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Title: Life in the War Zone
Author: Atherton, Gertrude Franklin Horn
Language: English
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Table of Contents

   Invading the War Zone
   Horrors of the Hotel Life in the War Zone
   The War Zone by Automobile
   Stone Victims of “The Marne”
   Le Bienêtre du Blessé

[Illustration: Title page.]




Published for the benefit of
Le Bienêtre du Blessé, Société
Franco-Américaine pour nos

Copyright 1916
By Gertrude Atherton

By courtesy of the New York Times

                         LE BIENÊTRE DU BLESSÉ

                              (In France)

                 *        *        *        *        *

                _Présidente d’Honneur_: Madame Poincaré
               _Présidente_: Madame la Marquise d’Andigné

                 *        *        *        *        *


                           Mme. Ernest Mallet
                          Mme. la Générale Pau
                     Mme. la Princesse Poniatowska
                  Mme. la Comtesse de Roussy de Sales
                Mme. la Marquise de Talleyrand-Périgord
                            Mme. Waddington

                 *        *        *        *        *

                _Secrétaire-Général_: M. Prosper Gervais
                     _Tresorier_: M. Georges Munroe

                 *        *        *        *        *

                         _Membres du Conseil_:

                             Mrs. Atherton
                               Mrs. Bell
                       Mme. la Marquise de Belloy
                     Mme. la Marquise de Berckheim
                               Mrs. Bliss
                          Mrs. Ridgely Carter
                      M. le Général de Don Chamoin
                             Mme. Chauffard
                            Mrs. Lee Childe
                              Mme. Cottin
                          Mrs. William Crocker
                              Miss Crocker
                            Mme. Paul Dupuy
                           Mrs. Deming Jarves
                         Mme. Gabriel Hanotaux
                   M. le Vicomte Emmanual d’Harcourt
                           Mrs. Herman Harjes
                              Mrs. Harper
                    Mme. la Comtesse d’Haussonville
                     Mme. la Générale Hély d’Oissel
                            Mrs. James Hyde
                      Mme. la Marquise des Isnards
                     Mme. la Générale de Lagarenne
                       Mme. la Générale de Lamaze
                              Mme. Legueu
                       Mme. la Comtesse du Luart
                     Mme. la Marquise de Montebello
                              Mme. Nélaton
                      Mme. la Marquise de Noailles
               Mme. la Princesse de Poggio-Suasa Ruspoli
                    M. le Comte Jacques de Pourtalès
                          Mrs. Georges Rheims
                       Mme. la Baronne Seillière
                          Mrs. Lawrence Slade
                            M. Marcel Trélat
                       M. le Comte Louis de Vogüé
                           Mrs. Samuel Watson
                           M. l’Abbé Wetterlé

Siège Social: 7 Rue Tronchet, Paris (where contributions may be sent
  direct—addressed to
              Madame la Marquise d’Andigné—if preferred).

                         LE BIENÊTRE DU BLESSÉ

                      (American Central Committee)

                 *        *        *        *        *

                         _Honorary President_:

                       Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt

                      _Honorary Vice-Presidents_:

                       Mrs. Charles B. Alexander
                           Mrs. Robert Bacon
                          Mrs. E. H. Harriman
                          Mrs. Oliver Harriman

                             Mrs. Atherton

                           _Hon. Secretary_:
                           Miss Elsa Maxwell

                         _Executive Secretary_:
                          Mrs. Holmes Beckwith

                         _Executive Chairman_:
                            Mr. John Moffat

                       Messrs. John Munroe & Co.
                             30 Pine Street


                        Mrs. Frederick H. Allen
                      Mrs. Nicholas Murray Butler
                          Mrs. Francis Carolan
                            Mrs. Henry Clews
                         Mrs. Wm. Astor Chanler
                        Mrs. Cornelius C. Cuyler
                          Mrs. John R. Drexel
                        Mrs. Charles Dana Gibson
                         Mrs. Benjamin Guinness
                            Mrs. Bell Gurnee
                           Mrs. Cooper Hewett
                           Mrs. Arthur Islin
                            Mrs. William Jay
                          Mrs. Lawrence Keene
                             Mrs. Otto Kahn
                           Mrs. Philip Lydig
                          Mrs. Walter Maynard
                        Mrs. James Lowell Putnam
          Mrs. George Christopher Riggs (Kate Douglas Wiggin)
                           Miss Lota Robinson
                         Mrs. Lawrence Townsend
                      Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer

                         _Advisory Committee_:

                         Mr. Frederick H. Allen
                           Hon. James M. Beck
      Mr. Nicholas Murray Butler, _Pres., University of Columbia_
                         Hon. Joseph H. Choate
                            Mr. Owen Johnson
                        The Marquis de Polignac
                        Mr. George Haven Putnam
                          The Due de Richelieu
                        Mr. Frederick A. Stokes

                 *        *        *        *        *

                        =INVADING THE WAR ZONE=

                 *        *        *        *        *

                                             PARIS, August 8, 1916.

France to-day is sharply divided into two sections; within the greater
you can come and go almost as freely as before the war. All that is
necessary is a sauf conduit easily obtained from your commissaire de
police, which you are never called upon to exhibit. But the other, the
Zone des Armées, in common parlance the war or military zone! There is
only one thing in France more difficult of contact, and that is a member
of the middle or lower bourgeoisie.

     For nearly three months now I have felt like an inverted snob
trying to ingratiate myself with, or even to meet members, of that
curious caste which exists only in France; a caste reserved, proud,
suspicious, intensive, detesting foreigners only less than it does the
aristocracy, and averse from variety of any sort. If you bring even one
letter to society, either in France or any European capital, all doors
are open to you, for society is accustomed to strangers and variety, and
is often bored with itself; which the bourgeoisie, of France at least,
never seems to be. So, if in the course of these and other letters, I
allude, however casually, to princesses and duchesses, spare me the
ready democratic sneer; but if, with affected indifference, I mention
now and again a name without territorial significance, then, if you
like, exchange derisive glances and exclaim: “Aha! So she has ‘got
there’ and would have us believe she takes it as a matter of course.”
However—to return to the war zone.

     I made no attempt to enter this proscribed region for six or seven
weeks after my arrival, having the thousand and one phases of woman’s
work in the war to examine. But when these researches drew to a close I
began to plot to get to the front—no other word is applicable unless a
woman happens to be a Red Cross nurse. At first I applied to a number of
eminent Americans on more or less intimate terms with the powers. I
quickly found that, amiable and interested as they were, their own
powers had a limit. It was comparatively easy in the beginning of the
war to go to the front, but the barrier grows deeper every day.

     One referred me to a Frenchman of great influence who has a special
liking for Americans. He told me in the friendliest manner that when I
obtained permission to go to the front he would provide me with the
necessary letters, but that as I was an American I must obtain that
permission through my embassy. This I did not even consider. I have
spent a good part of my life in Europe, and long since came to the
conclusion that all American embassies feel they are created for is to
look solemn and important and give receptions. They never by any chance
do anything for other Americans except in times of extreme danger, and
then they behave very well.

     I tried one or two members of the haute bourgeoisie without avail,
and then took my troubles to a duchess. There I was more fortunate. The
young Duchess d’Uzès has turned her castle near Amiens into a hospital,
the sixth or seventh she has established since the beginning of the war,
and is therefore on friendly terms with the Service de Santé (the
Military Hospital Service Board). She asked one of its principal
Secretaries to meet me at breakfast, and I was able to disabuse his mind
of any suspicion he might have that I merely wanted to “do” the front,
assuring him that it was my solemn duty to visit the base hospitals in
behalf of a new oeuvre just formed (Le Bienêtre du Blessé), founded by
Countess d’Haussonville, President of the first division of the Croix
Rouge, to supply convalescents in the military hospitals at the front
with delicacies they would be able, in their weakened condition, to

     I told him that, as I had agreed to do the publicity work for this
oeuvre, I felt I should see things at first hand, if only to be able to
make my articles of appeal interesting. He agreed that this was a most
reasonable argument, asked for my permis de séjour and my
immatriculation, and promised that I should have my carnet rouge the
following week and go with the duchess to Amiens.

     I waited nearly a month. I received consolatory promises and
nothing more. Meanwhile I could not go outside of Paris, as without my
permis de séjour I was unable to obtain a sauf conduit. (If you lose
your permis de séjour you cannot leave Paris until the end of the war.)

     Finally one of the Vice-Presidents of Le Bienêtre du Blessé (the
well-being of the wounded) sent in a petition, and I received a note
from the Ministry of War asking for two photographs similar to that of
my passport, and inclosing a paper to sign. Two days later I was
summoned to the office of the Service de Santé. I had engagements, but I
broke them ruthlessly. We all do when the War Office summons. Royalty
itself would not be considered.

     The Vice-President of Le Bienêtre du Blessé who had asked them to
hurry, went with me, and after we had wandered all over an immense
building in the Boulevard St. Germain we finally found ourselves in a
reception room on the top floor. It was filled with patient people, but
we sent in our names and were not kept waiting. There two charming
gentlemen (and no people in the world are as kind and charming as high
officials in France when they are gentlemen) told me I could go to Rouen
and Meaux.

