December 6

Laid out Company streets and had the men police; got a man to build me a chimney; don't smoke; am feeling better; men in better spirits, but anxious to go to their regiments; have had forty men turned over to my command without tents, overcoats or blankets; had an interesting, good man report belonging to the Fourth N. J. Infantry, who can help me, and I like him; don't like being commanding officer and everything else, though; too much to do to look after a regiment of men without even a clerk. But they are good, and seem to like to be with me, for they are all the time wanting to do something for me—probably because I try to make them comfortable.

December Sixth

CLEMENCY OF JEFFERSON DAVIS

Honorable Jefferson Davis: My father, Harrison Self, is sentenced to hang at four o'clock this evening on a charge of bridge-burning. As he remains my earthly all, and all my hopes of happiness centre on him, I implore you to pardon him.

Elizabeth Self
(Telegram which secured pardon for her father )

 

Jefferson Davis dies, 1889

The county of Kentucky formed from Virginia, 1776

Duncan Nathaniel Ingraham, “Hero of the Koszta Rescue,” born, 1802

 

 

December 6, 1863

Sunday. Lieutenant Gorton and myself took a walk up town this afternoon, and at the Murphy House who should we meet but Charlie Ackert, one-time editor of the Pine Plains Herald. Fresh from good old Dutchess County, he was able to tell us all about the folks we so often think of. He looks and acts just as he did, just as full of fun as any boy. We walked about the town for a couple of hours and finally stopped at a picture-taking place and sat for photographs. We hardly expect they will be hung outside with the show pictures, but I have my new clothes on, and that may be an inducement. We came back through Rampart Street, which from the looks is where the F. F. V.'s live. I wrote a couple of letters, wrote the above in my diary and am now going to bed.

December 6, 1862

Saturday. Wind and waves both much higher. Nearly everyone except myself is seasick. Before it reaches me I am going to try and describe what is going on about me.

To begin with, our cabin quarters. I have told how the bunks are arranged, so just imagine the men hanging over the edge and throwing whatever is in them out on the floor or on the heads of those below them. The smell is awful. I was afraid to stir for fear my turn would come, but after a while did get out on deck. Here everyone seemed trying to turn themselves wrong side out. The officers bowed as low as the privates, and except for the sailors, there was no one in sight but seemed to be determined to gaze upon what they had eaten since the war began.

No one could stand without hanging fast to something, and fast to a rope that came from above to a ring in the deck were four men, swinging round in a circle, each one every now and then casting up his accounts on the back of the man in front. The deck was slippery and not being sailor enough to get about I climbed down again and after some narrow escapes reached my bunk to tell my diary the sights I had seen. I cannot tell of the smells. There is nothing I can think of to compare it with.

December 6

December 6, 1870.--"Dauer im Wechsel"--"Persistence in change." This title of a poem by Goethe is the summing up of nature. Everything changes, but with such unequal rapidity that one existence appears eternal to another. A geological age, for instance, compared to the duration of any living being, the duration of a planet compared to a geological age, appear eternities--our life, too, compared to the thousand impressions which pass across us in an hour. Wherever one looks, one feels one's self overwhelmed by the infinity of infinites. The universe, seriously studied, rouses one's terror. Everything seems so relative that it is scarcely possible to distinguish whether anything has a real value.

Where is the fixed point in this boundless and bottomless gulf? Must it not be that which perceives the relations of things--in other words, thought, infinite thought? The perception of ourselves within the infinite thought, the realization of ourselves in God, self-acceptance in him, the harmony of our will with his--in a word, religion--here alone is firm ground. Whether this thought be free or necessary, happiness lies in identifying one's self with it. Both the stoic and the Christian surrender themselves to the Being of beings, which the one calls sovereign wisdom and the other sovereign goodness. St. John says, "God is Light," "God is Love." The Brahmin says, "God is the inexhaustible fount of poetry." Let us say, "God is perfection." And man? Man, for all his inexpressible insignificance and frailty, may still apprehend the idea of perfection, may help forward the supreme will, and die with Hosanna on his lips!

* * * *

All teaching depends upon a certain presentiment and preparation in the taught; we can only teach others profitably what they already virtually know; we can only give them what they had already. This principle of education is also a law of history. Nations can only be developed on the lines of their tendencies and aptitudes. Try them on any other and they are rebellious and incapable of improvement.

* * * *

By despising himself too much a man comes to be worthy of his own contempt.

* * * *

Its way of suffering is the witness which a soul bears to itself.

* * * *

The beautiful is superior to the sublime because it lasts and does not satiate, while the sublime is relative, temporary and violent.

