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Title: The Diary of a French Private - War-Imprisonment 1914-1915
Author: Riou, Gaston
Language: English
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THE DIARY OF A FRENCH PRIVATE



SOME REVIEWS OF THE FRENCH EDITION


EMILE FAGUET in _Les Annales Politiques et Littéraires_, March 5, 1916:—

    I had the honour … three years ago to write the Preface to
    M. Gaston Riou’s first book, _Aux écoutes de la France qui
    vient_. It was full of fire, impetus, and passion; it was a
    heart-beat. I was not always of the same opinion as the author,
    but I never failed to share his sentiments. I felt in him at
    once a brother in patriotism and a brother in love of truth
    and justice. I greeted him affectionately and contradicted him
    tenderly. You all know the success of the work. The public
    learned and has remembered a new proper name. M. Gaston Riou
    now presents us with a very different book, but one painfully
    entrancing, as its title implies, _Journal d’un simple soldat,
    guerre—captivité, 1914-1915_.… M. Riou now shows himself to
    be an extraordinarily delicate and lively painter of real
    life, a charming painter of landscape, a vivacious narrator, a
    thoughtful, conscientious, and penetrating psychologist alike
    in respect of individuals and of nations. At once artist and
    thinker, the artist never does injustice to the thinker, while
    the thinker always gives the artist free play.

_Chicago Daily News_, May 1916:—

    Out of the mass of books, good, bad, and indifferent, which
    have been written about the great war, there is one, _Journal
    d’un simple soldat_, by Gaston Riou, which stands out as a
    work that will live and pass down to future generations as a
    masterpiece.

Rev. FATHER MÉNAGE, O.P., in _La Revue des Jeunes_, Feb. 25, 1916:—

    The author of these pages is a man of energy and self-command.
    But he is something more. What gives the work a distinctive
    character is the profundity of its psychologic sense.

_Daily Chronicle_, March 24, 1916:—

    It has grown out of the war, but it is more than a war book
    because it has thought, feeling, knowledge, and English readers
    of French will appreciate its great charm of style.

A. BILLY in _Paris Midi_, Feb. 9, 1916:—

    These pages are the diary of the man who, among all the French
    prisoners, was perhaps best fitted to understand Germany from
    within.

_La Tribuna_, Feb. 20, 1916:—

    Though not a novel, it is as engrossing as a novel.

DANIEL LESUEUR in _La Renaissance_, March 18, 1916:—

    Every one should read this record of imprisonment, whose
    realism—simple, trivial, and at times almost repulsive—is
    irradiated with a beauty which no work of romantic fiction can
    ever equal.

MARCEL ROUFF in _Mercure de France_, April 1, 1916:—

    The book will gain by being read and re-read after the war,
    when the coming of peace will have restored to us that
    independence of mind which is necessary for the adequate
    appreciation of works of art.

PAUL BOURGET in _Echo de Paris_, April 28, 1916:—

    I consider the _Journal d’un simple soldat_, one of the best
    examples of the literature of war impressions which has
    characterized the conflict now in progress.… The book is as
    impassioned as a novel and as living as history.



                             THE DIARY OF A
                             FRENCH PRIVATE

                            WAR—IMPRISONMENT
                                1914-1915

                                   BY
                               GASTON RIOU

                       TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH
                                   BY
                           EDEN AND CEDAR PAUL

                             [Illustration]

                    LONDON: GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN LTD.
                   RUSKIN HOUSE 40 MUSEUM STREET, W.C.

                        _First published in 1916_

                         (_All rights reserved_)



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE


_Gaston Riou was born on January 7, 1883. He is a native of the Cévennes,
the region from which are derived three of the most distinguished among
modern French psychologists, Melchior de Vogüé, Auguste Sabatier, and
Paul Bourget. The Cévenole family from which he springs played an active
part in the wars of religion. On the mother’s side he is related to
Jacques de Vaucanson, the leading French mechanical engineer of the
eighteenth century, and also to Majal Désubas, the last Huguenot martyr,
executed at Montpellier in 1747. Thus by family tradition he is liberal,
nonconformist, and republican._

_Propagandist by temperament, he devoted himself at an early age to the
study of Christian origins. In 1905, at the Sorbonne, he wrote a thesis
upon the ~De unitate~ of St. Cyprian. His first published writings dealt
with the modernist movement of Loisy, Murri, and Tyrrell, and they
attracted considerable attention in Italy and in Germany. The ardour
which inspired them was very different from the ~rabies theologica~. The
young author, though Calvinist by conviction, adopted an attitude remote
from partisanship, his view being, “Whatever is Christian, is ours.” He
insisted upon the need for a new synthesis, embracing at once the ancient
faith and the actual conditions and the social life and thought of our
day. He contended that the non-Roman churches scattered throughout the
world might well constitute the embryo of a new Catholicism. But above
all, in this writer simultaneously republican and Christian believer,
was manifest the earnest desire to reconcile the France of ’89 with
the Christian ideal and the longing to witness and to assist in the
renovation of his country. Writing of him at this period, M. Emile
Faguet, a noted French critic, declared: “His ardour, his fire, his
impetus, the rush of his blood, are all instinct with the passion of
patriotism.”_

_In the year 1913 this admixture of religious uneasiness and nationalist
hope found expression in a volume entitled ~Aux écoutes de la France qui
vient~, which from the first attracted widespread attention. Above all,
this work embodies faith in France, and the leaders among the younger men
of the country rallied round him who had ventured to proclaim this faith.
M. Jean Finot, editor of the ~Revue des Revues~, bestowed upon Gaston
Riou the title of ~princeps juventutis~. Since then, with the coming of
the war, all France has regarded the ~Ecoutes~ as a work of prophecy. We
read in it the phrase: “Silently and studiously an élite is in process of
formation. The members of this élite are united, as it were, in heroic
friendship, for they are all animated by a single passion, the desire
to renovate their country, and they are all inspired by the same faith,
simple and strong. When others despaired, they did not despair. They are
confident that a splendid morrow, worthy of the finest epochs of our
history, is now germinating in the furrows of our motherland.”_

_Nor was it in France alone that ~Aux écoutes de la France qui vient~
attracted attention. In Germany, Karl Lamprecht, the great pangermanist
historian, devoted two lectures to it at the royal court of Dresden. In
~Zukunft~ Maximilian Harden exclaimed: “The publication of such a work
suffices to prove that je-m’enfichisme [the Gallio spirit] is dead in
France, and that young France is turning away from the scepticism of the
masters of French literature.”_

_Riou collaborated with Bergson, Henri Poincaré, and Charles Gide in the
publication of a historical study, ~Le matérialisme actuel~, an attempt
to summarize the tendencies of contemporary thought. Of this volume
a critic declared: “For France it celebrates the close of the age of
negativism, and heralds the opening of an epoch of lyrical effort, of
affirmation, and of activity.”_

_When war broke out, Gaston Riou had just returned from a journey in
England, Scotland, and Wales. He went to the front among the first, took
part in the fighting in Lorraine, and was mentioned in dispatches. He was
wounded in the battle of Dieuze, was taken prisoner, and passed eleven
months in a Bavarian fortress. This was not his first visit to Germany.
A year earlier he had been sent there on an official mission, and he is
personally acquainted with many Germans of note._

_The fruit of his imprisonment is ~Journal d’un simple soldat~, which
we are now publishing as ~The Diary of a French Private~. In its native
land the success of the book has been extraordinary, and the sternest of
French critics have with one voice declared it to be a permanent addition
to literature. Paul Bourget, Emile Faguet, Camille Mauclair, and Maurice
Donnay all speak of it as a masterpiece._



TO GUGLIELMO FERRERO


      WE. Had we laid their hearts bare, we should have found there,
          not so much war, as justice and humanity.

                                                           MICHELET.

    THEY. I begin by seizing what I want; there are plenty of
          pedants in my realm who can prove my right to it.

                                                       FREDERICK II.



CONTENTS


                                                   PAGE

    REMINISCENCES OF A PREVIOUS JOURNEY              11

    FEVER AND LOW SPIRITS                            59

    DINNER                                           66

    FONTAINEBLEAU                                    71

    AN OLD CAMPAIGNER                                73

    I HAVE A TABLE                                   79

    WE KILL THEIR HOPES                              85

    SUNDAY                                           98

    THE VICTORY OF THE MARNE                        103

    A BREAKFAST                                     117

    THE FIRST LETTER                                123

    STILL SHORT COMMONS                             130

    I HAVE A PALLIASSE                              145

    THE REVOLT OF THE HUNGRY                        151

    A CHANCE CATERER                                175

    OUR GAOLER                                      196

    THE SLOPES ARE FORBIDDEN                        214

    A BLACK MOOD                                    220

    A FRANCONIAN QUARTERMASTER                      226

    DAWN                                            250

    HE GOES AWAY                                    255

    DISAPPOINTMENT                                  265

    OH, DEAR!                                       267

    THE RUSSIANS                                    271

    VASSILI                                         289

    THE COMMON PEOPLE OF GERMANY AND THE WAR        291

    CROSSING SWITZERLAND                            312



THE DIARY OF A FRENCH PRIVATE



REMINISCENCES OF A PREVIOUS JOURNEY


                                                     _September 2, 1914._

Here I am a prisoner.

What a journey! I am bitter at soul; it makes me sick to think of it.
Across Rhenish Prussia, the Palatinate, the grand duchy of Baden,
Würtemberg, and Bavaria, for three days and three nights, at every
station, and even as we pass through the countryside, groups of peasants
and gloomy crowds of citizens hurl execrations at us, stamp, and shake
their fists, making signs that they would like to cut our throats and
tear out our eyes. From the streets of country towns, lost amid the
sweltering plains, troops of children assemble, waving flags. They form
up in line beside the track. When the train comes in, moving slowly like
a funeral convoy, they beg for our képis; they vociferate in their own
language, “Paris _kaput_! Death to the French!” The sight of the red
cross armlet produces paroxysms of fury. “Death,” they scream, “death
to the red cross men! These are they who finish off our wounded!” The
shouting becomes strident, terrible, mad. Sometimes they try to take
the train by storm, and are stopped only by the bayonets of the German
soldiers on guard in each compartment, who growl out threats.

The women are even more horrible than the men. The murderous glance, the
clawed fingers, working and tearing as if in the dream of a tigress, the
nostrils dilated and twitching, the lips cyanosed, grimacing hatred—never
before have I seen such faces of damned souls, such Medusa heads. Who
could believe that women should appear so horrible!… When the train
stops for any time, richly dressed matrons parade beside it, offering
our guards mugs of beer, cigars and cigarettes, bread-and-butter and
jam, steaming sausages. Sick with hunger and fatigue, we look on at this
prodigality. “Above all,” they say, “give nothing to these French! Let
them starve!” We are offered water.

Everywhere, at the stations, from the steeples, the factories, the inns,
huge flags are waving. Chime answers chime across the rivers. The big
cathedral bells make the hills re-echo. All Germany is holiday-making,
drunk with blood, thrilling with the prospect of victory.

Is this the Germany I knew last year?

I had travelled through the country in the company of Marcel Chabrières,
as if on a pilgrimage. We passed through Heidelberg, my peaceful
Heidelberg, so lovable in the shade of its august ruin and of its
oak-crowned and vine-clad hill; Marburg, the quiet little town with
its professors and its workmen, resting more quietly at the foot of
the margrave’s castle than even the bones of St. Elisabeth of Hungary
beneath the pavement of the church; Dresden, that fine seat of artistic
and courtly life; Munich, the Teuton Florence, blooming like a flower;
Weimar, more sacred than all the others, where the neighbouring houses of
Schiller and Goethe mourn discreetly the memories of the golden century,
the lyrical and generous youth of Germany!… We were charmed with these
laughing cities of the spirit. I can still picture them in the limpid air
of last spring, I recall their dainty aspect, and the cheerful welcome
they accorded us; I see their waters reflecting the blue skies and the
bright clouds. When I but think of them, in this damp crypt of exile,
gusts of liberty, youth, and ecstasy agitate my heart.

We had strolled through the docks of Cologne and of Hamburg; we had
visited Elberfeld, Barmen, Hagen, and Essen, the smoky iron-towns of
Westphalia. Near the great forges of M. Krupp von Bohlen we had admired
the fairylike village of Margaritendorf, where brutal modern industry
would seem to have pledged itself to put its slaves to sleep every
evening in an idyllic retreat. From the window of the train, on the
journey from Hamburg to Berlin, passing through a country of pines and
lean fields, we had a glimpse of Friedrichsruhe, the lordly domain
where sleeps the “honest broker” who made the empire, “awaiting the
resurrection of the just.”

After the gentle sweetness of the ancient university towns, we were
intoxicated with the energies of this new world, this world of pride and
of money, of sweat and of lucre. Even in ugly Berlin, the parvenu town,
we paid our respects to the titanic effort of a nation in the full vigour
of life, ambitious, stubborn, determined to dazzle the world, to take the
place of Athens, of Rome, of Paris, convinced of its destiny to rule the
universe.

       *       *       *       *       *

But every one talked to me of peace.

Since I was upon an official mission, I was able to converse with the
men in whom young Germany recognizes its masters. They all spoke with
one voice. They declared that their race had an ecumenical mission.
Patriotic, active, prolific, it was inevitably destined to control
Europe. “But for this,” they added, “we need peace.”

“Why, then, are you armed?”

“We have no natural frontiers; our plains lie open to the invader both
from the east and from the west. English merchants are jealous of our
successes; France obstinately refuses to grasp the proffered hand of
friendship; Russia is becoming panslavist. Caught in such a vice, how
can we ensure peace in any other way than by arming for defence? But we
have no need of war. In twenty years we shall be eighty millions, and we
shall be rich. Do you imagine that it will then be necessary for us to
unsheathe the sword in order to play our proper part in the world?”

This was the language employed to me by liberals. It was the language of
M. Simon and M. Wolf, editors or owners of the two leading journals in
Germany; of Max Weber of Heidelberg, the keenest intelligence I have
ever known; of Troeltsch, the distinguished sociologist; of Windelband,
the successor of Kant and of Fichte; of Vossler of Munich, the Romance
philologist, rival of such men as Ferdinand Bruneau and Joseph Bédier;
of Liebermann, the celebrated Berlin painter, who has supplemented
the labours of Paul Cassirer in order to introduce the work of our
impressionists into Prussia; of Lichtwark, the director of the Kunsthalle
in Hamburg; of Naumann, the editor of _Hilfe_, who supplies ideas to men
of the left wing in politics; above all, of a man more influential than
any I have yet named, Carl Lamprecht, the Saxon, whose gigantic history
of modern Germany has taken the form of an epic in honour of William II.

       *       *       *       *       *

Young men, who across the Rhine are “liberals,”[1] talked in just the
same way.

I shall long remember the night we passed at Frankfort in the company
of M. Moritz von Bethmann, cousin of the Chancellor. How ardent was his
confidence! He was far from being a malcontent. He had no desire for
any kind of “restoration”; and still less did he wish, in the name of a
Frederick Barbarossa or of a Frederick the Great, to anathematize the
present. He accepted it joyously, delighted to be living in it, eager to
carry his full share of duties and hopes. But his lightness of heart was
neither studied nor ostentatious.

I recall very precisely his reply to the charge of materialism which, on
the spur of the moment, I levelled against new Germany. His rejoinder was
spirited and instantaneous.

“Do you really believe,” he said, “that we are going to rest satisfied
for a long time in the boastful materialism that ensued upon the victory?
You dare to say this, at the very moment when Kant and Fichte are once
more being restored to honour; when, just like you, we are discovering
the ‘buried temple,’ internal values, faith! Allow me to assure you
that the young men of Germany are at this moment more exacting in
matters of spiritual nourishment than your young men of the Agathon
type and the group that runs the _Action française_. Our minds cannot
give themselves up to a stupid or politic adoration of that which our
intelligence, fully conscious of its work, has destroyed. Though it may
cost us more suffering than you, we demand that our hearts and our minds
shall preserve full freedom of judgment, and we know how to await their
decision. We are not prepared, under pretext of spiritual nostalgia, to
accept outworn formulas which would compel us to shun and to disavow the
social order we owe to science, history, commerce, and democracy. We
shall not give ourselves up to the cult of any religions which, however
venerable they may be, are surcharged with fossilized rubbish and proud
of their state of petrifaction, which would have no understanding of our
scruples, and would be absolutely unfitted to fecundate our real life!

“I do not know if the renascence in France takes the form of swearing
by the middle ages, or by the seventeenth century, or by Bonald and de
Maistre, and of invoking maledictions on the work of ’89.[2]… The German
renascence, if this be so, is at the antipodes of yours. But do not
imagine that we are iconoclasts. As much as any others, we like to come
to terms with tradition. But we insist that tradition shall not hinder
our freedom of movement, that it shall either make us live or let us
live. Is that vaingloriousness? When we claim the privilege of living, of
thinking, and of creating, no less freely than did the men who founded
the tradition of the middle ages, or than those who founded the tradition
of the seventeenth century, are we not within our strict rights, and is
not the exercise of these rights a positive duty? We may be wrong, but
we believe that a new world is in course of construction. The work that
has to be done is of greater value in our eyes than the work that is
finished, however venerable and august the latter.

“I am a close student of your new political literature. Will you permit
me to say that I discover therein a carping and regretful tone? It seems
to me that its chief effort is devoted to blackening and decrying the
regime you have chosen, to undermining confidence in it. Our efforts
take the opposite direction. We are all for construction, adaptation,
glorification, lyric enthusiasm. We accept our national mission. We
accept our present life. We desire that our energies should continue
to increase, to coalesce, to become intertwined. You will see; when
the right moment comes they will secure for us a hegemony, and beyond
question it will be the most humane and the most pacific of hegemonies.”

Our conversation was a lengthy one. All the conventional barriers had
been cast down. Every one gave utterance to his own truth, as if speaking
to himself alone, in that species of lucid exaltation which sometimes
results from a prolonged vigil. And the strange thing was that in
proportion as behind the verbal agreements we sensed ever more strongly
the depths of unexpressed antagonisms, we felt each for the other an
increasing esteem. The hours passed. All the lamps in the Frankfurter Hof
had been extinguished, except our own, which continued to burn in the
great reading-room, its yellow light piercing the smoke-wreaths from our
cigars, and exhibiting the virile and yet refined features of the young
banker. We passed out into the open. The porter was asleep. The streets
were deserted. After this great duel between our respective national
dreams, the cold of the night was agreeable. Through the ancient street
where the young Goethe, locked up by his father in the corner room, had
watched Gretchen going by, we gained the banks of the Main. The first
streaks of dawn were already illuminating the broad surface of the river,
peopled with motionless vessels.

This was a year ago. Now the war has come between our dreams.

       *       *       *       *       *

I remember this as if it were yesterday.

At Leipzig, again, I see a small and cheap room, an eyrie in the
Inselstrasse, among the great printing houses. It was attractive none the
less, almost touching in its simplicity, the ugly little place, with an
empty cup of coffee on the edge of a deal table laden with papers, and,
fixed to the wall, two shelves for books. It was a cell, showing that its
tenant was a man devoid of all vanities, a stranger to the amenities of
our century. Here, one fine morning, after I had rung the bell five or
six times, I was welcomed by M. Wilhelm Baum, editor of _Die Akademische
Rundschau_ and president of the “Free Students.”

Mlle. Marianne Lamprecht had drawn my attention to this young man as
a sort of _princeps juventutis_. Her father thought highly of him and
assisted him in his undertakings. The society of which he was the leader
had ramifications throughout lettered and scientific Germany. All its
members were serious workers; its mere existence had overwhelmed with
ridicule the reputation of the old aristocratic “corps,” those little
courts of idlers, where the gilded youth of the fatherland, under the
pretence of study, spends all its days in drinking, duelling, and
drabbing.

The appearance of M. Wilhelm Baum surprised me. Over his night-shirt he
had hastily donned a short and seedy jacket; his hair was untidy; he was
a small man of awkward aspect. The cinders from the stove, scattered
here and there, scrunched under our feet. My eye was caught by the
teaspoon, still wet, among the manuscripts. The man was in keeping with
his surroundings. Yet, when I had seated myself on an ancient sofa with
broken springs, my second glance at this “prince” aroused sympathetic
feelings. A secret flame illumined the blue eyes, the ascetic brow, and
the sickly countenance, revealing, in this shy youth of twenty-five, a
strong and lofty soul.

He, likewise, confided to me his hopes.

They differed little from those of M. Moritz von Bethmann. But on the
lips of M. Baum they received an apostolic breadth. The young banker
had not shown that he felt any insurmountable horror of war, which he
regarded merely as a useless expense. M. Baum, on the other hand, whose
entire mentality was under the influence of evangelical radicalism,
detested war as barbarism and as a manifestation of antichrist.

At one o’clock, since I could not make up my mind to leave him, I
persuaded him to dine with me at my hotel. Marcel Chabrières had spent
the morning at the museum among the tinted marbles of Max Klinger. He
was astonished to find that I was already on a friendly footing, almost
intimate indeed, with this young German.

Enthusiasm is the bread of youth. Youth loves the impossible, and will
accept life only through a passion which colours it with iridescent
hues, invests it with a halo, and endows it with heroic lineaments. This
meal was one of those moments of transfiguration when the world seems
malleable and impregnated with divine fire. Our minds were filled with
a vision, the vision of a new classic age, as harmonious as the age
of Pericles in Greece or as the third Christian century, but vaster,
richer, more humane, sparkling with youth—an age which was to integrate
and beautify the conquests and discoveries, still uncoordinated, of the
last three hundred years. German and French, in this dream, came to an
understanding. It is true that he considered that his nation, turning
back to the tradition of Weimar, was to be the master-craftsman, whereas
I contended that France had never ceased to occupy that role, which
was her vocation and fulfilled her nature. But this difficulty seemed
trifling. We were not so much antagonists as friendly rivals.

Is this man, I asked myself when he had gone, is this man typical of
young and literate Germany? In the classic land of militarism, is it only
the old who are swashbucklers?

A few weeks later, in early spring, on one of those afternoons in which
showers alternate with sunshine, and in which the buds, swelling with
sap, open, I was walking in the beech forest to the south of Munich.
My companion, about thirty years of age, was in fine fettle. Tall and
thick-set, florid of face, hair blond and bristly, he walked like a
conqueror, and seemed in his element among these sturdy trees. The man
of the woods personified! I considered that this professor, already
renowned, ought rightly in appearance to be rough-hewn, massive,
dynamic, like a woodman at work. He was a hearty eater and a vigorous
drinker, ruddy with health, absolutely innocent of the scepticism of
drawing-rooms. I had several times before had the chance of admiring this
man who reminded me of one of our Normandy horses. Above all, I had seen
him at the Hofbrauerie in Munich, where we had washed down our political
discussions with copious draughts of that dark beer, whose consumption in
Bavaria is encouraged by old King Louis, chief brewer, and owner of the
wealthiest tavern in the empire.

A country walk frequently encourages avowals which would never have
been made during a thousand meetings in town, among sophisticated men.
My companion had just confessed to me that he belonged to the “Social
Democracy.” As yet in secret only, for it is not permissible in Germany
to wear openly and simultaneously the livery of the professor and that
of the socialist. But the socialist party, suffering from a dearth of
intellectuals, desired him to become a deputy. At the first opportunity,
he would exchange his professorial chair for a seat in the Reichstag.
The ambition to revive Bebel in his own person, to become a new Wilhelm
Liebknecht, made his nostrils dilate.

Somewhat mockingly, when with the impetuosity of primitive man he was
speaking of the social mission of Germany, I said to him point-blank:
“Admit that you think we are worn out, that in your eyes France is
nothing more than an elderly beauty, with bald head, pallid lips,
wrinkled skin, decayed teeth, enfeebled intelligence!”

“If I were a bourgeois,” he answered laughingly, “I should answer in
the negative. You still have your stockings and your bankers, matters
of considerable importance in the eyes of the bourgeoisie of every
land. But I am a socialist and a democrat. The minimum programme of our
party is to effect the overthrow of Prussian absolutism, and to apply
throughout Germany that parliamentary regime which is the _conditio sine
qua non_ of all social advance. But you French, for your part, hold this
parliamentary regime in scorn. What would you have me think of a nation
which repents of its virtues, which makes fun of its chief glory?

“Here in Germany we read your Maurras and similar writers.[3] We are
told that in France these men have the ear of the younger generation.
It astounds us. It seems to us insane, this cheerful renunciation of
the tradition which has made you famous, and for which you are still
idolized by all that is noblest in the world. Do you find this strange?
When material force is failing you, you, the noble nation, become rabid
apologists of the regime of force, of ‘the man with the big stick.’ You
take Machiavel for master. You ask for a French Bismarck. You declare
yourselves to be royalists, imperialists, absolutists. I can see no
difference between your romano-positive young men and our own _echten
Deutschen_, those energumens who deafen us in our public squares with
their _hochs_ to the Kaiser, who shout their _Deutschland über alles_
at every _prosit_, and who pile monument upon monument in honour of the
militarist Moloch, until the appearance of our towns becomes intolerable.
Young Frenchmen converted to the Germany of the junkers, blood-brothers
of our idiot of a crown prince! What a farce! But for us, the German
socialists, this is merely an additional reason for the redoubling of our
energies. Our watchword to-day is extremely simple: to raise in Europe
and to carry onward to victory the standard of democracy which has fallen
from the hand of France!”

“Such is really your idea of France, your own, and that of all the German
left?”

“To speak frankly, it is with us a dogma that generous and humane France
is dead, and that all that was best in her spirit has entered into us.”

We walked on for some time without saying a word. The idea never occurred
to him that these wholesale judgments could possibly shock or pain me,
for he was one of those happy men, common in Germany, endowed with
a veritable talent for frankness. He continued his terrible strides,
and after a while he exclaimed gaily: “Anyhow, you don’t bring enough
children into the world to be socialists. Our ideas can germinate only
in dense crowds, where there is hardly standing room, where people lack
air and space, breed without restriction, and have nothing to lose! Your
_Einzweikindersystem_[4] condemns you to be nothing but bourgeois, and
poor bourgeois at that!”

I made no answer. What answer was possible? He knew my ideas. He had been
one of those who introduced my _Ecoutes_ into Germany. Besides, it gave
him so much pleasure to believe in our decadence, to be convinced that
Germany, as far as democracy was concerned, was henceforward without peer
in the world.

Indeed it is true, all these “young men of the left” were ardent
believers in Germany’s mission. But to justify this mission they did
not, like the cynical pangermanists, appeal to the _Faustrecht_, the
right of the stronger; they did not speak of bloody conquests. Perhaps
they thought of them, but such brutalities (which the German mind, even
when finely tempered, accepts with little reluctance) remained hidden
in the background, within the domain of possibilities, among the lesser
evils and contingencies—profane delights which a platonic lover hardly
dares to envisage even in his secret dreams. Idealists of the Michelet
type, quaffing the austere wines of Kant and Fichte (recently unsealed
and served round at the universities by the new masters), they made an
exclusive claim to the moral heritage of ’89, of which we, they said,
had ceased to be the heirs. Were not they the youthful neophytes of the
democratic faith which the degenerate French had lost? Had they not
passionately espoused the modern world, whose uncertain dawn had first
ventured to shine on Paris, that slight and foolish city, but whose full
noon was now to illumine the strong and loyal (_treu und fest_) town of
Berlin, the guardian of the Rhine? Yes, _finis Galliæ_! It was theirs
to lead the great caravan of the universe towards the new justice. It
was their part, the part of these good Teutons, with their virgin spirit
and their new blood, to direct in future the affairs of the human race.
_Gesta Dei per Germanos!_

       *       *       *       *       *

One of these young men was M. Wichert, director of the Mannheim museum.
He was the favourite disciple of M. Lichtwark of Hamburg, and had also
been a pupil of the late celebrated von Tschudi, grand master of the
artistic life of Germany. Von Tschudi, it may be mentioned in passing,
of course had a quarrel with William II, just like Bismarck, just like
Haeseler, and Bülow, just like all the clever men in the empire who were
unfortunate enough to possess a vigorous individuality. M. Wichert was a
friend of our consul, M. Deschars,[5] who arranged a meeting between us.

Son of a poor officer, and orphaned while quite young, M. Wichert went
through his course of studies as best he could. His life is a romance.
Loneliness; poverty; chance encounter with a Mæcenas; sudden abandonment
of science for art; renewed poverty; unexpected patronage by the great
pontiffs of art, Tschudi and Lichtwark; appointment as sub-director of
the picture gallery of Munich; appearance upon the scene of the Magian
kings, a delegation of aldermen from the town of Mannheim, modernist
before all, offering him carte blanche for the creation of a museum; for
a start the young Messiah purchases in Paris Manet’s best work, “The
Execution of Maximilian,” Daumier’s portrait of Michelet, and the “Man
with the Pipe,” the most famous of Cézanne’s pictures; all Mannheim is
terrified at its commissioner’s prodigality; he defends himself before
the entire town council, silencing some by his boldness, winning over
others by his disinterested violence, by the aspect of his threadbare
coat, and the thinness of his slight but ardent figure; thus he arouses
that municipal patriotism which is so keen in the fatherland, convincing
the councillors that he will do nothing less than make of Mannheim
the leading art centre of Germany, and at the point of the bayonet he
wrests from them a vote of confidence; shortly afterwards, a wealthy
Jew entrusts him with five million marks for the establishment of a
museum; he founds an art school to enlighten the Mannheim bourgeoisie,
which is upstart, elementary, but open-minded and full of goodwill; his
lectures become fashionable in the town; he provides similar instruction
for the common people; acting upon suggestions made by M. Osthaus, a
rich bourgeois of Hagen, he establishes travelling exhibitions. In a
word, Tschudi being dead and Lichtwark dying, M. Wichert allowed his
own way at Mannheim, at twenty-five years of age figures in the role of
co-ordinator, protector, inspirer of the artistic life of Germany. He has
made up his mind to transform Mannheim—the Hanseatic city of traders and
manufacturers, the mushroom town flaming red with its abundance of new
bricks, an American city suddenly appearing in Europe—into a Jerusalem
of the new art. He desires that the streets shall become beautiful,
that their names shall have a poetic ring, that the squares shall be as
harmonious as a house by Van de Velde or Niemeyer. He secures an order
for the demolition of the theatre built ten years earlier in the “Jugend”
style, and already an object of ridicule; a competition is opened for the
design of the building which is to replace it. The whole town becomes
crazy about art. A bourgeois is regarded as dishonoured if he has not
given 40,000 marks to the museum to buy a Renoir or some Gauguins. If
this apostolate continues, the people will checkmate the very Athenians.

M. Wichert talks to me in the following strain: “In the history of art
nothing can rival the creative energy displayed by France. Romanesque,
gothic, all the gothics, renaissance, baroque, rococo (the terms have no
invidious meaning in Germany), directoire, empire—all these are French.
Throughout ten centuries you continued to bring forth styles which were
so elegant and so convenient, whose taste was so confident, that they
instantly captured the world.

“But have you suddenly become sterile? Is France, pre-eminently the
nation of innovators, no longer competent to do anything but to copy its
own past? Like your new sociologists, your furniture makers supply Louis
XVI, Louis XIV, empire; your builders furnish Louis XVI, renaissance,
and again Louis XVI. Have you really ceased to produce architects since
Gabriel and Louis, cabinet-makers since Boule, enchasers since Gouthière?
Or is it that you no longer care for anything but the old, like those
respectable and fatigued ladies who cannot endure a new face, and ask
only to be allowed to die in peace, surrounded by the things of their
youth? However this may be, we often tell one another that France no
longer possesses enough energy to survive the titanic act of giving birth
to the modern world, and that she is now nothing more than a beautiful
corpse, embalmed and laid to rest in a splendid museum.

“Here in Germany, believe me, we worship your artistic tradition. For
centuries we could find nothing better to do than attempt to assimilate
it. You have visited Cassel, Pilnitz, Carlsruhe, Potsdam; I cannot doubt
that you felt at home in these royal palaces, which are nothing but
replicas of Versailles.

“But I sometimes incline to think that the creative force which formerly
existed in France has emigrated to Germany. It is true that during
the nineteenth century there occurred in France a splendid blossoming
of sculptors and painters: Delacroix, Rude, Carpeaux, the landscape
painters of Barbizon, the admirable school of Manet, and, coming down to
to-day, Rodin, Degas, Maillol, Jouve, Vallette, the expressionists. Yes,
unquestionably, even if your architecture (the master art which controls
and co-ordinates all the rest) is decadent, your sculpture and your
painting remain unrivalled.

“But are you not struck by the fact that during the last twenty years
it has been in Germany, above all, that your innovators have gained
appreciation; that many of them have had to secure their first celebrity
in the foreign world, before they were enabled to harvest in France the
fruits of a restricted glory, admired in their own homes solely by a
group of cosmopolitan epicures? Are you not astonished that such a man as
Van de Velde, who vegetated in Paris, should build palaces for our great
manufacturers; and that Maillol, the sculptor, a most typical Frenchman,
should find a place of honour in our museums while in France he is
still almost unknown? Is this neglect deliberate? Is it because you are
convinced that genius cannot flower to perfection until it has suffered,
that you provide this chill atmosphere for your best artists? Or is it
timidity, unwillingness to take risks, stupidity, provincialism? Whatever
the reason, the air of France is to-day less favourable to creation than
the air of Germany.

“In Germany there is an extensive public which lives upon the hope of a
new ‘culture.’ This public has nothing in common with the pangermanists.
It includes few generals and few leaders of the bureaucracy. But it
contains our best men of letters and some of our principal bourgeois,
in a word, the general staff of wealthy, liberal, and parliamentary
young Germany. There are some, like Stephan Georg, Wolfskehl, and Madame
Osthaus, in whom this hope assumes an ardent and mystical character,
becoming a true religion. While it is the fashion in Paris, at least so
we are assured, to be frankly reactionary,[6] here all the men and all
the women who wield the empire of mind are animated by a quasi-messianic
spirit. Is it possible that Nietzsche, with his idea of the revaluation
of values, has contributed to the spread of this spirit? I do not know.
We wait; we aspire; we hope. To us to-morrow is sacred. Every one is
striving towards forms of life and art which shall be more ample, more
truthful, more expressive, more beautiful. Every one is making ready to
welcome the wonderful butterfly which is to spring from this larval age.
It is with us a matter of faith that the men will come, that they are now
on the way, who can provide the artillery and the watchwords of the new
civilization.

“I frequently visit Paris to attend the great sales; I am well acquainted
with the superior smiles with which many of your critics greet our
attempts. They make fun of the curved outlines of our ‘Jugend’
buildings. For my part, I detest that style of architecture as much as
they. Are we not now demolishing a theatre built after this design,
although the mortar is hardly dry? But it is possible for us to destroy
our architectural abortions. In Germany you can get money, all the money
you require, for an artistic purpose. Can you do the same in France?
Can you make sacrifices to an ideal incorporated in stone? No, you have
too little faith. You believe in your bankers, not in your artists. You
venture nothing in art; we hazard all, boldly running the risk of making
a mistake. And, by building, we learn to build.

“Ten years ago we were making bad attempts; to-day we have discovered
a system of architecture appropriate to modern requirements and at the
same time beautiful. Go and look at the Weltheim in Berlin, M. Osthaus’s
home at Hagen, the new station at Hamburg. When you are in Hamburg get M.
Schumacher, chief architect of the republic, to show you the plans of the
magnificent public garden he has just designed, which is to cost fifteen
million marks.

“Here money is the ally of art, the living art of to-day, the ally
of artistic creation, whereas in your country money, more prudent,
devotes itself only to the purchase of antique and catalogued beauty. I
believe, in fact, that France lacks Medicis, whilst Germany possesses
them in abundance. The reason is obvious. The wealthier members of our
bourgeoisie are uneasy and discontented; they desire a true parliament
which will enable them to get the better of the junkers; it is their
nature to be progressive. Your bourgeoisie, on the other hand, has
triumphed, and, since it has nothing more to desire, it is natural that
it should dread novelty in philosophy and art no less than in politics.
I know that what I am saying runs counter to all your hopes. But you can
do nothing to change your destiny in this matter. France has entered the
conservative phase; we are now the creators; we, henceforward, shall be
the true successors of your masters.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus everywhere was to be heard the same refrain: the future lies in the
hands of Germany! Germany is the Messiah of the new art; the Messiah of
the socialist city; the Messiah of modern thought; the Messiah of the
new classic age. She is the successor of aged France. It is she who will
realize what the last of the great Frenchmen have dreamed.

In all these young men, the élite of the German nation, there was
effervescing a strange force, there was surging an ardent and emotional
nationalism, a veritable religion of German primacy. They considered
that primacy inevitable. It originated spontaneously; its increase was
dependent upon organic growth; and no accident, whether in war or peace,
could either hasten or hinder it. They were all radiating hope; they all
had faith in the present, a warm vintage yielding a thick and heady must,
of intoxicating aroma, and whence will be derived a robust wine for the
peoples to drink.

They were sincere when they spoke of peace. Doubtless their idealist
ambition was transformed into a materialist and brutal ambition among
men of business, officers, and bureaucrats. For these latter, German
production was to ruin that of England, the German will was to control
the foreign chancelleries. But such ends cannot be secured without war.

Or they could be secured without war, only if Europe made up her mind to
submit! Only if the English merchants were good enough to go bankrupt!
Only if the greater Slavs should offer no objection to the enslavement
of their little brothers on the Drina! Thus while the young liberals
were dreaming of a pacific hegemony, Krupp was making his 420 millimetre
guns, sergeants were teaching recruits to fear their officers as they
feared God, and Berlin was fashioning new military laws which even the
socialists, after some formal resistance, voted integrally.

But during this journey, the fact which struck me most of all was the
existence of a liberal youth. I had not expected to find anything of the
kind. I had been so positive that from the Rhine to the Vistula I should
hear nothing but the noise of military accoutrements.

       *       *       *       *       *

I had seen the German army in Strasburg, at the _Parole Aufgabe_ in the
Place de Broglie, when the general transmits to the officers’ corps the
orders and the passwords. The whole of this assembly, in its light-grey
uniform in which a simple sub-lieutenant was indistinguishable from a
colonel, made salutes. The salute seemed to me the distinctive sign of
this army, a fervent salute, involving the head and the entire spine,
passing off in a smile at once triumphant and humble, martial and
innocent, seeming to say, “How enviable I am in that I obey! How enviable
I am in that I command!”

I looked down on this from the third story of the editorial offices
of _Le Journal d’Alsace-Lorraine_. Suddenly I came to understand the
feudal spirit, the cascade of absolute authority and of submission which
formerly descended from the sovereign to the serf by way of the hierarchy
of barons.

When I had crossed the Rhine, in the streets of the German towns the
strength of this impression grew, until it became positively haunting.
Everywhere I saw blind adoration of the uniform, overwhelming joy in
wearing it; everywhere the intoxication of command, equalled only by the
delight of obedience; everywhere complete ignorance of the essential
equality of men, demonstrated first of all in the life of Christ,
and which, once it is thoroughly understood, purifies politeness of
servility, transforms obedience into affectionate collaboration, and
transfigures power into service; everywhere, both in military and in
civil life, I saw lords and servants, I saw the same man at once lord and
servant, lord of those under him, servant of those over him—but nowhere
did I see citizens. I saw servants, submissive, prepared for anything,
obedient to every sign, mechanized and rejoicing thereat, convinced that
it was to their interest to be so, proud of the shape and strength of
the iron hand of which individually each man was one of the innumerable
phalanges. I was tempted to see in this the dominant characteristic of
the German nation. A powerful nation, but one estranged from the modern
spirit: a medieval islet in the midst of liberal Europe; a redoubtable
nation wherein absolutism, exorcised elsewhere in ’89, was patiently
preparing its revenge, and whence some day, perhaps soon, would come the
initiative of a combat to the death between feudalism and democracy.

Some weeks after the scene in the Place de Broglie, M. von Arnim,
attached to the Prussian general staff, accompanied me through the
barracks of Potsdam and the camp of Döberitz. The regiments of the guard
were at drill. The order, the silence, were absolute, even in the case of
those standing at ease. The drill ground was nothing but a vast solitude,
like those great electric power works, which appear deserted, and where
the only sign of life is the gentle hum of the dynamos. There seemed
nothing human in this drill ground. From time to time there was a raucous
cry, and the gloomy maniples advanced, retired, wheeled to the right or
to the left.

“What a fine army of automata!” I said under my breath.

“That’s it,” exclaimed M. von Arnim, grasping at the comment, which had
been made for my own edification alone, as a eulogium. “In France you
cultivate individual initiative, but we avoid it like the pest. The
whole aim of our training is to break it down. All we need is to produce
somnambulists, performing such and such an action upon such and such an
order; not reflecting, not reacting, but acting merely, passively, by
instinct, responding to the order as a well-trained thoroughbred responds
to the pressure of your knee. The soldier must not think. Above all
he must not think. If we attribute so much importance to the rigorous
carrying out of movements, if we push to the point of mania our fondness
for these drill-ground evolutions which you regard as useless and
ridiculous, it is because they break down thought, rout it, weary it, put
it to sleep, and annihilate it; because they reduce the human being to
the level of a pure automaton. Show me a man who, by persistent drilling,
has been emptied of thought, and I will show you a good soldier!

“On the battlefield, automatic obedience and fear of the superior officer
take the place of courage. This doctrine has but one inconvenience: we
shall sacrifice more men than you when we have to attack. This is of no
consequence. We have less reason than France to make a thrifty use of our
soldiers. Germany is prolific.”

       *       *       *       *       *

This German army, what a powerful mould it would constitute for a healthy
race, one filled with the pride of youth but still requiring to be
formed, one which had not yet emerged from the simple gregarious stage,
one without any of those dispersed indurations due to the appearance of
irreducible individualities—a race still boneless and plastic.

I know not whether it was due to my actual experiences, or simply to
French prejudice, but I came to doubt the reality of German liberalism,
and to regard as isolated and uprooted exceptions those young men in
whose company I had recently breathed the pure air of democracy.

No, I said to myself at this time, the German nation sets no value
upon civil liberty; its Protestantism is mere window-dressing; its
Reformation, in contradistinction to that of Calvin, was solely the work
of its princes (_cujus regio hujus religio_); if there were any logic in
events, the Germans ought to be Roman Catholics, whilst we ought to be
members of the reformed church and modernists; Catholicism flourishes,
and socialism is so successful, in Germany, only because both the one and
the other correspond to a general need for regimentation and tutelage,
furnishing an equivalent for military discipline to all those who come
forth from barrack life. I noted, in fact, that German socialism had
nothing in common with our own; that it did not represent the proletariat
at all; that it was a sort of sub-bourgeoisie, comfortable, well-off,
placid, and lacking that revolutionary fervour which arises from an
outraged conscience; that it constituted a bureaucracy, a hierarchy, a
church based upon Marxist dogma; and that it owed its unbroken unity to
the complete absence of thought and passion among its members.

At such times it seemed to me that the Prussian army was precisely suited
to the German nation, desirous, not of self-respect, but of material
well-being, friendly to that which controlled it, a people loving to be
led. Yes, I said, such a nation needs such an army. And how fond the
people is of the army. The bourgeois look upon it with fatuous affection.
The kinglets of the empire are all eager to Prussianize themselves within
the framework of this army; they all long to secure high command for
themselves, if possible to become army inspectors, considering that the
red band confers as much distinction as their crowns. I even went so
far as to tax with duplicity the liberals of the great commercial and
manufacturing world, comparing them to some territorial chief, who in
outward aspect was pious and good-mannered, but who in an out-of-the-way
court of his castle kept a number of hungry bears, prepared to loose
them, as a final argument, upon any one who ventured to annoy him.
At Dresden I had received a letter from M. Lichtwark, containing the
following phrase: “The two finest types of modern man are the English
gentleman and the German officer.” It is too plain, I exclaimed, Germany
worships her army; Germany worships herself in her army; the army is
Germany; the army dominates the entire country, just as the colossal
figure of stone which commemorates the iron chancellor dominates with its
huge symbolic sword the port of Hamburg and the forest of masts in the
Elbe!

This doubt concerning the future of my young liberals returned
periodically to sadden me. It was like an intermittent fever.

Was it possible to believe that they had the remotest chances of success,
the Teuton Vergniauds who thought of renewing, after the lapse of a
century, the adventure of the constituent assembly? Had they any clear
idea of the terrible power of absolutism incarnate in the junkers and
in the Prussian officers? These had no resemblance whatever to our
eighteenth-century seigneurs, light-hearted, winning, generous, and
philosophic—such men as Noailles, d’Aiguillon, and Montmorency, who
spontaneously despoiled themselves on the 4th of August. I foresaw that
it would be crushed without pity, this liberal impulse, so fragile even
in its strength, the instant it transcended the sphere of art and letters.

“Give us ten years,” the Munich socialist frequently said. “By that time
the crown prince of Bavaria, who is a liberal, will have become king;
the Prussian electoral system, the Bastille of the autocracy, will have
been destroyed. But if we fail in Prussia, we shall have done with legal
methods, and our watchword will be _Vive la Révolution_! For the death of
William II will mean the regime of the sabre.”

“Ten years,” I rejoined, “is a long time in an epoch of tense and
threatening rivalries. Are you not afraid that before this period comes
to an end fear of democracy, ambition, and economic needs may force your
government to declare war against us?

“You will all be famous soldiers of the Kaiser, should that happen,
you good liberals and socialists. You imagine yourselves opposed to
militarism. But, without knowing it, you are its best resource, its great
accomplice. You are such ardent patriots. You have so fanatical a belief
in the destiny of Germany. How trifling is the difference between you and
the pangermanists. You desire hegemony without war; they desire it at
all costs, even if they have to fight for it. What does this distinction
matter? It will be so easy, when the right moment comes, to befool
you. It will be so easy for the wolf to appear in sheep’s clothing; to
masquerade as a victim; to pretend that Germany has been invaded; to
give to a war of aggression and conquest the sacred aspect of a war of
national defence!

“Let us suppose that, through ill-luck, the war ends in a German success.
Good-bye, then, to your dreams, to European idealism, to democratic
dogmas. Great will be the discomfiture of your Tugendbund. The days of
the Holy Alliance will return. When peace comes under these conditions
your ‘borns,’ on their manorial estates, will luxuriate in the pious
certitude that they are essentially different from the ‘not-borns,’ and
that God has predestined them to be masters and leaders of men, just as,
in the beginning, He created the white elephant and the royal tiger.
Then, perhaps, in our defeat, we shall regretfully recall Sembat’s
formula, _Faites un roi, sinon faites la paix_; then we shall hail
Maurras as a prophet; inspired with a sense of renewed virtue, we shall
mock at the civic dream which was our chief glory; and we shall fill
the world, again become feudal, with the clamour of our repentance. A
fine spectacle indeed would be such a repudiation by France of the great
vision of fraternal justice with which she intoxicated the nations. What
will you do in those days, you German democrats, when the mother of all
democracy is vanquished, when the only disinterested champion of your
ideal has perished at your hands?

“But you may rest easy in your minds, for we have no intention of dying.
We have agreed to three years’ military service. We should agree, if
needs must, to four years or to five. And do not, for this reason, accuse
us of militarism. Our militarism is the militarism of Valmy. Full well
do you know that we have no hidden thoughts of aggression or oppression.
When we consented to the increase of our army, it was doubtless with a
sincere desire to witness the overthrow of the barbarism of the kaisers
and the crown princes, but we have never ceased to be faithful to the
revolutionary watchword: ‘Let us vote for war upon the tyrants and for
peace with the peoples!’”

       *       *       *       *       *

The socialist of Munich, Wichert, the president of the _Freistudenten_,
Moritz von Bethmann—how far away does it all seem now. They have killed;
we have killed. Their glances full of youth and intelligence, which,
when I was a free traveller, I received frankly, face to face, man to
man; our conversations; our blossoming friendship; our common hope; the
ideal, dear to Nietzsche, of the “good European”—what fragile things you
are, beautiful creations of the mind!

