It was still raining when we started. Carts full of debris continued to pass us, each more heavily laden and each more dreadful to see than the last.
I heard that a Chasseur, whom I noticed yesterday morning mounted on a little bay horse, had been surprised by a party of Uhlans. They bound him hand and foot and then, with a lance-thrust in the neck, bled him as one bleeds a pig. A peasant who had witnessed the scene from behind a hedge told me of this devilish crime. He was still white with horror.
Last night the horses lay in mud and dung. This morning their manes and tails were stiff with mire, and large plasters of manure covered their haunches and flanks, giving them the appearance of badly kept cows. As for us, besmeared with dirt up to the knees and with our boots a mass of mud, we looked more heavy than ever in our dark cloaks, which were wet through and hung in straight folds from our shoulders.
We again started off, this time to take up fresh quarters at Moirey. From Azannes to Moirey is little more than a mile, but the road was blocked with wagons, and at every instant we had to halt and draw to one side.
The Captain gave the word :
The men, tortured by diarrhoea, availed themselves of the opportunity and scattered into the fields.
At Moirey we encamped under some plum-trees planted in fives, where we were as badly off as we had been at Azannes. Under the feet of the horses the grass immediately became converted into mud.
The first thing to do was to cover over with earth the filth left there by troops who had preceded us. The question of sanitary arrangements is a serious one. It is true that a sort of little trenches called feuillces are dug on one side of the camp, but many men obstinately refuse to use them, and prefer to make use of any haphazard spot at the risk of being drive- oft by whip-lashes by others of more cleanly disposition. A regular guard has to be kept round the guns and horses. It is useless for the officers to threaten severe punishment to any man taken in the act outside the feuillees. Nothing stops them. The Captain keeps repeating:
“What a set of hogs!”
To-night the sound of the guns is quite close. Perhaps we shall go into action at last.
It was a difficult job to find any wood fit to burn. Such as there was was damp and when burning gave off a thick acrid smoke which the wind blew down upon us. We had to fetch the water for the soup from more than 300 yards away, and then keep a constant look-out to prevent the horses from getting at it. The bread just given out was mouldy, and we had to toast it in order to take away the musty taste.
When it is time to water the teams the only street of the village is thronged with horses either led or ridden bare-back. Six batteries are encamped round Moirey, and there is only one pond into which a thin stream of clear water, not more than two fingers thick, trickles from a fountain. Every twenty paces one has to stop and manoeuvre in order to avoid kicks, and the men, annoyed by the delay, swear at each other without reason.
After four or five minutes one advances another twenty paces, and, when finally the pond is reached, the men and beasts sinking ankle-deep in mud, it is only to find that hundreds of horses have left so much drivel and slime on the water that our animals refuse to drink.
It is reported that there has been a great battle near Nancy and that we have won the day. Why don’t we advance also?