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Title: Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside the French and Flemish Trenches
Author: Pulitzer, Ralph
Language: English
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SCENES INSIDE THE FRENCH AND FLEMISH TRENCHES***


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[Illustration: [See page 2

"A FEW SECONDS LATER THE TWO GREAT PROPELLERS BEGAN TO FLASH ROUND"]


OVER THE FRONT IN AN AEROPLANE
AND SCENES INSIDE THE FRENCH AND FLEMISH TRENCHES

by

RALPH PULITZER

Illustrated



[Illustration]

Harper & Brothers Publishers
New York and London

OVER THE FRONT IN AN AEROPLANE
-------
Copyright, 1915, by Harper & Brothers
Printed in the United States of America



TO MY WIFE



CONTENTS


  CHAP.                                                         PAGE

  I.       A FLIGHT TO THE FIRING LINE                             1

  II.      HOW THE FRONT IS VISITED                               16

  III.     IN THE FRENCH TRENCHES                                 41

  IV.      A TYPICAL DAY'S TOUR                                   59

  V.       A GRENADE-THROWING SCHOOL                              88

  VI.      WITH THE BELGIAN BATTERIES                             99

  VII.     IN THE FLEMISH TRENCHES                               120

  VIII.    LESSONS                                               140



ILLUSTRATIONS


  "A FEW SECONDS LATER THE TWO GREAT PROPELLERS
    BEGAN TO FLASH ROUND"                              _Frontispiece_

  "BELOW US STRETCHED AN UNBROKEN WHITE OCEAN OF
    THESE LOWER CLOUDS"                           _Facing p._      6

  "THERE WERE AUTOS WITH ... RAZOR-EDGED
    KNIFE-BLADES ATTACHED"                             "          32

  CAPTAIN D'A---- AND THE AUTHOR                       "          32

  "THERE MASS IS STILL HELD EVERY SUNDAY FOR THE
    BENEFIT OF THE SIXTEEN INHABITANTS WHO STILL
    PERSISTED IN STAYING IN THE VILLAGE"               "          48

  THE AUTHOR IN A FRONT TRENCH NEAR RHEIMS             "          52

  "WE WERE COMPLETELY ABSORBED IN WATCHING THE
    SOFT LITTLE CLOUDS PLAYFULLY DANCING ALONG
    AHEAD OF THE LAZILY DRIFTING AEROPLANE"            "          68

  "AS WE HIKED ALONG AT THE GENERAL'S FAVORITE
    PACE"                                              "          72

  "A HEAVY FIELD-PIECE STANDING ON TREADLED
    WHEELS"                                            "          72

  PART OF THE ENORMOUS ENCAMPMENT OF SUPPLY-WAGONS,
    WHICH CARRY THE COMPLETE SUPPLIES FOR THREE
    FULL DAYS FOR ONE ARMY CORPS                       "          84

  "COLONEL D----, COMMANDING THE ARTILLERY OF THE
    SECTOR"                                            "         104

  THE AUTHOR IN ONE OF THE BIGGEST SHELL-PITS, WHICH
    WERE TEN FEET DEEP AND TWENTY FEET IN DIAMETER     "         104

  COMMANDANT L---- IN THE NICKEL-STEEL SKULL-CAP
    WHICH HE WORE INSIDE HIS KHAKI CAP                 "         120

  "THE CHAUFFEUR REACHED THE OPEN PLACE BY THE
    CHURCH"                                            "         126

  ON THE SHATTERED CHURCH HUNG THIS CRUCIFIX INTACT
    THOUGH SURROUNDED BY SHRAPNEL HOLES                "         126

  UNDER HEAVY FIRE IN A BELGIAN COMMUNICATING-TRENCH   "         136



OVER THE FRONT IN AN AEROPLANE



I

A FLIGHT TO THE FIRING LINE


    PARIS, _August 13th_ (_Friday_).

I have just returned from a unique visit to the front. This afternoon
I flew in an army aeroplane from Paris to the fighting lines, skirted
these lines for a few kilometres, and flew back to Paris.

We made the round trip without a break.

I am indebted to the quite exceptional kindness of the French Foreign
Office and of the French War Office for this flight. No other civilian
has been allowed to ascend in a French army aeroplane at all, and as
for visiting the front in one, it has apparently been undreamed of.
Poor Needham went up in a British military aeroplane, but what he saw
and felt were buried with him.

I received definite word yesterday evening that at four-thirty this
afternoon I would find a military motor at the door of my hotel; that
it would take me to the great aviation station in the suburbs of Paris,
and that at five-thirty o'clock a double-cylindered battle-plane would
set flight with me.

Everything ran like clockwork. At five o'clock I was shaking hands
with the Captain of this most important aviation station, and he was
explaining to me just how, day and night, his aeroplanes guarded Paris
from German air attacks.

At five-thirty o'clock I was struggling into a heavy leather suit which
I put on over my regular clothes and a heavy padded helmet which was
carefully fastened under my chin by a buttoned flap and also an elastic
band.

A few minutes later I was climbing sinuously into my seat in the
front of the aeroplane while my pilot wormed his way into his seat a
few feet behind me. A few seconds later the two great propellers (or
rather tractors) began to flash around. With a snap and a roar the
battle-plane started slowly forward, gained in speed till we were
running along the big field like a racing automobile, then suddenly the
people standing around dropped away from us as if on a gigantic express
elevator leaving one standing on the upper floor of a skyscraper, and
in a moment more the earth had become a strange and placid panorama
with which we had no connection or concern.

On and up, on and up, we flew, headed straight as an arrow for
the closest portion of the battle-front, ninety kilometres (about
fifty-four miles) away.

As the vast crazy-quilt of numberless shades of green and brown rolled
slowly below us I had time to pay more attention to my immediate
surroundings. I sat in the front, or observer's seat, of a great
new French biplane which the English call a battle-plane, and the
French call an "avion de chasse," or "hunting aeroplane." They call
their smaller single-motored machines their "avions de réglage," or
"regulating aeroplanes." But these great biplanes they fondly call
their hunting aeroplanes, for with them they hunt the Taubes and the
aviatiks of the enemy, and they tell me that their enemy usually gives
them a wide berth.

I found myself sitting in a little cockpit strapped to a comfortable
seat. A few inches in front of my nose was the breach of a heavy
machine-gun whose muzzle projected over the bow of the fuselage. At
each side of my seat, under my elbows, were coiled long belts of
cartridges for the machine-gun. In the floor of the little cockpit,
right in front of my feet, was a little glass window through which I
could watch the ground passing directly (though some thousand feet)
underneath. Just behind this window, in the floor under my feet, was a
little metal trap-door. By straddling my feet I could open this, for
the purpose either of taking vertical photographs or of dropping bombs.
Only the three long, shell-like bombs which generally hang in straps to
the left of the observer had been removed, as had also the Winchester
rifle which hangs to his right.

I could get an uninterrupted view of the scenery across a space of
about four feet right ahead. Further to right and left the view
flickered curiously through the lightning-swift twirling of the
propeller-blades. "Don't stretch your head out in front to either
side," had cautioned the aviation Captain before I left the earth, "or
you would certainly get guillotined." I craned my neck gingerly round
to look beyond me. In another little cockpit about four feet aft sat
the pilot. I could see his face peering over the edge through a low
windshield. Past his head on each side I got a view of the country we
were leaving behind.

This happened to be a farewell glimpse of Paris. It stretched vaguely
away, bathed in the late afternoon sun and yet shrouded in heavy haze
and smoke, a sort of bird's-eye Whistler.

Now feeling the air becoming distinctly colder, I looked ahead again.
For a time we had been flying at 1,000 metres. Now we gradually climbed
to 2,000 metres. The outrunners of the clouds began to drift by in
wisps of what seemed like mist. Below, the earth looked like the
display of a carpet-merchant's dreams. Square carpets, oblong carpets,
long strips of carpets, carpets of light green, of dark green, of
every intermediate shade of green; carpets of fawn color and of brown,
thin carpets and carpets of wonderfully thick pile, plain carpets and
carpets with symmetrical designs in light brown dots (several thousand
feet nearer those dots would have resolved themselves into homely
haycocks).

Now the carpets stopped as we sailed over a forest of dense dark green
with little mirrors stuck in it, which, when looked at through my
field-glasses, proved to be not the tops of greenhouses, as I had at
first imagined, but big lakes.

And now the wisps of mist became banks of fog. As we still climbed
on upward through these white banks the earth could only be seen in
isolated dark patches. Higher and higher we climbed, till finally the
earth was entirely veiled by the clouds below us. At a height of 3,000
metres, or 9,900 feet, we straightened our angle and on an even keel
headed away toward the front. It was a magnificent sight. We were
flying along in a clear belt between the lower and the upper clouds.
Below us stretched an unbroken white ocean of these lower clouds. The
sun was just high enough to shed its slanting beams along the surface
of this snow-white sea. Above us were the lowering masses of the higher
clouds.

[Illustration: Page 6

"BELOW US STRETCHED AN UNBROKEN WHITE OCEAN OF THESE LOWER CLOUDS"]

In this lonely world of our own we flew forward at 130 kilometres (80
miles approximately) an hour. The air was very thin and cold, but for
some reason there was no rush of wind against my face. If I moved my
head to right or left I could feel the wind from either propeller, but
in the middle it was relatively calm. The air felt very thin to breathe
and I had to swallow constantly to keep clearing my ears and the tubes
back of my nose.

On and on we flew, until finally I felt, instead of hearing, a violent
rapping. Turning my head, I saw the pilot hammering with his right fist
on the deck between our cockpits to attract my attention. He grinned
amicably and opened his mouth wide. I could see he was shouting at me,
but could not hear the faintest sound over the roar of the propellers.
He pointed to the whiteness below us a little to the right. Then he
wrote an imaginary word with his forefinger on the deck between us. I
could not read it upside down. I opened my leather coat, and with the
cold instantly biting into my chest, hauled out my notebook and pencil
and stretched them out to him. He shook his head and indicated that he
could not take both hands away from steering. So I buttoned up my coat
again in some perplexity.

Then, without abruptness, with a certain sickening majesty, the
aeroplane stood on its head and swooped down onto the surface of the
white sea below us. As it swallowed us we began to spiral rapidly
around as though we were tobogganing down a giant corkscrew. As we
went on down through this white nothingness I became very dizzy. The
propellers had slowed 'way down and I thought the engines had failed,
and that we were either falling 10,000 feet or making a forced descent.
But the pilot sat still back above me, so I did likewise.

Suddenly we spiralled violently down through the bottom of the cloud
into sight of the earth again. Instantaneously the engines broke into
their old roar and the aeroplane stopped pointing straight down and
assumed a steep slant. If any one ever heaved a sigh of relief I did it
then.

I felt the rapping behind me. Looking round, I saw the pilot pointing
down at the earth, ahead and to our right. I shook my head. Then, as we
careened downward, he stopped his motors for a fraction of a second,
and in the sudden deafening silence he shouted out, "The front!"

Here, if my hopes had materialized, I should be able to give a most
striking picture of a battle as seen from an aeroplane. But honesty
compels me to say that any one who wants to get a good clear view of
the front had much better go there on the surface of the earth, and not
through the air.

In the first place, it takes quite a little time and trouble to
discern the lines of opposing trenches even when you stand on a quiet
observation post with a General painstakingly pointing and explaining,
by the help of landmarks, just where they run. Here, though we were
now only 1,000 metres (about 3,300 feet) up, we were racing along the
front at 80 miles an hour, and all my friend the pilot could do was
to point here and there frantically. So among the maze of white lines
I saw running below me through the hazy atmosphere, some which I took
for trenches were undoubtedly roads; some which I took for roads were
equally undoubtedly trenches, while only a few, by their zigzagging,
could I unhesitatingly have guaranteed to have been trenches.

In the next place the roar of the engines totally drowned out all the
reports of the guns which were going off below us, and the explosions
of the shells, which are such a striking feature of the front.

To make matters still more undramatic there was no battle going on at
the precise moment when we shot downward out of the clouds, but only a
rather languid artillery exchange. Even a regulating aeroplane which
was sailing around directly below us and about half-way down between
us and the earth, correcting the fire of some batteries, was having an
exceptionally peaceful time of it. We could look down and see plainly
the red, white and blue circles of France painted on the tops of its
planes, but there were none of the customary woolly little white clouds
of German shrapnel bursting round it during the few seconds that it
remained in sight.

Furthermore, the guns right below it and us were so cleverly concealed
that they were quite invisible. The only signs of its being a front at
all were the bursting shells from the French batteries. These little
puffs of smoke in the hazy distance the pilot spotted unerringly, but
he had a discouraging time pointing them out to my unaccustomed eyes as
we raced along.

So this, I fear, is all that any one visiting the front by aeroplane
would have seen this afternoon. Possibly had we hung around longer we
might have seen more, but the pilot and I both had important dinner
engagements in Paris, and the sun was getting very low. We therefore
reluctantly swept around and, leaving the silver band of the Aisne
behind us, started for home.

We kept low, not over 1,000 metres, so that the landscape was very
clear and interesting. First we passed over the city of Compiègne,
where I had lunched with Dr. Carrel only three days before to the
accompaniment of an artillery obligato. Then right over the big,
dark green Forest of Compiègne where I tried but failed to locate a
château I had visited with Mme. Carrel. Then on and on over a further
entrancing exhibit of parti-colored carpet fitting together at the
edges as snugly as any completed picture-puzzle.

Before long we reached Senlis, where I had stopped on my way to
Compiègne the other day to take snap-shots of the streets of houses
gutted by the Germans during their brief occupation before the battle
of the Marne. Passing over Senlis, we dropped lower, so that I could
get a clear bird's-eye view of the havoc. Then on and on, without
incident, till the smoke of Paris came in sight, and on and on again,
till I looked down through a thousand yards or so of space on the
aviation field from which I had started just one hour and twenty-five
minutes earlier.

Suddenly the motors stopped, the aeroplane keeled over onto the tip
of its left wing and, pivoting round on it, we began our dizzy spiral
descent. First on one wing-tip, and then on the other, we corkscrewed
dizzily down. First the whole surface of the earth would swiftly fly
up, revolving as it came, and slap me on the left side of the face,
then, a fraction of a second later, the same revolving surface would
heave swiftly up to slap me on the right side of my face. This double
spiral descent is certainly by all odds the dizziest proceeding that
was ever devised by man.

Finally, with a swoop which I made sure would carry away most of the
chimney-pots of the suburb, we made a beautiful glide and alighted on
the grass of the aviation field as smoothly as a canoe launched from a
beach into a quiet lake.

Here one would think our day had ended, but there was one very vivid
thrill left.

As the aeroplane came to a stop a mechanic came running up, carrying
a pneumatic wheel. He spoke a few sharp words to the pilot, and the
latter asked me to get out quickly, saying that he would return
and explain some of the details of our flight a little later. So I
scrambled out, the machinist scrambled into my place, carrying the
pneumatic wheel, and with a rattle and a roar the aeroplane rolled
across the field and leaped into the air again.

I joined some aviation officers and asked what was the matter. They
pointed to a machine a few thousand feet above us, and explained that
in leaving the ground that machine had lost one of its pneumatic
wheels. The aviator was ignorant of this, and, unless warned in time,
would, on trying to make his landing, turn turtle and get killed. My
pilot had gone up to meet him in the upper air and by waving the wheel
at him indicate his predicament, so that he could land on the left
wheel and tail of his machine.

"Unless he understands before he lands he is a dead man," said the
officer. This really was a dramatic spectacle--the one aviator soaring
on guard high in the sky in complete unconsciousness of the death that
awaited him; the other, climbing nearer and nearer, then circling round
and round in narrowing circles. Finally, the first machine started down.

"He understands," said some one.

"No, he doesn't," said others.

"Get the ambulance ready," ordered the aviation Captain, and the engine
of the motor-ambulance began to chug with a most sinister effect.

We all stood perfectly powerless and watched the machine spiral down.
As he made his glide, men stood in the field waving spare wheels at
him to insure his understanding. But no. Instead of landing tilted
to the left on his sound wheel and tail, he made his landing leaning
over a little to the right where the wheel was missing. As it touched
the earth the great machine buried its nose in the ground, its tail
rose and rose till it stood perpendicular, and then fell forward in a
somersault, so that the plane was lying on its back.

"He's finished. Get the ambulance," ordered the Captain.

We all started at a run across the field toward the motionless
aeroplane, the motor-ambulance following close on our heels. As we
got to the wreck a figure crawled out and began to swear fluently at
not having been warned in a way that a sane man could understand. How
the aviator escaped will always remain a complete mystery. But his
escape made a happy climax to the thrilling ending of an unforgettable
afternoon.



II

HOW THE FRONT IS VISITED


When the average newspaper-reader reads the average war correspondent's
excellent stories from the firing-line, his ideas are probably vague
indeed as to how the correspondent reached that very elastic zone known
as "the front."

He probably pictures the military authorities extending to the writer
a magnificently sweeping invitation to witness and immortalize their
armies in battle. In his mind's eye he sees the journalist equipping
himself with automobile, shelter-tent, sleeping-bag, canned food,
medicine-chest and revolver--with everything, in fact, necessary
for the hardships and emergencies of campaigning. This visionary
correspondent then sallies forth from the luxury and security of Paris
(let us say), sitting by his chauffeur, military map in hand, directing
the course of his high-powered car to that section of the front where
the General Staff has informed him that a critical battle is to take
place. Arrived there, he watches an infantry charge capture the enemy's
trenches; then, leaping into his waiting motor, speeds away to another
portion of the line, which he reaches according to his schedule, just
in time to observe a particularly interesting bombardment of the
enemy's lines by a battery of heavy artillery. He is called away after
a time by the necessity of covering several miles more in order to
watch the defenders of a front trench repel an enemy attack. He may
lunch with a General, if he happens to drop in at headquarters just
as lunch is served, or he may have to share a soldier's frugal meal
in the darkness of a bomb-proof. After attending an aeroplane duel,
having a chat with the Generalissimo of the armies, inspecting the
consolidation of a few hundred yards of trenches just taken from the
enemy, watching the explosion of a mine, interviewing a fresh batch of
German prisoners, with whom a punctured tire almost causes him to miss
his appointment, and observing the methods employed by the Red Cross
in collecting the wounded under fire, he is overtaken by night after
a busy day, and sleeps in his shelter-tent before making up his mind
which particular army he will visit the following day.