Shivering on the cement floor of the casemate during the first night of
my imprisonment here, I was continually haunted by the faces of my German
friends. They did not smile at me as of old. Their eyes flashed. They
glared at me like hawks. They pierced me; they wounded me. I was sad,
sick at heart. How difficult it is to endure hatred. I seemed to hear
bells ringing in my empty head. And always I seemed to see my friends’
eyes, strangely transformed, harsh, greedy eyes burning with ambition,
cruel, the eyes of treasure-hunters, such as one sees on the friezes of
Susa in the beast faces of the Assyrian kings with long perfumed beards.

Here I squat in a corner of this crypt, hungry, thirsty, stupefied,
my brain inert, lacking energy to do anything, looking on at my own
adventures as if they were those of a stranger. Images of my experiences
in the campaign, in which I seemed to have suffered fatigues beyond the
limits of the credible, pass idly and almost indifferently through my
mind. Already I seem to regard these experiences with indifference, like
those military descriptions in Cæsar or Sallust, which no longer stir any
one’s emotions. I am aware of nothing but my body. It seems strange to
a man who believed himself to live upon ideas, to be reduced to become
nothing but a stomach. I thought of Rabelais this morning, of Gargantua
surrendering himself to his pleasures, of Frère Jean des Entommeures
“wetting his whistle.” My imagination wallowed in the sensuous delights,
in the gigantic satisfactions of appetite, with which the four books
abound. One needs to be positively starving to appreciate to the full the
groaning boards of the monk of Chinon.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our division had been sacrificed beforehand. Charged, I imagine, to
protect the retreat, it had held firm. How, and for how long? A private
in modern warfare knows nothing. This much, at least, is certain, that
the division was wiped out. The battle moved away from us. The sound of
the cannonade became more remote. Suddenly there ensued an intense calm.
Of the horrible struggle, with the noise of which my ears were still
ringing, there remained no sign beyond the abominable stench of the
bodies now beginning to putrefy in the fallows and the vineyards beside
the forest of Bride, and from time to time, rising from the deserted
hollows, the prolonged and lamentable cries of the wounded who had been
abandoned.

At Kerprich, in the district of Dieuze, in annexed Lorraine, I passed my
first week of captivity.

What a week! Among the rear-guard of the German army which flowed on like
a river, dropping with sleep and weariness, again and again aimed at by
the patrols, by day and by night I carted human flesh. Dead, and more
dead, dead men of all sorts, those who had been killed instantly in the
heat of action, those who had bled to death from their wounds, men who,
after being wounded, had been finished off by the scouts, had been shot
at close range when they were asking for water or were endeavouring to
keep themselves alive by eating lucerne; then there were the half dead,
men shot through the head, men whose chests had been riddled; men shot
through the groin. When I looked at these disfigured and groaning masses
of flesh, it seemed to me as if my nerves were being scraped. The rest
of the wounded found their way in unaided, running, limping, dragging
themselves along, helping themselves with a stick, crawling on all fours.
It was appalling. I saw an infantryman who had been shot through the
chest and who had walked alone for a league, holding a white flag. He had
lost almost all the blood in his body. I do not know by what miraculous
strength of will he kept going. When he reached the field hospital he
said: “I waited four days for some one to come. I am thirsty. I feel
better, but I am thirsty.” He smiled. He was beautiful, this young man,
like a waxen St. Sebastian. Then, without a word more, he fell dead.

I had been assigned to the tent where those most dangerously wounded were
brought. There were about forty of them, upon a thin layer of straw,
and some even on the bare ground. The place swarmed with flies, and it
stank of dejecta and of dead bodies. When the sun was high, the heat was
stifling. In the evening, the patients’ teeth chattered with cold. Some
of them were lads of the 20th corps, men with the colours when the war
broke out, all Parisians, of simple and engaging courage, and able to
take an interest in their bedfellows. There were men from Provence, the
pain of whose wounds forced tears from their eyes, and who confided to me
their amours as they might have done to a sister. When the pain was at
its worst, they all cried out: “Maman!” It was heartrending.

I tended them. By day and by night, a thousand times I ministered to
their needs. There were but two basins for seven hundred and twenty
wounded. I made part of a shell serve me for a third. I watched the
dying; I gave what consolation I could; I buried the dead. Always guarded
by two Pomeranian soldiers, I went through the village begging soup for
the poor lads. The inhabitants were utterly terrorized. Some of the
women, one of them lame and one but a girl of twelve, astonished me by
their persistent kindness. Under the eyes of the Germans as they were,
the ardour they displayed, simply Christian in character, was truly
heroic. Often, however, I had to make up for the lack of rations by a gay
speech, overflowing with hope. Continually it was necessary to remake
the straw pillows under the heads of the wounded, to rearrange their
bedding, to help them to move. Always, beneath the low canvas roof, was
to be heard the same orchestra of cries, hollow sighs, death rattles,
and lamentations. Occasionally, during the long, cold night, lacking
strength to carry the body of some comrade who had just died all the way
across the meadow to the burial pit, dropping the dead man, I would fall
beside him and go to sleep there.

On the 20th, when our field hospital was already in fair order, a
Prussian captain came by with his company. He stopped, commandeered the
horse of our surgeon-in-chief, M. Bergé, and promptly mounted it. Then,
in grating and sonorous French, he called out: “Fear nothing, wounded. I
know that in your newspapers—I read them, the _Figaro_, the _Temps_—they
term us barbarians. We are not barbarians. For my part, I bear a French
name; I am the descendant of French refugees. My name is Charles de
Beaulieu. I swear to you that you will be well cared for in Germany.
Germany respects the red cross.”

At noon on the 28th, having sent away those fit for transport and also
those unfit, having performed a last amputation, and having buried
the rest of the dead, we set out, with empty stomachs. What was our
destination? The innocents, of whom I was one, had no doubt that we
should be sent back to France by way of Switzerland. The others, those
who had seen the wounded being finished off, especially the wounded
officers, declared: “The German military authorities are unrelenting,
even though the rankers are good fellows. The patrols who finished off
the officers and some of the sergeant-majors were acting on strict
orders. If they had been inspired by personal ill-feeling, do you think
it likely that they would give coffee and brandy to the wounded as they
do often enough? Would they stop to tend them? It is the high command
which is responsible for this base practice. Do you think those who set
so little store upon the lives of the wounded will respect the red cross?”

Thus it was that, while we were on our way to Dieuze, carefully escorted,
the members of our little troop were debating the question: “Are we
merely detained for a time, or are we prisoners?” At Dieuze we were
marched round the town. This was not necessary in order to reach the
railway station, and our capture hardly seemed to afford adequate ground
for a triumphal procession. But it was evidently considered desirable to
show us off to the inhabitants, who made no sign.

A week earlier, when we had entered Dieuze as conquerors, the shopkeepers
had filled our pockets with chocolate and sweetmeats; the publicans had
given us free drinks. “Above all,” said the people of Dieuze in plain
terms, “take care that they never set foot here again!” Wishing for a
French-German dictionary, I begged a townsman to get me one. “I don’t use
the article,” he said; “I know no German.” He called his daughter and
she brought me her own dictionary. “Pay yourself,” I said, offering her
my purse. “Oh, monsieur,” she answered, “I could not take money from a
French soldier!” On the sideboard there stood a goblet, and she filled it
for me with Moselle.

Throughout the little Lorraine town there was the lively commotion of a
feast day. The army and the populace were exchanging cheerful brotherly
greetings. This delight at seeing one another again seemed so natural.
Night fell. The weather was clear and warm. The noise of firing reached
us from the vine-clad hills. The regiments were drawn up in line of
battle in the streets. A hundred yards from the houses, behind the
stooks, a French battery was shooting towards Vargaville. Having walked
out to this battery, I enjoyed the only sight of beauty I had during my
campaign.

In the calm air, the smoke plumes of the German shrapnel looked like
fireworks. Near by, one of our regiments, spread out like a fan, was
advancing through the oats. The men had spent the night in the barracks
of the light horse. Further on, in the stubble and the green fields,
under a rain of shells, the Alpinists were at work with their rifles,
in cheerful mood. In good order they mounted the northern slope of the
smiling basin between Dieuze and Vargaville. It looked like one of Van
der Meulen’s pictures. The sun was setting. The perfumed air was filled
with shafts of light. After each discharge, the song of the birds and
the humming of the insects was audible. Then, the limbers having been
attached, the battery went off at the trot to another position.

On the 28th, on the contrary, Dieuze was like a city of the dead. No one
appeared at the windows. Huge flags, celebrating the fall of Manonviller,
had been hoisted by German orders. There was a gloomy silence, like
that of a deserted inn, like that of Paris at four in the morning; but
instead of the carts of the market gardeners and of the dustmen, there
were heaps of empty knapsacks, broken rifles, rags soiled with blood and
clay, which had been carted in from the battlefield. We marched quickly,
keeping the French step, so that our guards were out of breath. Grey-clad
regiments passed us without a word. When our progress was arrested by a
number of forage wagons filled with wounded, a tall Prussian colonel,
on horseback, wearing an eyeglass, accosted us in French, saying: “Fous
n’afez pas honte, fous la témocratie française, d’être les alliés des
Russes, ces Parpares?”[7] Not one of us made answer. We did not even
look at him. He sat there motionless. However, showing him my armlet, I
inquired, “Are we detained, or are we prisoners?”

“Prisoners! You fire on our field hospitals!”

“Allow me to say, monsieur, that I do not believe it.” Then we resumed
our march.

The station; the long wait; the block of carts filled with wounded; a
light cavalryman on foot, with bandaged head, advancing towards us,
hatred in his eyes, threatening us with his revolver; the search of
our knapsacks; the confiscation of our maps, knives, forks, razors,
punches—everything which could be used for cutting or piercing. Then we
entrained.

I am so foolish as to believe in the good faith of humanity. It seemed to
me incredible that a civilized nation would not respect the red cross.
“Unquestionably,” I said, “they will send us to Switzerland.”—“We shall
see,” answered Riffard, “whether our journey leads us southwards.” Were
we going south? This was the great question in dispute. Every one looked
at his watch and examined the position of the sun. Since the railway
line made zigzags, running sometimes to the south and sometimes to the
north, we became divided into two camps, the “southerners” and the
“northerners,” the light of heart and the foreboders of evil. At times
the dispute between the two factions waxed lively.

After a run northward, the train passed through Bensdorf, and at
nightfall we found ourselves in the great station of Strasburg. There
we were ordered to get out. We were shut up in a room on the landing,
below the level of the railway, giving on the street. Through the grated
door the passers-by gazed in on us. I was kept awake by the cold and my
recent memories of the town. After some hours came the order _Vorwärts_,
and a fresh entrainment. What was our destination? The first glimmer
of dawn showed us the green hills of Alsace covered with plum-trees.
Alas, we were going northward. Saargemünd. Rhenish Prussia. Saarbrück.
Oh, Saarbrück! What a reception we had from the women of Saarbrück! My
ears still tingle with their execrations. Then came the Palatinate, then
Philippsburg. Good-bye to hope! I did not see the Rhine, for we crossed
it in the middle of the night, and I was sleeping on the floor between
the seats.

It was obvious when we awoke that we were going down hill. We crossed
the duchy of Baden, traversed Würtemberg by way of Stuttgart and the
Swabian Jura, with its green valleys, its woods, and its sparkling
rivulets; at length, after crossing monotonous plains, at the bottom of a
hill we reached Ulm, nestling on the Danube beneath its graceful Gothic
cathedral. Our halt was made at Neu-Ulm, the first town we came to in
Bavaria, and a town which I shall never forget, for it was there that we
made the second meal of our journey. It consisted of a bowl of vermicelli
soup in which a gobbet of meat was swimming. The previous day, at
Zweibrücken (otherwise known as Deux-Ponts), we had been given a slice of
_Leberwurst_. This pittance seemed heavenly to us, for we were starving
after a three days’ fast. Be blessed among all the towns of Germany,
Neu-Ulm and Zweibrücken!

For the third time since our departure from Dieuze night fell. The train
continued its journey, and its direction was now south-south-east. The
southern faction was on the increase, and the wind was setting in the
direction of hope. In the course of an animated discussion, rendered
lively by hunger and by the doubts which Guido expressed as to the
likeliness of our liberation, I fell asleep. At two o’clock in the
morning the train stopped. I did not wake up. Abbé Guido, tough and
rugged like the mountain district in which he toiled, one of those
peasant priests who wed the church with fanatical asperity, just as they
would have wedded their land, Guido was not asleep. He was sitting all
of a heap in the corner of the carriage, wearing his képi wrong side
before, smoking cigarettes. From time to time the sardonic fold of his
lips was rendered yet more bitter by a sigh as he said: “Ah! vidasse!
qué vidasse!”[8] He must have given vent to the apostrophe, which showed
his utter weariness of life, twenty times at least, when, morning having
come, I awakened to the sound of this malediction.

It was an oppressive day. The sun was fierce; the sky leaden, without
soul, without life. In the carriage it was stifling.

“Where are we?”

“At Ingolstadt.”

Ingolstadt! The “forty propositions,” Luther, Father Eck, the celebrated
attempt to unite the two churches, the great “disputations” of the
sixteenth century. But the sight of the bayonets of the Bavarian guard on
the platform dispersed my train of reminiscences.

My stomach was complaining loudly. We were told that the stop was for
six hours. The sergeant of the guard assured us that we were to be sent
to Switzerland. Then a medical officer, thick-lipped and hook-nosed,
with small, laughing eyes, a man who waddled continually with a sort
of conceited good-nature, passed through the carriage, and said in a
nasal accent: “Pas te malades? Pas te fièvres tes gôlônies?”[9] This
Judaico-Swabian French revived our spirits. But the gnawing in our
stomachs continued. Would they not give us a slice of _Wurst_ or a plate
of soup with a gobbet of meat in it? But they brought us nothing. The six
hours had passed. The midday heat made the blood boil in our veins.

It happened but yesterday, and yet it has aged me by a century. I say
it without hatred, without the shadow of a desire for vengeance. Under
the ancien régime the crowd was amenable without restriction to talliage
and to the corvée; now that it reigns, the crowd is gullible without
restriction; it is nothing better than an unstable puff of vapour at the
mercy of the winds. My heart is filled with pity for the crowd.

“Where are we going?” I asked of the _Feldwebel_[10] in command of the
detachment.

“To Fort Orff, two leagues from here, towards the north. You will find
there a thousand of your compatriots.”

“Are you keeping the men of the red cross as prisoners?”

“So it seems. I can’t understand it. At Fort Orff there are certainly
quite a hundred _Sanitäter_.”

“These are fine spoil!”

This _Feldwebel_ was a tall, ruddy young man, trim of figure, gentle and
shy. His name, he told me, was Conrad Kilian, and he was a schoolmaster
from Upper Franconia. He stationed me at the rear of the column, beside
himself, to act as interpreter. He was greatly concerned about those of
my comrades who were too obviously exhausted. “How on earth will they be
able to walk uphill for ten kilometres?” This impotent kindness of heart
was touching. The setting sun cast its rosy light over the Danube and the
ancient city, bristling with church spires and surrounded by Gothic walls
with massive towers. We passed through it under a deluge of cries of
“Death!” And what a litany of _kaputs_![11] “Paris _kaput_! Manonviller
_kaput_! Verdun _kaput_!” One might have imagined that the whole world
was _kaput_! The gentler-minded among the townsfolk flashed electric
torches in our faces, saying modestly: “You know that our armies are but
a few leagues from Paris?” The better educated regaled us with French.
“La foilà,” they said mockingly, “la grande nation!” People streamed out
of the public-houses as we went by. On the threshold the calm and paunchy
drinkers waved their mugs and vented their guffaws. The whole city was
agog beneath the great royal and imperial standards. It was really
ludicrous, all this fuss about fifty field hospital orderlies.

It was quite clear that the German nation was the martyr of Europe. “As
for us,” said my friend the _Feldwebel_, “our conscience is quite at
ease!” Yes, we, the French, were the aggressors; we were the _apaches_
who had come furtively (_sicut fur in nocte_) to disturb the dignified
repose of these excellent people, full of humanity, thoughtful and
gentle! It was unquestionably the anger of an offended conscience, the
holy joy of justice at length avenged, which found expression in this
tumult. How easy it is to distort facts, to cook public opinion! I looked
on and listened with greater interest than at the most exciting of plays.
From the casements, graceful beneath their Gothic gables and bright with
window-gardens, imprecations rained down on us. And the gestures of the
silhouetted figures standing in the front of these lighted interiors
sufficed to show those among us who could not understand Swabian the
significance of the volleys of homeric abuse.

I was not in the least humiliated by the hubbub. My condition was one
of strange exaltation. I was very sad and yet fascinated—sad at the
spectacle of mankind, and yet fascinated at the chance of seeing man as
he really is. Tacitus, Machiavelli, Stendhal, Ferrero—not one of these
writers had succeeded in giving me so strong an impression of human
reality. But I will defer my comments. Thoughts conceived under the spur
of hunger and in a sort of physical dementia are not likely to be just.
Besides, it is difficult to keep one’s head cool when the whole world is
crumbling around one. I fear lest I may have to laugh some day at the
partiality of this simple and matter-of-fact story, written for some one
whom I love, and in which I faithfully desire to use no colours but those
of truth.

Of our arrival at the fort I can recall nothing but the memory of a great
iron gate which groaned on its hinges when it was opened, of a few
lanterns held by sentinels running hither and thither in the darkness,
of a gloomy and nauseous staircase where I stumbled and where my nailed
boots made a clatter that aroused distant echoes, and of a casemate,
this casemate, with cemented floor, bare, without even straw, its arches
sweating damp. I threw myself on the floor, my cheek on my knapsack. My
head was throbbing with fever. I spent a sleepless night, not thinking,
but a prey to delirium.



FEVER AND LOW SPIRITS


                                                    _September 16, 1914._

The casemate is empty. My comrades have gone up to the nine o’clock
roll-call. I am still “confined to my room by illness.” I am happy to be
alone. It is cold. Wrapping my rug closely round me, I lie listening to
the bitter wind. I am alone; I am free. It seems to me that the current
of life has swept me away to the end of the world, depositing me amid
dumb deserts of infinite vastness.

The straw upon which I have been lying for a fortnight is reduced to
powder. I roll myself in it as if it were a dust bath for chickens. How
thin is my rug! My limbs shake with the cold of fever. Yesterday for a
quarter of an hour I dragged myself along in the east court, but I was
unable to get as far as the first glacis. When I was coming downstairs on
the way back, my legs seemed heavier than hand grenades. I am very cold.
Through the upper part of the two screened windows I catch a glimpse
of a strip of sky, grey and heavy, crushing down on the slope, on the
portcullis on the top of the slope, on the wild rose bush which breaks
the straight line of the portcullis. On the steep slope I see the long
grass bending before the gusts.

I am alone. How delightful! What wealth! What a privilege! Here we are
never alone.

We sleep, we dress, we eat, we amuse ourselves, we walk about, we hunt
for lice, we attend to the calls of nature, we dream, we are filled
with indignation, we soften, we caress the dear relics hidden in our
knapsacks, we retire into ourselves—we do all this in public.

How well do I understand the phrase of St. Bernard, the phrase of a monk,
_O beata solitudo, sola beatitudo_! Sometimes in the morning, when we
awaken, this awakening devoid of dignity, full of oaths, when the same
voices gabble the same platitudes, in the same eternal access of sterile
boredom, makes me feel positively sick. How long will it continue, this
life in a herd? It seems to me that the effluvium of the crowd, of the
sweat of human cattle, has penetrated into all the interstices of my soul.

No, it is useless; the effort to pull myself together and to become what
I was before these days in prison is too much for my poor strength. I
am shivering with cold. To throw off this torpor I should need to eat
three or four times as much as we are allowed. Alas! the wretched half
loaf of the first few days has been reduced to a third of a loaf, for the
German authorities are methodically restricting our rations. Even the
dullest of the soldiers, heavy, good-natured fellows, those who never
think and consequently waste very little energy, find it difficult to
keep going. Poor mothers, could you but catch a glimpse of your sons,
your fine lads, those whom you used to pet so tenderly! On the slopes and
in the dry ditches of the fort you would see them gloomy and slow, with
drawn features, with a yellow and dirty skin, almost always crouching on
the ground. They look like shades in Purgatory. Are these the youths of
France?

       *       *       *       *       *

Sergeant Bertrand is the first to come down. Without saying a word, he
throws himself on his heap of straw beside me. Then, one behind the
other, come dreamily in Sergeant Boude and Guido, my terrible and dear
Guido. Soon all the rest of the section enters, a stamping and noisy rout.

Bertrand does not move. Leaning against his knapsack, pipe in mouth—a
pipe carved by Boude—he looks straight in front of him. He is in a fine
fit of the blues, our “agent de change,” as he is nicknamed by his
comrades from Marseilles. If his fiancée could see him thus, his fiancée
of Ciotat!

At the end of the room, beneath the windows, two groups are playing cards
for pfennig stakes. Beyond them, leaning against the bars, Sabatier,
grave and mute like a bonze, is plaiting a horsehair watch-chain. Over
there, from every mouth, from all the Bavarian pipes hanging over the
players’ stomachs, there mount thick clouds of smoke.

In our corner, spoken of as the “club” by the men of the “fond” (the
window end), every one is silent. Bertrand is in Ciotat. Guido, hunched
against the wall, his képi pulled down over his eyes, seems to be turning
over thoughts even more disconsolate than those of the _Imitation_ or of
_Ecclesiastes_. Boude, the good Boude, with the soul of an artist who has
lost his way in everyday life, stands up, looking at our trio.

All of a sudden, Bertrand, with a yawn, murmurs, “I would sell my life
for a penny.”

Boude smiles at his _alter ego_. “For my part, old chap, I brought with
me from Marseilles a certain store of philosophy.”

“That also gets used up, Sergeant Boude,” says Guido, “just as certainly
as the cigar that you are smoking. And once your cigar is finished, in
these times of dearth, you may find it difficult to get another.” Then,
turning to me, and lowering his harsh voice: “Richeris,” he says, “is the
happiest of us all. For him there is nothing but God. If God wills it, he
is satisfied; if God does not will it, he is equally satisfied.”

Silence for a time.

Then Boude remarks quietly: “I’m going to visit big Boétti. His dreams
seem to come true. On the 19th, the night before our capture, he had a
red dream. Perhaps last night he may have had a blue one.”

“Oh,” observes Guido, with a laugh, “I too have, not dreams, but
presentiments which come true. The day of Boétti’s dream, when we had
left Bourdonnaye and were in the marshy wood just before you get to
Dieuze, I said to myself, ‘This time it’s all up with you, old chap,
absolutely all up!’ You see, it _is_ all up, and for a good long time!”

Then Boude, “Oh, Guido, you see everything in dark colours.”

“Quite true, I see everything in dark colours. I leave it to you others
to gaze through the rose-tinted window. I keep to the gloomy outlook.
Until a day or two ago I had hopes of freedom in October. But since Riou
has read us the news, what he calls ‘good news,’ I hope no longer.”

“All the same, I’m going to see Boétti,” declares Sergeant Boude, opening
the door.

The club relapses into silence. Bertrand dreams. Guido, his faith in
original sin thoroughly re-established, meditates upon misfortune and
upon human malice.

       *       *       *       *       *

Oh, how empty and sterile life is. My head swims.

Lambert, who sees that I am shaking with cold, little Lambert, kindly and
gentle as a good grandfather, comes and wraps his rug round my shoulders.
He gives me a cheerful smile, but says nothing. Returning to his place
opposite mine, he devotes himself once more to the study of the civil
code. The comrades at the other end of the room noisily continue their
game of cards. Sabatier, hard at work, is standing up. It is raining, and
the windows have been closed. Young Soulier, stretched at full length
on his back, his hands beneath his head, staring at vacancy, whistles
an unending succession of operatic airs, music-hall songs, waltzes, and
tangos. I listen. Gradually this flow of sounds wearies me, and ends by
exasperating me. What shall I do? Faces of those I love, how in this pit
of fever and weariness I endeavour to revive you in memory. Where are you
now? If one could only write. Very likely they think we are dead. Has
the Ministry of War notified them of our imprisonment? Does the Ministry
itself know?

Lambert’s rug has made me feel warmer. I have taken from my haversack
the manual of French-German conversation the commandant has lent me. I
read the dialogue which deals with agricultural life. _Wiese_, _Wald_,
_Gebüsch_, _Saatfeld_, _Ackerfurche_, _Herde_, _Mühle_, _Landhaus_. These
humble words seem friendly. I read them again. I murmur them to myself
half aloud. Laying the book on my knee, I repeat them slowly by heart.

Is there some magic charm in these simple vocables? Called up by the
sounds, images of freshness, so soothing to my fever, come to keep me
company. I forget Soulier and his music. I no longer hear the wrangles
of the card-players. The misery of being nothing better than a poor
sick mole at the bottom of a crypt is gradually effaced from my mind.
The magic of words! Yet these words are the words of the enemy. My
brain finds relief. My eyes are caressed by pure colours. My ears are
delighted with the supple cadences of melodies which recall the scent
of hay and pastoral quietude. It seems to me that I am in a sun-kissed
village. In front of the pillared porch of the white church, dazzling
white against the limpid blue sky, apple-cheeked girls are playing games.
How charming is the aspect of their flaxen plaits against their mauve
aprons! How graceful their movements! How angelic the clear ring of their
voices! They smile in a comradely way as they look at me. But you are the
daughters of the enemy, little sisters singing so sweetly, little sisters
whom I love.…



DINNER


                                                    _September 20, 1914._

It is exactly a month since we were taken prisoner. Here is the great
event of this day of jubilee. It is a culinary event. None but the
famished could appreciate it.

I dressed hastily, for I had to be upon the upper slopes at seven
o’clock. I had an appointment with a peasant woman, small, thin, with
scanty hair, who comes here from time to time to cut the grass. Yesterday
she brought me two pounds of sugar. The price was sixty pfennig. I gave
her a mark, telling her to keep the change for her two girls. These
latter, working bare foot in the damp grass, rewarded me with a profusion
of reiterated _Danke schön_, and I had said to myself that they were good
folk. Acting on this impression, I commissioned them to buy chocolate
to the value of three marks, to be delivered next day at seven o’clock.
_Morgen früh, sieben Uhr._ This matter having been settled, I took
possession of the wheelbarrow, heavy with damp grass, and, as fast as I
could, followed by the three breathless Bavarians, I trundled my load as
far as the guardhouse, nearly slipping a dozen times on the smooth slopes.

Here I am then at seven o’clock to keep the appointment. From this spot
there is a view over the entire fort and the huge plain of Ingolstadt. A
thin haze limits the horizon. White vapours rise from the Danube. Some
factory chimneys behind the town are slowly vomiting their black plumes
straight up into the foggy sky. Not a stir in the air. The houses on the
plain have a liliputian aspect, seeming lost in the immensity.

There was no one in the upper courts, no one on the slopes. How pleasant
it was in this damp solitude. Church bells in the neighbouring villages
were ringing for mass. It was raining steadily—a gentle, quiet rain. I
took shelter beneath a parapet and waited. Close at hand a poor little
acacia was softly dripping. Since I left for the war, this was the first
time I had begun the day quite alone. The “Our Father” mounted to my
lips. I prayed for France, for all the soldiers of the _Völkerkrieg_. I
prayed for my own dear ones … God, France, Andrée.…

Still the woman did not come. My coat was drenched. I was hungry. I made
up my mind to abandon my fruitless errand.

In the casemate it was just like any other morning. Each one of us
pushes back against the wall the truss of straw which the previous night
he had spread out to make his bed, arranging it to form a rectangle,
and covering it with a Bavarian rug. Thus, round the “square” we have
two rows of low couches, greyish brown in colour, provided by way
of cushions with our knapsacks padded with our French rugs. The two
chambermaids—to-day they are Sabatier and Ancey—sweep the floor and trim
the lamp. When the work is finished our casemate looks almost coquettish.

Now Guido returns from mass. Standing silent in the draughty doorway, he
smokes his first cigarette. I instantly perceive that he has an idea, and
ask for information. He thinks of nothing less than commemorating the
melancholy jubilee of our capture by a cup of chocolate. A great thought,
but difficult to realize! I hesitate. But Guido, egged on by hunger,
is resolute. Knowing that I am on good terms with the kitchen, without
further discussion he gives me a mess-tin and a few sticks of Suchard,
saying, “You can manage it all right.” Doubtfully I make my way to the
_Küche_. I open the door. A cloud of steam and smoke rushes out, enwraps
me, and almost chokes me. In this fog I knock up against a Norman from
the Auge valley—“Marie, the scullerymaid.” Without explanation I hand
over what I am carrying. “That’s all right!” he says. I return to the
casemate. “All well?” asks Guido. “All well,” I answer. In a few minutes
Marie, alias Auguste, appears. He has the mien of a conspirator! Beneath
his stained and greasy tunic he conceals as well as he can the hot
vessel. With a secret air he says: “Here it is!” “Bravo!” I exclaim. But
can this be my mess-tin? It is quite black, like the bottom of a cooking
pot. The tin has melted and run into warty drops half-way up. Yes, it is
really my mess-tin; but what a baptism of fire it must have experienced!
Never mind. In a trice Guido makes a cunning hole in the straw to keep it
hot and to conceal the windfall. Hurrah! everything is ready.

In the casemate, stretched out on our blankets, we all await the
dinner-hour.

“Room 17!” comes the cry from without. We leap to our feet. Two by two,
as is the custom in German barracks, we make our way to the kitchen—a
long procession of individuals who chatter impatiently in the dark and
evil-smelling passages. When we reach the happy door we are arrested
by the order, “Halt.” We have to wait until those of room 16 have been
served and dismissed. Now comes the moment. “Seventeen, enter!” orders
Dutrex. We defile in front of the cauldron, and each man in turn holds
out his bowl to the cook. This last, Davit, an Angevin, wearied of doing
the same thing five hundred times in succession, handles the great ladle
mechanically, absorbed in his own thoughts. His arms and shoulders are
bare, and one cannot doubt that he has the torso of the Farnese Hercules.

One by one, hastily and yet cautiously, we return to the casemate.
Reclining in Roman fashion, seated or squatting, we crumble into the
clear liquid, faintly sweetened, a little of our rye and barley bread,
of the consistency of putty, and forming a pappy mass in the soup. The
silence is religious. Eating is a solemn function in these days of
scarcity. For a lengthy interval nothing is to be heard in the “square”
but the rattling of spoons upon tin.

In our corner, where two friends sitting very close together sip steaming
chocolate, the fervour is even greater than among those who are taking
what we good-humouredly speak of as “café-au-lait.” Our mothers would
consider our brew extremely crude. No milk! No sugar! But the palate of
a prisoner of war differs from that of a pampered child. Bending over
our joint mess-tin, Guido and I are silently and sadly happy. Poor joys
of the famished, how one makes the most of you with a greedy and simple
soul!



FONTAINEBLEAU


                                                    _September 21, 1914._

You remember that Andromache, made captive when Troy fell and allotted
to Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, rebaptized with Trojan names the
streams and the hills of the Epirot capital, adorning the gloomy present
with glorious memories. As at Troy, she had her Scamander. In this way,
on clear nights, when she walked beside the river in the solitary fever
of insomnia, it was sometimes possible for her to forget Neoptolemus and
the hatred of the Greeks, and to dream of herself still living beside
Hector as queen, wife, and happy mother.

All prisoners are alike, be they epic heroines or soldiers of the third
republic. I, too, have my Scamander in Epirus.

On the slopes of the fort there are a few poor trees. I do not know how
they manage to grow there, for very thin is the layer of grass-clad earth
which covers the cemented arches. The rain runs off as from a tiled roof,
and the weakest sun scorches the humus. Nevertheless, on the northern
spur there is a squad of small acacias with two or three stunted
poplars, sheltering beneath their scanty shade a humble growth of mosses,
dwarf gentians, scabiouses, and thyme.

When the réveillé sounds, before the fort is overrun by the other
prisoners, I visit this little “grove.” The habit, somewhat
undisciplined, is of recent growth. I have known my Thebaïd for two days
only; I am there for the third time this morning to revive my memories,
not of Ilium, but of Fontainebleau.

Fontainebleau!

Do you remember last May, during the week when the great poplars of the
Allée Sully were scattering their down on the water of the pond? There
was some of it in your hair the morning when I spoke to you. You looked
straight in front of you, as in a vision. You were walking without saying
a word, bending backwards, restraining the impatience of the enleashed
Katia and Douchka.

In the evening we walked together on the fringe of the forest. The night
was warm and fine, and the petals rained gently on us as we went. Our
acacias were in flower. We looked at the moon through the slender network
formed by their white clusters.

My poor Fontainebleau of Ingolstadt!



AN OLD CAMPAIGNER


                                                    _September 22, 1914._

There are more than a thousand of them squatting on the grass. The sun
rages down on this quadrilateral, as big as the Place des Victoires,
enclosed by the steep slopes of the scarp. Every one is nodding. The
German flag and the Bavarian flag hang inertly along their twin staves.
This frippery has been hoisted to celebrate the taking of ⸺. There is
not a breath of wind. The heat is stifling. Sentinels pace to and fro.
What is going on behind the forbidden slopes? Above the parapets crowned
with flowers we can see nothing but the sky—a wide sky, barely blue. Some
prisoners are chatting as they sit on a pyramid of grenades.

“How short our campaign was!” exclaims Sergeant Foch of the 10th
Chasseurs, a fine fellow who seems modelled in bronze. His dark,
golden-speckled eyes seem to devour you. He speaks harshly, and one feels
that his wrath is intense. He spits out his phrases, with long intervals
of silence.

“And all this happened through an idiot who led us straight to
Raon-l’Etape, a regular Boche ambush!…

“As for me, tonnerre de Dieu, I could not help thinking of our captain.
Captain B.! He was a soldier, if you like—first man of his year in the
Ecole de Guerre, certain to become a general. One day he showed us the
photo of his children, seven children, all in a row. He had tears in his
eyes. He was a man! He could do what he liked with us. He was brave and
prudent, and we had nothing to do but to follow where he led. One felt
safe with him. There was a man who knew how to take care of his company.

“I wish you’d seen what happened at Vallerystal! Such a rain of shells
we had there. I counted five hundred on my own section alone. I lost
my two chums there. One of them came from my own village, and he and I
were like brothers—always together. All of a sudden there came a pig
of a melinite shell. There was a hell of a noise and a lot of smoke. I
was knocked out of time, bowled over and over. Then I got up and dusted
myself. Absolutely unhurt! Oh, how that black smoke stank! And on either
side of me my two chums, blown to bits, their guts bulging out all over
the place. Cré nom de nom! My knapsack did me good service that time! It
stopped a shell splinter which set the collar of my coat on fire behind.
Just look.

“While this was going on, what do you think our captain was doing? He was
walking quietly up and down, pipe in mouth, in front of our rifles.

“‘Better lie down, captain,’ we said to him.

“‘What’s the use? One’s just as likely to be hit lying down as standing.’

“By the evening he had a wound in the head and a torn biceps. Do you
think he left us on that account? His wounds were temporarily dressed.

“‘You must go to the field hospital,’ said the surgeon. But he did not
go! There’s a fellow for you. If they were all like this B.…”

“Did it do well, your section?” asked Piétri, a red-haired
sergeant-major, sturdy, with bloodshot eyes, a Corsican with the trick of
staring you in the face, seeming to listen with his eyes, greedily, like
a deaf man.

“Did they do well? I believe you! My reservists were splendid. ‘The
beasts!’ they cried. They were spoiling for the fight; they clenched
their fists. The 10th battalion was proverbial. ‘The men at Provenchères
are devils,’ said the Boches; it was we.

“At the start it was like playing at soldiers. The Uhlans were coming
on in little groups, their gloves spotless with pipeclay, wheeling to
right and to left, as if on parade. Bram! Bram! Down goes one of them.
The others perform a fantasia of retreat. We pursue. They dismount. I say
to my men: ‘Lie down!’ Not a bit of it! They kneel to take better aim.
‘Fire!’ A lieutenant is killed; there are six dead or wounded. Another
time, four Uhlans are trotting quietly along the road, as if on scouting
duty. ‘Fire!’ Ten shots: patrol gone! Yes, it was funny at first. One
might have imagined oneself at the summer manœuvres. But from the 10th to
the 25th, oh Lord! Nothing but artillery fire. It rained! It rained, I
tell you!”

“Did you kill any Boches yourself?” asks big Corporal Durupt, compared
in the 2nd to a buffalo’s head on a pikestaff. “In my section at Mesnil,
near Senones, I handed my rifle to the bugler, a record shot. In a
quarter of an hour, at two hundred yards, he brought down ten.”

“I did my share,” answers Foch. “But the shot of which I am proudest was
one which I fired at twelve hundred yards, just for a lark, at a Uhlan
patrol. There were three of them; I bowled one of them over. But I will
tell you about a shot of which my old comrade Kaiser was especially
proud. An Alsatian like myself. I always gave him his orders in German.
I don’t know if he’s still alive. I have not seen him since August 25th,
when we were under machine gun fire in Bertrichamps wood.

“In my section we had one odd sort of beast who was always in a blue
funk. I kept him by my side as I led my section. The captain says to
me: ‘Foch, see if you can’t stop this machine gun which is worrying
us.’ Off we go, and soon the bullets are flying thickly. I meet an old
territorial. He has his handkerchief pressed to a bleeding wound. I want
to dress it for him. ‘No, no,’ he says, ‘don’t bother about me. Go ahead
with your brave fellows!’ All at once my trembler falls down, crying out:

“‘Mon Dieu! mon Dieu!’

“‘Are you wounded?’

“‘No, a sprain!’

“‘Don’t you try to gammon me; up with you!’ He gets up; he can walk all
right. ‘You see,’ I tell him, ‘I beat God Himself. I’ve cured you in half
a tick.’ But now, at two hundred yards, I see the German section with the
machine gun. I fire, once, twice; I pick off two of them. Then, close at
hand, on the right, appears a bunch of Germans. The devil! I call Kaiser,
who is acting as my orderly. A Boche advances on him. ‘Look out!’ I cry.
The Boche shoulders his rifle and fires. Down goes Kaiser. The Boche
advances, but Kaiser is only shamming dead. Suddenly he rises on his
knee. Bram! Head over heels goes the other, and Kaiser hurls himself on
the Boche. ‘I’ve got him all right,’ he shouts, as pleased as Punch.

“The German squad retreats. My section sends them some parting shots. Two
wounded Germans come to us, and I dress their wounds. One of them wants
to kiss me, but I’m not having any.

“I say to my funker, ‘Get behind that little ridge. You will be close
to me.’ I have hardly spoken when he begins to bleat: ‘Wounded! I am
wounded! I’ve been shot in my behind. Let’s escape!’ Next minute, ‘Mon
Dieu! hit again! Let’s escape!’ Two bullets in his behind; oh dear! He
did not know what to do with himself; he had not enough hands to stop
the holes. He let go of one leg in order to seize the other. We who
looked on were screaming with laughter. I’ve never laughed so much in my
life. And all this was under fire! Girard was laughing with the rest.
Then, suddenly, ‘I am hit,’ he says; ‘lend a hand!’—‘You must wait a
moment, old boy; the fire is too hot.’ The blood was pouring from his
wound, making a lather like soapsuds. Two minutes later the bugle sounds
‘Cease firing.’ But they don’t want to cease firing. They simply will not
stop. I have to get up and shout at them, to brandish my arms. At length
they assemble around me. And here is my funker, who gets up quite easily,
notwithstanding the two bullets in his behind. The firing continued from
the German side, and the leaves were falling on us from the trees, for
the aim was too high. We were able to withdraw with our eight wounded.

“Ah, it was a fine time, but oh, how tired I was! Had it not been for ⸺
I should have gone through the war till the last shot was fired. I no
longer gave a thought to my wife or my children.”



I HAVE A TABLE


                                                    _September 23, 1914._

The useful furniture of our casemate consists of the following articles:
a ewer, a dish, and a lamp. I say “the useful furniture,” for we have
also an imposing iron stove, some heavy bars of iron to barricade the
doors and windows, and two pieces of sheet iron about half an inch thick.
But there is no table. There was one at first, but they took it away
from us to furnish the chapel, where it serves as altar. As for chairs,
benches, stools, there is nothing of the sort. Consequently a man who
wishes to write, and who has never written except seated at a table, is
not likely to feel thoroughly at home in casemate 17.

First I made myself a study out in the open, in a corner of the east
court, on the steps of a little cement stairway in the slopes. I got some
fine headaches there, sitting for hours in the sun without noticing it.
But rainy weather having set in, it became necessary to seek shelter.

It is at this point that Dutrex intervenes in my prison life—Corporal
Dutrex, of martial and elegant figure, a strange compound of the
ingratiating characteristics of childhood and the energy of manhood. At
Bièvre, in Belgium, when the village of Messin was burning, and when
under the fire of machine guns our soldiers were effacing themselves in
the furrows, Dutrex, ammunition bag on shoulder and cigarette in mouth,
walked unconcernedly from one rifleman to another distributing packets of
cartridges.

Arriving here with the first convoy on August 27th, his knowledge of
German immediately led to his selection as interpreter to the commandant.
By degrees he has become Major von Stengel’s right-hand man. I noticed
the young fellow from the first. He is blond, with a long, fine
moustache, with hair cut en brosse, thin, very erect. I remember that
I felt a secret joy when I discovered that this simple corporal of the
⸺th occupied so important a position in the fort. It was pleasing that
the German authorities should see France through the medium of this
particular Frenchman. Too often have I had the misfortune to study the
deficiencies of the official hierarchy, and the unanticipated revenge now
taken by the natural hierarchy was agreeable to my reason.

To Dutrex, then, one wet and gloomy morning, in quest of shelter for
my pen, I explained my difficulties. He knew my _Ecoutes_, and we had
been friends from the first. At noon he handed me the key of the double
casemate, No. 55.

With the permission of the commandant he has established a store here.
From nine to ten daily, soap, slippers, brushes, blacking, string, and
other little necessaries, are sold at cost price.

In this heroic place, a real ice-house, with walls of formidable
thickness and screened windows, I spent a long afternoon. I fell ill
at once in consequence. That very evening when I returned to No. 17
I was shaking with fever. It cost me a week on the straw. But I bear
no grudge against No. 55. It secured me the exquisite luxury of a few
hours’ isolation. I shall always think kindly of its strong and cold
arches, of its chains for moving the garrison-guns, and of its sepulchral
atmosphere, faintly perfumed with haberdashery. But I shall not renew my
acquaintance with it, for I learn that the occupants of No. 70, who were
being eaten alive by lice, have been transferred to 55. I commiserate
them for having to make their choice between lice and rheumatism! As for
Dutrex, his soap and other wares have been removed to No. 72, where the
sun never enters.

I am now able to work in a warm and dry place, for yesterday, as honorary
minister without portfolio, I entered what is spoken of as “the French
governing body” of the fort.

Do you think these vain honours? Not at all, for they provide me with
a table. To have table and lamp of one’s own, with many hours all
to oneself for observation and reflection! In my view, free time is
preferable to money. “Time is money,” say the English. I would rather say
“Money is time.” It seems to me that the only object of working is to
secure leisure. The man within us is formed by leisure. Work produces
money, money produces leisure, and leisure produces more work—but this
last is noble, lofty, and disinterested work, the true work of humanity.
With me it is an article of faith that the true work of humanity is the
work of leisure. Thank goodness I have now a little leisure and solitude.

My solitude, a very precarious one, is a kitchen. You must not laugh.

Near the door of the huge room is the region of the cooking stoves,
encumbered, filled with iron and smoke, under the care of Bouquet, the
“chef,” a delicate and gentle lad from Quercy. But beyond this plutonic
zone you enter a spacious quadrilateral, which the cooks usually speak
of as the “salon.” Two large windows looking to the south flood the
place with light. It is fairly clean. The cemented floor is flushed down
with water after the vegetables have been prepared, after the serving
of each of the three meals, and, speaking generally, whenever there has
been much coming and going. At the further end of this kitchen, between
the two windows, there stands a table, a little deal table, _the_ table.
M. Prudhomme would say: “This table, it is the heart of Fort Orff.” It
is here, in fact, that is established, in almost continuous sitting
(upon three deal stools), our ministerial council. Here we plan reforms.
Here we elaborate details of organization. Here is regulated the entire
internal life of the colony. It is here, finally, that by means of
various stratagems we learn the news from outside.

This table, or to be precise, the left side of this table, is now mine.
The deep mouth of the sink yawns just behind my stool on the floor level.
As I work, my left arm touches the window-sill, on which I place my
pipe, my mess-tin, my papers, and your photograph. Such is my kingdom.
Here I read, write, and dream. Here thrice daily when meals are served
I watch my brothers in captivity file by. Here I listen, and here I
observe. Notwithstanding the buzz of talk, the trampling of those at
work, and the smoke from the fire, I delight in this corner close to the
cooking stoves. Upon our scanty regimen I have become as chilly as a cat.
Besides, where else could I work?

Thus my life is divided between my “Fontainebleau of the slopes,” my
stool in kitchen No. 22, and casemate 17. For I continue to sleep on my
old heap of straw. It is nothing more than a derisory bed of dust, but I
am more comfortable there than I was the first night. I am glad to say
that my back is now covered with callus; my nose has become hardened;
even my ears during the night are less sensitive than they were at
first to the noises, now strident, now guttural, of the sleepers. At
the outset, suffering from insomnia, I passed hour after hour, sickened
by this frogs’ chorus. I longed to run away from it. I summoned sleep
with all my might. Smile if you like, but I feel my faith in the human
soul weaken when I contemplate a sleeping man whose mouth gapes and who
snores like a great hog. The horrible stench which tainted the damp
breeze at Moncourt, Lagarde, and Kerprich, rising from the putrefying
corpses of men and beasts, was to my mind less strongly insistent of the
animal relationships of man than is the slow, irregular rhythm, the dull
and undignified noise, of snoring. But one gets used to everything. I
have become accustomed to the snoring and to the yet more disagreeable
incidents of our too intimate association. I hardly notice the foul smell
of drains which permeates the passages of our ant-hill, and which made
me feel positively faint on the evening of our arrival. Man is so greedy
for happiness that he speedily becomes immunized against the toxin of his
daily troubles. Day by day I am less keenly conscious of my miseries.
At night, on my heap of dust, I often meditate upon this marvellous
characteristic of our nature. Towards eleven, passing into a condition of
gentle melancholy, I manage to get off to sleep between Sergeant Bertrand
on one side, dreaming love dreams, and my terrible and dear Guido on the
other—Guido, a prey to pessimism and insomnia, whose cigarette continues
to glow in the darkness.



WE KILL THEIR HOPES


                                                    _September 26, 1914._

Things are going badly with the Germans. Our guards may keep their mouths
as tightly shut as they please, and may deprive us of newspapers, but
despite our isolation we feel that things are going well for France.

There was a splendid sunrise. When I went out to greet you and the
dawn upon our acacia slope, the cold was dry and sharp. The air had an
agreeable aroma of fresh earth. It was a pleasure to let the eyes dwell
upon the play of morning light across the open country. The cord on the
flagstaff, now bearing no flag, shook in the wind and made a clicking
sound as it struck the wood. For a moment from underground there came the
sound of the bell rung at the elevation, a gentle, calm, and mysterious
sound. It was the hour when Richeris and Guido are accustomed to serve
mass for one another.

In the kitchen I found Corporal Durupt at breakfast. He stood with his
back to the fire, poised askew on his heron’s legs, looking, as usual,
as long and thin as a hop-pole. The co-minister of Dutrex had toasted
a slice of black bread sprinkled with aniseed (bread which he detests),
and, rocking to and fro a little, was moistening it in his bowl. Around
him the great iron cauldrons, which had been taken down from the stoves
ready for the distribution, were steaming like locomotive engines. He was
drinking his coffee with a thoughtful air, one which gave him a lofty,
conscientious, incorruptible aspect. When he saw me his large and trusty
eyes sparkled. I detected a mischievous twinkle behind his glasses.

Instantly he began: “I have _grand’chose_ to tell you.” He is an Alsatian
and has phrases peculiar to himself. In his vocabulary “grand’chose”
means something of extreme importance. And for Durupt there is but one
thing of real importance, and that is the extermination of Prussia.

