Part 3 out of 3
meters. It was very steady in its movements and was going in an easterly
direction. This must have been some ten minutes before the catastrophe.
The committee of the National Society of Fine Arts held a meeting today
at the Grand Palais, to render aid to painters, sculptors, and artists
in need of assistance, without regard to nationality, passed resolutions
of indignation at the injury of works of art in France and Belgium
committed by the German armies, and at the destruction of the objects of
art solicited by Germany and entrusted by France to the International
Exhibition at Leipsic, and unanimously voted to strike from the list of
members the names of all artists of German nationality.
The art critic of the _Gil Blas_, M. Louis Vauxelles, whose
scathing criticisms of the "classic" _pompier_ academic school of
painting and of sculpture, and whose intelligent censure of the extreme
"futurist" clique elicit the hearty approval of all true lovers of art,
in the United States, as well as in France, is serving as a simple
soldier in an infantry regiment, but finds time occasionally to write to
the _Intransigéant_ picturesque descriptions of military life.
I received a letter from a friend at Tours, where the refugees are
becoming less numerous, but the hospitals on the contrary are nearly
full of wounded. Comtesse Paul de Pourtalès is doing splendid work there
as the head of the Red Cross, and M. Gaston Ménier, the popular senator,
a warm personal friend of Mr. Andrew Carnegie and the owner of the great
chocolate works, has turned his Château of Chenonceaux into a perfectly
organized hospital with a corps of surgeons and professional nurses,
which he maintains at his own expense. Nearly a hundred French wounded
are already being cared for in the Chenonceaux hospital. As soon as they
get well enough, they are sent back to rejoin their regiments. All the
villas in the neighborhood of Tours are already leased to families that
have gone away from Paris.
In accordance with the notices of the Military Governor of Paris, I was
vaccinated against smallpox to-day, together with all those now living
in the house--in all twelve persons.
Mr. William G. Sharp, who has been appointed to succeed Mr. Myron T.
Herrick as American Ambassador in France, remains here with his son,
George, and is preparing to make himself familiar with the situation, so
that when the proper time comes, he may take over his office. Mr. Sharp
is already making headway with his somewhat theoretical knowledge of
French. He told me that the war had upset many diplomatic and other
precedents. "It is quite obvious," he said, "that at this critical
period, Mr. Herrick could not desert his post, where his knowledge and
experience have been so valuable." Mr. Sharp added: "It is needless to
say that there will be no change of policy with my arrival as Ambassador
to France. The friendship between the United States and France was never
firmer than it is to-day. Personally, I am a fervent admirer of France,
of French art, culture, and science.
"Probably no country in the world is more universally admired for its
high degree of civilization than France. But it is my duty, as the
future representative of the United States, to be absolutely neutral in
everything concerning the present conflict. It cannot be too strongly
stated that the United States Government will not swerve from its
attitude of strict neutrality. The more impartial we remain, the
stronger our position will be, and the better it will be, indeed, for
all the belligerents when the time comes for discussing the conclusion
"For I shall not be indiscreet if I give voice to the thought held by
many people that the role of the United States is bound to be a most
important one at that moment.
"President Wilson's recent offer," he said, "was timely, and although
every one knew that it could not then be accepted, yet it had the effect
of setting men's minds thinking.
"What nation could be more fitted than the United States to take the
lead in the peace negotiations?" asked Mr. Sharp. "In our nation are
amalgamated all the races now at war. Our sincerity is undoubted. Our
natural position of impartiality and neutrality is such that America's
voice would be surely listened to at the opportune moment."
Mr. Sharp himself belongs to several peace organizations in America. He
believes that after the present war there will be a complete revulsion
of public opinion throughout the world in favor of peace. Never, he
said, will there have been a riper moment for some scheme of general
Mr. Sharp would like to see the United States a party to an epoch-making
treaty sealing such an international accord. In this respect he believes
that, atrocious as this European conflagration is, good will be the
outcome for all nations, whoever the victors may be, if Europe reaps a
Mr. Sharp comes to Paris with a general knowledge of international
political affairs, having served as a member in the United States
Congress for three terms, and holding position of ranking member of the
Foreign Affairs Committee at the time of his appointment.
