Constance Elizabeth Maud.

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sit down in turns without food or water the old,


the sick, the dying, the dead all together. These
were the refugee trains sent north by the Germans.
At the station where they arrived Mme Latour, the
brave, indefatigable little Frenchwoman, improvised
a temporary hospital to care for the refugees as they
poured in. Every day they arrived in thousands from
all parts in pitiable condition. Over 300,000 of these
unfortunate people were packed in trains and sent
adrift in this way. To dry their clothes, soaked
through with rain, to bandage their bleeding feet,
to wash and feed them and find a shelter for those
unable to continue their journey, these were but some
of the services rendered by Mme Latour's temporary

Wherever she found herself she at once started a
hospital, whether in the refugee train, the station, or
the street. But Mme Latour wears no Croix de
Guerre, no Palms, no medals- and she asks none.
" On fait ce qu'on peut." She just did what she could.
These are the real heroines holding a place enshrined
in the hearts of the poor, silent and obscure ignored
and unrewarded by the Powers-that-Be who require
a good glare of limelight before they are able to see
those they delight to honour. No reflection this on
those who stand in the limelight many of them
gallant enough no doubt, but it is a pity that official
eyes cannot see also those who stand in the twilight,
sometimes the starlight.

" And will you rebuild your beautiful Noyon ? "
I asked Mme Latour before we parted. Her face


lit up quickly : " Ah, but certainly ! " she said.
" I perhaps shall not live to see it but my children,
yes. And no longer will Noyon live with the dark
menace which in secret has threatened her all my
life for I remember the war of 1870. And we who
remembered those days knew for us there was no
security, though what was really coming upon us
none foresaw the Government less than any.
Noyon will arise out of her ruins you think it im-
possible as you see it now is it not so ? But le
bon Dieu He who worked the miracle of saving Paris,
of saving France, He can raise up Noyon out of the

Such courageous faith is surely of the sort which
will remove mountains, even those mountains of
wreckage and ruin, but it will take a long time, and
only with the eye of faith will any of the sufferers
in this war see a restored Noyon.


A STURDY, kinkly-haired little fellow of some eight
years old in a white sailor suit took off his hat and
said " Bon jour Madame " with a charming grin as
I passed him going out of the Hotel at Compiegne
one day. His hat bore the black ribbon of H.M.S.
"Temeraire." I stopped and spoke of the "fight-
ing Temeraire " was he going to be a marin ?

He thought not, he had other ideas in the head,
" not yet well decided ! " I remarked it was a nice
cool uniform in any case, and he was wise to stick
to it this hot weather.

From that time he greeted me as an old friend,
and repeated that charming grin and a polite bow
directly I appeared in the dining-room. Not content
with that, from where he sat with his father and
mother, I would perceive a little head nodding like
a Mandarin, and there was my friend insisting on
recognition between every course.

We cemented the friendship by showing each other
picture post cards, and discussing battlefields we had
both been visiting. Melchior, it appears, had to be
carefully watched lest he picked up a live shell or
hand-grenade, with which these regions abound, in
his keen anxiety to add to his war museum a



collection which he is making for his children with
instructions that they are to be very careful and
leave this historic collection when they die to their
children. For " as this is the greatest war that there
has ever been in all the world, never must one forget
it, or the men who have gloriously died for France."
By which it will be seen that Melchior is a good patriot.
He has lost many relations in the war, uncles and
cousins many cousins. The one he most regrets
is the uncle who was the brother of his Papa. " He
was aviator that one an ' ace,' and of a courage to
make fear les sales Boches ! "

" One day he said, ' We will go over and drop some
bombs on the Boches, hein ? ' And with his squadron
of five machines he mounted high into the skies.
They did some famous work dropped bombs on to
a factory of munitions which exploded finely, and then
more bombs they let fall on a big station which they
made also jump. But then came the Boche aviators,
the sky was all black with them they had a terrible
battle, the Boche never he will fight unless he is two
to one, or three to one he prefers he knows in an
equal fight he has no chance, see you ! Five of them
altogether they attacked my uncle, and he finished
two down they fell in flames, but the three they
ended by piercing him with so many balls, he fell to the
earth and was killed immediately it was better than
to be taken a prisoner ! " added Melchior with a sigh.