He hates Germany with a hatred which has been a cult in the Durupt family
for generations. He went to school at Mülhausen. He took part with the
Alsatian boys in terrible fights with the German boys. Thus, in his case,
hatred of the Teuton was in the first instance a suggestion of childhood.
But this hatred has become envenomed by experience and mature reflection.
At an age when the heart begins to devote itself to the work of life, he
was subjected to the forcible, rough, relentless constraint imposed by
the foreign master. The daily experience of “Germanization” had filled
his kindly nature with gall against everything German.

“At Paris,” he says sometimes, “in the restaurants, in the post-offices,
wherever I could, I plagued the life out of all the Boches who came my
way!” On the banks of the Brusche, and especially at Saulxures, where
the two sides were firing at one another haphazard in the fog, he killed
furiously. Now, being a prisoner of war, and having neither rifle nor
bayonet, he devotes himself to the endeavour to sow discouragement among
the soldiers who guard us, considering that an army contaminated with
discouragement is ripe for defeat.

Durupt is a thoroughly upright man. His everyday judgments and his
ordinary actions recall the evangel of ’48 and the solid bourgeois
virtues. He belongs to that undistinguished élite which forms the real
backbone of every nation, the élite consisting of those who know how to
speak the truth and to live for truth. Above all, he belongs to that
France unknown to foreigners (although in it is concealed the secret
of our marvellous resurrections), to that moral France which lies ever
hidden beneath Gallic and frivolous France, producing, as times change, a
St. Louis, a Calvin, a Saint-Cyran, a Pascal, a Lamennais, or a Fallot,
men of a single colour, with consciences of iron, terrible to themselves,
obedient to the point of heroism, and often scrupulous to the point of
disease. Those I have named are generals of the army in which Durupt
serves as a private.

He has a great love and admiration for his brother, Jacques Durupt,
Goude’s antagonist at Brest in the last parliamentary elections, and,
during the heroic times of Marc Sangnier, leader of the Sillonist left
in association with Gacmaling and Archambault.

Durupt himself lived on the confines of the Sillonist movement. Like all
the readers of _Démocratie_ and _Nouvelle Journée_, he has the republic
and the Christian faith in his blood.

I esteem our “co-triumvir.” I find him a trifle too meticulous for my
taste. He shows little interest in the witty and graceful sides of life.
He has a tendency to emphasis, and is a little inclined to act the judge.
He is fond of giving an exemplary flavour to his actions, and at times
plumes himself somewhat when speaking of what he does. But his heart is
as clear as crystal, utterly void alike of hypocrisy and malice. His
whole life, at home and abroad, even in its most trifling details, is
upright, controlled, deliberate.

A certain sympathetic pleasure attended my gradual discovery in this
Catholic of the merits and defects characteristic of the Scottish
puritan and of the French radical. Moral, practical, ardently patriotic,
ingrained with the civic spirit, something of a preacher, without any
change in his modes of thought or his personal habits he might well
be regarded as a perfect disciple of Christophe Dieterlen, Fallot, or
Frommel, and even of Charles Wagner, Paul Doumergue, or Wilfred Monod,
the file-leaders in France of reformed Catholicism.

Everywhere, fortunately, men remain men. Protestants have the Catholic
spirit and Catholics have the Protestant spirit. Individual psychology
laughs at doctrinal oppositions. Throughout the entire human race,
temperaments and characters develop, underground, their indestructible
stratifications, regardless of the walls built on the surface by the
leaders of men, walls which these leaders, with their imperious will,
imagine to be durable.

Durupt devotes to the indulgence of his national hatred the whole of that
conscience which his Christianity (quasi-jansenist in type) has produced
in him. He hates as a duty. He injures as a duty. How can he injure the
Germans now that he is at their mercy? By demoralizing their men! Having
an excellent knowledge of German, he has made it his mission at Fort Orff
to prove by a + b to our successive relays of guards—Landwehr men on
their way to the frontier, or men wounded in the first onslaught and now
returning cured to the firing-line—that Germany is beaten in advance.

He arrived here on August 30th, three days after Dutrex, and the whole
of Germany in the fort, from the commissariat captain down to the last
_Gemeiner_ (the commandant, whose conduct towards us has throughout been
a model of courtesy, always excepted), set to work forthwith to din into
his ears, “Paris _kaput_”—literally translated, “Paris pulverized.”
For a whole fortnight this was the refrain. When the quartermaster, an
ill-natured beast, stupid and uncouth, came down to the kitchens, his
way of saying good-day was to laugh maliciously as he announced a new
_kaput_: Verdun _kaput_; Rheims _kaput_; Manonviller _kaput_! Even the
_Verpflegsoffizier_, Captain Friedrich Wilhelm Weidner, of the Prinz
Ludwig regiment, a Nuremberg merchant with a lofty air, very erect, much
mustachioed, with frank blue eyes, did not disdain, from time to time,
to unfold ostentatiously among the stoves, under the noses of Dutrex and
Durupt, copies of the _Nürnberger Zeitung_ and the _Münchener Neueste
Nachrichten_ with headlines screaming victory.

These were their happy days. The gateway leading to the open was black
on Sundays with a gaping crowd: townsfolk in their Sunday best, wearing
cocks’ feathers in their green felt hats; rich farmers’ wives trying
to look comfortable in hats; swarms of children, for the most part
bare-footed; peasants in ill-fitting ready-made clothes; pathetic village
dames, clad as in Dürer’s pictures, the head covered with a kerchief,
a black fichu over the shoulders, a wadded corsage to fill out their
figures. All these idlers, looking poverty stricken when compared with
those of like class in France, would spend hour after hour staring at
the “pantalons rouges,” occasionally shouting through the bars their
eternal “Paris _kaput_,” the cry which had been reiterated from Dieuze to
Strasburg, from Stuttgart to Ingolstadt, and with which our ears had been
ringing since our capture.

This foolish jubilation exasperated Durupt. He kept quiet about it for
some days. At length, however, having recovered his spirits, he threw
himself heart and soul into the task of keeping up our hopes.

“It is absolutely impossible that we can be beaten,” he would say to the
preachers of evil. “Agreed, their advance guards are at Rheims, Meaux,
and Compiègne. But does this mean that Paris has been taken? What about
the naval guns with which the Government has filled the forts? Make your
minds easy; they will lose much time and much blood before they will
plant their standard on the Place de la Concorde! Let us suppose the
worst. Let us suppose that Paris has fallen. Does that finish the matter?
Remember Chanzy’s plan. In his view, the strategic bastion of France is
not Paris but the Massif Central, the Auvergne and Cévennes mountains.
Let them make their way, then, to Clermont-Ferrand and Aurillac! Besides,
we are not fighting single-handed. The Russian waterspout is getting
ready, and will soon break over them; it will make short work of their
five poor army corps. Its waters will dash on to Berlin. The floods will
chase their navy out of the Kiel Canal, will force it into the North
Sea—where the English dreadnoughts are awaiting it, and will swallow it
at one gulp!”

The least enthusiastic among the prisoners were enraptured at these
speeches. Sometimes a voice would be heard saying, “Even so, we shall be
here till the spring!” To which Durupt would peremptorily reply: “All
Saints’ Day will find us at home! I know Germany as I know the palm of my
hand. The country is penniless. Moreover, it is not with France alone,
this time, that Germany has to do; she has to fight France, Belgium,
England, and Russia—that ocean of humanity. You must be mad, I tell you,
if you do not feel that Germany is going to be wiped out!”

In these surroundings, Durupt is the man with a duty, a mission. Though
he is a prisoner, every hour is fully occupied, each moment has its
allotted task. His life is governed by a single rule: “Every day in which
we fail to enlarge our own hopes and to spread discouragement among the
Germans is a day lost.” Consequently, the essential matter for him is to
secure news.

The instant he has finished his supervision of the distribution of our
meals and his work in casemate 16, off he goes on the hunt. He accosts
Max, the canteen-keeper, the mightiest beer-drinker on the Upper Danube,
a light-hearted soldier, florid, paunchy, so rough that he laughs when
he tells you that in the Vosges a French shrapnel has just taken off
his brother’s arm, and yet, though rough, a good fellow. It is from him
that Durupt learns the gossip in the _Wirtschaften_ of Hepperg, Lenting,
Kösching, Wegstätten, Oberhaumstadt—in a word, in all the village taverns
within reach of the fort, both on the hills and in the plain. Having
finished with Max, he proceeds to pump the guard.

Here his reception is rather cold, for he is a poor diplomatist, and
shows too plainly to these men of the Landwehr that at bottom he is their
hereditary enemy. Still, he has a talk in the guardroom, smokes a cigar,
and drinks a glass of beer with the men, exchanging _Prosits_. Sometimes
he sees on the table, amid the beer-jugs and other debris of the meal, a
newspaper which they have forgotten to put away when the Frenchman came
in. My Durupt pounces upon it and stuffs it into his pocket. He strides
across the bridge, hurries down the staircase, and bursts into the
kitchen, breathless and radiant, with the air of a victorious athlete or
a hero who has saved the republic, and brandishes his paper as if it were
a flag taken from the enemy. Now he reads it, translates and comments,
with exclamations of joy or of rage at the passages which delight or
infuriate him. He actually talks, argues, and fights with this newspaper;
he regards it as a flesh and blood Bavarian who is trying to deceive him,
and with whom he has to join issue. Woe to the Bavarian if he does not
admit defeat, or at least disquietude, for he will then learn to what
lengths Durupt can go in his anger!

Never shall I forget these readings of the _Ingolstädter Zeitung_. If I
am ever tempted to doubt that the press exercises a terrible power, that
its influence upon the public resembles that of a shell bursting in a
cavalry square, I shall call to mind certain hours of imprisonment here,
passed round our table, Durupt reading aloud, Dutrex and I sketching
maps to clarify the news, while leaning over our shoulders, anxiously
following us, are Paix, Scherrer, Badoy, Noverraz, Donel, Lagier, and
a few others. When we break up in the evening we know what will be
the public sentiment next day. According as Durupt is able to sing a
triumphal pæan, or, on the other hand, the evidence of misfortune is
overwhelming, will our thousand comrades be light-hearted or sad, will
hope or despair permeate the fort from this centre, from this table,
from the newspaper on this table, from the group of men who sit round it
evening after evening.

Sometimes Durupt, returning to the kitchen excited by the chase, is
pulled up by the notice I have posted for the protection of my work:
“Please do not speak to me.” He then sits down beside me without saying a
word and unfolds the newspaper he has got hold of. Elbows on table, head
in hands, his whole body bent eagerly forward, Claudel would say he is
engaged on the “ingurgitation” of his paper.

Look at him, dissecting the leading article, heavy fare in which the most
trifling details of information are sandwiched between philosophical
disquisitions. He turns the fragments over and over as a starving man
turns over the contents of a dustbin. He labours to unveil hidden
meanings, to detect masked avowals. He displays a truly German patience
in securing here and there, _rari nantes in gurgite vasto_, the name of
a town, the number of an army corps, or some other shadow of positive
information.

Then he brings forth his maps, which are shabby in appearance, worn at
the folds, stained by the rain and sweat of his campaign in the Upper
Vosges. He takes out his pencil. He marks the places. At length, unable
to restrain himself any longer, he feels that he must tell me what has
happened. He turns my protective notice with its face to the wall, and
starts upon his commentary.

The splendid thing is that this commentary invariably leads up to the
proof of a victory. For him every French retreat is a strategic movement,
while every German retreat is a rout. All good news is positively
certain; all bad news is a falsehood published to restore the courage of
the German populace. Guided by these principles of criticism, he arrives
at a certainty of the truth; he then cons it over to himself, gives it
a portable form, and hurries off to disseminate it through the fort. He
bursts into No. 19, where Merlier, Charlier, and Gautin receive him as
an angel of the Lord; into No. 17, where his enthusiasm breaks vainly
against the obstinate and disdainful pessimism of Guido; into No. 34,
where Brissot and d’Arnoult, two mischievous devils who are equally well
acquainted with German and with the beer served out to the guardroom,
treat him simply as a gossip. Unfortunately, in the course of his round
he will encounter, now the quartermaster, now a _Gefreiter_, now one
of the sentinels. Remorselessly he overwhelms them with his news, thus
making himself more unpopular with them than before.

Thus he takes ample revenge for the “Paris _kaput_” of the first few
days. Dutrex and I chaff him about it, saying: “You’re behaving like a
Boche in being so regardless of your adversaries’ feelings!”

“Poor fellows,” he makes answer, “it is obvious that you don’t know the
Germans. As far as they are concerned the proverb is absolutely true:
‘Oignez vilain, il vous poindra; poignez vilain, il vous oigndra!’”[12]

I was walking the other day with Durupt and Sergeant Foch. We were on
the little footpath which runs along the parapet, and opposite to us,
across the great ditch, on the road which skirts the outer slopes, there
appeared two German women. They were walking slowly, wheeling bicycles,
and they looked at us curiously. We mended our gait, for no one likes to
look unhappy under the eyes of the enemy.

Durupt spoke to them in German.

“Have you a newspaper?”

“No.”

“What’s the latest news?”

“Things are going well in France.”

“For which side?”

“For ours. Trainloads of wounded are coming back every day.”

“Your wounded?”

“Yes.”

“In that case, it is for our side that things are going well!”

“Possibly.”

These women had such fat bodies and short legs as to produce an
impression of caricature. Sergeant Foch, Alsatian and infantry chasseur,
has a malicious wit. He was cogitating a joke, but I managed to induce
him to suppress it.

We walked on slowly, talking across the ditch, and the women said:

“You treat our prisoners badly, and you finish off the wounded!”

“Who told you that?”

“It’s in the papers.”

“All your papers lie, and you are stupid enough to believe them. It
is just the same with the war news. You are beaten everywhere. It’s
perfectly clear to any one who can read intelligently. Yet you believe
yourselves to be the victors! The newspapers take their readers to be
idiots. Is it possible that they are right? The real fact is that we are
starved here, whilst in France, where people are rich and generous, your
prisoners are fed on the fat of the land!”

“It may be so. But it was those rascals of English who caused all the
trouble. If only I had them here!” (the larger woman shook her fist).
“The English are the apaches of Europe (_die Lumpen Europas_)!”

Thus the conversation began. It must have lasted about half an hour.
The conscientious Durupt “sowed discouragement” in the minds of his
interlocutors, refusing to leave them until he felt that their confidence
in victory had been undermined.



SUNDAY


                                                    _September 27, 1914._

I have been at work all the morning.

At ten o’clock, Guido came to fetch me for mass. Under his arm he
carried the great missal, borrowed from the curé of Lenting, in which he
likes me to follow the service. The sermon was delivered by one of his
colleagues. It filled me with astonishment, so harsh, so pitiless was its
tone, reeking of fire and brimstone, representing God as a cross between
a satrap and a bogy. The preacher seemed a veritable priest of Saturn.
His firmness of conviction, be it noted, was absolute. But—shades of St.
Francis of Assisi and St. Francis of Sales, where were you?

Guido often discusses his faith with me in the evenings, when, before
the roll-call, we stroll together on the deserted glacis, just after the
stars have come out. He takes great pains to expound to me the beauties
of the Catholic liturgy. It is, in very truth, incomparable. For those
who can believe in the miracle of the host, nothing in the world can be
so touching or so sublime as the daily drama of the mass. But what a
pity that it has to be said in Latin, so that none but those who have had
a classical education can appreciate it to the full. This morning, for
instance, I doubt if there were three of the comrades able to understand
the Epistle and the Gospel of the day. If it is considered essential
to retain Latin as a symbol of universalism, why should not the Latin
reading be instantly followed by vernacular rendering of these verses of
Scripture wherein are contained the essentials of our faith, be it Roman
Catholic or Protestant?

Yet how simple and how moving was the ritual, improvised, shortened, of
necessity reduced to its elements—altar, candles, incense, vestments. No
Saint-Sulpician imagery! Bare walls, rough and white. It was possible to
fancy oneself in a catacomb, in the first ages of the church.

Quite recently this armoured keep has been deprived of its four or five
ancient guns. There they were at their posts, muzzles in the loopholes,
ready at the supreme moment to sweep with their fire the north of the
counterscarp beyond the second encircling wall. They had been in this
damp crypt for perhaps thirty years, without ever being used. Now they
are on their way to the Russian front. The Germans must be hard put to it
for guns, to make use of these relics!

The crowd of the faithful, French soldiers and Bavarian _Landwehrleute_,
standing indiscriminately, peacefully pressed shoulder to shoulder,
served to warm the casemate a trifle. I shivered, none the less, whilst
Boude, with a voice grave and sweet, sang the ample strophes of the
_Adoro te_ of St. Thomas. At one moment, impressed by the strong and
noble simplicity of this sanctuary of exile, I called up in memory the
interior of the church attended by the bathers of Trouville. The contrast
was so violent that.…

       *       *       *       *       *

In the curé of Lenting’s missal, I have read several times lately, lying
on my heap of straw, the couplets of the _Adoro te_. What an ardent hymn
it is! How sublime is its cry of passion! When it was written, the cult
of the eucharist was, so to say, novel, and had numerous opponents within
the church. Béranger, the Angevin, a species of early Calvin, denied the
material transformation of the elements. Christianity took sides about
the matter.

It is only periods of combat which are fruitful. To-day the altar is too
peaceable. Too many questions are considered closed. I doubt if a St.
Thomas or a St. Bonaventura would now vie with one another in love and
genius to sing, as sincerely as did these saints of old, the flesh and
the blood of Christ in the host.

Mass said, we hastened to the ordinary. It consisted of soup and a morsel
of pork. The distribution of the meal lasted until two. Then Dutrex,
Durupt, the cooks, and I sat round the ministerial table to dine in our
turn. It was late, and we were hungry. I furnished some cigars, smuggled
goods. Dutrex provided tea, likewise smuggled. As there were eight of
us and we had but four half-pint mugs, it was necessary to use four
enamelled iron bowls—basins belonging to Fort Orff. The tea was lost in
the bottom of these; one might have imagined it had been dispensed with
a medicine-dropper. But how good it was! With our half-pint mugs and our
bowls we clinked three times, drinking to France, to the destruction
of autocracy and militarism in Europe, to those at home. Our meagre
love-feast had quite a family air. Cooks and “ministers” alike, we all
felt that we were truly brothers.

After dinner, Dutrex, Durupt, and I went for a walk. There was a high
wind as we strolled along the parapets. In shady corners, I was able
to pluck some dwarf gentians, mosses, and lichens. I even discovered a
tuft of dwarf heather from which the flowers had almost all fallen. I
have arranged this posy in my campaigner’s mug. There it is, beside your
portrait. If only we could hope to get away from here before it fades!

Durupt left us to attend vespers, whilst I went on walking with Dutrex.
At ordinary times he is a man of extreme reserve, fencing off his
intimate soul, and all the more unapproachable in proportion as he
becomes gayer; but to-day, as if in spite of himself, he was a little
expansive.

There had been a silence, and then he said:

“Just at this hour, coming from his office, my father has doubtless been
greeted by the words, ‘Still no news of the little one?’ I’m afraid I
shall find them greatly aged.”

“But, my dear fellow, they’ll get young again fast enough when they see
you!”

“I have a presentiment,” he suddenly exclaimed. “Look out at the view
before us, this dead countryside. No smoke rises from Ingolstadt. There
is not a soul in the fields. Does not this suggest defeat? Last Sunday
there were still some men among the idlers at the gate who came to stare
at the French. To-day there were only women and children. All their
men are at the front. And this wind from France! I am sure that it is
sweeping back their armies. I am confident that just now, when we were
drinking our toasts, we were unwittingly celebrating a French victory.”

He went on to speak of his family and of his studies. The cold breeze
stung our faces. A chill vapour was floating across the melancholy plain,
so that it seemed as if all that we looked down upon was covered with
mysterious veils of crêpe. How sweet it was to me to listen, in exile, to
the delicately simple confidences of this son of France.

When I re-entered the “salon,” Durupt, back from vespers, was reading the
German translation of a novel by Sienkiewicz, _Mit Feuer und Schwert_. He
turned towards me with a dazed and yet decisive air: “Old Riou, I have a
presentiment of victory!”



THE VICTORY OF THE MARNE


                                                    _September 28, 1914._

A batch of eighty-two convalescent wounded arrived at the fort on the
stroke of five. We thought at first that they were ordinary prisoners
sent here direct from the last battle. We were already running to meet
them on the bridge, eager for trustworthy news, ready to throw a fire of
questions at the unexpected messengers across the curtain of Bavarian
bayonets. Then we noticed that several of them were limping, while
others, though not limping, were leaning upon sticks after the manner of
old men, and we perceived that they had all lost the bronzing of trench
and camp life. We were disappointed. These white-faced men came from the
hospitals of Ingolstadt, and such drafts, as a rule, bring but little
news.

While the transfer was being effected, and while the two German
non-commissioned officers, the one belonging to the fort and the one
belonging to the town, paper and pencil in hand, ticked off their men as
sheep are counted at a market, we studied our comrades’ appearance. They
were not very ragged. They had almost completely repaired the terrible
havoc of battle.

The havoc of battle! These words have no meaning to a fire-eater past the
age for active service who fights his battles among women. He speaks of
the beauty of the assault, of the heroism of a bayonet charge. All that
his imagination conceives is the richly dressed shop-front of war. It
would be different if he knew the reality that lies behind! One must have
been over several battlefields immediately after the fighting in order to
understand the meaning of the phrase, “the havoc of battle.”

“They throw away their shakos, their muskets, even their colours,”
writes Victor Hugo. Alas, dropping with fatigue, some of them will even
throw away their coats. You see them in shirtsleeves, running across
the stubble. The firing gets hotter; suddenly a shell bursts, and a man
is wounded in three places—hit in the back, scratched on the thigh,
and deeply torn in the arm. He falls. To make matters worse it begins
to rain. The ground soon becomes a slough. The battle passes off into
the distance. Rain continues. Night comes. Our man, half drowned, and
almost buried in a furrow, no longer hears a sound. He tries to rise, but
finds it impossible. He strains his eyes to see something. The effort is
useless. He is glued to the ground; he can see nothing beyond the tuft
of grass where his head is resting, nothing unless it be, close at hand,
the mist-wraiths which gradually surround him and hide him. In anguish
he cries: “Maman, maman!” He believes himself lost. “Maman!” He screams
this with all his might. It is an appeal, a complaint, a prayer. He is in
pain. He is parched with thirst. “Maman, maman!”

The stretcher-bearers have heard the cry. “The ambulance!” they shout to
reassure him, making a speaking-trumpet of their hands. Here they are
with their red lamps knocking against their legs. A red cross man takes
our soldier on his back. The wounded man groans. What can be done? They
let him groan. On the road is waiting a forage cart with straw on the
bottom. It creeks and jolts; it is a bed of torture. It is packed with
wounded. The rain never ceases. Our man feels that he is dying of cold,
but he has the good luck to faint. The cart reaches a dilapidated farm.
Beside the entrance are two lanterns, one white and the other red; it is
the field hospital.

As soon as its turn comes the blood-stained bundle is smartly brought
in and placed upon a truss of fresh straw. Amid the horrible concert of
lamentations the man gradually returns to consciousness. What pain! The
chief hospital orderly comes by with his dark-lantern. He examines the
newcomer. “Here’s another of them hit in the back,” he says with a growl.
He summons assistance, and two or three men painfully turn the poor devil
on to his face.

“Have you the scissors?”

“No, they are in use.”

“Have you a knife?”

“Here you are.”

Rip, rip. With two slashes the orderly removes the back of the shirt.
Rip, rip. He does the same with the rest. But this is sticking to the
wound. “Oh, oh,” groans the patient. It is finished. The skin is free.

“He has blood-stains on his trousers, too.” Rip, rip. “Hullo! what a
nasty tear in his thigh.” Rip, rip. “Gently—how it sticks!” Half of the
trousers, stiff and black with blood, is thrown into the alley way to
join the other rags.

At last comes the turn of the shirtsleeve. This is an easier job. Rip,
rip.

“Monsieur le Major.”

“Yes,” answers the medical officer, at work at the other end of the barn.
“Have you exposed the wounds?”

“Yes, Monsieur le Major.”

Oh yes, they are fully exposed. So is the wounded man! He had nothing on
when he was brought in beyond a shirt and trousers. Now his shirt lacks
an arm and most of the back, while his trousers have but one leg! Poor
devils, whom the panic of retreat and the orderly’s knife have reduced to
this condition. Such men as these may well speak of “havoc.”

And if the field hospital is in the hands of the enemy, the patients
in this condition will have to endure two or three days of railway
travelling, slowly jolted along in the foreigner’s cattle trucks.

Just now I was talking about our new comrades. They had known the
extremity of wretchedness. Two or three weeks had passed. There they
were, behind the curtain of Bavarian bayonets, standing on their own
feet, their clothing a little worn; but they were full of pluck, and,
considering everything, almost gay. Doubtless a Frenchman might see
reason for surprise at their equipment, for this was somewhat unusual.
But no German could find anything to laugh at; he could not but feel that
he was looking at true French soldiers. I was grateful to our comrades
for the spirit and ingenuity which had enabled them, by the use of chance
expedients, to assume a military, a French aspect, under the eyes of the
enemy. In certain conditions, coquetry is heroic.

Dominating the troop was a gigantic chasseur d’Afrique whose appearance
drew the most indolent in the fort to look at him. Seen close at hand, he
was simply a foot soldier of the 146th, from Toul, who had cut himself
a chéchia [elongated fez] out of a red trouser-leg. Beside him was a
dragoon, sporting an extremely elegant police-cap manufactured from
the same cloth. A chasseur alpin partially concealed beneath his ample
cloak a perfectly new pair of greenish trousers, bought from a sutler
through the hospital gate at Ingolstadt. A colonial infantryman of the
6th, from Tarare, who had received a horrible wound in the shoulder,
had a linesman’s coat and an artilleryman’s trousers. It was only
his red-anchored képi, saved from the general wreck, which revealed
him to be a marine. I regret to say that some of our warriors wore
peaceful-looking civilian caps of grey cloth which would have given an
unsoldierly appearance to Ney himself.

Nevertheless, this debris of broken regiments, rigged out at haphazard as
it arrived from the battlefield, soiled, torn, and deplorable odds and
ends collected from the abandoned slaughter-houses and thrown pell-mell
into transport wagons, had now an appearance that was far from being
filthy or wretched. Besides, the men were smiling.

On the other hand, the soldiers who come here direct from the battlefield
are far from smiling! Their brains are filled with terrible visions. They
anticipate cunning tortures. They are astonished that their throats have
not yet been cut. I was struck by their aspect as of hunted beasts when
the gate of the fort was opened wide to admit them.

I call to mind one of my comrades, an officer in the medical service.
His red cross armlet protected him. Upon the roof of the field hospital
he had with his own hands conspicuously unfurled the great neutral flag.
I remember the circumstances perfectly. The cannonade had ceased. Our
ears, which for three successive hours had been deafened by an infernal
noise, were astonished by this sudden, palpitating, and immense silence.
The men of our regiment, sent forward on a bayonet charge across the
open, had been mowed down in masses. The survivors retreated in headless,
incoherent, almost indifferent groups. While this was in progress I saw
some of the men pause, quietly strike the plum-trees with their rifles,
fill their mouths and their pockets with the unripe fruit, and continue
on their way with the same careless gait as if at manœuvres. But the
Prussians were in hot pursuit. We saw them advancing in regular order,
close at hand, at first in open formation, and subsequently by sections.
They halted, fired, bounded forward, fired again. Repeatedly they fired
upon our field hospital, where the flood of bleeding flesh overflowed
into the little garden behind the house. Dzing, dzing. Their bullets
cannoned among our utensils, broke off limbs from the little fruit trees
shading our wounded, and sometimes covered the poor hungry fellows with
plum branches.

The whole of our staff was at work, and the work was overwhelming,
utterly disproportionate to the equipment and the personnel. Yet it was
all the better, for excessive labour blinds us to danger. When the body
is utterly exhausted, this reacts upon the mind, which becomes dull and
insensible, so that imagination is paralysed. No doubt when, all of a
sudden, quite close to your ears, a passing bullet utters its sharp but
gentle flute-like note, the mind starts and rears like a frightened
horse. It is invaded by a flow of precise and positive thoughts of
self-preservation. But this is for a moment only. The act upon which you
are engaged is mechanically finished, and there you are at your post,
just as before. Heroism? The word is too lofty. It is better to say
simply that action is a vice which holds the mind in its powerful grip
and prevents reflection. In actual warfare, all ordinary men are worth
pretty much the same; all are, as circumstances vary, equally cowardly or
equally courageous. But the leaders are different. I am now of opinion
that the true leaders, those to whose troops panic is unknown, are those
who never abandon their men’s minds to themselves even for a moment, who
keep these minds permanently occupied, concentrated upon the immediate
vision of some simple and direct action which has to be performed.

“There’s no end to them,” said the hospital orderlies. And indeed there
seemed no end to them. The wounded streamed in from all directions, in
Indian file, in groups, or in pairs helping one another along. When the
house was full we did not know where to put them. For the time being we
packed them together outside, wherever there was a patch of shade. Poor
lads! already exhausted with hunger, fatigue, and loss of blood, they had
used up the last ounce of energy in making for our flag. “Orderly,” they
would say when reaching the door, “do what you can for me!” Then, out
of breath, they would slowly sink to the ground, with little cries like
those of a sick child. More than one of us, at sight of this, had to wipe
his eyes furtively.

The firing had ceased. All at once some one cried: “There they are!” A
Prussian cyclist had in fact ridden by the gate, followed by the first
patrol. They did no more than glance at the field hospital in passing.
At this moment I was about to open the surgical instrument wagon to get
something I needed. While we were all so busy, the officer of whom I have
spoken above was standing two paces from me, his arms hanging by his
sides. When he heard the words “There they are,” he was dumbfounded. The
brown hairs of his thin beard were bristling on his pale skin. His cheeks
were blanched; he stared at vacancy. He swayed upon his little legs.
Having his back towards the gate he had seen nothing. But he had heard
the words, “There they are.” He knew that he was about to be seized,
and he thought that his last hour had come. He stood for two or three
seconds, mute, pale, as if thunderstruck. Then, talking to himself, he
said tonelessly, “They’ll slit all our throats!”

       *       *       *       *       *

While the German _Feldwebel_, with Dutrex at his elbow, conducts the
convalescents to their rooms, section by section, I return to the
“salon,” and bury myself in my papers. All at once the door is noisily
opened, and Dutrex, with his usual shortness of manner, insistently
martial, in a state of cheerful exhilaration, ushers in a tiny man,
corporal of the 146th of Toul. Shepherding, hustling, dominating with his
great blustering voice, he pushes the stranger into my arms.

“Here’s a man for you!” I shake the little corporal’s hand. The first
downy growth of beard is appearing on his face. The _juventa intonsa_ of
Euryalus. He has the callow air of a candidate for university honours.
With thoughtful eyes, quietly obstinate behind glasses, he resembles my
friend Bonifas.

Durupt arrives. Several others, attracted to the spot, form a circle
round us. As one man, the cooks desert the “plutonic region”; Davit, the
Hercules, and the painstaking Devèse seat themselves unceremoniously upon
the ministerial table.

“Friend,” begins Dutrex, “we’ve brought you here before Riou because you
look intelligent, restrained, judicious. Riou insists upon trustworthy
news. Don’t exaggerate when you are talking to him. If you are a
romancer, clear out!”

The little corporal smiles. I open the conversation with the usual
commonplaces, asking him about his wound, where he was taken prisoner,
his last battle, his impression of the Germans at the hospital, his name,
what part of France he comes from. Then I put the great question:

“Have you any news of the war?”

His name is Lahire. He comes from Paris. He obviously has news of
importance. In a quiet, rather husky voice, speaking jerkily with
intervals of silence, he tells his tale simply.

“This morning,” he says, “at half-past seven, an artillery lieutenant
with a wound in the leg arrived at the hospital. He still wore his sabre
and his revolver, for he had been granted the honours of war. His coming
made a great impression upon our little world of wounded, causing much
more stir than the recent visit of the princess of Bavaria. In a trice
every one knew of his advent, and he immediately secured an attentive
audience.

“I must tell you that at the Ingolstadt hospital officers and men live
in close association. The officers, who number about fifty, are all in
the same ward; but the rest of the ward, which is just like the others,
is occupied by the men.

“Thus, while the lieutenant was speaking to his brother officers, we
of the small fry gathered round them in a second compact circle. He
had opened one of the last numbers of the _Bulletin des Armées de la
République_; he read out loud, and, above all, he made comments as he
read. He was bubbling over with delight. His fort, a fort of the third
class, which was expected to hold out for thirty-six hours, had held out
for six days. Three thousand melinite shells had been fired into the
place. They would have resisted much longer had not their guns been of
such short range. The fact is that, after they had broken up a German
division, they were forced to surrender, four hundred of them, including
fifty killed and a great number of wounded. This happened on September
25th. Until the surrender the fort was in communication with Verdun. As
you see, my news is recent.”

“But which fort was it?” I asked.

“The Camp des Romains to the south of St. Mihiel.”

“What! The Camp des Romains has fallen? But in that case the Germans must
have forced the Spada gap. The Hauts-de-Meuse must have been taken!”

“Not a bit of it! The Camp des Romains was taken from the north-west,
and its capture has been an empty glory for the Germans. It is the fort
of Paroches which commands the bridges of the Meuse and the passage
through Verdun, and they are not going to get this fort. Be easy in your
minds, Spada and the Hauts-de-Meuse are all right. Better still, we have
regained in the east, in Lorraine and in Upper Alsace, all the positions
of the opening days of the campaign. We are at Château-Salins.”

“At Château-Salins? Are we then also at Dieuze? My corps entered the
place on August 19th and had to vacate it the next day.”

“Yes, we are at Dieuze. In our batch there is a man who was wounded at
Dieuze on September 13th—I think that was the date. This same day we took
the town, lost it, and retook it.”

“Are we also back at Thann?”

“Yes, and at Gwebwiller too.”[13]

“What more did your lieutenant say?”

“He said that the disorder in France at the beginning of September was
intense, and that Paris had almost abandoned hope at the news that
the advance guard of the Boches had entered Compiègne. Then energetic
measures were taken. A few days later, the Germans lost two great
battles: one at Meaux, where we took 60,000 prisoners, barely half of
whom were wounded; the other between Rheims and Craonne. Since then, for
more than a fortnight, hand-to-hand fighting has been going on fiercely
along the whole front. Their right wing has been cut off. We have
occupied the line from St. Quentin through Charleroi to Namur. We have
effected a junction with the Belgian army, and are closing in upon the
Germans like a pair of scissors. We speak of it as ‘Japanese tactics,’ le
coup de Moukden, and it seems that the coup has been successful. The two
blades of the scissors draw nearer day by day. Everywhere the Boches are
in retreat. Their front, which was at Rheims, has now been pushed back
sixty kilometres from the town. We have entered Varennes. We have made
quick work of it to spue them into Luxemburg and Prussia by way of the
Moselle! Besides, our government is back in Paris, and Poincaré has been
to London to visit George V.[14]

“Let me assure you that this lieutenant was in earnest. He was not
orating to his inferiors in order to keep up their spirits. He was
talking to officers, among whom were several captains and men of higher
grade. He was absolutely confident of victory.”

Little Lahire was still talking in the quiet voice with which he had
opened. But we felt that he was animated by a sombre and intense, though
subdued fire. We listened, mute and solemn. There is a keen joy which,
overflowing and submerging our individuality, suddenly surges out to the
utmost limits of our highest affections—family, country, humanity, God.
_Freude_, _Freude_, sings the sublime chorus of the 9th symphony. Joy,
joy. But this joy is grave and heroic. A shiver goes through your being,
you are transfigured. You suddenly feel your footing in the eternal, in
the absolute. I said not a word. The little corporal of the 146th, his
eyes remaining cool behind his glasses, continued his story. The circle
of the audience pressed ever closer. Unable to restrain my tears, I took
his hand, said “Thank you,” and hastened from the room.

Oh France, my France!



A BREAKFAST


                                                       _October 5, 1914._

Plenty!

I wake at twenty minutes to five, or, by French time, twenty minutes to
four. There is a glimmer of moonlight in the casemate. The place looks
like a fantastic sawmill with piles of planks lying about on the floor.
The snores rise and fall rhythmically. However much divided our prisoners
may be by day (as divided as men are in time of peace, and perhaps more
so, for intimate association emphasizes differences and accentuates
shocks), they, unknown to themselves, attain harmony in sleep.

As you know, I find this harmony distasteful. Moreover, for some time
past, with the chill coming of dawn a violent rheumatic pain in the loins
has rendered the recumbent position intolerable to me. I determine to
rise.

Moving gently, in order to avoid waking Guido, who is an extremely light
sleeper, I throw off my coat, which has been tucked round my neck,
and lay it down to the right of my couch, close to my képi, which
I have lately pressed into service at night as a receptacle for the
miscellaneous articles from my pockets. At this moment I should have
appeared to you like a mummy, torso rolled up in the French military rug,
brown with a red stripe, and the rest of the body, from the waist to the
feet, tightly enveloped in the Ingolstadt blanket, stamped with the royal
arms.

It is quite a business to get rid of these wrappings, for my straw is
now mere chaff, and Bertrand, doubly soft as a betrothed lover and as
a Phocæan, has a nose extremely sensitive to dust. Still recumbent, by
means of slow contortions from right to left I unswaddle the upper part
of my body. Then, sitting with my back against the wall, I take off my
nightcap—my ancient nightcap, thoroughly impregnated with the dirt of
Lorraine and of Bavaria, as dirty as Queen Isabel’s shift. (I sleep with
it pulled well down over the ears, to protect my head from the chaff.) At
length I rise to my feet. The second wrapping, which confines the lower
extremities, makes me look like a man about to take part in a sack race.
I untie it at the hips. It falls to the ground like a skirt. Now I am
dressed. I fold up my two rugs with infinite precaution and put them on
the top of my knapsack. Seated on this improvised stool, I take off my
night slippers and put on my heavy military boots, delightfully supple
since Devèse, the cook-butcher, anointed them for me with a wonderful
preparation of beef marrow. Emptying my képi of watch, pipe, tobacco,
pipe-lighter, pocket-knife, purse, and handkerchief (the huge regulation
handkerchief), I stuff all these things into the pockets of my trousers.
It is done. Guido has not stirred; he dreams misanthropically. Bertrand
has not sneezed; he dreams amorously. With catlike stealth, képi on
head, coat tucked beneath my arm, and shouldering my two haversacks,
respectively containing my papers and the small articles of my kit, I
hasten to the kitchen. To my great surprise I find the place lighted up.

That villain Marie, pipe in mouth, sticky, greasy, smeared with blacks,
alert as a fox-terrier just let out for a run, is rummaging in his
stoves. While I was still dreaming he had shaken up from their slumbers
two others: Lambert, most devoted of men, my good little Lambert; and a
famished specimen from the 6th corps, by trade a charcoal-burner in the
forest of Argonne, who would cut up an oak for you in return for a piece
of rancid bacon rind. Yesterday evening there was not a scrap of wood in
the kitchen. Dutrex “rowed” the cooks about it. But Marie, the wiliest
of all the Normans in Normandy, rose by moonlight. Where can he have
been? How, knowing not a word of German beyond _nichts_ and _ja_, did
he manage to circumvent the guard? Anyhow, axe in hand, Lambert and the
charcoal-burner are vigorously and noisily attacking logs of pine. I am
surprised. These logs have a strong resemblance to the timber-shores of
the outer ditches. What has he been up to, this Marie!

“Canaille!” Dutrex sometimes exclaims to him.

“That’s all right,” says Marie cheerfully; “that’s the only sort that
knows how to live!”

In fact, he does know how to live. Always on the go, doing little
services for every one in turn, swapping for chocolate the cigars which
are given him, reselling this chocolate retail, buying with the money
packets of tobacco and cigarettes, which he hawks for halfpennies in the
dark passage outside the kitchen—he will find his way back to the valley
of Auge with a nest-egg.

But I fancy he will get rid of some of it on the way. “Just think of it,
you fellows,” he frequently exclaims. “‘Mézidon, fifty minutes’ stop!’
I tumble to the ground. I put away the first bottle of Calvados [cider
brandy] I can get hold of. Then, ‘Lisieux, fifty minutes’ stop!’ Won’t
it be splendid to get a little good Norman stuff into one’s guts, after
the ditch-water of Fort Orff! One will get home to the missus thoroughly
cheerful.”

This Marie is a delight to me. Our philosophies differ considerably. He
has no pity, he says, for lame ducks. But he has such keen vision, he is
so spirited and plain-spoken, and he is so original in his methods of
expression, that he is above criticism.

While Lambert and the charcoal-burner (his name is Deschênes and he
has been through two campaigns in Morocco) are apportioning for the
stoves the spoils of Marie’s raid, I empty on to the table the second
of my haversacks. I wash and shave. Marie pours me out half a pint of
steaming coffee. “_Ja, ja_,” he says, as he adds a lump of sugar, smiling
his mischievous and knowing smile. _Ja_, in his vocabulary, signifies
everything that is good; _nichts_, on the other hand, denotes everything
that is bad. This done, he returns to the plutonic region.

Then, in the blessed solitude of the “salon,” by the pale and smoky light
of the distant lamp and of the dawn, I withdraw from the manuscript
haversack the packet about which I fancy I have been dreaming all night.

You will think me very materialistic, I fear. But as you read, bear in
mind that I am extremely well, that I am working as hard as usual, and
that my appetite, with which you are acquainted, has to be satisfied here
with a daily allowance that in Paris would barely have sufficed for a
single meal.

It was Fritz Magen, the _Gefreiter_, the leading private of our Bavarian
guard, who gave me this parcel yesterday evening. I had no thought of
such a windfall. In the same mood as any other prisoner, I was waiting
like the rest in No. 17 at the foot of my “bed” for the brisk appearance
in the casemate of the men to take the roll-call.

It is half-past eight. Suddenly the door opens. “The roll-call,”
bellows Dutrex, bursting in gustily, followed by the _Feldwebel_ and
the lantern-bearer. Dutrex rapidly counts us. “_Zweiundzwanzig_,” he
announces to the _Feldwebel_. “Twenty-two.” He shakes me by the hand,
saying: “_Gute Nacht, mein Freund; schlafe wohl._” The round passes on.

But Magen, the rear-guard, about to shut the door, lays down his lantern,
produces a good-sized box, and thrusts it into my hands in a manner that
is almost timid. “_Da_,” he explains to me in German, “my wife sent me a
hamper this morning.”—“Oh, thanks,” I reply. But he hastens off with his
lantern to join the _Feldwebel_ in No. 18.

Greatly touched by this unexpected mark of friendship, I turn to Guido.
We tell over the contents of the box. Five apples; two walnuts; a piece
of thick pancake, smelling of the _gnädige Frau_ Magen’s frying-pan; and
half a bilberry tart! What luck! Monsieur Magen, Bavarian as you are, you
are a brother, _ein Bruder_, a true comrade! I love you! I give Guido
his share. I put mine away in the haversack of papers. I go to sleep to
the thought that to-morrow, instead of the wretched thin coffee with rye
and barley bread, I shall have a succulent fruit breakfast. This thought
immediately transports me to Dully, to Fontainebleau, to Lablachère. But
what is there that does not transport me there, visions of longing and of
hope?

Thus it is that to-day, at earliest dawn, slowly pacing the deserted
“salon,” I make the first good breakfast since my imprisonment.



THE FIRST LETTER


                                                       _October 8, 1914._

Yesterday the rumour was current, derived, it was said, from the guard,
that we were going to be permitted to write to our families. A similar
report has stirred the fort two or three times before, but has hitherto
always proved false. Consequently the pessimists and all the disciples
of Heraclitus and the Porch—headed by Guido—had a fine time of it in the
casemates making fun of the comrades who were jubilantly commenting on
the news.

On the glacis, at three o’clock, I met Sergeant Feutrier walking with
Corporal Heuyer.

“Riou,” observed the sergeant, “it’s the first fine day of our
imprisonment!”

“No, no, my friend,” I said, half-heartedly aping Guido’s pessimism, “it
is raining.” It was, in fact, drizzling; the sopping grass spirted as we
trod. But Heuyer answered:

“Don’t tease Feutrier to-day; he is too happy.”

That evening, when I was working as usual at my side of the table, I was
deluged with requests: “Riou, could you lend me your pen and ink?”—“Can
you spare a sheet or two of paper?” There was a regular procession of
them. The mere thought, or rather the conviction, that they would be
able to write home transfigured them. Home, the fireside! The loved
ones, the familiar objects, the birthplace, the motherland! From this
secret universe, at ordinary times deep buried beneath the surface of
their minds, but suddenly exposed by the delvings of hope, there arose a
powerful incense which intoxicated them all. What will they feel like at
the prospect of going home, if the still dubious possibility of writing
can arouse such an outburst of cheerful excitement?

Even the cooks, more practised in criticism than the other prisoners, had
lost all sense of proportion. They handled their utensils with a terrible
joy. Then the tumult was stilled. A gentle atmosphere of harmony hovered
over the stoves. The cooks were silent and motionless.

O memories! Sweet images in which our love of life subsists and is
fulfilled. Sweet images which, at night, in the gloom and fatigue of
the camp, make us weep silent tears. Sweet images which, when death
threatens, rise suddenly in our minds and maintain themselves, bringing
benediction, the sole realities amid the void, very angels of God!

Suddenly the plutonic region burst into melody:

    “O moun païs! O moun païs!
    O Toulouso! O Toulouso!…”[15]

sang Pailloux in his boy’s voice; and our Bouquet, a son of Cahors, his
heart filled with thoughts of his betrothed, intoned in a mellow bass:

    “Vieillo villo de Cau, tan vieillo et tan fumado!…”[16]

The cooks, like every one else, were bewitched with thoughts of France.
For France they forgot the most serious of their immediate duties. One
was allowed an entrance into the secret universe of their thoughts, as if
into a public place.

In the evening, when the roll-call was finished and the round was leaving
with the _Feldwebel_ and our new Bavarian sergeant, only just recovered
from a wound in the foot received at Lunéville, Dutrex made eyes at me,
and uttered the single word, “Oui.” I went to sleep with the certainty
that the news was true.

To-day every one has spent the morning in writing _his_ letter, the one
and only letter to which we are entitled. But what a disappointment! No
more than one company is to be allowed to send letters each day. We are
five companies. Only one letter every five days![17]

But that melancholy barrier of silence which for a month and a half has
separated us from the world has at last been broken down!

It is true that we have been ordered to say nothing about the war, and
to instruct our correspondents to observe a similar restriction. This
morning these _Verboten_ have disturbed us little. Do you think any one
of the prisoners, when writing his letter, had a fancy for dissertations
upon strategy? His wife, his fiancée, his children, his mother, his whole
life, were before his eyes. At length people would know that he was
alive! His head was singing with voices from his own fireside. He was
intoxicated—at once giddy with excitement, softened, bitter, almost mad.
The most indifferent, the most torpid, seemed to have been awakened with
a start. Permission to write, the act of writing, had shaken them out of
their inertia.

For, fortunately, imprisonment dulls our sensibilities. At first it
causes poignant suffering; and suffering, of whatever kind, sharpens the
faculties. But imprisonment is above all hunger, chronic hunger. Those
only who have experienced it can understand the effect which chronic
hunger speedily exercises even upon an active brain. At first it induces
hallucinations. With terrible realism the sufferer recalls meals eaten
before the war some particular dinner, such and such a picnic. The nerves
of taste and smell, exasperated by the scanty regimen, are visited by
memories of odours and tastes. The man thinks of nothing but eating.
Literally he is nothing but a clamorous stomach. He will lie awake the
entire night thinking only of this: What can I do to-morrow morning to
secure a supplementary loaf?

Little Brissot, my friend of the Alpine infantry, when we were walking a
few days ago with our two French medical officers, made this unexpected
confession: “Only one thing can give me pleasure now—to get food. Only
one man interests me—the man who is capable of getting me food.”

This calm declaration from one so highly cultured that he will distract
his mind from the cares of important business by reading James and
Bergson, from one intimately acquainted with Montaigne and the Lake
poets, seemed to us neither paradoxical, nor irrelevant, nor cynical.

