Eugáene Emmanuel Lemercier

The Argonne, France

The Argonne, France

In the horror-zone.

The rainy twilight shadows the road, and suddenly, in a ditch—the dead! They have dragged themselves here from the battlefield—they are all corrupt now. The coming of darkness makes it difficult to distinguish their nationality, but the same great pity envelops them all. Only one word for them: poor boy! The night for these ignominies—and then again the morning. The day rises upon the swollen bodies of dead horses. In the corner of a wood, carnage, long cold.

One sees only open sacks, ripped nose-bags. Nothing that looks like life remains.

Among them some civilians, whose presence is due to the German proceeding of making French hostages march under our fire.

If these notes should reach any one, may they give rise in an honest heart to horror of the foul crime of those responsible for this war. There will never be enough glory to cover all the blood and all the mud.

Lady Harriet Jephson

Altheim_GermanyI hear that no men who have served in the Army or Navy are to be allowed to go with us. To-day’s “Frankfurter Zeitung” thinks that England must be at her last gasp, or she would not have “barbarians such as Indians, Japanese and Highlanders” fighting her battles for her! They also declare on “unimpeachable evidence” that India is in a state of revolt, and that the Japanese are to be despatched at once to quell the rebellion. Any misfortune to the British delights them.

Lady Harriet Jephson

Altheim_GermanyThe singular absence of humour of the Germans often amuses me. I think it was Palmerston who described Germany as “that land of damned Professors.” They are all so desperately in earnest, and their “Kultur” is so serious, that jokes and fun seem like blasphemy. My penury has again been relieved by Mr. S——’s kind loan of £1. Lady M—— came in to tell me that the American Vice-Consul had telegraphed to Mr. W—— the good news that we are all to go on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday next. I have heard this story so often that I am utterly sceptical. We conclude that things are going badly for the enemy, since there is no bell-ringing, and the flags have been taken in.

Lady Harriet Jephson

Altheim_GermanyAgain rumours of our going, but even though release will be most welcome, we all dread the journey. Terrible tales come to us of the treatment meted out to foreigners crossing the frontier. Many English were turned out of Wiesbaden and sent here. At F—— they had their luggage searched, and the ladies of the party were stripped to the skin by women who even combed their hair to see if by any ingenuity they had concealed plans and drawings in the puffs and coils, two soldiers with fixed bayonets mounting guard meanwhile outside. No doubt we shall remember this journey to the end of our lives, but what can you expect from a people whose Prophet Nietzsche says, “What is more harmful than any vice? Pity for the weak and helpless—Christianity!”

Eugáene Emmanuel Lemercier

The Argonne, France

The Argonne, France

(from a note-book)

This is war; here are we approaching the place of horror. We have left behind the French villages where peace was still sleeping. Now there is nothing but tumult. And here are direct victims of the war.

The soldiers: blood, mud and dirt. The wounded. Those whom we pass at first are the least suffering—wounds in arms, in hands. In most of them can clearly be seen, in the midst of their fatigue and distress, great relief at having been let off comparatively easily.

Farther on, towards the ambulances, the burying of the dead: there are six, stretched on two waggons. Smoothed out, and covered with rags, they are taken to an open pit at the foot of a Calvary. Some priests conduct, rather than celebrate, the service, military as they have become. A little straw and some holy water over all, and so we pass on. After all, these dead are happy: they are cared-for dead. What can be said of those who lie farther on and who have passed away after nights of the throes of death and abandonment.

. . . From this agony there will remain to us an immense yearning for pity and brotherhood and goodness.

 

Lady Harriet Jephson

Altheim_GermanyThe Altheim daily papers complain that they are inundated with foolish questions over the telephone. “Ist Namur belgisch oder französisch?” (Is Namur Belgian or French?)

“Gehen die Schottländer wirklich mit nackten Beinen in die Schlacht?” (Do the Highlanders really go into battle with naked legs?)

“Wie lange wird es ungefähr dauern, bis die Deutschen Paris eingenommen haben?” (How long will it be before the Germans have taken Paris?) and so on.

Lady Harriet Jephson

Altheim, Germany

Altheim, Germany

The Germans seem depressed, no flags, no bands, and although there is a notice posted up in the town to say that the Crown Prince has achieved another victory, there is evidently something unsatisfactory in the background to counterbalance this. I draw deductions from the “Frankfurter Zeitung,” which has a bitter article entitled “Torheiten” (Folly), and which speaks of the “Kindische Freudengeheul” (childish howls of joy) of the English and French Press, because “ein parr Kalonnen deutscher Soldaten ein Stuck weges zurückgezogen haben” (two columns of German soldiers had withdrawn a bit of the way back). Then the writer contrasts the boastful words (“prahlender wörte”) of England with the self-restraint and pious calm and virtuous behaviour of Germany. One has only to look at the postcards in the Park Strasse to see which of the combatants is boastful. England is drawn as ignominiously lying on the ground (when she isn’t running away) and Germany invariably is kicking or thrashing her.

