we should, however, we were assured, find them at
Petch (Ypek). The continued lack of rugs and baggage seemed of little
consequence, for there never was time or opportunity for playing with
such relics of past civilisation.

But at Dreznik we had a lovely dry camping ground, near a farmhouse,
and we slept in a tent, on beds, for the first time and the last for
many weeks. The night was cold but dry, and we had a real supper
round the camp fire. Our kindly Captain (a barrister in the reserve)
bivouacked in the field next to us, and joined us for supper, and
we arranged to start together at daybreak the next morning. We knew
that there would be difficulty in getting into the line, as myriads
of wagons were already blocking our road of entrance. I hoped that
Captain W. would do the fierce-eye business, and secure a place in the
line, but he thought melting-eye business would be more effective,
and he asked me to make the arrangements. So I rode on to see the lie
of the land, as we were encamped away from the main road (I had sent
Vooitch with the motors and the staff, and I was, meantime, without
interpreter, as G. was useless). It was sometimes a little difficult
to carry on in a language which one only understood imperfectly, but
everything in Nature and this world is in a language which one doesn't
understand, and we have to carry on. A big munition column of 200
wagons was the next in order of progression; I found the officer in
charge, who, as usual, could talk German and French, and I asked him
to let us follow immediately after him, and he cheerfully agreed. This
was great luck, as oxen and horse wagons--all struggling and fighting
for places--were clustered like bees before swarming-time, at every
angle of the entrance to the narrow road of flight, and Captain W. was
mightily pleased at the quick success. A snow blizzard began whilst we
were waiting, and continued all through the day.

[Illustration: OUR CARTLESS COLUMN OF PACK PONIES AND OXEN HALTING
Discarded Shells in foreground]

[Illustration: "I DIDN'T MISS MY SUNRISE, AFTER ALL"]

The word "road" is a euphemism for the river of mud into which we
immediately plunged; indeed, all day long we met no road, but journeyed
over ploughed fields, bogs, now covered with snow, rivers, mud banks,
and stick-hills. My horse was continually over its knees in mud, and
was growing weaker every hour; but it was necessary to ride up and
down the column, through the slough of mud, whenever this was possible
without getting legs broken against the wagons and hard wooden packs,
to watch that when a wagon stuck or broke, and had to be left, that the
load was not thrown away, but was distributed amongst other wagons,
whose drivers strongly resented extra burdens.

Horses fell, and their riders were thrown into the slush; wagons
overturned, and were then, with their contents, destroyed as the
quickest remedy; the road was one long pandemonium. At one bridge, over
the River Drin, the scrimmage was even worse than usual. The bridge
was so narrow that passage could only be effected in single file, and
an officer near me estimated that 5,000 wagons were, at one moment,
struggling at the entrance for places in the line. The loud voices
of officers on horseback, shouting, and sometimes quarrelling, and
of drivers urging their weary oxen, was like the noise of a thousand
furious football crowds. Then suddenly above the din I heard my name,
and an officer, wishing to expedite our column, shouted a dramatically
worded biography, as an appeal to the soldiers to let us pass. But
while we were still waiting to cross, I saw one desperate soldier, who
was angry because an officer would not let him pass, seize the officer
by the arm, with the intent to strike him. Promptly the officer took
out his revolver and aimed it at the man. Fortunately the weapon was
not loaded, so the officer, thwarted, turned round and seized a rifle
from a soldier standing near. The culprit fled. The officer dismounted
and pursued, caught up the man, whanged him on the head with the butt
end, and was evidently intending to shoot. It was a horrible moment,
but the man pleaded, others intervened, and the man was led away.
Everyone's nerves were overwrought, and suffering and discomfort were
so universal, that I don't believe that one death, more or less, would
have seemed a great thing to those who were watching.

But once across the bridge, and on the tramp, all was again silent,
except for the monotonous and automatic cries of the drivers to their
oxen: "Terrai! Chovai! Ide! Napred!" The route all day was roadless,
through sloughs of mud, and unbroken scrub, and over boulders, and
everywhere it was strewn with the dead bodies of oxen and of horses.

At dusk we outspanned for the night, in the snow, at the top of a hill,
near an Arnaut village. We had now, presumably, made up for the time
lost at Prishtina, and rest for the animals was imperative. Captain W.
supped with us.

We were away again by 6 o'clock next morning (Saturday, November
27th). We ate mealie porridge at 5.30, as it was impossible to stop
for food during the day, and it was good to have some physical basis
of energy. This meant an hour's less rest for me and for the cook
(now, in the temporary absence of Mrs. Dawn, Demetrius, the soldier
man). But it was worth the effort. We trekked, this day, first through
an Arnaut village; the houses were one-storied, mostly of stone, as
protection from enemies and from Serbian vendettas, and, indeed, they
were so substantially built that only cannons could have dislodged the
inhabitants; and then we came into a vortex of columns converging on
all sides from their various encampments.

One officer (a doctor) told me that he had been blocked with his column
at that spot during two days, and it was now seven days since he had
left Prishtina. We got into line behind the guns, which soon, however,
got ahead of us, as they were horse-drawn, and at a narrow bridge we
were again blocked for hours. Thenceforward there were no roads, only
tracks over fields and through scrub of Turkey oak, and mud incredible;
and another of our riding horses collapsed.

The view, as we neared the snow-covered mountains, of which Petch was
at the base, was magnificent. We encamped at dusk, on the slope of a
hill, in the valley. Captain W. had supper with us. During the day,
to my relief, Vooitch reappeared; he had left the motor party safely
ensconced at Petch, and I was thankful to have his help again and to
know that the others had arrived.

At 6 a.m. Sunday, November 28th (Advent Sunday), we were on the march.
As usual now, there were no roads; we scrambled and stumbled over
ploughed fields and every variety of rough country, but there was less
block, because, as there was no road, we could choose our track. Hard
frost, too, helped to make swamps more manageable. We had to abandon
another wagon, because the oxen were growing weaker, and the kitchen
wagon needed extra help.

The worst block of that day, after the start, occurred at the end of
the day. I had scrambled through a hedge, in advance of the blocked
column, and, with Vooitch, had chosen as camping site a grass space,
partially sheltered from the icy wind by the wall of an Arnaut village.
When we returned to the hedge we found that the Bakers' Column had
intercepted ours, and refused to let our wagons pass. They said this
was in revenge for their having been forced, by another officer, to let
us pass them earlier in the day. When our men eventually got through,
they were so angry at having been kept for an additional hour from
fire and supper, that when they got through the hedge, they placed
their wagons close under the hedge, instead of coming across to the
other side of the enclosure, where I was awaiting them and keeping
the ground from other columns. So, with fierce eye flaming, I stalked
across to them, through intervening convoys, and told them to come at
once. They said that they had already outspanned their oxen and lighted
their fires. Full of wrath, I kicked their fires out, with my impellent
boots, and gave the order to inspan and to follow me at once. They came
meekly, and were soon glad of the shelter of the wall. How could I help
loving these men? For they never sulked or bore malice when they had to
do things they didn't like; perhaps they remembered that we, also, were
doing things which we didn't like, for their sakes.

That evening I had the good fortune to be able to buy, for 90 dinars, a
pony to replace my horse, which was exhausted. We took the latter with
us to Scutari, but it was never again ridden on trek.

In the evening a rumour came that the town crier at Petch, was crying
that the Russians had been victorious in Galicia, and that the Germans
were leaving Serbia. It was also rumoured that we might be ordered back
to Mitrovitza. And much as the men wanted to return to Serbia, they all
shouted in chorus, "Never again along that Prishtina road."

J. G. and Mr. Little and I slept in the wagons that night. We were
up at five next morning (Monday, November 29th), and when we were
starting, the local Prefect came up and said he had only just heard
that we were here, or he would have invited us to his house for the
night. He made a charming speech of appreciation of our work, and asked
me to come and drink a glass of new milk at his house. I had not time
to dismount, but I shall never forget that drink of milk. It was half
cream, and the daughter of the house warmed it. I had not realised,
till I found myself gulping like a greedy puppy, that we had lately not
been overfed. I called the other two, and they also had a gulp.

The cold was horrible all day, and the route was worse than ever: over
hedges, ditches, rivers, bogs, ploughed fields and slippery ice, all
the way to Petch, which we reached at 4 p.m. Major A. and his column,
with hundreds of others, were encamped on the bare, frozen marshes
outside the town, and he suggested that we, too, had better stop on
this side of the town. But it was a bad place for a camp, no wood for
fires, or shelter from the icy wind, and the ground was a swamp. Our
cars were on the other side of the town, near a monastery, and that
sounded very hopeful and peaceful. I was told that we should not be
allowed to go through the town, but we risked it and got through.
I found that the doctors and nurses and their cars were inside the
monastery walls; the other cars, with the remainder of the staff, were
outside, beside a stream. On the other side of the stream we placed
the column. There was no wood available, in or around Petch. A Serbian
soldier would sell his soul for firewood, as our Tommies would for
a long drink, and I had to consent that one of our wagons, the most
dilapidated, should be cut up, in order that the men might make their
magic fire circles, and, whilst sitting round them, dream of past and
future, and forget the present. The continuous strain and lack of food
were exhausting the oxen. Every day now loads had to be readjusted, and
if there was one wagon less, the men would be helped.

It was pleasant to be welcomed "home" again by the staff after a
separation of six days. We took up quarters near the wagons outside
the monastery. Doctor May and the unit from Kragujevatz, who had all
been obliged to evacuate the Stobart Hospital, by order of the military
authorities, were now, I heard, in the town on their way to England,
so I went to see them, and I found that Doctor Curcin, who had at
Kragujevatz been officially responsible for the welfare of foreign
units, was in charge of the party, and that all arrangements had been
made for their journey with ponies to the coast. They were returning
to England as quickly as possible, and it was now decided that the two
doctors of our Serbian-English Field Hospital, two nurses and three
chauffeurs should go home with the Curcin party. I could not guarantee
that I should return to London immediately. I was pledged to the Army
and to the column as long as my services were needed, and I could not
yet foresee what might be required of me, and it seemed wise that those
who wished to make sure of being in London before Christmas, should
take the opportunity of Doctor Curcin's escort. We helped them to
buy ponies, and they left Petch on December 1st, for Andreavitza and
Podgoritza.



CHAPTER XXXIV


The cold that first night at Petch was intense, and in the morning we
couldn't put on our boots till we had unfrozen them at the fires. In
the morning (Tuesday, November 30th) I went into the old Turkish town,
picturesque with mosques and narrow streets, to get orders, on the
telephone, from the P.M.O. I was told to do whatever was done by the
Fourth Field Hospital. They were out on the frozen swamp, so I sent an
orderly and told him to report their movements. In the meantime, as my
hands when I was riding were generally frozen, I tried to buy some warm
gloves, for though shops were all shuttered, and their owners had for
the most part gone, it was possible here and there still to buy a few
odds and ends, if you knew where to go. But there were no gloves to be
had, so I bought a pair of short white woollen socks to wear as gloves.
A clumsy, but on the whole a useful contrivance.

On Wednesday, December 1st, we had received no order to move. I
went into the town to see the Kragujevatz party start on their long
mountain walk, and I took possession of a couple of rooms vacated by
them, for kitchen and for dining and sleeping-room. The only available
site for the column was in an old Turkish graveyard, close to the
house. This house, which was near the headquarters of the Montenegrin
police, belonged to a Montenegrin man, who was not at home when we
arrived. I wanted to take down his fence at the back of the house, as
it enclosed a grass space convenient for the cars, and I asked the
police if I might do this. They said perhaps I had better wait till
the owner returned in the afternoon. About three o'clock, a tall,
dark, heavily-built man, looking like the villain in penny novelettes,
appeared; he had been in America, and spoke a very little and very bad
English. Serbians in America pick up marvellously little English. We
met many who, though they had been years in the United States, could
not make themselves intelligible in our tongue. Our friend said he
was sorry to be late, but that he had only this minute come out of
gaol. "Ah, yes," I said, as though that was the place from which one
naturally expected one's friends to be arriving, "and what business
took you there?" "Oh!" carelessly, "I just killed a nozzer fellow
here," and he pointed to his own doorstep. It seemed that his wife and
the "nozzer" fellow had been on too familiar terms, and our Montenegrin
giant had taken the law into his own hands, and had promptly rid
himself of the enemy. He had not yet been tried, though he had been
in prison for ten months and three days. But now, as Petch was being
evacuated, all prisoners were set free, to escape as best they could.
He gave us permission to destroy his fence. As the moral fence around
his home had already been destroyed, the wooden fence must have seemed
of small importance; besides, his house would soon be in the hands of
the Germans, and nothing could have seemed of much consequence now
except his freedom. He was lame, he had no money, and his horse was too
small to carry him, so he asked if we would let him go with us over the
mountains to the coast, and if we would let him ride our biggest horse
in exchange for his pony. He must, otherwise, he said, be captured by
the enemy. We couldn't let him be taken prisoner again, and as he said
he knew all the Montenegrin roads and might be useful, we let him come
with us. He came, but he didn't know the tracks, and if ever I asked
his judgment as to direction, he was invariably wrong. But he was
kindly and harmless, and we took him as far as Podgoritza.

In the street at Petch, I met our P.M.O., who was on his way to see
me. He gave me the cheerful information that henceforth the roads
would not be good. With remembrance of the road between Prishtina and
Petch, still in my mind, I laughed. The P.M.O. smiled grimly, and said,
yes, the roads would be even worse now, and I must at once cut our
four-wheeled wagons in half, and make of them two-wheeled carts; I had
better see how the Fourth Field Hospital were doing this, and do the
same. Then he told me that he and Headquarters were very pleased with
us, that we had done well in difficult circumstances, and he referred,
with congratulations, to the fact that we had had no deserters, a
trouble which had befallen other columns. He was glad, he said, that
having come through so much, we were still sticking to the work. His
kind words cheered me very much, for having had no previous experience
of this kind of work, I didn't know if I had been doing all that was
expected of me.

We were now, he said, to start to-night, or at daybreak to-morrow, with
our two-wheeled carts, for Scutari, near the coast of Albania. The
route was to be _via_ Roshai, Berani, Andreavitza, and Podgoritza.

Thursday, December 2nd, was a busy day; the first job was to cut the
wagons in half; the back portion would be left behind, and we should
carry on with the front portion. It was difficult to procure saws,
especially as some of the wagons belonged to the drivers, and they were
not anxious to cut them up. "Nema" and "ne moshe" ("There is none"
and "not possible") lurked ominously amongst the tomb-stones, but
fierce-eye prevailed. Then came the sad business of sorting hospital
material, for, as half a wagon is only half as large as a whole wagon,
half the hospital material must be left behind, (we gave it to a
hospital in Petch), also most of the equipment, and the tents, except
one bell tent, to which we clung in case of desperate weather at night.

We guessed that it might be possible that even the two-wheeled carts
would not be able to continue to Scutari, so we set to work to buy
ponies, upon which to pack food and kit, in case the carts must be
abandoned. Jordan, Colson, and Vooitch cleverly managed to find a
dozen ponies, in various stages of decay; these were subsequently our
salvation. But they must be rough-shod, or they would be useless in
the ice and snow, and there were no blacksmiths left in Petch. Nearly
everyone had now gone, and the town was deserted except by the passing
soldiers and fugitives. But this difficulty, too, was overcome by the
triumvirate. It was also important to procure a store of food. We tried
in vain to find tinned foods, and we only had a few Serbian meats left;
but we luckily found some of our precious mealie meal, also a little
rice and a few beans, and we carried these in sacks, and these three
things ultimately saved us from starvation.

At dusk, when I went again to the cemetery to superintend the packing
of the two-wheeled carts, I found a murky atmosphere. A Turkish
graveyard is, under any circumstances, a melancholy place. The ground
is uncultivated, and rough, cuneiform stones, a couple of feet in
height, are strewn pell-mell to mark the graves. In this cemetery every
yard of ground was covered with disembowelled animals, dung, broken
carts, and refuse from past encampments. The night was, as usual,
pitchy dark, and it was raining heavily as I stumbled over graves, and
carcases, and horrors of all kinds, to find the men, guided only by
their camp fires.

I arrived at a moment of excitement. One of our drivers had just let
off his rifle, whether accidentally or not, I never discovered, and he
had nearly killed an officer who was passing. The officer was a little
upset, and was now in a loud voice threatening to punish our man. But I
invented an explanation for the incident, and expressed regret, and the
officer, who was luckily otherwise preoccupied, agreed to forgive the
driver.

But our men were in sulky mood. Was it a wonder? For they were now
face to face with the mountains of Montenegro, which would henceforth
lie between them and all they loved on earth. And now this man said he
couldn't take more than one package in his cart, and another couldn't
take anything: "Nema, ne moshe; nema, ne moshe" met me at every turn.
The situation must be tackled; so I called the men together, round one
of the camp fires, that I might see their faces. I told them how much
I sympathised with them in having now to leave their country behind,
and to make this journey over the mountains, into a strange land; the
situation was bad, but they wouldn't make it better by bad behaviour;
two "bads" did not make a "good." Prudence, as well as patriotism,
required that they should go forward. If they attempted now to return
to their homes, they would be imprisoned, or starved, or shot. It
was only the spirit of Serbia which could some day reconquer Serbia,
and they, the Serbian Army, were the guardians of that spirit. Up to
now they had a splendid record of behaviour; would they not keep it
unsullied to the end? Then the personal touch. Was my task an easy one?
Did they wish to make it more difficult? Had I not come from afar to
help their country, and would they be less patriotic than the stranger
from another land? Had I not shared with them--Before I could say
more, my voice was drowned in a chorus of "Ja! Ja! Maika! Ja! Ja! And
don't you know that ours is the only column that has lost no men from
desertion? Ja! Ja! Maika! It is hard, but we won't grumble."

And content was restored. I told them all to bring tins, or paper, for
some extra rations of tea and coffee, for the trek, and the naughty
mood of these impressionable, child-like, affectionate peasant soldiers
was put away.



CHAPTER XXXV


We were up at 3.30 the next morning, Friday, December 3rd, to pack
the ponies and get ready to start at daybreak. We must now leave our
much-loved and faithful cars behind; we gave them to the Prefect, with
instructions that he must burn them if the enemy arrived. We should
badly miss their sleeping accommodation, but for me personally it was
one anxiety the less. Possessions are at the root of all anxiety.