_Thursday, September 10._
Thirty-ninth day of the war. Cloudy weather, with a brisk shower and
some thunder at three this afternoon. Afterwards fine. Southerly wind.
Temperature at five P.M. 22 degrees centigrade.
Favorable news was communicated at eleven o'clock this evening at the
headquarters at the Invalides. After four days of steady fighting, the
allied left wing has crossed the Marne near Charly and driven back the
enemy sixty kilometers, the British taking many prisoners and machine
guns. Near Sezanne, the Prussian Guard Corps has been driven back, north
of the marshes of St. Gond. No change is noted in relative positions on
the allied center and right, where fighting still continues with great
I went to the official press bureau at three this afternoon and met
there M. Arthur Meyer, the genial and venerable editor of the
_Gaulois_, and about forty French and foreign journalists. M.
Arthur Meyer, as "dean" of our calling, had a pleasant word and smile
for all. Just before the official _communiqué_, the director of the
Press Bureau, Commandant Klotz, former Minister of Finance, instructed
his assistant to notify all present that "any reproduction of or even
allusion to the interview published in an American morning paper (the
_Paris Herald_) with an American diplomatist would not pass the
censor if handed in at the telegraph or cable offices, and also that its
appearance in any French newspaper was prohibited. The reason for this
is that the interview might cause misunderstanding, and that it merely
reflected the personal opinions of a private individual who in no way
was an accredited representative of the United States."
This "official rebuke" was of course intended for Mr. William G. Sharp,
whose interview was printed in today's _Herald_. According to
European custom, diplomacy is a special calling or profession like those
of the soldier, sailor, lawyer, or physician. Amateur diplomacy has no
place in Europe, and to the French mind, the presence in Paris of an
unaccredited, although designated, ambassador, who expresses his
personal opinions on every subject, while there is a duly accredited
ambassador here, is an anomaly, causing no little annoyance to the
authorities, and tending to hamper and discredit the official
representative of the United States in Paris.
It is whispered that this "diplomatic indiscretion" of Mr. Sharp may
lead to a refusal of the French Government, when the time comes, to
grant his credentials. All the more so, because when Mr. Sharp was first
spoken of as a possible ambassador to Russia, the Russian Foreign Office
notified Washington that Mr. Sharp was not exactly a _persona
grata_, owing to certain public statements attributed to him
concerning the attitude of the Russian Government in regard to passports
to Jews of American and other nationalities. When Mr. Sharp was
nominated as American Ambassador to France, the French Foreign Office
discreetly inquired at St. Petersburg whether the Russian Government had
any objection to Mr. Sharp being accepted in Paris as the United States
Ambassador. The reply from St. Petersburg was that "there were no
objections," consequently the usual intimation was given by the Quai
d'Orsay that Mr. Sharp would be an agreeable person in Paris. The
arrival here of Mr. Sharp, in the midst of the war, and his interview on
the situation, however, has not influenced the French officials at the
Foreign Office in his favor. Mr. Sharp is unquestionably a patriotic,
clear-headed, capable, and highly intelligent representative of our
countrymen, and moreover, he is now obtaining diplomatic experience.
Spain has also had some tribulation with its ambassadors to France. When
President Poincaré and the French Cabinet decided to transfer the seat
of government to Bordeaux, the Spanish Ambassador, Marquis de Villa
Urrutia, was about to quit Paris with President Poincaré, but the King
of Spain wished his representative to remain in Paris. The marquis,
however, to use an American expression, got "cold feet" and expressed a
wish to go to Bordeaux. When this news reached King Alfonso, it so
happened that Lieutenant-general de los Monteros, Marquis de Valtierra,
Captain-general of Northern Spain at Burgos and San Sebastian, was in
conference with the king. King Alfonso asked the Marquis de Valtierra
where in his opinion would be the proper place in France for the Spanish
Ambassador. "Why," was the quick reply, "Paris, of course." "Well," said
the king, "that is not the opinion of the Marquis de Villa Urrutia, but
it is also my own opinion, and I have now decided to send you to Paris
as my ambassador!" Consequently, the Marquis de Villa Urrutia was
forthwith replaced by the Marquis de Valtierra, who is already duly
installed in the Spanish Embassy in the Boulevard de Courcelles. The new
Spanish Ambassador speaks English perfectly, as well as French, and he
is a personal friend of Ambassador Herrick.
