Marie Van Vorst, now the Countess Cagrati, author of Fairfax and His Pride and numerous other books, is making her first visit to this country since the war. She was one of the of the organizers of the American Ambulance Corps, and among her varied activities for the war founded two war workshops in Rome, one for wounded soldiers and the other for making surgical dressings. She also adopted a three-year-old refugee war orphan.
TIMES BOOK REVIEW,
MAY 23, 1920
I INSCRIBE these letters, written during the Great War in the countries at war, to Comte HENRY DADVISARD, Captain of the First Regiment of Cuirassiers, which he left voluntarily to join the 66th Regiment of Infantry, in order to give himself more entirely to the defence of his country.
The memory of this gallant soldier of France is to me a precious and a cherished memory. I shall recall him always as one of the most vivid spirits, one of the most brilliant intellects, one of the finest men I ever knew.
This young Frenchman fought and fell gloriously, as hundreds of thousands of young Englishmen and Frenchmen have fought and fallen gloriously. Their spirit lives, their courage and patriotism live, to animate and inspire these allied nations, whom no less spiritual power will ever conquer, and with whose Cause is the ultimate victory.
4, PLACE DU PALAIS BOURBON, PARIS,
July 15th, 1914.
MY DEAR GAETANO,
I think your idea that I should come down to Vallombrosa and spend a month there and finish my book is splendid. The very name "Vallombrosa" has no end of charm. It sounds like shadows and I can imagine the deep wooded distances, dark, cool and remote.
I have always wanted to see Italy in mid-summer and to know the country around Florence, of which there are beautiful descriptions in the "Lys Rouge."
Do you think you could get me a nice little suite of rooms in an inexpensive hotel? You must be sure that there is a balcony with a view of Florence from it. I shall bring my secretary and my maid, and finish "Mary Moreland," and begin my new novel, "Carmichel's Past." It will be too much fun for words to work in that silence, and then have some long walks with you and see the baby. If she is anything like her photograph, she is a darling.
It will be amusing to see the Italian life. I long to come. Let me know what the possibilities are.
4, PLACE DU PALAIS BOURBON, PARIS,
July 20th, 1914..
I shall see you, I hope, for I am coming to Italy. I want to go to Vallombrosa for the month of August and see something of Margaret's little child and Gaetano. After Vallombrosa (and you may even care to come there, too), we'll do something together.
Mabel, I've only been home here in Paris a short while, and yet I am keen to get away. My little house is settled and charming, and yet in it I have the most curious spirit of unrest. Mabel, I don't know what it is, but there seems a menace over everything. What can it mean? In all my life I have never had such a strange, strained, tense feeling. Sometimes at night I can't sleep and on several occasions I've gotten up and thrown open my shutters and looked out over the familiar little Place, over the roofs, to the sky; and the most curious sense of peril seems to brood over everything in sight. What can it mean? There have been times when I could hardly catch my breath for the oppression on my heart.
Of course it's purely physical. You would think that I should feel more at peace in my own home; but I want to get away. I am glad I am going to Italy. I long to go.
PARIS, July 25th, 1914.
MY DEAR GAETANO,
You can't think with what joy I look forward to Italy. The strange spirit of unrest here is now taking a more definite form. On every one's lips is the question: "Will there be war?"
Of course, my point of view is as little interesting as possible, but I think there will be. Hugues Le Roux, however, for whose opinion I have the greatest respect, laughed at me when I said so. I fancy I am too easily alarmed.
"Rassurez-vous," he said to me yesterday; "et partez en paix. Enjoy Italy to the full. There will not be any war, my dear."
Of course, if there should be war, it wouldn't last long---not in the twentieth century; and no one wants it. There would be, perhaps, a few skirmishes on the frontiers, and then everything would be arranged diplomatically.
So look out for us next week. We'll be along.
PARIS, July 30th, 1914.
MY DEAR GAETANO,
All the pretty things I've had made to wear at Vallombrosa, all the pretty things I've had made to bring down for the baby, will lie in trunks or hang unused. We're not coming down to Italy, my dear friend.
This will be a disappointment to you. It is a great one to me. But, as I telegraphed you, we're not coming.
This afternoon, I had all my trunks on the omnibus. I was just getting in with my dressing case, when I thought I'd go over and take a last farewell of Bessie---see her once more before I went away. As I went in, I found Robert Le Roux having tea with her. Just as soon as I came in, he got up quickly and came over and took my hand and said:
"Ma chère amie, vous ne pouvez pas partir pour l'Italie!"
"But, Robert, why not?"
"Vous ne pouvez pas partir."
"But all my trunks are on the omnibus, and I've got my tickets! We're just ready to go!"
"Ne partez pas."
His tone was so serious that, even as I spoke, I felt a whole wave of apprehension rush over me; and just in that moment it seemed as though this menace that I'd felt was beginning to take form.
"You mean---" I began.
"Vous aurez peut-être des ennuis," he said, "if you wanted to come back hurriedly to your mother."
"Robert," I said, "you really mean to say that you think it's so serious?"
I shall never forget the face of that Frenchman as he answered me, never!
"Ma chère, Marie, c'est la Guerre."
My dear Gaetano, the trees of Vallombrosa will shed their beautiful leaves and I shall not see them fall.
God alone knows whether what Le Roux fears will come true. Heavens, what will it mean!
To-night, as I sit here writing to you, in my little study high above this beautiful and beloved Paris, I can only hear that one sentence ringing its sinister and tragic message through my heart and brain:
"C'est la Guerre."
To Mrs. Victor Morawetz, New York.
CAVENDISH HOTEL, LONDON, August 4th, 1914.
MY DEAR VIOLET,
My first cable from Paris gave you Parr's Bank as my address in London . . . . That was last week, when people were fairly fighting for funds in Paris. I have had no letters from you since the war cloud rose, but I am sure that you have tried to reach me, and that you are all of you ignorant of the money crisis here. . . .
Molly would not come across the Channel with me, but said she preferred returning to Deauville. A mere woman, with a very limited sum of money, I left Paris successfully, taking my secretary, three servants, and all my luggage and all Mother's luggage, and moving Mother---no joke---to London. Two hours after I left, there were thousands fighting for entrance at the Gare du Nord, and thousands of pieces of luggage were left to wait or take what fate befell them in the station. I feel rather more shamed than anything else to have been so successful when millionaires and men all over the country have not been able to get out of France yet.
