Edith Wharton.

Fighting France: from Dunkerque to Belport online

. (page 1 of 10)
Online LibraryEdith WhartonFighting France: from Dunkerque to Belport → online text (page 1 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project
to make the world's books discoverable online.

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject
to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books
are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover.

Marks, notations and other marginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the
publisher to a library and finally to you.

Usage guidelines

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we have taken steps to
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for
personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Maintain attribution The Google "watermark" you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it.

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About Google Book Search

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web

at http : //books . google . com/|



^3









Fighting France



Edith Wharton



IN

Apremon







jcon



Malancou
o



HARVARD

COLLEGE
LIBRARY



Avocourr




Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



BL,2.cUc/i, m. CiiU^^



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



VOLUME III

FIGHTING FRANCE



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



THE WAR ON ALL FRONTS



FIGHTING FRANCE

FROM DUNKERQUE TO BELPOr.T



BY
EDITH WHARTON;

OBIVAUER OF TBI LSOION OW BOKOB



ILLUSTRATED



NEW YORK

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

191T



Digitized by



Google







Comaavr, W5, i
CHAm.«E8 SCRIBNEB'S



Digitized by



Google



CONTENTS

tuat

The Look of Paru •••••••. ..^ •>•• • 1

In A&oonnk •••••••:••:•: 43

In Lorbaine and the Vosges •••••••• 91

In the Nobth . • •: ^•. • ^•: • >; • ^•j • :•• .• • . 137

In Alsace •••••;[•] • [vj > ^ y s^ •- [4] k • • 181

.The Tone of Fbancb a it: a a :•: b >: ® >: m • :• 217



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



ILLUSTRATIONS

A French palisade Frantupieee



VAaNO
PAGX



Sketch map of region around the Forest of Argonne 54

Street covered with stones from shelled buildings . 98

Mr. Liegeaj in his dining-room 99

Ruins of Oeneral Ljautej's house in Crdvic • • • • 116

A war grave •:•••••••• 117

One of the "bowels" • •: • :• :•: '• v • 142

A pontoon bridge on the Yser •••>•••• • • 143

A typical trench in the dunes 166

The colony of saints on a soldier's grave at Nieuport 167

The Cloth Market at Nieuport 172

A street at Nieuport •••••• .< • l«. >j l*. • • 178

A sand-bag trench in the north .^ •. :•: m • [g l«j • • 178



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



FIGHTING FRANCE



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



THE LOOK OF PARIS

(AuouBT, 1014 — Febbuabt, 1915}

I
AUGUST

/^ N the 30th of July, 1914, motoring north
^^ from Poitiers, we had limched some-
where by the roadside under apple-trees on
the edge of a field. Other fields stretched
away on our right and left to a border of
woodland and a village steeple. All around
was noonday quiet, and the sober disci-
plined landscape which the traveller's mem-
ory is apt to evoke as distinctively French.
Sometimes, even to accustomed eyes, these
ruled-off fields and compact grey villages
seem merely flat and tame; at other mo-
ments the sensitive imagination sees in
ever^ thrifty sod and even furrow the
ceaseless vigilant attachment of genera-
tions faithful to the soil. The particular bit

3



Digitized by



Google



4 FIGHTING FRANCE

of landscape before us spoker in all its liiies
of that attachment. The air seemed full
of the long murmur of human effort, the
rhythm of oft-repeated tasks; the serenity
of the scene smiled away the war rumoxu-s
which had hung on us since morning.

