Lippincott's Magazine July, 1873
The Useless Mouths (Bouches Inutiles) at the Siege of Paris---Burning of the Palace of St. Cloud---"Ambulance Américaine! En Avant!"---Ambulance Sorties to the Battlefields---Death and Near Starvation in the Field Hospitals---Major Thomas O'Flynn of H.M. Indian Army, Etc.
We were sitting under the trees in the Champs Élysées, in sight of the ruined Tuileries, when my friend gave me the following reminiscences. In repeating what I can recall of them, as nearly as I can in his own language, I shall use names with almost as great freedom as he did---a fact for which I think I owe no apology.
"Restore that wreck of the Tuileries," said my friend---but I shall let him tell his story without quotation-marks, and without the interruption of my urging and questionings, that finally got him almost as much interested in his subject as I was myself---Restore that wreck of the Tuileries, and these gay equipages and these loiterers in the Avenue would repeat for you, very nearly, the scene of my first service with the American ambulance. That was before I was a regular member of the corps---in fact, before the corps which operated at the siege of Paris had been properly formed. Dr. Sims, Dr. Tom Pratt, Frank Hayden and others, with three ambulance-wagons, were going to the front: we heard a great deal of "à Berlin!" in the streets in those days. I came down this way to the Palais d'Industrie to see them off, and when I did see the American ladies raising the colors to march through the crowd, I couldn't help taking part in the procession. So I put on the brassard of Geneva---a red cross on a white band strapped on the arm, being the ambulance badge established in 1864 by the International Convention of Geneva---and seized one of the sticks with a sack on the end of it, and began asking contributions for the wounded as the cortege moved on.
It was one of the most exciting scenes I ever witnessed, our march for miles through the crowded boulevards to the station of the Northern Railway. Dr. Sims walked behind his own horses, which headed the procession, and the throng everywhere commented admiringly upon the chic of the fine animals. The American ladles---there were three of them---marched beside the wagons, bearing the French and American colors and the red cross of the International ambulance. We filled and emptied and refilled our sacks with the Napoleons from the monde in their flash barouches and from the loungers of the clubs, and with the greasy sous of the workingmen and grisettes. Many took out purses containing five sous and gave three: many took out purses containing silver and copper, and gave the silver. Old men with feeble sight and hearing would hobble up to us through the crowd and ask, "What is this?"
"For the wounded," we would say---"for France!"
And trembling hands would be thrust into pockets, and "God's blessing on you!" would go with their silver or sous.
Well, well, it was a great day. It was, I believe, the largest collection ever taken up in Paris for the wounded. We shouted ourselves hoarse when the train bore the corps away for Mézières. They served through the war, part of the time with the French, part of the time with the Prussians. Many of them have since been decorated by both governments.
It is to Dr. Evans that the American ambulance owes more perhaps than to any one man. It supported itself, our corps did, and Dr. Evans furnished the largest portion of the money. He had some American ambulance-wagons and the material for a field hospital brought over and exhibited at the Exposition of 1867, and these were still in his possession. They were early offered to the American corps, but misunderstanding between Dr. Evans and Dr. Sims caused the latter to go to the field with wagons, etc. furnished by the International ambulance. So we who formed the American corps at Paris during the siege had the use of Dr. Evans's wagons and material. The doctor himself accompanied the empress in her flight; but from England he sent money whenever he could get it into Paris, and did all in his power for the ambulance.
