January 30

January 30, 1863

The 28th Maine Regiment has encamped close beside us. They are well advanced in the art of taking care of themselves, for they stole everything loose in a short time after their arrival. Have been vaccinated again. This makes the third time since we left Hampton Roads.

A cloudy, chilly day, but not much rain. One game of ball came off this afternoon in which the commissioned officers won. Two more games are to be played Monday if a good day. It's a cloudy, dark, gloomy evening in camp; haven't studied much to-day, but read army regulations some. Dr. W. A. Child and Lieuts. H. H. Dewey and E. P. Farr have been in this evening.

January 30

January 30, 1876.--After dinner I went two steps off, to Marc Monnier's, to hear the "Luthier de Crémone," a one-act comedy in verse, read by the author, François Coppée.

It was a feast of fine sensations, of literary dainties. For the little piece is a pearl. It is steeped in poetry, and every line is a fresh pleasure to one's taste.

This young maestro is like the violin he writes about, vibrating and passionate; he has, besides delicacy, point, grace, all that a writer wants to make what is simple, naïve, heartfelt, and out of the beaten track, acceptable to a cultivated society.

How to return to nature through art: there is the problem of all highly composite literatures like our own. Rousseau himself attacked letters with all the resources of the art of writing, and boasted the delights of savage life with a skill and adroitness developed only by the most advanced civilization. And it is indeed this marriage of contraries which charms us; this spiced gentleness, this learned innocence, this calculated simplicity, this yes and no, this foolish wisdom. It is the supreme irony of such combinations which tickles the taste of advanced and artificial epochs, epochs when men ask for two sensations at once, like the contrary meanings fused by the smile of La Gioconda. And our satisfaction, too, in work of this kind is best expressed by that ambiguous curve of the lip which says: I feel your charm, but I am not your dupe; I see the illusion both from within and from without; I yield to you, but I understand you; I am complaisant, but I am proud; I am open to sensations, yet not the slave of any; you have talent, I have subtlety of perception; we are quits, and we understand each other.

Saturday, January 30th.—We got up to Merville at one o'clock last night, and loaded up only forty-five, and are now just going to load up again at a place on the way back. We have been completely done out of the La Bassée business; haven't been near it. No.— Cl. H. that we saw on December 27th, where S.C. and two more of my No.— G.H. friends were, had to be evacuated in a hurry, as several orderlies were killed in the shelling.

One of my badly woundeds says "the Major" (whose servant he has been for four years) asked him to make up the fire in his dug-out, while he went to the other end of the trench. While he was doing the fire a shell burst over the dug-out and a bit went through his left leg and touched his right. If the Major had been sitting in his chair where he was a minute before, his head would have been blown off. He said, "When the Major came back and found me, he drove everybody else away and stayed with me all day, and made me cocoa, and at night carried my stretcher himself and took me right to Headquarters." His eyes shine when he talks of "the Major," and he seems so proud he got it instead.

I asked a boy in the sitting-ups what was the matter with him. "Too small," he said. Another said "Too young"; he was aged fifteen, in the Black Watch.

A young monkey, badly wounded in hand and throat (lighting a cigarette—the shatter to his hand saved worse destruction to his throat, though bad enough as it is), after we'd settled him in, fixed his eye on me and said, "Are you going to be in here along of us all the way?" "Yes," I said. "That's a good job," and he is taking good care to get his money's worth, I can tell you.

Some of them are roaring at the man in 'Punch' who made a gallant attempt to do justice to all his Xmas presents at once. There is a sergeant-major of the Royal Scots very indignant at having been made to go sick with bad feet. Any attempt to fuss over him is met with "I need no attention whatever, thank you, Sister. I feel more like apologising for being in here. Only five weeks of active service," he growled.

The latest Franco-British idea is to Arras the Boches till they Argonne!

January Thirtieth

UNCLE REMUS AT THE TELEPHONE

“Yer 'tis, Miss Sally,” said Uncle Remus after listening a moment.

“Dey's a mighty zooin' gwine on in dar, en I dunner whe'er Mars John tryin' ter scramble out, er whe'er he des tryin' fer ter make hisself comfertuble in dar.”

“What did he say, Remus?”

“He up en low'd dat one un us wus a vilyun but dey wuz such a buzzin' gwine on in dar dat I couldn't 'zactly ketch the rights un it.”

Joel Chandler Harris

 

 

January 30, 1917

My, but it is cold here! Wednesday the 24th it was 13 below zero, and this morning at ten o'clock it was 6 below. Of course this is in Centigrade and not Fahrenheit, but it is a cold from which I suffer more—it is so damp—than I ever did from the dry, sunny, below zero as you know it in the States. Not since 1899 have I seen such cold as this in France. I have seen many a winter here when the ground has hardly frozen at all. This year it began to freeze a fortnight ago. It began to snow on the 17th, a fine dry snow, and as the ground was frozen it promises to stay on. It has so far, in spite of the fact that once or twice since it fell the sun has shone. It looks very pretty, quite unnatural, very reminiscent of New England.