     This was a joke. It was like the labors of the mountain to bring
forth a mouse. Rouen is entirely given over to the British, and much as
I admire the British I came to France to write about the French. As for
Meaux, although the battleground of the Marne at any of its points is
interesting to good Americans as the scene of the definite finish of
German hopes of world dominion, my ambition was the “front,” not a slice
of the future tourists’ paradise.

     I made known my desires with firmness, and all the eloquence at my
command, being able, fortunately, with these accomplished gentlemen, to
employ my native tongue. “I want to go to Amiens, and at once,” I

     Alas, if it were only a month earlier—before the battle of the
Somme began. Now it was quite impossible. The Grand Quartier Générale
(brief for Joffre) would never consent. Amiens was too close to the big
guns. I replied pertinently that I had made my application nearly a
month ago. Alas! it took so long for an application of that sort to
progress along the winding ways of Le Ministère de la Guerre. But, of
course, I must see something besides Meaux (I flatly refused to go to
Rouen), and if I would make out a list of other names they would do
their best to get me the necessary permission. I asked my companion to
make out the list, as she knew what base hospitals it would be best for
me to visit in the interests of the oeuvre. She dictated
Châlons-sur-Marne, Vitry, Révigny, and Bar-le-Duc. The last was the only
name with a quickening quality, as it is shelled by taubes every few
days. I added that on my own account I should like Verdun, Nancy, Rheims
and Thann. My new friend was most sympathetic and considerate. He would
do his best, but Verdun—an American lady! He feared the Grand Quartier
Générale would not take the responsibility. He was sure, however, he
could get me something much better than Meaux.

     So I went off with my carnet rouge, that precious little red book
full of blank permits, only one of which is filled out at a time.

     A French friend, Mme. Camille Lyon, went with me to Meaux. The
battlefield of the Marne is one of the most impressive sights in the
world. Imagine vast fields of waving grain broken irregularly, but with
pathetic frequency, by drooping and faded flags marking the graves of
the fallen. On the crosses below the flags there are no names, merely
figures, ranging from fifty to three and four hundred. A small trench
was dug and filled with bodies covered with quicklime, but, in spite of
haste, the mound, the cross, and the flag were not forgotten, and the
identification disks were carefully preserved.

     There are also three or four cemeteries, one new, and filled only
with the identified dead—officers, of course; and older graveyards half
filled before the war. These, being surrounded by high walls, had been
used as intrenchments. There are rough holes on all sides, showing that
the little company had been surrounded by Germans, and had crouched,
firing their mitrailleuses through the sheltering walls. The church of
Barcy is a ruin and three or four of the houses, but considering that it
was under fire so many days, it is surprising there should be anything
left of it. The Mayor told us that he and his family and all of the
village people that did not run away had not left his cellar for six
days; and during that time the shells never ceased to shriek overhead.
“However,” he added philosophically, “it was not so bad as ‘70.”

     A few days later I was summoned once more to the Ministère de la
Guerre, and my polite and charming friends told me that I was graciously
allowed to go to Châlons, Vitry, and Bar-le-Duc. As for the others,
well, perhaps later. Perhaps—also—when I was inside that Chinese wall
I might persuade some General to take me closer to the front. I sniffed
and grumbled, but received nothing further but sympathy. The particular
official to whom I was turned over for these interviews, and who is the
politest man I ever met, looked up the trains for me, calculated how
much money I had better take, was inspired (fortunately, as it turned
out) to write out a letter asking the military authorities of the zone I
was about to visit to show me every civility, and sent it to receive the
imposing stamp of le Ministère de la Guerre; and then assured me that he
would do his best to get a military automobile for a trip closer to the

     As I am more susceptible to manners than to anything in the world
(I think that is one reason I hate the Germans so, theirs being the
worst in the world), I went away quite happy, and determined to make the
most of this trip. After all, something was sure to happen at
Bar-le-Duc, and Châlons had once been shelled by a long-range gun. I had
no yearning to come to close quarters with big guns, or even taubes, but
I did want to see and hear something after enjoying the comforts of
Paris for three months. During the first week of the battle of the Somme
I could hear the guns distinctly night and day, but otherwise, were it
not for the blind and legless men one meets constantly in the streets,
there would be no external evidence here of war.

     I was obliged to go on this trip alone, but although I regretted
that my former charming companion could not accompany me, I reflected
that it did not much matter; the unique experience would suffice. The
great station—Gare de l’Est—was crowded with soldiers as usual. I have
now been on a number of trips outside of Paris and invariably these
stations are packed with men in uniform, all looking healthy and
contented. One passes, also, hundreds of military trains, out of whose
windows are hanging rows of soldiers in “horizon blue.” One wonders if
the whole front is not off on a vacation.

     The soldiers travel second and third, the officers first. As my
carriage was full of officers, and the trip to Châlons lasted two hours,
I once more had time to observe at my leisure these men who hold the
destinies of France in their hands. Again I was struck by their height,
not one being under five feet ten, and many six feet and over. Some few
are lanky, weedy, but for the most part they are well knit and very
erect, the result not only of military training but of the outdoor
sports which for the last generation have been more in vogue than ever
among country gentlemen. In coloring they were fair rather than dark,
but seldom blond. They talked very little to one another, unless
standing out in the corridor. I was the only woman on the train, and no
doubt they took me for a spy and observed the warning printed at every
turn: “Taisez-vous. Méfiez-vous. Les oreilles enemies vous écoutent.”

     They were all on their way to the front, and might not be alive on
the following day. They looked like men on their way to a week-end
party, and when they did not read magazines and novels went to sleep. It
struck me more forcibly than I have ever received any impression that
this was a race of men of strong nerves. In fact, I doubted if they had
any; certainly not at times when nerves were undesirable occupants. The
Frenchman has arranged his brain in watertight compartments. When he is
at the front or on the way to it he is a fighting machine, businesslike
and unemotional. During his six days’ leave he enjoys himself as
thoroughly as if war had never been; either in his family or otherwise.
Even the poilus, having exhausted their first joy of reunion, sit down
and examine their books, if they happen to be shopkeepers, or mend the
furniture, or plow the fields. I believe it was early in 1914 that some
German General said the war would be won by the stoutest nerves. After
two years of the hardest fighting the world has ever known, and the most
terrific strain ever put upon human endurance, the French have nerves of
pure steel. They are not a fat race, either, like the Germans, and do
their own thinking. What the matter was with Frenchmen in ‘70 is beside
the question. They are invincible to-day.

     Châlons looked promising. There were cabs at the station, and a
tram. Having shown my carnet rouge, I was permitted to leave the dépôt,
and the officials stationed there to examine papers directed me to a
hotel with a resounding name: “Haute-Mère-Dieu.” This was situated in a
large square in which there was nothing to be seen but a line of gray
military automobiles and three or four cabs. The upper windows about the
square were all closed. The shops looked very quiet. It was a gray
scene, and the stillness was oppressive, sinister.

     However, the hotel was not unattractive. As I entered the vaulted
passageway I saw that it was built about a court, and caught a glimpse
of a pleasant tearoom. Entering a door on the left, I found myself in
the office of the concièrge, and its chair was occupied by a girl of
about twenty-two who was reading a novel. If she had been an American
she would have been chewing gum. I asked her if I could have a room for
the night and she asked me if I had been to the Bureau de Place and
received permission to remain in the town. I could not have a room until
my carnet rouge had been stamped by this dignitary. Could I have a cup
of tea (it was 2:30 and I had missed lunch) and then leave my bag in the
office while I ascertained if I should graciously be permitted to remain
overnight, or be sent back to Paris? She yawned, nodded, touched a bell,
gave an order for tea, and returned to her novel.

     I had a very good cup of tea and then went out and hired a cab by
the hour, as I had a letter to the Préfet from M. Joseph Reinach and
also wanted to see something of the town. At the Bureau de Place an
imposing official read my carnet rouge, looked at my picture and record
on the first page, and then turned to me with narrowed eyelids. I drew a
short breath and shifted from one foot to the other. Frenchmen have very
keen eyes and when they half close them you feel as if blinking aside a
knife-blade. If I had had a guilty secret during that trip into the war
zone I should have given it up. Indeed, so often did I encounter this
glance that I began to wonder uneasily if there were not something wrong
with me, if there were not depths of treachery in me that I so far had
not suspected, if I really had not in some moment of aberration
committed a wrong against France. Such is the power of suggestion, of
moving constantly in an atmosphere of suspicion. But I reminded myself
that I had heard a few days since that there was a price on my head in
Germany, and took courage.

     “What had I come to the war zone for?” “To visit the base
hospitals.” “Ah?” “No, I was not a nurse. I was inspecting in behalf of
my oeuvre, Le Bienêtre du Blessé. I was also writing a book about the
women of France in war time.” “Ah!” Again that steel blade between
narrowed lids. I bethought me of the letter from the Minister of War.
The atmosphere cleared as by magic. My carnet rouge was stamped, and I
was bowed out not only with the politeness to which I was accustomed,
but with frank pleasant eyes, wide open, and some practical information
regarding the formalities of departure.

