September 2

Cloudy and cool; think it will rain in a day or so; have completed my roll. Lieutenant George P. Welch returned from Vermont this afternoon; has been absent sick since we left City Point. We moved back to our old camp at 5 o'clock p. m.; arrived about dark; shall probably stay here several days; are laying out camp.

September Second

Sixty thousand of us witnessed the destruction of Atlanta, while our post band and that of the Thirty-third Massachusetts played martial airs and operatic selections.

Capt. Daniel Oakey, U. S. A.

 

Sherman enters Atlanta, 1864

 

 

September 2

September 2, 1851.--Read the work of Tocqueville ("De la Democratie en Amérique.") My impression is as yet a mixed one. A fine book, but I feel in it a little too much imitation of Montesquieu. This abstract, piquant, sententious style, too, is a little dry, over-refined and monotonous. It has too much cleverness and not enough imagination. It makes one think, more than it charms, and though really serious, it seems flippant. His method of splitting up a thought, of illuminating a subject by successive facets, has serious inconveniences. We see the details too clearly, to the detriment of the whole. A multitude of sparks gives but a poor light. Nevertheless, the author is evidently a ripe and penetrating intelligence, who takes a comprehensive view of his subject, while at the same time possessing a power of acute and exhaustive analysis.

September 2, 1862

We are all togged out with new blue clothes, haversacks and canteens. The haversack is a sack of black enameled cloth with a flap to close it and a strap to go over the shoulder, and is to carry our food in,—rations, I should say. The canteen is of tin, covered with gray cloth; in shape it is like a ball that has been stepped on and flattened down. It has a neck with a cork stopper and a strap to go over the shoulder. It is for carrying water, coffee or any other drinkable. Our new clothes consist of light blue pants and a darker shade of blue for the coats, which is of sack pattern. A light blue overcoat with a cape on it, a pair of mud-colored shirts and drawers, and a cap, which is mostly fore-piece. This, with a knapsack to carry our surplus outfit, and a woollen blanket to sleep on, or under, is our stock in trade. I don't suppose many will read this who do not know from observation how all these things look, for it seems as if all creation was here to look at them, and us.

Wednesday, September 2nd.—We are leaving to-morrow, on a hospital ship, possibly for Nantes K. has given orders for every one to be cleared out of Havre by to-morrow.

We found some men invalided from the Front lying outside the station last night waiting for an ambulance, mostly reservists called up; they'd had a hot time, but were full of grit.

The men from Mons told us "it wasn't fighting—it was murder." They said the burning hot sun was one of the worst parts. They said "the officers was grand"; many regiments seem to have hardly any officers left. They all say that the S.A. War was a picnic compared to this German artillery onslaught and their packed masses continually filling up.

There is a darling little chapel on this floor, beautifully kept, just as the nuns left it, where one can say one's prayers. And there is also a lovely church, where they have Mass at 8 every morning.

You can imagine how hard it has been to keep off grumbling at not getting any work all this time; it is one of the worst of fortunes of war. It seems as if most of the "dangerously" and many of the "seriously" wounded must have died pretty soon, or have not been picked up. The cases that do come down are most of them slight. Some of the worst must be in hospital at Rouen.

208. John Adams

Philadelphia, Tuesday, 2 September, 1777.

I had, yesterday, the pleasure of yours of——, from Boston, and am happy to find that you have been able to do so well amidst all your difficulties. There is but one course for us to take, and that is to renounce the use of all foreign commodities. For my own part, I never lived in my whole life so meanly and poorly as I do now, and yet my constituents will growl at my extravagance. Happy should I be indeed, if I could share with you in the produce of your little farm. Milk, and apples, and pork, and beef, and the fruits of the garden would be luxury to me.

We had nothing yesterday from the General. Howe's army are in a very unwholesome situation. Their water is very bad and brackish. There are frequent morning and evening fogs, which produce intermittent fevers in abundance. Washington has a great body of militia assembled and assembling, in addition to a grand Continental army. Whether he will strike or not, I can't say. He is very prudent, you know, and will not unnecessarily hazard his army. By my own inward feelings, I judge, I should put more to risk if I were in his shoes, but perhaps he is right. Gansevoort has proved that it is possible to hold a post. Herkimer has shown that it is possible to fight Indians, and Stark has proved that it is practicable even to attack lines and posts with militia. I wish the Continental army would prove that anything can be done. But this is sedition at least. I am weary, however, I own, with so much insipidity.

St. Leger and his party have run away. So will Burgoyne. I wish Stark had the supreme command in the northern department. I am sick of Fabian systems in all quarters. The officers drink, A long and moderate war. My toast is, A short and violent war. They would call me mad and rash, etc., but I know better. I am as cool as any of them, and cooler too, for my mind is not inflamed with fear nor anger, whereas I believe theirs are with both. If this letter should be intercepted and published, it would do as much good as another did two years ago.

September 2, 1863

Wednesday. On board the steamer Metropolitan going to New Orleans. We remained on the Exact until midnight with no signs of a start. Just then the Metropolitan came along on its way from Vicksburg, and took us off. It is said General Grant and staff are on board. I am looking out for General Grant, for I have a great curiosity to see him. There are so many officers of all grades on board that I may have seen him already, but I have enquired out all those that make the biggest show and none of them were him. One is covered with badges and medals, but he proved to be a foreigner of some sort. At any rate, he has quite a brogue.

I finally gave it up and went up on the hurricane deck and smoked while watching the sights along the river. A solitary soldier, with nothing on him to tell of rank, had his feet cocked up on the rail and I joined him. He asked if I knew whose fine place it was we were passing, and just then an officer came after him and I had the whole deck to myself. I had a lot of thinking to do and I was glad to be alone. The news to-day is that Charleston is taken. So many are talking of it, I began to think it may be true.