Some time before the Prussians had closed in upon us it was ordered that the useless mouths (bouches inutiles) should leave the city. Of course thousands left. We who remained expected we should have to go into the ranks. I liked the excitement of the thing, and stayed through it all. Meanwhile, Dr. John Swinburne, who was formerly, I believe, a health officer of New York, had been invited to take charge of the American hospital at Paris. Dr. Evans's tents were pitched in the Avenue de l'Impératrice, in the place where the dog-show used to be. This was our headquarters all through the siege, though at last, as winter came on, the tents were not large or comfortable enough to hold the wounded, and so we built barracks there. George Kidder, Will Dreyer and I joined the corps together. My first service was to beg Bowles Brothers' American flag and hoist it over our tents. Then our duties consisted for a while in loafing about the grounds, driving tent pegs, greasing the wagons and drawing up rules for our own government, for there was no fighting just then. Those were the bright, sunny days of September. Montretout and Châtillon had been taken, the Zouaves had disgraced themselves, and we were utterly cut off from the world. We elected two captains. One was William B. Bowles, and the other Joseph K. Riggs of Washington. They were to serve on alternate days.
One morning we went down in our wagons, drawn by horses belonging to members of our corps, and reported to the "International Society for the Aid of the Wounded." We found them at the Palais d'Industrie. They did not think much of us, as we could not help perceiving, but they finally consented to let us go out at the first sortie---namely, that of Villejuif, when the French tried to take the villages of Thiais and L'Hay. We got upon the field just as the firing was over. The French had taken one village at the point of the bayonet, but at last they had retired so precipitately that they had left their wounded in the Prussian lines. There the poor fellows lay, in among the yellow wheat, with great well-fed Prussians prancing around them on horseback. It was a terrible scene, especially to me, being the first of the kind I had ever seen. But after a while I was so busy with the others, picking up the wounded and burying the dead, that somehow I lost my first overwhelming sense of the horror of the spectacle.
We smelt our first powder-that is, a few stray balls came among us---at Châtillon. Returning from this latter fight, we saw the burning of the palace of St. Cloud. It was a beautiful October sunset and evening, and the sight was indescribably grand.
You will, however, get a better idea of our share in a sortie if I tell you more particularly of the next one, that of Malmaison. It was there, in fact, that we began to make our reputation. This was the sortie fraught with most real danger to the Germans. They had not then had time to establish their lines, and if the attack had been followed up with more men, the French, it is thought, might have taken Versailles and cut the enemy's line of communication. As it was, the Prussians had everything packed and horses saddled, ready to leave Versailles at a moment's notice. Dr. Sarazin, chief surgeon of Ducrot's corps, had asked us to rendezvous at the Rond Point de Courbevoie, just behind Mont Valérien, where the French had a battery. On our way out there that beautiful October afternoon, as we were driving up the hill from Porte Maillot, the American flag and the colors of the International ambulance flying over our five wagons, we were met by the whole provisional government of France. Jules Ferry hailed us and asked a ride. They were going to see the fight. We took them all in: we had in our wagon Rochefort, Ferry and Favre; the others took seats as the wagons came up. We left them on a sort of platform which had been built for them upon the pedestal of the famous knee-breeches-and-cocked-hat statue of the First Napoleon, which was replaced by the Roman-togaed one upon the Column Vendôme. The first-mentioned statue had even then been toppled over and carted away. We went on to the top of the hill of Courbevoie, whence, however, we were promptly ordered back. From our station farther in the rear, lying down in our wagons, we watched the bombs and the smoke of the musketry rising over the hill. The French were beating the Prussians back with great slaughter, as we heard from couriers constantly sent in.
