AMONG my close relations with men in public life in France none are of happier memory than the hours which I spent with Paul Painlevé. More than once when he was giving a dinner at the Ministry of War when he had among his guests some of the editors of the Revues, he asked me to be of the company. And at the table he placed me beside him and would tell me what the other guests individually represented in French opinion; then there would be brought out incidentally, as it were, some policy which the Government contemplated putting into effect; for the Revue has a much more potent influence on public opinion than do American newspapers or the French dailies. Monsieur Painlevé was Minister of Public Instruction when I first came to know him; later he was Minister of War, and also Prime Minister; and when his Government fell I sent him a great sheaf of red roses; it was my tribute to the fine qualities of the man---a Prime Minister to whom the "Roses of Picardie" would bring the message of my feeling for him when he bowed to defeat in the Chamber in the vicissitudes of political strife.
I was associated with Monsieur Painlevé on two of the greatest days of my public service. One of them was Christmas Eve of 1917. The Government had arranged a great ceremony at the Sorbonne, as a tribute of recognition of the help which had been sent for the Orphans of the War; and La Fraternité Franco-Américaine had the place of honour. The great auditorium of the Sorbonne was packed with the people of Paris. The Presiding Officer was the Maréchal Joffre; and the official speakers were Paul Painlevé, Louis Barthou, Eugene Brieux, Misses Schofield and Fell, and myself. The President of the Republic was detained by duty, but was represented by Madame Poincaré and by his Official Military Aide; the Musique of the Garde Républicaine played; and the Boys of the Choir of Holy Trinity sang with wonderful effect Victor Hugo's touching hymn:
"Ceux qui pieusement sont morts pour la Patrie
Ont droit qu'à leur cercueil la foule vienne et prie.
Entre les beaux noms leur nom est le plus beau:
Toute gloire près d'eux passe et tombe éphémère,
Et comme ferait une mère,
La voix d'un peuple entier les berce en leur tombeau."(6)
I made an address which was afterward printed in full in La Revue Hebdomadaire entitled "L'Amérique Amie des Enfants de France" (America the Friend of the Children of France). Before beginning my more formal speech, I turned to Maréchal Joffre and offered him America's tribute to his great services in the War, and I assured him of what it meant to the children that he was part of this day's meaning in personal presence as well as in heart and sympathy. For minutes the hail rang with applause for the white haired Chief as well as in appreciation of my words. The Maréchal had risen when I addressed him; he was deeply affected, and he stood with hands stretched out to the people until silence fell and he could master his emotion sufficiently to reply in a few affectionate words. It was a wonderful ovation that France's "Great Old Man" received that day; and the memory of my part in it makes me very grateful. At the conclusion of my address I paid a tribute to Myron Herrick. I told the crowd of his love for children, and of the cruel blow it was to him when his little grandson, Myron Herrick, II had been suddenly killed; and then I told them that the boy had taken back to America with him a little French flag which he kept hanging over his bed entwined with the American Colours; and that each night he used to say a prayer which he had learned in France from his French nurse:
"Protégez-moi, mon ange gardien,
Puisque Dieu le dit."
For, when he spoke to people in general, he spoke in English, but when he spoke to God it was in French that he spoke; and that story touched the crowd to the depths of their hearts.
Among the many words of appreciation which came to me after that speech the most telling of them all, to me, was the tribute paid me by Louis Barthou, then Minister of Justice. He took my address as the theme for his own, and turning to me he said: "Monsieur Watson, you have spoken of France as a son loves to hear some one speak of his mother. She is so dear to your heart that your very words are fragrant with the perfumes of all the flowers of France." And the naïve compliment which Gabriel paid me was: "To think that when le patron first came to France I was his interpreter; and here to-day he speaks in the Sorbonne itself to thousands of French people who listen eagerly to his words!"
Another great day when I spoke for France was the Fourth of July, 1917; it was the day when American troops appeared for the first time in the streets of Paris.
When the War broke on France there were a number of young Americans in Paris who were eager to enlist in her service, students and others who had been beneficiaries of that culture which France offered so willingly to all who sought it; but, being citizens of a nation which was at that time "neutral" in the conflict, they could not be received into the Regular Army; as a consequence they took service in the Foreign Legion. General Gouraud said of these men: "A distinction should be made between duty and heroism. We Frenchmen who fought in the War were performing a duty required of us by our country; but when men who have no obligation to fight risk their lives in defence of a cause because they hold it dear, those men are showing real heroism." A group of these young men went to see the Ambassador to ask him what they should do in this matter of enlisting in the defence of France and of Freedom. Mr. Herrick first freed his conscience by getting out the Code and reading them the Law on the duty of "Neutrals"; then he freed his heart by saying: "That is the Law, Boys; but if I was young, and were in your shoes, by God, I know mighty well what I would do." Then to the Rue de Grenelle came the "Boys"; and they were our first American Volunteers. On the 12th of May, 1917, I wrote to Monsieur Painlevé:
"Monsieur le Ministre,
"For the love of France and of Liberty a little group of Americans enlisted in the Second Regiment of the Foreign Legion at the commencement of the War; and for the three years of 1914, 1915, and 1916 they fought beside their French comrades. Always they carried with them the Stars and Stripes which they floated above their dugouts during their hours of rest, and when they went 'over the top' they carried the flag with them.
"This flag was worn as a girdle about his body by René Phélizot of the Second Regiment, Sixth Battalion, when he was killed. Two other men of the same Company, of whom one was killed and the other was seriously wounded, wore it in the same manner.
"Their flag has been entrusted to me by the representatives of these fellow citizens of mine, with the request that I present it to their beloved France in the hope that it may be placed in the Musée des Invalides, should that be possible.
"The flag is accompanied by a plaque in bronze which bears the following inscription:
|C. R. Phélizot||F. Capdeville|
|Edward Morlae||Dr. Van Vorst|
|Edgar Bouligny||P. A. Rockwell|
|J. W. Ganson||K. Y. Rockwell|
|D. W. King||Charles Sweeny|
|J. J. Casy||F. W. Zinn|
|F. Wilson||Prof. Olinger|
|G. Casmèze||R. Soubiron|
|Bill Thaw||W. B. Hall|
|H. Chatcoff||J. J. Bach|
|Charles Trinkard||Dennis Dowd|
|Bob Scanlon||George Delpeuch|
"I deeply appreciate the honour of being the representative of my compatriots in begging you to accept this flag in the name of those Americans who gave their all to save France.
"I beg you, Monsieur le Ministre to accept the assurance of my warmest regard,
"S. N. Watson."
I knew well enough what the Minister of War would like to do, but---could he do it? that was the question. America had just come to take her place with the Allies. It was a very tense moment. To exalt the flag and the deeds of those Volunteers of 1914; to glorify those Americans who through those three terribly long years helped to hold open the door until America could gather her force and her élan; men who, in the words of Myron Herrick, "to many of us seemed the saviours of our National Honour"; men who were offering themselves for a cause in which the heart of their country was already enlisted---Could France say that, in the face of the arriving American troops? True or not---Could it be said? I did not know. Therefore, in order to avoid any needless embarrassment to my friends in the War Office, I sought an intermediary. I went to see my good and great friend General De Lacroix, and I laid the whole proposition before him, and asked his opinion. Could this flag be accepted by France now? Should I make the offer? General De Lacroix was heartily in favour of my proposal, and urged me to proceed with it. "Then, Mon Général," I said; "when you go to the Council of War this morning, will you take with you my letter to the Minister of War; will you tell him privately what it all means; will you ask him if he wishes to formally receive the letter? If he thinks that it is unwise or lacking in tact to take up this matter at this present moment, just put the letter back in your pocket, and forget it; but, on the other hand, if Monsieur Painlevé approves of it, will you then present the letter in due form to the Minister of War in my behalf?"
The following documents tell the rest of this part of the story:
"Paris, the 16th June, 1917
"Monsieur le Recteur,
"I am happy to transmit to you the enclosed card which I have just received from the Chef de Cabinet of the Minister of War.
"Please accept, Monsieur le Recteur, the assurance of my high regard and my sincere devotion.
"H. De Lacroix."
"MINISTÈRE DE LA GUERRE
Cabinet du Ministre
"The proposition of Monsieur le Recteur Watson is accepted.
"The emblem of the American Legionnaires will have its place in the Salle d'Honneur of the Musée.
"Be pleased to accept, mon Général, the assurance of my deep respect and my personal regard;
"signed by the Chef de Cabinet"
Ministère de la Guerre Cabinet du Ministre
"Paris, the 14th June, 1917
"Monsieur le Recteur;
"In the name of your compatriots enlisted as Volunteers in the 2ème Etranger, you have graciously offered me the Star Spangled Banner which was their guide in battle for almost three years, in order that it may be deposited, together with a commemorative plaque in the Musée des Invalides.