It is a thrilling and romantic picture. But how sadly distant from the
truth.

The war correspondent does not buy himself a motor, because if he did
he would not be allowed to use it. All he buys himself is a railway
ticket. When it comes to motoring, he is packed with an assortment of
fellow-correspondents into military autos specially assigned by the
army authorities.

He does not buy a shelter-tent or a sleeping-bag, because at a certain
scheduled hour every evening the staff-officer who has him and his
colleagues in tow will lead him into an excellent hotel in some large
town or other and assign him to a comfortable bedroom engaged ahead. He
does not buy canned provisions, because before going to bed the officer
buys him an appetizing dinner, follows it up with a good breakfast the
next morning, and at lunch-time introduces him to a courteous General,
or, at a pinch, to another hotel-keeper, by one or the other of whom
he is supplied with a prearranged and excellent lunch.

He does not buy himself a medicine-chest, because he is always within
shouting distance of enough medical talent to treat a whole city.

He does not buy a revolver, because it would be gently but firmly taken
away from him if he did.

If he is sensible, he does not even buy himself binoculars, for the
officers by whom he will find himself uninterruptedly accompanied
will be glad to let him use theirs, and though he may not look so
picturesque without them, he will be much more comfortable if he has
any hands-and-knees work to do.

Finally, he will not have a word to say as to where he wants to go or
what he wants to see, for that has all been settled in advance.

It is true that different Generals vary greatly in the risks that they
will allow correspondents to run with their respective armies. Some
feel that if a correspondent wants to take chances that is his own
affair so long as he does not unduly endanger the life of a valuable
staff-officer along with his own. Others feel personally responsible
for the safeguarding of visitors, whether the visitor is willing to
take chances or not.

But these variations merely affect the more or less dangerous details
of the trip, not the programme as a whole, which is quite rigid.

In the beginning of the war a few men, like Alexander Powell in
Flanders, and Robert Dunn in the retreat from Mons, were actual
knights-errant of the pen and wandered or whirled where they pleased,
and saw what happened to come their way.

But on the western front, at least, that is all dead and gone.

The activities of war correspondents have been thoroughly regulated,
systematized, standardized. Just what the correspondent is to be
permitted to see at the front is deliberately considered and arranged
in advance. The authorities decide what fights are fit for him to see
just as painstakingly as chaperons used to decide what plays were
fit for débutantes to see. He, together with the six or eight other
journalists who are to make up the party, is placed in the hands of a
military duenna who guards his every move from the time the admirably
organized tour starts, until he is again safely delivered back in
Paris. The precise duration of the trip, the precise route to be taken,
the precise place at which each meal is to be eaten, the precise room
in the precise hotel in which each night is to be spent, the precise
General to be met and trench to be visited, are all inexorably fixed in
the schedule of the trip.

The only phenomena which the general staffs cannot predetermine are
the activities of the aviators and the course of the enemy's shells
and bullets. Hence, the only spontaneous adventures in store for
correspondents, which may come unexpectedly, at any moment, are the
whirring of aeroplanes overhead, their shelling and their duels and the
sudden passing or arrival of enemy projectiles, from tiny bullets up to
enormous "Jack Johnsons."

Even this element of surprise can be avoided in the case of a
small minority of visitors who I understand prefer to limit their
researches at "the front" to the hospitals, supply-trains, motor-repair
organizations, encampments of reserves, and similar objects of
interest, which lie some twenty kilometres behind the trenches and yet
really are sufficiently a part of the front to be known as its rear.

The front has a second category of visitors besides the war
correspondents of whom I have been writing--"the distinguished
strangers." These do not come to the front for the purpose of writing
about what they see, and are for this reason, as well as because of the
courtesy which it is desired to show them, allowed considerably more
latitude, although they, too, are kept religiously away from any part
of the lines where real trouble is expected.

I myself was fortunate enough to be invited to visit the French and
Belgian fronts in a sort of dual capacity. Having pledged myself not to
go on to Germany, and to write nothing about anything that was shown me
in confidence, I was given a special trip, instead of going with one of
the regular "journalists' parties," which certainly have an unromantic
resemblance to Cook's Tours. I was thus enabled to visit certain
advanced trenches where larger parties, in the nature of things, could
not go, and was shown things which had not previously been shown to
correspondents. But the organization of my trip resembled that of the
average correspondents' tour closely enough to enable me to describe
its details.

                   *       *       *       *       *

In Paris in a rather small room on the second floor of the Ministry
for Foreign Affairs, at a methodically cluttered writing-table, on
which one of the oddly-shaped French telephones lapses into occasional
silence, sits a slender, suave, well-groomed Frenchman about forty
years old. He has a glossy dark moustache, large and pensive dark eyes,
a nicely deprecatory manner, and a beautifully conciliatory smile. He
chats to his visitor in excellent English, if English be required, and
smiles at him this almost tender smile. He is Monsieur P----, the war
correspondents' Czar. He is the absolute ruler of their destinies. For
it is he who picks and chooses among their waiting numbers, and decides
to which to accord the privilege of a place in one of the parties which
leave about every two weeks for a two- or three-day trip to the front.

When an eager newspaper man has come over all the way from California,
let us say, for such a trip, has waited in Paris a month or six
weeks for such a trip and has seen colleagues favored above other
men start off with enthusiasm and return with hauteur from such a
trip, the transcendent importance of Monsieur P---- in that craving
correspondent's eyes verges on the pitiful.

When you think of this hungry horde of newspaper men collected from the
ends of the earth on this one assignment, receiving curt cables and
telegrams every few days from their papers asking where their stories
are, all as suspicious and jealous of each other as prima-donnas, each
trying to "put over a beat" on the other, and each terrified lest some
other "put over a beat" on him, you can perhaps imagine that Monsieur
P----'s official duties do not constitute a sinecure.

Behind the back of Monsieur P---- they grouch; before his face they
grovel. They try on him all the arts and practices of their profession,
from bluff, through blandishments to supplication. And Monsieur P----
sits and smiles at them with tender sympathy and gives them their trips
fairly and squarely without fear or favoritism. The room echoes with
their pleas and protests, the telephone buzzes with their wheedlings
and reproaches; but Monsieur P---- deals out even-handed justice among
them and never turns a hair. There is probably not an hour of the day
or night that some war correspondent in any language from English to
Japanese is not calling down very horrible curses upon this autocrat's
head. And yet they all cherish for him the most sincere affection and
respect.

I myself was fortunate enough to be introduced to Monsieur P---- within
a couple of hours of reaching Paris, my special trip to the front
having already been arranged for the following morning. Its machinery
was the same as that of the regular trips. Monsieur P---- got out an
official printed form of military pass for war correspondents. My
photograph was pasted on its cover. I was asked to write my signature
on the next page, which was devoted to this trip. There were several
more pages for possible other trips. On this first page was written
the name of Epernay, the city behind the front to which I was to go
by train the following morning. It was specified that the trip was to
last three days. The name of the staff-officer who was to accompany me
was written in, and subsequently his signature was appended. The whole
thing was signed, stamped by Monsieur P---- and handed over to me to
carry with me on the trip, to be handed back to him immediately upon my
return, and to be used again should I later make other trips.

Then the staff-officer who was to be my chaperon came in and we were
introduced. In private life he happened to be a prince. In the army he
was at present plain Captain d'A----. Incidentally, he proved to be a
fine fellow and a very pleasant companion.

Following his instructions, I was at the railroad station the following
morning at eight o'clock, together with Lincoln Eyre, whom I had been
permitted to invite on the trip. I presented my military pass to the
ticket-seller, who scrutinized it closely before selling me a railway
ticket to Epernay. It is the rule in France that correspondents must
pay for their railway tickets themselves, so that the Government cannot
be accused of paying their way for propagandist purposes. After you
reach the front the military authorities furnish army motors, and
themselves take care of your meals and bedrooms.

On the train was one of the regular personally conducted
correspondents' caravans, consisting of about eight correspondents.
There were three Americans, a couple of Frenchmen, a couple of
Scandinavians, and, I think, a Russian. Their cicerone was a very
tall staff-officer who looked slightly worried by his cosmopolitan
responsibilities. Their party was going on to Verdun.

After a comfortable two-hour trip we got out at Epernay. There we were
met by Captain F----, a staff-officer belonging to the General Staff of
the 5th Army, which we were to visit. Thus Captain d'A----, from the
Staff of the Paris War Office, had general responsibility for the trip,
while Captain F----, who also was to accompany us, was responsible for
the detailed military arrangements during our stay with the 5th Army.

Captain d'A----'s orderly (who before mobilization had been the wealthy
young proprietor of a steamship line to South America) having taken
our bags to the hotel, where we were to return to spend the night, we
immediately started off on our schedule.

The ground plan of my three-day trip was planned to give me a condensed
view of all the component parts of a French army of five army corps, or
about 200,000 men, from the rear up to the front trench.

We accordingly began with the Motor Transport Repair Corps, situated in
Epernay, consisting of 1,000 men and 14 officers, including 3 doctors.
It kept in up-to-the-minute running order the 1,500 motor vehicles of
the army corps which occupied the front 20 miles before us.

The Captain who showed us around had been technical supervisor of the
Rochet-Schneider Auto Company and had, together with all the other
mechanical experts, been mobilized directly into the present work.
He answered my surprise at the number of soldiers employed in these
peaceful labors by explaining that two soldiers at work in the rear for
every three soldiers fighting was the regular formula.

Epernay, being the centre of the champagne industry, most of the
military repair garages had been located in the great wine storehouses.
It was odd to see soldiers repainting grim wire-cutting autos rubbing
elbows with peasant women busily wrapping gold-foil round the heads of
fat quarts of famous vintages.

"Yes, they work together," smiled the Captain; "and it is not so
incongruous as it looks. For the champagne was a good ally of ours
during the battle of the Marne. It made enough casualties among the
Boches to have an appreciable effect on the course of the battle. When
we chased them out of here the broken bottles looked as though there
were no more champagne left in the world. But as a matter of fact, so
enormous are the quantities stored hereabouts that the German inroads
were relatively slight."

It was remarkable how much we were able to crowd into an hour's
inspection. Great meat-lorries, each carrying enough fresh carcasses
to stock a city butcher-shop, secured ventilation yet guarded their
contents against flies by close-meshed steel netting instead of solid
sides. But to protect the meat from dust science had had to bow to
nature, for to the netting in its turn were attached pine boughs which
admitted air while excluding dust more efficiently than any artificial
contrivance. Enormous repair-lorries were each a perambulating garage
fully equipped with machinery for repairing broken parts or making new
ones. Some of these lorries ran on their own power. Others were towed
along by a big motor. In either case they made their own power to run
their repair machinery, and their own brilliant electric light by which
to work at night. They had almost hermetically sealed curtains to keep
the light from leaking out, for in mobile war they are often called
upon to do their work in sight and range of the enemy. But the trench
warfare has rooted them to the spot for a weary time.

"But wait!" said the Captain. "When the advance begins just watch us
keep up with the procession."

There were autos with a steel frame running from the radiator, overhead
to the back seat, this frame having razor-edged knife-blades attached.
In open warfare while scouting along strange roads these were useful in
shearing through any wires which the thoughtful foe might have strung
across for the decapitation of speeding visitors.

There were uninteresting-looking big gray ammunition-lorries,
ambulances, post-offices on wheels and hundreds of ordinary autos for
the use of officers, messengers, etc.

I was informed that the life of the average car in active service was
very far from being as short as was popularly supposed. "Why," said the
Captain, "we have many cars coming in which have been working hard for
eleven months, and now for the first time are compelled to come in for
repairs."

I noticed with what fastidious care all the cars were painted and
varnished. "Yes, that is the way we apply psychology to motor-repair
work," chuckled the Captain. "Experience has taught us that when a
soldier is given a beautifully finished car to run he takes pride in
it. And he not only keeps the outside well cleaned, which greatly
postpones the date when it must come back to us for doctoring, but he
also bestows much more care on his motor. So it is not only æstheticism
which prompts that beautiful finish. But talk about æstheticism, here
is a real example of it."

He showed me a car from whose front lamp-brackets some artist had
wrought in iron two very beautiful palm fronds.

"The man sacrificed much leisure time to making those branches from
sheer love of his art and of the beautiful. The French people are like
that, Monsieur."

Having eaten a sample of the good bread and most excellent Irish stew
which constitutes the soldiers' lunch, we returned to the hotel for our
own early lunch. Then I climbed into one military motor with Captain
F----, while Eyre installed himself in another with Captain d'A----,
and at about 12.30 we started off for the front of "the front."

We climbed rapidly out of Epernay, up a long very steep grade, flanked
as far as the eye could reach by vineyards, in which peasant women, old
men and boys were busily harvesting the raw material for future "Secs,"
"Extra drys," and "Bruts." Our bellowing military motor-siren drove
most of the heavy two-wheeled peasant's carts hastily toward the gutter
to give us passage. Every now and then some cart's fantastic creakings
would drown our clamor, and then as we finally forced our way past, the
soldier-chauffeur would launch some terse but terrific imprecations
at the driver. At the end of the ascent we cut loose along the broad
turnpike which ran through a forest across the top of a wide plateau.
Sprinkled all along the highway were uniformed "territorials" working
at road repair.

[Illustration: Page 30

"THERE WERE AUTOS WITH ... RAZOR-EDGED KNIFE-BLADES ATTACHED"]

[Illustration: Page 32

CAPTAIN D'A---- AND THE AUTHOR. (STARTING FOR THE FRONT FROM THE
FRONT OF THE HOTEL AT EPERNAY)]

"It is of extreme military importance to keep all these lines of
communication in first-class condition," explained Captain F----. "It
is not so romantic to mend a road as to mend a trench, but it is just
as necessary."

By rights we ought now to have started our routine of courtesies
by calling on General Franchet d'Esperey, commanding the 5th Army,
the first of whose five army corps we were about to visit. For the
amenities of a trip to the front require that in theory the stranger
should pay his prearranged respects to all those in command from the
General of the Army, through the General of the Army Corps, down
through the General of Division, to the Colonel of the Regiment he
happens to be visiting. And practise in this matter sticks uncommonly
close to theory. Charming though it is to meet these courteous, highly
intelligent and often illustrious men, it is impossible not to feel
that the amount of time devoted to such visits of ceremony is quite
out of proportion to the very limited time allowed the average visitor
to the front. It is not the actual ten or fifteen minutes spent in
conversation with these hospitable gentlemen which eats up the time,
but the fact that meetings with some of the busiest men in the world
are necessarily definite appointments which must be very punctually
kept. And four or five such appointments in the course of a day at
places scores of miles apart necessarily tear that day to pieces.

However, General Franchet d'Esperey had suddenly been called out to an
inspection of a certain part of the front, so we skipped the engagement
which had been made with him, and motored on to call on the General in
command of the Army Corps with which we found ourselves. In the _salon_
of a small château we were introduced, and conversed pleasantly for a
few minutes. Then he assigned one of his staff-officers to accompany us
to an observation point on the edge of the plateau from which he could
give us a sweeping view of many miles of the front, and point out the
interesting topographical features and the course of the trenches.

I was thus simultaneously accompanied by Captain d'A----, the
staff-officer from the Paris War Office, by Captain F----, the
staff-officer from the 5th Army, and by the staff-officer of the Army
Corps.

Having explained to us the "lay of the land" and incidentally pointed
out to us the sizable crater of a shell which a few days earlier had
come within twenty yards of putting a definite end to this particular
observation point, the last officer bade us good-bye. We climbed back
into our motors, and made the steep, winding descent from the plateau,
and raced over the long, straight road so well known to motor tourists
of peaceful days, which leads to where in the distance the low roofs
of Rheims can be seen, like some muddy tide washing the foot of the
craglike cathedral. In Rheims, which the enemy had considerately
stopped shelling an hour or so before our arrival, we had to go to
the headquarters of the Colonel in Command. He was out, but had left
a Major with instructions to show us to X----, a village about a
kilometre from the outskirts of Rheims and immediately touching on
the front trenches. We left our motors near the edge of the city and
walked to where down the street ran a deep narrow ditch lying open,
waiting for its sewer-pipes. "Climb in," said the Major. "Here's where
the communicating trench begins." In we climbed and were led by the
Major along a zigzag kilometre of trench until, fifteen minutes later,
we climbed out again in the main street of X----. There the Major
introduced us to the Captain at the moment in command of the battalion
occupying the village. He became our guide through the rest of the
afternoon, which we spent in the front trenches, and which is described
in the following chapter.

Thus the War Department from Paris had notified the General Staff of
the 5th Army that I was to make a three-day visit to that army. That
General Staff had arranged a complete programme and had notified the
staffs of the various Army Corps which I was to visit. The first of
these Army Corps Staffs had decided that I was to visit the front
before Rheims, and had so notified the Colonel. The Colonel had decided
which particular portion of the front I was to visit before Rheims and
had so notified the Captain. And the Captain in turn had made up his
mind which specific trenches I was to visit, and conducted me through
them.

Thus far my programme had been more interesting but just as rigid as
that of any of the correspondents' tours.

At the end of the afternoon in the trenches a minor example arose of
the advantages which my special trip conferred.

As we returned to our motors in the outskirts of Rheims, I told d'A----
how keenly I wished to see the Rheims Cathedral.

"It is not on the programme," he answered; "but if you want to see
it you certainly shall. It will get you back to Epernay pretty late,
instead of at the hour arranged for, but that will not matter."