     After I had called on the Préfet and driven about the gray, silent,
shuttered town, and seen practically no evidences of life but hundreds
of army wagons (there are trenches just outside of the town, but no
permit would take me there), I wondered what I was to do with myself
until the morrow. My object in stopping at Châlons was to make it a
headquarters from which I could visit the other towns, but this, I had
found, was impossible; I could go nowhere that day and return for the
night. It was only 3:30. I had no intention of visiting the hospitals at
Châlons, as there were two at Bar-le-Duc to which I had personal
letters. I told the coachman to drive to the shopping street, if there
was such a thing. He drove to a street in which there were a few shops.
In one I found a Dumas novel and bought it—“Le Collier de la Reine!”
Then I went back to the hotel and once more interviewed the young lady
at the desk. She was still reading the novel, but condescended to
inspect my carnet rouge and to give me her own permission to pass the
night in the hotel. I could not have a front room, however; they were
all taken by officers. She rang her bell, and a servant escorted me
across the court, which contained a stable under one side of the hotel,
and up a rickety staircase to a sombre room on the first floor. I
immediately inspected the bed—I had brought a bottle of turpentine—but
the maid announced with pride that the sheets were washed after every
guest and that the hotel was famous for its neatness. I asked her if the
natural color of the blanket was gray, and she nodded with a reassuring
smile. The linen certainly was clean, and, as a matter of fact, the
turpentine was supererogatory. However, I still harbor doubts about the

     What was I to do in this war town seventeen kilometers from the
soundless front (I had been told that when Verdun was thundering people
rocked in their beds)? It was too hot to walk and there was nothing more
to see. There was, indeed, no resource but the necklace of Marie

     The room was dark, with a window in one corner. I carried the least
uncomfortable chair to this window, and there, amid the silences of the
tomb and the aromas of the stable, I read a story of 1784. This was the
war zone which it took weeks of plotting and the most powerful
influences to reach.

     However, there was still the morrow and Bar-le-Duc.

                 *        *        *        *        *


                                                   PARIS, August 8.

Looking from the windows of the train between Paris and Châlons, I had
seen little evidence of war beyond the rigid sentries with their upright
guns standing beside the track at intervals of two or three hundred
yards—two beside the bridges which have been rebuilt and are once more
of stone. But on the following day, after passing Vitry, the crosses
among the wheat became abundant, and between Révigny and Bar-le-Duc
there had evidently been no attempt to till the fields, which had a
curious burned look. This, I was afterward told, was due to the
poisonous gases and frequent bombardments. More than half of Révigny is
in ruins, and wrecks strew the way to the far more important town, which
is intact.

     Once more the train, which had started at Paris and was bound for
Nancy, was crowded with officers and soldiers, but a great many
descended at Bar-le-Duc, no doubt to go by automobile to Verdun or by
branch lines to other points near the front. At all events, I left the
train with such a mass of blue uniforms that it was a long time before I
could reach the exit gate, and then, as I was the only stranger, I was
held up until a more important official could be found to inspect my
carnet rouge. As he was very amiable and passed me on promptly, I asked
him to tell me the name of the best hotel in Bar-le-Duc. He threw his
hands up. Mon Dieu! The best! There was a place called Hotel du
Commerce. But! Well, I had been told at Châlons that it was the “least
bad,” and started off with resignation. After all, one is not trained to
expect luxuries in the war zone, and the hotel at Châlons had been

     I emerged into the large open space behind the station. It was
filled with that curious surging mass of soldiers who in time come to
seem almost like “properties.” There were also two or three gray army
automobiles, but not a cab, not a tram, not a porter. I inquired if it
were possible to find a boy to carry my bag. No. Visitors were unusual.
Boys did not come down to the station in the hope of picking up a franc.
Where was the Hotel du Commerce? A vague sweep of the hand toward the
straggling gray distance. Fortunately, my bag was light, as one takes
the least possible on these incursions, but American women hate carrying
things, and I had also a book and a parasol. However, there was no
alternative and I started off, down a long, winding, dusty road without
trees—the thermometer was about 80, and it was half-past 12—toward the

     Like all French towns, it swept about itself in circles, coiled
upon itself, abruptly uncoiled and wandered off into nowhere. As far as
might be possible I kept straight ahead, every soldier of whom I asked
the way replying that he was a stranger also, and knew naught of the
Hotel du Commerce. Finally I met a short fat man in civilian clothes,
who interrupted himself—he was gesticulating violently to a friend who
had arrived on the train—and told me to turn into the long street just
above and keep on. It was a very long street and so many similar streets
branched out of it that it was difficult to know which was which. And it
was dull and dirty and gray and deserted, save for the strolling poilus.

     Nevertheless, it had a character of its own! Every hundred yards or
so along the base of the houses I noticed a pile of sand bags and a
poster printed in heavy black letters and numbers: “Cave voutée, pour
100 (or 50) personnes.” It was very hot but my brains were not addled.
Bar-le-Duc is subject to frequent air raids and many have been killed by
the bombs, which do not bury themselves in the earth, by the way, but
explode as they touch and scatter death far and wide. These were the
famous stone cellars into which the population tumbles pêle-mêle the
moment the whistles shriek. I wondered if it would be my lot to spend a
few hours in one of those damp “caves” with a mass of sweltering
humanity. Almost I would brave the taube.

     I must have walked fully a kilometer from that station, when,
asking once more to be directed to the Hotel du Commerce, I was told
that I stood before it. I looked up and saw faded letters confirming the
fact, and then along its lower front in search of a door. The only mode
of ingress, a large archway, apparently led to the rear. As I dislike
asking too many questions, I explored this vaulted passageway and came
upon a door at the side. I opened it without ceremony and found myself
in quite the dirtiest cashier’s office I have ever seen.        ....

     The girl was even more impertinent and indifferent than the one at
Châlons. As girls are now scarce in the war zone, no doubt the few left
become spoiled with too much attention. There was a dining room beyond,
and I determined to banish my midday hunger before entering upon further
adventures. There are two things that the French, no matter of what
degree, morals, manners, or disposition, invariably understand, and
those are politeness and formality. You gain nothing by sharpness or
hauteur; on the contrary, you stand to lose all. When Americans attempt
familiarity with strangers they receive contempt. Bearing this principle
in mind, one can never go wrong in France.

     As the dining room beyond and, no doubt, the hotel itself, was
crowded with officers, there was a manifest intention on the young
woman’s part to treat me as if I did not exist. I, therefore, inquired
in my best manner if I could leave my things in the office and have
déjeûner. She nodded and I went into a long, low, crowded dining room,
which, had it not been for the uniforms, would have looked exactly like
a Western eating shed. There was a seat vacant at one of the longer
tables, to which I made my way unescorted. The entire company was waited
on by two boys of about 16. They looked distracted. The tablecloth was
soiled, but I was prepared to accept trifling variations upon ordinary
standards with equanimity. I secured the attention of one of the boys,
and, being left to my own devices for some time, my eyes, after
wandering up and down the room, fell once more upon the table. I made
another discovery. It was covered with flies. Large, torpid, viscous
flies. I had a vision of these flies rising in a dark cloud from the
battlefields of Verdun and traveling to Bar-le-Duc on top of the
hundreds of covered army wagons that go back and forth daily.

     While I was digesting this horrid fact a plate of potatoes swimming
in oil was placed before me. I waved it away. Oil to me is more
abhorrent than milk. It was succeeded by a dish of tripe. I covered my
eyes and shuddered. C’est la guerre. Oh, yes. But—Mon Dieu!

     I managed to make a spare meal of mutton that tasted as if killed
an hour before, and dry potatoes, but dared not touch the water, and
rose from that table in the least possible time, determined to
accomplish the object of my visit during the afternoon and return to
Paris that night. I did not even want to look at the upper rooms.
Turpentine I felt would avail not in this hotel, which looked a thousand
years old and resurrected from the dead.

     I returned to the office. There was now an older woman there, and,
chastened by years and the rivalry of youth, she answered my questions
amiably. No, there was not a conveyance of any sort to be had in the
city. How, then, was I to find the Commissaire of Police and have my
carnet rouge viséd, how visit the hospitals, which were out of town? She
could not say. Then I bethought me once more of the letter given me by
the War Office. I would go straight to military headquarters and ask
them for an automobile. She vaguely directed me, and once more I started
forth, leaving my things in her charge. The woman had told me to turn to
the right. As I was leaving the girl called out that I must turn to the
left. I revolved with that helpless feeling one has occasionally in the
war zone, and they both began to talk at once, as is the habit of French
people of that class when giving advice. If they had been ten they would
all have talked at once and advised me differently.

