An account has come of the battle of St. Quentin. The “Frankfurter Zeitung” calls it “decisive,” and says that the German army has cut off the English army from its base.
” What ? ”
“Come on, up you get!”
“What’s the time?”
“Don’t know. . . . It’s still dark.”
“All right, then, we’ll get up. Hutin, come on, get up!”
I shook Hutin, who growled in answer:
“All right ! Oh, Lord, I was so comfortable there!”
The noise of shuffling straw filled the barn.
“What’s the time?” repeated somebody.
“Look out there ! There’s a rung missing in the ladder.”
Noises of feet scraping against the ladder. An oath.
“Get the lantern!”
“Where is it?”
“Hanging behind the door.”
The men groped about for their belongings.
“Dashed if I can find the lantern! Come and help, can’t you?”
“Sure it can’t be two o’clock yet.”
” Come along now, hurry up,” cried a sergeant, opening the door. “Anybody else still asleep?”
No one replied. Outside, it was very cold, and the night was dark. Not a star was to be seen. Fires had been lit in the middle of the village, and coffee was on the boil. The church, a diminutive chapel magnified by the light from below, had almost the air of a cathedral, its spire lost in the inky blackness of the sky. Fantastic shadows danced on the walls, and the windows were momentarily lit up by red or green lights. A crowd of poor people fleeing from the enemy were sleeping in the nave, together with some soldiers who in vain had sought shelter elsewhere. Through the front entrance, which was wide open, the interior of the church looked mysterious, filled as it was with fugitive lights and shadows, like those cast by a building on fire. Under the vivid reflections of the stained-glass windows on the flags I caught a glimpse of prostrate human figures. In the square, soldiers coming and going between their fires threw enormous shadows on the ground and on the walls of the houses.
Why this alarm? Had the enemy succeeded in crossing the frontier near Stenay? We set off behind the infantry, whose tramp, tramp sounded like the movement of a flock of sheep on the road. The night was alive with moving but unseen forms. The breathing of hundreds of men on the march was felt rather than heard ; every now and then, as if from far off, came a half-lost word. All this invisible life in movement seemed to give off currents which traversed the night air like electricity.
In the distance we heard the sound of the guns towards which we were marching.
Soon the first streaks of dawn lit up the wooded hills, which reared their severe yet splendid crests between us and the Meuse. We passed through Tailly — a village at the bottom of a ravine, consisting of a few cottages, a church, and a cemetery.
When we arrived at Beauclair, in the valley of the Meuse, the engagement appeared to have finished.
In front of the church the infantry who had just been in action were resting amid their piled arms. The majority were pale — but some were very red. They had thrown themselves down on the bare ground in the sun, and not one of them moved a muscle. The stiffened features of the sleepers were eloquent of tragic weariness as they lay there with open coats and shirts, showing glimpses of naked chests. All were indescribably dirty, their legs plastered with mud up to the knees.
The battery halted outside the last houses of the village, and we at once set about making coffee. A hulking Tommy came up to ask for an onion. We questioned him :
“So they’ve not succeeded in crossing the Meuse yet ? ”
“Oh, yes, they have! . . . One brigade got over all right . . . but the artillery had mown down the bridges behind them, and so we had a go at them with fixed bayonets. . . . Lord! you don’t know what that’s like, you chaps! . . . A charge! . . . It’s awful! . . . Never known anything like it 1 If there is a Hell, I expect there’s bayonet fighting always going on there! . . . No! I mean it! Off you go, shouting. . . . Then one or two fall, and after them lots of others. . . . And the more that fall the louder you’ve got to shout so that the others will come along. And then when at last you get to close quarters with ’em, why, you’re just raving mad, and you thrust and thrust. . . . But the first time you feel your bayonet sink into a chap’s stomach, you feel a bit queer. . . . It’s all soft, you’ve only got to shove a bit! . . . But it’s harder to withdraw clean! I was so damned gentle that I upset my fellow — a great big fat chap with a red beard. I couldn’t pull my bayonet out . . . had to put my foot on his chest, and felt him squirm under my tread. Here, have a look at this ! . . .”
He drew out his bayonet, which was red up to the cross-bar. As he went away he stooped down and plucked a handful of grass to clean it.
The hours passed. The enemy appeared unwilling to make another attempt to force the passage of the Meuse.
We heard that d’Amade had made a fiank attack on the opposing German army, and had taken Marville.
D’Amade ! Well done, d’Amade ! But . . . was it true ?