So we rolled through the streets of Rheims, where of the 110,000
original population 20,000 still live and carry on their daily life.
The greater part of the city showed no signs whatever of the constantly
repeated bombardments which it has sustained, save for the blocks
on blocks of houses closed and with windows boarded up. But when we
entered that portion lying to the east of the cathedral and toward the
enemy, we passed through the fleshless skeleton of a city. The house
walls generally stood intact, but through the gaping windows one could
see the nothingness that lay behind, where great shells had plunged
downward through the roof, sweeping the whole interior, floor by floor,
down into the cellar; or where smaller shells had gutted the interior
by fire. Every now and then we would see a street completely blocked
by a great barrier of rubble, where a whole house had been plucked
out bodily from between its neighbors by some monstrous explosion and
smashed to pieces on the pavement as you would smash an egg on the
ground.

Then we came out into the great square before the cathedral, and looked
up at its cliff-like façade.

I heaved a sigh of relief. I seemed to be looking at the same
incredible beauty that I had looked at just over a year ago, when the
world was still at peace. It is true that half the great rose window
was empty of glass; that here and there stood statues headless or with
chipped and mutilated limbs. But in the vast profusion of carvings on
the façade these were almost lost. Gradually, however, the full tragedy
bore in on me.

Have you ever seen an exquisite cameo face congested by drunkenness
or disease so that it remains but a blurred and subtly bloated
semblance of its former loveliness? If you have, you will know what
has befallen the façade at Rheims. It stood away from the German guns
so that not a shell hit it. But Fate and inefficiency left it covered
with scaffolding which caught fire, and the towering blaze licked
and licked so furiously at every sculptured angle, line and curve
that in a few hours all those keenly chiselled outlines which the
centuries themselves had only faintly mellowed, became flabby, blunt
and indeterminate. One used at times to gaze at the façade through
half-closed lids, so that no exquisite detail should distract from
the swimming, hazy glory of the whole. That glory it still possesses,
but to those who knew it in its earlier unmarred splendor it seems to
stand, straining aloft, in patient martyrdom. A heavy barricade, built
at a distance of some twenty yards, prevented entrance or even a close
approach. As we stood counting the shrapnel scars on the horse of
Jeanne d'Arc, which ended the myth that this statue had come through
the whole bombardment miraculously untouched, a little girl approached
with a basket full of pieces of colored glass. These she offered for
sale as fragments of the priceless stained glass of the cathedral.
It required no expert to see that they were pitifully spurious. Thus
huckstering makes pennies out of tragedy.

We departed silently, and leaving Captain F---- to return to his
headquarters for the night, we were quickly speeding through the
twilight on our way back to Epernay.



III

IN THE FRENCH TRENCHES


    WITH THE 5TH FRENCH ARMY, _Aug. 3_ (_via Paris_).

On the anniversary of the last day of the world's peace, the 365th day
of the war, I stood in the darkness of a very advanced front trench.

A short section where I stood was roofed and bomb-proofed. Through
a row of very narrow rifle-slits came little beams of daylight that
rested in flecks on the white, chalky back of the trenches and were
thrown up very faintly against the logs of the trench roof.

Very dimly, I could gradually make out a narrow plank standing-platform
running along below the slits. A card was tacked to the wooden frame
of each opening, bearing the name of the particular soldier to whom
that opening belonged. Above each slit hung (or could hang) its owner's
rifle in slings from the roof.

Every few yards, set in little recesses dug out from the back of the
trench, stood fat bottles. They contained chemicals with which to soak
the soldiers' mouth-coverings if attacked by poisoned gas.

The trench was nearly empty of men. But at the loophole nearest me
stood the rigid figure of a soldier. His legs were invisible in the
darkness. His body showed up vaguely. His face was brilliantly lighted
by the thin blade of light through the rifle-slit. He stood silent and
motionless, his eyes intently focussed out into the sunlight.

I looked through the next slit, through a spider's web of barbed wire,
between stunted black posts, across two hundred yards of green grass
and wild flowers, at another tangle of posts and barbed wire with a
narrow furrow of white chalky soil running along just behind it--the
German trenches.

Not a living thing was in sight in the sunny loneliness. There was
silence except for the crack, crack, crack of striking bullets from
inaudible German rifles. I looked back at the face of the "guetteur,"
the watcher. His eyes, fixed on the narrow white line, were puckered
with intentness, but his lips were parted in an easy, good-humored
smile, brightening a face young, clean-cut, alert, calm and very
patient.

He seemed to symbolize the spirit of the new France, the France of
endurance, of determination, of buoyancy, of patience, the stoic France
that can keep silent and motionless, the France that can stand in the
darkness undismayed, watching and waiting till the moment comes to leap
up and out into the light.

Early that morning, from the window of a château on the edge of a
high plateau, a young staff-officer had shown me the great plain of
Champagne stretching away to the low hills on the horizon. Miles away
lay Rheims, made to seem squatty by the cathedral which towered in its
midst.

Across the green fields of the panorama, over swelling hills,
disappearing into dark woods, reappearing at the other end, I saw two
tiny lines of white like the aimless tracing of a child's slate-pencil
on a slate. They ran on across the landscape, now drawn boldly forward,
now swerving with indecision, now zigzagging with perplexity. Sometimes
the child's pencil had slipped and made short little lines at right
angles. Sometimes the pencil had made three or four short starts
parallel with each other before it finally got under way. Sometimes
it had made a regular little maze of lines. But always the two white
scratchings on the slate were drawn on and on till, wavering but always
close abreast, the trenches of the two armies disappeared into the far
distance.

Through powerful glasses the officer showed me little puffs of smoke
floating up from the sunny, silent, peaceful landscape. They were from
the exploding shells. To the right I saw a high cloud of smoke rising
lazily into the air out of some woods. It was a house in the German
lines fired by French shells. And, though the little puffs of smoke
were only here and there on the landscape, everywhere I could see
through the glasses the microscopic figures of peasants working busily
in their fields, bringing in the harvest. Many were soldiers helping
out, but very many were old men, boys and women. Again the scene seemed
symbolical.

Behind the soldier watching in the bomb-proof were the innumerable tiny
plodding figures, undaunted by the abrupt little puffs of smoke, doing
their patient share toward bringing in the harvest.

In the château itself as I went down-stairs I passed a bedroom door
with "Seine Koenigliche Hoheit" written across it in white chalk.
The Duke of Brunswick had slept there at the high tide of the German
advance. His staff had had their names chalked across various other
doors, but few of them remained.

One by one they were being gradually scrubbed off. It was explained to
me that these chalk marks were particularly hard to remove from wooden
doors. But with patience it is being done.

The trip which I was taking to the French front had been most kindly
arranged for me by the French Government as a special trip for my
particular benefit. It had the advantage of enabling us to go into
portions of the advanced trenches, where the larger parties could not
go for fear of precipitating shelling by the Germans.

Our party consisted of a staff-officer from Paris, a staff-officer from
army headquarters, Lincoln Eyre, whom the authorities had allowed me to
ask along--and myself.

After leaving the château we got into two elephant-gray army motors
with Remington carbines swung on their dashboards. The military
chauffeurs tore along the road, which was in easy range of the German
artillery, but which for some reason never was shelled.

As we whirled along we passed a variegated procession of vehicles.
Now a high peasant cart carrying home the harvest; now a military
motor-cyclist; now a motor-ambulance, with a pair of white feet showing
through the back, and the wounded man lying on a stretcher slung from
the roof by four straps to reduce jolts to a minimum; now a motor
full of officers smoking cigarettes; now a cavalryman exercising an
officer's mount.

Finally we stopped about a kilometre from a little village, which must
be nameless. On leaving our motors we walked a little further along
the road and then climbed down into a trench. This was about six feet
deep and three feet wide, the bottom and sides of white, chalky soil.
We pursued a serpentine course, but there was method in its meandering,
for a straight vista of trench leading toward the enemy would be a
splendid hunting-ground for bullets.

We had not gone far when I heard a sound like a boy cracking a toy
whip. "A bullet striking near us," explained an officer ahead of me.

I found it almost impossible to tell the difference between the report
of the French guns and the explosions of German shells. An officer told
me that their time-table nickname for French gun reports was "départs"
(departures), while that for the German shell explosions was "arrivées"
(arrivals).

Of course if either gun or shell explosion or both is very near to you
you can easily tell the difference, if there is enough of you left to
tell anything.

We walked on with the toy whip cracking at every other step and
"départs" and "arrivées" inviting guesswork as to which was which.
We passed soldiers in shirt-sleeves, deepening and widening a
communication trench. It was rather difficult to squeeze past them, but
this very definitely emphasized the wonderful terms of discipline, yet
the democratic friendliness, existing between the French officers and
the men. The officers talked to the men intimately and placed their
hands on the men's shoulders affectionately in squeezing by. The men
answered the officers easily, without restraint, but all stood at
attention and smartly gave the salute, which they regarded as a dignity
and not a degradation--a marvellous combination of discipline and
democracy.

We finally climbed out of the trench at the first house of the little
village, or rather of what had been a little village, for it was, on
close view, nothing more than the aftermath of an earthquake. In actual
fact it reminded me vividly of the walk I had taken through the remains
of Messina after the last great earthquake.

Before entering the village I stood in the road looking through my
field-glasses at a German war-balloon to my left. "Come along, come
along," shouted one of the officers. "If you stand there you'll start
the Germans shelling. You're in plain sight of them." Needless to say I
came along.

We walked through the shattered village, which the Germans shelled
religiously every day, until we came to the remains of a church.
Climbing in over the ruins we saw that there was one corner where
miraculously enough a few yards of floor and a few yards of roof had
escaped being shelled to pieces. There the altar had been set with
about ten chairs crowded in front of it. There mass is still held every
Sunday for the benefit of the sixteen inhabitants who still persisted
in staying in the village.

[Illustration: Page 49

"THERE MASS IS STILL HELD EVERY SUNDAY FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE SIXTEEN
INHABITANTS WHO STILL PERSISTED IN STAYING IN THE VILLAGE"]

These must indeed be solemn little services, for the Germans are far
from being Sabbatarians when it comes to shelling this particular
church.

Going on, we stopped in front of what was a house for one story and a
skeleton from there up. It looked as if nothing less than a squirrel
could get up to its rooftree, and nothing larger than a cat could
conceal itself behind any of the shreds and tatters of its roof.
Nevertheless, up there was the observation-post which I was about to
visit. We entered and found some soldiers cooking meat and potatoes on
a smokeless stove. One of them was amusing himself prancing around the
place on a pair of child's stilts.

Following instructions, I climbed up a long ladder, which led to two
rafters--the sole survivors of the second floor. A few planks had been
stretched between these. From them another ladder ran up to a small
patch of attic floor which, marvellously intact, nestled around three
sides of a brick chimney under the fragment of the roof. Arrived there,
I carefully lifted a little leather curtain, hung over a hole in the
roof, and squinted cautiously down upon the German lines.

The French trenches were practically hidden by the houses of the little
village, so that the first thing I saw was a belt of barbed wire, and
an unostentatious little white line, which marked the advanced German
position. Look as closely as one could, it was impossible to detect the
slightest movement, yet it was from this innocent-looking little line
that the bullets were imitating toy whips. I wedged myself into the
chimney to get a view of another side and then climbed down.

We now left the village and walked into the open advanced trenches.
The most remarkable thing was their utter desolation. We walked for a
hundred yards at a time, past scores and scores of rifle-slits, without
seeing a man. An officer explained that troops are not permitted in the
open trenches during the daytime, to save them needless loss from the
shells, which each side all day long, in a desultory way, threw into
the open trenches of the other.

The men stayed down in the shell-proof shelters all the day and manned
the trenches at night, when attacks are most feared.

It seemed as if the Germans could easily rush these trenches before
the men could be called out to meet them, but along the sides of every
trench ran one or two telephone wires. Apparently one quick order
would have these front trenches lined with men. We came to one of the
points nearest the German lines, from where the German trenches seemed
a mere stone's-throw. From there French soldiers used to crawl out
and fraternize with the Germans, between the lines, but that is now
forbidden.

We next came through a covered trench to a covered grenade section.
Here a table stood against the outer wall. It had three lines of
sockets in it, one ahead of the other. The soldiers fastened grenades
to the muzzles of their rifles, shoved the muzzles up through the
protected slit in the roof, rested the butts in one of the three
sockets, which gave three different ranges, and pulled the trigger. If
there is a premature explosion they are saved from its effects by the
muzzle being above the roof.

We continued on into a long section of the covered front trench, where
the rifle-slits have wires stretched across them about three inches
from the bottom. The soldiers must stick their rifles out under the
wire, which prevents their overshooting in the night. These covered
trenches are roofed with logs and covered with two or three feet of
earth. They are proof against ordinary shells, but not against heavy
artillery.

When that starts bombarding, the men climb down into excavations,
fifteen feet below the level of the trenches, and wait there until the
storm is over.

Soon we came to a black little underground chamber. An officer gave
an order and a brilliant ray of light shot in through an aperture in
the wall, near the low roof. This aperture was some three feet from
one side to the other, and only about six or eight inches from top to
bottom. It had been opened by dropping a hinged steel shutter which
was worked by a wire running over a pulley. The aperture was just
above the surface of the ground outside. In the little room stood a
machine-gun with its wicked-looking muzzle just flush with the opening.
The gunner showed us how, by swinging the gun from side to side, he
could play a stream of bullets through the wire entanglements, a foot
or two from the ground.

[Illustration: Page 51

THE AUTHOR IN A FRONT TRENCH NEAR RHEIMS. (THE GERMANS ARE ABOUT
THREE HUNDRED YARDS BEYOND THE WIRE ENTANGLEMENTS)]

At regular intervals we passed watchers, some standing in the covered
trenches gazing through the slits, some lying out above the open
trenches behind steel shields, and some using periscopes--all depending
on the location of the trench.

Looking into such a periscope one would swear that he was looking
straight out through a loophole. There is not the slightest sign of
looking at a reflection in a mirror. We walked bent double through an
extremely long pitch-black tunnel in an advanced position where some of
the officers themselves had never been, and then started back through
the open trenches.

At one point a lot of Germans had been buried. Sometimes a shell
explosion does a ghastly bit of disinterment, but I saw nothing
unpleasant on this occasion. At another point above the heads of each
side of the trench stood two shattered ammunition-carts. The Germans
shelled this place pertinaciously, believing that the carts were guns.

At another point we walked under a framework of wood, covered with barb
wire resting on two transverse timbers stretching across the top of
the trench. A rope hung down from one of the transverses. If the enemy
broke into the trench the defenders, by pulling this rope, could drop
the barb-wire contrivance into the trench, thus blocking it.

Finally we got back to the village. I had asked how the sixteen
inhabitants made a living. An officer replied that they sold eggs and
milk to the troops. I asked out of what they produced the milk and
he replied, "Very certainly out of a cow." As an answer to my polite
scepticism I was taken to see the cow. We walked down a little street
where I was told that the Germans were directing most of their shells.
They fortunately were napping while we walked through. We suddenly
turned into a gateway, and there in the middle of this wreck of a
village was a barnyard with chickens clucking, a horse tied to the
wall, and three cows.

And on a stool by one of the cows sat an aged woman making the milk
hiss down into a tin pail. There she sat, shells sailing to and fro
over her head, with the "départs" starting and the "arrivées" bursting.
There she sat and rocked with hearty laughter at the story of my
scepticism, and went on effectively proving her existence by her cow
by the extraction of that very milk which was sold to the soldiers.
We left the old lady surrounded by what seemed to her to be all the
comforts of home, and a few steps further were introduced to the Mayor
of X----.

It was a smiling, bland old man who greeted us most genially.
Apparently he had not a care in the world as he stood courteously
making conversation. It seemed to me that the humble old woman milking
her cow, and the Mayor entertaining visitors to what was no longer
his village, were further symbols of the spirit of a nation which was
not easily destined to decadence and downfall. Leaving the Mayor, we
entered the cemetery. There we were looking at the graves of two German
officers, two French officers and seventy French soldiers when an
"arrivée" burst with a louder report than we had as yet heard, followed
by a deep noise.

"What's that?" I asked.

An officer replied, "That's the metal fuse which at the moment of
explosion flies off through the air. You can only hear that when the
explosion is pretty close. You can certainly say now that you have been
under shell fire."

We went back to the end of the village furthest from the Germans
and entered the headquarters in one of the few houses still in fair
preservation. There the officers in command of the village opened a
bottle of champagne in our honor and we stood around drinking each
other's health. At that precise moment an unusually loud salvo of
French artillery went off by way of a salute to the toast.

On the way back through the communicating trenches, we saw an attempt
by the German guns to bring down a French aviator, who was flying above
us. The latest development of fire regulation by aviation is that the
Captain of the battery himself goes up in an aeroplane and sends his
corrections on aim down to his battery by wireless. This Captain had
his four "seventy-fives" hidden near our communication trench. Every
time they went off their report was so violent that I could not help
jumping.

The battery Captain was sailing around overhead and the German gunner
was letting drive at him with what looked to us to be pretty bad shots.
I could see the aeroplane wheeling in the air and hear the distant
reports of the "départs," wait an appreciable time and then see the
burst of white flame high up in the sky, followed by little puffs of
smoke.

"That's a wretched shot," said I, as one shell burst over our heads,
far behind the aeroplane.

"Yes, a bad shot for an aeroplane, but a good shot for us," Captain
F---- replied.

I was standing with my head away back, looking straight overhead.
"Come, move on, move on, or you'll catch some of that on your face,"
warned Captain d'A----. I obediently moved on and, sure enough, a
couple of seconds later he picked up a strictly fresh shrapnel ball
which had just fallen into our trench out of the sky. In the mean time
the Captain up in the air had corrected his guns, so that they were
hitting whatever they were shooting at, and he sailed away to the rear,
while his battery became really enthusiastic and went off with a series
of tearing crashes, which kept me jumping all the way to the end of the
communicating trench.