Among those who are able, by illicit and extremely laborious methods,
to procure food from outside, there are few who do not seize their
opportunity.

Men will try to get a thorough chill, hoping to be sent to the infirmary,
where they usually receive double rations. Yesterday two prisoners,
one of them a corporal, fainted from hunger. Quite a number are so
weakened by want of food that they can no longer climb the staircases
leading to the courts and to the slopes. When we heard just now that in
the neighbouring fort, Fort Hartmann, one of the prisoners had hanged
himself, the same thought ran through all our minds: “The epidemic has
begun, and will speedily spread to our own prison.”

Ultimately, however, people grow accustomed to short commons. Their
activities, in some cases at least, gradually become accommodated to
their regimen. In the long run, physical and mental life are reduced to
nil. The man hardly suffers, and he no longer revolts.

Even in the bravest the soldier-spirit dies. Look at these men crouching
on their heaps of straw hour after hour, silent and half asleep; or look
at them as with hands in pockets and hanging heads they slowly make
their way up the slopes; who can imagine that these are the men who
fought like lions at Montcourt and Lagarde?

These sudden visions of home were requisite to restore many of our
prisoners, though but for a moment, to life. But for how many of them
this has also involved a revival of suffering.

“I don’t know how I shall be able to feed my three children next year
unless I can get home soon. I can’t help thinking about my farm, where
the harvests of corn and of grapes have been so poorly gathered, and
where everything is running to waste!” The soldier who spoke thus
comes from Uriage, in Dauphiné. He stopped me when I was walking with
measured steps after the seven o’clock coffee, taking my anti-rheumatic
constitutional on the slopes. He drew me aside into a corner of the
fortifications. Taking a letter from his pocket, he modestly asked me in
a melancholy tone: “Could you tell me if that is all right, and whether
you think it will be allowed to pass? Please be good enough to read it.
You have my leave.” Poor comrade! It cut me to the heart to see him.
He wanted to look self-possessed, to look like a man. But he had been
weeping. He spoke low and quietly in order to keep the tears out of his
voice. The paper shook in his hand. I read: “My dear Marguerite.…” There
was nothing in the letter. “Don’t worry about me.… All is well with me.…
We are very well cared for.…” These reassuring phrases were reiterated
throughout the four pages, the very words repeated again and again. My
master, Jean Monnier, declares that repetition is the rhetorical flower
of simple minds. What a tragedy underlay the disjointed prose. This
prisoner of war whose eyes shone with hunger, this hollow-cheeked man
who had spent all his poor pocket-money so that he could no longer buy
any smuggled goods—bread, sugar, or chocolate—wrote: “All is well with
me,” “We are very well cared for.” He said it and resaid it monotonously
throughout the entire letter. It was essential that his wife should have
no doubt about the matter, his poor wife who had already so much trouble
to bear. I should have liked to pet him like a little brother, this man
already grey.

I also wrote _my_ letter. Having too much to say, I said nothing. What
are words when the heart hungers for material presence, for a touch, for
a living silence? My letter was not even of the regulation length.

At eleven Guido came in, with his eternal rug round his shoulders. He
planted himself in front of my table. He fixed me with his eye, the cold,
distrustful eye of the mountain dweller and of the priest. Then, making
up his mind to open his thin lips, he said:

“You are in a gloomy mood. You have been writing to _her_.”

We went out together. I felt his harsh sympathy as he strode by my side.
Every one was out of doors, but there were very few groups. Each man
walked by himself, rapt in his own visions. Guido remarked:

“It’s extraordinary how little noise they make, eleven hundred warriors!”



STILL SHORT COMMONS


                                                      _October 15, 1914._

The happiest moment in the day is in the early morning, when I leave
the sleeping casemate. On the staircases, the lamps are flickering to
extinction. The passages, always dark, are filled with the stench from
the latrines and with what is sometimes termed a “poor smell.” I make a
hasty toilet in the kitchen; take my half-pint of coffee from one of the
steaming cauldrons; gulp it down without straining it, Turkish fashion;
don my coat and my green cap; mount the stairs leading to the upper
courts. At length I am out of doors.

Dawn, fresh air, solitude!

This morning I was in a frisky mood. Life seemed good. The cold was
biting. The white frost endowed the simplest objects with a Christmas
purity. I walked smartly along the broad path which surmounts the escarp.
When we arrived at the fort, this path, like the other parapets, was
covered with moss and turf; but now, through our continual walking on it,
the grass has been worn away. It has become a road.

Though I am a sociable creature, and delight in company, I find it
extraordinarily pleasurable to be alone. I need long hours all to myself.
In Paris, at Dully, at Lablachère, I never weary of my workroom, where I
see no one before luncheon. The mornings are always too short. I don’t
know if I ought to regard it as an obsession, but here, when I have
been walking for an hour immersed in thoughts and memories, in solitary
enjoyment of the quiet northward landscape of fields and forests, my
first encounter with a man causes me real discomfort. I cannot be
agreeable before midday.

First of all, I made my clandestine and customary visit to your acacias.
They grow at the highest point of our domain. A look-out is hidden here.
I had long been familiar with a kind of large metal hood which interrupts
the long grass for a moment, and projects barely a span above the surface
of the soil. Yet had it not been for a recent adventure of two of the
prisoners, Noverraz and Laloux, I should never have dreamed that this was
a strategic eye, the eye of the fort.

Last Wednesday the men of the heavy artillery were engaged in their
final practice before leaving for the Russian front. The idea was that
Fort Orff was being attacked by an enemy hidden in Kösching wood, and
suddenly appearing to the north of the fort. The object of the defence
was to check the onslaught. Stationed to the southward, between Orff and
Ingolstadt, near Lenting, the gunners were firing over us, the line of
fire almost touching the parapets of the fort. It need hardly be said
that, by special order, all access to the parapets had been forbidden
from nine till three, while the manœuvres were in progress. The guns
thundered; the weather was fine; how dull it seemed, even to men whose
legs were weakened from hunger, to be penned in the casemates! At ten
o’clock the Protestant service was held. Crowds attended it, so that it
was necessary to open both wings of the door, and thus to include in
the chapel a gloomy passage which leads up to it. But what was there to
do after service? The few who are usually energetic enough to play at
prisoners’ base, leapfrog, or some other lively game, in the east court,
were itching to be out. The ration snatchers, those who, in the dark
corridors, armed with a sharp knife, surreptitiously hack a steak from
the passing joint, and those who, when the vegetables are being prepared,
filch a turnip or a potato, longed for their open-air kitchens, hastily
installed during the intervals between the rounds. The carvers and
polishers, who sell pebbles fashioned into képis or into spiked helmets,
or simply decorated with the Bavarian arms, sighed for the pleasures of
their trade. The whole fortress was heavily uneasy. But who would care
to take the risk of going out? The orders issued that morning had been
peremptory.

But the cannonade continued, and my friends Noverraz and Laloux, being
non-combatants (one is a musician and the other a doctor of medicine),
were naturally lovers of military displays. Unable to endure any longer
the pharmaceutical aroma of the consulting room, they abandoned the
place to Badoy, who, left alone, gave himself up to a profound fit of
home-sickness.

Beneath the sombre arches our adventurers go to and fro, exploring the
ant-hill. All at once, having entered an unknown region, they discover
a narrow staircase. They mount it. It leads to a revolving cupola. What
luck! Through the peep-hole in the armoured wall it is possible for them
to examine the whole of our northern horizon, right up to the wood. Upon
the ploughs, the meadows, and the clover fields, the heavy projectiles
from the 21-centimetre guns are falling incessantly. The earth shakes
under their impact. Plumes of white smoke, like those emitted by burning
straw, rise from the soil. Sometimes, in the clear atmosphere, they can
distinguish the actual flight of the projectiles. But the imaginary
columns of the assault are drawing nearer. The fire of percussion shells
ceases; crackling shrapnel shells take their place. They pass from twenty
to fifty yards above the glacis, great balls of dense smoke, from which
are emitted in all directions smaller balls, a rain of satellites, which
fly to pieces in their turn with the rattling noise of bullets.

Our two red cross men are absorbed in this scene, which lies almost at
their feet, when the German quartermaster comes in. Red with wrath,
swearing like a cabdriver, he seizes them by the arm, hurls them down the
iron stairway, and installs himself in their place. Crestfallen, but at
bottom thoroughly well pleased at having enjoyed the sight, they return
to the consulting-room to rejoin Badoy and his home-sickness.

This little exploit filled the whole fort with glee.

       *       *       *       *       *

From the look-out this morning, or let us say from your acacias, the
country was exquisitely beautiful. The position of the valleys was
indicated by diaphanous bands of blue vapour. They rose softly as far
as the border of the pines and vanished there. Birds flew through the
silent air, shining in the sunlight. I heard the ploughmen crying “_hue_”
to their horses. Beyond the oak coppice which adjoins the glacis on the
Wegstetten side, a great herd of oxen was grazing.

All at once a company of Bavarian soldiers appeared upon the military
road from behind the eastern redoubt. The men, recruits of the 1914
class, clad in blue tunic, and drill trousers tucked into their boots,
bore no arms. They sang loudly as they marched, scanning the rhythm:

    Lieb’ Vaterland, magst ruhig sein,
    Fest steht und treu die Wacht am Rhein![18]

Half way up the incline, between the forest and the fort, they halted.
The captain, without dismounting, made them a speech. From a distance
it sounded like barking. He stressed his syllables so vigorously
that fragments reached my ears notwithstanding the distance. The word
_Heimat_, home, came again and again, like a refrain. Then they intoned
the national anthem:

    Heil dir im Siegerkranz,
    Herrscher des Vaterlands![19]

They began to manœuvre. The company broke into two parts. One section
took up a position in the bushes in front of the wood. The other section
went back along the road as far as the glacis, to the oak coppice. The
men stood there for a moment. A fat sergeant, the only one wearing the
grey-blue uniform of active service, signed to them to fire at me. I
could clearly make out his head, set upon a short, thick neck like
that of a pig. He made gestures to signify his hostility. I shrugged
my shoulders. Then his section, turning away from me, advanced in open
formation across the ploughed fields, making as though to attack the men
in the bushes.

I ran down the steep slope. A footpath I am fond of runs along it half
way up. Were it not for the high wall of the escarp rising parallel
with the grassy counterscarp, it would be possible to believe oneself
in a peaceable valley in the open country. Here and there, beside the
footpath, a few trees are growing—a young oak, stunted and gnarled, some
dwarf poplars, a raspberry bush, a hawthorn. Across the ditch, capping
the masonry and hiding the view of the plain, is the grassy covering of
the first glacis, thickly set with wild rose-trees reddened with hips
and haws, and displaying at intervals the silver and golden tints of
beautiful little birches. Beyond the two slopes there is nothing to be
seen, nothing but the sky. This morning the blue was of a tender liquid
tint. At a great altitude tiny clouds were visible, blushing in the dawn.

I never go along this footpath without thinking of my friends de Bavier.
I picture myself pacing the steep banks of the Dullive beneath the great
dome of the trees. I sit upon my favourite bench. I look at the cool moss
on the wheels of the abandoned watermill. Beneath the shifting shade of
the beeches and the alders, I listen to the gurgle of the water as it
flows over the stones.

This morning I seemed to be in a land of faery. Beneath every dwarf
poplar the footpath and the turf were carpeted with yellow leaves,
speckled with black, already decaying, and exhaling a penetrating odour
of mouldering vegetation. It seemed to me that all the life of my
holidays, all the faithful and pure friendship which, since adolescence,
has never ceased to surround me at Dully, all the faces and the voices
of this beloved house, were coming to me with the autumn vapours, rising
from among the first masses of dead leaves.

       *       *       *       *       *

At seven o’clock I was seated at my table. I found a note from the
sergeant of our Bavarian guard, the man who was wounded at Lunéville. It
was his farewell.

Yesterday evening he had called me into the guardroom.

“Where are you going?” I asked, when he told me that he was leaving. “Are
they sending you to the front?”

“I think so. I am recalled to Kösching to join my regiment.”

“How far is Kösching?”

“About a league. The recruits are billeted there.”

“Does your wound still hurt you?”

“Yes, at night.”

He had given me his chair, and was sitting upon the wood of the smaller
platform. He was a young fellow of twenty-five, with regular features,
blue eyes, and fair hair cut very short. A fine, downy growth on his rosy
cheeks made him look younger. I know little about him. He told me that he
lived near Munich, forty kilometres from here. One day when he saw me at
work, your photograph made him break his reserve for a moment.

“Is that your _Geliebte_?”

“Yes.”

“For my part, I also was about to be betrothed. But the war has dashed my
hopes.”

He said no more. I lacked courage to question him. I understood from the
first that this handsome fellow, born for happiness, harboured a secret
grief.

Yesterday evening we were for the most part silent. Through the loopholes
came the last rays of the setting sun, lighting up the orderly row of
rifles in the arm-rack. In the shadow, on the great platform which filled
half the room, two Landwehr men were sleeping. My friend Foch, the
infantry sergeant, seated on a broached cask, was draining mugs of beer
amid a noisy circle of Bavarians. In our corner a pensive peace reigned.
My host was preparing me a slice of bread spread with minced meat. I
sipped my beer slowly, after the French manner. Then he drew from his
haversack a long and thin cigar, pierced by a straw. Handing it to me, he
said: “Smoke that, for you like strong tobacco. It is an Austrian cigar,
sent me from home.” We said hardly anything more. He speaks but little
French, and my German is not very good. All that we knew was that we were
happy to be there together.

He has gone now. In four or five days he will be under fire once more.

This is the feast day of the Queen of Bavaria, the _Theresientag_.

“Did you hear the bells?” asked Durupt, when I entered the kitchen. “The
sound came from every quarter this morning. It gave me an uneasy feeling.
As I passed through Coblenz they were ringing madly for Manonviller.”

When remounting the slopes I had indeed heard the bells, and had noted
with surprise that the blue-and-white Bavarian standard was floating over
the fort; but meeting Guido outside room 32, I learned from him that it
was the _Theresientag_ and I was therefore able to reassure Durupt. The
vegetables were now being prepared.

“No more news, no more papers, no more enthusiasm—it suggests the
deluge!” says Labassan, a light-hearted fellow, all goitre and paunch,
ever playing the fool, nicknamed l’Asticot (the maggot). He peels his
potato with inimitable gestures which set the whole circle in fits.

Among them is Bonin, a Parisian, of the 31st of the line, the 31st
half-brigade of Valmy, my regiment. On August 24th, at Longuyon in
Meurthe-et-Moselle, he was wounded in the face, a bullet passing in at
one cheek and out at the other. I am very fond of this little workman of
the Marais quarter; his clear and quiet eyes radiate patriotism and good
sense.

“Give me a match,” says Loupe, who wears the long white cap of the German
“Michael,” its tassel dangling over his ear. With deliberation he lights
his great china pipe, adorned with a view of Ingolstadt. Then, having
rolled a spill of paper, he asks: “Who wants a light?” He goes the round
of the circle, offering his burning spill. “‘_Et quasi cursores vitai
lampada tradunt_,’” he quotes. “Freely translated, ‘Matches are scarce!’”
For Loupe is lettered.

“Ah, my poilus,” says a homely fellow of the 26th, a man sturdy as an
oak, “it is plain enough that, with all these Maccabees about, the crows
will have a fat time of it. They’ll breed like rabbits! But we may hope
that after a while there will come the season of the lean kine. When
there’s no more human food, they’ll be forced to eat one another.”

“Don’t you worry about the crows,” rejoins a red cross man from Rheims.
“It is we who are starving. Some of our men here actually turn over the
kitchen refuse to find food!”

Our rations are indeed dwindling. This morning the quartermaster
delivered to the kitchen staff so scanty an allowance of coffee and
roasted barley that it hardly served to darken the water in our eight
cauldrons. On Sunday each man had to be content with 1⅓ oz. of semolina
at midday, and with ⅔ oz. of vermicelli in the evening. And what are
we to think of this heap of potatoes on the ground at my feet? Is it
intended to feed five hundred men, or one section merely? And to-day is
the _Theresientag_! Really, matters begin to look serious. It is hardly
an exaggeration to say “We are starving!” Who is responsible? Who has
made up his mind to turn the fort into a hunger camp? It is certainly
not the commandant, a thorough gentleman, kind-hearted, courteous,
and just. Who then? Perhaps the quartermaster, an ill-bred Upper
Franconian, cross-grained, obstinate as a mule, but whom I should have
thought too stupid to be a cheat, is feathering his nest by giving us
short allowance. Or is it possible that the ultra-orthodox Monsieur de
Hertling, philosopher and prime minister of Bavaria, has made up his mind
to starve the prisoners of “the infidel and perverse nation”?

Enter Marie and d’Arnoult. The former, cleared unceremoniously out of the
kitchen because his traffic in articles of food became too notorious,
is brandishing the censer from the chapel. The requiem mass is about to
be said, and on this occasion the old curé of Lenting is to officiate,
assisted by nine of our comrades, soldier-priests. The extemporized
sacristan has no tongs; crouching before the stove, he is endeavouring
with finger and thumb to remove the hot coals destined a few minutes
hence to burn incense before the flesh and blood of Christ.

D’Arnoult, of the 6th mounted chasseurs (known in the fort simply as
“le Chasseur”), is Major von Stengel’s secretary. He takes his seat
by my side. Having read the papers, he is able to inform me that in
France the 15th class is to be called up on November 2nd. He relates
that the Russians seem inclined to repeat with the Germans the tactics
successfully employed against Napoleon: to entice them far into the
interior, where they will perish of cold and hunger; to harass them
unceasingly by threatened attacks; to break up their forces into
incoherent fragments, and then to overwhelm these isolated detachments in
detail amid the snows.

The men at work on the vegetables were listening.

“We are likely, then, to stay here for some time,” said one of them.

“Never mind,” says Bonin; “we are better off than we should be at
Augsburg. In the Ingolstadt hospital I had a talk with some of the men
from the Lechfeld camp. There, I gathered, the prisoners sleep under
canvas, mixed higgledy-piggledy with the wounded who are awaiting removal
to hospital. There are no plates. They feed by sections, out of a trough.
No meat. Nothing but turnips and red cabbage. Not very pleasant, this
starvation camp, during the cold winter rains. They would regard our
fortress as the lap of luxury!”

The potatoes have been peeled. Now for the turnips. The soldiers cut
slices and chew them raw while they are at work. Poor devils!

The task is done. They sweep up the peelings. How limp are their
movements! To think that they are all men between twenty and thirty years
of age. The Lenting curé told us in one of his sermons: “You have been
welcomed here as friends.” Major von Stengel hit the mark more aptly one
Sunday. Apropos of the fact that all through the week, from matins to
compline, the religious services had been diligently said, he remarked:
“Sie würden lieber etwas mehr Brot haben, als so viele christliche
Seelensorge.”[20]

But d’Arnoult has kept his principal item of news for a tit-bit. A man
named Schieder, one of the two grocers of Hepperg, house number 31,
jealous at finding that his trade rival was exclusively patronized
for the clandestine purchases made on our behalf by the soldiers of
the guard, has just written a furious letter to Commanding Officer
Major Baron von Stengel. His first complaint is that the commandant’s
boot-cleaning orderly has insulted his (the commandant’s) wife, “going
to the length of making indecent and public observations upon the
imperfections of her face and figure—conduct unworthy of the German
army and the German name.” The letter proceeds: “Further, it is an open
secret that the aforesaid orderly returns daily from the village of
Hepperg laden with a huge bundle of rolls, sticks of chocolate, boxes
of cigarettes and of cigars, not to mention butter, sausages, smoked
ham, and roast goose—conduct even more scandalous, if possible, than the
insults offered to your honoured lady, for it transforms into an abode of
bliss a national fortress where it is intended that the petulant pride of
the French should experience salutary suffering.” The worthy grocer, in
order to give vent to his spleen, had pirated all the grandiloquence he
could find in the local papers. It was extremely laughable. But d’Arnoult
and I saw another side as well as the amusing one. Were we to be cut
off from our extra supplies? The commandant had already summoned his
_Wichser_, and after administering a temperate reprimand, had forbidden
him to revisit Hepperg. Without losing his head, Georg (we, his patrons,
speak of him thus familiarly) pointed out to the _Herr Major_ that it
was necessary to go somewhere for his honour’s marketing. “You will go
to Kösching!”—“At your orders, _Herr Major_, but Kösching is an hour’s
walk!”—“Very well, you will go to Kösching for three days; Hepperg is out
of bounds for three days!”

Le Chasseur concluded by saying: “But after all, I am convinced that
the commandant will let the matter drop. This laborious letter reeks
too much of the counter. Von Stengel has no fancy to see his gentility
contaminated by association with the greasy scales of Schieder the
grocer!”

It is already ten o’clock. I shall hardly get any more work done to-day.
The “salon” is becoming a forum. My comrades are very good. They say: “I
don’t want to bother you. I’ve only just looked in to shake hands.” But
they ask for news; they give me their own; they retail the latest canard.
There is always a canard in the fort. To-day, for example, the talk
in the courtyards is that the Russians have taken Breslau. To pay the
Germans out for the famous _Paris kaput_, those of us who are least able
to speak German do not hesitate to greet the gentle Stheer, the assistant
quartermaster, with a cheerful “_Breslau kaput_.” Naturally I protest,
for the news is too utterly ridiculous. So here I am sketching a map of
the military operations. Dutrex breaks off his reading of Ibsen’s _John
Gabriel Borkmann_ to quote the latest issues of the _Münchener_. Durupt
mingles his invincible hope with the debate. It is interminable! And my
poor studies lie neglected.



I HAVE A PALLIASSE


                                                      _October 17, 1914._

When I went out at seven o’clock there was a mist. It had the same
smell, piquant and wholesome, as at Dully. The landscape was Japanese.
I could have imagined myself looking at the right-hand kakemono in the
drawing-room which gives on to the conservatory. The pretty village of
Hepperg, brought near by a curious optical illusion, was stumped out in a
long silhouette in the background, a delicate piece of filigree work seen
through the soft, silky vapour. Here and there in the foreground crows
made rich black markings. It was exquisite. There was no one else on
the parapets. I walked for some time along the northern rampart. It was
impossible to have too much of this autumn morning.

Two or three images rose to my mind. Chief of all was that of a walk in
the Bois which we made just at the last with Guite, to talk about you.
A thick mist was hovering over the lake. Invisible boats passed to and
fro. Their lanterns were like large red moons gliding softly through the
darkness. The island was illuminated; strains of music floated across to
us. We were seated near the water. Close at hand was a tree, bending over
and dipping its long locks into the lake. It recalled Hokusai’s pictures.
Next day I was to leave for Trouville.

It is strange. I had forgotten my captivity. I had forgotten the war,
the battlefields of Lorraine, Belgium, and Poland. I had forgotten the
terrible nights spent upon the bloody field of Kerprich. As I looked
at the slender steeple of Hepperg church rising above the morning
mist-wreaths, the only visions I had were those of a world at peace. The
little yellowing birches on the slopes had transported me to Dully. The
splendid purples of the oaks at la Lignière, the ruddy golden tints of
the horse-chestnut avenue, the Virginia creeper garlanding with vermilion
the windows of the house, and all the familiar noises of this corner of
earth where I have spent so many sweet and happy autumns—filled with
these visions, I looked and listened with rapture.

But little by little the sun had dispersed the mist. The slopes were
thronged with prisoners. Their groups formed bright spots of colour
in the pearly light. A sort of calm languor, of slow and melancholy
serenity, seemed to have passed from nature into their hearts and their
gestures.

The sunlight was so sweet that I had delayed upon the ramparts beyond
my usual hour. When I went indoors again I brought with me a bouquet of
autumn leaves—the leaves of your poplars.

“What on earth are you going to do with that?” cried Ancey Redbeard, whom
we tease here because he looks like a Bavarian.

Le Second stood beside him, engaging little Le Second, the designer to
Poiret, the costumier. He answered for me:

“Riou, at length you will help me to get even with this wretch of an
Ancey. He makes fun of me because I pick flowers. There will be two of us
now to scrub his German hide for him!”

I filled my pipe and was about to set to work, when Ploss, the German
quartermaster, commonly as rough as a bulldog, came in and seized me by
the arm, saying:

“I have a palliasse for you. Come at once.”

He had just said the same thing to Dutrex. We hastened upstairs behind
him, and followed him into a windowless storeroom, the only entrance to
which was from the crypt beneath the great paved passage. Here, in the
darkness, I groped for the heap of straw, and finding it, I unfastened a
truss and began to stuff the sack of ticking. The material felt strong
and hard as leather. I pricked my fingers with the thistles in the
straw. “Whatever you do, stuff the corners well,” said my co-minister,
thoroughly enjoying his good luck. He stuffed with the dexterity of a man
who had never had anything else to do all his life. The quartermaster,
evidently coming to the conclusion after a moment that I was a very
awkward hand, shoved me to one side, cursing in his Franconian patois in
a way intended to show me that he was furiously angry. Then to see him
at the stuffing! I have been told that his trade is that of mason. He
worked even faster than Dutrex. At length, “_Das ist fertig_”—“There you
are!” he cried, giving a vigorous smack to the belly of my sack. Then,
unceremoniously, he pushed his gift on to my shoulder, this great sack,
tight and paunchy as heart could wish.

The acquisition of the palliasse is a revolution in my life. I was
sufficiently delighted, on entering the storeroom, at the thought that I
had said farewell to my wretched bedding. A restless sleeper, I always
awaken with my back on the floor, stiff and aching, burrowing in the
black chaff, having scratched up my dust like a fowl. I was uneasy at
the approach of winter. How should I be able to endure the Swabian
frosts upon this moving mattress? I should mention that it was obviously
diminishing in size, and that in proportion as the few intact straws
disappeared from the heap, the bedding of one of my good companions in
the casemate seemed to undergo a commensurate increase. Quite exceptional
virtue would have been required to enable him to resist the temptation.
I was occupied all day at my table in No. 22, so that my little piece of
property was left utterly defenceless.

Nevertheless, in the busy obscurity of the storeroom my joy resembled
that which we take in forbidden fruit. Though lively, it was not wholly
unalloyed. It is impossible to accept a great favour, even if the
acceptance does not involve any injury to another, without a certain
perturbation in one’s sense of equality. My energy at the work was
diminished by a shadow of remorse.

But Dutrex, gay as a blackbird, stuffing his palliasse with the fury
of an assault, said to me: “Old chap, we are to sleep in No. 22 from
to-night onwards!” This suited me very well. I should never have been
bold enough to plant my palliasse, all new and tight as it was, among
the humble litters in the casemate. As soon as I accepted the Teuton’s
offer (and what could I do but accept it?), my precarious tenure in No.
17 was broken. In any case, I had become almost a stranger there. Since
my installation at the ministerial table, except for a daily visit to my
friends Guido, Bertrand, and Boude, I never crossed the threshold until
bedtime.

All the same, my palliasse and my change of lodging induced feelings
of sorrow as well as joy. I might say to myself as often as I pleased
that the quartermaster, a surly Franconian who detests the French, had
done me this kindness solely through inspiration from above (his only
superior here is the commandant); that a refusal in such conditions
would have been mere rudeness; that one need not be so fastidious as to
decline an offer involving the enjoyment of a sleeping apartment with
but one companion, and involving also, during the winter nights, the
company of the still warm stoves; that, for the rest, it was the act of
wisdom to terminate at the first opportunity, and when it could be done
without shock or violence, certain chance associations devoid of all
charm. Reasons for accepting the palliasse and the accompanying train of
benefits surged abundantly in my mind without setting my conscience at
rest.

Not in vain does a man drink in the gospel with his mother’s milk;
not in vain does he from childhood onwards have instilled into him by
accomplished parents the dogmas of the republic. Be it worth what it may,
the motto of France is to me an article of faith. I fail to act up to my
principles in this respect, but the failure makes me unhappy. Inequality,
especially inequality that redounds to my own advantage, does injury
to some profound fibre of my being. The enjoyment of material comfort
produces periodical fits of remorse. The logic of my heart would have me
a Franciscan. Yet God knows that my whole being and all my senses clamour
for joy and loathe the ugliness of poverty!

But I keep my palliasse. The bulk of my effects had already been removed
to the kitchen in No. 22. Maître Lambert, usher at the law-court of
N., for whom I have secured employment in the kitchen as one of the
assistant cooks, went to fetch for me what remained at No. 17. He found
that my flask had disappeared. He forgot my nightcap, which Guido has
just brought me. Now, therefore, I have everything here—all my baggage,
personal property and national property, republican goods and royal
goods.



THE REVOLT OF THE HUNGRY


                                                      _October 21, 1914._

Yesterday was a great day! Perhaps the greatest of my imprisonment, if I
except that of my first “teube.”[21] Oh, that first teube! After I had
worn my clothes continuously for so many days and nights, the clandestine
undressing at early dawn, beside the sink in Dutrex’s kitchen; the
forbidden and unhoped-for sensation, to be, as if at home, naked beneath
the steaming water; the lather of soap everywhere, on the hair, the neck,
the chest, the arms, the legs, the feet; the douche with the aid of a
bailer; the dry rub! At length to have a clean skin and clean linen! Then
to stride up to the slopes in the delightful morning solitude, repeating
as it were involuntarily: “I am clean; what a luxury! I am in their
hands; but I have managed to get clean. They ration our water, and I have
had water. I am a prisoner; but I have secretly divested myself of my
coating of filth, a burden almost as heavy as that of hunger! I am by no
means wholly wretched!”

It was a month since my last bath, at Tonnoy, about a week before we were
taken prisoner. We had had a long and rough journey, from Chaouilley,
at the foot of the hill celebrated by Barrès, to the Moselle. The dirt
of three interminable nights in a cattle truck, in which we were herded
pell-mell; the dust of the complicated movement towards the front; the
stiffness of the opening march, the sweat and the fatigue—I had got rid
of it all in the river. It was a beautiful evening, bright and warm. The
sun was setting. The Moselle flowed rapidly among the islets of shingle
and the sandbanks. Groups of men, officers and soldiers, men newly called
up and reservists, indiscriminately mingled, naked as worms, the fat, the
tall, and the short, the pot-bellied and the thin, fringed the bank with
a strip of flesh-coloured humanity. We looked like a colony of Mormons.

After leaving the water, I challenged Soulier at ducks and drakes. Do
you recall, little Darry, how we played ducks and drakes on the shore at
Dully? I got the better of Soulier. One of my flat stones, skimming the
water briskly, flying across the brown river, made its way right over the
stream to strike the rocks on the other side.

When I think the matter over, this delightful bathe remains my
most agreeable souvenir of Lorraine. I grieve to have to admit
(notwithstanding Barrès, whose style would ennoble the most worthless
materials) that all the villages we passed through, from Mont Sion to the
frontier, and above all the village of Tonnoy, left on me an impression
of penurious and squalid melancholy, of ugliness and filth.

Yes, yesterday evening was epic.

The morning had passed as usual: an early walk; then work until
dinner-time. There was nothing to foreshadow a storm. I had been for a
stroll after dinner with Dutrex, Durupt, and Foch. A typical Bavarian
day: a moist sky softening the harsh outlines of the landscape; a half
light, uncertain and dreamy, as if longing for the rich azure of Piedmont
and Provence; a piercing little wind which, even in the sunshine,
continues to suggest melting snow and cold, almost a bise, whose very
caresses sting.

For the last few days I had been working hard. My faculties were blunted.
I had a vague inclination to idle. I was suffering a little from
boredom, a state of mind by which, happily, I am rarely afflicted. I was
discouraged. I wanted a rest, and yet lacked energy to make up my mind to
lay aside my work.

As I was returning to my task, I encountered little Brissot. Lately he
has taken to wearing the Bavarian cap, a sort of Phrygian cap which I
have made the fashion at Fort Orff. Mine is green—you know whose colour
green is. Brissot’s is blue, and this tint sets off admirably his
energetic blond countenance. Seeing that I was a little out of sorts, and
not so cheerful as usual, he prevented me from going down.

“Abandon your kitchen for a while,” he said. “It reeks of sulphur,
drains, burned fat, and vegetable refuse. You are getting mildewed amid
the steam. The fires draw badly, and when I pay you a visit there your
eyes are watering from the smoke. Besides, you have slaved quite enough
this week under cover of your famous notice. You can be quite easy in
your mind, you will have more than enough time to finish your studies.
The Russian generals will secure you months and months for reflection. If
that does not suffice, our diplomatists will see to it that you have an
extension of time. This evening you must put aside your philosophies and
your histories. We will go the round of the slopes together. The weather
is fine. We will have a talk with my little friend across the ditch; you
can’t think how sorry she is for us. Here is one, at any rate, who is
utterly unconcerned as to questions of state. What does she care about
French, Germans, English, Belgians, Russians? She knows men only. Her
heart has skipped several centuries, and without an effort has attained
the era of thoroughgoing internationalism. I can assure you that if she
had to choose between a _hübscher Franzose_ and a _böser Deutscher_,[22]
there would be no hesitation.”

Brissot is light-hearted, firm, bold, definite, gently peremptory,
perfectly self-reliant; he is a surprising compound of boy and of leader,
of artist and tradesman, endowed with a lively will; how can any one
who is in the dumps resist Brissot? I accompany him to the parapet.
Positively she is there, a sort of Munich Flora, short and plump, with
great black eyes, whom he calls his “bonne amie,” walking upon the
footpath of the glacis, accompanied by three bare-headed village girls
and a troop of children. “Damn the escort!” says my _hübscher Franzose_
in an aside. The conversation is opened; it is as innocent as the arched
forehead and rounded cheeks of the three slatterns. One of them is
in high spirits to know that her affianced is safe. He has been made
prisoner, and she has just received her first letter, dated from Gap. She
asks if I am betrothed, if the ring I wear (Véron, the corporal in the
engineers, cast it for me a few days back out of one of the metal buttons
of the coat of a chausseur à pied) is an engagement ring, and why it is
made of silver. Brissot takes the initiative in the reply, saying with
an air of disgust that it is not silver but platinum, a metal far more
costly than gold. She is astonished. She has never heard of platinum.

The conversation continues, agreeably stupid. Then the children ask for
French pfennigs. “You shall have some if you will give us a newspaper in
exchange.” The answer is not new to them; of course they have one ready.
They roll it round a stone and throw it across the great ditch. The paper
is four days old, but we throw back some sous which fall behind them some
way down the glacis. Children and slatterns rush greedily to pick them
up. Brissot, profiting by this moment of freedom, says to his Flora of
the great eyes: “Come again to-morrow, and without your companions, who
are not worthy of you!”

“My dear fellow,” I say to him, “I leave you to your love affairs.
Farewell.”

The splendid reds of autumn flame on the great oaks along the border of
the pine-wood—a strategic wood, designed to mask the west battery. The
parapets are packed with soldiers, fine blue-and-red spots upon a dull
yellowish-green ground. Some, chisel in hand, silently bent over their
work, are carving pebbles. Others are wearing out their finger-nails
and wearing down the corner stones in polishing tablets of white chalk
destined for employment as ex votos. The cries of men playing at ball
and at prisoner’s base resound from the ramparts. At the foot of a slope
adorned with a clump of birches, men are busily engaged in cooking
their extra provender. There is a circle round each improvized kitchen:
some dry and break up the small branches rifled from the trees of the
fort; some tend the refractory fire, for the wood will not flame; some
agitate the contents of the mess-tins—fragments of stolen meat, choice
morsels of vegetable peelings, coffee dregs begged from the kitchen,
potatoes pocketed when the dinner was being prepared, edible snails found
on the grass on rainy mornings and kept fasting in an old cigar-box,
cheese-rind, plum mushrooms, wild chicory. Soldier-priests walk up and
down reading their breviaries. On one of the slopes, a crowd surrounds Le
Second, who is displaying his latest cubist composition; at the “kitchen
windows” a number of poor devils whose stomachs are empty are patiently
sniffing the thin odours that rise from the cooking-pots. Here and there
are to be seen the dealers, their wares hidden beneath their coats,
passing from group to group, and offering for sale at three or four times
its value a cigarette, a lump of sugar, or a stick of chocolate. The
blue-and-red ants have all emerged from the subterranean galleries of
their ant-hill. On this October afternoon they produce a sad impression
of mingled gaiety and wretchedness.

Yet amid this chaos I seem also to have before my eyes the picture of a
city, a city of very ancient days. Characteristics of civic order are
plainly manifest. A semblance of social life declares itself. Broken to
pieces a few months ago by the sudden call to arms, flattened out and
pulverized by the forces of hunger and tedium, the world that existed
before the mobilization begins to reconstitute itself. By a sort of
spontaneous generation, the eternal society rises anew from the void,
with its groups of leaders and of poets, of traders and of artisans, with
its classes of profiteers and of exploited, of originators and of simple
executants. It is reborn, but in a less intricate form, with plainer
contrasts, accentuated to caricature. Here, temperament, initiative, and
energy have replaced tradition. There are no privileged positions. Social
functions are not acquired as a right, but are seized. There is free
competition. We all start from scratch. Each man takes his place in the
natural hierarchy by the sole right of conquest. He can retain it only by
cunning, force, or the power of genius, and at the price of a persistent
victory.

Hence there have been strange changes of fortune. A man who arrived
without a farthing, sold for sixpence a cigar he had been given,
bought chocolate with the sixpence, resold it at 1,000 per cent., and,
continually bargaining, always turning over his money with increased
profit, has succeeded in this way in amassing a capital. I have several
times come across this brilliant trader on the slopes at nightfall,
when he believed himself alone. Leaning forward on his hands, he was
contemplating his greasy handkerchief stretched out on the grass,
covered with little piles of silver. Another, who was scullion in a
drinking-booth, has taken to writing poems; at the Saturday concerts in
No. 7 he sings them to well-known airs, amid universal applause. A man
named Tarbouriech, a farmer from the Agen district, has made himself
graving tools and carves pebbles for French and Bavarian customers. He
gets a mark for each carving, and can thus from time to time buy himself
a supplementary loaf. He is a real decorative artist, a good sculptor,
and he did not know it.

As I lounge in the last rays of sunshine, I admire the spontaneous
manifestation of creative energy. I am astonished at the superabundance
of talents in so restricted a group. Yet there is a sadness in the sight
of this poor primitive city which has set itself to sprout upon the
levelled bed of servile equality.

Everything betrays the stimulus of hunger. Hunger is here the universal
mother of artistic, commercial, and industrial inventions; it even
induces devotion to the collectivity, for the performance of a public
service commonly secures an extra ration. Work or starve, such is the
rule. Each one makes his plans, exercises his ingenuity, does the best
for himself. The aim is simple: not to die of hunger, to keep oneself
going, if possible to improve in appearance and to grow fat. Some, too,
having filled their stomachs, try to line their pockets. The strong try
to get the better of the weak; the cunning, of the stupid; those who know
a little German, of those who know none at all. Hence arises extreme
inequality, tangible, crying inequality, shown by the cheeks, the eyes,
the gait—the inequality between those who are hungry and those who are
fed. Here is one running upstairs, happy, and lively as a cricket, for he
has eaten his fill. Unashamedly he overtakes and passes a poor devil, a
man quite well off in civil life, but who has had a visit from the body
stripper when lying in a swoon on the field of battle; he makes his way
up with great difficulty, breathless, shaky, clinging to the banister,
finding the flight of stairs interminable.

Sad thoughts assail me as I walk. This battle without rifles or
artillery, exempt from immediate risk of death, baser than war because
it is more hypocritical, more crafty, and carried on under the Christian
ægis—is it not life itself? Is not life immoral in its very essence?

For, after all, one must live. First of all, one must live. Now, here
it is clear that there is not enough food to go round. What then? Then
the field is open for the craftiest and the boldest. Let us suppose that
there are twenty bold men among the thousand prisoners. From the lean
corpse of our cow they have cut their large share, the lion’s share; now
it is the turn of the little jackals to divide up what remains. Let us
suppose that one of these “lions” has a conscience. Let us suppose that
his mind is influenced by the morality of the gospels or by socialist
ideas. Is he to sacrifice his average share, the share requisite to keep
him in good health, because the others, nine hundred and eighty in the
thousand, have nothing but a famine ration, and can have nothing else,
whatever he may do? Ought he to make up his mind, as an act of goodwill,
and knowing that the general regimen will be no whit bettered, to accept
malnutrition for himself, to accept the permanent ruin of his health?
Christ, where are your beatitudes? Will the determinism of the body ever
be overcome? Will your reign, your city of justice, ever be established
upon this dreary planet? But if the world continues, and if the general
supply of goods should happen to become as greatly restricted as it is
within the limits of our fortress, I shall be sorry for the city of the
just. Let the twenty “lions,” from virtuous motives, tie up their jaws,
let us suppose that there are one thousand ascetics in place of nine
hundred and eighty, the stew will be little thicker.

The electric bell, its jarring note issuing from all the doorways, breaks
in upon these grey reflections, as much the outcome, perhaps, of personal
discouragement as of the realities of the situation. It is five o’clock.
In a twinkling the ants disappear into the under ways.

       *       *       *       *       *

In kitchen No. 22, Dutrex, Durupt, and the three cooks are standing
round the vice. Half a gruyère cheese is fixed in it. This is the entire
dinner; each one of our four hundred and eighty men, those fed from the
first of the three kitchens, will have to be satisfied this evening
with the four hundred and eightieth part of this half cheese. Devèse is
usually responsible for the serious task of cutting up the cheese. He
is an expert, being accustomed every day in Paris to serve out large
quantities of ham, saveloy, and galantine. Unfortunately our cook-butcher
is confined to bed in the hospital casemate with a sore throat. Dutrex
has therefore asked little Lambert, Maître Lambert, Lambert the Good, to
do the cutting up.

The great kitchen knife passes busily through the hard, white curd. The
usher of Saint-Joseph-de-Tinée holds the knife in both hands and presses
on it with all his weight. Beads of perspiration are standing on his
besmirched forehead; his goggle eyes dilate; the ruddy skin of his face,
downy with sparse golden hairs, is deeply wrinkled. He sweats as only a
thoroughly good fellow, a man who puts all his will into his work, can
sweat. Bouquet and Pailloux look on indifferently. Durupt, who becomes
absorbed in the most trifling matters as if they were affairs of state,
gravely counts the slices and arranges them on the right-hand corner
of the kitchen table in piles of ten. Dutrex has assumed his service
manner. He stands stiffly upright at the left corner; his moustache is
brushed away from his lips, his eye is severe, he holds his check-list.
“Lambert, cut more equal slices!”

“Corporal Dutrex, I am doing my best, as you see; it is very difficult.”

“I know it. Durupt, you will give an extra piece to the rooms whose share
is obviously too small.”

Seated at my table, I contemplate this Rembrandtesque scene. The
melancholy lamp, its chimney broken, is smoking among the pale faces and
the piled up slices. The cheese is being contaminated by the foul air of
the dark casemate, in which all the stoves have gone out. The light of
the dying day still pierces the window bars, its tender blues and reds
fading slowly away. Through the closed door comes the impatient, angry,
and menacing sound of shuffling feet. The men waiting there know that
it is “cheese evening.” They detest this meal. It is cold and hard to
digest, less filling than a ladleful of hot semolina or vermicelli, and
makes extravagant demands upon their bread.

The distribution does not take long. When there is soup and meat, our
four hundred and eighty men come individually to receive their rations,
passing in a continuous stream, first in front of the cauldron to get
the soup, and then in front of the vice for the portion of meat. The
procession lasts an hour, as at a great funeral. “The holy water!”
say the jokers, stretching out their basins. “The handful of earth!”
extending their hands for the three ounces of cow-flesh. But on cheese
nights there is no procession. The twenty-three headmen of the rooms
supplied from No. 22 bring bowls, and when these are charged the headmen
go off to distribute the contents in their respective casemates.

At six everything is finished. Heaving a sigh of relief, the cooks clear
the table and draw up the two benches and the three stools. All of them,
cooks and ministers, are about to swallow their allotted rations. These
look very small, especially to Lambert, who has been sweating blood and
water.

There is a knock at the door. “Confound it!” says Dutrex; “some more
fellows to bother us! We never have a moment’s peace.” Then, “Who is
there?” he shouts in a forbidding tone. Two ingratiating voices make
answer, those of little Corporal Véron and of Boisdin, a sergeant of
engineers, long as a lamp-post. “It’s us!” Dutrex opens the door, and the
two non-commissioned officers of room No. 3 display their bowl, wherein
are heaped, not neat slices à la Devèse, but fragments of every possible
shape, square and rectangular, thin and thick, with no rind or all rind,
tapering, pyramidal, and concave.

“Dutrex, old fellow,” says Véron, “we’re sorry to bother you, but our
men are on strike. They’re not having any of these leavings. Now, just
look at this piece.” He points out a well cut slice. “This is what the
‘poilus’ are receiving from kitchen No. 53.”

“My good chap,” Dutrex answers quietly, “what do you expect me to do?
I give what is given me. I know that Sarrazin’s kitchen is specially
favoured—it is the kitchen of the Germans. For the hundred and fifty-two
men it has to supply, which includes himself and the twenty-four
Bavarians of the guard, the quartermaster delivers almost as much as for
us who are four hundred and eighty. Go and make your complaint to him.
He’ll give you a reception. You will find out how amiable he is. For my
part, I have given up trying to argue with this tête de Boche, who is as
obstinate as a hundred Spanish mules rolled into one, and who detests the
French. It is true that the contents of your dish do not look very grand.
As you see, I have had to get on without Devèse. His substitute is quite
a novice. Besides, your room was the last served, and naturally you got
the remnants. But I assure you that your full allowance is there. Durupt
allotted each ration in little heaps with his usual conscientiousness. If
your men don’t like it, well, let’s settle the matter among ourselves.
You’d better go and consult our own medical officers. I can do no more.”

Five minutes later the door opens. “Attention!” It is the
surgeon-in-chief, Monsieur Langlois, the major with four stripes, who
came here yesterday from fort No. 8 with three colleagues, so that, with
our two other medical officers, MM. Cavaillé and Lœbre, we have now six
doctors. He is short and fat; his hair is pepper and salt, with more
salt than pepper; his gestures are lively; his head resembles that of
Poincaré; his eyes sparkle mischievously. He takes from the hands of
Véron the allowance of No. 3. “You are nineteen?” he asks. He quietly
repeats the work of Durupt. Upon the table, encumbered with our hunks of
bread and our rations of gruyère, he arranges the bowlful of “leavings”
in nineteen small heaps, being careful to make them as equal as possible.
He then says: “Do you know that your room No. 3 is specially favoured?
I have seen what has been allotted to the other rooms. I assure you,
sergeant, that yours is one of the best served. Call your men.” The men
of No. 3 are waiting outside, and, judging from the noise which comes
through the door, it would seem that there are others in the corridor
besides the men of No. 3.

“Men of No. 3, enter,” orders Dutrex. The nineteen defile in front of
the table and M. Langlois points out to each man his own little heap.
When they have withdrawn, Dutrex, in the presence of Boisdin and Véron,
tells the surgeon-in-chief about Devèse’s illness and the misdeeds of the
quartermaster; how he favours kitchen No. 53 because it is the kitchen
of the Germans; and how he takes a large “squeeze” from the supplies.
“M. le Major, I was in the guardroom yesterday. By chance I came across
his store-book, and I found that he had entered thirty kilogrammes of
rice when he had certainly not distributed more than twelve kilos at the
outside. It is just the same with coffee, sugar, milk, and meat. I am
absolutely certain that he is a cheat!”

M. Langlois listens. He listens attentively. He has no wish to assert
himself prematurely. He is not here to play the officer. He is a friend,
an elder brother, frank and simple. He looks behind words, and endeavours
to grasp the secret essence of the soldier who is speaking to him. He
must be a man of intelligence, good and just.

“We will discuss the matter again,” he says as he leaves. “Meanwhile,
keep a record of the quantities delivered to you. If you can manage it,
make a steelyard. For my part, I will sound the commandant. I believe
him to be well disposed. Perhaps he will be willing to listen to a
courteously worded complaint against his quartermaster. But if we make a
complaint we must be extremely careful that we have strong evidence to
back it up. And when all is said and done, I am under no illusions as to
my power with the German authorities. We are at war. All the conventions
have been violated. Notwithstanding the armlet I wear, I am a prisoner
just like the rest of you.”