"I accept with deep appreciation in the name of the French Army this glorious emblem, for which General Niox the Governor of the Invalides has ready a worthy place in the Salle d'Honneur of the Musée de l'Armée.
"This flag will thus stand forever as a striking testimony to the devotion shown to France by those American Volunteers who at the very outset of hostilities came to fight in our ranks for Right and for Civilisation.
"I am entrusting to the Military Governor of Paris the duty of arranging with you and with General Niox the ceremonial which will be used for the turning over of this American flag to the custody of the Invalides.
"Be pleased to accept, Monsieur le Recteur, the assurance of my personal regard:
It was a wonderful sight: the background the Court of Honour of the Invalides; the galleries all filled and more than twenty thousand persons assembled; in the immediate foreground (I have the official photograph before me as I write) Monsieur Painlevé Minister of War, Monsieur Poincaré President of the Republic, the American Ambassador Mr. Sharp, the Maire of Puy in the Lafayette country, Monsieur Deschanel President of the Chamber of Deputies, Monsieur Ribot Minister of Foreign Affairs, General Pershing, Admiral Lacaze, General Dubail, General Pétain, General Foch, Maréchal Joffre, General Niox; the President of the Senate and the Diplomatic representatives were seated on a raised platform; and in the front and centre were Charles Carroll carrying the flag, and I who was to offer it to France. It was a little flag, a very cheap piece of bunting in itself; but it carried all the honour of a great nation in its brilliant folds. Some one had given it to the Volunteers when they first enlisted; I saw them crossing the Place de la Concorde with it; it went with them to Rouen where they first made camp, then when Rouen was threatened their Regiment was sent to Toulouse; and from there the flag went with them to the Front. I had had a rich rosewood staff and ropes of heavy silken cord made for it. The Ceremonies began with the entrance of the troops: first the bleu-horizon of the French, then the khaki of the Americans; an American Band played the "Marseillaise," and a French Band played "The Star Spangled Banner." Then there was presented to General Pershing a general's guidon as a gift from the descendants of soldiers who had fought beside Washington and Lafayette, and another similar flag from Le Puy which was the chef-lieu of Lafayette's home country. After which I addressed General Pershing:
"It is my privilege, General, as representing our American Legionnaires, those Americans who for the love of France and of Liberty entered the French Army in 1914, to present to France this flag, their flag and our flag. They were the pioneers of that great American Army which is coming following your lead as their General. And now they, the Advance Guard, are leaving to you and to your troops the task which they began so bravely; now your new Standard will replace their bullet-pierced flag; whilst theirs is confided to France whom they loved with deathless eagerness, and it will be guarded forever in that Shrine of the Nation, the Musée des Invalides."
Then to General Niox, the Governor of the Invalides, I addressed these words:
"Mon Général, it is my duty as well as an honour which I appreciate most deeply to bring you to-day, on behalf of a little group of my countrymen, this flag which they loved. They wrote their names on its bars of white, and they signed it with their blood. It was not their privilege to carry it with them as a battle flag when they went 'over the top,' but at such a time one of them wore it, as a ceinture de sauvetage: and more than one of them was wounded, more than one of them was killed with this flag wrapped about his body. It was thus that our Stars and Stripes received their Baptism of Blood in this struggle for Right against Might. I beg that you will accept it in the name of France, and I ask that it may be placed where it will be a perpetual inspiration to those who follow on to be worthy of those who have gone before them to pay the eternal price of the Liberty of Nations."
Then Charles Carroll handed the flag to General Niox, and the Ceremony was ended.
I felt deeply my responsibility in being, in a sense, spokesman for both America as well as for France at such a critical moment, when ill-advised words might have stirred up reactions because of feelings already sensitive. And I was immensely relieved when I found that the French Government gave unquestioned approval to what I had said. Monsieur Painlevé, Minister of War, was one of the first to come forward and to take both my hands in his and to express his great satisfaction. Then came the Directeur of the Protocol, the arbiter of diplomatic etiquette, who said to me in a voice broken by emotion, "Monsieur le Recteur, I trembled for you and for France when you began to speak for I knew well the difficulties of your task. Your words were in perfect taste and in glorious moderation. From the depth of my heart as a Frenchman I thank you. It was splendid; it was splendid." And so drew to a close one of the great days of my life.
I want to note here my cordial relations with Monsieur Raymond Poincaré, who was the President of the French Republique during my days in France. When I crossed to France in 1912 I was talking one day to Myron Herrick of the probabilities of the coming Presidential Election in France. And Mr. Herrick said, "The choice will probably fall on Raymond Poincaré; and no man in France is better qualified to serve the Republic in a difficult hour than be." It was an unconscious prediction, the significance of which we then little understood; but it was a judgment which was amply justified by Monsieur Poincaré's leadership in time of France's great struggle for her life, as also by his masterly effort to rehabilitate France's financial position. And again I would note what was one of the finest of Mr. Herrick's gifts, his power of weighing the worth of men. It takes this long back-look to give one a clear picture of what Monsieur Poincaré's task was, and of how finely he accomplished it; and further one needs a clear understanding of what the office of a President of France really is, and how limited in actual authority, are his powers. Think of him as a Frenchman devoted to his country's welfare, with high ideals of his nation's destiny; and, during a period such as that of the great War, seeing his country in a position where she sometimes dared not speak or assert her rightful claims, tied as she was for weal or woe to the political and military policies of other nations, and that, regardless of her own convictions as to their practical wisdom; himself shorn of any large power of individual initiative by a system of government which makes the Executive responsible for the vagaries of the Parlement, but with small control over parliamentary action; sure to be blamed for the faults of others, and equally sure often of missing the credit due to the accomplishments of his own statesmanship---such was Monsieur Poincaré's position as President. And, as one who was an eyewitness at close range of his political sagacity, his personal modesty, his brave and lofty patriotism, I can echo with fullest assent what Madame Poincaré said to me one day in the garden of the Elysée: "Ah! Monsieur, if the President only had the power which his wisdom and his worth deserve, what wonderful things he could accomplish for France!"
Among the literary treasures which I value most highly is a gift which came to me at Bordeaux bearing the seal of the Elysée, while I was waiting there on my return to America in 1918. It is a little fascicule which contains, each one under a separate cover and each one signed, "R. Poincaré," a number of brochures, the War time speeches of the President of France. Better than the pen of any biographer or the pencil of any artist could these speeches delineate the man, his character, and his vision. I have re-read them with a renewed admiration for the scholarship and the literary ability which they exhibit. One of them brings clearly to my memory a brilliant scene: it is the speech which Monsieur Poincaré made "A La Gloire de Rouget de l'Isle"; Rouget de l'Isle who wrote the "Marseillaise," France's "Battle Hymn of the Republic." He died in 1836, and his body was then laid to rest at Choisy-le-Roi but the Government decided to make a picturesque spectacle of War time by bringing his body to Les Invalides. It was the Quatorze juillet of 1915; and what a summer that was in Paris! In my Quartier nearly every one was gone; my house was one of a scant dozen on the whole of the Avenue de l'Alma which remained open; the étrangers were all gone; scarcely a taxi was to be seen in ten minutes on the Avenue des Champs Elysées; and those of us who had been in Paris so long used to say, "What a pleasure to have this quiet Paris all to ourselves!" The Front was quiet too; the opposing Armies facing one another in their trenches, simply waiting. The atmosphere of the City had taken on a tone of semitranslucence; and I remember well standing one day on the Island of Refuge in the middle of the Place d'Iéna, looking up the Cours la Reine at the Sacré Coeur and seeing it as an opalescent vision, a temple in the sky such as Bernard of Cluny sang of. It was on a day like that, the sky lightly overcast, and the beautiful city clothed in the loveliest of opal tints that down the Champs Elysées the cortège passed; a squadron of officers of Cavalry; the 23rd Colonials next; then a gun-carriage with the body of Rouget de l'Isle; then the members of the Government; the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Ambassadors and the Diplomatic Corps. At the Arc de Triomphe superb voices began the "Marseillaise," accompanied by the Musique of the 30th Territorials; down the length of the Avenue the crowd took up the strain, and at the Pont Alexandre the boatmen on the Seine joined the chorus. All day long the casket rested at the entrance to the Saint Louis Chapel of Les Invalides; and at five o'clock silence fell on the City as the poet's ashes were placed in the crypt of the Chapel. And all this to do honour to a man who had done what? who had written a song. But that is France. And of the song itself Monsieur Poincaré said:
"Wherever its strains are heard there rises in men's hearts the image of a people master of itself; whose passion for independence is such that any and all of its sons would make deliberate choice of death rather than servitude. And not only for us, the people of France, does the 'Marseillaise' have this glorious meaning; its Liberty cry is the cry of mankind, and its wondrous poetry voices the heart-notes of the world."