Suddenly, Dr. Sarazin rode into our midst and shouted, "Ambulance Américaine, en avant!" Putting spurs to his horse, he galloped down the road, we following at a brisk trot. Halfway to Rueil he drew up and said, "Pass that windmill, turn to the right, and you will be on the field." We plunged on through potato-patches and vineyards, our hearts in our mouths. As we drew past the windmill, which was on a knoll in the descent from Mont Valérien, we came upon the French reserves, massed by regiments behind the artillery and mitrailleuses which lined the crest of the hill we were on. Just behind them were Trochu and his staff. An aide-de-camp galloped toward us as we approached, and told us to take down our flags, shouting that we would draw fire. He had to tell us that only once: our flags came down like a shot. The fight was going on in the valley just beneath us. The sun was setting, the windows of Mont Valérien shimmered with its slanting rays, the green woods grew darker, and the blue smoke curled lazily over the combatants. Away in the distance the aqueduct of Marly ran in gray relief against the red of the evening sky. From this aqueduct, as we learned afterward, King William, the crown prince, Moltke and Bismarck were watching the struggle. Our little red-legged liners had pushed the Germans across the open space and were pressing them in the wood. We grew excited, and the boys began making for the crest of the hill among the artillery, when one of our party, a well-known American here in Paris, cried out, "Gentlemen, as a clergyman and father of a family, I forbid you to go any farther forward and risk your lives." Whereupon Mr. William Bowles, aroused, but in his usual manner in moments of excitement---namely, with his hands in his vest pockets and his eyes beaming through his gold spectacles-observed, "Gentlemen, oh that be d--d! As an American and your captain, I command you to follow me." And we followed him, singing at the tops of our voices, "While we were marching through Georgia."
What would have become of us, carried away as we were, no one knows, if we had not been marched back again by higher orders. We were straightway sent down to the right, toward Malmaison, to gather the wounded. We passed Trochu and staff, who saluted us, and we wound down the hill, with the infantry before us, and the cannon and mitrailleuses behind us bellowing over our heads. The French soldiery sent up cheer after cheer for "les Américains" as we made our way, still shouting, "While we were marching through Georgia." There were twenty or twenty-five of us, and we made some noise. In the streets of Rueil we found the dead and wounded very thick. We filled our wagons with the wounded, and started back for our hospital at Paris. In our wagon we had seven, so we had to walk along beside it. It was late in the night when we reached the city gate. There we were confronted by sentinels with glaring torches, challenged, asked the number of our wounded, and then allowed to rattle and creak over the draw-bridge. Just inside the walls we were met by a surging mass of anxious men, women and children.
"What regiment have you?" they would shout. "Has the Hundred-and-fifth been engaged? Have the Zouaves been in?"
"Yes," exclaimed one from our wagon, rising on his elbow, "they have been in, and many haven't come out again." Then snatching his fez from his head, he waved it in the glare of the torches, and cried, "Vive la France! vive la République!"
That poor fellow was shot in the hip. We so far cured him at the hospital that I saw him hobbling into the fight upon a cane, his gun strapped across his back, at the last sortie of the besieged. I got very well acquainted with him, too, at the hospital, as I did with many another gallant fellow on both sides. He was an educated gentleman of Alsace: he had entered the Zouaves as a volunteer at the outbreak of the war, and had fought it all through in the ranks. He was sergeant when he was wounded. After the war and Commune were over I was touched on the shoulder by some one sitting upon the seat back of me at the Opéra Comique one night, and there was my brave friend the sergeant, safe and almost sound through all.
At the hospital, the night after the sortie I have just been telling you of, we worked with our wounded until nearly morning. Dr. Swinburne, I think, did not go to bed at all. And right here I ought to introduce you more particularly to the old doctor. Take the portrait of General Grant, run a good many streaks of gray through his hair and beard, a few more lines on his forehead and crows' feet around his eyes, and you have an idea of the doctor's looks. He is a man of great energy and few words---a surgical genius and a great lover of horses. He could or would explain nothing. At last we got to calling him "Old Compound Fracture," for he would say, when we were starting for a fight likely to be serious, "Boys, don't mind those slightly wounded fellows---let the Frenchmen pick them up: just bring me along the compound fractures." These latter were his hobby. He fairly doted on a man whom ordinary surgeons would have given up in despair; and I believe he was the happiest man in Paris when the first patient who had his leg shattered in a half dozen places began hobbling about the camp on crutches. The soldiers got to hear of him at last. More than one poor fellow lying on the field grievously wounded swore he would be taken to no place but to the American hospital.