I did not want to get out. It has taken me three days to write this letter and I don't like even to speak of what I have been through. It has not been material hardship, but moral and mental and spiritual, to the extent of the greatest strain possible. - . . I put off going as long as I could, and was just about to go in to dinner with Bessie and Robert Le Roux when Molly called me up on the telephone and said she had arrived from Deauville to say good-bye to her brother, who was going through to Switzerland in his car to fetch his children from St. Moritz. It was eight o'clock at night. I found Molly at the Rhin and we talked about the situation, which was then perfectly calm and in no wise decisive; and I begged her to come to London with me next day. . . .I sat with her in the dear old Rhin till midnight, then walked quietly home, at half-past twelve, through the Tuileries, under the moonlight. The streets were not in the least excited. You see, the troops had not even been mobilised. Nothing was decisive---only the horrible, horrible strain in the air. When I got to the Quai d'Orsay Hotel, I wanted awfully to speak to Le Roux, and I called him downstairs. He was very agitated and said that Jaurès had just been assassinated on the boulevard and that war was inevitable. I did not tell him my project to leave, but went home to my house . . . . It was so tranquil and lovely---everything in such beautiful order and so sweet. I wondered whether I had better try to stock the place with provisions the following day and remain; but I then decided that it would be difficult for Mother to go about in Paris, and that as I could not protect her, I had no right to consider anything but her safety.
It's hardly necessary to say that I did not close my eyes, and I thought out the best route to go quietly to London. At four o'clock in the morning I called up the Gare du Nord, and just as soon as the telephonist told me that they had not been able to talk with them all night long, I knew that Newhaven would be best. I ordered an omnibus from the Gare St. Lazare, then through the telephone I told Mother's companion to prepare to leave the house at eight o'clock in the morning, with everything she could take---not because I feared a siege, but because I thought I should probably never be able to bring Mother back to Paris.
I did not wake my own servants till five; then I called them downstairs and after once telling them what I wanted, I knew that I should have no further need to think what should be done, for they were so capable and so perfect. I told them I wanted to take as much as I could with me and to leave at eight. Meanwhile, Webb had already packed all my personal things for Italy, where ---as you know---I was to have gone two days earlier. I gave that up because of the uncertainty of being able to return. Then I called up my secretary at her hotel and told her to be ready as well.
When the station omnibus came, it refused to take my luggage. Just then, I saw a wine delivery-truck going up the Rue de Bourgogne, and I stopped the man and offered him twenty francs to take all my things to the station. He accepted. My secretary went up to fetch Mother, and my maid and the manservant went to the station with the luggage. I took the man on account of Mother, not knowing whether she might be taken ill on the way, and meaning to send him back from Newhaven, as he is a Frenchman and of course I had no intention of keeping him. My little cook Rose, whom you remember, so sweet and pretty, cried and begged me to take her with me. Then I paid no more attention to my mobilised army, but went over to see Molly again and we went to the American Express to book passages on the France for her return to America. They had to pay frs. 12,000 for their accommodation, and there was a perfect fight and mob in the shipping office. As my train left at ten, you will see that I hadn't much time. Telling Molly that if I could possibly do so and feel it safe, I would let Mother go on with her escort and come back to her and take a later train, I left her. At the train, I found everything most perfectly put through. It only looked like an ordinary August exodus---rather crowded and rushed, but no frightful excitement. Mother was sitting there enthroned, and after sitting by her side and realising the efficiency of every one around her and that all would go well, I left her and went back to Molly and Bessie. When I got outside the station, there was the carriage waiting for me and by the wheel stood Bessie, who had come to see me off. We went together back to the American Express and found Molly, and we stayed together for a little time and then took Molly to her train at one o'clock, when she made a very passable sortie with her maid and all her luggage. I mention these details because so soon afterwards the aspect was changed. If we had not gone when we did, probably I and my party could not have gone at all---certainly not with any belongings---and probably Mother would have collapsed, as people were trampled on later . . . . I went away with no personal élan whatever . . . I wanted to stay in the place I love the best in the world . . . .All the way to Dieppe I was alone in the carriage---just fancy!---and on the next train they were hanging on to the carriages! When I reached Dieppe, they told me that no boat would go out for days and I began to drink in the fact that probably I should not be able to get across the Channel to Mother, who had gone on serenely. I had just decided to take the train back to Paris when the counter-news came that the boat would run at midnight. . . .I don't think I had anything to eat for two days. (I can't remember a meal at all.) I did eat something then and took a bath and rested, going on board at one o'clock in the morning, and then the rush had begun. Three boats went out that night and not one article of luggage came through from Paris!
When I got here, I found the family comfortably installed . . . I have taken a small house just outside London for Mother, and she goes there to-day with her companion.
The aspect of London is thrilling. The city is full of manifestants all the time---processions of them going through the streets cheering for France and going down to Buckingham Palace. I do not feel that any one who is not closely in touch with the political question can judge of England's tardy decision, because they must be preparing for some coup, and perhaps the very hesitation will be for France's ultimate benefit. But the strain beggars description and if felt here like this, so that we can almost feel the tension snap, what must it be in Paris? Every one has been enthusiastic here over the quiet dignity of the French and the way they have borne this wait. I personally feel most secure in the fact that France is going to be victorious. It couldn't be otherwise.
I hope that the American enthusiasm is strong for the country that stood by it in the War of Independence. . . .
There have been no mails through from France to-day. . . . .
The fact that England is a partial ally is a comfort, but it is hard enough to be here as I am, even in these circumstances.
My plan is to return to Paris, if I can get through, once I am convinced of Mother's safety here.
LONDON, August 7th, 1914.
. . . I am full of enthusiasm over the attitude of the countries I love---France, where my heart is so deeply, and, as you know, my home for twenty-five years; Belgium, where my cousins are and whose ancestry is close to mine---for I am Dutch and French; and now Italy; holding out against this brutal tyranny, this barbaric disgusting materialism. It would have been a cruel blow to me if Italy had turned against France---just one blow more! How glad I am that she did not! I foresee the fact that Italy will have to fight and that perhaps they will call upon older men to go to service . . . . And then England, interesting in the extreme! I am so grateful not to be in an unfriendly country. . . .
What a different August to the one we planned! . . .
Aug. 14th, 1914.
. . . We hear all sorts of rumours. Would you tell me if they are correct? That the Champs Elysées is a vast camp for soldiers, that people are held up by sentries in the streets at the point of the bayonet; that nobody goes out after eight at night, and that Paris is not lighted? A friend of M.'s who has just arrived took thirty-six hours to come.
We understand that there are 50,000 English in Amiens and 50,000 in Brussels. The Territorials fill the streets and are camping in some of the big parks.
