Part 2 out of 4
it is heated by a big stove. Naturally it gets more sick and slightly
wounded than serious cases, but the boys seem very happy, and
they are affectionately cared for. There is a big court for the
convalescents, and in the spring they will have the run of the park.
About the twelfth we had a couple of days of the worst cannonading
since October. It was very trying. I stood hours on the lawn listening,
but it was not for several days that we knew there had been a terrible
battle at Soissons, just forty miles north of us.
There is a great difference of opinion as to how far we can hear the
big guns, but an officer on the train the other day assured me that
they could be heard, the wind being right, about one hundred
kilometres--that is to say, eighty miles--so you can judge what it was
like here, on the top of the hill, half that distance away by road, and
considerably less in a direct line.
Our official communique, as usual, gave us no details, but one of the
boys in our town was wounded, and is in a near-by ambulance,
where he has been seen by his mother; she brings back word that it
was, as he called it, "a bloody slaughter in a hand-to-hand fight." But
of course, nothing so far has been comparable to the British stand at
Ypres. The little that leaks slowly out regarding that simply makes
one's heart ache with the pain of it, only to rebound with the glory.
Human nature is a wonderful thing, and the locking of the gate to
Calais, by the English, will, I imagine, be, to the end of time, one of
the epics, not of this war alone, but of all war. Talk about the "thin red
line." The English stood, we are told, like a ribbon to stop the German
hordes,--and stopped them.
It almost seems a pity that, up to date, so much secrecy has been
maintained. I was told last week in Paris that London has as yet no
dream of the marvellous feat her volunteer army achieved--a feat that
throws into the shade all the heroic defenses sung in the verse of
ancient times. Luckily these achievements do not dull with years.
On top of the Soissons affair came its result: the French retreat
across the Aisne caused by the rising of the floods which carried
away the bridges as fast as the engineers could build them, and cut
off part of the French, even an ambulance, and, report says, the men
left across the river without ammunition fought at the end with the
butts of their broken guns, and finally with their fists.
Of course this brings again that awful cry over the lack of preparation,
and lack of ammunition.
It is a foolish cry today, since the only nation in the world ready for
this war was the nation that planned and began it.
Even this disaster--and there is no denying that it is one--does not
daunt these wonderful people. They still see two things, the Germans
did not get to Paris, nor have they got to Calais, so, in spite of their
real feats of arms--one cannot deny those--an endeavor must be
judged by its purpose, and, so judged, the Germans have, thus far,
failed. Luckily the French race is big enough to see this and take
heart of grace. God knows it needs to, and thank Him it can.
Don't you imagine that I am a bit down. I am not. I am cold. But, when
I think of the discomfort in the hurriedly constructed trenches, where
the men are in the water to their ankles, what does my being cold in a
house mean? Just a record of discomfort as my part of the war, and it
seems, day after day, less important. But oh, the monotony and
boredom of it! Do you wonder that I want to hibernate?
March 23, 1915
Can it be possible that it is two months since I wrote to you? I could
not realize it when I got your reproachful letter this morning. But I
looked in my letter-book, and found that it was true.
The truth is--I have nothing to write about. The winter and its
discomforts do not inspire me any more than the news from the front
does, and no need to tell you that does not make one talkative.
It has been a damp and nasty and changeable winter--one of the
most horrid I ever experienced. There has been almost no snow.
Almost never has the ground frozen, and not only is there mud, mud
everywhere, but freshets also. Today the Marne lies more like an
open sea than a river across the fields in the valley. One can imagine
what it is like out there in the trenches.
We have occasional lovely sunny days, when it is warmer out-of-
doors than in--and when those days came, I dug a bit in the dirt,
planted tulips and sweet peas.
Sometimes I have managed to get fuel, and when that happened, I
was ever so cosy in the house. Usually, when the weather was at its
worst, I had none, and was as nicely uncomfortable as my worst
enemy could ask.
As a rule my days have been divided into two parts. In the forenoon I
have hovered about the gate watching for the newspaper. In the
afternoon I have re-chewed the news in the vain endeavor to extract
something encouraging between the lines,--and failed. Up to date I
have not found anything tangible to account for such hope as
continues to "spring eternal" in all our breasts. It springs, however,
the powers be thanked. At present it is as big an asset as France
A Zeppelin got to Paris last night. We are sorry, but we'll forget it as
soon as the women and children are buried. We are sorry, but it is not
Things are a bit livened up here. Day before yesterday a regiment of
dragoons arrived. They are billeted for three months. They are men
from the midi, and, alas! none too popular at this moment. Still, they
have been well received, and their presence does liven up the place.
This morning, before I was up, I heard the horses trotting by for their
morning exercise, and got out of bed to watch them going along the
hill. After the deadly tiresome waiting silence that has reigned here all
winter, it made the hillside look like another place.
Add to that the fact that the field work has begun, and that, when the
sun shines, I can go out on the lawn and watch the ploughs turning
up the ground, and see the winter grain making green patches
everywhere--and I do not need to tell you that, with the spring, my
thoughts will take a livelier turn. The country is beginning to look
beautiful. I took my drive along the valley of the Grande Morin in the
afternoon yesterday. The wide plains of the valley are being
ploughed, and the big horses dragging ploughs across the wide fields
did look lovely--just like a Millet or a Daubigny canvas.
Since I wrote you I have been across to the battlefield again, to
accompany a friend who came out from Paris. It was all like a new
picture. The grain is beginning to sprout in tender green about the
graves, which have been put in even better order than when I first
saw them. The rude crosses of wood, from which the bark had not
even been stripped, have been replaced by tall, carefully made
crosses painted white, each marked with a name and number. Each
single grave and each group of graves has a narrow footpath about
it, and is surrounded by a wire barrier, while tiny approaches are
arranged to each. Everywhere military signs are placed, reminding
visitors that these fields are private property, that they are all planted,
and entreating all politely to conduct themselves accordingly, which
means literally, "keep off the wheat."
The German graves, which, so far as I remember, were unmarked
when I was out there nearly four months ago, have now black disks
with the number in white.
You must not mind if I am dull these days. I have been studying a
map of the battle-front, which I got by accident. It is not inspiring. It
makes one realize what there is ahead of us to do. It will be done--but
at what a price!
Still, spring is here, and in spite of one's self, it helps.
May 18, 1915
All through the month of April I intended to write, but I had not the
All our eyes were turned to the north where, from April 22 to
Thursday, May 13--five days ago--we knew the second awful battle at
Ypres was going on. It seems to be over now.
What with the new war deviltry, asphyxiating gas--with which the
battle began, and which beat back the line for miles by the terror of its
surprise--and the destruction of the Lusitania on the 7th, it has been a
hard month. It has been a month which has seen a strange change
of spirit here.
I have tried to impress on you, from the beginning, that odd sort of
optimism which has ruled all the people about me, even under the
most trying episodes of the war. Up to now, the hatred of the
Germans has been, in a certain sense, impersonal. It has been a
racial hatred of a natural foe, an accepted evil, just as the uncalled-for
war was. It had wrought a strange, unexpected, altogether
remarkable change in the French people. Their faces had become
more serious, their bearing more heroic, their laughter less frequent,
and their humor more biting. But, on the day, three weeks ago, when
the news came of the first gas attack, before which the Zouaves and
the Turcos fled with blackened faces and frothing lips, leaving
hundreds of their companions dead and disfigured on the road to
Langtmarck, there arose the first signs of awful hatred that I had
I frankly acknowledge that, considering the kind of warfare the world
is seeing today, I doubt very much if it is worse to be asphyxiated
than to be blown to pieces by an obus. But this new and devilish arm
which Germany has added to the horrors of war seemed the last
straw, and within a few weeks, I have seen grow up among these
simple people the conviction that the race which planned and
launched this great war has lost the very right to live; and that none of
the dreams of the world which looked towards happiness can ever be
realized while Prussia exists, even if the war lasts twenty years, and
even if, before it is over, the whole world has to take a hand in it.
Into this feeling, ten days ago, came the news of the destruction of
We got the news here on the 8th. It struck me dumb.
For two or three days I kept quietly in the house. I believe the people
about me expected the States to declare war in twenty-four hours. My
neighbors who passed the gate looked at me curiously as they
greeted me, and with less cordiality as the days went by. It was as if
they pitied me, and yet did not want to be hard on me, or hold me
You know well enough how I feel about these things. I have no
sentimentality about the war. A person who had that, and tried to live
here so near it, would be on the straight road to madness. If the world
cannot stop war, if organized governments cannot arrive at a code of
morals which applies to nations the same law of right and wrong
which is enforced on individuals, why, the world and humanity must
take the consequences, and must reconcile themselves to the belief
that such wars as this are as necessary as surgical operations. If one
accepts that point of view--and I am ready to do so,--then every
diabolical act of Germany will rebound to the future good of the race,
as it, from every point of view, justifies the hatred which is growing up
against Germany. We are taught that it is right, moral, and, from
every point of view, necessary to hate evil, and, in this 20th century,
Germany is the most absolute synonym of evil that history has ever
seen. Having stated that fact, it does not seem to me that I need say
anything further on the subject.
In the meantime, I have gone on imitating the people about me. They
are industriously tilling their fields. I continue cutting my lawn,
planting my dahlias, pruning my roses, tying up my flowering peas,
and watching my California poppies grow like the weeds in the fields.
When I am not doing that, with a pot in one hand, and the tongs in
the other, I am picking slugs out of the flower-beds and giving them a
dose of boiling water, or lugging about a watering-pot. I do it
energetically, but my heart is not in it, though the garden is grateful all
the same, and is as nice a symbol of the French people as I can
We have the dragoons still with us. They don't interest me hugely--not
as the English did when they retreated here last September, nor as
the French infantry did on their way to the battlefield. These men
have never been in action yet. Still they lend a picturesqueness to the
countryside, though to me it is, as so much of the war has been, too
much like the decor of a drama. Every morning they ride by the gate,
two abreast, to exercise their lovely horses, and just before noon they
come back. All the afternoon they are passing in groups, smoking,
chatting, and laughing, and, except for their uniforms, they do not
suggest war, of which they actually know as little as I do.
