Puslapio vaizdai

ufacture, carry an enormous bursting officer, who spoke English, -of the charge, and — shot out of small mor- Oxford variety, - stepped out, introtar-like guns, into which the steel or duced himself all around with charming wooden 'stem' of the torpedo is in- courtesy, took our names, and usherserted— have a range of six or seven ed us in. hundred yards. On days of attack you The general, a hawk-faced man of can see them, like huge black birds, sixty, straight and slender as an arrow, soar slowly up from behind the with sparkling dark eyes, stood surtrenches, hang poised for an instant, rounded by his resplendent staff. As and dart down to make their formid- each name was announced, we walked able explosion, which sends clouds of forward to him, saluted and bowed, and débris, timber, and dirt, high into the shook hands. This over, we stepped air. Their fragments are very bad back and mingled with the staff offilong, thin, jagged things that come cers, who displayed a wonderful trick whizzing by and inflict terrible wounds. of making us feel at home in the first Many of them are equipped with stiffness. Presently orderlies brought 'trailers,' which outline their course in in champagne and glasses, and when a shower of crimson sparks; and on every one had his glass in hand the nights of attack the sky is scored with buzz stopped while the general spoke. their fiery trails.

'Your country, gentlemen,' he said, A A night attack is a wonderful thing 'has done France the honor of setting

a to see: the steady solemn thunder of aside this day for her. It is fitting that the guns, the sky glaring with star- I should ask you here, in order to tell shells and trails, the trenches flaming you how much we appreciate America's

, and roaring with bursting shell. It is friendship, which you and your comlike a vast natural phenomenon, rades have been demonstrating by Krakatoa or Mont Pelée, too vast actions rather than words. I am an and cataclysmic to be man's handi- old man, but I tell you my heart beat work; and yet, into the maelstrom of like a boy's when the news came that spouting flames, hissing steel, shatter- the great Sister Republic - united of ing explosions, insignificant little crea- old by ideals of human liberty — had tures like you and me will presently thrown in her lot with ours. I ask you run-offering, with sublime courage, to drink with me to the future of their tender bodies to be burned and France and America — the sure future. pierced and mangled. To me that is You have seen France: our brave war's one redeeming feature-it brings women, ready to make any sacrifices out in men a courage that is of the spirit for the motherland; our little soldiers, alone - above all earthly things. invincible in their determination. Let

Х us drink then to France, to America,

April 26, 1917. and to the day of ultimate victory, This afternoon the general of the which is coming as surely as the sun division ordered us to present ourselves will rise to-morrow.' at headquarters at four o'clock. From

As he ceased, he stepped forward to lunch on there was a great shaving and touch glasses with each of us, the haircutting, brushing and pressing of invariable French custom, - and next uniforms, and overhauling of shoes and moment a magnificent Chasseur band, puttees. Four o'clock found us lined outside on the terrace, crashed into the up at the door of the wonderful old “Star-Spangled Banner.' Quite thrillchâteau,'and next moment a superb ing, I assure you. Later, we strolled

lined us up.



through the stately old gardens, chat- she give; going about among her hosting with the officers while the band pitals and peasant families as cheerplayed. The general, while the most ful, interested, even gay, as if her only military man imaginable, has a very cares were for others. There is true attractive brusque affability. We are courage for you! a good-sized crowd as Americans run, To-day I went to a new post for and the French, who average shorter some sick men, and who should be and stockier, never cease to wonder at waiting for me but my friend Jean, of our height. The old chap grabbed whom I wrote you before! His comthree or four of us by the shoulders and pany has been transferred to this place.

It was great to see his grinning face Mais vous êtes des gaillards,' he and to chatter Spanish with him. As

‘, said, smiling; 'see, I am five or six the sick men had not finished lunch, centimetres shorter than any of you. . Jean asked me to his mess, and we had But wait, we have a giant or two.' a jolly meal with his pals. I have had

With that he called over a grinning to give up wine, as it seems to blacken captain and pulled him back to back our teeth horribly (all of us have nowith our biggest man, whom he topped ticed it, and we can trace it to no other by a full inch.

source), and the Frenchmen can't get ‘But, my general,” laughed the of- over the joke of seeing one drink water ficer, “it is not good to be so tall too extraordinary stuff to drink! All much of one sticks out of a trench.' right to run under bridges or for wash

The owner of the château ing purposes, but as a beverage - a stately woman of fifty, proud of her quaint American conceit, handed down name, her race, and her country, and no doubt from the red aborigines an angel from heaven to the sick and les peaux rouges indigènes — of our poor for miles around

