Class 4., j
WARS DARK FRAME
Unrlerwoo'l ,t Uttd m m o oA, W. V.
\ Bill NSH B Ml I KY !\ I'l \\|)| RS
WAR'S DARK FRAME
Author of "Sinister Island," etc.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS '
DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
UUDl), MKA1) AND COMPANY, 1m«. *
JIM 12 1917
MY WII ■!•:
The Submarine Zoni
Pari Spirit .
Till. . tON ....
The Persistent Bombardment .
The Amazing Garden ....
Between the Lines
With the BRITISH in Flanders
Hospitals and 1 1 rtlrs .
Under Tire in a Flat Land .
K of Life A]
at the Front
Tin [No Mines ....
Gas School and the Artillery
The Mad Activity of a Dead City
Where Men Are Like Ants .
The Grj of Intelligence .
A British battery in Flanders .... Frontispiece
The Germans made a more thorough job here than
( > I * 1 men and children wandered around with a fur-
tive air. as if in anticipation of aiiotl;-
Gerbcviller . . . this monument to the Teut'
campaign of tcrriblcness 78
The effect of heavy shells in Rheims 86
The new and the old 86
Poilus billeted in Rheims 86
A listening post 104
"'One more village back to France'" .... 108
In the towns under bombardment 140
A shattered farm behind the firing line . . 17S
A few twig*, mtte re J bits of green, make an im-
penetrable veil Igaintt the plying airmen . . 188
Barbed wire entanglements in winter . . . 2l6
The Church at M had been blasted by great
shells s<*nt from guns manv miles away . . . 256
WAR'S DARK FRAME
WAR'S DARK FRAME
1H! si BMARINE ZONE
CANT be a submarine — We're too far
11 Keep quiet, it's all right! "
44 Don't get excited 1 M
Exclamations came in men's voices, unnaturally
suppressed. From the women arose one or two
half choked cries. Feet hastened along the decks.
Apprehensive but without panic we poured
through the COmpanionway. You admired the
women in that moment, because tliev had an ap-
pearance of steeling themselves against dreadful
inevitabilities. And the sea was sullen and un-
Many of us, I think, foresaw what we should
find at the forward rail — a view of the crew
with purposeful faces at emergency drill. Vet the
necessity for that exercise, the wisdom of shoe!-.
us from our Sabbath somnolence by the raucous
alarm of the ship's bell, reminded us how closely
2 WAR'S DARK FRAME
we bad approached the incredible spectacle of a
civilisation in arms against itself. What would
the next day bring? Or the next?
Abruptly we realised that war for the individual
has the quality of a perpetual and tragic disaster.
Later, in the cities of Europe, in the devastated
districts, in the towns under bombardment, in the
front line trenches, that truth was forced upon
me. So I have remembered chiefly the human in-
cidents and impressions that will have a real mean-
ing for the individual, who has had the foresight
to visualise himself, his family, and his friends
entangled in the struggle.
For it isn't easy to understand war in America.
The entrance to the pier in New York teaches you
that. Beyond comes a mental alteration as pro-
nounced as the change from brilliant sunshine to
the sombre obscurity of the shed. It is accented
by the tight line before the gangway, by the sus-
picious examination of passports and luggage, by
the unstudied talk among the inspectors of bombs,
of spies, of the possibility of submarines. And
the gangway is the threshold of war.
On all boats bound for Europe these days there
is an atmosphere of difficult partings, a reluctance
to discuss the future. There are, moreover, peo-
ple who bring war home to you.
That afternoon of the drill, for instance, I
THE M BMARIN1 Z< »M 3
watched a boy, not twenty yet, reassure two women
who counted the hours before we would be ofl the
Irish coast. All along lie had interested us in a
sorrowful fashion, because he had been wounded
in the head at Yprcs, and a disability had re-
mained which made him of no more value in
battle to his country. Always he teemed older
than the old men, as if he could never forget and
be young again. A tall, straight, ruddy-faced
man, nearly at middle age, joined him. The new-
comer, following his custom, wore no hat. We
gathered around him, because, since he was on
his way to the front from Canada, whatever he
said seemed to possess a special eloquence.
Funny time for fire drill ! Splendid nerve
tonic though. You know, I wouldn't be surprised
if the 1 [una took a shot at us. It's about due."
I want to die with my boots off and without
fame," a man said plaintively.
We laughed, returning to our cards, our read-
ing, or our nap . The boy who had fought at
Yprcs demanded a game of deck tennis. He had
no difficulty finding three other players, for the
growing tenseness was unfriendly to reserve.
Already every one knew every one eh
An elderly gentleman from the South wandered
lessly across the smoke-room and interrupted
the bridge game.
4 WAR'S DARK FRAME
" They say this boat's loaded so heavily — "
" I bid a heart. We all know she's got a big
freight manifest, Mr. ."
" Think she has ! Go down like a shot ! I've
been talking to one of the officers. Says there's
no way to avoid floating mines. No respecters of
neutrals. You've heard of the — "
He listed half a dozen boats recently injured
or sunk by mines. The player who had spoken
before grew impatient.
" Your lead to a heart."
The elderly Southerner turned away, muttering
with a prideful air.
" Just the same, since I got on this boat I've
never ceased thanking God I'm a powerful swim-
mer — a right powerful swimmer, sir."
The incident was funny, because nobody
laughed. We glanced at each other and took up
But, perhaps, the one who brought war closest
was a pretty American girl, bound for Eng-
land with her mother. We understood she was
married to a Scotch officer. We wondered why
she had been in America, and where her husband
was, for she didn't wear mourning.
" The girl has a story," one woman after an-
To realise it you had only to look at her eyes
THE SUBMARINE ZONE 5
and at the convalescent pallor of her face, as
striking as that of the boy wounded at Ypres.
She wanted, moreover, to talk about her experi-
ence. That, too, was in her eyes. Because of
the past, possibly because of something she ap-
proached, she desired to tell her story.
The last evening as we crept up the channel she
yielded to the growing tenseness that fought re-
serve. She sat with her mother on deck, staring
at the boats which had been swung out, listening
to talk of the extra life belts that had been dis-
tributed — mere italics for possibilities of which
the women were, patently, trying not to think.
The sun sank behind a low brown mass on the
horizon — the coast of Ireland. We reviewed
the crimes and the tragedies it had witnessed since
the commencement of the war. We fancied the
round backs of indifferent submarines, and black
specks of humanity struggling in the yellowish,
menacing water. A multitude of fishing trawlers
pitched and reeled drunkenly. It was difficult to
realise that their only game was submersibles, their
only task the protection of such craft as ours.
Groups of people still lined the rails, scanning
the dusky water. All afternoon they had seen
periscopes. Each piece of driftwood in the for-
bidden zone had attained an importance never
dreamed of in the scheme of things.
6 WAR'S DARK FRAME
The moon appeared and quiet men cursed
" They get us against it and we're gone," one
and another commented.
The prow parted the transformed water almost
reluctantly. It was as if the elderly Southerner
had impressed on the boat itself his aphorism con-
cerning floating mines.
As we went on, feeling our way, with a sense
of dodging unseen and treacherous obstacles, the
pretty girl told her story — a brutal one that
brought the war closer.
The first chapter was just a year old — her
marriage in Nice to an invalided officer of a High-
land regiment. Before his complete recovery he
had been unexpectedly recalled to active service.
The uncertainties of waiting had appalled them.
Therefore they had shocked this watchful mother
lounging in her steamer chair. In spite of her
panic they had married hurriedly. Their honey-
moon had been the swift journey to the base at
Rouen. Her voice was fearful rather than rem-
iniscent as she spoke about it.
" He left me at a queer hotel on the main street
while he went to report. He didn't know exactly
what his orders would be — whether he would
stay at Rouen for a while, or whether they would
hurry him to the trenches with new troops. The
THE SUBMARINE ZONE 7
room they gave me had six doors and none of
them possessed a key. It may sound silly, but it
was late, and I was afraid, afraid of everything.
I wasn't sure he would come back at all, and if
he didn't I knew I might never see him again.
Strange sounds drifted from the dark street. I
heard soldiers marching; queer songs in French
and English; far off, a bugle. I was lonely, and
homesick, and unhappy. I knew he wouldn't
come back, and all those doors frightened me. I
tried to barricade them, but I couldn't find enough
chairs. Then he ran in, and he laughed at my
barricade which he had had to tumble over. He
had to go that night, and I walked through the
dark streets with him, although he said I'd better
not, because it would only make it harder for both
of us. But I went, and at the military station
there were soldiers everywhere, and confusion,
and a train — that waited. I didn't dare look at
it, but I knew when it started, for he said good-
" I looked then and saw him climb into a car-
riage filled with soldiers. He waved his hand,
shouting to an officer he knew to see that I got
back to the hotel and later to Paris where my
mother would be waiting."
Her mother, good-humoured and middle-aged,
8 WAR'S DARK FRAME
" Instead of that she dragged me to Rouen.
You need another wrap, my dear."
The girl shook her head.
" So I went back," she continued, " crying
through the dark streets with that strange officer.
Half way I stopped, remembering. I didn't have
a cent. My husband hadn't given me any money.
You see we had been married such a little while.
We hadn't learned to think of such things."
She spoke of her interminable days of waiting
in Rouen. She had been on the point of winning
for her husband a staff appointment with its
lighter dangers, when the word, hourly expected,
had been delivered to her.
" Oh, quite brutally," she said. " I didn't
know what it meant, death or a wound. I only
knew I must go, so I persuaded a high officer to
give me a pass for a military train. I spent a life-
time on that train. During many hours it crawled
only a little ways. Finally they told me to get
out. They drove me to a small hospital back of
the lines. The odour of it ! And he lay there, a
sister bending over him. She said I mustn't cry,
and it was hard, because he didn't know me,
because he seemed like one already dead."
Her voice dwindled, the mother stirred, then,
as if to spare the girl, explained how she had
drawn her husband from the black valley through
THE SUBMARINE ZONE 9
months of nursing in France and England. She
had broken down. The doctors had ordered her
to America, away from the hospital odour and
the perpetual reminders of war.
" She's going back too soon," her mother said.
" Naturally," the girl answered, " because he
writes he is on light duty again, and he's trying to
persuade them he's fit to return to the trenches.
I won't have it. I couldn't stand that suspense
again. But of course they won't let him. He
has a piece of shrapnel shell within an inch of his
heart. He's done his bit.
" You know," she went on, " I'll have to harden
myself. I've grown soft in America, because it's
so far from the war. You can't remain sane
unless you are hard in the presence of this war."
Reviewing her story, questioning its final word,
you realised how true that was. You shrank
from the water flashing by, because you knew it
measured your approach towards those fantastic
occurrences against which men and women must
harden their hearts or suffer beyond reason.
Not unnaturally I thought that was all I was
ever to know of the young wife's history, yet the
next day there was to be a sequel, read at first
hand, cheerless and unexpected.
We sat until late that last night. She spoke
from time to time of the approaching meeting.
io WAR'S DARK FRAME
" He's sure to be at Liverpool. Suppose any-
thing should happen to this boat? "
But for the most part she was silent.
" We will spend the night on deck," her mother
said, " in case anything happens."
In the smoke-room I heard men talking of sleep-
ing on the lounges there. An elderly and morose
commercial traveller heightened their misgivings
with stories of his escape from the torpedoed
" She went down in ten minutes. Five minutes
would see the last of this boat as she's loaded. If
you were caught below decks — Good Night!
Talk about rats in a trap ! "
" Oh, forget it! " a man said under his breath.
" I've heard that old fool sink the Arabic a dozen
times in the last half hour. Once is enough for
But the morose traveller had been to the women
with his premonitions. They wandered restlessly,
or stared across the cold and troubled water,
rehearsing his warnings. This one man had sewn
the seeds of panic. The women didn't want to go
to bed. Then a squad of sailors came by with
hose, pails, and swabs.
They went to work with quiet confidence. One
of them spoke good-naturedly.
" Better be off to bed, lydies. If you don't
THE SUBMARINE ZONE n
you'll get wetter than though a tarpedo struck ua
in the bloomin' witals."
Some of them laughed then. At least there was
nothing else to do, so they went. And in the
morning the women weren't alone in surrendering
signs of a sleepless night spent in bed fully clothed.
A vast relief shone in the eyes of the young wife
and her mother. Only a few hours away the con-
valescent waited to welcome them back to Eng-
To most of the passengers, indeed, the brown
mass of Holyhead, rising to starboard, appeared
a beacon of safety. A deck steward, who had
grown communicative, grinned.
" Just as well they think that way," he said.
Without thought for my own feelings, he
assured me that the really dangerous part of the
trip lay just ahead.
Yet without adventure we raised above the
sands the gigantic skeleton of the Birkenhead
tower, and swung in across the bar of the Mer-
Liverpool's suburbs stretched their uninterest-
ing rows as a foreground for the routine activity
of a war-time seaport. Remembered steamships
lay in the docks or at anchor, painted a dead grey,
converted into transports or auxiliaries. One of
the best known of all wore a livery of white and
i2 WAR'S DARK FRAME
green with red crosses here and there. Bandaged
men stared dumbly at us from the rails.
Liverpool had altered sufficiently. From it the
war stretched grimy fingers to draw us closer into
its lethal atmosphere. A sentry paced the land-
ing stage. No more than a handful of people
waited there. As we drew closer we all noticed
a tall, straight young fellow in a Highland uni-
form. He walked up and down impatiently,
swinging a little stick, glancing with anxious eyes
at the crowd of us by the forward rail. The girl
and her mother were near. They cried out.
They glanced at each other tearfully. They com-
menced with jerky motions to wave their handker-
chiefs. The young officer, with a piece of shrap-
nel near his heart, suddenly swung his stick,
paused, and stared up at the tear-stained faces.
" Doesn't he look fit? " the girl cried proudly.
" But not really fit — never fit for war again."
More intimate affairs grasped us. Sheep-like
we were herded into the dining-room to face the
While we awaited our inquisitions the young
Highlander entered, exuding a naive pride in his
uniform which had won a permit to pass the
guards, which had hastened this moment of
fervent greeting. He stood close to us with his
wife. For a time they spoke softly, then all at
THE SUBMARINE ZONE 13
once their voices were raised. The flushed girl
exclaimed, as if she had been struck. The hus-
band laughed with an embarrassed indifference.
11 Then my letter didn't reach New York until
after you had sailed. They are sending me back
to the front. Of course I am well enough. It
was good of them to give me leave to meet
He paused, glancing at her curiously. At first
she didn't answer. She turned with a gesture of
despair. She walked spiritlessly away.
THE STRANGE ENGLAND
DURING several hours we suffered the
examination before the alien officers.
With a progressive severity the Euro-
pean ports have made the entrance of neutrals
difficult. One by one we faced the little group at
a table in the dining-room while the doors of exit
were carefully guarded. Some of us were ques-
tioned for only a moment or two. Others were
grilled uncomfortably while the next on the list
waxed impatient. What were you going to do?
Where had you come from? What parts of the
kingdom did you wish to visit? What was your
ultimate destination? Your past was ransacked.
As you stood by the little table, facing the
unsmiling men, you felt yourself suspected. You
questioned how a person, trying to enter with
criminal intent, could stare back without an escape
of fear, could answer the searching questions with-
out a revealing tremor. There are spies beyond
doubt who survive such ordeals jauntily. It
became obvious to us, however, that very few of
them these days have an opportunity of attempting
THE STRANGE ENGLAND 15
it. For a German spy to slip from New York
through such a net would approach the miraculous.
Men and women, released after particularly ex-
tended examinations, felt themselves aggrieved.
" Do I look like a spy? " one woman de-
manded hysterically, as she gathered her lug-
gage. " What do those people think nerves are ?
If I had been a spy I'd have screamed. I'd have
asked them to arrest and shoot me, just to get it
The search of baggage was scarcely less minute.
You were made to feel again the possibility of
bombs, or deadly weapons, or secret documents.
It was, therefore, although we had docked at
noon, very nearly dark before we were collected
on the special train. And in the carriages, with
the suspense of the trip through the submarine
zone, with the irritation of the examinations done
with, we lay back, anticipating a momentary peace.
Instead reminders of war crowded more thickly
upon us. The guards were either very young or
very old. Prominently exposed in each compart-
ment was a sign commanding us to draw the blinds
on request as a measure of safety. While we
were in the dining-car a guard came through and
gave that order. The midland countryside,
flat and placid in the fading light, was shut out.
We turned to our meal with a realisation of how
1 6 WAR'S DARK FRAME
different this trip was from any we had ever taken.
We had a sensation of stealth, a personal share in
the deception of Zeppelins. The rumbling of the
train seemed discreet. When we glanced daringly
beyond the edge of a blind we saw clouds banked
against a pallid sky. A furnace glared redly.
The landscape was sullen, a little frightening.
The world was different and wrong.
The women looked as if for reassurance to the
mere boys who served us. They had an appear-
ance of going on tip-toe, of discouraging conversa-
tion. One of them answered a question.
" We're the only kind they can use. The men
are doing their bit, sir."
Yet the arrival of the train at Euston conveyed
little beyond the impression of quieter days. The
shed was sufficiently lighted, and one experienced,
indeed, the remembered scramble to identify lug-
gage at the vans, the pursuit of porters, the snar-
ing of taxi-cabs.
Driving into the street, the alteration sprang
upon us. It makes no difference how much you
may have read or heard of darkened London, the
reality reaches you with a sense of shock, not
wholly unpleasant. It stirs your memory, and
you can't guess why at first, because you have
never seen anything like it. Then you understand
as you rattle through the obscurity, as you catch
THE STRANGE ENGLAND 17
the trivial illumination from shrouded lamps, as
you stare at the glow from shop windows, discreet,
a little mysterious, more provocative than the viv-
idest electrical displays. It recalls what you have
imagined of Elizabethan London. And the city
does have an air of romance. It is very lovely,
too, because everything ugly is crushed beneath
the shadows, and everything beautiful acquires a
meaning new and sentimental.
Under such conditions the city offers exciting
contrasts. It is magic to step from the mediaeval
romance of the streets into the glittering present
of hotels, restaurants, or theatres. Within doors
the only material alteration is the carefully drawn
blinds. As many lights burn. As far as you can
judge as many people crowd the world of pleasure.
Yet there is as great a change inside, only it isn't
physical. The ever-present officer and soldier
point it for you. It takes some time to grow
accustomed to these splendid men in uniform.
You stare at them, observe their unstudied gaiety,
and are aware of a vast depression. Some are
back from the front on a few days' leave. Others,
by the blue uniform of the hospital, or by their
pallid faces, or by their missing limbs, advertise
their convalescence with a pitiful pride. The
greater number, however, are men still in training,
on leave from the various cantonments. One
1 8 WAR'S DARK FRAME
smiles at the talk of a scarcity of men without com-
pulsion. And these fellows are the best of the
nation — young, sturdy, handsome, awaiting their
baptism of fire with a quiet confidence. They
know, too, what that means. This war has left
them no illusions. High explosives, gas, liquid
fire, are common to their talk over tea table or
dinner. They face such things with a stolid
determination that surprises. It is the most thrill-
ing phase of London, this procession of youths
that have assumed the khaki, symbol of the
supreme sacrifice. They wear it too easily, yet in
reality there is something ecstatic about their
young faces — something quite beyond definition.
As the days passed one wondered that London
should be so crowded. At the popular restaurants
it was always necessary to engage a table in
advance. I heard acquaintances lament that they
had had to lunch at cheap tea houses after craving
admittance at eight or nine packed dining-rooms
in the neighbourhood of Piccadilly Circus.
The theatres housing popular plays shared the
same inflated prosperity. London had never
known such a season. Yet in spite of its easy
chatter, its surface cheerfulness, it was, to an
extent, restrained. There was little dancing out-
side of private houses. Evening clothes were
frowned upon. You saw them only among the
THE STRANGE ENGLAND 19
vulgar patrons of the most blatant hotels. Khaki
was the colour note by day and by night. Those
wearing it went about with women soberly dressed.
And in nearly every bravely smiling face you
caught an appreciation of imminence. The eyes
of soldiers and the eyes of wives, sweethearts, and
relatives seemed strained to regard an unknown
and melancholy prospect.
In a sense, you felt yourself an intruder.
Civilian clothing was an anachronism in London.
You realised that the soldier was responsible for
this city, crowded and a trifle unreal. You won-
dered if all of England was like this. You felt
that you must see the country districts.
For this excursion an American acquaintance
and I took advantage of one of the bank holidays.
We drove first of all to Cambridge. Even on the
road we were taught that rural England was more
thoroughly transformed than the metropolis.
We passed aviation instruction grounds. We saw
practice observation balloons in the air — un-
wieldy, misshapen objects, carrying boys ambi-
tious to make themselves targets for German anti-
aircraft guns. Transport trains rumbled by. In
one or two villages we saw artillery parked.
Khaki clad figures paced the sidewalks or strolled
among the fields. All England, you felt, was in
20 WAR'S DARK FRAME
The alteration impressed us most, perhaps, in
the two great university towns, Oxford and Cam-
bridge. We wandered through quadrangles and
halls, missing caps and gowns, seeking the familiar
atmosphere of undergraduate activity. Instead
we found proctors who displayed their brief rolls
of foreigners and the physically unfit.
" The others," they explained gravely, " have
gone to the war."
And war was here as thoroughly as it was in
London and among the hedges. For, although
we found few caps and gowns, there was khaki in
plenty. Several of the colleges had been turned
into training schools for officers. Men of univer-
sity age and appearance went through evolutions
and studied tactics in ancient quadrangles, prepar-
ing themselves to replace the Oxford and Cam-
bridge men already killed or rendered unfit for
There were hospitals, too. Figures on
crutches or grotesquely bandaged, struggled about
the grounds, or across the commons, a couple of
years ago noisy and active with the play of whole-
bodied, careless youngsters.
It was among the convalescents in Cambridge
that I found a veteran of those terrific first days
— one of the few survivors of the hell of Mons
THE STRANGE ENGLAND 21
and the retreat that had followed; of the battle of
the Marne ; of the deadly turmoil at Ypres.
He stood in the entrance of a garage at Cam-
bridge as we drove up and paused for gasoline.
His hair was grizzled. His face had many small
lines which gave it an expression a trifle quizzical.
His crutches and the blue band about the sleeve of
his service overcoat stamped him as still under
hospital treatment. His sergeant's chevrons, the
Scotch cap, set at an absurd angle, the little black
pipe protruding from his mouth, all seemed
pointers for the discontent in his whimsical,
middle-aged face. While he talked I waited for
an opportunity to find out the cause of his irrita-
tion. His most fervent description of the horror
of the retreat was :
" Oh, mon, but that was warm work."
The same expression did for the Marne and
" But when and how were you wounded?" I
He flushed. He puffed rapidly on his stubby
black pipe. He no longer looked one straight in
the eye. When he answered his voice was low
14 Not at Mons," he said, " not at the Marne,
not at Ypres."
22 WAR'S DARK FRAME
His voice thickened with revolt.
" It was on a day when there was nothing doing.
You understand? As quiet as you please. I lay
in a dug-out, reading a letter from my bonnie girl.
Along comes a shell and explodes in the entrance
— on a quiet day after all my chances. Disgust-
ing' s what I say. A fifteen months' job so far,
and they took pieces of that letter out of me in
France. They took them out of me on the
hospital boat. They took them out of me
His eyes twinkled.
" And I guess there's some wee paragraphs still
But the twinkle died. The discontent returned.
This man had a grievance beyond the manner of
his wounding. By chance it developed. My
companion fumbled in his pocket and produced
some small change.
" Perhaps," he suggested, " you'd like to drink
to the memory of those days."
The sergeant's discontent exploded.
" A British soldier ! " he cried. " A sergeant
in his Majesty's army! Me drink! I'm a baby.
A blessed, swaddling infant."
He tapped the blue band on his arm.
" Just because I'm under hospital treatment I
can't have my glass of beer. That's gratitude
THE STRANGE ENGLAND 23
for you! After what I've come through. I've
learned my lesson. I've had my dose."
" You mean/' I said mildly, " that when you
are quite well nothing will persuade you to put
yourself in the way of such ingratitude again?
You won't go back to war if they need you? "
He braced himself on his crutch. He took one
quick puff at his pipe.
" Like to see," he said guffly, " the man that'd
ask me that when I'm good and well."
He raised his hand in a simple salute. So they
grumble, these veterans!
When one turns from such refuse of battle to
the untried material one endeavours not to fore-
cast. By chance we came at nightfall to a town
which was the centre of a vast training cantonment.
Because of the restrictions on automobile lights it
is necessary to stop where darkness catches you.
We watched the dusk descend over the green and
rolling hills. From the distant hamlets, from the
nearer cottages, picturesque, with low thatched
roofs, no lights gleamed. The twilight acquired
a primeval quality. It encased one as in an
armour against an eager and treacherous enemy.
Soldiers, too self-conscious, perhaps because of
this primitive projection from their surroundings,
guided with sentimental gestures along the road-
24 WAR'S DARK FRAME
side smirking or bashful girls. Sometimes the
girls laughed, but not frequently. And the change
grasped one tighter than ever because of this
pursuit of romance, almost reluctant and a little
appalled, through the turmoil of a dreadful re-
We hurried on. Utter darkness caught us in
the main street. We crept the few remaining
yards to the hotel we had chosen. A dining-room,
brown and black with khaki and the usual soberly
dressed women, greeted us. The proprietor was
regretful. We could have dinner but no room.
As we ate, our feeling of intrusion increased.
These women, it was clear, had left their homes to
live in an uncomfortable hotel in order that they
might be with their husbands, their sons, or their
brothers until the order should be given, until this
cantonment should break up, until these officers
should leave for Flanders to face the chances of
which the newspapers with thoughtless cruelty per-
petually reminded them. From their bearing you
caught their appraisal of each day's value. There
was little laughter. The murmuring voices cre-
ated a monotone, full of misgivings, pitifully
It was a relief to go forth with a guide to seek
a lodging. Just across a stone bridge we found
it in a small, quaint hotel. This, too, was
THE STRANGE ENGLAND 25
crowded with officers and their families. In the
tiny bar you heard only military talk.
" How are your fellows doing with their patrol
" Jolly well. It's almost a pity there aren't
Huns about for them to fool."
Or: "What about Captain Smith, Doctor?"
A laugh from the doctor.
" Measles, of all things ! Must have got it on
leave. Fortunately no one's been exposed."
You travel safely in England these days only
with an identity book, furnished after investiga-
tion by the police of the district in which you live.
It is required that you report yourself and have
your book stamped by the local police in every
town you visit in the forbidden districts. We set
forth, therefore, for the police station. As soon
as we had crossed the stone bridge we became
hopelessly lost. I had never dreamed of such
darkness. There was no moon. The sky was
clouded, obscuring the stars. From no building
escaped the faintest gleam of light. In the main
street you could fancy yourself in a wilderness.