It makes life hard for us as well as the soldiers, but they laugh and say, "We have seen worse." They prefer it to rain and mud. But it makes roading hard; everything is so slippery, and if you ever happened to see a French horse or a French person "walking on ice" I don't need to say more.

Well, the unexpected has happened—the cavalry has moved on. They expected—as much as a soldier ever expects anything—to have divided their time until March between our hill and the trenches in the Forêt de Laigue. But on the twenty-second orders began to rush in from headquarters, announcing a change of plan; a move was ordered and counter-ordered every few hours for three days, until Thursday afternoon, the twenty-fifth, the final order came—the whole division to be ready to mount at seven-thirty the next morning, orders for the direction to come during the night.

You never saw such a rushing about to collect clothes and get them dried. You see it has been very hard to get washing done. The Morin, where the wash-houses are, is frozen, and even when things are washed, they won't dry in this air, and there is no coal to heat the drying-houses.

However, it was done after a fashion. Everyone who had wood kept a fire up all night.

On Wednesday afternoon I had a little tea-party for some of the sous- officiers—mere boys—a simple goodbye spread of bread and butter and dry cookies,—nothing else to be had. I could not even make cake, as we have had no fine sugar for months. However, the tea was extra good—sent me from California for Christmas—and I set the table with all my prettiest things, and the boys seemed to enjoy themselves.

They told me before leaving that never since they were at the front had they been anywhere so well received or so comfortable as they have been here, and that it would be a long time before they "forgot Huiry." Well, we on our side can say that we never dreamed that a conscript army could have a whole regiment of such fine men. So you see we are all very much pleased with each other, and if the 23d Dragoons are not going to forget us, we are as little likely to forget them.

Thursday evening, before going to bed, the Aspirant and I sat at the kitchen table and made a lot of sandwiches, as they are carrying three days' provisions. They expected a five hours' march on the first day, and a night under the tents, then another day's march, during which they would receive their orders for their destination. When the sandwiches were done, and wrapped up ready for his orderly to put in the saddlebags, with his other provisions, he said: "Well, I am going to say goodbye to you tonight, and thank you for all your kindness."

"Not at all," I answered. "I shall be up in the morning to see you start."

He protested. It was so cold, so early, etc. But my mind was made up.

I assure you that it was cold,—18 below,—but I got up when I heard the orderly arrive in the morning. I had been awake for hours, for at three o'clock the horses were being prepared. Every man had three to feed and saddle, and pack. Orderlies were running about doing the last packing for the officers, and carrying kits to the baggage-wagons. Amélie came at six. When I got downstairs I found the house warm and coffee ready. The Aspirant was taking his standing. It was more convenient than sitting in a chair. Indeed, I doubt if he could have sat.

I had to laugh at the picture he made. I never regretted so much that I have not indulged in a camera. He was top-booted and spurred. He had on his new topcoat and his mended helmet—catch a young soldier who has been hit on the head by his first obus having a new and unscarred one. He was hung over with his outfit like a Santa Claus. I swore he could never get into the saddle, but he scorned my doubts.

To the leather belt about his waist, supported by two straps over his shoulders, were attached his revolver, in its case with twenty rounds of cartridges; his field glasses; his map-case; his bidon—for his wine; square document case; his mask against asphyxiating gas; and, if you please, his kodak! Over one shoulder hung a flat, half-circular bag, with his toilet articles, over the other its mate, with a change, and a few necessary articles.

He looked to me as if he would ride two hundred pounds heavy, and he hasn't an ounce of extra flesh on him.

I laughed even harder when I saw him mounted. In one side of the holster was his gamelle; in the other, ammunition. The saddlebags contained on one side twenty pounds of oats for the horse; on the other three days' provisions for himself. I knew partly what was in that bag, and it was every bit as heavy as the horse's fodder, for there were sandwiches, sugar, coffee, chocolate, tinned meat, peas, corn, fruit, etc. Behind the saddle was rolled his blanket, inside his section of tent cover,—it takes six of them to make a real tent. They are arranged to button together.

I was sitting in the bedroom window when he rode on to the terrace. I had to laugh as I looked down at him.

"And why does madame laugh?" he asked, trying to keep a sober face himself.

"Well," I replied, "I am only wondering if that is your battle array?"

"Certainly," he answered. "Why does it surprise you?"

I looked as serious as I could, as I explained that I had supposed, naturally, that the cavalry went into action as lightly equipped as possible.

