The Martial Adventures of Henry and Me by William Allen White



BORDEAUX is the "Somewhere in France" from which cablegrams from passengers on the French liners usually are sent. This will be no news to the Germans, nor to Americans who read the advertisements of the French liners, but it may be news to Americans who receive the mysterious cablegrams "from a French port," after their friends have landed. It is a dear old town, mouldy, and weather-beaten, and mediaeval, this Bordeaux, with high, mysterious walls along the streets over which hang dusty branches of trees or vines sneaking mischievously out of bounds. A woe-begone trolley creaks through the narrow streets and heart-broken cabmen mourning over the mistakes of misspent lives, larrup disconsolate horses over stony streets as they creak and jog and wheeze ahead of the invisible crows that seem always to be hovering above ready to batten upon

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their rightful provender. For an hour in the morning before our train left for Paris we chartered one of the ramshackle cabs of the town and took in Bordeaux. It was vastly unlike either Emporia or Wichita, or anything in Kansas, or anything in America; or so far as that goes, to Henry and me, it was unlike anything else in the wide and beautiful world. "All this needs," said Henry, as he lolled back upon the moth-eaten cushions of the hack that banged its iron rims on the cobbles beneath us, and sent the thrill of it into our teeth, "all this needs is Mary Pickford and a player organ to be a good film!" The only thing we saw that made us homesick was the group of firemen in front of the engine house playing checkers or chess or something. But the town had an historic interest for us as the home of the Girondists of the French Revolution; so we looked up their monument and did proper reverence to them. They were moderate idealists who rose during the first year of the revolution; we thought them much like the Bull Moosers. So we did what homage we could to the Girondists who were run over by the revolutionary band wagon and sent to the guillotine during the Terror. For we knew; indeed into the rolly-poly necks of Henry and me, in our own politics, the

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knife had bitten many times. So we stood before what seemed to be the proper monument with sympathetic eyes and uncovered heads for a second before we took the train for Paris.

All day long we rode through the only peaceful part of France we were to see in our martial adventures. It was fair and fat and smiling--that France that lay between the river Gironde and Paris, and all day we rode through its beauty and its richness. The thing which we missed most from the landscape, being used to the American landscape, was the automobile. We did not see one in the day's journey. In Kansas alone there are 190,000 continually pervading the landscape. We had yet to learn that there are no private automobiles in France, that the government had commandeered all automobiles and that even the taxis of Paris have but ten gallons of gasoline a day allotted to each of them. So we gazed at the two-wheeled carts, the high, bony, strong white oxen, the ribbons of roads, hard-surfaced and beautiful, wreathing the gentle hills, and longed for a car to make the journey past the fine old chateaux that flashed in and out of our vision behind the hills. War was a million miles away from the pastoral France that we saw coming up from Bordeaux.

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But in Paris war met us far out in the suburbs, where at dusk a great flock of airplanes from a training camp buzzed over us and sailed along with the train, distancing us and returning to play with us like big sportive birds. The train was filled with our shipmates from the boat and we all craned our necks from the windows to look at the wonderful sight of the air covey that fluttered above us. Even the Eager Soul, our delicious young person with her crinkly red hair and serious eyes, disconnected herself long enough from the Gilded Youth and the Young Doctor "for to admire and for to see," the airplanes.

But the airplanes gave us the day's first opportunity to talk to the Eager Soul. Until dusk the Gilded Youth had kept her in his donjon--a first class compartment jammed with hand-baggage, and where she had insisted that the Young Doctor should come also. We knew that without being told; also it was evident as we passed up and down the car aisle during the day that she was acting as a sort of human Baedeker to the Young Doctor, while the Gilded Youth, to whom chateaux and French countryside were an old, old story, sat by and hooted. But the airplanes pulled him out of his donjon keep and the Young

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Doctor with him. He wasn't above showing the Young Doctor how much a Gilded Youth really knows about mechanics and airplanes, and we slipped in and chatted with the Eager Soul. We had a human interest in the contest between the Gilded Youth and the Young Doctor, and a sporting interest which centered in the daily score. And we gathered this: That it was the Young Doctor's day. For he was in France to help the greatest cause in the world; and the Gilded Youth affected to be in France--to enjoy the greatest outdoor game in the world. But he had made it plain that day to the Eager Soul that working eighteen hours a day under shell fire, driving an ambulance, was growing tame. He was going back, of course, but he was thinking seriously of the air service. The Doctor wanted no thrills. He was willing to boil surgical instruments or squirt disinfectant around kitchens to serve. And the Eager Soul liked that attitude, though it was obvious to us, that she was in the war game as a bit of a sport and because it was too dull in her Old Home Town, "somewhere in the United States." And we knew also what she did not admit, even if she recognized it, that in the Old Home Town, men of the sort to attract women of her spirit and intelligence were scarce--and she