Our next important sortie was at Champigny. That was the occasion when Ducrot was surely going to push through the German lines. In his proclamation he had announced that he would re-enter Paris victorious or dead. Of course he did not keep his promise. We were all to rendezvous at the Champs de Mars that morning at four o'clock. About three of the same morning Mont Valérien opened fire, and then Issy, then Vanves, then Mont Rouge, and so the flash and roar of cannon went round the whole city. That was our reveille. It was cold, very cold, that morning, and we waited at the rendezvous a long time in company with the French, Italian, Swiss and other ambulance corps. The great Doctor Ricord was there, and some of us heard then for the first time that he is an American from Baltimore. Chenu, Nellaton and several other famous surgeons were also there, shivering with us as we waited and waited for the push through the lines, which never came. Well, when at last the fight did occur, it made plenty of work for our wagons. For the next two days they were constantly going to and fro between the field and our hospital. Everywhere we went along the lines now we were recognized and made way for. One night, as one of our wagons was trying to cross the field, it was halted with the question, "What ambulance is that?"
"Is it necessary to ask?" shouted a French soldier out of the darkness. "It is the Americans', of course: they are everywhere."
At this sortie there rode with us a little French abbé, whom some of the boys had picked up weeks before roaming about the outposts among the trenches. He had won their hearts by his utter contempt of fire as he prayed with and confessed everybody he could lay hands on. At the sortie of Châtillon he had discovered one of our corps bringing in to the wagons at the risk of his life a huge pumpkin. The abbé imagined that Americans must set great value upon pumpkins if they were willing to secure them at such hazard, and he described the whole incident in L'Univers, the ultra-Catholic paper of Paris. In the course of a few days the ambulance Américaine received two or three polite notes from religious French maiden ladies, saying that they had a few pumpkins which were at the service of the gentlemen of the corps. We received the pumpkins, and skirmished for the ingredients of pumpkin-pie, which the matron of our hospital baked for us. This was an unknown use for pumpkins in France, and those pies cost about their weight in silver. Sugar we had---it was the eggs that cost. Horsemeat and pumpkin-pie! There was a wild extravagance in that dinner, but then it was patriotic---at least the dessert was.
We nearly froze to death at Bourget, but I have not time to tell you of it. I must pass on to the last sortie---toward Montretout and Malmaison. That was a dark, foggy, leaden morning, with a drizzling rain. We passed through the whole French army on our way out-line, National Guards, Mobiles, artillery, cavalry: we passed through them all, everywhere meeting with a grateful reception. Sometimes they cheered us and our wagons (now increased to eight) and our immense coffee-pot. This last was an institution: it consisted of three great boilers mounted on wheels. Before the meat gave out we used sometimes to put soup in our coffee-pot and take it to the field. Coffee by some means we still had. Even on the desolate morning I am now telling you of many a poor foot-soldier who had been upon the almost impassable roads all night had been cheered by a sly tin cupful of the precious liquid as we trudged on toward the field. Well, we were finally ordered to halt at the little village of Rueil, within a stone's throw of the church where Josephine and Hortense lie buried. I climbed a hill on the left, and saw the French pushing toward Buzenval. They could see nothing before them but a line of fire---not a Prussian above the low wall in front of the thick mass of wood. Though I could see these Frenchmen dropping down by hundreds, they went steadily on and on. Some of them were National Guards who had never before been under fire. It was here that young Henri Regnault fell, with many other Parisians known in literature and art. After a while the Germans began shelling the hill on which I was, and I scampered down to the open square where the wagons were. It was not long, however, till another German battery got to throwing shells into this square, each discharge bringing them nearer and nearer to us. Suddenly a shell struck the corner house in front of us. The door opened in a very deliberate way, and out came a man in a blouse, smoking a pipe, and followed by a woman with a baby in her arms. He leisurely locked the door behind him, and put the key into his pocket. Then he started slowly across the square, with his wife and baby still behind him. As he passed us I exclaimed, "For Heaven's sake, what are you doing here with that baby? Don't you see they are shelling all around us?"
