MY FRENCH YEAR
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
AN ENGLISH GIRL IN PARIS
MY FRENCH FRIENDS
FELICITY IN FRANCE
A DAUGHTER OF FRANCE
MISTRAL'S MEMOIRS. (From
the French. With a Preface by the
ANGELIQUE (LE P'TIT CHOU)
THE RISING GENERATION
BOOKS FOR CHILDREN
HEROINES OF POETRY
SHAKESPEARE'S STORIES. (In
collaboration with MARY MAUD)
MY FRENCH YEAR
CONSTANCE ELIZABETH MAUD
'AN ENGLISH GIRL IN PARIS,' *A DAUGHTER OF FRANCE,' ETC. ETC.
WITH 16 ILLUSTRATIONS
MILLS & BOON, LIMITED
49 RUPERT STREET
Published December 1919
Printed in Great Britain
fy Turnbull & Spears, Edinburgh
MY THREE FRENCH FRIENDS
MRS H. FLOYD
(nte DE NEUFVILLE)
I DEDICATE THIS LITTLE BOOK, WITH -THE
HOPE THAT IT MAY BE AN ADDED LINK
IN THE ENTENTE CORDIALE '
IN bygone days I have known and loved my French
friends in the happy times of Peace times which now
seem to belong to a past as remote as the days of
Greece, when the Gods dwelt on Olympus and nymphs
and shepherds danced to the pipes of Pan. But the
love and sympathy which had grown up with me
from childhood, and which I felt, as one united by
far-back ties of race and kindred, has deepened
immeasurably with every year of the War.
For in the supreme ordeal my French friends have
shown themselves at their finest, their noblest, their
sublimest. To those of us who had the happiness of
knowing France and the French this has been no
surprise. We always knew that the roots went down
very deep of that fair flower of French character
which showed so gay, so fine a wit, so happy a facing
of life, so brave and buoyant a spirit in adversity.
But there were those, and they were the British
nation as a whole, who judged the French with as
little true psychology as they judged the Germans,
whose war-books planned so neatly the occupation
and subjugation of France in less than three months,
keeping Christmas in Paris such a happy German
Christmas ! To find the light-hearted, " frivolous "
viii MY FRENCH YEAR
French more serious, grim and purposeful than any
Scotsman, tenacious as the English bulldog himself,
enduring as the miners of Durham or Yorkshire.
This has been a revelation to their neighbours
across the Channel. And French women no less than
their men have shown these fundamental qualities
of strength, courage, endurance and steadfastness,
together with a cheerfulness which never failed. A
the call of their country the women of France arose
in the selfsame hour as the men. The President
appealed to them to mobilise for National Service the
week that War was declared. How they answered
the call has been shown during the long drawn-out
years of the most fiery ordeal through which any
nation has ever passed.
From the first my friends in France kept me in
touch with their lives. Those letters what a record
they were of the wonderful spirit animating France !
Many of them, alas too soon, came edged with the
deep border of black announcing the death of husband
son brother mort pour la patrie. But it was
not till the autumn of 1917, when I went to France
as a delegate of the Croix Rouge Britannique, that
I saw, with my own eyes, France in the Great War.
MY PASSPORT . 1
THE CROSSING 5
SHIPS THAT PASSED 26
A NOYON HOME ."32
FOOTPRINTS OF THE BOCHE .... 48
LES JEUNES QUAQU^IRES . 71
THE ANGEL OF NOYON 80
THE POILU 94
PARIS IN WARTIME . . . . . . 125
FEAST OF THE TOUSSAINT 129
THE MUSICIAN OF THE GREAT WAR ... 138
THE WOMEN OF FRANCE . . 150
MY FRENCH YEAR
A VlA DOLOROHA
THB KHAKI GIRLS
NOYON ONCE MORE
MELCHIOR (A PATRIOT)
THE DAMES ANOLAISSS . 238
PARIS AND THE ENTENTE CORDIALS . . .261
MARSHALS JOFFRE AND FOCH LEADING TRIUMPHAL
CATHEDRAL OP ST QUENTIN . 44
CAUMONT IN 1917 54
DESTROYED CHATEAU AT VERNEUIL, 1917 ... 67
ANGEL AMID RUINS 80
POILUS' GRAVES IN CLOISTERS OP NOYON CATHEDRAL . 94
BIG BERTHA'S " EMPLACEMENT " NEAR COUCY-LE-
CHATEAU, 1918 168
PALAIS DE JUSTICE AT MONTDIDIER DATING BACK TO
CROWN PRINCE'S DUG-OUT AT RUINED NAMP$EL . . 182
HOME OF L'ANGE DE NOYON IN RUINS, 1918 . . 212
NOYON, 1918 215
THE LITTLE WHITE HOUSE AT NOYON . . .221
AMERICANS' GRAVES, PIERREFONDS, 1918 . . .235
AT PlERREFONDS. A DAME ANGLAISE GIVING OUT STORES,
BABY CLINIC EN FETE. PIERREFONDS, 1919 . . 247
AVENUE DE LA GRANDE ARMEE TRIUMPHAL PROCESSION,
MY FRENCH YEAR
IT was August (1917) when my passport photograph
was taken, but red-tape required from five to six
weeks before all its tortuous intricacies were unwound.