The kitchen staff sits down a second time. Every one is enchanted with
the surgeon-in-chief.

In the passages there is an unusual movement. Ordinarily, when supper
is over, most of the men lie down upon their straw. The roll-call finds
them nearly all asleep. During these two hours there is no life in the
fort, except in the kitchens and in the consulting room, which are, after
a fashion, clubs where the few intellectuals assemble to enjoy their
tobacco in company, to read the paper, or to drink the beer which the
most diplomatic among the circle has secured at a high price from the
guardroom—all these actions being utterly contrary to regulations.

It sometimes happens, however, that in their casemates the Bretons of
the 19th and the 118th of the line, suffering from home-sickness, are
day-dreaming as they lie motionless on their couches. If, now, one of
them begins to hum softly to himself, his comrades, silent men for the
most part, will little by little take up the strain. Most of them have
clear, tender, somewhat bleating voices. They drag at the end of the
verses. The movement is heavy and lachrymose. It sounds like the desolate
psalmody of a religion of despair unillumined by a single gleam of hope.
Or again, in rooms No. 16 and No. 17, two fragments translated from
Provence, one hears on certain evenings, voiced with a glad pulsation,
_Magali_, _Galanto Chatouno_, and other love-songs of old Languedoc,
that country of leisure and passion. The round coming to call the roll
stops sometimes outside the door to listen for a moment to these graceful
melodies, so different from the German _Choral_ and the German _Lied_.
But the thick crypts and walls muffle these concerts. The fort is not
disturbed by them. Even the nearest casemate will only become aware at
intervals, and remotely, of the sound of melody. The long corridors,
to which the sun never penetrates, are already as quiet, as mournfully
quiet, as they are during the heaviest hours before the dawn.

       *       *       *       *       *

The unusual activity in the passages astonishes the cooks. The
conversation outside becomes livelier, and rises to the intensity of a
real tumult. It draws nearer. It is at the door of No. 22. Now come blows
on the door, shouts and execrations. “Resign, resign! Fritters! Legs of
mutton!” Some of the rioters positively bellow with indignation. The
blows on the door become more violent. “Come out, if you dare!”

This goes on for quite two minutes. The slender repast is finished.
It is time to fetch some coal. Pailloux and Bouquet, the head cook,
take up the coal-box, open the door, and say firmly: “Make way for us,
by thunder!” They pass out. But through the door, which is left ajar,
fists are shaken, and vociferations rain in. “Food snatchers!” Durupt,
shrugging his shoulders, shuts the door in the shouters’ faces. The
demonstration becomes still more lively. The noise must be heard a
long way off, for suddenly there comes a terrible growling, raucous
and determined: “_Zurück mit dem Pöbel!_”[23] In an instant the crowd,
numbering about fifty, disperses like a flight of sparrows. A single man,
Georg, the commandant’s boot-polisher, has broken the back of the riot.
He disappears. The corridors relapse into silence, the mournful silence
of a cellar.…

       *       *       *       *       *

We are invited to No. 41, to visit Juramy and Roy, chasseurs alpins,
together with Foch, d’Arnoult, and Brissot. We go out. A man of the
guard, with fixed bayonet, slowly walks by the kitchen. He smiles and
greets us.

“_Grüss Gott!_”

“_Gute Nacht!_”

On the staircases and in the upper corridors the “ministers” encounter
glances of anger and surprise. At No. 41 the comrades, seated upon the
twin straw piles of Roy and Juramy, receive them with marked friendliness.

“Well!” says Sergeant Foch, the sturdiest soldier in the fort, chief
of the second kitchen, “so it’s your turn this time. You have had your
revolt! It seems to have been better organized than mine. But it means
nothing. We business men, Brissot and I, know all about the caprices
of the crowd. Suddenly, without knowing why, it rages against friends
or against foes, haphazard. These good fellows are governed by pure
instinct. In my opinion this particular revolt has been mainly the work
of the exploiters whose usurious traffic was relentlessly suppressed
by Dutrex and Durupt. It’s bad policy to be savage with the strong and
gentle with the weak, for the strong avenge themselves. Now they are
posing as defenders of the collective stomach. If you only knew all that
they are saying, and all that they are leading others to say! I’ve had my
eye on them for a long time. This evening they really believed they were
going to do something—that to-morrow they would usurp your places. They
were already licking their chops. It was a case of trust against trust. I
shall laugh if the trust of virtue proves, for once in a way, victorious.”

Dutrex is taciturn.

“Before the roll is called,” he says, “I shall hand in my resignation to
M. Langlois.”

“That’s right,” says Brissot approvingly. “Otherwise you will seem to be
clinging to a fat position.”

“What are you thinking about?” protests Durupt. “You will seem to justify
the enemy; you will accept defeat. The sharp practitioners who, under
pretext of serving their comrades, were buying for sixpence from the
guard commodities worth about twopence, and selling them at a profit
of a shilling, thus realizing as much as a pound a day—these fellows
whom you saw through, who would have liked to blarney you, but whom you
summoned to the table, whom you shook as one shakes a plum-tree, whom you
threatened with the cells (some of them even non-commissioned officers),
whom you treated in that cutting way which you know how to assume—these
sneak-thieves, who are almost as repulsive as the body strippers, do you
want with your own hand to put them in your place in the kitchen? I don’t
understand you. I stand firm. If there be a trust of virtue, I promise
you it shall checkmate the trust of the lick-cheeses.”

“Meanwhile,” says Foch light-heartedly, “let us drink. Here’s a big jug
of beer which I brought from the guardroom under my coat. For your sake I
made myself look like a woman in the family way! What, old Riou, are you
still in the dumps? Haven’t you got a thirst this evening?”

“My dear Foch, I admit that I do not feel myself to be designed for the
government of men. One who wishes to rule men must make up his mind
to despise them and to come to terms with their rascality. Now (you
will laugh), I respect them. I am even rather fond of them. And it is
my weakness to wish them to be fond of me. These hostile cries, these
angry glances, which we have just had to endure—I find them difficult of
digestion.”

“Digest them as quickly as you can, you big baby! It’s a stage in your
education. You need to lose a few illusions. Men are rather a poor
lot. You Christians believe that men are brothers. That’s nothing but
religious tosh. Men are no good. Brothers?—not a bit of it. They are
venomously jealous of any one who has a straighter nose or a prettier
wife than their own, of any one with greater talent or more charm. No
doubt the worst of them have their good days. When the weather is fine,
when their bellies are well lined, when they have done a good stroke of
business, they are pleased with every one. They are all smiles. But what
does that amount to? A momentary intoxication. The instant they fancy
that their neighbour’s belly is fuller than their own, or that he has had
better luck in business, there is very little smile about them, and don’t
you forget it. It is true that some men are the salt of the earth. These
are worth loving, for they are scarce. But most people pass their whole
lives in being envious. When it’s their turn to become stiffs, it’s envy
that finishes them off!

“If they had any sense, these fellows, I shouldn’t mind so much. But they
swallow all the gossip that comes their way. Morning after morning a
flight of canards settles upon the fort, and the prisoners spend the rest
of the day in roasting them. Do you know what they are all telling one
another in the casemates? They declare that the major with four stripes
made a raid upon kitchen No. 22, and that he found fifty chops, seventy
steaks, a leg of mutton, a lot of fritters, a store of cheese—all pinched
by Durupt from the men’s rations. Whereupon the major sent you to the
cells under guard of four bayonets! Now you know why these rascals looked
at you with angry surprise as you passed along the passage.

“When such fellows are really famished, as they are here, seeing that
they are jealous and stupid, and, above all, driven out of their senses
by starvation, how can you expect them to be anything but idiots? All
at once, they see red, and must instantly have a victim. But they are
incapable of finding one for themselves. Always some cunning rogues among
them point out the victims, indicating as if by chance the men of whom
they are jealous, and whom they long to replace. Don’t take it so much to
heart. In ten years from now it will all seem to you perfectly natural.”

This profession of social faith gives me no pleasure, although to-night
the temptation to approve it is only too strong. What an affair! It
is precisely the kitchen run by Dutrex and Durupt, men of principle,
men who may be said to be scrupulous to excess, before which a noisy
demonstration is made, whilst no one attempts to interfere with kitchen
No. 53, notoriously privileged by the quartermaster. How mean! And it
is Frenchmen, men of intelligence, men quite capable of recognizing the
real causes of things, who, inspired by envy and revenge, have directed
against No. 22 the vague wrath of hungry stomachs! _Fames malesuada._
Yes, this is what it means, the ambition of a few turning to profit the
hunger of all.

It is strange, but a clear recognition of the motives that have brought
about this storm in a teacup produces in my mind a sort of philosophic
disillusionment. My thoughts pass quite beyond the present affair. I
find myself dreading all at once lest the great social movements, those
I most admire, those I see on the horizon of history, sublime, heroic,
superhuman like the Marseillaise of the Arc de Triomphe, may not resemble
this trifling affair, which aimed, beneath the standard of justice,
at introducing a set of rogues into the heart of the temple of their
thoughts, the kitchen.

If we look at matters without prejudice, a little thing is just as
significant as are many events which are regarded as grand simply
because the trumpeters of a faction or of a nation have magnified
their importance. Indeed, this attempted revolution concerning a piece
of cheese suddenly renders all revolutions suspect to me. The little
revolution seems to spoil the great revolution, and to lessen the stature
of humanity. Is it possible that, in the last analysis, clamours for
justice are nothing more than the growls of envy?

Dutrex left us early. I stayed in No. 41 until the roll-call. I was
genuinely unhappy.

It need hardly be said that M. Langlois absolutely refused to accept any
resignations.

       *       *       *       *       *

To-day I was out walking before dawn. My thoughts were gloomy. The sun
rose in a calm sky, a sky that was greenish-blue, clear, and magnificent,
with a flotilla of tiny clouds, white tipped with gold, and melting away
at the edges.

When I began work just now I was well content, content to be here, among
the placidly gurgling cauldrons, and away from the company of men. But
this sudden access of misanthropy is probably the sequel of my fit of the
blues. I am “fortorffish,” as the prisoners say. The paroxysm will soon
pass.



A CHANCE CATERER


                                                      _November 6, 1914._

The weather is sombre. The winter is coming on apace. On the grass,
rusted by the frost, the leaves fallen from the willows have already
rotted. This morning a gentle, damp wind was blowing, increasing at times
to vent long sighs. The whole sky was bistre. Towards France, however, an
islet of light was visible. On the Austrian side, the dawn had the ardent
flushes of sunset. Skimming the ground, great flights of noisy crows were
settling down on the freshly turned ploughs.

Things are going badly in the fort. Not that there is any fear of defeat.
Durupt has been at pains to translate the _Deutschland über alles_ of the
German military march into a sonorous _Alles über Deutschland_ filled
with hope. But even Durupt, our Déroulède, is depressed. He had promised
us liberty before All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, declaring it
certain that we should celebrate these festivals at home. But All Saints’
Day has passed without the faintest murmur of peace. Yesterday evening
the revictualling officer said to Foch: “The war will last two years.”
This prophecy has gone the round of the casemates, disseminating gloom.
Every one’s patience is exhausted.

Our dietary is still further reduced. To-day we had some horrible little
prunes, two years old and as hard as wood, in lieu of meat. Henceforward
our five companies are to supply every day a gang of a hundred men to
work five miles from here on the military hutments. Ten miles march,
eight hours’ work, and to make up for this fatigue duty, a sausage of
about the size of your finger. The German ganger, a tailor by trade,
and a man with the finest beard you ever saw, is by no means a bad
fellow. During fifteen years he has made the seat of his trousers shiny
in the tailors’ workrooms of Paris. He has no hatred for the French.
As he passes from group to group with his eternal, “Allons, messieurs,
travaillons un peu, n’est-ce pas?”[24] he modulates his voice in such
alluring intonations, that one would say he was a salesman in the rue
Blanche tempting a fair customer to inspect his wares. But the customers
of our tailor-ganger are proof against temptation.

Yesterday, Brissot was with the gang as interpreter. The work is going
on as slowly as usual, twenty men getting in one another’s way where two
would suffice, when, towards four o’clock, the chief engineer-officer,
the _Baurat_, arrives on the scene. His tone is rough, and he makes
impatient gestures. He accuses the men of slacking, whereupon Brissot
makes answer, in his cold and cutting manner: “_Herr Major_, what can
you expect them to do when their stomachs are empty? They can’t work
any harder. Look at them! Their eyelids and the wings of their nostrils
are blue. Do you see that fellow in the trench? He eats every earthworm
that he turns up with his spade! At home in France, _Herr Major_, I am
an employer of labour, and I expect my men to work hard. But I pay good
wages, and they get plenty to eat. Can I honestly ask these poor devils,
who are starving, to do any real work?”

At this unexpected reply, the officer bridles as if he had been flicked
with a switch. It is too much for him that a common soldier, a Frenchman,
a prisoner, can speak so boldly to him, the great _Major_, the master.
Thunderstruck, half in mind to strike the presumptuous fellow, he
suddenly turns on his heel, and, cursing loudly, he flings himself into
his Mercédès, spits out a command, and drives in hot haste to Fort Orff,
where he issues orders that Brissot is never to accompany the gang again.

Having got wind of this affair, I sought out the eater of earthworms. He
was a reservist of the 211th regiment, from Montauban. He was didactic,
and explained to me that worms are no longer edible when you dig too
deeply. Those more than two feet from the surface have a bitter taste.
“They look all right; they are large and fat; but they are nothing but
earth!” The quaint thing is that this little fellow, sturdy, hairy, and
bronzed, by no means looks starved. It seems that the earthworm must be
nutritious.

Nor is this the only culinary discovery inspired by the regimen of
famine. When Brissot is eating his piece of Münster cheese on Tuesday
and Saturday evenings, a comrade stands at gaze, rubbing his hands. At
length he says: “You mustn’t squander the rind.” Brissot hands over
the rind, which he has purposely cut rather thick. The man then adds:
“But you mustn’t squander the paper either.”—“What will you do with
this dirty, stinking piece of paper?”—“I shall boil it with some potato
peelings under the birch-trees. It’s splendid seasoning. Don’t you see
that it is soaked with cheese-fat?” This same prisoner, a nice lad,
always good-humoured, well set up, hunts rats in the grass. His most
famous dish, one he prepared a fortnight ago, was a stew of apple parings
with rats. He secured the apple parings from the participants in a sort
of “banquet,” a clandestine “feast” partaken of one evening by a large
group of friends after an unusually liberal consignment had been received
through the instrumentality of Georg.

It was dusk. Brissot and I were strolling along the slopes discussing,
apropos of Bergson, the relationships between philosophy and life. I was
surprised that, instead of pushing straight ahead, he turned about. I
like to walk quickly, but he insisted upon pacing gently to and fro on
the top of the slope looking towards Hepperg. Hands in pockets, wearing
the close-fitting tunic of the chasseurs alpins, little Brissot was
scanning the horizon from time to time, when two men whom I had not
noticed before, Loux, a colonial infantryman, and Vernes, a linesman
of the 1910 class, a compositor on _Le Journal_, who were stationed at
the two angles of the eastern escarp, simultaneously exclaimed: “There
he is!”—“Hullo!” says Brissot, “he’s got a big load this evening.” I
look. From behind the recently felled pine-trees bordering the Hepperg
road appears a man carrying a box under one arm and a large sack under
the other. He crosses the ploughed fields and comes straight in our
direction. His progress is slow. He stumbles over the ridges. He looks
utterly exhausted. From time to time he stops and deposits his two
burdens on the ground. After he has reached the foot of the battery,
we lose sight of him for some minutes. Then he reappears upon the
advanced glacis, among the wild rose bushes. I recognize Georg Doppel,
the baron’s orderly, his face grey and dripping with sweat. He is in
full dress, looking very smart in the light blue Bavarian uniform with
its red cuff-facings. He wears a fancy cap similar to that of his _Herr
Major_. But here comes the sentinel making his rounds! “Twenty-two,” call
out Vernes and Loux. Brissot takes off his cap; it is a signal. Georg
lies down among the bushes. The sentinel, pipe in mouth, his threadbare
_Mütze_ drawn down over his eyes, walks carelessly by, looking like a
country bumpkin. His rifle, hanging to the sling, knocks against his
thighs. He passes on to the northern wall and disappears. Brissot puts
on his cap again. “Get to the rope, quick!” says he to Loux, “and you,
Vernes, to the ditch!” Georg has placed his sack and his box on the
masonry of the counterscarp. He ties them to a rope and allows them to
glide down into the great ditch. There Vernes receives the goods, sets
them against the wall of the escarp, and ties them successively to the
rope which the colonial infantryman lowers to him from the top of the
wall. Two hauls, and the food is inside the fort. It is now quite dark,
and Vernes and Loux hurry off to get them safely housed in No. 34,
Brissot’s room.

Georg makes for the great iron gate and rings the bell. The man on guard
peeps out through the judas. Recognizing the commandant’s orderly, he
hastens to unbolt the gate, and respectfully draws aside, though without
going quite so far as to stand to attention as he would for the major
himself. The boot-polisher enters, firm of tread, head erect, giving a
gentle greeting. In the most dignified manner he makes his way to No. 34.
“_Grüss Gott, Georg!_” Conversation ensues between him and Brissot. Gold
coins pass from the French purse into the German, and the boot-polisher
takes his leave. “Now then, you chaps,” says Brissot, “let’s have dinner!”

To-day Brissot’s guests ate buttered eggs, herrings from the Baltic,
known here as “Bismarcks,” and a great dish of stewed pippins, all washed
down with the contents of a small barrel of cool beer, and cooked upon
an illicit stove by Loux, the colonial infantryman, a sabot-maker from
Bresse, cook-in-ordinary to Brissot.

Since this banquet, the sprightly Le Second, who in the kitchens had
already nicknamed our “salon” the “navel of Fort Orff,” has taken to
calling casemate No. 34 the “Capua of Fort Orff.”

The palliasse of the man who is averse to “squandering” is not far from
that on which Brissot and his guests were dining, semi-recumbent in
Roman fashion. The rat-hunter was watching their culinary activities.
When the time came to dispose of the herrings, he ran up, saying: “Don’t
squander the heads and the tails!”—“There you are, old chap.”—“That will
be fine seasoning to-morrow for my rats. These fish are dripping with
brine. Since the kitchens have been rationed in the matter of salt I have
found it impossible to get even a pinch from the cooks.” When the diners
attacked the pippins, each guest peeling a portion for the common stew,
the little soldier said: “Don’t squander the parings.” Nimble and lively
as a squirrel, he ran from one to another, receiving the strips of peel
in his képi as they fell from the knife.

I saw him next day under the birches, beaming with delight over his
stewpan. “Here’s plenty!” he said. “I have a rat, the apple peelings,
and the heads and tails of the Bismarcks! Best of all, they have just
turned out this straw here.”—“But the straw is contaminated. Surely you
know that this is the bedding from a lousy casemate.”—“What does that
matter? Fire purifies everything. It’s a devil of a business now to get
any wood in the fort. Reeds, raspberry canes, the lower branches of the
trees—they’ve all been burned. Some of our fellows are attacking the
timber-shores of the counterscarp and the lids of the latrines. But that
is a dangerous game. I don’t want to spend a week in the clink on bread
and water.”

With these words he began to throw the condemned straw by handfuls
between the two stones of his fireplace. What a smoke it made! From
time to time, with his hard and black fingers he lifted the scorching
lid of the mess-tin, saying, “Just look at this rat, it’s as large as a
guinea-pig!” Licking the stick with which he had been stirring his stew,
he exclaimed: “I assure you this will be excellent. The dash of fish
gives it a rare flavour!”—“But tell me,” I said, “what use do you make
of the Münster cheese-rind? The comrades have told me that you collect
it from them.”—“I put it in my bowl when I go for my ration of coffee.
It melts in the hot liquid. I give a stir, and then I have coffee with
cream. It beats caramel. If Brissot knew that, I bet you he’d keep the
rind for himself!”

Since yesterday, Brissot has been extremely put out. Germany is short of
men, and all the physically unfit have orders to present themselves for
re-examination. Upon receipt of his notice, Georg trembled. Providing
himself with a pair of large spectacles, he set out for Ingolstadt.
To gain the double end of having a good time and of making himself
look sickly, he went on the spree. It was of no avail; he was declared
_feldtauglich_, fit for active service.

Yesterday the commandant, walking between M. Langlois and me, observed:
“My _Diener_ has not come back yet from Ingolstadt. He is a good boy,
but he sometimes takes extraordinary ideas into his head. The other day
he asked my permission to present his sister to me. I agreed, and gave
him an afternoon’s leave to go and fetch her. I did not see him again for
three days. When he returned, he acknowledged that his ‘sister’ was a
lady-love from Ratisbon whom he was pining to see, and for whose journey
he had paid. This time I have sent him before the medical board, and he
has been away for two days! He is an excellent servant, but he has odd
ways.” Baron von Stengel laughed. I made answer: “_Herr Major_, your
_Bursch_ seems to me a smart man, lively and intelligent, and of imposing
appearance. I would rather be served by a clean and ready-witted rogue
than by a virtuous dullard.”—“I am quite of your opinion, monsieur Riou.”

Georg did not turn up until this morning. I was working at the
“ministerial” table. The eight cauldrons were steaming fiercely. The
kitchen was filled with vapour, so that I could hardly see what I was
writing. Suddenly some one tapped me on the shoulder. I turned round, to
find Brissot, accompanied by Georg. I shook them both by the hand.

“_Felduntauglich?_” (Ineligible?)

“_Nein! Donnerwetter!_”

“Georg wants you to do him a service,” said Brissot. “Will you translate
for him this letter to the French medical officers?”

I drew a sheet of paper from my haversack. Without studying the contents
of the petition as a whole, I translated it phrase by phrase, almost word
for word. This is what I wrote:

    “HONOURED COMRADES,—

    “In an unexpected manner, has struck the hour which summons me
    to fight for my king and country. Like all of you, I must do my
    duty; and, like all of you, it is possible that in a short time
    I shall find myself in France (_sic_) as a prisoner of war. If
    I encounter there men having like sentiments with myself, I
    shall have no fears for the future. As far as I have been able,
    I have fulfilled towards you and your comrades the duty of
    loving one’s neighbour.

    “An old proverb says: ‘What you do to me, I will do to you!’ I
    trust that you also, honoured comrades, will take this proverb
    to heart.

    “I am a poor soldier who was orphaned in early childhood, and
    who, from the age of eight upwards, had to live among strangers.

    “From my sixteenth to my twenty-fourth year I have been a
    wanderer in the world, and my experiences have been mingled of
    good and evil.

    “You will excuse me, honoured comrades, if I now venture to
    make a request.

    “Among your colleagues there must be some in a position to do
    me a good turn.

    “I beg the officers to allow a little collection to be made,
    and shall be eternally grateful for this permission.

    “Awaiting your favours, I remain, the most devoted of your
    comrades,

                                                       “GEORG DOPPEL.

    “PS.—I had some conversation yesterday with the principal
    medical officer of the Ingolstadt hospital. He informed me that
    there would be a continual exchange of medical officers and
    of the personnel of the French medical department with German
    prisoners.”

Without comment, I handed the letter to Brissot, who then said: “Georg
also wants you to give him a letter of introduction to the principal
medical officer.” It is a weakness of mine that I cannot say “no,” and I
therefore promptly wrote this note:

    “MONSIEUR LE MÉDECIN-CHEF,—

    “M. Georg Doppel has begged me to translate the accompanying
    petition, and to give him a letter of introduction to you. In
    my humble opinion, he has rendered services [I should have
    liked to add the words ‘extremely onerous’] to many of our
    comrades. For my own part, I shall gladly contribute to a
    collection, if you think it well to permit one.

                       “Your affectionate soldier,

                                                     “GASTON RIOU.”

In a very few minutes, M. Langlois arrived. “Here’s a funny business!” he
cried, laughing with his mischievous eyes and all his fat and benevolent
little body. “This letter of Doppel’s is a pearl! I shall treasure it.
And the Parthian shaft-the postscript promising my own release! Doppel is
really a most amusing rascal.”

“And what are you going to do, monsieur le Médecin-chef? Are you going to
allow the collection?

“Certainly not. Hasn’t he fleeced us enough already? He ought to have put
something by.”

“No doubt. But he never thought they would send him to the front. He
imagined that he would be able to go on luxuriating at our expense in the
neighbouring villages, living like a lord, until the end of the war. The
fact is, he is pretty well cleared out!”

“Don’t you worry. I’ve been able to make his mind easy. I have just given
him a general letter of introduction to the French officers. If you had
seen him unbuttoning his tunic and putting away my letter in the pocket
of his shirt as if it had been a scapular! To be a prisoner in France
will be like heaven to him. I am sure that I have deprived Germany of a
rifle.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Poor Georg! Poor Bavarian Gil Blas! You are of those who come to terms
frankly with their prejudices and their appetites. The service of king,
country, and religion; the precepts of morality: he has never had any
thought of violating these sacred things. He allows them to float vaguely
in his heaven and to widen the horizon of his thought, remote images
which it is obvious that people love, familiar lineaments of the region
in which he is accustomed to live. The idea has never entered his mind
to declare that the idols of his nation are false gods. He endeavours to
humbug them, but he believes in them. He is no scoundrel. He lacks the
unalloyed selfishness, the whole-hearted scepticism, characteristic of
the thoroughgoing knave, the successful brigand, the true diplomatist and
dealer in men. His actions are unscrupulous, not so his thoughts.

Hedonist, scapegrace, having at bottom the heart of a child,
indifferently adapting his practice to his beliefs or his beliefs to his
practice, he reveres in good faith, like most Germans, virtue, honour,
religion, the prince. With the grandiloquence natural to his race, he
embellishes in his own mind the most trifling of his private machinations.

A little while ago, a French comrade asked him to pay a debt. He frowned,
drew himself up, and assumed an offended air. Turning to d’Arnoult, who
was passing at the time, he said:

“When I think of the way in which, scorning the risk of death, I have
provided him with goods, how I have hazarded my life again and again to
bring him tobacco, and that he now dares, in your presence, to insult me
by asking for this paltry sum of twenty-four marks! I punish such a man
with my contempt.”

“Oh,” answered d’Arnoult commiseratingly, “don’t rub it in. You have
punished him enough already!”

Georg has a soaring imagination. He loves the great and the impressive,
that which breathes order and power. He loves his commanding officer.
He loves the royal army. He loves his uniform. He loves that civilians
should tremble before him. He loves to be admired. He loves to make a
heroic figure in the world. After one of our casual feasts, when Brissot
asks him to sing some Munich songs, he reserves always for the tit-bit
certain verses which he declares he wrote himself in praise of one of
his numerous _Geliebten_. We gather that in the village of Hepperg
alone six women are madly in love with him—the burgomaster’s wife, the
schoolmaster’s wife and sister, the wives of both the grocers, and the
belle of the countryside. “The seven nights of the week,” he gravely
assures us, “hardly suffice.” Whereupon, this Don Juan removes his cap
and takes a small collection from the guests. He is so expert a liar that
I suspect him of being the first victim of his own romances. Every one
knows him to be _felduntauglich_, a man unfit for active service. But
this is no hindrance to his having taken part in the battle of Dieuze and
to his having been wounded there by a French bullet! He bares his chest
and makes you touch the scar. Tarascon is situated much further to the
north than most people imagine.

On All Souls’ Day we went to the Ingolstadt cemetery. Détry and I carried
the wreath. Half hidden by the leafy garlands, tied with the French
colours, we set the pace firmly through the Theresienstrasse, which was
packed with townsmen come to stare at us, almost all in mourning—old men,
women, wounded soldiers on leave, and a noisy rout of children. There
were no hostile cries, as there had been two months earlier. Some of the
onlookers uncovered as we passed; the children loudly demanded buttons
as souvenirs, crying _Knopf_, _Knopf_, in a manner that was not at all
bellicose. We went at the quick march, eyes front, knowing well that we,
the prisoners, were the victors.

Our squad had a fine appearance. We had selected the best-looking and
tidiest of our men. Three of our medical officers, MM. Jeandidier of
Longwy, Romant of Marseilles, and Bouvat of Ardèche, sturdy figures all,
marched at the head, immediately behind the wreath. Eight Bavarians with
fixed bayonets escorted us. Lacking their spiked helmets, which they had
been compelled to hand over to men in the fighting-line, still with the
countryman’s slouch, for drill had not yet had time to take effect, their
stiff legs finding it difficult to accommodate themselves to our brisk
French pace, these peasant farmers and agricultural labourers made a poor
show. This also gave us pleasure. Among these good Swabians, our feelings
were much like those of the Athenians in Bœotia.

But Georg, who marches at my left as a supernumerary, wears a helmet.
Dapper, authoritative, disdainfully chiding his compatriots, he feels
that his mere presence serves to atone for the humble and awkward
bucolicism of the escort. At the cemetery he uncovers; he marshals
us around the sixty French graves. He follows the Latin prayers with
a thoughtful air. When, in accordance with a suggestion made by M.
Langlois, we then go to pray beside the graves of the German soldiers,
his eyes are moist. He remains dignified.

When the commemoration is over, and when, the rest of the little troop
having started back for the fort, the three medical officers, with
Durupt, Détry, and myself, go for a walk through the town under Georg’s
supervision, he suddenly declares himself in a great hurry to return.

“By the commandant-major’s orders we must be at Orff for dinner!”

“But it is only four o’clock!”

“We’ve a long way to walk.”

“Anyhow, by the commandant-major’s orders we have to go to the bank, the
bookseller, the tailor, and the surgical instrument maker.”

“Order? It is not an order. You can hardly call it a permission!”

“Never mind.”

So we go to the Königliche Bayerische Bank, where, in exchange for good
French gold, we receive packets of one mark notes; to the military
tailor, who, with the assistance of a plump and smiling wife, does his
best to find for us among the German reds one that sufficiently resembles
our scarlet; to the bookseller, whose window is beplastered with picture
postcards of Zeppelins flying over the Place de l’Opéra, of battles, of
soldiers in the death agony thinking of their fiancées (figured in the
corner of the card haloed in shining clouds); to the surgical instrument
maker, where Détry, our dentist, is careful not to supply all his needs
on this occasion, desiring an excuse for another visit to the town.

The boot-polisher hustles us on. Here we are in the street, three in
front, three behind, flanked by Georg’s bayonet.

All at once, seeing a pastrycook’s window, with a grand display of
buns and tarts beneath the lamps, with one impulse, without stopping
to parley, we hurl ourselves, all six, into the _Conditorei_. Georg
invokes all the devils of hell, but follows us. “Mange,” says Détry to
him, forcing him to sit down at a table loaded with custard tartlets and
éclairs. And we, who have been craving for sweet things for months, begin
to devour all that comes to our hands. Trembling with concupiscence, I
go to the counter, I take the mistress by the hand, and, my mouth full,
say to her: “Madame, you will be an angel if you can get me two pounds of
butter!” She does not sell butter, but a mother is never able to resist
the cry of a child, and she lets me have her own butter. “I can buy some
more,” she says with a smile. I open the show-cases: “Hullo, Suchard!
How much this pile?” She names the price. “There you are.” Then I spy
some little sponge-cakes coated with sugar. In a trice I have filled my
haversack, which I carry beneath my coat. Big-bellied as a Bavarian, I am
unable to rebutton.

“_Vorwärts!_” cries Georg, stuffed with good things. We pay our shot.
Leaving the pastrycook’s we overwhelm our gaoler with prayers: “Do let
us go to the ham and beef shop, to the tobacconist.…”—“It’s absolutely
impossible,” he cries. In reality, he dreads losing his commission! He
marches on at a terrible rate, kicking out of the way, driving out of the
way with the butt end of his musket, the escorting rabble of children.
It is only two young girls of really charming appearance, ten or twelve
years of age, who walked by my side on the way to the cemetery and to
whom I said, “I have sisters of your age who are like you,” that continue
to accompany me, notwithstanding the roughness of the _Bursch_. We talk
like old friends. They leave us at the wicket of the cavalry barracks,
with a parting “_Grüss Gott, Herr Franzose!_”

My companions are still arguing with Georg. “It won’t take a minute to
buy a dozen packets of tobacco and a string of sausages!” The innocents!
They reason with Georg. Durupt especially, who is eloquent in the
Teutonic tongue, surpasses himself. “To be at the source of all good
things and not to drink from it! To pass stupidly by!”—“_Ne, ne_,” the
_Bursch_ growls continually. Now we are traversing badly lighted streets.
We make our way through the suburbs, and beyond the station we reach the
dull country on the outskirts of the town.

“Old fellow,” says Détry to Durupt, “we are greatly indebted to you. With
all your German, you have not been smart enough to get us the smallest
of sausages, a single pipefull of tobacco! It is obvious, O Durupt the
Just, that you do not know the only language in which it is possible to
persuade Georg!”

We are about to reach a tavern. Détry, who does not know a word of
German, lays a hand on the orderly’s shoulder. Abstracting Georg’s hat,
he puts it on his own head and decorates the Bavarian with the French
képi. Georg beams! Then Détry shakes him vigorously by the hand, saying:
“Tiens, mon poteau! voilà pour graisser ta sale patte.”[25] Georg does
not understand French, but he understands very well that he has two
marks in his hand. Arm in arm, the two comrades lead the way. In front
of the inn, Détry loudly calls, “_Bier, Bier!_” The innkeeper comes
forth, wearing a military uniform. All smiles, he invites us to enter.
We place two mugs in the hands of Georg and lay before him a plate of
steaming sausages. In this rig, with his rifle and fixed bayonet against
his shoulder, he is irresistible. I make the tour of the _Wirtschaft_ and
discover a number of plates charged with slices of cold meats ready for
a battalion which is about to pass on its way to the Russian front. “How
much, _gnädige Frau_?”—“Fifty pfennig a plate.”

What a dinner we ate! It was not a varied menu, but quantity made up
for everything. The joy of it! You who have never been hungry, you who
have never been rationed, cannot understand how it is that there is no
delight in the world greater than that of finding oneself, after three
months’ imprisonment, in front of plates filled with sausage, salad of
ox muzzle, and gherkins. The _Wirt_ had a swarm of children. We treated
the children. We overwhelmed them with pfennig. We paid the most polite
compliments to the _gnädige Frau Wirtin_.

    Es zogen drei Bursche wohl über den Rhein,
    Bei einer Frau Wirtin da kehrten sie ein.…

We were intoxicated, not with beer, but with the feeling of plenty.
We ordered cigars. “Have you boxes of cigars?”—“Here you are.”—“How
much?”—“And this cluster of sausages? Can I buy them? How much?” We
made a clean sweep. Georg continued to eat and to drink, amid a rain of
friendly smiles and pats on the back. All of us being thoroughly replete,
we resumed our journey. There was a thick fog. Two companies of the
Bavarian battalion in full marching kit, on the way to entrain, met us.
They went by, walking heavily, without a word. We were singing.

Détry made Georg repeat some French phrases:

“Mademoiselle, voulez-vous tanser?”

“Non, môssieu, _ch_’ai mal au pied.”

Master and pupil kicked up their legs in unison. We held our sides with
laughter. To tell the truth, this unwonted good cheer had turned our
heads a little.

Détry was pelting Durupt with gibes. “Old Aristides the Just, you will
never know how to manage men. Georg is like all the Bavarians in our
guard—he thinks first of all of his own skin, and next he likes to enjoy
himself. Don’t you talk to me about German honour and German virtue.
These fellows are very fond of sonorous phrases, but they can’t resist a
modest tip!” No doubt Détry was exaggerating a little.

Georg is no longer gay. Closed, alas, his Fort Orff campaign, his
campaign of junketings and sensual enjoyments. Now he is to have a taste
of real war. Poor Georg, if only his imaginary wound of Dieuze could
suffice. Certainly he loves German “glory,” German “virtue.” Certainly
he loves his king. But he loves just as much to be cock of the walk in
the villages, with the aid of French money! He loves the fatherland and
military displays. But he loves also to feed well and to lie warm. He
is fond of so many things that he always chooses the nearest and the
easiest, and his actions are invariably dictated by opportunity.

Now he is to go to the firing-line. In a few days he will be rotting
in the trenches, his boots sticking fast in the clay. Despite the best
will in the world, he may be laid low by a bullet before he has found a
favourable opportunity of getting himself safely taken prisoner by the
French. His name will then appear in the lists among those of the heroes
who have fallen on the field of honour. Such is life!

But how will my dear little Brissot manage in future to procure chocolate
and Baltic herrings?



OUR GAOLER


                                                     _November 13, 1914._

On Sunday, Baron von Stengel went to the Palatinate to buy horses for the
artillery. He returned yesterday evening, after an absence of five days,
looking a little thinner, his eyes weeping from a cold in the head. The
weather in the transrhenish province had been wintry. The railway service
was irregular, so he was compelled to make use of an open motor. During
the first snows he had to drive about the country visiting horse-dealers.
He is seventy years of age.

He has just been walking up and down with us, and recounting to us
the incidents of this unexpected journey. “I tired myself out to no
advantage,” he said. “Horses are becoming rare with us, almost as rare
as louis d’or. You have Algeria, Boulonnais, the region round Tarbes,
and the splendid horse-breeding centre of Huysne. We have nothing of the
kind. The question of remounts is becoming serious. It has been difficult
to buy even a few horses in the Palatinate. Sorry screws, and dear at
that! The peasants asked from two to three thousand marks for horses
worth eight hundred at the outside.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Our commandant is very tall and upright, with a finely cut jaw, and a
round flat beard like the knights in the days of Maximilian of Austria.
His manners are above criticism. His natural dignity is relieved by a
genial expression of countenance.

He has the equable temper and regulated life of a sage. Precise but never
punctilious, he fulfils here the duties of postmaster, money-changer,
censor of correspondence, headmaster, major-domo—and does it all
without irritability and without giving the impression that he is
lowering himself in any way. In his bold, firm, regular, almost heraldic
handwriting, he registers the arrival and departure of letters; he enters
in the account-book payments we make for haberdashery; he keeps memoranda
of the interminable series of money-orders. He works deliberately, making
neat rows of figures, using a ruler whenever he wishes to draw a line,
and taking great care not to ink his long white fingers or to make blots
on the large folios of ministerial paper. There is not a speck of dust
on his writing-table; everything is neatly laid out in squares, as in
a French garden. Behind him, on the top of the closed wash-hand stand,
a lemon, cut in two exactly equal halves, a loaf of ration bread, cut
with precision, and a glass of fresh water, combine to form a picture
as definite and sober as a scene of still life by Chardin. The casemate
is well-lighted, vast, and in keeping with its tenant. A narrow iron
bedstead, a trunk, a clothes-hanger upon which are seen a _Mütze_,
a long grey cape, and a sword; two deal tables standing end to end,
one for himself and the other for d’Arnoult, his secretary; a small
dressing-table, three chairs—this comprises all the furniture. In this
formal, cold, geometrical environment sits the huge man (much too large
for his table, so that his arms and legs are cramped), writing all day.

Humble work, well within the capacity of any honest “swivel-officer”
of the reserve. But Baron von Stengel, bending his long back to it,
infusing it with his air of refinement, stamps it with an almost hieratic
character. It is possible that he would prefer to be in command of a park
of artillery upon the Warthe or upon the Ypres canal. Perhaps he envies
his two sons, captains in the army of Lorraine, who have just announced
to him almost simultaneously the receipt of the iron cross. But this much
is certain, that it is not without sadness that he recalls the last war.

He thinks of the 1870 campaign, which, as _Oberleutnant_, he spent at
Ulm, employed, as to-day, in guarding prisoners. He thinks of his young
colleagues of those days, of the interminable conversations when they
were all intoxicated with the glorious news that streamed in, the news
of Wörth, Borny, Gravelotte, Metz, and Sedan. He recalls the ardency of
those years, and the cheerful noise of his steps as he walked beside the
Danube in the beautiful night-time. He remembers seeing in the river the
reflection of the cathedral spire, graceful and ornate, a silent witness
of the ancient German glories then renascent—victory, love.

He was an old man when the new call to arms came. Nevertheless he
offered his services to King Louis; though a septuagenarian, he begged
to be allowed to help. Hence he is at Fort Orff. To one who watches
him at work, censoring our letters, doing our little banking business,
fulfilling the thousand and one trifling duties of his office, it is
obvious that he is performing a rite, the great rite of patriotism.

Although hungry men are seldom just, I have never heard any of the
prisoners utter a single ill-natured word about the commandant. As he
walks with slow gait along the parapet, every one salutes him with
manifest goodwill. White-headed, wearing an ample grey cloak falling in
straight folds, he looks like a patriarch of ancient days visiting his
faithful tribe. He wields authority so naturally, and is so free from
hauteur, that no one dreams of murmuring. He has worked the miracle of
uniting in a sentiment of respect for his personality all the inhabitants
of this little France of Fort Orff, this miniature of great France, the
factious and ungovernable nation, the nation of eternal discontent. He
is so obviously straightforward and humane that the most savage of our
prisoners would protest if any one, suddenly seized by an evil whimsy,
should desire to make this good old man of the great century responsible
for our short commons.

The major in command at headquarters in Ingolstadt, on the other hand,
who must be a jingo of the most pronounced type, is prodigal of petty
vexations. He forbids tobacco, chocolate, and sugar, “articles of
luxury.” He forbids the foundation of a canteen; he forbids the receipt
of more than ten marks at a time, and the writing of more than one letter
every ten days; he forbids pen and ink; he forbids access to the escarp
and to the summit of the slopes, doubtless considering the view too
beautiful for prisoners of war. He issues orders that the sentinels shall
fire without challenge upon any who break his rules, and it was owing to
this that Georg, being taken for a Frenchman, was shot at one evening in
the gloaming. Every day a new _Verboten_ is issued.

Amid this maze of prohibitions, our life would be a torture but for Baron
von Stengel. Discreet and tactful as he is, those among us who come
into close contact with him know with how much disgust, with how much
suppressed annoyance, he receives these vexatious orders. He carries
them out, being too good a soldier to disobey. But, too good a soldier
to misuse soldiers, too much of a gentleman to treat as galley-slaves
combatants seamed with wounds, holy priests, red cross men who have
received their baptism of fire, he often carries out his orders in a way
which is tantamount to a generous evasion.

He is an adept in the art of humanizing his agents, the _Feldwebel_ and
the soldiers of the Bavarian guard. Unfortunately these are changed every
week, and every week therefore he has to begin this civilizing task anew.
The men come to us white hot from reading the newspapers, in savage
mood—“duty, duty.” For two days the fort is an inferno. Then everything
returns to order—not German order, but our own. Their zeal is mitigated
when they take note of the way in which the commandant treats us. Our
hail-fellow-well-met air, our good-humoured cheek, do the rest. The
soldiers are tamed. Soon they cease to guard us; they contemplate us, and
take part in our life. There they stand, with fixed bayonets, somewhat
nonplussed and puzzled, almost timid, abashed as it were, hardly knowing,
when we dig them in the ribs, whether we are fond of them or are making
fun of them. At bottom they feel themselves to be our inferiors, less
lively and less intelligent. They all have much the same idea as fat Max,
the canteen keeper, who secretly breaks the pumps whenever a fresh levy
is being made, in order to render himself more indispensable here than
at the front. In view of the activity of our comrades, their carvings in
wood and in stone, the tin rings they make, the horsehair watch-chains,
the stools, tables, and cupboards which they knock together out of
bits of planking filched from the workyards at Ingolstadt, this mighty
beer-drinker is unable to control his astonishment. He waves his great
arms, exclaiming:

“These Frenchmen, what workers! I’ve always maintained, _Herr Gott
Sakrament_, that every one of them has a devil in his inside.”

M. von Stengel is of much the same way of thinking as Max.

Little as he seems to notice, wishing, as he does, to avoid having to
allot punishment, hardly anything happens in the fort without his being
aware of it. Nothing licit or illicit escapes his keen gaze, and what
he does not see he divines. Nevertheless, with the roguish indulgence
of a grand seigneur, he is careful to avoid any display of anger. I
am confident that he derives a good deal of secret enjoyment from the
contemplation of the network of customs, subterfuges, and evasions, whose
threads are interwoven behind the iron grating of German regulations. He
watches with amusement the supple boldness with which prudent advances
are made, the care with which direct conflict with authority is avoided,
and the ingenuity with which the regulations are taken in the flank,
circumvented, or ignored. He admires the stratagems by means of which
this miniature France, prisoned in a foreign fortress, is enabled to
reintegrate the life of the homeland. He does not fail to recognize that
these breaches of discipline serve, even more clearly than the ingenuity
with which the breaches are effected, to manifest the hardihood of his
prisoners, and to prove their possession of an individuality at once
gentle and intractable.

This German, at any rate, does not regard the French as “monkeys.” He
is not misled by their superficial levity, their suppleness, their
apparent scepticism—shining armour with which they protect their ego,
a vivacious and rebellious ego, which resists everything, which always
gets even, is ever elastic, artful, or frank, as circumstances prescribe,
but immalleable, incapable of being passive, obstinately itself. The
commandant is impressed with the fact that the Frenchman is what he
is and remains what he is, jealous of his privacy, greatly prizing his
own humour, tastes, and ideas. It may be that M. von Stengel considers
that we are excessively individualized, that whilst we often seem to
treat grave matters as trifles, the least onslaught upon our intimate
personality arouses in us an excess of fury, a revolt which may go so
far as to compromise the collective interest. But it is certain that he
knows us and accepts us as we are. He imposes no constraint, and has no
desire to refashion us after the Teuton model. It is even possible that
he regards with secret approval the delicate compost of national merits
and peculiarities. In any case, in his relations with us he is extremely
careful to do everything he can to blunt the sharp, harassing, and
painful angles of Germanic discipline.

Nevertheless this man, so sensible, moderate, and well-bred, does not
possess a perfectly unified character. One recognizes in him both the
German and the natural man. The former enunciates cynical maxims to the
latter, insisting, for example, upon the value of war for war’s sake. The
latter listens, but shies at the idea. It is as if, while enjoying the
refined sweetness of a French morning, he should suddenly be disturbed by
the horrid bellowing of all the war-horns of the Huns. The dicta of this
brutal philosophy rack his ears. But, being good-mannered, he hearkens.
His brother seems to him a thick-skinned fellow, coarse-blooded, grim,
and savage-hearted. However, he makes no protest. His brother reiterates
his statements, repeats his massive assertions loudly and unceasingly,
and insists upon agreement. He has to pay for being well-mannered, for
hating scenes, for disliking to give pain. From very kindness of heart,
from love of peace, from very sensitiveness, he assumes a barbaric
mask. The good brother! It goes much against the grain, but he gives an
apparent assent.

It is thanks to a series of such sacrifices, invariably one-sided, that
the German and the natural man seem, in Baron von Stengel, to live on
harmonious terms.

His natural man is good and just. Making no parade of humanitarian
convictions, he practises humaneness.

It is touching to watch this grand old man, lofty of stature, with a
solid prognathous chin, irreproachably dressed, when he stops to speak to
a soldier suffering from despondency. “Fous êtes triste?” he asks in his
slow and broken French, gently pulling the man by the ear. The prisoner
does not misunderstand; he knows that though the major can read French
he is unable to speak it, and that in this laconic phrase he desires to
condense an entire friendly conversation.

A few days ago, having learned that a loaf of bread priced at thirty
pfennig had been sold at one mark fifty pfennig to a prisoner by a
soldier of the guard, he was greatly enraged, and in the presence of
Durupt, who was helping him to write up the register of money orders, he
exclaimed, “There is but one price for bread, and I shall proceed with
the utmost rigour against anyone, be he French or German, who asks a
higher price. It is disgraceful to rob prisoners in this way!” The joke
is that officially we are not supposed to buy anything at all.