" Do you desire to be an officer to fight in battles
when you are big ? " I asked.


" Ah no not at all," he answered fervently. " To
make my military service it is my duty I shall make
it very surely but I have no desire to fight (de me
battre). Imagine to lose the eyes, never more to see,
like the poor Jean Barthieu, the son of our chief
gardener or to die a prisoner as did the two sons of
the forester starved to death in the salt mines of
Germany ! Ah no the war I detest it."

Melchior has seen and heard enough of the horrors
of war to have no romantic illusions on that point.
Les sales Bodies stands for all that he has seen of
hideous brutal, destroying, woe begetting in his
young life. He "hopes one has finished well with
those monsters."

Madame, his mother, came up and joined us in the
garden where we sat. She trusted her son was not
boring me. It would be difficult to be bored by
Melchior he is so versatile and so perfectly natural
and unself- conscious. At our second meeting I knew
most of his family history. His mother had told me
he was an only child as yet, she added. Melchior
informed me his Maman was very careful not to
spoil him, " for you see a unique child who is spoilt
that is an annoyance for everybody." He himself
knew a boy like that, and everyone found him detest-
able. " As for Papa, however, he is not so careful
not to spoil me for I see him so rarely. For five years
now he has served with his regiment," explained
Melchior, " and he is simple soldat from choice."

kMy Papa he likes to be always with the horses,


for that reason he prefers not to be officer. The
horses he adores them you see. In the country we
had many horses, but when the war came the Govern-
ment they claimed all so me I cannot mount a horse
as yet," he confessed sadly. " But soon now I shall
learn to mount, and I know very well how to drive.
This afternoon," he went on recovering his self-
respect, " I conducted the carriage all over the forest
from two o'clock till seven. The coachman I per-
mitted him not to touch at the reins alone, I made
the turnings, and in safety I conducted my Maman
and my Papa to the hotel."

This story was confirmed by his mother who gave
it as a reason for urging her son to go to bed at
9.30. But he maintained that to conduct horses
was in no way fatiguing when you have the wrist
strong as he had.

Melchior is a great chasseur. He goes out with
his father whenever the latter is en permission (on
leave). In the country where they live " there are
woods and woods and woods, nothing but that
it is very amusing ! " Melchior does not yet shoot.
His business is to hold the dogs and follow his father.
On his next birthday, however, when he is nine, he
will have a little carabine, and after one year of
practice with this, a real fusil, and then he will be
a true sportsman. " One chases the wild boar in the
forest. There are many just now one has hunted
them so little during the war. Afraid of them?
He? Melchior? Ah, but no! They resemble the


Boches ! " When they only see Melchoir coming
with his fierce dogs they save themselves. " Why,
in the winter holidays even at the sight of the bon-
homme de neige (snow man) the sanglier he ran ! "

There is nothing in the world the Papa of Melchior
adores like the chase. Directly the day is fine he
says "Now for the forest come, we will make la
chasse." They start and then perhaps, after an hour
or so, down comes the rain. " One gets wet to the
skin but that makes nothing one walks seven
kilometres, even ten kilometres. Papa he says if one
begins very young then never one catches cold or
becomes feeble." So Melchior begins very young !

Melchior was much interested in hearing about an
English boy I know just his own age, called David.
How tall was he ? How strong ? In what class ?
Had he a gun and a horse ? " Recount to me of
that English boy David," he asked one day. "Does
he make well le box ? '' And when I told of how
David loved so well boxing that he had taught the
French poodle, and together they played the boxing
scene from Shakespeare of Orlando and Charles the
prize-fighter Melchior was delighted. " Ah, but he
is an original that one very much I should like to
know that boy David."

He was sorry to hear David had no gun, not even
a carabine. " No doubt his father will give him
one soon," he remarked hopefully. " Then he must
come and stay with us, and together we will shoot in
the forest." I was sure nothing would please David


better. "He can bring with him also that dog,"
added Melchior hospitably.