All day the sky had been banked with
thunder-clouds, but by the time we reached
Chartres, toward four o*clock, they had
rolled away imder the horizon, and the
town was so saturated with sunlight that
to pass into the cathedral was like entering
the dense obscurity of a church in Spain.
At first all detail was imperceptible: we
were in a hollow night. Then, as the shad-
ows gradually thinned and gathered them-
selves up into pier and vault and ribbing,
there burst out of them great sheets and
showers of colour. Framed by such depths
of darkness, and steeped in a blaze of mid-
summer Sim, the familiar windows seemed
singularly remote and yet overpoweringly
vivid. Now they widened into dark-shored



Digitized by



Google



THE LOOK OF PARIS 5

pools splashed with sunset, now glittered
and menaced like the shields of fighting
angels. Some were cataracts of sapphires,
others roses dropped from a saint's tmiic,
others great carven platters strewn with
heavenly regalia, others the sails of galleons
bound for the Purple Islands; and in the
western wall the scattered fires of the rose-
window hung like a constellation in an
African night. When one dropped one's
eyes from these ethereal harmonies, the
dark masses of masonry below them, all
veiled and muffled in a mist pricked by a
few altar hghts, seemed to symbolize the
life on earth, with its shadows, its heavy
distances and its little islands of illusion.
All that a great cathedral can be, all the
meanings it can express, all the tranquilliz-
ing power it can breathe upon the soul, all
the richness of detail it can fuse into a large
utterance of strength and beauty, the ca-
thedral of Chartres gave us in that per-
fect hour.



Digitized by



Google



6 FIGHTING FRANCE

It was sunset when we reached the gates
of Paris. Under the heights of St. Cloud
and Suresnes the reaches of the Seine
trembled with the blue-pink lustre of an
early Monet. The Bois lay about us in the
stillness of a holiday evening, and the lawns
of Bagatelle were as fresh as June. Below
the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elys^es
sloped downward in a sun-powdered haze
to the mist of fountains and the ethereal
obelisk; and the currents of summer life
ebbed and flowed with a normal beat under
the trees of the radiating avenues. The
great city, so made for peace and art and
all humanest graces, seemed to lie by her
river-side like a princess guarded by the
watchful giant of the Eiffel Tower.

The next day the air was thundery with
rumours. Nobody believed them, every-
body repeated them. War ? Of course there
couldn't be war ! The Cabinets, like naugh-
ty children, were again dangling their feet
over the edge; but the whole incalcula-



Digitized by



Google



THE LOOK OF PARIS 7

ble weight of things-as-they-were, of the
daily necessary business of living, contin-
ued calmly and convincingly to assert itself
against the bandying of diplomatic words.
Paris went on steadily about her mid-
summer business of feeding, dressing, and
amusing the great army of tourists who
were the only invaders she had seen for
nearly half a century.

All the while, every one knew that other
work was going on also. The whole fabric
of the coimtry's seemingly undisturbed
routine was threaded with noiseless invis-
ible currents of preparation, the sense of
them was in the calm air as the sense of
changing weather is in the balminess of a
perfect afternoon. Paris counted the min-
utes till the evening papers came.

They said little or nothing except what
every one was already declaring all over
the country. "We don't want war — mais
ilfaut que celafinisseT^ "This kind of thing
has got to stop*': that was the only phrase



Digitized by



Google



8 FIGHTING FRANCE

one heard. K diplomacy could still arrest
the war, so much the better: no one in
France wanted it. All who spent the first
days of August in Paris will testify to the
agreement of feeling on that point. But
if war had to come, then the country, and
every heart in it, was ready.

At the dressmaker's, the next morning,
the tired fitters were preparing to leave
for their usual holiday. They looked pale
and anxious — decidedly, there was a new
weight of apprehension in the air. And in
the rue Royale, at the comer of the Place
de la Concorde, a few people had stopped
to look at a little strip of white paper against
the wall of the Ministere de la Marine.
"General mobilization" they read — and
an armed nation knows what that means.
But the group about the paper was small
and quiet. Passers by read the notice and
went on. There were no cheers, no gesticula-
tions: the dramatic sense of the race had
already told them that the event was too



Digitized by



Google



THE LOOK OF PABIS 9

great to be dramatized. Like a monstrous
landslide it had fallen across the path of
an orderly laborious nation, disrupting its
routine, annihilating its industries, rending
families apart, and burying under a heap
of senseless ruin the patiently and painfully
wrought machinery of civilization. . .