On the Fourteenth of July, 1916, a year after the moving demonstration which I have just described, the Government of France ordered that a solemn ceremony be held at the Grand Palais at which Diplomas of Honour should be presented to the families of the Nation's dead on the Field of Honour.
That year of 1916 was one of the turning points in the struggle for Freedom; and the question was being asked, Would France hold out? The answer came from the battle front. Through the streets of the capital, before the eyes of the people came the fighting men of all the Allies. And what a sight it was! On the Esplanade the troops were reviewed by General Dubail, General Cousin, and General Galopin, who were the escort of the President of the Republic, the Minister of War, and the Diplomatic Corps. Later in the morning came the procession through the City: British troops singing "Tipperary," Anzacs, Scotch with their kilts; then the Hindus with beautiful horses and shining lances; then the Belgians, and the crowd grew still in reverence; then came a roar of sound, and the Russians surged along singing a full-throated hymn; then the great host of the Army of France; little Annamites and Tonkinois, Algerians, Moroccans, Senegalis, Territorials, Cuirassiers, Chasseurs-à-pied, Frenchmen all of them, keeping fête in Paris until the sun was set, then back to the trenches to keep tryst with France again---perhaps to keep tryst with death. It was of them that Monsieur Poincaré said that day in his address to the people:
"As one man they rose to the cry of their Country endangered; they rushed To Arms; they hurried to the frontiers, young men and old; the boys with their fathers; from the fields and the factories they came, labourers and professional men together; priests, and those who never prayed but in secret; children of the Midi, and sons of the Western Ocean: one and all they are worthy of the endless gratitude of the race."
It was in the month of October of 1916 that France again kept solemn watch with her dead. The Bar of Paris had arranged that three religious ceremonies should be held in memory of the members of the Bar who had fallen at the Front. There was to be one at the great Synagogue of the Rue de la Victoire; one in the Protestant Temple of the Rue de l'Oratoire; and still another, of deep historic significance in La Sainte Chapelle at which the Cardinal Archbishop officiated. (Some one said,---That provides for the Jews, and the Protestants, and the Catholics; but how about the Libre-Penseurs? Where will their commemoration take place? And a wag replied, "In the Chamber of Députés, without doubt.") It was at this Ceremony for the Bar that Monsieur Poincaré said:
"What a throng of intimate associations with the past the sight of this place brings before us! Within as without the Palais de Justice you are in constant touch with the very elements of our story as a people. Just beside us here, at the western point of the old City, on the ruins of a Roman fortress, are the walls of the first palace of the Capet princes: here, under the same roof lived for long years Justice and Royalty; but a few steps from where we are now, under the double ogival vaulting of the Great Hall of other days, before the famous marble table, there took place the solemn reception of foreign ambassadors, and the publication of the Treaties of Peace, after wars; it was in the Place Dauphine that the Revolution received such throngs of volunteers offering themselves to fight against the hostile coalition of Europe; and the sombre scenery of the Conciérgerie was the background of the stage on which the Terror mounted so many fearful dramas. If there are anywhere those who can have doubts as to what France is, I would counsel them to come to this spot to learn here her lessons of fidelity, of constancy, and of energy."
I wish that I might have the privilege of translating into English, and of publishing in one volume, all of the War time Speeches of Monsieur Poincaré. It would be a very real contribution to the world's best literature; and it would also be a tribute on my part to the touching courtesies which were shown me by both Raymond and Henriette Poincaré, for both of whom I have feelings of deepest admiration and gratitude. Their last gifts to me were their signed portraits; portraits of a man of intellect, of power, and of courage; and of a woman of grace, of beauty, and of charm.
In his Memoirs, Mr. Herrick speaks of the American news-writers who were in Paris in the early days of the War, and of their difficulties, being sent over to France to get news, and no accurate touch possible, while home offices were clamouring for reports. Sometimes these gentlemen came to me for points of view or asking my aid in establishing contacts. There was first of all Victor Murdock, the nationally known Kansas journalist. He said that he wanted to learn firsthand something of the effect which the War was having on the spiritual and religious life of the French people; that he had been to the great churches of Paris, but that he could gain no accurate impressions from what he saw there; and he had been told that I could help him out. That I was of real assistance to him became evident; for depending on his own spiritual intuition and the experiences which he quickly learned to interpret aright, he wrote an article in the very beginning of the War, setting out what France meant as a spiritual power in terms of marvellous clearness and accuracy.
The next to come was Will Irwin. He told me that be simply must make contacts with the Minister of War, and with Monsieur Joseph Reinach the noted War Critic of The Figaro; and could I help him to gain these interviews. No one could have made such a request of me with greater surety in advance that I would do all in my power for him; so one morning Will Irwin and I went to the house of Monsieur Millerand. I had met the Minister of War casually at large official dinners, but this was the first opportunity which I had of a personal talk with the man who was then at the head of the War Department, and who was after to be President of the French Republic. His powerful, intellectual looking head; his earnest look; his readiness to respond to my questions made an impression on me which I have never forgotten. And among other grateful memories which I have of Will Irwin is this, that he made the opportunity for me to know better the man who, when asked by General Gallieni the Military Governor of Paris, how far resistance to a possible enemy attack on the City was to be carried, answered, "You will defend Paris to the last ditch."
Then we went to see Monsieur Reinach. We found him in the library at his house looking out over the lovely Monceaux Quarter. The library of a French man of letters always woke my admiration. There is a certain sense of dignity, an appreciation of values on the appearance of books which are bound for a purpose; books so bound that you know that the owner thinks them worth the keeping. The French custom of issuing books in paper covers, even very valuable books, crown octavos and quartos printed on fine paper, and then leaving it to you to say whether they are worth the binding and the keeping is a custom which we might well copy.
Where is the sense in paying for the binding of a book which you never intend to keep and which is but the pastime of an otherwise weary hour, when paper covers would serve equally as well. I have some beautiful books which were given to me unbound. I am thinking especially of the Life of Pasteur and, the Life of Madame Pasteur, both of them given to me by the author, Monsieur Vallery-Radot who was the devoted son-in-law of Pasteur, and each of them signed with a dedication from the author. Further, the appearance of a room filled with books, often as in the library of Monsieur Reinach, reaching from low armoires to the heighth of the ceiling, befits the tastes of a book lover. Monsieur Reinach was a student of politics in all its phases; and in Europe that means War in its origins and its consequences; and during the Great War, his articles in The Figaro were the clearest commentaries which we, in Paris, could find. My visit to him with Will Irwin that day, listening to his clear cut visions of the situation, past, actual, and to come, stands out in my memory as a uniquely privileged moment.
Among my treasured souvenirs of valued acquaintances and War-made friendships are some of Will Irwin's books which he gave me. In one of them he has written this dedication:
"Dr. Samuel Watson, mainly responsible for Chapter I, from his accomplice
My daily papers came to me from a little woman who kept a kiosk on the corner of the Avenue de l'Alma just above my house. My morning diet was The Figaro, the Echo de Paris, Le Matin, and L'OEuvre. Whenever I wanted to get the latest and most accurate news from the Front I got Le Journal de Genève (that Swiss daily gave us lots of news of the conflict which never appeared in the Paris papers). My evening pabulum was Le Temps, L'Intransigeant, and La Liberté; and for a lesson in the pronunciation of French just listen to the newsboy on the street calling "La Lee-bear-tay." My little newsvender at the kiosk at the corner used to do a particularly graceful thing. When she brought my morning papers to the house, L'OEuvre was always carefully wrapped up inside Le Figaro; she knew well that le Patron could well read anything that he cared to read, but it was not for the personnel of the house to see such dangerous literature as L'OEuvre; or, for that matter, even to know that le maître was reading it---he might lose caste. In all matters of opinion I got more satisfaction from L'Intransigeant than from any of the other of my papers; and the reason for that was to be found in the clear and independent thinking of its editor, Monsieur Léon Bailby.
One name suggests another, and one story leads to another.