For all the grandes vacances (the long holidays)
Melchior goes to the chateau in the country and
leaves Paris, and the school " God be thanked !
Ah, then one is happy ! " He has a cousin Alphonse
aged eleven years he is old that one. His father's
estate is near that of Melchior's father, so they meet
every day. Alphonse brings with him quite a troop
of comrades sometimes, and then they play the great
game of war. Ah, that is a famous game ! Mel-
chior he also has three comrades of his age, and all
together they organise the battles. The rules of
war are severe oh, but very severe and those of
the Boche army are forced to obey even as those of
the French army. Each man is armed to the teeth,
with a revolver and a sword. The ammunition for
the revolvers is salt, and the rule is that directly
one feels the prick of the salt on one's legs, which are
bare, as one wears socks, of course, one falls dead, slain
as surely as if a ball had passed through the heart.
Any attempt at pretending you are not hit, or at
rising after you are a " deader" is visited with summary
justice, and you are hauled off to the hut, and placed
under lock and key for two deadly hours of solitude.
It is pretty exciting this game of war. Each side has
an equal number and sometimes the Boches they gain,
and sometimes the French. No use the Boches trying
their cheating dodges however one is too sharp for
them in Melchior's domain.


When I asked how they made themselves look like
the Boches, Melchior promptly puffed out his cheeks,
turned up the brim of his hat all round, saucer- wise,
and explained that he wore big spectacles and a green
coat a " perfect disguise."

There is a cavalry which sometimes plays an
important part. It is formed by half the troops
turning into horses on whose backs the others mount,
the horses prancing on hind legs stamping with a
martial tread a very good effect ! For the wounded
there are stretcher bearers, for it arrives sometimes
one has an accident without being shot, one falls in a
shell hole, for example.

The Generals are elected by vote, and on one occasion
the great honour of being Foch himself fell to Melchior,
while Alphonse he was chosen for the Kaiser with
moustaches very ferocious painted on his face,
a thrilling role, as that of villain of the piece must
always be.

By great good fortune Foch succeeded on this
occasion (a prophetic one truly) in capturing the Kaiser.
But do not figure to yourself that it was easy, for he
was of a great cunning and strength that Kaiser.
Foch, like all good generals, had climbed to the top of
a high fir-tree from where he was taking observations
of the enemy trenches, dug-outs and telephone wires.
And it was from this height he presently observed
the Kaiser descend from a similar tree half a kilometre
distant, and begin to walk in a crouching attitude
through the long grass which almost hid one's head.


Rapidly Foch laid his plans. Calling his staff together
they lay in wait, and as the Kaiser approached to
reconnoitre, most imprudently having separated him-
self from his troops, they sprang out and fell upon
him. It needed three men exerting their full strength
to take him captive, but the feat was accomplished
at last. He was taken alive kicking furiously, and
locked up in prison. All glory to Foch who had
no politicians to interfere and filch his completed
victory from him.

I asked whether the Allies ever played any part.

" Well," said Melchior politely, " we have sometimes
the General Haig and one or two of his men in khaki
but for the other Allies they have no importance.
" When David arrives he will, of course, take the part
of the General Haig, and the poodle he can be the guard
and defend him from the attacks of the Boches while
he sleeps under a tree, also he can be the aide-de-camp
who follows him into the battle."

He hoped David would recognise the necessity for
a unified command under Foch the English he knew
had made difficulties at first on this point, but all the
world saw now it was only so that victory had been
achieved. I undertook to answer for David in this

" You see," added Melchior, " David himself may
be elected to be Foch if he shows himself capable to
be a great commander."

I could only commend such a liberal spirit.


When in Paris Melchior attends a lycbe every day.
At 8 o'clock the classes begin and go on till 11.30.
Then there is a break and one goes home for lunch.
At 1 o'clock he is back again and works that active
little brain of his till 4. Then again there is a recess
till 5.30 when come his extra lessons of music and
drawing. A pretty stiff day's work for eight years

He was amazed to hear of the comparatively short
hours of David's school, and the longer hours given
to games. That Melchior thought a most excellent
idea. The cricket he adored it, but one never had
enough time to play except in the holidays. For the
football he had not yet seen that game.