For it was not only English red-tape but an interwoven
skein of English and French with which I had to
grapple, a combination enough to make an ordinary
brain to reel and heart to quail.
Many weary times I trod the well-worn road to
Bedford Square to interview " Jacks in office,"
big and little. At last came the really final visit.
Having passed safely before what I had been led
to believe were the Supreme Authorities I learnt
to my dismay my troubles were not over, and was
directed to a table where sat three sombre, pre-
occupied looking gentlemen, there to show my
passport, " ordre de mission," etc., and obtain their
stamped approval. These Three, " drest in the
little brief authority " of the Three Fates, had just
been dealing with a gentleman of such dignified
and withal impeccable appearance, a passport
seemed almost superfluous. But the Three were
MY .FRENCH YEAR
not to be deceived by the camouflage of a mere
outside, they dispatched him with a parting re-
primand suitable to a detected impostor. He uttered
no rejoinder, but gathering up his papers fled
was it guiltily? from the place.
This was not reassuring. If such an one had been
found wanting, how should I fare with my mission
to the French war zone, for which it was essential
my journey should be via Boulogne that jealously
guarded route. I handed my papers to the male
Clotho with a finely indifferent air, but beating
heart. He levied small suspicious eyes upon me,
and then upon my passport.
" Is Maud a surname ? " he began searchingly.
I assured him in my most conciliatory tones that it
was, and he would find this borne out by the
Army List and Clergy List, not to mention Madame
Tussaud. After reading my passport and punctu-
ating his study with snorts of disapproval, which
filled me with an apprehension only experienced
by the innocent, he suddenly fixed me with a
penetrating gaze and asked : "Is this your photo-
graph a recent one ? " I wondered where the
doubt came in, whether he considered it erred
on the side of flattery or the reverse, but mindful
that any extraneous remark might be used against
me, I replied reassuringly, "It is mine, taken a
month ago " and nearly added before the ageing
experience of getting a passport.
He gave a reluctant stamp and passed the
MY PASSPORT 3
papers to his collaborator, already lying in wait
to seize the frail thread of my fate. The precious
little blue paper from Paris roused his instant
" What has this got to do with the passport ? "
he asked sharply.
" That is my ' ordre de mission ' for the French
war zone," I explained. " It is from the French
Foreign Office to the Croix Rouge in London."
Again he inspected my passport. What his train of
thought was I could not divine, but suddenly he
pounced again :
" Where were you born ? " he asked in a tone
that reminded me of the game we played as children
called " Earth, air, fire and water," and auto-
matically I was replying with the old lightning
rapidity, " Water," when I pulled up in time with,
" Brighton." There is something evidently reassuring
about Brighton ; to my surprised relief he bestowed
the decisive stamp and I was now safely past both
Clotho and Lachesis. But Atropos remained. As
he drew my papers before him his attention became
suddenly fixed like that of a setter who has found
" Why is this made out via Boulogne I should
like to know ? " he demanded in hectoring tones.
" Because that is the nearest point to the country
I wish to visit," I replied pleasantly.
"I'm by no means satisfied with that reason,"
he sneered. My heart stood still. I saw my six
4 MY FRENCH YEAR
weeks' toil wasted the stone rolling to the bottom
of the hill my task to begin all over again.
Fortunately, however, Lachesis interposed at this
juncture for, having passed me himself, he was
not going to have any reflections cast upon his
judgment by his brother Fates. He pointed to
the " ordre de mission " and an altercation took
place, during which I kept a discreet silence.
"It is not in order I am by no means satisfied,"
maintained Atropos. At this moment a high person-
age passed and Lachesis appealed to him. Three
heads bent over the blue French paper the suspense
was acute. Other people were waiting to be stamped
someone mentioned it was nearly one o'clock.