At 6.30 a.m. our reduced column, with its deformed carts, set out
through the narrow streets of Petch, to be swallowed up in the great
mountains; these already seemed ashamed of what they had in store for
us, and were hiding behind thick mists of cloud and rain. Nothing was
visible except the endless stream of two-wheeled carts, oxen, horses
and soldiers, behind us and ahead of us. The road that day was not
worse than usual, and we encamped at dark in a tiny but dry field,
behind a farmhouse in which Headquarters Staff were spending the
night. The P.M.O. came and had a talk with us, and said we were to
move on at one next morning. That was the last time we saw or heard of
Headquarters Staff till we reached Scutari.

We departed soon after 1 a.m., December 4th, and in a quarter of
an hour, we arrived at a block, which, in the darkness, seemed
to be composed of all the carts and oxen and soldiers of the
universe--apparently on an open plain. It was too dark to see what
lay ahead, blocking progress, and no one knew anything, except that
movement was impossible. So we lit fires and sat around them till
daylight at 6.30, when we had coffee, and moved with the multitude,
a few hundred yards. But we were at once again hopelessly blocked.
Then suddenly appeared, for a few minutes, our old friend, the cheery
Artillery Major, who had just performed the heartrending task of
destroying his three batteries. What were our little discomforts, in
comparison with the grief which this keen officer and patriot must have
suffered, in the destruction of his beloved guns--the last defences of
his country?

We took advantage of the halt to send the drivers for hay for the oxen
and horses, and we outspanned for two hours. The snow was now melting
under a hot sun, and making a miry slush, which was not warming for
the feet; but by the time we had procured hay, it was daylight, and as
we could then see that there was no road, there seemed to be no object
in waiting, so we wriggled out of the chaos of other columns, and took
a track of our own--an awful track over rocks, and scrub, and amazing
mud, but in the right direction; and at night we bivouacked on the
slopes of a wood, overlooking plains and mountains which lay in the
direction of Macedonia.

We could see the shrapnel fire, and hear the mountain guns close to us
all the evening. In deep ravines in the track in front of us, lay dead
horses and oxen and broken carts. At daybreak I took an excursion, on
foot, with Vooitch, to inspect the route ahead of us, and it seemed
impossible that carts could travel on it; the spaces between the maze
of ravines, twelve feet deep, were, in places, only two or three feet
broad. And, indeed, no carts were now visible, only pack ponies, and
oxen with blankets strapped upon them. I was wondering what was to
happen; but I had determined to make the start with carts, as I had
received no order to leave them behind, when a message came from an
officer in charge of the way, to say that we were to abandon wheels,
and continue as best we could, with any ponies we might have had the
prevision to buy at Petch. How thankful we were that we had bought
some; we could otherwise have carried no food or blankets. Our oxen
were now reduced to thirty-two. They could carry nothing, but they
must, of course, go with us, and be saved if possible.

There was no time for sentiment; we were obliged to harden our hearts,
and burn or otherwise destroy the carts.

The abandonment of carts, meant the abandonment of our beautiful
hospital material and camp equipment; all our treasures must be left
upon the ground. But I determined to save the instruments, and to
carry them with us at whatever trouble they might cost us; they were
valuable and belonged to the Serbian equipment. But, to my horror, the
man in charge of them, had taken upon himself to loot the box, and had
already begun distributing the knives, and other useful implements,
amongst his friends. I was just in time to save them. I wrathfully made
the man return the instruments. I then took them out of their box,
which was heavy, and placed them in my own brown canvas rug bag, to be
carried with my personal goods, instead of something else, which I left
behind. But, notwithstanding this precaution, they were, to my great
disappointment, stolen on the way.

We were now about to start upon a more difficult and uncomfortable
phase of the journey, and the men would need heartening. At daybreak
I called them together, and as I stood on a tree stump, at the edge
of the wood, facing the plain and the mountains of Macedonia, the men
came up and grouped themselves, in the grey light, in a half circle.
"Dobrdan!" ("Good morning!") "Maika, dobrdan, dobrdan!" The sun rose
blood-red over the mountains as I spoke. We must now, I said, be
prepared to meet discomforts and difficulties; but though we were
abandoning much, we could, and we must, take with us, goodwill and
a courageous spirit; these would be of more use to Serbia, than the
ointments and bandages which we were leaving behind. And now, if any
man wanted to turn homewards, and risk being shot by the Germans, the
Austrians, the Bulgars, or the Arnauts, he had better go now, at once,
and save us from the trouble of feeding him over the mountains. Those
who wanted to stay, and be loyal to their column, their Army, and their
nation, could put up their hands. And every hand went up, with a shout
of loyalty, and determination to keep together to the end.

Our British chauffeurs, William and Jordan, also the Serbian Ilia,
and Vooitch, now adapted themselves finely to the new task of packing
loads for the ponies' packs. We had only been able to procure one pack
saddle, and all the other loads, containing food and blankets, we tied
to the horses' backs, with string and cord, which we had brought with
us. At 11.30 a.m. we turned our backs on the ruins of our column--burnt
and broken carts, beds, tents, personal clothes, and, worst of all,
surgical boxes and hospital equipment. Our bivouac looked as though
burglars had been interrupted in looting operations, and in their
flight, had left the ground strewn with the spoils. Good-bye to our
hospitable field-kitchen and all its useful appurtenances; good-bye to
tents and beds and the last relics of comfort; good-bye to all hope of
hospital work; and, worst of all, good-bye to all hope of rescue for
Serbia.

For now, all hope of help from the Allies had vanished, and the
intensity of the tragedy to the Serbian nation was revealed. The
journey which we were then about to take--on foot--over the mountains
of Montenegro, and Albania, to the coast, is now, for thousands of
human beings, a memory of mental and physical suffering, which will
cause life henceforth to be seen through darkened spectacles.



CHAPTER XXXVI


Into the land of Montenegro, the land of the Black Mountains, which
already threatened precipitously to bar our way, we must now force an
entrance. Our first path, about two feet wide, ran through a thick
wood; I went first, and led my horse, for, though there were plenty of
men to lead it, I guessed that I should better be able to sympathise
with the difficulties of the road, if I had to overcome them first
myself; and I wished to choose the route. Colson, Jordan, Vooitch,
George, and Ilia also each led a pony, and the Serbian men led the
others, and the oxen. Our skeleton column was followed by other
skeleton columns, and during all that day we tramped and splashed, and
slipped, and scrambled, over rocks, and through scrub, in mud, and over
slopes of ice and snow--a route impossible for carts.

Roads had now ceased, and even the tracks were only those which had
been trampled by the multitudes in front of us; over passes 5,000
feet high; between mountains 8,000 feet high; through snow, ice,
boulders, unbroken forest, mud-holes, bridgeless rivers. And always
those pitiless mountains glaring at the tragedy; mountains with steep,
snow-covered slopes, or mountains of grey, bare rock, precipitous,
shutting out, for thousands, all hope of return to home and nationhood.

It would be impossible now to trek at night, and at dusk, I noticed
ahead of us, a mountain slope covered with trees, which would give us
partial shelter from the cold wind. Only another half hour's scramble,
down a steep incline, in a thick wood, and rest, and fire, and supper
would reward us. The last 100 yards of descent were precipitous, and
at the top, my horse and I slipped on the ice, and we rolled together
to the bottom. We picked ourselves up, shook ourselves, looked at each
other--I was still holding the reins--and walked on. There was no one
to say "Poor dear, are you hurt?" so it wasn't worth while to be hurt.
Men who were passing, passed; they took no notice. Why should they? A
broken leg, even a broken neck, more or less, of what consequence would
such trifles be in the general havoc? During war, new values--are they
better values?--are found for many things.

We were now in a narrow valley, with steep mountains close upon either
side of us. We scrambled a little way up the slope on our left, and
found that the whole mountain side was becamped, and we secured a small
level space for our fires, with difficulty. We scraped away the snow
and made a fire, with wood, of which there was, fortunately, plenty,
collected some clean snow for tea water, warmed some tinned food, and
had supper. Except from snow, there was no water available during
the next three days. No hay was procurable for the animals, and all
we could give them to eat was dead beech leaves, which we unburied
from the snow. We slept round the fire, and prevented ourselves from
slipping down the mountain side, by logs of wood placed at our feet.
The men, with their fires, and the horses and the oxen, were close to
us. And then I noticed that not only was our own hillside ablaze with
camp fires, but that the lights amongst the trees upon the mountain
opposite, from which we were only divided by two hundred yards of
valley, were also camp fires, and not, as I had fancied, stars. Where
did camp fires end and stars begin? Were there still such things as
stars? Or was heaven quite shut out by earth? There was only a small
piece of sky visible between the towering and overhanging mountains,
and, in the darkness, heaven and earth seemed merged in a huge
amphitheatre which was outlined by myriads of flickering lights. During
the precious moments just before sleep--the only moments, in these
times, available for thought--stars and camp fires, earth and heaven,
became hopelessly mixed. I couldn't sort them, and I went to sleep,
convinced that stars were the camp fires of the heavenly host, which is
now out in mortal combat against the hosts of evil on our earth.

It took us, at first, a long time to pack the ponies, but we were away
by dawn (Monday, December 6th), climbing up the mountain, through the
fir trees, over slippery ice, and rocks which were half hidden in snow.
There was no longer a defined way; the whole earth was now an untrodden
track, from or to perdition. Whichever way you looked, oxen, horses,
and human beings were struggling, and rolling, and stumbling, all day
long, in ice and snow. Soon after we started, I saw a long column
ascending a steep hillside; near the top, a horse slipped, and knocked
down the man who was leading it; they both fell, and as they rolled
down the slope, they knocked down all the other men and horses in the
line, and these all fell like ninepins, one after the other, all the
way down the mountain side.

As the physical difficulties of the route increased, the difficulty,
for all the columns, of securing bread for men, and hay for oxen, and
for horses, increased also, with the result that the track became more
and more thickly lined, with the dead bodies of oxen, and of horses,
and worse still--of men. Men by the hundred lay dead: dead from cold
and hunger by the roadside, their eyes staring at the irresponsive sky;
and no one could stop to bury them. But, worse still, men lay dying
by the roadside, dying from cold and hunger, and no one could stay to
tend them. The whole scene was a combination of mental and physical
misery, difficult to describe in words. No one knows, or will ever
know accurately, how many people perished, but it is believed that not
less than 10,000 human beings lie sepulchred in those mountains. The
route of escape, which led through Monastir to Durazzo, was even more
disastrous. From amongst the army reserve of 30,000, composed of boys
below, and of men above military age, 10,000 only reached Durazzo.

Many of the fugitive women, when they saw the mountains, and were
faced with death from cold, fatigue, and starvation for themselves and
children, went back to their Germanised villages in Serbia. Poor souls!
They were between the devil and the deep sea, and they chose--the
devil! The wife and two children--two boys--of one of our drivers, who
had trekked with us, in one of our wagons, since Palanka, also turned
back when we came to the mountains, and for their sakes I was thankful.

Except from time to time, the congestion this day was not so great,
because the mass of columns was now outspread over the mountains,
and the commanders chose their own tracks; but this was in some ways
worse, for it meant that the responsibility for route lay now with me.
Gaolbird had no sense of topography, and it was all he could do to drag
his poor lame leg along; he was too heavy, in every sense, to be of
use. A false track might lead to disaster, and we only vaguely knew the
direction of our goal. But why should anyone fear responsibilities that
come in the course of work? We can only act according to our lights.
Life is a sequence of choices during every moment of existence. Even if
we choose not to choose, that is equally a choice; and I risked prompt
decisions to scale or descend this, that, or the other height, with
audacious confidence. Progress was slow, the ponies often fell, and
their loads had to be readjusted. My horse and I had many a stumble,
but that served as useful warning to the others behind. I shall never
cease to wonder at the pluck and endurance of our British staff, none
of them accustomed to work of this sort. Specially, perhaps, was it
wonderful how the two nurses, and the cook, and the honorary secretary,
held out, for physically they were not as strong as the rest of us.
They did not lead ponies, but they were always at hand, to help with
the packs or to prepare food, light fires, and make others generally
as comfortable as possible. If they had grumbled, or grown weary, they
could have made unpleasant, conditions which were only difficult.

As the day wore on, the way became steeper, and more and more slippery,
both up and down the mountain sides. In the afternoon, when we were
half-way up a steep hill, which was covered with snow--a foot, and
sometimes two or three feet deep--we reached a space which was a
solid block of oxen, men and horses, all jumbled together in chaotic
confusion. Evidently there was only a narrow outlet into the thick
forest of pines and beeches, which covered the valley to which we must
descend. To avoid the block, some columns were climbing higher up the
mountain, in order to make the descent at a farther point. The majority
were trying to join a track which entered the wood on the south side,
and, like sheep through a gate, they were all tumbling over each
other, in the scramble for places in the narrow line. We had not heard
close-range guns of late, and we were now surprised to hear again loud,
continuous, and near firing. We were soon told, in explanation, that a
party of Arnauts, or Albanians, had entrapped, for loot, some convoys
which were close behind us, in a narrow gorge, and that they were now
murdering the members of the convoy. I have since heard that the wife
and eight children of the Commissariat Major, including the two boys
in uniform, who had walked with me one night, were all murdered that
day, with many others, by these Arnauts.

We should have had to wait for hours, perhaps all night, before our
turn came to get into the main line of entrance to the wood, therefore,
as the further climb up the mountain, must be avoided if possible, an
alternative route into the wood must be found. "Vooitch! come here."
"Yes, madame." "How deep is that snow? Try it with your stick." "Two
feet, madame." "Oh! That's all right. Tell the others to follow at
once." And we plunged down the snow slope, on a track of our own, and
forced an entrance of our own into the wood.

But the wood was as bad as anything we had yet met--steep, slippery,
with rocks, and stones, tree trunks across the track, and low branches
overhead hitting you in the face. It was enough to make even a woman
swear, and no woman would have been human if she had not said, just now
and then, a quiet "damn." The wood was interminable, and it seemed as
if we should never reach the end, and touch the valley bottom, but we
must get out of it before night. Besides, we could not stop; we were
in the narrow line of columns. To my surprise, just before dusk, the
sergeant, who always stayed with the oxen party, as there was less work
to do, came up and asked if he should lead my horse for a while. It
was nice of him, and, in order not to discourage him, I gave him the
reins and walked ahead, selecting, as usual, the route to be followed
by the others. Soon we came to a point from which the descent, for a
couple of hundred yards, was sheer, and slippery with snow and ice,
to the end of the track and of the valley, and the temporary end, as
we believed, of trouble. For though no road was visible, and the hill
rose abruptly on the other side of a small river-bed, now dry, we
heard that the river-bed ended in a road, a little further on to the
left. The sergeant, during his brief spell of work, was troubled by the
constant slipping of the saddle, and this with other difficulties at
the end of an exhausting day, was too much for his temper. When he saw
this steep descent in front of us, he stopped; on our right there was a
precipice. "Come along, Narednik" (sergeant), "only another two hundred
yards, and our troubles are over for the day." But he refused to move,
and he was holding up the rest of our column, and all the thousands
who were pressing on our heels. He said the ponies couldn't do it.
"But they must; they can't fly. Look! Only that tiny distance. Quick!
We can't spend the rest of our lives here, and remember the Arnauts;
give me the pony." I took the reins. To my horror, the man gave the
pony a shove, and it fell on the edge of the precipice. I dragged at
the reins, and saved the pony from falling over. I have never felt so
angry, and "Damn!" saved me from bursting. I needed no interpreter. I
swore, the one word I knew, and was not ashamed. I repeated it in loud
tones all the way down the hill, and it took me and the pony safely to
the bottom. If I had not been so angry, I couldn't have done so well.
The sergeant was afterwards penitent, but I never let him lead the pony
again.

It was now dark, and we must wait for stragglers who had got cut off
in the wood. I stood on a rock, blowing the whistle continuously. But
it was more dangerous waiting than moving. I heard a shout from one
of our men, and I jumped aside, as two oxen and a horse, rolled down
the hill on to the spot where I had stood. I sent some of the party
a few yards up the river gully, to light a fire and make tea, whilst
Vooitch and I waited for those who had been cut off. Then, when these
had collected, we went on another two or three miles up the river-bed
of mud and rocks, which opened into a narrow road of mud, with a thick
wood on either side. With thousands of others, we bivouacked for the
night, at eleven o'clock, sleeping on the ground, round a fire, amongst
the trees, near the road. The snow was deep, and the ground sloping. I
left my overcoat for a minute in the place where I had been sitting at
supper, and when I came back, I found that it had rolled into the fire,
and was making a cheerful blaze, but we fished it out, and, though full
of holes, it was still wearable.

[Illustration: RESCUING FALLEN PACK PONY IN BRIDGELESS RIVER NEAR
JABUKA]

[Illustration: ALBANIAN MOUNTAIN TRACK OF ROCKS AND MUD HOLES
Dead Horse in foreground]



CHAPTER XXXVII


Next morning at daybreak, we were about to sit round the fire, for
breakfast, when old Marco, the gaolbird, strolled into camp. He had
lost himself yesterday, and we had been anxious about him, for he had
with him the strongest horse, which was carrying, amongst other things,
our precious tea-pail and our frying-pan, the only kitchen implements
now left, also some much-prized foodstuffs. We were welcoming him, when
an excited officer rushed up and shouted to us to get away at once,
as the Arnauts were close behind us. No one grumbled at having to go
without breakfast: nobody minds going without necessaries; we only
grumble when we are deprived of luxuries; and it was not necessary to
hustle the few preparations for departure, and indeed these grew fewer
every day. As we moved off, daylight revealed dead men, unnoticed last
night, lying close beside our camp, and as we plunged into the muddy
road, we saw that dead horses, and oxen, by the hundred, were lying on
the track.

We welcomed mud as an improvement on the slippery ice and snow of
previous days. We now realised that if worse weather had befallen, the
larger portion of the Army must have perished in the snows. There was
truly much cause for thankfulness.

This day the travelling was comparatively easy. At one place where
there were two tracks, the road was even being controlled by officers,
who, to hasten the escape from the Arnauts, and the pursuing enemies,
divided horse from oxen convoys, and sent horses up the higher, and
oxen along the lower mountain road. The roads joined a little later,
but our convoy was allowed to keep together along the lower road.

Under normal circumstances we should have thought ourselves lucky
to see such scenery--of snow, mountains, and pine woods; now we
felt our luck lay in leaving it, yard by yard, behind us. But this
day we stumbled upon a flowing river of real water! This was indeed
lucky; the first drink, except from snow, that we, or our poor
animals had enjoyed for three days. We had hoped to reach Roshai and,
perhaps, house-shelter that night; but darkness came, and with it a
recrudescence of track atrocities, boulders and holes, and mud above
our knees. We had no more oil for our hurricane lamps, and it was
unprocurable. At seven p.m. I saw that further progress, till daylight,
was impossible, and the animals were exhausted. We turned aside, and
with no light but the camp fires, we bivouacked in a dryish field above
the town.