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was out looking for her own Sir Galahad, as he went up and down the earth searching for the Holy Grail. The war to her, we knew, was a great opportunity to enjoy the new freedom of her sex, to lose her harem veil, to breathe free air as an achieving human creature--but, alas! one's forties are too wise. Pretty as she was, innocent as she was, and eager as her soul was in high emprise of the conflict of world ideals into which she was plunging, we felt that, after all, hidden away deeply in the secret places of her heart, were a man and a home and children.

We whizzed through the dusk in the suburbs of Paris that night, seeing the gathering implements of war coming into the landscape for the first time--the army trucks, the horizon blue of the French uniform, the great training camps, the Red Cross store houses, the scores and scores of hospitals that might be seen in the public buildings with Red Cross flags on them, the munition plants pouring out their streams of women workers in their jumpers and overalls. The girl porters came through and turned on the lights in the train. No lights outside told us that we were hurrying through a great city. Paris was dark. We went through the underground where there was more light than there was

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above ground. The streets seemed like tunnels and the tunnels like streets. We came into the dingy station and a score of women porters and red capped girls came for our baggage. They ran the trucks, they moved the express; they took care of the mail, and through them we edged up the stairway into the half-lighted station and looked out into the night-black, lampless, engulfing- and it was Paris!

It was nine o'clock as we stood on the threshold of the station peering into the murk. Not a taxi was in the stand waiting; but from afar we could hear a great honking of auto-horns, that sounded like the night calls of monster birds flitting over the city. The air was vibrant with these wild calls. We were an hour waiting there in the gloom for a conveyance. But when we left the wide square about the station, and came into the streets of Paris, we understood why the auto horns were bellowing so. For the automobiles were running lickety-split through the darkness without lights and the howls of their horns pierced the night. The few street lights burning a low candle power at the intersections of the great boulevards were hooded and cast but a pale glow on the pavements. And as we rode from our station and passed the Tuileries and the Rue

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de Rivoli, save for the dim outline of the iron railings of the Gardens ten feet from our cab window, we had no sign to mark our way. Yet our cab whizzed along at a twenty-five mile gait, and every few seconds a great blatting devil would honk out of the darkness, and whirl past us, and sometimes we would be abreast of another and the fiendish horns of us would go screaming in chorus as we raced and passed and repassed one another on the broad street. The din was nerve racking--but highly Parisian. One fancied that Paris, being denied its lights, made up its quota of sensation by multiplying its sound!

We went to the Ritz--now smile; the others did! Not that the Ritz is an inferior hotel. We went there because it was really the grandee among Paris hotels. Yet every day we were in Paris when we told people we were at the Ritz, they smiled. The human mind doesn't seem to be able to associate Henry and me with the Ritz without the sense of the eternal fitness of things going wapper-jawed and catawampus. We are that kind of men. Wichita and Emporia are written large and indelibly upon us; and the Ritz, which is the rendezvous of the nobility, merely becomes a background for our rusticity--the spotlight which reveals the everlasting jay in us!

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We went to the Ritz largely because it seemed to me that as a leading American orator, Henry should have proper European terminal facilities. And the Ritz looked to me like the proper setting for an international figure. There, it seemed to me, the rich and the great would congregate to invite him to dinners, and to me, at least, who had imagination, there seemed something rather splendid in fancying the gentry saying, "Ah, yes--Henry J. Allen, of Wichita--the next governor of Kansas, I understand!" Henry indicated his feeling about the Ritz thus: The night we arrived he failed, for the first time in two weeks, to demand a dress rehearsal in our $17.93 uniforms from 43rd Street in New York. The gold braided uniforms that we saw in the corridors of the Ritz that night made us pause and consider many things. When we unpacked our valises, there were the little bundles just as they had come from 43rd Street. Henry tucked his away with a sigh, and just before he went to sleep he called across the widening spaces between sleep and wakening: "I suppose we might have bought that $23.78 outfit, easy enough!"