That evening, in a restaxu-ant of the rue
Royale, we sat at a table in one of the
open windows, abreast with the street, and
saw the strange new crowds stream by. In
an instant we were being shown what mo-
bilization was — a huge break in the normal
flow of traflSic, like the sudden rupture of a
dyke. The street was flooded by the tor-
rent of people sweeping past us to the vari-
ous railway stations. All were on foot, and
carrying their luggage; for since dawn
every cab and taxi and motor-omnibus
had disappeared. The War OflSce had
thrown out its drag-net and caught them
all in. The crowd that passed our window
was chiefly composed of conscripts, the



Digitized by



Google



10 FIGHTING FRANCE

mobilisables of the first day, who were on
the way to the station accompanied by
their families and friends; but among them
were little clusters of bewildered tourists,
laboiuing along with bags and bundles, and
watching their luggage pushed before them
on hand-carts — puzzled inarticulate waifs
caught in the cross-tides racing to a mael-
strom.

In the restaurant, the befrogged and red-
coated band poured out patriotic music,
and the intervals between the coxu-ses that
so few waiters were left to serve were
broken by the ever-recurring obligation to
stand up for the Marseillaise, to stand up
for God Save the King, to stand up for the
Russian National Anthem, to stand up
again for the Marseillaise. *'Et dire que ce
sont des Hongrais qui jouent tout cela /"a
humourist remarked from the pavement.

As the evening wore on and the crowd
about our window thickened, the loiterers
outside began to join in the war-songs.



Digitized by



Google



THE LOOK OF PARIS 11

**AlUm8, dehautr^ — and the loyal round
begins again. '^La chanson du depart!" is
a frequent demand; and the chorus of
spectators chimes in roundly. A sort of
quiet humour was the note of the street.
Down the rue Royale, toward the Made-
leine, the bands of other restaurants were
attracting other throngs, and martial re-
frains were strung along the Boulevard like
its garlands of arc-lights. It was a night of
singing and acclamations, not boisterous,
but gallant and determined. It was Paris
hadauderie at its best.

Meanwhile, beyond the fringe of idlers
the steady stream of conscripts still poured
along. Wives and families trudged beside
them, carrying all kinds of odd improvised
bags and bundles. The impression disen-
gaging itself from all this superficial con-
fusion was that of a cheerful steadiness of
spirit. The faces ceaselessly streaming by
were serious but not sad; nor was there
any air of bewilderment — the stare of



Digitized by



Google



12 FIGHTmG FRANCE

driven cattle. All these lads and young
men seemed to know what they were about
and why they were about it. The youngest
of them looked suddenly grown up and
responsible: they understood their stake in
the job, and accepted it.

The next day the army of midsummer
travel was immobilized to let the other
army move. No more wild rushes to the
station, no more bribing of concierges, vain
quests for invisible cabs, haggard hours of
waiting in the queue at Cook's. No train
stirred except to carry soldiers, and the
civilians who had not bribed and janmaed
their way into a cranny of the thronged
carriages leaving the first night could only
creep back through the hot streets to their
hotels and wait. Back they went, disap-
pointed yet haK-relieved, to the resound-
ing emptiness of porterless halls, waiterless
restaurants, motionless lifts: to the queer
disjointed life of fashionable hotels sud-
denly reduced to the intimacies and make-



Digitized by



Google



THE LOOK OF PARIS 18

shift of a Latin Quarter pension. Mean-
while it was strange to watch the gradual
paralysis of the city. As the motors, taxis,
cabs and vans had vanished from the
streets, so the lively little steamers had left
the Seine. The canal-boats too were gone,
or lay motionless: loading and unloading
had ceased. Everjr great architectiu-al open-
ing framed an emptiness; all the endless
avenues stretched away to desert distances.
In the parks and gardens no one raked the
paths or trinmied the borders. The foun-
tains slept in their basins, the worried
sparrows fluttered unfed, and vague dogs,
shaken out of their daily habits, roamed
unquietly, looking for familiar eyes. Paris,
so intensely conscious yet so strangely en-
tranced, seemed to have had curare in-
jected into all her veins.