The Daniel called to judgment looked up sharply :
"Then I must be off," he said. "Oh that's all
right," to the Fates, " you can pass it." With a
cheerful smile at me he was gone. My choicest
blessing following him to that happy lunch party !
Shorn of his scissors by this Jupiter-Daniel, with
an air of gloomy foreboding Atropos gave the third
necessary stamp. I snatched up my papers and
escaped into the fresh air where I drew a deep breath,
wondering why such invaluable material as went
to the make-up of the fateful Trio should be thrown
away on straight-forward British passports, when
with their endowments they might be turned on
to ridding this poor infested country of the Hun
and Hunins who still swarmed in every corner and
on every coast where they ought not to be.
CHARING CROSS station. No luggage except what
could be carried by hand. It is remarkable, however,
what some people manage to take with them under
this restriction, thanks to the assistance of other
The station was crowded with khaki, officers and
men, with nurses, V.A.D.'s and canteen workers for
the Church Army and Y.M.C.A. huts. One lady
with bright, eager face, wearing the badge of the
Y.M.C.A., was saying good-bye to her husband. He
stood by the carriage door and announced to us all
in firm tones that he " utterly disapproved of it."
"It's only for four months, Arthur, dear," said
the bright-eyed little lady, laying a soothing hand
on his. He turned to her companion, another
" What business has a married woman to leave
her home for four months ? It is a preposterous
idea I maintain."
" Oh ! well you see . . ." began the friend.
" Arthur, darling," interposed his wife leaning
out of the carriage. " I beg you don't talk like
that it's so unpatriotic. Remember I must do my
bit like you and everybody else."
6 MY FRENCH YEAR
" Your bit ! " Arthur gave a short bitter laugh.
" Well you women are the limit. It's all very well
for Miss Smith, but here you are with a husband
and five small children left to shift for themselves,
while you hook off to France for four months to do
your bit. Who's going to do your bit at home I'd
like to know ? "
" Only for four little months, Arthur, darling !
And I'll write every day." The little hand stroked
" Well I utterly and entirely disapprove of the
whole thing, Miss Smith," reiterated Arthur, with-
drawing his hand from the soothing stroke. They
had no time for more, we were already moving,
and with that parting malediction the train whirled
away the bright- eyed little mother of five deserted
babies to do " her bit " serving hot coffee and buns
to British Tommies in a Y.M.C.A. hut at Etaples.
There was an hour to wait before we were allowed
on board at Dover, so I sat on the quay with
the canteen ladies and watched the troops march
past to the three transports sailing with us. Six
thousand of them, some fresh recruits, boys with
pink and white cheeks like girls, but the vast
majority well-seasoned soldiers carrying battered
helmets, and wearing war-stained uniforms. English,
Irish, Scots, kilted Highlanders, Anzacs, a sprinkling
of dark-faced Maories with gleaming white teeth
shown in a wide smile ; here and there a Flying
man with keen bird-like face and far-seeing eyes.
THE CROSSING 7
All looked cheerful, and many sang snatches of popular
trench songs " Back to Blighty" and " Little Grey
Some as they passed smiled and said " Good-bye."
I answered, " Good luck, we're crossing too."
The little Y.M.C.A. lady added, " See you again
at the canteen." This produced such merriment :
she tried it several times.
The New Zealanders were much the finest
specimens of manhood, tall and fit, bronzed by the
sun, supple and muscular, walking as though fatigue
were unknown to them, yet with nothing of the
machine-drilled air of the big Uhlan, the pride of
the German Army, who in the good old days always
turned one off the pavement in his native city.
The little British Tommies, the men of Kent
and Middlesex, even the town bred Cockney, looked
sturdy, wiry, and well-toughened by their two
years', some three years', service in France. But
the fresh recruits, mostly boys in their 'teens, gave
one to think furiously to think. We heard many
of these had only had three or four months' training.
" Oh ! the pity of it ! " sighed Miss Smith, " they
are only schoolboys ! "
" Yes," agreed a grey-haired official standing near,
" that's the evil result of the voluntary system,
that's what these lads are paying for they didn't
dare look at their birth certificates while the others
hung back. They just had to take 'em "
One thing was noticeable their good spirits had
8 MY FRENCH YEAR
nothing " Dutch " about them. In all the long
procession of six thousand there was only one who
did not walk quite straight, and he poor fellow was
no doubt just recovering from influenza.