"Yes, I see, I see: one of them struck our house just now. I've got another one up here, and we're moving to it." And without taking his hands out of his pockets or his pipe out of his mouth, he strolled on across the open square, followed by his wife, who seemed absorbed only in hushing the baby as it wailed in fright at the sound of the bursting shells.
The French line was soon thrown back, and we filled our wagons with wounded and started for the city, the shells still falling unpleasantly thick and near. One of them struck right under our coffee-pot, and, exploding, sent it in a hundred directions. The horses which drew it did not happen to be hit, but they took fright and dashed off, wrecking what was left of the coffee-pot wagon. We got back to town as fast as we knew how that day. We tried to go out again at night, but could make no headway against the crowd of wagons, artillery and the retreating army on the roads. It was an utterly demoralized mob. We barely escaped massacre by a regiment of Belleville National Guards, who were mad, raving mad, accusing everybody of incapacity and treason. The next day we went out with a burying-party, and found members of this same National Guard thickly strewn among the vines of Buzenval and Montretout, and we buried them. In their new knap-sacks we found crested note-paper and many such things, showing their owners' rank and want of military experience at the same time. Some of these articles were stained with blood. We saw out there the young lady who was soon to have married Henri Regnault. She was looking for his body among the dead, and found it during the day. Young Regnault, it is claimed, was introducing a new school in French painting. He had made some remarkable studies in Algiers, one of the results of which was the well-known picture of Salomé in the Salon of 1870. I have said we saw his betrothed searching for his body among the dead; and the memory of that sweet, brave girl in that awful scene has lent a pathos to the story of his life and death which I do not get out of the writers and painters who have since dwelt so much and so lovingly upon the subject.
George McFarland of New York and two other fellows got lost from our wagons the night before, when we left the field. They took refuge in a tomb, where half a dozen poor wounded had crawled before them. They remained there for three long hours, hearing the shells burst around them from a tremendous cross-fire of the Germans. These three fellows, by the by, were the unlucky men of the ambulance. Whenever, by any chance, any of us were missing late at night, it was always they. When the wagons were full, the roads dusty or covered with sleet, it was they too who failed to get a seat, and had to walk to town. When our eatables had disappeared, or we had no wine or drink of any kind, they were sure to come in hungry, thirsty and foot-sore from some distant part of the field. At Champigny they slept on a billiard-table; upon the Plateau d'Avron they just happened around when the Prussians began the awful bombardment which obliged the French to scurry off, leaving guns and stores. This, they said, was their worst day out, for they half ran, half rolled down the hillside through a rain of shells, about a hundred guns, they maintained, having been concentrated upon that particular plateau. At Rueil one of them was just coming up to get a cup of coffee when the shell struck our coffee-pot. I witnessed the escape that time, and it did truly seem miraculous.