     I escaped to the street and, seeing a white-haired man standing in
front of a provision store, I went over and asked him to direct me. This
he not only did intelligently, but ran a block after me bare-headed to
tell me of a better turning. I walked quite half a mile and finally
reached a fine building situated in a park. I entered the grounds
without hindrance, but a soldier barred the way when I attempted to pass
under the arch that leads to the offices about the courtyard. He looked
amazed. I showed my carnet rouge. He drew his eyelids together and I
encountered the familiar steel. I was not to be overawed by a common
soldier, but to save time I showed the letter. He had been quite polite,
but now he relaxed his military mask and smiled. The entire staff was
out for lunch and I could not enter until their return, but if I would
graciously sit under the trees——.

     It was cool under the trees and I was glad to rest. The soldier
sent me an encouraging smile occasionally and finally made a triumphant
signal indicating that the military nabobs were coming. A moment later
several imposing figures marched past. They were chatting amiably and I
was thankful that destiny had so arranged matters that I was to ask my
favors of them after lunch. I knew they had not déjeuned at the Hotel du

     I was summoned to the presence immediately. They acted exactly as I
had anticipated, for they were Frenchmen, and gentlemen, and of
exceeding importance. Of course they read the letter at once; in fact, I
shoved it under their noses before they had time to say “How do you do?”
and when I asked for an automobile assented promptly.

     “Will you give your man orders to get me back to the station for
the 5:20 train?” I asked. “I will not sleep in that hotel or eat another
meal there if I have to walk back to Paris.” They laughed
sympathetically and assured me that I should accomplish the object of my
visit in comfort and take my train. The chauffeur would take the best of
care of me.

     So it proved. I visited both of the great hospitals, Savonières and
Hôpital Central, inside of an hour, for a military automobile goes like
lightning and turns aside for no one. The former hospital is situated in
a beautiful park some distance from Bar-le-Duc, and the greater one in a
cup of the hills, and looks like a new Western mining town. There are
some twenty or thirty barracks, two of concrete; but it is so
unmistakably a hospital and nothing else (in France) that a taube
recently had no difficulty in picking out the main building and dropping
a bomb in the operating room. It killed two men on the tables.

     It is not my purpose to describe the hospitals here. I visited them
in behalf of Le Bienêtre du Blessé, and later, when writing more fully
of that oeuvre, shall describe these and other military hospitals which
receive the wounded straight from Verdun. There had been few during the
last two or three days, they told me, and the guns were still silent.

     My amiable chauffeur then took me for a drive within the city
limits, and once more I saw a silent shuttered town. No doubt the
greater part of the population had been evacuated (military euphemism
for turned out), but I saw thousands of military wagons (camions) and a
signpost with an arrow painted on it and the words “à Verdun.” It
brought it pretty close, but I reflected that this was about as close as
I would get. As we approached the station I observed that the roof
looked as if it had been through a hurricane, and my driver nodded. Yes,
they dropped a bomb there every once and a while. They usually came
about 5 o’clock. It was now 3 and I had two hours and twenty minutes to
wait in that station.

     However, it was easy to get out of, the sky was so blue and clear
that the taubes could be seen a long way off, and I certainly did not
propose to wait until 5:20 in that hotel. I had retrieved my belongings,
visited the police, and there was nothing to do but make myself as
comfortable as possible and read Dumas.

     The station was already packed with soldiers waiting for various
trains. They move so constantly, these poilus, they produce an
impression of indescribable confusion. I have never seen them betray the
least excitement, any more than I have ever surprised an expression of
anxiety on their cheerful faces, but the repose of their officers is
unknown to them. Their bodies and their tongues never cease from
movement. I often wonder if they ever feel tired. They look as if they
could endure Verduns for the term of their natural lives.

     There was a small first class waiting room and I took refuge in it.
An officer was asleep on a bench. Another was talking to his mother and
there were two other women in the room. Presently there entered a
drunken Algerian soldier. He was very drunk and he carried a gun almost
as tall as himself. As he was out of place in a ladies’ waiting room two
poilus entered and attempted to induce him to leave. He shouted defiance
and, lifting his gun, flung it to the floor with a crash. It made such a
noise that the soldiers without surged to the doorway. It is to our
credit that not one of the women jumped. He repeated this performance
four times, and we sat quite still and looked at him with curiosity.

     If any one had told me a month earlier that I should sit unmoved
while a drunken soldier flung a loaded gun on the floor in front of
me—twice it pointed directly at me—I should have dismissed him as a
contemptible flatterer. But there is something about this military
area—well you simply experience no sensations at all. You are in the
zone of death. Human life has no value whatever. You, too, suddenly
become as callous as if inoculated.

     He was led out, and I opened my book. But the room was very warm. I
asked the doorkeeper to let me wait for the train on the platform beside
the tracks. Of course he refused. Petty officials never deviate from
their cast-iron rules. However, he was a réformé, with one arm, and I
determined to take a base advantage of him. The next time he had
occasion to open the door I was behind him, and I walked out and seated
myself on a bench in the fresh air. “Now,” I said, “here I am, and here
I shall stay. What are you going to do to me?” For a moment he scowled
at me, then shrugged his shoulders and walked away. A few moments later
the other women followed my example, and we sat and talked, occasionally
glancing up through the shattered glass roof; particularly as the hour
of 5 approached.

     One of the women, who looked like a farmer’s wife, judging by her
dress and the large basket she held on her lap, told me that she had
come from the south of France to the Hôpital Central just too late to
see her boy, who was dead of typhoid fever. Once or twice she looked as
if she were going to cry, but did not. The mothers of France are stoics
these days.

     No taubes appeared, and I slept in Paris. The next day I took my
wrath to the War Office. I now have a promise of a military automobile
for a trip to Révigny, Nancy and Remiramont. No Rheims, no
Verdun—unless we can cajole some General within the lines. It is
astonishing the high value the French place upon the life of a mere
woman. James M. Beck visited Amiens on his way from England to Paris,
and within two days of his arrival went off on a tour of the immediate
front. The day after his return, off he went again with Owen Johnson, to
call on General Joffre. I reminded my friends in the War Office that men
were as easily killed as women, even American men. But they seem to
think that the explosion of an American woman, especially if she
happened to be “of a prominence,” would make too much noise in the world
to be agreeable. They have trouble enough on their hands.

                 *        *        *        *        *

                      =THE WAR ZONE BY AUTOMOBILE=

                                                  PARIS, August 18.

Once more I was summoned to the War Office, this time to be informed
that although they wanted me to feel satisfied and really see something
of the great drama, they would not take the responsibility of sending me
so far into the military zone unless I obtained the personal escort of
an American Army officer. And where, I demanded, was I to find an
American Army officer in Paris? They suggested the American Clearing

     I took my troubles to Mr. Beatty, through whose hands, expert and
generous, so many millions’ worth of donations have passed for the
benefit of afflicted France, and who seems to respond automatically to
the most unreasonable demand. For me he produced an American Army
officer six feet high, very imposing and distinguished, and the matter
was settled.

     We started on the following Tuesday—Major C., Mme. Lyon, a
mechanician, and our driver, Monsieur G. B., whom I shall call the
Lieutenant to avoid confusion, although as a matter of fact, and to his
natural chagrin, there were no stripes on his sleeve. Refused for the
army on account of an accident to his shoulder in boyhood, which
prevented him from handling a gun properly, he had offered his services
as driver at the outbreak of the war. Like many others, he anticipated a
short war, or he would have gone as interpreter to the British Army (he
is an Oxford man); that way lies promotion, and for the driver there is
none. As he is a young man, wealthy, pampered, living his own life in
his own way up to August, 1914, he is now no doubt enjoying the novel
experience of hard and incessant work, constant danger and unremitting
discipline, with no hope of reward. It was our gain, for he was
altogether charming, and it was impossible to pity him, as, gay and
grim, he certainly was determined to do what he could do for his

     The Marquise d’Andigné (who was Miss Goddard of Providence), the
President of Le Bienêtre du Blessé, was to have been one of the party,
but as she was detained at the last minute I was asked to visit the
hospitals in her place and ascertain which had received supplies and
what each needed most. We started at 7:30 from Paris in admirable

     Traveling by automobile in the war zone is far more complicated
than by train. Even in a gray military car, with two men in horizon blue
on the front seat, you are held up at the entrance and exit of every
town and hamlet, and often half way between, by the sudden appearance of
a sentinel in the middle of the road, holding his gun horizontally above
his head. He is accompanied by two others, who examine your papers, and
if they possess the average quick intelligence of their race they make
short work of it. If the first in authority happens to be slow,
conscientious, and suspicious, he will pore over the papers for five
minutes, and not infrequently disappear with them into his hut. Once
they held us up so long in the blazing sun that our Lieutenant, who was
not a patient mortal, poked his head into one of these tiny headquarters
and demanded what was the matter, while even Major C. had visions of
being turned back. They would give no answer until the Lieutenant made a
second invasion, and then they informed him that they could not
understand why the papers indicated four men and one woman in the party
and the automobile contained two women. Mme. Lyon’s first name is
Martin! Why they could not have come out and asked instead of wasting
their time and ours can only be explained by the fact that to a
Frenchman time is nothing.