Every day the numbers of our oxen and of our horses were reduced, and
for the last two days the poor beasts had starved on dead beech leaves;
but now we were near a town, and we hoped for hay. But Sandford and
Merton came back complacently with their dreadful "Nema" (there is
none). There is something inexpressibly exasperating about this word
"Nema." It doesn't mean, in a polite, apologetic way, "Very sorry,
but there is none to be had," or "Very sorry, but I have done the
best I could, and failed." It means, "Can't; shan't; won't; couldn't
if I would; wouldn't if I could"; it epitomises all the obstructive
negatives capable of expression in any language. It is the obverse of
"Dobro," which means "All right, I will do what I can." "Nema" means
"There was difficulty, and I gave it up." You can't fight against
"nema"; it hits you below the belt; it represents inaction, inanity,
indolence and indifference; a fourfold disease, for which there
is no remedy. And "Nema nishta Bogami" ("There is none, by God"),
the Montenegrin form of "Nema," was even worse; it invoked deific
corroboration for assertions that you knew to be untrue.

Sandford could get no hay, so Vooitch and I must waste much precious
time by searching for it. In the morning early we all trekked into
the town. In ordinary times this picturesque place would have been
a delight to us: the houses were of wood with grey shingle roofs;
wooden ladders led from outside to the living rooms; under the living
rooms were the stables in which the cattle lived. But now the houses
were all shuttered and deserted; all shops were evacuated. There
were no foodstuffs; nothing was obtainable. "Nema nishta Bogami"
stalked triumphant, up and down the street. But hay we must have, or
our animals could go no farther. The column waited in a yard, whilst
Vooitch and I explored. Some regiments were quartered in the town;
they had horses, and these, presumably, must be fed. We ascertained
the names of the regiments, but it was not easy to find the address of
their headquarters, as everyone was a stranger in the place, and no one
knew anything except that he himself was looking for food and hay, and
was not keen for others to find it first. Eventually we ran a regiment
to earth, but the officer in command, who was in a room upstairs, must,
I think, have seen me, and afraid, no doubt, that he might be asked to
yield something which he could not spare, he sent word that he was not
there; and in his supposed absence, the under-officer said he could
do nothing. We found a mill, and gained entrance. Mealies were there,
but not for us. We tried everything and everybody--in vain. Were we
after all to be beaten by that beastly "Nema"? It was time now for the
miracle, and at that moment two officers came riding down the street. I
boldly stopped them, and found that we knew each other. We had met on
the trek. They said that no hay was procurable anywhere, but that they
had more than they needed, and they would--bless them!--give us twenty
kilos--enough for a feed, to take us on to the next military station.
We returned to the convoy, the hay was fetched, and the horses and oxen
were fed. We had lost a pony, which had strayed during the night, and
the others might drop down any moment, and we were lucky therefore to
be able to buy two ponies, each still with four legs.

It was noon when we started; prospects were now wonderfully cheerful;
the mountains by which we were surrounded, looked less forbidding, and
we crossed the swiftly flowing river by a bridge. We outspanned at dusk
at 4.30, a short day for once, and, for a wonder, we were offered, by
an Arnaut, shelter in two rooms of his house (against payment). This
was, in normal times, a roadside inn, near what was called the village
of Kalatchi, though, as usual, no village was visible. The eagerness
with which the offer of house shelter was accepted by our British
staff surprised me; it was a fine night; the views were glorious, and
I didn't want to miss seeing the dawn break over the mountains. Also,
I would rather have slept out, than risk the dirt. But the desire to
enjoy the comfort of having a roof overhead, was understandable, and,
in case our Albanian host was not dependable, we must keep together. We
had bought a sheep in Roshai, and we pretended to enjoy mightily, the
toughest mutton ever chewed, as we sat round the fire in the big open
chimney-place. Our host came and stared at us, and we made friends,
and gave him some tea, which he much appreciated. He was not an Arnaut
proper, but a Serbian Mohammedan; he was very tall and handsome; his
dress, stagelike; a white turban, a short black and yellow striped
coat, over a soft white shirt, tucked into white frieze trousers,
which had a stripe of black braid down the leg--the dress of the
Albanians, and very beautiful. But I was much worried by the trousers,
for, instead of fastening nice and safely, like Christian trousers,
round the waist, these fastened below the hip. This fashion was not
peculiar to our friend: it was common to all Albanian "nuts," and until
I learned from experience that my fears were groundless, the trousers
of the Albanian gentlemen gave me much anxiety. I was possessed by a
shy curiosity, which was never gratified, to know how they kept up; but
an accident never occurred in my presence.

Our host, as he watched us eating, was equally surprised at our
customs, and, finally, he could not restrain his curiosity. "Why on
earth," he asked at last, "are you all eating separately?" (instead of
all together out of a common bowl) and no one knew the answer.

We were up next morning at five (Thursday, December 9th). I saw the
dawn break, and I saw the sun rise, ushered over the mountains by the
usual proclamation, in pink and mauve, that here was another day,
another chance of discovering some of the great truths, which we
ignore, as we crawl, cramped, within our three dimensions. Everything
in Nature points to the sky except man, who keeps his eyes upon the
ground. I stood for a precious moment of uplifting, then I returned
to crawl, and creep, and stumble, during that day, in mud worse than
any yet encountered. But I wanted to take a photograph of the starting
of the column. The group of men, women, and pack ponies, all in
flight--emblems of this transient life--outlined, in the frail light,
against the dark mountains--emblems of eternity. I placed my whip,
and gloves, upon the ground whilst I took the photo. In the meantime,
a passing soldier picked them up, and walked off with them. One of
our men saw this, and shouted threateningly, and the soldier, in
response, aimed his rifle at us. Hunger, fatigue, and misery, made men
short-tempered and desperate in these days. The soldier's thumb was
already on the trigger, and, quick, as lightning, one of our men put
up his gun; both were on the point of firing, in "self-defence." The
thunder of Austrian guns, rapidly approaching, was in our ears, so I
walked briskly up to the soldier, beckoning with one hand, behind my
back, to our men to keep quiet, and, as I pointed to the mountains in
the north, I said, in my best Serbian, "Plenty of shooting going on
over there; not wanted here; gloves and whip mine; no use to you, Molim
(please)." I held out my hand for them; he gave them to me, and walked
off quietly.

The loud firing near us all day, and news that a stiff battle was
pending, put spurs into weary feet. The strain and effort of wading
through mud, sometimes above the knees, during hour after hour of a
twelve-hour day, made such a spur sometimes useful for safety. Along,
and up, and down, mountain sides, and in woods, through mud lanes which
never saw the sun, we scrambled till dusk. Then we outspanned on a
grass slope, at the edge of a wood of firs and beech trees.

During the night, all the stars of heaven, especially Orion, and the
Pleiades, blinked at us, with superior unconcern; but I told them, as
I fell asleep, that it was easy for them to look pure and bright; they
hadn't been wading, knee deep, all day in Balkan mud. It put me in my
place, as an earthworm, that they took no notice of our troubles, but
I excused them, for, if the sun, moon, stars, and all the furniture of
heaven, had tumbled, in sympathy, at our feet, they would only have
been buried in the mud.



CHAPTER XXXVIII


On Friday, December 10th, we were up at dawn as usual, and we trekked
along a better road to Berani. When we were outside the town, halting
for a few minutes, I found the men talking excitedly, and I discovered
that they were very angry with Sandford and Merton. This couple, on the
pretext of going on ahead, to procure bread and hay, had left us on the
morning of the Arnaut scare, had taken with them the Government money,
and had not returned. We had elected another commissaire, and J. G. was
acting as treasurer, and using our own money. The men knew that many
soldiers from other columns had deserted. To avoid evils of which they
knew--hunger, weariness, discomfort and home-sickness--they had flown
to others of which they knew nothing, and I guessed that our men might
argue, that if now the superior Sandford and Merton had also thought it
wise to desert----. But I reminded them that there would be no Serbian
homes to go to, unless the Serbian Army was preserved. The longest way
round was the shortest way home. "For the sake of your own people, and
your own land, you must," I told them, "march bravely forward now."
"Your own people, your own land!" The words came glibly enough, though
I knew that they would hack, like a sword with jagged edges, at the
hearts of those dead living men. But it was my duty to keep them with
us to the end, wherever and whatever that end might be.

And then, by a coincidence, Sandford and Merton at that moment
reappeared. I asked them sternly where they had been, and they
replied with a naïve frankness which disarmed me: "We were afraid of
the Arnauts, and we ran away, to get quickly to Berani; we thought
we should be safer there." Comment was useless: we are not all born
heroes. But had they, I asked, at least, during their time in Berani,
secured bread and hay for men and cattle? I braced myself for the
inevitable answer, but when the poisonous words exuded, dropping soft
and pulpy into the mud in which the men stood, "Hleba nema" (bread,
none), "Ceno nema" (hay, none), "Y Berani, nema nishta" (in Berani,
nothing at all), I wished I had been born in Whitechapel. Piety was out
of place. But I was pious, and I told them to go back to the town and
try again; Vooitch and I should also go there to secure what they would
try for.

The column waited for Vooitch and me on the far side of the town. A
few shops were still open, and maize bread, at exorbitant prices, was
being carried by triumphant buyers through the streets. This made our
mouths water, and presently gaolbird met a Montenegrin friend (from
the United States) who had an official position in the town, and he
generously made us a present of a huge loaf of corn bread, and sent
a gens-d'arme with us across the bridge (over the river Leem) to the
other side of the town, to direct us to the houses of the Prefect and
of the Governor, from whom I hoped to get bread rations, now very much
overdue. I felt sure from the look of things that we should get them.
But I was told that the Governor was ill in bed. All the better, I
thought; he won't be able to get away from me. Starving people don't
stand on ceremony. I went to his bedroom, knocked at the door, for
form's sake, and walked in. He didn't seem very ill. Perhaps the shock
of seeing me revived him. I expressed sympathy with his illness at such
an inopportune moment. Could we help him in any way? No? Very well, but
he could help us. Military rations were overdue, and somewhat difficult
to get. Would he very kindly write a note for us to the Prefect? This
was done. The Prefect was away lunching, but after a little trouble
we unearthed him, and we obtained 25 kilos of bread for the men and
for ourselves. Thanks to a little searching-eye business, short-weight
of loaves was discovered, and finally the glad-eye business secured
an extra couple of loaves. We also obtained the hay for the cattle. I
hoped that Sandford and Merton would be ashamed, but they were not.

It was three o'clock before we rejoined the others, and were able to
give the ponies and the oxen food. Roshai was already in the hands
of the Schwabes, and we must not dally, so we trekked till dark,
bivouacked partly in a paddock, and partly in two rooms of a house
belonging to an Arnaut and his wife. The latter could not read, and had
never been beyond her village of Vootsche.

On Saturday, December 11th, the usual routine. Over mountains, and
through mud which had been churned into jelly, by countless hoofs of
oxen and horses. Towards the end of the day we were in a narrow lane,
which was bounded on one side by a high hill, and on the other by a
deep precipice over the river. The mud was three feet deep, and when
I looked round to see if all were following, I saw one of our ponies
lying, half-drowned, in the mud, and our indomitable cook was sitting
on its head, to prevent the pony rolling over the edge, whilst one of
the men was loosening the pack.

We were now near Andreavitza; our road led near to, but not through
the town, and we cherished hopes of oil, and candles, meat and bread.
We arrived at 4 (dusk) at the cross-roads, and placed the column in a
convenient field, amongst trees, on the eastern side of the bridge. A
blustering sergeant came up and ordered us to move; no one was allowed,
he said, to camp on this side of the bridge; the officer on the bridge
had given this order. I didn't believe it; our sergeant wanted to give
in and meekly to move on, but as there was no other good site near, I
rode on to the bridge, and saw the officer, who, of course, allowed us
to stay. I would have given much that evening not to have been obliged
to sally forth to look for bread and hay, but if I had not gone, the
result would have been "nema nishta." The shopping party set forth full
of high hopes for the town. "Buy me this, that, and the other thing,"
cried optimistically those who were left in camp, as if we were in
Piccadilly.

But, as usual, in the town it was "Nema! nema!" everywhere. The only
triumph was a tiny bunch of tallow candles, and a promise from the
Prefect of bread for to-morrow. Always bread to-morrow; never bread
to-day. But we met an officer who knew us, and he kindly insisted on
treating us to cups of coffee, at a café which had open doors for the
last time. No food was procurable. We were on our way back to camp,
when in the street, a man came towards us carrying--we couldn't believe
our eyes--three shining silver fish upon a string. They were not trout,
but memories of happy fishing days in Norway, Sweden, Finland, gave
this fish an added glory. We stopped him and asked if he would sell
them. The sight of them made us fastidious towards thoughts of bully
beef awaiting us in camp, and we would have given almost anything he
asked. He would not sell them, but to our surprise he said: "I will
give you this as a present," and he put the largest fish into my hands,
and at that moment I thought Andreavitza, with its mountain setting,
and its picturesque church, the most lovely townlet in the world. In
camp we slept round the fire as usual, under the espionage of the
highest mountains of Montenegro.

Next morning, Sunday December 12th, we were late in starting, as we
had to wait for the return of the men sent to fetch the bread from the
military station in Andreavitza. When the sergeant saw the fifty loaves
(25 kilos), he brought with him to the distribution, an admonitory rod,
to ensure that no man should take more than his due share. As long as
bread was procurable, the men need not starve, as trek ox could always
be sacrificed, and I frequently had the melancholy task of deciding
that the weariness of death was coming over such and such an ox; he had
been lovely and pleasant in his life, and now in his death, he must
be divided. And for ourselves, our supply of mealie meal, and rice,
and beans, still held out. We saw too much of the inward ways of oxen,
along the road, to be keen to eat the roast beef of Montenegro. We had
said good-bye to butter, jam, milk, sugar, and biscuits, long ago, but
we were, of course, in luxury compared with many thousands, and we had
long outgrown the absurd habit of thinking that it is necessary to take
nourishment every two or three hours.

And now, on this Sunday, to our surprise, we found ourselves upon a
road which was more like a Corsican, than a Montenegrin road. Steep,
very steep, all day long, but with excellent surface and excellently
graded. We were grateful, as it allowed us to be more polite than we
had been of late, to the wondrous scenery. But even now, only in a
distant fashion. The beauty of Nature depends, for each one of us, upon
what the mind reads into it, and the mountains of Montenegro, reflected
from every stone, the hungry hearts of an exiled people.

By the evening we were amongst the hill-tops; the mountains of
Montenegro and Albania were all around us, naked, precipitious, and
inhospitable rocks, with occasional gloomy forests of beech, and fir
trees, interspersed. Majestic, magnificent, and the magnitude of
outlook, wonderful, no doubt, but my heart refused to praise this
sarcophagus of hope. How could mountains be beautiful which enclosed
such sorrow? How could their air invigorate, when it carried, not the
scent of flowers, or the breath of the sea, but the stench of the
unburied dead? As empty shells, upon the hills, reveal the presence
in the past, of the waters of the sea, so the bones of men upon these
mountains, will, in the future, betray the wave of human life, which
flowed westwards to the coast.

The river at Andreavitza had been, when we saw it, green, of a colour
which no painter could ever hope to mix; but I found myself comparing
it to a green satin ribbon, which is a detestable thing. The river fell
in fine cascades, and should, to a sympathetic ear, have sounded the
arpeggio of the common chord of Nature; but I only heard the thumping
of a child's fists upon the piano. And now the sunset hues amongst the
hill-tops were, to me, the funeral colours of the dying sun, and the
crimson gleam slowly spreading over the dead white snow, was bloodstain
which would never melt.

Moist clouds, and mist, came down from heaven to try and veil the
harshness of the mountains, in gossamers of mauve and purple, dragged
from the setting sun, but they could not veil the memory of the
suffering they enclosed; suffering of battle-fields and suffering worse
than that of battle-fields.

We turned our eyes impatiently again to the road scenes. We were much
interested in trying to induce a pony, which had been abandoned on
the road, and was now recovering, to come with us: we needed all the
four-legged help we could get. Colson and Jordan cheered it on with
bundles of hay, and a touch of stick, and brought it into our night's
camp. This latter was in a thick beech wood. The ground was our bed,
and the dead beech leaves were our mattresses. During the night we
had a scare of Arnauts, when a number of men rushed past us, shouting
excitedly, but they were only in pursuit of a thief. If he was caught,
he would be shot; if he was not caught, he would die of starvation.
Death! Death! everywhere. Always Life fleeing from Death, and always
Life overtaken in the end.



CHAPTER XXXIX


Next morning, Monday, December 13th, we were off early, and after
half an hour's further climb, we began, to our joy, to descend. The
road was tolerable, but it rained all day, and our adventures were
with swift and bridgeless rivers. Ponies, with their packs, stumbled
in mid-stream, and everyone, wet to the waist, must go to the rescue.
We were now carrying the minimum of food and blankets, and could not
afford further losses. But the ponies were so weak that, if they fell,
it was unlikely that they would rise again, and then both pony and pack
must be abandoned.

We wanted to reach Yabuka that night, as there was, we were told, a
military station there, and bread might be obtainable. It was dark
when we arrived, and rain was falling in torrents. We couldn't find
the military station, for the good reason that it had already been
evacuated: therefore, no bread. There were only three cottages in the
place, and they were packed with soldiers and prisoners. Before turning
them out into the wet, I went with Vooitch another mile, as we saw a
long wooden shed ahead of us, and hoped that it might be available; the
column halted by the cottages. The shed was inhabited by some officers,
who said that half a mile further on there was--an hotel! and that the
landlord would be sure to make room for us; some officers also were
there, and if I addressed myself to them they would make things easy,
etc. I was a little incredulous about the hotel, and the readiness
to welcome us, but Vooitch and I rode on, only to find "nema nishta
Bogami." The so-called hotel was crammed, there was not standing room;
the officer of whom we had been told, was in a house opposite. We went
to this, and found that one tiny room had been given to him and to his
wife and family for the night. I asked him if my family might share the
room with his family. He began demurring, but I suggested that it was
not an ideal night for picnicking outside. He shrugged his shoulders,
then pointed to the corner of the room farthest from his family; in
this many soldiers, and odds and ends were crouched, and sleeping, but
at the first shrug, I sent Vooitch off to fetch the others. We boldly
brought in, not only ourselves, but our packs. After eating our supper,
we lay down on the dirty floor on our rugs, luxuriating in having a
roof over our heads. The soldiers found shelter in sheds and stables.