" David he is the fortunate one very much I
should prefer his school to mine," he remarked

But when, having gone through every item of David's
day, we came to bed at seven o'clock and omitted
dinner altogether, Melchior opened big eyes of
astonishment and dismay.

'' How then that young David, the unhappy one,
he goes to bed at seven o'clock every evening without
his dinner it is not a punishment one makes him,
when he has conducted himself badly ? " he asked

"It is a custom one has in England for all small
boys and girls however good and clever they are," I
assured him.

' What a curious country is England ! For me,


I should not like that custom, it is perhaps just as
well that I am not living in that country even to attend
that agreeable school of David's. All the same," he
added, " some day I hope to travel to England all
the curious countries I desire to see them, and David
he must visit me. I will teach him the custom of
dining at eight o'clock," he added with a mischievous

I said they must both learn each other's language,
for at present if they met they would look at each
other like a pair of dumb boys, and not exchange an
idea very dull that !

Melchior agreed that would be idiotic for two boys
of intelligence, and he would begin English at once.
One learnt such languages at his lycee Latin,
English and American, which of course is the same
thing only a kind of patois spoken with the nose."

He seemed so certain on this point I enquired if he
had ever heard American spoken ?

" But yes, me I know well the officers of the
American army," he replied. " The camp of the
General Perr- sheen it was not far from the chateau,
and Maman to make them pleasure she gave for the
use of the American officers the grand salon and the
billiard hall. I liked much to watch how they played,
and how they danced and made the music. One
American he spoke very well French, and he desired
to teach Maman the American tongue but she is
slow to learn the strange tongues Maman.

"One must learn when one is young. With that


merican officer I disputed very much about the
war. Maman she forbade me to say things impolite,
but it was more strong than me you see, when he
says to me, ' See here, Melchior, without us you could
not manage the affair. It is we Americans who
have gained the war.' Then I enrage myself
' How then,' I say, c you deceive yourselves finely
you Americans. You count for very little in this
great war your value has been to make fear to the
Boches. When they heard a million had arrived, and
many millions were making ready to come quickly,
then the Boche he threw up his hands as is his custom,
and cried Kamarad \ we desire to fight no more.'
But I say to him, 'You Americans, what did you
experience of the real war ? Four months that is
all ! and even then you bring not your own guns it
is the French guns you are obliged to use.' Maman
always she tried to interrupt our disputes, and scolded
me but I spoke only the simple verity. I find it is
impossible to remember to be always polite with that
American who so deceives himself."

One day I asked Melchior his ideas about his future
career. He said there were several which promenaded
in his head. One he considered seriously was to have
a smelting factory, for la fonte was one of the things
most necessary and useful in all the world.

" You see without it one cannot manage at all,"
he went on to explain. " For railways, for ships, for
autos, for everything in life when one thinks of it


even the stove to cook your dinner and the gun to
shoot game. I do not speak of the munitions of war
let us hope we have finished with that."

I asked if he had ever seen smelting works. Yes,
he knew well the usine de fonte, for his aunt pos-
sessed one, and he had been all over it with the
director, a man very intelligent, who had explained
all the things most interesting and most marvellous.

The other idea to which he inclined was a career
in forestry. And I could see the charms of the green
wood ran neck to neck with the marvels of machinery,
as he told me of the many woods his father had in the

" One cuts the trees every year and one sells them
very well, see you. Also," he added with a confidential
little grin, " me I like much the hunting and shooting."

" So, I see you want to combine business and
pleasure," I commented.

" C'est bien 9a," he replied. " And that English
boy David, what is he going to choose for a career ? "

I replied that he also had many ideas which pro-
menaded him in the head. Among others he thought
of becoming a great writer, a farmer with plenty of
horses, an architect and an engineer. There was an
idea also of becoming a famous pianist, for he was
very fond of music.