     All this, save for the heat, concerned me not at all. I had not a
second’s responsibility on this trip. Major C. and the Lieutenant
carried the papers, and although I am a feminist and admit no
inferiority to man except in the matter of physical prowess, personally,
when I have a man to take care of me, I am as meek as a lamb. He is
welcome to all the responsibility and all the work. I never worry him by
a suggestion. Our American officer in his khaki uniform, sitting like a
ramrod on one of the single seats of the tonneau, inspired both
curiosity and respect and spent a good part of his days returning

     Our adventures were almost too insignificant to mention. I, alas!
am a mascot. If I were taken to the front and given the hospitality of a
trench I am positive that the guns for some inscrutable reason would be
paralyzed. It has always been as if some mysterious force surrounded me,
permitting me to see all that is necessary for my work at a safe
distance, but saving even my nerves from shock. During the San Francisco
earthquake I was in Berkeley! It is very annoying. I should have liked
an adventurous life.

     Nevertheless, the trip, which lasted four days, was more than
interesting. It was as unlike traversing the war zone by train as
possible. In the first place the roads, which I expected to see (and
feel) cut to pieces by the enormous amount of artillery and heavy
camions that have rumbled over them constantly during the last two
years, were in perfect condition. I don’t know when they work on these
roads, but while we were in the war zone there was but one short stretch
under repair, and they were as dusty as California roads in Summer time.
We must have passed during these four days no less than several thousand
of these covered army wagons, great and small, which convey to the front
every war commodity from soldiers to beef. I asked our Lieutenant how
many of these camions France possessed and he said that, although he had
never seen the amount stated, each was numbered and he had seen numbers
as high as 130,000. This, of course, included every sort of vehicle, and
we saw many kitchen wagons. The cooks, by the way, are among the heroes
of the war and perish in large numbers.

     If I was forced to complain of an unnatural calm during my first
two visits into the war zone I had my fill of noise and incessant motion
on this trip. Aside from the gray lumbering camions in their clouds of
dust, there were, every few miles, “parcs” of artillery, the famous
seventy-fives, hundreds of them, either undergoing repairs or awaiting
demand. Of course, these parcs were filled with soldiers and their
officers, and, indeed, before the end of those four days, it seemed to
me that there must be as many men in the further precincts of the war
zone doing practically nothing as there were at the front.

     In certain of the larger towns, which for obvious reasons must not
be named, the streets were so packed with soldiers that the car was
obliged to crawl. All of these men were frankly loafing. Some of them
were resting after the prescribed number of days in the trench, but as
many more had never been to the front at all. They were ordered into the
war zone that they might be on hand when needed, but meanwhile they were
amusing themselves as best they could, and the majority looked bored. In
one beautiful little town through which the Germans did not pass during
their retreat from the Marne, I saw a number of soldiers seated on the
banks of a stream fishing. Their only excitement they owe to the
frequent visits of the taubes, but whether they avail themselves of the
cellars hospitably marked “Cave Voutée,” I forgot to ask. Probably not.

     Every estaminet, every restaurant and the “terrasse” before it with
the little round white tables, was crowded, as well as the twisted
streets and the frequent “place,” with these soldiers in their faded
blue, which, at a distance, seems to melt before your eyes. They hung
from the windows, they gossiped at the pump, they mused on the bridges,
and they were lined up in the fields just outside the towns, practicing
arm exercise, one, two, three, four. Officers also strolled about, three
and four in a party. Even in the villages, those old gray villages
consisting of one long crooked street, widening to a “place” in the
centre and embracing several “farms,” there were often many soldiers
home on leave, smoking in front of their houses or playing with their

     On the other hand, we passed through many more of these villages
without seeing a man. The women sat out of doors sewing, and the
children swarmed. It is the bourgeoisie which has reduced the birth rate
in France. The aristocracy and the poor have large families. Ever since
my arrival I have heard almost daily of working class families of
anywhere from five to sixteen children. In the great valleys through
which we passed these children played bareheaded, but in the Vosges,
where it rains most of the time, all the little boys wore military caps.

     I also saw a large number of soldiers in the peaceful fields beside
the noisy roads, and was told they had been sent by the authorities to
help with the harvesting. I shall always be glad that I have seen “with
my own eyes” something of the immense number (and I saw but one small
section of the zone) of men that France still has at her disposal, and
has not yet been able to use. And, as I have said before, they are
nearly all big fellows. It is only the men of the south, of the Midi,
that are small, and by no means all of those.

     An amusing story came from Bulgaria while I was in Paris, and was
sent by Joseph Reinach to Figaro. The Crown Prince of Germany invited
the two older sons of the Bulgarian King to visit his headquarters
before Verdun and be present at its downfall. The young men accepted the
invitation, remained a month, then, very much bored, excused themselves
and went home. “What impressed you the most?” their father asked. They
replied simultaneously: “The resistance of the French.”

     The fields devoid of soldiers were a picturesque sight with the
women in blue print frocks and white sunbonnets. Old and young, they
were hard at work harvesting, and the children played among the stacks.
In some of the hotels where we stopped either overnight or for luncheon
we saw officers and their families, who had joined them here to save two
or more precious days of their short leave. And there was more than one
bride and bridegroom. Strange honeymoon, within sound of the guns that
promised a quick disunion. The faces of the older wives looked
philosophically happy, but those of the young women were drawn and pale.
Life was beginning in tragedy; and no doubt twenty years hence they will
be as torn with anxiety for their absent sons.

     It was in a large and handsome hotel in Nancy (the less said about
the average hotel in the war zone the better) where we spent the first
night of our journey that I saw so many of these couples and reunited
families; as it was as admirably run as in times of peace, I should like
to give its name, but forbear lest it incur the just wrath of the enemy.

     Nancy is little over five miles from the front, so that the roar of
the guns may be heard plainly. It is bombarded by cannons now and again,
but I missed one of these delicate attentions by two days. The “caves”
are indicated by the double cross of the House of Lorraine, for Taubes
are among the daily commonplaces in Nancy.

     Major C., our Lieutenant and I were at dinner in the dining-room
about eight o’clock (Madame Lyon had gone to bed), when the iron
shutters were hastily lowered and the maître d’hôtel came to our table
and said solemnly: “It is my duty to tell you that there is a taube over
the city and to ask you to go to the cellars.” “Are you going?” I asked
my companions. “Certainly not.” they replied simultaneously and without
raising their eyes from their excellent meal. I concluded that the
bright restaurant with two men to protect me was infinitely preferable
to a dark, damp, rat-infested cellar and sat tight. In a moment we heard
a fusillade; the guns were searching out the invader. But whether the
taube dropped a bomb or not no one remembered to inquire!

     The next morning at six, Madame Lyon, hearing a noise, opened her
window and looked out. A group of people were staring upward, and
following their gaze she saw a taube surrounded by five French
airplanes, which finally drove it off. I, alas! missed this thrilling
sight, for although I was awake I was listening so intently to the guns
at the front, only nine kilometres away, that I heard nothing else.

                 *        *        *        *        *

                     =STONE VICTIMS OF “THE MARNE”=

                                                  PARIS, August 15.

In Nancy we met Miss Polk and Miss Ethel Crocker of California, who
are associated with Princess Poniatowska (also a Californian and sister
of Mrs. William Crocker, but who has lived in France for many years) in
a projected work of reconstruction. It is her aim to raise a large
amount of money in her native State and rebuild a certain number of the
wrecked towns and villages in the war zone. This is a truly great idea,
and will redound to the glory of California, which, with the entire
West, lags far behind New York and other Eastern States in practical
sympathy for the sufferers of this war; but all the same I hope they
will let the ruins alone and build the new towns beside them. In the
first place, these ruins should be a source of revenue to France from
tourists after the war is over, amounting to many millions of francs
(Arras by moonlight is said to be the most beautiful sight on earth),
and, in the second place, a certain type of smug American, who, without
experience or imagination, has refused to believe in the attendant
horrors of war, should be encouraged to visit these deliberately wrecked
towns and hear at first hand far worse stories than even Lord Bryce has
printed. This is the type that always asks; “Now, did you ever meet
anybody who really has seen these things, or did somebody hear it from
somebody else?” &c. Well, let these self-righteous citizens, who have
grown fat on the European war, take a motor trip through the ruined
district a year hence and spend an hour or two with the survivors.

     It is, of course, legitimate to bombard any town during a battle,
if care is taken to spare great monuments, but not deliberately to set
fire to it, house by house, when retreating in fury after having missed
victory by a hair. When traveling through stark fire ruins of whole
towns like Sermaize and Gerbéviller, to say nothing of countless
villages, and cities half destroyed, like Révigny and certain sections
of Nancy, it was natural to remember the prophetic words of Heine about
his own country: “Christianity has in a certain degree softened this
brutal martial ardor of the Germans, but it has not been able to destroy
it, and when the Cross, that talisman which keeps it enchained is
broken, then the ferocity of the ancient combatants will break forth
anew. Then—and, alas, this day also will come—the old war gods will
arise from their mythical tombs and wipe the dust of centuries from
their eyes. Thor will rise and with his gigantic hammer will demolish
the Gothic cathedrals.”