* * * *

Sunday, December 6th.—A brilliant frosty day—on way up to Bailleul. We unloaded early at B. yesterday, and waited at a good place half-way between B. and Calais, a high down not far from the sea, with a splendid air. Some of the others went for a walk as we had no engine on, but I had been up since 2 a.m., and have hatched another bad cold, and so retired for a sleep till tea-time.

Just got to Hazebrouck. Ten men and three women were killed and twenty wounded here this morning by a bomb. They are very keen on getting a good bag here, especially on the station, and for other reasons, as it is an important junction.

p.m.—We have been up to B. and there were no patients for us, so we are to go back to the above bomb place to collect theirs. B. was packed with pale, war-worn, dirty but cheerful French troops entraining for their Front. They have been all through everything, and say they want to go on and get it finished. They carry fearful loads, including an extra pair of boots, a whole collection of frying-pans and things, and blankets, picks, &c., all on their backs.

The British officers on the station came and grabbed our yesterday's 'Daily Mails,' and asked for soap, so what you sent came in handy. They went in to the town to buy grapes for us in return. This place is famous for grapes—huge monster purple ones—but the train went out before they came back. We had got some earlier, though.

p.m.—We are nearly back at Boulogne and haven't taken up any sick or wounded anywhere. One of the trains has taken Indians from Boulogne down to Marseilles—several days' journey.

The Grass-Widow in Nephelococcygia

[Illustration: THE GRASS WIDOW—"Sweet little Mrs. Lollipop."]

Her bosom's lord sits lightly on his throne?

[December 6, 1879]

Little Mrs. Lollipop has certainly proved a source of disappointment to her lady friends. They have watched her for three seasons going lightly and merrily through all the gaieties of Cloudland; they have listened to the scandal of the cuckoos among the pine-trees and rhododendrons, but they have not caught her tripping. Oh, no, they will never catch her tripping. She does not trip for their amusement: perhaps she trips it when they go on the light fantastic toe, but there is no evidence; there is only a zephyr of conjecture, only the world's low whisper not yet broken into storm—not yet.

Yes, she is a source of disappointment to them. They have noted her points; her beauty has burned itself into their jealousy; her merry laugh has fanned their scorn; her bountiful presence is an affront to them, as is her ripe and lissom figure. They pronounce her morally unsound; they say her nature has a taint; they chill her popularity with silent smiles of slow disparagement. But they have no particulars; their slander is not concrete. It is an amorphous accusation, sweeping and vague, spleen-born and proofless.

She certainly knows how to dress. Her weeds sit easily and smoothly on their delightful mould. You might think of her as a sweet, warm statue painted in water-colours. (Who wouldn't be her Pygmalion?) If she adds a garment it is an improvement; if she removes a garment it is an improvement; if she dresses her hair it is better; if she lets it fall in a brown cascade over her white shoulders it is still better; when it is yet in curl-papers it is charming. If you smudge the tip of her nose with a burnt cork the effect is irresistible; if you stick a flower in her hair it is a fancy dress, a complete costume—she becomes Flora, Aurora, anything you like to name. Yet I have never clothed her in a flower, I have never smudged her nose with a burnt cork, I have never uncurled her hair. Ali Baba's character must not go drifting down the stream of gossip with the Hill Captains and the Under-Secretaries. But I hope that this does not destroy the argument. The argument is that she is quite too delightful, and therefore blown upon by poisonous whispers.

Her bungalow is an Elysium, of course; it is a cottage with a verandah, built on a steep slope, and buried deep in shrubbery and trees. Within all is plain, but exquisitely neat. A wood fire is burning gaily, and the kindly tea-tray is at hand. It is five o'clock. Clean servants move silently about with hot water, cake, &c. The little boy, a hostage from papa in the warm plains below, is sitting pensive, after the fashion of Anglo-Indian children, in a little chair. His bearer crouches behind him. The unspeakable widow, in a tea-gown dimly splendid with tropical vegetation in neutral tints, holds a piece of chocolate in her hand, while she leans back in her fauteuil convulsed with laughter. (It is not necessary to say that Ali Baba is relating one of his improving tales.) How pretty she looks, showing her excellent teeth and suffused with bright warm blushes, [which, I beg leave to explain, proceed from drinking hot tea and indulging in immoderate laughter, not from listening to A.B.'s improving tales!] As I gaze upon her with fond amazement, I murmur mechanically:—

      Mine be a cot beside the hill;
        A tea-pot's hum shall soothe my ear,
      A widowy girl, that likes me still,
        With many a smile shall linger near.