There I climbed out with my ears full of the "seventy-fives'" violent
reports, the distant explosion of their shells, the distant reports of
the enemy's guns, the "crack, crack, crack" of the rifle bullets and
the occasional sharp whistling of one overhead.

But my mind was full of the soldier watching and waiting, of the
peasants harvesting between the smoke puffs, the laughing old woman
milking the cow, of the genial Mayor extending his ruined hospitality,
and of what little things like these should bring to pass in the future
of France.



IV

A TYPICAL DAY'S TOUR


The morning after our trip to the front at Rheims we got up at seven
o'clock after a good night's sleep in the comfortable hotel, and by
shortly after eight were ready to start.

But here came a hitch in the smoothly running mechanism.

The evening before, on our run back to Epernay, Eyre and I had noticed
the exhilarating abandon with which our soldier chauffeur slung his car
along. We supposed that was the traditional method in which military
cars were run. We christened our driver "Barney Oldfield" and commented
jocosely on his various close squeaks. We noticed that Captain d'A----,
who in the front trenches had been absolutely imperturbable, did not
seem wholly at ease, but kept on leaning forward and muttering, "Mais
doucement! doucement!" through the front window. We thought, however,
that this was mere consideration on his part for our inexperienced
nervous systems.

On this following morning he declared to us that our chauffeur was
evidently a veritable maniac besides being an execrable driver, and
that nothing would induce him to ride behind "Barney Oldfield" again.
Shells and bullets were all in the day's work, but he'd be switched if
he would have his neck quite superfluously broken by an imbecile like
that.

He therefore, with our cordial approval, had sent round to the
auto-repair department for a sedater driver. But it was apparently
against the regulations to keep the same car if we changed chauffeurs,
and it was as hard to get another car in this headquarters of cars as
it is to get fresh milk on a cattle-ranch.

So we fretted politely for the best part of an hour before the new
chauffeur drove up. This delay haunted us for the rest of the day.

We motored over the same road we had covered the day before till we
got near Rheims again. There, at about ten o'clock, we met Captain
F----, who had been cooling his heels for an hour. I transferred myself
into his motor and we started off to inspect some batteries.

First, of course, we had to present ourselves to the General in
Command of the next Army Corps which we were to visit. We reached his
headquarters after half an hour's run and found him an interesting and
agreeable man of the world. He was much upset by the death the day
before of a Lieutenant of engineers. It appears that this Lieutenant
had been in command of a sap that was being run under the German
trenches in order to explode a mine. The Germans had counter-sapped,
broken into his tunnel, and exploded a mine there. He had recklessly
crawled down his sap and had not returned. Then his Colonel crawled
down the little tunnel after him, first taking the precaution to have a
rope tied on to himself. The soldiers at the French end of the tunnel
paid out the rope till it suddenly stopped. Then, as there was no more
movement, they became alarmed and, hauling in the rope, dragged the
Colonel back in a senseless condition. The Lieutenant had reached the
neighborhood of the exploded mine and had been overcome and killed by
the unescaped gases of the explosion. The Colonel in his turn had been
overcome, but had been hauled out in time to be revived.

It was strange to see how this loss was taken to heart by a General who
must in the past months have had to receive reports of deaths by the
thousand.

We motored on and about eleven o'clock were ushered into the
headquarters of the General of Division whose batteries we wanted to
see.

The other Generals had greeted us in the luxurious _salons_ of
châteaus, sitting near writing-desks holding a few papers, but without
any token of the military work on which they were engaged. This General
was housed with his staff in an old shooting-box. The room in which he
welcomed us had large-scale maps on its walls, and engineering plans on
its tables. The General himself was a splendid type of French officer,
remarkably young, wiry, snappy, keen as mustard. When the war began he
had been a Lieutenant-Colonel and had gone up the ladder by leaps and
bounds.

He said he would begin by himself taking us to an observation-point at
the top of a high hill, whence we could follow the whole sweep of front
from about the point where it had yesterday run out of our sight, on
for many miles to the Aisne and well beyond it.

Up the hill we went at about as fast a walk as I have ever used on
a stiff up-grade. Beside me, setting the pace, went the General in
his baggy red riding-breeches, his tight-fitting black tunic, his
well-polished black-leather puttees and shapely boots. As we climbed at
top speed he talked a steady and most interesting stream. I began to
listen for any symptoms of the pace affecting his breath. But not a bit
of it; on he walked and on he talked. It was a hot day and the sweat
began to drip off of me in spite of my cool khaki clothes. But the
General in his black-cloth tunic and red breeches remained as cool as a
cucumber. By the time we legged it over the crest of the hill I would
have been willing to back him in a walking contest against any one of
the twenty thousand men in his division.

Now we walked along a level path through woods till we came to an open
space on the hillside.

The General stopped abruptly. "Don't go further here," he snapped out,
"the Germans might see us through their glasses. They've got them
constantly trained on this hill to try to locate my observation-post.
They have not struck it yet, though the other day they happened to drop
a shell not far from it which killed two of my officers."

So we retraced our steps a short distance and took another path which
avoided the open place on the hillside.

Finally we reached the observation-post, carefully screened by an
artificial bower of pine boughs. Maps were tacked on a rude table,
while a big telescope stuck its muzzle surreptitiously out between the
boughs.

The young General pointed out the two white trench lines pursuing
each other league on league across the face of the summer landscape
below us, now abruptly approaching, now coyly withdrawing from each
other in their deadly courtship. He ran swiftly over the various
features of interest: That white scar on the slope down yonder was
where the French had recently exploded a great mine under the Germans.
Particularly bloody fighting had been going on at that point. Those
roofs in the hollow the other side of that little hill were the
village of Bery-au-Bac, which so frequently appeared in the official
communiques as the scene of desperate attacks. Over there beyond
the canal in that angle between it and the Aisne for perhaps half a
kilometre there was a complete gap in the trench lines which were
popularly supposed to run uninterruptedly from the North Sea to the
Alps. Still further over yonder the hostile trenches approached each
other so closely that one of those houses had one end occupied by the
French and the other by the Germans.

"Over there," said the General with a sweep of his hand and a shake of
his head, "occurred one of the great misfortunes of the battle of the
Marne. Our troops there had hurled the Germans back across the Aisne
and clear back over those hills. But the French troops over here more
to the left had had their advance checked by the retreating Germans.
Now those troops to the right were so far ahead that they had lost
touch with the ones to the left. Had they been veteran troops they
could easily have manoeuvred the backward troops up into line with
themselves, and had they done this, with the Germans forced back beyond
that line of natural defense, the Craonne plateau positions would have
been turned and there is no knowing how far the German retreat might
have been compelled to continue. But alas! they were green troops, and
when they had waited and found that the troops to their left were not
linking up with them they fell back from their precious territory to
form a line with their fellows. And that is why we are here to-day."

The General then led the way some little distance to another
underground observation-post to be used in case of a bombardment.

A flight of steps led down into it. It had a good many feet of solid
earth above it, and consisted of two rooms with two bunks covered with
pine boughs in one, and two camp cots in the other for the General
himself and his artillery aide. It was well stored with water and
provisions, and here the General, in case of a sustained bombardment,
could remain in relative security for days on end, observing the
effect of his own artillery fire or of any infantry attacks he might
direct, and sending his orders out by telephone. It will probably be
asked how he could do much observing from a cellar several metres under
ground. The answer is that the second of the two rooms had a sort of
window about a foot high and running the whole length of the wall,
which opened out through the side of the hill. It was covered by a
heavy steel shutter which could be partly or entirely swung up by a
pulley arrangement, and through this crack in the hillside the whole
sector lay in perfect view.

Climbing out again, we ventured a hint or two as to how interested we
were in batteries. But the General himself was intensely interested
in an intricate system of subterranean passages which his Chief of
Engineers was building to connect up the observation-post with other
points, and he took the very human view that the technical explanations
of the Engineer which were so absorbing to him must necessarily be
equally enthralling to us.

Finally we started back across the hilltop toward where my imagination
conjured up serried arrays of great guns frowning at the enemy.

On the way we stopped to inspect the telephone central which connected
up the observation-posts with all the batteries behind and the trenches
in front, and for that matter, with Paris or any other part of France.

In a low log hut, its roof and walls protected by several feet of
sand-bags, a soldier sat at a large switchboard with a telephone
receiver strapped to his head. As we stood for a moment watching him
a bell tinkled. He stuck the small peg into one of the multitudinous
little holes.

"Allo! This is Number 15," he said in a low voice, then listened
intently to some message.

"All right," he said at its conclusion. Then turning half round on his
stool he saluted and reported:

"Mon General, Number 19 reports that a Boche aeroplane has passed them
and is coming over us."

"Telephone our guns to fire at him, and warn Numbers 11 and 12 to
prepare for his coming," ordered the General, and as the soldier stuck
his pegs in and gave his telephone messages we hustled out to see the
excitement. Sure enough, we had hardly got out when we heard a distant
whirring, and high up in the air saw an aeroplane floating our way.

[Illustration: Page 70

"WE WERE COMPLETELY ABSORBED IN WATCHING THE SOFT LITTLE CLOUDS
PLAYFULLY DANCING ALONG AHEAD OF THE LAZILY DRIFTING AEROPLANE"]

"Keep under the tree! Keep under the tree!" warned the General sharply.
"If he sees us all standing here, and gets away, he will report this as
an important point and it will rain 'marmites' for days to come."

So he, his staff-officers, Eyre and I grouped ourselves under a big
tree and stared up at the approaching aeroplane through the gaps in its
branches.

"Whang!" A "soixante-quinze" exploded violently in the woods close by,
and I jumped equally violently.

"Whang! Whang! Whang!" came three more shots in extremely close
succession.

"You've got a whole battery shooting, haven't you?" I remarked.

"Oh, no! There is only one gun located just there. It does not waste
time in firing, does it?" smiled the General. "Our 'soixante-quinze'
field-guns can shoot twenty-five shots a minute."

Other guns in the immediate neighborhood took up the chorus, and,
looking through our glasses, we could see little soft white cloudlets
puff into being all around the aeroplane.

But he kept sailing calmly on.

A little further off in the woods came a staccato rat! tat! tat! tat!
tat! like a boy drawing a stick along a picket fence.

"There goes one of our mitrailleuses at work on him."

We were completely absorbed in watching the soft little clouds
playfully dancing along ahead of the lazily drifting aeroplane, when
the General's voice brought us back to earth.

"Come! Come! We must hurry or we shall be late for lunch. I did not
realize how late it was."

I looked at him in horror. What! Forsake the sensations of this moment
for such a thing as a lunch! Any one of those gentle little white puffs
might transform the aeroplane into a hurtling mass of flame. Lunch!

But the General was entirely sincere and very positive. From his point
of view Boche aeroplanes could be shot at any hour of the day, but
lunch was an event which took place only once in the twenty-four hours.
Lunch was the recognized symbol of hospitality; aeroplane shellings
decidedly were not.

As we reluctantly followed him through the woods he may have noticed my
disappointment, for he remarked:

"It is highly improbable that you would see anything more than you
already have seen. They are very difficult things to hit, you know. As
a matter of fact, we were doing most of our shooting in front of him
rather than at him, so as to head him back. But he evidently has his
nerve with him, for he has kept right on and got away from us. Listen!
Our guns have stopped, and there are the guns I telephoned to at Number
12 taking a shy at him."

As we hiked along at the General's favorite pace Captain F----
diffidently suggested:

"And the batteries, mon General, in which this gentleman was much
interested. I suppose there will be no opportunity to see them?"

"Oh, there is really nothing interesting about them, as they are not
firing to-day. The pieces are scattered all over the hillside in the
woods, and the crews are having their lunch. But as a matter of fact
our route home takes us right by one 120-millimetre gun and we can
have a look at that."

Walking down the rear slope of the hill, we came upon a party of
soldiers, apparently out for a picnic, eating their lunch on a rustic
table, with pine branches over their heads and fragrant pine needles
under their feet.

They jumped to attention.

"Show us the piece," said the General to their non-commissioned officer.

The groups of soldiers hustled over to a big object bundled up in
tarpaulins, which stood a few yards off. Stripping off the coverings,
they showed us a heavy field-piece standing on treadled wheels with its
muzzle pointed apparently aimlessly up the green-wooded hillside at
some clouds which floated in the blue sky just above the hill-crest.

"That gun," explained the General, "is aimed at the village of ----,
about eight kilometres distant, behind the German lines. Their reserves
have to pass through the village to reach the front; so whenever
we hear that they are bringing up their reserves we start this gun
shelling that little village. Usually an important village is shared by
several guns, but that village is the particular property of this gun.

[Illustration: Page 71

"AS WE HIKED ALONG AT THE GENERAL'S FAVORITE PACE"]

[Illustration: Page 72

"A HEAVY FIELD-PIECE STANDING ON TREADLED WHEELS"]

"Show the gentlemen how it works," he ordered. The artillerymen leaped
into position, swung open the breach, lifted a heavy shell, and thrust
it into the chamber.

"Careful there; don't shoot it off!" exclaimed the General, and added
to me, "There's no use damaging our own French villages more than is
indispensable."

As tenderly as a thoroughbred is blanketed after a race the big gun
was bundled up again by its crew, and, leaving them to resume their
picnicking under the pine-tree, we strode away to the shooting-box and
the lunch.

And a very excellent lunch it was to which the General, some eight of
his staff-officers and our party of four sat down in the dingy old
dining-room of the shooting-box.

"You certainly mobilized an excellent chef," laughed Captain d'A---- as
we reached the entrée.

With white wine mixed with water to drink during the lunch, champagne
served in the French fashion with the dessert, and cigars, coffee and
liqueurs to follow, the commissariat department undoubtedly deserved
congratulations.

  ------------------------------------

                 MENU

           du 1º Août 1915

  ------------------------------------

               DÉJEUNER

  ------------------------------------

            Hors-d'oeuvres

       Oeufs pochés à la Rossini

    Tournedos grillés à la Bouchère

             Pommes frites

             Pigeons rotis

      Haricots verts à l'anglaise

           Crème au chocolat

           Compote de pèches

                Dessert

  ------------------------------------

The conversation was of course not for publication, but one passage I
think I can repeat without fear of violating confidence.

"Why did not Von Kluck march on Paris when he had the chance?" I asked
the officer who was sitting on one side of me.

"I will tell you," he replied. "In the 1913 'Kriegsspiel' [great
manoeuvres] in Germany the theoretical invasion of France by the
attacking armies was precisely the same advance as in actual fact they
made the following year. In the maneuvers Von Kluck commanded the right
wing precisely as he did in the actual invasion. In these maneuvers he
came to a point in his advance where he had to choose between attacking
Paris and swinging past Paris in pursuit of the enemy. He decided to
attack Paris. The verdict of the board of generals who were judging the
maneuvers contained the severest kind of arraignment of Von Kluck for
having violated the cardinal principal of German military strategy by
allowing a mere geographical point to divert him from the one paramount
object of German generalship--the enemy's army. We actually possess a
copy of this official reprimand, for 'tout s'achête' (there is nothing
that money will not buy), you know. Now when little over one year
later Von Kluck in actual warfare came face to face with precisely the
same choice of alternatives, with the previous year's censure still
stingingly fresh in mind, he ignored Paris and followed the enemy army."

Luncheon over, we bade the splendid young General and his staff
good-bye, and motored quite a distance to visit one of the French
field hospitals. The wounded, after having first aid applied in the
trenches, were brought here in ambulances, where their wounds were
thoroughly dressed or operations performed. When there was a great rush
of wounded those capable of standing the journey were shipped on to
base hospitals as quickly as possible to make room for the new cases.
During the last few months, however, there had been so little hard
fighting on the section of the front which this hospital served, that
many of the wounded had been kept there for weeks and some for months.
The big rooms on the ground floor of the large country house in which
the hospital had been located, had been converted into wards for the
wounded privates, while the bedrooms on the upper floor were reserved
principally for officers.

It was curious to hear the deprecatory tone in which the Chief Surgeon
regretted that he had no freshly wounded to bandage or operate on
for our benefit. In fact from the front hospitals to the great base
hospitals of Paris the surgeons are all alike. They cannot keep a
professional note of regret out of their voices when explaining that
very few wounded have come in of late, nor a professional note of
encouragement when they understand an important action is soon to be
fought which will again fill their cots with "cases." It would be an
outrage to hold this attitude against these splendid men. If they had
not become impregnated by their professional point of view toward the
horrors of their work, they would all long ago have been in madhouses.

Our whole progress through the hospital was a strange conglomeration of
pathos and farce. For the Surgeon in Command, on our being introduced
to him, stated that he was the proud possessor of an orderly who
spoke the English tongue "à merveille." Our staff-officers politely
indicated to him that our own French, though not perhaps up to
Comédie Française standards, was no mean thing, and would render his
explanations entirely comprehensible to us. But these hints were of
no avail. The accomplishments of his linguistic prodigy must not be
wasted. So the orderly was produced and turned out to be master of the
most grotesquely unintelligible English that I have ever listened to.

As we passed between the lines of cots, each with its still figure
huddled under its gray blanket, as we were followed about by the
wondering gaze of the many eyes which look so incredibly large in the
wasted faces of the wounded, we had to listen to the explanations of
the Chief Surgeon, and then lend our ears to the burblings of the
orderly exterpreting them for our benefit. Even when we stood in the
modest little graveyard where those who had died of their wounds were
buried we were torn between tears and grins by the attentions of the
excellent man whom, I am ashamed to say, Eyre and I had christened
"the pest," and by the embarrassed writhings of our staff-officers
who spoke such excellent English that they thoroughly realized the
situation.

Having spent perhaps three-quarters of an hour in the hospital, which,
judged by the somewhat unexacting French standards, seemed efficiently
run, we departed for the first impromptu engagement of the day--the
studies of a class in grenade-throwing, which met not very far from the
hospital, and which I have elsewhere described in detail.