After dinner, in the twilight, for the days are getting long, and the
moon is full, I sit on the lawn and listen to them singing in the street at
Voisins, and they sing wonderfully well, and they sing good music.
The other evening they sang choruses from "Louise" and "Faust,"
and a wonderful baritone sang "Vision Fugitive." The air was so still
and clear that I hardly missed a note.
A week ago tonight we were aroused late in the evening, it must have
been nearly midnight, by an alerte announcing the passing of a
Zeppelin. I got up and went out-of-doors, but neither heard nor saw
anything, except a bicycle going over the hill, and a voice calling
"Lights out." Evidently it did not get to Paris, as the papers have been
One thing I have done this week. When the war began I bought, as
did nearly everyone else, a big map of Germany and the battle-fronts
surrounding it, and little envelopes of tiny British, Belgian, French,
Montenegrin, Servian, Russian, German, and Austrian flags,
mounted on pins. Every day, until the end of last week, I used to put
the flags in place as well as I could after studying the day's
I began to get discouraged in the hard days of last month, when day
after day I was obliged to retreat the Allied flags on the frontier, and
when the Russian offensive fell down, I simply tore the map off the
wall, and burned it, flags and all.
Of course I said to myself, in the spirit I have caught from the army,
"All these things are but incidents, and will have no effect on the final
result. A nation is not defeated while its army is still standing up in its
boots, so it is folly to bother over details."
Do you ever wonder what the poets of the future will do with this war?
Is it too stupendous for them, or, when they get it in perspective, can
they find the inspiration for words where now we have only tightened
throats and a great pride that, in an age set down as commercial,
such deeds of heroism could be?
Who will sing the dirge of General Hamilton in the little cemetery of
Lacouture last October, when the farewell salute over his grave was
turned to repel a German attack, while the voice of the priest kept on,
calm and clear, to the end of the service? Who will sing the
destruction of the Royal Scots, two weeks later, in the battle of
Ypres? Who will sing the arrival of General Moussy, and of the
French corps on the last day of that first battle of Ypres, when a
motley gathering of cooks and laborers with staff officers and
dismounted cavalry, in shining helmets, flung themselves pellmell into
a bayonet charge with no bayonets, to relieve the hard-pressed
English division under General Bulfin? And did it. Who will sing the
great chant in honor of the 100,000 who held Ypres against half a
million, and locked the door to the Channel? Who will sing the bulldog
fighting qualities of Rawlinson's 7th division, which held the line in
those October days until reinforcements came, and which, at the end
of the fight, mustered 44 officers out of 400, and only 2336 men out
of 23,000? Who will sing the stirring scene of the French Chasseurs,
advancing with bugles and shouting the "Marseillaise," to storm and
take the col de Bonhomme in a style of warfare as old as French
history? And these are but single exploits in a war now settled down
to sullen, dull trench work, a war only in the early months of what
looks like years of duration.
Doesn't it all make your blood flow fast? You see it tempts me to
make an oration. You must overlook my eloquence! One does--over
here, in the midst of it--feel such a reverence for human nature today.
The spirit of heroism and self-sacrifice lives still amongst us. A world
of machinery has not yet made a race incapable of greatness. I have
a feeling that from the soil to which so many thousands of men have
voluntarily returned to save their country's honor must spring up a
France greater than ever. It is the old story of Atlas. Besides, "What
more can a man do"--you know the rest. It is one of the things that
make me sorry to feel that our own country is evidently going to avoid
a movement which might have been at once healthy and uplifting. I
know that you don't like me to say that, but I'll let it go.
June 1, 1915
Well, I have really had a very exciting time since I last wrote you. I
have even had a caller. Also my neighbor at Voulangis, on the top of
the hill, on the other side of the Morin, has returned from the States,
to which she fled just before the Battle of the Marne. I even went to
Paris to meet her. To tell you the actual truth, for a few days, I
behaved exactly as if there were no war. I had to pinch myself now
and then to remind myself that whatever else might be real or unreal,
the war was very actual.
I must own that Paris seems to get farther and farther from it every
day. From daybreak to sunset I found it hard to realize that it was the
capital of an invaded country fighting for its very existence, and the
invader no farther from the Boulevards than Noyon, Soissons, and
Rheims--on a battle-front that has not changed more than an inch or
two--and often an inch or two in the wrong direction--since last
I could not help thinking, as I rode up the Champs-Elysees in the sun
--it was Sunday--how humiliated the Kaiser, that crowned head of
Terrorizers, would be if he could have seen Paris that day.
Children were playing under the trees of the broad mall; automobiles
were rushing up and down the avenue; crowds were sitting all along
the way, watching the passers and chatting; all the big hotels, turned
into ambulances, had their windows open to the glorious sunny
warmth, and the balconies were crowded with invalid soldiers and
white-garbed nurses; not even arms in slings or heads in bandages
looked sad, for everyone seemed to be laughing; nor did the crippled
soldiers, walking slowly along, add a tragic note to the wonderful
It was strange--it was more than strange. It seemed to me almost
I could not help asking myself if it could last.
Every automobile which passed had at least one soldier in it. Almost
every well-dressed woman had a soldier beside her. Those who did
not, looked sympathetically at every soldier who passed, and now
and then stopped to chat with the groups--soldiers on crutches,
soldiers with canes, soldiers with an arm in a sling, or an empty
sleeve, leading the blind, and soldiers with nothing of their faces
visible but the eyes.
By every law I knew the scene should have been sad. But some law
of love and sunshine had decreed that it should not be, and it was
It was not the Paris you saw, even last summer, but it was Paris with
a soul, and I know no better prayer to put up than the cry that the
wave of love which seemed to throb everywhere about the soldier
boys, and which they seemed to feel and respond to, might not--with
time--die down. I knew it was too much to ask of human nature. I was
glad I had seen it.
In this atmosphere of love Paris looked more beautiful to me than
ever. The fountains were playing in the Place de la Concorde, in the
Tuileries gardens, at the Rond Point, and the gardens, the Avenue
and the ambulances were bright with flowers. I just felt, as I always do
when the sun shines on that wonderful vista from the Arc de
Triomphe to the Louvre, that nowhere in the world was there another
such picture, unless it be the vista from the Louvre to the Arc de
Triomphe. When I drove back up the hill at sunset, with a light mist
veiling the sun through the arch, I felt so grateful to the fate which had
decreed that never again should the German army look on that
scene, and that a nation which had a capital that could smile in the
face of fate as Paris smiled that day, must not, cannot, be conquered.
Of course after dark it is all different. It is then that one realizes that
Paris is changed. The streets are no longer brilliantly lighted. There
are no social functions. The city seems almost deserted. One misses
the brightness and the activity. I really found it hard to find my way
about and recognize familiar street corners in the dark. A few days of
it were enough for me, and I was glad enough to come back to my
quiet hilltop. At my age habits are strong.
Also let me tell you things are slowly changing here. Little by little I
can feel conditions closing up about me, and I can see "coming
events" casting "their shadows before."
Let me give you a little example.
A week ago today my New York doctor came down to spend a few
days with me. It was a great event for a lady who had not had a visitor
for months. He wanted to go out to the battlefield, so I arranged to
meet his train at Esbly, go on with him to Meaux, and drive back by
I started for Esbly in my usual sans gene manner, and was disgusted
with myself on arriving to discover that I had left all my papers at
home. However, as I had never had to show them, I imagined it
would make no difference.
I presented myself at the ticket-office to buy a ticket for Meaux, and
you can imagine my chagrin when I was asked for my papers. I
explained to the station-master, who knows me, that I had left them at
home. He was very much distressed,--said he would take the
responsibility of selling me a ticket if I wanted to risk it,--but the new
orders were strict, and he was certain I would not be allowed to leave
the station at Meaux.
Naturally, I did not want to take such a risk, or to appear, in any way,
not to be en regle. So I took the doctor off the train, and drove back
here for my papers, and then we went on to Meaux by road.
It was lucky I did, for I found everything changed at Meaux. In the first
place, we could not have an automobile, as General Joffre had
issued an order forbidding the circulation inside of the military zone of
all automobiles except those connected with the army. We could
have a little victoria and a horse, but before taking that, we had to go
to the Prefet de Police and exhibit our papers and get a special sauf-
conduit,--and we had to be diplomatic to get that.
Once started, instead of sliding out of the town past a guard who
merely went through the formality of looking at the driver's papers, we
found, on arriving at the entrance into the route de Senlis, that the
road was closed with a barricade, and only one carriage could pass
at a time. In the opening stood a soldier barring the way with his gun,
and an officer came to the carriage and examined all our papers
before the sentinel shouldered his musket and let us pass. We were
stopped at all the cross-roads, and at that between Barcy and
Chambry,--where the pedestal of the monument to mark the limit of
the battle in the direction of Paris is already in place,--we found a
group of a dozen officers--not noncommissioned officers, if you
please, but captains and majors. There our papers, including
American passports, were not only examined, but signatures and
This did not trouble me a bit. Indeed I felt it well, and high time, and
that it should have been done ten months ago.
It was a perfect day, and the battlefield was simply beautiful, with the
grain well up, and people moving across it in all directions. These
were mostly people walking out from Meaux, and soldiers from the
big hospital there making a pilgrimage to the graves of their
comrades. What made the scene particularly touching was the
number of children, and the nurses pushing babies in their carriages.