I have been asked to write a philosophical minute on the mental and moral condition of delightful Mrs. Lollipop's husband, who lives down in the plains. I have been requested by the Press Commissioner to inquire in Government fashion, with pen and ink, as to whether the complaisant proprietor of so many charms desires to have a recheat winded in his forehead, and to hang his bugle in an invisible baldrick; whether it is true in his case that Love's ear will hear the lowest cuckoo note, and that Love's perception of gossip is more soft and sensible than are the tender horns of cockled snails. Towards all these points I have directed my researches. I have resolved myself into a Special Commission, and I have sat upon grass-widowers in camera. If I sit a little longer a Report will be hatched, which, of course, I shall take to England, and when there I shall go to the places of amusement with the Famine Commission, and have rather a good time of it. Already I can see, with that bright internal eye which requires no limelight, grim Famine stalking about the Aquarium after dinner with a merry jest preening its wings on his lips.

But what has all this talk of country matters to do with little Mrs. Lollipop? Absolutely nothing. She thinks no ill of herself. She is the most charitable woman in the world. There is no veil of sin over her eye; no cloud of suspicion darkens her forehead; no concealment feeds upon her damask cheek. Like Eve she goes about hand in hand with her friends, in native innocence, relying on what she has of virtue. Sweet simplicity! sweet confidence! My eagle quill shall not flutter these doves.

Have you ever watched her at a big dance? She takes possession of some large warrior who has lately arrived from the battle-fields of Umballa or Meerut, and she chaperones him about the rooms, staying him with flagons and prattling low nothings. The weaker vessel jibs a little at first; but gradually the spell begins to work and the love-light kindles in his eye. He dances, he makes a joke, he tells a story, he turns round and looks her in the face. He is lost. That big centurion is a casualty; and no one pities him. "How can he go on like that, odious creature!" say the withered wall-flowers, and the Hill Captains fume round, working out formulae to express his baseness. But he is away on the glorious mountains of vanity; the intoxicating atmosphere makes life tingle in his blood; he is an [Greek: aerobataes], he no longer treads the earth. In a few days Mrs. Lollipop will receive a post-card from the Colonel of her centurion's regiment.

My Dear Mrs

      Lollipop, dic, per omnes
      Te deos oro, Robinson cur properes amando
      Perdere? cur apricum
      Oderit campum, patiens pulveris atque solis.

Yrs. Sincy.

Horace Fitzdottrel

Ten to one an Archdeacon will be sent for to translate this. Ten to one there is a shindy, ending in tea and tearful smiles; for she is bound to get a blowing up.

After what I have written I suppose it would be superfluous to affirm with oaths my irrefragable belief in Mrs. Lollipop's innocence; it would be superfluous to deprecate the many-winged slanders that wound this milk-white hind. If, however, by swearing, any of your readers think I can be of service to her character, I hope they will let me know. I have learnt a few oaths lately that I reckon will unsphere some of the scandal-mongers of Nephelococcygia. I had my ear one morning at the keyhole when the Army Commission was revising the cursing and swearing code for field service.—(Ah! these dear old Generals, what depths of simplicity they disclose when they get by themselves! I sometimes think that if I had my life to live over again I would keep a newspaper and become a really great General. I know some five or six obscure aboriginal tribes that have never yet yielded a single war or a single K.C.B.)

But this is a digression. I was maintaining the goodness of Mrs. Lollipop—little Mrs. Lollipop! sweet little Mrs. Lollipop! I was going to say that she was far too good to be made the subject of whisperings and innuendoes. Her virtue is of such a robust type that even a Divorce Court would sink back abashed before it, like a guilty thing surprised. Indeed, she often reminds me of Cæsar's wife.

The harpies of scandal protest that she dresses too low; that she exposes too freely the well-rounded charms of her black silk stockings; that she appears at fancy-dress balls picturesquely unclothed—in a word, that the public sees a little too much of little Mrs. Lollipop; and that, in conversation with men, she nibbles at the forbidden apples of thought. But all this proves her innocence, surely. She fears no danger, for she knows no sin. She cannot understand why she should hide anything from an admiring world. Why keep her charms concealed from mortal eye, like roses that in deserts bloom and die? She often reminds me of Una in Hypocrisy's cell.

I heard an old Gorgon ask one of Mrs. Lollipop's clientèle  the other day whether he would like to be Mrs. Lollipop's husband. "No," he said, "not her husband; I am not worthy to be her husband—

      "But I would be the necklace
      And all day long to fall and rise
      Upon her balmy bosom
      With her laughter or her sighs;
      And I would lie so light, so light,
      I scarce should be unclasped at night."