I also hear that there is no milk in Paris. Tell me everything.
Molly came in at 2 o'clock to-day . . . . She says that their life at Deauville had become impossible. They had to get a fresh permis de séjour every day---all of them.
We are kept in complete darkness regarding the movement of troops. No one in England knows where the soldiers are.
Aug. 14th, 1914
MY DEAR GAETANO,
. . . How far away the peaceful days of autrefois seem, and how impossible the evening walks across the Place de la Concorde and the gardens of the Tuileries! They tell me no one is allowed abroad in Paris after dark, but I am ignorant of the state of the city beyond what you read in Bessie's letters.
We do not know how safe England is. How can we know, or what the food problem will be? although every one is optimistic and the Government is acting magnificently all along the line.
The state of affairs seems to have awakened the verse-writing spirit and there have been several beautiful poems in the papers. And I think the editorials of the papers themselves are stunning. I have sent you some clippings. . . .
For the past ten days we have been working five hours a day, taking the Red Cross lectures. We were supposed to do in twelve consecutive lessons what, as a rule, it takes twelve weeks to perform. The class looked for twenty members and two thousand came! It is taught by the most celebrated Red Cross man in Europe---Dr. Cantlie, the writer of the manuals---and it was an extraordinary piece of luck to come under his instruction. The work is fascinating and it has served to fill in these dreary days of strain, loneliness and indecision. I took the first examination yesterday, but could not hope to pass and am perfectly prepared to fail and to begin again next week. The time was too short. But I am going to do it to the finish . . . . There were funny sides to it---the crowds of English spinsters who rushed to the fore, and the little messenger boys who were haled in from the streets to be bandaged. But when you think that only eight hours' journey from us four million men are on the battlefield, it will not be astonishing if many hands are needed, and if all the hands are not expert, they will be better than nothing. There has never been such a horrible condition of affairs in the history of the world, and you, so far away, quiet and protected, cannot imagine what the mental strain is of waiting for the news. It is a moment of big issues and I think that souls will be bigger for the times. Certainly the attitude of England, all the way down the file, has been superb. And as for Germany, I don't know what you've heard, but its barbaric atrocities have disgusted and horrified the very coldest of judges. Their last deed was to put women and children before the ranks of soldiers, so that the French would not fire upon them.
It takes 36 hours to get back to Paris, and lines of red tape, and passports, and all sorts of formalities; and now that I have no servants I don't know what I shall do . . . . It is lonely here and it will be lonely there.
LONDON, August 18th, 1914-
MY DEAR BELLE,
It is hard to believe that anything so beautiful and so unspoilt as London can exist in this twentieth century. I have never been here so long at one time. Think of that! The streets are full of picturesque sights. The other night on Piccadilly, I saw a poor stone-blind man with his little dog, tapping his way along the pavement with his stick. A newsvendor stopped to give him vivavoce the last war news: I heard him whisper it in the poor fellow's ear. . . .
I have never realised before how lovely the houses are. Town houses of all possible colours ---white as snow, their window-boxes full of pale pink geraniums; a pea-green house with red doors. None of them over three stories high in any of these streets. And of all the softest shades and tones.
Then there's the brown cloud of soldiers, driven here and there through the streets---the Territorials in their dust-coloured uniforms flowing in from the country-side everywhere---picturesque and ominous. These forces are to be exchanged for the troops from India, when they arrive. The military precision, the quiet strength with which all these operations have been carried out, the secrecy, and the patience of the people, have been very impressive . . .
When you receive this letter, you will probably know more than I know now. Perhaps some terrible continental disaster will have saddened this England that now so gallantly and in such a dignified way sends its brotherly response to France and Belgium. . . .
This morning I went to the hospital and worked with the Red Cross people until half-past one. Then luncheon. Then a lecture from two till five.
You are following the course of this war and I need not refer to any of the details. Our personal safety is your chief interest. It seems assured. German successes would change our feelings, of course. Aeroplanes might drop their bombs upon us. But we only think of victory. The German spy business here is a vital question, and they say that the proprietor of the Astoria in Paris was shot and the hotel closed. . . .
I am working for my Red Cross examinations and enjoying the work tremendously.
Mother is in a little house . . surrounded by a perfectly beautiful garden, in an ideal country village. I went out there on Sunday and found her sitting by the garden gate, with two wash pitchers full of cold tea, and a tray of sandwiches, giving them out to the soldiers. Ten thousand poor fellows passed her door that day, and she was enjoying the rôle of Lady Bountiful very much indeed.
LONDON, August 22nd, 1914.
MY DEAR FREDERICK,
I have asked one or two of my friends to mail you letters which may interest you and Mary.
Personal friends of ours---young girls and an older lady---have just come through from Germany with the greatest difficulty. The young ladies were stripped by German officers, who insulted them, and the mother was put in prison. They are going to see President Wilson and make a public case of it. All that has happened has not even been told us.
I had a letter to-day from Margaret Goblet d'Alviella in Brussels, to whom I wrote. Felix is a Municipal Councillor. Far away as you are in your peaceful and normal U. S. A., you can't take in what the strain is, or, on the other hand, what the control has been among the Anglo-Saxons---and the Latins too. We over here hope that the pulse of America is not too tightly compressed by the thumbs of the Wall Street clique. I remember that you told me some time ago that no one dreams how America is influenced by that colossally rich Hebraic band.
The Kaiser is a bloodthirsty lunatic and his whole country is his machine, trained to execute blindly his commands. Children have been thrown on the flames of burning houses. Women with child have been slaughtered before the eyes of the inhabitants.
. . . Well, if you live for money, you get it; and if you live for Empire, you get St. Helena, and I hope William II. will get it neck and crop.
I have finished my Red Cross examinations, all but one.
It has been very interesting here and very picturesque---troops going to the war, and the leave-takings; and if one can forget what is transpiring across the Channel, there is a certain pleasurable excitement in being on the spot. . . .
You will hear enough of everything that is going on, without my writing you; and please put up your prayers for the overthrow of the most disgusting lot of human beings that ever guzzled and raped and went through the world with sword and fire. . . .