It was in the morning that the veneer of the Ritz began to wear off for Henry. He had

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pulled a bath and found it cold; they were conserving fuel and no hot water was allowed in the hotels of Paris excepting Friday and Saturday nights. The English, who are naturally mean, declare that the French save seventy-five per cent of the use of their hot water by putting the two hot water nights together, as no living Frenchman ever took a bath two consecutive days. But it did not seem that way to Henry and me. And anyway we heard these theories later. But that morning Henry, who doesn't really mind a cold bath, was ready for it when he happened to look around the bathroom and found there wasn't a scrap of soap. There he was, as one might say, au natural, or perhaps better--if one should include the dripping from his first plunge--one might say he was au jus! And what is more, he was au mad. He jabbed the bell button that summoned the valet, and when the boy appeared Henry had his speech ready for him. "Donnez mo-i some soap here and be mighty blame toot sweet about it!" The valet explained that soap was not furnished with the room. It took some time to get that across in broken French and English; then Henry, talking very slowly and in his best oratorical voice, with his foot on the fortissimo, cried: "Say! We are paying," at the

Donnez moi some soap...

"Donnez moi some soap here and be mighty blame
toot sweet about it!"

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dazed look in the valet's face Henry repeated slower and louder, "We are paying, I say, fifteen-dollars--fif-teen dollars a day for these rooms. You go ask Mrs. Ritz if she will furnish soap for twenty?" And he waved the valet grandly out.

An hour later we sallied forth to see Paris in war time. Our way lay through the lonely Vendome, out by the empty Rue Castiglione, down the Rue de Rivoli. So we came into the great beautiful Place de la Concorde; and what a wide and magnificent waste it was. Now and then a wayfarer might be seen crossing its splendid distances, or a taxicab spinning along through the statuesque grandeur of the place. But the few moving objects in the white stretch of marble and cement only accented its lonely aspect. The circle of the French provinces was as desolate as the Pompeiian Forum, and save for the bright colours of the banks of flowers that were heaped upon the monuments to Alsace and Lorraine, the place might have been an excavation rather than the heart of a great world metropolis. Before the war, to cross the Place de la Concorde and go into the Champs Elysees was an adventure of a life time. One took one's chances. One survived, but he had his thrills. But that morning

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we might have walked safely with bowed head and hands clasped behind us through the Place, across the Elysian fields; there we sat for a moment in one of the Babylonian cafés and saw nothing more shocking than the beautiful women of France gathering in the abandoned cafes and music halls to assemble surgical dressings for the French wounded.

In due course, in that first day of our pilgrimage in Europe, we came to the headquarters of the American Red Cross in the Place de la Concorde. The five floors of a building once used for a man's club are now filled with bustling, hustling Americans. Those delicately tinted souls in Europe who are homesick for Broadway may find it in the office of the American Red Cross; but they will find lower Broadway, not the place of the bright lights. The click and clatter of typewriters punctuate the air. Natty stenographers, prim office women, matronly looking heads of departments, and assistants from perhaps the tubercular department, the reconstruction department, the bureau of home relief in Paris, or what not, move briskly through the corridors. In the reception rooms are men from the ends of the earth--Rumanians, Serbians, Armenians, Belgians, Boers, Russians, Japs--every nation

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at peace with America has some business sometime in that Paris office of the American Red Cross. For there abides the commissioner of the Red Cross for all Europe. At that time he was a spare, well made man in his late thirties,-- Major Grayson M.-P. Murphy; a West Pointer who left the army fifteen years ago after service in the Philippines, started "broke" in New York peddling insurance, and quit business last June vice-president of the largest trust company in the world, making the climb at considerable speed, but without much noise. He was the quietest man in Paris. He was so quiet that he had to have a muffler cut-out on his own great heart to keep it from drowning his voice! There is a soft lisp in his speech which might fool strangers who do not know about the steel of his nerves and the keenness of his eye. He sat in a roomy office with a clean desk, toyed with a paper knife and made quick, sure, accurate decisions in a low hesitant voice that never backed track nor weakened be- fore a disagreeable situation. He is the man who more than anyone else has laid out the spending of the major part of the first one hundred millions gathered in America by the Red Cross drive last summer. He held his rank as Major in the United States army, and wore his uniform as

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though it were his skin, clean, unwrinkled and handsome, with that gorgeous quality of unconscious pride that is, after all, the West Pointer's real grace.