The night was like a smothering blanket. It
appeared to offer your outstretched hands a pal-
People ran into you or you ran into others,
26 WAR'S DARK FRAME
" Where is the police station? "
" Heaven knows. By daylight it ought to be a
couple of blocks to the left, if you run into the
" How will we know the church? "
" It is very large, and solid," a wag answered,
" You'll recognise it if it stops you."
A constable, met in this obscure and abrupt
fashion, kindly took' us in tow. With whispered
sympathy he stamped our books.
" Now," he asked, " do you think you can find
your way back? It's a long time, you know,
He gave us minute directions. We followed
them almost wholly by the sense of touch.
It was difficult to go to sleep that night. Until
very late I listened to the perpetual shuffling of
feet along the sidewalks — the tentative feet of
countless young men, condemned to war, groping a
course through a complete and inimical darkness.
After that London was no longer black. As we
drove in, its few hooded lamps seemed brazenly
inviting disaster. We brought back to it one con-
viction. Rural England is not apathetic. All
Britain is heart and soul in the war. Even then
it was hard to accept as real the brilliant, careless
complacency of our own country. That became a
memory from the remote past.
THE STRANGE ENGLAND 27
Not many days after, the lesson was strength-
ened by the sight of heroes marching through an
admiring, worshipful multitude. I hadn't realised
that the war already had its memorial days. On
that morning the few that remained of the
Australian and New Zealand troops who made the
heroic and tragic landing at Gallipoli were
gathered in London for what will always be called
in their honour Anzac Day.
It brought the war very close to step into the
Strand and to see above the bobbing heads of a
nearly silent crowd the brown campaign hats with
coloured bands of the New Zealanders. There
were so many spectators — women, old men,
young girls, and a multitude of youths in uniform
— that it was difficult at first to get close to the
marchers. At the curb finally, one no longer
needed to probe that silence of the great crowd,
singular, a little startling. The faces of the
soldiers, beneath a bright animation, were serious
and full of remembrance. The brisk, round notes
of the bugles and the tapping of drums were
unlike such sounds as we remember them on Fifth
Avenue or in the armouries of a land at peace.
With a lithe rhythm the thin brown line came on.
It was a survival. With it marched ghosts, an
infinite army of shadows — once such men as
these, and familiar and friendly to these eyes which
28 WAR'S DARK FRAME
glanced curiously at the human river of the Strand.
Mere boys, here were veterans of such fighting
as the world has seldom seen. It was disquieting
to forecast. In a few weeks how many more
shadows would crowd the thinned ranks!
The Australians joined the New Zealanders.
They marched to Westminster Abbey, where the
Queen and King came to mourn with them, to
share as far as possible in their sombre pride.
The crowd filled the sidewalks and the streets.
Men and women bent from windows, clung to rail-
ings, sought a precarious footing on the wheels of
wagons, or about stalled omnibuses. It was as
great as the crowd at a football game. It was as
soundless as those who gape at the funeral pro-
cession of some imposing personage.
A group of wounded stood on the roof of a low
building near the Abbey entrance. The Queen
and King paced from the Abbey. The King wore
a service uniform similar to the uniforms of the
wounded on the low roof. As he stepped into his
carriage a single hand protruded from the mangled
group. A single voice cried out, piercingly, hys-
terically, as if the King must be made to hear and
understand and perform a miracle :
" Think of my arm! Oh, think of my arm! "
The crowd was too dense to get fingers to ears.
Nor would it have been any use, for from the
THE STRANGE ENGLAND 29
Abbey deliberately emerged a column whose
eloquence was voiceless. Nurses in melancholy
grey wheeled incomplete men in invalid chairs or
blanket-covered stretchers down the foot-paths
between the lawns. Some crawled painfully after,
on crutches, or bent over like very old men who
can no longer measure their strength. The com-
paratively sound followed, filling Parliament
Square in ranks that awaited the word to march.
Policemen spoke roughly, forcing stragglers into
the ranks. This picture of a constable, guardian
of peace, handling a soldier, instrument of death,
created an incongruity that pointed the whole
illogical effrontery of war.
Again the bugles blared. Again the brown
ranks stepped quickly out — two thousand men,
nearly all of whom had been wounded or had
suffered from the fevers of camp life. Again the
procession of handsome, purposeful young faces
moved swiftly by, with groping expressions, as if
missing some one. The incomplete wrecks on the
stretchers and in the chairs made futile movements,
attempted a fragile cheer. The sun continued its
brilliancy, untroubled by the smallest cloud. It
was like the phantasmagoria of nightmare beneath
a heaven crowded with white tempest. One
wanted to fling up one's hands and burst into tears
for the dead — and for those not yet dead.
BATTLE, ZEPPELINS, AND DEMOCRACY
AS far from the front as London it became
obvious that the nearer one approaches
this war the nearer one visualises a vivid
growth of democracy. A number of incidents, at
the time apparently trivial, assume in retrospect
a very real importance.
I had been interested in the women's share. I
had visited hospitals, watching the nurses at their
merciful work. I had seen them, with an amusing
diffidence, accomplishing men's tasks on trams and
busses, even at the wheels of taxicabs. I knew
of their labour in the munition factories. I was
not prepared, however, for the surprise an Eng-
lish friend offered me when I went to visit him at
his home in Surrey. He was a man of wealth and
I was curious when his daughter didn't appear
" I'll show you this afternoon what she's at,"
he promised mysteriously.
He wouldn't say anything else.
We set off in his automobile, stopping at a
ZEPPELINS AND DEMOCRACY 31
soldiers' convalescent home to pick up two
wounded men, for Englishmen don't like to use
automobiles without sharing their luxury with the
We halted at a neat farm in a hollow. A
horsey-looking individual appeared.
" Where's the young lady? " my host asked.
The other took his pipe from his mouth and
pointed with it in the direction of a distant rise.
" In summit field with Jerry and Jinny."
" How's she coming on? "
The horsey man puffed thoughtfully at his pipe.
M Better," he said grudgingly, " than I cal-
culated. She knows something about horses."
We went on to the top of the rise. The sol-
diers, because of their wounds, couldn't leave the
automobile, but my host led me down a lane to a
broad field. A solitary, dusty figure crossed the
field with long strides, calling cheerily to the raw-
boned horses she drove, clinging with real skill to
the handle of a plough.
" My daughter," my wealthy host announced.
Real pride rang in his voice.
She was a very pretty girl — all the handsomer,
one felt, for a thorough coat of tan. Nor could
her corduroy skirt or her khaki blouse diminish
the grace of her figure. It was easy to understand
her father's pride. She talked pleasantly with us
32 WAR'S DARK FRAME
about her work. There was no attempt to make
light of it. She didn't define it in terms of sacri-
" I'm sorry I missed you this morning," she said
in her casual, educated voice, absurdly at variance
with her occupation. " But, you see, I must be at
work by six, so I leave home at five. I carry my
luncheon in a basket, and it's jolly good at noon,
even in solitude."
" When do you get home? " I gasped.
" Usually in time for a late dinner. You know
I must cover this field to-night, or I'll have no
dinner at all."
We watched her as she called to her horses and
strode gracefully away.
11 That's her life," her father reflected, " and,
on the whole, I fancy it's better for her than teas
and dances and the things girls used to do. She
loves horses, so she's capable."
" But why — " I began.
"Don't you understand?" he said. "She
releases one man more to go to war."
An aeroplane whirred across the downs towards
France. The wounded soldiers welcomed us back
to the automobile. I gazed at their bandages and
Certainly the plough girl was democratic. Yet,
you couldn't help thinking, it was a pity her devo-
ZEPPELINS AND DEMOCRACY 33
tion should have no more beautiful object than the
release of a man to become, let us say, like one of
these maimed fellows who somehow managed to
colour their invalid pallor with smiles for us.
At every turning the sign posts of a social
change meet you. I remember a middle-aged
woman in black who rode ahead of me one after-
noon on the top of a bus. A newsboy in Hay-
market burst the bounds of propriety with a
strident yell. We all had a partial glimpse of the
poster in his hand, announcing the sinking of a
The woman, who in peace times, you felt, would
have been in an automobile, turned to me with a
cry of fright.
" Did you see the name of the ship ? " she asked.
" I couldn't."
I had noticed one of the posters just before
mounting the bus.
" It's the Blank," I answered. " She was sunk
in the Mediterranean."
The colour rushed back to her face. The sharp
anxiety faded from her eyes.
" Thanks," she said, and turned away.
After a moment she looked back. It was evi-
dent she felt the need of an explanation.
" You see," she said, " I have lost my brother
34 WAR'S DARK FRAME
in the navy, and my son is with the high seas fleet.
One goes about expecting news like that all the
time. I ought not to be glad it was in the Med-
iterranean, for there are many women whose fear
will grow when they hear that word. Thank you.
You understand? "
" I understand."
I descended, thinking:
" A little more than two years ago this woman
would not have spoken to a stranger, no matter
what her sudden doubt."
So the perpetual strain, its general distribution,
draws people to each other for comfort, because
so many of them can say:
II I understand."
Any one will tell you that the Zeppelin raids
have encouraged such a community of feeling.
They have destroyed in every portion of the popu-
lation of the London and East Coast districts the
comfortable aloofness from actual warfare to
which English civilians have for centuries been
accustomed. The fact that non-combatants have
frequently been the only victims has intensified this
impression of a common outrage, and a common
The Germans, it is fair to assume, haven't
bothered about who might be hurt, but, as a matter
ZEPPELINS AND DEMOCRACY 35
of fact, in proportion to the energy and ammuni-
tion expended, together with the loss of Zeppelins
and their crews, the results have been nearly
negligible. It is, all the more on that account,
ironical that the innocent should have been the
" If they go after a factory," an officer said to
me, " they get a workingman's house a mile or so
away. If they go for a barracks they get a farm.
It's small comfort for the old men and the women
and children done in that no real damage has been
No one seems to know what the Zeppelins were
after the night they dropped bombs in one of the
great inns of law. A house of some peaceful
barristers here, the shattering of some ancient
carvings and glass in a chaper there, and about the
lawns a few gaping holes — that was the extent
of the damage. Zeppelin raids have all the cas-
ual inconsistency of a tempest.
London, when I was in the city, had learned
about as thoroughly as Paris to take care of this
menace. With the decline of the moon a little
nervousness was apparent, but for the most part
people faced the prospect calmly. During one
week after the departure of the moon had made
the heavens safer for aircraft we had three of
these visits in a row. At tea on the afternoon of
36 WAR'S DARK FRAME
the first raid I heard a retired admiral and a
famous editor discussing it as one talks of an
approaching horse race or a ball game.
" Everything is quite perfect for them. The
wind of the last fortnight has died away," the
admiral said, rubbing his hands. " Now if you
want to lay a wager — "
At the theatre that night, although the audience
shared this sense of anticipation, the play pro-
gressed cheerfully. When we came out after the
final curtain we saw that the heavens were torn
by the groping fingers of countless searchlights.
From the wide spaces of Trafalgar Square we
could watch occasionally shrapnel bursting close to
the shafts of light, and we pointed out to each
other what we imagined to be the minute shape of
a Zeppelin, flying high.
" Mybe the bloke fawncies 'es over Lunnon," a
constable said. " If so, Gawd 'elp 'im when 'e
tries to fly back."
" Aw, they dawn't get over the 'eart of Lunnon
these days," said a cab driver, lounging by in the
hope of a fare. Show ayn't worth the price of
stying out. 'Ome for you, gentlemen? "
Later, in a room overlooking the Embankment,
a party of us watched in darkness. The fingers
of light still groped, but there was no more shrap-
nel. A pretty young girl grasped her father's
ZEPPELINS AND DEMOCRACY 37
arm. She cried out, her voice vibrating with dis-
" Daddy ! You promised I should see a Zep
" Never mind, my dear," the father said indul-
gently. " Bobby, suppose you call up Blank at
the War Office and ask where the rascals have
After a time Bobby returned from the tele-
phone. He was apologetic.
" Blank says they're headed for the home fires."
Our host drew the curtain and snapped on the
lights. We blinked. The pretty girl pouted.
She seemed to think her father had somehow
11 A game of bridge," he suggested, " or is it too
One was rather relieved that the German
admiralty couldn't see London intimately that
night. Its chagrin would have been too painful.
Some time later I chanced to see a quotation
from a Munich paper which, recalling that very
date, threatened London with similar " nights of
During the same week I lunched with an officer
of one of the guard regiments.
" Of course you know the Zeps were fussing
about again last night," he said.
38 WAR'S DARK FRAME
I told him I had seen the lights and had shared
a little of the excitement.
" I was in barracks at ," he chatted. " I
don't know how many of the things there were.
One of them sailed directly over the barracks
square. We were crowded in looking up. What
a place for a bomb ! This fellow dropped a num-
ber in some empty fields as usual. You could see
their fuses twisting down. Then he showed a red
light on his tail — some kind of a signal, I fancy,
and swung towards the channel. I think our air
guns were spoiling his evening. At least the
shrapnel was bursting all about. Last we saw
of him. He must have felt an awful fool,
but they ought to be getting accustomed to
Before the moon had come again one had nearly
forgotten with the Londoners to be apprehensive
of the great dirigibles. In such indifference lies
the tragedy of Count Zeppelin.
If, however, such considerations as Zeppelins
and anxiety for relatives at the front have accented
the virtues of democracy, its faults have also fat-
tened through the war. The French and the Eng-
lish appreciated that during the first few months.
It challenged me during my brief trip to Ireland
during the Sinn Fein rebellion. I have no inten-
ZEPPELINS AND DEMOCRACY 39
tion of taking up the military or political phases of
that affair. They have been sufficiently dissected
and fought over.
My chief recollection, indeed, is of confusion.
It began at Euston where they had no idea
whether the boat would leave Holyhead or not.
Haggard women wept, and men ran up and down
with an anxiety for which the officials had no
antidote. A young fellow in the uniform of the
naval flying corps came along and held out an
envelope and a bundle of newspapers.
" If you get through, please try to mail these in
Ireland," he said to me. " I can't go, and my
family's in Dublin. I've heard nothing."
" If the Zeps come to-night," a bystander
offered, " nobody'll get through. The train won't
budge from London."
But the Zeppelins didn't come, and we left,
and in the train the confusion persisted. An army
officer shared a compartment with another corre-
spondent and myself. We turned out the lights,
rolled ourselves in our overcoats, and tried to
sleep. But we couldn't sleep. There was too
much noise in the corridors, and a monotonous
undertone issued from the other compartments
where people, full of misgivings for relatives and
friends, discussed the future which they ap-
proached with uncertain steps. There were black
4 o WAR'S DARK FRAME
clouds in the sky through which the moon was like
a dying lamp.
" I'm used to roughing it," the officer said.
" I've slept often enough less comfortably at the
front. It isn't that that worries me. I've been
transferred to a regiment stationed at some dis-
tance from Dublin. If they tell me at Holyhead
the trains aren't running on the other side I'll have
to go back to London."
At Holyhead the confusion sent him back to
London, because nobody seemed to know anything
The boat, however, lay against the dock with
steam up. During the minute examination of our
papers rain added to the shivering discomfort of
those black hours before the dawn. Reluctantly
we were permitted to embark. We tried to settle
ourselves in the midst of a confusion which
There was wild but serious talk of a fleet of new
and gigantic German submarines which were sup-
posed to be somewhere in the Irish Sea preparing
to co-operate with the rebels.
" They're sure to give us a chase," a man whis-
Many agreed. You couldn't help admiring
these people who went forward in face of such a
ZEPPELINS AND DEMOCRACY 41
Ireland loomed out of a haze touched by the
first grey light. The haze seemed a veil for
sinister things. The passengers arose and
stretched themselves, as if emerging from the
shadow of one disaster to gather strength to elude
And at the dock the confusion, for us at any
rate, culminated. Here it had the whimsical,
lovable quality of the country. An officer stopped
us at the gangplank.
" Where are you going? "
" Ashore for breakfast, for a lodging, to look
" You can't land without a pass from the
provost marshal in Kingstown."
" You mean," I asked, " that we will have to go
back on this boat? "
" Oh, no," he answered seriously, " because you
can't leave on this boat without a pass from the
provost marshal in Kingstown."
By strategy and fair words we got ashore and
to the provost marshal. Of the confusion
there, as I have suggested, enough has been
written already. When I left on a clear, ruddy
evening it occurred to me that rather too much
undemocratic order was emerging from the hurly-
burly, for I had to run a gauntlet of Scotland
42 WAR'S DARK FRAME
Yard men, of the British army, of the Irish Con-
stabulary, of Mr. Redmond's Nationalist Volun-
teers. On the boat, however, the old state was
in evidence. We were crowded by the first
refugees from Dublin — men and women with
nerves over-taut who knew of that story of the
gigantic German submarines. Moreover, the
barricades on the water front at Kingstown had
seemed to give the rumour rather too much body.
We crept out of the harbour double-shrouded.
Canvas light shields were stretched along the
sides. The portholes were closely shuttered.
Only one entrance, far forward and completely
dark, was left open to the lower deck.
There was a dim light in the smoke-room, and
we counted the minutes there while the refugees,
a trifle hysterical, exchanged experiences.
Suddenly what everybody had feared seemed
to spring upon us. The lights snapped out.
Through a blackness nearly palpable a cry cut.
" Submarines ! "
The thought of panic in this shrouded boat was
more oppressive than the sudden night.
" Sit still!"
Then a man spoke wistfully and saved the situa-
" What are you afraid of? It couldn't be any
worse than a happy Easter in Dublin."
ZEPPELINS AND DEMOCRACY 43
Some of us laughed. Gradually the ominous
stirring subsided. Every one sat still until by and
by the lights came on and we looked at each other
and smiled. A man ran in, crying breathlessly:
" Holyhead light! I say, I can see Holyhead
A great sigh went up. We all crowded to the
front deck to watch that red and friendly greet-
PARIS AND ITS WAR SPIRIT
EACH trip through the submarine zone, in
fact, has its thrill until you grow, to a
measure, hardened. When I was ready
to leave for France the channel crossing seemed
for a number of reasons less pleasant than
usual. Only one line was in operation, and that
was taking the long route from Southampton to
Havre. That the Sussex tragedy had had some-
thing to do with the choice was obvious. People
spoke of the approaching excursion with misgiv-
ings. The antidote for most of them, it is likely,
was the extended formalities they had to accom-
plish before they were permitted to risk their lives
at all. The police, the American consul, the
French consul, local detectives, Scotland Yard
agents, and French secret service men — those
were some of the obstacles to dishonest travel
between the continent and England.
I was amused when I drove with my baggage to
the pier entrance in Southampton. I had been
conducted that afternoon by the courtesy of the
Admiralty through one of the great dockyards.
PARIS AND ITS WAR SPIRIT 45
Therefore, I didn't come down from London on
the special train with the rest of the passengers.
At a stated hour the gate was thrown open and
I was permitted to drive in after an examination
of passports. I found an elderly porter in front
of the ticket office. I asked him to take my lug-
gage from the cab. As the result of extended and
silent consideration he agreed, apparently against
his better judgment. While he worked he shook
his head continually.
I turned to enter the ticket office. He grasped
my arm. His gesture and his face expressed a
desire to spare me an indiscretion. This time he
" Where you off to, sir?"
" To buy my ticket for France. "
I am convinced he was a Wesleyan. I have
never seen a longer face.
" Better not do that, sir," he said mournfully,
" until you find out whether you're going."
I laughed and walked on. He called after me
with the effect of pursuing an erring soul. With
each word his voice grew shriller.
" Very often they don't go, sir. I tell you,
they don't go. They stops 'em at the dock."
I was tired, so, when I was aboard the boat, I
entered my bunk; but sleep was nearly out of the
question because of that justifiable care and sever-
46 WAR'S DARK FRAME
ity of which the old porter had warned me. Men
and women struggled through until just before
dawn. At times they complained loudly. At
others they congratulated themselves in equally
unrestrained voices. The idea of sleeping oc-
curred to few. The man who shared my cabin
went to bed with his shoes on. Perhaps he was
There wasn't much talk after breakfast. The
passengers sat or walked about, anxiously scan-
ning the water. The coast of France emerged
from the haze. We passed the skeleton masts of
several ships, sunk by submarines. We made the
harbour entrance, and spirits revived. Such
chatter as last night's disturbed the boat again.
People wondered if there would be at the dock a
new ordeal. There was, for France is as careful
and suspicious as England.
It was one of those hot, brilliant days Nor-
mandy receives occasionally. The harbour, un-
troubled by the slightest breeze, was like a mir-
ror for the violent sun.
We were herded in a shed of a single story on
the water front. A tall military policeman with
bristling moustaches guarded the gate to the
examination room. Beyond him we had glimpses
of a long deal table, around which sat numerous
PARIS AND ITS WAR SPIRIT 47
inquisitors, in uniform and out, French and
Because of the crowd in the little room it was
impossible to put down one's coat and hand bags.
Their weight increased momentarily as the un-
clouded sun baked the flimsy roof overhead.
Many of us commenced to look as if we were more
in need of a physician's certificate than one of
entry. Then at a grumbled word from the in-
quisitors the proceedings opened.
With a commendable partiality the huge mili-
tary policeman roared:
" Ladies first! Step forward, and don't push
abawt so. Now, lady. You got your passport
There were more women than one would have
thought. Because of the increasing heat and the
weight of baggage the situation had approached
the intolerable when the military policeman cried
" No more ladies? "
Suspense ! A sigh of relief as the silence per-
sisted ! We who were not at the front of the line
began to compute the duration of our ordeal. A
groan disturbed our ranks, for the military police-
man was following evidently an extended order
48 WAR'S DARK FRAME
" All with diplomatic passports," came his
leonine voice, " kindly step forward."
And, after a number of important-appearing
men had been passed through:
" Are there any more with diplomatic pass-
The case was desperate. I called over the
heads of the others:
" Sergeant! I have a journalistic passport."
" What? " he thundered back.
" A journalistic passport," I repeated, less
It meant nothing, and I knew it.
" Let that gentleman through ! " he roared.
It was, I felt as I struggled forward, his inten-
tion to discipline my presumption with some sharp
words and a command to take the rear of the line.
His frown was ominous, his bristling moustaches
" Let's see your passport," he growled.
"What do you mean? I asked for diplomatic
I handed him the much vised document. He
glanced it over. A more dangerous belligerency
coloured his tone.
" You got an office in London? "
" No," I answered meekly. " I have a sort of
an office in New York."
PARIS AND ITS WAR SPIRIT 49
The threat faded from his appearance and his
voice. He smiled with a childish and excited in-
"New York! "he echoed.
He swung the gate open.
" Step right in, sir. Make yourself comfort-
And as I obeyed:
"Why didn't you say that in the first place?
I'm from New York not two years ago. Expect
to go back after the war, if I don't get killed. I
used to run an elevator in the Waldorf. What's
the news from Broadway? Give my regards to
He was too friendly. I was among the last of
the sufferers to be released by him into the hands
of the judges.
As at Liverpool the narrow mesh of these spy
nets was made apparent. As a farther check, I
fancy, we were made to spend nearly seven hours
in Havre waiting for the departure of the special
train for Paris.
I wasn't sorry, for Havre in itself had plenty of
interest. It is the working capital of invaded
Belgium. It is one of the great English bases.
Consequently the uniforms of French, Belgians,
50 WAR'S DARK FRAME
and British were everywhere in evidence, but the
British, naturally, predominated.
From the waterfront I watched transports enter
and leave the harbour. On the docks the work of
unloading proceeded with a precise efficiency. In
the streets, wagons and automobile trucks, to which
good-natured Tommies clung, hurried tempestu-
ously. Officers strolled here and there, swinging
little canes. Their faces were rather more serious
than the faces scanned in London. All at once
you realised that you were actually on the soil of
war-torn France, within a few miles of the
grotesque and deadly battle of the trenches.
And in the train the shadow of the war deep-
ened again. As we steamed inland across a land-
scape which, for me, had always had an air of
sedate pleasuring, we caught glimpses of tents,
and the intricate movements of men at battle
Elderly French Territorials in faded blue and
red uniforms lined the railroad tracks and guarded
the bridges. As our cars flashed past they pre-
sented arms or stood at attention. We threaded
through great supply trains on temporary tracks
in the vicinity of Rouen. The heat was unreal
in such a country. It seemed that it must be an
off-giving from the great, near-by forge of battle.
Then darkness closed over the steaming world, as
PARIS AND ITS WAR SPIRIT 51
if to hide from our eager eyes the elaborate ma-
chinery of war.
At St. Lazarre we passed the last examination
and scattered to our hotels.
Curiously, arriving at night as I did, my first
impression was that Paris was more nearly normal
than London. Almost at once I realised that
this was due to the contrast between the few but
unveiled street lamps, the unblanketed glow from
buildings, and the darkened thoroughfares and the
curtained windows of England. In addition there
was the difference in the Anglo-Saxon tempera-
ment, after all, largely our own, and the admira-
ble Gallic intensity of temporary appreciation
which even this war has been powerless to de-
The terrasse cafes were crowded, and the many
soldiers, wearing their graceful steel helmets,
seemed undisturbed by what they had already sur-
vived and unappalled by that which awaited them
at the close of their brief permissions.
By daylight the truer values obtruded them-
selves. Nearly every woman wore mourning.
Their white faces haunted one, because out of the
eyes, in which there were no tears, stared a fierce
pride that burned up grief.
I talked with one of these women at a simple
tea. Her history had been rapidly sketched for
52 WAR'S DARK FRAME
me. She was the widow of a colonel who had
been wounded in an early battle, and killed almost
immediately after his return to duty. Before
the war this woman had lived in a charming apart-
ment near the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, the
most expensive quarter of Paris. Like many
army officers her husband had spent all of his in-
come. Now with her child, a nine year old boy,
she lived in a single garret room, sewing, by odd
jobs striving to maintain the shadow of a home.
From the deep frame of mourning her sorrow-
ful face glowed with that pride that has made all
Frenchwomen, to an extent, resemble each other.
She spoke almost at once, as if there were no
other subject worth talking about, of her husband
and the manner of his death.
" I was so happy when he came back with his
wound for that little time, and when he went I
thought the good Lord would let him return again.
When they killed him he wasn't painfully hurt,
but, you see, the great artery in his thigh was cut.
He understood, of course; but his men were in a
bad place, so he had them prop him up, and he
directed the defence and sent a message to me
while he bled to death, knowing all the time, until
the light faded-—"
She shook her head.
" He shouldn't have gone that way. If Doc-
PARIS AND ITS WAR SPIRIT 53
tor Carrel had only been there! He's saved
such cases. He need not have died."
And always one asked, " Why don't the tears
come into this woman's eyes? "
One prayed that they would, and that the stiff,
stern figure would relax a little. The gesture
with which she raised her tea cup was angular,
somnambulistic. The boy stared at her with a
round, pallid, and expressionless face.
" You may have another cake, little one," the
He munched it without words until some one
" And what are you going to do when you grow
up, young man? "
His voice was as expressionless as his face.
" I am going to be a soldier, like papa."
The widow made a swift movement.
" You see ? And I have had nothing to do
with it — nothing at all. It is in the blood of the
orphans. Must we lose them, too? Why do
you want to be a soldier, son? "
" I want to kill the Germans, because they
killed my poor papa."