After an hour devoted to this exceedingly interesting experience, we
were whirled away to a distant appointment with another General of an
Army Corps. He led us to the flat roof of his headquarters, from which
at some distance he pointed out a third installment of the trenches
continuing from about the point where they had that morning run out of
sight, and from that point stretching along the Craonne plateau, nearly
to Soissons.

Having terminated a fifteen-minute meeting with this extremely
courteous General, the next number on our programme was the inspection
of an aviation "esquadrille" or squadron.

On our way, however, we stopped unexpectedly to look at a most
beautiful new anti-aircraft "seventy-five," a gun numbers of which the
French had just completed and were bringing to the front. As I was not
allowed to photograph the gun even from a distance and was enjoined to
regard its details as absolutely confidential, I can only say that,
mounted on its own motor, it could travel along the roads at forty
kilometres an hour; that it could be in action within one minute and a
half after coming to a stop, and that the way the turning of a couple
of little cranks which a child could whirl made the heavy muzzle swing,
and mount, and cut figure eights in the air, was something wholly
incredible.

We listened to a technical but most interesting exposition by the
Artillery Captain of the most up-to-date methods of firing at
aeroplanes, including the progressive and retrogressive systems, and
then sped away to the aviation field some ten or fifteen kilometres
distant. We found the aviation squadron on a very large field near
the top of a gradually sloping bare hill, comfortably installed, the
machines in their great hangars, the aviators in their small tents. The
whole organization was especially adapted for mobility. In one hour, at
need, the field would have left on it not a man, a stick or a shred
of the encampment. Hangars and tents would be careering along some
highroad, neatly folded in the big aviation lorries that stood handy,
mechanics would be sitting on the box seats or have their legs dangling
over the tail-boards, while pilots and observers would waft themselves
more comfortably by air to their new camp site.

The Captain of the "esquadrille" showed us, with quite pardonable
pride, his "avions de réglage"--planes carrying no bombs or
machine-guns, but equipped with wireless, which are used to correct
the fire of artillery, and his "avions de chasse" or hunting-planes
equipped with bombs, a machine-gun and a Winchester carbine. Some of
these had the pilot sit behind and the observer in front operating
the machine gun over the bow. Others had the pilot in front and the
observer behind, in which case the observer, standing up, operated the
machine-gun over the head of the pilot. Finally he showed us a splendid
new Caudron biplane having two independent motors and two traction
screws in front, so that if either motor were put out of business the
plane could continue flying on the other.

I was so enthusiastic about this machine that the Aviation Captain
turned to me and asked casually, "Would you perhaps like to go up and
take a 'petite promenade' in the Caudron?"

Would I? It did not take me many fractions of a second to impress on
him that I certainly would. But here Captain d'A---- demurred. It
was, he said, absolutely forbidden that any one should go up in army
aeroplanes except aviators on military duty. Those were the strict army
regulations. He was quite right and entirely justified in his attitude.
But Captain F----, who was a good sport and had become quite a chum of
mine, said, "Oh, let him go up. After all, the Swiss Military Attaché
went up the other day. I'll take the responsibility." And as he was
in immediate authority while we remained with the 5th Army, Captain
d'A---- good-naturedly shrugged his shoulders and let it go at that.

So I hurried down with the Aviation Captain to his tent to put on a
warm aviation suit, while the Caudron was prepared for our flight.
As we approached his tent, a single-motored aeroplane took aboard its
pilot and observer, its propellers whirred and roared, and it rolled
casually away up the gradual slope, through a field of standing grain,
till near the hilltop it took to the air as easily as a bird and
spiralled up toward the low-lying dark clouds.

In the Captain's tent I struggled into a heavy suit of black fur made
like a suit of combination underwear, legs and body all in one piece,
put on a pair of goggles and a heavily padded helmet, and emerged to
meet the disappointment of my life. Down pattered some drops of rain,
down spiralled the aeroplane which had just gone up.

"Too bad," said the Aviation Captain. "I can't send a machine up in the
rain."

I pleaded with my staff-officers to wait here for an hour to see
whether the rain might not stop. In vain. Even that good sport Captain
F---- was adamant. We could not possibly wait, because it would
completely throw out a visit to a horse hospital, and an inspection of
an army corps supply-train which were both unalterably fixed upon our
schedule. We were very late already. We must be off.

Well, then, could we not return early to-morrow morning to get the
flight?

"Malheureusement ça ne peut pas se faire." (French euphemism for "No.")
To-morrow morning I was slated for a visit to a base hospital which,
including motoring there and motoring back, would consume most of the
morning.

But I would infinitely prefer to go for a "petite promenade" in the
Caudron than to inspect the most unique base hospital in the world.

Yes, they could understand that perfectly, but unfortunately the
hospital was among "the arrangements" and the "petite promenade" was
not. Personally they would throw the hospital overboard in a minute,
but the matter was beyond their control.

So off we went, Captain F---- full of sympathy and I full of sulks, and
at about half past five visited what under other circumstances would
have been an exceedingly interesting big hospital full of hundreds of
sick and wounded horses. But I fear I was in no mood to appreciate the
ingenuity and thoroughness with which the kilometre or more of hospital
sheds had been constructed by the soldiers on a framework of poles,
with wicker-work sides covered with a sort of adobe, and a sloping roof
of thatched straw with little gables built here and there for the mere
love of beautifying which is apparently ever present in the French
race, whether at war or peace.

[Illustration: Page 85

PART OF THE ENORMOUS ENCAMPMENT OF SUPPLY-WAGONS, WHICH CARRY THE
COMPLETE SUPPLIES FOR THREE FULL DAYS FOR ONE ARMY CORPS]

On we went for another long run till we reached the enormous encampment
of supply-wagons, which carry the complete supplies for three full days
for one army corps. They had been there since the armies dug themselves
in.

"We are not useful now," the Colonel in Command regretfully confided
to me; "for almost all the supplies reach our armies by rail. But only
wait till the advance begins. Then we shall show what we can do."

This great encampment which covered some square miles of countryside
had begun as a bivouac and ended as a town. One walked down avenues
and side streets solidly flanked by the huts which this army had
built itself. They were all more or less standardized in building
materials--wattled walls covered with clay, and thatched straw roofs.
But there the uniformity abruptly ended. For these little houses had
not been merely constructed by builders as they would have been in
nearly any other country. This was France and they had been conceived
by architects. And each house expressed the original conception of the
soldier-architect who had designed it.

No one who has not walked through this mushroom town or the many others
like it can imagine the infinite variety of architectural forms which
can be wrought in one-story shacks of wattle, clay and straw. The
pliable wattle and clay lent themselves to effects which could not
have been possible in stone, brick or wood. Extraordinary bays and
alcoves, never before dreamed of by the Ecole des Beaux Arts gave light
and shadow to long walls. Bas-relief and high-relief were done with
spirit and often with fine art in the clay which covered the wattled
walls, the thatched straw of the roofs was erected into strange gables,
dormer windows, turrets and machicolations. Eccentric, grotesque many
of these experiments unquestionably were, but they meant on the part of
the tired soldiers hours and days and weeks of extra and unnecessary
work, lavished, not for their creature comfort, not for their physical
safety, but solely for their artistic satisfaction.

It was twilight when we took our leave and night had fallen long before
we rolled into Château Thiery, whither Captain d'A----'s orderly had
transported our bags, and where a very late dinner and comfortable beds
were awaiting us.



V

A GRENADE-THROWING SCHOOL


    WITH THE 5TH FRENCH ARMY, _Aug. 9_.

I have just returned from attending a soldiers' school of
bomb-throwing. The military authorities permitted my presence as an
exceptional favor, informing me that this is the first time such a
privilege has been accorded a foreign civilian.

This particular school holds its classes in a large green field in
a peaceful little valley, within long artillery range of the firing
lines. No German shells, however, have hitherto distracted the pupils
from their rather gruesome lessons, and I will not endanger their
continued studies by giving a more definite description of the locality.

This school is attended by privates from each regiment, who spend four
days at their highly explosive studies. Toward the middle of the
field, about two hundred yards from one end and about three hundred
from the other, was a section of open trench about twenty yards long
and some four feet deep. This trench was about the usual three feet in
width except in its centre, where for about five feet it was recessed
back to a width of some six feet. This was where the French instructor
stood and whirled his arms to throw the bombs. A couple of feet to the
left of this recess was another recess, covered with a bomb-proof roof
of logs and earth.

Into this the instructor and his pupil sought refuge from the effects
of the bomb explosion. As the explosion really is surprisingly violent
and takes place at the longest only five seconds from the time the
mechanism of the bomb is started, and at a maximum distance of thirty
yards, the instructor and any one in the trench with him have got to be
exceedingly spry in running under the bomb-proof in order to beat the
bomb. There is, too, the danger of a premature explosion.

To make me feel more entirely at my ease, they told me that only a few
days ago an officer of explosives brought a Colonel to see one of
these demonstrations in another school, behind a different part of the
line. As they came to the entrance of the trench the officer politely
made way for the Colonel to enter the trench first. As the Colonel did
so, the bomb exploded prematurely and killed the Colonel outright.

About twenty yards in front of the trench was dug a shallow dummy
trench to represent a German target. Some 150 yards further distant was
set up a section of wire entanglements.

We found the 128 soldiers ranged in line a few yards behind the trench.
At its edge I took my place with the Captain of explosives and three or
four other officers. The infantrymen lined up two deep behind us.

In the open recess in the trench stood the non-commissioned officer
of engineers, facing backward toward us. He was the instructor. At
the order of the Captain he placed an innocent-looking satchel on the
trench edge at his right elbow, plunged a hand into it and briskly
plucked out, one after the other, eight different varieties of bombs.
Picking them up, one at a time, he gave a terse lecture on the
construction and method of operation of each.

The bombs were all fully loaded, and the explosion of any one of them
would have sent a great many of us well on the way to the cemetery. I
noticed in some of the officers, and undoubtedly in myself, a certain
tenseness as the engineer nonchalantly illustrated within an inch or
two of actuality how a percussion bomb would explode if brought in
contact with the ground.

In demonstrating the first grenade he adjusted around his wrist a loop
with about eight inches of cord hanging from it. A heavy two-inch metal
pin was attached to the end of the cord. Picking up a black spherical
bomb slightly bigger than a baseball, he stuck the pin lightly into a
hole in its side. The bomb was to be thrown with full force. In flying
out of the hand it pulled itself free from the pin, causing a friction
which ignited the five-second fuse. The pin of course remained behind,
hanging to the cord, and was promptly stuck into another bomb. This
bomb, being particularly heavy, could be thrown only fifteen metres by
an average thrower and twenty as a maximum.

The second bomb was black and pear-shaped. It had a spring which
looked like a nickel shoe-horn folded back tight against it. The
pressure of the palm against the shoe-horn in throwing it released the
spring and started the fuse, which, like all the rest, was set at five
seconds.

The third bomb was a can of white tin attached by two wires to a white
deal handle. A nail was stuck into a hole in the can. The nail was
hammered in by a sharp rap against the ground. ("If you try to knock
it in against the palm of your hand it would hurt," explained our
instructor.) The nail, driven in, started the fuse.

In the demonstration of this particular bomb our mentor was quite
peculiarly realistic, bringing it violently down to within what seemed
like the fraction of an inch of the ground.

The fourth bomb was black and round and was started by scratching the
tip of a stiffly projecting bit of ignitible fuse against a black band
of raspy material worn round the thumb of the left hand. The fifth bomb
was lighted in a very similar manner against the side of an ordinary
safety-match box. These five were regular grenades.

The sixth and seventh were incendiary grenades to set fire to wooden
obstructions, etc. The one, in exploding, scattered the burning liquid
to a distance of a few yards, the other set fire only to the spot where
it burst. These were both large spherical bombs. Before being thrown
kerosene was poured into them through a little bunghole, which was then
stopped up.

The eighth was an asphyxiating bomb. I cannot, however, be too careful
in emphasizing the fact that this so-called "asphyxiating" bomb was not
poisonous, like the German asphyxiating gases, but merely irritated the
eyes, nostrils and throat, so that when thrown into a German bomb-proof
it would force out the occupants. It left no ill after-effects.

Besides these there were two aerial torpedoes. One was shot out of an
old-fashioned little mortar propelled by black powder. The other was
bigger and more powerful, had a fin tail to keep its flight accurate
and was fired out of a complicated little gun. As both this torpedo
and its gun are new inventions, I am not permitted to give any closer
details concerning them.

The Sergeant of engineers having completed his little lecture, with
himself and his class still in this world, the soldiers and officers
all withdrew to the end of the field, some 200 yards behind the trench,
and there lay down on their stomachs. I got into the trench with the
engineer, placing myself to his left in front of the entrance to the
bomb-proof, and the demonstration in the gentle art of grenade-throwing
began. He took bomb number one, stuck the pin at the end of the cord
firmly into the hole, swung his arm back and let fly.

Having seen the departure of the bomb, I ungracefully tumbled into the
bomb-proof, with the engineer a close second. Once there, there was an
appreciable pause. Then came an explosion, the violence of which really
astonished me. I could distinctly feel the ground shake.

After giving the fragments which had been hurled our way plenty of
time to come down on the roof, we stepped out into the trench again.
The engineer next picked up bomb number three with the deal handle,
hammered the nail home with one sharp rap against the edge of the
trench and sent the grenade hurtling through the air.

The mechanism of the first bomb had not been put in operation until the
bomb started on its flight. But the fuse of this third bomb started
burning the instant he hammered the nail in, and was burning while he
was whirling his arm preparatory to letting it fly. As it thus got a
running start on us, we had only barely time to get under cover before
the explosion took place.

Next came bomb number four. The demonstrator adjusted the black band
round his left thumb, took the bomb in his right hand and gave it a
scratch.

He evidently had some doubts as to whether the first scratch had
lighted the fuse, because after glancing at it he proceeded to give it
a second scratch before throwing it.

I need hardly say that I had already made home base in the bomb-proof
and was perfectly satisfied to watch from there his second effort to
get a light, which was crowned with complete success.

After watching the way these three bombs were started and thrown I
now wanted to watch the rest of them explode. So after considerable
discussion between the staff-officer who had me in charge and the
officer of explosives as to just how much danger there was in the
operation, we moved out of the trench up to the top of a little rise
about fifty yards to the right, where we ensconced ourselves in some
bushes. The soldiers were all kept at their original distances of 200
yards behind the trench.

From my new position I got an excellent view of the engineer whirling
his arm and letting fly; of the heavy black objects rushing through the
air; of the accuracy with which they hit the dummy trench; of the lazy
manner in which they rolled only two or three feet along the ground
before coming to rest, and of the treacherous inertia with which each
lay apparently as dead and cold as a piece of coal dropped by some
passing coal-cart, while the second of time which possibly elapsed
seemed like a minute at the least. Then came an amazingly instantaneous
burst of lead-colored smoke covering a circle some forty yards in
diameter, accompanied by an explosion of surprising violence. I could
see no flash of fire at all.

Next came the new aerial torpedo fired from the new gun. (The old
little mortar with the black powder was not used.) The new gun made
practically no report in discharging the torpedo. It was beautiful
to watch the slender fishlike projectile go sailing in a high and
graceful arc up, up, up, against the sky and then down, down, down,
until it landed just beyond the wire entanglements. But it really never
did land, for it had a percussion device in its nose which exploded it
on touching ground. This big torpedo had a reduced charge of explosive
so as not to destroy too much of the field. Judging by the report of
this reduced charge, the full charge going off must be the grandfather
of all explosions.

Next came the two incendiary bombs. One of these burst on contact,
setting fire to the patch of grass where it landed. The other had a
fuse which shot out a stream of golden sparks like fireworks before
exploding. This bomb threw burning liquid in all directions, setting
many fires in the grass for a radius of several yards.

Last came the asphyxiating bomb. It consisted of a sphere formed by
five pieces of perforated iron held loosely together in a sort of
disjointed shell by a little wire basket. Inside this openwork ball
hung a small glass vessel full of acid. When the engineer threw the
ball against the ground the five pieces of metal shell collapsed onto
the glass, breaking it and liberating the acid, which made a wet
splash on the ground. This acid in turn makes a gas which the French
somewhat euphemistically call "gas timide."

To show that this gas was not poisonous, like the German gases, we were
invited to stand in a close circle right around the fragments of the
bomb immediately after it had been thrown, with our heads bent over. We
stood and stood, sniffing away, but could detect no gas of any kind.

"Ah," said the officer of explosives, "in the full open air like this
our 'gas timide' takes longer to be noticed, but in an inclosed space
it works very rapidly."

Hardly had he finished speaking when I began to notice a smell
something like wood alcohol. At the same time my eyes began to stream
with tears, my nose felt as though it was indulging in one long
continuous sneeze, and I turned hastily away, coughing and sputtering
and wiping my eyes, with an officer on each side keeping me active
company.

"If that's a 'timide' gas," I remarked to one of the officers as we
left the pupils to begin actual practice, "I'd hate to meet a fierce
one."



VI

WITH THE BELGIAN BATTERIES


    HEADQUARTERS OF THE BELGIAN ARMY,
    LA PANNE, BELGIUM, _Aug. 30_.

Yesterday I spent a day with the Belgian artillery. In the morning at
ten o'clock Commandant L----, who had me in charge, called for me at
the very comfortable seaside hotel where I am staying. In his military
motor we threaded our way through the streets of the town. These were
jammed with thousands of Belgian soldiers enjoying their six days of
rest before returning for three days in the front trenches (followed
by six days in reserve and three days again in the front trenches).
A cheerful, well-fed-looking lot of men they are, not smart, but
husky-looking in their new khaki uniforms and greatcoats.

"Alas!" an infantry Captain yesterday complained to me, "they are fine
soldiers and have good uniforms, but we cannot get the men to look
'chic' in them like the British. Just look at those caps! They've
pulled them and twisted them about to suit their ideas! Those caps a
few days ago were 'chic' caps! And now, mon Dieu! look at them!"