As we sat in that noble room, looking out across the Place de la Concorde, past the Obelisk to the House of Deputies beyond the Seine, it was evident that Henry was thinking hard. The spectacle of Major Murphy's young men in their habiliments of service, Red Cross military uniforms that made them look like lilies of the valley and bright and morning stars, gave us both something to think about. The recollection of those $17.93 uniforms of ours in the rooms at the Ritz was disquieting. We had service hats; these young gods wore brown caps with leather visors and enameled Red Crosses above the leather. We had cotton khaki tunics unadorned, and of a vintage ten years old. They had khaki worsted of a cut to conform to the newest general order. They had Sam Browne belts of high potency, and we had no substitute even for that insignia of power. They had shiny leather puttees. We had tapes. They had brown shoes--we had not given a fleeting thought to shoes. We might as well have had congress gaiters! So when the conversation with Major Murphy turned to a

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point where he said that he expected us to go with him to the French front immediately he took a look at our Sunday best Emporia and Wichita civilian clothes and asked casually, "Have you gentlemen uniforms?" For me right there the cock crowed three times. Henry heard it also, and answered slowly, " Well, no-- not exactly."

"Mr. Hoppen," said the Major, "take these gentlemen down the street and show them where to get uniforms!" Which Mr. Hoppen went and did. Now Mr. Hoppen is related to the Morgans--the J. Pierpont Morgans--and he has small notion of Emporia and Wichita. So he took us to a tailorshop after his own heart. We chose a modest outfit, with no frills. We ordered one pair of riding breeches each, and one tunic each, and one American army cap each. The tunic was to conform to the recent Army regulation for Red Cross tunics, and the trousers were to match; Henry looked at me and received a distress signal, but he ignored it and said nonchalantly, "When can we have them?" The tailor told us to call for a fitting in two weeks, but we were going to the front before that. That made no difference; and then Henry came to the real point. "How much," he asked, "will these

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be?" The tailor answered in francs and we quickly divided the sum into dollars. It made $100. "For both?" asked Henry hopefully. "For each," answered the tailor firmly. There stood Mr. Hoppen, of Morgans. There also stood Wichita and Emporia. Henry's eyes did not bat; Mr. Hoppen wore a shimmering Sam Browne belt. Looking casually at it Henry asked:

"Shall we require one of those?"

"Gentlemen are all wearing them, sir," answered the tailor.

"How much?" queried Henry.

"Well, you gentlemen are a trifle thick sir, and we'll have to have them specially made, but I presume we may safely say $14 each, sir!"

Henry did not even look at me, but lifted the wormwood to his lips and quaffed it. "Make two," he answered.

The world should not be unsafe for democracy if Wichita and Emporia could help it!

We went to a show that night with the feeling of guilt and shame one has who has betrayed his family. That $114 with ten more to come for brown shoes, flickered in the spot light and babbled on the lips of the singers. They danced it in the ballet. Each of was thinking with guilty horror of how he would break the news of

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that uniform bargain to his wife. So we went home tired that first night, through the grim dark streets of Paris and to our rooms. And there were those 43rd street uniforms still unwrapped in the bureau drawer. Henry again demanded dress rehearsal. He insisted that as we were going to have to wear them to the front we ought know how we looked inside of them. But we were weary and again put off the dread hour. The next morning we bought our ten dollar brown shoes, and concluded that there was a vast amount of foolishness connected with this war.

During the long fair days while we waited for Major Murphy to take us to the front, we wandered about Paris, puffing and spluttering through the French language. Henry never was sure of anything but toot sweet and some devilish perversion was forever sticking sophomore German into my mouth, when French should have risen. The German never actually broke out. If it had, we should have been shot as spies. But it was so close that it always seemed to be snooping around ready to jump out. That made it hard for me to shine in French.

These adventures with the French language were not exactly the martial adventures that Charley Chandler, of Wichita, and Warren Fin-

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ney, of Emporia, thought we would be having at the Front, when they trundled us out to win the war. Yet these adventures were serious. They were adventures in lonesomeness. We could imagine how the American soldier boy would feel and what he would say when this language began to wash about his ears and submerge him in its depths. We could fancy American soldiers wandering through the French villages, unable to buy things, because they couldn't understand the prices. We could understand the dreary, bleak, isolated lives of these American boys, with all the desolation of foreigners hungering always for human companionship, outside of the everlasting camp. And we came to know the misery of homesickness that hides in the phrase, "a stranger in a strange land!"