His face twitched into an expression at last,
and, as he continued to sip his tea, great tears
rolled down his cheeks and fell into the cup. But
the widow didn't cry.
54 WAR'S DARK FRAME
In the great munition factories most of the
women wore mourning, too, and the eyes of many
were disturbingly like the eyes of the widow. It
was not easy at first to watch their slender, dark-
clothed figures, their soft and pretty faces, bent
over tasks of preparing death and mutilation for
men. You wanted to turn straightway from the
contemplation of their deft fingers pouring shrap-
nel bullets into completed casings, or from the
easy skill with which they moulded and polished
ammunition. Then that look and the dryness of
their eyes stripped from their labour something
of its dreadful incongruity, gave to it a tinge
of justifiable revenge. And it was impressed upon
the observer more than ever that in the fragile
hands of the women lies the power that some day
may obliterate war.
It is this grim, matter-of-fact determination of
both sexes, of all classes of the French, that ar-
rests one. It is, in a sense, hypnotic. Even
from the little boys playing at soldiering in the
street it projects itself. For me it found its cul-
mination in a review I watched one afternoon in
the Place des Invalides.
Infantry, cavalry, and several batteries of the
famous soixante-quinzes filled with sober colour
the place where many times Napoleon reviewed
his brilliant corps. Eyes wandered from the
PARIS AND ITS WAR SPIRIT 55
quiet, helmeted ranks to the dome of the Invalides
beneath which the great emperor lay. His tomb
seemed to brood over the review, and in neigh-
bouring faces you read a perception, nearly super-
stitious, of the soul of the inspired leader who had
brought so much glory to France. Then the band
burst into the Marseillaise. As the ranks swung
over the bridge the crowd cheered. I have never
heard such cheering. It wasn't a matter of vol-
ume. It was a curious choked quality that ar-
rested one. It was as if these people tried to give
vent to an emotion beyond physical expression and
were angry at their failure. Yet for them the
music seemed to express everything.
LORRAINE AND THE DEVASTATION
ONE learns to shrink from the great rail-
way terminals in war time. On several
occasions I left Paris by rail to visit the
front, and each time the excitement of the pros-
pect died at the ticket window. I think it is be-
cause these stations have witnessed too many de-
partures for battle, too much of the tearing of
warm life from warm life and the definitive
rupture of romance, too many broken returns, too
many shocked greetings.
My first introduction came not long after dawn
of a grey morning. The foreign office had asked
if I would like to visit Lorraine, suggesting that
I take the day train for Nancy where a staff officer
and an automobile would meet me. An elderly
English Quaker, who was interested in Red Cross
work and the rebuilding of devastated villages,
joined me, and together we drove through the
scarcely awakened streets to the Gare de l'Est.
We entered to present our papers and accomplish
the formalities that are necessary before one may
take a ticket.
LORRAINE AND DEVASTATION 57
With a pronounced reluctance the dun light
penetrated the great hall, which had an air of
mourning. Soldiers crowded the wide spaces,
shivering. Their uniforms were soiled. Some
retained the white marks of the trenches. The
young faces were drawn, unhappy, wondering.
For the most part these fellows were permission-
aires, returning to the trenches after eight days
of home and love and hero worship. They had
swung their backs on all that, knowing, if they
were not hit, it would be many months, perhaps
a year, before they could experience such bless-
ings again. They were like a band of men of
whom a certain number has been chosen for some
violent discipline and who are left in doubt as to
the actual selections.
The place was saturated with melancholy. In-
stinctively we left it. Across the plaza we saw
a cafe whose name was in harmony with the spirit
of the station.
" Cafe du Depart."
"A cup of coffee ?" the elderly Quaker sug-
gested, for neither of us had had any breakfast.
We sat on the terrasse among the soldiers,
watching regretful faces above faded uniforms.
Accoutrements littered the pavement between the
tables. One or two men spoke to us formally,
and we answered formally. Beyond that there
5 8 WAR'S DARK FRAME
was no companionable morning chatter. We all
stared at the grey facade of the station. The
huge clock mocked us, pacing the minutes too
quickly. In the eyes of the soldiers smouldered
their doubt. Would they enter at that portal
once more? Would they look again upon the
familiar and the desirable?
From the summit of the facade gazed back the
stone figure of a woman. There would have been
no mistaking it even if it hadn't been labelled.
It was the figure of Strassburg. It had an ap-
pearance of summoning the staring and melancholy
soldiers through that portal and on to the East
for a violent and necessary redemption.
Our compartment was filled with officers.
Even my Quaker companion wore a uniform of
the Red Cross. On that long train I was the
only one in civilian clothing.
We glided quickly into the district entered by
the Germans just before the battle of the Marne.
About bridgeheads many buildings lay in ruins.
We passed the once charming little town of Ser-
maize-les-Bains. Scarcely a wall showed more
than two feet high.
An officer spoke.
" They say it was because the mayor of Ser-
maize failed to come out and greet the commander
LORRAINE AND DEVASTATION 59
of the entering forces. That offended the com-
mander. Wherefore — "
His hand made a circling gesture in the direc-
tion of the accusing rubbish.
All morning and during a portion of the after-
noon we were carried through the war zone,
pausing at towns whose names have become im-
mortal. And in the fields between we saw many
graves, marked with crosses, here and there sup-
porting a faded cap. About the graves the fields
were cultivated, yet no mound had been disturbed.
The French have come to look upon the random
tombs of the men who fell saving Paris as na-
tional monuments. They impress one as the
most imposing memorials a nation has ever con-
During this trip I received one or two examples
of the social justice of compulsory military service
as it is practised in France. My Quaker compan-
ion and I were gossiping of Japan at luncheon in
the wagon restaurant. Next to the Quaker sat
a pleasant, middle-aged man, wearing the uni-
form, made of a sort of overall material, of the
transport corps. Suddenly he turned and spoke
in excellent English.
" You are interested in Japan? "
We embarked on a random conversation.
Quite naturally it developed before we were
6o WAR'S DARK FRAME
through, that the man in overalls owned coal
mines in Japan, in South America, in Belgium.
" Of course," he smiled, " the Belgian mines
must be looked upon for the present as a bad in-
In overalls, driving soldiers and supplies to the
front, this man of exceptional wealth !
" I'm going back after my first permission in
more than a year."
" You despise such work?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
" One does one's share, and that is arranged
according to the best interests of France. My
task has its compensations. For instance, at the
commencement of the battle of Verdun when
things looked rather dark I helped in that marvel
of transport. You must have heard. We moved
fifty thousand men in motor trucks from Revigny
to the Verdun sector in a twinkling."
A little later we passed Revigny. He waved
his hand, buttoned his coat of overall material,
and left us.
Across the aisle a colonel shared a bottle of
wine with a private. They chatted amiably.
Yet at work the discipline of the French develops
results that more than match the iron bound Ger-
We halted at Bar-le-Duc, the base for Verdun.
LORRAINE AND DEVASTATION 61
The third great attempt of the Germans to break
through was in progress. The booming of the
guns came to us across rolling hills. There was
scarcely an entire pane of glass in the station.
The squat barrack-like temporary hospitals, filled
with the martyrs who had entered the turmoil, to
return shattered along the Sacred Way, sent forth
an air of suffering and misgiving. For the Ger-
mans at that time were in the habit of raiding
Bar-le-Duc with their air squadrons. The day
after my last visit, indeed, they dropped a shower
of bombs, killing and maiming more than thirty
Beyond we left the main line, taking a tangent
to the south to avoid the salient at St. Mihiel.
At the first station west of Nancy the control-
leur told us we must alight.
" The train," he explained, " does not stop in
Nancy itself, because of the Boche bombard-
We were greeted on the platform by a stout,
hospitable man in the uniform of the Etat Major.
He drove us into Nancy whose chief beauties, in
spite of the bombardment, have remained intact.
There was enough of ruin, however, for the most
part in the vicinity of the station, which the Ger-
mans have been unable to hit directly. An apart-
ment house in the middle of a block had recently
62 WAR'S DARK FRAME
been struck. All that had survived was a heap
of rubbish in a yawning hole. More pitiful, more
productive of anger, was the rubble and charred
beams that marked the site of a children's school.
If it has been the purpose of the Germans to make
the innocent suffer in Nancy they have achieved an
admirable success. We noticed particularly the
wreck of a dwelling house.
" That," our captain explained, " was struck by
a great shell, and afterwards bombed by an aero-
Strangely, when I was in Champagne sometime
later I met an officer who, when he learned I had
been in Nancy, asked me if I remembered this par-
" It was my home," he said simply. " Fortu-
nately my family was not there when the shell
Close to this circle of devastation lay the hotel,
so far practically untouched, in which we were to
spend the night.
" Perhaps," our officer grinned at me, " a shell
will fall through monsieur's bedroom, and fur-
nish America with a casus belli"
I patiently explained to him that I entered the
war zone at my own risk, but his wit intrigued
him, and each time he repeated his joke we tried to
LORRAINE AND DEVASTATION 63
Affairs in Nancy, there was no doubt, pro-
gressed much as in time of peace.
"Why not?" such inhabitants as I talked to
said. " We go along. We merely hope that the
next shell won't fall near us."
On the walls of many houses we saw, painted in
red, the cross of Lorraine.
"Why?" we asked.
" Because," the captain replied, " each one of
those marked houses has a cellar. When the
bombardment commences, people caught in the
street enter the nearest house marked with a cross,
and the inhabitants must receive them and give
The elderly Quaker shook his head.
u Why should Nancy be bombarded in this
The captain shrugged his shoulders.
" It might be a little pique," he answered.
" You see, just before the battle of the Marne the
Kaiser and the Crown Prince were decked out in
all their plumage and waited, mounted on horse-
back, to make a triumphant entry of the capital of
Lorraine. At the last minute they had to change
their plans. That was very sad — for them. I
think they have never quite forgiven us. To-mor-
row in the devastated districts I will show you
64 WAR'S DARK FRAME
worse things. Wait until you have seen Gerbe-
His eyes held a disturbing promise.
In our hotel, surrounded by shattered buildings,
we dined comfortably that night. Other officers
came to our table from time to time with the
gossip of the sector. One of them, a charming
young fellow, a captain in the machine gun serv-
ice, was particularly pleased to find an American,
because he had heard a good story that day about
one of my countrymen in the Foreign Legion.
Over coffee he told it with much joy.
" You know," he said, " that the soldiers have
been in the habit of making finger rings out of
the aluminum they gather from shells of the
Bosches. They send them to Paris, where they
are sold, and lots, I daresay, have found their
way to America. "
I told him that as far back as a year ago I had
seen such rings in New York.
" Then you will understand," he went on, " how
eager the soldiers are to get this material, which
in good condition isn't very plentiful. They are
quite jealous about it. The other night, it seems,
this American in the Foreign Legion was on sol-
itary duty in a listening post between the lines.
Those places are never very comfortable, as you
may learn for yourself some day. The Bosches
LORRAINE AND DEVASTATION 65
try to locate them with their artillery, and when
they do they simply blow them to pieces. That
night they got the range of this post and turned
their guns loose. Your poor countryman thought
the end of the world had come. His escape was
cut off. The sap, leading out, was obliterated by
great shells. There was nothing for him to
do except to stay and take his chances, and they
were pretty slender. At the end of an hour noth-
ing whatever was left of the post except a heap
of formless earth; yet, through one of the miracles
of war, the sentry remained untouched. As soon
as the fire had lifted, the poor devil crawled back
to the front line trench and climbed the parapet.
He expected to be greeted as a hero, as the saviour
of France. He pictured a deputation welcoming
him at the parapet with the Croix de Guerre, with
the Military Medal, with the Legion of Honour.
" There was a deputation at the parapet — of
poilus, crowding around him with anxious and
envious faces. They greeted him in an excited
" ' You lucky devil ! ' " they cried. " ' For the
love of Heaven, let us see ! How much aluminum
did you get from those Boche shells? ' "
The machine gun officer, in spite of his appre-
ciation of the incident as humorous, expressed
66 WAR'S DARK FRAME
a visible pride in its climax. He sipped his cof-
" That legionaire," he said, " will be a better
soldier for his adventure."
" How," the Quaker asked thoughtfully, " can
any one hope to defeat soldiers who take death
and war with that blagueur attitude? "
Through the quiet reply of the machine gun of-
ficer vibrated an unconditional assurance.
" We do not believe such men can be defeated."
And we thought of the guns of Verdun which
we had heard that afternoon, roaring from the
German lines their desperation and their anger.
For some time after dinner we chatted. We
talked of nothing but war, for that is all there is to
talk about in Europe these days.
A general officer strolled in, nodding pleasantly
to one and another.
" We must make an early start to-morrow,"
our staff officer said. " Shan't we go to bed? "
He showed us our rooms. He made sure that
we were quite comfortable. He brought a map,
the very last thing, explaining the trip he had ar-
ranged for the next day.
" Of course," he said, " they might send a shell
in here to-night, or an air raid isn't an impos-
LORRAINE AND DEVASTATION 67
I hoped he was at his humour again, yet his eyes
were uncomfortably serious.
" If that doesn't happen," he said, " you will
see some things that will surprise you.
Again his face altered with that disturbing
" Among other things," he added softly as he
turned to go, " you will visit the ruins of Gerbe-
viller — of Gerbeviller-la-Martyre."
THE SINISTER INVASION
WE started early the next morning, thread-
ing a course among the pleasant hills of
Lorraine. For brief spaces the idea of
war seemed a distasteful imagining. It was nec-
essary to glance for a reminder at the helmet of
our military chauffeur. Or we would glimpse in a
patch of woods a battery of soixante-quinzes. It
was a Sunday, and often the artillerymen would be
washing their clothing in a swiftly running brook,
or, stretched in the thick grass, would be lost in
a book or the re-reading of a letter from home.
We might pass a column of infantry, covered with
dust, crowding to the side of the road to make
way for our Etat Major automobile. And here
and there we met lines of the busses that had dis-
appeared from the Paris streets at the commence-
ment of the war. Covered with netting and
painted a dull grey, they carried fresh meat
for distribution from point to point behind the
We swerved into Luneville, whose outskirts
saw vicious house-to-house fighting during the
THE SINISTER INVASION 69
first weeks of the war. In a number of streets
the buildings were scarred so intricately from
rifle and machine gun fire that it seemed incred-
ible a single soldier should have emerged un-
Our driver hurried us into the country again.
The staff officer, fulfilment of his promise in his
eyes, spoke sadly.
" We are entering the devastated district of
And almost immediately we flashed through a
village whose simple peasant houses were without
roofs or else showed jagged breaches where shells
" We got as much of the civilian population out
of these towns as we could," the officer said; " but
it is hard to move Frenchmen who think they have
a right to stay, so plenty of them suffered."
As we went on the villages displayed harsher
scars. In some only a few walls were left, but
we could see rough shelters constructed from the
wreckage; and old men and children wandered
around with a furtive air, as if in anticipation of
In the midst of all this destruction we came to
a village that was quite untouched.
"Why is that?" I asked.
The staff officer shrugged his shoulders.
70 WAR'S DARK FRAME
" Who can explain the vagaries of the
I think we all questioned if the charming hamlet
had been spared because one lived there who had
been of service to the enemy.
" Spies — " the Quaker began.
But what I learned about the vital work of the
spies in Europe I shall relate in another chapter.
Moreover, the subject was forgotten at that mo-
ment, for we left the village and crossed a broad,
flat plateau in whose grass innumerable French
tricolours waved lazily, like the fronds of a strange
and beautiful plant.
We saw beneath the tricolours mounds varying
in size from the grave of a single man to a trench
tomb of a hundred bodies. There were mounds
from which no flags waved. These were dec-
orated with plain black crosses.
" The German dead? " I asked.
The staff officer nodded.
" As far as possible," he said, " we have taken
care of their dead as carefully as our own. On
that cross you will find a row of numbers. The
families of those German soldiers can know where
their men are resting."
He pointed to a tiny mound with a small black
cross set at an angle above it.
" An officer," he said. " There is a German
THE SINISTER INVASION 71
name on that cross. Lieutenant or Captain von
So and So."
" In view of those ruined villages," the elderly
Quaker said, " such charity is admirable. It is
" We are not Bodies," the officer laughed.
" In spite of the crimes of the Germans in Lor-
raine we have no quarrel with the sorrowful fam-
ilies of the dead."
11 Both sides fell very fast here? " I asked.
" It was a hard battle," he answered. " You
might say the Boches were turned back as they
were at the Ourck. It is, as you can see, nearly
at the other end of the line. Because these men
fell the Kaiser was forbidden to trot into Nancy,
and something was repaid of the debt we owe the
Boches for Gerbeviller. We are getting very
close now. Before long we will see it."
The name had acquired in my mind, and, I
think, in the Quaker's, a symbolism of inexpres-
sible wrong. We shrank a little from the fact.
The automobile approached the edge of the
plateau too quickly for us. There was, however,
in our first glimpse of the dead city an unexpected
It snuggled, badly defined because of the pleas-
ant shrubbery, in the centre of a shallow bowl.
The charming little river Mortagne wound
72 WAR'S DARK FRAME
through fields and patches of woods, and lingered
behind the nearest of the half seen walls.
Then we understood it was the lack of defi-
nition that had furnished at first that pleasant
deception. The wall against the trees, for in-
stance, became the torn and eyeless front of a
factory. Behind it there was nothing, and our
hearts sank, for of all the fragments of buildings
we could see from that point, the factory was dis-
tinctly the largest.
It is the approach of Gerbeviller from the
plateau that makes its tragedy insupportable. It
has been so far permitted to very few to inspect
this record of the German invasion, this monu-
ment to the Teutonic campaign of terribleness.
To those who have driven down like us from the
plateau must have come the thought:
" After all the French have exaggerated. It
might have been necessary to bombard the garri-
son defending the place. And the destruction
isn't really as shocking as in Nancy."
Then, as the shrubbery has fallen away, expos-
ing the skeleton, every visitor must have cried as
" But this is incredible ! This isn't bombard-
ment. It is systematic and wanton destruction."
" There was no garrison here," the officer said.
" When the army retreated at the first shock only
THE SINISTER INVASION 73
sixty chasseur-a-pied were left to guard the bridge
at the other side of the town. Only a few shells
have fallen in Gerbeviller. It is the work of the
incendiary, of the man who destroys property as
a child knocks down a house of blocks, because it
pleases his unconsidered impulse to be cruel — to
smash ! — to laugh, as he sees things go Smash !
Smash! Smash! Soeur Julie, if she will, can
tell you better than I, because she was here. She
lived through each minute of the dreadful three
days, and, since she is a religieuse, what she says
will not seem so far beyond belief as the story of
what I know only by hearsay. But first you
should see the chateau and its chapel."
We entered Gerbeviller, for a short distance
threading streets flanked by walls, like the walls
of Sermaize-ies-Bains, scarcely two feet high.
They were eloquent with the story of their fall.
They seemed trying to explain to us that after the
conflagration dynamite had been used, that their
skeletons had been torn to pieces by stained and
For a long time we saw no one. Then a child
appeared, walking at a demure pace, her eyes
downcast as she picked a path among the ruins.
We paused in a weed-choked plaza. To the
right a wall rose for two thirds of its original
height, but through its empty windows showed the
74 WAR'S DARK FRAME
trees of a broad and luxuriant park. The rear
and most of the side walls had been levelled.
There was only left enough to tell us that here
had stood one of the most beautiful renaissance
chateaus in France.
The officer nodded towards the opposite side of
" The chapel," he said.
We gazed with a mounting anger at this jewel
which had been shattered with repeated and diffi-
cult blows. Through the breaches of the facade
gaped out at us a desecrated altar, roofed only by
" There are no shell holes," the Quaker said.
There was a flash of temper across his placid
" I am a Quaker, as you know," he went on
simply, " but in this place I like to tell you that
I have two sons who are Quakers, also, but they
are both officers in the British army."
The staff officer smiled,
" Perhaps," he said, " it is as well you, your-
self, are beyond the military age."
" It spares my conscience," the Quaker agreed.
" What regiments did this?" I asked.
" Bavarians," the officer answered. " We had
always thought, too, that they were rather kindlier
than the Prussians. In the grounds of the chateau
THE SINISTER INVASION 75
there is a grotto. Piece by piece the mosaics
were detached from the ceiling. That is what
hurts so in Gerbeviller — - the careful, the system-
atic devastation. It is difficult to understand how
men could go to such minute pains to destroy.' ,
We re-entered the automobile and went on
through the ghastly streets of Gerbeviller. Be-
fore long the car stopped. A heap of stones
blocked our way.
" I can go no farther, sir," the soldier chauffeur
We alighted, made our way around the rubble,
and continued on foot.
" It is worse than Pompeii," the Quaker mused.
" That ancient city is more habitable, would be
far simpler to restore."
Ahead was a wooden shack, constructed against
a piece of ruined wall.
11 The old and the new," the staff officer said,
" but that is about all that has been done towards
the restoration of the city. It is so hopeless; but
some day we will see, for a few of the inhabitants
have clung to their homes. After the war some-
thing will be done for them.
" The Germans made a more thorough job here
than in Louvain," the Quaker commented.
" Nothing could have been much more
thorough," the staff man answered. " Where
76 WAR'S DARK FRAME
there were originally four hundred and seventy-
five dwellings, just twenty emerge from the ruins
comparatively intact, and that is due to Soeur
Julie. They are all clustered about the Hospice
of St. Charles, of which she is the superior."
We quickened our pace, for we were anxious to
meet and talk with this remarkable woman who
had saved the little that is left of the city. We
knew General Castelnau, after the defeat and the
flight of the Germans, had mentioned her in army
orders. To decorate her with the Cross of the
Legion of Honour, we had read at the time, Pres-
ident Poincare had come himself to Lorraine and
to the hospice. In Nancy the night before we
had heard her mentioned with a sort of rever-
At the head of a narrow, sloping street we saw
several comparatively complete buildings. We
entered one through an archway surmounted by
a cross. We were ushered by a sad-faced sister
into a parlour whose walls were freshly splashed
with plaster. We didn't need to be told that
many bullets had torn through them.
Soeur Julie entered. She impressed us as a
short and stout woman, rather beyond middle
age. From her pleasant and sympathetic face
dark eyes snapped. On her habit of a religieuse
shone the Cross of the Legion. From time to
THE SINISTER INVASION 77
time as she talked she fingered the medal. She
greeted us warmly, but at first she seemed a trifle
reluctant to speak of that unbearable occupation
of her city by the Germans. As she went on, how-
ever, her gestures assumed a rapid and varied
intensity. At times horror slumbered in her eyes,
at others anger awakened them.
" There wasn't much bombardment," she
began, verifying what the staff officer had said.
" The town was little hurt by that. Only sixty
chasseur-a-pied held the bridge across the Mor-
tagne. But, alas, they were too magnificent, for
the Germans were so angry at their superb stand
that they declared the old men of the town must
have helped in the defence. They came in at
nightfall — Bavarian troops who had fought hard
and marched hard. It seemed that they were
tired, and their general thought they should have
a little relaxation. He issued orders that in
Gerbeviller they were to do what they pleased.''
She shook with disgust. She pointed from the
" They amused themselves. No bombardment
could have been so complete. They used explo-
sives, oil, all the inflammable material they could
get their hands on. When a house was burning,
they clustered about the cellar entrance to welcome
the women and old men who had to come from
78 WAR'S DARK FRAME
their refuge or roast. The men were bound and
made to watch the welcome of their women. One
finds it difficult to speak of such horrors. Then
many of the men — - old fellows, for the young-
sters were all at the war — were tied in groups of
five, and, while they questioned with eyes like the
eyes of an animal one has accused unjustly, they
were shot down. During many hours we heard
the firing, and we muttered prayers for departing
souls, while we worked over the wounded. One
girl, rather than face such things, hid in the
Mortagne with the water up to her neck. She
was there all one day. It killed her, but she was
more content to die that way."
We remained silent before the sad conviction of
this woman of the church who spoke of what she
had seen with her own eyes.
" In the night they came here. Their work of
destruction had progressed so far. I had many
desperately wounded men, some German, and a
few grey old fellows who had sought refuge at
the hospice. The Bavarians came and fired and
told us we must leave in order that the hospice
might be destroyed like the rest of the town.
The officer in charge had a pistol in one hand and
a sword in the other. I pleaded with him.
" ' The thought of your mother will not let you
commit this crime. The building is full of the
i ,, 1. ''*^< '
THE SINISTER INVASION 79
wounded and the dying, and some old men who
are incapable of bearing arms, and I have Ger-
" ' Point them out to me ! '
" And they entered and went to the cots where
the wounded Frenchmen lay, and I tried to keep
my eyes closed that I might not witness this crime,
for they tore the red bandages from the wounds,
and the blood flowed again, staining the beds.
When I cried out they sneered that it was neces-
sary for them to search for weapons beneath the
bandages. Rifles and bayonets beneath band-
ages ! I grasped that officer's arm.
" ' Do no more evil to these poor little ones.
Burn no more. See ! I care for your wounded,
as I care for our own.'
" I pointed out to him the violent, scarlet sky
" ' Save this little corner for sickness and
" And he went. But later when the French
returned some of those men came back. We saw
our ruddy executioners, our fire-brands, pallid and
torn and asking help. So we took them in until
the little hospice was like a shambles. The
blood! It ran from their resting places on the
floor. It ran so thick in the corridor that I
arranged a mop as a sort of dam to turn it into
80 WAR'S DARK FRAME
the street. But, angry at retreating, those that
were unhurt tumbled over the walls of the houses
they had burned. That is why we are not like a
city that has been bombarded. That is why so
many houses are only heaps of bruised stones."
She arose and spread her arms. On her dun
uniform of a religieuse the Cross of the Legion
" Is it any wonder," she said, " that all the
world will forever speak of our beloved dead city
as Gerbeviller-la-Martyre ? "
We left Soeur Julie and Gerbeviller. We went
out of Lorraine with a sense of flight before a
sinister invasion perilous to the entire world, of
unusual and ruthless creatures, suddenly unmasked
by the tearing claws of war.
THE PERSISTENT BOMBARDMENT
ON my return the familiar beauties of
Paris acquired a new and precious mean-
ing. It was possible more accurately to
estimate the value of that epic moment when Von
Kluck's flank was turned and the sinister invasion
broken almost within sight of the fortifications.
So I got a military permit and visited the region
where Manoury's taxicab army flung itself on the
extreme German right.
The flags waving over the graves were thicker
than in Lorraine. They were like a strange and
colourful grain. And irregularly scattered behind
the pierced walls of the graveyard in each little
village were the sepulchres of soldiers, buried
where they had fallen.
Behind an ugly breach in a cemetery wall was
the tomb of an officer, set at an angle.