The day before yesterday there was a fall of sleet. The men were
loitering up and down the corridors. In front of the _Kommandantur_ there
was a great clatter of hobnailed shoes, and the noise was reinforced
by light songs, laughter, and chatter. The commandant was reading our
eleven hundred letters. Two days earlier he had sent them to Ingolstadt.
Headquarters, cantankerous as usual, had returned them, under some
pretext, to be re-read. This was something calculated to put the gentlest
of men out of humour. Scrupulously obedient to orders, he was now for the
second time reading these poor papers, badly written in pencil, insipid,
and all exactly alike. On the other side of the door, the procession
of prisoners passed and repassed unceasingly. The clatter of nails on
the cement got on his nerves. “Oh, the noise, the noise!” he said, as
if speaking to himself. D’Arnoult was there and rose from his seat,
intending to ask the comrades to be a little quieter. The commandant
stopped him, saying, “No, monsieur d’Arnoult, do not go out. _Mein Zimmer
ist doch nur eine Kanzlei_—after all, my room is only an office!” And
once more he immersed himself in his reading.

Withal, in the major’s innermost being, the natural man invariably acts
and governs. The other, the German, merely utters professions of faith.

Out walking, just now, we had paused for a moment, dazzled by the beauty
of the evening. We were on the strip of greyish-white pasture which
arches along the edge of the pine wood, and looked like the woolly back
of a sheep. Before us, seemingly at our very feet, the Danubian plain,
with its gentle undulations, stretched away through the iridescent haze.
The sun had just set. A breeze was blowing from the west, chasing before
it golden mist-wreaths. The branches and faded foliage of the oaks, dry
and nipped by the frost, rustled in the chill wind; the pine needles,
interlaced with gossamer, reddened by many sunsets, whispered and
murmured. We were a silent company, Baron von Stengel, Major Langlois,
MM. Jeandidier, Cavaillé, Lœbre, Romant, Bouvat, my friend Laloux, and
myself. The vastness of the prospect, the silence of the fields, the
fading of the light, the shivering of the undergrowth in the twilight,
the strange sensation of being suddenly plunged into the heart of
winter—all these influences combined to keep us mute.

What a waste of time! I thought. Already three months in prison. Three
months lost beyond recall. And the baron had just said to me, “England
is intractable. I hardly think you will get away before next autumn.”
More than a year lived through for nothing, suffered for nothing. A whole
year cut out from the short span of our days. I was prey to a cold, hard
sadness. Then, my thoughts turned to you.… All at once a song rose from
the road. The recruits quartered at Hepperg were returning to quarters,
marching with that slow and heavy German pace which will never be a match
for our French step.

They were singing the famous

    Nun ade, wir müssen Abschied nehmen.…

with which all the _Feldgrau_, before going to the front, have made the
quiet Bavarian taverns ring, sitting over their great tankards, each
holding the beloved one’s hand. I was familiar with the strains. The
little sergeant of whom I have previously written to you had made his men
sing it to me one evening in the guardroom, and had copied out the text
for me:

    Now farewell. We must take leave. We must charge our muskets.
    With stout hearts we shall give to the war and to the fields of
    battle the finest days of our youth. Farewell, dear parents,
    brothers, and sisters. Shake hands for the last time. If we
    are never to meet again, let us hope for a reunion in a better
    world.

    Farewell, best beloved, you who know that our parting is harder
    to bear than death. It may be that we shall never meet again.
    Yet every day, when night falls, let us renew our hopes.

    The shells are whistling through the air. The bayonets are
    fixed. The flags are waving in the breeze. Our dread is
    concealed beneath the smoke of the combat. As we fight we cry,
    hurrah, hurrah!

    We are in the thick of it, like good Bavarians.

“What are you thinking about, my dear enemy?” said von Stengel all at
once with a smile.—“_Herr Kommandant_,” I replied, in an access of dull
rage, “_dieser Krieg wird die grosse Schande Europas sein!_”[26]

Slowly, to suit the baron, we descended the incline, soft beneath our
feet, the turf torn, and littered with fragments of shell; here and there
grew handsome stone-pines with twisted trunks. Being unable to run, I was
shivering in my summer clothing. We took the road beside the hop-garden,
and as we walked the baron gave me his views upon the war.

In truth, all he did was to repeat the words of Harnack, Lujo Brentano,
Troeltsch, Willamovitz-Moellendorff, and the hundred representatives of
German Kultur. As I listened, I seemed to be re-reading the articles
which these writers were now publishing in the war editions of the
_Internationale Monatsschrift_:

“Germany has never desired anything but peace; William is the peace
emperor; Sir Edward Grey is the villain of the drama; English
commercialism led to the war; Germany was suddenly seized by the throat
and had to defend herself; she is engaged in a life and death struggle.…

“_Ueber welches Volk wird einst das Tribunal der Weltgeschichte den
Urteilsspruch ‘Schuldig’ fallen? Eins ist gewiss! Deutschland kann dem
Urteilsspruch mit reinem Gewissen entgegen sehen._”[27]

I had no interest in all this. If the major had been a man of my own age,
I should have bluntly begged him to spare me these phrases of the good
bourgeois who has just been reading the newspapers. I should have said to
him: “In actual fact, our respective countries are at war. Let us leave
it to our grandchildren, should they have a fancy for writing history, to
ascertain who is responsible for this butchery. But as far as I am myself
concerned, be good enough to consider me a man of sound intelligence,
and don’t attempt to befool me with your political myths. I agree that
these myths have their uses, and that they are necessary for the soldier.
To him one must lie perforce. Above all, in our democratic epoch, the
violent man does wisely to wear sheep’s clothing, and to give himself the
air of defending civilization and humanity, for otherwise the citizen
would never be willing to play the part of soldier. If needs must, the
citizen will allow himself to be killed for the sake of principles, or in
defence of hearth and home, but never for the interest of the Hapsburgs,
the Hohenzollerns, or a business corporation. Agreed, the aggressor must
lie.

“But we are not now on a public platform; we are not composing a
proclamation. Do not let us deceive ourselves, nor soil our minds with a
superfluous falsehood.”

But to this old man I said nothing of the sort. I listened patiently.
The wind bit my ears, and my body seemed a vast Siberia. As I walked, I
looked at the birches, each one of which was known to me individually.
Their delicate ramifications, now leafless, hung like horses’ manes. But
the youngest trees, those whose tresses were not yet grown, so that their
branches pointed directly upwards like the twigs of an ill-made besom,
still retained some sparse foliage. In the icy wind, the white of their
stems standing out against the greenish-black of the acacias in the ditch
had a somewhat funereal air.

“War,” said von Stengel, “is an essential condition of social life.
Without war, the human race would become anæmic, would slip back into
barbarism, ignorance, and hebetude. Even though man loves peace, he must
also be a great fighter before the Lord, _ein Streiter vor dem Herrn_.
Do not imagine that wars are the work of a few men; the ferment works
in the very heart of the race, and when this happens the maintenance of
peace becomes impossible. The friction is so great, the heat generated
is so intense, that the flames burst forth spontaneously. Then patience
is out of place, and it is necessary to unsheathe the sword. Blood, much
blood, must flow to appease the fierce angers and to restore men to their
customary calm.”

It was the German in Baron von Stengel, not the man, who spoke,
enunciating the doctrine that war is necessary, that war is a natural
function of social life.

“For the rest,” he added, humanizing to the best of his ability the myth
formulated by the German, for now the natural man was resuming sway,
“once war has broken out, it is the duty of us all to do our best to
diminish its horrors. Men differ widely, and yet, through contact with
upright and noble characters, even the worst of human beings, even those
of malignant and dark nature, come to learn the value of peace, of good
understanding, and acquire the faculty of enduring with equanimity.”

Thus talking, we reached the great iron gate, adorned with the Bavarian
lions. I rang. The gate was opened, the baron drew aside to allow his
“boarders” to pass in, and these in turn signalled to him to take
precedence.

The commandant major, Baron Stefan von Stengel, very erect, head held
high, passed through the gateway. The guard, fully armed, stood at
attention, lined up in two rows. Upon an order from the _Feldwebel_,
“_Hurrah für den Major_,” twenty recruits shouted with a single voice.
Night had fallen. All the windows of the fort, which had been invisible
as long as we were outside the walls, were now seen to be lighted up,
and the red of the bricks was manifest in the starlight. We crossed the
drawbridge. “Now that the snows have come,” said the commandant, pointing
to the ditch, “we could make a good skating-rink there.” He saluted, and
withdrew into his casemate.

       *       *       *       *       *

As a matter of fact, I have not entirely lost my time here, since I have
succeeded in classifying adequately in the social hierarchy such a man as
Baron von Stengel, who is neither hero nor genius, who has no ambition
to display supernatural virtues, but who is simply a man with pleasant
manners, refined, well-bred, free from all stiffness, easy to get on
with, a truly civilized being.

You, my friends, have spoiled me. It is owing to you that I had always
remained ignorant how restricted is the genus of “decent folk.” The
war has changed my views in this respect. Hardened, simplified, freer
in relation to external conditions, as adaptable as any one could
wish—when the campaign is over I shall be somewhat less confiding than
of yore towards my kind. Now that I sample them in the mass, elbowing
them unceasingly morning, noon, and night throughout the entire day of
twenty-four hours, listening to them as they talk, chatter, grumble,
quarrel, and snore, looking on at them while they enjoy themselves,
complain, play, eat, bargain, pull out the personal stop, pass judgments,
take things at their ease; now that I no longer contemplate them through
the prism of my doctrines and of my leniency, but look at them as
they really are, all the scenery of civil life removed, all social
trappings stripped off—there are certain categories of mind which I
understand better than before. I understand better, for example, hermits,
misanthropes, jansenists, and all pessimists, pagan as well as Christian,
all those who can see nothing in man but the primitive beast, and those
who never cease talking of original sin. How greatly now do I prize
good manners, the veneer of culture, the mask of decency. These are but
externals, things which do not give expression to man’s intimate nature.
They even aim at veiling that nature. But precisely because they exercise
this occlusive and embellishing function, they seem to me august. The
sight of the real arouses an appetite for fiction, creates a necessity
for art and for dreams. Are these lies? Yes, they are lies, poor lies!
What matter? Must we live in hell by deliberate choice? It cannot be
asserted that such illusions make a paradise of our ill-conditioned and
sordid world; but at least they mitigate the stench to some extent,
neutralize its offensiveness, and render the bestial hustle a thought
less aggressive.

My nose is still uneasy with the memory of the carrion odour from the
battlefields of Moncourt, Lagarde, and Kerprich. It was here that I
learned the value of shroud, coffin, quicklime, and tomb. Now that I have
come to know men better, I know also that the trifling restraints and
delicate veils of conventional good manners are absolutely essential.



THE SLOPES ARE FORBIDDEN


                                                    _November 20, 1914._

Snow has been falling throughout the night. Risking a shot, for the new
orders from headquarters are still more stringent, I walked for a good
hour at dawn upon the northern ramparts. When the sun rose over the
village of Hepperg there was sketched in the opposite quarter, towards
France, in three strokes of the brush, the most striking of pastels:
in the foreground, the old gold of the oaks, flaming, sanguine, and
burnished: in the middle distance, the wide field of virgin snow; in the
background, the heavy and sombre line of the pines, interspersed with
larches, sparkling with hoar-frost.

Solitude amid inanimate things, in the morning, restores me to the
tranquil possession of myself, induces a peaceful, strong, and simple
happiness which neither the society of my fellows, nor meditation, nor
prayer can ever furnish. At one time this calm, as of Eden, used to
terrify me. It seemed to me impious. When, as a youth, I loitered among
the wild oak-groves which form scattered oases amid the limestone mazes
of Païolive in Vivarais, it seemed to me that their shade was stifling
my faith, that the seated giants of white stone, amid which the Ardèche
has hollowed its precipitous channel, were swallowing my Christian
dogmas, and that my Eliacin-like fervours were evaporating into the
torrid sky, passing upward with the furnace breath which rises in summer
from this formidable landscape.

Since then, however, I have learned to feel no doubt regarding the
primacy of man vis-à-vis the grandeur of inanimate things.

No, my delight in natural scenery is by no means pantheistic. I believe
too firmly in the hierarchy of creation, and I am too strongly imbued
with the Christian conception that man is a person, as it were a son of
God, an absolute individuality, inviolable, raised above life and death,
to be able to lose my sense of personal identity in the contemplation of
rocks, fields, and woodlands. It is simply that I love fresh air and open
spaces; I love the lineaments of nature, which are more beautiful than
the doings of men; I love the society of the meadows and of the trees, a
society which is less importunate and talkative than that of my fellows,
and which never fails to restore me to myself. Perhaps, moreover, I
tend instinctively to idolize colour and light, seeing that God has
concentrated in my eyes, above all, the power of sensuous appreciation.

This morning I was interested in watching the gambols of an ermine which
had just captured a small black mammal. Supple, slim, and snake-like,
it sat up from time to time to look around. It was hard to distinguish,
despite its black tail-tip, from the surrounding snow, though this had a
bluish tint in contrast with the ermine’s fur, in which there were subtle
shades of green. I stood motionless on the footpath, wrapped in the soft
cloak which Mme. Paul Weiss has just sent me. The little beast advanced
fearlessly towards me, joyously shaking the prey that it carried in its
jaws. Did it take me for a tree?

I move my barberry switch. The ermine stops. Sitting up, it looks at
me for a long time. How pretty it is, slender and graceful! I think of
Musette, a black English greyhound, with perfect points, which won the
first prize at Lyons, and was the delight of my eyes for three years.
Dear Musette! We were always together. The first time we were parted she
died. Madeleine, my favourite little sister, was charged with giving me
the news. She wrote me a letter of eight pages. I still recall her great
childish handwriting. Her kind heart had inspired the most touching
precautions, and suggested the use of angelic phraseology. “We have
buried her,” she wrote in conclusion, “in that corner of the garden you
are so fond of, beneath the oleanders.”

I continue to look at the ermine, but the animal is doubtless ready for
breakfast. Evading the danger, it descends the slope, gains the traverse,
and runs restlessly to and fro. I trouble it. Most probably I am between
it and its earth. I go.

As I make my way on to the escarp I meet Noverraz, the Parisian, the
hero of the look-out episode. He is taking a constitutional in the snow.
His waxen skin, pinched by the cold, has red patches on it. His ears and
the tip of his nose are scarlet.

“Where have you been?” he inquires.

“Beyond the slopes. I must have walked quite a league this morning. It
was glorious!”

“Take care, old chap, if you value a whole skin.”

“Bah!”

“My dear fellow, this is what happened to me on Thursday morning. It must
have been about half-past eight. I am taking a walk with my chums of
casemate 23. There is a regular London fog. All at once, at the bottom
of the west court, we hear the jabber of Boche. I imagine that it is the
disciplinary company breaking stones, as usual, in front of the battery.
Durand, however, clambers up the slope. After peering over the edge, he
makes signs to us to join him. On the road that runs by the ditch are
two sections, standing at ease in columns of fours. Their officer is on
horseback, wearing a huge grey cloak. He is making a speech to his men.
My attention is riveted by the word _Frankreich_. I scramble a little
higher. Stretched at full length, my head just above the edge, among the
grass, I listen with all my ears: ‘Get this firmly fixed in your minds,’
says the captain, ‘for we must not fail to learn all we can from these
French rascals [_diese Lumpen von Franzosen_]. Let me repeat: they climb
into the trees; they install their machine guns among the branches;
they wait there in absolute silence. The German scouts have examined
the ground only. Our men pass by. Then comes a sound like thunder! We
are mowed down from behind by a rain of bullets. Such are the tricks of
these monkeys! Well, let us meet ruse by ruse, stratagem by stratagem.
Listen carefully. You are at the front. You dig your trench, the
admirable German trench. You settle yourself there comfortably. You are
invulnerable. Thence, quite at your ease and without danger, you can fire
at the French lines. Is this all? No. In advance of your real trench,
eighty or a hundred yards away, you hastily dig another trench. You fill
it with dummies. It is quite easy—any old rags of clothing will do. These
pigs of Frenchmen [_diese Sauleute_, _dieses Schweinvolk_] can fire at
this as long as they please. Then, when the assault comes, when they
rush into this hole thinking that they’ve got you, you have an admirable
target, at short range, and you can quietly exterminate them.’

“Such are the officer’s words. At this moment one of his men asks a
question, and I take the opportunity of changing my position, so that
I am exposed down to the waist. The captain catches sight of me. After
glaring at me for a moment, he demands a rifle, shoulders it, and fires.
Nothing happens; the breech is empty. We do not budge. The captain is
furious. ‘Give me a cartridge!’ He loads the rifle and shoulders it once
more. My comrades and I are about to take cover behind the slope when the
shot is fired. It must be a blank cartridge, for we hear no whistle of
a bullet. The Boches burst out laughing. Corporal Durand, standing erect
with folded arms, gazes at them mockingly. He intends to stay there. ‘My
good man,’ I exclaim, ‘hurry up and get down!’ The captain is asking for
another cartridge. ‘This time,’ I say, ‘it will probably be a bullet!’

“There you have it. This is exactly what happened. I did not lose a word
or a gesture. You had better be careful. With your mania for ranging the
outer regions of the fort, you will get your skin perforated one fine
morning.”



A BLACK MOOD


                                                      _November 27, 1914._

A prey to depression, we are smoking in the “Salle du Jeu de Paume.”
Laloux and Badoy, otherwise known as Badozus, are playing an interminable
game of chess; d’Arnoult is reading Victor Hugo’s _Histoire d’un crime_;
Noverraz is dozing over Balzac’s _Chouans_; Sergeant Scherrer, tall and
thin, with cold eye and Mephistophelian head, is playing draughts with
Massé, a non-commissioned officer of artillery. Seated upon the drawers
of the drug cupboard, they are crowded round the solitary lamp. The table
is of deal, oblong in shape, one that can be used as an operating-table.
Their heads are in shadow. Elbow to elbow and forehead to forehead, the
six men are silent. The circle of light is hazy with blue whorls rising
from their pipes.

Standing in the embrasure of the window, I am smoking my own Bavarian
pipe. There is not a sound in the room, nor in the passages, nor on the
bridge close to our windows. Depression must reign supreme throughout the
casemates, depression which paralyses mind and body.

How intense is the tedium, uncertainty, and anxiety! No letter for a
whole fortnight. Yet she must be writing to me. And Léonce, my dear young
brother. I wonder if it is as cold in the trenches at Ypres as it is in
Bavaria. Shrapnel, bullets, sudden death. Shall I ever see him again?
Is he still alive? Manech, the amiable corporal of No. 13, forty-two of
whose Breton relatives have been engaged on the land front or at sea,
has already lost six of them. The fighting priest, Gautin, has learned
that the body of his brother lies rotting on the banks of the Marne.
Sergeant Boullanger is mourning his father. Since we have begun to
receive letters, almost every one is in mourning. Can it be that my own
melancholy is a presentiment? When will it end, this sinister interlude
in the book of peace, our book, our true book, the book of humanity?

Noverraz has fallen asleep over the _Chouans_; d’Arnoult, “le Chasseur,”
has closed _Histoire d’un crime_. He stretches and yawns. The others,
huddled together, move their pieces without saying a word.

It is cold. All our thoughts ooze despondency. This brute of a major at
headquarters who, meanly, by way of reprisal, has been detaining our
letters at Ingolstadt for the last fortnight! Why cannot I throw off my
troubles? This evening I am like a child, like a neglected schoolboy who
has ceased to hear from his mother.

France, Paris, a blazing wood-fire in my study; Douchka and Katia asleep
on the hearthrug. She is there!

No, I am in Bavaria. I am a prisoner. I am at Fort Orff, at the edge of
the Swabian forest, among gloomy villages where I know no one, where
they believe that we are slaughtering their sons with dum-dum bullets,
and that we were the aggressors. A Franconian blackguard is the man who
feeds me. Then there is a little good-for-nothing schoolmaster from Hof,
a pedant stuffed with German idealism, who appeals to honour and humanity
in season and out of season, who, having caught _flagrante delicto_ a
weaver of watch-chains snatching a few hairs from a horse’s tail, gives
him three days’ close arrest, saying gravely, “A most inhumane act”—and
it is this whipper-snapper, this round-shouldered and short-sighted
impotent beast, who is my _Feldwebel_, “my superior officer”! He is a
mean creature. Knowing that I am on good terms with von Stengel, he
begged Dutrex to present me. Dutrex did so, saying: “_Hier ist unser
Schriftsteller_ [This is our author]”—“I am much honoured, monsieur;
I have read an article on you in the _Nürnberger Zeitung_.” He bowed
and scraped again and again. He stood there, his ugly little moustache
bristling with smiles, looking as great a booby as if he had been before
the commandant. The quartermaster is a bad lot, but the _Feldwebel_ is
grotesque. And I am dependent upon the caprices of such men! I am a
thing in the hands of these contemptible fellows, these hypocrites, who
loudly voice their patriotism and boast of the German virtues, while
they are shamming rheumatism and heart-weakness to avoid being sent to
the fighting-line. Sometimes I am seized with a longing to spit out my
contempt in their very faces. Before Baron von Stengel one feels like
a man; a noble master ennobles those subject to his orders. But before
these subordinates all human nobility withers, wretched instruments who
treat us as instruments in turn. Empowered to dominate and to humiliate
us, to abuse us as much as they please, their favours are even worse than
their severities; it is the brutal landowner in Latium amusing himself
with a Græculus; it is the _Donaubauer_, the fat Danubian peasant,
caressing his dog. I prefer their hatred.

       *       *       *       *       *

The good Badoy, with his huge round head, his snub nose, his little curly
beard, his large fatherly eyes, bends forward over the board, humps his
back, and clenches his fists between his short legs, saying:

“When will it come to an end?”

“Which, the game or the imprisonment?” asks Laloux quietly, as he takes
Badoy’s queen.

“How can you ask?” Then, as if speaking to himself: “Oh! my wife and my
three little ones, when shall I see them again? Still no letters! It’s
terrible.”

From my corner in the window I contemplate the circle of smoke and of
light, and I look at these six men packed together, chilly and sad. I
dare not open my lips. My depression is turning to gall. I am not far,
this evening, from understanding certain scenes in the casemates which
had astonished me, when taciturn men became suddenly exasperated, and,
for a single word, hurled themselves on one another, fighting like horses
without oats in a stable. Poor caged beasts! The others, at least, those
in Flanders and in France, have room to move. They have an object for
action. After the stagnation of the trenches they can assuage their
anger in the fury of the assault. But as for us, heavy with wrath, we
are confined within thick walls; we can but swing our frozen and idle
arms; we are cut off from all news; we are the prey of dreams and of
hunger. Outside the screened window, the ditch, the counterscarp, and the
grating; outside the grating, a Bavarian bayonet marches to and fro.

What can account for this state of nerves which I am unable to control?
The hour for the arrival of the postman has passed. I have been waiting
all day. It has passed. There is nothing. I ought to be able to find
a reason. Why am I outwardly so hard and inwardly near to weeping?
Suddenly there come great silent waves of memory. I hear her singing.
She is dressed in green. The dark perfume of her golden hair enwraps me.
The melody of César Franck’s _Procession_ rises athwart my fever; it is
broad, sweet, richer and more peaceful than a field of ripe wheat upon a
warm evening. It sings within me; it assumes the cadence of my breathing.
I am stifling. I live, I love, and I am loved; and yet I am thrust out
from life as if I were in the tomb.

Elbow to elbow and forehead to forehead, the six men at the table are
silent. I look down upon the circle of light and the smoke of the pipes.
Not a sound is to be heard. Buried in the mound, surrounded by meadows
and woods, the fort is as cold and mute, as remote, desolate, and dead,
as a soldier’s grave in the corner of a field.



A FRANCONIAN QUARTERMASTER


                                                      _December 4, 1914._

The “Salle du Jeu de Paume” was born, if I may use the expression, from a
conjunction of coups d’état.

Day by day the quartermaster became more exasperated at the happiness
of five Frenchmen. In accordance with the good German rules, they ought
to have been sleeping upon the damp cement in the basement, which is
really a dungeon. But since we have had palliasses, the house-surgeon,
the apothecary, and their friends—Laloux, Badoy, Scherrer, Massé, and
Noverraz—have been sleeping in the consulting-room, where they are
masters. This first-floor casemate, adjoining the _Kommandantur_, is
dry, has a boarded floor and a southern aspect. Every evening they made
their beds side by side and slept the sleep of the just. M. von Stengel
good-naturedly closed his eyes. The Bavarian guard, grateful for the
castor oil and the cuppings of Laloux, did likewise. But Ploss, the
reservist quartermaster, a Franconian stonemason who speaks of himself
as a “sculptor in the building trade,” was scandalized. He is a patriot,
a flaming patriot—except where his own skin is concerned. Called to the
front a few weeks ago, he went to weep upon the commandant’s bosom. The
weeping gained its end, and he is still at Fort Orff.

Frenchmen sleeping dry, with plenty of room! Five Frenchmen bedded in a
spacious casemate! Frenchmen passing night and day in the next room to
the _Kommandantur_! Ploss’ soul was desolate.

One morning he went to see Baron von Stengel, and declared that the
casemate of the guard, which adjoins on the west the commandant’s
casemate, was too small, and that it was essential to use the
consulting-room as an overflow. The consulting-room, divided in two by a
wooden partition, could serve as a sort of office for the _Feldwebel_ and
for himself, the quartermaster; thus the faithful _Landwehrleute_ would
have the delight of guarding their dear _Herr Major_ on both sides. The
argument was irresistible. The _Herr Major_ acquiesced. Intoxicated with
delight, Ploss promptly went up and down the fort announcing the news
everywhere, to the guard, to the interpreters, and to the banished men.
Prouder even than M. de Morny after the 2nd of December, he luxuriated in
his coup d’état.

The door of the room occupied by the six French medical officers opens
into the same corridor as the _Kommandantur_, but on the other side of
the main entrance. Laloux and his companions promptly go to knock at
the door. They explain the situation. Next minute, M. Langlois, in full
dress, wearing gloves, emerges. He descends upon M. von Stengel. He has
the most pressing need of a consulting-room, spacious, airy, and sunny!
He is crafty, and as persistent as he is diplomatic. The baron agrees to
let him have No. 46, the next room to the French officers. An obstinate
defender of our rights, he demands in addition that the members of his
staff, who give their services to French and Germans alike, shall have
permission to sleep in their workroom. Permission is granted. He returns.
Our exiles, whistling and singing joyously, hasten to remove their
palliasses. Ploss watches them sourly; his coup d’état has missed fire.
These French monkeys, they always fall on their feet! But what sort of a
_Herr Major_ is this, who can refuse them nothing?

Downstairs, in kitchen No. 22, another turn of fortune’s wheel! The major
from the Ingolstadt headquarters, who is but a Ploss with a commission,
has been inspecting the fort, and has caught sight of the twin palliasses
of Dutrex and Riou. Placed against the wall opposite the stoves, they
have been an offence to him. “Clear out, messieurs!” What are we to
do? Our places have been filled in our old casemates. We, too, visit
M. Langlois. Hitting two birds with one stone, he includes us, as well
as Durupt, the money-changer, d’Arnoult, the secretary, and Détry, the
dentist, in his request to M. von Stengel. Thus the entire pharmaceutical
staff and the whole French bureaucracy of Fort Orff are assigned to the
consulting-room.

This happened ten days ago. Since then the victims of the two coups
d’état have furnished their quarters. They have adorned their windows
with half curtains and have divided their casemate in two with a hanging
of flowered lutestring. During the day they arrange their ten palliasses
in two piles and cover them with rugs, so that in hours of despondency
they have two imposing couches—thrones, as it were. At the very end of
the room are the two tables, the one known as the “operating-table,” and
the little table whose heavy drawers contain iodine, cupping-glasses,
and blue ointment. At their request, Le Second has designed for them
shades “à la ballet russe” for their two lamps. On the shelves they
have arranged the vermicelli boxes which they use as lockers. The men
of room 26, a centre of artistic life, have made them some additional
shelves. An old herring-box plays the part of flower-vase, filled at this
moment with silver thistles and a spray of barberry, magnificently red.
Ploss can’t get over it! His own “büro” is a melancholy place. The old
consulting-room, formerly spruce and gay, has become a mere empty loft
since he took possession. _Herr Gott Sakrament!_ Hang these Frenchmen!

After dinner the medical officers, especially MM. Langlois, Romant, and
Bouvat, come to No. 46. We draw back the curtains. We stretch a string
across the room to serve as net, and for an hour we give ourselves up to
the joys of chamber-tennis, using our hands as rackets. It is for this
reason that the new consulting-room has received the imposing name of
Salle du Jeu de Paume. Sometimes, also, it is designated “la chambre des
huiles,” _das Oelenzimmer_.

Poor Ploss. He cannot get the better of these Frenchmen. He would like
to see them yielding, to see them cringe beneath his rod, to see them
thoroughly miserable. And yet, whatever he can do, despite their hunger
and their fits of the blues, they are cheerful. They sing, they decorate
their prison. They are always finding new devices. If they have no
tools, they make some. They work unceasingly in wood and stone. All the
casemates have tables now, stools, chairs, lockers, water-kegs, draughts,
and chessmen. Guiton d’Ancenis and Robert le Bordelais are neither smiths
nor carpenters, and yet No. 26 is well furnished. They had no spoons;
they “forged” some out of old “bully-beef” tins. They had no forks, but
they have cut some from the birches on the slopes. To economize matches,
they have made a float-light. To save their fingers from the heat of the
boiling soup when it is poured into their bowls, they have fashioned
wickerwork saucers. Almost all of them had been compelled to give up
their knives; lengths of iron cask-hoop, patiently hammered straight and
sharpened, have supplied the lack. Their windows are decorated with tiny
pine-trees, planted in herring-boxes. They hope to take them home and
grow them in France.

Do what he could, Ploss has not been able to stamp out this creative
fervour. He knows it, and it infuriates him. Oh, if he had but been
commandant! How he would have hunted down without mercy all those
concerned in the underground traffic, in the great commercial
enterprises by which our illicit supply of provisions has been
gradually centralized. There are two such enterprises, and thanks to
the competition between them we have for some weeks been securing, at
stable and almost reasonable prices, supplementary rations of inestimable
value. With what joy he would compel Marin and Brissard to shut up
shop, two men who, with a chance armamentarium, have in kitchen No. 42
established a flourishing foundry of tin rings. And Crussol, who puts the
finishing touches to the stones which are prepared for him by a whole
squad of drillers and escutcheoners, and who has secured a reputation and
customers even among the officers at the Ingolstadt headquarters. How
promptly would he be dislodged from his niche in the northern parapet,
where he works all day in any weather, squatting and mute like a second
Paphnuce.

But, thank goodness, though Ploss can restrict as much as he pleases the
meagre governmental rations (and he does not fail to make use of his
opportunities in this respect), his jurisdiction does not pass beyond the
limits of the storerooms and the kitchens. Throughout the rest of the
fort the major reigns supreme, and his regime is so strictly courteous
that even the most ill-conditioned among the non-commissioned officers of
the guard think twice before ordering any of us strict arrest on bread
and water.

Ploss is disheartened. Ploss is wounded. Ploss is sad. Ploss envies Fort
A3, a German league from Fort Orff. Here a mere non-commissioned officer
is in command. The fort is in truth little more than a redoubt. Two
hundred and fifty Frenchmen of the 6th corps are packed into the place.
Their only exercise ground consists of muddy and dark passages, a narrow
ditch, and a tiny platform of about a hundred square feet. There is no
upper story. In front of the windows, fifty yards away, are the iron gate
and the precipitous slope. Eternal twilight reigns within. The governor
is like a narrow-minded usher, a jealous and timid despot, trembling
before orders from headquarters and terrible to the prisoners. If only
Ploss were _Vize-Feldwebel_ of Fort A3!

I know this little fort. My friend Cambessédès, house-surgeon from Paris,
a doctor serving in M. Langlois’ group of stretcher-bearers, has been
sent there from Fort 8 as medical officer, accompanied by M. Valois, a
prosector from Montpellier. In a note, clandestine, of course, he let us
know his whereabouts. Kindly, as usual, Baron von Stengel allowed the
medical officers and me to pay them a visit. Thus it came to pass that
last Sunday, escorted by a _Gefreiter_ and a soldier with fixed bayonet,
we walked from Orff to Wegstetten. It was thawing. Tiny blue rivulets
flowing through the pastures and along the furrows of the ploughs
reflected the quiet sky. We met groups returning from vespers: women,
children, and old men, peaceful folk who nodded to us as they passed.

When we reach the fort, which is insidiously buried in the interior of
a bald eminence and is invisible a hundred paces away, a parley is
necessary. The _Gefreiter_ hands the officer of the guard of A3 the
permit issued by the commandant of Fort Orff. The sentry opens the gate.
We pass in. Lining the walls, the red-trousers form an inquisitive
and saluting hedge. Cambessédès runs up quite out of breath. Through
long, dark, and narrow passages he conducts us to the medical officers’
quarters.

These are screened off by wooden partitions from the remainder of
a gloomy casemate. Two beds, two wooden chairs, a table; no vacant
space. It suggests a midshipman’s cabin on a man-of-war. The air is
raw. Illustrations cut from the _Woche_ are pinned to the wall. Upon
a little shelf above my friend’s bed I see his wife’s photograph. A
whiff of French perfume is wafted to my senses. I think of Paris, home,
the fireside, work, peace! I say little during the visit. We sit down
haphazard on the beds, the chairs, the table. A little soldier from
Châlons, very quick and lively in his movements, comes in with a jug of
coffee and an odd assortment of half-pint mugs. The company talks of the
Geneva Convention and of medical and technical matters. Those from Orff
get the others to tell of the recent happenings at Fort 8.

I pay scant attention to these petty details, swallowing my coffee
mechanically amid the clash of voices and laughter. All my thoughts are
in Paris. How strange seems this society of Frenchmen in the remote
Bavarian redoubt. It is borne in on me of a sudden that madness rules the
world.

Cambessédès and Valois, as hosts, now show us round. A crowd of soldiers
follows us. Some of the adjutants post us concerning the life of the
prisoners. Poor fellows, they have no von Stengel! In A3 it is impossible
to procure any kind of supplement to the official rations. It is
impossible to get a jug of good beer from time to time to keep up one’s
spirits.

From the platform there is a fine view over the village of Wegstetten
and the wood-crowned hills. M. Langlois, at least, thinks so. He looks
with all his eyes. He is in ecstasy—when the sentry, a stumpy Swabian
in a black greatcoat which is threadbare, weatherworn, and turning
rusty-green, pounces upon him, charges bayonet, and touches the major’s
tunic with the point of the steel. Our surgeon-in-chief protests: he
has made no attempt to climb up the turf-covered breastwork; he has not
trespassed into a forbidden region; he has merely been admiring the view.
“Quite so,” barks the obstinate little bulldog, snorting angrily; “to
look outside is forbidden.”

Unquestionably A3 is very different from Fort Orff! Whatever you do,
baron-gaoler, do not ask for leave until we are set at liberty. Do not
hand us over to a Ploss!

But even Ploss has his good hours. French lightness of heart is able
from time to time to exert its charm over this hard Franconian noddle.
His surly air passes off. With a brisk gesture he pushes his greasy
_Mütze_ back over the nape of his neck. His brown tuft of hair makes
its appearance, giving him an engaging and almost sportive air. During
these calms, Davit, the Hercules cook, can with impunity seize the
quartermaster, wrestle with him, and make as if to throw him head-first
into a boiling cauldron. The paunchy cook of No. 42, when the herrings
are being distributed, can then, under Ploss’ very eyes, sneak a
good-sized “Bismarck” and stuff it into the pocket of his smock, with the
tail sticking out. But beware! The quartermaster’s ordinary temper will
suddenly return, and the prisoner with whom he has just been laughing
will find himself sentenced to three days’ cells simply for having kept
up the game for a second after the eclipse. Ploss is then capable of
making allegations likely to bring a man before a firing squad. He will
say, for example, “Prisoner X attempted to kill me by striking me on the
head with a ladle.”

       *       *       *       *       *

What a wonderful thing is this French light-heartedness! Heavy-witted
northerners term it levity when they should speak of it as vitality.
These little Frenchmen! To-day you see them sad at heart. The weather is
grey; a languorous humidity prevails which seems to reduce the scale of
the landscape and to make the noises draw nearer. We hear the roar of
the trains in the plain, trains moving westwards, towards France. Those
afoot walk as in a dream; many never leave their palliasses. The men from
Provence are thinking of the sunshine; the Parisians recall the joyous
meetings of Saturday evening when work is done; the Bretons listen in
imagination to the heavy, rhythmical sound of the great surges breaking
at the foot of the native cliff. Every one has “the hump.”

Suddenly comes the sound of singing from the corridors. “They are
singing! Have the letters come?” One and all rush to be first at the
main gate, close to the _Kommandantur_, beneath the gloomy arch. There
is coming and going and much talk. “Is it true that there are lots of
letters?”—“Two or three hundred, so d’Arnoult says!”—“What luck! When
shall we get them?”—“Oh, the sorting will take some time.” The procession
to the kitchens is animated. The hope of being about to receive a letter
has eased the nervous tension.

But what, among eleven hundred men, is the handful of letters reaching
the fort from time to time? For one who is made happy, there are
thirty disappointed. My friend Foch, the awe-inspiring sergeant of the
“vitriers” [infantry chasseurs], the most martial man in the fort, a
hero, has not yet received a single line from Colroy-la-Grande, in the
Vosges, near the Lubine pass. Since August the French have been fighting
on this crest, advancing and retreating alternately. In the frontier
villages the skirmishing never ceases. What has become of his brave wife,
who, scorning bullets, leading her seven-year-old twins by the hand,
used to bring dinner to her husband in the firing-line? Is she dead? Has
she been interned? And his house, the little house known so well to the
men of the 10th Chasseurs, where they had often received food and drink,
is it still standing? Poor Foch! His energetic countenance, with its
flashing eyes, is clouded; his tongue, formerly so glib at a story, is
stilled. Nor is he the only one who continues to await the first letter
from home. I am among those specially favoured, and of ten letters sent
to me, but one comes to hand, taking three and often four weeks on the
journey.

Fortunately, money orders and parcels, exempt from the delays of the
censorship, arrive regularly. Received as if they had been Father
Christmas himself, with transports of delight which well-nigh make
us jump for joy like children, these are the great dissipators of
depression. They have completely modified our life, bringing into
the fort a sort of plenty. Jerseys, woollen helmets, Russian caps,
comforters, thick hand-knitted socks; every one is now wadded against the
cold. Muffled in wool, men toboggan merrily down the slopes. Sometimes
we have little dinner-parties. On the rickety tables knocked together by
our amateur carpenters there are cups of tea and chocolate, pieces of
gingerbread, sponge-cakes, jams, long twists of French tobacco. These
love-feasts are not very grand, but to us they are delightful. We nibble
our piece of cake, we sip from our steaming mug, noiselessly, slowly, our
hearts filled with tender thoughts. We think of the hands which have made
the tart, of the eyes which have watched the seething of this jam. If one
of the guests should make a joke, he is wasting his wit. The laugh dies
on our lips. Every one is full of memories. Our picnics are communions.

After the horror of the first two months of imprisonment, when many
of us knew no other feeling than that of hunger—hunger by day and by
night, the hunger that keeps a man awake and gnaws like an ulcer—now
that winter has come we are having a fairly agreeable time. Our bodies
have become accustomed to the regimen. The monotony of life is broken by
happy events, by the arrival of parcels, money orders, and letters. The
work we have had to do at Ingolstadt, Hepperg, and Wegstetten has widened
the bounds of our prison. Every one has made a circle of friends. Some
of the casemates, with their tables for bridge or poker, have now the
aspect of clubs. We have learned how to circumvent German discipline.
Our service for the supply of smuggled victuals works smoothly, so that
we are at least able to provide ourselves with chocolate and tobacco.
Some have purchased books; numerous French works belonging to the Fayard,
Nelson, and Flammarion libraries have made their way through the gates,
across the ditches, and over the walls; they pass from hand to hand
until they fall to pieces. Some of the prisoners are learning German.
My big dictionary is, as it were, an ever open mill, where all can
make themselves at home. Every room has its writers of topical songs.
Stretched on their palliasses, paper and pencil in hand, they cudgel
their brains for rhymes. I cannot say that the outcome is sublime, but
the verses, caustic without ill-nature, peppered with puns, and stuffed
with allusions to the point of unintelligibility, amuse us all. The
following stanzas dealing with the “ministerial council,” written by
Cormarie and sung by Saint-Lanne of Agen at the Saturday concerts in No.
7, go to the air of the _Paimpolaise_:

    Nos deux majors veulent extraire
    Du beau riz si blanc et si sain
    Une huile pure limpide et claire
    Qu’ils appel’ront l’huil’ de riz-sain
      Pour avoir le _Ri_
      _Où_ s’adresseront-ils?
    Chambre 17 ou aux cuisines!
    Il écrit toute la journée!
    A chaque repas, drôl’ de combine!
    On lui sert des figaro-thés.

    Il porte pour la circonstance
    L’habit vert d’Académicien;
    Les palmes en sont restées en France
    Pour les canards de son quotidien;
      Car je les ai vu
      Et même à _fon lupt_.
    Je dis: ne crois pas ces canards sauvages
    Car ils s’ébattent soir et matin
    Avant d’être envoyés aux sages
    Dans une mar’ d’eau de _Laubin_.

But France is a nation of prose writers; at the fort there are many more
authors of memoirs than of songs. Memoirs abound.[28] Why is it that
men who have never before tried to record their experiences in writing
should feel impelled to recount the happenings of their campaign, and to
describe their feelings of discouragement during a lengthy imprisonment?
Do they do it to relieve tedium? Have they an obscure need of confession?
Or do they consider the circumstances of their life in war-time so
exceptional as to deserve the honour, in their view an extraordinary one,
of written record? In my opinion this last motive predominates. Rightly
or wrongly, the “little soldiers of the republic” regard the present
conflict in an epic light, and at bottom, notwithstanding their ingrained
tendency to grumble, are not a little flattered at being among the heroes
of this affair. They know that as long as men exist people will continue
to talk about the great war, and that in the schools children will learn
the names of the battles in which their fathers have fought and suffered.
They want to be able to astonish their little ones, to be able to say:
“I was there; I fought in this battle; read my account of the matter and
you will see how everything happened, what my leaders did, and when I
received my wound.” Men, Frenchmen above all, whatever their station,
have such a hunger for fame.

Yesterday I came across Maze on the slopes, wearing his great red
chéchia, which accentuates his stature, already considerable. His shirt
was drying in the wind, tied to the lightning-conductor, and flapping
like a flag. He was sitting behind the parapet, sheltered from the wind,
and was reading. “What may you be reading?”—“My battle.”—“Can I look at
it?”—“Here you are.”

In his note-book, worn and dog’s-eared, the following account was
pencilled on the pages he showed me. I reproduce it verbatim, with its
mistakes in spelling:

    It was on August 19th that our company set out from the village
    of Couture. We crossed the fields to rejoin the Metz road.
    After we had marched two kilometres along this road, we took
    shelter in a wood in order to avoid being seen by a German
    areoplane. After a short hault here, we started off once more
    towards Fresne-en-Saulnois. We left this village on our left
    to march upon Auron and Vivier. We found trenches made by the
    enemy and some dead horses. In the evening we were before Duron
    and Vivier, the Germans having left these two villages a couple
    of hours earlier. We, the company “146,” occupied all the exits
    from the villages. At about half past eight in the evening the
    company shoulders knapsacks and we go to the outposts before
    Frémery. We passed a fairly quiet night, a few shots were fired
    towards midnight, and we thought there was a night attack, but
    it was only a skirmish between patrols. Next day, August 20th,
    at three in the morning the captain commands us to extend in
    skirmishing order, for we had been warned that the enemy is
    in front of us. In two or three leaps we reach the crest of a
    little hill in front of us. At this moment we receive a few
    bullets which oblige us to assume the ofensive. The lieutenant
    orders us to fire at five hundred yards upon the enemy
    advancing towards the crest. At this moment our comrade Arnold,
    the cook, comes from the village of Frémery, the bombardment of
    which has just begun, he held in his hands two pales of coffee
    which he brings to his section, although the captain told him
    to go back. But, he listening only to the commands of his own
    courage and coolness, succeeds in joining his section which
    was then engaged with the enemy. On reaching the line he began
    to distribute the coffee, but hardly had he begun when he was
    hit near the left eye not seriously, which stopped him for a
    moment. But this did not hinder him from continuing his round,
    stopping from time to time to fire his rifle. It was when he
    had nearly reached the end of the line of skirmishers that he
    was hit on the right rist. At this moment he was close to the
    sergeant-major, who was lying at full length in a furrow and
    who with the aid of his soup spoon was digging a hole for his
    head; at this moment we had no orders, for most of the non-coms
    and privates had been killed or wounded.—The sub-lieutenant
    gives the order to retire to those who are able, but the
    sergeant-major stoped where he was saying to a man who was near
    him and who was wounded. “No slackers here” giving him a blow
    with the flat of his sword.—At this moment, the Germans make
    their charge and come close up to us, the sergeant-major lifted
    his arms into the air, crying, “quarter! my wife my child.”—A
    little while after we were under the guard of some German
    soldiers, who conducted us as best they could to the hospital
    at Lucy. On the way the sergeant-major said to us that but for
    his spoon he would perhaps be a dead man?

I was touched by this little story. Maze thinks only of praising
Arnold’s heroism. He says not a word about his own wound, although this
was severe. He was struck in the neck, and the bullet is still beneath
the shoulder-blade. One day he stripped in my presence and I felt the
projectile. At the same time I had a good view of the sun, the stars, and
the nymphs wherewith his chest is decorated, framing the great portrait
of Carpentier which Maze had had tattooed while in Paris.

Speaking generally, the memoirs I have read have lacked interest. The
hero speaks of the beer he has drunk, of the naps he has been able to
snatch between the attacks, gives the names of his sergeant, of his
comrades. We get absolutely no idea of the battle he was in. I reproduce,
however, the story of Marius-Eugène G⸺, who was made prisoner on August
27th at Moyen-Moutier. It is the best I have discovered in the fort:

                    _ACCOUNT OF WAR AND IMPRISONMENT
                                 by
                           Marius-Eugène G⸺_

                                 _Moyen-Moutier, August 27, 1914._

    Am alone, have lost my regiment, my company, am at
    Moyen-Moutier. Endeavour to join up with the 52nd or the 75th,
    can’t do it, stop and think, the firing begins again. The
    Germans are bombarding the town. What on earth shall I do? I
    lose my head, I am alone, I have no friend, no one to advise
    me. I run like a madman; I stop when I hear the whistling of
    the German projectiles I stretch myself at full length on
    the ground they fall two hundred yards from me and then come
    nearer. At length I give myself up for lost, I loose my head
    more and more however I think much of Rive-de-Gier of my dear
    employers of my dear love also of my brother and sister-in-law
    and of my dear little niece in fact of every one dear to me
    and it is with sorrow that I see the shells raning round me I
    ast myself if I shall ever see again this dear family, this
    idol which I carry in my heart. Having received a slight
    wound in the arm I went to the red cross and I have made the
    acquaintance of a dear friend of the 75th where we always
    remain brothers in misfortune since the hour when we were
    made prisoner, Thursday August 27 1914 at five o’clock in the
    evening; from there they sent us to sleep in a school, without
    a straw, still get through the night somehow and early next
    morning they make a list of the prisoners and send us to Saale
    which is on the frontier twenty kilometres from Moyen-Moutier,
    on the way the German soldiers make a long stop and gives us
    a bit of food a meal which I and my compatriots much enjoyed
    for we were getting very hungry at length we reach Saale it is
    about five in the evening, they make us sleep hard just like
    last night only instead of a school it is a church which has
    been transformed into a dormitory no great catch, the night
    is rather cold but we get through it somehow. Saturday August
    29 we entrain at Saale station at nine o’clock in the morning
    without knowing where we are going it was a day of anguish
    for me and also for all my friends in the same situation as
    myself, we remain all day in the train all night and all Sunday
    August 30 when we arrive at our destination Ingolstadt at eight
    o’clock in the evening, they tells us that there is still 2
    hours march to reach Fort Orff where I am still in prison after
    4 weeks.

    September 24. The weather to-day is rather grey and cold we
    stay in the rooms, tell what has hapened to us during the
    campane and the poor fellows serving with the colours when the
    war broke out said that this was the day of their discharge
    however we did all that we could to enliven the dull life we
    have had since our imprisonment.