At Halles, a mile and a half from Beauclair, we encamped at the foot of some high hills. The guns, which for some time past had been
silent, again began to thunder. The enemy was bombarding the heights above us.
As billets for the night we had been given a spacious barn. But when at dusk we went there to get some sleep we found our straw covered with foot-soldiers, rifles, and packs.
The artillerymen began swearing:
“Hallo, what the hell’s all this ? No more room left?”
There was a scrimmage to let us find places.
The barn had a loft above it to which a ladder gave access, and the floor of which was worm-eaten. We stuffed up the holes with hay.
“There we are! As usual, the artillery- above, and the infantry below. That’s all right. … But mind you don’t take the ladder away!”
“Take care of your feet. . . . 0-o-oh ! ”
” Why couldn’t you say you were in the straw?”
” Now then, up you go!”
Five or six artillerymen were on the ladder at the same time. It bent beneath their weight. Below, a foot-soldier stood motionless, holding a candle in his hand.
“Look out ! Don’t want your spurs in my face, you know!”
“Growl away, old chap! Let’s get up.”
“The floor’s giving way ! . . . They’ll fall through.”
“Go on, climb up! It’s less dangerous than the shells!”
“Damn it all, move up a bit, you fellows; otherwise there won’t be room for all of us!”
“Don’t go there ! There’s a hole. . . . You’ll fall on the Tommies down below!”
Downstairs the infantry were grumbling :
“Can’t you keep quiet, up there, eh ? We want to sleep ! And the straw’s all falling in our mouths!”
“If only it would stop yours!”
“Look out, you’re on my stomach ! ”
“Sorry. Can’t see an inch in here. . . . Can’t you raise the lantern over there?”
Again came the soimd of a shell bursting in the distance. I hesitated whether to take off my spurs and leggings, although I knew quite well that I should sleep better without them. But, if there was an alarm, should I be able to find them in the straw ? Finally, I decided to keep them on, nor did I unstrap my revolver holster, which was chafing my side. I tightened my chin-strap so as not to lose my kepi.
Hot and brilliant. Eleven fugitive Sisters of No.— have come back to-day from Amiens, and the others are either hung up somewhere or on the way. The story is that Uhlans were arriving in the town, and that it wasn’t safe for women; I don’t know if the hospital were receiving wounded or not. Yes, they were. Another rumour to-day says that No.— Field Ambulance has been wiped out by a bomb from an aeroplane. Another rumour says that one regiment has five men left, and another one man—but most of these stories turn out myths in time.
Wounded are being taken in at No.—, and are being shipped home from there the same day.
This morning Matron took two of us out to our Hospital camp, three miles along the Harfleur road. The tram threaded its way through thousands of our troops, who arrived this morning, and through a regiment of French Sappers. There were Seaforths (with khaki petticoats over the kilt), R. Irish Rifles, R.B. Gloucesters, Connaughts, and some D.G.’s and Lancers. They were all heavily loaded up with kit and rifles (sometimes a proud little French boy would carry these for them), marching well, but perspiring in rivers. It was a good sight, and the contrast between the khaki and the red trousers and caps and blue coats of the French was very striking. We went nearly to Harfleur (where Henry V. landed before Agincourt), and then walked back towards No.— Camp, along a beautiful straight avenue with poplars meeting over the top. About 20 motors full of Belgian officers passed us.
The camp is getting on well. All the Hospital tents are pitched, and all the quarters except the Sisters and the big store tents for the Administration block are ready. The operating theatre tent is to have a concrete floor and is not ready.
The ground is the worst part. It is a very boggy hay-field, and in wet weather like Wednesday and Tuesday they say it is a swamp. We are all to have our skirts and aprons very short and to be well provided with gum-boots. We shall be two in a bell-tent, or dozens in a big store tent, uncertain yet which, and we are to have a bath tent. I am to be surgical.
While waiting for the tram on the way back, on a hot, white road, we made friends with a French soldier, who stopped a little motor-lorry, already crammed with men and some sort of casks, and made them take us on. I sat on the floor, with my feet on the step, and we whizzed back into Havre in great style. There is no speed limit, and it was a lovely joy-ride!
We are seeing the ‘Times’ a few days late and fairly regularly. Have not seen any list of the Charleroi casualties yet. It all seems to be coming much nearer now. The line is very much taken up with ammunition trains.
To show that there is a good deal going on, though we’ve as yet had no work, I’m only half through my 7d. book, and we left home a fortnight and two days ago. If you do have a chance to read anything but newspapers, you can’t keep your mind on it.