It seemed to me such a pretty idea to think of little children roaming
about this battlefield as if it were a garden. I could not help wishing
the nation was rich enough to make this place a public park.
In spite of only having a horse we made the trip easily, and got back
here by dinner-time.
Two days later we had an exciting five minutes.
It was breakfast time. The doctor and I were taking our coffee out-of-
doors, on the north side of the house, in the, shade of the ivy-clad
wall of the old grange. There the solitude is perfect. No one could see
us there. We could only see the roofs of the few houses at
Joncheroy, and beyond them the wide amphitheatre-like panorama,
with the square towers of the cathedral of Meaux at the east and
Esbly at the west, and Mareuil-les-Meaux nestled on the river in the
You see I am looking at my panorama again. One can get used to
anything, I find.
It was about nine o'clock.
Suddenly there was a terrible explosion, which brought both of us to
our feet, for it shook the very ground beneath us. We looked in the
direction from which it seemed to come--Meaux--and we saw a
column of smoke rising in the vicinity of Mareuil--only two miles away.
Before we had time to say a word we saw a second puff, and then
came a second explosion, then a third and a fourth. I was just rooted
to my spot, until Amelie dashed out of the kitchen, and then we all ran
to the hedge,--it was only a hundred feet or so nearer the smoke, and
we could see women running in the fields,--that was all.
But Amelie could not remain long in ignorance like that. There was a
staff officer cantoned at Voisins and he had telephonic
communication with Meaux, so down the hill she went in search of
news, and fifteen minutes later we knew that a number of Taubes had
tried to reach Paris in the night, that there had been a battle in the air
at Crepy-les-Valois, and one of these machines had dropped four
bombs, evidently meant for Meaux, near Mareuil, where they had
fallen in the fields and harmed no one.
We never got any explanation of how it happened that a Taube
should be flying over us at that hour, in broad daylight, or what
became of it afterward. Probably someone knows. If someone does,
he is evidently not telling us.
Amelie's remark, as she returned to her kitchen, was: "Well, it was
nearer than the battle. Perhaps next time--" She shrugged her
shoulders, and we all laughed, and life went on as usual. Well, I've
heard the whir-r of a German bomb, even if I did not see the machine
that threw it.
The doctor did not get over laughing until he went back to Paris. I am
afraid he never will get over guying me about the shows I get up to
amuse my visitors. I expect that I must keep a controlling influence
over him, or, before he is done joking, the invisible Taube will turn into
a Zeppelin, or perhaps a fleet of airships.
June 20, 1915
Having an American neighbor near by again has changed life more
than you would imagine.
She is only five miles away. She can come over on horseback in half
an hour, and she often arrives for coffee, which is really jolly. Now
and then she drives over unexpectedly, and carries me back with her
for the night. I never feel like staying longer, but it changes the
complexion of life. Besides, we can talk about our native land--in
English--and that is a change.
Now don't imagine that I have been lonely. I have not. I was quite
contented before she returned, but I have never concealed from you
that the war is trying. I needed, now and then, to exchange words
with one of my own race, and to say things about my own country
which I'd be burned at the stake before I 'd say before a French
Beside, the drive from here to Voulangis is beautiful. We have three
or four ways to go, and each one is prettier than the other.
Sometimes we go through Quincy, by the Chateau de Moulignon, to
Pont aux Dames, and through the old moated town of Crecy-en-Brie.
Sometimes we go down the valley of the Mesnil, a hilly path along the
edge of a tiny river, down which we dash at a breakneck speed, only
possible to an expert driver. Indeed Pere never believes we do it. He
could not. Since he could not, to him it is impossible to anyone.
Just now the most interesting way is through Couilly and St. Germain,
by the Bois de Misere, to Villiers-sur-Morin, whence we climb the hill
to Voulangis, with the valley dropping away on one side. It is one of
the loveliest drives I know, along the Morin, by the mills, through the
almost virgin forest.
The artillery--territorials--is cantoned all along here, at Villiers, at
Crecy, and at Voulangis. The road is lined with grey cannon and
ammunition wagons. Every little way there is a sentinel in his box, and
horses are everywhere.
Some of the sentinel boxes are, as we used to say in the States, "too
cute for words." The prettiest one in the Department is right here, at
the corner of the route Madame, which crosses my hill, and whence
the road leads from the Demi-Lune right down to the canal. It is
woven of straw, has a nice floor, a Gothic roof, a Gothic door, and the
tiniest Gothic window, and a little flag floating from its peak.
It is a little bijou, and I did hope that I could beg, borrow, steal,
or buy it from the dragoon who made it. But I can't. The lieutenant
is attached to it, and is going to take it with him, alas!
I happened to be at Voulangis when the territorials left--quite
unexpectedly, as usual. They never get much notice of a releve.
We were sitting in the garden at tea when the assemblage general
was sounded, and the order read to march at four next morning.
You never saw such a bustle,--such a cleaning of boots, such a
packing of sacks, such a getting together of the officers' canteens--
orderlies getting about quickly, and trying to give demonstrations of
"efficiency" (how I detest the very word!), and such a rounding up of
last things for the commissary department, including a mobilization of
Brie cheese (this is its home), and such a pulling into position of
cannon--all the inevitable activity of a regiment preparing to take the
road, after a two months' cantonnement, in absolute ignorance of the
direction they were to take, or their destination.
The last thing I saw that night was-the light of their lanterns, and the
last thing I heard was the march of their hob-nailed boots. The first
thing I heard in the morning, just as day broke, was the neighing of
the horses, and the subdued voices of the men as the teams were
We had all agreed to get up to see them start. It seemed the least we
could do. So, well wrapped up in our big coats, against the chill of four
o'clock, we went to the little square in front of the church, from which
they were to start, and where the long line of grey cannon, grey
ammunition, camions, grey commissary wagons were ready, and the
men, sac au dos, already climbing into place--one mounted on each
team of four horses, three on each gun-carriage, facing the horses,
with three behind, with their backs to the team. The horses of the
officers were waiting in front of the little inn opposite, from which the
officers emerged one by one, mounted and rode to a place in front of
the church. We were a little group of about twenty women and
children standing on one side of the square, and a dead silence hung
over the scene. The men, even, spoke in whispers.
The commander, in front of his staff, ran his eyes slowly over the line,
until a sous-officier approached, saluted, and announced, "All ready,"
when the commander rode to the head of the line, raised one hand
above his head, and with it made a sharp forward gesture--the
unspoken order "en avant"--and backed his horse, and the long grey
line began to move slowly towards the Foret de Crecy, the officers
falling into place as it passed.
Some of the men leaned down to shake hands as they went by,
some of the men saluted, not a word was spoken, and the silence
was only broken by the tramp of the horses, the straining of the
harnesses, and rumble of the wheels.
It was all so different--as everything in this war has been--from
anything I had ever dreamed when I imagined war. Yet I suppose that
the future dramatist who uses this period as a background can get his
effects just the same, without greatly falsifying the truth. You know I
am like Uncle Sarcey--a really model theatre audience. No effect,
halfway good, passes me by. So, as I turned back at the garden gate
to watch the long grey line winding slowly into the forest, I found that I
had the same chill down my back and the same tightness over my
eyes and in my throat, which, in the real theatre-goers, announce that
an effect has "gone home."
The only other thing I have done this month which could interest you
was to have a little tea-party on the lawn for the convalescent boys of
our ambulance, who were "personally conducted" by one of their
Of course they were all sorts and all classes. When I got them
grouped round the table, in the shade of the big clump of lilac bushes,
I was impressed, as I always am when I see a number of common
soldiers together, with the fact that no other race has such intelligent,
such really well-modelled faces, as the French. It is rare to see a fat
face among them. There were farmers, blacksmiths, casters,
workmen of all sorts, and there was one young law student, and the
mixed group seemed to have a real sentiment of fraternity.
Of course, the law student was more accustomed to society than the
others, and became, naturally, a sort of leader. He knew just what to
do, and just how to do it,--how to get into the salon when he arrived,
and how to greet his hostess. But the rest knew how to follow suit,
and did it, and, though some of them were a little shy at first, not one
was confused, and in a few minutes they were all quite at their ease.
By the time the brief formality of being received was over, and they
were all gathered round the tea-table, the atmosphere had become
comfortable and friendly, and, though they let the law student lead the
conversation, they were all alert and interested, and when one of
them did speak, it was to the point.
When tea was over and we walked out on the lawn on the north side
of the house to look over the field of the battle in which most of them
had taken part, they were all ready to talk--they were on ground they
knew. One of them asked me if I could see any of the movements of
the armies, and I told him that I could not, that I could only see the
smoke, and hear the artillery fire, and now and then, when the wind
was right, the sharp repeating fire of rifles as well as mitrailleuses,
and that I ended by distinguishing the soixante-quinze from other
"Look down there, in the wide plain below Montyon," said the law
student. I looked, and he added, "As nearly as I can judge the ground
from here, if you had been looking there at eleven o'clock in the
morning, you would have seen a big movement of troops."
Of course I explained to him that I had not expected any movement in
that direction, and had only watched the approach from Meaux.
Beyond that one incident, these wounded soldiers said no word about
battles. Most of the conversation was political.
When the nurse looked at her watch and said it was time to return to
the hospital, as they must not be late for dinner, they all rose. The law
student came, cap in hand, made me a low bow, and thanked me for
a pleasant afternoon, and every man imitated his manner--with
varying degrees of success--and made his little speech and bow, and
then they marched up the road, turning back, as the English soldiers
had done--how long ago it seems--to wave their caps as they went
round the corner.
I did wish that you could have been there. You always used to love
the French. You would have loved them more that afternoon.