Amongst the fellow-inhabitants of our room, was a priest. In the game
of musical chairs, for possession of the only chair in the room, he had
triumphed, and he sat tight on this chair, all through the evening,
and all night long. He was evidently particular about proprieties, and
liked things to be done in order. Bedtime was bedtime, wherever you
met it, and it must be scrupulously regarded. At ten o'clock he looked
at his watch, replaced it, then, with the calm deliberation of a man
who, in a well-appointed bedroom, performs the same act in the same way
regularly every night of the 365 nights of the year, he removed his
trousers. For a moment I was in trepidation; what was coming next? I
looked round to see if the girls were asleep. Their eyes were shut. I
couldn't take mine off the priest; he never looked round, he took no
notice of anyone, and when the trousers were off, he sat down again on
the precious chair, folded his trousers, placed them on his lap, went
to sleep, sitting bolt upright, and snored vigorously all night long.
I understood the trouser action; the removal was a danger signal, to
keep off talkative people, or people who might want his chair. By
this simple act, he established all around that chair, a Brunhilde
ring of fire, through which no one dared to break. It was original and
effective, and I was so grateful to him for giving me something to
laugh at, that I could have--but the trousers prevented me.

Next day, Tuesday, December 14th, the weather gave us a variety. Rain,
and hail, and sleet, and bitter cold all day. We had found hay for the
animals last night, but none for the morning's feed, and we were still
fifty-four kilometres--a two days' journey--distant from Podgoritza.
No wonder that animals were lying dead in hundreds by the roadside.
Bread, too, became more and more difficult to get. We had to-day seen a
woman coming out of a cottage, with a loaf of corn bread in her hand.
We flew at her and bought it for thirty dinars (18s.). Was it a wonder
that men also were lying dead, and dying, in hundreds by the roadside?
But I never grew callous to the things I saw. On the contrary, my heart
grew softer, and I became more and more angry at a system of world
government which permits those second-class angels to bluff mankind,
and keep him from the Tree of Life, by the flourishing of a flaming
sword.

After trekking for three hours, we heard that there was hay to be
bought some way up a mountain on our left. So we halted at a cottage by
the roadside, while the men climbed the hill to fetch the hay. Some of
the drivers at first wanted to shirk the climb; I did not blame them,
though I told them they must go; but one of our Englishmen commented
scornfully on the laziness of the Serbian soldier, so I reminded him
that yesterday, when he was in trouble with his pony, owing to mud and
rain, he had lost his temper for a moment, and I now asked him if he
would like his character to be judged by his behaviour at that time of
only a slight trouble? The Serbian soldier, in addition to such slight
troubles, was suffering from troubles which we British islanders can
scarcely imagine. The Englishman had for the moment forgotten all this,
and he agreed with me that the behaviour of the Serbian soldiers was,
under all the circumstances, marvellous.

The road ran in hairpin curves between huge mountains of grey, bare,
rugged rock. You might as well expect milk from stones, as food amongst
such mountains. It was a terrible land, and I felt, as I trudged
through it, that I should never want to see another mountain. But at
dusk (4 p.m.) we reached the military station of Levorcka. Would this
also be deserted? I sent gaolbird on to try and find rooms. He found
one room and a kitchen in which we could cook food, in the house of an
Arnaut woman. When I went into the living room to ask her to let us
boil a kettle on her fire, a pretty little girl of eight was fastening
the dress of her little sister, six years old. I said something about
the children in my best Serbian, and the woman who was, at first, very
curt with us, told me that she had no children; these were two lost
refugees; an officer had picked them up on the road, and had left them
here. The woman was very kind to them, and had grown to love them. She
said that it was possible that the mother might come past this way.
But the elder girl was already useful, and I wondered if the childless
woman would keep a very vigorous look-out for that lost mother?

After much trouble we housed the ponies in cattle stables, and the men
slept with them to prevent their being stolen. We had lost two more
ponies to-day; left on the road too weak to rise, and it was doubtful
whether my horse could go much further. But the men found a fine strong
pony on the mountains, when they went for hay, and this was a great
help.

We were, alas, too late to get bread that evening, but we were told
to come again in the morning. That looked hopeful; but when, on the
morning of Wednesday, December 15th, we arrived at the military
station, the officer said that no bread had come, and that he had just
received a telegram saying that all bread, when it came, was to be sent
to the soldiers at the front--an effective silencer.

On that day we saw epitomised, the barbarous beauty of the land of
Montenegro. Our route lay in narrow valleys between steep mountains of
grey rock; bare of vegetation, bare of life, bare of everything but
inhospitable jagged peaks which dared you to come near them. The rocks
were grey, the sky was grey, and yet, suddenly, at a sharp turn of the
grey road, a grey precipice pointed grimly all the way down, three
thousand feet, to a tiny ribbon of the most brilliant green water that
ever flowed in fairyland. In such drab surroundings, where did it get
that colour? Prosaic people would say "melted snow water," but Hans
Andersen would have known better than that. And so did I. But as it
(the river) was quite inaccessible, it was, like everything else in the
country, a forbidding sight.

But there was that day another moment of stolen joy, when, before
beginning the descent towards the plain in which lay Podgoritza, the
grey prison walls slid open, and revealed vast stretches of open
country, distant mountains, valleys, and, in the middle of a grey mist
of mountain ranges, glinting in the midday sun, a line of gold--could
it be--yes, it was the Lake of Scutari. Ah! that was beautiful indeed!
We had never seen anything so refreshing as that.

Old gaolbird and Sandford and Merton went on to try and get rooms, and
bread and hay, in the village of Vilatz. After winding round and round
the mountain side, on a narrow road, we arrived, and found Sandford
and Merton sitting calmly on a rock this side of the village, "nema
nishta" written in capitals all over their faces. So Vooitch and I
went on into the village, and the first man to whom we spoke said,
"Oh, yes," he could give us hay, and bread, and a house in which to
spend the night. It was too good to be true, but we told him to wait
while we went on to see the officer at the military station, to ask
for bread for the men. But the officer said "nema nishta" to bread
and to everything, so we went out to see what our first friend could
do for us. We found the local Prefect standing outside; a tall,
fine-looking man, dressed in dark blue uniform, with a revolver hanging
conspicuously from his waist-belt. To our surprise, he accosted us
aggressively, and said we must not buy hay or bread from the man who
had offered it. The man remonstrated, and said it was his hay and his
bread, and he could do what he liked with it. I was inclined to agree
with him, but the Prefect then stormed and shouted, and brought out
his revolver, and threatened to shoot the man if we went with him. He
did not realise who we were, and that, though I was in woman's dress,
I had majorly authority. We mentioned this. Then I took his name and
told him that I should tell the English newspapers how a Montenegrin
Prefect treated his English allies. That was a great success. At once
it appeared that we had misunderstood him. He had only spoken for our
good, fearing that we might be disappointed of the promised hay and
bread; but, by all means, if we wished to go to the man's house, we
could go. But I now guessed that, as food was scarce in the village,
our friend might get into trouble if we took his stuff. The house was
out of our way, so I expressed cold thanks for the permission, and we
trekked to the next village (Klopot), which was said to contain hay.

The village consisted of half a dozen one-storied houses, amongst the
barren rocks. Only here and there, like plums in a school pudding, were
patches of green winter corn, amongst the grey boulders. To carry on
the usual farce, Sandford and Merton had gone on ahead to procure hay,
and we found them sitting comfortably in a cottage. "Hullo! Here you
are! How much hay have you found?" "Nema nishta." "How much bread?"
"Nema nishta." This form having been gone through, Vooitch and I went,
as usual, to search. At the end of a long trek, I sometimes wished I
was not obliged to start out to do the work of another man who had
nothing else to do. But I always remembered that I was not enduring
the misery of leaving my country in enemies' hands; I must not judge
them till I had been similarly tried. These men were probably jewels at
their own jobs in normal times. Sandford had been employed in a bank
and had perhaps there learned to say "nema nishta" to his customers.
The other man's job had been commercial.

But it was a little unlucky for them that on this occasion, the first
man in the street whom Vooitch and I approached for hay, replied
promptly, "Oh, yes," he could sell us a thousand kilos; and it was
still more unlucky for them that, when we followed this man to his
house, to complete the bargain, he took us straight to the house in
which Sandford and Merton were at that moment comfortably settled;
a proof that they had not even troubled to ask for hay. We did not
want a thousand kilos, and at first our friend said we must buy all
or nothing; but that was only a preamble, and he gave us 200 kilos at
half a dinar a kilo. At the last village they had asked two grosch.[1]
Our poor tired pony- and oxen-leaders now had a two-miles' climb over
boulders, and up steep hills, to fetch hay. No bread or food for the
men had been obtained or sought, and as Sandford and Merton were
now quite helpless and did nothing for the men, I decided that the
latter should, in future, be given money wherewith to procure food for
themselves. This was at first resisted by S. and M., but I insisted,
and forced them to make a list of the men's names, and to start giving
the money immediately. And the men were well content, and I knew now
that if there was food to be had, they would find it.

[1] A grosch equals about three half-pence.

We were in luck's way that night, for it was bitterly cold, with sleet
and snow, and a Montenegrin policeman allowed us to sleep on the mud
floor of his room. Going to bed was, in these days, a delightfully
simple operation. Men one end of the room, women the other. No
undressing, no washing; one rag on the ground to lie on, and another to
cover you, and you had gone to bed, and were generally asleep in a few
minutes. The unshaved men looked like elongated hedgehogs, and I was
humbly thankful that Nature hadn't given me cheeks that were liable to
sprout with stiff and bristly hairs at the slightest provocation.

The ponies and oxen found shelter under some rocks in a field next
to our house. Our host had some rakiya, and, for a wonder, he sold
us a little, so we called in the pony leaders and gave them each a
small glassful. They expressed themselves, both then and on other
occasions, freely, concerning the Montenegrins. They were all, of
course, desperately keen to get back to Serbia one day, but never, they
said, vehemently, through Montenegro. "Nema nishta Bogami" had been too
severe a trial for their overstrung nerves.

The Montenegrin people seemed, to our men, selfish and unfriendly, and
almost, like their country, hostile. But I reminded our soldiers that
Montenegro was a poor and barren land; there was probably not more
than enough food for the Montenegrin people, and now the Serbian Army
and a portion of the Serbian nation had been billeted on them, and
they could not afford to be generous. But, in my heart, I sympathised
with our men's sentiments. I gathered, during my passage through the
country, the impression that Montenegro desires above all an extension
of commerce; that good roads are of first importance for this, and that
Montenegrin hearts would warm most to the nation which was most likely
to give them the best roads.

I was not surprised that a stouter resistance was not offered to the
Austrian enemy.



CHAPTER XL


Thursday, December 16th, the last day in the mountains of Montenegro,
consummated the impressions that had been stamped upon our minds of
the gaunt, desolate nature of this country. Rain fell all day, as we
trekked through valleys which were only wide enough for the narrow
road, and for that bright green ribbon river which, below us, ran
between mountains of bare, precipitous rock. Occasionally there was
an interlude of basaltic formation. That was a relief, for it spoke
of kinship with our Giant's Causeway, and the Caves of Staffa. By a
further stretch of the imagination, it was just possible sometimes,
when relenting boulders hung less threateningly over the river bank, to
be reminded of the cliffs of Cornwall, but, as a rule, nothing reminded
you of anything you had ever seen, or ever wished to see again.

On all sides grey prison walls, and mist and rain, shutting out
earth and heaven; only the track visible, and on the track, dead
oxen, inside out, surrounded by their entrails (I never knew before
how multitudinous and how disgusting the internal arrangements of a
simple ox could be); hungry men, slashing with knives, the still warm
carcases, and marching off with hunks of bleeding flesh in their bloody
hands; dead horses; dying horses who understood, and forebore to harass
you with the appealing eye; and now, too, dead men at every turn--men
dead from hunger, cold, fatigue and sorrow. With the dead men the
pathos lay, not in their deadness--we shall all be dead some day--but
in the thought that these simple, ignorant, peasant soldiers had, in
these desolate mountains, laid down their lives, away from military
glory and renown, for an idea which must, for many, have been blurred
and indistinct, almost sub-conscious. The idea was the same as that for
which Serbian soldiers had laid down their lives at Kossovo, an idea
which had nothing in it of vulgar conquest or aggression, the idea that
the soul of Serbia must be free, to work out its own salvation. Home,
family, even country, count for nothing, if the soul of Serbia is not
free. Home, family, even country must be sacrificed, if needs be, to
ensure that the soul of Serbia shall be free.

At two o'clock that day we could scarcely believe our eyes. In front of
us, was a break in the imprisoning rocks, and we saw an open plain, and
on the far side of the plain, a town--the town of Podgoritza. Could we
dare to think, for the first time, of rest from cold and hunger, treks
and columns? Could we dare to think of home, and of those we loved,
from whom, during three long months, we had had no tidings? No! No! Not
yet.

We descended, and emerged into the open country. Our backs were now
turned to the mountains; and whatever might happen in the future--and
we had a notion, alas! mistaken, that the road from Podgoritza to
Scutari would be more normal--whatever might be before us, the
mountains of Montenegro were behind us, and we uttered a Sbogom
(good-bye) of intense relief.

The mountains ended with characteristic harshness, abruptly on the
plain, and soon, along a good road, we outdistanced them; but between
their folds, the octopus of death was still busy, clutching with
tentacles of hunger, cold, and sorrow, victims who had escaped the
battlefield. I wanted to forget the past, and I would not at first
look back on Sodom and Gomorrah--I remembered Lot's wife. But I had
prayed, often enough, in vigorous determination, for strength to
bring the column through; should I not now look back, with equally
vigorous prayer and thankfulness for their deliverance? I looked back;
the high mountains were closing ranks behind us, as though to guard
their horrors; there was now no sign of passage-way. Yes, I looked
back, and I saw a vision which would, in olden days, have been called
supernatural. For, across the black mountains, from peak to base, a
rainbow shone, and hid the hideousness of bare rocks, beneath its
lustrous colours. It spanned earth and sky, and formed a highway from
heaven, even to this cruel land. And in it I saw the token of the
Covenant, which, of old, God made between Him and all flesh, that He
would not destroy the living creatures that are on the earth. I saw and
understood. God's Covenant still holds good. Hope guarded the entrance
even to that purgatory. Therefore, we must not forget the past that was
enshrined in these mountains; the memory of that past must be carried
with us as a fire, wherefrom to kindle counter-fire, against the
flaming sword which now destroys the living creatures which are on the
earth, and keeps them from the Tree of Life.

We were soon in Podgoritza. Leaving the column in a side-street, V. and
I went, according to custom, first to the military station, to ask for
bread and hay. The captain in command was extremely genial and kind.
But he said that no bread was available till to-morrow. I knew it was
not his fault, and I said "Thank you," and was leaving; but he then
broke into a eulogy of our nation; he seemed pleased because we had
not grumbled at not getting bread, and he compared us with some other
nations, who were not, he said, so adaptable to circumstances. Then he
tried to persuade me to go to Scutari, more or less comfortably, by
boat, across the lake, and to leave the soldiers to come by themselves,
with the ponies and the remaining oxen by road--only ten oxen were
now left. The road was, he said, execrable, and we couldn't make the
journey in less than three days. But as long as there was one man and
one ox left, I couldn't desert the column: I must carry on.

[Illustration: MORNING MIST ABOVE THE BRIGHT GREEN RIVER IN MONTENEGRO]

[Illustration: TRACKLESS MOUNTAINS IN MONTENEGRO, BEYOND ROSHAI]

There seemed no reason, however, why the British staff should not take
advantage of the offer; they could meet me at the other end of the
lake, and save themselves from days of discomfort; the Captain would
make all arrangements for them. But the suggestion was met with scorn.
Having gone through so much together, they loyally insisted on sharing
with their chief, the fate of the column.

I then asked the officer if he could help us to find rooms, as we
should be glad to get out of the rain, and he gave us an address;
but every room in the town was occupied a hundred times over, and I
decided that we must commandeer a room in the big school building.
There must be a few spare corners left there. But "nema nishta" greeted
us in every room, and no one would let us share their corner. One big
class-room was being guarded by an officer's servant, for his master
alone. We couldn't let that be, and eventually, as the result of a
combination of fierce-eye and melting-eye business, we British staff
all shared that room with the Major and his servant.

And then a charming incident occurred, typical of Serbian chivalry. The
floor was filthy, but I was about to go to bed upon it, like the rest
of the unit, when the Major very politely came up to me, and invited me
to share the tiny platform on which his mattress was laid; the floor
was there less dirty than elsewhere, as it was raised, and away from
the traffic; there was just room for two people if they lay quietly.
Serbian majors don't snore, so I accepted, and, raised regally above
the others, the Major and I slept side by side; but it all seemed so
natural that we didn't even smile. I should like to meet that Major
again. We could laugh at it now. The soldiers were housed in a room
downstairs, with many others, and when night came, the stairs, and the
landing, were blocked with snoring soldiers.

In Serbia, sanitary arrangements had been a little difficult, but in
Montenegro they gave no trouble, for they were non-existent. It was not
the custom to include lavatories in the building scheme, and in that
huge school-house there were none.

The town was, as usual, on the point of being evacuated, and no stores
of any kind could be bought; we were told that no restaurants were
open, and that no food was obtainable, but we discovered one restaurant
which was that evening serving the last meal before evacuating, and we
partook of that meal with some zest.

We parted here from gaolbird. He wanted to come to London with us, and
I thought that the nearer we were to the coast, the more difficult it
would be to prevent his coming on board, so we gave him enough money
to enable him to communicate with his well-to-do friends in America,
and parted. Next morning, Friday, December 17th, we did not leave till
noon, as we had to wait for the bread, and for the shoeing of some
ponies. Fifty-four loaves came, and these had to last us and our sixty
men, till we reached the next military station, wherever that might be.
We only had four loaves for ourselves.



CHAPTER XLI

The first few miles of the road were passable, over an uncultivated
plain, but as the mountains of Montenegro closed sulkily behind us, the
mountains of Albania opened threateningly before us. The grass plain
became a swamp, and soon we were playing the same old game, wading
and splashing through mud and water, no road traceable. The Albanian
mountains were evidently twin brothers to the Montenegrin fiends,
and after we had crossed a river, with a bridge broken off at both
ends, our route lay across an expanse of basaltic rock, which looked
impossible for horses and oxen.