We are getting quite used to a life shorn of most of its trappings, except for the two hotel meals a day.
My mattress, on the floor along the very low large window, with two rugs and cushions, and a holdall for a bolster, is as comfortable as any bed, and you don’t miss sheets after a day or two. There is one bathroom for 120 or more people, but I get a cold bath every morning early. S—— gets our early morning tea, and M. sweeps our room, and I wash up and roll up the beds. We are still away from our boxes, and have a change of some clothes and not others. I have to wash my vest overnight when I want a clean one and put it on in the morning. We have slung a clothes-line across our room. The view is absolutely glorious.
Nothing new. The German papers, as usual, full of their victories and their piety, and their patriotism, and their “Kultur,” and goodness knows what not besides. Both Kaisers praising each other and distributing iron crosses ad lib., early though it be in the day. No mention of English troops or England, except to abuse the “Verflüchte” English.
A train of wounded men arrived yesterday, and bandaged and lame soldiers are to be seen limping about the town, looking ghastly pale and ill. At the Lazarett behind the “Prince of Wales’ Hotel” there are many sad cases. The Red Cross Society has made every provision for their comfort and happiness possible. Sheets have been hemmed, pillow cases sewn, bandages got ready. The Germans, however, are chary of admitting English women to share their labours, and those who go and offer to help meet with a very chilly reception.
It had poured all night, and rain was still falling when we rose. The thought of all the misery such weather must inevitably cause spoiled the satisfaction we experienced at feeling fit and fresh after ten hours’ delicious sleep in a well-closed barn. Our horse-cloths thrown over our heads like hoods and flapping against our calves, we silently marched in scattered order along the churned-up road, our feet squelching in the mud, and finally regained the park under the lashing rain.
The horses, motionless, glistening with water but resigned, endeavoured unceasingly to turn their tails to the rain. The stable-pickets had succeeded in lighting fires but they had had to dig new hearths, for those of the day before were swamped and black pieces of charred wood were floating in them.
The men’s cloaks were streaming and hung heavily in stiff folds from their shoulders. Some of them had turned up their capes in order to protect their heads. The gimners stood round about, holding their red hands to the fire.
“Beastly rain! Two days more like this and we shall all get dysentery!”
“I’d rather die of that than be killed by a shell,” said Hutin.
“No use trying to make coffee,” growled Pelletier. ” The fire doesn’t give out any heat…. It would take hours.”
“It’s the wood that won’t burn. It only smokes.”
“Blow on it, Milion!”
We turned our boot soles to the heat in order to dry them. The rain hissed and spat in the fire.
“All the same,” said the trumpeter, “if we hadn’t been betrayed things wouldn’t have gone like this!”
I grew annoyed.
“Betrayed ! I was waiting for some one to come out with that!”
“Well, I mean it; betrayed! I heard about it yesterday. … It was a General who delivered up the army plans. I know what I’m talking about!”
“Pooh! Camp gossip!”
“I heard the same thing,” affirmed another.
” Simply camp gossip ! From the moment we got scratched that was bound to come sooner or later. If you’re beaten it’s because you’ve been betrayed ! The French can’t be the weaker ! Lord, no ! It’s impossible, of course ! But you know there are five German army corps in front of us. That makes two to one. . . . No . . . well, all the same. Even with two to one we can’t be beaten, can we ? And, if we are, we at once begin to whine about betrayal ! Wasn’t it you who were always saying that Langle de Gary’s army ought to come up and help us ? Eh ? Well, it’s all simply because you don’t feel strong enough to tackle the Boches by yourselves.”
“All the same, traitors exist right enough,” said the trumpeter with a sage nod of the head. “There always have been traitors, and there always will be, to sell France.”
“Idiot!” said Hutin peremptorily.
Almost all my comrades thought as I did. A few properly equipped reinforcements would have enabled us to get the upper hand. Even alone, here behind the Meuse, we could have managed to stop the enemy.
Besides, during the days of defeat we had just been passing through, what a moving picture of our country had been revealed to us! An army immediately victorious cannot plumb the depths of patriotism. One must have fought, have suffered, and have feared — even if only for a moment — to lose her, in order to understand what one’s country really means. She is the whole joy of existence, the embodiment of all our pleasures visible and invisible, and the focus of all our hopes. She alone makes life worth living. All this united and personified in a single suffering being, begotten by the will of millions of individuals — that is France !