It is wonderful how these people keep up their courage. To me it
seems like the uplift of a Holy Cause. They did expect a big summer
offensive. But it does not come, and we hear it rumored that, while we
have men enough, the Germans have worked so hard, while the
English were recruiting, that they are almost impregnably entrenched,
and that while their ammunition surpasses anything we can have for
months yet, it would be military suicide to throw our infantry against
their superior guns. In the meantime, while the Allies are working like
mad to increase their artillery equipments, the Germans are working
just as hard, and Time serves one party as well as the other. I
suppose it will only be after the war that we shall really know to what
our disappointment was due, and, as usual, the same cry consoles
us all: "None of these things will change the final result!" and most
people keep silent under the growing conviction that this "may go on
One thing I really must tell you--not a person mentioned the Lusitania
at the tea-party, which was, I suppose, a handsome effort at
reticence, since the lady of the house was an American, and the
Stars and Stripes, in little, were fluttering over the chimney.
I take note of one remark in your last letter, in reply to mine of May
18. You twit me with "rounding off my periods." I apologize. You must
remember that I earned my bread and salt doing that for years, and
habit is strong. I no longer do it with my tongue in my cheek. My word
August 1, 1915
Well, dear girl, not a bit of news to tell you. I have really done nothing
this last month but look at my flowers, superintend the gathering of
my plums, put up a few pots of confiture, mow the lawn, and listen to
the guns, now and then, read the communiques, and sigh over the
disasters in the east and the deadlock at Gallipoli.
At the end of the first year of the war the scene has stretched out so
tremendously that my poor tired brain can hardly take it in. I suppose
it is all clear to the general staff, but I don't know. To me it all looks
like a great labyrinth,--and the Germans are at the gates of Warsaw.
Of course this does not "alter the final result"--when that comes--but it
means more destruction, more land to win back, and, I imagine, such
desolation in Poland as makes even the Belgian disaster look, by
Oddly enough, while we know that this will brace up the Germans,
fighting all about their borders on invaded territory, it does not effect
the faith of the people here, who have even the courage to turn aside
from their own grief, with tears in their eyes, to pity Poland. What a
price Belgium pays for her courage to be honorable, and at what a
price Poland must accept her independence! Everyone is philosophical
here, but one does not have to be heartless to be that.
I find it ironical that my flowers bloom, that gay humming-birds hover
over my Mas de Perse, that I have enough to eat, that sleep comes
to me, and that the country is so beautiful.
Our dragoons have ridden away--on to the front, I am told, and
silence has settled down on us.
I am well--there ends the history of a month, and I am not the only
one in France leading a life like that,--and still the cannon are
pounding on in the distance.
August 6, 1915
Well, the sans gene days seem to be passed.
Up to now, as I have told you, the sauf-conduit matter, except on the
last day I was at Meaux, was the thinnest sort of formality. I had to
have one to leave the commune, but the blank forms were lying
around everywhere. I had only to stop at the hotel at Couilly, step into
the cafe, pick up a form and ask the proprietor to fill it out, and that
was all that was necessary. I might have passed it on to anyone, for,
although my name was written on it, no one ever took the trouble to
fill out the description. The ticket-seller at the station merely glanced
at the paper in my hand when I bought a ticket, and the gendarmes at
the ticket window in Paris, when there were any,--often there were
none--did no more. Of course, the possession of a sauf-conduit
presupposes all one's papers en regle, but I never saw anyone
examining to make sure of that.
All this is ended. We are evidently under a new regime.
I had my first intimation yesterday, when I had a domiciliary visit from
the gendarmes at Esbly. It was a very formal, thorough affair, the two
officers treating me, at the beginning of the interview, as if I were a
very guilty person.
I was upstairs when I saw them arrive on their wheels. I put down my
sewing, and went down to be ready to open the door when they
knocked. They didn't knock. I waited a bit, then opened the door.
There was no one on the terrace, but I heard their voices from the
other side of the house. I went in search of them. They were
examining the back of the house as if they had never seen one like it
before. When they saw me, one of them said sharply, without the
slightest salute: "There is no bell?"
I acknowledged the self-evident fact.
"How does one get in, since you keep your door locked?" he added.
"Well," I replied, with a smile, "as a rule, one knocks."
To that his only reply was: "Your name?"
I gave it to him.
He looked on his paper, repeated it--mispronouncing it, of course,
and evidently sure that I did not know how to pronounce it myself.
"Foreigner," he stated.
I could not deny the charge. I merely volunteered "Americaine."
Then the inquiry continued like this. "Live here?"
"How long have you lived here?"
"Since June, 1914."
That seemed to strike him as a very suspicious date, and he stared at
me hard for a moment before he went on: "What for?"
"Principally because I leased the house."
"Why do you remain here in war-time?"
"Because I have nowhere else to go," and I tried not to smile.
"Why don't you go home?"
"This is my home."
"Haven't you any home in America?"
I resisted telling him that it was none of his business, and did my best
to look pathetic--it was that, or laugh--as I answered: "Alas! I have
This seemed to strike both of them as unbelievable, and they only
stared at me as if trying to put me out of countenance.
In the meantime, some of the people of Huiry, interested always in
gendarmes, were standing at the top of the hill watching the scene,
so I said: "Suppose you come inside and I will answer your questions
there," and I opened the door of the salon, and went in.
They hesitated a moment, but decided to follow me. They stood, very
stiffly, just inside the door, looking about with curiosity. I sat down at
my desk, and made a motion to them to be seated. I did not know
whether or not it was correct to ask gendarmes to sit down, but I
ventured it. Evidently it was not correct, for they paid no attention to
When they were done looking about, they asked me for my papers.
I produced my American passport. They looked at the huge steel-
engraved document with great seriousness. I am sure they had never
seen one before. It impressed them--as well it might, in comparison
with the civil papers of the French government.
They satisfied themselves that the picture affixed was really I--that the
name agreed with that on their books. Of course, they could not read
a word of it, but they looked wise. Then they asked me for my French
papers. I produced my permis de sejour--permitting me to stay in
France provided I did not change my residence, and to which was
affixed the same photograph as that on my passport; my declaration
of my civil situation, duly stamped; and my "immatriculation," a leaf
from the register on which all foreigners are written down, just as we
would be if admitted to a hospital or an insane asylum.
The two men put their heads together over these documents--
examined the signatures and the seals with great gravity--with evident
regret to find that I was quite en regle.
Finally they permitted me to put the documents all back in the case in
which I carry them.
I thought the scene was over. Not at all. They waited until I shut the
case, and replaced it in my bag--and then:
"You live alone?" one asked.
I owned that I did.
"Well," I replied, "because I have no family here."
"You have no domestic?"
I explained that I had a femme de menage.
"Where is she?"
I said that at that moment she was probably at Couilly, but that
ordinarily when she was not here, she was at her own home.
"Where is that?" was the next question.
So I took them out on to the terrace again, and showed them
They stared solemnly at it, as if they had never seen it before, and
then one of them turned on me quickly, as if to startle me. "Vous etes
une femme de lettres?"
"It is so written down in my papers," I replied.
I denied my old calling without the quiver of an eyelash. I hadn't a
scruple. Besides, my old profession many a time failed me, and it
might have been dangerous to have been known as even an ex-
journalist today within the zone of military operations.
Upon that followed a series of the most intimate questions anyone
ever dared put to me,--my income, my resources, my expectations,
my plans, etc.--and all sorts of questions I too rarely put to myself
even, and never answer to myself. Practically the only question they
did not ask was if I ever intended to marry. I was tempted to volunteer
that information, but, as neither man had the smallest sense of
humor, I decided it was wiser to let well enough alone.
It was only when they were stumped for another single question that
they decided to go. They saluted me politely this time, a tribute I
imagine to my having kept my temper under great provocation to lose
it, went out of the gate, stood whispering together a few minutes, and
gazing back at the house, as if afraid they would forget it, looked up
at the plaque on the gate-post, made a note, mounted their wheels,
and sprinted down the hill, still in earnest conversation.
I wondered what they were saying to one another. Whatever it was, I
got an order early the next morning to present myself at the
gendarmerie at Esbly before eleven o'clock.
Pere was angry. He seemed to feel, that, for some reason, I was
under suspicion, and that it was a man's business to defend me. So,
when Ninette brought my perambulator to the gate, there was Pere,
in his veston and casquette, determined to go with me and see me
At Esbly I found a different sort of person--a gentleman--he told me
he was not a gendarme by metier, but a volunteer--and, although he
put me through practically the same paces, it was different. He was
sympathetic, not averse to a joke, and, when it was over, he went out
to help me into my baby cart, thanked me for troubling myself,
assured me that I was absolutely en regle, and even went so very far
as to say that he was pleased to have met me. So I suppose, until the
commander at Esbly is changed, I shall be left in peace.
This will give you a little idea of what it is like here. I suppose I
needed to be shaken up a bit to make me realize that I was near
the war. It is easy to forget it sometimes.
Amelie came this morning with the tale that it was rumored that all
foreigners were to be "expelled from the zone des armees." It might
be. Still, I am not worrying. "Sufficient to the day," you know.
September 8, 1915
You have the date quite right.
It is a year ago today--this very 8th of September--since I saw the
French soldiers march away across the hill, over what we call the
"Champs Madame"--no one knows why--on their way to the battle
By chance--you could not have planned it, since the time it takes a
letter to reach me depends on how interesting the censor finds it--
your celebration of that event reached me on its anniversary.
You are absolutely wrong, however, to pull such a long face over my
situation. You write as if I had passed through a year of misery. I have
not. I am sure you never got that impression from my letters, and I
assure you that I am writing exactly as I feel--I have no facade up for
I own it has been a year of tension. It has been three hundred and
sixty-five days and a fourth, not one of which has been free from
anxiety of some sort or other. Sometimes I have been cold.