So we were glad to summon the Eager Soul to dine with us, and we let her order a dinner so complicated that it tasted like a lexicon! We learned much about the Eager Soul that night. She told us of her two college degrees, her year's teaching experience, her four years' nursing, and her people in the old home town. Bit by bit, we picked out her status from the things she dropped inadvertently. And that night in our rooms we assembled the parts of the puzzle thus; one ram-

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bling Bedford limestone American castle in the Country Club district; two cars, with garage to match; a widowed mother, a lamented father who made all kinds of money, so naturally some of was honest money; two brothers, a married sister; a love for Henry James, and Galsworthy substantial familiarity with Ibsen, Hauptman, Bergsen, Wagner, Puccini, Brahms, Freud, Tschaikovsky, and Bernard Shaw; a wholehearted admiration for Barrie; and a record as organizer in the suffrage campaign which won in her state three years ago, plus a habit of buying gloves by the dozen and candy in five pound boxes! We could not prove it, but we agreed that she probably bossed her mother and that the brother wives hated her and the sister's husband loved her to death! She was one of those socially assured persons in the Old Home Town who are never afraid of themselves out of it! She confessed that she had seen more or less of the Gilded Youth, before he left for Verdun, and in a pyrotechnic display of dimples, she admitted that she had gone to the station to bid the Young Doctor good-bye. She had been assigned to hospital near the Verdun sector, and was going out the following day. When we left her at the door of the Hotel Vouillemont, we plunged back

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into the encircling gloom of the French language with real regret.

As we went further into the life about us, we felt that all the men were in uniform and all the women in mourning. The French mourn beautifully. France today is the world's tragedy queen whose suffering is all genuine, but all magnificently done. In the shop windows of the boulevards, and along the Avenue of the Opera are no bright colours--excepting for men's uniforms. In the windows of the millinery shops, purple is the gayest colour--purple and lavender and black prevail. On every street are blind windows of departed shops. Some bear signs notifying customers that they are closed for the duration of the war; others simply stare blankly and piteously at passersby who know the story without words.

Yet if it is not a gay Paris, it is anything but a sad Paris. Rather it is a busy Paris; a Paris that stays indoors and works. For an hour or two after twilight the crowds come out: Sunday also they throng the boulevards. And the theatres are always well filled: and there the bright dress uniforms of the men overcome the sombre gowns of the women and the scenes in lobbies and foyers are not far from brilliant. Bands and

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orchestras play in the theatres, but the music lacks fire. It is beautiful music, carefully done, artistically executed, but the orchestras are made up for the most part of men past the military age. We heard "La Tosca" one afternoon and in the orchestra sat twenty men with grey hair and the tenor was fat! As the season grew old, we heard "Louise," "Carmen," "Aphrodite," "Butterfly" (in London), and "Aida" (in Milan), and always the musical accompaniment to the social vagaries of these ladies who are no better than they should be, was music from old heads and old hearts. The "other lips and other hearts whose tales of love" should have been told ardently through fiddle and clarinet are toying with the great harp of a thousand strings that plays the dance of death. That is the music the young men are playing in Europe today. But in Paris, busy, drab, absent-minded Paris, the music that should be made from the soul of youth, crying into reeds and strings and brass is an echo, an echo altogether lovely but passionless!

Finally our season of waiting ended. We came home to the Ritz at midnight from a dinner with Major Murphy, where we had been notified that we were to start for the front the next morning. We told him that the new uniforms were

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not yet ready and confessed to him that we had the cheap uniforms; he looked resigned. He had been entertaining a regular callithumpian parade of Red Cross commissioners from America, and he probably felt that he had seen the worst and that this was just another cross. But when we reached our rooms that midnight, Henry lifted his voice, not in pleading, but in command. For we were to start at seven the next morning, and it was orders. So each went to his bedroom and began unwrapping his bundles. In ten minutes Henry appeared caparisoned like a chocolate divinity! With me there was trouble. Someone had blundered. The shirt went on easily; the tunic went on cosily, but the trousers--someone had shuffled those trousers on me. Even a shoe spoon and foots-ease wouldn't get them to rise to their necessary height. Inspection proved that they were 36; now 36 doesn't do me much good as a waist line! There is a net deficit of eight tragic inches, and eight inches short in one waistband is a catastrophe. Yet there we were. It was half past twelve. In six hours more we must be on our way to the front--to the great adventure. Uniforms were imperative. And there was the hiatus! Whereupon Henry rose. He rang for the valet; no response. He rang for

Eight inches short...