The condition at the outbreak of the war of some of the French
fortresses in the north near the Belgian frontier, as well as around
Rheims and Vitry-le-François, for which the French Chamber of Deputies
refused in 1899 to vote appropriations, is being paid for a thousandfold
to-day. In 1885, when experiments made at Malmaison with the
newly-invented torpedo shells, then about to be adopted by the German
artillery, showed that no forts could resist them unless provided with
armor plates and with _béton_ protection for men and ammunition, a
new plan of defence was drawn up. As the cost of the new armor and
protection for the forts was very great, it was decided to
_déclasser_ a number of fortresses, among which were Lille, Douai,
Arras, Landrecies, Péronne, Vitry-le-François, and others. It had
already been foreseen that the main German attack would some day be made
through Luxemburg and Belgium. The fortresses of Maubeuge, Charlemont
(Givet), Montmédy, and Longwy then became of supreme importance, for the
defence of northern France against an invading army through Belgium. The
Chamber of Deputies persistently refused to vote the necessary money,
and the result of this want of foresight became painfully apparent
during the present war, when the Germans made their broad sweep from
Belgium to Compiègne, meeting on their way with no permanent works of
The civil and religious wedding of Mr. James Gordon Bennett, proprietor
of the _New York Herald_, with Baroness George de Reuter took place
to-day at the Town Hall of the ninth arrondissement of Paris, and at the
American Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity, in the Avenue de l'Alma.
The witnesses of the bride were the Duc de Camastra and Vicomte de
Breteuil. Those for Mr. Bennett were the American Ambassador, Mr.
Herrick, and Professor Albert Robin, the well-known scientist and member
of the French Academy of Medicine. The bride was the widow of Baron
George de Reuter, and was formerly Miss Potter of Baltimore. The
ceremonies were very simple, the only guests being Mrs. Herrick and the
Vicomtesse de Breteuil. The ceremony in the church was performed by the
Reverend Doctor Watson. Those present afterwards took tea at the
residence of Mrs. Bennett in the Rue de Lubeck. The day before the
wedding Mr. Bennett had been confirmed by the Reverend Doctor Watson in
the faith of the American Episcopal Church. It will be remembered that
Mr. Bennett's father was a Scotch Roman Catholic, while his mother was
an Irish Protestant, a combination that seldom occurs, and which often
induced Mr. Bennett to playfully remark: "I take after both my father
and my mother, for when I find myself surrounded by genial conviviality,
I feel that I am an Irishman, but when amidst grave cares and weighty
business, I am a Scotchman."
_Friday, September 11._
Fortieth day of the war. Overcast sky from dawn to noon, then steady,
heavy rain all the afternoon. Southwest wind, blowing in gusts.
Thermometer at five P.M. 17 degrees centigrade.
The Germans continue to retire north of the Marne towards Soissons. The
British army has captured eleven guns, stores, ammunition, and fifteen
hundred prisoners. The German retreat measures seventy kilometers in
four days. All seems to go well with the allies. The heavy rain is bad
for the German retreat, especially in the swampy ground they must pass
All this cheerful news from the front gives renewed confidence to the
two millions of Parisians remaining at home, who begin to feel that
there is no longer any imminent danger of being besieged.
What might be called a side-issue of the war appeared to-day in the
shape of a new English daily newspaper published in Paris, called the
_Paris Daily Post_. It consists of a small single sheet--the
_Figaro_, and the _Echo de Paris_, are the only papers now
printed on double sheets--and in an editorial note declares that its
policy is to "preach courage and confidence." It is an unpretentious,
lively, amusing little production and may eventually have a brilliant
Many of the wounded now coming in to the hospitals are being treated for
rheumatism contracted in the trenches during days and nights of exposure
to the rain. A man of the East Lancashire Regiment, who had his left arm
smashed by a shell, said that when his detachment were attacked at dawn
in a village near Compiègne, "the terrified women and children rushed
into the streets in their night gowns. Their houses were being smashed
like pie-crust. It made us feel badly to see some of these poor women
and children blown to pieces by the German shells. We tried to put them
in whatever shelter was available."