I came to know Monsieur Bailby first through Les Petits Lits Blancs (the Little White Beds), which was a very beautiful Charity in which he was deeply interested, and of whose Committee I became a member; the name means little white beds for children with bone-tuberculosis; for as the War dragged on its weary length, and more and more milk and eggs and warm clothing and heat for the houses were lacking bone-tuberculosis in children climbed in maiming percentage---from 27% to 68% in the poorer quartiers. Along the streets of the cities and along the country roads one may see them limping, dragging their shortened limbs, clopin-clopant, and these were all once children with bone tuberculosis; and to try to save France from the dread increase of this trouble, and to try to give the Country sound bodies of men and women instead of cripples, Les Petits Lits Blancs was founded. The Little White Beds were first in the wards of L'Hôpital Saint Louis; and Dr. Pinard with his aides and some of the Committee would go through the wards where were lying the children suffering from this malady, and he would say, "This one can go"; "That one cannot." But why this discrimination? Simply because we could not care for them all, and so only the curable ones could be taken. They have beautiful dark eyes, most of the French children of the quartiers; and there was an especially pathetic loveliness in the eyes of these little sufferers. They knew what that ward visit of the Doctor meant, and their eyes would follow him as he went from bed to bed with a silent pleading which was heart-rending; you so wanted to take them all and comfort them with fresh hope. For it was to Roscoff in Finistère that they were taken, where the climate is so mild that lemons will grow there. There there were more little white beds for the night times; and in the day times the children were taken to the beach and placed in open barracks with full eastern and southern exposure where the air coming off the rocks covered with algae was saturated with chlorine and bromide and iodine. The record of cures made by Les Petits Lits Blancs is a joyous thing to read. The first group of children sent to Roscoff had warm dressing gowns which were made in our Ouvroir in the Avenue de l'Alma; some one had sent us fifty yards of beautiful scarlet cloth, and Jeannette had it made up into wrappers for these children. Madame Henri Lavedan was Présidente of Les Petits Lits Blancs, and Léon Bailby was its Vice-President; and on the Committee there were also René Vallery-Radot who was Pasteur's son-in-law; and also Edmond Rostand. Monsieur Rostand wrote some lovely lines called "Complainte pour L'Oeuvre Des Petits Lits Blancs":
"L'homme du Front n'est bien vainqueur
Que grâce à vous, femmes du coeur!
A quoi bon sauver le terrain
Si l'on ne sauve pas le grain?
Nous sentons que derrière nous
L'Avenir est sur vos genoux."(7)
How rich we felt as Committee of Les Petits Lits Blancs, when at the close of the first year's work we found that nearly a hundred thousand francs had come in for the crippled children; and since that day two millions of francs were the result of just one Christmas Fête at the Opera in just one evening. And all of this lovely Charity is due primarily to the initiative of Madame Henri Lavedan. Monsieur Lavedan was one of the Forty Immortals, a member of the Académie Française, one of the editors of L'Illustration, and a writer of note. In one of his books, La Famille Française, he wrote on the fly-leaf:
"à Monsieur le Docteur Watson, avec l'admirative et reconnaissante expression de mes sentiments tout dévoués.
My further acquaintance with Léon Bailby came next through a dinner to which we were asked by Rachel Boyer. Rachel Boyer was a doyenne of the Comédie Française; she was Présidente-Fondatrice of L'Union des Arts as also of L'Orphélinat des Arts; her house on the Boulevard Inkermann was just across from the Lycée Pasteur in which was housed our American Ambulance Hospital. I came to know her first by being in a position to find some valued help for these fine Charities in which she was so deeply interested; and we went more than once to her house to dine. At one of these dinners there was an especially distinguished company, (at her house one always met people who were out of the ordinary). There was the Military Governor of Paris; there was Léon Bailby of L'Intransigeant; there was a judge of the Cours des Comptes; there was Albert Flament of L'Illustration; there was Lucy Arbell of the Opera; there was Lise Berty, and others whose names all spoke for the brilliancy of the company. And that we might show our appreciation of it on our part we asked them all to dine at Avenue de L'Alma that day week; and they all came.
Then later we had an invitation to a dinner at the house of Monsieur Bailby on the Boulevard Saint Germain; and there again we met an interesting group in French life; Monsieur and Madame Lavedan again, and Monsieur Albert Flament. My dinner companion was the Princess Murat who was the daughter of the Duchesse de Rohan; she had just come back from Russia where she had been, in order to find out what was the true state of affairs in Russia; she gave a thrilling account of her visit, and told of what she had learned about the monk Rasputin who played such a sorry part in Russian Court life.
Rachel Boyer was a woman of large heart and wide influence; and her influence gives one an idea of the hold which all which belongs to Les Arts has on the French people. There was to be a reception at L'Orphélinat des Arts for its friends. The children cared for there were the orphans of artists who had been killed at the Front; and "artist" means musician, or painter, or sculptor, or singer, or dancer, or actor; and for an object lesson in heredity those children were wonderful. The art instinct, for it is that, an instinct, is inbred in these artistes of France; they are born to it, they live and breathe it, they sense it and see its output. Even now the artistes are a class apart in French society; and they are as tenacious of their position and their privilege as are the noblesse or the bourgeoisie. And at L'Orphélinat des Arts all this was taken into account; the children were being educated and trained along the lines of that especial type of art appreciation which they showed as their heritage; a more graceful and beautiful group of children than the orphans whom Rachel Boyer gathered there that day could not be found. When she asked me to come to this reception I replied that I would gladly come, but that I did not believe that I could go so far, (it was outside the City). "But, you have a Military Pass, have you not?" she said. "Yes," I replied, "I have a Pass, but I am very short of pétrol (gasoline). I have been to the Bureau at the War Office several times to have my bon de Pétrol (Gasoline Permit) renewed; but there is some delay about it." "You will have your bon de Pétrol before noon to-morrow, I will assure you of that," she said, "and then you will come to my reception, n'est-ce-pas?" I answered most gladly in the affirmative; and about eleven o'clock on the following morning came an orderly in uniform to my house, bringing me the bon de Pétrol which was so essential in my work. Once again the influence of the Theatre on the Public Authority showed itself most interestingly; and that was in the matter of the Hospital for Convalescent soldiers at Tessé-la-Madeleine. Madame Brolemann, a good friend of ours and the wife of the Maire of Neuilly-le-Vendin, was deeply interested in this hospital; she and her daughters worked there constantly and had done much to make the hospital a success. Another interested worker in that hospital was the Marquis de Frotté a distant kinsman of mine, whose home was the old Château de Couterne close by, a fine old building built in the 16th Century by the poet Jean de Frotté a chevalier of Marguerite de Navarre. And word had come that the Hospital at Tessé-la-Madeleine must be closed. Pursuing a necessary policy of concentration in order to cut down expense, the Service de Santé (the Surgeon-General's Department) was closing many of the smaller hospitals which the generosity of the people had organised earlier in the War. Tessé-la-Madeleine was one of these; and the Brolemanns were disconsolate and told me their sorrow over it when we visited them at their Château de Vaugeois. One day when I was at dinner at the Boulevard Inkermann, I told Rachel Boyer about it, and asked her if there was anything which could be done about it. Her reply was that she was going the next day to Bagnoles-de-l'Orne with her mother who went there to take the waters, and that if I would give her a card to the Brolemanns she would go and see the hospital for herself. A few days later I had word from her saying that the matter had been arranged, and that if I would go and see the Chef of the Service de Santé, the necessary papers for keeping the hospital would be issued. It is a great thing for a nation to have as part of its government a Ministry of Fine Arts; and in my opinion the Ministry of the Beaux Arts is as important an element in the educational life of France as is the governmental function which concerns itself with what might be considered as specifically scholastic attainment.
One of the men in the public eye in France whom I have occasion to remember appreciatively is Edouard Herriot, Senator of the Rhone, Maire of Lyons; a one time Prime Minister. I received a card from him one day asking me if I would come to see him at the Senate. I went with great readiness; it was my first opportunity of seeing the Senate in session. Monsieur Herriot wanted all sorts of firsthand information about American Relief; what the American Relief Clearing House was doing; what I was doing for Relief from the American Church and from the Ouvroir which we maintained. In a book of his, Agir, there is a chapter entitled "L'Amitié Américaine" in which he says:
"un homme admirable, le Révérend Watson, pasteur de l'Eglise Américaine, avenue de l'Alma, installe un ouvroir qui a envoyé depuis le début de la Guerre plus de cinq cent mille articles aux oeuvres de secours et aux soldats . . . . Il me cite un chèque de 5 dollars adressé pour les blessés français par un petit groupe de négresses du Liberia. Une autre offrande provient d'une quête faite dans une école de dimanche en Chine; elle est expédiée par de petits garçons chinois pour les petits orphelins français."
All this I told Monsieur Herriot in the midst of a running fire of questions on his part and of answers on mine; and I knew then how my questioner could be Senator of the Rhone and Maire of Lyons at the same time, and still have the needs of all his little people in his heart all the time. Then next Monsieur Herriot tells the story which I told him about Abbé Hutin. This good priest was a real father to his people; he had charge of two little villages which were tucked away in the valleys of Les Eparges; the people were a mixed population in origin, many of them being descendants of a wave of refugees who fled the hill countries after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes; and the rest of them were mostly Catholics. The Abbé told me: "I minister to them all; for I am the only pasteur they can have; I baptise them, I marry them, I bury them; when a couple are married who come of Protestant stock I always give them a Bible in French; when a child of one of these families makes his first Communion I give a New Testament in French. I want them to feel that I am really a shepherd to the flock." Shortly before Christmas of 1915 it was that Abbé Hutin first came to see me. He had been commended to me by my good friend Jean Linzéler who, when stationed in that region of the Front had stayed at Abbé Hutin's presbytère for a night or two; and he told me of the needs of the people, and how the enemy had over-run the villages and had carried away nearly everything. I sent him cases of clothing, some blankets and some bed linen, and I gave him some money. Shortly after Christmas he wrote me:
"Monsieur le Recteur; you kindly permitted me to buy some things for my Church out of that money which you gave me: well, among other things I bought a fair-linen cloth for the Altar; I used it for the first time at the Midnight Xmas Mass; and I thought sadly that our Saviour was better sheltered that night so long ago in the stable of Bethlehem than in our poor church toute endeuillée (there is no English to translate the delicate meaning of the French words, "all in mourning" would be best) from the War and its consequences, with its windows shattered by the obus, and its roof in holes from the shells."