Eight inches short in one waistband is a catastrophe

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the tailor; he was in bed. He rang for the waiter; he was off duty. There was just one name left on the call card; so Henry hustled me into an overcoat and rang for the chambermaid! And she appeared as innocent of English as we were of French. It was an awful moment! But Henry slowly began making gestures and talking in clear-ly e-nun-ci-a-ted tones. The gestures were the well-known gestures of his valedictory to the Republican party at the Chicago Auditorium in 1912--beautiful gestures and impressive. The maid became interested. Then he took the recalcitrant trousers, placed them gently but firmly against his friend's heart--or such a matter, showing how far from the ideal they came. Then he laid on the bed a brown woollen shirt, and in the tail of it marked out dramatically a "V" slice about the shape of an old-fashioned slice of pumpkin pie--a segment ten or a dozen inches wide that would require two hands in feeding. Then he pointed from the shirt to the trousers and then to the ample bosom of his friend, indicating with emotion that the huge pie-slice was to go into the rear corsage of the breeches. It was wonderful to see intelligence dawn in the face of that chambermaid. The gestures of that Bull Moose speech had touched her

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heart. Suddenly she knew the truth, and it made her free, so she cried, "Wee wee!" And oratory had again risen to its proper place in our midst! At two o'clock she returned with the pumpkin pie slice from the tail of the brown shirt, neatly, but hardly gaudily inserted into the rear waist line of the riding trousers, and we lay down to pleasant dreams; for we found that by standing stiffly erect, by keeping one's tunic pulled down, and by carefully avoiding a stooping posture, it was possible to conceal the facts of one's double life. So we went forth with Major Murphy the next morning as care-free as "Eden's garden birds." We looked like birds, too--scarecrows!

Our business took us to the American Ambulance men who were with the French army. Generally when they were at work they were quartered near a big base hospital; and their work took them from the large hospital to the first aid stations near the front line trenches. Our way from Paris to these men led across the devastated area of France. As the chief activity of the French at the time of our visit was in the Verdun sector, we spent most of our first week at the front near Verdun. And one evening at twi- light we walked through the ruined city. The

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Germans had just finished their evening strafe; two hundred big shells had been thrown over from their field guns into the ruins. After the two hundredth shell had dropped it was as safe in Verdun as in Emporia until the next day. For the Germans are methodical in all things, and they spend just so many shells on each enemy point, and no more. The German work of destruction is thorough in Verdun. Not a roof remains intact upon its walls; not a wall remains uncracked; not a soul lives in the town; now and then a sentinel may be met patrolling the wagon road that winds through the streets. This wagon road, by the way, is the object of the German artillery's attention. Upon this road they think the revitalment trains pass up to the front. But the sentinels come and go. The only living inhabitants we saw in the place were two black cats. It must have been a beautiful city before the war--a town of sixty thousand and more. It contained some old and interesting Gothic ecclesiastical buildings--a cloister, a bishop's residence, a school--or what not--that, even crumbled and shattered by the shells, still show in ruins grace and charm and dignity. And battered as these mute stones were, it seemed marvellous that mere stone could translate so delicately the highest

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groping of men's hearts toward God, their most unutterable longing. And the broken stones of the Gothic ruin, in the freshness and rawness of their ruin, seemed to be bleeding out human aspiration, spilling it footlessly upon the dead earth. And of course all about these ecclesiastical ruins were the ruins of homes, and shops and stores--places just as pitifully appealing in their appalling wreck--where men had lived and loved and striven and failed and risen again and gone on slowly climbing through the weary centuries to the heights of grace toward which the tendrils of their hearts, pictured in the cloister and the apse and the tower, were so blindly groping. A dust covered chromo on a tottering wall; a little round-about hanging beside a broken bed, a lamp revealed on a table, a work bench deserted, a store smashed and turned to debris and left to petrify as the shell wrecked it--a thousand little details of a life that had gone, the soul vanished from a town, leaving it stark and dead, mere wood and stone and iron--this was the Verdun that we saw in the twilight after the Germans had finished their evening strafe.