By that time it was dark, and it seemed wise to wait till daylight to
attack the new enemy, so we bivouacked in a tiny grass enclosure, near
an old ruined chapel. The field belonged to an Albanian, who promptly
told us to be off, but the sight of money, five dinars, and a promise
of five dinars for wood, mollified him, and he became friendly, and
he even said he would sell us a sheep for the men's supper. The time
went on, and the sheep never arrived. I kept asking Sandford and Merton
about it, and they kept saying it would come soon. Then, finally, they
confessed that they had not bought it because it was too expensive. Of
course, it was more expensive than it would have been in normal times,
but if it kept men from starving, it was cheap at any price, and I
insisted that it should be fetched. They went away as though to buy
it, and came back saying that the Albanian owner had gone to bed, and
couldn't bring the sheep in from the hills in the dark. Flaming-eye
business; I would not be defeated, so I discovered where the Albanian
lived, and went with Vooitch to his house, over stone walls and
boulders and through the usual bogs.

It was a one-roomed cabin built of stone, and without windows. We
knocked at the door, opened it and walked in, before there was time
for anyone to deny us entrance, and in the dark, we stumbled over--the
sheep! This made V. and me laugh so much, we couldn't talk for a
minute. We couldn't see if the Albanian had been in bed, but he came
quickly to us. We told him that we had come to fetch the sheep for
supper. "But would we pay for it?" "Why, of course. How much did he
want?" "20 dinars" (about 11s. 8d.). "All right. Here's the money. Now
please help us to carry the sheep to the camp." It was a tiny creature,
and he and V. carried it, bleating, in their arms. When we had climbed
the last stone wall, and the men, who were sitting round their empty
fires, saw the sheep, they shouted with joy and excitement, "Dobro,
Maika; dobro, dobro." In a marvellously few minutes that poor little
beast was in joints, cooking on the various fires, round which the
different little groups of men sat, and, later, slept. Were Sandford
and Merton really so unadaptable that they couldn't bring their
consciences to pay 20 dinars for an article which, in normal times
should only have cost 12? Or was there another alternative? I later
reported my suspicions at Headquarters, and, in the meantime, I watched
that the men did not suffer.

On Saturday, December 18th, we saw at once that it was good-bye to
our hopes of a better road between Podgoritza and Scutari. Our route
this day was, if possible, worse than anything we had yet encountered.
Huge boulders, with deep mud-holes between, dead oxen, dead horses,
dead men, every few yards. Sometimes thick scrub, with spiky thorn
bushes, and with slippery foothold, was interlarded with the mud and
boulders; then came basaltic rocks, superimposed in fantastic fashion,
and mountainous boulders, with beech scrub, and berberis, and juniper
between; but always, whatever else there might or might not be, there
was mud, two and sometimes three feet deep. To-day this was of a rich
red colour.

In one wood there were many dead men. In a patch of grass near one poor
fellow, who was lying, where he had fallen, in the snow, green buds of
young snowdrops were bravely peeping through the dead leaves, as though
to adorn his grave. Beside him was his tin mug, from which he had been
drinking his last drink of melted snow. For him no roll of honour; for
his family no news of "killed in action." But when the war is over, and
other men return, his place in the home, and the places of thousands
of his comrades, will be empty. We picked bunches of snowdrops in that
wood whilst waiting, during moments of a congestion of oxen, men and
horses, which was now worse than ever. In another wood a long halt had
to be made, whilst convoys ahead of us, took precedence at the narrow
exit. One convoy which said it had been waiting there for two days,
had with it hundreds of oxen, and was on the point of pushing past us,
but, at the critical moment, a friendly officer came to the rescue,
claiming that our horses should have precedence of oxen, and he shouted
and insisted and bluffed and pushed, both our column and his own, which
was even smaller now than ours, into the line. He came with us, and we
bivouacked together for the night, in a tiny walled paddock, a couple
of miles (over rocks and mud) above the end of the Lake of Scutari, and
outside the hut of an Albanian.

The latter, as usual, at first refused us the hospitality even of his
field, but he eventually yielded to the money bribe. The captain and
his lieutenant supped with us. We gave them hashed and warmed tinned
Serbian meats, of which we still had a few, with white beans, and a
second course of boiled rice, which was one of our mainstays. We were
a quaint-looking group as we sat round the fire, all smothered to the
waists in thick red mud. We were obliged to let it dry upon us, as
there was no water to wash it off. We had no change of clothes; we had
left the last relics of such superfluities behind, when the carts were
burned.

We could see, from the convergence of columns from all directions, that
we should have trouble to-morrow in getting into the line of the narrow
track along which we must travel. So we were up at 4.30 on Sunday,
December 19th, and as the result of combined tactics, our two columns
eventually pushed into the narrow track of mud and rock.

Some distance below us, was the north end of the Lake of Scutari, and
it was cheering to see the beginning of the lake upon which stood--at
the other end--Scutari, our goal. We hoped that our route would be
beside the lake, as that would at least mean certainty of water, but we
never touched it at any point.

After standing blocked during four hours in the mud, we advanced four
yards. There was evidently some extra bad place causing the crush
ahead of us; the horses had had no food, either last night or this
morning, except from nibblings on the nearly bare paddock, and the
delay might prevent us from reaching hay to-day. A slow move, a yard at
a time, brought us eventually to a wood, and we understood the cause
of the delay. I think nothing but the knowledge that the enemy--four
enemies--were close behind, could have heartened the thousands of
weary, hungry, dispirited soldiers, to urge their skeleton animals
forward over the difficulties and obstructions which now met us.

Owing to the size, and number of the trees, there was only one narrow
track, and progress was only possible in single file; the descent to
the level of the lake, was steep and slippery, over a jumble of huge
boulders, half-covered with melting snow, and ice, fallen tree trunks,
deep mud-holes, and dead bodies. In one hole, we had to trample over
the bodies of three horses, one on the top of the other, the top one
not yet dead. Bodies of men who were dead were lifted to the side of
the track; the oxen and horses had to be left where they fell.

But bad and treacherous as the track was, there was never time for
hesitation; thousands of animals, and of soldiers, were pushing into
you from behind, and if, leading your pony, you fell, you would be
trampled on, and your pony would never rise again.

The most imaginative dreamer, after a supper of lobster and port wine,
could scarcely dream a more complete nightmare. But our staff came
through, as usual, with flying colours, smothered from head to foot
with the aggressive red mud, but without loss of an ox or pony.

After some hours of horrors in this wood, we eventually emerged on to a
narrow lane which was a sea of gelatinous and slippery mud; two steps
forward, and one back. In places it was so deeply sticky that Vooitch
had to haul my legs out, one after the other, as if they were things
apart from me, whilst I looked on. This was refreshing, as it made us
laugh at Vooitch's opportunity of pulling the chief's leg. We must
continue till we reached the military station, or some place where hay
could be found. Sandford and Merton had been sent on to find hay and
bread, and they greeted us with the familiar "Nema." But our captain of
last night had also gone ahead, and to our joy, in the evening, when
it was dark, and there were symptoms of fatigue amongst the staff,
and rain was falling, as it had fallen, in heavy showers all day, he
appeared on the road, and said that he had found some kukurus, both
for his, and for our animals, and a good camping-place for us near
him. In return we gave him some of his favourite rice for supper, and
porridge of mealie meal, before we started in the morning.

It was his "Slava" day, and in celebration of the event, he killed an
ox, and gave us some beef, which we cooked almost before it was dead;
we were very hungry, and we tried to pretend that it wasn't tough. But
in the meantime another column, which was camping near us, also had a
"Slava" day, and they celebrated it by killing one of our oxen. Our
man, to whom the ox belonged, hadn't a sense of humour, so I had to see
the officer in command of the offending column and get compensation.

We had been in luck's way here, with plenty of wood, and that, to a
Serbian, is almost of as much importance as bread. I think that perhaps
one of the reasons why Serbian soldiers disliked Montenegro, was the
universal lack of firewood. War brings men back to primitive ideas,
or lack of ideas, about things. For those engaged in war, a tree is
never an oak, a beech, a willow, a fir, the marvellous result of growth
and decay, birth and death, in mysterious process, during hundreds of
years--a thing of beauty to be admired--it is firewood. Likewise, man,
the evolutionary keystone in a process of marvels which we can only
dimly divine, is not a human body, the shrine of an immortal soul: he
is a soldier, reared like a pheasant, to be shot. And yet the Churches,
which should lead the evolutionary movement of progress, adopt the
attitude of the lamb before the shearers, and raise no protest. The
human race flatters itself that it is advancing in civilisation: it
mistakes the movement of the merry-go-round for progress.



CHAPTER XLII


We were early on the move on Monday, December 20th, and hoped to reach
the military station within an hour or two. The route began with
its usual ferocity of mud, and the continuous effort, during hour
after hour, of dragging the feet out at every step, was wearisome;
leg-pulling that morning became a common form of entertainment, and
rain fell in torrents all day.

We reached the military station at Ritzik at 11 o'clock a.m. The office
was in an old monastery, and we waited for our turn to be served with
bread, in an upper room. There our hosts were two Albanian (Franciscan)
monks. The ponies and oxen had to wait in the pelting rain. There was,
after all, no bread, but mealies were given instead, both for the men
and for ourselves. We were disappointed, but made no comment, and, as
we were leaving, the officer in charge whispered to me to say nothing
about it, but he gave me quietly two large corn loaves of his own, in
addition to the mealies, so we gave the extra mealies to the men.

The weather grew worse all day, and at dusk a heavy thunderstorm, with
drenching rain, made shelter desirable. We had fortunately reached
a village, and we went up to a house and knocked at the door. The
occupants were women (Albanians), and we asked for shelter; this was
refused, and we tried two other houses, with the same result. But the
first house had a large shed which was only open on two sides, so I
insisted on putting the ponies, and men, and ourselves, under the
partial shelter during the storm, but it was already crowded with
soldiers, and there was not standing room for us all. The women of the
house came out, and we pleaded with them, asking them to allow us to
go into one of their rooms, but in reply they burst into tears. This
turned the tables on us; we could not all cry, and they had thought
of it first. So we had to comfort them; a horrid waste of time in
the deluging rain. They said that their neighbour's house had been
pillaged by soldiers, and they were afraid of our soldiers. Finally,
when we dried their eyes with money, they said that they would take in
the women, but that all the men must move on at once. We would not,
of course, agree to this, and as we were already wet to the skin, we
thought we had better get warm by walking, and try and reach the next
military station, which was, we were told, only two hours distant.

The night was now pitch dark, though there should have been a moon, and
as we moved away from the slight shelter of some haystacks, into the
road, the heavens shook, and thunder, lightning, wind, and hailstones,
hurled themselves in unrestrained fury on us from the folds of night,
and progress on the invisible road, which was full of mud-holes, was
difficult. After we had been walking for an hour, a flash of lightning
suddenly revealed that the road had disappeared, and that we were on
the edge of a broad expanse of lake. Had we missed the road in the
dark, and were we about to stumble into the Lake of Scutari? Another
lightning flash showed us that there was no way round the water, unless
we climbed steep hedges, impossible for the pack ponies. But it could
not be Scutari Lake; it must be flood, and there was nothing to be done
but to plunge into the water.

It was, of course, my job to go first; so I jumped on my pony, and
told the others to wait and see what happened. There was nothing to
guide you as to the depth of the water, and you couldn't see a yard
ahead, except when the lightning flashed capriciously; but the worst
that could happen would be a ducking. I plunged; the water was up to
the saddle girths, and there were holes and boulders every few yards;
but we all crossed safely. We were now doubly wet, from rain above and
from water below, but this was a useful encouragement to everyone to
continue in spite of fatigue.

And at this point we decided that we would be bold, and push on to
Scutari, as no earlier military station seemed likely. A hot drink
might save some of them from catching cold, but we couldn't light
fires, or stop in the pouring rain, and we had no brandy or whisky,
so I concentrated thoughts on obtaining some refreshment. The miracle
always happens, if you will it to happen, and look out for it. We
were trudging along silently, no sign of life anywhere. All the other
columns had mysteriously disappeared, and we had the dark road to
ourselves, when I noticed a house, a hundred yards back from the road,
on our right. I told Vooitch to go up to it, and knock, and to ask the
inhabitants to give us something hot to drink; he said the house was
uninhabited. "Never mind; do as I ask you." He went and knocked, and,
behold, the door was promptly but charily opened. I rode quickly up,
and went in, before they could shut the door, and I saw that the house
had been a wine and spirit shop. Round the walls were shelves on which
stood bottles. A fire was lighted in the middle of the floor, and three
or four men were seated round it, on the floor, smoking and drinking.
The owner said he had no wine and no rakiya in the place. He had
closed his shop and had sent away his wares. But he couldn't get away
from the fact that the men round the fire were drinking cognac. "Yes;
very well." He would give us what he had, but he was nervous lest we
should let it be known to others that his shop was open. We reassured
him on this point, and within a few minutes, we were all inside that
room, drinking cognac out of tiny glasses, and every man and woman of
the column had his or her share. We then divided amongst us all, the
two cornbread loaves given us in the morning, and we all felt much
refreshed.

And at 10 p.m. we reached Scutari--Military Headquarters. It seemed
too good to be true. We had reached our goal, and the human portion of
the column was intact. _Nunc dimittis._ The town was deserted for the
night; the streets were empty; everyone in bed. The column halted in a
side street, while V. and I went to find quarters. It was too late to
bother the Commandant at Headquarters. I came to the conclusion that he
would not have expected men to arouse him out of his slumber, and we
mustn't take advantage of sex. But we must wake somebody. People are
impersonal till you know them, and you can be callous with impersonals;
so I fixed on the Prefect.

He was guarded by a sentry, who was clothed in impenetrable armour of
stupidity, obstinacy, and ignorance; but before he closed the door in
our faces, he suggested that we should go to the headquarters of the
gens-d'armerie.

We went. And after various adventures in a huge rabbit-warren
building, an officer who was on duty, sent a man to take us to our own
Commandant, who would, he said, probably have made arrangements for us.
For an hour, whilst the others were waiting in the rain, we wandered
up and down the streets with this soldier, who pretended he couldn't
find the Commandant's house. Finally, when I grew fiercely angry, the
man at last discovered the house, and we went in, only to find that
the soldier on guard would not awaken the Commandant. I told him how
angry the Colonel would be when he learned how we had been treated, and
that the Commandant need not even turn in his bed, to tell the soldier
where we were to go; and, in truth, as I heard next day, rooms and a
good dinner had been prepared for us. But I was then desperate, and
decided to go boldly to the British Consulate. We had found quarters
for the men and ponies in the barracks. We, V. and I, marched to the
big door in the high walls which enclosed the British Consul's house,
and rang the bell. An old Italian servitor answered it. I asked him, as
it was now too late to see the Consul, to let us have the use, for the
night, of the Consul's kitchen, in which to dry our clothes. He said,
"No; impossible." But another, older man, appeared and he was softer
hearted, and said we might have a room; not the kitchen, but an empty
room next to the kitchen, which was, at this time, kept for tramps.
I completed the heart-softening process, with a little palm oil, and
Vooitch went back to fetch the staff.

When they arrived, at 1 a.m., I was able to usher them proudly into a
room which contained--a rare luxury in Scutari--a fireplace. The grate
was tiny, but wood--very scarce in this town--soon made a hospitable
blaze, and we crowded round that tiny fireplace, trying to dry wet
clothes. Our old Italian friend brought us a kettle of boiling water
for some tea, dragged out some mattresses from a corner of the room,
and we laid ourselves down to sleep. We could have cried for joy at
being inside a friendly house once more.

Next morning, Tuesday, December 21st, no early trek! Breakfast at the
grotesquely late hour of eight o'clock; almost the first time that I
had been up later than 4.30 since we left London. I was up in time to
write a line to the Consul, for him to receive with his seven o'clock
cup of tea, telling him of the increase of his family during the
night. We didn't know that though the British Consul lived here, the
owner of the house was Major Paget, an old inhabitant of Scutari. The
Major came to see us at eight o'clock, and most hospitably said we
might stay as long as we were in Scutari, and he told his man, Parkes,
to make tea for us and to do all that he could to make us comfortable.
Parkes did not need to be told twice. He was an Englishman and glad to
see other English people, and he was very kind to us.

At nine o'clock, Major Paget took me to see the British Consul, Mr. F.
W. Monaghan, who was also very kind. And all day long, the scene at the
door of our little ground-floor-back was like a scene in the last act
of a play, in which every sort of unlikely person unexpectedly turns
up. We had just indexed Major Paget, and Mr. Monaghan, when the kindly
countenance of Sir Charles Des Graz, British Minister, whom I had met
at Nish, appeared in the doorway. He asked me to have tea with him, in
the afternoon, upstairs; he also was living in the house! After that,
we were not surprised when Colonel Phillips, British Military Attaché,
also arrived. He had often dined with us at Kragujevatz, and he and I
had never agreed upon the subject of Balkan politics.



CHAPTER XLIII


But my main business was to report myself to Colonel Guentchitch,
the head of the Army Medical Service, and at eleven o'clock I went
to Headquarters. There, to my great pleasure, I found, not only
Colonel Guentchitch, and our P.M.O. (Major Popovitch), and Colonel
Michaelovitch, and various other old friends, whom it was a joy to see
again, but also our beloved Divisional Commandant, Colonel Terzitch. He
had, this morning, been promoted to be Minister of War, and I was proud
to be amongst the first to congratulate him on an appointment which
gave everybody great satisfaction. I am not a military expert, but I
cannot help believing that the retreat of our Division, as well as
that of the whole Army, had been, from beginning to end, marvellously
handled. To retreat, during nearly three months, fighting rearguard
actions all the time, under circumstances which could scarcely have
been more difficult, and to have saved the Army and its morale, was a
great performance.

The new War Minister was, as he always had been, very kind to me, and
he said things about the work which we had done which made me very
happy. He, and our P.M.O. and Colonel Guentchitch all seemed especially
pleased with us, because ours was, they said, the only column which had
come in intact, without deserters, after a trek which, from first to
last, had totalled a distance of about eight hundred miles. They did
not, I was humbly thankful to find, regret the experiment of having
given to a woman, the command of a Field Hospital Column with the
active Army. I felt happy to think that we had, in an infinitesimal
way, been able to give proof of British sympathy with the brave Serbian
people, in the cause of freedom and idealism; and I was also glad to
think that we had perhaps shown that women need not be excluded from
taking a recognised share in national defence, on account of supposed
inability to suffer hardships incidental to campaigns.

But credit for any success which may have been achieved, is, of course,
mostly due to the loyalty and excellence of the staff who worked
under my command. The doctors and the nurses never spared themselves,
night or day, during times of stress of work, and adapted themselves
admirably to unusual and difficult conditions. If the army had been
advancing instead of retreating, they--the doctors and nurses--would
have had more patients, but their work was of great value, when, and
where, it was much needed. The cook was a marvel of good temper and
adaptability. There was no need of a Daylight Saving Bill with her. It
was never too late, or too early, for her to prepare food, when there
was any to prepare, or to go without it cheerfully, when there was none.