That old Gorgon is now going through a course of hysterics under medical and clerical advice. Her ears are in as bad a case as Lady Macbeth's hands. Hymns will not purge them.—ALI BABA, K.C.B.

December 6, 1915

It is two months since I wrote—I know it. But you really must not reproach me so violently as you do in yours of the 21st of November, just received.

To begin with, there is no occasion for you to worry. I may be uncomfortable. I am in no danger. As for the discomforts—well, I am used to them. I cannot get coal very often, and when I do I pay twenty-six dollars a ton for it, and it is only imitation coal, at that. I cannot get washing done oftener than once in six weeks. Nothing dries out-of-doors in this country of damp winters. I am often forced to live my evenings by candle-light, which is pretty extravagant, as candles are costly, and it takes a good many to get through an evening. They burn down like paper tapers in these days.

When I don't write it is simply because I have nothing more interesting than things like that to tell you. The situation is chronic, and, like chronic diseases, much more likely to get worse than to get better.

You should be grateful to me for sparing you, instead of blaming me.

I might not have found the inspiration to write today if something had not happened.

This morning the town crier beat his drum all over the hill, and read a proclamation forbidding all foreigners to leave the commune during the next thirty days without a special permit from the general in command of the 5th Army Corps.

No one knows what this means. I have been to the mairie to enquire simply because I had promised to spend Christmas at Voulangis, and, if this order is formal, I may have difficulty in going. I have no desire to celebrate, only there is a child there, and the lives of little children ought not to be too much saddened by the times and events they do not understand.

I was told at the mairie that they had no power, and that I would have to address myself to Monsieur le General. They could not even tell me what form the request ought to take. So I came home, and wrote the letter as well as I could.

In the meantime, I am distinctly informed that until I get a reply from headquarters I cannot go out of the commune of Quincy-Segy.

If I really obey the letter of this order I cannot even go to Amélie's. Her house is in the commune of Couilly, and mine in Quincy, and the boundary line between the two communes is the path beside my garden, on the south side, and runs up the middle of my road from that point.

It is annoying, as I hardly know Quincy, and don't care for it, and never go there except to present myself at the mairie. It is further off the railroad line than I am here. Couilly I know and like. It is a pretty prosperous village. It has better shops than Quincy, which has not even a pharmacie, and I have always done my shopping there. My mail comes there, and the railway station is there, and everyone knows me.

The idea that I can't go there gives me, for the first time since the battle, a shut-in feeling. I talked to the garde champêtre, whom I met on the road, as I returned from the mairie, and I asked him what he thought about the risk of my going to Couilly. He looked properly grave, and said:

"I would not, if I were in your place. Better run no risks until we understand what this is to lead to."

I thanked him, with an expression just as serious and important as his. "I'll obey," I said to myself, "though to obey will be comic."

So I turned the corner on top of the hill. I drove close to the east side of the road, which was the Quincy side, and as I passed the entrance to Amélie's court I called to Père to come out and get Ninette and the cart. I then climbed out and left the turn-out there.

I did not look back, but I knew Père was standing in the road looking after me in amazement, and not understanding a bit that I had left my cart on the Quincy side of the road for him to drive it into Couilly, where I could not go.

"I'll obey," I repeated to myself, viciously, as I strolled down the Quincy side of the road and crossed in front of the gate where the whole width of the road is in my commune.

I hadn't been in the house five minutes before Amélie arrived.

"What's the matter?" she demanded, breathlessly.

"Nothing."

"Why didn't you drive into the stable as usual?"

"I couldn't."

"Why couldn't you?"

"Because I am forbidden to go to Couilly."

I thought she was going to see the joke and laugh. She didn't. She was angry, and I had a hard time to make her see that it was funny. In fact, I did not really make her see it at all, for an hour later, wanting her, I went up to the Quincy side of the road, leaned against the wall, opposite her entrance, and blew my big whistle for ten minutes without attracting her attention.

That attempt at renewing the joke had two results. I must tell you that one of the few friends who has ever been out here felt that the only annoying thing about my being so absolutely alone was that, if anything happened and I needed help, I had no way of letting anyone know. So I promised, and it was agreed with Amélie, that, in need, I should blow my big whistle—it can be heard half a mile. But that was over two years ago. I have never needed help. I have used the whistle to call Dick.

I whistled and whistled and whistled until I was good and mad. Then I began to yell: "Amélie—Mélie—Père!" and they came running out, looking frightened to death, to find me, red in the face, leaning against the wall—on the Quincy side of the road.

"What's the matter?" cried Amélie.