Then, after this pathetic note, so quickly does the French mood change from the sublime to the laughable, he continued:
"Last night there was a council of the women of the village; they came to ask me to write you so that you might, if possible, send us one rooster and three hens of American stock (for they have great confidence in the American spirit). And I myself believe that with six hens and two roosters we could succeed in re-populating the deserted chicken coops."
In response I sent him a dozen English Orpingtons, telling him that it was a long fly for American birds across the water, but that I hoped that their English cousins would do their duty by France.
Now that I have mentioned jean Linzéler I want to pay a tribute to la famille Linzéler. They were our first French friends, and gave us our first welcome inside the closed-in garden of the haute bourgeoisie family. Our first dinner at the house of Madame Frédéric Linzéler in the Rue d'Astorg was noteworthy; she was the grandmother, the bonne-maman as they say endearingly in France; and the life of the family centred about her. There were a dozen or more of the family at the table, and at the beginning of the meal our hostess said that she wanted her children to share her pleasure in having for the first time des étrangers at her table.
Etranger in France means any one who is not French; and the English derivative of the word carries with it something of the idea, "strangers"; strangers to the old traditions of a French household; and it meant a great deal when Madame Linzéler welcomed us, des étrangers to her foyer and to her table. More than once I was asked by Americans in France to arrange for them that they might have the entrée to a French family circle of the old stock; and I would have to explain that it was much easier to have an invitation to a "five-o'clock" at the house of Madame la Comtesse or Madame la Marquise than to be received in one of the homes of the haute bourgeoisie of France. While in a certain sense I regretted this attitude, and while I have a certain sympathy with the move toward a larger Fraternité, I am still inclined to the opinion that the old ways are better for France, although I am certain that French traditions of family life are so firmly ingrafted on the hearts and minds of the people, that there is little danger of alien habits and alien manners creeping in and changing that personal reserve which is so necessary for the preservation of French character. We in America can have little idea of what all this means; our life is such a wholly different one; we are such a composite people, whilst France is a people of one blood, of one racial tradition. France exists and endures because of that tradition of a racial ideal, a racial meaning; her habits of reserve are a needed barrier against the deterioration of that ideal; and the casual introduction of foreigners into that foyer which is more a Frenchman's castle than an Englishman's HOME is such to him entails dangers which the haute bourgeoisie of France were ever on their guard against. We visited Madame Linzéler at the Château de la Voisine; and again we were guests at the Château de Carsix which was Robert Linzéler's place in Normandy; and at both places I took photographs of the girls of the family; one of a lovely young girl who was Simone coming in from the garden with her basket full of flowers and fruit for the noonday déjeuner; and others of Jacqueline and of Marie Thérèse, and of their cousin Alice. The pictures of Jacqueline and of Marie Thérèse I sent to Robert their father, who was at the Front. In a volume of poems which he wrote and which was entitled "En Lorraine,---1914-1916," a copy of which he sent me with this note: "en hommage respectueux et reconnaissant, Robert Linzéler" there is a poem, "A Ma Fille Jacqueline pour ses seize ans pendant la Guerre"; and another, "Sur un portrait de ma fille Marie Thérèse." Jacqueline's begins:
And of a photograph showing the three girls gathering roses from an overhanging vine he wrote this of Marie Thérèse:
"Sous l'épais cordon
Des légères roses
J'aime cette pose d'indécision
Mais reprends ton rire
Libre et sans remords:
Que les vieux soupire!"(#9)
And here is to me one of the wonders of the French character. Here is an active business man in time of peace, an officer on the Lorraine Front in time of war, and from out the muck of the trenches he writes most charming verse. La chère Bonne-maman (which is familiar French for grandmother, and prettier too) was the guiding spirit of the household always; she was petite, refined, elegant, cultivated, and just like the ladies of her generation in my own family; and the evening gatherings in the salon at Carsix where each one worked or played games was the dear old life of the families of the 1800's. That salon was panelled with carved woodwork, each panel showing the strong relief of a Grinling Gibbons; the corridors in the Château were of stone as were the stairs, the centres of whose treads were so deeply worn in the centres by generations of feet that you had to "mind your step"; in our bedroom the walls were of panels of chestnut each one carved with a different motif; and the great bed, too heavy to be moved, was in an alcove so deep that we wondered how the maid could ever make it up, until she showed us a little sliding door in the partition which formed the alcove which could be pushed aside.
That visit to Carsix has left lovely memories. Robert and Jean were at the Front; and when we left it was a real parting to say au revoir to Madame Linzéler and Madeleine Jean and Madeleine Robert and Jacqueline and Simone and Marie Thérèse and Alice and l'oncle George and his family; but we were on our way to Lower Brittany and our leave was short. We went by way of Séez, and I took a photograph of its splendid Cathedral front, as I was standing on the marble counter of a charcuterie (by the graciously accorded permission of the proprietor). From Séez we went by way of Tours and Angers to our intended destination which was Pornic. We were going to Pornic because Browning wrote "Fifine" there; but Fifine had gone before we arrived; and the hotel had the sad odour of an old fashioned Monday washday; so the morning after our arrival I compromised with the landlady and we started on our way again. "Where are we going, Monsieur?" said Gabriel. "To La Baule, by way of Nantes," was my reply. "But that is in the War Zone, Monsieur." When we came to the bridge across the Loire, Gabriel said, "But, Monsieur, we are sure to be arrested at the bridge." "Good," was my reply, "that will get us where we want to go." But the unexpected happened; we were not arrested; we were not even asked for our "papers"; so we drove to the Préfecture. I always carried with me a card which had been given me by Monsieur Ogier at the Ministry of the Interior and which was addressed simply to Monsieur le Préfet, without specifying any Préfet in particular, and commending me to that potent official's good graces. In this case I found that Monsieur le Préfet was in Paris; but his Chef de Cabinet was most courteous.
I told him that I had come to ask the Préfet to get me a military pass so that I might go on to La Baule for my ten days holiday. The Chef de Cabinet said that he could not do anything personally about it; that the pass would have to come from the Commandant de la Place; so I asked him if he would kindly telephone the Commandant and ask him to let me have the pass. And I heard the conversation which ensued: "But, Monsieur, it is for an American gentleman who is well known and who gives all his time to Relief Work; he is a Chevalier of the Légion of Honour; we ought to arrange it for him." With the final result that he hung up the phone and said to me: "You have heard, Monsieur; the thing is impossible; he says that it cannot be done without sending your papers to Paris." I thanked the courteous Chef de Cabinet and asked him to give me a card to the Commandant, and to send his huissier with me in the car to see that I got in to see the officer in authority at the place. All this was done with the same result; my papers must go to Paris. After thanking this officer for his courteous reception of me, I asked him his name, which he told me; and I then said, "Are you by any chance a relative of Monsieur of the Ministry of War?" He was;---and did I know him? I replied that we had dined together at the Ministry but a few evenings before. After a few more minutes of pleasant conversation I had my Laissez-Passer; a big blue sheet with red lines crossing it diagonally, and duly embellished with three photographs; and without further delay we were on our way to déjeuner at the Restaurant Prévost in the Place Graslin, where we were much comforted for the morning's fatigue. Then in the afternoon we were off for La Baule; and in all the trip, to La Baule and back again, through Lower Brittany, and across the Loire, and through the Vendée and the Deux Sèvres those military papers never came out of their serviette; they were never even asked for. My friend the landlord of the hotel where I used to stay, ---and in those days La Baule was a simple little Brittany plage and there was but one hostelry de premier ordre----told me when I saw him in the evening that there was an American ship on the rocks between Pouliguen and Le Croisic; that it had been torpedoed by an enemy submarine a few days before, and that the crew had taken to the boats and were all saved. The next morning I went down to see the ship. It was a five-master, a wooden schooner; and I took some photographs of her with her five masts sticking up above the water: but as it was then high tide I could not get close enough to her to make out her name. Now a five-masted schooner was sufficiently rare, so that my memory recalled having seen a five-master launched. It was in the summer of 1906, the year when I was sailing the Lula-Marion, a 42-foot sloop, on Penobscot Bay, and in that year she won me a fine cup, the first prize in the "Fisherman's Class" in the season's races of -the Bucks Harbor Yacht Club. We had been up at Castine for luncheon, and as we came back we saw a five-master on the ways at the edge of the water, so we sailed over close enough to see her make her graceful slide, and we could read her name which was Dingo, the motto of the State of Maine; and also to see her figure-head. In 1907 I was sailing the Lula-Marion down Eggemoggin Reach, and just off Pumpkin Island Light I passed the Dingo; she was loaded with ice and on her way from Sargentville for New York; and she was a beautiful sight with all sails set. When I could finally reach the American ship on the rocks I went down at low tide to the coast below Pouliguen and I climbed out on the rocks quite close to her. She was the same Dingo that I had seen launched in Penobscot Bay eleven years before: she had been loaded with cotton in bales, and with pig iron; the sea water had swelled the cotton which had burst the hatches, and the shore all the way to the Bourg de Batz was decorated with bales of American cotton which had been washed ashore.