The next day — the 2nd of August —
from the terrace of the Hdtel de Crillon
one looked down on a first faint stir of re-
turning life. Now and then a taxi-cab or



Digitized by



Google



14 FIGHTING FRANCE

a private motor crossed the Place de la
Concorde, carrying soldiers to the stations.
Other conscripts, in detachments, tramped
by on foot with bags and banners. One de-
tachment stopped before the black-veiled
statue of Strasbourg and laid a garland at
her feet. In ordinary times this demon-
stration would at once have attracted a
crowd; but at the very moment when it
might have been expected to provoke a
patriotic outbiu-st it excited no more at-
tention than if one of the soldiers had
turned aside to give a penny to a beggar.
The people crossing the square did not
even stop to look. The meaning of this ap-
parent indifference was obvious. When an
armed nation mobilizes, everybody is busy,
and busy in a definite and pressing way.
It is not only the fighters that mobilize:
those who stay behind must do the same.
For each French household, for each in-
dividual man or woman in France, war
means a complete reorganization of life.



Digitized by



Google



THE LOOK OF PARIS 15

The detachment of conscripts, unnoticed,
paid their tribute to the Cause and passed
on. • •

Looked back on from these sterner
months those early days in Paris, in their
setting of grave architecture and summer
skies, wear the light of the ideal and the
abstract. The sudden flaming up of na-
tional life, the abeyance of every small
and mean preoccupation, cleared the moral
air as the streets had been cleared, and
made the spectator feel as though he were
reading a great poem on War rather than
facing its realities.

Something of this sense of exaltation
seemed to penetrate the throngs who
streamed up and down the Boulevards till
late into the night. All wheeled traffic had
ceased, except that of the rare taxi-cabs
impressed to carry conscripts to the sta-
tions; and the middle of the Boulevards
was as thronged with foot-passengers as an



Digitized by



Google



16 FIGHTING FRANCE

Italian market-place on a Sunday morn-
ing. The vast tide swayed up and down
at a slow pace, breaking now and then
to make room for one of the volunteer
"legions" which were forming at every cor-
ner: Italian, Roumanian, South Ameri-
can, North American, each headed by its
national flag and hailed with cheering as
it passed. But even the cheers were sober:
Paris was not to be shaken out of her self-
imposed serenity. One felt something no-
bly conscious and voluntary in the mood
of this quiet multitude. Yet it was a
mixed throng, made up of every class, from
the scum of the Exterior Boulevards to
the cream of the fashionable restaurants.
These people, only two days ago, had been
leading a thousand different lives, in in-
difference or in antagonism to each other,
as alien as enemies across a frontier: now
workers and idlers, thieves, beggars, saints,
poets, drabs and sharpers, genuine people
and showy shams, were all bumping up



Digitized by



Google



THE LOOK OP PARIS 17

against each other in an instinctive com-
munity of emotion. The "people/* luckily,
predominated; the faces of workers look
best in such a crowd, and there were thou-
sands of them, each illuminated and singled
out by its magnesium-flash of passion.

I remember especially the steady-browed
faces of the women; and also the small but
significant fact that every one of them had
remembered to bring her dog. The biggest
of these amiable companions had to take
their chance of seeing what they could
through the forest of human legs; but
every one that was portable was snugly
lodged in the bend of an elbow, and from
this safe perch scores and scores of small
serious muzzles, blunt or sharp, smooth or
woolly, brown or grey or white or black
or brindled, looked out on the scene with
the quiet awareness of the Paris dog. It
was certainly a good sign that they had not
been forgotten that night.



Digitized by



Google



18 FIGHTING FRANCE

II

We had been shown, impressively, what
it was to live through a mobilization; now
we were to learn that mobihzation is only
one of the concomitants of martial law,
and that martial law is not comfortable to
live mider — at least till one gets used
to it.