- is an exam- continent. Jean admitted that since ple of the kind of patriotism of which, December, 1914, he had not tasted waI fear, we are in need. Her husband is ter, and no one else could remember the dead; when the war broke out she had last occasion when he had tried it. a daughter and two sons — gallant As word had just come from the young officers whose brief lives had trenches that a wounded man was on been a constant source of satisfaction the way in, I got my helmet and we and pride to their mother. The elder strolled down the boyau to meet the was killed at the Marne, and a while stretcher-bearers. It was, to me, a new ago, the younger, her special pet, was section of the front and very interestkilled here in an attack. A woman of ing. The country is broken and hilly, her kind, to whom the continuance of and the lines zigzag about from crest an old name was almost a religion, to valley in the most haphazard way, could undergo no harder experience. which really has been painfully worked At the graveside she stood erect and out to prevent enfilading fire. There is dry-eyed, with a little proud smile on scarcely any fighting here, as neither her lips, as her last boy was buried. side has anything to gain by an ad“Why should I weep?' she asked some vance, which would mean giving up one who would have comforted her; their present artillery positions. 'there is nothing finer my boys could In one place the boyau ran down have done if they had lived out their a steep slope, badly exposed, and Jean lives. Her heart must be very nearly said, 'Follow me on the run! We broken in two, but never a sign does sprinted for twenty yards, and next



[ocr errors]



moment, tat-tat-tat-tat came from the on which the hair is short, crisp, and Boches, and little spurts of dust shot black, is surmounted by a battered blue up behind us. They can never shoot helmet. He wears a long overcoat, quickly enough to hurt any one at this looped up and buttoned at the sides, point, Jean said, but after all, 'You showing evidence, in several places, of can't blame a fellow for trying.' home-made patching. It was once hori

At the next turn we came on a train zon blue, but has now faded to an idealof the little grenade donkeys - ly protective shade of blue-green-gray. small that they make the tiniest Mexi- About his middle is a worn cartridgecan burro seem a huge clumsy brute. belt, and from either shoulder, their They do not show above the shallow- straps crossing on breast and back, est trench, and each one carries two hang his musettes bags of brown canpanniers full of grenades. These last vas for carrying extra odds and ends, are vicious little things of cast iron, including everything from a bottle of checkered so as to burst into uniform wine to a dictionary. On his back is square fragments, and about the size his square pack, an affair of formidable and shape of lemons. They make an weight, to which he has lashed his rollastonishingly loud bang when they go ed blanket in the form of a horseshoe, off, and if close enough, as in a narrow points down. Perched on top of this, trench, are pretty bad. At a little dis- he carries his gamelle and quart -- the tance, of course, they are not very dan- saucepan and cup which serve for both gerous. In the trench warfare — raids, cooking and eating; and beside them infantry attacks, and so forth — they you perceive with astonishment that seem to have supplanted rifles, just as he has strapped a large German trench · the knife has supplanted the bayonet. torpedo

torpedo - a souvenir for the home

folks. From his belt hangs the tin box, May 11, 1917.

painted horizon-blue, which contains Sunday, another lovely day. It is his gas-mask, and on the other side his 7 A.M., and already the indefinable Sun- long slender bayonet rattles against day atmosphere has come over the his thigh. camp. The shower-baths are open and A large calloused hand, not too clean, strings of men are coming and going holds his shouldered rifle at a most unwith towels on their arms. Under the military angle. The gun has seen hard trees little groups are shaving and service, the wood is battered, and in cutting one another's hair, amid much places bright steel shows through the practical joking and raillery.

bluing; but look closely and you will One becomes very fond of the French see that it is carefully greased, and in soldier. Large floods of rhetoric have the muzzle a little plug of cloth keeps been poured out in describing him, and out dust and moisture. In spite of a yet nearly every day one discovers in load which would make a burro groan, him new and interesting traits. Let me he walks sturdily, whistling a march try and sketch for you a composite pic- between puffs of a cigarette. Glance at ture of the French infantryman — the his face. The eyes are dark gray, deepfantassin who is winning the war for set, and twinkling with good humor; France. On the whole, I do not see him they are the clear decisive eyes of a man as a boy, but as a sturdy middle-aged who knows what he wants and has set man — the father of a family. He is about getting it. The nose is aquiline, short and solidly built, with thick calves the mouth strong and ironically humorand heavy shoulders. His round head, ous, the unshaven chin positive and




shapely. It is the face of a breed that or bit of strategy should be carried out has been settling to type for many cen- V - from a trench-raid to an enveloping turies, a race old in cultivation and movement, which will — he is sure of philosophy.

it! -- net fifty thousand prisoners. In

What is he in civil life? That is hard last night's coup de main they caught to say. A lawyer, a farmer, a custom- only three Germans. 'Do you know house clerk, a cook — probably a cook; why, my friend? I will tell you. Our armost of them seem to be cooks, and tillery cut the wires all right, and tapped mighty good ones. Ours at the mess on the front trench. Good. After that was assistant chef at the Savoy, in Lon- they raised their guns for the barrage, don, and when he has the material (for but pouf! the Boches had already run example a hind-quarter of mule, a few back to their dugouts in the second or potatoes, some dandelions, a tin of lob- third lines. Had the gunners made a ster, and an egg) he can turn out a din- barrage on the second line from the ner hard to equal anywhere - delicious beginning, the Germans would have hors d'auvres, superb soup, roast, sauté been forced to remain in the first line, potatoes, salad, and so on.