Professor Pierre Delbet, of the Paris Faculty of Medicine, relates an
extraordinary conversation between a young general commanding a division
of the Prussian Guard Corps and Doctor Delbet's mother, who is a
venerable lady of seventy-seven. Professor Delbet went yesterday to
visit his mother at her country house situated in a village on the Grand
Morin River, in the heart of the region where the fighting took place a
few days ago. Madame Delbet's house is in the center of the village, and
on her grounds a small wooden bridge connects the courtyard and flower
garden with the vegetable garden on the other bank. There are two public
bridges at the ends of the village, but these had been blown up by the
French engineer soldiers. Last Friday morning the Germans arrived and
smashed open the double gate of Madame Delbet's house. A young general,
with an eyeglass fixed to his left eye, approached, while a soldier
stood with a loaded revolver pointed at the old lady's head. The general
remarked with politeness: "Madame, you will let us pass over your
"I have no means of preventing you, but I warn you the bridge is not
"Ah! we will see to that."
The general gave orders, and in fifteen minutes the rickety bridge was
braced up with three strong trusses. Then thirty soldiers were put on
the bridge and jumped six times in unison at the word of command. After
this test, the passage of troops began, while the _pontoniers_ were
repairing the two public bridges. The general approached Madame Delbet
and with great courtesy placed two comfortable armchairs in a shady nook
of the courtyard, and by an invitation that seemed to be a command,
requested her to take a seat and see "the little Prussian review that
would surely be interesting." The old lady sat beside the general and
witnessed the _défilé_ that lasted seven hours--from 11.30 in the
morning to 6.30 in the evening. The general scrutinized his men through
his monocle. By and by he had his servant make some tea and toast, which
he offered to his "hostess." While sipping tea, the general said:
"Madame, when you become a German, as will surely be the case, you will
be proud to recollect that you witnessed the passage of my troops over
your bridge. I shall have a bronze tablet made and placed over your gate
to commemorate the event."
When Madame Delbet protested, the general burst into a hearty laugh, and
said: "Why, Madame, that is already settled. You cannot defend
yourselves. Oh, yes! you have in mind your friends the English and your
friends the Russians. But your good friends the English can only fight
on the sea; they are of no value on land. As for the Russians, they
don't know what an army is!"
At this moment the cavalry was passing over the bridge three abreast,
and a lancer accidentally knocked over a bison's head that was hung in
the court as a hunting trophy. The general severely reprimanded the
trooper for his carelessness, and ordered the cavalry to cross two
abreast. The conversation continued. Madame Delbet said that she thought
the Russians had made considerable progress since the Japanese war. "Ah,
yes, perhaps, but they have no real army _yet!_"
The general then remarked: "Now about the French. You, yourself, Madame,
must be aware, as you belong to a medical family, that the French are
absolutely degenerate. The French have come to the end of their tether!
I will let you into one of our secrets. This will be our
_ultimatum_, of which I have already read the text. Voilà! We have
decided to preserve a selection of the best and healthiest Frenchmen and
marry them to well-chosen North German girls of strong shape and build.
The result of this cross may be useful children. As to the other
Frenchmen who survive the war, we have arranged to export them all to
North and South America!"
"But, General," replied Madame Delbet, "we have had at least _some_
success during the war."
"None whatever, Madame!"
"Why! We have captured some flags, anyway!"
"Where did you see that?"
"In the newspapers."
"The French, English, and American newspapers publish nothing but lies.
In two days we shall be in Paris."
The general then gave a fresh turn to his eyeglass and called Madame
Delbet's attention to the splendid physique, smart appearance, perfect
order, method, and discipline of his troops. Madame Delbet admitted that
this praise was fully justified, for the troops and horses were quite
fresh, their uniforms and equipments were all spick and span, and the
officers even wore fresh, unspotted gloves.