    Being quite without money to provide for my little wants, I am
    sorry to say that I have had to sell the ring that belonged to
    my dear mother the one she gave me the year before she died
    I was forced to sell it to buy food for they do not give us
    enough to eat and it is with regret that I sacrificed it in
    order to avoid coming to a bad end, all this is due to this
    cursed war from which I have been suffering for 2 months now,
    I hope it will soon be over and that I shall be able to resume
    the life of peace and happiness I led in the barracks where I
    had a happy time during the week and on Sunday was happy to be
    able to get leave to go to Rive-de-Gier where I passed such a
    pleasant day with my dear employers and my dear girl and that
    dear family of which I often think, at every moment of the day
    my thoughts turn to them.

    Now at length the day is finished and the moment has come to
    go and fetch the wretched pittance which they give us as food
    then to have some talk with my friend, companion in misfortune,
    bedfellow for we sleep together on one heap of straw and with
    one blanket, all this because of this cursed war, still never
    mind the suffering, it is for France.

    September 25. Glorious weather, one can feel the warmth of the
    sun, I take advantage of it to get up quickly, to have a wash,
    then I go to fetch the trickle of hot water they give us for
    coffee, I profit by the opening of this fine autumn day to take
    a turn or two about the fort to take my thoughts off and to
    proffit by this fine sunshine which has been very rare since my
    imprisonment in Bavaria.

    Then, I do like many of the comrades my fellow-prisoners, try
    to do some work upon Bavarian stone, to make a souvenir of the
    fort, but I have no patience and chuck the thing away, for it
    does not take my thoughts off?

    Good biz! a friend in the room has a pack of cards and we begin
    to play game after game of manilla, this turns our thoughts a
    bit but its not as good as the old games we used to play in
    the taverns of the old Couzonnais quarter. In spite of all I
    think of everyone I left behind me in that old town, of my dear
    employers, of their old parents who was so good to me and also
    of the dear parents of my dear girl who is never out of my
    thoughts and who I hope she thinks much of me.

    Thursday, October 1st. Having been one day without writing I
    hasten to quickly write these two words, these moments are so
    sweet for me besides to write one is obliged to be alone and
    that is why to-day finding myself at the top of the fort where
    I look over all the plane and at the end of it the fine town
    of Ingolstadt I see many factory chimnies which are smoking
    also the fields where some Bavarian peasants is working in
    this place one would never think, seeing the sight which is
    spread beneath my eyes, one would never think that canon are
    thundering a few(?) kilometres away. All that I have written on
    this page makes me feel sick at heart for outside this cursed
    fort there would be liberty and peace for always. For such a
    life as we have been living, everyone of us here, is not to be
    envied. After a war like that we are going through, just as
    much for the german people as for the French, there is ruin for
    the 2 countries where are killed or wounded numerous fathers
    of families who leaves a wife without support with one or more
    children! I have not yet the rite to be mourned like these
    fathers of families, but in spite of everything I think much of
    my life in the future when I hope to be able to make the girl I
    love happy and whom I hope will not desert me even though she
    gets no news of me. Here then is the month of October begining
    very sadly I live in hope that the end will be a little better.

There, it is not very grand, but it is so sincere, and in any case
this work of the pen makes the time pass less heavily. Poetizing,
music, memoirs, tobogganing, little dinners, German, cards, whittling,
stone-carving—some of the prisoners find the days too short. What an odd
creature is man!

Tesson came to see me just now, bringing his last piece of work, a great
slab of stone depicting the entrance to Fort Orff. The whole kitchen
staff formed up in circle round the masterpiece. “Well I’m blowed!” said
Devèse. “That’s not been done with the point of a pickaxe,” remarked
Deschênes by way of praise. I also expressed my admiration. Then the
master drew from his pocket a book with clasps, cut in limestone. He
had carved on it the title: _Les Mémoires de Victor Tesson, prisonnier
de guerre, à sa méchante Louise Huber.—Dolomieu, Isère._ While I was
praising the dedication, he showed me his tools, saying: “Here are my
cold chisel and my piercer. I made them out of my bicycle pliers. Here’s
my ruler; I ‘forged’ it out of the tyre of a wheelbarrow.”—“Is that
all?”—“That’s all. I have no dividers; I measure with a straw.”

Unquestionably the Frenchman is a very live animal. When I hear my
fellow-prisoners applauding the artistes of No. 7, Lannessan, Grignon,
Saint-Lanne, Bouquet, or the “artistes socialistes” of No. 38, the
members of the audience splitting their sides with laughter at the
satirical allusions and joining lustily in the choruses; when I go to
No. 13 to visit Le Second, who receives me with the affected airs of a
dandy as he ushers me into his domain of five feet square, incredibly
elegant and quaint, fitted up à la Martine; when I contemplate the
roguish gaiety of all these “Gavroches,” their indefatigable activity,
the effervescence of their wit—I think of a Swiss friend of mine who is
always saying, “These devils of Frenchmen!” I can even understand the
stupefaction of that great barrel of a Max! One will never get the better
of these fellows. One will never bend such bodies beneath the yoke of
servitude. Without violence, by the simple play of their natural life,
they would tame the most mulish of masters. The substance of which they
are composed, ever radiating energy, is irreducible. It is evident that,
by special privilege, they are born “free men.” Sovereign people!

How right is Péguy when he says that their watchword is “Hope.”
Misfortune befalls them; they seem overwhelmed. From disorganization they
pass to grumbling and from grumbling to revolution. Come back to look at
them to-morrow; you will find them valiant, dashing, light-hearted heroes
recking no longer of yesterday. They laugh at their sufferings. They
sing. They defy their gollywogs of gaolers. They combine to think out
some new plan. They engage in some fresh piece of work. Merely to look at
them renews the savour of life.

At first everything went amiss here. Apart from eating our starvation
rations, we had nothing to do. It was a terrible time. But contemplate
them now; they are blithe enough. They are prisoners, and yet you would
say they were in their own homes, masters, owners. Prisoners? They seem
to be the guardians of their sentries; they go so far as to chide the
sentries if these are slovenly in the performance of their duties. It is
not that the prisoners have adapted themselves to the environment, but
that they have forced the environment, willy nilly, to adapt itself to
them. Like certain mosses which grow where there is no humus, they catch
flying grains of dust and force these to yield the scanty soil which will
enable them to live.

Moreover, events seem to favour this natural propensity to hope.

       *       *       *       *       *

The last thing was your card with a picture of the _Victory of
Samothrace_. You had erased the title and put a date in its place. Every
one came to see this bulletin of victory which I had put up beside your
portrait! I wish you could have heard the comments.

“Then we shall not have suffered for nothing,” said a lad from Montmédy.
“I was two days in the forest with five comrades. We made holes in
the trees to suck the sap. We had hallucinations. Two of them killed
themselves.” Louis Ludes, a baker from Pouzolles, wounded in Morocco, and
wounded again at Lunéville, the worst of wounds, a shell in the abdomen
(his recovery astonished all the surgeons), exclaimed: “I too, tonnerre,
I am in this victory!”

And while they were looking at the beautiful Greek with the mighty wings,
Dutrex, who was reading the _Burgraves_, declaimed to us in his grating
bass voice, full of cruel irony, the mendicant’s apostrophe:

    Les Vandales ont pris Berlin! Ah! quel tableau!
    Les païens à Dantzig! Les Mogols à Breslau!
    Tout cela dans l’esprit en même temps me monte
    Pêle-mêle, au hasard; mais c’est horrible!… ô honte!…
    Allemagne, Allemagne, Allemagne.… Hélas![29]



DAWN


                                                      _December 8, 1914._

Half awake, I stretch out my hand to see whether Dutrex is there. His
palliasse is deserted, his rug folded up. I raise myself on my elbow.
All the others are still asleep, lying like long mute mummies. I draw on
my shoes. At the main entrance, the sentries, hands in pockets, heads
between their shoulders, are stamping their feet, their eyes white with
cold. “_Guten Morgen!_”—“_Guten Morgen!_” I grope my way down the stair
and along the passage. The lamps have gone out. There is a light in No.
22. I go in. Dutrex is shaving; his little mirror is perched on the vice.
In front of him stands a smoky lamp. All around is darkness. Bouquet
passes from one cauldron to another, singing softly and sentimentally:

    La petite Française
    Qui m’attend là-bas
    A les yeux de braise
    Le cœur de lilas.…[30]

The kitchen is full of sulphurous fumes. “What time is it?”—“Five
o’clock.” Dutrex has finished shaving. I take his place before the mirror
and the lamp with the broken chimney. Some one knocks at the door. A
little man comes in. He wears a fatigue-cap; his head is bowed, his face
is tied up in a handkerchief, he holds his left cheek with both hands. He
looks at us like a whipped dog. “I’m in such pain!”—“What’s the matter?”
asks Bouquet, who is tender-hearted. The poor fellow is unable to speak
plainly. “I have been walking up and down the corridors for a long time.
I can’t keep still. My wound is gnawing at me. It seems to be screaming
there, just under the ear!”—“Poor chap, you must see Laloux, but he is
still asleep. Sit down there between the stoves. There’s a stool for you.
Drink a mug of coffee while you’re waiting. That’ll warm you.”—“Yes, I’m
perished with cold.”

Instead of a cheek he has a great violet crevasse with lines of scar
tissue radiating from it. He was struck by a bullet which passed in
obliquely through the nose and on its way out shattered half the left
side of the face, including the articulation of the jaw. He has an
abscess forming in the internal ear, which is pretty sure to kill him.
While I shave, I look at this reservist.

He arrived with the last batch of convalescent wounded. Most of them
were but half cured. They were sent away from Ingolstadt to make room
for refugees from Pomerania, children, women, and old men, broken down
through privation. The Russian wave is washing these refugees by
thousands into the southern hutments.

“Does it still hurt?”

“Not quite so much.”

“Where are you from?”

“From a village near Mans.”

“Do you think that your missus will be able to love you with that hole in
your cheek and your hanging jaw?”

“I hope so.”

“Where were you in barracks?”

“At Saint-Mihiel.”

“Where did you get your wound?”

“At Marville, near Virton, in Belgium.”

“Long ago?”

“August 24th.”

“Here’s another mug of coffee for you.”

The man, Vouvard by name, puts his hand behind the ear, closes his eyes,
and rocks to and fro, saying: “I don’t know what to do, it hurts so.”

The cooks come in. With great hooks they take down the boiling cauldrons.
Dutrex goes out for the roll-call. Steam fills the casemate, stifling
us, and I open the window. Day is breaking; tiny clouds of a pale silver
tint are floating at a great altitude. Deschênes, the woodman from the
forest of Argonne, catching sight of the white frost on the slope, says
with conviction: “This sort of weather gives one the hump here. Think how
jolly it would be to be at work. Think how there are people perishing of
hunger while we are shut up here doing nothing. And when we get home we
shall have to work ourselves to death to pay off the debts our wives have
made while we have been away. A lot of good one gets out of war!”

Dutrex enters with a martial stride. “I say, Riou, here are the latest
orders from headquarters: ‘The purveyors and the workmen employed at the
fort must be accompanied by a soldier of the guard; the prisoners are
forbidden to approach them. The sale of food and drink to prisoners is
strictly forbidden. The commandants are responsible for seeing that these
orders are carried out.’”

“Very well, the slopes are also forbidden. I will immediately go for a
walk there.”

I linger on the ramparts. The sun is about to rise. The air is pure,
like that of the high mountains. Beyond the huge Danubian plain I catch
sight for the first time of the blue serrations of the Tyrolese Alps,
crowning the delicate lines of the middle distance. To-day is the feast
of the Immaculate Conception. The air is filled with the sound of bells.
The deep notes of those of Ingolstadt mingle with the brighter chimes of
Hepperg, Wegstetten, and Lenting. The cocks are crowing. The crows are
flying at a great height, and the harmonious silence is broken from time
to time by their croakings. Everything glistens. The sky is superb. The
earth rejoices. The soul finds refreshment and delight in the elysian
dawn.

Over there, towards the rising sun, upon the Warthe and in the Carpathian
defiles, men are killing one another. In the opposite quarter, beyond
the gentle undulations dotted with white farms and beyond the magnificent
barrier of the Swabian Jura, men are killing one another in Alsace,
in Lorraine, and in Flanders. The villages of Europe are filled with
truncated limbs, wooden legs, broken lives. Poor world of men!



HE GOES AWAY


                                                     _December 13, 1914._

He leaves this evening. Every one is sad. Who will replace him? If
only it is not a man belonging to the school of the _Münchener Neueste
Nachrichten_,[31] which has been summoning the government to take
reprisals against the French prisoners. “_Geduld genug!_” exclaimed the
official journalist; “We have been patient long enough!” He demanded
the head of Colonel Grey, Sir Edward Grey’s brother, and also that of
Delcassé’s son, both of whom had been wounded and taken prisoner. The
_Ingolstädter Zeitung_ has been even more drastic than the Munich journal.

Yesterday passed gloomily. The men of the guard, like all those who
have not been at the front, were spiteful and meddlesome. The patrol
refused to allow us to set foot upon the slopes, even insisting that we
must remain in the mud and puddles of the lower courts. Brissot and I
contended that they did not know the regulations, and that the great
track half-way up which dominates the two courts was certainly within
bounds. Anyhow, taking advantage of the mist, I had before sunrise walked
as usual on the forbidden escarp. Then, having a slight cold, and feeling
poorly, I lay down upon a pile of palliasses in the Salle du Jeu de
Paume, and spent the day in re-reading _Eugénie Grandet_, which Corporal
Henriot had just received from Paris.

But I was thinking more about the baron’s departure than about old
Grandet. The others were playing chess. “What a fine chap he is!”
exclaimed Détry. “Riou, old boy, we ought to make him a grand speech when
he leaves. Did you see the farewell note he sent round the casemates? He
thanks his ‘fellow-workers.’ He courteously congratulates every one. He
wishes us good luck. There’s a man for you, one who has never failed to
treat us as men. Nothing of the Ploss about him!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Lying with my head beneath the rug, my book closed, and my eyes shut, it
suddenly seemed to me that the recent weeks had been almost enjoyable.
I forgot the long nights of the first month or so, when my stomach was
continually gnawing, and when the memories of meals eaten before the war,
their steam, their odour, were so vivid as to constitute a veritable
torture of Tantalus. Forgetting home-sickness and tedium, I found myself
looking back wistfully to that which in actual experience had appeared
horrible.

It seemed to me that with the transfer of von Stengel a fresh
imprisonment was about to begin, harassing, with no security, and
inhuman; that henceforward I should be truly in prison.

An end, I said to myself, to our evening walks on the roads adjoining the
fort. An end to those pleasant saunters in the twilight, a little band
of five or six, almost as good as a tête-à-tête after the life of the
herd. Our new master, just married, will devote his leisure to his wife.
Possibly, moreover, as the baron has suggested, the recent escape of four
English officers from Fort Hartmann will make the new commandant very
strict.…

All at once it was borne in on me that the last few weeks had been at the
same time melancholy and pleasing.…

       *       *       *       *       *

Farewell to my hop-garden, in which I had gleaned dried hops wherewith
to spice the insipid German tobacco. Farewell to my bushes of blackthorn
and barberry, where I plucked red berries, where I cut such fine
switches—_der Stock des Gelehrten_, as Stengel said. Farewell to my farm
at Hepperg, my great country seat which has fallen to the female line,
whose fortress-like walls, amid the straw stacks and the noisy populace
of ganders, geese, hens, and guinea-fowl, spoke to me of my birthplace
grieving for the two sons at the war, spoke to me of the country house
haloed in memories, dozing beneath the winter sun in the light shade of
the olives and the sad cypresses, blue-girdled by the shining hills of
Vivarais. Farewell to the disused quarry, the silent undergrowth, filled
with shafts of light and with gossamer; the carpet of dead leaves white
with hoar-frost, which crackles beneath the feet. Farewell to my royal
Danubian plain, where the setting sun throws into relief the huge and
gentle undulations, dotted with smoking villages. Farewell to my evening
skies, my grand Bavarian twilights, infinitely variable, which will
remain the most splendid memory of my imprisonment.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was above all grateful to Baron von Stengel for having asked me to join
him in his afternoon walks with the French medical officers. As you know,
I have more taste for the beauties of nature than for the doings of my
kind. In thus presenting me with the freedom of the fields, my gaoler
gave me the thing I like best in the world, barring your company and that
of a few intimates.

He extended me this invitation one morning when I was in the throes
of despondency. It was late in September. At dawn there had been an
iridescent haze. On the escarp, great drops of water had formed on the
birch and willow branches, and were falling thence to the ground. The
weather was splendid; the sun was gradually dispersing the transparent
vapours; and yet one could imagine that all nature was weeping. I was
tired out. To secure oblivion, I had been working too assiduously for
several days. I was at the end of my resources; the sordidness of
the surroundings sickened me and hunger gnawed at my vitals. I was
unutterably miserable. I had no strength to do anything but to yearn
for you, to dream of flowers, of fresh springs, space, freedom. France!
France! Brissot, hoping to cure me, had brought me George Sand’s _Maîtres
sonneurs_, a greasy volume which had found its way here God knows how,
perhaps stolen from the municipal school by a soldier quartered in the
fort. Said Brissot: “It is redolent of nature; I am bringing you the
very bouquet of the French countryside!” Such was my condition when the
major came by. “Hallo, monsieur Riou,” he exclaimed, “you don’t look as
cheerful as usual.”—“I’m home-sick, mon commandant.”—“Would you care to
take a walk with me in the country this evening?”—“Should I care to!”

My memory of this first excursion is of a joy which was perfect though
uneventful. The great black gate with its heraldic lions was opened by
the sentry for the egress of the major and his companions; to the left
lay the avenue, the thicket of acacias masking the ditch of retreat;
below us, between the shivering, gold-capped birches, the gentle and
unending undulations of the plain; to the right, seen obliquely, the
yellow out-buildings, the tall hop-poles, the military road cut up by
artillery fire, running straight in the direction of the sombre crest of
the Franconian Jura, and crossing the huge chessboard of ploughed fields;
further on, the little strategic wood, a magnificent growth of fir-trees,
larches, and beeches, encircled by stone-pines and oaks, a sort of sacred
grove, with an undergrowth of the most varied nature.

I was walking in the rear of our little company, going quietly along,
avoiding conversation, filled with delight.

“Are you still sad, M. Riou?” said the baron.

“Oh, no, I am perfectly happy.”

The wide sky covering the wide landscape; the delicate lines of the
horizon; the purity of the light; the brilliancy of the September tints;
the fragrance of the fields; the herds of oxen; the ploughs at work,
guided by boys whistling melancholy airs—it was a Virgilian scene. Poor
wreckage from the battles of Lorraine that I was, this energy of nature,
of peaceful and robust nature, flooded my heart with great waves of mute
pleasure far more intense than the intoxication of the senses. After
the blood-stained fields of Dieuze, after the fetid prison-house, after
qualms, suffocation, base and monotonous wretchedness, it seemed to me
that I was coming back to life.

The wood was swarming with mushrooms. My companions, especially Lœbre,
were mycologists. They scattered among the undergrowth. “Here’s a real
nest of _tricholoma personatum_,” cried Bouvat in sonorous tones.
“Come and make sure, Lœbre.” Lœbre saunters up. The young man smiles
good-naturedly. “Pooh! that’s not the lilac stem! That’s _amanita
muscaria_. That’s no good to us. But you have overlooked those fine
_russulæ_ behind you on the roots of the pine-trees.” “Herr Lœbre, here’s
a prize!” called out M. Cavaillé, in Languedoc German. “Here are some
_lactarii deliciosi_; come and look, a regular fairy-ring of them.”
Their mouths watering, they all crowd round this epicure’s fare. “What
a feast we shall have this evening!” Now comes Jeandidier, of Longwy
in Lorraine, walking up with long, deliberate strides, carrying very
carefully, as a man carries a candle in a procession, beneath his fiery
beard and his long Bavarian pipe, two great parasol mushrooms, which of
all the mushrooms have the longest stems, have the most delicate flavour,
and are the most fragile. Bouvat bore away the spoils. Each one made his
contribution of _russula cyanoxantha_, _clitocybe_, meadow agaric, and
liver fungus. The baron was amused by these schoolboy antics. From time
to time a covey of partridges was put up, and flew noisily away; or a
hare, awakened with a start, fled in terror. Night was falling. We made
our way back, skirting the glacis. I culled a bouquet of autumn leaves.
We crossed a field from which the potatoes had just been lifted. A few of
the tubers had been overlooked. I put them in my pocket with great care,
under the baron’s very eyes. Bouquet, the head cook, made a fry of them
that evening. Eight of us enjoyed them.

This morning a deputation of the comrades came to me when I was at work,
to commission me to write a farewell address. It had to be very short,
since the baron could spare us but a few minutes. In pencil (ink is
forbidden) I quickly compose what is needed. I read it to the deputation,
which approves the wording. I give a hasty polish to my shoes, and we set
out for the _Kommandantur_. The baron shakes hands. We arrange ourselves
in a semicircle. I am at the right wing, close to the commandant. His
successor is there, a stiff-mannered little man, quite inscrutable. He
wears a yager’s cap, green in colour, pulled down to the ears; the collar
of his tunic stands up so as almost to hide his head, but we can see
his drooping features and cold eyes. While I am speaking he stands at
attention.

“Mon commandant, to every one of us your departure is a matter of
personal regret. You are an enemy, but never has any one had a more
courteous enemy.

“You have treated us as soldiers, with perfect frankness; we have treated
you as the true gentleman that you are.

“We, the French prisoners at Fort Orff, differ upon many points. But
there is one matter upon which, when we return to France, we shall all
agree, namely, that Commandant Major Baron von Stengel deserved and
gained the affection and admiration of those towards whom for three
months he had to fill the position of gaoler.

“Accept our thanks, mon commandant. God have you in his keeping.”

With moist eyes, M. von Stengel introduces us to his successor, each
one by name, detailing our qualities, our services, the incidents of
our career. Stiff as ever, the _Oberleutnant_ bows to each in turn, to
the infantry of the line, to the chasseurs à pied, to the chasseurs
alpins, to the artillery, to the engineers, to the hussars. They are
tall, handsome fellows, of the same type as the grand old von Stengel.
We can hardly believe that we are in Germany. We are sincerely affected,
quite free from self-consciousness. The baron speaks to us as friends.
At his age, when the events that one can look forward to are numbered,
everything seems of importance. This separation is painful to him.
None of us can fail to recognize it; there is no pretence about his
distress. He presses us by the hand. He tells me that he will have our
address translated, and that he is going to send on his carriage with
the luggage. “I want to take a last walk with my friends,” he said. “God
guard you, my fine fellows.”

The walk, just now, was a melancholy affair. To avoid the mud on the
road we strolled along the edge of the fields towards Hepperg, crowding
round the baron as round a dear friend who is taking leave for ever.
Great bands of red striated the dark sky. Smokelike vapours lowered over
the earth. Night came on, gloomy and solemn. The baron spoke to me of
Ingolstadt, whose massive steeples could be seen in the distance through
the mist rising from the Danube. He told me that apart from Germelsheim
in the Palatinate, this was the only fortress in Bavaria; that Tilly
and Wallenstein had lived there; that the little town of twenty thousand
inhabitants had been a capital in its day. When we reached the gate, he
said with a smile, “I count my friends’ heads; all of them are here.” We
shook hands lingeringly and in silence at the door of the _Kommandantur_.

Farewell now to the fields; farewell, even, to the footpath of the
escarp. I have been warned that I shall be fired on if I am seen there.
I must be content henceforward with the muddy track overlooking the poor
amphitheatre of the courts, filthier than a pigsty. I still have your
little acacias, leafless, lugubrious, shivering in the bitter wind.



DISAPPOINTMENT


                                                     _December 17, 1914._

Our new gaoler has introduced a fresh method of taking the roll-call. We
have all to line up in two ranks in the sticky mud of the ditches, and to
wait there while we are counted. This ridiculous enumeration interferes
with the digestion of our poor midday meal, and serves more than any
other petty formality to remind us that we are prisoners. Just now, when
the gloomy ceremony was finished, I went to see the _Feldwebel_.

He is a wealthy horse-dealer from Ratisbon, cunning, short, with a
receding forehead, fresh-coloured, laughing eyes, well padded with
fat, a typical German Jew. Recently emerged from poverty, moderately
patriotic, secretly thinking that people are very stupid to get their
skins perforated for the _Vaterland_ and other fine words, he takes for
his own motto in all circumstances that a living dog is better than a
dead lion. He has managed to arrange that his part in the campaign shall
be a safe one, played where he will be close to his faithful spouse and
to his business, far from the deadly bullets. He is quite a good fellow,
with no desire to play the persecutor; but since his chief dread is to
be caught in a dereliction of duty and sent to the front, he is extremely
strict. Twice a day, at two and at seven, we exchange language lessons.
This does not merely secure me some new words of German, but also from
time to time I am given a handful of nuts and two or three apples.

I hasten off to fetch my parcel. I imagine that it contains something
to eat—chocolate, sausage—and I am hungry. The _Feldwebel_ giggles like
a child. He takes the key of No. 72, the terrible casemate which is as
damp as a drain; and, flanked by d’Arnoult and myself, he reaches the
“parcels office” at the end of the gloomy passage. I walk confidently,
for I have already, by clandestine methods, scrutinized your consignment,
and weighed it in my hand. It was compact, as heavy as one could wish,
and felt like a ten-pound box of Menier chocolate. I was cocksure. Here
we are; we light the lantern. I lay the packet on the table. Keenly
expectant, I cut open the oilcloth wrapping. Books! Montaigne, Voltaire.
An indulgent glance from the _Feldwebel_ at this consignment. I take
my leave. Brissot awaits me at the turn of the stairs. “Well?”—“Books,
old chap.”—“Capital! The smallest grain of millet would have suited you
better!”

Not even a letter, a little smuggled letter! How punctilious you are!
Do you know that your letter of November 2nd did not come to hand till
yesterday, having taken forty-four days to travel from Paris to Fort
Orff?



OH, DEAR!


                                                     _February 26, 1915._

The first warm, sunny day. The grey grass of last autumn is showing in
patches here and there through the melting snow; it is slightly tinged
with green. The sky is blue. A huge cloud, white and shining, rolls
towards the north.

Why do I feel so lightsome this morning? Is it possible that I am once
more what I was before the war?

If only the end were nearing, the end of the long miseries of winter in
the lousy, stinking, and chattering casemate! If an end were nearing to
the sterile cackle, the disquisitions on strategy, the disputes, and the
lamentations, to all that a discontented crowd exhales, through the empty
hours, in the way of physical boredom and of melancholy! Oh the gnawing
ache of these two months in an ant-hill encompassed by snow, filth, and
bitter winds! Two months of purgatory. I know now that to live among men,
nothing but men, day by day and night by night, in intimate contact,
without activity, without solitude, without the company of women (that
other solitude), is to live in purgatory.

Take men who have nothing in common but the flag. They differ in
traditions, education, and temperament; their habits of life are
fixed. They are in the full vigour of manhood. They are strong and
spirited. They are familiar with violence and struggle. Throw these
soldiers pell-mell into a cellar, where they hunger and are cut off
from news. Subject them to meddlesome regulations. Compel them, in this
wretchedness, to live always in close proximity, and far from everything
which they have hitherto known as life. Doubtless they will have their
good hours. At times, when their minds are filled with thoughts of those
they love and of their motherland, their words and their silences will
be no less pure and sweet than is a long summer twilight. Or when some
newspaper, concealed in a parcel from France, has brought them tidings
of victory and wafted to them all the hope of their free brothers, they
will experience a sublime unison of joy. But at other times.… No, I wish
to forget. After all, the heroes of the great epic are but men. Why
should we expect of them, during months and months, a patience and a
self-command of which many men in good society, men esteemed well-bred,
are incapable when a caller stays too long?

       *       *       *       *       *

Everything has changed since Baron von Stengel’s departure. The new
commandant, M. Schwappach, of the department of streams and forests,
possesses all the virtues of the German bureaucrat. He is active,
precise, orderly, meticulous. He has also the infatuation of his caste,
for he believes that the world gravitates round it. He admires and
fears his chiefs, and he applies to the very letter every _Befehl_ from
headquarters. Everything is now forbidden. Daily the _Feldwebel_ reads
the orders to the sentries: the slopes are forbidden; without challenge,
they must fire upon any one who is seen there.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have suffered greatly at being thus cut off from the view to be
obtained from the ramparts, and this has affected me hardly less than the
short commons. The number of sentries has been tripled. We are forbidden
to wear civilian clothing unless it has been dyed red. Headquarters has
even compelled the chasseurs alpins and the colonial infantrymen to paint
red stripes on their uniforms under the pretext that these were too much
like civilian clothing. It has become impossible to get the most trifling
supplement to the official rations. M. Schwappach had a _Landwehrmann_
court-martialled because he had sold some chocolate to the prisoners.
The guard is terrorized. The loaf which used to last three days must now
last five, so that our daily allowance of bread is 7½ oz. This would mean
sheer starvation if we received nothing from France. No more coffee, no
more roasted barley: roasted acorns merely. Those who get more parcels
than the others have a regular train of dependents—famished men. My own
dependents are chiefly soldiers from the invaded regions.

Having written a strongly worded letter which was sent back to me
from Ingolstadt (I am in extremely bad odour at headquarters), I am
threatened, should the offence be repeated, with being completely
deprived of the right to receive or send letters. I have already been
punished with three weeks of this measure.

I have had some very remarkable discussions with the commandant. These
people want us to love them. They demand, filled with indignation, our
reasons for not loving them. If we give them our reasons in plain terms,
and support our assertions with facts and dates, lo! ten days’ prison, on
bread and water!

M. von Stengel, where are you? Anyhow, we now know what German discipline
is. We know it in all its purity and all its splendour. There is no
longer any one to temper its severities.



THE RUSSIANS


                                                        _April 20, 1915._

The Russians whom we were dreading have arrived. For the last three
months the Germans have been threatening us with them as with the plague,
adding: “In the camps where the French and the Russians are together they
always come to blows.”

One morning the _Oberstabsarzt_ inoculated us against cholera. Every
one said: “They are coming!” The _Feldwebel_ did in fact go through the
casemates, allotting five to one, ten to another, and fifteen to some.
In the afternoon, groups were watching from the outer part of the slope
which commands the road from Ingolstadt. There was much grumbling. Some
were cursing the Germans for wishing to poison us with the deadly Asiatic
disease. Some, frightened by the inoculation, were already imagining
themselves black and rotten.

At six in the evening, an hour earlier than usual, the electric bell rang
for the evacuation of the courts. Immediately afterwards, the forty-nine
heads of rooms were summoned, were drawn up in line beyond the bridge,
and were told to wait.

The gentle April twilight had already enveloped the brow of the slopes,
and the lower red-brick front looking into the ditch lay hidden in the
gathering darkness as if in ambuscade. French prisoners were bunched
round the windows. With laughing faces they defied the commandant, stiff
and dapper, doing sentry-go on the glacis. Under his very nose they began
to hum the Russian national anthem. But the Russians did not come. The
great black gate, buttressed between the mossy walls of the counterscarp,
starred with anemone and colt’s-foot, remained obstinately shut.
Impatience grew. At length the outer sentry whistled, the _Hauptmann_
went forward, and the gate opened.

The distribution of the convoy was effected in the Prussian manner. Each
headman went to take delivery of his Russians outside, behind the gate,
and conducted the supplementary squad to his casemate. This took half an
hour. In Indian file, following their French corporal or sergeant, they
went along at a quick step, but noiselessly in their supple jack-boots;
they were muffled in huge grey overcoats, and their size was increased by
enormous fur caps. Night fell. The dead colour of their uniforms melted
away in the darkness. The silence was absolute. Pale Scythian faces,
flat-nosed Tartar faces, Asiatic types with wide cheek-bones, Samoyede
beards, downy and curled—all the Russias were passing. We looked on. When
they had crossed the bridge the fort swallowed them.

In the interior, to the scandal of our masters, French rule prevailed.
Notwithstanding the order confining us to our rooms, the “Frantsuz”
crowded to the thresholds to greet the “little fathers”—“Good-day,
Russkis!” they cried, regardless of the Boches; “_Germania kaput!_ The
Carpathians floup!” They made roguish gestures indicating freedom.

“What monkeys!” thought the Germans, as they looked on. The truth is that
no one understands so well as the French how to invent a language, to
supplement words by signs and onomatopœias. They have an excellent excuse
for neglecting the study of foreign languages! Does a good mime learn
foreign tongues?

The Russians got on little faster in the corridors of Fort Orff than in
the attack upon Lowicz, where their advance was obstructed by barbed
wire. Each door was an ambush; every Frenchman an obstacle. Cigars and
cakes rained upon them. And then the handshakings and the amicable
clappings on the shoulder. Détry, though he is as much afraid of lice as
of cholera, exchanged his képi for an imposing Siberian headdress made of
sheepskin, bristling, stinking, and alive!

The little fathers had had nothing to eat since the previous day.
The quartermaster served them out a morsel of cheese, but no bread.
“_Germania, niet hleb_” (“There is no bread in Germany!”), said the
Russians, “_Ja, nichts Brot!_” rejoined the French in their bad German;
“but France _Brot_, plenty _Brot_!” Thus communicating with their friends
in nigger talk, they emptied their haversacks before the hungry men.

The Germans laughed on the wrong side of their mouths. They had expected
war; what they saw was love. Until nine o’clock the turmoil was
incredible. Each room was treating its new recruits. The poorer rooms
offered crusts of white bread baked in Saintonge or Lower Brittany.
In the well-to-do quarters the men brewed chocolate and served it
with rusks. Since in my room, that of the interpreters, there were
no Russians, I went to No. 16, the casemate of Corporal Dumoulin, my
comrade-at-arms. Dinner was finished. Seated on their palliasses doubled
over, our allies were digesting the good things sent by French mothers.
Near the window, a hairdresser was already dealing with the great mops of
hair.

“You see,” said Dumoulin, “I want to smarten them up. But how pious and
ceremonious they are. Of course we divided our food with them. They all
kissed my hand. Then they took off their caps, said their prayers, and
fed. After that, they got up, said their prayers again, and kissed my
hand once more. But what have you got there?”

“I have no Russians, so I shall adopt yours. But unfortunately they have
already dined!”

“Don’t bother about that; they will dine ten times over this evening!”

It was my turn to be embraced. Gingerbread, Easter eggs, jam,
petit-beurre biscuits, dates, cigarettes—I was kissed between each
course. One of the Russians, a hairy corporal, a thick-set man, with
dog-like eyes, was not satisfied with my hand, but kissed me on the
lips. I suppose it is the custom of the country. Some of them overwhelmed
me with profound genuflexions as if I had been the white elephant.

Throughout the evening there was an intoxication of generosity. Thrifty
men at ordinary times, the French now gave all they had. Il Poverello
could not have done better. The huge round loaves kneaded in the family
kneading-trough and baked in the village oven, the apples and nuts of
the last harvest, old sausages spiced with garlic and thyme, everything,
even the “surprises” secretly prepared by the maman for her boy in
captivity—everything was handed over. Little Stéphanus of Saint-Denis,
who has lost his hearing through a wound in the head, and who, being an
orphan, would receive nothing from France were it not for you and Mme.
Weiss, had only his fifth of a loaf of potato bread. He gave it. The
comrades from the invaded regions, who have to live on the provisions of
their “adopted brothers,” were greatly distressed that they had nothing
to share out but their poverty.

But if charity was lively, gaiety was insane. The little fathers were
stupefied with astonishment. They looked upon us as legendary _bariny_
(seigneurs), as Crœsuses flowing with milk and honey, as magicians
proof against misfortune, able to make the desert, and even the prison
pavement, blossom like the rose. What a change for them! They had been
the serfs of the Boche sergeants in the Lechfeld camp, their backs were
still smarting from the canings administered to revenge the loss of
Przemysl, and from this they were suddenly transported to become guests
at the feast of the parable! Rich and poor, beggars and lords, all were
equal, all were friends, all were brothers at this primitive Christian
agape, which lacked nothing, not even good cigars. Such plenty and such
brotherhood turned their heads. Bewildered and mute, ignorant of our
language as we were ignorant of theirs, and having no other means of
showing us their gratitude, they kissed us in season and out, and they
prostrated themselves before us as before their own icons.

I have spoken to you about Graby, one of the two famous comic cyclists
known in Paris, and indeed throughout Europe, under the name of the
Brothers Abbins. His wound is healed. He is as lithe as ever, gay,
martial, a jolly fellow. “_Ein lustiger Gesell_,” the _Feldwebel_ calls
him, adding, “There’s a typical Frenchman for you!” In Dumoulin’s room
I am being melted almost to tears under the Russian kisses, when Graby
bursts open the door, and, quite out of breath, exclaims: “Riou, old
chap, my Slav poilus are making ready to dance. I invite you to the
party.” He drags me off. His casemate is at the other end of the fort. On
the way he explains that he has discovered a sort of interpreter, a Pole
who has been in New York, and who knows a few words of English. “You’ll
see, we’re going to have high jinks to-night!”

There are indeed high jinks. An assemblage of képis and fur caps
beneath a huge candelabra, improvised by the hosts, and ornamented with
aeroplanes and flags cut out of paper. A horrible menagerie odour fills
the room. The banquet is over. Tea is being handed round in old tins.
Graby, looking even more like a street arab than usual, is doing the
honours, assisted by big Ménard, erect, smart, as clean shaven as a
British guardsman, and with the suspicion of an English accent. Prompted
by Abbins, the Pole introduces me as a French writer familiar with
Russian authors.

“Friends!”

“Friends!”

“Comrades!”

“_Sayousniki!_”

“Bravo!”

“Hurrah!”

“Now,” says Graby, sketching a figure, “let us dance.”

A circle is formed. Two youths as lean as cats confront one another. At
first they make a feint of sparring. They seem as if engaged in a slow
and weary pyrrhic dance. The onlookers’ eyes sparkle; an indefinite
measure is beaten with the hands. This lasts for two minutes. Then
the rhythm becomes brisker, the partners draw themselves up to their
full height and keep their arms closely pressed to their sides; they
are motionless like fakirs. But with their heels they make a noise
which sounds like that of distant castanets, a muted crackling in an
ever-accelerating tempo. A sudden pause. The dancers squat on their
hams. There follows the famous step which we have beheld at the Russian
ballet, the strange dance whose savage rhythm is punctuated by the
clacking of boots on the boards. At the very end, the Russians give an
abrupt “Hurrah!” It is over. Graby congratulates his men by patting their
cheeks, by commendatory gurgles, by the “boo, boo, boo,” and other labial
interjections that mothers use to their nurslings.

More tea, more cigarettes. We ask for the Russian national anthem. You
know it. It seems to me as heavy as a convict’s fetters. To relieve my
ears I demand the _Marseillaise_. Boude sings the couplets and we take up
the chorus. The swing of it, the decision, the thrill, as of a victorious
charge, astonish the Russians. My neighbour the Pole weeps.

“You are crying?” I say to him in English.

“You can’t understand,” he makes answer. “That air represents liberty.
You possess it; you don’t know the value of it. We dream of it.” His
debased English was interspersed with Polish phrases which rang with a
sort of Latin sweetness. “Don’t you know that we are slaves?”

“This war will free you.”

“You think so? We have fought well enough! My comrades stood firm when
they were being mown down before Lowicz. Yes, we have fought fiercely for
the Czar, even while feeling that his victory would serve only to make
our chains heavier. Poor Poland! Poor Poland!”

The name of Poland attracts the attention of a big artilleryman with a
bull neck, a flat nose, a hard and suspicious expression.

“What are you saying about Poland?” he asks me in German.

“That this war will liberate the country. You have the Czar’s promise.”

       *       *       *       *       *

His fixed look, fierce and defiant, his turned-up chin, his tanned and
robust visage, contrast with the noble passion of his words. Never before
have I witnessed real despair, that despair which hardens the features
and vulcanizes the soul, despair transformed into a motive for living.

This Pole is as tragic as one of Wyspianski’s heroes.

Around us the others are enjoying themselves like brothers reunited.
Graby is begging Ménard to sing the American _Row! Row! Row!_ I long to
take my companion out on to the slopes, and there, amid the silence, to
let him talk at length, to listen, and to make him feel that I share his
dreams, that France is the friend of every nation that yearns for freedom.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Pole makes no accusations against France. She has deceived his
people, but he loves her just the same. He believes in her, despite her
faults, as the great champion of justice.

Ménard is singing. The French and the Russians are taking up in chorus
the refrain, “Row! Row! Row!” Elbows on knees, head in hands, expression
disdainful, my Pole says no more, but sits like a colossus, making the
best of his impotence.

The Russians have suddenly started a new air. A tenor sings the first
phrase in solo. A bass joins in. Then the other voices take up their
parts. It is beautiful, with a rough, serious, wild beauty. I ask the
title. _The Song of the War against Japan._ Then they give some love
songs. It seems to me that all voice the same music, a powerful and
melancholy, and yet simple music, with the sweet notes of infinite
submission. I think of a grand Gregorian chant encompassing all the
pleasures and all the wrongs of earth in an atmosphere of the eternal.
The strains have a bourdon of lamentation, like that of a woman spent
with suffering asking sympathy and consolation.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next day the Bavarians of the guard could hardly believe their eyes.
In the courts, in the ditches, everywhere, among basins and heaps of
underclothing, quite a tribe of naked little fathers were glistening in
the sunshine. How thin they were! To what skeletons they had been reduced
by two months in Germany. Smiling, making awkward little gestures, each
one of them allowed himself to be manipulated by a Frenchman, who soaped
him all over, rubbed him down, pummelled him, dried him, and finally
dressed him as a French infantryman. “Now, then, we must wash your duds.
Come along.” And the French mamma led his great little Slav to the well,
helped him to pump some water, arranged him a bench. Then both set to
work and scrubbed.

In the evening, when the roll was called, the _Hauptmann_ exclaimed: “But
where on earth are the Russians?”

“There they are,” answered Junot, sergeant-major of No. 46.

“But what is the meaning of this masquerade?”

“Mon commandant, their clothes are drying on the slopes, and you see they
could not attend muster in a loin cloth.”

These first days were pleasant. It was good to make friends. To share
without thought of the morrow, to live without calculation, to act
solely as the heart dictated—it was like paradise. Yes, paradise within
prison walls. We were brothers. Even the veterans of Manchuria and the
Afghanistan campaigns, with all their tinsmith’s shop of commemorative
medals and their grizzled heads, even the sergeants with three stripes,
had become our little brothers. “You are hungry? Here is some white bread
from France; here is some home-made jam; here are some apples from my
orchard. Eat, Russki.” Or it would be: “You old zebra, what are you doing
that for, digging the lice out of the seams of your clothes with a knife?
You’re sowing them all over the place. That kind of grain sprouts. Look,
this is the way. Tic! Tic! Take your thumbs to it and press the beast
between the two nails. Kill, kill! It’s inhumane? Never mind. Kill away.
Have no compunction.” So the Russian “zebra” sets to work to crush his
live-stock. They now divest themselves of lice quite after the French
manner, and no longer swarm with vermin as when they arrived. But they
can still while away their long hours of leisure in parasitological
investigations and in slaughter.

       *       *       *       *       *

Every evening the French and the Russians walk arm in arm on the slopes.
In less than no time a conventional language has sprung into being.
It does not lead very far. No matter. When the mimic vocabulary is
exhausted, the friends walk side by side in silence. But if a Bavarian
sentry passes, the conversation is resumed, the same things being
emphatically repeated; they clap one another on the back, they exchange
head-gear, képi for toque, fatigue-cap for its Russian equivalent.
After a few days the Russian buttons stamped with the two-headed eagle
had found their way on to our coats, while the French grenade buttons
were displayed upon the huge Russian earth-coloured cloaks. Tartar
feet were encased in French army shoes; while red trousers were tucked
into the supple boots of Ukraine leather. Early Christian communism
prevailed. Every one dressed as he fancied, mixing the uniform of the
two armies. For an entire week the height of the fashion in Nos. 44 and
46, aristocratic regions, was to walk out in moujiks’ blouses. Le Second,
Poiret’s pupil, had work after his own heart. Little Mitka’s blouse, a
brilliant grey-green, embroidered in black at the collar and wristbands,
was his great triumph.

Gradually the little fathers came to understand that they must not kiss
our hands, and that genuflexions were by no means to our taste. It
must be admitted that they found this repugnance somewhat troublesome,
the repugnance of men who make a cult of equality. They love direct
demonstrations. They are nearer to the days of the Iliad than to ’89,
fond of physical endearments like children and the early Greeks, and
a trifle fawning. But so winsomely! Besides, they had to show us
their gratitude. If instead of the forbidden gestures they made us an
oration, we raised our hands to heaven, saying: “_Nye ponimayu_—I don’t
understand!” What were they to do? Yesterday one of them, in despair,
threw himself upon the ground, kissing my footsteps in a transport of
delight. Impatiently I seized him, and dragged him to his feet rather
roughly. You should have seen him, awkward, speechless, and motionless.
His silence seemed to say: “Why do you forbid me to embrace you, to kiss
the dust beneath your feet? Do you not care for my gratitude? And yet
you are kindly. Or do you prefer our simple ‘thanks,’ our _spasiba_, to
which your French jokers invariably respond by a long word which I can’t
understand, saying, ‘Non, pas si bas! Plus haut!’ Do you really think
that a word has any _body_ in it if it be unaccompanied by action?”

It was thus that they reasoned within themselves, timid and embarrassed,
when we repelled their embraces. Then, struck with a sudden idea, they
took the brooms from our hands, they seized the shoes that we were
polishing, they ran to fetch water for us. In order to give body to their
_spasiba_, they did all our work for us. Soon it was impossible for the
Frenchmen to find any occupation for their hands. In the dark corridor
leading to the great well, where the prisoners have to wait in a long
queue for their turn, shouldering pitchers stamped with blue lozenges,
one now saw none but Russians; in the kitchens, when the potatoes were
being peeled, none but Russians; in the corner of the courts where the
laundrymen install buckets and tables, none but Russians. We had to take
severe measures, and to insist that France should take a hand in all the
hard work.

But, amid this fine zeal, the Moslem Tartars take their ease on their
palliasses, quiet and blissful. Let others perform all the arduous
tasks. Christians and Jews can scour the cement floors of the casemates,
shake the rugs, fold up the bedding, carry the _Kartoffelbrot_[32] from
the tumbrel to the storeroom. Impassive, crushing you by the glassy
immobility of their introspective gaze, indolent as mandarins (whom they
resemble in their yellow tint, their wide cheek-bones, and their fine,
shining moustaches), it seems as if the Prophet had furnished them with
an opiate against all the accidents of life. Nothing moves them. They
ask for nothing. They never share anything. They never pray. Do them a
service; give them something from your own narrow resources; they take
it all as a matter of course. Some of them have two or three wives.
Without a sign of tenderness, they show you the portraits of these wives,
fraternizing in a single photograph. Plenty, scarcity; cold, heat; a
concourse, solitude; war, exile—everything is alike to them. Life breaks
impotently against the bovine torpor of their fatalism.

But when the Christian Russians say their morning prayer, standing
bare-headed, multiplying triple signs of the cross, kissing the
Testament, and abasing themselves before the little painted icon in a
glass case fixed to the wall above their palliasse, it sometimes happens
that their inhuman eyes blaze. They utter a raucous cry: “Your Lord
Jesus Christ, he’s no good!” Thereupon the devotees break off their
Paternosters, and attack the scoffers with foot or with fist in order to
avenge the insult to their deity.

In casemate 34 there are ten Frenchmen, twelve Russians, and one Jew.
Thin, sickly, with a stoop, a sallow complexion, a timid and plaintive
expression, this Jew is the most unobtrusive of men. He seems afraid of
taking up too much room. When spoken to he is abashed and stammers. He
never asks for anything. He is always content. If you merely smile at
him, he looks at you humbly, with a dumb, gentle gratitude.