The chauffeurs (five men and one woman) performed miracles with the
cars, and showed pluck and endurance such as is not often exacted
from ambulance drivers. To have brought those Ford cars over those
unique roads, from Barchinatz, in the north of Serbia, to Petch, near
the Montenegrin frontier, with only one accident to one car, was a
wonderful feat, and their work of evacuating wounded from our own, and
from other field hospitals, was of inestimable value.

The interpreter, George, did his best, but for practical purposes he
knew no language but his own, and he could only read that in Croat
characters.

But Vooitch, a young Bosnian Serb, spoke French, German, English,
and Italian, besides his own Serbian. His position was, for various
reasons, not an easy one, but I never saw him out of temper, and by
unfailing service to me, night and day, he did much to strengthen weak
places elsewhere in the Serbian staff. He was invaluable.

Our secretary, John Greenhalgh, had, owing to the circumstances of
our prolonged retreat, not much secretarial work to do; but he acted
as honorary treasurer to the British members of the unit, and, in a
thousand ways, he was of service to us all. His hobby, in ordinary
life, is to help others; in our field hospital he was, therefore, in
his element, helping both the wounded and the staff, with kindly,
unostentatious, and unsolicited services. I owe him much, for his
loyalty to the command of a woman, was a fine example of unselfishness.

The sergeant was not a soldier born; he was, by constitution, weak
and lazy, but he meant well. The men had at once summed him up, and
they had told me, with charming _naïveté_, after the first few days of
our trek, that he had no influence over them, but that they liked him
because he was amiable.

Sandford and Merton were fish out of water; they were not adaptable,
but they were invariably courteous and loyal.

Of the Serbian soldiers, drivers, and ambulance men, I cannot speak too
highly. I loved them, and I recommended that their services should be
given official recognition. They were not perfect; none of us is. While
we are waiting for our wings to grow, we must fly by machinery, which
is liable to defects. But these men, who had been brought up under
Turkish traditions as to the position of women in the world, yielded
to their woman commander, a willing obedience and a loyalty which
never failed during three months. There was no physical force to back
up the commands, and it was conceivable that, under the demoralising
conditions of retreat, continuous flight, and privations, discipline
might almost excusably have weakened, or even failed. But these men
were whole-heartedly loyal from the first day to the last. It should
also be remembered that every step these soldiers took, was taking
them farther from their families, their homes, their country, but--and
this applies also to the thousands of soldiers whom I saw during the
three months of retreat--I never heard, or saw, a soldier say, or do,
anything that could have given offence to the most fastidious girl, and
I am proud if I have been able to render to this Serbian Army, and to
the Serbian people, whom I love and respect, even the smallest service.

All, both Serbians and British, performed excellent work under
difficult conditions, but the behaviour of the gallant little band who
stuck bravely to the column and followed their chief over the mountains
at a time when the fate of that column, and of the Army, was uncertain,
deserves special recognition.



CHAPTER XLIV


But now at Scutari there was no further work in prospect, and there
seemed to be no object in remaining as an embarrassment to a behungered
town. If we could have been of use, we should have stayed. But the
Army, at that time, intended to remain at Scutari, and there recuperate
itself after its exhausting labours; it was, therefore, best for our
British staff to return to England and await there subsequent events.

The British Minister and the Consul were anxious that we should leave
next day for Medua, as it was uncertain how many more boats would be
available to Brindisi. But we felt that we must, if possible, have one
day for rest before starting on another country walk.

Colonel Guentchitch kindly arranged for us to have meals at the Hotel
de la Ville, otherwise reserved for Serbian officers. In the evening
J. G. and I were invited to dine, as the Colonel's guests, at the
officers' mess at Staff Headquarters. About one hundred officers of the
Serbian Army were dining, and I shall never forget my feelings as I
took my place amongst these brave men. Of their bravery in the field,
I and all the world had known, but here, now, was a more difficult
bravery, most admirably shown. The hearts of these Serbian officers
were brimful of the knowledge that everything which they prized on
earth was lost. Their wives and children were in enemies' hands; their
homes were desolate; strangers devoured their land; the imperative of a
cruel suffering was upon them; yet, if you had sat and thought, for a
year, of the demeanour which should be shown, under the circumstances,
by officers of a defeated army, met together in exile, at the end of
three months of retreat, no finer ideal of quiet dignity and courage
could have been conceived.

I had seen them in the heyday of success, when, during the spring and
summer of 1915, they enjoyed the knowledge that they had been the
conquerors of the Austrian Army, whom they had driven from the land.
They had then shown no arrogance, no vain-glory, no petty conceit of
their wonderful achievement. They were modest, as conquerors, and now
they were equally modest in defeat. They had been outnumbered, and
attacked simultaneously on three fronts, but they had never lost heart
or hope, because, though the men who fought the physical battles might
be killed, the ideal for which they fought would never die; the spirit
of Serbia was unconquered; the Serbian Army was saved, and in the
Serbian Army, whether conquered or defeated, the Serbian spirit lived,
immortal.

There were no repinings at the non-arrival of the French and English,
who might have saved Serbia. There was, the officers still said,
probably some good reason why the Allies had not arrived. And even if
this sentiment was only expressed to spare our feelings as British
subjects, it showed good taste and a refinement worthy of an advanced
civilisation.

The Serbian people whom I had met during the first six months had
appealed strongly to me. Lovers of poetry and of peaceful arts;
intelligent and imaginative; impressionable to new ideas; warm-hearted,
gay, with a keen sense of humour; brave as soldiers, courageous as
citizens; responsive to the best within reach, whilst aiming at ideals
possibly beyond reach: how could they fail to awaken a sympathetic
response? Is there any other of the Balkan nations which could more
safely be entrusted with responsibility for the evolution of culture
in the Near East, than our youngest ally? I had felt this strongly
during their time of triumph, but I felt it more strongly in their
time of trouble. Adversity, like X-rays, reveals the bones, and the
marrow, too, within the bones; and if adversity reveals no weakness,
the constitution may be reckoned sound.

My old friend, Captain Doctor Yovan Yovannovitch, from whom I had
received many kindnesses, was present at the dinner, and he told
me that His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, had, in the morning,
expressed a wish to see me. Accordingly, after dinner, I went, with
the Captain, to the house in which the Prince was staying, and the
Captain sent a messenger to ask if H.R.H. would like to see me now?
Some important general was, at the moment, having audience, but the
general was dismissed, and I was graciously asked to come in and have
a talk. The Prince was in his study, sitting at his writing table, and
we talked, in French, about Serbia, not as though she were dead, but
as though she were a bride preparing in an ante-room of the world's
cathedral, for union with the great ideal. Serbia is fortunate in
possessing as heir-apparent, this intelligent, brave, and modest prince.

On Thursday, December 23rd, we must, without fail, start for Medua,
or we might miss the last steamer, and we should then have to walk to
Durazzo, over tracks, which, from all accounts, were, if possible, more
difficult than those we had already met. Most of our ponies were now
unfit for work till they had had rest and food, and we gave them to
Headquarters, and kept six.

But the road to Medua was said to be possible for ox-carts; we,
therefore, ordered four, with Albanian drivers, to be at the Consul's
house at 7.30 a.m. to carry our food and bedding. The girls would not
ride, and I thought they might accept a lift on the carts when tired.

But the carts did not arrive. Colonel Michaelovitch, who came from
Headquarters to see us off, inquired, and found that they had
been kidnapped on the way. He very kindly, with much difficulty,
commandeered other carts, oxen and drivers. But, in the meantime,
German aeroplanes arrived, and dropped their little souvenirs all over
the town. Sir Charles and J. G. and I climbed up the tower to get a
view of the Taubes, and of the country around; the Lake of Scutari and
the fortified rocks beyond; and the mountains--God forgive them--over
which we had come, and which we had overcome. And now one of these
Taube bombs elected to fall in the barracks yard, in which our men were
lodged, and some of our oxen were killed as they were starting to come
to us; this so scared the Albanian drivers that it was difficult to
re-collect them, and it was one o'clock when they finally arrived.

Albanian carts are two-wheeled (this looked of bad omen for the road
conditions), and the wheels tower above the oxen, which are very small.
The cart looks as if it was composed of wheels only, the rest of it
consisting of a few planks loosely nailed together. Our own Serbian
soldiers now remained in Scutari, with the exception of half a dozen,
whom we took with us as pony leaders. They were to return to Scutari
from Medua. The Albanian drivers seemed sulky, but we hoped it was
only because we didn't understand their language. The road was fairly
good, and near Scutari bazaar town, which was extremely picturesque, we
crossed a swift river on a real iron bridge. The lake, with its setting
of high mountains, was magnificent. It was such a relief to be no
longer officially responsible for a column, that there was temptation
to dally. But Sir Charles had told us to hurry; he was nervous about
that last boat; so we jogged on till 7.30 p.m., when we reached the
village of Bashat. For a wonder, the Albanian host of the first house
in which we asked for shelter, welcomed us warmly to his room, which
was, as usual, up a step-ladder. He sold us hay for the horses and the
oxen, also he gave us the use of his wood fire. There was no fireplace;
the fire was at one end of the room, on the dried mud floor. There was
no chimney, but there was no smoke in the room, because the roof was
full of holes, and the plank floor also had many gapes, so there were
plenty of smoke exits, both above and below. I put my whip on the floor
beside me, and it disappeared into the stable below.

Our host was a widower with four sons. These sat all round the fire
with their father, and gazed at us as we tried to eat our tough trek-ox
steak, with some fried onions. When bedtime came, we all lay down on
the floor, on our packs. I was on one side of the fire, and our host
fetched his mattress and quilted bed-cover, and spread the mattress on
the floor, on the other side of the fire. I wondered if he was going to
undress, and I began to wish I was not quite so near. The next minute
he alarmed me, for he came over to my side of the fire with his bed
quilt in his hands. Good heavens! "No! No! Indeed! Many thanks. I can
manage all right by myself," I answered hurriedly, in broad English,
as I tucked my rug tightly round me; but he persisted in offering me
his bed quilt, and as I found it was not necessary to take the owner
with the quilt, I accepted the latter with gratitude, much touched at
his fatherly care. But I wished with all my heart that he had not been
so kind, for now I was nervous lest I might, after all, have to share
that quilt with other smaller undesirable companions; it seemed highly
probable from the look of the room. But it would have hurt my friend
if I had refused the quilt, or had not made use of it, so I risked
everything, put it over me, and--spent the night alone. I expect the
cold had killed them.

I had told the ox-drivers that they were to be up at four in the
morning for an early start; we must reach Medua that night. No one at
Scutari had any certain knowledge about boats; but Sir Charles had
said, as plainly as he could, that haste was desirable. At 4 a.m.
therefore, I went out to see if the men were up, and I was greeted by
our own men with the news that the Albanians had bolted, and had taken
their oxen with them. They had left the carts, but these were useless
without oxen. Our biggest and best horse (gaolbird's) had lain itself
down to die directly we arrived last night; and unless we could procure
other oxen or ponies, we must leave all our remaining food and blankets
behind, and, not knowing what might still be before us, this was risky.
Vooitch and I rode into the village, a couple of miles away, and saw
the Prefect, but it was "Nema nishta Bogami." He could, or would, do
nothing. No ponies or oxen were available, and there was no telephone
or other communication with Scutari. But there were other columns
encamped near. Perhaps they could lend us animals. We waited until 7
a.m., as the officers would not have liked to be disturbed before, and
then Vooitch and I climbed over walls, and waded through streams, until
we reached the nearest likely camp.

The captain was in bed. Seeing people in bed had lost all its terrors
in these days, for no one ever undressed. He came out on being awoke
by his servant, but the answer was "Nema nishta." He had no animals
to spare, but he was very kind, and gave us a note to an artillery
officer stationed three miles away. This time I spared Vooitch, and
took our old "narednik" (sergeant) from Kragujevatz, who had joined us
at Scutari. Colonel Guentchitch had wished, and had even ordered, him
to accompany me from Kragujevatz, and I should have been thankful to
have him, but he was so serviceable to the Kragujevatz Hospital, that I
would not obey orders. On our worn and weary ponies, we crawled to the
camp, and to our joy and gratitude it was "Dobro! dobro!" and we were
given half a dozen ponies and half a dozen men to lead them, and with
these, added to our own, we had enough. The men would bring the ponies
back when we had done with them.

[Illustration: LEADING THE COLUMN ON FOOT OVER THE MOUNTAINS
Other columns following down the slope (to the left) behind us]

[Illustration: LEAVING OUR NIGHT'S BIVOUAC
(between Petch and Roshai)]

We eventually started with thirteen ponies at 11 o'clock. Another of
our horses fell within the next quarter of an hour, and had to be
left at the artillery camp as we passed. We trekked hard till 4 p.m.,
then halted for half an hour, to make tea in a field near Barbalucci.
The main road after that was impassable, with three feet of mud,
and we were warned to take to the fields. Here great caution had to
be exercised, as every now and then, stretches of bog had already
engulfed other unwary wayfarers, and wreckage of carts and of fiacres
was plentiful. We grew more and more thankful that our drivers had run
away, and had saved us from having our stuff left in a bog. Also we
were able to move much quicker without oxen, and time was, as instinct
told me, of importance. I am glad I did not then know of how much
importance it was.

There were still mountains--mountains everywhere, but they had lost
their sting. We no longer formed part of a suffering nation in flight
from an invading enemy. Whatever sufferings we might meet, they would
only be our own, and--we were on our way home. Home! We had not allowed
ourselves to think of home till now; and now--no, it was still too
early for the luxury of personal hopes.

We reached the cross-roads, near Alessio, at 6 p.m., and much regretted
that the darkness hid from us the ideally beautiful little town, built
picturesquely on the mountain-side by the swift River Drin. The town
was only distinguishable by the lights in the houses, and by the
eternal camp fires on the mountain, on the other side of the bridge.
The girls, and the men too, were exhausted, and would have liked to
halt for the night, but the possibility of that walk to Durazzo, gave
me courage to be hard, and we pressed on, leaving Alessio on our left.
Once or twice, murmurs of "Can't go any further" were audible, but I
pretended not to hear; we could not be beaten on the last lap. Would
the lights of San Giovanni de Medua never come in view, and what should
we find when we arrived?

The last stretch of road seemed interminable. On our right were the
usual bare and rocky mountains, and caves, and between them and our
road, a narrow belt of grass, on which soldiers and refugees were
camped. And then, at last, we saw ahead of us, lights--of Medua? And
to the left of this, apart, a collection of lights like those from the
cabins of a big vessel, and above, were those the mast-head signal
lights? Then, thank God, this was the harbour, and this was a boat to
take us home. But look! Was it only we who were moving? Or--no--there
was no doubt, the huge vessel was slowly gliding out of the harbour,
and making for the open sea. We were just too late.



CHAPTER XLV


It was 8.30 p.m. when we marched into Medua. We were not allowed to
take the ponies through the village, which was crowded with soldiers
and refugees, and amongst these we had to jostle our way. I left the
party, and the ponies, and went to find Admiral Trowbridge, who was
in charge of the port. I found him sitting at a table in a tiny room,
about five feet square, in a cottage on the quay. I sent in my name,
and when I entered the room he said: "Good God! Mrs. Stobart, why are
you so late? I have been expecting you all day. The last British boat
has just gone." I explained that the Germans had a trick of dropping
bombs on parties who were starting to catch boats, and that Albanian
peasants didn't always play the game, etc. But here we were now, and
what should we do? "Well," he said, "there is a small Italian boat,
already overcrowded, leaving to-night, in half an hour's time, and I
have been spending a very uncomfortable day telling 3,000 people that
I can't find them room on a boat which only holds 300. But, of course,
you shall have places." He then amused me, for he warned me that
travelling by this boat involved grave risks; to-day, all day long,
submarines from below, and bombs from Taubes above, had been trying to
destroy her, and had fallen within five yards of her. Medua had also
been attacked, and all the Admiral's windows were smashed. The sea
outside the harbour was thick with submarines, and----. "But is there
any alternative way of getting home?" "No. This is probably the last
chance, except by that terrible march to Durazzo. And by that route,
the rivers are swift, deep, and bridgeless, and can only be crossed
by swimming. It would be almost better to fall into the hands of the
Austrians than to face all that." "Very well, then," I answered, "do
not let us waste time." He then sent for Commander Kerr, and told him
to see us on board at once. The latter was an old friend, for he had
visited our Kragujevatz camp, and we had also met him on the trek, two
days out from Petch, when he had, like most people, grown his beard,
and I did not at first recognise him. But I recognised him now, and
shall always be grateful to him, and to the Admiral, for the successful
exertions they made during that next half hour, to get us on board.
My only regret was that I had not time to send a line of thanks by
the returning soldiers, to the officer who had lent the ponies, and
enabled us to catch this steamer. We bade a hurried farewell to our own
soldiers, who cried, although we gave them our little stock of beans,
and rice, and mealie meal. We had no tinned foods left.

We were hustled into a little boat, which was hailed with difficulty,
to take us to the steamer, and we had no time to drink the coffee which
the commander's men had kindly prepared for us. But though we were
hungry, when we stepped on board, and heard that no food, not even
tea or coffee, was available on the boat, none of these trifles could
trouble us now, for now we were on our way home; home--a word that had
during three months been banished from our minds.

There were no berths or places downstairs; the boat was crowded with
refugees, and with Serbian wounded officers, and some families, on
their way to France and Switzerland; but the night was fine, and the
sea smooth, and we sat on deck all night, in life-belts. We were
accompanied by two torpedo boats, and we reached Brindisi without
adventure, at noon on Christmas Day.

We had promised ourselves a Christmas dinner at a good restaurant or
hotel, but we were greeted, in the harbour, with the news that the
Brindisians were afraid of typhus, and that we should not be allowed to
land, until just before the train left for Rome in the evening. We had
had no food since the night before last, and we spent Christmas Day,
close to the first town we had seen for three months which was not in
process of evacuation, gazing at the big houses, in which greedy people
were probably overeating themselves with good things. The British
Consul could not come on board. He had sprained his ankle--a Christmas
Day sprain with which we had every sympathy. I sent him a message, and
the Vice-Consul arrived, full of abstract kindness, but the non-landing
rule was inexorable. He stayed with us to take me and our treasurer,
at 6 p.m., to see the Consul and to make money arrangements for the
journey to London. The rest of the party must wait at the station. In
the station restaurant the most tempting-looking food was flauntingly
displayed. Might the staff not enter this Land of Promise while I
saw the Consul? No; admission was forbidden to all who had come from
overseas; but a kindly English resident in Brindisi, who made it
his work to look after refugees, undertook to bring food, from the
restaurant, to our starving ones on the station platform, and, bless
him, he worked nobly for them whilst I went to see the Consul.