and instead of three, we would have The French soldier's one great joy bagged thirty. Oh, well, we get our and privilege is to grumble. Back in extra leave anyhow, and you should billets where he goes to rest, he spends have heard them squeal when we the whole day at it — hour after hour, dropped grenades down their stove

over a book or a litre of wine, he com- pipes!' plains of everything: the food, the uni- The French infantryman would forms, the trenches, the artillery, the drive a foreign officer mad until he war itself. To hear him, one would sup- began to understand him and apprecipose that France was on the


of ate his splendid hidden qualities. The ruin and disintegration. Let some un- only thing he does without grumbling wise stranger make the slightest criti- is fight; and, after all, when you come cism of France and watch the change. to think of it, that is a rather imporThe poilu takes the floor with a bound.


tant part of a soldier's duty. There is no country like France ✓ An officer wants a new boyau dug better citizens or braver soldiers than you never heard such grumbling and the French

groaning and kicking. Finally, a bit Dis donc, mon vieux,' he ends tri- put out, he says, umphantly, 'where would Europe be ‘All right, don't dig it, if you are all now if it were not for us?"

sick and tired, and think I make you To be a French general is a terrible work simply to keep you busy. It was responsibility. Their ears must burn only a whim of mine anyhow — the continually, for every act is criticized, Boches put up a new machine-gun last picked to pieces, and proved a fatal night, which enfilades the old boyau, mistake, daily, in a thousand roadside and when day breaks and you go back wine-shops. Some celebrity once re- to the third lines, they will doubtless marked, that every French soldier was put a dozen of us out of our misery.' a potential general. He knew them; he As if by magic the new zigzag trench was right. They are no carping destruc- is dug, and the chances are that the tive critics who tear things down but officer finds a supply of extra-good firesuggest no method of building up. On wood in his abri next day. the contrary, any chance-met poilu In an army like France's, one finds will tell you exactly how any manœuvre many odd birds among the simple sol




diers. I was playing ‘shinny' (we in- in the infantry. Numbers of them have troduced it and it has become very pop- been at it since 1914. The school where ular in our section) the other evening, I hope to be is the finest in the world and, when a soldier took off his coat, and the machines beyond praise. four thousand francs in bills dropped out of the breast pocket. Another Since writing the above, I have reevening, in a café, a roughly dressed ceived my papers of acceptance in the soldier stood up to give us a bit of mu. Foreign Legion, conditional on passing sic-and for an hour the world seemed the French physical tests. I have alto stand still while one of the greatest ready passed the tests of the Francoviolinists of France (two years at the American Committee. Before cabling front, twice wounded, croix de guerre, I took all the tests. with several citations) made us forget

Later. that anything existed except a flood of I have passed the French examinaclear throbbing sound. It was a rough, tion and am to leave for the school in a drinking crowd - a moment before day or two. I have been lucky! there had been a pandemonium of loud It was interesting at the Paris revoices and clattering plates; but for an cruiting office. I stood in line with hour the listeners were still as death dozens of other recruits for the Foreign not a whisper, not even a hand-clap Legion

all of us naked as so many of applause. It was, I think, the finest fish, in the dirty corridor, waiting our tribute I ever saw paid a musician. And turns. Each man had a number: mine so it goes: one never knows what va- was seven - lucky, I think! Finally riety of man is hidden beneath the uni- the orderly shouted, 'Numéro sept,' form of faded horizon-blue.

and I separated myself from my jolly

polyglot neighbors, marched to the

June 17, 1917. door, did a 'demi-tour à gauche,' and At last I am free to sit down quietly came to attention before a colonel, two for a letter to you. It has been a week captains, and a sergeant. of rather frenzied running about - ‘Name, Nordhoff, Charles Bernard passing examinations, and the like. I - born at London, 1887 — American arrived here in the expectation of tak

unmarried no children ing the first boat, crossing the conti- desires to enlist in Foreign Legion for nent, and seeing you.

duration of war to be detached to A talk with some American officers the navigating personnel of the Aviachanged the whole aspect of affairs tion,' read the sergeant, monotonously, and showed me that, if I was to be of In two minutes I had been weighed, any use, my job was to remain here. At measured, stethoscoped, ears and eyes home, it seems, men are a drug on the tested, and passed. market — the rub is to train them and The colonel looked at me coldly and fit them in. Here, on the other hand, turned to the captain. they fairly welcome healthy young ‘Not so bad, this one, hein? He has men — and will train us and put us not the head of a beast.' where we will do the most good, with I bowed with all the dignity a naked the least possible delay. Don't let man can muster, and said respectfully, yourself think that flying over here is “Merci, mon colonel.' unduly hazardous -a skillful pilot (as 'Ah, you speak French,' he rejoined I hope to be) has as good a chance of with a smile; “good luck, then, my living to a ripe old age as his comrades American.'



« AnkstesnisTęsti »