Sometimes I have been nervous. But all the same, it has been fifty-
two weeks of growing respect for the people among whom I live, and
of ever-mounting love of life, and never-failing conviction that the sum
of it is beauty. I have had to fight for the faith in that, but I have kept
it. Always "In the midst of life we are in Death," but not always is death
so fine and beautiful a thing as in these days. No one would choose
that such things as have come to pass in the last year should be, but
since they are, don't be so foolish as to pity me, who have the chance
to look on, near enough to feel and to understand, even though I am
far enough off to be absolutely safe,--alas! eternally a mere spectator.
And speaking of having been cold reminds me that it is beginning to
get cold again. We have had heavy hailstorms already, hail as big
and hard as dried peas, and I have not as yet been able to get fuel.
So I am looking forward to another trying winter. In the spring my
coal-dealer assured me that last winter's situation would not be
repeated, and I told him that I would take all the coal he could get me.
Having said that, I took no further thought of the matter. Up to date he
has not been able to get any. The railroad is too busy carrying war
I was pained by the tone of your last letter. Evidently mine of the
Fourth of July did not please you. Evidently you don't like my politics
or my philosophy, or my "deadly parallels," or any of my thoughts
about the present and future of my native land. Destroy the letter.
Forget it, and we'll talk of other things, and, to take a big jump--
Did you ever keep cats?
There is a subject in which you can find no offence, and if it does not
appeal to you it is your own fault.
If you never have kept cats, you have missed lots of fun, you are not
half educated, you have not been disciplined at all. / A cat is a
wonderful animal, but he is not a bit like what, on first making his
acquaintance, you think he is going to be, and he never becomes it.
Now I have been living a year this September with one cat, and part
of the time, with two. I am wiser than I used to be. By fits and starts I
am more modest.
I used to think that a cat was a tame animal, who lapped milk, slept,
rolled up ornamentally on a rug, now and then chased his tail, and
now and then played gracefully with a ball, came and sat on your
knee when you invited him, and caught mice, if mice came where he
All the cats I had seen in the homes of my friends surely did those
things. I thought them "so pretty," "so graceful," "so soft," and I
always said they "gave a cosy look to a room."
But I had never been intimate with a cat.
When the English soldiers were here a year ago, Amelie came one
morning bringing a kitten in her apron. You remember I told you of
this. He was probably three months old--so Amelie says, and she
knows all about cats. She said off-hand: "C'est un chat du mois de
juin." She seems to know what month well-behaved cats ought to be
born. So far as I know, they might be born in any old month. He was
like a little tiger, with a white face and shirt-front, white paws and
lovely green eyes.
He had to have a name, so, as he had a lot of brown, the color of the
English uniform, and came to me while the soldiers were here, I
named him Khaki. He accepted it, and answered to his name at
once. He got well rapidly. His fur began to grow, and so did he.
At first he lived up to my idea of what a kitten should be. He was
always ready to play, but he had much more originality than I knew
cats to have. He was so amusing that I gave lots of time to him. I had
corks, tied to strings, hanging to all the door knobs and posts in the
house, and, for hours at a time, he amused himself playing games
like basket-ball and football with these corks. I lost hours of my life
watching him, and calling Amelie to "come quick" and see him. His
ingenuity was remarkable. He would take the cork in his front paws,
turn over on his back, and try to rip it open with his hind paws. I
suppose that was the way his tiger ancestors ripped open their prey.
He would carry the cork, attached to the post at the foot of the
staircase, as far up the stairs as the string would allow him, lay it
down and touch it gently to make it roll down the stairs so that he
could spring after it and catch it before it reached the bottom. All this
was most satisfactory. That was what I expected a cat to do.
He lapped his milk all right. I did not know what else to give him. I
asked Amelie what she gave hers. She said "soup made out of bread
and drippings." That was a new idea. But Amelie's cats looked all
right. So I made the same kind of soup for Khaki. Not he! He turned
his back on it. Then Amelie suggested bread in his milk. I tried that.
He lapped the milk, but left the bread. I was rather in despair. He
looked too thin. Amelie suggested that he was a thin kind of a cat. I
did not want a thin kind of a cat. I wanted a roly-poly cat.
One day I was eating a dry biscuit at tea time. He came and stood
beside me, and I offered him a piece. He accepted it. So, after that, I
gave him biscuit and milk. He used to sit beside his saucer, lap up his
milk, and then pick up the pieces of biscuit with his paw and eat them.
This got to be his first show trick. Everyone came to see Khaki eat
"with his fingers."
All Amelie's efforts to induce him to adopt the diet of all the other cats
in Huiry failed. Finally I said: "What does he want, Amelie? What do
cats, who will not eat soup, eat?"
Reluctantly I got it--"Liver."
Well, I should think he did. He eats it twice a day.
Up to that time he had never talked even cat language. He had never
meowed since the day he presented himself at Amelie's and asked
But we have had, from the beginning, a few collisions of will-power.
The first few weeks that he was a guest in my house, I was terribly
flattered because he never wanted to sleep anywhere but on my
knees. He did not squirm round as Amelie said kittens usually did. He
never climbed on my shoulders and rubbed against my face. He
simply jumped up in my lap, turned round once, lay down, and lay
perfectly still. If I got up, I had to put him in my chair, soothe him
a bit, as you would a baby, if I expected him to stay, but, even then,
nine times out of ten, as soon as I was settled in another chair,
he followed, and climbed into my lap.
Now things that are flattering finally pall. I began to guess that it was
his comfort, not his love for me, that controlled him. Well--it is the old
But the night question was the hardest. He had a basket. He had a
cushion. I have the country habit of going to bed with the chickens.
The cat came near changing all that. I used to let him go to sleep in
my lap. I used to put him in his basket by the table with all the care
that you would put a baby. Then I made a dash for upstairs and
closed the doors. Ha! ha! In two minutes he was scratching at the
door. I let him scratch. "He must be disciplined," I said. There was a
cushion at the door, and finally he would settle' down and in the
morning he was there when I woke. "He will learn," I said. H'm!
One night, while I was in my dressing-room, I neglected to latch the
bedroom door. When I was ready to get into bed, lo! there was Khaki
on the foot of the bed, close against the footboard, fast asleep. Not
only was he asleep, but he was lying on his back, with his two white
paws folded over his eyes as if to keep the lamplight out of them.
Well--I had not the heart to drive him away. He had won. He slept
there. He never budged until I was dressed in the morning, when he
got up, as if it were the usual thing, and followed, in his most dignified
manner, down to breakfast.
Well, that was struggle number one. Khaki had scored.
But, no sooner had I got myself reconciled--I felt pretty shamefaced--
when he changed his plans. The very moment I was ready for bed he
wanted to go out. He never meowed. He just tapped at the door, and
if that did not succeed, he scratched on the window, and he was so
one-idea-ed that nothing turned him from his purpose until he was let
For a time I used to sit up for him to come in. I was ashamed to let
Amelie know. But, one night, after I had been out in the garden with a
lantern hunting for him at midnight, I heard a gentle purring sound,
and, after looking in every direction, I finally located him on the roof of
the kitchen. Being a bit dull, I imagined that he could not get down. I
stood up on a bench under the kitchen window, and called him. He
came to the eaves, and I could just reach him, but, as I was about to
take him by a leg and haul him down, he retreated just out of my
reach, and said what I imagined to be a pathetic "meow." I talked to
him. I tried to coax him to come within reach again, but he only went
up the roof to the ridgepole and looked down the other side and said
"meow." I was in despair, when it occurred to me to get the step-
ladder. You may think me impossibly silly, but I never supposed that
he could get down.
I went for the key to the grange, pulled out the ladder, and hauled it
along the terrace, and was just putting it up, when the little devil
leaped from the roof into the lilac bush, swayed there a minute, ran
down, scampered across the garden, and dashed up a pear tree,
and--well, I think he laughed at me.
Anyway, I was mad. I went in and told him that he might stop out all
night for all I cared. Still, I could not sleep for thinking of him--used
to comfort--out in the night, and it was chilly. But he had to be
I had to laugh in the morning, for he was playing on the terrace when
I opened the door, and he had a line of three first-class mice laid out
for me. I said: "Why, good morning, Khaki, did mother make him stay
out all night? Well, you know he was a naughty cat!"
He gave me a look--I fancied it was quizzical--rolled over, and
showed his pretty white belly, then jumped up, gave one look up at
the bedroom window, scampered up the salon shutter, crouched on
the top, and, with one leap, was through the bedroom window. When
I rushed upstairs--to see if he had hurt himself, I suppose,--he was
sitting on the foot of the bed, and I think he was grinning.
So much for disciplining a cat.
However, I had learned something--and, evidently, he had also. I had
learned that a cat can take care of himself, and has a right to live a
cat's life, and he learned that I was dull. We treat each other
accordingly. The truth is--he owns me, and the house, and he knows
Since then he asks for the door, and gets it when he asks. He goes
and comes at his own sweet will. When he wants to come in, in the
daytime, he looks in at all the windows until he finds me. Then he
stands on his hind legs and beats the window with his paws until I
open it for him. In the night, he climbs to the bedroom window, and
taps until he wakens me. You see, it is his house, not mine, and he
knows it. What is the drollest of all--he is never one minute late to his
He is familiarly known to all my neighbors as "the Grand Duc de
Huiry" and he looks the part. Still, from my point of view, he is not an
ideal cat. He is not a bit caressing. He never fails to purr politely when
he comes in. But he is no longer playful. He never climbs up to my
shoulder and rubs against my face as some of Amelie's commoner
cats will do. He is intelligent and handsome--just a miniature tiger,
and growls like a new arrival from the jungle when he is displeased--
and he is a great ratter. Moreover Amelie has decided that he is an
One morning, when he had been out all night, and did not return until
almost breakfast-time, he was sitting on my knee, making his toilette,
while I argued the matter with him. Amelie was dusting. I reproached
him with becoming a rodeur, and I told him that I should be happier
about him if I knew where he was every night, and what he did.