However, I confess I was not much interested in whether these
privates were Belgian Beau Brummels or not. I had come to Flanders
not to inspect them on parade, but to watch them work on the firing
line. There I found them scrupulously clean, very patient and wholly
courageous, attributes which are more important than creased trousers,
unwrinkled jackets and well-blocked caps.

Once free from La Panne, our motor made good time along the country
road till we reached Furnes. There we stopped to take some photographs
of the beautiful old Hôtel de Ville which the German shells that drop
in from time to time have left practically undamaged.

From Furnes on we took the straight road to Ypres. The road was
for a time quite congested with ammunition-wagons, ambulances,
supply-lorries, etc. On our left we passed an encampment of
mitrailleuse dog-teams; on our right a park of British armored
motor-cannon.

We passed, too, long lines of trolley-cars packed with cheerful
soldiers being brought back from the front for their period of rest,
and with others going out to take their places. Thus the humble
street-car has taken its place in the machinery of war.

Soon we turned into another road which led us to the village of
Lampernisse. Here we visited and photographed the ruins of the church.
Not very long ago the Germans dropped a big shell into this church and
killed forty-two chasseurs who were sleeping in it. They are buried in
the graveyard in one big grave. Subsequently the Germans, believing
that the steeple of the church was being used for observation purposes,
kept on shelling it till they brought it all down, and incidentally
wrecked what remained of the village.

From here on our movements must be shrouded in mystery, but ultimately
at about 11.45 we reached a humble group of farm buildings, the
headquarters of Colonel D----, commanding the artillery of the sector.
We found him in a little bomb-proof telephone central built onto one
of the farm buildings. With a Major and a Captain he was poring over
very large scale maps spread on a table. Behind him a soldier sat at
a telephone switchboard. From the outside a whole sheaf of telephone
wires ran away, in various directions.

My Commandant presented me to the Colonel and explained my desire to
see some howitzers in action.

"Perfect!" exclaimed the Colonel genially. "We have just definitely
located a German blockhouse in their defense system and at two
o'clock this afternoon we are going to destroy it with one of our
150-millimetre howitzers. So if you will honor the Villa Beausejour
with your company at lunch you can afterward watch the howitzer work."

The old farm-house had been euphemistically christened the Villa
Beausejour by the Colonel's staff.

Inviting me into the bomb-proof, the Colonel then showed me on one of
the large scale maps the whole lay of the land. Red lines indicated the
Belgian intrenchments, blue lines the German. In the same way all over
the map behind the red line the Belgian batteries were indicated in
red, while the same held good in blue of those German batteries which
the Belgians had managed to locate. Some of these latter were false
emplacements. It was only when a little blue cannon was drawn behind
the emplacement that an actual gun was indicated.

The Colonel pointed out to me on this map the exact location of the
Villa Beausejour, of the blockhouse which was to be destroyed, and of
the gun which was to destroy it. He also showed me photographs of the
German positions taken from Belgian aeroplanes. Taking one of these
photographs and comparing it with a map, he explained to me how the map
showed only one road leading to a certain spot, while the photograph
showed a new second road leading to the same spot. This indicated the
existence of a concealed battery at that place.

The telephone bell rang. "This is Number 12," answered the
soldier-operator. He listened for a few moments and then told the
Colonel that Headquarters wished him to send over an officer after
lunch to cross-question the two German prisoners just captured for
information which might be of use to his artillery.

"Tell them I shall do so," replied the Colonel.

As we had another half-hour before lunch, he deputed one of his
officers to take me to a battery of 75's not far off and incidentally
show me some of the shell-holes made in the neighborhood by the German
"marmites," as the French and Belgians call the big high-explosive
shells.

A brisk walk brought us to the 75's, cleverly concealed in an
artificial wood which had been transplanted bodily. The Captain in
Command showed me the guns, and also a fine bomb-proof shelter which
he had just completed. It was very much needed, as, in spite of the
artificial woods, the Germans had roughly located his battery, and
whenever any Belgian 75's in his neighborhood open up on the enemy they
immediately cut loose on his battery. The whole surface of the fields
for hundreds of yards around was pockmarked with shell-holes.

He showed me one of his guns where a curious thing had happened. A
couple of days before a German shell had hit obliquely the steel
shield of this gun and had glanced off through the left wheel,
knocking the spokes out on its way. The shell had then entered the
ammunition-caisson standing next to the gun, had there burst, hurling
the heavy caisson bodily through the air to where its wreck landed
upside down, and had not exploded its contents of shells.

[Illustration: Page 101

"COLONEL D----, COMMANDING THE ARTILLERY OF THE SECTOR"]

[Illustration: Page 105

THE AUTHOR IN ONE OF THE BIGGEST SHELL-PITS, WHICH WERE TEN FEET
DEEP AND TWENTY FEET IN DIAMETER]

After taking photographs of some of the biggest shell-pits, which were
some ten feet deep and twenty feet in diameter, we returned to the
Villa Beausejour and lunch. We sat down fourteen to lunch--the Colonel,
ten artillery officers, the Chaplain, my Commandant and I.

Lunch consisted of potato soup, paté de foie gras, vegetables,
strawberry-jam pie, cheese and coffee. There was no wine to start with,
but one of the officers soon came in with two bottles of white wine,
which we all mixed with our mineral-water.

The talk ran mostly on the two German prisoners.

"I certainly hope we shall be able to find out from them just where
that battery is that has been giving us all this trouble lately,"
exclaimed one officer.

"And those howitzers that I can't locate," from another.

"And where that body of troops to the right sleeps," from a third.

"Perhaps they'll know in which of those farms the German headquarters
are," from a fourth.

It appeared that the prisoners were from German Poland. When the
Belgian artillery had the day before driven the German troops into
their bomb-proofs these two had seized the opportunity to crawl forward
out of the trench, through the wire entanglements, across the open to
a Belgian advanced listening-post, where they had surrendered. They
were now at General Headquarters and had already given much valuable
information, including the unusually large number of men who slept
during the daytime in the blockhouse, and the presence in a certain
farm of a number of German officers.

A Captain of a battery of 75's who sat near me at lunch, was going to
tackle the farm-house that afternoon with his guns. The Captain in
command of my howitzers was not at lunch, as he was already on his
way to his observation-post, situated at the extreme front, within
270 yards of the blockhouse. From there he was going to correct the
howitzer fire, over some four kilometres of telephone line connecting
his observation-post with his guns.

A good deal of the talk at lunch was devoted to anathematizing a
certain general-staff officer who had charge of the uniforming of the
army and, apparently, was bent on changing the new khaki caps of the
officers from the British shape, which they all liked, to the French
shape.

A good story was told to illustrate the amazing efficiency of the
German intelligence department. One day when the army was being
reuniformed in khaki, a certain regiment of chasseurs was ordered to
leave their trenches right after dark that night to march to the rear
for the purpose of having their new uniforms issued to them. An hour or
two after they had received this order the Germans right opposite them
hoisted a great placard above their trenches. On it was sign-painted:

"Good-bye, brave chasseurs! Run along to get your new uniforms at
seventeen francs fifty apiece!"

Lunch being finished, my Commandant and I said good-bye all round and,
with detailed directions, started on a half-hour's walk to find the
howitzer battery. The Chaplain, in khaki, with an old black umbrella
and a long fishing-pole, came along as far as the first canal. There,
standing on a flat bit of embankment between two shell-holes, he
placidly began to fish.

The artillery, which had been booming in a desultory way all morning,
had of course stopped during the lunch-hour. For the artillerymen on
both sides certainly keep union rules in laying off when the time for
the dinner-pail comes round. If the noon whistle blew they could not be
more punctual in dropping work.

Now, however, the noon-hour was over and the guns again began to take
up their monotonous bass drumming. For a full half-hour we walked,
first along a deserted wagon-road, then to the left, along a path by
the bank of a canal, past an artificial hedge here and an artificial
grove of trees there. Some of these had batteries ambushed in them,
others were shams to divert the attention of the German aviators and
the fire of the German artillery from the real emplacements.

Finally, we came to a tall false hedge made of withered saplings
wired together. In the lee of this hedge was a low flat roof, perhaps
three feet above the surface of the ground, covered with a sprinkling
of earth and boughs. Under this we climbed down into a cellar-like
excavation about three feet deep, giving six feet of head room.

Here I first made the acquaintance of Julia. I found her standing with
her back to me under the plank shelter, with only her exceedingly short
and retroussé nose sniffling up at the leaden patch of threatening sky
which showed between the forward edge of the roof and the top of the
high false hedge in front. No one could well call Julia beautiful, but
there was power in every line and curve of her. She was a particularly
short-muzzled 150-millimetre heavy field-howitzer, and she had been
christened Julia in chalk letters across the back of her thick steel
shield by the members of her devoted crew.

On her breech were engraved a crown and a big "C. I.," for she and
her three sisters had been intended for Carol I., King of Roumania,
before they were bought up by the Belgian Government. One of the four
had exploded through trying to fire a 155-millimetre shell through her
150-millimetre bore, but the other three were doing fine work for their
adopted country. On my way to my appointment with Julia, we had passed
one of her sisters, called "Zoe," cowering up against the wall of a
very disreputable old farm-house, hiding her humiliation in a hole in
the ground under a plank roofing and a false hedge much like Julia's.

Any one who thinks that nowadays he will see artillery ranged in
imposing array, is doomed to disappointment. The artillery commander
(especially of the heavier guns) goes around the countryside stealthily
hiding one piece here, surreptitiously slipping another in there,
always selecting the most separate and inconspicuous locations, much as
a woman will wander around a hotel room stowing her pieces of jewelry
here and there where the burglars will never think of looking for them.
Only the burglars in the present case are hostile shells that make
holes ten feet deep and twenty feet across.

Julia's crew consisted of a Lieutenant and eight men. The Lieutenant
and seven of the men were grouped around the breech of the gun when
I arrived. The eighth man squatted to the left by a field-telephone
with the receiver held to his ear. Commandant L---- introduced me
to the Lieutenant, and then asked whether his Captain had reached
the observation-post. The Lieutenant had not heard from him yet, but
imagined he must get there any moment.

It began to rain hard, much to the vexation of the Commandant, who
feared it would hide the blockhouse from the observer and put an end to
the bombardment.

"Oh! no," said the Lieutenant; "he's only 270 yards distant from it.
He'll be able to see it all right."

On the board floor to the left, between the telephone and the front
wall of the excavation, were piled twenty-five or thirty wicked-looking
150-millimetre high-explosive shells. They were conical in shape, about
2-1/2 feet long and 6 inches in diameter, made of steel, with a copper
band around them near the base, and a copper nose.

I started to lift one of them, and only succeeded at the second
attempt. They weighed about 110 pounds apiece.

Stacked next to them were a corresponding number of hollow copper
cylinders containing stiff little cream-colored children's belts, with
eyelet-holes down the middle, coiled neatly inside them. Some of them
had one coil; others two coils, one on top of the other; others three
coils superimposed. These were the propelling charges for the shells,
and were of three strengths according as one, two or three of the
coils of cream-colored explosive were put in the copper shells. They
were topped off with a heavy felt pad which fitted neatly into the
cylinder.

Meantime the rain came down in torrents and began to leak through the
thin plank roofing in little streams which were very hard to dodge.

The Lieutenant showed us a bomb-proof which he had just begun to build
into the earth wall of the cellar, behind the stack of shells. He was
going to cover it with a concrete roof, pile a few feet of earth on top
of that, then some sand-bags, and top the whole off with boulders, so
as to make any shell hitting it explode at once on the surface, instead
of boring half-way down before exploding. He was doing all this work
with his eight men at night when they were not handling the gun. During
the day they slept except when, as now, they wanted to disturb the
sleep of the enemy. This bomb-proof was only meant for refuge when the
Germans began bombarding him. The men's regular sleeping-quarters were
a little to the rear.

And still the rain came down, the air became raw and cold, and the
little waterfalls became harder and harder to dodge. But the man at the
telephone squatted patiently by the wall, and his seven mates chatted
placidly together in incomprehensible Flemish, switching instantly to
French when answering any question the Lieutenant put to them.

The Lieutenant explained how the gun was aimed, the sighting device
showing a stake in line with a church steeple; only as there was
nothing to be seen in front of Julia except an earth bank and ten
feet of false hedge, it stands to reason that stake and steeple
were behind her and appeared, not through a telescope as I had just
stupidly thought, but as a reflection in a mirror--which is the way all
well-conducted howitzers are aimed.

Finally, after an hour's wait the Lieutenant rang up his Major on the
telephone and asked whether anything was amiss with the Captain. No;
the Captain was only linking up a new telephone connection nearly four
kilometres in front of us.

The Lieutenant pointed out a false hedge some hundred yards behind us.

"That is exceedingly dangerous for us here," he explained. "It is much
too close to us. It should be at least 150 yards further removed. If
it draws the German fire, as it is intended to do, that fire is just
as apt to hit us as the false hedge. It was put up as a protection
to another gun which was off there to the right, but it's a very
uncomfortable thing to have near us, especially before we have a
bomb-proof to crawl into."

"Ting--aling--aling!" went the telephone bell. The soldier listened.
"The Captain says, 'Are you all ready?'"

"Tell him 'yes'," replied the Lieutenant.

"Aim for 3,750 metres," repeated the soldier at the telephone.

The Lieutenant and a couple of his men busied themselves around the
sight and elevating cranks of the gun. Another man removed a leather
cap which had been fitted over Julia's nose to keep the rain out.

I was busy sticking cotton wool in my ears.

"The Captain says to say when you are ready and he will give the order
to fire."

"All ready," said the Lieutenant, backing away from Julia and holding a
thick white cord in his hand which ran from her to him.

"All ready," replied the soldier into the telephone.

"Tirez!" ("Fire!") said he a fraction of a second later.

The Lieutenant's arm gave a jerk, the whole front of the shelter was a
mass of blood-red flame, there was a bellow of sound, the barrel of the
great gun ran smoothly three feet or so back into the cellar and then
smoothly forward again. There was a rush of air around my legs.

Almost simultaneously with the report I heard with one ear the
telephonist say, "Coup parti" ("The shot has left"), while with the
other I listened to the long-drawn wheeze with which the projectile
mounted into the sky on its mountain-high trajectory. In the second
which had meanwhile elapsed one of the artillerymen had swung open the
breech of the gun, another had taken out the now empty copper cylinder
and placed it on the floor to the right of Julia, a third had lifted a
new shell and with the aid of the second had run it into the breech,
and a fourth had slipped in a fresh copper cylinder containing a full
charge of three of the little cream-colored tape-coils. Whereupon the
first artilleryman had swung to and locked the breech again.

"In eighteen seconds you should hear the shell explode," said the
Lieutenant, taking his stand by the telephonist with an open notebook
and pencil in his hands--"15, 16, 17, 18"--I finished counting. Boom!
came the distant explosion.

A few seconds of silence.

"Plus 3," announced the telephonist, repeating an order from the
distant Captain.

The Lieutenant made an entry in his notebook and simultaneously rattled
off some figures like a football quarterback. The men worked over the
sights and cranks, while my Commandant said to me: "That shot was too
far to the right; plus 3 means five three-thousandths further to the
left."

"All ready," said the Lieutenant.

"All ready," repeated the telephonist, and then:

"Tirez!" and again the twitch of the white cord, the blood-red flame,
the roar, the slow, easy recoil, the diminishing wheeze, the "Coup
parti," the eighteen seconds' silence, and the distant boom.

"Plus 4," sang out the telephonist, and there was a mechanical
repetition of operations. "The observer corrected the first shot about
ten metres to the left, and, finding that was not enough, corrected the
second shot another fifteen metres to the left. They'll edge along like
that till they reach the blockhouse, destroying the trench to right of
it on the way. Then, when they've destroyed the blockhouse completely,
if that does not take up all the day's allowance of shells, they'll
expend the remainder on knocking out the trench to the left of the
blockhouse. To-day's allowance for Julia is twenty shells, and probably
she will use up most of them on the blockhouse to make a thorough job
of it."

"Tirez!" came the telephonist's voice, and as the roar was succeeded
by silence, my Commandant exclaimed to me: "Filons!" French slang for
which the American equivalent is, "Let us beat it!"

As I reluctantly crawled up into the rain after having shaken hands
with the Lieutenant, my Commandant explained that the Germans would
undoubtedly begin to search the immediate vicinity with their artillery
to try to silence the gun which was throwing the "marmites" into them.
As we had the provocative false hedge right behind us and no bomb-proof
to crawl into, I had to agree that he was prudent.

And so we "beat it" through the downpour, sliding around in the oily
Flemish mud, while the German guns began to drop whole kitchen-loads of
"marmites" into a poor wrecked village five hundred yards to our left,
from which they evidently suspected that our shots had come.

As we slithered along, drenched to the skin, toward the "Villa
Beausejour" and our waiting motor, we could hear the Captain of
75's letting off salvo after salvo at the farm-house of which the
prisoners had informed him, while behind us Julia continued to explode
at half-minute intervals. There was all the difference in the world
between the dry short report of the big howitzer and the hollower,
sharper, more penetrating explosion of the 75's.

To-day I learned from the Captain of the 75's that his first few
volleys had set the farm-house on fire. A lot of soldiers had come
running to put the fire out. His guns kept on dropping and scattering
these until, with a series of loud explosions, the whole farm-house had
blown up. It turned out that it was not an officers' headquarters, but
an ammunition store-house.

As to our blockhouse, I understand that it was completely demolished,
though whether or not it took the whole of Julia's twenty shells to
complete the work I was unable to learn.



VII

IN THE FLEMISH TRENCHES


    HEADQUARTERS OF THE BELGIAN ARMY,
    LA PANNE, _Aug. 30_.

To-day I was given the opportunity of comparing the trenches of Belgium
with those I had visited in France. It was a very interesting contrast.

Commandant L----, who still had me in charge, picked me up at my hotel
at 10 o'clock in the morning. Proceedings were delayed while I insisted
on taking a snap-shot of him in the nickel-steel skull-cap which he
wore inside his khaki cap.