" The captain, you see," one of the natives told
me, " was leaning against the wall watching the
effect of his men's fire on the enemy when the
shell fell just there. We came out in the evening
and buried him.' ,
82 WAR'S DARK FRAME
He took me to a flowering tree not far away
and pointed out a polished round hole in the
" That," he said, " was made by a shell nearly
spent. It struck its nose in and exploded its
entire charge backwards. It killed two lieu-
tenants who were standing in consultation just
where you are. Here are their graves, at your
The inhabitants will relate a thousand such
intimate details of the battle of the Marne. They
understand it in no other language. It is, in fact,
impossible for the layman to gaze across the field,
sewn with tricolours, and interpret the miracle in
any broader terms. But of the most intimate and
desirable detail of all there was no one who could
speak surely. I looked at a quiet and picturesque
farm where Von Kluck had had his headquarters.
I wondered what dramatic event had happened
there, perhaps during the course of a moment or
two, that had urged him to give the command to
swing in across Paris. Had he run ahead of his
supplies? Had an order been misinterpreted?
Was a fit of petulance responsible? Had he
lunched too well? There the German structure
of forty years' growth had tumbled, and no one
could tell what had happened at the pretty farm
during that decisive moment. The closeness of
PERSISTENT BOMBARDMENT 83
the thing was impressive. As I stared I could
hear from ahead the dull booming of guns from
the vicinity of Soissons, and only a few miles
behind me lay Paris.
Already, by direction of General Galieni be-
fore his death, a number of monuments have
been raised on the field of the Marne, yet it isn't
the Mecca for Frenchmen one would expect The
authorities see to that. They make a visit almost
as difficult as the entrance of a front line trench.
There are, it is just to say, military reasons of
which it is better not to speak. They will prob-
ably keep the Marne closed to the ordinary visitor
until the end of the war. I found it necessary
to show my pass there more frequently than in
the actual zone of operations. Any one who gets
actually under fire is too well vouched for to start
suspicion. Moreover, if he is a civilian he is al-
ways accompanied by a staff officer.
I had a charming young fellow during my visit
to the Champagne front — small, constantly
smiling, inclined, as far as one might be, to take
war as a part of the day's work. He had been
severely wounded in one of the early battles.
That seemed to be the only portion of his own
experiences that he thoroughly resented.
" It keeps me in a staff job," he mourned.
84 WAR'S DARK FRAME
I asked him what his sensations had been on
first hearing the shells. He laughed.
" When the first shell whistled — whoo-ee-ee
— I commanded my men to present arms. That
amused them, and was good. Then I told them
to lie down."
This officer met a party of us in Epernay and
drove us first of all to Rheims. The desecration
of the cathedral is by no means a thing of the past.
The bombardment continues according to the
fancy of the German gunners. We drove in past
miles of shell screens, constructed between the
road and the enemy of sheets of cheese cloth or
masses of dead foliage. A soldier was our
chauffeur. An orderly sat at his side. Above
their heads were suspended helmets and a rifle.
Out of the grey and rainy morning came the
rumbling of guns.
The houses of the suburbs were marked with
shell fragments. One or two men and women
glided silently past us, clinging to the shelter of
We swerved into a vast open space. At first I
didn't realise. Then I left the car and, holding
my breath, unconscious of the rain, stood gazing
The cathedral of Rheims proves how absurdly
conservative photography is. A picture of the
PERSISTENT BOMBARDMENT 85
twin towers and the rose window won't give you
a sense of unbelievable tragedy, or an instinct to
speak not at all or in whispers. That is because
the horror of Rheims from the front is a matter
of detail. The left hand tower rises in the shade
of ashes. The semblance of figures, featureless
and stripped, nevertheless have something human
about them. They are like victims of the ancient
trial by fire. Instinctively one glances at the
brave little bronze figure on horseback which
miraculously has survived each bombardment.
More than ever Joan of Arc belongs here. Her
attitude with flag uplifted is one of inspired com-
mand. She seems about to lead the wraiths of
the cathedral to a stern reckoning.
We entered the desolate structure. I removed
my hat. A staff officer shrugged his shoulders.
" That is not necessary," he said. " So many
men have been killed in here that the edifice is no
His comment expressed, perhaps, more than its
intention. For there is a depressive feeling
within whose source is certainly more remote than
the emptiness and the battered walls and pillars.
The emptiness reaches you first of all. The aisles
are vast, the open spaces apparently endless.
Pigeons, flying between the tracery of the eyeless
windows and about the roof, accent the sense of
86 WAR'S DARK FRAME
distance. And it is out of this emptiness that the
feeling of depression steals. There were with me
officers and soldiers hardened to the filth and cor-
ruption of war. Some of us had seen devastation
more complete and no less excusable than this.
Yet no one failed to respond to that sense of suf-
fering which seemed to have survived its physical
source. It is, of course, impossible to say how
far our knowledge of what had happened here
gave birth to such thoughts. It is merely signifi-
cant that we all experienced them. One visualised
rows of bandaged and groaning men, stretched
on the straw or crawling about with awkward,
incoherent motions, like mutilated insects. The
vaulting seemed to retain the echoes of cries and
curses. Openings showed where the Germans
had sent incendiary shells to burn their own
Such anguish leaves something behind it.
We went about softly — almost on tip-toe.
Through the emptiness we experienced a sense of
obstacles. We walked carefully so as not to
stumble over the shadows that remained.
In the Place again we had a moment to appre-
ciate the shattered surroundings of the cathedral.
The miracle of the preservation of the statue of
Joan of Arc was more impressive. Within the
PERSISTENT BOMBARDMENT 87
entire range of our vision it was the only object
that had not been violently disturbed. No
wonder there were flowers at its base and flags at
the pedestal. No wonder the inhabitants had
devised a prayer and printed it and placed it on
the iron railing at the front. We read it with a
"Joan of Arc — Pray for us — Bring to
France the victory."
We turned away to be taught under the
guidance of our staff officer that the ruin in Rheims
isn't limited to the vicinity of the cathedral. We
wandered with him through the gardens of the
archbishop's palace, staring at the ghosts of that
structure nearly as famous as the cathedral itself.
Roses were in bloom along the hedges. There
seemed a design about their growth in such a
place, a mockery of the Prussian spirit of conquest,
a reminder of the indestructibility of the soul of
We wandered sadly through the best residential
district of the city. The few houses that were still
serviceable were marked with numerals.
" The number of people the cellars will hold,"
the officer explained.
While the greater proportion of the population
had left or had been killed, those that remained
88 WAR'S DARK FRAME
were quietly illustrative of the extraordinary
determination of the French. Two women, met
in that mass of the rubbish of homes, remain in
We had been compelled to leave the automobile.
For many blocks we hadn't seen a habitable
structure. As we climbed around a corner over
a hill of rubbish I heard a feminine cry of surprise.
Ahead was a house which by comparison had suf-
fered slightly. The glass had been replaced by
boards. The front door could not be closed.
Countless pieces of shell had scarred the exterior.
A young woman leant from the upper story. The
surprise in her face at seeing civilians here
matched our amazement at the sight of her grace-
ful figure in such surroundings. We stopped and
chatted with her.
"You live here?"
" But certainly. Why not? "
" You have a great deal of courage."
She shrugged her shoulders.
" It is my home, is it not? " she said. " Enough
is left of it, so I stay at home."
"And the shells?"
44 The shells ! They follow one anyway, and
there isn't much to bring them here now."
Farther on in a less damaged quarter a little
PERSISTENT BOMBARDMENT 89
old woman, wearing the universal black, came up
and spoke to the staff officer. A basket was slung
over her arm. Evidently she was going market-
" Pardon me, Monsieur le Capitain," she said,
" I am a little confused. The hour of the bom-
bardment remains the same? The Rue de la
is safe at this hour? "
We smiled, but the captain, who was accustomed
to such queries, replied seriously:
" The hour is unchanged, but I wouldn't advise
madame. The Rue de la is likely to be
unpleasant at any time."
She shrugged her shoulders — that invariable
gesture that has acquired a quality of renunciation.
" It makes no difference. Another route will
do as well. One must order one's life according
to the clock of the shells."
And she wandered away, her basket resting
comfortably in the crook of her elbow.
THE AMAZING GARDEN
IT was in Champagne that I accomplished for
the first time the much desired experience
of entering the front line trenches. Such
an excursion isn't without its discomforts. We
started on a dull afternoon, clothed for rain and
mud of which we had been warned we would find
plenty. The officers and soldiers with us were
ominously silent. We drove swiftly. We com-
menced to hear cannon. When it was necessary
to sound the automobile horn the driver was
cautious, and the discreet response gave us a feel-
ing of danger. Already we wondered how in-
dividuals, not unlike ourselves, ordered their lives
amid such dangers and discomforts.
A famous novelist was with me. He spoke no
French, and he was considered of such importance
that a member of the Chamber of Deputies who
knew his language had been assigned to accompany
While the voice of the cannon grew angrier we
entered a deserted and shell torn village. Barbed
wire filled the gardens. It was stretched across
THE AMAZING GARDEN 91
the streets, so that we had to zig-zag a course
through. The shattered walls were pierced for
rifle and machine guns.
" It won't do to go any farther with the cars,"
the staff officer said. " The entrance to the com-
munication trench isn't far."
My curiosity increased. I wanted to know ex-
actly what the entrance to a communication trench
was like. I fancied that the pictures again would
be wrong, and so they were.
We were walking, I remember, along a side-
walk in the shelter of some ruined walls. The
sidewalk had a stone curb. Then I understood.
The curb line ran level straight ahead, but a por-
tion of the sidewalk, perhaps two feet wide, next
to the curb, sloped gently downwards. In a
moment we were walking shoulder high in an
excavation such as one observes about unruly gas
mains. Abruptly we were in the communication
The next thing was to know when one was for
the first time under fire. The trench stretched
diagonally across level fields. It was higher than
one's head. It was impossible to see anything
except the white mud through which one slipped,
and the grass overhanging the edges. The guns
were a great deal louder. The officer raised him-
self cautiously above the bank. I followed his
92 WAR'S DARK FRAME
example. There was a railroad embankment
ahead, some queer whitish furrows in the distance.
One heard curious little gusts of wind.
" When will we be under fire? " I asked.
The officer grinned.
" Don't get up too high. We have been under
fire ever since we left the automobiles. Listen! "
One of the gusts of wind had a sharper sound.
" Shells," he said.
I experienced a sensation of nakedness. I was
glad when he said :
" We'd better get down."
We walked on through apparently endless lines
of trenches with a glimpse at a turning, perhaps,
of a bit of brick wall in the shelter of which poi-
lus improvised a meal. In all directions lines
branched from the communication we followed.
Each was labelled. It was like a hidden city whose
inhabitants carried an air of constant expectancy.
Covered with mud these creatures slipped by us
from time to time.
" How are things in the front line? " our officer
" Fairly quiet," was the almost invariable reply.
" It is the rain," the officer explained to us.
Yet it wasn't quiet in the language of any other
war. The roar of the guns seemed continuously
closer. No minute passed without a number of
THE AMAZING GARDEN 93
detonations, and the gusts of wind had a more
At every turning we found a machine gun
emplacement. Directly in front of it was
suspended, at approximately the height of a man,
a great globe twined of barbed wire, ready to be
lowered in the event of an enemy invasion of the
" While they are getting rid of that," our officer
said, " the machine gun attends to their little
We came to trenches marked:
' " Boyau de la deuxieme ligne."
The poilus we met didn't speak above a whisper.
We were aware of an empty road winding along
the surface of the earth. A flight of steps led
upward. It was nearly barred by a huge sign
which forbade pedestrians to use the road under
the severest penalties.
" You mean to say," I asked, " that soldiers
have to be threatened from that exposed place? "
" The communication trench, as you can see,"
he answered, " is very warm. The men prefer
comfort and the German fire. We were losing
too many through such foolishness. Even now it
is difficult on a warm day to keep them in the com-
We passed frequent broad flights of steps.
94 WAR'S DARK FRAME
u The units leave that way for an attack or a
sortie," our officer explained casually.
We glanced at these stairways of death with a
vague discomfort, an inability quite to compre-
hend, and hurried on. We paused before a nar-
" We are just behind the first line," our guide
explained. " Now I am going to show you some-
We followed him up the steps into the most
amazing garden any of us, I think, had ever seen.
It was hidden on one side by a half-destroyed
building, on two others by brick walls, pierced for
defence, on the fourth by a low structure which,
from a distance, looked as if it might have some-
thing to do with the scientific raising of chickens.
We entered through the archway of the half-
destroyed building. Every one spoke in whispers.
Cabbages, artichokes, haricots — such vegetables
as a Frenchman enjoys — stretched in neat rows.
" Sometimes they get a trifle too much plough-
ing," the officer laughed softly. " The Germans,
I should think, are not neat farmers, but here they
do their work unasked."
We had not, it developed, been brought to see
the garden, but its owner and his home. We
approached the building which was like a chicken
house. It was less than one story high, and the
THE AMAZING GARDEN 95
white earth of the country had been firmly packed
over its roof.
We went down a flight of steps into a corridor,
half subterranean, lined with concrete, from which
four doors opened into four long, narrow cells
roofed with steel arches, painted white. This, we
were told, was the headquarters of that sector.
The room to the right was occupied by telephone
operators. Next was the commandant's apart-
ment, furnished with a cot bed, a bureau, a wash-
hand-stand, and a chair or two. Touches as
homely as the garden were photographs of a
woman and two children. Even in these lifeless
pictures the faces seemed watchful, apprehensive.
The room next door, occupied by the majors,
was much the same, but in the cell at the end of
the passage there was a variation. No one had
to tell us for what purpose this shelter was used.
The. sickly ether odour welcomed us. A crucifix
was suspended above a bed improvised from three
stained mattresses piled one atop the other. A
brown blanket covered it. It, too, was stained
with black, wide splotches.
" Poste de Secours," the officer said. " A first
aid post, directly at the front, yet thoroughly pro-
The light entered reluctantly. The melancholy
of the crucifix oppressed us. As we climbed to
96 WAR'S DARK FRAME
the surface again, a small procession crossed the
peaceful garden. Through the stooping, slow-
paced files we saw a still form on a stretcher. It
was covered with a stained blanket.
We turned gladly to follow our guide through
the archway and down another flight of steps deep
beneath the surface. We emerged into a tunnel-
like room crowded with switchboards before
which soldier operators sat, smoking and calling
into the transmitters. The wires strayed across
the ceiling like the web of a gigantic spider. We
were told that from this protected cave one could
communicate with any portion of the front or
with the etat major. From it radiated black
passages designed to furnish shelter for hundreds
of men. We were permitted only a minute to ex-
plore these with a candle, for other plans had
been made for us.
" I am going to show you an artillery observa-
tion post," the officer said, " if you are not afraid.
You will please not speak above a whisper or make
any unnecessary noise."
We went at his heels down one of the dark
The only light was an occasional flash from the
officer's lamp. He paused at the base of a per-
pendicular ladder which rose beyond the roof
THE AMAZING GARDEN 97
through a narrow shaft until it was lost in the
" Here we are," the officer said. " You can go
up — if you are not afraid."
Now that we were actually at the front that
chilling question had become habitual with him.
It was possible to do this or that — if we were not
Such a formula must have its ritual answer.
Through the darkness we murmured our delight.
While I waited my turn at the ladder a patrol
stumbled near, flashed his light on a telephone
instrument against the wall, then went close and
took down the receiver. I heard him reporting
" Very quiet — Oh, four or five casualties.
Sending them back. No, no. Nothing at all.
Everything is very peaceable."
He snapped off his light, hung up the receiver,
and stumbled away, continuing his routine.
It was my turn. I commenced to climb the
ladder while the water dripped with a perpetual
animosity. The succession of rungs seemed end-
less. Certainly we would emerge at some high
point with a prospect magnificent and extended;
but such a post, it occurred to one, must, to an
extent, be exposed. I tried to calculate how high
I was already. Then far above light gleamed.
98 WAR'S DARK FRAME
The officer had opened a trap door. With mut-
tered warnings to avoid a misstep he helped us
through into what might have been a little shelter,
roughly constructed and too low, arranged on the
summit of some lofty monument. Openings on
each side were curtained by dark canvas flaps.
The officer closed the trap door. He unfastened
the flap in front and raised it.
" Look," he whispered. " Our trenches and
the Boche ! "
But the first thing we saw was grass, and we
couldn't understand. Then it came to us. After
that climb we were at the level of the ground.
The officer smiled.
" But there is a little ridge here and one can see
very well. It is necessary to enter that way in
order that the enemy may have no suspicion."
For a long time we stared across the slowly
waving grass at the routine of war. Not many
yards ahead of us was a deep wide fosse. At
intervals blue-overcoated forms, holding rifles
extended across the parapet, were like statues. A
hundred yards beyond them white mounds strag-
gled a parallel course. The interval was a jungle
of weeds and barbed wire. A few skeleton trees
in the distance stretched their branches in gestures
of protest. Poppies, scarlet and significant
against the white soil and the dun vegetation,
THE AMAZING GARDEN 99
drooped everywhere, even in the jungle of No-
Man's Land. There are so many poppies this
year in the war zone ! They are like great drops
The perpetual sighing as of wind overhead was
accented now and then by tearing screams. The
officer looked about uneasily.
" They feel all over the landscape with their
shells for these observation posts," he said.
He indicated the row of sentinels in the trench
" Besides, I am going to take you now to the
very front line."
He glanced at us curiously. His face was
" And, perhaps — if you are not afraid — even
BETWEEN THE LINES
WE descended, wondering what the officer
had meant. It had not occurred to me
that I could go beyond the front line,
nor was I quite sure I wished such a privilege to
We slipped from a covered communication into
a chalky wet space between the parapet and a
shell-gouged railroad embankment. In the lee of
the embankment blue-clothed soldiers shivered,
seeking what shelter there was. Our little party
broke the monotony for them. They straight-
ened, and, smiling, spoke to each other with voices
that were never audible to us. They were like a
party of men playing a game of hide-and-seek,
exuding a breathless excitement at the imminence
A line captain consulted with our staff officer.
His desire to be hospitable shone in his round and
pleasant face. The staff man came forward.
" The captain," he said, " wants to do some-
thing for you."
We were appreciative and curious.
BETWEEN THE LINES 101
" He says," the staff man went on, " that it is
a very quiet day because of the constant rain."
Coming in, as I have said, I had noticed that
no moment went by without shell explosions. As
we talked we could hear the whining of shells
overhead, and at intervals a number would shriek
too close for comfort. You saw heads duck
automatically. On such a quiet day we didn't
want the captain to put himself out too much to do
something for us. We asked what his plan was.
" He suggests," the staff man said, " that it
might be possible to take you to a listening post in
No-Man's Land — if you are not afraid. You
are not afraid? "
To that formula which had grown well-worn
we gave the customary reply. Moreover, it was
an opportunity permitted to few civilians. So in
a solemn file we followed him and the line captain
past a dug-out, labelled, after the fashion of a
summer cottage, " Villa de Venus." We climbed
a flight of steps to the platform against the para-
pet where the sentinels stood.
" Of course," the staff man said, " if you go we
can't promise there won't be a shell or a hand
We made indifferent gestures. We looked at
each other suspiciously. There were no signals
102 WAR'S DARK FRAME
The famous neutral novelist had large and
dreamy eyes. More than once I had questioned
if he fully understood the conditions amid which
he walked. He wore a long black cloak, but-
toned to the throat. It had been warm work
coming through the communication line, and now
at the top of the steps he unbuttoned his cloak,
throwing the flaps over his shoulders. A group
of soldiers near by scattered, laughing silently.
Our conductors started, gave the familiar renun-
ciatory shrug, then continued with an air of
hesitation. The flaps of the famous novelist's
cloak were lined with vividest scarlet.
It was convenient to let him trudge ahead with
the hospitable captain. As we passed, sentinels
snickered behind their hands and edged away.
"Why don't you tell him to take it off?" I
asked the staff man.
" He's too distinguished," the officer replied.
" I'll guarantee the captain will make him walk
low through the sap."
We watched the captain motion to the novelist,
then stoop and disappear. As we came up we saw
the opening of a narrow sap that led at right
angles from the main trench into No-Man's Land.
Ahead the scarlet cloak led the way. We fol-
lowed at a discreet distance.
Soldiers have written and talked a good deal
BETWEEN THE LINES 103
about listening posts, yet like nearly everything
else at the front the actual thing was unlike one's
preconceived notion. The shallow, unfinished
appearance of the sap advertised it as a temporary
work that could be abandoned at any time the
German fire should make it wise. Crouched as
I was, strands of the overlapping barbed wire
caught at my hat, and the weeds, evidently
encouraged to mask the narrow ditch, brushed
against my face. The cut debouched into a small
square pocket where a solitary figure rested,
motionless and sombre. His rifle barrel pro-
truded through the grass. A box of cartridges
lay on a dirt shelf to his left, and, convenient to
his right hand on another shelf, was a wicker
basket such as old women use for their knitting.
It was filled with corrugated black objects, the
shape and the size of pears. They were hand
This further proof that we were actually
between the lines and within hand grenade throw-
ing distance of the Germans warned us to take
our places one by one in the pocket with our guide
and the sentinel as stealthily as if we were afraid
of awaking a light sleeper. And we looked with
all our eyes, for we knew we were seeing one of
the riskiest and most unpleasant details of trench
work. Here a man watches alone, listening for
io 4 WAR'S DARK FRAME
enemy miners, alert for the first sign of activity
from the opposite trench, not many yards away.
As every one knows, it isn't simple to be brave
when one is alone. At the front you conceive
a thorough admiration for the men who assume
the strain and the solitude of such assignments.
Our guide was still inclined to hospitality. He
produced a map of the enemy trenches made from
air photographs. Each trench was labelled.
There was, I remember, the " Boyau Unter den
Linden," the " Boyau Bethmann-Hollweg," the
" Boyau Bismarck," and many others according to
the play of French humour. I was instructed to
peer through openings in the grass and the wire
at the nearby mounds of white, wet earth that
marked the German trenches.
" That communication coming up is the Boyau
Unter den Linden. Can you see it? "
Thoughtlessly I answered:
" I am not quite sure. No. I don't see it."
The hospitable captain made a gesture of dis-
appointment, a peculiar clicking sound with his
" You should see," he said. " It is very
interesting. What can I do? Ah, yes. There
is another listening post a little nearer the Boches
to which it might be possible to penetrate. You
would see better there. You are not afraid? "
Underwood & Underwood, N. \
A Listening Post
BETWEEN THE LINES 105
So I followed him back to the main trench and
crouched along another sap to a pocket whose
occupant clearly disapproved of our presence.
Through the grass and wire the confusion of
trenches appeared much the same, but when the
captain asked me if I could now see the Boyau
Unter den Linden I replied without hesita-
"Perfectly. It is surprisingly distinct."
Nor did I keep him in suspense about the other
objects he pointed out. I recognised all the
boyaus with a miraculous ease. So eventually we
stole back to healthier regions, both very much
pleased. We were all glad enough to thank our
host, and commence the return journey.
That was halted almost at the start while we
studied a picture that at the time seemed better
than anything I saw at the French front to sym-
bolise the waste and the distortion of war.
For background there was the main street of a
ruined village almost directly behind the first line
trenches. The street made a slight arc between
walls which for the most part gave only a sketchy
illusion of habitation. Many of them were un-
supported, offering views through eyeless windows
of emptiness and desolation. Here and there a
building maintained a semblance of completeness.
Its doors might have gone, its windows have dis-
106 WAR'S DARK FRAME
appeared save for jagged pieces of glass, its roof
have been pierced by shells, but by very contrast
it was serviceable. From one such survival
slipped with a sickly stealth the odour of ether. It
was a first aid post whose attendants worked under
risks nearly as great as those of the men in the
front line. The cold and brutal agony it housed
reflected itself in the scarred brick wall and the
tile roof from which the rain dripped with a sug-
gestion of inexhaustible mourning. It was good
to turn to another structure from which a savoury
scent emerged joyously.
At the end of the curving street a tower arose.
Even above the debris of the town it presented an
abhorrent spectacle. That was because it was the
skeleton of a church. Like a mutilated sentry it
seemed engaged in the pitiful occupation of guard-
ing that which was no longer worth the trouble.
Shells shrieked overhead, and through the heavy
air the gross petulance of the guns continued unin-
Poilus strolled against that background. They
were a little wraith-like in their damp blue uni-
forms. They carried out of the cook house tin
pails from which fragrant steam arose, or beneath
their arms they hugged great round loaves of
bread. As they went they laughed or talked
silently. One by one they disappeared back of
BETWEEN THE LINES 107
the shattered walls or into burrows beneath the
The commander of that sector stood in the
middle of the street with a number of his officers.
He glanced at the picture which must have become
too familiar to him.
" There was hand to hand fighting in each of
these houses," he said, " but it was worth it, for it
brought one more village back to France."
He pointed to the devastation. He sighed.
" The last village."
11 And how," an officer asked, " would they like
villages like this in America ? Is it possible there
is a country which isn't full of villages like this?
In such a country they can't understand. They
The clouds grew a little thicker. The light
faded. It seemed as if the whole world must be
like this. These men appeared to know in the
past or the future no mode of life beyond this.
Stern-faced, physically contented, unafraid, they
had an air of guaranteeing the redemption of
those familiar fields ahead which reluctantly shel-
tered the invader beneath a sullen sky.
The officer was right. Even now it is hard to
understand such things in America.
WITH THE BRITISH IN FLANDERS
I RECEIVED the coveted invitation to visit
the British front the morning after my
return to Paris from Champagne. The
provost marshal started me adventurously enough.
I was to report to the landing officer at one of the
great seaport bases the next day at one o'clock —
daylight saving time. That variation of an hour
" You can only make it by the military train at
11:40 to-night," he said. ''You'll have twelve
nice sleepless hours for a journey that ought to
take four or live. Then war is never convenient.
Good-bye, good luck, and cling to your head-
At half past eleven the facade of the Gare du
Nord with its staring yellow clock was sufficiently
forbidding. There were no hurrying crowds, no
babel of voices, no porters. A gendarme, unre-
servedly surprised at the presence of a civilian,
trundled my bag through. The great shed, in-
adequately lighted, had an unfamiliar air. A
single train of low and antique carriages stretched
THE BRITISH IN FLANDERS 109
to the north until it was lost in a darkness relieved
only by red and green signal lamps, close to the
ground, vague in a slight mist, like will-o'-the-
No one reached the quay without a catechism
from the soldiers and gendarmes at the barriers.
A khaki clad figure stood with the others — the
first Tommy — the extreme rear-guard of the
He grinned, struggling with what he conceived
to be the American idiom.
" Give my regards to the boys — "
The train, crowded with poilus and officers,
threatened to be insufferably stuffy. Therefore,
until the last moment, I paced up and down the
murky platform, hearing subdued voices which
chanted popular army airs, oppressed by the wail-
ing notes of an accordeon. Through an open
window I had a glimpse of the player. His eyes
were upraised. His face was dull with mental
pain. His hands on the accordeon swayed apart
and came together with slow, caressing gestures.
His companions, in dirty blue overcoats, sat
facing each other on parallel benches beneath a
dim light. They swayed unconsciously in rhythm
with the music, muttering inaudibly snatches of
words. Eyes and ears were challenged by a sense
of despair nearly voluptuous.
no WAR'S DARK FRAME
I paced on, made very sad, very lonely by this
haggard playing, by the instinctive response drawn
from its hearers.