There were no cabs, and we three walked to the Consul's house. I
thought we should never get there. On the way we passed a shop, the
most glorious shop I had ever seen. I couldn't believe my eyes. It
was full of real hams, and tongues, and sausages. "Oh! I must go in
here and buy some food for the unit for the journey," I cried to the
Vice-Consul, overcome by the desire to see and touch and make sure of
real food. "Better not now; it will do on the way back," he answered
indifferently, and we left the shop behind. I turned round to locate
it in my memory, for even though it was closed, I should not leave
Brindisi till I had secured some of those good things.

We reached the Consul's house at seven o'clock, and went into the
drawing-room with the Vice-Consul. The door of the dining-room was
partly open, and I saw the sprained ankle laid out all over the
side-board. I have never felt so hungry in my life. The Consul greeted
us kindly. He was walking about; the ankle only confined him to the
house. "How do you do, Mrs. Stobart? Would you like a biscuit?" I hoped
at first that he was joking, but he was not. "Oh, yes," I answered,
ready to cry with disappointment, "we're starving." Then he brought a
tin of biscuits and some port wine. That was better. He gave us the
biscuit tin to take with us, and he very kindly told the Vice-Consul
to arrange for supper for us all in the train. As to money, we could
have as much as we wanted; he had plenty. He gave us the sum for which
we asked, sealed in an envelope; it was not worth while, he said, for
us to count it. He was sure it was all right. I knew I ought to have
counted it, but there was not much time to spare to catch our train;
and when we opened the envelope, later, we found he had given us a
thousand lire too much. Had it been a thousand lire too little, I
should not have liked to write and tell him.

My anxiety now was to obtain a railway pass. As it was Christmas Day,
the Consul said he couldn't get an official pass. The Prefect couldn't
be found; his ankle was more seriously sprained; we should have to
take our chance. We should get to Bari, two hours distant, safely, and
if we had trouble there, we must telegraph to the Consulate. Not a
very encouraging prospect, especially as the Vice-Consul told us that
another party had been kept for two days at Bari.

But now for that sausage shop. The V.-C. came with us, in a cab, and
we found the shop. It was crammed full of things we had not seen for
nine months. On the counter was a lovely-looking Italian sausage. I
asked the shopman to cut a slice, and to let me taste it. It was an
absurdly thin slice, and I soon asked for another; and then I looked
for J. G. He was busy browsing all round the shop, on bits of cheese,
and figs, and dates, but he gave immediate attention to the slice of
sausage I offered him. I don't know what the V.-C. must have thought
of us, but my thought was that everybody ought to be made to starve
sometimes, just to know what it feels like; they wouldn't then ask
starving people to look in at sausage shops on their way back. But the
V.-C. was delaying his own Christmas dinner for our sakes, and he nobly
insisted on coming with us to the station. He saw us into the train,
which left at 8.37 p.m., and he gave us lovely parcels of supper for
the journey; supper number two for the others, who had now eaten well,
and drunk red Italian wine, and were very happy. We reached Bari three
hours later. I went to see the Station Commandant; he was charming, and
made no trouble about the railway passport, and he gave us, free of
cost, compartments to ourselves in the train leaving at 11.30 for Rome,
through Central Italy. We reached Rome at 6 p.m. on Sunday, December
26th, and at the Station Hotel Restaurant, we had our first good
sit-down, hot meal. We shall never forget that dinner.

At Rome station, and everywhere on the journey, we were stared at,
as though we were a menagerie. People crowded round us in quaintest
fashion. We did not realise it, but perhaps our clothes looked
weather-worn.

From Rome we were, at last, able to send telegrams home to our friends,
who had heard no news of us for three months. At this station again,
directly we arrived, I went to see the Station Commandant, and asked
him to expedite us farther. "Yes, by all means; first or second class?"
"First, of course." And we reached Pisa at 6 a.m. on Monday, December
27th; Spezzia at 8. At Culoz we changed, at 11 p.m., for Paris,
and arrived there at 8.30 a.m., December 28th. Here I had a little
difficulty, and was sent from one department, in one end of Paris, to
another department, at the other end of the town, all the morning, to
obtain the railway pass. Amongst other offices to which I was directed,
was that of the "Intelligence Anglaise." But when I arrived there, I
found neither the one nor the other. Finally, I went to the War Office,
and I saw the Minister of War, who was very courteous, and, though I
had to wait a long time, I eventually took away the necessary papers.
We all drove from the Gare de Lyons to the Gare du Nord, for Boulogne,
only to be told that the boats from Boulogne had been discontinued
three weeks ago, and that we had better make for some other port. That
was a blow; but as the pass had just been made out by the War Office,
for Boulogne, I assumed that a military boat would take us across, and
that we had better risk it.

We left for Boulogne at 1.15 on Tuesday, December 28th. The train was
horribly slow, and we did not reach Boulogne till 11 p.m. I thought we
might possibly have trouble here, about the pass, as we were nearing
the land of white chalk and red tape. I inquired at once, as usual, at
the station, for the Commandant, found his office, and, to my surprise
and joy, was greeted by "Hulloa! Mrs. Stobart, I _am_ glad to see you."
An old friend, of whom I had lost sight for some years. He was in
charge of the Transport Service, and I knew that the way would now be
smooth. He gave us supper in the excellent Red Cross restaurant; found
rooms for us at a good hotel (no easy job, as the town was crowded),
and facilitated in every way our departure for London, next day, by
military boat. We reached Charing Cross on the evening of Wednesday,
December 29th, after an absence in the Balkans of nine months--having
travelled free of railway cost, through Serbia, Montenegro, Albania,
Italy, France and England.

Our telegrams from Rome must have misfired. There was no one at the
station to meet us. Were they all dead? Or--but evidently London had
not yet been evacuated. Indeed, as we drove through the streets, we
wondered if peace had been declared. What a contrast! Here, thousands
of sleek and well-dressed people, jostling each other for places in
the music-halls; and out there, thousands of people, hungry, thirsty,
and in rags, jostling each other to escape every conceivable form of
horror. But we were, thank God, at home again. We had done nothing
wonderful--women are not allowed to do wonderful things--but we were
content to feel that we had contributed our tiny share towards the
relief of suffering, and we had, perhaps, made it easier for other
women to do more in future times.



PART IV


But this story will have failed in its purpose if it has not served as
a demonstration of three facts. It should show, without need of further
proof, that women can be of service, not only in base hospitals of
war, both in subsidiary positions, and in positions of command--that
had already been shown--but in flying field hospitals at the front.
Thus men can be set free for the fighting line. Much work at present
done by the Royal Army Medical Corps could safely be entrusted to
women. The proof given of the capacity of women to endure hardships and
privations incidental to campaigns, also points to the possibility of
the employment of women along the lines of communication, in various
forms of war work now performed by men. Much valuable fighting material
could thus be liberated.

The story should also show, if only, alas! in a small way, something of
the courage, dignity, and spirit of the Serbian people. It is difficult
for those who have not had first-hand evidence, to realise the heroism
of the Serbian nation, not only during their defeat and their retreat,
October to December, 1915, but also during the summer of political
temptation in 1915. At that time Serbia understood, only too well, the
intentions of the Bulgarians, and if she had acted as her political
instinct prompted her, the inevitable clash would have occurred, not at
the moment of Bulgaria's choice, but at a time favourable to Serbia.
It is useless now to conjecture the effect of this "might-have-been"
on the history of the war. But in the summer of 1915, the temptation
for Serbia to strike at her own convenience, must have been great. And
whether the Allies, in urging Serbia to abstain, were right, or wrong,
successful or unsuccessful, they owe much to Serbia for her loyal
adherence to their policy. Serbia was justified in expecting from them,
in return, the help which never came.

But another, and perhaps a greater, temptation must have presented
itself to Serbia. Why should not the Serbians have acted as the
Bulgarians had acted? Why should they not save their country from
further invasion, avoid further conflict, and come to terms with
Austria? Their nation and their Army were impoverished by previous
efforts; would it not now be wise to save their country from further
devastations? Their performances against the Austrians, in the autumn
of 1914, had shown the latter that they were worthy of respect, and
no one in Europe could accuse them of cowardice. Why, and for whose
benefit, should their beautiful land and their heroic people be further
sacrificed? As Serbian politicians looked from the heights of their
Serbian mountains, upon the glories of their fertile land, a land of
corn and bread, a land of wine and vineyards, they must have heard the
Tempter's words, whispering as of old, "All these things will I give
you if--if--you will fall down and worship militarism and the Central
Powers." But with one voice, the Serbian people answered, "Get thee
behind me, Satan. It is written in our hearts, 'Thou shalt worship
Freedom: her only shalt thou serve.'" Thus Serbia, the latest evolved
of the European nations, perceived, with an insight at which history
will one day marvel, the inner, the true interpretation of the word
"nation." She perceived that the life force of a nation is a spiritual
force, and is not dependent on material conditions for existence.
Serbia had existed during 500 years of material annihilation under
Turkish rule. Through all that wilderness of time, the ideal of freedom
had been her pillar of cloud by day, and of fire by night, pointing
to the Promised Land. Serbia is again in the wilderness, and the same
light guides and cheers her. She is full of courageous faith, because
she understands that a nation means, primarily, not physical country
(mountains, rivers, valleys), not State, not Government, but a free
and united spirit. That is the only definition which allows of the
indefinite expansion which will some day include all human kind in one
united nation. Serbia is full of faith and hope, because she knows that
she is not, and never will be, deprived of nationhood.

In some minor ways, Serbia may, in her civilisation, have been behind
other nations in the west of Europe, but she was ahead of Western
Europe in that one thing, which is of real importance, that one thing
which cannot be copied or learned from other nations, and which is,
therefore, either innate or unachieveable: Serbia is ahead of other
nations, in her power of sacrificing herself for ideals. All nations
are ready to sacrifice life for nationhood. Serbia made first this
common sacrifice, but when that did not avail, she voluntarily, for the
sake of an abstract and spiritual ideal, made the supreme sacrifice,
the sacrifice of country, the sacrifice for which other nations make
the penultimate sacrifice of life. The Serbian people sacrificed their
country, rather than bow the knee to militarism and foreign tyranny;
they sacrificed their country, in Utopian quest for the right, both
for themselves and for other Slav brethren, to work out their own
salvation, in spiritual freedom. A people with such ideals, and with
such power of sacrifice, must be worthy of a great future.



CHAPTER XLVI


Finally, the story will have failed in its purpose, if it has not shown
something of what women feel towards war; if it has not shown that
militarism is likely to find in woman, its most vigorous opponent, not
because woman lacks courage to face death, but because she is awake to
the duty of facing life; life as the basis, the evolutionary basis, of
a higher life.

Until woman had obtained some experience of war, she could only express
sentiments concerning war; but now she is at liberty to give opinions
as to the meaning of war. And in the opinion of woman--at least, of
one woman, who is, presumably, representative of some other women--war
means--the failure of society.

Society has failed to protect its members from its own more savage
elements; it has failed to overcome the tendency to atavism, latent
in all living creatures; it has failed in its primary function of
preserving life. In all its dealings with life, society shows cynicism
and inconsistency. It punishes the taking of life, called "murder," by
a further taking of life, which it calls the "death penalty." Again,
society holds that no motive justifies murder when it is retail, and
concerns individuals; but that when murder is wholesale, and concerns
nations, no motive justifies abstention from the murder-fields.

Society thus teaches that the taking of life, though it is regarded
as the biggest crime, and receives the biggest punishment, is not,
in itself, wrong. It is only, on some occasions, and for some social
purposes, inexpedient. Society is not yet awake to the idea that, for
spiritual purposes, the taking of human life is always inexpedient,
because human life is not an end in itself, but a stepping-stone to
further life, which may possibly be forfeited by blundering mankind.

In the eyes of woman, war also means the negation of civilisation and
of progress. Of what use the care and labour spent in science, art,
culture, education, if, at the command of militarism, these and their
votaries are to be periodically blotted out.

Civilisation, as we were taught, meant the progress of the human race
in ideals, spiritual and moral. Civilisation, as our children are being
taught, means progress in the invention of machines for destroying
life--the one thing on earth which can't be made by machines. (The word
"artillery," with its present murderous meaning, derived from Latin
"ars," "artis," art!)

War means that all the finest intellects, of the finest of God's
creatures, are set to vie one with the other--on what false track of
evolution are we rushing?--to vie, one with the other, how best to
destroy life and to precipitate death! Death is sacred, but not life.

War means blood, slaughter, brutality, deformities, and always death,
death, death. Is man jealous of God, that he destroys God's handiwork,
and spares his own, when he runs amok? When the Germans destroyed, at
Louvain, the works of man, a howl of horror rose from every voice and
newspaper throughout the civilised world. But during this European war,
thousands of unique specimens of the works of God, Europe's finest
manhood, are every day being destroyed, and we are still waiting for
the howl of horror.

The other day I was told by one who witnessed it, that, from one
trench, 800 men were killed within three minutes. Now it takes women
years and years of infinite love, and patience, of sacrifice, and
devotion, to mould their sons--their creations--after the image of
God, in body, soul and mind. They fashion, with infinite pains, these
precious lives for God, and the end is--to be blown to pieces, 800 in
three minutes. To this end has the wisdom of Man brought Man. Could the
wisdom of Woman bring us to a worse abyss than this? However desperate
the remedy, must not the help of woman be hailed, to save life from the
abyss?

This thought came to me vividly one summer night in Serbia. It was
during the typhus epidemic, and I stumbled unawares upon an open grave.
It was three-quarters full of naked corpses. They were typhus victims.
They had been prisoners of war, and the grave would not be closed
until there were enough dead to fill it. Heavy rain had fallen, and
the bodies were half-submerged in water; but I saw one man above the
others. His body, long and strong-limbed, was all uncovered, but his
face, fine featured, proudly ignorant of the ignominy, his face was
covered with--flies; filthy, bloodsucking flies. Round his finely-cut
nostrils, his mouth, his half-opened eyes, squatting, buzzing, sucking,
shunting one another for best place--flies, flies, flies, and no one
to beat them off. Flies in thousands, squabbling for his blood, and no
one to beat them off. Only flies knew where he was. His mother was,
perhaps, at this moment, picturing him as a hero, and he was--food for
flies.

The night, in old parlance, would have been called glorious. But is
there glory on this bloodstained earth? The stars of heaven were
shining; but could stars be of heaven, and blink, and blink, and blink
complacently, and nothing else, when they might have set the heavens
ablaze, in a million fiery points of indignation, at the bloody sights
which they were seeing on the earth?

And the moon--cold, cruel, heartless moon, hidden at first, behind a
thunder cloud--emerged suddenly, with revengeful triumph, to illumine
the grave, lest I might miss the horror; turned on full candle-power
to show me, a woman, to show me _that_, and other things unspeakable.
I walked away quickly, tears burning in my eyes; angry, cursing in my
heart, the ways of men who bring these things to pass. But I remembered
that he was unmourned--alone--and for her sake, his mother's sake, I
came back, and knelt beside that charnel pit, to spread round him, as
she would have done, thoughts of love, and, oh, God! how difficult,
of Faith and Hope. "You're not alone!" I cried aloud, that the stars
and moon, and God, if He were near, should hear, and understand. "You
are not alone, for the hearts of all the mothers on the earth are with
you--in your open grave--and will one day rescue you and all their sons
from--flies."

The glamour, the adventure, the chivalry, which of old gilded the
horrors of war, have vanished. War is now a bloody business; a business
for butchers, not for high-souled gentlemen. Modern militarism involves
tortures and extermination, not only of the fighting, but of the
non-fighting portion of the population, in a manner which would have
shocked even the heroes of the Old Testament.

War is not merely an encounter between rival armies of men. War is, in
these days, an encounter between equipped armies, and unequipped women
and children, with results that are bestial and humiliating; between
equipped armies and unequipped civilisation, with results that are
destructive of civilisation.

War, with brutal butchery, destroys millions of human lives for paltry
purposes: to avenge the death of an Archduke or to gain commercial
profits. But if life is a thing of meaning, a divine gift, to be
divinely handled, for divine purposes; if life is, as mankind generally
professes, the chain upon which the evolution towards super-conscious
man is strung, the chain upon which the pearl of immortality is hung;
if life, as an abstract possession of the human race, is all this, and
more besides, then war, which aims at the destruction of this priceless
gift, is a cosmic blunder, which only devils bent upon the annihilation
of the human race, could have conceived.

Militarism has, in one country at least, reached a climax, and I
believe it is because we women feel in our souls, that life has a
meaning, and a value, which are in danger of being lost in militarism,
that we are, at this moment, instinctively asking society to give us
a share in safeguarding the destinies of those human lives, for which
Nature has made us specially responsible.

The idea of votes for women, or justice for women, is not here my
concern; the idea, which, as a result of my small experiences, engulfs
all others, is the necessity of votes for life, justice for humankind.
This can only be achieved by the suppression of war, and wars will
never be suppressed by men alone. Man, says Bacon, loves danger better
than travail; man, says Nietzsche, loves danger better than play.
Men still regard battles as magnified football scrums; war is still
for many men a glorified sport, as letters from the soldiers at the
front daily testify. "The spirit of our boys was splendid. They simply
loved the fun." "He simply turned from right to left, and fired as if
he was in a shooting saloon. It was the best bit of fancy shooting I
have seen," etc. (_Daily News_, Saturday, July 8th, 1916). The courage
required for facing battlefields is superb, but that same courage,
channelled for moral, social, and spiritual purposes, might create a
new heaven and earth. The more "natural" it seems for man to fight
his fellow-man, in order to acquire supremacy, the more urgent is it
for society to intervene; for the progress of man is secured, not by
yielding to natural environment, but by resistance to environment.

Society has failed in its primary function of preserving life. But
society has hitherto been controlled by men only, and men have always
been more interested in producing death, than in preserving life.
Bergson shows that man, who is so knowing when he deals with the
tangible dead life of machines, is quite unseeing when confronted with
the intangible life of humans. We have yet to see whether Bergson's
"man" should also include woman. Had one-tenth part of the money spent
by society in producing death--and we, in this country, are spending
five million pounds sterling for that purpose every day--been spent on
investigations as to the best methods of preserving life, the world
might have reached a higher stage of evolution than its present phase
of militarism. But Nature, in her beneficence, generally arranges that
side by side with the poisonous plant, the antidote shall grow, and
thus, side by side with the growth of militarism, has also grown the
woman's movement.