More and more of the French officers are wearing these helmets, and he
had just ordered his from Paris. It is an admirable protection, very
tough, not at all heavy, tucked inside the sweatband of the cap and
entirely invisible. If a bullet hits it straight point-blank it will,
of course, penetrate and carry a piece of the steel helmet into the
wearer's head with it. But a bullet hitting thus would be fatal anyway.
While if the bullet is spent, or if it hits at an angle, the helmet
will deflect it.

[Illustration: Page 120

COMMANDANT L---- IN THE NICKEL-STEEL SKULL-CAP WHICH HE WORE INSIDE
HIS KHAKI CAP]

On the way to the trenches we stopped off at the Belgian aerodrome,
where an Aviation Captain showed and explained to me the details of the
Voisin and Nieuport machines, which were chiefly used, including the
ingenious bomb-dropping mechanism and the wireless apparatus.

The Belgians certainly deserve the utmost credit for the way in which
they have developed their air service from nothing at the beginning of
the war to a highly efficient aviation corps. But for that matter their
whole army has been reorganized on an admirable basis.

One must realize the shattered condition in which they were swept from
Antwerp back to the very fringe of their country behind the Yser. One
must realize that they are practically an army without a country. One
must understand that when they get furloughs they cannot spend them
with their families in their homes, getting comfort and encouragement.
They either stay within sound of the firing or spend a bleak six days
among the strangers of England or of Northern France. When all this is
considered their material reorganization and the preservation of their
_morale_ in its present splendid shape is a remarkable achievement.

And let no one forget that if the British proudly saved the French by
their retreat from Mons (which no one seems likely to be allowed to
forget) it is equally certain that the shattered Belgian army humbly
saved the British on the Yser.

Rolling along the straight highroad to Y---- we passed the usual
congestion of troop-filled trolley-cars, lorries, ambulances,
farm-wagons, officers' autos and motor-cyclists. Our military motor was
an excellent one, with the one fault that it seemed extremely difficult
for the chauffeur to shift his gear from neutral into low speed, and
he would frequently get hung up for several seconds with the car at a
standstill till finally he got his gears in mesh.

At one point we stopped to see an interesting manifestation of the
newly developing art of war. A giant 12-inch British naval gun was
mounted on a specially designed railroad truck. It stood on a railway
siding, with its ammunition-car coupled on behind. A kind of crane
stood ready to swing the huge shells from the ammunition-car to the
breech of the gun. When some object was found worth firing 12-inch
shells at, the engine backed up to the gun-truck with steam up. The
track was cleared.

Then the great gun did its firing at the object, and forthwith was
whisked away one, five or ten miles down the track out of danger of
the German replies. This is what, officers seem agreed, will take the
place of the antiquated fixed fortresses--miles of railway loops and
sidings running behind artificial concealments or in semi-open cuts,
with batteries of heavy fortress guns shuttling to and fro, firing and
changing position constantly.

We motored on till we neared the point where the Belgian army ends and
the French begins. Here we paid our respects to the General in command
of the division we were visiting. He promptly asked us to lunch, and
a very good lunch it was: Vegetable soup, some entrée which I could
not identify, shoulder of mutton with potatoes and beans, cantaloupe,
cheese and black coffee, with a choice between beer, claret and white
wine to drink at lunch, a glass of champagne at dessert, and liqueurs
with the coffee.

The conversation of the officers turned largely on what was happening
to their friends and acquaintances in Belgium, about whom they heard
by mail through Switzerland or Holland. One young countess aroused
considerable discussion. She had been sitting in a street-car in
Brussels with a Belgian friend when a German officer boarded the car.
Her friend bowed to the officer.

"What! You bow to a pig like that!" cried the countess. Whereupon the
officer had stopped the car and placed her under arrest. She had been
given her choice between two months in prison or ten thousand francs'
fine, and had paid the fine.

Certain of the officers held that she had been unpatriotic in not
accepting imprisonment rather than help the German exchequer. Others
felt she had done enough in insulting the officer and rebuking her
friend. The talk dwelt, too, on certain other Belgian ladies who had
compromised with their patriotism to the extent of taking up social
relations with the invaders. From what I heard I feel sorry for these
over-hospitable ladies when the Belgians are once more masters of their
own country.

After lunch I began to feel more and more impatient to get started
for the trenches, but I had already learned too much of etiquette at
the front to show it. For the officers of all the armies feel that
it is infinitely more important to prove to you that they can give
you a good cup of coffee and a good cigar than it is to show you the
most beautiful battle that was ever fought. They are, too, all alike
obsessed with the very human fallacy that the little ingenuities and
contrivances which they have devised for their personal comfort, safety
or delectation must be of infinitely more absorbing interest to the
visitor than the guns and the trenches, which to them are such an old
and boring story.

So now we had to admire the way one officer had had his sleeping-shack
wall-papered, how another had invented some home-made shower-baths, how
a third had had a genuine heavy wooden bedstead installed instead of a
camp cot.

However, finally we made our adieus and motored away with full
directions from the General as to how to meet him at 4 o'clock at
an observation-post from which he was to witness an interesting
bombardment. As it was then a quarter to 3, my hopes of getting into
the trenches began to look slim.

We were now motoring straight toward the front over a stretch of
country which the Germans had been profusely bombarding. The road was
full of holes where the Belgian blocks had been torn out by shells. We
bumped over the shallower ones and dodged the deeper ones, but every
now and then the chauffeur would miscalculate the depth of a hole
and the car would come down on its axle with a prodigious thump. By
shutting one's eyes one could easily imagine one's self taxicabbing
along a New York side-street.

The guns had, of course, by now resumed work after their lunch-time
siesta and were grumbling away at each other in great shape. Presently
we came to a deserted village, which could be seen from some of the
German artillery positions and which they shelled on the slightest
provocation. The General had particularly told us to run through the
village in a hurry, especially across the open place around the church.
When we got safely out of the other end of the place, he had said, we
might leave our motor and sneak back on foot to take photographs. This
having been carefully explained to the chauffeur, he bumped us swiftly
down the ruined main street, reached the open place by the church,
where he had to turn to the right, came suddenly on top of a big, deep
shell-hole, just dodged it by slapping on his emergency, and stood
stock-still trying to get into first speed.

[Illustration: Page 127

"THE CHAUFFEUR REACHED THE OPEN PLACE BY THE CHURCH"]

[Illustration: Page 127

ON THE SHATTERED CHURCH HUNG THIS CRUCIFIX INTACT THOUGH SURROUNDED BY
SHRAPNEL HOLES]

The Commandant cursed and I swore, the Commandant's orderly sitting
next the chauffeur shook his fist at the chauffeur, and the chauffeur
shook one fist at his gears while with the other he wrenched and hauled
at his lever.

There is no use denying that we were all equally nervous. Every instant
we expected to see the first of a stream of shells explode near us.
Finally, after the suspense had in reality lasted not more than six or
eight seconds, the accursed low gear meekly meshed and we bumped off
down the side-street, heaving deep sighs of relief.

Outside the utterly ruined village we left our car behind a clump
of trees and walked back to take some photographs of what had been
the church. Then into the motor and on again till we stopped at the
cross-road which led directly to the front.

Here we left our motor. The rain suddenly beginning to come down in
sheets, we ducked into a ruined house whose roof some freak of the
shells had allowed to remain quite intact. We were quickly joined by
about fifty infantrymen who had been working at a reserve line of
intrenchments in the fields outside. Here we all waited for ten minutes
till the rain-squall stopped.

It may not be a particularly pretty subject, but I think it well worth
stating that that mass of soldiers, packed into the small inclosed
space, left the air as pure and untainted at the end of those ten
minutes as it had been before they jammed their way in. I had noticed
the same thing the day before during the two hours that I had spent by
the howitzer with the nine men of the crew. There is no doubt about it
that even the English--who of course originally invented and patented
personal cleanliness in this world--will have to scrub exceedingly hard
to keep up with the Belgians.

The rain having stopped, we slipped and slithered on foot along the
byroad till we came to a prairie-dog village of bomb-proofs with
soldiers' heads popping out of the little openings and then popping in
again. Here we met a young First Lieutenant, who very kindly offered
to show us the quickest way to the communicating trench, and off we
marched.

At this point we were just about half-way between the two opposing
bodies of artillery. High in air, right above our heads, the shells of
the two armies, hurtling along in opposite directions, met and passed
each other on their way. These big projectiles in passing over us
sounded exactly as if they were running along aerial rails. You could
hear them rattling along these rails, bumping over the rail joints,
banging over switches. It was a perfect illusion. By closing your eyes
you could have sworn that you were standing under Brooklyn Bridge
hearing the procession of street-cars, with silenced gongs, roll by at
express speed overhead. First there would be a distant report, then
silence as the shell rose, and then suddenly it would get on the rails,
rattle up to the top of its grade, coast down the grade the other side
and leave the tracks a second or two before the final explosion.

Some ten minutes later we were walking along a broad road, with the
noise of exploding shells getting louder and louder ahead. Then
suddenly a perfect swarm of bullets came chirping past us.

"Just this little bit of the road is visible from the German lines,"
remarked the Lieutenant. "They are about 500 metres away from us here."

It must have been comical to see the way in which the Commandant, his
orderly and I did an Indian war-dance down that road, all three bent
double. The Lieutenant must have caught the contagion from us, for,
as more bullets came by, zeup! zeup! zeup! he doubled up himself. In
a few seconds, however, he said we were out of sight again, and so we
straightened up and walked forward proudly erect, although every little
while when some bullets went by just over our heads we showed distinct
tendencies to collapse anew.

Now we came to the communication trench and climbed down into it one
after the other. It was very different from the French "boyaux," or
communicating trenches. Those were dug a good seven feet deep almost
everywhere, and never less than six feet. So that one could walk about
in them at one's ease without paying any attention to the bullets that
cracked up above. Only a shell plunging directly into one of these
three feet wide, seven feet deep ditches could be dangerous.

But the Belgians could not dig down more than about two and one-half
feet at the most without striking water. That, with an earth and sod
rampart about two feet high, gave a protection never more than five
feet at its highest and often under four feet in height. Now, it
probably sounds very easy to keep sheltered while walking along behind
four feet of ditch and parapet, but if any one tries it for more than
five minutes at a time he will know what a real backache feels like.

This trench, which ran forward in very short abrupt zigzags, was
floored with pieces of wicker-work to prevent sinking into the mud. The
half-hour's rain had filled long stretches of it ankle-deep with water.

Crouched double, we waded along in single file, the Lieutenant, myself,
the Commandant and his orderly. The bullets were striking some ruined
farm buildings close on our left with sharp cracks. They hit the
breastworks with muffled thuds and passed close over the breastwork
with a kind of buzzing whistle. We paddled along till suddenly we came
to a place where, for some unaccountable reason, the trench stopped,
renewing itself again perhaps three or four yards further on. Across
the unsheltered surface of the ground which intervened ran a slack
telephone wire some two feet above the ground.

"You'd better hurry up across here," remarked the Lieutenant as he
scrambled out of the trench, took a couple of strides, swung first
one leg and then the other over the telephone wire, took a couple of
strides more and dropped into the trench beyond.

There is not the slightest question as to the hurry in which I
negotiated this obstacle. Then, to see what I must have looked like,
I turned to watch the two who were following me. The Commandant, I
must confess, managed to accomplish the feat in a fashion not wholly
destitute of dignity. But the way his orderly bounded out of the
trench, hurdled the telephone wire and with one lithe leap descended
upon us in the other trench was a sight for sore eyes. It certainly
must have drawn a chuckle from the German sharpshooters witnessing it
through their telescopic sights.

A hundred yards or so further on we came to a halt at an angle in the
communication trench from which could be had a good view of the front.

Lifting my head cautiously till my eyes were just above the edge of the
rampart, I could see some 250 yards ahead the chocolate-colored back of
the Belgian front trench. For where the chalky soil of Champagne makes
the trenches there very white in color, the boggy soil of Belgium is a
rich brown.

Beyond the Belgian front trench ran a line of tall trees; beyond the
line of trees again ran another brown line.

"That's the German front line, I suppose?" I said to the Lieutenant.

"No, that's their second line you're looking at. Raise your head a
little more, and right over the top of our front-line trenches you'll
see their front line."

I craned my neck, and, sure enough, another brown line hove into view
apparently only a few yards ahead of the Belgian front line, with the
usual barbed-wire tangle in front of it.

"That trench is about 100 metres from our front trench," said the
Lieutenant. "The Germans have got all that barbed wire before their
front trench, but we don't need wire because we have the Y---- Canal
right before our front trench. Only it flows so close under the
breastworks that you can't see it from here."

A great cloud of jet-black smoke suddenly welled up from the Belgian
front trench.

"Ah, that's a six-inch bomb they've thrown into our trench with one of
their 'minenwerfer,'" exclaimed the Lieutenant.

The report of the explosion from where we stood, not more than 250
metres away, was not loud.

The artillery was hard at it. Big clouds of black smoke rose sluggishly
by the German trench where the Belgian high-explosive shells were
bursting. Livelier clouds of white indicated the shrapnel explosions.

I was craning my neck to see what damage was being done the German
trench when a whole swarm of bullets struck very close indeed to my
head. The Lieutenant pulled me down into the trench.

"They shot at you that time, all right!" he laughed.

"Impossible!" I answered. "I can only barely see their trench over the
top of your first-line trench, so how could they possibly see me from
there?"

"Ah, but they were not shooting at you from there. They are up in the
tops of some of those trees," he explained, pointing to the row of
tall, innocent-looking trees. "Their sharpshooters climb up at night
and snipe from there all day, and those of them whom we do not locate
and kill climb down again the next night. They have telescopic sights
on their rifles, and these rifles are mounted on little tripods so that
they can fix their aim immovably on some spot where they think they
have seen a movement; and the next time the movement comes, ping! Only
I don't think they can use the tripods up in the trees."

At the Lieutenant's suggestion we scattered down along the trench in
case our little crowd might have been observed from a tree and an
artilleryman might try his luck on us.

Further down the trench where I took my new stand I went on watching
the shells burst, and listening to the projectiles from the opposing
sides go rattling along their invisible rails high overhead.

A little off to our right the French 75's were firing so quickly that
I hoped it would develop into the famous "trommelfeuer" ("drum-roll
fire," as the Germans call it), but it did not. We had received word
that they were going to fire 400 rounds at some objective whose nature
I did not learn. They certainly were firing them, and losing no time
about it, either.

I could not see their shells burst, as the lines took a turn just to
our right and disappeared behind some trees.

At the points where the armies of different nationalities connect they
are always scrupulously careful to inform each other what artillery
work they have in preparation, so that a sudden violent cannonade on
the part of one army will not alarm the next with the idea that a
German assault is being resisted.

It was particularly interesting to watch the Belgian soldiers, who
every few yards squatted placidly in the trench, short spades and
trowels in hand, busily engaged in digging little pits about two
feet deep in the bottom of the trench, and then scooping out little
channels running to these pits. These channels would drain the
surrounding yard or two of trench bottom into the pits, leaving muddy
patches where a moment before three or four inches of water had stood.
There the Belgian soldiers squatted like children making mud pies at
the seashore, and chatted complacently in Flemish while they fought
the enemy, who was only less hateful to them than the Germans. A
splendid, cool, nerveless lot of men, doing their work unostentatiously
but efficiently, neither dashing on the one hand nor dogged on the
other, but gifted with the admirable _morale_ of the imperturbably
matter-of-fact.

[Illustration: Page 135

UNDER HEAVY FIRE IN A BELGIAN COMMUNICATING-TRENCH. (THE FIGURE
STANDING UPRIGHT JUST BEHIND THE AUTHOR IS THE LIEUTENANT, WHO
STRAIGHTENED UP DURING THE MOMENT THE SNAPSHOT WAS BEING TAKEN
BUT WAS NOT HIT)]

Suddenly I heard an exclamation from one of the soldiers. Looking where
he pointed, I saw, just beyond the Belgian front trench, a huge column
of muddy water standing bolt upright against the horizon. It stood
there motionless until I began to think it would remain a permanent
fixture in the landscape. Then it suddenly collapsed. A Belgian shell
falling short had soused down into the Y---- Canal and exploded,
sending up this five-story waterspout.

It seemed a shame not to go forward into the front trench, but with the
Germans lobbing six-inch bombs in there with their "mine throwers" and
the artillery getting busier all the time, the Commandant thought it
would be taking too great risks. So we turned and crouched along back.
As we did so, it is worthy of comment, three German shells struck not
far to our left at not more than half-a-minute intervals and not one of
the three exploded. It was a striking example of faulty explosives.

We returned by a different trench, so that we did not have to repeat
the acrobatic feat over the telephone wire. But we had a little
excitement to make up for it, for, as I splashed along with a most
intense crick in my bent back, one of the German projectiles, which was
apparently running on perfect schedule along its overhead rails on its
way toward the Belgian artillery, suddenly jumped the track and came
hissing down toward us.

Simultaneously with the crash of the explosion I saw the men ahead of
me passionately hugging the bottom of the trench, and I found myself on
my knees and elbows, not a whit behind them in my devotion.

"That was a close one," said Captain L----.

"What was it--a 75?" I asked.

"Seventy-five nothing," he replied; "that was a 150 millimetre, and it
exploded within thirty metres of your head. There--see for yourself. If
we had not been in the trench that would have caught us nicely!"

I peeped over the edge of the trench and there, sure enough, was a big
cloud of sooty black smoke wallowing up from behind some broken masonry
not more than thirty yards off.

"Filons!" ("Let us beat it!") said the Commandant tersely, and we did.



VIII

LESSONS


The great lesson that a visit to England, France and what remains of
Belgium to-day will teach any one who is willing to be taught by hard
facts and not by wistful visions is that peace in the near future is
quite impossible. For the only peace, in the conviction of the Allies,
that will end this war is a peace neither of conciliation nor of
compromise, but a peace whose terms are arbitrarily imposed by one side
and of necessity submitted to by the other.