A squad of soldiers, solemn and weary, tramped
down the platform. Bent beneath full knap-
sacks, they shuffled along, clinging to the butts of
their rifles with an air of reaching out for help.
Suddenly with tired motions they swung into a
ragged platoon formation and waited dumbly for
the command to break ranks.
A thick and unreal atmosphere invaded the
melancholy shed. These fatigued and over-bur-
dened figures; the crouched forms in the dusk
of the third class carriages ; the persistent, follow-
ing lament of the accordeon; the vapours curling
about the few lamps, like dying moons, high in
the roof, all welded themselves into a conception
of the exotic — of more than that — of the bar-
baric, of a helpless and primitive fatalism. This
could not be Paris. These stooped and soiled
figures, sent forth for killing, many of them for
death, could not be educated, reasoning men.
Then, close by, an officer breathed the word
" Verdun," and the unreality dissipated. The
picture assumed harder, surer lines. It had
grown cold in the shed.
There were four officers in my compartment.
THE BRITISH IN FLANDERS in
Two others climbed from the platform and
lounged in the meagre corridor. It was one of
these who had spoken of Verdun. He had, it
developed, been there. He sketched his incoher-
ent recollections of its deadly turmoil. He broke
off, glancing up with an abrupt reluctance.
" Without doubt you recall so and so? "
The other nodded.
u You may have heard. A piece of one of
those high explosive shells — a great fragment,
all ragged — "
No dismay at the intelligence, scarcely surprise.
From the darkness beyond the shed the locomo-
tive whistle shrieked. That sound alone fitted
because it was comparable with the sudden grief
of a woman.
The train crawled into the obscurity, writhing
through the yards like a gigantic reptile. The
two officers moved away. In the close, dim car-
riage we curled ourselves in corners and tried to
sleep. But it was difficult not to watch these
uniformed figures, outstretched in awkward atti-
tudes which mimicked the appearance of human
refuse on a battlefield. Moreover, the train con-
stantly halted. At each station a stocky little
fellow would open his eyes, spring up, crash the
window down, and demand at the top of his lungs
ii2 WAR'S DARK FRAME
if he had reached his destination. Finally an
elderly officer stirred and asked with an accent of
" Don't you know, my friend, that you've still
twenty miles to go? On this train that should
permit you several days' complete rest. Sleep
After that we were quieter and dozed. One by
one the officers gathered their baggage and left.
The last clambered sleepily out in a grudging
dawn at the first large English base. It was clear
enough after that that we were behind the Brit-
ish lines. British faces, British khaki, British
methods filled the frames of the windows.
At country stations hospital trains lay on sidings,
ready to receive from temporary hospitals and
ambulances their grim and scarlet freight. Their
drab sides were relieved only by red crosses in
white squares. But in each car clusters of field
flowers splashed colour. The wide plate glass
windows were open to the air. Orderlies in white
jackets moved about the beds which were slung
where the seats had been.
An aeroplane, a swallow-like speck, appeared to
the right, flying in our direction. It came up
rapidly until its lines were silhouetted against the
sky in the east. The track curved. The war
'plane glided gracefully after us. I was on my
THE BRITISH IN FLANDERS 113
feet, about to reach for two sandwiches I had
stuffed in my raincoat before leaving Paris.
They ceased to interest. Officers stood in the
corridor, gazing tensely from the window. Those
who boast they can identify war 'planes are in-
variably uncertain at such a moment.
" If it is, he's sure to drop his card on us."
"This train isn't such an easy hit. Hello!"
Conversation became general in the carriages.
Some one laughed. Without warning the machine
had swooped downwards and had disappeared
behind the trees. Those dry sandwiches drew
glances of envy.
Before they were eaten the line swung towards
the sea, and with the first sparkling of water came
the sheen of innumerable tents. This coast, re-
membered as a mecca of holiday makers, had
become a vast encampment for Kitchener's vol-
unteers — the men destined soon to be brought
up for the great squeeze.
To the right in a field which rolled broadly
towards green and treeless hills several companies
of infantry seemed at some incomprehensible
game. A hundred yards in front of them stood a
series of posts between which cumbersome sacks
depended at approximately the height of a man.
The arrangement suggested the tackling dummies
ii 4 WAR'S DARK FRAME
one sees on a football field during early fall prac-
tice. Then I commenced to understand, for other
sacks, equally fat, sprawled on the ground. The
soldiers themselves illustrated the rest. Released
by the flashing of an officer's cane, they dashed
precipitately forward, assaulting the contrivance
with their bayonets. Some lowered their points
and pinioned the prone sacks. Others chose those
representing standing men. Steel gleamed, ripped
through canvas, emerged on the other side, and
was withdrawn with quick, twisting motions.
The sea rolled in with an exceptional placidity
beneath a smiling sun. A clean wind blew across
the dunes and the fields. But it was clear that
these new soldiers saw nothing, felt nothing,
beyond the sacks, inert and pig-like, at which they
rehearsed with a frantic obstinacy the killing of
Farther on practice trenches scarred the sands
or were in process of construction. A minute
efficiency appeared to have been brought to the
training in attack and defence of these men who
recently had stood behind counters, or bent over
desks, or, perhaps, tilled peacefully such fields as
The train drew up before the station of a fairly
large town — in the legendary days, a summer
resort. Two youthful and attractive Red Cross
THE BRITISH IN FLANDERS 115
nurses entered the compartment. A sub officer,
fresh-faced, slender, typical, had come to see them
off. They smiled back at him with an attempt at
brightness. He didn't quite hide a slight nervous-
ness, an expression in his eyes sadly prophetic.
One of the girls spoke impulsively.
" I am sorry you are going up to the front."
He glanced away, tapping at his shoe with his
"Stupid, isn't it? And just when I'm begin-
ning to know and like the people here."
Certainly he meant that. It wasn't the familiar
English emotional screen, for he followed it at
" I wonder what will get me up there? "
It was symptomatic of a vital evolution in the
Englishman who has experienced this war. I
have seen many examples since. Such a shift of
psychology seemed more important to the Allied
cause than the rehearsal of a bayonet charge I had
recently witnessed. Nor was there any attempt
on the part of the young nurses to shirk the hard
" At any rate you can choose your own hos-
pital," one of them suggested.
The officer's petulant striking at his boot con-
" Wish I was sure of that," he said, " but I
n6 WAR'S DARK FRAME
fancy they send you where it's most conven-
I looked at him again, straight and unafraid in
spite of the prophetic dulness of his eyes. So
much youth, so many possibilities tossed among
the chances of a war in which death is simple and
kind! It was impossible not to forecast, not to
question if he was to be the destination some days
hence of a bullet or a shell fragment, or a
gas attack, or a flash of this improved liquid
To walk into that sort of thing for an indefi-
nite period with your eyes open! No wonder
they've largely given over shirking the hard facts
Something lingering, wistful, nearly sentimental,
coloured the farewell of one of the women.
There was, it appeared, romance here. Some
concession from her was to be expected, yet, when
the train had started, when he had dropped to the
platform after clinging perilously to the step until
the last possible moment, she turned to the win-
dow with a sigh.
It was scarcely more than an echo of the sigh!
" I wonder. Oh, dear ! I wonder."
No tears, no comfort, from the other woman,
no further allusion to him — only an anxious dis-
THE BRITISH IN FLANDERS 117
cussion as to whether they would be in time for
the English boat. It seemed rather cruel. Then
I remembered the hard facts. These women
during many months had worked in hospitals
sheltering wounds unbearable merely to see.
They had watched young men go forth not to
return. They had helped others back to a mutil-
ated, useless existence. The romance in Flanders
isn't the old romance. It is there, nevertheless.
It is greater than the old romance because it is
definable only in terms of undisciplined truth.
Such fugitive experiences are always impressive
in the war zone. I, too, carried from that sunlit
station a sharp regret. The momentary glimpse
of this young soldier had left a sense of acquaint-
anceship. It seemed incredible there should be
no renewal, no knowledge by and by of the reso-
lution of his future which then had appeared so
brief and futile.
Those poor girls didn't catch their boat for
England. We puffed into the noisy, dusty seaport
base an hour late. An excitable porter scooped
up my bag and piled it on a truck with their lug-
gage. Before I could stop him he was careering
drunkenly along the docks at their flying heels.
The military landing officer rescued us. He was
sympathetic v/ith the nurses. He promised me
an hour for a bath and a noon breakfast before
n8 WAR'S DARK FRAME
the arrival of the transport with the rest of the
party for the front.
Later, while we waited for the boat, he chatted
" I'm one Englishman," he smiled, " who knows
you don't hunt Indians or shoot buffalos on Fifth
Avenue. Several years ago somebody tried to
show me all of New York in three days. I'm still
He indicated two grey cars rolling down the
quay driven by young men in khaki. An officer
sprang from the tonneau of one and hurried for-
ward. He was introduced as a staff captain from
headquarters who would be my cicerone for the
next few days. The anonymity of this war
extends even to such a companionship. Captain
Williams, to use some name then, was sympathetic
about my presence there at such an hour. It
sketched for him that interminable journey by
night. He would have waited for me. So at
once I was made to feel welcome and at home.
The English don't ask many to see what they are
accomplishing in Flanders, but when you are there
they reserve little. They never give you a feel-
ing of intrusion.
Two transports came in to-day. As they made
fast to the quay one saw that the decks were clut-
tered with life-preservers. Some men still strug-
THE BRITISH IN FLANDERS 119
gled from that suggestive embrace. For on these
transports every one is compelled to wear a life-
belt from port to port.
They commenced to troop off — Tommies, sub-
alterns, and generals. It seemed fantastic so
many human beings could be crowded into these
little boats. There were no smiles on the sun-
burned faces. Men coming to Flanders for the
first time or returning after leave don't smile
easily, but when a boat goes forth for the chalk
cliffs of England even the menace of submarines
can't kill a breathless gaiety.
Williams collected our party — a man from the
foreign office and two Japanese, one straight and
slender with a face of a Samurai type, the other
short and round with a gentle, nervous manner of
During luncheon in the maritime station Wil-
liams outlined his plans. That afternoon we
were to see interesting but not dangerous places.
Later we might learn the vital mechanism of army
service and ordnance. If we wanted to go, he
would take us to the front line trenches. We
could visit Arras — possibly Notre Dame de Lo-
rette, and other notorious points of the fighting
line which for the present must share the general
That programme was carried through, and we
120 WAR'S DARK FRAME
saw, I fancy, a little more of war than any one
intended. Therefore, the interest of our first
afternoon was heightened in retrospect by the
peace we were not to know again during this trip.
HOSPITALS AND HEADQUARTERS
FIRST of all we drove to a temporary hos-
pital on the cliffs. The adjective had
prepared us for a comfortless and hast-
ily thrown together affair. Instead we found
another monument to that admirable efficiency
which the English, since the commencement of the
war, have developed at the cost of a multitude of
Grass plots and flower beds flourished. There
was a net work of macadam roads put in by the
Royal Engineers. Only one or two of the
revered marquee tents survived; for, no matter
how the satirist of British tradition may sneer,
experience dictates everything in Kitchener's army,
and long, narrow wooden buildings of one story
have proved themselves more serviceable, more
adaptable to cleanliness, and, curiously, less expen-
sive, than the tents which served for field hospitals
during so many wars.
A colonel of the medical corps greeted us, of-
fering to direct our exploration.
" Each one of these huts," he said, " is a ward."
122 WAR'S DARK FRAME
The name drew a laugh of surprise.
" Anything," he laughed back, " that we put
up of wood in the war zone is christened * hut.'
Don't know how it started, but it's easy to say,
and everybody knows what it means."
He opened a door. The long building, filled
with a pallid green light from the curtained win-
dows, stretched away in an interminable vista of
suffering. Above the beds, set in a double row
at right angles to the walls, were arranged odd
contrivances of wood, reminiscent of cotton looms.
They gave the ward an appearance of a factory
whose activity has been suddenly arrested. Then
gradually from the mesh of posts and beams
drawn faces detached themselves, the stumps of
limbs protruded. The faces watched us curiously
while the surgeon led us down the aisle, pointing
out the elaborate system of weights and pulleys,
arranged on the wooden frames to take the strain
from injured legs and arms. Some poor devils
lay on their backs with both legs and both arms
in the slings.
" Several of these frames have been used be-
fore," the surgeon said with a little pride.
" Others — this one, for instance — have been in-
vented here since the beginning of the war."
He braced his hand against the wood and leant
over the patient beneath.
" You tell us what you think of it, Jock."
The soldier grinned. Evidently he progressed,
and forecasted a sound escape. He moved his
bandaged limbs to show us how beautifully the
" And it doesna hurt much," he said, " and a
man can move about a little and go twist like on
his side. Watch, sirs."
He did it — a trick as difficult, doubtless, as a
contortionist's masterpiece, and conquered with
heaven knows what agony secreted behind the
features suddenly stripped of their grin.
Certainly one should be grateful for that much.
When one has suffered for eight months it must
be pleasant to move a little and to go twist like on
But across the aisle was slung one of those
tragic stumps, and the face beyond it was sunken
and feverish, and the eyes could not conceal a
The surgeon spoke to the man gently, asking
him how it went.
" A good deal of fever," the mutilated fellow
answered dully, " but all right, I guess."
It became clear that he didn't care, that for
him the future held no energetic lure. The hor-
rible stump of scarcely healed flesh quivered in
the sling. His eyes closed. We didn't want to
i2 4 WAR'S DARK FRAME
see a man's grief for himself, so we hurried on.
It was necessary to call upon a bleak cynicism,
equal to the surgeon's; to recall that the most
likely end for the youth of Europe is a room like
this, or else a common grave, or a resting place
unblanketed even by the friendly earth.
In another ward we saw above the bed-clothes
of the end cot a young face, square, thick-lipped,
a little animal-like.
" A prisoner," the surgeon explained with a
smile. " We were afraid we were going to lose
him, but he's coming right enough now, and he
likes it here. He's a great favourite with the
The German did, indeed, have an air of con-
tentment, but he glanced at the Tommies in the
neighbouring beds, at the pleasant, quiet nurses, at
the surgeon who had pulled him through, and his
expression held a great question, as if he would
ask why he had been commanded to strafe such
friendly and lovable people.
We drove across the plateau to a convalescent
The commandant, an elderly grey-haired man
in a colonel's uniform, welcomed us for the mo-
ment into his official family. He was really like
that — a paternal type — a father with a gigantic
brood of children; and the grounds of his camp
were his front yard and his fields. Immediately
he boasted a little as the heads of thrifty house-
holds do. He reckoned pridefully what he ex-
pected to get for his crop of hay — much more
than last year, so just that much more for the gov-
ernment, for even here efficiency was a deity. It
expressed itself in the sight of his brood, working
at their own trades, remaking shoes, converting
jam and butter tins into pails and sprinklers and
gasolene funnels, seeing that no smallest piece of
rough material went wholly to waste.
He made us gasp at the sight of that extraordin-
ary process of feeding the British soldier. As-
suredly it must be a painful scandal to the Ger-
It was only a little before tea time, and in the
dining hut long deal tables were neatly arranged
with plates, cups, and saucers, with huge loaves of
bread between, and bowls of jam and butter and
cheese. On serving tables arose pyramids of egg
cups. The colonel with his air of a thoughtful
parent indicated these.
" Any boy that wants it," he said, " can have a
boiled egg with his tea. And look here, if you
He took us into a kitchen as wide as a barn and
as clean as a dairy. Pails of tea cooled, sharpen-
126 WAR'S DARK FRAME
ing our own appetites. Splendid rashers of bacon
had been brought from the storehouse for to-
morrow's breakfast, and legs of lamb beyond
counting for to-morrow's dinner. And I've
learned since that there was nothing exceptional
here. Tommy fights on such food unless his sup-
plies are cut off by an unexpected bombardment,
or, in an attack, he is caught for the night ahead
of his transport.
The colonel grinned.
" Now and then they complain if they don't get
just the type of cheese or jam they're accustomed
to. But that sort of thing's looked after."
We followed him breathlessly to a hollow of
the grounds where a hut stood reminiscent of the
Y. M. C. A. shacks I had seen in Panama during
the construction of the canal. The colonel veri-
fied that hazard. There is, he told me, a chain
of these behind the front, furnished according to
the familiar pattern with a store at one end, a
billiard table at the other, and often a miniature
stage for concerts and amateur theatricals.
" So," he said, " if a boy gets hungry or doesn't
like what we give him up there he drops in and
buys some chocolate or a cup of tea or coffee and
maybe a handful of biscuits."
Somebody ventured the opinion that over-eat-
ing can be as deadly as bullets. The colonel re-
" When you work as hard as these boys do, you
get awfully healthy, and you need lots of food.
Besides, when you're going into battle you don't
worry much about your liver."
Here — and in this respect the camp may be
taken as conformable with the ordinary canton-
ment — the Y. M. C. A. had no monopoly of
recreation work. There were two other huts, one
furnished by the government, the other endowed
There was a garden about this last where two
young women, gloved and wearing rough straw
hats, toiled with rake and hoe. We paused and,
following the colonel's lead, chatted for some mo-
ments about their potatoes and beans and cab-
bages. As we walked on the colonel laughed a
" You know that very handsome young girl
with the rake is Lady So and So. The war is
changing things rather, don't you think? "
That admitted no dispute. As I have indicated,
its truth is everywhere impressed upon one. The
war is changing things rather. Lady So and So
has forgotten the interval that formerly gaped
between her and Tommy So and So. The hard
128 WAR'S DARK FRAME
facts have really levelled that. The presence of
death, its constant threat — for even here the lady
and the Tommy are equally subject to an aero-
plane bomb or an unlovely Zeppelin attack —
make one's recollection of such social rifts a little
abashed. And that's the best thing that can be
said for this war, the finest thing that can survive
it. The individual has learned largely to seek
his own level, holding within easy reach a uni-
versal and attainable goal.
In this very camp a soldier pointed out a work-
ing example. The three recreation huts sift the
men into an instinctive classification.
" In one," the soldier said, " you can toss your
fags on the floor, lift your feet on the tables, and
shout your blooming head off, if you please. In
the second maybe ash trays don't grow, but the
floor's the place for feet, and shouting's not tol-
erated. The third, over there, is a regular little
club where you behave like a gentleman, and read
the papers and magazines, and improve your
He glanced at his neatly brushed uniform.
" I like that place, and it's funny. Most of
the men after they've been here a while drift up
that way. Anybody likes to be respectable if he
gets the chance."
Our party entered the officers' mess for tea and
sat down, blessing the Army Service Corps for all
it had placed before us. In the confusion names
had been lost, but in addition to the medical offi-
cers there were two men whose khaki carried the
black facings of the church. The chaplain next
to me, tall, slender, a little grey-haired, had spent
a good deal of time in America. We discovered
common friends. We asked each other's names.
Since his is a nom de plume perhaps the censor will
let it through.
" If you would know of me at all," he said
modestly, " it would be as G. A. Birmingham."
The thought of those rollicking Irish stories
and plays made his presence here seem an in-
justice. It gave the lie again to the so-called
British apathy. It was one more example of how
every social and intellectual class is feeding this
monster of war.
While we talked some one produced Harry
Lauder on the gramophone, a hymn or two, and
a waltz. Williams closed the entertainment with
the announcement that we had a forty mile drive
to General Headquarters ahead of us.
One goes rapidly in these military cars. There
is no speed limit outside of villages where trans-
port parks, cavalry, or billets make it necessary.
In each of these, sturdy men whose khaki carried
a black sleeve band with M. P. in red, stepped out
130 WAR'S DARK FRAME
and regulated our passage with the assurance of
a London bobby at Oxford Circus. Where the
traffic was congested and diverse, staff officers and
Tommies, truck drivers and airmen bowed with an
equal meekness to the mandates of these calm,
stern creatures. Yet the military policemen have
never once seemed in key with the disorder of war.
It is hard to appreciate that such clockwork de-
tail makes that vast disorder possible at all.
For long stretches the drive might have been a
pleasure jaunt. A black and yellow board at a
crossroads, pointing the route to a Belgian field
hospital, was a momentary reminder. The long
road, lined with poplars or lime trees, bisected a
highly cultivated countryside. Our entrance even
into one of the two general headquarters towns
that have replaced Saint Omer since the extension
of the British line, had nothing to offer of the
panoply of war. A brook rippled beneath an
ancient bridge. Grey stone houses, half hidden
among trees, terraced a steep hillside. A gothic
church tower raised its sharp silhouette against a
sky already sprinkled with gold.
" This is one half of the heart of the British
Williams' words sounded like a joke in bad
taste. Yet the other headquarters town a little
farther on was equally rural, quite as picturesque.
In the sleepy buildings officers worked at desks,
disturbed by the roar of cannon only when an un-
usually heavy bombardment conspired with a fav-
ourable wind. You pictured Sir Douglas Haig,
even farther removed, in an isolated chateau,
seated in a somnolent library, the cradle of every
detail of routine and death. Peace at headquar-
ters and horror at the front, but not an ounce of
glamour left in war anywhere !
Our own home shared the restfulness of the
headquarters villages. We came upon it for the
first time on the edge of this golden sunset. Far
at the end of an avenue of huge and symmetrical
trees stood the red and white facade of a chateau.
Two time-stained gate houses were outposts. A
clock stared from the top story, justifying Wil-
Two dogs ran around the corner, greeting us
excitedly. Military servants took our bags. I
was led into a comfortable room, and stared from
its broad windows at a great park, bounded by
evergreens and elms. I saw a sun dial in the cen-
tre. Magpies flew with a gentle rustling of wings
among the trees. It was difficult any longer to
believe in the reason for this visit. And it was
always like that at the chateau. To be sure staff
officers came to dine with us each night, and we
talked continually of war, for to discuss shop isn't
132 WAR'S DARK FRAME
bad taste in the British army any longer. But the
impulse to all this chatter seemed far removed
from the dining-room and the quiet movements
of the servants. One might talk just so in Lon-
don or New York. From the first it wasn't rea-
sonable that less than forty miles away lay that
open wound in the body of civilisation which we
had come to probe.
It was brought nearer as we started for bed the
night of our arrival. Williams appeared then
with an armful of khaki-coloured bags, slung from
straps. He handed one to each of us.
" These are gas masks," he said seriously.
" On no account forget them to-morrow."
With an assumed indifference one wanted to
know what kind of gas the Germans were using.
" An improved variety," Williams answered.
He lighted a cigarette.
11 If you get the alarm," he went on between
puffs, " hold your breath until you put your masks
on, because three whiffs of this new stuff is cer-
tain death, and it isn't a pretty way to go either."
Even with such a prompting utter weariness
won't let you dream of war.
U.NDER FIRE IN A FLAT LAND
AFTER an early breakfast we started for a
point of the line already sufficiently his-
torical, but not to be mentioned here.
We glanced regretfully at the chateau as the cars
scurried up the avenue. Williams was with me,
and, following his advice, I examined the work-
ings of my gas mask. It was designed to cover
the head completely and to be buttoned into one's
coat collar. In the brown cloth goggles were
fastened. Beneath them a wooden tube with an
elastic band was to be taken between the lips
for outbreathing. Through the chemical soaked
meshes of the cloth itself sufficient air filtered for
breathing in. It was an unlovely, uncomfortable,
and odorous contrivance. We were careful to
keep ours slung over our shoulders as Williams
carried his, as every officer and man near the
fighting line carried one. The necessity for such
a precaution revolted your sense of decency,
aroused a sort of anger.
We hurried through the dew-soaked morning,
i 3 4 WAR'S DARK FRAME
still a trifle misty, and always there were signifi-
cant pointers to measure our progress towards the
front. Beside the grey lines of old churches mod-
ern automobile trucks were drawn up, out of place,
grotesque, nearly laughable. We passed many
on the road, forging ahead beneath giant loads
with a noisy stubbornness. In one village, side
by side with a crowded, loquacious native market,
stood a travelling motor repair shop. Inside a
huge truck machinery whirred and grimy men
busied themselves making whole the parts of many
smaller trucks clustering around like a lot of
patient animals. We had had trouble with our
ignition, so we paused and asked for a new spark
plug. The uniformed mechanic waited only to
know the model of our car. A moment later he
was back with what we wanted.
We dashed on towards the trenches with a
breathless haste. We had to reduce our speed to
pass a long line of lancers, trotting beneath the
trees, raising the dust higher than their waving
pennons. Everywhere was evidence of the ap-
proach of a great squeeze.
"Then they'll use cavalry again! " some one
The appearance of the villages altered. In
each one now khaki clad forms swarmed.
Bronzed faces looked at us interestedly. Beside
UNDER FIRE IN A FLAT LAND 135
the entrance of each house and yard a sign had
been painted. It might be: " Billets for fifteen
men," or " Officers' billets," or " Stabling for ten
horses." Restful legends for troops fresh from
the trenches. And we didn't have to be told that
these men were not of the class in training. The
lines of their faces, their air of confidence and
pride, marked them for veterans. We were get-
ting very close.
It is a curious fact that always on approaching
the front line you experience a sense of reluctance
mixed with a desire to accomplish just that from
which you shrink. It is possible at one moment to
resent each turning of the wheels, and the next to
wonder at your good-fortune in travelling in such
a direction at all. But long before you reach your
goal you are aware of that strain which makes it
wise to send men back to billets, and all that day
the strain grows and colours the days ahead less
Our nearness was apparent when, beneath a
bland sun which had routed the mist, we swung
into a road along a poplar-bordered canal. A
sullen roar, exactly like the distant explosion of a
giant cracker on the Fourth of July, disturbed the
peace of water and shrubbery. For a moment it
deadened the songs of birds. It made it seem
natural we should sweep past barges, painted
136 WAR'S DARK FRAME
white and stained with huge red crosses. It ren-
dered quite superfluous Williams' explanation that
the wounded who suffer too harshly for ambulance
or train are carried in these craft smoothly to the
sea and the hospital ship for England. Its rep-
etition, its constant recurrence now, sketched a
morbid picture, blurred with smoke — a sort of
hell to which men go before they die.
We entered a large village and drew up before
the headquarters of a division general. With the
stopping of the engines the cannon chorus grew
throatier, as if warning us back in a titanic fury.
Williams got out.
" I'm going in to report," he said, " and to find
out, if I can, what the Huns are up to. I don't
want to get you fellows strafed if I can help
We sat in the cars, listening to the ugly roar
while we studied this nerve centre of the fighting
The headquarters was a large brick chateau,
set across a wide and pleasant yard. On the high
verendah a group of officers lounged, smoking and
with puzzled faces appearing to listen, too.
Sentries paced swiftly up and down before the
steps. From a wooden shack at one side a brass
horn, like an automobile signal, seemed perpetu-
ally ready to scream. Any doubt as to its pur-
UNDER FIRE IN A FLAT LAND 137
pose was resolved by a large sign on a house
across the street.
" Gas Post."
Our driver exposed a friendly intelligence.