     They would not let me go to Arras, as, although deserted, it is
under constant bombardment, while Nancy these days only gets an
occasional attention from the big guns, and nobody minds taubes. So far,
therefore, although Sermaize and the others are impressive and shocking
enough, the most interesting and beautiful ruin I saw, in spite of its
sadness, was the little town of Gerbéviller, between Nancy and
Remiramont. Situated on a steep hillside, its irregular streets leaving
the ridge to dip and rise again, and two years ago one of the prettiest
and most thriving of the smaller towns of Lorraine, it is now a mass of
broken walls against the sky, already mellowed by time and creepers.

     The automobile was obliged to make its way slowly between the
débris that lined either side of the narrow streets, and I noticed that
families had set up housekeeping once more in the cellars, and even
opened shops. Before the war it had a population of about 2,000
(although, as is often the case, large enough for double the number of
actual inhabitants). All the men who were not mobilized or did not take
flight at the approach of the enemy were shot upon that terrible
retreat; but I saw a few smoking philosophically in the shade of the
walls before their shops. The business here as elsewhere, however, is
carried on mainly by the women. One old woman seemed to be doing well
with post cards, although, as outsiders are few, no doubt her main
support is derived from the soldiers on march. Here lives the heroic
Soeur Julie, decorated with the cross of the Legion of Honor, for saving
her hospice in the face of Prussian fury. But her story must be told
elsewhere. About eight hundred people have returned to Gerbéviller (it
was a relief to hear that most of the young girls escaped before the
invasion) and are living either in the cellars or the few houses
surrounding the hospital saved by Soeur Julie. There is ample room in
all directions for their new homes without sacrificing one of the most
picturesque and significant ruins of the war.

     I think it was at Sermaize that after driving through a number of
streets as completely wrecked as Gerbéviller, we came suddenly upon a
terrace of houses quite intact. We inquired the meaning of this odd
forebearance and learned that these mansions had been the property of
Germans, who had been warned before the outbreak of the war and fled.
Naturally their homes were spared by their loyal countrymen. Germany not
only knew who owned every square inch of ground in France, but where
every work of art great and small was installed. One woman who lived in
an unpretentious flat in Paris showed me her one rare possession, an
ancient silver censer, which was on the German list when they advanced
upon Paris. If the French Army surrendered and they spared the city,
they purposed to loot it, and their spies had been for years locating
every object worth seizing.

     Even before the German case became utterly hopeless it seems to me
they must have felt very sad at times while looking back over the past
and recalling the many objects of desire they just failed to grasp.
Outside of Nancy one may see a high hill where one fine morning in
September, 1914, the German Emperor and his Staff sat their horses, clad
in long white mantles and glittering helmets, a truly superb sight,
waiting for the news that the French Army was in full retreat and the
hour had come for their triumphal entry through the historic gates of
Nancy. But General Castlenau, as all the world knows, reversed this
theatrical dénouement, and they made off in hot haste for Strasburg.

     We slept at Remiramont the second night, after a moist trip through
the Vosges, a mildly pretty range of mountains, so far as we were
permitted to penetrate. They are formidable enough closer to the front.
Before the American ambulance men conquered them with their little
Fords, the wounded were carried out on mule back and generally died.
Remiramont is a headquarters for supplies, and we saw a number of
officers but few poilus. Major C., knowing that I wanted to go to Thann,
a town in that little strip of Alsace retaken in the first days of the
war, spent the morning at the military headquarters, where he had
friends (he is one of five American officers in France by order of the
United States Government), waiting for the return of the General. As it
was raining the rest of us spent the time gossiping in the little hotel
parlor or strolling under the arcades of the principal streets. When
Major C. returned and said that the General, refusing to take the
responsibility, had telephoned to the Grand Quartier Générale I knew it
was all up. They had said positively that I could not go to any town
under constant bombardment, and a military mind once made up is like a
steel mask with the key lost.

     There is but one way by which a woman can get into any of these
bombarded towns, Rheims, Thann, Verdun. After she is in the war zone, if
she happens to know one of the Generals there, knows him quite well, so
that he feels a certain degree of friendship for her, and if he happens
to be in a very good humor, and if the bombardment at that moment
happens to be weak or non-existent, as it was when I was at Châlons and
Bar-le-Duc, then he will put her in an automobile and whizz her through
the famous target. She will hardly have time to experience the expected
thrill before she is out again, but at least she can say she has been

     I, alas, did not know any General, and although Lord Northcliffe
had written me that I should have a letter to General Joffre whenever I
applied to his Paris office for it, I had not felt like bothering the
hero of the war with one more American, particularly as he had been
written to death. Nor had I been in France long enough to form ties of
friendship with any of the others; therefore I had entered the war zone
resigned to a route which, after all, few women were allowed to

     But Major C. was hopeful, and very much crestfallen when word came
that he might go to Thann if he liked, but I must remain in Remiramont.
Of course, he was too gallant to go without us, even if it had not been
his duty barely to let me out of his sight, but he hardly would speak
for two hours. Nothing annoys an American man, a real American of the
good old stock, more than to fail in the endeavor to get something for a
woman that she especially desires and he has pledged himself to obtain.
Our charming Lieutenant was almost equally annoyed when I called his
attention to this fact, and said that no one hated to disappoint a woman
as much as a Frenchman did, but that if he appeared philosophical it was
because he had never had any hope. Major C., undaunted, made another
attempt at Bar-le-Duc to induce the military authorities there to let us
go to a little town named Dugny, within four miles of Verdun, but with
the same result. They were on the point of consenting when they decided
it was safer (for themselves) to telephone General Joffre, and when I
heard that I left the car with Mme. Lyon and went in search of something
to eat.

     Nothing would have induced me to enter that hotel again, and after
my description Mme. Lyon was equally reluctant, although the men were
not daunted in the least. So we went to a bakeshop and bought bread and
cheese and cakes, and after some persuasion she consented to sit in one
of the chairs, sacred to customers, outside the Hotel du Commerce. The
French, with all their mental suppleness and activity, are intensely
conservative. No one was permitted to sit at those tables but customers;
it would not be allowed. And who, I inquired, is there to stop us? Those
two boys waiting on some fifty officers, or that girl at the desk who
would not move while there was an officer inside the hotel to look at?
But it wasn’t done. Americans had too little respect—I replied by
sitting down and eating a cup cake, and finally she, it being hot,
followed suit. No one disturbed us, and in any case it would have been a
simple matter to secure the table with a cup of coffee.
However—conservatism knits a nation together.

     A newspaper gamin of eight, who looked five, had such an engaging
little visage that I gave him a penny. His taller companion looked so
wistful that I gave him one also. In five minutes I was encircled by at
least eight newsboys, all looking at me with ingratiating smiles or
deprecating eyes. Not one of them begged. They were far too independent,
but they had all the charm of their race and knew how to get what they
wanted without sacrificing their pride. I was struck with their
dissimilarity in everything else. No two of these little gamin faces
were alike, and I recalled that I had made the same observation when
traveling in the trains with the officers. There is really no type in
France. It is a race of individuals.

     It was shortly after we left Bar-le-Duc that Major C., consoled by
my assurance that I really had not cared in the least to go to either
Thann or Dugny, and was delighted at the prospect of reaching Paris that
night (this was not true, but never mind), told us an amusing story of
one of his former visits to the front. He was very close indeed and the
bombardment was incessant. Nevertheless, he was given a dinner party at
headquarters, which, owing to the exigencies of the moment, were in a
certain large cellar. The vaulted roof which makes these stone “caves”
such safe resorts was hung with Chinese lanterns in his honor, all the
high officers available were present, and it was one of the gayest
functions he ever attended. This did not surprise him, but the dinner
did. It was exquisite. He had tasted nothing like it in France. It was
not the viands that were remarkable, for naturally, in this small
outpost, viands were limited. It was the treatment that reminded him of
certain stories whose style disguised the paucity of ideas. Finally,
after he had produced his contribution to the feast, a box of superfine
Havanas, he asked to have the phenomenon explained. He was devoured with
curiosity, for he had dined at headquarters before, and many of them.
“Oh,” said his host, “that is easily explained. We have here the chef of
Prince von Bulow, whose table, as you may have heard, was famous. The
man is an Alsatian, and French at heart. Shortly after the outbreak of
the war he managed to escape through the lines and asked permission to
enlist. We accepted his services, and—there you are!”