New Orleans. Night. We landed about 1 p. m. I watched for General Grant but did not see him. If he was on the boat he must have kept in his stateroom, but I don't think he was on board, for I would surely have seen him go ashore. We, late of Company B, left the others and went to the French market and filled ourselves full. If I ever had so good a meal I have forgotten it. None of us being very well off for money, we began to consider a suitable place to stop at. We decided on the Murphy House on St. Charles Street for the night, and then to look for a place more in accord with our pocket-books. We found Colonel Bostwick at the St. Charles, the principal hotel of New Orleans. He looks pale and thin, but says he is well. He had no orders for us and will have none until we are mustered. He hardly knows what we are to do, but supposes we will go with an expedition that is being fitted out here, under the direction of General Franklin. Its destination is said to be Texas, but by what route no one that knows has yet told.

September 2

September 2, 1863.--How shall I find a name for that subtle feeling which seized hold upon me this morning in the twilight of waking? It was a reminiscence, charming indeed, but nameless, vague, and featureless, like the figure of a woman seen for an instant by a sick man in the uncertainty of delirium, and across the shadows of his darkened room. I had a distinct sense of a form which I had seen somewhere, and which had moved and charmed me once, and then had fallen back with time into the catacombs of oblivion. But all the rest was confused: place, occasion, and the figure itself, for I saw neither the face nor its expression. The whole was like a fluttering veil under which the enigma--the secret of happiness--might have been hidden. And I was awake enough to be sure that it was not a dream.

In impressions like these we recognize the last trace of things which are sinking out of sight and call within us, of memories which are perishing. It is like a shimmering marsh-light falling upon some vague outline of which one scarcely knows whether it represents a pain or a pleasure--a gleam upon a grave. How strange! One might almost call such things the ghosts of the soul, reflections of past happiness, the manes of our dead emotions. If, as the Talmud, I think, says, every feeling of love gives birth involuntarily to an invisible genius or spirit which yearns to complete its existence, and these glimmering phantoms, which have never taken to themselves form and reality, are still wandering in the limbo of the soul, what is there to astonish us in the strange apparitions which sometimes come to visit our pillow? At any rate, the fact remains that I was not able to force the phantom to tell me its name, nor to give any shape or distinctness to my reminiscence.

What a melancholy aspect life may wear to us when we are floating down the current of such dreamy thoughts as these! It seems like some vast nocturnal shipwreck in which a hundred loving voices are clamoring for help, while the pitiless mounting wave is silencing all the cries one by one, before we have been able, in this darkness of death, to press a hand or give the farewell kiss. Prom such a point of view destiny looks harsh, savage, and cruel, and the tragedy of life rises like a rock in the midst of the dull waters of daily triviality. It is impossible not to be serious under the weight of indefinable anxiety produced in us by such a spectacle. The surface of things may be smiling or commonplace, but the depths below are austere and terrible. As soon as we touch upon eternal things, upon the destiny of the soul, upon truth or duty, upon the secrets of life and death, we become grave whether we will or no.

Love at its highest point--love sublime, unique, invincible--leads us straight to the brink of the great abyss, for it speaks to us directly of the infinite and of eternity. It is eminently religious; it may even become religion. When all around a man is wavering and changing, when everything is growing dark and featureless to him in the far distance of an unknown future, when the world seems but a fiction or a fairy tale, and the universe a chimera, when the whole edifice of ideas vanishes in smoke, and all realities are penetrated with doubt, what is the fixed point which may still be his? The faithful heart of a woman! There he may rest his head; there he will find strength to live, strength to believe, and, if need be, strength to die in peace with a benediction on his lips. Who knows if love and its beatitude, clear manifestation as it is of the universal harmony of things, is not the best demonstration of a fatherly and understanding God, just as it is the shortest road by which to reach him? Love is a faith, and one faith leads to another. And this faith is happiness, light and force. Only by it does a man enter into the series of the living, the awakened, the happy, the redeemed--of those true men who know the value of existence and who labor for the glory of God and of the truth. Till then we are but babblers and chatterers, spendthrifts of our time, our faculties and our gifts, without aim, without real joy--weak, infirm, and useless beings, of no account in the scheme of things. Perhaps it is through love that I shall find my way back to faith, to religion, to energy, to concentration. It seems to me, at least, that if I could but find my work-fellow and my destined companion, all the rest would be added unto me, as though to confound my unbelief and make me blush for my despair. Believe, then, in a fatherly Providence, and dare to love!

15. Abigail Adams

Braintree, 2 September, 1774.

I am very impatient to receive a letter from you. You indulged me so much in that way in your last absence, that I now think I have a right to hear as often from you as you have leisure and opportunity to write. I hear that Mr. Adams [41] wrote to his son, and the Speakerto his lady; but perhaps you did not know of the opportunity. I suppose you have before this time received two letters from me, and will write me by the same conveyance. I judge you reached Philadelphia last Saturday night. I cannot but felicitate you upon your absence a little while from this scene of perturbation, anxiety, and distress. I own I feel not a little agitated with the accounts I have this day received from town; great commotions have arisen in consequence of a discovery of a traitorous plot of Colonel Brattle's,—his advice to Gage to break every commissioned officer and to seize the province's and town's stock of gunpowder.[42]This has so enraged and exasperated the people that there is great apprehension of an immediate rupture. They have been all in flames ever since the new-fangled counselors have taken their oaths. The importance, of which they consider the meeting of the Congress, and the result thereof to the community withholds the arm of vengeance already lifted, which would most certainly fall with accumulated wrath upon Brattle, were it possible to come at him; but no sooner did he discover that his treachery had taken air than he fled, not only to Boston, but into the camp, for safety. You will, by Mr. Tudor, no doubt have a much more accurate account than I am able to give you; but one thing I can inform you of which perhaps you may not have heard, namely, Mr. Vinton, our sheriff, it seems, received one of those twenty warrants [43] which were issued by Messrs. Goldthwait and Price, which has cost them such bitter repentance and humble acknowledgments, and which has revealed the great secret of their attachment to the liberties of their country, and their veneration and regard for the good-will of their countrymen. See their address to Hutchinson and Gage. This warrant, which was for Stoughtonham,[44] Vinton carried and delivered to a constable there; but before he had got six miles he was overtaken by sixty men on horseback, who surrounded him and told him unless he returned with them and demanded back that warrant and committed it to the flames before their faces, he must take the consequences of a refusal; and he, not thinking it best to endure their vengeance, returned with them, made his demand of the warrant, and consumed it, upon which they dispersed and left him to his own reflections. Since the news of the Quebec bill arrived, all the Church people here have hung their heads and will not converse upon politics, though ever so much provoked by the opposite party. Before that, parties ran very high, and very hard words and threats of blows upon both sides were given out. They have had their town-meeting here, which was full as usual, chose their committee for the county meeting, and did business without once regarding or fearing for the consequences.[45]