"Didn't you hear my whistle?" I asked.

"We thought you were calling Dick."

The joke was on me.

When I explained that I wanted some fresh bread to toast and was not allowed to go to their house in Couilly for it, it ceased to be a joke at all.

It was useless for me to laugh, and to explain that an order was an order, and that Couilly was Couilly, whether it was at my gate or down the hill.

Père's anger was funnier than my joke. He saw nothing comic in the situation. To him it was absurd. Monsieur le Général, commandant de la cinquième armée ought to know that I was all right. If he didn't know it, it was high time someone told him.

In his gentle old voice he made quite a harangue.

All Frenchmen can make harangues.

It was difficult for me to convince him that I was not in the slightest degree annoyed; that I thought it was amusing; that there was nothing personally directed against me in the order; that I was only one of many foreigners inside the zone des armées; that the only way to catch the dangerous ones was to forbid us all to circulate.

I might have spared myself the breath it took to argue with him. If I ever thought I could change the conviction of a French peasant, I don't think so since I have lived among them. I spent several days last summer trying to convince Père that the sun did not go round the earth. I drew charts of the heavens,—you should have seen them— and explained the solar system. He listened attentively—one has to listen when the patronne talks, you know—and I thought he understood. When it was all over—it took me three days—he said to me:

"Bien. All the same, look at the sun. This morning it was behind
Maria's house over there. I saw it. At noon it was right over my
orchard. I saw it there. At five o'clock it will be behind the hill at
Esbly. You tell me it does not move! Why, I see it move every day.
Alors—it moves."

I gave it up. All my lovely exposition of us rolling through space had missed. So there is no hope of my convincing him that this new regulation regarding foreigners is not designed expressly to annoy me.

I often wonder exactly what all this war means to him. He reads his newspaper religiously. He seems to understand. He talks very well about it. But he is detached in a way. He hates it. It has aged him terribly. But just what it means to him I can't know.

Christmas Day, 1915

Well, here I am, alone, on my second war Christmas! All my efforts to get a permis de sortir failed.

Ten days after I wrote you last, there was a rumor that all foreigners were to be expelled from the zone of military operations. My friends in Paris began to urge me to close up the house and go into town, where I could at least be comfortable.

I simply cannot. I am accustomed now to living alone. I am not fit to live among active people. If I leave my house, which needs constant care, it will get into a terrible condition, and, once out of it, there is no knowing what difficulty I might have to get back. The future is all so uncertain. Besides, I really want to see the thing out right here.

I made two efforts to get a permission to go to Voulangis. It is only five miles away. I wrote to the commander of the 5th Army Corps twice. I got no answer. Then I was told that I could not hope to reach him with a personal letter—that I must communicate with him through the civil authorities. I made a desperate effort. I decided to dare the regulations and appeal to the commander of the gendarmes at Esbly.

There I had a queer interview—at first very discreet and very misleading, so far as they were concerned. In the end, however, I had the pleasure of seeing my two letters to Monsieur le General attached to a long sheet of paper, full of writing,—my dossier, they called it. They did not deign to tell me why my letters, sent to the army headquarters, had been filed at the gendarmerie. I suppose that was none of my business. Nor did they let me see what was written on the long sheet to which the letters were attached. Finally, they did stoop to tell me that a gendarme had been to the mairie regarding my case, and that if I would present myself at Quincy the next morning, I would find a petition covering my demand awaiting my signature. It will be too late to serve the purpose for which it was asked, but I'll take it for Paris, if I can get it.

For lack of other company I invited Khaki to breakfast with me today. He didn't promise formally to come—but he was there. By devoting myself to him he behaved very well indeed, and did not disturb the table decorations. Luckily, they were not good to eat. He sat in a chair beside me, and now and then I had to pardon him for putting his elbow on the table. I did that the more graciously as I was surprised that he did not sit on it. He had his own fork, and except that, now and then, he got impatient and reached out a white paw to take a bit of chicken from my fork just before it reached my mouth, he committed no grave breach of table manners. He did refuse to keep his bib on, and he ate more than I did, and enjoyed the meal better. In fact, I should not have enjoyed it at all but for him. He had a gorgeous time.

I did not invite Garibaldi. He did not know anything about it. He is too young to enjoy a "function." He played in the garden during the meal, happy and content to have a huge breakfast of bread and gravy; he is a bread eater—thoroughly French.

I even went so far as to dress for Khaki, and put a Christmas rose in my hair. Alas! It was all wasted on him.

This is all the news I have to send you, and I cannot even send a hopeful message for 1916. The end looks farther off for me than it did at the beginning of the year. It seems to me that the world is only now beginning to realize what it is up against.