I could write pages on that old town of Batz, known as Le Bourg de Batz, and locally pronounced "Bah." There is a Musée there which contains interesting examples of ancient Breton furniture; it has a unique collection of the costumes of the paludiers, as the workers in the neighbouring salt-marshes are called. I have a set of beautiful water colour sketches of these costumes which were painted for us by Yvonne Duguereau; by the costume of a paludier and by the hats or the coiffes one may tell whether the wearer is bachelor or maid, widow or widower, and what is the social station of each. The rights to the harvesting of the salt in the marais salants (salt-marshes) was once a royal prerogative; and these rights have been farmed out to descendants of the same families for hundreds of years; and all salt so collected pays a tax to the State. Saillé, the oldest village of the paludiers is completely surrounded by salt traps. This village is known in history because here was celebrated the marriage of Jeanne de Navarre to Jean IV. In ancient times the principal town of the region was Guérande: its Church of St. Aubin was founded in 852; and before its high altar in 1365 there was signed the peace between Charles V of France and Jean de Monfort. Guérande is one of the best types of the old fortified cities of the Middle Ages; its walls with their ten towers intact and their four gates piercing the walls date back to 1413. Around the walls there is what was once the deep trench of the ancient moat; and on the farther edge of the moat there is a fine promenade beautifully shaded with trees; and on that promenade I have seen more than 2000 of the citizens of Guérande marching in solemn procession on La Fête Dieu, wearing the costumes of the olden days; and there were at least five little infant Saint Johns in the procession, and each one with his own little woolly lamb.
Guérande is on the way of a pilgrimage which we used to make from La Baule to the Calvaire de Pont-Château. This Calvary was built by the inspiration of le bienheureux Grignon de Montfort in 1709; it was destroyed by order of Louis XIV; and it was then rebuilt in 1821. It is a complete presentation of the life of the Christ from the Annunciation to His Ascension, and it takes more than an hour to visit all of the Stations. The Calvary itself is a hill in the midst of a plain, and this hill is made of great rocks which were dragged there by the peasants until an elevation of at least 200 feet or more had been constructed. On the summit of this hill there are three crosses which stand out against the horizon; and in the side of the hill there is the Tomb in the Garden, and the figures of the Resurrection group; then some hundred yards further on is a figured representation of the Ascension; seen from some distance the figure of the Christ seems to be literally floating off in the air; and in the group of the bystanders there is a figure of the Blessed Virgin with the most exquisite face that one could imagine. The beginning of the Way of the Cross comes just after passing the judgment Seat of Pilate. This last is a sculptured group at an elevation of about fifty feet from the plain, and Pilate on his throne stands out against a bas-relief of sculptured figures which is very impressive. There are three stairways that lead to the platform on which Pilate is seated; and the centre one of these stairways is a Scala Sancta.
The first time that we went to La Baule I asked mine host of the Inn where the Calvary was and also some information about it. There were two little girls in the doorway of the hotel at the moment, and the landlord said, "These little children know the Calvary well, and they will be glad to show you where it is": so Didi and Janine were our guides that day. "Didi" was short for Marguerite; she was the little daughter of Doctor Millet who had given up his private practice at Vincennes in order to be free to give his services to the Hospital which had been established in the Casino on the beach at La Baule; and Janine, who was Jeanne in full letters, was Didi's little girl friend. Didi was brune and svelte and spirituelle; and Janine was round and rosy and pratique. When we came to the front of the terrace below the judgment of Pilate, Janine started to walk up the middle stair (the Scala Sancta); but Didi pulled her back saying, "Janine! you must not do that!" "Why not?" said Janine. "Because you must go up there on your knees; every step of the Holy Way which you go up on your knees will be worth to you a week of Purgatory." Janine remained a moment in thoughtful hesitation; then she dropped her little pink, plump knees on the cold, wet, mossy steps, and began the slow and disagreeable climb; it had been drizzling a cold drizzle, and the stone steps were very wet and very cold. After a discouraging climb of four steps Janine, pratique, little blonde Janine gave it up; and turning to her friend she said, "Didi, it isn't worth it."
On coming in to the Hôtel at La Baule one day after having been to look after the needs of the Hospital in the Casino I sat down on one of the chairs on the terrace before the door, and there I was soon joined by a man wearing the uniform of the A.E.F. We got into conversation and he asked me if I liked the hotel; if they took good care of me and if they had given me good rooms. Then after seeming to consider my replies, he said, "You are an American, and I am an American; may I ask you some plain questions?" The prelude did not seem to me to augur well for the music which was to follow. I had found some of my compatriots quite dissatisfied with their reception in France; they thought that they were giving France a great deal, and that apparently the fact was not being recognised as they thought it should be. However, I told him that I would be glad to give him any information that he considered would be of use to him, and I asked him what it was that he wanted to know. "It is this," he said. "I am an American officer, and you are an American; you are not French though you speak French; now I would like to know why I am treated so differently from the way in which they treat you around here. I was at the Restaurant Prévost in Nantes yesterday when you came in; every table inside was marked RESERVED; but you went in, were given a good table, and I had to sit outside with the chauffeurs. May I ask if you had reserved a table?" My reply was that I had not. "Well, that's one thing," he said. "Then here at this hotel; I came here before you did. You tell me that you have a good apartment, with a bath; I could not get one. You have one of the best seats in the dining room looking out across the garden to the Ocean; and I have a table from which I have an excellent view of the kitchen. Will you tell me what it all means?" I deliberated a moment as to what to say. Experience had taught me that it is a fool's job to attempt to un-prejudice a homesick and biased mind; you simply do not get anywhere. Kipling's "Never the East and West shall meet" is just as true of some types of English-speaking minds, (and that is not a slip of the machine; it is just as I mean it). English-speaking minds and the mind of the man of France do not understand alike, and never can they. But, there was one thing which I had noticed, which made me think that possibly my American officer had a knowing heart, despite his biased mind. I had noticed him making friends with a little French boy and girl outside the Hotel; and I decided that if he could make a little child his friend, his heart might redeem his mind. So I decided on the instant to make the venture;; and this is what I told him: "'What it all means"---to quote your question---"is this. You are a gentleman at heart, and yet you have in the background of your thinking the feeling that your money counts. 'I am paying for it' is the common expression heard so often on the lips of our countrymen; while the truth is that nothing that is real or worth while in life can be paid for." We heard so much of that point of view with regard to food in France during the War. When I reminded American soldiers that they were fed by France which did not have food enough for herself, I have often been told, "But, we paid for it." But really it was not money, not anybody's money that paid for that food; it was life, the life of French families, the life of French children. There was not enough, and prices kept on going higher, and the little families of the land could not buy the food at those prices, and so child life was crippled and sacrificed, as all who were in that horrible affair were sacrificed. Money paid for food in those days, when milk and eggs went up 10%, 30%, 50%; that was not all the price. There was that which money could not buy: a whole generation of French children were paid as part of the price of that food. So I told my A.E.F. friend: "Your trouble is that you have an instinctive idea that you can buy what you want in the way of hospitality; while the French Inn-keeper's mental background is that you are his guest and that he is your host, rather than that you are a customer and he a dealer."