By five o'clock we were off. The sky had clouded
over and a stiff wind blew, but I fled from the
stifling cabin reserved for me on the lower deck, the
floor of which was entirely covered with troops
sitting tightly packed together. Upstairs I found my
baggage and made a seat of it, till a kind blue-eyed
seaman brought me a deck-chair just in time to
prevent a fall from this most insecure perch. The
deck was crowded with officers, great and small,
from the General with his golden oakleaves to the
newly fledged " sub." Here and there might be seen
a small knot of women and girls, each wearing some
distinctive badge of national service. Three sturdy
little khaki-clad girls stood the whole time leaning
over the rail laughing and talking eagerly while a
row of pale, spectacled youths in the civilian garb
which struck so false a note in those days, sat near
them firmly glued to their raft chairs, rugs tucked
round their knees, evidently conscientiously objecting
to offering their seats to a woman. They were a
strange contrast to the breezy young girls and the
vigorous bronzed men in uniform who surrounded
them. I wondered what subterranean strings they
had pulled to get their papers made out via
Boulogne by the three Fates of Bedford Square.
Everyone was obliged to put on life-belts, if you
THE CROSSING 9
can so call the strange cubical object which is fastened
round your neck like a chest preserver, both back
and front. It entirely precludes any position of
ease or rest to the head, and I could imagine nothing
more unpleasant than having this incubus around
one in the water, indefinitely prolonging a very
trying situation. I reasoned that wearing this must
be an optional affair. But a stern voice roused
" Madam, you must put on your life-belt." I
explained my views about life-belts. He smiled
grimly. "That's not the point, you see. Some
one might risk a valuable life trying to save you
whether you wished it or no."
This was unanswerable and I hastened to put
my head through the collar, my admonitor kindly
assisting me to fasten the strings and seeing to it
that they were firmly done. I felt as though the
Scavenger's Daughter had me in her grip.
Gradually the daylight faded. The queer-shaped
figures and their piled-up luggage all mingled in
fantastic outlines. The officers of the watch and
the man high up in the crow's nest kept constant
look-out on the grey waters, out of which any moment
might start up the Boche's periscope.
On either side of us kept pace a destroyer and
we were accompanied besides by two other troopships,
each with their freight of some two thousand men,
and an empty returning hospital ship. We passed
10 MY FRENCH YEAR
patrol vessels now and then with their friendly
lights ; and once a large lumber boat loomed up
in the twilight, appearing stationary, we were going
so fast in comparison. The boats on our steamer
were made ready for lowering at a moment's notice,
and all the deck chairs were fitted with rafts. One
felt the cold water very near, yet without any dis-
turbing fears. Such small emotions found no soil
in which to grow in those big days.
BOULOGNE at last. The darkness had fallen as
we slowly threaded our way up the long winding
quay crowded with vessels of every description.
The rain had begun in good earnest with our arrival,
adding umbrellas to the general confusion of dis-
embarking. I came to the rescue of the two canteen
ladies whom I found struggling desperately with a very
limited vocabulary, never before put to a real test
with French officials the latter wonderfully amiable
mellowed by the war and our Entente no doubt.
A telegram announcing their arrival to the head-
quarters of the Y.M.C.A. was found reposing in Miss
Smith's lunch basket. They had lost the last train
to Etaples, and had no alternative but to spend
the night in Boulogne.
As there was no train for my destination till next
morning} we threw in our lot together and, hiring
a fiacre, started on a search for rooms. Beginning
with the Hotel Devereux we made the grand tour,
while the rain made sport of us in our half -sheltered
conveyance. From one door to another we drove
in vain. "In the whole cityful rooms there were
none ! " A bench at the station loomed ahead as
our only prospect of rest that night. I appealed,
12 MY FRENCH YEAR
with the rain running down my face, to Madame
la Proprietaire of our last frustrated hope her
predecessors had been too curt to encourage any
hope of assistance, but her cheery face bespeaking
initiative and energy gave promise of a kind heart
"Could she offer any suggestion? Our case was
desperate pitiable," I pleaded.
She viewed us seriously, as a medical man the
patient who has come to him six months too late
for effective treatment, but her brain sought rapidly
for relief in palliatives.
" Ah ! Mesdames, see you, Boulogne, it is crowded
to that point one may truly say there is not a chink
to admit a sardine. For a room one must give
one week, two weeks' notice. But hold ! I will
ask my sister-in-law, she at the caisse. It is just
possible that she may know of a little hole some-
where in the town." And away bustled the kindly
little woman to return shortly with an address
scribbled on a piece of paper.