December 6, 1916

Well, at last, the atmosphere on the hilltop is all changed. We have a cantonnement de régiment again, and this time the most interesting that we have ever had,—the 23d Dragoons, men on active service, who are doing infantry work in the trenches at Tracy-le-Val, in the Forêt de Laigue, the nearest point to Paris, in the battle-front.

It is, as usual, only the decorative and picturesque side of war, but it is tremendously interesting, more so than anything which has happened since the Battle of the Marne.

As you never had soldiers quartered on you—and perhaps you never will have—I wish you were here now.

It was just after lunch on Sunday—a grey, cold day, which had dawned on a world covered with frost—that there came a knock at the salon door. I opened it, and there stood a soldier, with his heels together, and his hand at salute, who said: "Bon jour, madame, avez- vous un lit pour un soldat?"

Of course I had a bed for a soldier, and said so at once.

You see it is all polite and formal, but if there is a corner in the house which can serve the army the army has a right to it. Everyone is offered the privilege of being prettily gracious about it, and of letting it appear as if a favor were being extended to the army, but, in case one does not yield willingly, along comes a superior officer and imposes a guest on the house.

However, that sort of thing never happens here. In our commune the soldiers are loved. The army is, for that matter, loved all over France. No matter what else may be conspué, the crowd never fails to cry "Vive l'Armée!" although there are places where the soldier is not loved as a visitor.

I asked the adjutant in, and showed him the room. He wrote it down in his book, saluted me again with a smiling, "Merci bien, madame," and went on to make the rounds of the hamlet, and examine the resources of Voisins, Joncheroy, and Quincy.

The noncommissioned officers, who arrange the cantonnements, are very clever about it. They seem to know, by instinct, just what sort of a man to put in each house, and they rarely blunder.

All that Sunday afternoon they were running around in the mud and the cold drizzle that was beginning to fall, arranging, not only quarters for the men, but finding shelter for three times as many horses, and that was not easy, although every old grange on the hilltop was cleaned out and put in order.

For half an hour the adjutant tried to convince himself that he could put four horses in the old grange on the north side of my house. I was perfectly willing, only I knew that if one horse kicked once, the floor of the loft would fall on him, and that if four horses kicked once, at least three walls would fall in on them. That would not be so very important to me, but I'd hate to have handsome army horses killed like that on my premises.

He finally decided that I was right, and then I went with him up to Amélie's to see what we could do. I never realized what a ruin of a hamlet this is until that afternoon. By putting seven horses in the old grange at Père's,—a tumble-down old shack, where he keeps lumber and dead farm wagons,—he never throws away or destroys anything— we finally found places for all the horses. There were eleven at Père's, and it took Amélie and Père all the rest of the afternoon to run the stuff out of the old grange, which stands just at the turn of the road, and has a huge broken door facing down the hill.

I often mean to send you a picture of that group of ruins—there are five buildings in it. They were originally all joined together, but some of them have had to be pulled down because they got too dangerous to stand, and in the open spaces there is, in one place, a pavement of red tiles, and in another the roof to a cellar, with stone steps leading up to it. Not a bit of it is of any use to anyone, though the cellars under them are used to store vegetables, and Amélie keeps rabbits in one.

It was while we were arranging all this, and Amélie was assuring them that they were welcome, but that she would not guarantee that the whole group of ruins would not fall on their heads (and everything was as gay as if we were arranging a week-end picnic rather than a shelter for soldiers right out of the trenches), that the adjutant explained how it happened that, in the third year of the war, the fighting regiments were, for the first time, retiring as far as our hill for their repos.

He told us that almost all the cavalry had been dismounted to do infantry work in the trenches, but their horses were stalled in the rear. It had been found that the horses were an embarrassment so near to the battle-front, and so it had been decided to retire them further behind the line, and send out part of the men to keep them exercised and in condition, giving the men in turn three weeks in the trenches and three weeks out.

They had first withdrawn the horses to Nanteuil-le-Haudrouin a little northwest of us, about halfway between us and the trenches in the Forêt de Laigue. But that cantonnement had not been satisfactory, so they had retired here.

By sundown everything was arranged—four hundred horses along the hilltop, and, they tell us, over fifteen thousand along the valley. We were told that the men were leaving Nanteuil the next morning, and would arrive during the afternoon.

It was just dusk on Monday when they began riding up the hill, each mounted man leading two riderless horses.

It was just after they passed that there came a knock at the salon door.