" Men caught in the street by an alarm go to
one of these posts and await instructions. We
don't take any chances with gas. A few days ago
there was a high wind, and people in villages ten
miles back of the line were slightly affected."
Williams came out, looking rather sober. A
bright young officer from the headquarters fol-
lowed him. They climbed in and we twisted out
of the village on to a road that crossed open fields.
One guessed that it was in view of the German
artillery, but we hurried along it towards a hamlet
above which a shattered church tower was like a
storm-swept beacon. The roar of great guns, no
longer muffled by trees and houses, was tinglingly
" What does it mean? " some one asked.
Williams didn't answer. The division officer,
whose face also was a trifle perplexed, said:
" Just a little hymn of hate."
Suddenly he pointed.
" I say! The Huns have got a sausage up."
Above the tree-divided fields, seemingly quite
close, an observation balloon, the shape of a
sausage, indeed, floated at an angle. Two or
138 WAR'S DARK FRAME
three aeroplanes, with the appearance of gigantic,
butterflies, drifted lazily about in the sunlight.
" That means business," the division officer
You experienced a shutting off of all the wider
future. You were merely grateful to get off that
naked road and among the trees of the village.
When the engines were stopped again at brigade
headquarters the roar of the guns was perpetual
and close, and torn now and then by heavier ex-
plosions. Clearly there was something ahead
more exciting than Champagne or Lorraine had
A brigade officer, a charming fellow with red
hair and freckles, came out, shook hands, and an-
nounced that he was to be our guide for the
trenches. He shared the general seriousness.
" I see you have your gas masks," he said to me,
" but you'll want helmets."
He waited as if for a reply. It was necessary
to say something.
" Yes, thanks. It would add a little to the
No matter what impression you make on other
people at the front you have no illusions about
At a word from him an orderly brought a cluster
of round, flat steel hats.
UNDER FIRE IN A FLAT LAND 139
" They're good for protection against small
shell fragments," our guide offered.
" They wouldn't stop a forty-two, you know.
You've been to the French front? What do you
think of their helmets. Both types are good, I
It served. Under fire any trivial topic, once
started, is worn threadbare.
It seemed strange that this town, which the
Germans must have known as a feeding place for
the trenches, wasn't under constant bombardment.
As we drove off the brigade officer shifted from
" They've a town like this just beyond their
lines. If they throw a shell in here we retaliate,
and vice versa. So for the most part it's hands
off. Since they knocked the church tower about
they've been pretty good, but, of course, it's likely
to come at any moment."
That contingency ceased to interest, for already
we were among the fields again, not immune like
the town, and on this side, nearer the enemy,
ruined farm houses and ragged trees scarred the
Suddenly the officer bent towards the driver and
whispered. With a startled locking of wheels the
car stopped, then turned around, while the driver
140 WAR'S DARK FRAME
with jerky motions signalled the other car back.
All at once there was a noticeable tenseness about
the uniformed men with us. For some distance
we scurried the way we had come. We took a
turn around a smashed farm house in the direc-
tion of the trenches. Beyond such signs of wreck-
age, beyond the rising clamour of the guns, there
was something about that flat country, basking
in the sun, that meant danger. We were in the
heart of a vast army, yet, except for ourselves,
there was no human being to be seen. It occurred
to you then — an interminable uproar in an empty
place ! The ground seemed to writhe beneath it.
The devastated landscape had an earthquake ap-
pearance at which the bland sun mocked.
I shouted, asking why we had made that
startled turn, why we had chosen this new road.
" Because," the brigade officer answered, " the
Huns are strafing the road I had planned to take.
I thought when we started their sausage looked a
little close. This seemed safer."
But was it? It was obvious that the observers
in the balloon, if they looked our way, could see
us crossing the level fields. But our dash was
brief. We drew up at a crossroads, marked by
the unsual blasted house. An officer and a sol-
dier sprang from behind the ruin, their gas masks
striking against their hips as they hurried towards
UNDER FIRE IN A FLAT LAND 141
us. The officer's face, beneath his steel helmet,
was troubled and disapproving. He hit at an
automobile tire with his cane.
11 Get those cars away from here," he com-
manded shortly. " This crossroads is a nice
place for shells this morning."
Several craters near by were sufficient testi-
mony, so we clambered out, and, at Williams' di-
rection, threw our hats in the cars, put on the
steel helmets, and made sure that our gas masks
were safe. We followed our guide around the
ruin while the cars with an air of flight dashed
The brigade officer led me down a lane which
offered scarcely more cover than the road. The
others followed in a straggling line. My guide
glanced back, nodding approvingly.
" We're a less tempting target that way," he
I looked ahead. Fully a mile away, at the end
of the lane, arose another ruined wall — the near-
est shelter from the eyes in that distorted balloon.
It assumed the remoteness and the desirability of
an explorer's goal. Then more than the confus-
ing roar of gun fire pointed its distance. Over-
head shells commenced to scream, and as we
walked on, that evil sound came oftener and grew
louder, until it, too, was near and perpetual.
142 WAR'S DARK FRAME
Sometimes it was only a querulous whine. Some-
times it was like the hurtling of a great sky-rocket.
Now and then, because of calibre and proximity, it
reminded one of a racing automobile with all its
exhausts open, streaking past within a few feet,
yet unseen because of some obstruction.
And you looked up, expecting to see the source
of that hideous sound. Each steel scream, from
its whining commencement, through its crashing
climax to a series of receding ululations, was a
matter of seconds. Something must be outlined
up there against the sun. But always there was
nothing, and you walked on, wondering how men
could dwell perpetually in such a racket, and you
were taught immediately that there are irri-
tants for a soldier's nerves infinitely harder to
It cut, apparently close at hand, under the cur-
tain roar of cannon fire. Rat-tat-tat-tat for long
periods, a momentary cessation, then a recom-
mencement. It suggested a woodpecker, gigantic
and restless. It is the sulkiest and the most
abominable sound of this war — a perpetual re-
minder that machine guns can spray more death
and wounds than shell fire. You can't be sure of
the source or direction of machine gun fire. It
may be after a number of targets, including your-
UNDER FIRE IN A FLAT LAND 143
self. The red-headed brigade officer, experienced
in such estimates, walked a little faster and hesi-
tated before answering my question.
" I daresay they've seen a couple of our men
coming up with a water cart."
You felt a swift sympathy for those men, a
desire to know if the soldiers for whom they had
started would have to wait for water, but sharp
fire begets selfishness, and just then shells began to
drop in the field to our right. The sound of a
number of screams did not diminish. They ended
instead in fat, puffy explosions, and in the cloud-
less sky, clouds, snow white and beautiful, were
" Shrapnel ! " the officer muttered. " What are
they after? "
From the rear came Williams' voice.
" What do the Huns think they're strafing out
And above the roar another anxious query:
" Can they see us from their sausage? "
Before any one could answer four roars at in-
tervals of less than a second heralded four formid-
able detonations, and not far in the field four sable
strains belched apparently from the grass and
were drawn by the wind into ugly and impenetra-
ble curtains. The fancy of an earthquake land-
scape was strengthened, for about these sudden
i 4 4 WAR'S DARK FRAME
eruptions was the monstrous fortuitousness of na-
A map that the officer had commenced to un-
fold was for the moment forgotten. Strangely it
was possible to express curiosity, as if these things
passed on a cinema screen.
" I suppose they're high explosives."
The ruddy head nodded.
Four more shells hurtled into the field, but only
three volcanoes joined the black pall against the
"Hello! A dud!"
The cause of his satisfaction, the meaning of
that word, were apparent. Somewhere in the
field lay a shell, from the supposedly perfect Ger-
man ammunition factories, which had failed to
Others came too close for a civilian's comfort.
We glanced at each jetty curtain. We studied the
innumerable craters on the road. Doubtless, we
all wondered if another would be formed too near
One experienced, even if one made no visible
concession to the strain, a reluctance of the mind
to grasp or hold details. One recalled with dif-
ficulty incidents only a few minutes past. In short,
it had become necessary to drive the memory to
its task. From officers and men I have learned
UNDER FIRE IN A FLAT LAND 145
that this closing of the mind to everything except
the immediate future is nearly universal. For it
they express a rather pitiful gratitude.
So we walked on, and nothing came too close.
We reached the goal of the shattered wall and
took breath for a moment behind it. A straight
highway receded between torn trees. On a split
sign-board a name was decipherable, familiar to
any one who has motored through Belgium and
northern France. There were shell craters in
every direction. The machine guns had resumed
their hateful petulance. We knew that the com-
munication trench must be near. No one asked.
It was easier for the moment not to talk.
The brigade officer folded his map and thrust
it in his pocket. He led us around the wall
and into a screen of bushes from which a narrow
passage sloped downwards. We descended only
a little way, to find the walls artificially raised.
That's the worst of trench digging in this
blessed bog," the officer said. " Go down two
feet and you strike water. Trench walls have to
be raised like these. They're a lot easier knocked
over by shell fire, too."
We had no criticism to offer of the communica-
tion line. To be sure, its close sides admitted
none of the pleasant breeze, and those steel hel-
mets were demanding the price of their pro-
146 WAR'S DARK FRAME
tection. They bound one's temples. Constantly
perspiration rolled from beneath the brim into
one's eyes. But I had never dreamed what a
friendly place a communication trench could be.
It was good to touch the yellow walls, supported
by rattan work, to know that a shell would have
to make a direct hit to limit our progress now.
Here and there, as a matter of fact, there were
breaches in the walls, but for a little while the
crying in the sky was mournful rather than angry,
and the explosions were muffled and farther away.
We circled a number of the usual traverses and
machine gun emplacements, but the trench was
surprisingly short. It scarcely gave us time to
smile at Tommy's fancy, expressed on neat sign-
boards at the junctions. These had, it appeared,
the official stamp, for our guide spoke of such
thoroughfares as Oxford Street, Kingsway, and
the Strand, as if he had been conducting us through
the peaceful racket of London. The Strand went
straight to our destination, and we emerged from
it into a wide plaza, terminated opposite by a
parapet of interlaced logs and sand bags. A few
silent figures, with rifles through loopholes, braced
themselves there. We walked with an air of
stealth. When we spoke our voices were lower.
We were in the front line.
THE DAY'S WORK OF LIFE AND DEATH
AT THE FRONT
FREQUENT traverses, of the same con-
struction as the parapet, stretched at right
angles to protect the men as far as possible
from shell and grenade fragments and from the
enfilading fire of machine guns. We were to
learn the wisdom of that precaution before long.
A trench officer strolled around the end of a
traverse. He wore a uniform of the same quality
as his men's, for the hard facts have been realised
here, too, and officers no longer expose themselves
contemptuously or in bursts of foolhardy bravery.
The German sniper has a little difficulty now in
distinguishing officers from men. This fellow
with his round helmet had an oriental appearance.
He came up, greeting us gratefully. We evi-
dently broke the monotony of his watch. In his
eyes was something of the universal strain, but
he spoke easily, asking the question that had
spoiled our walk and troubled us all.
" What were the Huns strafing back there? "
The fact that we couldn't tell him pointed the
148 WAR'S DARK FRAME
vagueness that surrounds everything for the indi-
vidual in this war. Out here men even die with
a certain vagueness.
" How are things with you? " Williams asked.
" Fairly quiet," the newcomer answered, " just
He glanced quickly around as if expectant of
something. We walked on with him, subdued by
the gun roar and the constant sight of those armed
figures, braced against the parapet, peering
through loop-holes, quite motionless, yet expect-
Openings to dug-outs made black patches
against the sorrel earth at the base of the parapet.
The men at the parapet were sentinels. The
larger part of the command must lurk in these
holes. I entered one. Three forms, quite the
colour of the earth on which they lay, crowded a
tiny cave. Their log-like sleep suggested the cul-
tivation of a log-like mental attitude or the delib-
erate encouragement of a fatigue beyond the dis-
pute of nerves.
"What about the rats?" some one asked the
trench officer as I emerged. " See any rats down
there ? At home they say the rats are so bad they
actually eat the soldiers' faces."
The trench officer spread his hands.
" I can only speak for my own men," he said.
THE DAY'S WORK 149
" Most of them, when the rats begin to eat them
alive, wake up and say, ' Shoo.' "
There has, perhaps, been as much written about
vermin as bullets. Momentarily the subject
clung — probably because it kept us from looking
too far ahead. It is impossible to exaggerate the
bullets. We began to suspect that imagination
had played with the other, for these men were
fairly clean. While their uniforms were marked
with last night's mud and whitened with this morn-
ing's dust, they required no more radical antidote
than a brisk brushing. Trenches are dirty and
uncomfortable, but I couldn't see here such dis-
order of body and clothing as is observable among
any gang of labourers engaged in excavation
" Conditions," the trench officer said, " are nat-
urally better than during the winter and early
spring, but experience as well as the weather has
got something to do with it."
" What about the activities of certain unpleas-
ant small life? "
He paused. Across the plaza we saw a few
groups under non-commissioned officers, twining
those deadly globes of barbed wire, invented by
the French, for the blocking of communication
trenches. Others worked with trowel and
cement at machine gun emplacements. Some
i 5 o WAR'S DARK FRAME
made repairs where an ugly lack of uniformity in
the parapet recorded the entrance of a recent
" Those chaps don't look particularly fidgety,
do they? " he asked. " If our little companions
have largely left us it's because shorter periods in
the trenches, compulsory baths, and a complete
change of clothing once a week have made us less
enticing for them, and a lot fonder of ourselves."
A harder burst of firing directed his glance to-
wards the parapet. We crowded at his heels in
the direction of a periscope.
" Their sausage is keeping them busy this morn-
ing," he said over his shoulder. " By the way,
any of you fellows heard news of Blank? "
The freckled face of the brigade officer dark-
ened. Williams wanted to know what about
" Went up in one of our balloons yesterday,"
the trench officer answered. " A lucky shrapnel
shot cut the cord and we could see him from here
drifting over the trenches while the Huns shot
their heads off."
" I heard this morning," the brigade officer
said, " that somebody had seen him cut loose his
" Not much chance that way," Williams mused.
THE DAY'S WORK 151
" The anti-air guns would get him sure. He'd
have dropped in their lines anyway."
" Nice chap, Blank," the brigade officer mut-
tered. " We've been hoping for news all morn-
The trench officer put his eye to the periscope.
" I wondered," he said.
After a time he looked up.
" Perhaps you'd like to see the Hun trenches.
If you raised your head above the parapet you'd
make good practice for one of their snipers. Try
In the glass at the base of the periscope ap-
peared a forest of posts rising from a jungle of
grass and barbed wire. Beyond, very close at
hand, lines of yellow dirt and sand bags zig-
zagged across the landscape, curving towards us
to the right and left. A trifle puzzled, I glanced
back at the British trench walls and saw that to
either side they fell away before these sudden
swoops of the enemy's lines. We were, it ap-
peared, in the apex of a small triangle, and subject
consequently to attack from three sides. Phrases
skimmed in the official reports flashed back with a
new eloquence. I understood quite thoroughly
now the meaning of, " We straightened a small
salient to-day." The trench officer grinned.
1 52 WAR'S DARK FRAME
" That's our line," he said, " great salients and
small ones. Little fellows like this breed local
trouble. Only comfort is, it's as bad for the Huns
as it is for us."
He drew from his pocket a narrow cylinder, not
unlike a small telescope.
" It's a hand periscope," he explained, " rather
useful thing — magnifies a bit. Want to try it?
Put the end over the parapet and squint in the
eye hole. That's the notion."
The ugly yellow ridges seemed closer. The
waving grass was more distinct and larger.
There was no use looking too carefully because of
the sinister souvenirs of night attacks and patrol
work the grass in No-Man's Land nearly always
But the ridges fascinated. They were like fur-
rows ploughed by a drunken giant. They offered
no evidence of the multitude of men they sheltered;
yet, if it hadn't been for the gun roar, we might
have called across to them without raising our
voices particularly. We could picture a routine
within their hollows similar to our own. But at
any moment a trivial variation over there might
send death stalking close to us — •
" How far are they? " I asked.
" Something less than a hundred yards, I should
say, from here to their front line."
THE DAY'S WORK 153
He shifted his weight from one foot to the
" You know, they're not bad at potting peri-
At that distance they could recognise this ma-
hogany cylinder for an officer's periscope. Just
then a machine gun jibed at the heavier roar.
Rat-tat-tat-tat — spraying death as a garden hose
sprays water. I glanced up at the top of the
periscope to see if it trembled.
" I say, that thing was a Christmas present.
Move it about a bit."
He seemed relieved to have it back again. The
machine gun subsided.
" Might give them some of that back," he said,
pointing to a group squatting on heels about a
" The hornets seem stirred up enough this morn-
ing," one of the others offered.
We joined the group and found in the midst of
it a machine gun whose mysteries the sergeant ex-
plained with the deportment of an old-fashioned
schoolmaster. He was glad to have fresh schol-
ars. He opened and closed the breach. He in-
serted a belt of cartridges. He commenced to
run it through. The trench officer stooped.
" Throw that safety block back! "
The sergeant obeyed with an aggrieved air,
i 5 4 WAR'S DARK FRAME
while mutely we thanked the officer for prevent-
ing his drawing any unusual attention to that par-
In place of a practical demonstration, then, the
sergeant pressed with both thumbs on a steel
plate. The cartridges swirled through, flashed
into the breach, and out through the escape-
" As long as I keeps pressin' down on this
plate," he said, " she keeps spittin', and somebody
don't like it. The water in the jacket boils when
she's spittin' hard. You have to watch out for
Evidently we showed a little distaste for the
brutal perfection of the thing. He was a trifle
offended, I think, at our haste to leave his class.
Around the next traverse we ran into another
scholarly group. A flimsy tripod stood on the
trench floor. One of the Japanese, who had ob-
served without saying much, was aroused to a
" It will interest you," the officer said. " It's
one of the things with which we make ourselves
most scandalously miserable in the trenches."
Behind his banter was a wistful seriousness
which you understood as he went on.
" It's for throwing rifle grenades."
He picked up a black, pear-shaped object which
THE DAY'S WORK 155
differed from the ordinary hand grenade in just
one particular. A long slender steel rod pro-
truded from one end.
The hand grenade, it was explained, was satis-
factory enough when the trenches were within
throwing distance, or for a swift dash across No-
Man's Land and a retreat through the night, but
there were many hours of daylight in a place like
this when it wasn't wise to let the other fellow
feel too much at ease.
He passed the grenade around, cautioning us
not to release the safety pin.
11 The usual pattern," he said with a reminiscent
frown. " When you draw the pin the spring flies
back and fires the fuse. If you don't throw it
then there's general hades. Maybe you've heard.
A couple days ago in a bombing school a new man
was standing by the instruction officer who was
showing him how to release the spring and throw.
The soldier had drawn the pin, and, as new men
do now and then, got a sudden touch of panic.
The instructor shouted at him:
" ' Throw that thing away, man ! For God's
sake, throw it away ! '
" Poor devil ! You see in his anxiety about the
other he'd quite forgotten he'd drawn the pin in
his own grenade."
He ended with an exclamatory gesture. Wil-
1 56 WAR'S DARK FRAME
liams stroked the corrugated surface of the
" Not so large, yet one of these things will do
in a score of men."
The trench officer took it from him and slipped
the end of the rod through the apex of the tripod.
A soldier, whose bent attitude was suggestive of
worship of the toy-like affair, placed a blank cart-
ridge in a tube at the base. The officer lowered
the rod against the cartridge. The soldier
stooped closer, manipulating a graded quadrant.
" Range is correct, sir, to drop it straight into
their trench. "
Williams started to speak. The brigade officer
" No, thank you. Our friends over there are
jumpy this morning. They'd send a few back in
What happened then had the blind irony of
chance. It was, indeed, that slight variation of
which I had thought a few minutes before. From
a point not far ahead came a sharp crack, barely
audible and lost at once in the general uproar.
Williams seemed inclined to hold us back, but we
went on after a few minutes. As we turned the
corner of a traverse we saw a quiet form out-
Already some one had flung a blanket over face
THE DAY'S WORK 157
and shoulders. Five minutes ago that form must
have been alert at sentinel duty on the parapet.
Now some one had taken his place, and he lay,
exactly the colour of the clay, except for his boots.
They were too black, too heavy, the stillest things
you have ever seen. Feet held so ought to twitch
occasionally. There was an appeal about the
multitude of studs on the soles, designed to keep
that man, who would never do anything again,
We knew why he lay there. A grenade had
come in from just such a machine as we had been
inspecting. He lay there in order that the other
fellow shouldn't feel too much at ease. And how
many more lay like him the length of the trenches
that morning with studded boots outstretched in a
We walked neither slower nor faster. We
didn't vary our talk about the catapult we had just
seen, about the further clever tricks of trench war-
fare designed to keep the other fellow from feel-
ing too much at ease. I remember Williams men-
tioned the whiz-bang — too jocular a name for a
shell that drops in and performs multiple explo-
sions — and the trench mortar which tumbles a
huge and awkward ball on the opposite parapet,
where it either kills directly or buries men alive
because of the blasting explosive it carries.
158 WAR'S DARK FRAME
Two thousand casualties, they told me, in this
division since December, while the enemy opposite
had suffered probably a good deal more, and all
from this process of keeping the other fellow from
feeling too much at ease.
" I can remember," Williams said as we walked
along, " when the sight of a dead man stirred me
up most unhappily. Now I don't pay much at-
tention. You can't. Understand? You simply
You can't and keep on at war. That explained,
too, probably, the astonishing ease with which one
learns to like or dislike men at the front. You
can form a thorough-going friendship in a day.
That's because a man realises his opportunities
may be limited.
Other officers greeted us and walked a little
with our party, chatting above the noise of guns.
In London I had seen soldiers leave Charing Cross
with the trench stains still on their uniforms.
They had seemed a little mythical. Out here at
their daily task they were quite human, as if the
whole world were like this, as if it had never been
cleaner or kinder, as if it could never change.
So we strolled on, answering to that expectancy
which lurked in every one's eyes, not sure that be-
yond each traverse some sudden and monstrous
surprise wasn't waiting for us. I was glad to see
THE DAY'S WORK 159
a new man smile as he pointed to the entrance of
an officer's dug-out.
" Like a peep at the palace? "
The pride behind his smile was perplexing.
We followed him down half a dozen* steps into a
small chamber of an uncommon neatness. The
walls were boarded and adorned with racy pic-
tures torn from a French weekly. There was,
moreover, a cot bed, a deal table, and a stove.
Foreseeing at least a general, we searched for
him in the dusk of the corners. Two young sub-
alterns, however, alone greeted us, and we re-
called that generals don't go to the trenches if
their staffs can keep them out. Some one con-
gratulated the subalterns on their stove.
One of the youths patted it as if it had been a
" It is a comfort on a cold morning, and it's
often quite cold even this time of year."
He, too, let slip a little of that prideful air.
We chorused a demand for its source. The man
who had brought us in waved his hand.
" You see, when he was on this front, this was
the home for several nights of the Prince of
In a mournful tone a hope was expressed that
during those days the racy pictures of scantily
draped femininity had not decorated the walls.
160 WAR'S DARK FRAME
One of the subalterns with a meek air accepted
the responsibility. We went out, smiling but
more convinced than before of the dynamic de-
mocracy of this struggle, for there was nothing
of the palace about that dug-out. It was not, as
we define such things, even comfortable. It was,
we found, almost next door to a kitchen. I ven-
tured in there, on my hands and knees, because of
the meagre opening. A soldier, bent double as I
was, in the shallow, smothering chamber, grinned
a welcome. He brushed the perspiration from
his face and lifted the covers from three camp
kettles beneath which coals glowed. Bully beef
steamed appetizingly. Low shelves were filled
with such bread and jams and tins as I had seen
at the convalescent camp. The cook waited,
quite apparently for some congratulatory com-
" This looks pretty good. And it smells
The wet, grinning face broadened.
" I hear mighty little grumbling."
The usual culinary pride in a place like this ! If
we could have carried it from the firing line that
meal wouldn't have offended any of us.
As I backed out I caught the brigade officer's
" Maybe you'd like to see one of the few men
THE DAY'S WORK 161
out here who doesn't worry much about his din-
We nodded, a trifle mystified; so, cautioning us
not to raise our voices, he led us into a protruding
section of the trench and beckoned a corporal who
was clumsily sewing a rent in his uniform. We
waited in front of a dirty brown canvas curtain
which veiled a portion of the face of the parapet
perhaps six feet wide and three high.
" It's a sniper's post," Williams whispered.
The corporal knew what we wanted. With-
out words he slowly lifted the dirty canvas, dis-
closing a nest in the parapet cased with steel plates.
A stout young soldier crouched in the heat and
the darkness of that place. He swung around as
if grateful for the light and the air. His face
was wetter than the cook's, but he turned back,
replacing his eye at a small loop-hole in the front
" Wait a minute, Owen," the corporal mut-
The round, young face studied us again.
"What's your bag this week?" the corporal
The sniper's lips opened, showing teeth. The
grin coloured his tone.
" My bag? Ten periscopes and five Huns."
Death is such an impersonal thing nowadays.
1 62 WAR'S DARK FRAME
His pleasure seemed scarcely more out of keeping
than if he had spoken of rabbits.
" Pass out the boy that did it," the corporal
The grin failed. The rifle was offered reluct-
antly. While we glanced through the telescopic
sights the sniper remained crouched, as if ready
to spring upon us if we took any liberties with
his treasure. He didn't relax until he had his
gun in his hands again. Then he dragged it
in front of him and turned away. He was ex-
actly like a child whose favourite toy seems
threatened by the incomprehensible curiosity of a
grown-up. He uncovered a hole large enough for
the sighting of a rifle.
" Not so fast," the corporal warned.
And to us he apologised.
" The Huns are pretty sharp at this game, too.
With the curtain up they might put a lucky shot
through that hole into one of you."
He dropped the dirty canvas and rubbed his
hands. He was as proud of Owen as Owen had
been of his rifle. Why not? Five Huns!
First and last I have heard a good deal of argu-
ment as to the value of this sniping. That did
seem a good bag for one man. As a rule, how-
ever, some of the French argue such work makes
the Germans too wary. It is more profitable,
THE DAY'S WORK 163
they think, to encourage carelessness, to foster a
sense of security until men gather in gossiping
groups. Then a shell from a seventy-five at close
range bags more in a second than a week of snip-
ing will drop. The Germans too, I understand,
are divided as to which method produces the bet-
ter result. Either way it also is designed to keep
the other fellow from feeling too much at his
THE APPALLING MINES
WE walked on, discussing this and forget-
ting the most Gargantuan and terrible
practice of all. A serious-faced sub-
altern, standing with his elbow braced against the
corner of a traverse reminded us. At a distance
he had an unusual appearance. As we came up
we saw it was because of the degraded state of his
uniform — worse than any private's we had seen.
Yet it wasn't the familiar yellow mud that stained
the brown cloth, that had dried on his cheeks and
hands. This man was nearly blue from head to
" Where is there blue mud around here? " we
Something of the subaltern's haggard expres-
sion was reflected in Williams' eyes.