At first its main purpose, to the neutral
civilian, seemed certainly to be the way-
ward pleasure of complicating his life; and
in that line it excelled in the last refine-
ments of ingenuity. Instructions began to
shower on us after the lull of the first days:
instructions as to what to do, and what
not to do, in order to make our presence
tolerable and our persons secure. In the
first place, foreigners could not remain in
France without satisfying the authorities
as to their nationality and antecedents;
and to do this necessitated repeated inef-
fective visits to chanceries^ consulates and



Digitized by



Google



THE LOOK OF PABIS 19

police stations, each too densely thronged
with flustered applicants to permit the en-
trance of one more. Between these vain pil-
grimages, the traveller impatient to leave
had to toil on foot to distant railway sta-
tions, from which he returned baffled by
vague answers and disheartened by the
declaration that tickets, when achievable,
must also be vises by the poUce. There was
a moment when it seemed that one's inmost
thoughts had to have that unobtainable
visa — to obtain which, more fruitless hours
must be lived on grimy stairways between
perspiring layers of fellow-aliens. Mean-
while one's money was probably running
short, and one must cable or telegraph for
more. Ah — but cables and telegrams must
be vises too — and even when they were, one
got no guarantee that they would be sent !
Then one could not use code addresses,
and the ridiculous number of words con-
tained in a New York address seemed to
multiply as the francs in one's pock-



Digitized by



Google



A



20 FIGHTING FRANCE

ets diminished. And when the cable was
finally despatched it was either lost on the
way, or reached its destination only to
call forth, after anxious days, the disheart-
ening response: ** Impossible at present.
Making every efiFort." It is fair to add
that, tedious and even irritating as many
of these transactions were, they were
greatly eased by the sudden uniform good-
nature of the French functionary, whp,
for the first time, probably, in the long
tradition of his line, broke through its
fundamental rule and was kind.

Luckily, too, these incessant comings
and goings involved much walking of the
beautiful idle summer streets, which grew
idler and more beautiful each day. Never
had such blue-grey softness of afternoon
brooded over Paris, such sunsets turned
the heights of the Trocadero into Dido's
Carthage, never, above all, so rich a moon
ripened through such perfect evenings.
The Seine itself had no small share in this



Digitized by



Google



THE LOOK OP PARIS 21

mysterious increase of the city's beauty.
Released from all traflSc, its hurried rip-
ples smoothed themselves into long silken
reaches in which quays and monuments at
last saw their unbroken images. At night
the fire-fly lights of the boats had van-
ished, and the reflections of the street
lamps were lengthened into streamers of
red and gold and purple that slept on the
calm current like fluted water-weeds. Then
the moon rose and took possession of the
city, purifying it of all accidents, calming
and enlarging it and giving it back its
ideal lines of strength and repose. There
was something strangely moving in this
new Paris of the August evenings, so ex-
posed yet so serene, as though her very
beauty shielded her.

So, gradually, we fell into the habit of
living under martial law. After the first
days of flustered adjustment the personal
inconveniences were so few that one felt



Digitized by



Google



22 FIGHTING FRANCE

almost ashamed of their not being more^
of not being called on to contribute some
greater sacrifice of comfort to the Cause.
Within the first week over two thirds of
the shops had closed — the greater num-
ber bearing on their shuttered windows
the notice "Pour cause de mobilisation/*
which showed that the "patron" and staflF
were at the front. But enough remained
open to satisfy every ordinary want, and
the closing of the others served to prove
how much one could do without. Provi-
sions were as cheap and plentiful as ever,
though for a while it was easier to buy
food than to have it cooked. The restau-
rants were closing rapidly, and one often
had to wander a long way for a meal, and
wait a longer time to get it. A few hotels
still carried on a halting life, galvanized
by an occasional inrush of travel from
Belgium and Germany; but most of them
had closed or were being hastily trans-
formed into hospitals.



Digitized by



Google



THE LOOK OP PARIS «S


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Online LibraryEdith WhartonFighting France: from Dunkerque to Belport → online text (page 1 of 10)