I should be glad to know how you found the people as you travelled from town to town. I hear you met with great hospitality and kindness in Connecticut. Pray let me know how your health is, and whether you have not had exceeding hot weather. The drought has been very severe. My poor cows will certainly prefer a petition to you, setting forth their grievances and informing you that they have been deprived of their ancient privileges, whereby they are become great sufferers, and desiring that they may be restored to them. More especially as their living, by reason of the drought, is all taken from them, and their property which they hold elsewhere is decaying, they humbly pray that you would consider them, lest hunger should break through stone walls.

The tenderest regard evermore awaits you from your most affectionate

Abigail Adams.

Footnotes:

[41]Samuel Adams and Thomas Cushing, both of them delegates.

[42]"Mr. Brattle begs leave to quere whether it would not be best that there should not be one commissioned officer of the militia in the province." (Brattle to General Gage, 26 August.)

The other rumor is not sustained by this letter, as General Brattle there announces that all the town's stock of powder had been surrendered, and none was left but the king's, meaning thereby what belonged to the province. But whether he advised it or not, it is certain that a detachment of the regular troops was sent out of Boston on the 1st of September to secure all the powder left at Charlestown, and to bring it away, which was done.

[43]Writs to summon juries. The administration of justice had been stopped by the impeachment of Chief Justice Oliver, and the refusal of the juries to act under him. The present attempt was intended to deter all others from becoming jurors.

[44]The old name of the town of Sharon.

[45]The most clear and decisive account of the general rising that took place at this time in the province is given in the official letter of General Gage to Lord Dartmouth, of the same date with this letter. Am. Archives  for 1774, p. 767.

You can get some idea of how exhausted I was on that night of Wednesday, September 2, when I tell you that I waked the next morning to find that I had a picket at my gate. I did not know until Amelie came to get my coffee ready the next morning—that was Thursday, September 3—can it be that it is only five days ago! She also brought me news that they were preparing to blow up the bridges on the Marne; that the post-office had gone; that the English were cutting the telegraph wires.

While I was taking my coffee, quietly, as if it were an everyday occurrence, she said: "Well, madame, I imagine that we are going to see the Germans. Pere is breaking an opening into the underground passage under the stable, and we are going to put all we can out of sight. Will you please gather up what you wish to save, and it can be hidden there?"

I don't know that I ever told you that all the hill is honeycombed with those old subterranean passages, like the one we saw at Provins. They say that they go as far as Crecy-en-Brie, and used to connect the royal palace there with one on this hill.

Naturally I gave a decided refusal to any move of that sort, so far as I was concerned. My books and portraits are the only things I should be eternally hurt to survive. To her argument that the books could be put there,—there was room enough,—I refused to listen. I had no idea of putting my books underground to be mildewed. Besides, if it had been possible I would not have attempted it—and it distinctly was impossible. I felt a good deal like the Belgian refugies I had seen,—all so well dressed; if my house was going up, it was going up in its best clothes. I had just been uprooted once—a horrid operation—and I did not propose to do it again so soon. To that my mind was made up.

Luckily for me—for Amelie was as set as I was—the argument was cut short by a knock at the front door. I opened it to find standing there a pretty French girl whom I had been seeing every day, as, morning and evening, she passed my gate to and from the railway station. Sooner or later I should have told you about her if all this excitement had not put it out of my mind and my letters. I did not know her name. I had never got to asking Amelie who she was, though I was a bit surprised to find any one of her type here where I had supposed there were only farmers and peasants.

She apologized for presenting herself so informally: said she had come, "de la parte de maman," to ask me what I proposed to do. I replied at once, "I am staying."

She looked a little surprised: said her mother wished to do the same, but that her only brother was with the colors; that he had confided his young wife and two babies to her, and that the Germans were so brutal to children that she did not dare risk it.

"Of course, you know," she added, "that every one has left Couilly; all the shops are closed, and nearly every one has gone from Voisins and Quincy. The mayor's wife left last night. Before going she came to us and advised us to escape at once, and even found us a horse and cart—the trains are not running. So mother thought that, as you were a foreigner, and all alone, we ought not to go without at least offering you a place in the wagon—the chance to go with us."

I was really touched, and told her so, but explained that I should stay. She was rather insistent—said her mother would be so distressed at leaving me alone with only a little group of women and children about me, who might, at the last moment, be panic-stricken.

I explained to her as well as I could that I was alone in the world, poor myself, and that I could not see myself leaving all that I valued,—my home; to have which I had made a supreme effort, and for which I had already a deep affection,—to join the band of refugies, shelterless, on the road, or to look for safety in a city, which, if the Germans passed here, was likely to be besieged and bombarded. I finally convinced her that my mind was made up. I had decided to keep my face turned toward Fate rather than run away from it. To me it seemed the only way to escape a panic—a thing of which I have always had a horror.

Seeing that nothing could make me change my mind, we shook hands, wished each other luck, and, as she turned away, she said, in her pretty French: "I am sorry it is disaster that brought us together, but I hope to know you better when days are happier"; and she went down the hill.

When I returned to the dining-room I found that, in spite of my orders, Amelie was busy putting my few pieces of silver, and such bits of china from the buffet as seemed to her valuable,—her ideas and mine on that point do not jibe,—into the waste-paper baskets to be hidden underground.

I was too tired to argue. While I stood watching her there was a tremendous explosion. I rushed into the garden. The picket, his gun on his shoulder, was at the gate.

"What was that?" I called out to him.