He yawned as if bored, jumped off my knees and began walking
round the library, and examining the books.
"Well," remarked Amelie, "I can tell you where he goes. He has a
class in Maria's grange, where the wheat is stored--a class of mice.
He goes every evening to give conferences on history and the war,
and he eats up all the stupid pupils."
I had to laugh, but before I could ask her how she knew, Khaki
jumped up on top of the lowest line of books, and disappeared
Amelie shrugged her shoulders, and said: "Voila! He has gone to
prepare his next conference." And he really had chosen a line of
books on history.
You see Amelie knows beasties better than I do. There really is a sort
of freemasonry between certain people and dumb animals. I have not
a bit of it, though I love them. You would adore to see Amelie play
with cats. She knows how. And as for her conversation with them, it is
wonderful. I remarked the fact to her one day, when her morning
salutations with the cats had been unusual. She replied, with her
customary shrug: "Eh bien, Madame, toujours, entre eux, les betes
So much in brief for cat number one. Number two is a different
In the spring, four kittens were born at Amelie's. They were all sorts of
mongrels. There was a dear little fluffy, half angora, which I named
Garibaldi, and Amelie, as usual, vulgarized it at once into "Didine."
There was a long-legged blue kitten which I dubbed Roi Albert. There
was a short-legged, sturdy little energetic striped one which I called
General Joffre, and a yellow and black fellow, who was, of course,
Nicolas. I regretted there weren't two more, or three.
Garibaldi was about the dearest kitten I ever saw. He attached
himself to me at once. When he was only a round fluffy ball he would
try to climb into my lap whenever I went to see the kittens. The result
was that when he was still very young, he came to live with me, and I
never saw so altogether loveable an animal. He has all the cat
qualities I ever dreamed of. As Amelie says: "II a tout pour lui, et il ne
manque que la parole." And it is true. He crawls up my back. He will
lie for hours on my shoulder purring his little soft song into my ear. He
will sit beside me on my desk, looking at me with his pretty yellow
eyes, as if he and I were the whole of his world. If I walk in the
garden, he is under my feet. If I go up to Amelie's he goes too.
His attachment has its drawbacks. He tries to sit on my book when I
am reading, and longs to lie on the keyboard of my machine when I
am writing. If I try to read a paper when he is on my lap he
immediately crawls under it, and gets between my eyes and the print.
I am terribly flattered, but his affection has its inconveniences.
Needless to say, Khaki hates him, and never passes him without
growling. Luckily Didine is not a bit afraid of him. Up to date they have
never fought. Didine has a great admiration for Khaki, and will tag
him. The difference in their characters is too funny. For example, if
Didine brings a mouse into the garden Khaki never attempts to touch
it. He will sit apart, indulgently watching Didine play with his prey,
torment it, and finally kill it, and never offer to join in the sport. On
the contrary, if Khaki brings in a mouse, Didine wants to join in the fun
at once. Result--Khaki gives one fierce growl, abandons his catch
and goes out of the garden. Difference, I suppose, between a
thoroughbred sport and, well, a common cat.
I could fill a volume with stories about these cats. Don't worry. I shall
You ask me if I have a dog. Yes, a big black Caniche named Dick, a
good watch-dog, but too fond of playing. I call him an "india-rubber
dog," because when he is demanding' a frolic, or asking to have a
stone thrown for him--his idea of happiness--he jumps up and down
on his four stiff legs exactly like a toy woolly dog on an elastic.
He is a good dog to walk with, and loves to "go." He is very obedient
on the road for that reason--knows if he is naughty he can't go next
So now you have the household complete. I'll warrant you won't be
content. If you are not, there is no satisfying you. When I pour all my
political dreams on paper, and shout on to my machine all my
disappointments over the attitude of Washington, you take offence.
So what can I do? I cannot send you letters full of stirring adventures.
I don't have any. I can't write you dramatic things about the war. It is
not dramatic here, and that is as strange to me as it seems to be to
October 3, 1915
We have been as near to getting enthusiastically excited as we have
since the war began.
Just when everyone had a mind made up that the Allies could not be
ready to make their first offensive movement until next spring--
resigned to know that it would not be until after a year and a half, and
more, of war that we could see our armies in a position to do more
than continue to repel the attacks of the enemy--we all waked up on
September 27 to the unexpected news that an offensive movement
of the French in Champagne had actually begun on the 25th, and
For three or four days the suspense and the hope alternated. Every
day there was an advance, an advance that seemed to be supported
by the English about Loos, and all the time we heard at intervals the
far-off pounding of the artillery.
For several days our hearts were high. Then there began to creep
into the papers hints that it had been a gallant advance, but not a
great victory, and far too costly, and that there had been blunders,
and we all settled back with the usual philosophy, studied the map of
our first-line trenches on September 25, when the attack began,--
running through Souain and Perthes, Mesnil, Massiges, and Ville sur
Tourbe. We compared it with the line on the night of September 29,
when the battle practically ended, running from the outskirts of
Auderive in the west to behind Cernay in the east, and took what
comfort we could in the 25 kilometres of advance, and three hilltops
gained. It looked but a few steps on the map, but it was a few steps
nearer the frontier.
Long before you get this, you will have read, in the American papers,
details hidden from us, though we know more about this event than
about most battles.
You remember the tea-party I had for the boys in our ambulance in
June? Well, among the soldiers here that day was a chap named
Litigue. He was wounded--his second time--on September 25, the
first day of the battle. He was nursed in our ambulance the first time
by Mlle. Henriette, and yesterday she had a letter from him, which she
lets me translate for you, because it will give you some idea of the
battle, of the spirit of the poilus, and also because it contains a bit of
news and answers a question you asked me several weeks ago,
after the first use of gas attacks in the north.
A l'hopital St. Andre de Luhzac,
September 30, 1915 Mademoiselle,
I am writing you tonight a little more at length than I was able to do
this morning--then I had not the time, as my nurse was waiting beside
my bed to take the card to the post. I wrote it the moment I was able,
at the same time that I wrote to my family. I hope it reached you.
I am going to tell you in as few words as possible, how the day
passed. The attack began the 25th, at exactly quarter past nine in the
morning. The preparatory bombardment had been going on since the
22d. All the regiments had been assembled the night before in their
shelters, ready to leap forward.
At daybreak the bombardment recommenced--a terrible storm of
shells of every calibre--bombs, torpedoes--flew overhead to salute
the Boches, and to complete the destruction which had been going
on for three days.
Without paying attention to the few obus which the Boches sent over
in reply to our storm, we all mounted the parapets to get a view of the
scene. All along our front, in both directions, all we could see was a
thick cloud of dust and smoke. For four hours we stood there, without
saying a word, waiting the order to advance; officers, common
soldiers, young and old, had but one thought,--to get into it and be
done with it as quickly as possible. It was just nine o'clock when the
officers ordered us into line, ready to advance,--sac au dos, bayonets
fixed, musettes full of grenades and asphyxiating bombs. Everyone of
us knew that he was facing death out there, but I saw nowhere the
smallest sign of shrinking, and at quarter past nine, when we got the
signal to start, one cry: "En avant, et vive la France!" burst from
thousands and thousands of throats, as we leaped out of the
trenches, and it seemed to me that it was but one bound before we
were on them.
Once there I seem to remember nothing in detail. It was as if, by
enchantment, that I found myself in the midst of the struggle, in heaps
of dead and dying. When I fell, and found myself useless in the fight, I
dragged myself, on my stomach, towards our trenches. I met
stretcher-bearers who were willing to carry me, but I was able to
crawl, and so many of my comrades were worse off, that I refused. I
crept two kilometres like that until I found a dressing-station. I was
suffering terribly with the bullet in my ankle. They extracted it there
and dressed the ankle, but I remained, stretched on the ground, two
days before I was removed, and I had nothing to eat until I reached
here yesterday--four days after I fell. But that could not be helped.
There were so many to attend to.
I will let you know how I get on, and I hope for news from you. In the
meantime I send you my kindest regards, and my deep gratitude.
Your big friend,
I thought you might be interested to see what sort of a letter a real
poilu writes, and Litigue is just a big workman, young and energetic.
You remember you asked me if the Allies would ever bring
themselves to replying in sort to the gas attacks. You see what Litigue
says so simply. They did have asphyxiating bombs. Naturally the
most honorable army in the world cannot neglect to reply in sort to a
weapon like that. When the Boches have taken some of their own
medicine the weapon will be less freely used. Besides, today our men
are all protected against gas.
I had hardly settled down to the feeling that the offensive was over
and that there was another long winter of inaction--a winter of the
same physical and material discomforts as the first--lack of fuel,
suspense,--when the news came which makes my feeling very
personal. The British offensive in the north has cost me a dear friend.
You remember the young English officer who had marched around
me in September of last year, during the days preceding the battle of
the Marne? He was killed in Belgium on the morning of September
26--the second day of the offensive. He was in command of an anti-
aeroplane battery advanced in the night to what was considered a
well-concealed position. The German guns, however, got the range.
Shrapnel nearly wiped out the command, and the Captain was
wounded in the head. He died at the hospital at Etaples half an hour
after he arrived, and lies buried in the English cemetery on the dunes,
with his face towards the country for which he gave his young life.
I know one must not today regret such sacrifices. Death is--and no
one can die better than actively for a great cause. But, when a loved
one goes out in youth; when a career of achievement before which a
really brilliant future opened, is snapped, one can still be proud, but it
is through a veil of tears.