People are less friendly than at first, though the bath attendants, people in the Inhalatorium, and doctors are most kind. I had tea at Müller’s with Miss H—— the other day. There were at least thirty empty chairs in the tea-room, but a German woman marched up to the chair on which I had laid my daily newspaper, and ordered me to take it off, as she must have my chair! She was stout and ugly, and had a way of doing her hair which, as a writer says, “alone would have proved impeccable virtue in the face of incriminating circumstantial evidence.” For all their “Kultur” Germans are gross, and to the last degree inartistic. Their “nouveau art” is repulsive; their dressing outrageously ugly, and their cooking atrocious. I have watched them here year after year tramping up and down the shady walks stolidly drinking, wearing garments of ingeniously devised ugliness and blind to “l’inutile beauté.” There is no variety of type nor individuality of person in either men or women. These worthy Hausfrauen have no grace of dainty frills, diaphanous lace or rustling petticoats. They are obviously and incontestably of the class described by a witty writer to whom “a lace petticoat is as much a badge of infamy as a cigarette on the stage.” The German proletariat cannot be susceptible to externals, else the universal sad-coloured skirt, the ill-fitting blouse and the ugly hat worn by his women-folk could not find favour in his eyes.

Life in Altheim has changed under war conditions. The Kur Haus is closed, there are no teas on the Terrace or promenadings to the strains of Grieg or Strauss, or theatrical performances. The German Kur-Gäste have left, and only the Russian, English and a few Belgian prisoners of war remain. Russians here are chiefly of a very low class. Most of the women go about bareheaded, and all are rough and unkempt and dirty-looking. I fancy some of them have suffered much privation, but happily their order of release has come. They will have to travel by Denmark, Sweden and across to Petrograd. The weather is autumnal, and they have only summer clothes, like us. We cannot help them, having so little money ourselves. I have had to borrow twice, and tried to sell my jewellery without success, but I have developed a latent and unsuspected talent for laundry work. The pretty summer shops in the Park Strasse are now closed, and the sound of beating mattresses is heard everywhere; the blinds of most of the villas are drawn down, and the families having no longer lodgers have descended to their winter quarters on the ground floor. Only a few einspänners are left, as both Kutschers and horses are gone to meet a “Heldentod” for their Fatherland.

One sees white-capped nurses and Red Cross Ambulance men and wounded and bandaged warriors everywhere. When recovered, the soldiers get three days leave to visit their families, and then return to the Front. Poor souls! Shops are chiefly tended by women nowadays, and the German Frau is not a capable shopkeeper like the French woman. A “Drogerie” here is presided over by the wife of the man who owns it, in his absence at the war. She is a gentle, rather pretty creature, but amazingly slow and stupid. If tooth-powder be asked for, she mounts a ladder, searches among a hundred bottles, shakes her head despairingly, and wonders where her “Mann” has put it. Outside her Küche and house, the German woman does not shine, but she is a faithful unselfish wife, and a good and affectionate mother. Mr. Ives thinks we shall certainly get away next week. I hope so! The weather is cold and rainy, and there is no fire-place in my room.

Lady Harriet Jephson

Altheim, Germany

Altheim, Germany

Nothing new in the situation, but we rejoice to see grave faces and groups looking solemn in the streets, and talking in subdued voices, and thank God! we hear no bell-ringing! Everything cheering we read in the “Corriere della Sera” is denied in the “Frankfurter Zeitung” or given as a production of the “Lügen Fabrik” (manufactory of lies).

Lady Harriet Jephson

Altheim, Germany

Altheim, Germany

A rumour has reached us that the Crown Prince has been captured, and that the enemy is retreating. No official confirmation has come to hand however; but the flags are down at last, and the jangling of bells has ceased, and we have not heard “Deutschland über Alles” for twenty-four hours, “Gott sei Dank”! Prince Joachim is wounded, and he has sent a telegram worded after the manner of his dear Papa, thanking God who in His goodness permitted him to be wounded for his beloved Fatherland. I wonder what Frederick the Great would have thought of these boastful warriors. We English are looked upon with horror as the brutal barbarians who use dum dum bullets, and Sir Edward Grey’s dignified disclaimer is reported under the polite heading “Grey leugnet” (Grey lies).