If the millions of Germans in our country have become Americanised and citizens of the United States in sincerity, it is time for them to adopt and reflect the attitude of its liberty-loving and civilised people. If they are not sincere citizens, then they should return to fight for their country. They can only, given the fact that they are American citizens, loyally echo the opinions of the New York Press on the barbarous methods of the Kaiser's modern warfare. An indication of this modus operandi was given in his orders to his troops in China in 1900. "When you meet the foe, you will defeat him. No quarter will be given, no prisoners taken. Let all who fall into your hands be at your mercy. Gain a reputation like the Huns under Attila." There is no reason to suppose that his point of view has changed. Rape, the murder of defenceless women and children, the levelling of homes, indignities inflicted not only upon the people with whom he is at war, but upon citizens of neutral and supposedly friendly countries, have marked the passing of the Kaiser's soldiers from Germany to the little city they have ingloriously overwhelmed.
This war, from the beginning, stultified and astonished the people of the twentieth century. It was some time before it could be believed; and now the means of this warfare must be abhorrent to every decent-minded American.
The facts presented to us, so close to the scene of war, are not hearsay evidence, but have been brought to us in London by weeping fugitives and by those who have suffered personal abuse, outrage, and insult. American women of the highest class have been stripped and insulted; ladies have been put in prison; and half that has been endured by defenceless women---British, French, and Russian subjects---will never be known.
This message is sent to the New York Sun from an American citizen.
Let me revert, in closing, to the opening of my letter. All German-Americans who have made their choice of a new nationality and a new fatherland, should, instead of endeavouring to palliate the Kaiser's mode of warfare, denounce it with the people of the United States.
LONDON, August 27th, 1914.
Please try, before the Channel is closed, to send me over all the news you can. Think what it will be, cut off from France! Or rather, don't think; because what's the use?
. . . I still have three more Red Cross lectures before getting the final certificate. The instruction has been extremely interesting and I have enjoyed the study. You would have laughed at the little messenger boys upon the operating tables, and all the old maids bandaging their legs and arms. I am too Parisian not to see the humour of it. They tell me at the head office that England will be made one vast hospital and that the Red Cross has orders to receive all the Continental wounded. Can this be possible? If so, and I remain here, even my inefficiency may be of some use.
Of course, this city is full of interest, if only one's mind could leave the horrors, and the strain could, for a little while, be loosened.
As for the country about Mother's house, it is divine. You never saw such fields, and the grazing sheep, and the tiny little town with its unbelievably picturesque houses; and Mother sits in a rough-and-tumble old garden, which for some reason or other is not even dreary; and the odour of the hay and the fields and the flocks is intoxicatingly sweet, and the view charming; and the afternoons that I have sat there . . . have been peculiarly satisfying and peaceful. I have enjoyed every moment of them.
You can't think what primitive goings-on there are right here in Mayfair, nor can you believe that they take place in the twentieth century. For instance, the barrel organ, of course, and individual women and men singing solos of all kinds; a man playing military tunes on a pipe, particularly pathetic when he plays "The Flowers o' the Forest are all wi'ed awa'." And the other day, the oldest, oldest-fashioned "Punch and Judy"! It must have dated from long before Dickens' time. Then a woman with a cart full of parrots and birds, and a monkey and kittens for sale. And as for the signs on some of the buildings, they cause a smile even in these thoughtful days. "Self-contained maisonnette," for instance---if you can tell me what that means! If a Zeppelin drops a bomb here, even the British "maisonnette" will not be self-contained! Another sign is a very common one: "You may telephone here, if so desired." Think of the politeness of that to a busy public! Then another: "Trains stop here if requested." And the names of some of the little inns, as you pass them beyond Elstree: "The Country Lad," for instance, in pink stucco, one storey high, with bright green blinds, and the August fields around it; and all along up the hill, the endless files of dusty soldiers tramping away, past the farm lad and the country boy and the harvests. . .
Aug. 27th, 1914.
. . . I was deeply interested in your views about the theatre of war. I think that Slav power could not be more hideous than the German power. No atrocities, excepting those of the Dark Ages, have equalled the barbarism of the Germans to their fellow-creatures. And I also think that Germany is more materialistic than Russia, and that is the secret of it all. . .
Sept. 19th, 1914.
MY DEAR MARY,
It is amusing to read that the German Emperor says that if the extinction of the German Empire is threatened, he will arm every child and cat and dog in the kingdom for revenge. He has already, apparently, armed every maniac and vandal, every criminal and drunkard, and set them loose upon the highest civilisation that we know. In the German appeal for sympathy to the United States, let Germany not forget the rôle that women play in our country. There is no country in the world where their voice is clearer and where their force is greater. The atrocities practised upon women by the Germans in Belgium and in France call for a reckoning that Germany must pay until its last breath, and the women of our country will not be slow to display their attitude of mind towards German barbarism.
France knew the horrors of German invasion in 1870, but hoped for better things after the supposed civilising of forty years. Yet graver and more frightful horrors than inspired Guy de Maupassant to write of Mademoiselle Fifi in his immortal story have befallen the women of France, as well as the women of Belgium.
Germany must make no sentimental appeal to the people of the United States. We are bidden to remain neutral by our Government; our hearts and souls cannot be this. Before a political situation, diplomacy might keep us silent; but before rape and brutality such as the savage races employed; before dishonour, arson and cowardice, before insult to priests, before murder of women, before fiendish attacks upon those who minister to the sick, we are neither neutral nor silent. Nor will we ever be, and Germany may as well know it thoroughly.
I have been able to get letters carried by hand to Bessie, even at the worst moments---and the moments have been bad, 1 assure you! At one time we thought hourly that those dreadful devils would enter our beloved Paris. Nor are we sure yet that all is well. How can we be?
There are interesting things besides the horrors, of course, and here in England we have only seen that side. London has been calm and peaceful, except for the exodus of her soldiers; and the weather, with the exception of one day, has been divine, so that it is hard to realise all that is going on about us.
You must not think of me as nursing wounded soldiers, for I have done nothing at all but hang around in a state of horrible desuetude, wishing myself in every quarter of the globe, and failing probably to appreciate just how thrilling it is on Piccadilly. I believe I have now secured at least the first diploma of the Red Cross.
Just now we are waiting for the outcome of the battle of the Aisne and our hearts are filled with loathing of Germany's horrible atrocities; and we hope, with all our hearts, that she will be crushed into the most abject submission. Don't let us hear of any peace overtures from America, please. As Richard Harding Davis said when President Wilson suggested neutrality: "He hasn't seen this war."
LONDON, Sept. 3rd,
MY DEAR VICTOR,
. . . I have been wandering through the streets of London all alone, watching the movements and the character of this great city at this particular time of its history. Indeed you are right when you speak of the intense moment and its great importance. One can't be everywhere at once, and if France is horrible and quivering with interest, London is certainly throbbing with the same issues too. Its pulse is slow, but it is rising rapidly, and I think that by the time you have this letter it will have awakened more completely than the people themselves dream. It has been like watching a rising tide all these weeks. One of the most interesting phases of it all has been the welding together and the blending of party and the annihilation of personal interest in the one great Cause.