I opened it with some curiosity. When you are to lodge a soldier in a house as intimately arranged as this one is, I defy anyone not to be curious as to what the lodger is to be like.

There stood a tall, straight lad, booted and spurred, with a crop in one gloved hand, and the other raised to his fatigue cap in salute, and a smile on his bonny face,—as trig in his leather belted bleu de ciel tunic as if ready for parade, and not a sign of war about him but his uniform.

"Bon jour, madame" he said. "Permit me to introduce myself. Aspirant
B———, 23d Dragoons."

"Regular army?" I said, for I knew by the look of him that this was a professional soldier.

"St. Cyr," he replied. That is the same as our West Point.

"You are welcome, Aspirant," I said. "Let me show you to your room."

"Thank you," he smiled. "Not yet. I only came to present myself, and thank you in advance for your courtesy. I am in command of the squad on your hill, replacing an officer who is not yet out of the hospital. I must see my men housed and the horses under shelter. May I ask you, if my orderly comes with my kit, to show him where to put it, and explain to him how he may best get in and out of the house, when necessary, without disturbing your habits?"

I had to laugh as I explained to him that locking up, when soldiers were in the hamlet, was hardly even a formality, and that the orderly could come and go at his will.

"Good," he replied. "Then I'll give myself the pleasure of seeing you after dinner. I hope I shall in no way disturb you. I am always in before nine," and he saluted again, backed away from the door, and marched up the hill. He literally neither walked nor ran, he marched.

I wish I could give you an idea of what he looks like. At first sight I gave him nineteen years at the outside, in spite of his height and his soldierly bearing and his dignity.

Before he came in at half past eight his orderly had brought his kit, unpacked and made himself familiar with the lay of the house, and made friends with Amélie. So the Aspirant settled into an armchair in front of the fire—having asked my permission—to chat a bit, and account for himself, and it was evident to me that he had already been asking questions regarding me—spurred, as usual, by the surprise of finding an American here. As the officers' mess is at the foot of the hill, at Voisins, that had been easy.

So, knowing intuitively, just by his manner and his words, that he had asked questions about me—he even knew that I had been here from the beginning of the war—I, with the privilege of my white hairs, asked him even how old he was. He told me he was twenty—a year older than I thought—that he was an only son, that his father was an officer in the reserves and they lived about forty-five miles the other side of Rheims, that his home was in the hands of the Germans, and the house, which had been literally stripped of everything of value, was the headquarters of a staff officer. And it was all told so quietly, so simply, with no sign of emotion of any sort.

At exactly nine o'clock he rose to his feet, clicked his heels together, made me a drawing-room bow, of the best form, as he said: "Eh, bien, madame, je vous quitte. Bon soir et bonne nuit." Then he backed to the foot of the stairs, bowed again, turned and went up lightly on the toes of his heavy boots, and I never heard another sound of him.

Of course in twenty-four hours he became the child of the house. I feel like a grandmother to him. As for Amélie, she falls over herself trying to spoil him, and before the second day he became "Monsieur André" to her. Catch her giving a boy like that his military title, though he takes his duties most seriously.

The weather is dreadful—cold, damp, drizzly, but he is in and out, and the busiest person you can imagine. There isn't a horse that has to have his feet washed that he isn't on the spot to see it done properly. There isn't a man who has a pain that he isn't after him to see if he needs the doctor,—and I don't need to tell you that his men love him, and so do the horses.

I am taking a full course in military habits, military duties, and military etiquette. I smile inside myself sometimes and wonder how they can keep it up during these war times. But they do.

This morning he came down at half past seven ready to lead his squad on an exercise ride. I must tell you that the soldier who comes downstairs in the morning, in his big coat and kepi, ready to mount his horse, is a different person from the smiling boy who makes me a ballroom bow at the foot of the stairs in the evening. He comes down the stairs as stiff as a ramrod, lifts his gloved hand to his kepi, as he says, "Bon jour, madame, vous allez bien ce matin?"

This morning I remarked to him as he was ready to mount: "Well, young man, I advise you to turn up your collar; the air is biting."

He gave me a queer look as he replied: "Merci,—pas réglementaire,"— but he had to laugh, as he shook his head at me, and marched out to his horse.

You do not need to be told how all this changes our life here, and yet it does not bring into it the sort of emotion I anticipated. Thus far I have not heard the war mentioned. The tramping of horses, the moving crowd of men, simply give a new look to our quiet hamlet.

This cantonnement is officially called a "repos" but seems little like that to me. It seems simply a change of work. Every man has three horses to groom, to feed, to exercise, three sets of harness to keep in order, stables to clean. But they are all so gay and happy, and as this is the first time in eighteen months that any of them have, slept in beds they are enjoying it.