I think I may state it as a fact that if it had not been for the loss of that coffee-pot we should never have eaten the cook's dog. It came about in this natural---or perhaps I should say unnatural---way. In the early days of the siege, you see, some poor wretch who lived near our hospital possessed, as is almost always the case with a Frenchman removed a quarter of a degree, say, above abject poverty, a favorite dog. One day his beast and house were made glad by the appearance of two pups. They were tawny, bright-eyed little fellows, and the Frenchman loved them with a love that the Anglo-Saxon knows not of, especially in the matter of dogs. Well, provisions got scarcer and scarcer, and finally, with an anguish that I have no right to ridicule, and as the only thing left for him to do, the poor Frenchman brought his pups around and presented them to the cook of our hospital. Here the little fellows waxed fat and strong, and were soon great favorites, not only of the good-natured cook, but of all the fellows of the ambulance. Perhaps you never saw a pot of horsesoup boiling: if you have, you will never forget the great blotches of fat that float upon the surface of it. Many skimmings of this did John Cook, as we used to call our chef, put aside for the pups. In the course of time, however, famine began to invade the ambulance. The canned meat and the hams had long since disappeared; a horse belonging to one of our corps, found overtaken by mysterious death in his stall, had been devoured; but the two pups, fat and tender, no one ventured to attack. And they had the powerful protection of the cook. Still, it made our mouths water to see them gambol in their sleekness. At length came the memorable morning of the last sortie at Montretout. Then for the first time we mounted the cook upon our coffeepot wagon, with an extra large brassard around his arm, allowing him about three times the ordinary amount of linen to show how peacefully and culinarily he was neutral. Poor fellow! I am sorry to say he was soon demoralized that day. The coffee he had brewed was a success, but he could not stand Krupp shells. Long before one of them had exploded under his coffee-pot he had wanted to go home. At that fearful moment he completely lost his head and---his white cap. How he got back to the hospital not even himself ever knew. It was long after nightfall when he wandered in, weary, listless, sorrowful. One of the pups came up to greet him as he crossed the threshold of the kitchen. The chef met that welcome with an unfeeling kick, he was so demoralized. The fate of the pup was sealed. Scarce had the cook found his way to a bed in one of the tents when the scullions made for the pup, and had his fat frizzing on the gridiron and his bones dancing in a seething soup-pot. We all had a feast that night. Even the cook himself had a greasy morsel brought to his bedside. But somehow thenceforth the name of that dog was never mentioned, and his brother led a more luxurious, a sleeker life than ever. We had learned, I think, the old moral of being moved by sorrow for the dead to be kinder to the living.
As I have said before, we became very well acquainted with many of the wounded men at our hospital. With some, indeed, we contracted strong friendships. We buried many by subscription, thus rescuing them from the fosse commune to which soldiers, French or German, were as a rule consigned within the French lines. Among others was a fair-haired Saxon by the name of Bruno, almost a boy in years, who was brought in from Champigny. He won our hearts from the very first by asking that a suffering Frenchman who lay beside him might have his wounds dressed before his own. He was dangerously and painfully wounded himself, yet no one ever heard him complain. I shall never hear the "Wacht am Rhein" without thinking of him, for he was the first one that I ever heard sing it. He sang it to me one night in return for some old German songs I had tried to cheer him with; that is, he sang some of it: his voice was so feeble that I had to stop him. He seemed to expect death, and was prepared for it. His long, wavy blonde hair and his beardless boy face were always beautiful, but imagine them when his blue eyes were lit up by the sentiment of that song!
The next night, when I came to visit Bruno, a French National Guard was dying not far from him, with wife and family kneeling around the bed. The tent was hushed, and I hesitated a moment at the door. One or two American ladies, volunteer nurses of the ambulance, were grouped near the dying man back of the family. Suddenly, Lisette, an Alsatian nurse who worked devotedly night and day for friend or foe alike, and who in her neat white cap had been standing in a corner wiping her eyes, approached me and said in her broad German French, "Partonn, but I will pray for this poor unfortunate." And she dropped on her knees beside the bed and commenced aloud in German a simple, earnest, honest prayer to which the scene and the language gave an effect utterly indescribable. There were few dry eyes in the tent. Soon after that I could tell by the movements about the bed that the poor National Guard was dead. I turned to the bedside of the wounded Saxon, and found his hands clasped upon his breast and his lips muttering a prayer for his enemy.
It was near Christmas then, and to cheer Bruno after the foregoing scene I spoke to him of the merry Christmas-times in the Fatherland. He shook his head mournfully: "Ach Gott! die werd' ich nie wiedersehen" ("I shall never see them again"). The only thing which he seemed very much to regret was that he should not live long enough to get the cross he had won, so that it might be sent to his father at his little village on the Elbe. Well, the next afternoon we were gathered in the same mournful and hushed way about his bedside. The dying Saxon alone broke the silence. There is no way of reproducing in English the wonderful pathos of his speech, mellow even in its faintness. I suppose I ought to say that his mind was wandering, but at the time it did not seem so to me. He spoke first of the green fields approaching his native village, then of the flowers; and then finally he exclaimed, "There gleams the Elbe, and there comes father!---Father!" And in the joy of that meeting, real or imaginary, a smile parting his lips, he died.