As he knows some German, I have been able to talk to him. He is a
good little soul, peaceful and inoffensive, rather dull-witted. He
contemplates the knout and the pogroms without indignation, accepting
them as a farmer accepts hail. The only pleasure he knows is the negative
one of being left unnoticed, of being forgotten, but this pleasure he
welcomes as a wonderful act of grace. In a word, he is one of the humble
of heart to whom the Rabbi rejected of the rabbis has promised the
kingdom of heaven.

One day, when I was bringing him an orange, his compatriots leapt upon me
from their palliasses, surrounding me and restraining me by force from
approaching the Jew, pointing him out with a gesture of disgust, as if to
preserve me from a horrible contagion.

“Jew! Jew!” they cried with flashing eyes.

They were all speaking at once, so that I was bewildered by their
volubility and their passionate gesticulations. Desiring to clear up the
difficulty, I sought an interpreter, and as soon as we returned, the
cries were redoubled.

“What are they all saying?” I demanded of Issajoff, the interpreter. “Why
are they holding me back like this?”

Issajoff smiled. “Here is something,” he said, “which wins me over to
France! You’re astonished that these Russians prevent you giving help
to a Jew, that they insist on assuring you that he is a Jew. To them
it seems self-evident that as soon as you know him to be a Jew you will
no longer wish to give him anything, but will treat him as a leper, a
pariah, a damned soul!”

The Russians continued to scream, to look murderously at the Jew, to
shake their fists at him. As for him, with his customary air of dull
indifference, he remained quietly in his own corner behind the door,
beside the dustbin and the spittoon, the dirtiest and dampest corner of
the casemate.

Said Issajoff: “They say to him, ‘You have crucified our Lord Jesus
Christ’—‘I have defiled your mother’—this is the grossest insult in our
language. They also say to him, ‘You love the Germans; if you could,
you would have shot us.’ They also say: ‘If you accept the Frenchman’s
present, we will flay you alive!’”

Issajoff is a revolutionist—and a Jew, although he keeps this last fact
to himself. Coldly and deliberately he reported to me his comrades’
words. But the vague smile which played over his large features indicated
irony and contempt.

“You really find this scene surprising?” he resumed.

I contemplated these disciples of the Christ, all yapping at this poor
wretch. For the first time in my life I found my Christianity a heavy
burden.

I went up to Kajedan. I pressed him by the hand and gave him the orange.
I wanted to give him the contents of my cigarette case, but he said
he did not smoke. “Well, give them to your friends.” He did so. The
Russians greedily seized the _papirosy_. They threw themselves on their
palliasses, and, forgetting to avenge their God any longer, they gave
themselves up to the delights of tobacco.



VASSILI


                                                          _July 1, 1915._

I am Vassili’s _barin_ (seigneur). He polishes my shoes; every morning,
in the court, he brings me water for my “teube”; he picks up balls for
me in our extemporized game of tennis; if I am thirsty, he runs to the
well; if the cloth of my worn trousers, too skimpy for me (the government
has never been able to supply me with trousers suited to my figure),
gives way during an unusually vigorous movement of Swedish gymnastics, he
promptly threads a needle and repairs the damage; he watches over me as
one watches milk on the boil; no valet has ever served me so well. But
what constrains him?

Were I to forbid him to serve me, he would shed bitter tears. Have I
ever given him an order? Have I ever been short with him? Is Vassili my
valet or my friend? He no longer kisses my hands, he no longer kisses my
lips, he no longer kisses the ground where I have trod. He has given up
these moujik ways. He simply shakes hands with me. When I am at work,
he sits on my ration-chest or stands at the window, smoking _papirosy_
(cigarettes), and looking at the illustrations in my books. When he likes
them he exclaims “_Harosho, harosho!_” (good, good). But always I feel
his faithful Siberian eye upon me. He divines the least of my wishes. Do
I need a book? He knows perfectly to whom it has been lent. He jumps up,
runs along the corridors, finds the man, maybe in his casemate, maybe
beneath the shade of a poplar, maybe in one of the ditches, explains
himself in nigger talk, and, breathless and perspiring, comes back to me
with the prize. It can hardly be said that we converse; the difficulties
are too great. We look at one another, and we smile. He gives me
everything he can; I respond in kind. He works; I work. He serves me; I
serve him. I know how to read and write; I can influence the _Feldwebel_;
and I can ask my relatives and friends in France to send me things. For
his part, he knows how to darn, patch, fetch water, wash up. Thus, side
by side, each at his own task, we both work. He imagines that I am a
_barin_, in which he is mistaken, and that I love him, in which he is
not mistaken. For my part, I regard him as a good fellow from Tomsk, who
pines for his _izba_ (cottage) and his wife, and I would like to send him
back to them in good condition when his imprisonment is over.



THE COMMON PEOPLE OF GERMANY AND THE WAR


                                                          _July 7, 1915._

It has lasted for eleven months. How much longer will it continue?

Our sentries are even more impatient than we are ourselves. They grumble
and faultfind. “It is too bad!” they exclaim. “Do you think it will be
over in a month?” they ask us. “Pooh!” we answer; “in a year perhaps, or
maybe two, when we have conquered the autocracy which tyrannizes over
you!” They stare at us blankly, utterly disheartened.

These poor fellows are suffering. They have many children, six, seven,
or eight. Their savings are exhausted, and the wolf is at the door. When
we are marching to work, they recount their troubles to Brissot and to
me, confidingly and deferentially, as they would to an elder brother.
They are good by nature, simple-minded, somewhat subservient, weighted by
innumerable centuries of silent submission. One perceives so clearly that
they have not effected their revolution, and that despite parliamentary
suffrage and the Reichstag they are still under the dominion of the
feudal age.

Through studying them closely, and through talking with them, it seems to
me that I am beginning to understand this huge and mysterious Germany. I
knew something of the élite of the country, but was quite ignorant of the
common people, workmen, peasants, and lower middle class. But these are
the backbone of Germany.

How different is their world from ours! In France we read the paper; we
have political ideas; we influence the appointment of ministers; we take
sides passionately, for or against Pelletan, for or against Clemenceau,
for or against Poincaré; every one of our village orators has good advice
to give to our admirals, our generals, and our diplomats. How unlike
Germany! Nothing can equal the ignorance of these folk in public matters.
Think of a French agriculturist of the days of Louis XIV, hardworking and
kindly, engrossed in domestic cares, knowing that it is hard to gain a
livelihood and occupied in this pursuit by day and by night; accepting
princes, seigneurs, taxes, corvées, and wars as one accepts sunshine,
rain, hail, and frost, without venturing to pass any judgment upon them;
saying that these things have been, are, and will be, that he himself is
but a poor man, that every one has his own trade, that it is the king’s
to govern and his to provide a living for his family; there you have the
political essence of the German peasant and the German workman. Monarchy,
republic, foreign relations, double alliance or triple alliance—don’t
waste your time talking to him about these. Should you do so, he will
listen, he will express a civil assent, and will fall asleep over his
beer.

A Frenchman cannot understand how utterly indifferent are the common
people in Germany to political ideas and to questions of state. A
Frenchman, whether he knows it or not, and even if he believes himself to
be a monarchist, reasons like a leader. He speaks as if he were himself
a part of the king, and a considerable part. He eagerly discusses the
affairs of the country. Militarist or anti-militarist, he is patriotic to
the core—patriotic like the sovereign he is. Should the foreigner insult
France, he is personally insulted; this is his own business; the offence
is not offered to some distant prince; it touches himself, the individual
king; it makes his own skin tingle. This was obvious at the mobilization;
it remains obvious after a year of war. It is not simply a caste which
detests the Kaiser and his satellites and wishes to subdue them; these
feelings animate every Frenchman, be he minister or cobbler. For France,
one and indivisible, is truly _a free nation_, a collection of autonomous
individuals who have determined to live together, who know themselves to
have been entrusted with the most exalted of human missions, and each one
of whom makes the fulfilment of that mission a point of personal honour.

How different is Germany! The country possesses an élite of persons well
equipped for administration and rule, and this endows her national life
with a fine aspect of cohesion. But directly we examine more closely,
doubts arise; we see that the cohesion is no more than apparent; there
are those who theorize about Germany as a whole, but there is not
_one_ Germany; between the people and the leaders there is no intimate
solidarity, no communion of love, hope, and will. Above, there is an
empyrean of men who believe themselves superhuman, who utter claims,
trace plans, issue orders (_Befehle_), who, as if at section drill,
thunder out commands to Germany and to the world at large; below, there
is a swarm of good and peaceable folk, all engaged in their insignificant
private affairs, and making no attempt to interfere in the loftier
mysteries.

Doubtless, in the lower regions, respect is felt for the empyrean; people
tremble before it, as before the eye of God; but there is no risk that
they will attempt to penetrate its designs. They are faithful subjects,
and they obey. They are soldiers when the time comes for enrolment,
and good soldiers; when the order for mobilization is issued, they go
to the war; when the ritual demands it, they shout hurrahs “for king
and country.” But at bottom, if words have any meaning, they are not
patriots. Militarists, yes; easily regimented, yes; patriots, no.

It is true that they would be greatly astonished if any one were to
say to them point-blank: “You don’t care a fig for your country!” They
all believe themselves to be good, honest, and loyal Germans. Are
they not obedient to the death? Certainly they are. But they would be
equally obedient, with very little feeling of disturbance at the change,
to George V or to Poincaré; and they would obey just as well in a
republic as in a monarchy. It is not their business to be patriots (for
this presupposes a degree of liberty, and of internal sovereignty, to
which they have not yet attained), but to be good subjects. To obey,
unfailingly and without discussion; to abase themselves devoutly before
authority; to be subservient to their leader, whoever he may be; to
carry out orders whencesoever derived, be they democratic or be they
Cæsarian—this it is to be a good German. Active as he is in private
affairs, he is passive in religion, with a sort of mystical fervour,
and he is passive in his relationships to authority. The Germans hardly
realize this, and yet to us it is so obvious.

Here is an example. On one occasion I, a prisoner of war, roundly
reprimanded a sentry, reproaching him with disobedience to orders.
Secretly I was laughing, but the sentry trembled. Standing at attention
as if confronted by an officer, he trembled before the majesty of the
command, the _Befehl_. I had issued an order, and that is why he stood
to attention; there he was, submissive, stupefied with willingness;
he forgot that I was a Frenchman, subject to his orders, that the
regulations forbade me to speak to him, that he should have charged
bayonet and touched me with the steel, even run me through. No, I
had issued an order; the man who commands, who gives a _Befehl_, is
sacrosanct for the German.

The reason is that the German has never emerged from private life. He
lives in his house, on his land, in his factory, his tavern, his church;
he lives with his family, with a few friends, with his professional
associates. He makes his life there as agreeable as possible; he is
an able domestic economist, knowing well how to adorn his residence,
his table, his savings bank. The currents of modern life, socialism,
liberalism, materialism, the religion of comfort and of hygiene, have
developed his practical aptitudes to an unimaginable extent, to a degree
unsuspected in France. But no current of modern life has induced him to
touch the holy of holies, the government; to discuss the constitution,
the bureaucracy, or the army; to investigate the essential problems of
political life. Even the boldest among them does not lose his veneration
for constituted authority. In fine, there is but one domain in which
he is free, that of economic life. Here, therefore, his energy is
concentrated, and within this sphere his thoughts are confined. Here he
is master; here none can equal him in perseverance and tenacity; here he
risks everything and makes trial of everything; unceasingly he innovates;
he is hindered by no prejudice: the poverty of recent days spurs him on
and makes wealth seem marvellously appetizing; in a decade he transforms
a province; in three decades he makes of Germany a fragment of America
in the heart of Europe. We are forced to recognize that Germany is the
“Marius’s mule” of the economic world.

But this suffices him. Formerly he possessed the clouds, but he has
bartered the inheritance for the markets of the world. He boasted of
being Greek, but he is now content to be Carthaginian. He makes money,
and he knows nothing more.

And authority? Does he not know authority? Yes, he knows it, but as
something grand and remote, as a sort of divinity which might do him
harm, and which he must render favourable or at least indifferent. He
knows it as an average Christian knows the invisible. He believes in it,
but continues to mind his own business; he is not jealous of it and has
no desire to share its exercise; he gives it his confidence, and pays it
a certain worship of an unexacting character; above all, he asks that
authority should help him to make money; in that case he finds everything
good—the Kaiser, the bureaucracy, the army.

This utilitarian loyalty is especially characteristic of the wealthy
German. As far as those of small means are concerned, they recognize
that outside private life, beyond the family, the factory, the tavern,
and the trade-union, there exists something that is great, divine,
and unknowable. In the highest degree of the unknowable, in close
proximity to God, the saints, and the hero Siegfried, there exists
authority: emperor, princes, generals, diplomatists, ministers. All
this is an immense and unfathomable ocean, primitive and sacred; but
he, poor mollusc, rooted to his rock, is concerned solely with the tiny
region upon which his valves open. And when the terrible convulsion
of the powers of the abyss, of the sceptred, gold-laced, and helmeted
majesties, rages athwart him, shaking his frail habitation, he trembles,
simultaneously inspired with dread and with love, and he murmurs his
abjection and his devotion in inarticulate words. When all is over,
forgetting the gods that have passed, the gods that glitter, shout at
him, and sometimes kick and chastise him, he conscientiously resumes the
task of loving his wife, of procreating as many children and of earning
as many marks as possible.

After all, the German of no account is utilitarian in his loyalty. He
does not, like the wealthy German, demand that his government shall
deliver the universe into his hands, so that he may inundate it with
wares great and small “made in Germany.” He is less exacting. He asks
merely for work and a livelihood. But upon this his desire is firmly
fixed. He has become accustomed to a certain degree of comfort—quite
recently, it is true, but the newest pleasure is ever the most
attractive. He wants to get his belly well-lined during the week, and
to be able on Sundays to go with his _gnädige Frau_ and his quiverful
of children, all smartly dressed, to drain several dozen tankards of
beer, and to spend the entire afternoon, laughing boisterously, in the
arbours of neighbouring _Wirtschaften_. He likes to think proudly that
his father lived in poverty, but that he lives at ease. He likes to
imagine that no workman in the world is happier than the German workman.
As long as he has a full stomach, he can believe that all is well. The
government can do what it likes, can ally itself to Austria or to France,
can be licentious or strait-laced, can obey or disobey the Reichstag. He
himself, trusty Michael, is well off. Germany, therefore, is great, the
world is perfect.

I have gradually been able to fathom this state of mind through more
or less clandestine conversations with the soldiers who guard us and
the peasants who employ us at twenty pfennig for the day of nine hours.
Notwithstanding all the patriotic songs with which the recruits make
the roads resound, and notwithstanding all the pratings of the pulpit
and the school, I am now confident that the affairs of the fatherland
are not Michael’s affairs. Whether it be that the degree of economic
emancipation he has attained supplements or reinforces his ingrained
instinct of submission to authority, in any case, the ancient sentiment,
quasi-religious in nature, and the new sentiment, thoroughly utilitarian,
lead to the same result, a concern with nothing but private affairs,
political indifference, so that one can even say that in the world of
politics the common German is a mere cipher.

This state of mind has its advantages. It is favourable to the
maintenance of public order. Since everyone rests content in his own
sphere, there is no friction, there is no waste of energy, no mutual
suspicion between the classes. Authority, certain of its durability,
can take long views, it has elbow-room. Whilst those in authority are
loved, they can give themselves up to their natural bent, which is to
regulate—to regulate the workman at home, the employer abroad; to wrap
themselves in purple, to cut a dash, to astonish the universe. All these
things are done for their own sake, for the pleasure they give, but they
serve also to shed a reflected glory on German commerce. This political
nullity of the crowd has hitherto had good results. But hitherto the
crowd has consisted of fat kine. Association with the worthy Michael day
after day in these times when every one is rationed, when poverty and
death stalk abroad, has led me to think that the political nullity of
the people, precious to those in authority, is hardly likely to produce
a tenacious and trustworthy patriotism, and that in the long run it may
well eventuate in disaster.

       *       *       *       *       *

For nearly a year I have been studying life in this corner of Germany.
I observe, I ask questions, and I listen. They are now quite tamed. No
longer do they cry death on us. No longer do they call out _kaput_,
except as a joke. In the villages, when the working gang arrives, the
children flock to the scene from all directions, bare-footed, somewhat
timid, at once shy and smiling. They have heard their fathers say that
the French are splendid soldiers, “the only ones who can hold their
ground against the grey-blues.” The description has raised us in these
youngsters’ esteem. They know, too, that we receive parcels, many
parcels. They believe us to be extraordinarily wealthy. The gossips even
state with definite assurance that there are six millionaires and one
multi-millionaire at Fort Orff; and, for what reason I know not, I am
the multi-millionaire. This little world is astonished that persons of
such eminence, terrible on the battlefield, should be so friendly with
their humble selves. The German bourgeois and the junkers, we gather,
have less agreeable manners. Finally, the villagers have been informed
that our prison society is a true republic, that we have suppressed
all distinctions of fortune, that the “sans-parcels” gain just as much
advantage from the coming of the French mail as the “little-parcels” and
the “big-parcels.” This communism, natural as it seems to us, touches and
vanquishes them.

The fact is that the children and the members of the working gang
fraternize. Some of the poor women secretly offer us an apple or an
egg. The old men salute us humbly. One of us was addressed as “Most
honoured sir,” another as “Highly well-born sir.” Even those who have
been discharged from service on account of severe wounds, men with empty
sleeves and horribly scarred faces, no longer glare at us with the
murderous hatred they showed at the outset.

At Ingolstadt, when we are waiting for our parcels in the square in
front of the _Kommandantur_, civilians come and go before our group and
converse with us. The women are particularly attentive. They recognize
monsieur Pierre, “who had a frightful wound, and who, God be thanked, is
now quite well again”; monsieur Paul, “who …”; monsieur Jacques, “who
…” They smile broadly when we call them to order, quoting to them the
phrases in which one of the newspapers the night before has censured
them for their friendliness to the prisoners. Little do they care what
the papers say. The sentry growls at them, but they tell him to his face
that the _Franzosen_ are pre-eminently “cholis” and “chantils.” Some of
the better educated go so far as to admit that “a red-trousers is worth
quite as much as a _Feldgrau_,” and that “it is all nonsense to say, as
people do, that France is decadent.”

Yesterday, some of the gang were talking to a hoary-headed postman.

“Well, daddy, how goes it?” said Bracke, who can speak the Franconian
patois.

“Very well, gentlemen, very well!” There he stood, not knowing what to
say. He had taken off his _Mütze_ and was wiping his forehead to keep
himself in countenance. Then, all at once:

“It grieves me,” stammering slightly, “to think that we are at war with
you.…”

“Nou, nou, old chap, we’re not at war with you! Our quarrel is with the
big guns of your country. They’re a bad lot; they oppress you, and would
like to oppress the whole world. But you’re a _poteau_! (_Du bist ein
poteau_).”

“_Poteau_, what’s that?”

“A comrade, a chum.”

The postman had tears in his eyes. “Ah,” he exclaimed, “it does me good
to hear you say that. I love the French. You are so awfully nice to every
one. You don’t despise the common people.”

“Here, old general, here’s a cheroot which my missus has sent me. Happily
France keeps us supplied, as you know. All the same, we intend to give a
good hiding to your old Kaiser and all your bigwigs. We are republican.
Liberty, equality, and fraternity. Live and let live is our motto. But
any one who meddles with us had better look out. Damn it all! why don’t
you kick your dirty old Kaiser into the sewer? Never mind! We shall set
you free, and be jolly quick about it.”

The postman, dumbfounded, lit his cigar at the wrong end.

Yes, they have changed greatly since our coming. The dogma of French
decadence, with which they had been sedulously indoctrinated, no longer
finds credence. They join with us in making fun of it. It is amusing to
see these humble folk, who have always been treated with disdain by their
superiors, whether civil or military, accept us as intimate friends.
They feel flattered when they can talk to us on a footing of democratic
equality, for they do not fail to recognize our superiority, and they are
greatly touched that we never abuse it. They feel that we are sincere in
our hatred of the pride of caste. They applaud our republican speeches.
In return, they confide to us their grievances and their despair. The
poor devils are absolutely unanimous in detesting this horrible butchery.

It is unquestionable that the terrible burden of the war—the most
terrible burden of death, weariness, and misery, that has ever weighed
humanity down—presses more heavily upon their shoulders than upon ours.
We have been held up in the trenches since September. On their side, for
a year they have had no respite. Alternately victors and vanquished, upon
the eastern front there continually occurs some new gigantic action,
like that of the Marne. Day after day there is a savage attack in full
force. Day after day there is a massacre. More than three and a half
million Germans are fattening the soil of Galicia and Poland; more than
ten millions have been wounded. And why? In defence? “Ah,” they say
to us, “if you only knew how little we care whether we are French or
Prussian! Give us peace, give us peace!”

They no longer believe that the war is a war of defence. They have heard
their non-commissioned officers, men of the middle class, cursing Austria
for having led them into this hateful business. The idea has become
current in the villages where the troops are quartered. Exasperated by
their sufferings, the soldiers are murmuring. Many would like to desert.
They understand perfectly that they are the victims of a caste of nobles
and manufacturers mad with pride. They still obey, but they grumble. A
German grumbler is a new phenomenon.

“Every one hates us,” declared in my hearing a young workman from Upper
Franconia. “Every one in the world except the Pope and the Turks. There
can be no doubt that our rulers wanted everything for themselves. They
told us, too, that the French nation was crumbling and would fall to
pieces at a touch. What rot! We know well enough that you are splendid
soldiers.”

“I was in the Vosges,” said a sentry of the 13th Bavarians. “Your
chasseurs alpins are perfect fiends!”

“I was on the Yser,” commented another. “I shan’t forget your colonial
infantrymen in a hurry!”

He made me come near the lamp to see his wound.

“Old man,” I rejoined, “my younger brother, a colonial infantryman, was
also wounded in the fight on the Yser.”

“We have been made fools of,” they declare without exception. “You are
not decadent! Far from it! Nor are your cannon. Fine tales they fed us
up with! If our leaders had been the humanitarians they claim to be, it
is obvious that we should have a few friends somewhere in the world. We
should not have every one against us. And we poor devils have to pay for
the folly. It’s altogether too bad! Oh that peace may come quickly! Take
Alsace-Lorraine if you like. What on earth does it matter? Take anything.
What difference does it make to us whether we are governed from Paris or
from Berlin?”

A fat _Unteroffizier_ spoke as follows:

“I honestly prefer the French to the Prussians. The French are good
fellows. They feel compassion; they share their bread with us. But
the Prussians! It’s kicks we get from them. A pack of swelled-heads
who imagine they can do anything they like, who want everything for
themselves, who bamboozle their own people and refuse to give them any
rights! There is but one thing we want: to live at peace with the world.
Instead of that they make us go and kill. Why? Does any one know why?
What do we gain by it? The villages are full of widows and disabled men.
It is even worse in the towns, where lots of working-class families are
positively starving. You fellows are lucky. France is rich. France can
send parcels to her prisoners. All that we can do is to draw our belts
tighter. They lead us to the slaughter while they leave our wives and
children to suffer. And how it drags. Peace! Let’s have done with it!
Peace at any price!”

For the last six months I have not heard a single German soldier use any
other language than this. Wounded returning to the front, men of the
_Landwehr_ or the _Landsturm_ on their way to the fighting-line, they are
unanimous. If but the tenth part of their private grumblings were to be
translated into action there would be revolution throughout the country.

To speak frankly, these mutterings do not evoke my admiration. They
are not the fruit of an indignant conscience, they do not manifest the
reaction of inner freedoms which have been outraged and deceived, and
which come to their own again in the form of a reasserted dignity. One
hears in them nothing but the cry of the beaten and overloaded mule.
He wants his peaceful stable, bran, fresh water, warm and comfortable
litter. But there is no occasion to be alarmed, for he dreads the whip,
and his master is an adept in drubbing him all the way up the hill.

For Michael can hardly be said to have become more spiritual-minded
since the empire was founded. In former days he was extremely poor. He
was frugal. He was fond of music and of dreaming, and was addicted to a
mystical piety. A serf before men, he felt free in the presence of God,
his God of the gospels, gentle and affectionate, _mein lieber Gott_.
To-day he is fairly well-to-do. He is still a serf, more of a serf than
ever, in relation to those in authority, the nobility, officers in the
army, and employers; but he no longer endeavours to find freedom at God’s
hands. His new cult is that of a cosy fireside, with good victuals and a
barrel of beer. In a word, he has become an egoist. He now thinks only of
himself, of his personal interests, of his trade unions which protect his
wages, of his co-operative societies which secure his comforts. Without
realizing it, through ignoring politics, through taking no interest in
the workings of authority, through thinking solely of his own private
affairs, he has slipped into the acceptance of that base doctrine which
finds expression in the ancient formula, _Ubi bene, ibi patria_—“My
country is the place where I am well off!”

Last July, when he was luxuriating in his petty good fortune, he cried
with his masters, “_Deutschland über alles!_” At his drinking parties he
vociferated jingo songs. Some of the megalomania of the Olympians was
fermenting in his body, indiscriminately mingled with beer and sausages.
In this mood he saw himself mounting in company with his Germania,
mounting continuously to attain the topmost summit of glory and strength.
Then he loved his Germania. She was so powerful. It was thus that she
had always been depicted to him, as a robust and formidable matron,
not altogether amiable, imposing her will with peremptory fists, but
providing her children with such good things to eat and drink, with all
the comforts they could desire. How can one help loving a person like
this when one is a poor devil who has only just emerged from poverty?

Now the war has begun. Germania is at length to become queen of the
world. Forward! Good Michael sets out for Paris. It will soon be over.
A fortnight or so. A simple wedding journey. Just think of it: Rheims,
and champagne in floods; Paris, the little women, all the delights of
Babylon. For, after all, France, as every one knows, is ours for the
taking. Forward!

Forward! But, confound it all, there are some hard knocks! Paris is just
over there, but what an inferno of fire to get through first! I say,
we’re retreating now! We’re leaving a lot of good Germans on the stubbles
and in the ponds of the Marne. What a massacre! They have been fooling
us, it seems. The French can beat us after all: in fact, they have
already given us a good licking.

“But there’s no end to it. How bitter winter seems in the trenches.
Always more dead, and more, and more. My feet are freezing. I am badly
fed. Oh, my slippers, my nice, comfortable slippers, my darling wife who
used to light my long pipe for me, and who used to cuddle me warm in bed!
_Sakrament!_ What’s this horrible war about? They told me it would be
such an easy matter. After all, what do I, good, honest Michael, care
about ruling the world? Must I pay for _this_ with _my_ skin? No, no; I’m
only a poor man. What business is it of mine, this ruling of the world?
Oh, _lieber Gott_, let the war end soon, let me get back to my village,
my pub, my bed, and my children!”

Thus has Michael reasoned, and thus he continues to reason. It is not
heroic. Sancho Panza would shake him by the hand as a true comrade.
Still, why should Michael be a Don Quixote? Has Germany ever claimed to
be a Dulcinea? Has she manifested herself to him as charming, winsome,
gentle, and maternal, as loving him unselfishly for his own sake? Nothing
of the sort! On the contrary, Germany has terrorized him with rough
orders, and has made him efface himself by her display of aggressive
force. She has appealed to the traditional servility of his imagination,
not to the nobility of his heart. She has desired obedience, not
affection.

Now the great hour has arrived, the gloomy hour of sacrifice. It is not
enough to sing:

    Lieb Vaterland, magst ruhig sein.…

No, one simply has to die so that the country one loves may live.

Love is an easy word to say. We have so often been told that the Germans
loved Germany, that they were the true patriots, while we, the French,
were nothing but anarchists. Yet, after a year of war, these Gallic
“grumblers,” who are always wrangling, who take ideas into their heads,
and who hold to these ideas so firmly that you sometimes hear them
cry, “Perish countries, so long as principle lives and humanity becomes
established”—these ungovernable and intractable “anarchists” remain a
single body and soul, exhibit infinite patience, and continue the most
formidable warlike efforts. Why? Are they inconsistent? Not for a moment.
For them, France is justice; France is the human ideal. They save their
souls by saving France. They can die, for they would not wish to go on
living if beautiful Europe were to fall beneath the German yoke.

But why should you expect these little Michaels of Germany to die
cheerfully? Why, as the slaughter increases, should they stand shoulder
to shoulder round their leaders, firmly resolved to conquer or to perish?
Is Germany really worth dying for?

This much is certain, that the mystical admirers of justice and liberty,
who, in time of peace, filled the men of order with dismay, are to-day
the most disciplined in the world; whilst the pillars of order, the
singers of unity, the adorers of powerful Germania, those who made a
mystical cult of force and force alone, have taken to grumbling, are
reasoning like ill-conditioned individualists, have denied their faith.

I have noticed a thousand times that these Teuton soldiers who, through
dread of their leaders, are not yet traitors in fact, are nevertheless
traitors in soul.

This no longer surprises me. I understand why they regard us without
hatred, why they long for peace at any price, and why, if the war is to
continue, they look forward to being made prisoners. They suffer too
much, and their suffering has overwhelmed their patriotism.

Those only who love greatly can accept great suffering. Their boasted
affection for Germania was nothing more than a fever of the imagination,
a fictitious suggestion, a sentiment for display. It was the fascination
felt by the ignorant for everything that glitters and makes a brave
noise. They loved Germania in her success. They loved her triumphant,
colossal, brobdingnagian. They loved her as a parvenu loves wealth and a
gourmand good cheer. They loved her carnally, a power of the flesh. Has
any one ever seen such a love accept sacrifice cheerfully and outlast
misfortune? No, the ideal alone is worth more than life. The ideal alone
evokes that wonderful love which increases with suffering, the chaste
and shy love which shuns display, and which does not chant its pæans or
unfurl the beauties of its splendid wings until the hour of absolute
surrender. Now Germany has long ere this ceased to be an ideal.

This is what it means to have nothing but force to depend upon. When we
lose it, we have lost all. This is what it means to build upon egoism
and the political nullity of the masses. When the hour strikes for an
appeal to their heroism, we encounter nothing but a soft and melancholy
passivity.

But what an astounding organization it is which is capable of
neutralizing so much inadequacy of will, and is able to make tough and
efficient armies out of this assemblage of worthless material!



CROSSING SWITZERLAND


                                                         _July 31, 1915._

Our convoy crossed Switzerland last night. I should have been sorry
to be ill, ill with relief and happiness, for this would have made it
impossible to describe our reception. It delighted and I must say it
surprised me.

I know Switzerland well. I love it like a second motherland. I am
familiar with its history and its institutions. I have made prolonged
stays by the shores of Lake Geneva, and dear friendships convinced me
long ere this that our two nations are animated by the same instinct,
the instinct of independence and humanity. In the terrible duel now in
progress I was assured beforehand of the freely given sympathy of our
predecessors in the art of republican government.

I believed, nevertheless, that on our way through the country we should
find this sympathy, however true and however certain, veiled and
restrained.

From prudential considerations, first of all. Switzerland is such a
paradox! When a citizen of Lausanne manifests his love for French
civilization (in which he has just as strong and legitimate an interest
as any citizen of Orleans or Nancy), can he ever do so without being
afraid lest he may be wounding a fellow-Confederate of Basle or Zurich?
Supposing that his manifestation should become generalized, and that
it should provoke a counter-manifestation, has he not good reason to
dread the consequences to Switzerland of this spontaneous plebiscite?
Would it not involve the ruin of this nation with two hearts, if within
its frontiers war should suddenly be declared between the two rival
civilizations? If during our nocturnal journey from Constance to Geneva
we had encountered nothing but gentle and calm faces, I should not, on
that account, have harboured any suspicions of my dear Switzerland.

I should have said to my companions:

“Continue to trust her; she loves us. This democracy is tranquil,
healthy, little inclined to use lofty phrases, and by no means fond of
scenes in the street; but she has a robust faith in the right of nations.
With all her heart she detests aggressive imperialism and the cultured
barbarism of Germany. You will find her shy, reserved, and circumspect;
you will perhaps blame her for her silence. But this would be wrong,
for her silence is a duty she owes to her patriotism. She is intensely
patriotic. She would like to hail you with acclamations, but a great
national obligation seals her lips. You could not possibly wish her
light-heartedly to do anything owing to which German civilization and
Latin civilization might suddenly come into hostile conflict within her
closed borders, for she exists solely in virtue of their mutual accord,
and it is her historic mission to maintain the contact between them, to
harmonize them, to interpenetrate each with the other. This abominable
war is a difficult hour in her inner life. Even in times of peace she has
to walk circumspectly; but now, if she is to avoid a disruption which
is always possible, she must control her every movement, must bridle
her tongue, swallow her burning words, the words of love and admiration
which, if she followed the dictates of her heart, she would utter to
her valiant sister and neighbour. Believe me, my friends, the mountain
democracy is praying in her heart for the victory of right, for our
victory. Her silence is but a mask; she is mute for reasons of state.”

I did not have to deliver this address. From one end to the other of
Switzerland, the Helvetian people, so hostile to demonstrations, hailed
us with acclamations. They sat up all night. They overwhelmed us with
gifts. The seats of the train were heaped with ribbons, cockades,
flowers, boxes of cigars, baskets of food, bottles of the celebrated
vintages of Neuchâtel, La Côte, Lavaux, and Yvorne. In my compartment
alone we filled six haversacks with cigars, which we sent to the front to
the 30th of the line, the regiment of poor Robequain, of whose death I
learned on reaching Bellegarde.

Do not imagine that this explosion of generosity was inspired by mere
pity for the wreckage of war. I am absolutely confident that it was
inspired by love for France. Burghers and peasants, children and old
men, in German Switzerland just as much as in French, they all sang the
_Marseillaise_. They waved the tricolor. They cried, “_Vive la France!_”
At the stops they talked to us frankly, like brothers. They handed us
addresses which were hymns to “The Nation of Valmy and of the Marne,”
to “The Champions of the Rights of Man,” to “The Citizen Army which has
sworn to conquer or die for the Advent of a Free Europe.”

It seemed to me that the proud Helvetians of Morgarten and Sempach, these
forefathers of democracy and liberty, had emerged from their national
Grütli to line the road in our honour, and to give their blessing to the
sons of the young republic.

I cannot describe the mad jubilation which surged through our veins.
France! France the beloved! France of our blood and our heart. France
the eternal, resuscitated by the German aggression, once more become the
champion of freedom. France hailed by the neutrals, and by all men who
respect the right! I was drunk with happiness. This single night was a
compensation, for you, noble fellows mutilated in the war; for you, my
brother, with broken ear-drums and split skull; and for you, my friends,
all my dear dead friends, who sleep in Lorraine, in Belgium, in Flanders,
and on the Marne.



FOOTNOTES


[1] On this point I am in entire agreement with my friend François
Poncet. His little book, published a year before the war, _Ce que pense
la jeunesse allemande_, besides being couched in an admirably concise and
clear style, is of substantial value.

[2] Many German liberals have held the opinion, in all good faith, that
the new generation of France is reactionary. I do not know why, but
a young man coming from Paris, and having nothing to do with either
royalism or clericalism, was regarded by them as a remarkable exception.

[3] Vide _supra_, note on p. 17.

[4] The system of having no more than one or two children.

[5] M. Deschars was killed by the Germans in Belgium, in August 1914,
together with all the wounded and the staff of Dr. Sedillot’s ambulance.

[6] Let me repeat once more that such is the belief of every German
liberal. In their view we are all nothing more than replicas of Charles
Maurras.

[7] Are you not ashamed, you, the French democracy, to be allied with the
Russian barbarians?

[8] Provençal execration.

[9] Are any of you sick? Any tropical fevers?

[10] Sergeant-major.

[11] A slang word, universally employed, meaning “smashed” or “ruined.”
Accent on second syllable.

[12] Treat a ruffian gently and he will knock you about; knock a ruffian
about and he will fawn upon you.

[13] It need hardly be said that this story has no pretensions to
historical accuracy. The current talk among soldiers is, as a rule, no
less “imaginary” than the chatter of the drawing-rooms.

[14] Refer to previous note.

[15]

    O my native place! O my native place!
    O Toulouse! O Toulouse!…

[16] Old city of Cahors, so old and so smoky!

[17] A few days later the regulations established the right to send four
cards and two letters each month.

[18]

    Dear fatherland, calm heart be thine,
    Firm stands and true the watch by Rhine!

[19]

    Hail to thee in the victor’s crown,
    Ruler of the fatherland!

[20] The men would rather have a little more bread than so much spiritual
nourishment.

[21] The word “tub” alarms me, and the reader must excuse me for writing
it as we really pronounce it in France.

[22] A handsome Frenchman and an ugly German.

[23] Back with the mob!

[24] Now then, gentlemen, can’t we work a little harder?

[25] There, old chum! There’s something to grease your dirty palm!

[26] This war will be the greatest stain on the history of Europe!

[27] “Upon what nation, in days to come, will the verdict of ‘guilty’ be
passed by the tribunal of world history? One thing, at least, is certain.
Germany can look forward to the verdict with a clear conscience.” (Otto
von Gierke, _Internationale Monatschrift für Wissenschaft, Kunst, und
Technik_, November 1, 1914, 3rd _Kriegsheft_, “Deutsches Recht und
Deutsche Kraft.”) At this identical time, the Protestant theologians of
England, in the celebrated letter they sent to Adolf von Harnack, assured
that illustrious German historian and personal friend of William II:
“_Doch wir sind der festen Ueberzeugung, dass Grossbritannien in diesem
Kampfe für Recht und Gewissen; für Europa, die Menschheit und dauernden
Frieden fecht._” [“We are, however, firmly convinced that, in this
struggle, Great Britain is fighting for right and conscience, for Europe,
humanity, and permanent peace.”] It is a remarkable fact that throughout
Europe every one has a “clear conscience”!

[28] The German authorities subsequently rifled all the notebooks
containing “memoirs.” It was only by continued stratagems that I was able
to save part of my own.

[29]

    The Vandals have taken Berlin! Oh, what a spectacle!
    The pagans are at Danzig! The Mongols at Breslau!
    In my mind all this rises simultaneously,
    Pell-mell, as chance wills; it is horrible!… O shame!…
    Germany, Germany, Germany.… Alas!

[30]

    The little Frenchwoman
    Who awaits me at home
    Has eyes that glow
    And a heart of lilac.…

[31] After repeated requests I had been allowed to subscribe to the
_Frankfurter Zeitung_. Three other prisoners have subscribed respectively
to the _Münchener Neueste Nachrichten_, the _Berliner Tageblatt_, and the
_Kölnische Zeitung_.

[32] Potato bread.

_Printed in Great Britain by_

UNWIN BROTHERS, LIMITED, THE GRESHAM PRESS, WOKING AND LONDON



Battles and Bivouacs

A French Soldier’s Note-book

BY JACQUES ROUJON

TRANSLATED BY FRED ROTHWELL

_Large Crown 8vo._ _5s. net._

“Battles and Bivouacs,” by Jacques Roujon, is a vivid recital of the
first six months of warfare. The language is direct and unaffected,
soul-stirring, and free from exaggeration; every page, nay, every line,
compels attention and evokes the most sympathetic interest. The book is
alike authentic and restrained in tone, but what most strikes the reader
is its extraordinary _sincerity_. No war book has yet appeared that gives
so strong an impression of reality, or which, on its own sheer merits, is
more worthy to survive the rage and tumult of battle.


My Experiences on Three Fronts

BY SISTER MARTIN-NICHOLSON

_Crown 8vo._ _4s. 6d. net._

A vivid account of the author’s experiences in Belgium and Russia and
afterwards with the French and English troops.


Practical Pacifism and its Adversaries: “Is it Peace, Jehu?”

BY DR. SEVERIN NORDENTOFT

_Crown 8vo._ _4s. 6d. net._

In addition to making definite suggestions as to the lines on which the
Peace Movement should go to work after the war—suggestions which are
both obvious and practical—the book contains a reprint of a pamphlet
written by an upper-class native of Schleswig, with footnote criticisms
by a Prussian scholar of unbiassed views, which renders very sensational
and personal testimony to the terrible discontent and bitter rage which
a conquered nation feels in its humiliating position of subjection—thus
proving beyond all doubt that the chief obstacle that the Peace Movement
has to face is this unnatural denial to the conquered people of the
Rights of Peace.


Above the Battle

BY ROMAIN ROLLAND

TRANSLATED BY C. K. OGDEN, M.A.

_Crown 8vo, Cloth._ THIRD IMPRESSION. _2s. 6d. net._ _Postage 4d._

“We must leave unnoticed many fine and penetrating thoughts and many
stirring passages in these golden pages. In them, let us say, once for
all, speaks the finest spirit of modern France.”—_The Times Literary
Supplement._

“At last it is here … the book we have been waiting for.”—_Labour Leader._


Poland’s Case for Independence

_Demy 8vo._ _7s. 6d. net._

This notable book is a reprint of certain remarkable pamphlets
illustrating the vitality of Polish nationality, and written mostly by
representative Poles. Introductions have been furnished to the pamphlets
by Lord Bryce, Lord Weardale, Mr. G. P. Gooch, Mr. Sidney Webb, Dr. Seton
Watson, etc.


Poland Past and Present

BY J. H. HARLEY

_Crown 8vo._ _4s. 6d. net._

Some new and vital details of the recent history of this unfortunate
country are conveyed to British readers in Mr. J. H. Harley’s vividly
interesting volume. It will be preceded by a preface from the pen of Mr.
Ladislas Mickiewicz—the son of the great Polish poet—which will state the
attitude of the Polish people to Germany, and reveal how deeply their
sympathies are enlisted in the cause of the Allies. A notable feature of
the book will be a record of the attempts made by the Germans in Poland
during the last few months to seduce Poland from her confidence in the
justice of the Western Powers.


Antwerp to Gallipoli

BY ARTHUR RUHL

_Small Demy._ _7s. 6d. net._

CONTENTS.—“The Germans are Coming!”—Paris at Bay—After the Marne—The Fall
of Antwerp—Paris Again; and Bordeaux: Journal of a Fight from a London
Fog—“The Great Days”—Two German Prison-Camps—In the German Trenches at
La Bassée—The Road to Constantinople: Rumania and Bulgaria—The Adventure
of the Fifty Hostages—With the Turks at the Dardanelles—Soghan-Dere and
the Flier of Ak-Bash—A War Correspondents’ Village—Cannon Fodder—East of
Lemberg: Through Austria-Hungary to the Galician Front—In the Dust of the
Russian Retreat.


_FICTION_

_Crown 8vo._ _6s. each._ _Postage 5d._


The Financing of Fiona

BY DOROTHEA CONYERS

“The Financing of Fiona” is a sporting story with love interest running
through it. The plot turns on Colonel Beresford’s will, written hurriedly
on notepaper, in which he leaves everything to his niece Fiona; but he
dies suddenly, and his nephew Challoner, though he does not think of
suppressing the will, takes out the centre sheet, so completely altering
everything that Fiona gets her uncle’s lovely old home but no income with
it. By this Challoner thinks that the girl is sure to marry him, and that
he will have both Kinvarragh and the money. But Fiona, left penniless,
determines to struggle and to take paying guests for the hunting. Two
men, Major Bohun and his nephew, come to her, and bring their horses.
Fiona fights with many troubles, and Major Bohun’s fears that his nephew
will marry her, together with hunting and shooting, make the rest of the
book. The troubles end in an unexpected manner, and Fiona is left at
Kinvarragh, but not alone.


When the Wicked Man …

BY GUY THORNE

Author of “When it was Dark”

Mr. Guy Thorne’s new novel, “When the Wicked Man …,” is one of unusual
and penetrating interest. It is a profound study of a bad man’s soul,
stripped bare and naked without equivocation or evasion. If Maupassant
had written this story it would have stopped at the third book, and a
brilliant but unutterably painful document would be all that remained.
Mr. Guy Thorne goes farther. He shows us the dark and sensual soul of
Sebastian Warde moving towards the Light, until the wicked man at last
turns from his wickedness, and, crushed, broken, and empty, casts himself
at the feet of God. The action of the story takes place in Paris, at
Athens and the Bay of Nauplia in Greece, at Weymouth in Dorsetshire, the
French battle-front, and finally in London. These are the main divisions
into which the tale naturally falls.

This is not a story without a plot. The action is continuous and intense
throughout, and from first to last is as inevitable as a Greek tragedy.
“When the Wicked Man …” is written with an economy and precision of
effect that is stereoscopic. The people, places, and dramatic situations
stand out from the page. They have perspective; one sees them.

In fact, the novel is quite unlike anything published in England for very
many years.


Redwing

BY CONSTANCE SMEDLEY

Miss Smedley’s latest novel displays her usual skill in the presentation
of character; and her characters do not stand still, but grow as we watch
them. Her two leading characters in this book are a boy and girl, both
of whom are lonely, misunderstood, and, to some extent, unwanted; and
in each case the experiences of childhood create a determining bias.
Their development of strength and courage not only helps them mutually,
but finally brings the three people who are the dominating influences
of their lives into happier conditions. The book is planned on a large
scale, covers a wide range of social life, and deals with explorers,
business gamblers, and men and women of large ambitions.


Families Repaired

BY J. S. FLETCHER

Mr. J. S. Fletcher’s new novel is of the same _genre_ as the author’s
well-known humorous stories, “The Paths of the Prudent” and “Grand
Relations,” both of which have gone through several editions. It
deals with a highly complicated matrimonial arrangement, proposed by
an Anglo-Canadian multi-millionaire as the means of repairing the
fortunes of two noble families which have fallen upon bad times, and
the plot involves numerous amusing and piquant situations and quaint
embarrassments. The various characters are drawn with great fidelity,
especially those of an old bachelor about town, a couple of young ladies
of high rank, who live their own very modernized lives in a Camden Town
flat, and an Irish-American widow of a lively and original type. The
story is full of smart and bright dialogue, and though it is essentially
one of farcical humour, the plot is exciting and even sensational.


The Farm Servant

BY E. H. ANSTRUTHER

The central theme of this remarkable first novel is the passionate
love-story of Anna Murrell, “The Farm Servant.” But the study of Frank
Harding and the manner in which his life was affected by three women is
of equal importance. Few modern novels have been so varied in setting,
for the two largest sections of the book deal with a quiet village in
East Anglia and with the Latin Quarter of Paris just before the War. It
is a book with passages of great tragic power; but these are interspersed
with chapters delightful for their quiet humour and acute observations of
the little “actions and reactions” of everyday life. It is a long book:
but only in a long book could the author, besides working out the main
theme, have created such a host of minor characters. Mr. Harding, the
Carringtons, the Juleses, Dr. Emmersley, Lucie Dubels, and a dozen others
are all as real as the people one meets every day.


The Long Divorce

(John Bogardus)

BY GEORGE A. CHAMBERLAIN

Author of “Through Stained Glass,” “Home,” etc.

Another brilliant, fascinating, out-of-the-ordinary Chamberlain novel.
The panoramic setting is Europe, America, Africa, and the seas between.
The style is the author’s swiftest, that whirls the reader along. And
John Bogardus’s love-story, or series of love-stories, is a beautiful,
tender, and extraordinarily illuminating record. Behind the rushing
style, the astonishing fire of epigrams, the groups of memorable
characters, and the stream of the alluring plot, the reader is gratefully
conscious of a deep and rich background of seeing and thinking and
feeling.


Moll Davis

BY BERNARD CAPES

“Written with all the liveliness one is accustomed to associate with the
name of Mr. Bernard Capes.”—_Pall Mall Gazette._

“If witty dialogue and a sense of atmosphere can make a good comedy, here
is one of the best.”—_T. P.’s Weekly._


An Outraged Society

BY A. BROWNLOW FFORDE

SOME OPINIONS ON MR. FFORDE’S PREVIOUS NOVELS:

“Might well have been written by Mr. Kipling in one of his lighter moods.
Brimful of humour and extremely racy.”—_Daily Chronicle._

“Is a vivacious writer, and possesses a considerable fund of
humour.”—_Manchester Examiner._


The Duel

BY ALEXANDER KUPRIN

“One has no hesitation in recommending ‘The Duel’ to any one on the
look-out for really good fiction.”—_Globe._

“Kuprin writes with the vividness and the authority that come
from first-hand experience. It must be read to appreciate its
power.”—_Aberdeen Journal._


LONDON: GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN LIMITED





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