"Bridge," he replied. "The English divisions are destroying the bridges on the Marne behind them as they cross. That means that another division is over."

I asked him which bridge it was, but of course he did not know. While I was standing there, trying to locate it by the smoke, an English officer, who looked of middle age, tall, clean-cut, rode down the road on a chestnut horse, as slight, as clean-cut, and well groomed as himself. He rose in his stirrups to look off at the plain before he saw me. Then he looked at me, then up at the flags flying over the gate,—saw the Stars and Stripes,—smiled, and dismounted.

"American, I see," he said.

I told him I was.

"Live here?" said he.

I told him that I did.

"Staying on?" he asked.

I answered that it looked like it.

He looked me over a moment before he said, "Please invite me into your garden and show me that view."

I was delighted. I opened the gate, and he strolled in and sauntered with a long, slow stride—a long-legged stride—out on to the lawn and right down to the hedge, and looked off.

"Beautiful," he said, as he took out his field-glass, and turned up the map case which hung at his side. "What town is that?" he asked, pointing to the foreground.

I told him that it was Mareuil-on-the-Marne.

"How far off is it?" he questioned.

I told him that it was about two miles, and Meaux was about the same distance beyond it.

"What town is that?" he asked, pointing to the hill.

I explained that the town on the horizon was Penchard—not really a town, only a village; and lower down, between Penchard and Meaux, were Neufmortier and Chauconin.

All this time he was studying his map.

"Thank you. I have it," he said. "It is a lovely country, and this is a wonderful view of it, the best I have had."

For a few minutes he stood studying it in silence—alternatively looking at his map and then through his glass. Then he dropped his map, put his glasses into the case, and turned to me—and smiled. He had a winning smile, sad and yet consoling, which lighted up a bronzed face, stern and weary. It was the sort of smile to which everything was permitted.

"Married?" he said.

You can imagine what he was like when I tell you that I answered right up, and only thought it was funny hours after—or at least I shook my head cheerfully.

"You don't live here alone?" he asked.

"But I do," I replied.

He looked at me bravely a moment, then off at the plain.

"Lived here long?" he questioned.

I told him that I had lived in this house only three months, but that I had lived in France for sixteen years.

Without a word he turned back toward the house, and for half a minute, for the first time in my life, I had a sensation that it looked strange for me to be an exile in a country that was not mine, and with no ties. For a penny I would have told him the history of my life. Luckily he did not give me time. He just strode down to the gate, and by the time he had his foot in the stirrup I had recovered.

"Is there anything I can do for you, captain?" I asked.

He mounted his horse, looked down at me. Then he gave me

another of his rare smiles.

"No," he said, "at this moment there is nothing that you can do for me, thank you; but if you could give my boys a cup of tea, I imagine that you would just about save their lives." And nodding to me, he said to the picket, "This lady is kind enough to offer you a cup of tea," and he rode off, taking the road down the hill to Voisins.

I ran into the house, put on the kettle, ran up the road to call Amelie, and back to the arbor to set the table as well as I could. The whole atmosphere was changed. I was going to be useful.

I had no idea how many men I was going to feed. I had only seen three. To this day I don't know how many I did feed. They came and came and came. It reminded me of hens running toward a place where another hen has found something good. It did not take me many minutes to discover that these men needed something more substantial than tea. Luckily I had brought back from Paris an emergency stock of things like biscuit, dry cakes, jam, etc., for even before our shops were closed there was mighty little in them. For an hour and a half I brewed pot after pot of tea, opened jar after jar of jam and jelly, and tin after tin of biscuit and cakes, and although it was hardly hearty fodder for men, they put it down with a relish. I have seen hungry men, but never anything as hungry as these boys.

I knew little about military discipline—less about the rules of active service; so I had no idea that I was letting these hungry men—and evidently hunger laughs at laws—break all the regulations of the army. Their guns were lying about in any old place; their kits were on the ground; their belts were unbuckled. Suddenly the captain rode up the road and looked over the hedge at the scene. The men were sitting on the benches, on the ground, anywhere, and were all smoking my best Egyptian cigarettes, and I was running round as happy as a queen, seeing them so contented and comfortable.

It was a rude awakening when the captain rode up the street.

There was a sudden jumping up, a hurried buckling up of belts, a grab for kits and guns, and an unceremonious cut for the gate. I heard a volley from the officer. I marked a serious effort on the part of the men to keep the smiles off their faces as they hurriedly got their kits on their backs and their guns on their shoulders, and, rigidly saluting, dispersed up the hill, leaving two very straight men marching before the gate as if they never in their lives had thought of anything but picket duty.

The captain never even looked at me, but rode up the hill after his men. A few minutes later he returned, dismounted at the gate, tied his horse, and came in. I was a bit confused. But he smiled one of those smiles of his, and I got right over it.

"Dear little lady," he said, "I wonder if there is any tea left for me?"

Was there! I should think so; and I thought to myself, as I led the way into the dining-room, that he was probably just as hungry as his men.

While I was making a fresh brew he said to me:—

"You must forgive my giving my men Hades right before you, but they deserved it, and know it, and under the circumstances I imagine they did not mind taking it. I did not mean you to give them a party, you know. Why, if the major had ridden up that hill—and he might have—and seen that party inside your garden, I should have lost my commission and those boys got the guardhouse. These men are on active service."

Then, while he drank his tea, he told me why he felt a certain indulgence for them—these boys who were hurried away from England without having a chance to take leave of their families, or even to warn them that they were going.

"This is the first time that they have had a chance to talk to a woman who speaks their tongue since they left England; I can't begrudge it to them and they know it. But discipline is discipline, and if I had let such a breach of it pass they would have no respect for me. They understand. They had no business to put their guns out of their hands. What would they have done if the detachment of Uhlans we are watching for had dashed up that hill—as they might have?"

Before I could answer or remark on this startling speech there was a tremendous explosion, which brought me to my feet, with the inevitable,—

"What's that?"

He took a long pull at his tea before he replied quietly,—"Another division across the Marne."