In defending her one defends oneself, seeing that she is the sole reason for being, for living. One would prefer to fall dead on the
spot rather than see France lost, for that would be worse than death. Every soldier feels this truth, either vaguely, or distinctly and clearly, according to his powers of perception and affection.
And yet, in the camp, these things are never talked of. The reason is that words which, in peace-time, too often veiled by their gross grandiloquence these deeper and finer feelings, would be insupportable now. This passion, for it is a passion, lies deep down in the heart with other sacred and inmost emotions, to give outward expression to which would be almost to profane them.
“Come on, now! Harness! Hook in! We’re off.”
The rain had soured the men’s tempers.
“Now then ! Be careful with your horse, can’t you ? You might have killed us!”
” Untie your horses so that we can get the picket-lines, will you ? . . . All right, damn you, I’ll do it myself.”
“There’s a silly fool ! Fine place to tether a colt to — the wheel of an ammunition wagon. He’s ripping up the oat-bag. Pull him off,
can’t you ? ”
Cramone, threatening his team with his whip, repeated for the twentieth time:
“I’ll teach you how to behave, you brutes!”
“There’s another dish lost,” shouted Millon. ” Who’s the idiot who didn’t pick it up yesterday ? ”
“Can’t you pull your infernal mules back a bit ? . . . We can’t limber up. . . . Never seen such a fool ! . . .”
The men pushed and tugged at their horses, which, face to the wind, continued pulling this way and that in a vain attempt to prevent the rain stinging their ears. Brejard lost his temper.
“Lord, what a set ! Can’t you keep your horses straight? . . . Look at that off-leader! . . . Can’t you see he’s got entangled ? . . .”
“Thought we were going to have a rest to-day!”
“I suppose the Germans are resting, aren’t they?”
The start was difficult. During the night the wheels of the vehicles had sunk deeper and deeper into the softening soil, and the horses’ hoofs kept slipping on the slope.
Once on the road the battery broke into a trot, the mud splashing in sprays from under the feet of the horses. Some of the gunners,
attacked by colic, stopped in the ditches, and then, still doing up their breeches, ran along by the side of the column in order to overtake their vehicles.
We were going to extend a strong artillery position on the heights of the Meuse valley. From the hills near Stenay the sound of the guns reached us in gusts, and, some distance off, above the woods, we could see the shrapnel shells bursting. The rain had stopped, and the sky, dark a moment previously, suddenly cleared and assumed a uniformly light grey tint.
In a meadow by the roadside some peasants, fleeing before the tide of invasion, had set up their nightly camp. A large green awning sheltered their cart and formed a tent at the same time. Two shafts projected from the front end, pointing skywards. An old man and two women — both pregnant — with half a dozen children clinging to their skirts, watched us go by.
The road rose stifily upwards, and the column slackened its pace to a walk. I heard one of the women say to the old man, as she gave him a nudge with her elbow :
“Go on, father!”
The old man hesitated, but she insisted:
He seemed to make up his mind, and approached us, shifting from one leg to another. Then, with a red face, he muttered:
“No! Can’t ask for that at my time of life!”
He was about to go, but we stopped him.
“Ask for what, old fellow?”
“For a bit of bread, if you’ve got any over. It’s for the children!”
“Yes, of course we have! We never eat it all!”
As a matter of fact we seldom get enough bread. The loaves have to be sorted out, and when the mouldy parts have been thrown away, the ration is usually more than halved. The old man walked by the side of the limber while the men searched in their bags.
“Here you are!”
Two loaves, almost fresh, were held out to him.
“With an onion and a good set of teeth they’re eatable!”
“Thanks. . . . Thank you so much. . . . But I’m afraid you’ll be short yourselves!”
“Oh, no! That’s all right, old chap! Why, we get a wagonful of those every day!”
He made off, a loaf under each arm. I saw him hunch his shoulders and dry his eyes with the sleeve of his coat.
A shower of shrapnel shells suddenly burst in the distance, over the dark woods.
“Swine!” growled Millon between his teeth. He had given up his bread.
He shook his fist towards the enemy.
Once in position to sweep the uplands on the right bank of the Meuse, we dried ourselves in the sun.
In the afternoon a few horsemen. Uhlans presumably, appeared on the edge of a distant wood. A broadside of shells quickly made them seek cover again.