We gave the gentle Saxon the poor honor of a separate grave, and as soon after the siege as I could get a letter out I wrote to his father, sending the few little trinkets that had been trusted to my keeping. In the answer and thanks of the lonely old man---for he was now widowed and childless---there was something almost as sad as the death I have been telling you of. He could not hear enough of his son's last days, and our correspondence ceased only when my minutest details had been given.
I have already told you of our last sortie, and really of our last service as a corps. A few days after the loss of our coffee-pot the armistice was declared. Those were sad times. I can't tell you of the despair of that whole city. It makes me dizzy even to remember it. When the people saw that their endurance, suffering, starvation for those long months had been unavailing, there were no bounds to their speech or acts. The two words, "Treason!" and "Bread!" were heard everywhere. Men wept like children. Many actually lay down and died, half starved, half heartbroken. These things will never be written up---they never can be written up. It needed hope with the scant food so many had lived on. The city at the mercy of the conquerors---But there is no use in trying to recall those wild, miserable days. The air was charged with the common despair. I saw the burning of the Tuileries and all the horrors of the Commune, but nothing ever had such an effect upon me as that.
I must, however, before I draw these reminiscences to a close, tell you about Major O'Flynn, of Her Majesty's Indian army. It was he who brought the pumpkin into camp at Châtillon. That he should have risked his life most recklessly in doing it was nothing odd, as you will soon learn. It was only a little droll that he should have taken just that time and place to gratify his curiosity. He had heard Americans talk a great deal about pumpkin-pies, and he wanted to know if they were as good as their reputation; so he took the first chance and the first pumpkin that came in his way.
Major Thomas Vincent O'Flynn, of Her Majesty's Indian army, was of course an Irishman. He was tall, tawny, impassive as any Englishman; modest and mildmannered in camp, and in the field utterly unconscious of bullets or shell. He had married a Hindoo lady, whom we called the Begum. She was just as excitable as he was impassive. He owned a pair of splendid black horses, which he generally drove himself in one of our wagons. Sometimes, however, he rode, as estafette or orderly, a splendid sorrel stallion, also his property; and this stallion, "Garryowen" by name, was the pride and delight of our hearts, the pet of our camp. The major had a poodle dog too, distinct from the Begum's. It was generosity rather than effeminacy on his part to have this dog, for he bought it to save its life: the former owners were about to eat it when the major came to the rescue. The dog was white, and our Indian warrior used to spend much time washing it on the eve of a fight. The dog would ride stretched across its master's feet on the front of the wagon; and upon the field, if the major was capable of the sense of fear---which---I doubt---it was exercised solely for his horses and dog. When away from these he was always getting to the front. The only provision he made against any possible danger was to fill his pocket with silver five-franc pieces. A man didn't know, he said, when he might be taken prisoner by those "thaves" of Prussians, and he'd better have his money with him till he could get his remittances from across the Channel. He had enough of living upon next to nothing---which was horse-flesh---and he didn't want to live on nothing among the Germans. Those five-franc pieces, however, he always put to the drollest uses. He would find his way in among the artillerymen, and, pointing to a given spot, he would tell them in the worst imaginable French to throw a shell in there: "Ploo haut, ploo haut, mon bong ami: aim at the chimney, the chimney." Then he would step aside, with hands in his pockets, and watch results. If it was a good shot, he would give the gunner a five-franc piece. Thus he would pass along the line until he had exhausted the money with which he had fortified himself against starvation among the Prussians. And this was all for pure love of fighting, for the major saw so much of the French officers' incompetency that he soon had precious little sympathy for their cause.