Then he went on as if there had been no interruption:—

"This Yorkshire regiment has had hard luck. Only one other regiment in the Expedition has had worse. They have marched from the Belgian frontier, and they have been in four big actions in the retreat—Mons, Cambrai, Saint-Quentin, and La Fere. Saint-Quentin was pretty rough luck. We went into the trenches a full regiment. We came out to retreat again with four hundred men—and I left my younger brother there."

I gasped; I could not find a word to say. He did not seem to feel it necessary that I should. He simply winked his eyelids, stiffened his stern mouth, and went right on; and I forgot all about the Uhlans:—

"At La Fere we lost our commissary on the field. It was burned, and these lads have not had a decent feed since—that was three days ago. We have passed through few towns since, and those were evacuated,—drummed out and fruit from the orchards on the roadsides is about all they have had—hardly good feed for a marching army in such hot weather. Besides, we were moving pretty fast—but in order—to get across the Marne, toward which we have been drawing the Germans, and in every one of these battles we have been fighting with one man to their ten."

I asked him where the Germans were.

"Can't say," he replied.

"And the French?"

"No idea. We've not seen them—yet. We understood that we were to be reinforced at Saint-Quentin by a French detachment at four o'clock. They got there at eleven—the battle was over—and lost. But these boys gave a wonderful account of themselves, and in spite of the disaster retreated in perfect order."

Then he told me that at the last moment he ordered his company to lie close in the trench and let the Germans come right up to them, and not to budge until he ordered them to give them what they hate—the bayonet. The Germans were within a few yards when a German automobile carrying a machine gun bore down on them and discovered their position, but the English sharpshooters picked off the five men the car carried before they could fire a shot, and after that it was every man for himself—what the French call "sauve qui peut."

The Uhlans came back to my mind, and it seemed to me a good time to ask him what he was doing here. Oddly enough, in spite of the several shocks I had had, and perhaps because of his manner, I was able to do it as if it was the sort of tea-table conversation to which I had always been accustomed.

"What are you doing here?" I said.

"Waiting for orders," he answered.

"And for Uhlans?"

"Oh," replied he, "if incidentally while we are sitting down here to rest, we could rout out a detachment of German cavalry, which our aeroplane tells us crossed the Marne ahead of us, we would like to. Whether this is one of those flying squads they are so fond of sending ahead, just to do a little terrorizing, or whether they escaped from the battle of La Fere, we don't know. I fancy the latter, as they do not seem to have done any harm or to have been too anxious to be seen."

I need not tell you that my mind was acting like lightning. I remembered, in the pause, as I poured him another cup of tea, and pushed the jam pot toward him, that Amelie had heard at Voisins last night that there were horses in the woods near the canal; that they had been heard neighing in the night; and that we had jumped to the conclusion that there were English cavalry there. I mentioned this to the captain, but for some reason it did not seem to make much impression on him; so I did not insist, as there was something that seemed more important which I had been getting up the courage to ask him. It had been on my lips all day. I put it.

"Captain," I asked, "do you think there is any danger in my staying here?"

He took a long drink before he answered:—

"Little lady, there is danger everywhere between Paris and the Channel. Personally—since you have stayed until getting away will be difficult—I do not really believe that there is any reason why you should not stick it out. You may have a disagreeable time. But I honestly believe you are running no real risk of having more than that. At all events, I am going to do what I can to assure your personal safety. As we understand it—no one really knows anything except the orders given out—it is not intended that the Germans shall cross the Marne here. But who knows? Anyway, if I move on, each division of the Expeditionary Force that retreats to this hill will know that you are here. If it is necessary, later, for you to leave, you will be notified and precautions taken for your safety. You are not afraid?"

I could only tell him, "Not yet," but I could not help adding, "Of course I am not so stupid as to suppose for a moment that you English have retreated here to amuse yourselves, or that you have dragged your artillery up the hill behind me just to exercise your horses or to give your gunners a pretty promenade."

He threw back his head and laughed aloud for the first time, and I felt better.

"Precautions do not always mean a battle, you know"; and as he rose to his feet he called my attention to a hole in his coat, saying, "It was a miracle that I came through Saint-Quentin with a whole skin. The bullets simply rained about me. It was pouring—I had on a mackintosh—which made me conspicuous as an officer, if my height had not exposed me. Every German regiment carries a number of sharpshooters whose business is to pick off the officers. However, it was evidently not my hour."

As we walked out to the gate I asked him if there was anything else I could do for him.

"Do you think," he replied, "that you could get me a couple of fresh eggs at half-past seven and let me have a cold wash-up?"

"Well, rather," I answered, and he rode away.

As soon as he was gone one of the picket called from the road to know if they could have "water and wash."

I told them of course they could—to come right in.

He said that they could not do that, but that if they could have water at the gate—and I did not mind—they could wash up in relays in the road. So Pere came and drew buckets and buckets of water, and you never saw such a stripping and such a slopping, as they washed and shaved—and with such dispatch. They had just got through, luckily, when, at about half-past six, the captain rode hurriedly down the hill again. He carried a slip of white paper in his hand, which he seemed intent on deciphering.

As I met him at the gate he said:—

"Sorry I shall miss those eggs—I've orders to move east," and he began to round up his men.

I foolishly asked him why. I felt as if I were losing a friend.

"Orders," he answered. Then he put the slip of paper into his pocket, and leaning down he said:—

"Before I go I am going to ask you to let my corporal pull down your flags. You may think it cowardly. I think it prudent. They can be seen a long way. It is silly to wave a red flag at a bull. Any needless display of bravado on your part would be equally foolish."

So the corporal climbed up and pulled down the big flags, and together we marched them off to the stable. When I returned to the gate, where the captain was waiting for the rest of the picket to arrive, I was surprised to find my French caller of the morning standing there, with a pretty blonde girl, whom she introduced as her sister-in-law. She explained that they had started in the morning, but that their wagon had been overloaded and broken down and they had had to return, and that her mother was "glad of it." It was perfectly natural that she should ask me to ask the "English officer if it was safe to stay." I repeated the question. He looked down at them, asked if they were friends of mine. I explained that they were neighbors and acquaintances only.