The care of life, before and after birth, has been given by God, and
by man, to woman. Woman has hitherto protected the concrete life of
individuals; must she not now, in an enlarged sphere, also protect the
abstract life of humankind?

Democracy, in which pacifists had placed high hopes, has failed as a
protective social force; but democracy is not yet democracy, for it
consists of men only, and democratic men do not differ from other men
in instinct.

The Scriptures say that it was a woman who first had courage to taste
the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (symbol of the dawn of human
consciousness). That woman was, at the time, blamed by both God and
man; but man certainly would not, if he could, go back to the state
of sub-conscious life from which she delivered him, and God, if He is
all-powerful, permitted the deliverance.

And now the Tree of Life, of spiritual life, or super-consciousness,
still stands in the unwalled garden, waiting for some daring soul
to force an entrance, to taste of its fruit, and live for ever.
With prophetic insight, the poets of Genesis predicted the order of
salvation: first, the Tree of Knowledge, material knowledge, and then
the Tree of Life, spiritual life. But they tell us, that the way to
the Tree of Life, is past the flaming sword, which turns north, south,
east, and west; and we, in these days, can well believe it. Now man,
with his physical force, has failed to extinguish the flame, which
flames at this moment more forbiddingly than ever. Man has failed, but
may not this be because the force required for the extinction of the
flame, is not physical, but spiritual? And now woman, who has not her
own interests, but the interests of human kind, at heart, suggests,
with all humbleness, that if human kind is ever to reach the Tree of
Life, the spiritual power of woman must be added to the physical force
of man, in a determined effort to extinguish that flaming sword--for
ever and ever. Amen.



PART V


COPY.

_Letter from Colonel Dr. Lazar Guentchitch, Head of the Serbian Army
Medical Service, to the Chief of the English Medical Mission, Madame
St. Clair Stobart._

"Knowing your hospital as one of the best arranged amongst foreign
hospitals, thoroughly organised for the work nearer the front and
supplied with all up-to-date necessary material and utensils, I have
the honour to inform you that your hospital is on that account selected
to keep in touch with our Army--in case it moves or comes into contact
with the enemy--keeping always behind the Army and close thereto, and
thus be enabled to do the work of a real Field Hospital.

"Since your arrival in Serbia, Madame, you have succeeded in giving to
your hospital--first intended for military purposes only--a further
function of wider importance, by extending the same in a form of
Ambulance sections solely for civilian needs. This meant a greater boon
still, as our nation was almost left without doctors, all having been
engaged with the Army. The huge number of ambulance patients who call
on your Roadside Dispensary, situated close to the hospital of your
Mission in Kragujevatz, is the best proof how good the idea was of
forming such ambulances.

"Therefore it will quite meet the situation that your hospital--during
this lull until the Army operations begin--be extended by adding a few
sections for the treatment of civilians in the nearer districts.

"With the personnel and material now at your disposal you will be
able to establish some other small dispensaries in a few places in the
vicinity, besides the hospital in Kragujevatz, and thus work right up
to the re-commencement of war operations, when all the various sections
will quickly join into one big sanitary organisation, prepared to meet
every requirement near the front.

"I have the honour, therefore, to request you to kindly inform the
Committee, by whose help you have organised and brought your Mission to
Serbia, as well as your personnel, which is assisting you most heartily
in your continuous aims to help the Serbian nation, and to make clear
to them how urgent is the necessity for your hospital to continue its
work in Serbia for a further period.

    "COLONEL DR. GUENTCHITCH,
    "_Chief of Sanitary Section_.
    "_June 26th (July 9th), 1915._
    "Kragujevatz."


Letter from the Chief of the Serbian Army Medical Service (translated
at the Serbian Legation, London):

    "General Headquarters.
    "S.D. No. 29273.

"On the occasion of the suspension of the combined Anglo-Serbian Field
Hospital, over which you had command during the last fighting and
retreat of the Serbian Army, from the first half of September until the
9th December, 1915, I have the honour to address the following letter
to you:

"Soon after your arrival in Serbia, at the head of the Mission whose
chief you were, you organised, by the middle of April, 1915, a hospital
at Kragujevatz, where the Serbian Headquarters were--a hospital,
including tents for the Serbian wounded and sick soldiers, and provided
with all the necessary things, and a trained medical staff. Your
hospital began with our wounded work at once, and was an example for
all, with its inner organisation.

"Everybody who took an interest in the sanitary organisation, and
visited Kragujevatz at the time, considered it as his duty to visit
your hospital, and everybody has observed its work and order with
pleasure; and thus your hospital has become one of the most popular
organisations in Serbia.

"It did not take long before your hospital at Kragujevatz enlarged its
work for the civilians and female population, and so became a combined
hospital for the Serbian wounded and civil and female population.

"At the very beginning of your work you conceived the idea of starting
an ambulance not far from the hospital, and close to the road, where
the Serbian peasants had to pass going to Kragujevatz, free of charge
to these peasants, for medical consultation and the distribution of
medicine, and providing the sick with tea and food.

"The success of your first Road Ambulance was so quick that nearly 150
persons a day from the town and villages came for consultation and
medicine. It was quite natural, for just at that time the population
remained without medical help, as our doctors were very busy with the
difficult task of suppressing the contagious diseases in the Serbian
Army.

"The unexpected success and popularity attained by your first
ambulance, in so short a time, suggested to you a plan to organise such
ambulances outside Kragujevatz, in outlying districts. Your persistent
work, and the reception given to your useful idea by the Serbian
Relief Fund in London, and other people, who helped you with their
contributions and personal participation, made it possible to have in
a short time, in the very heart of Serbia--in Shumadia--quite a number
of such useful and humane ambulances, provided with all the necessary
things to give medical help to the population and, indeed, those
ambulances during the time of their existence, have done invaluable
service to our country, and population, and have become popular, and
attracted always increasing numbers of sick people. For the short
time in these ambulances which you erected in Kragujevatz, Lapovo,
Natalintsi, Rudnik and Ovcarska Banja, Vitanovatz, and Rekovatz, there
were more than 20,000 medical consultations and successful injections
of serum, for diphtheria and typhoid, on children and grown-up people,
and much medicine has been distributed free of charge, and not only all
the possible help, but consolation too.

"The sick people who required hospital attendance were sent from these
ambulances to your Base Hospital at Kragujevatz, there to undergo
operations, to be bandaged and examined with the X-rays, and poor
soldiers provided with clothing, underwear, and other necessities.

"With the erection of the road and village ambulances was satisfied a
great necessity to fight the contagious diseases of our people, because
in that way medical help was given there where it was not easy to be
found. Respected Madame, you can be satisfied with the result you and
your helpers attained, and believe that your action, and the work of
the Serbian Relief Fund in London, will be remembered deeply by the
Serbians, who have suffered much, and you have earned their eternal
gratitude.

"In the sanitary history of the Serbo-Austrian War 1914-15, and the
history of fighting with epidemics and diseases amongst the Serbian
population, the village and road ambulances of Mrs. Stobart took the
first place at that time.

"When, at the beginning of September, to every Serbian it was clear
that there were new enemy attacks to be expected on all sides, the
invasion of Austro-German troops on one side, and the Bulgarians
on the other, you did not stop in carrying your original idea into
practice, and during the military operations you followed the troops.
At once there was organised the First Combined Anglo-Serbian Hospital,
which consisted of your medical staff from Kragujevatz Military
Hospital, and a certain number of the Serbian additional staff. The
inspector of the Serbian Headquarters appointed you Chief of the
Hospital in appreciation of your services. It is the first case in
our military history that a lady has been given the appointment of
Commander of an operating unit during the war. Your First Combined
Anglo-Serbian Field Hospital, together with the automobiles and
other material for transports, has been attached to one of our best
divisions, the Shumadia Division, which, during the last campaign
has had the most important and most difficult task. You have been in
command with the Division on the Bulgarian front (Second Army), and
afterwards you were transported with the same Division to the Northern
Front (Third Army), where your Division had to fight against three
German Divisions.

"The Commander of the Shumadia Division, Col. B. Terzitch, who is the
Serbian War Minister at present, has expressed his best praise for the
First Combined Anglo-Serbian Field Hospital, and your cleverness and
endurance in commanding that hospital. With your automobiles for the
wounded, you have transported during the fighting with the Germans,
about 650 wounded officers and men, and all who have seen you work,
agreed with the favourable opinion about you. And when the Serbian Army
started the first difficult retreat through Montenegro and Albania, you
did not abandon your hospital and Division, but, riding on horseback
and at the head of your Hospital Unit, you remained as part of the
Division till the arrival in Scutari, going through all difficulties.

"You brought successfully, with your energy and splendid behaviour, all
your staff to Scutari. It was a tremendous task to achieve, on account
of the many difficulties and inconveniences through which the Serbians
had to pass. Your hospital was the only one that knew how to save the
staff and bring same to Scutari. That can be explained by the fact that
you did not give up your command for one moment, and shared all the
war difficulties and inconveniences. You have made everybody believe
that a woman can overcome and endure all the war difficulties, and as
a Commander of a Medical Unit, can save all the staff, and at the same
time doing useful work whilst going back to your great Motherland. You
can be sure, esteemed Madame, that you have won the sympathies of the
whole of Serbia through your useful work, and that you have left the
best impressions. The Serbian Army feels a very deep gratitude for the
work you have done.

"By order of the Chief of the Staff at the Headquarters.

    "COLONEL DR. LAZAR GUENTCHITCH.
    "_Scutari, December 9th, 1915._"

    THE SERBIAN LEGATION CERTIFIES that the above
    is a translation from the Serbian.
    By order of the Serbian Minister. (SEAL)
    GEORGES V. TODOROVIC,
    _Secretary_.
    _London, January 21st, 1916._


    LEGATION ROYALE DE SERBIE.

    _Who is writing_: Commandant of the 1st Schumadia
    Division, Scutari.

    _To whom_: The Chief of the Headquarters of the
    Army Medical Service.

    No. 25201. 9-xii-1915.

"By order of the Chief of the Headquarters of the Serbian Sanitary
Department, the Anglo-Serbian Field Hospital has been added to this
Division, under the name of the First Combined Anglo-Serbian Hospital.
For the Chief of this Hospital has been nominated Mrs. St. Clair
Stobart, and for the Secretary Mr. J. H. Greenhalgh. In addition, this
hospital had two Lady Physicians, Nurses and other English personnel,
altogether a total of 17 people.

"This hospital had 30 bullock-carts, 7 horse-carts, 6 light
automobiles, a great store of sanitary material, medicines and other
sanitary necessities, with a sufficient number of large tents. The
above hospital has the capacity for receiving up to 150 military
patients. For the work in the hospital 50 orderlies have been engaged,
also one chemist, an accountant and the other necessary personnel.

"This hospital, with the personnel, had been transported from
Kragujevatz to Pirot by railway, and they started their work in the
village of Suvodol, on August 20th of last year. Since that date,
during all the warfare, this hospital has done the principal work as
the second firing line Field Hospital, because this division had always
a very long fighting line.

"This hospital, in this capacity, has always been on the spot,
according to their official orders, and even near the firing line,
where they have done stoically their work until they received further
orders to move.

"According to the hospital's Register it has received and attended to
596 wounded soldiers and 52 patients. Notwithstanding these figures,
the number is even greater, for on certain occasions the wounded were
not entered, so many were there and so little time to enter their names.

"The wounded soldiers have been excellently attended to and very well
dressed.

"The evacuation of patients and wounded, not only from this hospital,
but also from the central firing line Field Hospital, as well
as from other hospitals, has been greatly facilitated--taking
into consideration the terrible weather--by the loan of the light
automobiles of this hospital. The hospital retired, acting according to
official orders, together with the troops of this Division, beginning
from the place in front of Smederevo to Petch.

"In Petch they were ordered to take as much hospital material as could
be conveyed by the bullock carts, which are specially arranged for such
purposes, and the personnel were instructed to call upon the English
Military Attaché for further instructions regarding the evacuation.

"The Chief of the Hospital, Mrs. St. Clair Stobart, with her Secretary
and the other Serbian Nurses, left Petch for Podgoritza, Kastrati,
until Scutari, she traversing almost impassable roads. The remainder of
the English personnel were directed previously to go to Scutari.

"During all the warfare, as well as during the retirement, the Chief of
the Hospital, Mrs. St. Clair Stobart, was riding continuously (on her
horse) at the head of her unit, as a splendid example to all, keeping
the discipline at the most critical moments.

"For her strenuous and successful work in her hospital, besides
grateful thanks, Mrs. St. Clair Stobart (Chief of the Hospital)
deserves the highest merits and decorations for her unceasing and
untiring work.

    "BOZIDAR TERZIC.
    "_Commandant Colonel._"

    THE SERBIAN LEGATION CERTIFIES that this
    Document is a true translation from the Serbian.
    By order of the Serbian Minister,
    (SEAL) GEORGES V. TADOROVIC,
    _Secretary._
    Traduction and Certifying free of charge, No. 1489.
    _London, January 5th, 1916._


THE END.



    Stobart Hospital at Kragujevatz
    (SERBIAN RELIEF FUND UNIT 3)


    LIST OF PERSONNEL

    DIRECTRESS
    Mrs. St. Clair Stobart

    SURGICAL AND MEDICAL STAFF
    Atkinson, Mrs. King-May, M.B., Ch.B.
    Coxon, Miss Beatrice, D.R.C.P.S.R.
    Hanson, Miss Helen B., M.D., B.S., D.P.H.
    King-May, Miss Mabel Eliza, M.B., Ch.B.
    Marsden, Miss Edith Maude, M.B., Ch.B.
    Payne, Miss Catherine, M.B.
    Tate, Miss Isobel, M.D. (N.U.I.)

    NURSING SISTERS
    Bury, Miss E. V.         Leveson, Miss Alice.
    Booth, Miss Alice B.     Lawless, Miss Katherine.
    Browne, Miss Alice.      McGrow, Miss Mary.
    Collins, Miss Ellen.     MacLaverty, Miss M.
    Clifton, Miss F.         Newhall, Miss Dorothy.
    Dickson, Miss Isabelle.  Read, Miss Ada.
    Ferris, Miss Lorna.      Thompson, Miss Isabella.
    Hill, Miss Emily.        Willis, Miss Constance.
    Kennedy, Miss Jessie.    de Wasgindt, Miss Jessie.

    WOMEN ORDERLIES
    Beach, Miss Anna J.                   Maw, Miss F. B.
    Benjamin, Miss Cissy (Head Orderly).  McGlade, Miss Anne (Secretary).
    Bradshaw, Miss Laura.                 Picton, Miss D. M. (Cook).
    Brindley, Miss D. E. (Cook).          Stanley, Miss Monica (Head Cook).
    Burton, Miss A. K.
    Cargin, Miss E. M.                    Shakespeare, Miss Phyllis (Cook).
    Dearmer, Mrs. Percy (Linen).
    Johnson, Miss Lorna A. (Laundry).     Warren, Miss Fairy.
    Wolseley, Miss Minnie (Dispenser).
    Kerr, Miss Beatrice (Sanitation).

    _Hon. Treasurer._--Mr. J. H. Greenhalgh.
    _Hon. Chaplain._--Rev. Dr. P. Dearmer.


    MEN ORDERLIES
    Agar, Mr. (X-ray).              Colson, Mr. (Chauffeur).
    Black, Mr. (Head Chauffeur).    Korobenikoff, Mr. (Medical Student).
    Beck, Mr. (Refugee clothing).
    Vooitch, Mr. (Interpreter).



    _DISPENSARIES' STAFF_

    SURGICAL AND MEDICAL
    Cockburn, Miss H., M.D., C.M.
    Hall, Miss H., L.R.C.P.I. and L.M., L.R.C.S.I., L.M.
    Muncaster, Miss A. L., M.B., Ch.B., Edin.
    Macmillan, Miss A. J., M.B., Ch.B., Edin.
    Maclaren, Miss G. D., M.B., Ch.B., Edin.
    Stewart, Miss M., M.B., Ch.B., Belfast.
    Iles, Miss Mary M. G., M.D. (Lond.) B.S., D.P.H.R.C.P.S.I.


    DISPENSER
    Mr. E.    Stone.


    NURSING SISTERS
    Bainbridge, Miss.
    Cockrill, Miss.
    Chapple, Miss E.
    Downes, Miss.
    Gambier, Miss.
    Giles, Miss E. B.
    Hall, Miss.
    Henley, Miss.
    Price, Miss M.
    Smith Lewis, Miss.
    Stone, Miss.
    Stewart, Miss M.
    Wells, Miss.
    Willis, Miss.
    Wren, Miss.


    WOMEN ORDERLIES
    (Cooks)
    Aldridge, Mrs.
    Barber, Miss.
    Chesshire, Miss.
    Dawn, Mrs.
    Mansel-Jones, Miss.
    Tatham, Miss.
    Tubb, Miss.


    MAN ORDERLY
    Rev. E. S. Rogers.


    CHAUFFEURS
    Boone, Mr. G. D.
    Dickinson, Miss E. K.
    Holland, Miss G.
    Holmstrom, Mr. O.
    Hulett, Mr.
    Jordan, Mr.
    Little, Rev. J.
    Marshall, Mr. A.
    Sharman, Miss.


    Printed in Great Britain by W. H. SMITH & SON, The Arden Press,
    Stamford Street, London, S.E.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

Obvious punctuation errors were corrected.

Both "battlefield(s)" and "battle-field(s)" appear frequently and have
not been changed.

Hyphen removed: "bloodstained" (p. 313), "farmhouse" (p. 226),
"hairpin" (p. 136), "hillsides" (p. 111), "horseback" (p. 322),
"menfolk" (p. 153).

Hyphen added: "mid-day" (p. 197), "school-house" (p. 202), "side-light"
(p. 44), "sub-conscious" (p. 2), "thunder-storms" (p. 41).

P. 40: "enlightment" changed "enlightenment" (I should have liked
enlightenment).

P. 49: "battiste" changed to "batiste" (garment made of
white batiste).

P. 53: "innoculated" changed to "inoculated" (inoculated against
typhoid).

P. 129: "very" changed to "every" (in every deed).

P. 187: "avaliable" changed to "available" (only light available).

P. 214: "Monetenegro" changed to "Montenegro".

P. 214-15: "Austrains" changed to "Austrians".

P. 217: "sent" changed to "send" (I couldn't send).

P. 218: "viv" changed to "via" (via Valorno).

P. 227: "ever" changed to "every" (weaker every hour).

P. 289: "moral" changed to "morale" (the Army and its morale).

P. 305: "11.3" changed to "11.30".

P. 320: "Kraguyevatz" changed to "Kragujevatz".

Dispensaries' staff: "Bambridge" changed to "Bainbridge".





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