I have been thinking, too---no doubt you have thought the same---that none of us have comprehended war at all. The Germans alone seem to have understood it. War is so essentially brutal that you can't combine it with reason or civilisation. Why make civilised war? It is uncivilised, and if you're going to make it at all, you may just as well do it to the limit. At any rate, this experience will prove whether there can be such a thing as "civilised warfare." If the Germans conquer, then to rush on like the Huns is certainly the way to fight; if they don't, we shall all probably decide to disarm. They have cut off the sword hands of the little children, so that they may not bear arms against them in the future.
It is soul-stirring indeed to be amongst these nations struggling for existence; but 1 assure you that if it's not your own people, and you can't take an active interest in what they are doing, it is real suffering to be useless, and the strain is great. For instance, I have worked for the Red Cross examinations, and now find that I can't be a British Red Crossist and must form part of a foreign legion if I want to be one at all.
You must think my ideas ridiculous, but still I like to air them to you. If France is unsuccessful, don't you think it will prove that a republic surrounded by these powerful autocratic monarchies is not equal to coping with a martial situation? If Germany conquers, the march of civilisation will be retarded by many years---if anything can retard the march of civilisation.
It is strange to think that when you get this letter the fate of France will probably be decided---certainly the fate of Paris. I can no longer think of the personal equation in it, when I think of the dreadful human sacrifice going on so near.
Alice Carr Ellison told me just now of a friend of hers to whom the War Office sent news. To the officer who came and told her she said: "Is my husband badly wounded?" And he said: "He's dead." And she said, without showing the slightest emotion: "Thank God he's not among the missing!" That's the way she bore it; for to be among the "missing" now is like being among the savages.
I saw an Englishwoman to-day who had escaped from a German prison. She said that the German officers trod upon the people. They seem to have gone blood-mad. I suppose there is such a disease.
And yet, out of it all, I know there will rise some great spiritual conquest and good; and everything will, out of this baptism of fire and blood, come purified. But the horror of the cauldron! . . .
A friend of Marie Edgar's in the Hussars wrote her yesterday that he was in the Charleroi engagement, and walked ankle-deep in blood; and the poor foreign legion from Africa was half exterminated.
I have taken a house for Mother on the Edgware road, about six miles from London, and shall stay there till October, if I can. At least mother will, and if we are threatened with disaster such as is menacing France, why then I suppose I'll have to bring her to America.
You can't think how splendid Mr. Herrick has been. Really, I hope they'll make him President.
LONDON, Sept. 8th, 1914.
For the past few days there has been no violent engagement, and we have been able to draw a breath; but it does not mean that we are watching any less keenly or praying any the less fervently.
The recruiting goes on beautifully and the spirit of voluntary enlistment is very fine and must be highly gratifying.
You asked me to write you about the state of affairs; but you see, one realises that in the ten days it takes to get a letter, the face of events must have changed enormously.
Elizabeth Grimm writes me: "Leave London immediately: Germany has terrible surprises in store for you. Eighty Zeppelins are going to fly over England and France; and you must take mother to Rotterdam, where I will spend the winter with her." Poor Mother! Any further flight must be to America---nowhere else.
After passing five weeks in Red Cross study and lectures and examinations, we were informed the other day very curtly, that no foreigners would be allowed to become members of the British Red Cross. It was a bitter moment and I felt bitterly. A fine-looking Frenchwoman, who has been scrubbing the floors of the hospitals and so forth, in addition to the Red Cross work, has been asked to form a foreign legion, taking in the unwelcome French, Belgians, etc. To-day I sold my uniform, bought with such excitement and interest. The Foreign Legion will have the smartest uniform you ever saw.
I have just come in from a rifle brigade practice. It is really most gratifying to see the women's enthusiasm here. To-day we were drilled by an officer from the Coldstream Guards. It certainly passes some of the time most agreeably, even if one is tired.
Yesterday I went down for the arrival of the Ostend train, to help the Belgian refugees from Malines and Louvain. One poor little woman arrived from Malines with her husband and her old uncle. "It is exterminated," she said to me; "we have nothing in the world but what we hold in our hands."
I went to see Arnold Bennett's play, "The Great Adventure." I sat in the pit, and only the pit was occupied. It was one of those nervous nights when at every corner some new poster sent absolute horror to one's soul. And now, as I write, how little we know what the issue may be! Think what the devastation is at best in our fair French fields! I can't bear to think of it.
Two friends of Mollie Andrews asked me to go out with them in a motor, and we lunched at Tunbridge Wells, getting back here at four o'clock. It was a divine and marvellous September day, and the air did me a great deal of good. Then I took my own taxi and motored out to dinner with Bridget Guinness at Windsor and spent a most delightful evening. Mr. Guinness mapped out the whole campaign on the floor with cards, and we raved and raged together, and it was greatly satisfying. Mr. G. said it was a privilege to live in these times. It is a frightful privilege to be here! The excitement and the suffering, the hope deferred and the faith it requires; in the case of many, the bitter sacrifice, the unending agony. Just think what it means! I read to-day of a woman who had four sons at the front, and of another who had lost her only son. Of course there are many like that.
Women have been married on Monday and their husbands have left them the following day, and at the end of the week they have had telegrams from the War Office to tell them that they will never see again these men who have so gallantly gone to stand for France and Belgium---for that's what it means. England could have remained neutral, if it had not been for that eternal bond of brotherhood which, when it is felt, is the strongest thing on earth and the safeguard of nation and home.
I hear that Kitchener went to France for forty-eight hours. He drove in a motor as far along the French front as he could in that time, and during his stay there he organised the new military government of Paris, changed the old and sent the authorities to Bordeaux; but that's not official, so don't tell it all over the place and get me in for something or other!
Maeterlinck is taboo now in Germany. Carpentier, the prize fighter, has given up contracts here amounting to thousands of pounds a week to go and fight for France; Marcoux, with his American contracts all bust to finders, has taken his divine voice into the ranks to sing the "Marseillaise"; and Mordkin and Rachmaninoff are shouldering Russian weapons. Art and Science and Letters are all combining, filling these bloody fields with immortal sacrifices---oh, how thrilling it is! Yes, it's a thrilling time---a terrible time; but there is a sublimity in it of which our children will reap the glories. Cyril Maude is a special constable, and when the theatre is over "Grumpy" patrols the reservoirs, to prevent German spies from poisoning the water of London. Quelles belles choses!