I remember so well that Sunday morning, the 26th of September. It
was a beautiful day. The air was clear. The sun shone. I sat all the
morning on the lawn watching the clouds, so small and fleecy, and
listening to the far-off cannon, not knowing then that it meant the "big
offensive." Oddly enough we spoke of him, for Amelie was examining
the cherry tree, which she imagined had some sort of malady, and
she said: "Do you remember when Captain Noel was here last year
how he climbed the tree to pick the cherries?" And I replied that the
tree hardly looked solid enough now to bear his weight. I sat thinking
of him, and his life of movement and activity under so many climes,
and wondered where he was, little thinking that already, that very
morning, the sun of his dear life was told, and that we should never,
as I had dreamed, talk over his adventures in France as we had so
often talked over those in India, in China, and in Africa.
It is odd, but when a friend so dear as he was, yet whom one only
saw rarely, in the etapes of his active career, goes out across the
great bourne, into the silence and the invisible, it takes time to realize
it. It is only after a long waiting, when not even a message comes
back, that one comprehends that there are to be no more meetings
at the cross-roads. I moved one more portrait into the line under the
flags tied with black--that was all.
You hardly knew him, I know, but no one ever saw his upright figure,
his thin, clear-cut features, bronzed by tropic suns, and his direct
gaze, and forgot him.
December 6, 1915
It is two months since I wrote--I know it. But you really must not
reproach me so violently as you do in yours of the 21st of November,
To begin with, there is no occasion for you to worry. I may be
uncomfortable. I am in no danger. As for the discomforts--well, I am
used to them. I cannot get coal very often, and when I do I pay
twenty-six dollars a ton for it, and it is only imitation coal, at that. I
cannot get washing done oftener than once in six weeks. Nothing
dries out-of-doors in this country of damp winters. I am often forced to
live my evenings by candle-light, which is pretty extravagant, as
candles are costly, and it takes a good many to get through an
evening. They burn down like paper tapers in these days.
When I don't write it is simply because I have nothing more
interesting than things like that to tell you. The situation is chronic,
and, like chronic diseases, much more likely to get worse than to get
You should be grateful to me for sparing you, instead of blaming me.
I might not have found the inspiration to write today if something had
This morning the town crier beat his drum all over the hill, and read a
proclamation forbidding all foreigners to leave the commune during
the next thirty days without a special permit from the general in
command of the 5th Army Corps.
No one knows what this means. I have been to the mairie to enquire
simply because I had promised to spend Christmas at Voulangis,
and, if this order is formal, I may have difficulty in going. I have no
desire to celebrate, only there is a child there, and the lives of little
children ought not to be too much saddened by the times and events
they do not understand.
I was told at the mairie that they had no power, and that I would have
to address myself to Monsieur le General. They could not even tell
me what form the request ought to take. So I came home, and wrote
the letter as well as I could.
In the meantime, I am distinctly informed that until I get a reply from
headquarters I cannot go out of the commune of Quincy-Segy.
If I really obey the letter of this order I cannot even go to Amelie's. Her
house is in the commune of Couilly, and mine in Quincy, and the
boundary line between the two communes is the path beside my
garden, on the south side, and runs up the middle of my road from
It is annoying, as I hardly know Quincy, and don't care for it, and
never go there except to present myself at the mairie. It is further off
the railroad line than I am here. Couilly I know and like. It is a pretty
prosperous village. It has better shops than Quincy, which has not
even a pharmacie, and I have always done my shopping there. My
mail comes there, and the railway station is there, and everyone
The idea that I can't go there gives me, for the first time since the
battle, a shut-in feeling. I talked to the garde champetre, whom I met
on the road, as I returned from the mairie, and I asked him what he
thought about the risk of my going to Couilly. He looked properly
grave, and said:
"I would not, if I were in your place. Better run no risks until we
understand what this is to lead to."
I thanked him, with an expression just as serious and important as
his. "I'll obey," I said to myself, "though to obey will be comic."
So I turned the corner on top of the hill. I drove close to the east side
of the road, which was the Quincy side, and as I passed the entrance
to Amelie's court I called to Pere to come out and get Ninette and the
cart. I then climbed out and left the turn-out there.
I did not look back, but I knew Pere was standing in the road looking
after me in amazement, and not understanding a bit that I had left my
cart on the Quincy side of the road for him to drive it into Couilly,
where I could not go.
"I'll obey," I repeated to myself, viciously, as I strolled down the
Quincy side of the road and crossed in front of the gate where the
whole width of the road is in my commune.
I hadn't been in the house five minutes before Amelie arrived.
"What's the matter?" she demanded, breathlessly.
"Why didn't you drive into the stable as usual?"
"Why couldn't you?"
"Because I am forbidden to go to Couilly."
I thought she was going to see the joke and laugh. She didn't. She
was angry, and I had a hard time to make her see that it was funny.
In fact, I did not really make her see it at all, for an hour later,
wanting her, I went up to the Quincy side of the road, leaned against
the wall, opposite her entrance, and blew my big whistle for ten
minutes without attracting her attention.
That attempt at renewing the joke had two results. I must tell you that
one of the few friends who has ever been out here felt that the only
annoying thing about my being so absolutely alone was that, if
anything happened and I needed help, I had no way of letting anyone
know. So I promised, and it was agreed with Amelie, that, in need, I
should blow my big whistle--it can be heard half a mile. But that was
over two years ago. I have never needed help. I have used the
whistle to call Dick.
I whistled and whistled and whistled until I was good and mad. Then I
began to yell: "Amelie--Melie--Pere!" and they came running out,
looking frightened to death, to find me, red in the face, leaning against
the wall--on the Quincy side of the road.
"What's the matter?" cried Amelie.
"Didn't you hear my whistle?" I asked.
"We thought you were calling Dick."
The joke was on me.
When I explained that I wanted some fresh bread to toast and was
not allowed to go to their house in Couilly for it, it ceased to be a joke
It was useless for me to laugh, and to explain that an order was an
order, and that Couilly was Couilly, whether it was at my gate or down
Pere's anger was funnier than my joke. He saw nothing comic in the
situation. To him it was absurd. Monsieur le General, commandant de
la cinquieme armee ought to know that I was all right. If he didn't
know it, it was high time someone told him.
In his gentle old voice he made quite a harangue.
All Frenchmen can make harangues.
It was difficult for me to convince him that I was not in the slightest
degree annoyed; that I thought it was amusing; that there was
nothing personally directed against me in the order; that I was only
one of many foreigners inside the zone des armees; that the only way
to catch the dangerous ones was to forbid us all to circulate.
I might have spared myself the breath it took to argue with him. If I
ever thought I could change the conviction of a French peasant, I
don't think so since I have lived among them. I spent several days
last summer trying to convince Pere that the sun did not go round the
earth. I drew charts of the heavens,--you should have seen them--
and explained the solar system. He listened attentively--one has to
listen when the patronne talks, you know--and I thought he
understood. When it was all over--it took me three days--he said to
"Bien. All the same, look at the sun. This morning it was behind
Maria's house over there. I saw it. At noon it was right over my
orchard. I saw it there. At five o'clock it will be behind the hill at
Esbly. You tell me it does not move! Why, I see it move every day.
I gave it up. All my lovely exposition of us rolling through space had
missed. So there is no hope of my convincing him that this new
regulation regarding foreigners is not designed expressly to annoy
I often wonder exactly what all this war means to him. He reads his
newspaper religiously. He seems to understand. He talks very well
about it. But he is detached in a way. He hates it. It has aged him
terribly. But just what it means to him I can't know.
Christmas Day, 1915
Well, here I am, alone, on my second war Christmas! All my efforts to
get a permis de sortir failed.
Ten days after I wrote you last, there was a rumor that all foreigners
were to be expelled from the zone of military operations. My friends in
Paris began to urge me to close up the house and go into town,
where I could at least be comfortable.
I simply cannot. I am accustomed now to living alone. I am not fit to
live among active people. If I leave my house, which needs constant
care, it will get into a terrible condition, and, once out of it, there is
no knowing what difficulty I might have to get back. The future is all
so uncertain. Besides, I really want to see the thing out right here.
I made two efforts to get a permission to go to Voulangis. It is only
five miles away. I wrote to the commander of the 5th Army Corps
twice. I got no answer. Then I was told that I could not hope to reach
him with a personal letter--that I must communicate with him through
the civil authorities. I made a desperate effort. I decided to dare the
regulations and appeal to the commander of the gendarmes at Esbly.
There I had a queer interview--at first very discreet and very
misleading, so far as they were concerned. In the end, however, I
had the pleasure of seeing my two letters to Monsieur le General
attached to a long sheet of paper, full of writing,--my dossier, they
called it. They did not deign to tell me why my letters, sent to the army
headquarters, had been filed at the gendarmerie. I suppose that was
none of my business. Nor did they let me see what was written on the
long sheet to which the letters were attached. Finally, they did stoop
to tell me that a gendarme had been to the mairie regarding my case,
and that if I would present myself at Quincy the next morning, I would
find a petition covering my demand awaiting my signature. It will be
too late to serve the purpose for which it was asked, but I'll take it for
Paris, if I can get it.
For lack of other company I invited Khaki to breakfast with me today.
He didn't promise formally to come--but he was there. By devoting
myself to him he behaved very well indeed, and did not disturb the
table decorations. Luckily, they were not good to eat. He sat in a chair
beside me, and now and then I had to pardon him for putting his
elbow on the table. I did that the more graciously as I was surprised
that he did not sit on it. He had his own fork, and except that, now and
then, he got impatient and reached out a white paw to take a bit of
chicken from my fork just before it reached my mouth, he committed
no grave breach of table manners. He did refuse to keep his bib on,
and he ate more than I did, and enjoyed the meal better. In fact, I
should not have enjoyed it at all but for him. He had a gorgeous time.