On Sunday the general took his departure. As he came to bid Madame
Delbet good-by, he said: "I am going to Paris, Madame, and if I can be
of any service to you there, kindly let me know." He then mounted his
beautiful bay charger and rode away, followed by his staff. A couple of
officers and a small detachment were left in the village.
Monday morning a German automobile dashed through the village at fourth
speed. A sentry discharged his rifle as a signal. The same troops came
trotting back again over the three bridges. One of them, who had been
particularly attentive to Madame Delbet's maid, passed through the
little courtyard. The maid slyly asked: "Is that the road to Paris?" She
received the reply from her admirer: _"Plus Paris! Plus Paris!"_
Soon afterwards, some French dragoons galloped into the village over the
bridges that the Germans had had no time to destroy. Then came two
battalions of British infantry, at a double, over Madame Delbet's little
garden bridge, and they deployed and opened fire on the retreating
Germans. _"A Paris!"_ and _"Plus Paris!"_ are words that
Madame Delbet says will always ring in her ears, for these phrases
exactly describe the picturesque side glimpse of the war that passed in
her pretty little courtyard, lined with rose-bushes, near her rustic
wooden bridge. Professor Pierre Delbet vouches for the implicit accuracy
of this characteristic conversation between his mother and the young
lieutenant-general of the Prussian Guard Corps.
_Saturday, September 12._
Forty-first day of the war. Rain and drizzle with southwesterly wind.
Thermometer at five P.M. 15 degrees centigrade.
Good news. Six days' steady, hard fighting results in a French victory
all along the line of the Marne. The German retreat is general. It is
astonishing to see how quietly and calmly Parisians receive the welcome
news. They are naturally delighted, but there are no wild outbursts of
enthusiasm. They fully realize that this is merely one of the phases of
the long, hard struggle.
Both General-in-Chief Joffre, and the German General Staff, foresaw that
the great battle of the Marne must be decisive. General Joffre, in his
order of the day of September 6, impressed upon his troops that "upon
the coming battle the salvation of the country would depend," and
admonished his soldiers that "if they should be unable to advance
further, they must hold their ground or be killed on the spot, rather
than retire." When the French cavalry made a sudden dash into
Vitry-le-François and entered the house that had been occupied by the
headquarters staff of the Eighth Army Corps, which had been hastily
abandoned a few minutes before, they found, signed by Lieutenant-general
Tulff von Tscheppe und Werdenbach, a general order which ran as follows:
Vitry-le-François, September 7, 10.30 A.M.--The goal pursued by our long
and painful marches is reached. The principal French forces have had to
accept battle after withdrawing continually. The great decision is
undoubtedly near at hand. To-morrow, therefore, the total forces of the
German army, as well as all those of our army corps, will have to be
engaged all along the line going from Paris to Verdun. To save the
happiness and honor of Germany, I expect from each officer and soldier,
despite the hard and heroic fighting of the last few days, that he will
accomplish his duty entirely and to his last breath. All depends upon
the result of to-morrow's battle.
_Sunday, September 13._
Forty-second day of the war. Cloudy weather, with strong westerly wind.
Temperature at five P.M. 19 degrees centigrade.
I took one of the four daily trains for Havre, leaving the Gare
Saint-Lazare, for my little country place in Vernon at 9.33 this morning
and met in the same compartment Captain Decker, commander of the U.S.S.
_Tennessee_, and two officers of his ship, which acts as a sort of
ferry-boat for Americans stranded in France, carrying them to England.
The _Tennessee_ will sail from Havre to-morrow for Falmouth. The
United States naval officers were in uniform and were constantly
mistaken for British army officers. The military commanders at the
stations came on board the train to ask if they could be of any service
to them, and they were saluted with enthusiasm whenever they showed
themselves. The train, conforming to the war regulations on all the
railroads, went at the uniform prescribed pace of thirty miles an hour
and stopped at every station, consequently we were four hours, instead
of the usual one hour and ten minutes in getting to Vernon, which is
only fifty miles from Paris. At Achères, the junction with the northern
lines, two carloads of wounded were hitched to our train. I found
barricades on the outskirts of Vernon and the beautiful bridge, that had
been blown up by the French in 1870 in a vain attempt to prevent the
German occupation, was mined, so that it could be instantly destroyed. I
found my little garden rather neglected, for the man who looks after it
had been "mobilized" and is now lying in a hospital at Bordeaux, getting
over a shrapnel wound in the leg. The place nevertheless was full of
pears, peaches, figs, green corn, American squashes, beans, tomatoes,
and no end of roses, gladioli, tobacco plant, hollyhocks, heliotrope,
dahlias, morning-glories, verbena, and sunflowers.