At the second assault on Bourget, O'Flynn grew tired of waiting for the attack, and, what is more, terribly hungry. "I've lived long enough on horse-mate," exclaimed the major, "especially when I've none of it at all!" So he unhitched one of his black horses from the ambulance-wagon, and, taking a saddle from an orderly, tore off his brassard and other ambulance insignia, threw away his cap, so as not to compromise us, and rode bareheaded down to the very frontest of the front. The advance were lying crouched down in the rifle-pits, awaiting the signal to storm the village. Motioning to the amazed soldiery, he cried, still in his horrible French, "Now or never! Voilà Bourget! Follow me! See, there's Bourget. Sooivez moi!" All this to the rattle of German musketry. Seeing that he got no response in one place, he rode madly to the other rifle-pits and repeated the invitation, the officers shouting to him as he passed that he was riding into certain death, and conjuring him to save himself. But the major could not or would not understand them. Finally, some officers ran out, and, taking him forcibly from his horse, led him away.
The major often went on commissions from our camp on the Avenue de l'Impératrice down into the city. In those days many of the young French swells, to keep from going into the field, had donned the ambulance uniform and passed their time loafing about the cafés in the Boulevards. This became so great a scandal that Trochu was obliged to issue an order forbidding the uniform to be worn except on active duty. One day, as the major, bound on some errand in the interest of a Frenchman lying wounded in our hospital, was majestically riding his superb stallion Garryowen down the Champs Élysées, his long tawny side-whiskers waving gently in the breeze, his wiry frame erect as a ramrod, the blue regulation-coat buttoned close to his throat with American buttons, the International brassard on his arm and the ambulance shield on his cap,---as the major, I say, sailed down in this state, he was hailed by one of the chiefs of the French ambulance, which just then was all powerful in Paris. The major pulled up Garryowen leisurely, and the little Frenchman, who spoke tolerable English, demanded brusquely, "Don't you know General Trochu has forbidden to wear ambulance uniform when off duty? And we want this thing stopped."
The major very deliberately leaned over and caught the little French official by the button of the coat, and in an undertone asked, "And, sure, who are you?"
"I am Mr. So-and-so," mentioning the name of one of the chiefs of the French International corps.
"Oh, ye are, are ye?" rejoined the major, retaining his hold of the little man's button. "Then, Mr. So-and-so, give my compliments---Major O'Flynn's compliments, if ye loike it better---to General Trochu, and tell him, if you plase, that the gentlemen of the American ambulance and meself buy our own clothes and pay for them, ride our own horses and fade them; and when we want or have time to parade aither the one or the other, we will ask permission from the general himself."
Releasing his hold of the Frenchman's button, the major saluted and rode gracefully away upon his errand of mercy. And after this specimen of his politeness none of us was ever interfered with.
I have heard from others that the major and the Begum are still alive and thriving. One day in the times of the Commune I had crept up behind the Arc de Triomphe, during a lull in the fire, to take a look at the Communist batteries at Porte Maillot. Now, the major lived halfway between the Arc and the batteries. Suddenly from my concealment I saw the gateway of his house open, and the major sally forth on Garryowen. He gave merely a glance at the batteries, and slowly rode up toward the Arc. There was not a soul else visible on the highway, and it must have been he who drew the attention of the Versaillais, for their guns opened at once and the shells came spinning around in the neighborhood. Garryowen, the grand, the beautiful, was as accustomed to fire as his rider was: neither was shaken from his equilibrium. With the same easy pace they gradually wound their way up to and around the Arc de Triomphe, and thus calmly down the Champs Elysées. The droll, gallant fellow waved me a graceful good-day as he passed me peeping from behind my hiding-place; and that was my last sight, and a characteristic one, of Major Thomas Vincent O'Flynn, of Her Majesty's Indian army.