It is an interesting fact that in French the word hôte means both guest and host; and that the word hôtel in France used to mean simply a large house; and a large house is called to-day un hôtel particulier, a private hotel. Hence in olden times strangers were entertained in the large house of the village, for there were no hotels in the modern sense; the traveller was received as a guest (we have the relic of the same tradition in the habit of speaking of persons who are staying at a hotel as being "guests"). And when the traveller went to his room he found on the bedside table a plate on which was money, small pieces and large; if he had plenty he was expected to leave on the plate when he left the house some gift, an honorarium, to help some other traveller more needy than himself; and if he was in need he was welcome to take from the plate enough to supply his wants for the next day's journey. That same tradition of life sharing was the glory of the learned professions in older days; and it was even continued by some professional men in my days in Paris. I had occasion once to consult a skilled oculist about my eyes; he wrote pages in his record after examining my eyes. On leaving the salon where I had been received when I came, I found a maid by the door, and beside her on a pedestal there was a plate, and on the plate there were gold pieces and bank notes; and I left an honorarium comporting with my financial status. I had been told in advance by the general practitioner who had referred me to the oculist just what to expect; that this brilliant professional man refused to keep any financial accounts with his patients; that under no circumstances would he ever send a bill; his services were not something which could be paid for, and money could not buy them; what he received was what your sense of honour suggested to you as fitting, it was an honorarium. Each patient was expected to leave on the plate a twenty franc gold piece at least; and on the occasions of my visit to him I saw there many gold pieces, some 50 franc and some 100 franc notes, and occasionally a 500 franc note.
And there were Counsellors at Law in France in my day there, who had the same high sense of the meaning of their professional relations. I did not explain all this to my American Officer friend, but I did try to show him that point of view when I said to him: "In a French hotel of the olden type you, as a visitor, are not buying anything; you are a guest; and you simply did not know that. I can only imagine what happened at the Restaurant Prévost from what I noticed this morning. You went into Madame's private Bureau with your hat on and smoking a cigar, and you acted as if you had a right there, as if your money warranted your assuming trade relations; so I can well see why you have not gotten the room you wanted nor a seat in the dining room which is to your liking. I will risk being thought officious by telling you the difference in my own case, for that is the only way I know of explaining it to you. When I came to the Restaurant Prévost I took off my hat and went in and asked if Monsieur Prévost could see me; he was busy at the time in the kitchen preparing some delicious entremet or other, and it was a minute or two before I could see him. When he came I told him of how much I had enjoyed my déjeuner in his cool dining room on the occasion of my last visit to Nantes, and that I remembered the sole frite, and the omelette, and the cool pitcher of petit vin rosé which he had brought me from the cellar; and I expressed my disappointment at not having the pleasure of eating with him at this time. 'But, why not, Monsieur?' was his reply. 'Because I see that I am too late, and that all the tables inside here are marked réservée.' Instantly he drew out a chair from a table near a window and taking up one of the réservée cards, he said, 'But, yes, Monsieur, this one is reserved for you.' And when I came to this hotel I asked the concièrge to see if Madame could receive me, and when I had been ushered into her little Bureau and she had greeted me cordially, I said that I hoped the hotel was not so full but that I could have a room with a bath, such an apartment as I had so much enjoyed on the occasion of my last visit. 'Monsieur shall have the very same one,' was Madame's reply. 'And for a table in the salle à manger, would there possibly be one free on the ocean side and near a window?' 'If there is not one free then an extra table shall be put in for Monsieur,' said the Hostess." I had the pleasure afterward of receiving the hearty thanks of my American friend; and I felt that he had really become my friend; for he told me that it was all a wholly new point of view for him; and that it would make his work in France much easier for him thereafter. Never in my years of association with the French people did I find the time when courtesy did not bring a courteous response. Often, it is true, the courteous response would be the prelude to something like what is told of the man in the parable who said, "I go, Sir; and went not"; but, I like it better that way. One of our old serviteurs at the Church would always say, Soyez-tranquille, Monsieur, to my sometimes repeated requests to have some thing attended to then and there. I never could be wholly sure that the thing was done after all; but I liked the Soyez-tranquille, just the same.
Monsieur Chevillot of the Hôtel de la Poste at Beaune in the Côte d'Or country is another one of the bons hôteliers français, who is associated in my mind with interesting and fragrant memories. I arrived once at his hospitable door at about six o'clock in the evening, and he came out to meet me as soon as he heard the motor snorting up; and his first words after greeting me were, "Je n'ai pas oublié le brochet, Monsieur." The last time that I had been there I had complimented him on a fish which he had served for dinner; so when he received my telegram announcing my impending arrival, he hurried off to have another one like it for me. It was just another instance of that cordial relationship between host and guest which is so very attractive; really, you are not just host and guest; you are friends meeting after an interval of absence. On that hot summer evening our dinner was served in Monsieur Chevillot's private sitting room; and between courses he would come in himself to see that we were being well cared for. After dinner he brought us a liqueur which he himself had made from his own eau-de-vie, the product of his own grapes, with the aromatic herbs which the old women of the village gathered for him on the hillsides; and as we inhaled its fragrance he told us that it was called Fleurs-de-Rosée. He then asked us if we would not stay over the following day and see the vendange, the gathering of the grapes; that he would begin cutting them in another large vineyard in the morning. I thanked him for his invitation but told him that we were on our way to Peyrieu where we were expected; and further that we had just been visiting at the Château de Joncy in the Saône et Loire, where I had helped at the vendange. It was a most interesting vision of old patriarchal French life in all its simplicity, that grape gathering at Joncy. I went out with the young Vicomte in the morning as he went through the vineyards to see that each one of the workers was cared for; with his own hands he would tip the scales so that old Madeleine might get a little more pay; and when Jeanne, whose husband had been killed at the Front, came a little late, he saw that she had a place to pick where the grapes were thickest. It was the Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard over again; the Master saw that each one got the penny that he needed.
Then Monsieur Chevillot thought of something else that might interest us. "Had we ever seen the wine in making?" "Would Monsieur and Madame like to come with him now and see how the wine is growing in the vats, full of the produce of the last vineyard whose grapes he had gathered?" Monsieur and Madame would,---and did. Without headgear of any kind we walked out into the little Place in front of the Hôtel, thinking that we had but a few steps to go; instead, we went down a side street for two squares, then under a great stone archway; then across a courtyard into another inner court in the far side of which there was a heavy door which our host opened, and in an instant the air was full of the perfume of the fermenting grapes. There were vats nine feet high; you could hear the gentle bubbling of the fermentation, and as we went in we felt a curious warmth. At Monsieur Chevillot's suggestion I mounted a ladder which he held against the side of one of the vats and looked down into it, and the gas which flowed was so strong that it blew the flame of a candle which I held in my hand, and the liquid in the vats was warm with the heat of the fermentation. On coming out from the vatting rooms, Monsieur Chevillot said, "And now you must come with me and see where my fruit of the grape is being aged after its first fermentation is over"; and again another hatless voyage of exploration through the silent streets of the old town in the warm August moonlight. And as we crossed the place again, the procession was augmented by two additions, a lame man and his fox-terrier; the lame man was a personage, none other than the Maire-Adjoint, the Maire himself was off at the War, and Monsieur l'Adjoint being lame could not go. We were charmed by his cultivated manner and by his erudition, for, after due presentations to officialdom in which I was qualified by all the titles which Gabriel furnished for me (and my titles never lost any glory in Gabriel's rendering of them), the Maire-Adjoint accompanied us. There was a golden harvest-moon that night, which gave the old Cathedral a most unreal look as we made our way up the winding street behind it to where were the ruins of the old Monastery. There we turned down steep stone steps which led to the Monastery cellars where the monks had used to keep their wines; which cellars had been leased by our friend Chevillot for the aging and the storing of his wines. First a great steel door was unlocked and we were given candles fitted into old iron sconces; then an iron grille was freed from its padlock and we went down more steps into the cellar itself. On the sides, under the stone arches, and as far as the eye could see there were rows and rows of casks; and in the centre between the casks were thousands and thousands of bottles lying on their sides and piled in the form of pyramids like cannon balls; and the date of each vintage was marked in whitewash on the butts of the piles of bottles.
On the way back to the Hôtel and in his little salon after we got back, Monsieur Chevillot told us the Romance of the Wines; how a wine is a living thing, having its infancy, its youth, its maturity, its old age; it even has its diseases, and sometimes we can cure them. You can kill the living wine with alcohol if you will, so he told us. "Americans," he said, "often want wines which are simply pickled in alcohol like pathological specimens; and so they are disqualified wholly from appreciating the deliciousness of our living wines, many of which are of so sensitive and delicate a life that they can not be shipped even from one part of France to another for they have so little alcoholic content." It was like listening to a fascinating story of a life which we had never known before.
At one time our best of friends, Mr. Edward Tuck, sent us part of a purchase which he had made of a petit vin français, Mont-Louis, a Mont-Louis of 1911, the hot summer when the harvest was small but the grapes of superb quality. This petit vin, just lightly sparkling, was so delicate that it could not bear transport from the Touraine to the Côte d'Azur. When I came away from France I gave away all the fruits of the vine which various good friends had given me; and I sent for Mr. Tuck's butler and asked him to take back the Mont-Louis which I had left to the kindly giver who was then at his place in Monte Carlo. One day after Mr. Tuck's return to Paris the butler at luncheon offered him wine saying "Mont-Louis, Monsieur, 1911." Mr. Tuck said, "But there is no more of it." The wise butler persisted "Mont-Louis, Monsieur, 1911" only to get the same reply, "But I tell you there is no more of it left"; and again came back the butler with "Mont-Louis, Monsieur, 1911." And this time he was successful; he filled the glass of le patron, who after tasting it, said, "Why, it is; where did you get it?"; and then Mr. Tuck learned that it was some of his original gift to me which had come home again. And he wrote me, "I've often heard of bread cast upon the waters coming back; but this is the first time I ever knew it to happen with wine."