That is the end to which the Allies are determined to fight, whether
that end is achieved by the more merciful method of decisive military
victory or must be gained by the more terrible pressure of complete
financial, industrial and economic prostration.

Any attempt to abort this object by mediatory proposals, whether
Pontifical or Presidential, the Allies frankly declare they would
consider an inopportune impertinence.

I have had the privilege of studying the spirit of the English, the
French and the Belgians at a time when that spirit was being severely
tested--when their fortunes were at their lowest ebb since the days
just before the battle of the Marne. Their spring advance had utterly
failed to materialize; throughout the summer they had been held in
almost complete check by the Germans' depleted line. The Dardanelles
had turned out to be a slaughter-house, with success appearing more
and more precarious, and the only alternative to success seeming to be
disaster.

The starvation of Germany had become a conceded impossibility. Her
dearth of rubber, copper, cotton, etc., had assumed more and more the
nature of a superable handicap rather than a decisive crippling. Her
financial situation had already made fools of so many economic seers
that they had become less and less didactic regarding her impending
bankruptcy.

The practical success of allied diplomacy among the Balkan neutrals
had grown to seem more and more dubious.

Finally, Russia had been so manhandled that in the opinion of British
and French military authorities with whom I talked it would take her
from one to two years to reorganize her armies into condition for an
effective offensive.

Yet, in spite of all these admitted disadvantages, I did not meet a
single Frenchman, Englishman or Belgian who was not sincerely confident
of ultimate victory. But only an ultimate peace could, in their
conviction, be victorious. An immediate peace, or a peace in the near
future, no matter what the German concessions, would for the Allies be
the peace of defeat.

From Germany must come, not concessions, but abandonments, or the war,
with all its hideous sacrifices unredeemed, would be a failure. Such an
artificially fabricated peace, such a compromise between irreconcilable
principles, would be but the prelude, more or less dragged out, to a
fresh conflict.

I have talked to men and women of many classes, of many degrees of
education and of many grades of intelligence. I found their views
unanimous and their reasons for these views so constantly the same as
finally to seem almost hackneyed.

I am aware of the existence in England of such a body of peace
propagandists as the Union of Democratic Control, and in Holland
of some French pacifists, and scattered here and there of
Internationalists. But of all the men and women with whom I casually
talked there was not one who shared these gentlemen's views.

Of all the French statements of reasons why the war must go on, which
were iterated and reiterated to me, the best came from a prince, a
retired naval captain and a little dressmaker. Unfortunately, they may
not be quoted by name.

The prince said: "After this taste of blood the world can never remain
long at peace while any powerful nation dedicates itself to the ideals
and instincts of militarism. Germany, under the guidance of Prussia, is
to-day such a nation. These aims and instincts have been so thoroughly
absorbed by her people that, even if they sincerely wished to, these
people could not eliminate them inside of two or three generations. It
is ludicrous to imagine that these characteristics, which have become
nearly if not quite hereditary, could be negotiated out of them. They
must be subjugated out of the German people."

The naval captain said: "It is a mere matter of arithmetic. It can
be easily demonstrated that at the end of this war, with its cost on
her shoulders, if France does not immediately reduce her armaments to
a minimum she is absolutely bound to go bankrupt. Now, as we cannot
conceivably trust any mere promises of disarmament which Germany might
make, it is obvious that we must go on with this war until we have
reduced her to such a condition that we can enforce disarmament upon
her, and thus safely enjoy its benefits ourselves."

The little dressmaker said: "My husband has been fighting at the
front for months. It would be natural for me to wish the war to end
to-morrow, no matter on what terms, if I could get my husband back
before he is killed. But I want the war to go on until the 'Boches' are
crushed; otherwise in another ten years or so there will be a new war,
and then they will come and take away not only my husband, but my son
as well."

In England the same line of reasoning prevailed. And the fact cannot
be too strongly emphasized that this reasoning did not take the shape
of stock arguments devised by politicians to bolster up some expedient
course and drilled into the people for parrot-like repetition. The
arguments were the spontaneous expression of the heartfelt convictions
of all these people.

Intelligent opinion in England ranges between the two statements made
to me, respectively, by a very famous Tory statesman and administrator,
and by one of the best-known Liberal statesmen in English public life
to-day.

The first of these was terse and to the point:

"It is the greatest mistake for your Government to feel that the United
States can, by remaining neutral, help to bring the war to a close.
This war will be fought to a point where no mediation will be possible
or needed. No peace with Germany, signed with a Hohenzollern in power,
would be worth more than twenty years' peace to the world. To make
Germany's promises binding on her, her people have got to have a share
in her foreign policy, and that they cannot have under the present
dynasty or system."

The second statement was:

"The best information that I can obtain from Germany is that, if she
wins, the advanced party, which is in the ascendancy, plans to erect
Poland into a semi-independent kingdom, contributing to it that portion
of Poland which Germany herself now possesses. She will annex Belgium,
probably a strip of Northern France, and possibly enough of Holland to
give her command of the mouths of the Scheldt and Rhine.

"Personally I cannot feel it to be unreasonable from her point of view
that she should plan to correct a situation where her great water
artery, the Rhine, is bottled up at its outlet. She will also take all
Courland, and this, too, is not so unreasonable, since the population
is far more German than Russian. Nevertheless, if such geographical and
ethnological changes as these were accomplished and to be maintained,
who can conceivably imagine that Germany can afford to modify her
militarism?

"My own views as to what the general terms of peace should be if the
Allies win are shared by men in both England and France whose opinions
will have weight in the peace negotiations. They are:

"To erect an independent Polish kingdom or state; to reconstitute
Belgium with indemnity; to hold a plebiscite in Alsace-Lorraine, taken
by a neutral, preferably the United States, in order to determine to
whom they should belong, and in what proportions; to dismember Turkey,
excepting Anatolia, which, being strictly Turkish, should be left to
the Turks; to enforce a very large degree of disarmament upon Germany
and Europe; to leave the German-speaking German Empire intact. (This
talk about the deposition of the Hohenzollerns as one of the peace
terms is sheer impertinence.)

"Now, you must readily perceive that any peace made in the near future
must conform or approximate to the German plans which I have outlined
and must involve a continuance of militarism and a standing incitement
to fresh wars. While a peace on the terms which we favor, a peace
that will perpetuate peace, must be wrung from a decisively beaten
Germany, and is therefore a long way off. That is why we shall have to
go through a very bad time of it for some period to come, and why our
ultimate victory will be at least one year, and possibly two or three
years off."

The keenest realization that victory will be slow, the completest
confidence that its certainty is axiomatic, is to be found in the
allied armies. There, ungrudgingly, they give the Germans fullest
credit for their preparedness, for their foresight, for their powers of
systematic and sustained labor, for their inventiveness. And they do
not waste their time trying to devise discrediting substitutes for such
words as "ability" in talking of their Generals, "courageousness" in
talking of their soldiers, and "patriotism" in talking of their people.
It is only when you get far behind the firing line that manliness
merges into meanness in estimating the enemy.

Yet these very officers who paid such soldierly tributes to their
antagonists were so wholly assured of eventual victory that any
scepticism on my part did not irritate them, but merely moved them to
good-natured smiles.

"So far," an English staff-officer remarked to me, "we English have
been bungling amateurs in the art of war contending against trained
professional specialists. But with a couple of years' more experience
I believe we shall know as much about it as they do, and then we shall
win."

"In the last analysis, talking from the military standpoint, this war,
like every war, will be won by men," said a French staff-officer.
"The Germans will not be beaten through lack of guns or ammunition or
machinery or supplies, but through lack of men. How long by the aid of
mechanics they can postpone the hour when the lack of men becomes fatal
to them I do not know--one year, two years. But in the end, with the
allied man-power steadily growing, and the German man-power steadily
lessening, their military collapse is inevitable."

These are typical of a score of similar views advanced by officers,
from Generals down to subalterns.

In the French army, as they show you their elaborate machine-shops
mounted on motor-lorries for the repair of all the vehicles in the
transport service, they will say with the most complete conviction:
"This mobility is not of much importance now, but when we begin the
pursuit of the 'Boches' then they will come in handy!"

When they show you their great parks of supply-trains, each carrying
three days' complete provisions for one army corps, they will tell you
earnestly:

"Not much use now when the railroads do most of the carrying of
supplies to the armies, but wait till the advance begins and then we
shall be useful!"

When they let you examine their wonderful 75's, mounted on an
automobile capable of doing over thirty miles an hour over the road,
and of starting a stream of twenty-five shells a minute one minute
after coming to a standstill, they will shrug their shoulders and say:
"Something of a waste just now, perhaps, but when the advance is on
they will do wonderful work!"

The advance! The advance! is in all their minds.

"But when will the advance begin?" you ask a chalk-powdered infantryman
sweating in the sun-soaked trenches.

"Ah!" he will answer with complete unconcern. "Not yet, Monsieur. They
say next spring or next summer. But then 'On les aura!'" ("We'll get
them!")

And that unconcern means far more than appears on the surface. It means
that the "poilu" knows he will have another winter in the trenches,
with all the terrible discomforts that soldiers dread so much more than
they dread danger. He knows it, and is completely reconciled to it.

"That was the one thing we feared"--a French General admitted to
me--"the effect on the men's _morale_ of the certainty that they would
have another winter in the trenches. But they know it now, and 'ils
s'en fichent!'" (to which the nearest American slang equivalent would
be "they should worry!")

In the amazing New France (which the French prefer to consider a
reincarnated rather than a transformed France) the people are as
determined as the army. A short time ago, when the authorities first
began to give the soldiers at the front their "permissions" to go home
for three days, they did so with considerable apprehension that the
home influence on the soldier might be a disheartening one.

But, on the contrary, the reunion seemed to give mutual encouragement.
The soldier braced up the "home folks'" confidence and pride in the
army, and the home folks stimulated the soldier's confidence and pride
in himself. Thus the experiment has turned out a great success.

The politicians and their fermentations are, in France, the bugbears
of the army officers. This feeling of aversion and contempt extends,
so far as I could make out, down through the rank and file. They feel
that when a nation is at death-grips with its enemy even the most
beautiful of democratic theories should be safely locked away with
other luxuries; that the politicians should confine their activities to
voting the funds necessary for the successful prosecution of the war,
and should leave the conduct of the war severely alone.

But in France even those politicians who hanker after a finger in the
military pie are unanimous for seeing the war through to a decisive
victory. They may play politics about whether the Government should or
should not have been removed from Paris to Bordeaux last September;
they may squabble over whether General Sarrail is the persecuted
military genius of the war or an incompetent officer whose removal
from Verdun should never have been sugar-coated by his appointment to
Gallipoli; they may intrigue to oust Millerand from the War Ministry
and try to get together on Briand for his place; they may stick loyally
to Joffre because an old man who is fond of fishing is not likely to
become an old man on horseback.

But, whether tirading against the evils of a bureaucracy or perorating
against the iniquities of the censorship, you will find the politicians
of France, Royalists, Clericals, Conservatives, Radicals and Socialists
with all their subtle subdivisions, having proved their patriotism
by the greatest sacrifice of which a politician is capable--having
for nigh on ten months kept silent!--earnestly and honestly working
for their country. They are striving, not for the quick peace of
compromise which would relegate the silent, efficient soldiers to their
subordinate powers and would restore to themselves all the prestige of
full-throated eloquence, but for the deferred and definitive peace of
victory, with all the continuance of second-fiddling to which such a
postponement subjects them.

It is indeed fortunate for the alliance that France--Army, Government
and People--is united in the determination to fight this war through to
its logical conclusion. For France is apt to be the nation which pays
the piper. England is physically safe behind her fleets, Russia proper
is physically safe behind her distances, for the German invasion is not
apt to go far beyond her alien provinces of Courland and Poland.

But France is not at sword's length, but at dagger's point, with her
enemy--one little slip by any one, from an absent-minded General down
to a sleeping sentinel, and she may become not a defeated, but a
conquered nation.

And this you can see in the faces of the French to-day. Not anger,
not bitterness, not sadness; neither excitement nor despondency is in
their faces, but a look of hushed and solemn suspense. It is a nation
with straining ears, with straining eyes, with bated breath, waiting,
waiting.

After leaving the hush of France, England appears at a disadvantage
largely undeserved. Compared with the atmosphere of strain in Paris,
the atmosphere of London seems one of relaxation. Contrasted with
the breathless struggle for self-preservation in France, the British
attitude toward the war seems almost dilettante.

This is unquestionably due in part to the fact that in England a
very literal-minded race is shipping its soldiers to fight in merely
geographical localities for seemingly abstract principles. The trouble
is that England has the Channel and France has the imagination. It is
obvious how markedly stronger the combination would be if Britain were
fighting an invader and France were fighting for a sentiment.

The superficial impression of holiday soldiering that one gets in
England is emphasized by the British hatred of the dramatic and
the British worship of sport. The British go on laughing, dining,
play-going, dancing, supping; in fact, frivolling, because they think
it would be melodramatic to forswear these pursuits because of the war.
They go on cricketing, racing, fishing, shooting, hunting, because they
go on eating, drinking, sleeping and bathing. These are part of the
bodily functions of the Briton.

To any other nation, sport, no matter how intimate a part of the
national life, in certain emergencies becomes trivial. To say that
to an Englishman would be equivalent to saying that under any
circumstances childbirth or prayer could be trivial. It is a national
characteristic which must simply be accepted.

The impression made on superficial observers by these manners and
habits of casual unconcern does England a certain injustice. For as far
as her duties to her allies are concerned she has undoubtedly gone far
beyond her obligations.

As one of her Cabinet members (a man who may well be her next Prime
Minister) put it to me:

"The best two ways that I know of to prove one's devotion to a cause
are to pay for it and to die for it. England is voluntarily doing both
in far greater measure than her commitments call for. When the war
started she agreed to help France on land with an army of 150,000 men.
She has now raised an army of 3,000,000 men.

"When the war started she agreed to assume the naval responsibility
of protecting the coast of France. She has not only done that, and
incidentally driven Germany from the seas, but she has thrown her ships
into the attack on the Dardanelles and has helped Russia with her
submarines in the Baltic.

"When the war started there was a financial understanding between
England and France. England has not only carried out her share in this
understanding, but has been instrumental in the financing of Italy, and
stands ready to assume further similar responsibilities in the Balkans.

"How any candid mind in the face of such a record can charge Great
Britain with shirking her share in the war passes my understanding."

There is no doubt about the truth of this. To get the voluntary gift
of three million lives within one year, to get the voluntary loan
of £600,000,000 in less than one month is probably an unparalleled
achievement. Great Britain has done far more than her duty to others
called for. And yet the question will not be smothered: Is she doing
all that is called for by a strong, far-seeing nation's duty to itself?

She has thrown into the scales all the peculiar assets of a democracy
in spontaneous zeal and voluntary sacrifice. But can a really great
nation in such a crisis as this afford to be the recipient of only
those contributions, no matter how prodigal, which are spontaneous
and voluntary? Can a really proud nation afford to base its career
at such a time upon the charity of its citizens? With Russia on the
one hand purging herself of the bureaucratic evils of absolutism and
forcing upon herself the pains of democratization, with France, on the
other hand, sacrificing for the time her most cherished principles
of republicanism in order to substitute the efficiency of Authority
for the waste motions of Democracy, can England afford to remain
complacently convinced that she represents the happy mean between these
two extremes--a mean which needs no modifying?

Can England as a nation continue with admiring acquiescence to watch
the cream of her manhood spend itself in Flanders and the Dardanelles;
continue with deprecating acquiescence to watch the skimmed milk of
her manhood preserve itself at home for the sacred duty of fathering a
future generation?

Can England acquiesce placidly in the professional, the business, the
financial sacrifices generally which so many Englishmen are splendidly
making, and acquiesce plaintively in the disgusting treason whose
guilt was shared in varying measure by the gouging coal-owners and the
striking coal-miners of Wales?

Can England set out to curb the drunkenness which in certain parts
is crippling her ammunition production and then sink back into
acquiescence in the temporizing compromise which taxed drunkenness
instead of terminating it?

Can England, in fine, afford to preserve Personal Liberty at the
slightest risk of imperilling National Liberty?

Perhaps England can. Perhaps England must.

So long as England fulfils and far exceeds her covenants with her
allies it is not a question for them to answer. It is assuredly not
a question to which any neutral visitor can with seemliness hazard a
solution.

It is not even a question, in my opinion, which is apt to affect the
ultimate outcome of this particular war.

But it is a question to which on some future day Macaulay's New
Zealander will, with positiveness and propriety, be in a position to
find the answer.



                   *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's note:

Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. Printer's
inconsistencies in the use of accents, hyphens, and punctuation
have been retained. The original spelling has been used except
where there was good reason to correct it. Any such changes are
noted below.

The following misprints and misspellings have been corrected:

Page 3, "avions de reglage" changed to "avions de réglage". (their
"avions de réglage," or "regulating aeroplanes.")

Page 4, "aviatiks" changed to "Aviatiks". (Aviatiks of the enemy)

Page 4, "fusilage" changed to "fuselage". (projected over the bow of
the fuselage)

Page 11, "pilot- spotted" changed to "pilot spotted". (puffs of smoke
in the hazy distance the pilot spotted unerringly)

Page 33, "practise" changed to "practice". (And practice in this matter)

Page 57, "departs" changed to '"départs"'. (distant reports of the
"départs")

Page 86, "leant themselves" changed to "lent themselves". (and clay
lent themselves to effects which)

Page 100, "scrupulously cleanly," changed to "scrupulously clean,".
(I found them scrupulously clean, very patient)

Page 136, "drommelfeuer" changed to "trommelfeuer". (the famous
"trommelfeuer" ... "drum-roll fire," as the Germans call it)

There is in the book the single use of the word "exterpreting"
(page 78) for which no adequate definition has been found. It is
not a spelling mistake. From the context it might be an amusing
play on the word "interpreting."





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