" Blue mud? " he repeated. " There ! "
We could see now, behind the stained man, a
heap of bluish, shiny soil from which water still
oozed, running blue and shallow across the floor
of the trench. Blue mud I Blue water!
Williams introduced the subaltern to us. He
THE APPALLING MINES 165
made a wry face and tried to rub the muck from
his fingers before shaking hands. He glanced
doubtfully at Williams, who drew him aside,
speaking quietly. He nodded.
" If you wish," he said.
With a stealth greater than we had exercised at
the sniper's post we followed him along a narrow
gully whose walls were heaped with the blue stuff,
whose floor was a stream.
" Walk carefully," he said.
It was really difficult, because of the slimy foot-
ing, to remain upright. We constantly caught
our balance against the yielding soil. There-
fore we didn't see at first the grotesque and un-
couth figure that crawled from an opening similar
to the entrance of a dug-out. You paused,
startled by the fancy of a prehistoric creature
leaving his lair and sizing you up for defence or
attack. From head to foot he was blue and drip-
ping. The mud was in his ears and thick through
his matted hair. Before he could rise the officer
spoke to him, and he remained squatted in the
" How deep are you? "
You scarcely expected intelligible words to is-
sue from such a creature, but he mentioned an
astonishing figure, and went on with rough good-
1 66 WAR'S DARK FRAME
" I'll climb down with a candle so you can
In that narrow hole there was room for only
one at a time, and it was necessary to enter as he
had started to emerge, on hands and knees.
" Don't slip," he grunted.
In a moment eyes grew a little accustomed to
the light. A wooden platform, burdened with
pipes, overhung a pit, apparently bottomless.
" The pipes are for to carry off the water," the
creature said. " We have to pump almost from
the first spadeful, and it's pump, pump, pump,
every foot we go down, and, when we get down,
every foot we go out."
He struck a match and applied it to a stump of
a candle. He swung over the brink, fumbling
with his feet for ladder rungs. I heard him
scrape down, holding the candle in one hand.
His face was no longer visible. His candle was
a mere speck. When he called up his voice was
muffled and far away.
" We strike out from here."
Yet no sound of tools came up. In almost com-
plete silence that sap was creeping towards the
German trenches a hundred yards away. That
it might go at all this uncouth creature and many
like him were daily accomplishing a task compared
with which ordinary ore mining is pure recrea-
THE APPALLING MINES 167
tion. He came puffing up the ladder. The sun
and the outside air were pleasant.
" How fast do you go? " I asked the subaltern.
It varied, he answered. Sometimes two yards
a day. Sometimes more.
" It depends on the soil and the size of the sap.
Usually there is room only to work and pass back
in baskets the excavated soil."
That, we saw, was raised to the surface and
used to strengthen old parapets or to construct
We looked at this officer, who was scarcely
more than a boy, with unqualified admiration.
The fact that all along the line from the sea to
the Vosges other men were performing identical
tasks, made no difference. His reminder that the
Germans were pushing similar saps in our direc-
tion, that one might explode beneath our feet at
any moment, was rather depressing. But he en-
couraged us with a smile that cracked the mud on
" I think we have a better system of listening
than the Huns. We like to think we can detect
their saps here before they get too close."
His easy talk called up a whole gallery of un-
happy pictures — men crouched in listening posts,
or creeping towards the German trenches at night,
from time to time pausing to lie with an ear to
1 68 WAR'S DARK FRAME
the ground, in constant fear of a star shell which
might point them out to a sniper or a waiting
machine gun crew. But more compelling was the
recollection of that crouched and filthy creature.
It was possible to see him stretched in the narrow
tunnel, digging away as stealthily as possible the
soil in front of him, quite at the mercy of the Ger-
man listeners, perhaps breaking through into a
rival sap-head and fighting murderously in a nar-
row hole. When a mischance occurs during mine
work a burial isn't often necessary or possible.
We walked on after that with some thought for
what might be going on beneath our feet. Cer-
tainly mining alone is enough to keep the other
fellow from feeling too much at his ease. Fancy
trying to protect yourself day after day from all
the enemy's noisy devices of death, knowing as
well that each moment mines are creeping towards
you, wondering each moment if your particular
section has been chosen, anticipating each moment
the crumbling of the earth beneath your feet, a
roar, a disintegration as important for you as the
end of the world.
It is necessary to visit the front to put life into
the dry-as-dust phrases of the official reports.
" We exploded a mine and consolidated the cra-
ter " — That line carries more horror than the
blackest tragedy ever written.
THE APPALLING MINES 169
We were glad to follow the brigade officer up
a path marked " Sniper's Avenue," which proved
to be a communication trench and led us out of the
reach of mines. I wonder if we hadn't all counted
the hours in the front line. We had, I know,
glanced at our watches more frequently than one
does at home. I wonder if every soldier who is
condemned to the trenches for days doesn't count
the hours, the minutes, until he can walk along a
communication trench away from the things that
keep him from feeling too much at ease.
At a turning where the wall had been broken
down a little by a shell we were greeted by two
sharp reports like the snapping of a whip. We
had an uncomfortable feeling of having been shot
at, but surely the noise had been too close.
" Those were probably our snipers," the foreign
office man said.
The brigade officer shook his head.
" Huns, I think," he answered shortly. His
freckled face lost its good humour. The puzzle
concerned us all, but he would say nothing more.
We climbed a little reluctantly from the com-
munication trench to a shell-torn road, but Wil-
liams looked over his shoulder.
" They've pulled their sausage down."
The brigade officer glanced at his wrist watch,
saying in a matter-of-fact tone :
i 7 o WAR'S DARK FRAME
" About time they knocked off for luncheon. "
He laughed as he read the surprise and dis-
taste in our faces.
" Friend Boche is methodical if anything. He
usually has his hour for a comfy feed."
It was evident that the fire from the other side
had diminished. In desperation some of us took
the insufferably hot helmets from our heads.
Trusting to our guide's perfect faith in the Ger-
man schedule, we followed him across a field and
were disturbed by nothing more than an occasional
shriek from the sky.
" I told the driver," he said to Williams, " to
have the cars at Snipers' House."
If ever a name suggested a dramatic incident of
stealthy warfare that one did, but, in common with
most of the soldiers' christening of landmarks, its
origin was clouded; nor, when we had come to it,
did it offer any evidence of its own. It was the
familiar roofless quadrangle of shell-shattered
walls. Whatever its romantic past it was a pro-
saic rendezvous now for members of the transport
service. Near by, a narrow tramway descended
to a communication trench and ambled to the front
We scurried from the shelter of Snipers' House
along the devastated roads to brigade headquar-
THE APPALLING MINES 171
" With their sausage down," the brigade offi-
cer said by way of farewell, " you ought to find
the road to division headquarters comfortable
We did, but we took it in a rush.
The general welcomed us for luncheon in his
chateau. He drew, there's no question, in every
one's memory a firm and impressive portrait.
Tall, powerful, yet with an easy manner of move-
ment and speech, it was only his iron grey hair
that hinted at his real age — about sixty, some
one confided. Although he had retired from ac-
tive service some years before, he had enlisted
this entire division, trained it, and commanded it
during six months at the front. He was sorry
that a corps conference had prevented his seeing
us that morning.
That quiet hour, granted us by the German
routine, was happily out of key with the rest of
the day. Those of the staff who weren't on duty
sat with us around an oval table, skilfully laid and
" Any news about Blank? "
The general shook his head.
" His balloon fell in our lines," a captain said.
11 It was riddled."
" Splendid chap," some one added softly.
172 WAR'S DARK FRAME
Luncheon commenced. There was tactful talk
of America, our position in the submarine con-
troversy, our political conventions, the possibility
of our entering the war. There was — as always
at such gatherings — an undercurrent of wonder,
never quite reaching the surface, that we should
have found it to our best interests to have held
I gathered, not particularly from this conversa-
tion, rather everywhere in England and France,
that a belief had grown since the beginning of the
war in our lack of homogeneity. We were, it was
suspected, incapable of direct and concerted action.
In those days the men who were actually treading
the exhausting mill frequently placed upon us —
whether justly, who can tell? — the taint of many
races, the incoherence of too vast a variety of
creeds and desires and antipathies.
The general called my attention to the officer on
my other side. He wore the facings of a major.
He was small and of a scholarly type, so that it
appeared unlikely any extraordinary experiences
lurked behind those quiet eyes. A moment later
it seemed a miracle he should sit with us at all.
Because he had landed with the first expeditionary
force under General French, had fought at Mons,
had survived that nightmare retreat which had
ended with the officers' corps cut to pieces. He
THE APPALLING MINES 173
spoke of it quietly, yet with no false hesitation, no
careless clouding of the facts. With the rest of
them he had learned out here to face facts for
what they were worth. He wasn't surprised at
our interest. He wasn't bored by our ques-
" Individually we didn't know much except that
we were going back, turning and fighting Huns
without end, and slipping out of the net when it
got too tight. The men were mad — through
and through mad, because it's harder to fight and
die on the run than any other way. At night,
black and fagged out as we were, we lost rest
asking when we were going to turn. After an
eternity one evening the word came. The French
commander had visited ours. The next morning
the stand was to be made, the great battle fought.
Tired as we were, we didn't sleep much that night
for the relief and the joy of it. And when day
dawned the word came to fall back again, and we
went with heads down, sullen and ashamed. It
lasted for two days more. You can't know.
Then the definite stand was made and the push to
the Marne and beyond. It was what we had
craved, because we were like people caught in a
Another inevitable question:
" How, with the German artillery on the hills,
i 7 4 WAR'S DARK FRAME
and the bridges down, did you ever cross the Aisne
at Soissons? "
The major smiled. His scholarly face was
very pleasant when he smiled.
" I rather fancy they set a trap for us there they
never had the strength to spring. Probably we
were intended to cross to the other side where they
expected to fall on us and finish us off. It's
obvious, isn't it, when the men crossed in small
boats or walked across stringers of which the
Huns must have had the exact range?
" I paddled over," he went on, " with a squad in
a row boat. You know, the tiny tub had Titanic
painted across its bow. Really gave me a start.
It seemed an omen — a properly bad one. But,
thank heavens, the omen didn't work. That
Titanic made a safe crossing — didn't get a shell
near enough to make us jump."
He poured thick cream over a fruit compote.
He ate the mixture with a visible appreciation.
Later he smoked a cigarette with the same air
of a sybarite. Clearly, like so many out here, he
had learned to draw from each moment its maxi-
After luncheon the general led us to a rear
verandah overlooking a formal garden in whose
shrubbery portable huts nestled for the housing of
his staff. But we were chiefly interested in the
THE APPALLING MINES 175
fac-simile on a square table of the entire country-
side occupied by his division. Each hill was there,
each road, each house, each line of sheltering
trees, every slightest branch of the German trench
system. Even with modern air scouting such
minute knowledge of the enemy's position drew
exclamations of admiration. He showed us how
it was obtained, summoning one of his staff who
brought handfuls of aeroplane photographs which
he fitted together end to end, side by side, diagon-
ally, with the minute difficulty of a jig-saw puzzle,
until it was possible to foresee a complete pho-
tograph of the war-scarred countryside. When
the officer hesitated too long or put into his puzzle
a piece that didn't fit, the general rebuked him
gently with the manner of an employer in a busi-
ness house or a factory. Men are killed and
money is made with precisely the same discipline.
" Of course," the general said, " the Huns know
just as much about us as we do about them."
He had that hospitable willingness of all the
officers I met to answer questions. He even
promised to take us later in the afternoon to
inspect some of his hidden artillery.
GAS SCHOOL AND THE ARTILLERY
WE went then to be taught how that other
enemy, vermin, is defeated, and we all,
I think, congratulated ourselves that
the rest of the day wasn't likely to hold any serious
threat. We were properly paid out for that
momentary confidence. We were shown quite
clearly how little in the war zone you can look
forward from minute to minute.
We drove to an old factory building, now busy
manufacturing cleanliness and health. It was
crowded with Tommies in from the trenches for
their periodic ablution. Community bathing is,
and ought to be, a noisy, cheerful affair. These
men were oddly silent against the roar of the guns
which had re-commenced at the close of the
luncheon hour. They climbed an outside stair-
case, removed their clothing, and threw it to the
ground. Underclothes and uniforms were picked
up and placed in a disinfecting vat, from which
they were passed for scrubbing to an army of
French and Belgian women — many of them
refugees — on the lower floor. Under the cir-
GAS SCHOOL AND ARTILLERY 177
cumstances this proximity of men and women
should have stimulated a laughing volubility,
but the stillness down here was violated only by
the swishing of cloth against boards and a perpet-
ual drip of water like the ticking of innumerable
clocks. In a corner sat a circle of women who
inspected and repaired the clothing passed to them
from the steam drying room. They were like a
group of religeuses to whom the chatter of the
world is a thing forgotten.
Upstairs the men splashed in tubs which they
filled according to their fancy from alternate vats
of hot and cold water. About this cleansing of
bare flesh within sound of the cannon there was
something providently funereal. It was as if each
silent man understood that his self-preparation
might be for a shroud.
From a recreation hut near by burst forth the
measures of a lively phonograph record, but no
feet twitched in rhythm, no voices caught up the
words. As we walked on, the lilting phrases
made a brave fight against the pervading solemnity
until they were smothered beneath the explosions
from beyond the village.
A staff officer joined us — a fellow who ought
to have been rowing or playing cricket at Oxford.
He had the enthusiasm of extreme youth for a
scheme he had carried out to entertain the soldiers.
178 WAR'S DARK FRAME
He took us into a wooden shed, furnished with
rows of benches, telling us of the trip to Paris he
had made to purchase a cinema outfit.
" Every night they come here in hordes," he
cried. " The men pay a penny, and the officers
a franc. You know, if the war lasts long enough
I wouldn't be surprised if we got back the price
of the affair."
His enthusiasm made him close the doors and
run a reel through the machine. It chanced to
be a review of this division by the Queen before
its departure for the front. The long rows swung
by, and the officers commenced to recognise faces
and to talk. There were some we remembered
— the general's for instance.
" There goes poor So and So. The Huns did
him in with a trench mortar a month ago."
"Hello! There's Jerry — home, minus a
Or, " The men like this thing because they see
old friends, that they won't see any other way
now, walking along with them."
It was an abominably depressing performance.
Something about the mechanism, stuttered. The
light flashed out. The screen was dark. Our
active showman was full of apologies as he ran
stumbling about the stage.
" They ought to take some pictures of us out
GAS SCHOOL AND ARTILLERY 179
here," a major said. " How about it, Williams?
Where are all the official photographers? "
" I saw Billy Jones the other day at the base.
Next time I run into him I'll put him on to you
" Thanks awfully, but they say Billy's a reckless
one. Maybe he won't last."
" You fellows deserve pictures. Never mind.
That's enough of this ghastly film. We're off to
see what Smith's at."
And Smith, found in an old stable crowded with
steel cylinders like oxygen tanks, proved to be
another boy of college age and appearance. The
buttons of his uniform were black, and his fingers
" It's the gas," he said.
Through the open doorway we saw a sergeant
drilling a squad in a field.
" Those chaps are at gas school," he said.
" Care to see my curriculum? "
One cause of the remarkable efficiency at the
British front was constantly impressed upon us.
When the men weren't fighting they were at
school. Gas school ! We wondered exactly what
that could be. So we strolled into the field and
stretched ourselves in the pleasant grass like a
party lounging on the outskirts of a ball game.
A line of soldiers, with full equipment, faced
180 WAR'S DARK FRAME
us. For a time the sergeant hurried them through
conventional evolutions. Then a new manual,
born of this war, followed. The sergeant snarled
out the commands as if he hated them, as if the
words had to overcome a revolt in his throat.
" Put on ! — gas — masks ! "
The men sprang into clumsy attitudes. They
rested their rifles in the crooks of their left arms.
They tore open the bags at their right hips. They
snatched off their caps and drew the masks over
their heads, buttoning the ends into their collars.
With a straggling haste they took up their rifles
and returned to attention.
One's first impulse was to laugh. The brown
faces were featureless save for round, staring
goggles. They retained no individuality, no
human semblance. These hideous figures might
have been visitors from a far planet, or monstros-
ities escaped from this earth, too violently dis-
turbed. As they walked through squad forma-
tions the voices of the file leaders were choked and
"Halt! Take off — masks!"
The last word had the quality of a shriek, angry
and threatening. You glanced at your own mask,
responding to the sullen temper with which it had
always filled you.
" They're quick," the instructor boasted.
GAS SCHOOL AND ARTILLERY 181
" Some of the men need scarcely half a minute.
It's wise to be quick at that game. Want to see
the gas house? "
He led us to a small unpainted shack in the
centre of the field. The joints of its doors per-
mitted it to be hermetically sealed. A single
cylinder stood in the corner.
" What the deuce is this for? "
The youthful instructor, who ought to have been
at a different sort of class himself, smiled.
" It's a splendid institution. I put every man
through this at least once. Go in with him, shut
the door, and turn on the gas. He knows he's
getting it thicker than he ever could in the
trenches. When he comes out he's got confidence
in his mask. He doesn't go around mooning and
scared to death about the next gas attack. It
teaches him to know the difference, too, be-
tween gas and phosphorous bombs and smoke
We confessed our own need of preparation.
" This new gas," he said, " is terribly hard to
see. If it shows at all it is like a slight mist. It's
the other way around with phosphorus and smoke
pots. Sergeant, bring up some of those bombs."
Again we settled ourselves in the attitudes of
spectators at a game. The sergeant came up
with a basket, filled with fat candles and tins of
1 82 WAR'S DARK FRAME
the size and appearance of tomato cans. The
officer picked up one, touched his cigarette to a
fuse in the end, and tossed it on the grass a few
" Don't move," he grinned, seeing our startled
expressions. " Only enough explosive to set it
The tin puffed like a faulty firecracker and out
of it sprang an unbelievable volume of pure white
smoke which formed perfect and beautiful curling
patterns as it blotted out the lower end of the
field. The sergeant threw one or two more and
placed candles near by from which vast clouds of
smoke, sooty or orange coloured, hissed wickedly.
A thick, velvety curtain banded with yellows and
whites and blacks was drawn across the field. In
its fringes the form of the sergeant was lost now
" The merry villagers," Williams said, " will
picture the Huns at their doors."
We heard one or two shouts, indeed, and, as
we walked through the drift of smoke, we saw
French children squatted on the fence, pointing
and laughing and admiring.
" French children aren't easily alarmed," the
instructor grinned. " I'll wager they can tell you
the calibre of each one of those guns you hear
firing over there. They know just what I've been
GAS SCHOOL AND ARTILLERY 183
up to. It's as good for them as stealing a peep
at a cricket match."
I had held my breath, walking through the
vapour. I asked if the fumes weren't dangerous.
He shook his head.
" They sometimes use a smoke curtain to veil a
gas attack, and at home I daresay cinema devotees
fancy this stuff is gas. It is useful to veil any kind
of an attack. Whenever it appears over the
trenches it keeps the other fellow guessing."
We shook his stained hand and returned to the
cars to keep our rendezvous with the general.
The general's limousine was waiting in front
of his headquarters. He came out and climbed
in. The cars wound out of the village. With a
sense of shock we recognised that road. The
shattered beacon of the church tower was straight
ahead. We hadn't realised it would be necessary
in order to visit the batteries to return to the
brigade headquarters village. And there was a
change. Instead of the one we had seen that
morning, two observation balloons of the enemy
were suspended in the sky like monstrous planets
visible by day. The drivers responded as if to
a signal. The cars jumped ahead along the naked
road. The lull of a moment was lost in a sudden
rush of sound. Perhaps we had been seen from
the balloons and a range signalled. Above the
1 84 WAR'S DARK FRAME
roaring of guns we heard shells shriek. Over-
head puffs of smoke were born. The roar be-
came continuous. Other puffs appeared.
" Look at that! " the driver of the car cried.
The other cars were far ahead. We sprang
after them. The wind shrilled past. We tore
from the black curtain that had followed a heavy
explosion. Jetty sheets waved close at hand.
There was nothing to do except to get every ounce
of speed out of the cars. There was no point in
leaning forward. The cars were like great
beetles, scurrying from a foot that tried to crush
In a moment we were skidding to the right
among the trees of the brigade village. As we
reduced speed I saw a number of French civilians
run from an estaminet towards the boundaries of
the trees. They stood there, gaping at the rolling
" Why aren't they hunting a cellar? " I asked.
The driver snickered.
" Those old Frenchmen ! You see they live
here. The village isn't bombarded much. Some
of those shells came pretty close. They don't
want a cellar. They want to see why the Huns
are strafing so near their front doors. And say,
they don't want to miss anything anyway. But
they'll be mad to have their appetiser disturbed."
GAS SCHOOL AND ARTILLERY 185
One felt rather sorry for the Germans, because
all along they've thought they could scare the
French. That's one of their excuses for being
The incident was a prophylactic for our own
apprehension. We were grateful enough to drive
up whole to a battery commander's headquarters
on the edge of the village. The general stood
in the middle of the road, surrounded by anxious
officers. Williams drew me aside. He laughed
" The general," he said, " has been asking if
you fellows know you've been under heavy shell-
fire. A piece of one of those high explosive
shells, he said — "
" I think I know it," I responded meekly.
But that was past. The immediate future was
the vital concern.
A ruddy faced colonel walked from the house,
as thoroughly disapproving at the sight of the
general as the staff men were. He opened with
that question which had become altogether too
" What are the Huns strafing over there? "
The general no more than any one else could
" They seem to be after a lot of things," some
186 WAR'S DARK FRAME
" At any rate," the general proposed, " these
fellows have been strafed so hard to-day I want
you to take them out to a battery and give them
the pleasure of seeing some strafing back."
" Run your cars down the road and back of that
shed," the colonel suggested.
" I'll have to be getting home," the general said.
The discontent of the staff officers increased,
probably at the thought of his returning on that
road, but the general smiled, saying good-bye
easily. We saw him go with a real regret. We
listened anxiously for a fresh burst of firing from
that direction until we knew he had had time to
reach his headquarters.
The colonel got his walking stick and led us
around the house.
" You don't mind crossing a field? "
Publicly our route was a matter of indifference,
but I think we had all had enough of fields. In
the open country the twin balloons were like the
eyes of an angry god. Certainly it was all of the
mile the colonel had mentioned to a farm which
showed amazingly few scars. Within a stone's
throw of it the battery nestled in a scanty grove
of trees — a row of log and sand bag redoubts
which to us appeared to offer no real protection
from scouts in aeroplanes. But every battery I
saw, every huge gun brought up for a bombard-
GAS SCHOOL AND ARTILLERY 187
ment, seemed dangerously unreserved. Actually
a few twigs, scattered bits of green, make an im-
penetrable veil against the prying airmen.
We opened a wooden door and descended into
one of the redoubts. Half a dozen men, scrup-
ulously clean, unlike the trench Tommies, sprang
to attention in a circle about the breech of a
howitzer. The gun was as clean as its grooms
— wickedly beautiful and capable. The colonel
muttered orders to a sergeant who nodded to the
artillerymen. One lifted a projectile from a com-
partment in the wall. Others inserted the charge
behind it, and a corporal closed the breech. The
sergeant entered a cubicle at one side where a
desk squatted beneath a telephone instrument.
He bent over a piece of paper pinned to the wall,
and from it rattled off a series of numbers like a
football signal. In response the neat men ele-
vated the gun's great nose with an impudent ease.
The sergeant glanced up.
" All ready? Lower your screen. "
A soldier released a cord. From before the
mouth of the gun a shrubbery screen fell away
with a slight rustling.
The colonel glanced at us.
" Maybe you'd better put your fingers in your
I noticed that every one in the small chamber
[88 WAR'S DARK FRAME
had his mouth open m ii gaping at an unforeseen
phenomenon. The sergeant's voice for the first
time lost its monotony, h made us jump.
The sleek barrel sprang outward, then stag-
gered back upon itself as the cylinders took u|> the
recoil. The nun's mouths snapped shut as they
flung back the breech and prepared the gun for
another charge. Gars still sang. The air in the
redoubt seemed thin and of an < »< 1 ^ I odour scarcely
like burnt powder.
The voice oi the foreign office man was no
44 Where did that one go?"
The COlone] smiled.
"The range was for s headquarters, so it's
safe to say we stirred up a colonel ;ii least. 11
Maybe spoiled his tea," the foreign office man
" Do the Huns take tea? 11
( juickly you ii jcd t<> trace the result o( that shell
its possible immediate destruction, its effect,
perhaps, <>i\ a far away household where women
and children and old nun would weep and put ^w
mourning The absurdity of such an exercise
st i uck you. Certainly the men who had sent shell-,
ill our direction that day hadn't troubled tO lore-
cast. They were getting back what they had
GAS SCHOOL AND ARTILLERY 189
offered to this army. The sense of a personal
grievance is a powerful backer for patriotism in
keeping men at war — that, and the impossibility,
as in this case, of seeing the result of your shilling
a day labour. I wondered what these neat, gentle-
manly figures would do, what they would say, if
they could witness the death and the maiming and
the tears sent forth from their clean and remote
hands. Close-in fighting, it was clear, had noth-
ing in common with artillery work. A temporary
insanity of self-protection and retaliation lets a
man look on what he has done without nausea and
stark horror. In the faces of many soldiers you
see an eventual understanding, an effort to stifle
WHATEVER the custom of the Germans,
tea wasn't neglected here. After we
had visited the other guns we walked,
still tingling from the noise, to a hut in which rows
of young men sat at a table between lines of cots,
laughing and chattering amid a rattle of cups and
spoons. A heavily banked bomb-proof was con-
venient to the entrance.
" And it wouldn't take long to get there," the
colonel said grimly.
Two men and a woman stood in the yard of
" They're not quite so near," I said. " It's like
living on a powder magazine."
The colonel nodded.
" They're probably doomed. Sooner or later
the Huns will get them. What can we do? We
can't move them. Truly the French are a won-
That is the most persistent phrase of this war.
The woman waved her hand gaily, wishing us a
safe walk, as we started back across the field.
THE BASE 191
We paused at the gate of the colonel's cottage,
waiting for the others to come up. A subaltern
rounded the hedge.
"Where are the others ?" the colonel asked
" Taking it in a long line, sir," the subaltern
said. " It seemed safer that way."
The colonel led me into his dining-room, and,
while we waited for the others, ordered tea.
Across the wall were spread his range charts and
his tir de barrage plan like an architect's blue-
" It makes an absolute curtain of shells on their
trenches," he said. "Where's that tea?"
A private with a startled expression left the
room, returning with a huge, blue-patterned tea
pot. The others straggled in. We sat down and
drank, and ate biscuits, and listened to the gun
roar, which, even with the approach of night,
scarcely diminished. Suddenly the colonel laughed.
He fumbled in his desk and found a clipping
from one of London's most revered news-
"Seen this, Williams?"
Williams scanned the clipping and passed it on.