[Photograph: Photo H. C. Ellis, Paris. "Sauf-Conduit" issued by the
Prefecture of Police to persons wishing to travel.]
I visited the Red Cross Hospital which, under the direction of Madame
Steiner, wife of the mayor of Vernon, is doing splendid work at
Vernonnet. There were two hundred wounded officers and soldiers here;
among them were a dozen Belgians and a score of "Turcos," Algerian
riflemen, who seemed very patient and docile. Some twenty wounded
Germans here receive exactly the same treatment as the French. The
German soldiers were from Prussian-Polish and Saxon regiments. The
officers, five altogether, in a separate ward, were extremely reticent,
and it was only with great difficulty that they could be induced to give
their names and the numbers of their regiments. Happening to speak
German, I acted as interpreter during the inspection by the French
Medical Director. These young officers seemed greatly depressed and
mortified at finding themselves prisoners.
While strolling about Vernon, I met Frederick MacMonnies, the American
sculptor, and his wife, riding on bicycles. They had come from Giverny,
some three miles away, where MacMonnies has his studio, not far from
that of Claude Monet. MacMonnies told me that his studio was now a
hospital with fifty beds, all of which were occupied by French and
Belgians. Mrs. MacMonnies aids the surgeons in tending the wounded.
During the approach of the Germans towards Beauvais, it was thought that
Uhlans would soon appear at Vernon, and orders had been given to
evacuate the hospitals. MacMonnies buried his valuable tapestries and
rare works of French and Italian Renaissance art and prepared for the
worst. Fortunately Vernon, Giverny, Paris, and its delightful
neighborhood seems no longer to be in danger from invaders, and the
people are recovering their peace of mind.
_Monday, September 14._
Forty-third day of the war. Dull morning with slight showers. Sky
overcast all the afternoon. Southwesterly wind blowing strong.
Thermometer at five P.M. 16 degrees centigrade.
Back in Paris again, after a five hours' ride in a second-class
compartment intended for ten, packed with twelve. Most of my
fellow-passengers were refugees returning to Creil, Beaumont-sur-Oise,
and other places north of Paris, now evacuated by the Germans.
Within living memory Paris has rarely seen so dense and vast a throng as
that which assembled on Sunday in the Cathedral of Notre Dame for the
special service of "intercession for the success of French arms," when
Monseigneur Amette, Cardinal of Paris, preached a stirring sermon,
exhorting people to "make extreme sacrifice for their native land."
There must have been eight thousand persons in the cathedral. Not only
were the five naves densely packed, but all the chapels along the side
aisles were crowded with worshippers. An imposing procession was formed,
including many religious bodies, associations of young girls, and all
the Roman Catholic clergy of Paris. This cortège left the cathedral
through the three gates of the great façade and took up its position
between the basilica and the exterior railings. Here a temporary
platform had been erected, from which Monseigneur Amette addressed the
enormous crowd that filled the Rue d'Argonne, the Pont Notre Dame, and
the Place Notre Dame, right up to the Prefecture of Police. After the
Cardinal had pronounced the benediction, the crowd joined with
impressive solemnity in the invocation of Sainte-Geneviève, Saint-Denis,
Joan of Arc, and other saints on behalf of the French armies, and
afterwards dispersed quietly and reverently.