" Let these ladies try here," she said hopefully.
" This is the cousin of my sister-in-law. She has
two or three nice rooms, which to increase her rentes
she occasionally lets to boarders. It is possible
she may have one vacant where she could squeeze
these ladies for the night. If they mention the name
of Madame Troulard be sure she will do her utmost
possible for our English allies," she added cordially.
Again we plunged into the dark wet streets, the
rain slashing at us viciously under the hood of our
" It is long past the time for my horse to sup
me also ! " remarked our driver in gloomy tones
as he was directed to the new address. Feeling
the justice of his complaint and our desperate
situation I promised him a " supplement," a " bonne
main," " un bon pourboire," a life pension if he
would make this last effort, and added his horse also
should be richly rewarded ; if this journey failed,
the next would be only to the station waiting-room.
The horse had evidently been trained at Elberfeldt
where M. Maeterlinck tells us they learn the language
of men, for hearing this he started off with the utmost
cheerfulness, and we were soon presenting our paper
to two pleasant ladies, a mother and daughter.
The magic name of Madame Troulard opened to us
a small room au troisieme wherein we found an
enormous bed and a sofa at the foot, which furniture
fitted the room as a walnut its shell.
This, Helas ! was all Maman could do for
us, explained the daughter. Could we arrange
With the station bench as the alternative and
the rain hissing on the quay outside, we answered in
a grateful chorus that we could arrange ourselves
Miss Smith's spirits went up with a bound. " I
have been thinking of your husband," she said
to her friend, " how terribly anxious he would be if
14 MY FRENCH YEAR
he could have seen you dripping wet and going from
door to door seeking shelter in vain."
" Anxious ! " laughed the mother of five, " not
a bit of it. Arthur would chortle with glee and say
4 Serves you right.' Don't you ever tell him about
this first night, Adela I trust to your honour."
" I shan't tell him he would only blame me.
I have noticed what cowards married men are,"
" Je suis tres faim," remarked the bright-eyed
lady emphatically to our landlady's daughter, and
we all turned to her appealingly.
" Helas ! Mesdames, Maman, she cannot nourish
these ladies," she replied regretfully. " Since the
war Maman and me we make the kitchen ourselves,
and the little bonne she makes the menage. But
these ladies can eat at the restaurant at the corner.
One eats very well there."
We found this true. The war had raised prices,
but it had not produced the extraordinary deteriora-
tion in every article of food as in England. Bread
we found was still bread, though darker in colour.
Butter was real butter, not the soft greasy stuff,
oozing drops of water, which passed for the same
in England, while cheese remained cheese instead
of soap masquerading as such. The hand of the
chef had not lost his cunning, and even at this small
restaurant of the people the food was as well cooked
as at Prince's.
Our upper chamber looked over the quay a busy
scene of ships and motor transports. The night
was as lively as the day. Not much sleep to be got,
though I had no fault to find with my " canape."
Next morning we looked out on a bright sun and
wind-swept streets. From our windows we could see
the German prisoners, a red band on their caps and
large P.G. on their backs (" Prisonniers de Guerre "),
working on the barges in the quay waters, a fence
round the edge to prevent their landing. Viewed
afterwards more closely the type of face struck
one in marked contrast to the French coarser
and more elementary. They looked well fed and well
clothed, but were slow and surly in their movements,
which perhaps was hardly surprising, as no doubt
they had heard of their more fortunate comrades
taken to England, that Paradise of the Hun, where
they led, at all events at first, if they so desired,
a life of " dolce far niente " in pleasant internment
camps flowing with milk and cheese, and liberal
rations of bread and meat. In France the P.G.
did not stand for Privileged Guest but " Prisoner
of War," an ever-present fact of stern import to
the Boche. And he did not like it, after being
promised that he should be in Paris in three months
and loot every province down to Toulon before New
Year's Day of 1915. His " frau " was still waiting
for the Frenchwoman's nice fine linen and the elegant
garments he promised her, waiting with a sore heart,
for she knew the Herr Hauptmann's lady had
six " wonderbeauty " trunks full to overflowing
16 MY FRENCH YEAR
when they entered Lille. Ah ! things are most
disappointing for the poor German sometimes ! No
wonder he looked surly when he had to toil for
his French captors, before he could enjoy his
" gesegnete Mahlzeit " (blessed mealtime).
It was a strange new Boulogne. Nothing remained