I did not invite Garibaldi. He did not know anything about it. He is too
young to enjoy a "function." He played in the garden during the meal,
happy and content to have a huge breakfast of bread and gravy; he
is a bread eater--thoroughly French.
I even went so far as to dress for Khaki, and put a Christmas rose in
my hair. Alas! It was all wasted on him.
This is all the news I have to send you, and I cannot even send a
hopeful message for 1916. The end looks farther off for me than it did
at the beginning of the year. It seems to me that the world is only now
beginning to realize what it is up against.
January 23, 1916
Well, I have really been to Paris, and it was so difficult that I ask
myself why I troubled.
I had to await the pleasure of the commander of the Cinquieme
Armee, as the Embassy was powerless to help me, although they did
their best with great good will. I enclose you my sauf-conduit that you
may see what so important a document is like. Then I want to tell you
the funny thing--/ never had to show it once. I was very curious to
know just how important it was. I went by the way of Esbly. On buying
my ticket I expected to be asked for it, as there was a printed notice
beside the window to the ticket-office announcing that all purchasers
of tickets must be furnished with a sauf-conduit. No one cared to see
mine. No one asked for it on the train. No one demanded it at the exit
in Paris. Nor, when I returned, did anyone ask for it either at the
ticket-office in Paris or at the entrance to the train. Considering that I
had waited weeks for it, had to ask for it three times, had to explain
what I was going to do in Paris, where I was going to stay, how long,
etc., I had to be amused.
I was really terribly disappointed. I had longed to show it. It seemed
so chic to travel with the consent of a big general.
Of course, if I had attempted to go without it, I should have risked
getting caught, as, at any time, the train was liable to be boarded and
all papers examined.
I learned at the Embassy, where the military attache had consulted
the Ministry of War, that an arrangement was to be made later
regarding foreigners, and that we were to be provided with a special
book which, while it would not allow us to circulate freely, would give
us the right to demand a permission--and get it if the military
authorities chose. No great change that.
The visit served little purpose except to show me a sad-looking Paris
and make me rejoice to get back.
Now that the days are so short, and it is dark at four o'clock, Paris is
almost unrecognizable. With shop-shutters closed, tramway windows
curtained, very few street-lights--none at all on short streets--no
visible lights in houses, the city looks dead. You 'd have to see it to
realize what it is like.
The weather was dull, damp, the cold penetrating, and the
atmosphere depressing, and so was the conversation. It is better
here on the hilltop, even though, now and then, we hear the guns.
Coming back from Paris there were almost no lights on the platforms
at the railway stations, and all the coaches had their curtains drawn.
At the station at Esbly the same situation--a few lights, very low, on
the main platform, and absolutely none on the platform where I took
the narrow-gauge for Couilly. I went stumbling, in absolute blackness,
across the main track, and literally felt my way along the little train to
find a door to my coach. If it had not been for the one lamp on my
little cart waiting in the road, I could not have seen where the exit at
Couilly was. It was not gay, and it was far from gay climbing the long
hill, with the feeble rays of that one lamp to light the blackness.
Luckily Ninette knows the road in the dark.
In the early days of the war it used to be amusing in the train, as
everyone talked, and the talk was good. Those days are passed.
With the now famous order pasted on every window:
Les oreilles ennemies vous ecoutent
no one says a word. I came back from Paris with half a dozen officers
in the compartment. Each one, as he entered, brought his hand to
salute, and sat down, without a word. They did not even look at one
another. It is one of the most marked changes in attitude that I have
seen since the war. It is right. We were all getting too talkative, but it
takes away the one charm there was in going to Paris. I've had no
adventures since I wrote to you Christmas Day, although we did
have, a few days after that, five minutes of excitement.
One day I was walking in the garden. It was a fairly bright day, and
the sun was shining through the winter haze. I had been counting my
tulips, which were coming up bravely, admiring my yellow crocuses,
already in flower, and hoping the sap would not begin to rise in the
rose bushes, and watching the Marne, once more lying like a sea
rather than a river over the fields, and wondering how that awful
winter freshet was going to affect the battle-front, when, suddenly,
there was a terrible explosion. It nearly shook me off my feet.
The letter-carrier from Quincy was just mounting the hill on his wheel,
and he promptly tumbled off it. I happened to be standing where I
could see over the hedge, but before I could get out the stupid
question, "What was that?" there came a second explosion, then a
third and a fourth.
They sounded in the direction of Paris.
"Zeppelins," was my first thought, but that was hardly the hour for
I stood rooted to the spot. I could hear voices at Voisins, as if all the
world had rushed into the street. Then I saw Amelie running down the
hill. She said nothing as she passed. The postman picked himself up,
passed me a letter, shrugged his shoulders, and pushed his wheel up
I patiently waited until the voices ceased in Voisins. I could see no
smoke anywhere. Amelie came back at once, but she brought no
explanation. She only brought a funny story.
There is an old woman in Voisins, well on to ninety, called Mere R---.
The war is too tremendous for her localized mind to grasp. Out of
the confusion she picks and clings to certain isolated facts. At the first
explosion, she rushed, terrorized, into the street, gazing up to the
heavens, and shaking her withered old fists above her head, she
cried in her shrill, quavering voice: "Now look at that! They told us the
Kaiser was dying. It's a lie. It's a lie, you see, for here he comes
throwing his cursed bombs down on us."
You know all this month the papers have had Guillaume dying of that
ever-recurring cancer of the throat. I suppose the old woman thinks
Guillaume is carrying all this war on in person. In a certain sense she
is not very far wrong.
For a whole week we got no explanation of that five minutes'
excitement. Then it leaked out that the officer of the General Staff,
who has been stationed at the Chateau de Conde, halfway between
here and Esbly, was about to change his section. He had, in the park
there, four German shells from the Marne battlefield, which had not
been exploded. He did not want to take them with him, and it was
equally dangerous to leave them in the park, so he decided to
explode them, and had not thought it necessary to warn anybody but
the railroad people.
It is a proof of how simple our life is that such an event made
conversation for weeks.
February 16, 1916
Well, we are beginning to get a little light--we foreigners--on our
situation. On February 2, I was ordered to present myself again at the
mairie. I obeyed the summons the next morning, and was told that
the military authorities were to provide all foreigners inside the zone
des armees, and all foreigners outside, who, for any reason, needed
to enter the zone, with what is called a "carnet d'etrangere," and that,
once I got that, I would have the privilege of asking for a permission
to circulate, but, until that document was ready, I must be content not
to leave my commune, nor to ask for any sort of a sauf-conduit.
I understand that this regulation applies even to the doctors and
infirmieres, and ambulance drivers of all the American units at work in
France. I naturally imagine that some temporary provision must be
made for them in the interim.
I had to make a formal petition for this famous carnet, and to furnish
the military authorities with two photographs--front view,--size and
I looked at the mayor's secretary and asked him how the Old Scratch
--I said frankly diable--I was to get photographed when he had
forbidden me to leave my commune, and knew as well as I that there
was no photographer here.
Quite seriously he wrote me a special permit to go to Couilly where
there is a man who can photograph. He wrote on it that it was good
for one day, and the purpose of the trip "to be photographed by the
order of the mayor in order to get my carnet d'etrangere," and he
solemnly presented it to me, without the faintest suspicion that it was
Between you and me, I did not even use it. I had still one of the
photographs made for my passport and other papers. Amelie carried
it to Couilly and had it copied. Very few people would recognize me by
it. It is the counterfeit presentment of a smiling, fat old lady, but it is
absolutely reglementaire in size and form, and so will pass muster. I
have seen some pretty queer portraits on civil papers.
We are promised these carnets in the course of "a few weeks," so,
until then, you can think of me as, to all intents and purposes, really
It may interest you to know that on the 9th,--just a week ago--a
Zeppelin nearly got to Meaux. It was about half past eleven in the
evening when the drums beat "lights out," along the hillside. There
weren't many to put out, for everyone is in bed at that hour, and we
have no street-lights, but an order is an order. The only result of the
drum was to call everyone out of bed, in the hope "to see a Zeppelin."
We neither heard nor saw anything.
Amelie said with a grin next morning, "Eh, bien, only one thing is
needed to complete our experiences--that a bomb should fall shy of
its aim--the railroad down there--and wipe Huiry off the map, and write
it in history."
I am sorry that you find holes in my letters. It is your own fault. You do
not see this war from my point of view yet--alas! But you will. Make a
note of that. The thing that you will not understand, living, as you do,
in a world going about its daily routine, out of sight, out of hearing of
all this horror, is that Germany's wilful destruction is on a
preconceived plan--a racial principle. The more races she can reduce
and enfeeble the more room there will be for her. Germany wants
Belgium--but she wants as few Belgians as possible. So with Poland,
and Servia, and northeast France. She wants them to die out as fast
as possible. It is a part of the programme of a people calling
themselves the elect of the world--the only race, in their opinion,
which ought to survive.
She had a forty-four years' start of the rest of the world in preparing
her programme. It is not in two years, or in three, that the rest of the
world can overtake her. That advantage is going to carry her a long
way. Some people still believe that advantage will exist to the end. I
don't. Still, one of the overwhelming facts of this war is to me that:
Germany held Belgium and northeast France at the end of 1914, and
yet, all along the Allied fronts, with Germany fighting on invaded
territory, they cried: "She is beaten!" So, indeed, her strategy was. At
the end of 1915 she had two new allies, and held all of Servia,
Montenegro, and Russian Poland, and still the Allies persisted: "She
is licked, but she does not know it yet." It is one of the finest proofs of
the world's faith in the triumph of the Right that so many believe this
to be true.
You are going to come some day to the opinion I hold--that if we want
universai peace we must first get rid of the race that does not want it
or believe in it. Forbidden subject? I know. But when I resist
temptation you find holes in my letters, and seem to imagine that I am