_Tuesday, September 15._
Forty-fourth day of the war. Gray, cloudy day, with occasional glimpses
of sunshine. Brisk southwest wind. Temperature at five P.M. 15 degrees
The Franco-British armies are close on the Germans' heels, but as
everybody in Paris expected, the enemy is inclined to resist along their
new lines. They are throwing up defences on the northwest, from the
forest of l'Aigle to Craonne, and in the center from north of Rheims and
the Camp of Chalons to Vienne-la-Ville on the west fringe of the
The outlook seems so encouraging to the _Herald_ that it has
returned to ante-bellum conditions and reduced its price to fifteen
centimes in France, and twenty-five centimes abroad, and usually appears
in double sheet form.
Another American wedding to-day at the Town Hall of the sixth
arrondissement. The bridegroom was Mr. John R. Clarke of New York, and
the bride was Miss Marion Virginia Goode, also an American. Mr. Clarke
went to the front immediately after the wedding, having volunteered in
the British army for automobile service. He was arrayed in the
regulation khaki uniform, and as he drove to the Mairie in his car just
brought back from the Aisne with a number of bullet-holes in it, he was
greeted with cheers. The bridal party was accompanied by Mr. Charles G.
Loeb, of the American law firm of Valois, Loeb and Company.
The American Ambulance Hospital at Neuilly is doing really effective
work. Among the wounded being treated there are French, Belgians, a few
"Turcos," British officers and men, and some wounded German prisoners.
Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, who has been entrusted by the French Red
Cross Association with the charge of the hospital, is indefatigable in
her personal attention and efforts. The organization seems perfect. The
funds so far subscribed exceed five hundred and seventy-four thousand
francs. During a brief visit to the hospital, I noticed that Mrs.
Vanderbilt herself visited the wounded, and with the aid of her
experienced staff of trained nurses, prepared them for surgical
operations. Mrs. Vanderbilt wore the white Red Cross uniform. Half
concealed about her neck was a double string of pearls. Rose-colored
silk stockings were tipped with neat but serviceable white shoes, and in
this attire she seemed to impersonate the presiding "good angel" of the
[Illustration: Photo. H.C. Ellis, Paris. One of the wards in the
American Ambulance Hospital at Neuilly.]
Through the courtesy of a friend who was going to Meaux in charge of a
Red Cross automobile to distribute hospital stores to a field hospital
near Plessis-Pacy, I had an opportunity to visit the scene of the recent
battles along the Ourcq Canal, where General von Kluck's army met its
first signal defeat. We came near to the villages of Chambry, Marcilly,
Etrepilly, and Vincy--along the road from Meaux to Soissons--and found
that the trenches dug by the Germans were filled with human corpses in
thick, serried masses. Quicklime and straw had been thrown over them by
the ton. Piles of bodies of men and of horses had been partially
cremated in the most rudimentary fashion. The country seemed to be one
endless charnel-house. The stench of the dead was appalling. Of the
fifty odd houses that form the village of Etrepilly, not one remained
intact. Some of them had been hit by a shell that penetrated through the
roof, falling into the cellar, and by its explosion bringing down from
garret or second story all the furniture in one confused mass of ruin.
But many other houses had been simply sacked and looted. Cupboards,
chests of drawers, and wardrobes were smashed open, and their contents
scattered pell-mell in the streets, courtyards, and fields. Here was the
portrait of an ancestor ripped to shreds by a bayonet; there was a
child's cradle. An old-fashioned grandmother's armchair, with its
cushions and ear-laps, lay smashed in fragments in the gutter. The
village had fortunately been deserted by its inhabitants at the approach
of the Germans, who, furious with rage, had looted, sacked, or wantonly
destroyed whatever they found.
How thirsty the Germans were! The roads and fields and trenches were
strewn with bottles, full or half-empty. The Germans must have been
obliged to retreat suddenly, for heaps of unexploded shells for the
three-inch and five-inch German field-guns were abandoned, and in wicker
baskets were loads of three-inch unexploded shells, apparently about to
be served to the gunners. Wanton, ruthless devastation everywhere! In a
field was a wrecked aeroplane, a white and yellow _taube_, with its
right wing reaching into the air, looking like some gigantic, wounded
bird. Towards sunset, an automobile passed along the road through this
terrible desolate valley of death. In it sat Monseigneur Marbeau, the
venerable Bishop of Meaux--the successor of Bossuet, the famous "Eagle
of Meaux"--who now and then raised his right finger aloft and then
lowered it with the sign of the cross, as he pronounced benedictions on
this vast charnel-house. A great number of German killed and wounded
wearing uniforms of the Eleventh Prussian Infantry Regiment indicated
that this corps had occupied the village of Etrepilly. As there were no
civilian villagers noticed in this part of the country, this seems
presumptive evidence that the Eleventh Prussian Infantry participated in
this looting and wanton devastation.