From Verdun we hurried through the night, past half a dozen ruined villages to a big base hospital. We came there in the dark before

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moonrise, and met our ambulance men--mostly young college boys joyously flirting with death under the German guns. They were stationed in a tent well outside the big hospital building. They gave us a dinner worth while--onion soup, thick rare steak with peas and carrots, some sort of paste--perhaps macaroni or raviolli, a jelly omelet soused in rum, and served burning blue blazes, and cheese and coffee--and this from a camp kitchen from a French cook on five minutes' notice, an hour after the regular dinner. The ambulance men were under the direct command of a French lieutenant--a Frenchman of a quiet, gentle, serious type, who welcomed us beautifully, played host graciously and told us many interesting things about the work of the army around him; and told it so simply--yet withal so sadly, that it impressed his face and manner upon us long after we had left him. Three or four times a day we were meeting French lieutenants who had charge of our ambulance men at the front. But this one was different. He was so gentle and so serious without being at all solemn. He had been in the war for three years, and said quite incidentally, that under the law of averages his time was long past due and he expected to go soon. It didn't seem to

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bother him. He passed the rum omelet with a steady hand. But his serious mien had attracted the ambulance boys and upon the room of his office in the big brick hospital they had scrawled in chalk, "Défense absolutement de rire!" "It's absolutely forbidden to laugh." Evidently American humour got on his nerves. As we dined in the tent, the boys outside sang trench songs, and college songs with trench words, and gave other demonstrations of their youth.

So we ate and listened to the singing, while the moon rose, and with it came a fog--more than a fog--a cloud of heavy mist that hid the moon. We moved our baggage from the tent to a vacant room in a vacant ward in the big hospital. We saw in the misty moonlight a great brick structure running around a compound. The compound was over 200 feet square, and in the centre of the compound was a big Red Cross made of canvas, painted red, on a background of whitewashed stones. It was 100 feet square. On each side of the compound a Red Cross blazed from the roof of the buildings, under the Geneva lights--lights which the Germans had agreed should mark our hospitals and protect them from air raids.

The "Rocket's Red Glare"--75

At midnight we left the hospital to visit those ambulance men who were stationed at the first aid posts, up near the battle line. It was an eery sort of night ride in the ambulance, going without lights, up the zigzags of the hill to the battle front of Verdun. The white clay of the road was sloppy and the car wobbled and skidded along and we passed scores of other vehicles going up and coming down--with not a flicker of light on any of them. The Red Cross on our ambulance gave us the right of way over everything but ammunition trucks, so we sped forward rapidly. It was revitalment time. Hundreds of motor trucks and horsecarts laden with munitions, food, men and the thousand and one supplies needed to keep an army going, were making their nightly trip to the trenches. When we reached a point near the top of the long hill, which we had been climbing, we got out of the ambulance and found that we were at a first aid dugout just back of the hill from whose top one could see the battle. The first aid post was a cave tunnelled a few yards into the hillside covered with railroad iron and sandbags. In the dugout was a little operating room where the wounded were bandaged before starting them down the hill in

76--Martial Adventures of Henry and Me

the ambulance to the hospital, and three doctors and half a dozen stretcher bearers were standing inside out of the misty rain.

As we had been climbing the hill in the ambulance, the roar of the big guns grew louder and louder. We believed it was French cannon. But when we got out of the car we heard an angry whistle and a roar which told us that German shells were coming in near us. As we stood before the dugout shivering in the mist we saw beyond us, over the hill, the glare of the French trench rockets lighting up the clouds above us weirdly, and spreading a sickly glow over the white muddy road before us. On the road skirting the very door of the dugout passed a line of motor trucks and carts--the revitalment train. The mist walled us in. Every few seconds out of the mist came a huge grey truck or a lumbering two-wheeled cart; and then, creaking heavily past the dugout door, plunged into the mist again. Never did the procession stop. At regular intervals the German shells crashed into the woods farther up the hill beyond us. But the silent procession before us--looming out of the mist, passing us, and fading into the mist, kept constantly moving. In the ghostly light of the misty moonshine, the procession seemed to be

The "Rocket's Red Glare"--77

spectral--like a line of passing souls. A doctor came out of the dugout and started up the hill. He, too, was swallowed in the mist. Ahead of us up the road were noises that told us the Germans were landing bombs there, not half a mile--perhaps not much more than a quarter of a mile away. The stretcher bearers told us that the Germans were shelling a cross-road. They shelled it every night at midnight to smash the revitalment train. The shells were landing right in the road whereon all these trucks and horse carts were passing. The doctor who left us returned in a few minutes in an ambulance--wounded. Another ambulance came up with four or five wounded. A shell had crashed in and wiped out a truck load of men. But the procession under the misty moon never stopped--never even hesitated. No driver spoke. No teams or trucks cluttered up the road. As fast as a bomb shattered the road out there behind the mist, or made debris of a truck, the engineers hurried up, cleared the way, removed the debris and the ceaseless procession in the ghostly moonlight moved on. Another ambulance brought in two more wounded.