"Tell him that best of all is the forestry," said
Melchior. " When he comes to visit me I will teach
him how it is done."

Before we parted it was arranged I must come and



I will describe
You know the

see him when I came to Paris,
to you where we live," he said.
Avenue X ? "

Alas I did not, but it was found I knew " Les
Invalides " and with that point d'appui he proceeded
to make me a plan.

4 Voyons ! Moi je suis Les Invalides " he patted
his chest " puis voila la Rue Franois Premier,"

one sturdy little leg " et voila PA venue X "

represented by the other. " Here at this corner,"
pointing to his knee, " you will find our house you
cannot miss it."

With the picture of that charming little map im-
printed on my memory I feel sure I cannot.


THE Dames Anglaises are like the green patches of
cultivation, the presence of which on the wide arid
stretches of the recent battlefields refreshes the eye
and spirit, weary and heartsore with the sight of such
utter ruin and dumb desolation. Here you feel is re-
turning life and green growth, a small centre radiating
light and hope.

These settlements of some fifteen to twenty young
women working under their directrice are to be found
all over the stricken districts of the Somme and Oise,
at Arras, St Quentin, and Pierrefonds. Welcomed
by the Prefets and Mayors, the Dames Anglaises settle
down where help is most needed, and take within
their radius of sweetness and light some forty to fifty
of the devastated towns and villages. Directly the
Germans quitted French soil, the refugees began to
turn their wandering steps homewards. For though
home in the sense of a house existed no longer except
as an indistinguishable heap of ruins, though the
orchard was cut down and sown with shell holes,
though the Church whose familiar spire had been the
landmark of the country side to generations past
now lay prone over the graves of the churchyard,
yet it was still home and on this earth no place was




like it even as the face of her son marred and
mutilated by the cruel hand of war remains always
for his mother the dearest on earth.

This inextinguishable love of the French peasants
for their own soil is one of the most wonderful and
incomprehensible of sentiments to those who have
no counterpart for it in their own country, where the
soil is not owned by the people. With the French it
is the source from which spring the cheerful courage
and indomitable industry which create a garden in
the midst of ruins, and sow a row of beans round a

The Dames Anglaises will most of them tell you
they have learnt more from these French peasants
than they could ever teach them, and gained more
than they can give.

" The more I see of these people the more I love
them, and stand hat off before their wonderful
courage and faith," said the directrice of a settlement
in these stricken regions, one who was herself a
splendid example of both courage and faith. Having
lost all she loved in the war, she gave her service to
the cause for which her sons had died. Gave that
service so gladly that at the back of all her practical
work shone the glowing devotion of a spiritual vision
and power.

With the same devotion she seemed to have ani-
mated the sisterhood working under her a gallant
band of some fifteen to twenty khaki- clad young
women, vigorous and bronzed as their brothers from


the trenches. Some were drivers and transport
officers, some nurses and doctors, others undertook
the clothing and feeding, restocking of houses, gar-
dens, farms, and assisting the inhabitants to build
up their lives anew, not only with material help but
with sympathy and comforting counsels, putting new
courage into hearts all but crushed by sorrow and
suffering past description.

The Dames Anglaises do all their own work. The
prosaic duties of cook and housemaid are undertaken
in the same spirit as the rest. And as each one left
the hive after their early breakfast together and
set out for her day's duty, she seemed to me like
a Knight of the Round Table setting forth on
a kind of joyous adventure filled with ardour and
enthusiasm in which toil and self-sacrifice were never

Let no one imagine that toil and self-sacrifice are
not the daily portion of those who undertake such a
work as this. Living in huts or disused houses,
often highly unhygienic, putting up with lack of most
of the things they have thought essential to civilised
life learning, however, they were not so ! With
food of the plainest, and often shortage of that when
duty takes them on long journeys far afield, braving
all weathers, and with scant provision against the
cold of winter and heat of summer.

This is the modern equivalent of the convent.
Instead of the cumbersome robes and long veil, a

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Online LibraryConstance Elizabeth MaudMy French year → online text (page 14 of 17)