     During the afternoon our Lieutenant invited us to stop at his house
in Epernay for tea, and here we were introduced to a singular incident.
While we were in the dining-room his maître d’hôtel entered and handed
him a slip of paper which, he informed him with that casualness born of
war, a Bosche had dropped that morning from a taube. It was dated
Berlin, July 26, and had been seventeen days on the way. As no one in
Epernay had the enterprise to send it to a Paris newspaper, I give it
here for the first time, although in brief; it was Teutonically

         Frenchmen! Your aviators, throwing bombs far from the
    front, in Germany, have killed many civilians, men, women and
    children. In Karlsruhe on June 22, 1916, there were forty-eight
    deaths, among them thirty innocent children. Mulheim was
    bombarded on June 22, Fribourg July 16, &c. In all these attacks
    the number of victims was deplorable both in dead and wounded.
    All of these towns are of no military value, as you can see by
    looking at your map.

         The German military authorities hesitated to believe that
    the French Government and military authorities were capable of
    such culpable and barbaric acts which have nothing in common
    with the conduct of war. It was believed that your aviators had
    made a mistake in execution of their mission.

         Frenchmen! Your aviators did not make a mistake. We have
    learned to-day that the raids were instigated by President
    Poincaré whose ear has been open to the base counsels of the

     Here comes the familiar assertion that the Germans know how tired
the French are of war, and are but the miserable victims of diabolical
Albion. Then, in another burst of self-righteousness:

         Germany wars against the armies of France, not against the
    civil population, the women and children. She hopes that this
    remonstrance will be sufficient to prevent any future attacks of
    this barbarous nature. In case of the opposite she will feel
    obliged to make reprisals in kind.

         You know now, Frenchmen, that that slave of England, M.
    Poincaré, will be responsible for blood shed by innocent
    victims, and that it is the barbarity of the English which will
    oblige us to bring destruction and death to your cities far from
    the front.

     Strange, muddled brains, victims of overtraining that have left
whole tracts completely atrophied. This document would be merely funny
were it not for the terrible problem which confronts the civilized world
in dealing with this abnormal species which has grown up in its midst
and can never be exterminated root and branch.

     While we were laughing over the ultimatum, read aloud by our
Lieutenant, we heard a loud noise at the foot of the hill behind the
house, and went to the window. A military train was passing. It was
decorated with green boughs, and all the windows were filled with
soldiers, singing and waving their caps. They were on their way to the

                 *        *        *        *        *

                        =LE BIENÊTRE DU BLESSÉ=

It was during the latter part of May that a number of ladies met at
the house of the Marquise de Talleyrand-Périgord in Paris to found an
oeuvre on the grand Countess d’Haussonville, President of the first
division of the Red Cross, presided, scale for the greater comfort of
convalescent officers and soldiers in the war zone, and of that original
group those who accepted official positions were the Marquise d’Andigné
(Madeline Goddard of Providence), Mme. de Talleyrand (Elizabeth Curtis
of New York), Countess de Roussy de Sales (American), Princess
Poniatowska (Elizabeth Sperry of California), Mme. Ernest Mallet, wife
of the President of the Bank of France; Mme. le General Pau and Mme.
Waddington, who, as all the world knows, was Mary King of New York.

     Mme. d’Andigné, who has established a reputation for executive
ability and conscientious application to whatever she undertakes, was
elected President, and Mme. Poincaré became Honorary President.

     On the council are thirty-nine names, French, French-American, and
American. Among the last are Mrs. Bliss of the American Embassy, Mrs.
Ridgley Carter, Mrs. Herman Harges, Mrs. Lawrence Slade, Mrs. William
Crocker, Miss Crocker, Mrs. Bell, Mrs. Lee Childe, Mrs. Potter, Mrs.
Harper, Mrs. Hyde and Mrs. Samuel Watson, wife of the American clergyman
in Paris. The French names are among the most distinguished in France,
and no list of any oeuvre was ever more carefully chosen both for its
effect on the public and for usefulness; coming as it did, late in the
day, it was felt to be under a certain handicap.

     It was christened “Le Bienêtre du Blessé, Société Franco-Américaine
pour Nos Combattants” (The Comfort, or Well-being, of the Wounded;
French-American Society for Our Soldiers), and is to exist throughout
the war and for six months after fighting ceases. Men in high places,
according to custom, became its sponsors, the War Office gave it a
“barrack” out at the Entrepôt des Dons, where all the big oeuvres have
their storehouses and a central bureau. The Paris banking house of
Munroe & Co. accepted the office of Treasurer and receives all
donations. _The address of this firm in New York is 30 Pine Street, and
any one who is kind enough to answer this appeal with a donation will
please send it there._

     I will confess that I wandered in upon that preliminary meeting
quite by mistake, being under the impression that I had been invited
merely to have a cup of tea and some lively conversation, and that when
I found a committee was in process of formation I would have escaped if
I could. I had gone to France to write about the work of its women in
the war and in the hope of doing something for that great country in my
own way, but with the firm intention of not being drawn into any
organization. Possibly no one ever lived who hates sitting at a
committee table as I do. However, escape was impossible then or later;
and, by degrees, I became infected with their own enthusiasm. After my
visits to military hospitals in the war zone I promised Mme. d’Andigné
willingly enough that I would do what I could to put the thing through
in this country.

     No oeuvre since the beginning of the war has been more important
than this. When a man has lost a quart or so of blood, after an
exhausting period in the trenches, or has undergone a severe operation,
the nerves of his stomach are in a supersensitive condition. But in
military hospitals the dietary kitchen contains nothing but milk and
eggs. Many people have a violent antipathy for both. Personally, I would
lie down and die before I would drink a glass of milk, and a recent
illness made me appreciate the fact that all the doctors in the world
could not have saved me if I had had no convalescent diet offered me but
milk and eggs.

     Military discipline is inexorable. There are many hundreds of these
hospitals in the war zone, and there must be one rule for all. Thousands
can drink milk and eat eggs whether they like them or not, and no
exceptions may be made for those who would rather die of inanition than
touch either. A delicately built man in a trench receives no favor; he
must do his part or be dismissed as a Réformé Numero II., and in the
hospital a man must take the same chances. At the date of this writing
France is still expending two billion francs a month, and to impose a
further tax in behalf of an advanced dietary kitchen would possibly lead
to a misunderstanding with a large stolid class more than likely to
confuse “delicacies” with “luxuries.”

     The French are the most economical of races, and the peasantry and
bourgeoisie have a fundamental antipathy to the word luxury. The lower
classes particularly have been too long accustomed to living on the
smallest possible amount and putting the rest into the family stocking
to sympathize with capricious appetites. Other nations are not
altogether dissimilar in this respect, and in all previous wars groups
of ladies have supplied military convalescents with the delicacies which
save so many lives and hasten recovery. But this war is on too vast a
scale. Beneficent ladies take care of the hospitals in Paris and the
provincial cities, but in that great district known as La Zone des
Armées, crowded with hospitals, but where so many of the towns are half
in ruins and largely evacuated by the inhabitants, where few if any of
the shops are open, it becomes a problem at times to find an orange to
satisfy the last craving of a dying man. No one who has not been in
those gray barren towns and villages of the war zone can imagine how sad
a tarrying place they are for wounded men too ill to be sent to Paris.

     But if the military machine was forced to appear callous,
individually it recognized the necessity for a supplementary kitchen, if
many of its best men were to be saved to France. Last Spring the Service
de Santé (Health Department of the Ministry of War) asked Mme.
d’Haussonville to form a great oeuvre by whose means all the hospitals
in the military zone could be supplied by voluntary subscription with
the necessary delicacies. When one reads the list of these articles
demanded one may see plainly enough that they are delicacies, not
luxuries—chicken or beef broth, cocoa, farina for gruel, sugar,
biscuit, rice, canned fruits, jellies, preserves, oranges, sardines and
ham. Condensed milk, as it is in some cases more digestible than the
primitive, is also a welcome article.

     No one knew better than Mme. Haussonville the mournful necessity
for these simple articles of diet, for she goes periodically into the
war zone on tours of hospital inspection. In many places a million
francs would not buy one of these things, although the nurses in chief
(Infirmière Majors) often sally out in desperation and try to buy out of
their own purses something that a sick man craves. One told me that she
had only two days before tried in vain to buy a few lumps of sugar in
Bar-le-Duc, a town of over 17,000 inhabitants before the war and noted
for its preserves. But sugar is scarce in France and very dear.

     It was in July that I visited the beautiful hospital, Savonières,
near Bar-le-Duc, and it had just received a consignment from Le Bienêtre
du Blessé. Mme. Faure, the Infirmière Major, told me that nothing had
ever been more welcome, and that the spirits of the men had gone up with
a rush. Above all things the French convalescent craves preserves, under
the impression, no doubt, that it is his weary palate alone that longs
to be tickled, but as a matter of fact his system craves the stimulation
and energizing qualities of the sugar.