I really think that I came very near having brain fever. I went through the worst horrors, in imagination, thinking of Paris, and Bessie, and the wreck and destruction. Just now it's holding one's breath, and in this moment of waiting, I close, dearest Violet, with the most devoted love.
LONDON, September 9th, 1914.
MY DEAR VICTOR,
I am extremely touched by your expressions of interest and sympathy, and I can so easily see you here, agitating for others and working for any cause in which you put your talent and your magnetism and your interest. Indeed, I am sure that if you were here, you would be fighting for France.
They will not have me on the British Red Cross because I am an American and "neutral." I am sure you appreciate this disappointment. Still, I have two certificates to-day, having passed two examinations. There is another to-morrow, and I hope then to get the Red Cross certificate, though I can't be, as they say, "on the strength."
When you receive this, we shall all of us know what the Allies have been able to do. From the very best authority here I have it that four French Generals were shot for treachery at Namur.
Fancy what it would have been if England had not gone to the rescue! Is it not picturesque---that response of the British armies of India and Canada, of the farmer boys from the cold North and the Indians, who are bringing their beautiful mounts with them? Wouldn't you love to see that battlefield---since one there must be---or, if not the battlefield, the assembly?
There has not been, since I came to England, one note of doubt as to the righteousness of the Cause.
One of Wanamaker's managers, Mr. Helmer, has just come through from Paris. He and a few others chartered a boat and came by the Seine to Rouen, their passage costing them fifty dollars apiece and their individual fees mounting to sixty dollars between Paris and Rouen. There their boat was taken away from them, mines being laid in the Seine and the bridges blown up. At Rouen, where they hoped to pass the night, they were told that the Germans might arrive any moment, and they toiled painfully on to Havre, where Mr. H. told me pandemonium reigned supreme. Thousands of American and English refugees were thronging the streets and the hotels, and the little steamer, supposed to accommodate five hundred people at the most, carried fifteen hundred over, crowded like sardines, and their baggage was left standing in the streets of Havre. Think of it! He is a very quiet, unimpressionable American business man, but I have seen no one more impressed and overwhelmed by the situation than he. I am a radiant optimist compared with him. He doesn't think it a possible thing for the Germans to be conquered in France. He is anxious to return to Paris and do what he can for the people there. He gave me a picture of the deserted streets, of the closed hotels and shops, and congratulated me very warmly on the fact that I was not there and had made such an easy exit. It took one of the Daily Mail correspondents fifty hours to get from London to Paris. The risks of being confined there hermetically sealed, have been what has kept me from going back now---purely on account of Mother; but it is hard to remain here, as you can imagine.
I know you will be pleased at the notice in Punch of my book. Not much, perhaps, but it is a great honour to be spoken of in that paper, it seems.
Four British Army nurses have been brought home shot.
No more for the present.
LONDON, Sept. 12th, 1914.
I just want you to note what trouble I have taken to get letters to you and to others during this time, when people are left without news. I sent you letters by hand by three different people who were going over, and some gloves by a fourth person. I have sent Bessie letters by Richard Harding Davis, and it was amusing to see him pack them away in his bag with his passports and letters of introduction. And I have sent them over and over again by a courier. I only mention this to show what can be done if one cares.
Mother moves into her other house on Tuesday, and I give up my rooms here. I have not yet decided whether I shall go out to Edgware and remain there with Mother for a month, or whether I shall start away next week to see Bessie and Mme. de Sers. After all, it doesn't make much difference now, does it? as the Germans have not quite ruined France, and the Allies are successful. That's all that counts.
To-night the searchlights are being flashed from the London buildings, ready for the Zeppelins if they come; but nobody seems to be afraid of them any more.
I passed the third Red Cross examination yesterday. I look upon it now as only an added bit of knowledge, because we shall not be used; but I have enjoyed it.
Somehow, nothing seems the same any more, although I think that things will adjust themselves all over this great troubled land; because it seems as though a spirit was moving over everything that perhaps has never been there before. England was said to be degenerate. Surely, if there has been any degeneracy, an almighty upward movement has been brought about by this crisis. What a power she has been throughout her Empire! We speak of the German system: What is it? Within the confines of a single country, a forced, autocratic materialism. Whereas, as you see, this wide response of the British Empire from shore to shore, from these princes of---let us not say a conquered people,---from subject races, from colony and island, this mighty answer, this evidence of affection, this consolidation without compulsion, why, it seems to me that it is one of the finest things in history; not to speak of the voluntary enlistment of what will be a million men! . . I believe that it all comes from a certain idealism; also from the fact that if the proper Cause is present, the men and the means are there too.
Madelon Hancock is determined to go to Antwerp---alone, by herself . . . . She has bought a nurse's costume, but what she will do in Antwerp, or how long she will be permitted to stay, I don't know . . . .
LONDON, Sept. 12th, 1914.
It is a great comfort to be able to send in this manner, and if you will have a letter ready for this man, he will bring it back to me.
The news is so glorious that we no longer have any fear. Of course you hear of the French, and we hear this marvellous English news of staunch and brilliant action; and I assure you that it's thrilling beyond words.
It is interesting in every way to be here-to see the unparalleled unity of this nation. What an Empire, isn't it? From shore to shore, what loyalty! Think! Five hundred thousand volunteers in a month---and all so willing to go! What a lesson to militarism, and how uplifting! No wonder they fight!
I hope you have received the papers that give you a picture of the Indian and Canadian response. Really it's picturesque, isn't it? I am sure you will be interested in the enclosed clippings.
I have an idea that I shall see you before very long. I think your courage has been superb and it must give you great satisfaction. . . .
LONDON, Sept. 22nd, 1914.
. . . We are not exciting enough, here in England, to be in danger, unless a possible visit of a Zeppelin may be called so; but we are certainly palpitating with interest, extremely picturesque, and if one may judge of what is going on across the Channel, in the deeds of those magnificent bulldog regiments, we are superb and brave. I don't suppose in the annals of war anything has been more surprising than the vigour and the dogged continuance of this repulse. When you think that men have now, as I write, been fighting for ten days, one might almost say without respite, wearing, many of them, the same clothes in which they left England, without daring to take oft their boots lest their poor feet should swell so that they couldn't put them on again, one can judge a little of the hardships of this modern war.