He looked really indignant, as he snapped: "That would be quite unnatural. What do you suppose that Peppino and I are going to do after a battle? Wait for the commissary department to find us? No, madame, after a battle it will not be of my mother nor home, nor even of you, that we will be thinking. We shall think of something to eat and drink." Then he added, with a laugh, "Alas! We shan't have all these nice things you have given us. They will have been eaten by tomorrow."

I apologized, and said I'd know better another time, and he patted his horse, as he backed away, and said to him: "Salute the lady, Peppino, and tell her prettily that you had the honor of carrying Teddy Roosevelt the day he went to the review." And the horse pawed and bowed and neighed, and his rider wheeled him carefully as he saluted and said: "Au revoir, I shall write, and, after the war, I shall give myself the pleasure of seeing you," and he rode carefully out of the gate—a very delicate operation, as only half of it was open. Laden as the horse was, he just made it, and away he galloped down the hill to Voisins, where the cavalry was assembling.

I stayed in the window a few minutes to wave a goodbye to the men as they led each their three horses down the hill. Then I put on my heaviest coat, a polo cap, all my furs and mittens, thrust my felt shoes into my sabots, and with one hand in my muff, I took the big French flag in the other and went through the snow down to the hedge to watch the regiment pass, on the road to Esbly.

Even before I got out of the house the news came that the 118th
Regiment of infantry, the boys who retook Vaux in the great battle at
Verdun, had been marching in from Meaux, and were camped,
waiting to take up the billets the 23d Dragoons were vacating.

I stood in the snow for nearly half an hour, holding up the heavy flag, which flapped bravely in the icy wind, and watching the long grey line moving slowly along the road below. I could see half a mile of the line —grey, steel-helmeted men, packed horses, grey wagons—winding down the hill in the winter landscape, so different from the France I had always known. Hardly a sound came back—no music, no colors— the long, grey column moved in a silent, almost colorless world. I shifted the heavy flag from one hand to the other as my fingers got stiff, but, alas! I could not shift my feet. Long before the line had passed I was forced to fasten the flag to a post in the hedge and leave it to float by itself, and limp into the house. As a volunteer color- bearer I was a failure. I had to let Amélie take off my shoes and rub my feet, and I had hard work not to cry while she was doing it. I was humiliated, especially as I remembered that the boys had a five hours' march as their first étape, and a bivouac at the end of it.

I had intended to go out later on the route Madame to watch the cavalry coming down from the hills on the other side of the Morin, but I could not face the cold. There is nothing heroic about me. So I contented myself with helping Amélie set the house in order.

Needless to tell you that no one knows what this unexpected big movement of troops means.

It is inevitable that we should all imagine that it concerns the coming spring offensive. At any rate, the cavalry is being put back into its saddles, and the crack regiments are coming out of Verdun—the famous corps which has won immortal fame there, and written the name of Verdun in letters of flame in the list of the world's great battles, and enshrined French soldiers in the love of all who can be stirred by courage in a noble cause, or know what it means to have the heart swell at the thought of the "sacred love of home and country."

Although I have sworn—and more than once—that I will not talk politics with you again, or discuss any subject which can be considered as its most distant blood relation, yet every time you reiterate "Aren't the French wonderfully changed? Aren't you more and more surprised at them?" it goes against the grain.

Does it never occur to you that France held her head up wonderfully after the terrible humiliation of 1870? Does it never occur to you what it meant to a great nation, so long a centre of civilization, and a great race, so long a leader in thought, to have found herself without a friend, and to have had to face such a defeat,—a defeat followed by a shocking treaty which kept that disaster forever before her? Do you never think of the hidden shame, the cankering mortification of the consciousness of that nation across the frontier, which had battened on its victory, and was so strong in brute force, that, however brave a face one might put on, there was behind that smiling front always a hidden fear of Germany—an eternal foe, ever gaining in numbers and eternally shaking her mailed fist.

No nation so humiliated ever rose out of her humiliation as France did, but the hidden memory, the daily consciousness of it, set its outward mark on the race. It bred that sort of bravado which was eternally accusing itself, in the consciousness that it had taken a thrashing it could never hope to avenge. Count up the past dares that France has had to take from Germany, so strong in mere numbers and physical strength that to attempt to fight her alone, as she did in 1870, meant simply to court annihilation, and fruitlessly. That does not mean that France was really afraid, but only that she was too wise to dare attempt to prove that she was not afraid. So many things in the French that the world has not understood were the result of the cankering wound of 1870. This war has healed that wound. Germany is not invincible, and the chivalrous, loving aid that rallied to help France is none the less comforting simply because since 1914 all nations have learned that the trend of Germany's ambition was a menace to them as well as to France.