As we were about to return to Paris, we met a friend of M. Gaston Ménier
on his way from the latter's country-house near Villa-Cotterets, where
the memorable _chasses à courre_ take place in the forest, which,
under normal conditions, abounds in deer and stags. The château had been
used as the headquarters of a brigade of Bavarian infantry. The house
was intact, but some valuable furniture of the Louis XV period and some
paintings had been destroyed, and the cellar, that had contained over
two thousand bottles of excellent wine, including forty dozen bottles of
champagne of the admirable vintage of 1904, had been "visited," and only
seven bottles remained. The Bavarians, in pursuance of their practice in
1870, carried away all the clocks in the château.
_Wednesday, September 16._
Forty-fifth day of the war. Sky heavily overcast. Southwesterly wind.
Thermometer at five P.M. 15 degrees centigrade.
After the victorious contest of the Marne, we are now to have the
gigantic struggle of the Aisne. The battle now engaged, because the
Franco-British pursuit has compelled the German armies all along the
line to reënforce their rear guards and fight, extends some one hundred
and fifty miles in length on one front from Noyon, the heights north of
Vic-sur-Aisne, Soissons, Rheims, to Ville-sur-Tourbe, west of the wooded
ridge of the Argonne. Another "front," where vigorous defence is made by
the German eastern armies, extends from the eastern border of the
Argonne to the Forges forest north of Verdun, some fifty miles long.
Now that the Germans are fighting on the defensive, it is not too soon
to record the fact that their extraordinary raid of a million of
soldiers through Belgium to within twenty miles of Paris has failed.
Nothing in military history approaches this avalanche of armies. The
German invasion of France and the threat to invest and capture Paris is
coming to an end. Yet this war can only be ended by an invasion either
of France or of Germany being driven to a triumphant conclusion. The
theater of war must soon be transferred from France to the east. The
curtain falls upon the German invasion of France, and for the present,
at least, Paris is no longer in danger. I see that a change has come
over the Parisians, and I can read in their calm, confident faces the
brighter phase that the war has assumed. Parisians of every class, from
the _grande dame_ of the Faubourg Saint-Germain to the _midinette_ of
the Rue de la Paix, or the professional beauty of Montmartre, are
subdued and chastened by the sudden change that overtook their bright
and exuberant existence. During this first period of the war, Paris
assumed the aspect of a Scottish Sabbath. Feverish pursuit of pleasure,
earnest hard work, luxury, elegant distinction, thrift, thronged
boulevards, crowded theaters, clamorous music halls, frisky supper
parties, tango teas, overflowing gaiety, sparkling wit, boisterous fun,
and sly humor, have all vanished. The machinery of Parisian life is
working at quarter speed. Streets are nearly deserted, except for
rapidly flitting automobiles, used mostly for military purposes. The Rue
de la Paix is a vacant pathway, where one might play lawn tennis all day
long. Probably three fourths of the Paris shops are still closed. The
underground trains are as yet few and far between. Now and then a
tramway rumbles along the streets, but there is not a solitary omnibus
running in the city. The popularity of the bicycle is regained, for
well-to-do folk whose motor-cars have been requisitioned now make use of
the humble wheel. The quaint, one-horse cab, evoking souvenirs of
Mürger, Paul de Kock, and Guy de Maupassant, with venerable _cocher_,
re-appears. There are some auto-taxicabs about, and their slowly
increasing number indicates that Paris is beginning to shake off the
paralysis imposed by the outbreak of the war. Undisturbed by the
turmoil, the forty "immortal" Academicians are continuing their labors
on the Dictionary of the Academy. They are approaching the end of the
letter "E" and are to-day discussing, with singular actuality, the word
"Exodus." May that mean the German exodus from French soil!