Bright sun to-day, so I hope the Army is drying itself. All sorts of rumours as usual—that our wounded are still on the field, being shot by the Germans, that 700 are coming to Havre to-day, that 700 have been taken in at Rouen, where we have three G.H.’s—that last is the truest story. We went this afternoon to see over the Hospital Ship here, waiting for wounded to take back to Netley. It is beautifully fitted, and even has hot-water bottles ready in the beds, but no wounded. It is much smaller than the H.S. Dunera I came home in from South Africa. Still no sign of No.— being ready, which is not surprising, as the hay had to be cut and the place drained more or less. The French and English officers here all sit at different tables, and don’t hobnob much. Six officers of the Royal Flying Corps are here, double-breasted tunics and two spread-eagle wings on left breast. Troops are still arriving at the docks, which are the biggest I have ever seen. The men on the trams give us back our sous, as we are “Militaires.”
I saw Dr. G—— this morning. He begged me to be most careful what I said. Two patients of his (English) Levantines were talking on the Terrace, and one said to the other, “We had better shave off our moustaches, or we shall be taken for military men.” They were promptly arrested, having been overheard by a spy. We are now ordered to get health certificates, which are to go to Frankfort, and be forwarded to the military authorities in Berlin. There is an idea that we may go away on Tuesday next. We have found out that our passports never went to Berlin at all, but are lying at this moment in the drawer of that old demon in the “Polizei-Amt.”
Reveille came at dawn, and we woke to find a thick fog enveloping the battery. We were soaking with dew, and our benumbed and swollen limbs moved jerkily and with difficulty. The uncertain half-light awoke in us a feeling of anxiety and dread which, still heavy with sleep as we were, it was hard to throw off.
Wrapped in our cloaks and standing motionless round the guns, we had leisure to examine our situation in this clearing in the middle of the forest. On the right, according to our officers, it was not known whether there were any French troops. On this side the woods stretched uninterruptedly from the ridges we were occupying as far as Remoiville. On the left the movements of the 4th Army Corps were to be carried out. It is said that normally an army corps takes ten hours to effect a retreat along a single road. And this retreat had already been in progress for more than fifteen hours.
Our position in the clearing was difficult in itself, and might become positively perilous if the fog did not lift. Nothing could be distinguished at a distance of fifty yards from the guns, and the enemy might advance in the plain, threaten the retreating army, and take us by surprise.
On all sides of us, therefore, were the woods and their shadows, the Unknown and Unexpected. In front of us the enemy hidden in the mist; behind, the Meuse; danger everywhere.
The thought of the Meuse was especially disturbing. When it should become necessary for us to retire in our turn, the Germans, whom there would be nothing to check on the right, might reach the river before us. Possibly we should not find a single bridge left standing. We might have to sacrifice ourselves for the defence of the army.
The hours dragged by. The mists seemed to be collecting on the flank of the hills facing the Meuse, whence they were wafted by the west wind in filmy, trailing clouds which gradually curled over the crests of the hills, floated towards us, enveloping our batteries for an instant, and then slowly sank down on the plain.
I have written these notes on my knee, my back resting against the brass bottoms of the shells in the ammunition wagon, which was opened out like a wardrobe. The men were standing about smoking, waiting for orders.
At last, about eight o’clock, the sun shone over the top of the hill and the fog, like a kind of impenetrable gauze, began to draw away in front of us. One by one the trees reappeared, only the tops of the loftiest remaining shrouded in the mist. Nothing stirred. The road, black yesterday with men and horses now appeared absolutely white between the meadows damp with dew and vividly green under the first rays of the morning sun.
Lying flat on our chests in the grass in front of our guns, on a sort of natural terrace between the stones descending the slope, we scanned the plain. After a time everything seemed to move, and one had to make an effort to dispel the illusion.
The men are saying that we may have to stay here two days. Surely that cannot be possible? Somebody asserted that he had heard the instructions given to the Major by a General :
“You’ll stay there,” said he,” as long as the position is tenable. I rely on your instinct as an artilleryman.”
Another man supported the first speaker.
“Yes, that’s right. He said, ‘ Solente, I rely on your instinct as an artilleryman.’ Why, I heard him myself.”
We also heard that last Saturday’s engagement would be known as the Battle of Ethe.
“No,” said another. ” It will be called the Battle of Virton.”
“Ethe, Virton ! . . . What the devil does it matter what it’s called. Seeing that we’ve had to retreat ! . . .”
“Oh, yes, but all the same,” said the trumpeter, ” we ought to know. Suppose you get back to your people and they ask you what engagements you’ve been in. You’ll answer, ‘ I’ve been fighting in Belgium.’