"Well," he said, "I can only repeat what I said to you this morning—I think you are safe here. But for God's sake, don't give it to them as coming from me. I can assure your personal safety, but I cannot take the whole village on my conscience." I told him that I would not quote him.

All this time he had been searching in a letter-case, and finally selected an envelope from which he removed the letter, passing me the empty cover.

"I want you," he said, "to write me a letter—that address will always reach me. I shall be anxious to know how you came through, and every one of these boys will be interested. You have given them the only happy day they have had since they left home. As for me—if I live—I shall some time come back to see you. Good-bye and good luck." And he wheeled his horse and rode up the hill, his boys marching behind him; and at the turn of the road they all looked back and I waved my hand, and I don't mind telling you that I nodded to the French girls at the gate and got into the house as quickly as I could—and wiped my eyes. Then I cleared up the tea-mess. It was not until the house was in order again that I put on my glasses and read the envelope that the captain had given me:—


Capt. T. E. Simpson,
King's Own Yorkshire L. I. VIth Infantry Brigade,
15th Division, British Expeditionary Force.

And I put it carefully away in my address book until the time should come for me to write and tell "how I came through"; the phrase did disturb me a little.

I did not eat any supper. Food seemed to be the last thing I wanted. I sat down in the study to read. It was about eight when I heard the gate open. Looking out I saw a man in khaki, his gun on his shoulder, marching up the path. I went to the door.

"Good-evening, ma'am," he said. "All right?"

I assured him that I was.

"I am the corporal of the guard," he added. "The commander's compliments, and I was to report to you that your road was picketed for the night and that all is well."

I thanked him, and he marched away, and took up his post at the gate, and I knew that this was the commander's way of letting me know that Captain Simpson had kept his word. I had just time while the corporal stood at the door to see "Bedford" on his cap, so I knew that the new regiment was from Bedfordshire.

I sat up awhile longer, trying to fix my mind on my book, trying not to look round constantly at my pretty green interior, at all my books, looking so ornamental against the walls of my study, at all the portraits of the friends of my life of active service above the shelves, and the old sixteenth-century Buddha, which Oda Neilson sent me on my last birthday, looking so stoically down from his perch to remind me how little all these things counted. I could not help remembering at the end that my friends at Voulangis had gone—that they were at that very moment on their way to Marseilles, that almost every one else I knew on this side of the water was either at Havre waiting to sail, or in London, or shut up in Holland or Denmark; that except for the friends I had at the front I was alone with my beloved France and her Allies. Through it all there ran a thought that made me laugh at last—how all through August I had felt so outside of things, only suddenly to find it right at my door. In the back of my mind—pushed back as hard as I could—stood the question—what was to become of all this?

Yet, do you know, I went to bed, and what is more I slept well. I was physically tired. The last thing I saw as I closed up the house was the gleam of the moonlight on the muskets of the picket pacing the road, and the first thing I heard, as I waked suddenly at about four, was the crunching of the gravel as they still marched there.

I got up at once. It was the morning of Friday, the 4th of September. I dressed hurriedly, ran down to put the kettle on, and start the coffee, and by five o'clock I had a table spread in the road, outside the gate, with hot coffee and milk and bread and jam. I had my lesson, so I called the corporal and explained that his men were to come in relays, and when the coffee-pot was empty there was more in the house; and I left them to serve themselves, while I finished dressing. I knew that the officers were likely to come over, and one idea was fixed in my mind: I must not look demoralized. So I put on a clean white frock, white shoes and stockings, a big black bow in my hair, and I felt equal to anything—in spite of the fact that before I dressed I heard far off a booming-could it be cannon ?—and more than once a nearer explosion,—more bridges down, more English across.

It was not much after nine when two English officers strolled down the road—Captain Edwards and Major Ellison, of the Bedfordshire Light Infantry. They came into the garden, and the scene with Captain Simpson of the day before was practically repeated. They examined the plain, located the towns, looked long at it with their glasses; and that being over I put the usual question, "Can I do anything for you?" and got the usual answer, "Eggs."

I asked how many officers there were in the mess, and he replied "Five"; so I promised to forage, and away they went.

As soon as they were out of sight the picket set up a howl for baths. These Bedfordshire boys were not hungry, but they had retreated from their last battle leaving their kits in the trenches, and were without soap or towels, or combs or razors. But that was easily remedied. They washed up in relays in the court at Amelie's—it was a little more retired. As Amelie had put all her towels, etc., down underground, I ran back and forward between my house and hers for all sorts of things, and, as they slopped until the road ran tiny rivulets, I had to change shoes and stockings twice. I was not conscious till afterward how funny it all was. I must have been a good deal like an excited duck, and Amelie like a hen with a duckling. When she was not twitching my sash straight, she was running about after me with dry shoes and stockings, and a chair, for fear "madame was getting too tired"; and when she was not doing that she was clapping my big garden hat on my head, for fear "madame would get a sunstroke." The joke was that I did not know it was hot. I did not even know it was funny until afterward, when the whole scene seemed to have been by a sort of dual process photographed unconsciously on my memory.

When the boys were all washed and shaved and combed,—and

they were so larky over it,—we were like old friends. I did not know one of them by name, but I did know who was married, and who had children; and how one man's first child had been born since he left England, and no news from home because they had seen their mail wagon burn on the battlefield; and how one of them was only twenty, and had been six years in the army,—lied when he enlisted; how none of them had ever seen war before; how they had always wanted to, and "Now," said the twenty-years older, "I've seen it—good Lord—and all I want is to get home," and he drew out of his breast pocket a photograph of a young girl in all her best clothes, sitting up very straight.

When I said, "Best girl?" he said proudly, "Only one, and we were to have been married in January if this hadn't happened. Perhaps we may yet, if we get home at Christmas, as they tell us we may."

I wondered who he meant by "they." The officers did not give any such impression.

While I was gathering up towels and things before returning to the house, this youngster advanced toward me, and said with a half-shy smile, "I take it you're a lady."