The scenes here are delightful and pathetic as well. You can't believe that, in the twentieth century, anything so amusing as this Highland costume could still exist, yet officers with bare knees and checkered stockings stand before the fireplace in hotels, smoking and talking as serenely as though, within thirty-six hours, they might not be leading one of those mad charges up a French hill. They are fighting in trenches up to their waists in water now, and think what the fields around Paris must be! Those days when the Germans were within a few miles of the gates made one's heart sick, and even now we are not sure that they may not have another try, although it is not likely.
Journeys at this time are long and eventful. A correspondent of the Daily Mail travelled with a Turco whose trousers were all dripping with blood. "Are you badly hurt?" the Daily Mail man asked sympathetically; and the grinning nigger said: "Oh, no! Take this back to Africa," and he pulled out of his baggy trousers the dripping head of a German. Imagine the sensation in the railway train! An editor of the Daily Mail told me this himself at lunch the other day.
The trains, it seems, are full of vermin and the seats covered with filth and blood. They can't clean them out properly. And they say that overland travel from Paris southwards is full of disturbing and wearying adventures.
In Clarges Street, where I have been staying, much that is picturesque passes by the front door. An old man plays on a harp the songs that the boys are singing on the battlefield; and there is a most pathetic little Punch and Judy man with a dog whose attractiveness would touch your heart. You can be sure that he does not go by without a reward.
. . . They say that the military Red Cross nurses are swishing around in great style in Paris, and that every one is mad to be a nurse!
It is hard to realise in this quiet England, serene in these September days, that the death struggle and the dreadful grip of war is going on only a few miles away, with such tremendous issues. at stake. . . .
What do you think of the destruction of beautiful Rheims, where Jeanne d'Arc saw the king crowned? Mutable and immutable! And one asks one's self over and over again: "What lasts?" What indeed? And far up in Lorraine and Alsace they will answer: "Qui vive? La France quand-même !" And perhaps there are certain things that because of an inherent love and loyalty, in spite of disaster and far-flung battlelines and constant change, persist---quand-même . . . .
EDGWARE, Sept. 28th, 1914.
. . . I came down this morning in the train from Windsor with a young officer, not more than twenty-two years of age---one of the most attractive-looking young men I ever saw-such a clean, fine face. He had just come back from the battle of the Aisne, where he was wounded. His arm was all done up in a big silk St. John's bandage. He said that he had been fighting for three weeks and had not had his clothes off once in that time, nor his boots, and that he had only once during that time seen the enemy. I am going to give you all this information en bloc, while I can remember what he said. It is the first personal note I have had of this vast, horrible war. . . . He said that the German organisation is beyond words superb, and that there never was such an army to meet, and that it is extraordinary that both the Allies and English have been able to stand up against it at all. He said that the German officer proper, of the best regiments, is courteous and considerate, and that when you realise that they have four or five million men all war-mad, to deal with, their job is not easy. He said they lay twenty-four hours in the trenches, in the wet and cold, soaked through, and that all the weaklings of his regiment were killed, for those that were not shot died from exhaustion and pneumonia. There were twenty-six officers in his regiment and only six came out alive. He was one of this little number. He had no idea that he would ever see England again. His school pal, and an officer like himself, was by his side all through the engagement, and he turned to this boy and said: "Won't we have a jolly time when we get back to England?" And just at that moment he was shot through the heart. This boy buried him after the battle, digging his grave and taking his cigarette case and things from his pocket. He said he would otherwise have been left there on that field, unburied, as they had no time even to drag out the wounded. He was finally hit by a shell---shoulder broken---then lay for thirty-six hours in a base hospital in a little French town, where the care was not very good. He said the whole town around them was reduced to powder and ashes, but the hospital was spared; and that night they all escaped in Red Cross waggons, the searchlights of the enemy following them like the eyes of demons and shining upon their faces even at a distance of four miles. But the Germans did not shell the hospital waggons. He was piled in a cattle truck with other wounded men and made the return journey to England in that way as far as the Channel boat. Several of his personal friends died on that dreadful trip.
When you see the flower of England sacrificed like this, it seems too bad, doesn't it? And all for what? He said that he thought they wouldn't get the Germans out of France before Christmas.
My cousins in Brussels are cut off from all the rest of the world. My cousin writes me that his wife is more distant from him than if she were in Calcutta or New York, although he can see Brussels from the forts of .Antwerp. He is there with the King, and she is doing ambulance work in her own city. Brave, isn't it---wonderfully brave?
I wish you could see the arms of light that flash across these skies here at night now---great long fans of radiance, searching for Zeppelins, though what they'd do when they found them, God knows!
We hear that Kreisler is wounded. No one is spared.
PARIS, Oct. 3rd, 1914.
I left London to go to France on a divinely beautiful day, cloudless and balmy. The train and boat were crowded with people who were venturing like timid rats out of their holes back, as they hoped, to a secure city. The Channel crossing took six hours and was very good. As I had on my uniform I passed in pounds and pounds of tea and cigarettes for the British wounded, friends of English friends. There was a big contingent of Red Cross nurses on the boat, going to Limoges, and I gave the Chief a letter to the dear Havilands. Every one talked to every one else with the most good-natured friendliness.
The late September sunlight was red around the shores of old Dieppe as we drew in. I do not know quite what changed aspect I had looked for, but there was no change. France is always beautiful and seemed more beautiful than ever now. The men who had not gone to the war were younger and more sturdy than we had expected to see.
As soon as we pulled into the first station, seven wounded soldiers were hurried in and took their places in a vacant compartment next to us, shared with them by the head woman from Worth's and a pretty little fitter. Picture the colour of this---the men in their dirty red and blue uniforms, and the pimpante little dressmakers sharing their luncheon with their wounded brothers and chattering with them like devoted, gay little birds.
The men were talkative, and told of the days and nights in the trenches, and the history of their wounds, as they will tell their brave stories until they are old men. One had had his eye shot out---such a delicate-looking young fellow; another's wound was in his back, and there were three holes in his coat where the bullets had only grazed him.
One young man said that as his companions and he lay under cover their hiding place was betrayed by a seventeen-year-old French girl in the neighbouring village. The Prussians menaced her with death, and to save her life she sold her people. When you think what they have done to the women and children, it is hard to judge her. Fortunately, this special little band was able to cope with its pursuers.
On the Channel boat there was an American woman who had come from Dinant, where she had seen the arrival of countless refugees from Belgium who had walked to Dinant on foot; so these incidents come from her who saw the people, to me, who repeat them to you.
She saw four or five little boys with their hands cut off at the wrist by the Prussian soldiers. She saw a woman who had lost her mind because her sister and her sister's children had been put to death by the sword before her very eyes in the little inn where the woman had given the soldiers nourishment and lodgings.