“Yes,’ they’ll say,” but Belgium is a big place — bigger than our commune! Were you at Liege, or Brussels, or Copenhagen? ‘ You would look a silly fool ! ”
The other shrugged his shoulders.
With the help of a bayonet we opened a box of bully-beef for the four of us, and fell to. The only sound was that made by the hatchet of one of the men who was chopping down a small birch-tree which might conceivably interfere with the fire of his gun.
The silence was too intense, the immobility of the countryside too complete. The enemy was there. We neither heard him nor saw him, but that only rendered him the more sinister. The unwonted calm, when we had braced ourselves up for battle, was terrifying, and our nerves became overstrained.
I supposed that the retreat of the 4th Army Corps had by this time been accompHshed. Time passed, and the French army was still falling back, while the enemy advanced cautiously, threading his way through the woods.
Suddenly, about two o’clock, a machine-gun began to crackle quite close by in the forest. A horseman galloped through the clearing
and drew rein beside the Major. We at once limbered up.
Was our retreat cut off? The staccato rattle of the machine-gun was now accompanied by intermittent rifle-fire. We had to cross the clearing diagonally in order to reach a forest path. Quite calmly, and determined to save our guns, we got our rifles ready. But the column crossed the close-cropped field without our hearing a single bullet, and we gained the wood in safety. We had to hurry, for the road, even if still open, might be closed at any moment.
Leaning over the necks of the horses in order to avoid the low-hanging branches which threatened to drag them from their saddles, and gauging by eye the narrow passage between the trees, the drivers urged their teams forward with whip and spur.
The road was still open. . . . We arrived at Dun-sur-Meuse, where we had to cross the river. The Captain assembled the non-commissioned officers :
“The bridge is mined. Warn your drivers to take care of the sacks on each side of the bridge. They’re full of melinite.”
In order to let us through the sappers threw some planks across the pit they had opened up in the centre of the bridge.
The hindmost vehicles of the column had not advanced two hundred yards on the other side of the Meuse, when a loud explosion shook us on our seats. The bridge had just been blown up. Behind us a large white cloud of smoke curled up in thick volutes, masking half
As we stood waiting for orders in a field, our guns in double column, some one called out:
“There’s the postmaster!”
“At last ! ”
“Letters! letters! A man to each gun!”
For eight days we had been waiting for news, and each man drew a little aside in order to be alone as he read.
It seems certain that the battle of Saturday the 22nd will be known as the battle of Virton.
My very dear Mother,—I was made happy by Maurice Barrés’s fine article, ‘l’Aigle et le Rossignol,’ which corresponds in every detail with what I feel.
The dépôts contain some failures, but also men of fine energy, among whom I dare not yet count myself, but with whom I hope to set out. The major had dispensed me from carrying a knapsack, but I carry it for practice and manage quite well.
The only assurance which I can give you concerns my own moral and physical state, which is excellent. The true death would be to live in a conquered country, above all for me, whose art would perish.
I isolate myself as much as I can, and I am really unaffected, from the intellectual point of view. Besides, the atmosphere of the mess is well above that of normal times: the trouble is that the constant moving and changing drags us about from place to place, and growing confidence falters before the perpetually recurring unknown.
Very ominous leading articles in the French papers to-day bidding every one to remember that there is no need to give up hope of complete success in the end! There is a great deal about the French and English heavy losses, but where are the wounded being sent? It is absolutely maddening sitting here still with no work yet, when there must be so much to be done; but I suppose it will come to us in time, as it is easier to move the men to the hospitals than the hospitals to the men, or they wouldn’t have put 1500 beds here.
The street children here have a charming way of running up to every strolling Tommy, Officer, or Sister, seizing their hand, and saying, “Goodnight,” and saluting; one reached up to pat my shoulder.
No.— G.H., which left here yesterday for Abbeville, between Rouen and the mouth of the Somme, came back again to-day. They were met by a telegram at Rouen at midnight, telling them to return to Havre, as it was not safe to go on. They are of course frightfully sick.
French wounded have been coming in all day. And we are not yet in camp. Our site is said to be a fearful swamp, so to-day, which has been soaking wet, will be a good test for it.
It is so wet to-night that we are going to have cocoa and bread-and-butter on the floor, instead of trailing down to the hotel for dinner. Miss ——, who is the third in our room, regales us with really thrilling stories of her adventures in S.A. She was mentioned in despatches, and reported dead.