We were on our way to Monte Carlo for our winter vacation from work which we usually spent with Mr. and Mrs. Tuck: it was the winter of 1917, and a very cold winter for France. We drove to Fontainebleau for the night in order to make an early start in the morning, intending to reach Beaune for the second night; and at Fontainebleau we stayed at the Hôtel de France et d'Angleterre with that charming hostess Madame Dumaine, whose collection of prints and engravings is famous. It was Christmas night, and before we went to our rooms Madame Dumaine took down from the wall an old etching of a Bishop of Durham made by Josiah Wedgewood which was one of her treasures, and she gave it to us for a Christmas present, knowing our British ancestry. This etching I have given to my dear friends Doctor and Mrs. Richard Evans. Doctor Evans has been my devoted medical adviser; both he and Betty have exquisite taste; so that Madame Dumaine's etching has found another appreciative owner. The next morning the sky was overcast, and when we reached Auxerre there was a feeling of snow in the air, and by the time that we came to Avallon the road was white in places with patches of snow. When we came to Saulieu where we planned to take our déjeuner there was a foot of loose snow on the road, a strong wind was blowing, and it was quite a pull for the car to climb the hill. While we were at déjeuner the patronne telephoned for me to Monsieur Chevillot at Beaune, to know how the roads were between Saulieu and Beaune and to ask whether we would better stay where we were instead of trying to make Beaune for the night. The reply was that there had been several army camions through and that the road should be passable; so after déjeuner we started on.
We had intended to take a branch road a few kilomètres out of Beaune in order to go by way of Pouilly, and so avoid the rough country of the Morvan by taking the military road from Dijon down; but in the snow we missed the turn and the next thing we knew we were in Arnay-le-Duc with nothing to do but to go on by way of Bligny-sur-Ouche. At Bligny the climb began, and we made that well enough, coming out on a plateau of the Morvan which is all desert landes, with no fences or anything else to mark the road except the tracks of the vehicles and they were by that time almost obliterated by the drifting snow. After a time-it was about five o'clock in the afternoon---there was a skidding of the wheels and we were off the road and head-on in a drift. For three quarters of an hour we tried to dig the wheels out so as to get purchase enough to back the car, but that well-known dismal whirr of spinning wheels was the sole result. So I said to Gabriel, "There's nothing to do but to see if we can get some horses at Lusigny (a little village a few kilomètres on) to pull us out of this. Do you think that you can make it?" Certainly he could; so our good Gabriel started off on foot feeling the hard surface of the road beneath the snow as his guide; and we shut ourselves up in the car, with nothing at all to eat and nothing to drink but Listen. The snow had stopped drifting, but the wind was blowing, and it was so cold that the windows of the car were covered with frost a half-inch in thickness; and we sat there and shivered, listening to the concert of the wolves howling in the woods beyond us. It was two hours later that we heard shouts, and looking out I saw Gabriel coming; and this was his story: "I found a little épicerie in the village and I made arrangements there for the horses, and while the boy went to get them I telephoned to Monsieur Chevillot, telling him where we were and asking him to keep dinner for us as we would be late in getting into Beaune. His answer was that he had feared we might be in trouble as the snow had begun again since he had telephoned to Saulieu at noon; that we would have no need of horses as he had his car at the door with ropes all ready and that he and his chauffeur would come up and pull us out. So," said Gabriel, "I sat down by the stove with some bread and cheese and a little pichet d'ordinaire and waited until Monsieur Chevillot came along to bring me back here." "But, where is he?" I said. "If Monsieur will look down this way about 200 metres, the lights of Monsieur Chevillot's car may be seen; he is head-on in the other end of this same drift which caught us; and he has sent his chauffeur back to the village to get some men and shovels to dig us out." Soon came along Monsieur Chevillot in person, and after greeting us he produced a "little brown jug," the same sort of a jug as the ones which John Gilpin carried on either side of him as he rode, with their ears held by his belt-strap; and in that jug which Monsieur Chevillot brought there was rum punch, once on a time hot, but which had even then, two miles from home on that cold night, wonderful capacity for warming; and under our feet he put a big pewter container full of hot water; and so the near-tragic part of this tale draws to its close. At 11: 15 we were in the courtyard of the Hôtel de la Poste at Beaune; and in their warm little salon was a table all spread for us, and Madame Chevillot and her daughter ready to see that we were well served. Monsieur Chevillot had disappeared, but soon he came hurrying back with the "firstaid" which he poured into goblets, one for each of us "This," he said, "is the blood of the grape; drink it all, the whole glass full as you sit by the fire, and by the time that we have dinner on the table it will have quickened the blood for you, and it may save you from a serious illness." And who were we to dispute the prescription of so wise a counselor? The dinner was delightful, as good as the Burgundy which preceded it; and by 1: 00 a.m. we were tubbed and in bed with a comforting édredon over each of us. The next morning we rose late after petit-déjeuner in bed; and then came our déjeuner-à-la-fourchette served in the petit salon again. "Monsieur Chevillot," I said, "will you tell me what is this cold meat which we have been eating?" "That," be replied, "is roast marcassin (young wild-boar); I shot one a week ago just a hundred yards from where you were caught in the snow last night."
The reports were that the roads were still too heavy with snow for us to keep on our southward way by Bourg-en-Bresse, as we had intended, so we decided to go by way of Lyon and the Valley of the Rhone. Before retiring for the night I asked Monsieur Chevillot if he would kindly let me pay my reckoning that night, as we wanted to make an early start in the morning; so he brought me a memorandum of it. "But," I said after looking it over, "there is nothing down in this statement for the Burgundy which you brought us when we arrived; nothing for your coming to get us in the night and the snow; nothing for your chauffeur's services, and nothing for the pétrol which you must have used." His reply was characteristic; "Will Monsieur please not mention those things; he and Madame are our guests; Monsieur may pay the reckoning for the rooms and for the meals, and, if he wishes, he may pay for the men who came with shovels from the village to dig us out; but I would count it a favour if Monsieur would not mention the rest; it is our privilege to do this for Monsieur." "But, Monsieur Chevillot," I said, "you came out late at night to save our lives, and you did just that, and at some personal risk to yourself; and I do not feel right to let that go without recognition of some sort; is there not something which I can do to show my appreciation?" After a moment's hesitation he said, "Yes, there is something which is very dear to my heart. There is a Hospital for wounded soldiers here at Beaune, and during the week, as Monsieur knows, my estaminet (bar-room) is closed; but on Sundays I open it and have it warm, and I send and get twenty of those poor chaps and bring them down here, and they have good food and their wine and their cigarettes: but the War is long; I have small custom at the Hotel, and I do not know how much longer I can keep on doing for the soldiers. If Monsieur felt like doing something for them for a Sunday or two, he would be doing it for me." In these words I have given you a picture of un bon hôtelier français; he was my host, and I was a guest. The following morning on our way to Macon where we were to get our déjeuner at the Hôtel de l'Europe et d'Angleterre I said to Gabriel, "Tell me, what is the name of the patron at Macon? I know him for I have been here before, and I want to greet him personally when we arrive as it makes such a lot of difference." Gabriel pondered awhile, then said, "I cannot remember it, Monsieur; perhaps I will later." Then a half-hour afterward he said, je l'ai, Monsieur-le nom du patron; c'est celui qui écrivit le Catéchisme; Monsieur le connaît sans doute"; (I have it, Monsieur-the name of the hotel man; it's he who wrote the Catechism; Monsieur certainly knows). And then it came to me, Dupanloup. There was a well known bishop; a Monseigneur Dupanloup, Bishop of Orleans, member of the French Academy; after 1870 he was a Député; then in 1876 he became Sénateur inamovible (senator in permanence), and it was he who was the author of instructions required to be learned by the children of the Church. So I won a ready welcome when I greeted Monsieur Dupanloup by his Episcopal name when we reached his Hotel in Macon; though I did not tell him that "it was he who wrote the Catechism." From Macon we went to Lyon; and learning that the roads were blocked at Vienne and at Montélimar (the home of Nougat), and that Valence had had no milk for two days, we decided on the train, and went first to Cannes where Madame Brett took good care of us; -care which I was much in need of, for I had acquired a serious bronchitis from the exposure of that night in the snow.
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