After one o'clock the bombing stopped. Some other cross-road was taking its turn. Five men

78--Martial Adventures of Henry and Me

were buried that night in the little cemetery there by the dugout. We stood or sat about for a while! no one had much to say. The grey mist thickened and enveloped us. And we became as very shadows ourselves. Somewhere in the mist up the hill, near where the rocket's red glare flushed on the dim horizon, a man began whistling the intermezzo from "Thais." It fitted the un- reality of the scene, and soon two of us were whistling together. He heard me and paused. Then we walked toward one another whistling and met. It was the Gilded Youth from the ship--the Gilded Youth whose many millions had made him shimmer. He was not shimmering there on the sloppy hillside. He was a field service man, and we went back to his machine and sat on it and talked music--music that seemed to be the only reality there in the midst of death, and the spirit that was moving men in the moonlight to forget death for something more real than death. And so it came about that the crescendo of our talk ran thus:

And courage--that thing which the Germans thought was their special gift from Heaven, bred of military discipline, rising out of German kultur--we know now is the commonest heritage of men. It is the divine fire burning in the souls of

The "Rocket's Red Glare"--79

us that proves the case for democracy. For base and underneath we are all equals. In crises the rich man, the poor man, the thief, the harlot, the preacher, the teacher, the labourer, the ignorant, the wise, all go to death for somethinq that defies death, somethinq immortal in the human heart. Those truck-drivers, those mule whackers, those common soldiers, that doctor, these college men on the ambulances are brothers tonight in the democracy of courage. Upon that democracy is the hope of the race, for it bespeaks wider and deeper kinship of men.

So then we knew that under the gilding of the Gilded Youth was fine gold. He was called for a wounded man. As he cranked up his car he asked rather too casually, "Have you seen our friend from the boat--the pretty nurse?" We started to answer; the stretcher bearer called again and in an instant he went buzzing away and we returned to the hospital.

We slept that night in a hospital bed. The week before three thousand men had passed through that hospital--some upon the long journey, so we rose early the next morning. For some way to Henry and me there seemed a curious disquietude about those hospital beds.

In the early morning just after dawn we saw

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them taking out the dead from the hospital. The stretcher bearers moved as quickly as they could with their burden through the yard. A dozen soldiers and orderlies were in the hospital compound, but no one turned a head toward the bearers and their burden. There were indeed, in sad deed, "a dearth of woman's nursing and a lack of woman's tears." No one knew who the dead man was. He wore his identification tag about him. No one cared except that it should be registered. If he was an officer he went to one part of the little graveyard just outside the fence; if he was a private he went inside. It was a lonely, heart-breaking sight. And it occurred to Henry and me--we had been among the ghosts on the hill the night before and had slept uneasily with the ghosts in the hospital--that we should give one poor fellow a funeral. So we lined up in the chill dawn, and followed the stretcher bearers and marched after some poor Frenchman to his tomb. It was probably the only funeral that the hospital yard ever had seen, for the soldiers and orderlies and attendants turned and gaped at the wonder, and nurses peered from the windows.

Four days later we were sitting in the court- yard of a little tavern in St. Dizier. A young

The "Rocket's Red Glare"--81

French soldier came up, and tried his English on us. He found that we had been to Verdun. And he asked, " Have you heard the news from the big base hospital?" We had not. Then he told us that the night before the German airmen had come to the hospital early in the night and had dropped their eggs--incendiary bombs. An hour later they came and dropped some high explosives. They came again at midnight and because there were no anti-aircraft guns near by--the allies until those August and September German raids never had dreamed that hospitals would be raided--they came again swooping low and turned their machine guns on the doctors and the nurses in the compound who were taking the wounded out of the burning building. Then toward morning they came and dropped handbills which declared, "If you don't want your hospitals bombed, move them back further from the front!"

The Germans were not acting in the heat of passion. They were fighting scientifically, even if barbarously. For every mile a hospital is moved back of the line makes it that much harder to stop gangrene in the wounded. And by checking gangrene we are saving a great majority of our wounded to return to battle.

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Nine doctors and fifteen nurses and many wounded were killed that night at Vlaincourt. "And the French officer de liason between the French army and the American ambulance, what of him?" we asked.

"He slept in the hospital and was killed by a bomb," answered the Frenchman.

So our serious faced French lieutenant knew all too well why "It is absolutely forbidden to laugh" in war!

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