But I am sure that you have heard enough of these never-ending atrocities---France is full of them and Belgium encore!
There was nobody to meet me at the station when I arrived in Paris, and the desolation of Paris soon began to assert itself. The streets were scarcely lit anywhere. However, nothing could spoil the return. The weather being mild, the apartment was comfortable, and in a few moments everything necessary was put in order and after the London lodgings and the exile, the sweetness of it was beyond any words to express ---alone as I was. It seemed too good to be true, that this beloved little place had really been spared to me a little longer.
Below in the concierge's lodge, huddled in a chair, sat the lodger over me---a little old gentleman who lives quietly here and whom nothing would induce to leave Paris. He had had his instructions from the proprietor to cover the roof of the apartment with heavy water-soaked mattresses in case of bombs, and he had taken all his most precious possessions downstairs on the first floor. It seems that the taubes flew low and circled for days over the Chambre des Députés and this little place, and God knows why they did not drop their fiendish loads. Only two days before a bomb had fallen in the Rue de l'Université, the street next to mine.
The following morning I went to the office of the Matin and learned that young Robert Le Roux had been shot at Toul in a recent engagement, and that the news was just as bad as it could be.
The following day, as there is absolutely nothing to do here, and I felt more than anxious to put into practice some of my new-found skill, I went to the American Ambulance at Neuilly.
I wish you could have seen this picture, could touch the excitement and the vividness of life that come at such a time as this. In June Mother and I drove past a beautiful-looking new building in the style of François Premier, and wondered what it was; if we could only have seen just then the picture I was to see next time I approached that building. It was the Pasteur Institute, incomplete, and now so replete. Paris has given it over to Mrs. Vanderbilt, and before each window hang the luminous dark blue curtains to shade the light from the invalided eyes.
In front of the place was a constant va-et-vient of Red Cross motor ambulances. As I went in two of these were arriving from the trains, and I saw five blue-coated, red-trousered soldiers carried in.
The corridors are full of the house surgeons and orderlies---men who have volunteered their services, mostly American, some English. There were artists from the Latin Quarter and young clerks from the shops, all busy in the service of this country which has given its treasures to us all for so many years.
I saw Mrs. Vanderbilt shortly after, and offered my services, which she was so good as to accept immediately. I also promised to bring her Miss Arkwright, who is to arrive to-day from London, and Glory Hancock for whom I have telegraphed to Antwerp.
In one of the big rooms where I worked yesterday some fifty women are engaged preparing the bandages. That sounds like nothing, does it not? It is one of the most important things in the hospital, and a never-ceasing occupation. I wish you could see that room. The workers are ladies almost all of them, and many of them are strikingly beautiful, with that distinction and grace that the American woman possesses to such a marked extent. There has been no effort at putting them all into a regulation uniform---down here, in the bandage room, at any rate---and some of them have come from their homes and wear their own pretty blouses and their high-heeled slippers and their ear-rings, the rest being enveloped in the all-concealing apron. Many are in the full uniform of the hospital, that is in snow-white, with red crosses on their breasts and a little coif on their heads, mediæval in its effect, and under their hands and round about them all are yards upon yards, and piles upon piles of the fine snowy material that is to go out from here to its ghastly yet merciful usage.
Here I worked yesterday all day long, and from here I shall be called shortly, when needed, to go upstairs into the wards.
Here I saw the English Chaplain, with his Doctor of Divinity cap on his head---another picturesque figure---and he told me that the mortality was something frightful, that the American hospital asked for the worst cases, and got them with a vengeance. He looked worn and troubled; he has been at so many deathbeds of brave British officers torn suddenly from peaceful England, from their sports and from their home occupations, to spill their blood on this foreign shore, almost without warning, scarcely knowing why, and their people certainly not knowing where they had fallen. In many cases no communication has been made with their friends until they have gone for ever.
In my lodging house in London I took an interest in Mrs. B., whose young husband, Capt. B., in the Coldstream Guards, was aide-de-camp to the General. He died on the 14th September, alone, in a barn-quite alone---shot through the intestines. She never knew until the end of the month that he was even wounded.
I went upstairs yesterday to talk with a young lieutenant of the same regiment---such a nice boy. I really do not think he was more than 19, and he looked like a child. He sat there in the dressing-gown that some American gentleman had given him, his brown hands clasped so meekly---such a charming, gentle chap. I tell you, it makes your heart sick when you think of the flower of English manhood, with all its promise, being mown down by those barbarians to whom honour is only a word, and in whose souls, so far, we have not seen one glimmer of spirituality or grace.
A woman I know here had her house rifled, and what was left desecrated by the Crown Prince and his officers. He packed up boxes full of her treasures, had them marked with the Red Cross, to ensure their respect by the Allied armies, and shipped them to Germany---a robber who should have been a prince, a murderer who should have been a knight.
I lunched yesterday with a Député and with one of the chiefs of the Military Red Cross here.
The latter was one of the big French doctors, a man who has had charge of field ambulances, and he said that whilst he was tending the wounded on the field near Paris a German officer with two others, came up to him, when his hands were busy with bandages, and, with his pistol at the doctor's breast, demanded his watch and his porte-monnaie, all of which, of course, were handed over. "I gave up my belongings," said the doctor, "and they turned and walked off together. Strangely enough, they had not sufficiently protected themselves, for a man whom I was tending---a wounded officer---still had his pistol. I tore it out of its case, and I shot all three in the back as they walked away." No doubt he would be blamed by those whose codes are against shooting men in the back, but I do not think you will blame him, will you?
But to the stories and pictures of this war there is absolutely no end.
Larue's, the restaurant, is full of generals and their staffs, newspaper correspondents (there won't be many left, though, presently, for they are all being sent away), Red Cross nurses, and the drifting few who have remained and those who are merely passing through.
After my work last night I walked all the way home from the Porte Maillot, and stopped on the way at the Astoria, where the Red Cross is in full swing. There, sitting on a chair in the corridor, I found a woman weeping, and it was poor little L., our slipper woman. She had come to deliver a pair of slippers for the head nurse. She said to me: "Oh, Mademoiselle, for the love of Heaven, give me something to do---anything, wash floors, or scrub---something to take me out of the Rue Cambon and my shop so that I may forget those fields and that dreadful distance where my son is. I know nothing of him, I have heard nothing of him, and 1 cannot go on making slippers for the Americans and for my clients; I want to change my ideas." I shall certainly try to do something for the woman, even if I only bring her to my house and let her sit and sew in my parlour, so as to comfort her if I can.