I said I was glad he had noticed it—I did make such an effort.

"No, no," he said, "I'm not joking. I may not say it very well, but I am quite serious. We all want to say to you that if it is war that makes you and the women you live amongst so different from English women, then all we can say is that the sooner England is invaded and knows what it means to have a fighting army on her soil, and see her fields devastated and her homes destroyed, the better it will be for the race. You take my word for it, they have no notion of what war is like; and there ain't no English woman of your class could have, or would have, done for us what you have done this morning. Why, in England the common soldier is the dirt under the feet of women like you."

I had to laugh, as I told him to wait and see how they treated them when war was there; that they probably had not done the thing simply because they never had had the chance.

"Well," he answered, "they'll have to change mightily. Why, our own women would have been uncomfortable and ashamed to see a lot of dirty men stripping and washing down like we have done. You haven't looked as if you minded it a bit, or thought of anything but getting us cleaned up as quick and comfortable as possible."

I started to say that I felt terribly flattered that I had played the role so well, but I knew he would not understand. Besides, I was wondering if it were true. I never knew the English except as individuals, never as a race. So I only laughed, picked up my towels, and went home to rest.

Not long before noon a bicycle scout came over with a message from Captain Edwards, and I sent by him a basket of eggs, a cold chicken, and a bottle of wine as a contribution to the breakfast at the officers' mess; and by the time I had eaten my breakfast, the picket had been changed, and I saw no more of those boys.

During the afternoon the booming off at the east became more distinct. It surely was cannon. I went out to the gate where the corporal of the guard was standing, and asked him, "Do I hear cannon?" "Sure," he replied. "Do you know where it is?" I asked. He said he hadn't an idea—about twenty-five or thirty miles away. And on he marched, up and down the road, perfectly indifferent to it.

When Amelie came to help get tea at the gate, she said that a man from Voisins, who had started with the crowd that left here Wednesday, had returned. He had brought back the news that the sight on the road was simply horrible. The refugies had got so blocked in their hurry that they could move in neither direction; cattle and horses were so tired that they fell by the way; it would take a general to disentangle them. My! wasn't I glad that I had not been tempted to get into that mess!

Just after the boys had finished their tea, Captain Edwards came down the road, swinging my empty basket on his arm, to say "Thanks" for his breakfast. He looked at the table at the gate.

"So the men have been having tea—lucky men—and bottled water! What extravagance!"

"Come in and have some, too," I said.

"Love to," he answered, and in he came.

While I was making the tea he walked about the house, looked at the pictures, examined the books. Just as the table was ready there was a tremendous explosion. He went to the door, looked off, and remarked, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, "Another division across. That should be the last."

"Are all the bridges down?" I asked.

"All, I think, except the big railroad bridge behind you—Chalifert. That will not go until the last minute."

I wanted to ask, "When will it be the 'last minute'—and what does the 'last minute' mean?"—but where was the good? So we went into the dining-room. As he threw his hat on to a chair and sat down with a sigh, he said, "You see before you a very humiliated man. About half an hour ago eight of the Uhlans we are looking for rode right into the street below you, in Voisins. We saw them, but they got away. It is absolutely our own stupidity."

"Well," I explained to him, "I fancy I can tell you where they are hiding. I told Captain Simpson so last night." And I explained to him that horses had been heard in the woods at the foot of the hill since Tuesday; that there was a cart road, rough and winding, running in toward Conde for over two miles; that it was absolutely screened by trees, had plenty of water, and not a house in it,—a shelter for a regiment of cavalry. And I had the impertinence to suggest that if the picket had been extended to the road below it would have been impossible for the Germans to have got into Voisins.

"Not enough of us," he replied. "We are guarding a wide territory, and cannot put our pickets out of sight of one another." Then he explained that, as far as he knew from his aeroplane men, the detachment had broken up since it was first discovered on this side of the Marne. It was reported that there were only about twenty-four in this vicinity; that they were believed to be without ammunition; and then he dropped the subject, and I did not bother him with questions that were bristling in my mind.

He told me how sad it was to see the ruin of the beautiful country through which they had passed, and what a mistake it had been from his point of view not to have foreseen the methods of Germans and drummed out all the towns through which the armies had passed. He told me one or two touching and interesting stories. One was of the day before a battle, I think it was Saint-Quentin. The officers had been invited to dine at a pretty chateau near which they had bivouacked. The French family could not do too much for them, and the daughters of the house waited on the table. Almost before the meal was finished the alerte sounded, and the battle was on them. When they retreated by the house where they had been so prettily entertained such a few hours before, there was not one stone standing on another, and what became of the family he had no idea.

The other that I remember was of the way the Germans passed the river at Saint-Quentin and forced the battle at La Fere on them. The bridge was mined, and the captain was standing beside the engineer waiting to give the order to touch off the mine. It was a nasty night—a Sunday (only last Sunday, think of that!)—and the rain was coming down in torrents. Just before the Germans reached the bridge he ordered it blown up. The engineer touched the button. The fuse did not act. He was in despair, but the captain said to him, "Brace up, my lad—give her another chance." The second effort failed like the first. Then, before any one could stop him, the engineer made a dash for the end of the bridge, drawing his revolver as he ran, and fired six shots into the mine, knowing that, if he succeeded, he would go up with the bridge. No good, and he was literally dragged off the spot weeping with rage at his failure—and the Germans came across.

All the time we had been talking I had heard the cannonade in the distance—now at the north and now in the east. This seemed a proper moment, inspired by the fact that he was talking war, of his own initiative, to put a question or two, so I risked it.

"That cannonading seems much nearer than it did this morning," I ventured.

"Possibly," he replied.

"What does that mean?" I persisted.

"Sorry I can't tell you. We men know absolutely nothing. Only three men in this war know anything of its plans,—Kitchener, Joffre, and French. The rest of us obey orders, and know only what we see. Not even a brigade commander is any wiser. Once in a while the colonel makes a remark, but he is never illuminating."

"How much risk am I running by remaining here?"