     This hospital is on a splendid estate leased by the Government
shortly after the beginning of the war. More or less sheltered by trees
from the indefatigable taube, eight or nine “barracks” have been
erected, and down their long sides are rows of cots that look as
comfortable as they are neat. As many of the patients as could be moved
were lying on long chairs under the great oaks and lime trees. At the
entrance to the park was a row of low buildings built for the
ever-necessary “bureau,” chemist shop, surgical dressings stores, &c.,
all run with the method and precision characteristic of the French. It
was a quiet and sylvan scene when I saw it, but when guns at the front
are thundering, reminding these men that their comrades in arms are
falling momentarily, or taubes are drumming overhead searching out the
barracks, it seems to me that sustained optimism must be a difficult
feat. If the delicacies always craved by the sick will raise the spirits
of men who have been wounded and perhaps mutilated in the service of
their country, and break the sad monotony of their lives, those in the
enjoyment of health and freedom cannot work too hard to raise the
necessary money. And let it never be forgotten by those whose slogan in
giving, as in other things, is “America first,” that had it not been for
the military genius of the French at the battle of the Marne there would
be no such thing as freedom in the world to-day.

     I saw nothing more interesting at these hospitals than the bathtubs
for the wounded brought straight from the front. Even officers who have
been in the trenches for several days are not clean, to say the least of
it, and the first thing to do before the operation is to give them a
bath. If they are grand blessés they must receive as little handling as
possible. Consequently they are transferred from their own stretcher to
one that covers the top of a very large bathtub full of warm water. This
stretcher is lowered mechanically from the head down without jarring the
wounded man. As soon as he is both clean and refreshed the stretcher is
elevated and he is transferred to still another and wrapped in a sheet;
then when dry he is carried to the operating table.

     One of the many infirmières majors with whom I talked told me there
was a second and imperative reason for a private kitchen. Military
discipline closes every hospital kitchen in the war zone (both the grand
régime and the petit régime) promptly at 6 P.M. and does not open it
again until 7 the next morning. If a blessé is brought in after 6 there
is not so much as a teaspoonful of milk to give him, and if, as
sometimes happens, he is passed on to another hospital early in the
morning, he leaves without having had sustenance of any sort. It is
difficult for a non-military nation like ours to realize the dry
conservative discipline of a nation that has been military for
centuries, and has worked out an economy in money, food, time, and men
to a point so fine that there is practically no waste.

     Witness the immortal tactics of Joffre, who has destroyed the
maximum of Germans with the minimum of Frenchmen. But, as I have said
before, there has never been a war on such a scale as this, and it is
the first time the authorities, always relying upon civilians to do
their part, have been confronted with a new problem in the dietary

     Now, however, if the nurses have private supplies it is a simple
matter to make a cup of broth or cocoa over a spirit lamp for a man
brought in after 6 o’clock and faint from pain and loss of blood. It is
done in five minutes and may save his life. In other respects I saw
nothing to criticise in these military hospitals, although I am told
that some of the smaller and newer ones are greatly in need of pillows,
which seem to be scarce in France. But those I inspected were clean,
airy, run like clock work, and the ordinary kitchen (grand régime), for
those well on the road to recovery, was abundantly supplied. In one
hospital outside of Remiramont I even saw a woman occupying a large room
by herself. There are no doctors left in this small town and she had
been brought to the military hospital for treatment. When I looked in at
the door and saw her gray face surrounded by scattered gray hair I could
not imagine for a moment what it was, so little did I expect to see a
woman after having gone through some twenty wards filled with men; most
of them, by the way, with their legs elevated in wooden frames—an
invention, I was told, of Dr. Blake. I never saw any one look more ill.
She had had thirteen children and now had a floating kidney. Several of
her sons had fallen and more were in the trenches. I have often wondered
if she survived.

     The Hôpital Central is beautifully located in a high valley just
outside of Bar-le-Duc and looks like a new mining town. It is laid out
in streets and there must be thirty of the wooden barracks besides two
pavilions—long structures of stucco painted white. They are fine
targets for taubes and I can’t think why they are not painted brown. All
of these buildings but one are in charge of Mme. d’Haussonville’s
division of the Red Cross, Société Française de Secours aux Blessés
Militaires; the exception is run by the second division, Société des
Dames Françaises. These women, both of the noblesse and the haute
bourgeoisie, give their services and work like slaves.

     The infirmière major, Mlle. de Sézilles, and the médicin chef
walked me through every one of those buildings except those devoted to
infectious cases. The day was hot and I had walked miles already, but
the doctor was inexorable. He had not wanted to show me the hospital,
even although I had brought a personal letter to Mlle. de Sézilles, but
had surrendered when I produced my letter from the Ministère de la
Guerre in which the privilege of visiting the hospitals in the war zone
was extended to me. So he determined I should have my fill.

     However, every foot of the way was interesting. Here men were
brought to remain until they were well enough to return to the front or
be transferred to Paris, the blind until their bodies were strong enough
to give them courage for delicate operations or to face life once more.
The men in bed were protected by netting from the loathsome flies which
swarm in this district, and every counterpane was as white as the crisp
gowns of the infirmières. The advanced convalescents in the pavilions
were sitting in the corridors that traverse the front, reading or gazing
at the charming scenery; if blind, merely sunning themselves. They
alone, of all the maimed, look sad.

     Mlle. de Sézilles showed me her barrack with great pride, and it
certainly was an unexpected sight in a base hospital. Its corridors were
set with palms and flowering shrubs, every window had its boxes, and
there were pictures above the beds. Each ward, in fact, was a revelation
of the taste or purse of its infirmière major. Some were austere, but in
many an attempt had been made to relieve the barrenness of a military
hospital ward, where the men must lie for weeks, or months, with little
to do but stare at a glimpse of the hills, and during long silence
unbroken by any sound but the raucous voice of war. There is no question
that the wounded in the decorated wards looked more than commonly
cheerful, for not only has the Frenchman a passion for beauty but he is
the most grateful of all the wounded soldiers. And he would answer
politely the most inane question if he were being disemboweled at the

     Mlle. de Sézilles showed me a cupboard stocked with the first
consignment from Le Bienêtre du Blessé we had been able to send, and
once more I heard how welcome it was. “It is good for the morale of the
men, also,” she added. “The poor fellows, courageous as they are, and
gay by temperament, are often depressed. There is nothing like
appetizing food, both immediate and prospective, to raise the spirits of
a convalescent. No medicine so hastens recovery, and they never looked
forward to the pleasures of health as they do to a cup of broth or
cocoa, or a slice of ham and a dish of preserves.” Then, like everybody
else I met in France engaged in any sort of relief work, she spoke with
the deepest gratitude of the practical sympathy of the Americans, of
their enormous generosity. I told her that the Eastern States had borne
the brunt so far, and that California had done well, but that I was
waiting for the West to wake up.

     Several Americans have asked me why the rich people of France do
not run this oeuvre themselves. The answer is simple enough. There are
no rich people left in France, not as we estimate riches, at all events.
Between the moratorium, which has cut off their rents, the mobilization
of their farm hands or workmen, taxes, the increased cost of living, and
the constant demands to which they have responded since the first day of
the war (I know one woman who runs three hospitals in the South of
France out of her own pocket), they find themselves at the beginning of
the third year with little to spare. Some have shut up the greater part
of their beautiful apartments or hôtels, and live in the fewest possible
rooms, on the smallest possible sum, giving away every penny they can
squeeze out of their depleted incomes.

     Take the case of one Frenchman, of the old noblesse, married to an
American girl. She brought him a large dower, but he was wealthy and it
was a love match. The French trenches run through his northern estate,
and he will not be permitted to set foot on it before the end of the war
unless his regiment happens to be ordered there. It is ruined in any
case. His southern estate is intact, but he receives no rent from his
tenants, and all his able-bodied men are at the front—or dead. To be
sure the women and boys work in the fields, but so they did before the
war, and there is no one to take the place of the absent men. Out of his
invested capital he must pay high and ever higher taxes, he is asked
every day in the week for a subscription, and I believe he runs a
hospital. He would smile at hearing himself called a rich man to-day.

     There are so many kind hearts and intelligent minds among the
readers of a newspaper like the _Times_ that I have not attempted to be
eloquent or to make a sentimental appeal. I have merely endeavored to
make the case as clear as possible in the hope that all who can afford
to give one dollar, or many thousands out of their new prosperity, will
respond to the far subtler appeal of the distant soldier suffering in
grateful silence for “The Eternal France.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

Transcriber’s note:

Mrs. Ridgley Carter is also spelt Mrs. Ridgely Carter [Ed. don’t know
  which is correct]

Mrs. Herman Harges is also spelt Mrs. Herman Harjes [Ed. don’t know which
  is correct]

p. 5 Quatier ==> Quartier (2 places)

p. 5 Général ==> Générale

p. 11 euphenism ==> euphemism

p. 11 miliary ==> military

p. 12 Remiremont ==> Remiramont

p. 13 uremitting ==> unremitting

p. 16 sde ==> side

p. 17 elsewhree ==> elsewhere

p. 20 Marquise de Talleyrand-Perigord ==> Marquise de Talleyrand-Périgord

p. 20 Mrs. Mrs. Herman Harges ==> Mrs. Herman Harges

p. 20 Franco-Americaine ==> Franco-Américaine

p. 21 volunatry ==> voluntary

p. 22 are no clean ==> are not clean

p. 22 mininum ==> minimum

p. 23 flowering shrugs ==> flowering shrubs

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