Of course, I have little privacy. You know how my house is laid out— the front door opens into the salon, and the staircase is there also. When the Aspirant is not on duty outside he has to be here where he can be found, so he sits at the salon desk to do his writing and fix up his papers and reports, and when he is not going up and down stairs his orderly is. There seems always to be a cleaning of boots, brushing of coats, and polishing of spurs and rubbing up of leather going on somewhere.

It did not take the men long to discover that there was always hot water in my kitchen, and that they were welcome to it if they would keep the kettles filled, and that I did not mind their coming and going— and I don't, for a nicer crowd of men I never saw. They are not only ready, they are anxious, to do all sorts of odd jobs, from hauling coal and putting it in, to cleaning the chimneys and sweeping the terrace. When they groom the horses they always groom Gamin, our dapple- grey pony, and Ninette, which were never so well taken care of in their lives—so brushed and clipped that they are both handsomer than I knew. Though the regiment has only been here three days every day has had its special excitement.

The morning after they got here we had a royal ten minutes of laughter and movement.

In the old grange at the top of the hill, where they stabled seven horses, there had been a long bar across the back wall, fixed with cement into the side walls, and used to fasten the wagons. They found it just right to tie the horses. It was a fine morning, for a wonder. The sun was shining, and all the barn doors were open to it. The Aspirant and I were standing on the lawn just before noon—he had returned from his morning ride—looking across the Marne at the battlefield. The regiment had been in the battle,—but he was, at that time, still at St. Cyr. Suddenly we heard a great rumpus behind us, and turned just in season to see all the horses trotting out of the grange. They wheeled out of the wide door in a line headed down the hill, the last two carrying the bar to which they had been attached, like the pole of a carriage, between them. They were all "feeling their oats," and they thundered down the hill by us, like a cavalry charge, and behind them came half a dozen men simply splitting with laughter.

Amélie had been perfectly right. The old grange was not solid, but they had not pulled the walls down on themselves, they had simply pulled the pole to which they were attached out of its bed.

The Aspirant tried not to smile—an officer in command must not, I suppose, even if he is only twenty. He whistled gently, put up his hand to stop the men from running, and walked quietly into the road, still whistling. Five of the horses, tossing their heads, were thundering on towards the canal. The span, dragging the long pole, swerved on the turn, and swung the pole, which was so long that it caught on the bank. I expected to see them tangle themselves all up, what with the pole and the halters. Not a bit of it. They stopped, panting, and still trying to toss their heads, and the Aspirant quietly picked up a halter, and passed the horses over to the men, saying, in a most nonchalant manner: "Fasten that pole more securely. Some of you go quietly down the hill. You'll meet them coming back," and he returned to the garden, and resumed the conversation just where it had been interrupted.

It had been a lively picture to me, but to the soldiers, I suppose, it had only been an every day's occurrence.

My only fear had been that there might be children or a wagon on the winding road. Luckily the way was clear.

An hour later, the men returned, leading the horses. They had galloped down to the river, and returned by way of Voisins, where they had stopped right in front of the house where the Captain was quartered, and the Captain had been in the garden and seen them.

This time the Aspirant had to laugh. He slapped one of the horses caressingly on the nose as he said: "You devils! Couldn't you go on a lark without telling the Captain about it, and getting us all into trouble?"

To make this all the funnier, that very night three horses stabled in a rickety barn at Voisins, kicked their door down, and pranced and neighed under the Captain's bedroom window.

The Captain is a nice chap, but he is not in his first youth, and he is tired, and, well—he is a bit nervous. He said little, but that was to the point. It was only: "You boys will see that these things don't happen, or you will sleep in the straw behind your horses."

This is the first time that I have seen anything of the military organization, and I am filled with admiration for it. I don't know how it works behind the trenches, but here, in the cantonnement, I could set my clocks by the soup wagon—a neat little cart, drawn by two sturdy little horses, which takes the hill at a fine gallop, and passes my gate at exactly twenty-five minutes past eleven, and twenty-five minutes past five every day. The men wait, with their gamelles, at the top of the hill. The soup looks good and smells delicious. Amélie says that it tastes good. She has five soldiers in her house, and she and Père often eat with them, so she knows.

From all this you can guess what my life is like, and probably will be like until the impatiently awaited spring offensive. But what you will find it hard to imagine is the spirit and gaiety of these men. It is hard to believe that they have been supporting the monotony of trench life for so long, and living under bombardment,—and cavalry at that, trained and hoping for another kind of warfare. There is no sign of it on them.