He looked at me a moment before he asked, "You want to know the truth?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Well, this is the situation as near as I can work it out. We infer from the work we were given to do—destroying bridges, railroads, telegraphic communications—that an effort is to be made here to stop the march on Paris; in fact, that the Germans are not to be allowed to cross the Marne at Meaux, and march on the city by the main road from Rheims to the capital. The communications are all cut. That does not mean that it will be impossible for them to pass; they've got clever engineers. It means that we have impeded them and may stop them. I don't know. Just now your risk is nothing. It will be nothing unless we are ordered to hold this hill, which is the line of march from Meaux to Paris. We have had no such order yet. But if the Germans succeed in taking Meaux and attempt to put their bridges across the Marne, our artillery, behind you there on the top of the hill, must open fire on them over your head. In that case the Germans will surely reply by bombarding this hill." And he drank his tea without looking to see how I took it.

I remember that I was standing opposite him, and I involuntarily leaned against the wall behind me, but suddenly thought, "Be careful. You'll break the glass in the picture of Whistler's Mother, and you'll be sorry." It brought me up standing, and he didn't notice. Isn't the mind a queer thing?

He finished his tea, and rose to go. As he picked up his cap he showed me a hole right through his sleeve—in one side, out the other-and a similar one in his puttee, where the ball had been turned aside by the leather lacing of his boot. He laughed as he said, "Odd how near a chap comes to going out, and yet lives to drink tea with you. Well, good-bye and good luck if I don't see you again."

And off he marched, and I went into the library and sat down and sat very still.

It was not more than half an hour after Captain Edwards left that the corporal came in to ask me if I had a window in the roof. I told him that there was, and he asked if he might go up. I led the way, picking up my glasses as I went. He explained, as we climbed the two flights of stairs, that the aeroplane had reported a part of the Germans they were hunting "not a thousand feet from this house." I opened the skylight. He scanned in every direction. I knew he would not see anything, and he did not. But he seemed to like the view, could command the roads that his posse was guarding, so he sat on the window ledge and talked. The common soldier is far fonder of talking than his officer and apparently he knows more. If he doesn't, he thinks he does. So he explained to me the situation as the "men saw it." I remembered what Captain Edwards had told me, but I listened all the same. He told me that the Germans were advancing in two columns about ten miles apart, flanked in the west by a French division pushing them east, and led by the English drawing them toward the Marne. "You know," he said, "that we are the sacrificed corps, and we have known it from the first—went into the campaign knowing it. We have been fighting a force ten times superior in numbers, and retreating, doing rear-guard action, whether we were really outfought or not—to draw the Germans where Joffre wants them. I reckon we've got them there. It is great strategy-Kitchener's, you know."

Whether any of the corporal's ideas had any relation to facts I shall never know until history tells me, but I can assure you that, as I followed the corporal downstairs, I looked about my house—and, well, I don't deny it, it seemed to me a doomed thing, and I was sorry for it. However, as I let him out into the road again, I pounded into myself lots of things like "It hasn't happened yet"; "Sufficient unto the day"; and, "What isn't to be, won't be"; and found I was quite calm. Luckily I did not have much time to myself, for I had hardly sat down quietly when there was another tap at the door and I opened to find an officer of the bicycle corps standing there.

"Captain Edwards's compliments," he said, "and will you be so kind as to explain to me exactly where you think the Uhlans are hidden?" I told him that if he would come down the road a little way with me I would show him.

"Wait a moment," he said, holding the door. "You are not afraid?" I told him that I was not.

"My orders are not to expose you uselessly. Wait there a minute."

He stepped back into the garden, gave a quick look overhead,—I don't know what for, unless for a Taube. Then he said, "Now, you will please come out into the road and keep close to the bank at the left, in the shadow. I shall walk at the extreme right. As soon as I get where I can see the roads ahead, at the foot of the hill, I shall ask you to stop, and please stop at once. I don't want you to be seen from the road below, in case any one is there. Do you understand ?"

I said I did. So we went into the road and walked silently down the hill. Just before we got to the turn, he motioned me to stop and stood with his map in hand while I explained that he was to cross the road that led into Voisins, take the cart track down the hill past the washhouse on his left, and turn into the wood road on that side. At each indication he said, "I have it." When I had explained, he simply said, "Rough road?"



The House on the Hilltop


I said it was, very, and wet in the dryest weather.

"Wooded all the way?" he asked.

I told him that it was, and, what was more, so winding that you could not see ten feet ahead anywhere between here and Conde.

"Humph," he said. "Perfectly clear, thank you very much. Please wait right there a moment."

He looked up the hill behind him, and made a gesture in the air with his hand above his head. I turned to look up the hill also. I saw the corporal at the gate repeat the gesture; then a big bicycle corps, four abreast, guns on their backs, slid round the corner and came gliding down the hill. There was not a sound, not the rattle of a chain or a pedal.

"Thank you very much," said the captain. "Be so kind as to keep close to the bank."

When I reached my gate I found some of the men of the guard dragging a big, long log down the road, and I watched them while they attached it to a tree at my gate, and swung it across to the opposite side of the road, making in that way a barrier about five feet high. I asked what that was for? "Captain's orders," was the laconic reply. But when it was done the corporal took the trouble to explain that it was a barricade to prevent the Germans from making a dash up the hill.

"However," he added, "don't you get nervous. If we chase them out it will only be a little rifle practice, and I doubt if they even have any ammunition."

As I turned to go into the house, he called after me,—

"See here, I notice that you've got doors on all sides of your house. Better lock all those but this front one."

As all the windows were barred and so could be left open, I didn't mind; so I went in and locked up. The thing was getting to be funny to me,—always doing something, and nothing happening. I suppose courage is a cumulative thing, if only one has time to accumulate, and these boys in khaki treated even the cannonading as if it were all "in the day's work."

It was just dusk when the bicycle corps returned up the hill. They had to dismount and wheel their machines under the barricade, and they did it so prettily, dismounting and remounting with a precision that was neat.

"Nothing," reported the captain. "We could not go in far,—road too rough and too dangerous. It is a cavalry job."

All the same, I am sure the Uhlans are there.