It was a letter from an officer to his father, recit-
ing a strange ornithological experience in this
neighbourhood. During several nights this young
1 92 WAR'S DARK FRAME
man had, he declared, heard shells whistling over
his billet. They had, however, been preceded by-
no sound of guns. Investigation of the ghostly
incident had proved that the shell whistling had
come from chickens in the yard. These clever
birds had after many months learned to imitate
precisely the distant passing of shells.
The colonel finished his tea and lighted a cigar.
" We've devised," he said, " a letter which I
fancy the editor will have to print or else acknowl-
edge he's been made a fool of."
He found the letter, put on his glasses, and read
it with an air of satisfaction.
The army in this section, it regretted, was
seriously affected by loss of sleep. The crickets
had acquired a most annoying practice of imitating
machine guns. Constantly they disturbed rest by
firing an apparent salvo in a man's ear. The
squirrels made a noise like approaching whiz-
bangs. Worst of all, a big bullfrog in a pool near
his headquarters had caught the raucous trick of
the gas alarm.
" ' It's a rare night when he doesn't sit on his
bank and call us forth with our masks on. So far
he has resisted our best snipers.' "
For a moment in the little room our laughter
was louder than the gun mutter. Williams left us
to telephone somebody, probably about going back
THE BASE 193
across that naked road. After a long delay word
came to him and he said we might leave. We
took the road on the run, and through the twilight
sped rapidly out of range. When we could no
longer see the twin balloons we felt comparatively
The country had a peaceful appearance. As we
approached headquarters the sky was grey save
for an ugly, dull red splotch in the west. It was
like an old blood stain, like a wound in something
The peace of the chateau that night was unnat-
ural. From habit we raised our voices. The
silence jibed at us.
We drove into one of the great bases the next
morning, and there we heard the news. But
bigger than the news itself was the manner in
which the officers received it. No clearer exam-
ple of the shift in British psychology could be
A man from the commandant's staff had joined
us. We stood in the yard of an ordnance depot.
Williams and this man were whispering. Wil-
liams' face all at once shared the expression of
the other's — something I had appraised at first
as a natural surliness. Quickly Williams beck-
i 9 4 WAR'S DARK FRAME
" We've had a nasty smack in the eye off the
coast of Denmark," one of them said.
It was our first word of the great naval battle,
that garbled report that indicated a sweeping Ger-
man victory. It was what the army in the field
got, and the army took it as these men took it, with
a sullen anger, a fear only that it might lengthen
the war. If anything it strengthened the deter-
mination in the young faces. It made one feel
what a hopeless task it is to try to discourage this
growing British army. But the most arresting
element was this new willingness to face the hard
facts, to polish nothing for themselves or for the
stranger within their gates.
" Sixteen of our ships gone and only one Hun! "
the staff man groaned. " It won't sweep us off
the seas, by gad, but it's tough."
One questioned if the heavy fire we had expe-
rienced the day before hadn't been the German
fashion of expressing joy. If that was so such a
celebration wouldn't wear itself out all at once.
It made the trip we had arranged for Arras even
then less inviting. The day's inspection lost its
interest. We went about grumbling.
" When can we get a paper? "
We asked every one we met for papers.
" Transport isn't in yet," was the usual reply.
THE BASE 195
We commenced to ask everybody what time the
transport would be in.
Only once that day did the old attitude creep
through, and it was properly squelched. We
were lunching in the maritime station with the
staff. A very nice, elderly officer said pleasantly:
" In my opinion we lost those ships winning a
" Sixteen to one ! " a man scoffed. He turned
to me. " Did not one of your politicians win a
great victory on those figures? "
" Well," the elderly officer persisted, " we drove
them back to their base."
A quiet chorus of protest arose. The hard
facts were stated to him plainly. He subsided, his
elderly face a trifle bewildered. Probably he
hadn't been here long. Probably he had never
been in the trenches. Perhaps he was wondering,
too, about the fruits of this new attitude which
must certainly grow in economics and politics after
the war. He joined our restlessness, however,
when some one entered, saying the transport had
The official statements in the first papers we
saw were cheering, but by no means all the truth.
They made it possible for the officers to glance
over the list of birthday honours which were
196 WAR'S DARK FRAME
printed that day. They sent us with some interest
through the great hangars where provisions and
munitions were passed in a constant stream from
transport to train. They gave us breath to
exclaim at this minute efficiency which had been
developed in two years from almost nothing. It
expressed itself most strikingly in a great factory
building, once owned by a German.
Endless sacks of flour were lifted to the upper
floor on chain elevators. Great soft mattresses
of dough flopped down steep slides into the hands
of a regiment of bakers, white-clothed, covered
with flour, with the appearance of clowns half
made up. At the entrance to each room a ser-
geant would remind us that these comic figures
were soldiers, regularly enlisted. He would sing
And the long, ridiculous lines would stiffen.
Only the staff officer's careless " Carry on " would
send them back to their labour of turning out more
than two hundred thousand pounds of bread
Efficiency stared at us from posters which car-
ried minute instructions to be followed in case of
an air attack, and about the occupations most
peacefully industrial fell always the tattered gar-
ment of war.
THE BASE 197
In a shoe shop thousands of pairs of stumpy,
studded black boots busied an army of workers.
Rows of shoes dripped oil after their bath to
soften the leather.
" You see," the officer in charge explained,
" these are all old shoes in process of remaking.
Dead men's shoes."
The odour of oil and wet leather was sickening.
From the first glimpse you had known what those
rows of dripping, studded, stolid boots had re-
minded you of — boots, too still, on the feet of
" You see, we don't waste anything," the officer
was saying prosaically.
Even among the little children at the Belgian
orphilinat where we had tea that afternoon the
war dominated. It lurked in the black uniforms,
in the young faces where that eternal question was
more pitiful than ever, in the heap of hay at the
end of the yard which the babies with a perfect
seriousness modelled into the semblance of
trenches and redoubts.
After dinner that night we heard Williams tele-
phoning in his little room. Afterwards he joined
us, laughing with satisfaction.
" Word's come in from General 's head-
quarters that Blank has shown up. His parachute
198 WAR'S DARK FRAME
was shot so full of holes that it's a wonder it didn't
drop him, but the wind carried him inside our
lines and he wasn't touched. War's full of mir-
acles. Blessed good thing, too. Blank's a cork-
ing good fellow."
We had never seen Blank, but it cheered us
somehow a lot to hear him spoken of at last in the
The prospect of the trip to Arras the next day
drove Blank almost immediately into the back-
ground. It seemed to be a matter of some doubt.
There was a good deal of talk about the city's
proximity to the German trenches, about the neces-
sity of walking close to the house walls because
the Germans could see down the streets and had
the range of each corner. One wondered just
what Williams meant when he said :
" It promises to be a pretty interesting pro-
And another encouraged us by adding:
" Oh, you're almost certain to get some shells."
THE MAD ACTIVITY OF A DEAD CITY
THE next morning was dull and depressing
and as cold as early winter. As one does
out there, we studied the direction of
the wind first of all, and inspected our gas masks.
We fancied that with less sun the German cannons
might bark less viciously, but as we drove on, hud-
dled in our coats, the clouds promised to break.
Williams left us for a moment at a division
headquarters. No officers lounged there. The
streets were nearly empty of uniforms. Williams
came out, looking as if he had heard something
" The Huns are strafing the main road," he said
to the driver. " Go the other way."
Outside the village a Canadian Highlander
stopped us and examined our passes. He seemed
very particular. He had an appearance of won-
dering what the deuce we wanted inside the lines
Just beyond we left the main road and twisted
through country lanes, while out of the morbid,
threatening morning was born the hateful gun
200 WAR'S DARK FRAME
mutter. The foreign office man and I clutched at
the trivial. We talked of automobiles and fish-
ing and hunting, but always we were conscious of
the sinister and growing chorus. A big gun
crouched at the roadside. It would have been
good to hear it shout back. Sombre and undis-
turbed, a Hindoo orderly sat his horse in a field.
" Like a graven image," the foreign office man
The increasing roar discouraged talking. We
tore past and entered the outskirts of a town.
The streets were deserted. Holes gaped in the
house walls. Doors were pock-marked, windows
mostly gone. A popping noise from the front
of our car, not unlike the explosion of a shrapnel
shell, and under the circumstances about as dis-
couraging, told us that a tire had gone. The
driver sent a startled glance at Williams.
" Annoying! " the foreign office man said.
" Where are we?" I asked.
" Outskirts of Arras," Williams snapped.
He sprang out. At such a moment he was
sheer efficiency. Most assuredly he didn't want
us to get strafed.
u Pile out," he ordered, " and stand close to the
wall. " No, no," he cried to the Japanese in the
other car. " Not you."
He directed them to remain in the car while
ACTIVITY OF A DEAD CITY 201
their driver backed them between two house walls.
The two chauffeurs commenced to change the
wheel with frantic haste. A military policeman
appeared from some hiding place and walked
" It's a bad place for that, sir, this morning."
" Things seem pretty warm in here this morn-
ing," Williams said.
The military policeman waved his stick.
" Just had a piece of shell through my window,
sir. Listen for yourself."
The foreign office man and I lighted cigarettes.
About our misgivings we draped a vast indif-
" No comfort smoking in the cars in this wind,"
Williams moved about close to the wall rest-
" What's the best way in? " he asked the police-
The policeman pointed down the deserted
street, half blocked by rubbish here and there.
" Five blocks straight. Turn to your right at
a busted lamp-post marked roo dulla hop-pittle."
One asks the route so on an ordinary motor
The military policeman had done his duty.
After warning us he didn't linger. The drivers
202 WAR'S DARK FRAME
sprang erect. The jack rattled down. IVe
never seen a wheel changed so quickly. Racing
drivers couldn't be more agile. At a nod from
Williams we got in again. We threaded through
a dead city, crowded with a noise that gave the lie
to its apparent dissolution. The quality of the
unnatural ride increased. It shared the incredi-
bility of an hallucination, which, nevertheless,
possesses a momentary and terrible reality.
We faced ruins that gaped back at us. At a
turning the fagade of a hospital had suffered
rather more than anything in its vicinity. Its
breached and riddled walls had an air of surprise
and indignation. Farther on, a bed on the third
floor of a house, whose front was gone, hung over
an abyss. The bed clothes were tumbled. Pic-
tures, awry, still clung to the walls. A bottle of
wine remained upright on a shelf.
" That couldn't have happened long ago," the
foreign office man said.
" Every time I come in," Williams answered,
" some ruin has been ruined a little more. Not a
very prosperous looking town now, is it? "
I had seen Messina after the earthquake. Its
disaster was scarcely comparable with this man-
made one. And in Messina there had been many
women weeping over ruins that were sepulchres.
This was sadder, because for a long time there
ACTIVITY OF A DEAD CITY 203
was no one. The emptiness pervaded everything.
It was more shocking than the reverberations of
We entered a street that was once, I suppose,
the pride of Arras. A grass plot in the middle,
lined with trees, reminded me of Park Avenue in
New York. We drew up. On our side was a
high garden wall. On the other, beyond the
grass and the trees and the roadway, was an old
French barracks, torn to pieces.
" I'm going to take one of the cars and drive to
the provost marshal's, " Williams said. " I want
to find out what we'd better do now we're here.
While I'm gone don't move from under the trees.
It's the safest place for you."
He was off. One of the Japanese wanted to
know if it was dangerous. The driver of the
other car, who had joined us by the fence, laughed
above the cracking roar. He stooped and com-
menced to pick from the grass great, jagged
pieces of shell casing. He offered them for the
" Sounds like a gigantic fireworks exhibition,"
the foreign office man mused.
The sun now and then struggled from behind
the clouds, but always the atmosphere was dun,
and abnormal, and frightening. A sifting dust
20 4 WAR'S DARK FRAME
" Maybe the end of the world would look
something like this."
Williams dashed back, a strained and hurried
figure in the middle of the rear seat. He had
grown confidential and he told me now that the
provost had had a shell through his building.
" We might as well walk about," he said.
" It's as safe as hanging around here."
"What time do the Germans lunch to-day?"
He looked at his watch. That was evidently of
real concern to him.
" I take back what I said about fireworks," the
foreign office man cut in. " This isn't the least
Nor was it, for there were detonations louder
than the reports of cannon, from the neighbour-
ing streets, and scattered crashes like the crum-
bling of walls where shells had exploded. There
was something wanton about this bombardment of
a dead city.
Breathing with distaste the strange, repellant
atmosphere, we hurried across a market place
whose empty shelters of corrugated iron were
half tumbled down. Two officers came swinging
by, sticks in their hands, their helmets low on
their foreheads. They didn't talk. They moved
with smooth haste. The striking of their feet
against the paving was inaudible because of the
ACTIVITY OF A DEAD CITY 205
turmoil. They were like figures seen in a dream.
All the houses were skeletons from which the
flesh had been rabidly torn.
We glanced down a narrow street, arrested by
the sight of two women emerging from a cellar
beneath a heap of ruins. One of them carried
two chickens, nicely browned. The other had a
tin of fried potatoes. A group of military police-
men leaning against the opposite wall moved
languidly forward and took the appetizing food.
They smiled and the women smiled, but as far as
we could tell no one spoke. The entire transac-
tion had an air of good-natured stealth.
" Women in Arras ! " we cried.
" A few have stayed. It's orders during a bom-
bardment for every one to remain in the cellars."
" The cooks ought to have decorations," some
" They wouldn't think so," Williams answered.
" The French are hard to scare, and they love
their homes. Last time I was in here I saw a
French soldier. I asked him what in the world
he was doing. Said as calmly as you please that
he was home on his first permission since the
beginning of the war. Fancy that! Taking
your vacation from hades in the same climate.
You bet the Boches couldn't interfere with his
206 WAR'S DARK FRAME
coming home, even if there was only a cellar left.
And Williams laughed and pointed.
" He didn't come on the chemin-de-fer."
Across a broad, semi-circular plaza arose the
wrecked station. Following Williams' lead, we
sidled around the curve, and slipped in through a
doorway. Grass grew through shattered floor
boards. Rain had come in and mill-dewed the
splintered benches and ticket booths. In a door-
less closet a girl's summer cloak hung. There
was a card attached to one of the buttons. Wil-
liams fingered it, but in the course of two years the
writing had become undecipherable.
" Must have been warm that August day she
came through here," he mused. " Maybe on the
last train, fleeing from the Huns. Couldn't have
known they were so close or she wouldn't have left
her coat. Hope she didn't get strafed if she came
back for it."
Like the cathedral at Rheims, the hall was filled
with sombre and unthinkable memories.
We picked up some tickets scattered near by on
" Arras to Douai, par Vitry-en-Artois," they
" A short trip," I began, " straight across the
trenches. When you English take it — "
ACTIVITY OF A DEAD CITY 207
" The war," Williams broke in, " will be get-
ting on Kaiser Bill's nerves, don't you think? "
Something was clearly on Williams' nerves.
He hurried us through and gave us only a moment
to glance at the broken girders and the twisted
rails in the train shed. Among the splinters of
the platforms where crowds had thronged eagerly
the long grass waved with a slow melancholy.
" It's not very far," he reminded us, " to the
Hun trenches, and they have a nasty habit of
dropping whiz-bangs in here. There's no bomb
proof. Let's go."
We had scarcely reached the shelter of streets
lined with looted shops when a soldier came run-
ning up and spoke to Williams. He turned with
another of those confidences that made you won-
der why you had ever come to see war.
" What I was afraid of. The Huns are straf-
ing the station — dropping whiz-bangs in from
Probably the German observors had seen us
leave. It was the luck of war that they hadn't
caught us going in.
We climbed a small mountain of stones and
beams at the end of the street and emerged into
the Petit Place, a short time ago one of the finest
examples of Spanish architecture in Europe.
Opposite us the Hotel de Ville raised a few sec-
208 WAR'S DARK FRAME
tions of interior walls and the stump of its tower,
white, formless, ghostly.
" I was in Arras a few weeks before the war
began/' Williams said. " Had to change trains,
and was just too short of time to run down and
see this place. Isn't much to look at now, is it? "
Of the old Spanish houses several were com-
pletely down. Others retained just enough form
to expose the brutality of their wounds. With a
sense of sheer gratitude we followed Williams
down stone steps into the cellar of one of these.
The bombardment was a trifle muffled here. An
elderly French woman and her pretty daughter
" You're not afraid to stay? " I asked.
The girl tossed her head. The woman laughed.
She indicated a cook stove, a table, a bed, a rough
counter, half a dozen chairs.
" They've driven us downstairs, but why should
we be driven from our home and our business?
We are quite comfortable, and we do a little trade
with soldiers. Monsieur has seen Arras during
the bombardment. Perhaps he would like to see
what it was like before. An album artistique
might interest monsieur."
She smiled at my bewilderment, fetching a
tastefully made up blue book with silk cords and
tassels. It was impossible not to buy the thing,
ACTIVITY OF A DEAD CITY 209
a collection of photographs taken, many of them,
at grave risk, and sold under a risk nearly as great
to the Tommies to send home to their families.
" And you've been doing this — living like this
since the beginning of the war? "
" But certainly. Through that door I saw the
first bombardment of the Little Place. I saw the
shells bring the great tower of the Hotel de Ville
crashing down. That was cruel. It was the
glory of Arras. When it fell I thought of the
" You mean you didn't barricade that door? "
" Why? Because the shells came from behind
us. If they exploded too close the fragments
were likely to fly on towards the centre of the
square. Besides — "
With an air of secrecy she opened a door on a
flight of stairs leading downwards.
" You see there is another cellar. Come."
She lighted a candle and led the way down for
many steps. The vaulting was ancient. We
found ourselves in a labyrinth. Corridors led in
all directions. The walls were of a soft lime-
stone. The stone, one guessed, for the Hotel de
Ville and many other buildings had been quarried
here. But there were fresh breaks, and some-
times the corridors were partly blocked.
" The shock of the shells brings pieces tumbling
210 WAR'S DARK FRAME
down," the woman said. " That's why we find
the upper cellar more comfortable after all.
Wouldn't we be more comfortable there now? "
We agreed. As we went up she told us how
Arras was honey-combed with these cellars. We
left her with a real regret for the strange light
and the racket outside. We reached the vicinity
of the cathedral over a hill of rubbish.
" Palladian," the foreign office man said.
The stark remnants of the cathedral, indeed,
were more impressive than the untouched building
— a bad example of the late Renaissance — could
have been. Its size must have been enormous.
" Usually it's all right to go in," Williams said,
" but I wouldn't advise it to-day. Do as you
please, but if one of those walls should fall — "
We didn't argue the point. We had learned
to believe in Williams' judgment. He glanced
continuously at his watch as we went on. We
knew he was trusting to the luncheon hour to give
us an opportunity to slip out of Arras in compara-
tive safety. By the time we had returned to the
market place, in fact, the roar had receded, and
the explosions of shells were less frequent. The
drivers seemed glad to see us. So we left, dodg-
ing new holes and obstructions, casting quick
glances at the driftwood of that morning's straf-
ACTIVITY OF A DEAD CITY 211
ing — torn shell screens, split trees, a twisted
bicycle, scattered heaps of stones. We thanked
heaven for the German appetite. We prayed it
would persist for some minutes longer.
WHERE MEN ARE LIKE ANTS
THE last afternoon I spent in Flanders we
went on a picnic. It was a most extraor-
dinary picnic, intended to give us a
panoramic view of war as it is fought nine-tenths
of the time under modern conditions. It took us
to a point of the line that saw some of the hardest
fighting of the Champagne and Artois offensive.
The French had manned it then, and they had
progressed in spite of overwhelming odds and
frightful casualties. It was still, in the hands of
the British, one of the knottiest problems of the
entire front. We could understand why, but first
we had our picnic. Williams chose the spot after
we had left the cars in the shelter of a village
behind a steep hill. At his direction one of the
chauffeurs carried the baskets up a grassy bank
and deposited them beneath a grove of trees.
Trampled box hedges straggled here and there.
It was a very pretty spot and we congratulated
Williams for hitting on it.
" Yes," he answered, " it's just the thing,
WHERE MEN ARE LIKE ANTS 213
because the Hun airmen can't see us and disturb
He distributed sandwiches. Lamenting the ab-
sence of a corkscrew, he knocked the neck from
a water bottle with some skill.
" Isn't much healthier around here than it was
in Arras. Have some of this cold ham? This
was a kitchen garden once. There was murder-
ous fighting here less than a year ago."
As we ate, Williams' foresight was justified, for
we heard the whirring of aeroplanes and, from
beyond the hill, the booming of guns.
After luncheon we lounged in the grass, smok-
ing. We wondered, when Williams had lighted
another cigarette, why he delayed.
" Of course it's pleasant here — " the foreign
office man began.
Williams glanced at his watch.
" I'm waiting," he said, " to see if the Huns
are going to give us a strafing. They amuse
themselves by dropping shells on this empty hill
every now and then."
But, although the firing became general, no
shells, as far as we could tell, exploded near us.
So, bent like a party of scouts, we went through a
fringe of bushes and around a ruined tower which
already had the sentimental interest of a mediaeval
survival. We walked through a house which
214 WAR'S DARK FRAME
had no doors or roof into an overgrown back
Williams stooped, kicking through the long,
grass at something. We went closer and saw him
staring at a faded German uniform coat with
sinister tears and stains about the back. An
object, long and white, lay near by. In our own
minds we hesitated to give it a name.
Williams moved on.
" All that's left of some poor devil," he said.
" I told you there had been hard fighting here."
As far as possible we kept out of the grass
after that. Grass and weeds grow too quickly in
the war zone. They permit too much to remain.
We came to a barn with gaping holes in its
sides and roof. Beyond it, half destroyed build-
ings clustered around a square with a monastic
appearance. Between them and a ragged wall
yawned an open space, perhaps ten yards across.
" Take that in a hurry," Williams commanded.
" The Huns can see us there."
We dashed across and circled the end of the
wall into a small enclosure which was all that re-
mained of an outhouse. Wire netting had been
stretched across an eyeless window in the front
wall. Through that the panorama of war was
visible below us. Names rang in our ears that
connote almost as much horror as Verdun. Not
WHERE MEN ARE LIKE ANTS 215
far from us stretched a brick wall, pierced for
rifle and machine gun fire. Just beyond was a
ruined farm, notorious for some of the worst hand
to hand fighting of the war.
" From behind that wall, and from the farm,
after they had got it," Williams said, " the French
went forth to the capture of that network of
trenches off there, just behind our present front
You stared, not because of the familiar name
of those trenches, but because it seemed impossible
to you that men could have crossed the several
hundred yards of open ground between the wall
and the network. Even with artillery prepara-
tion such an attempt seemed suicidal.
But, as Williams told us, men had fallen all
around here. To the left we could see de-
serted dug-outs, captured in September. At some
distance a spur of land thrust out a broad plateau.
It was absolutely bare. Before the war it had
been thickly wooded.
The present British and German trenches made
yellow scars along a low ridge. The German line
was a little above the British. Both passed
through a ruined village. As we watched, the
bombardment became more violent. We could
see the effect of every hit. Shell after shell- of
high explosives sent black clouds springing from
216 WAR'S DARK FRAME
the yellow earth. The lines were so close that it
seemed inevitable mistakes should be made or
that an imperfect fuse should shower death on the
gunners' own men. But the accuracy of the fire
was appalling. Each shell appeared to fall di-
rectly in the sorrel ditches, and when the spread-
ing smudge had cleared away we would detect
breaches, but the only men we saw were one or
two soldiers who ran swiftly along the brown road
towards the communication line.
" It's nearly always like that here," Williams
said. " Fancy being under one of those Black
Our fancy, however, was directed to a danger
more immediate. We looked up at a whirring
overhead and saw a war 'plane, flying high in our
direction. As if born of the air five more ap-
peared, sailed over the trenches, swerved back
above us, and circled away again. They were
too high to make identity certain, so we crouched
as close as we could to the wall while we specu-
Suddenly the anti-aircraft guns took a hand, and
about each machine shrapnel burst, too high for us
to hear its fat explosions; and as long as we re-
mained there after that there was always a circle
of little, puffy clouds around each aeroplane.
The shells came from both sides, so that we knew
WHERE MEN ARE LIKE ANTS 217
Germans and British had taken the air to-day.
Some one suggested that it mightn't be a bad plan
to go home, but the spectacle fascinated. The
rest of us begged for a few minutes more. We
wanted, I think, to see one of these airmen show
some sign of fear. As long as we watched they
persisted in their scouting, contemptuous of the
pretty white clouds that appeared as if from noth-
ing all about them.
" It's a marvel they're not hit," the foreign of-
fice man cried.
" So it is," Williams answered. " It takes
young men for that work, young men in whom
recklessness is born."
For a long time we remained, glancing from the
scouts to the trenches where black geysers spouted
with an increasing frequency, forgetting for a
time the possibility of a slight elevation of a single
gun which might send a geyser spouting in the
midst of our little group.
" Good God! " somebody burst out. " I can't
believe there are men where those shells are fall-
ing. This thing makes men seem like ants."
We went at last, reluctant to leave this spectacle
of death in which the victims remained always
Driving along the base of the hill we passed
a large cemetery. Wooden crosses stretched in
2i 8 WAR'S DARK FRAME
neat rows. The gun roar gave it an appearance
exceptionally sinister. Even in their long rest,
we realised, these soldiers were far from immune
to German shells.
" The trench toll," Williams muttered. " Sad
enough place ! Every time I come here that cem-
And just across the road the living busied them-
selves so the other fellow's cemetery wouldn't fail
to grow. Some were practising at a rifle range.
A rattling blacksmith shop lurked under a hill.
Men fidgeted about two observation balloons,
partly hidden by trees — gross, corpulent things,
ready to take the air. And always the guns re-
minded us that this care for the living and the
dead was exercised under heavy fire.
Farther on we gazed with amazement at a foot-
ball game which swept swiftly through its chang-
ing phases in a rough field to the left. The shouts
of the players failed to reach us because of the
pervading roar. They were like pupils in a deaf
and dumb asylum from whose open, eager mouths
comes only a shocking silence. But there was no
question that they were having a good time, cheer-
ing clever plays, and jibing at bad ones. Within
their easy view, close to the road, lay a dead man.
His stolid, studded boots seemed striving to ad-
vance towards them.
WHERE MEN ARE LIKE ANTS 219
" The stretcher bearers are coming for him,"
We swung into the long road again, increasing
If we could get over that next hill without a
When we drove up to the chateau it was rain-
ing. Great drops fell from the eaves like tears.
After dinner, when I was talking to Williams, I
challenged the reliability of that new, frank Brit-
" I'm looking," I said, " for some one to tell
me he doesn't mind shell fire."
" When you find him you can call him a liar,
and the worst of it is you never get used to it.
Each time's a little worse than the last."
It was pleasant to look back that night, to fore-
cast nothing on the morrow more exciting than
the inspection of passes by military policemen,
Scotland Yard detectives, and French soldiers.
I wondered that I had had the effrontery to buy
a return ticket.
Doubtless, I thought, Paris would seem like a
strange city in a peaceful and sorrowful world.
THE GRIM GAME OF INTELLIGENCE
THE quiet of Paris, however, did not make
it seem as remote from battle as I had
expected to find it after such experiences.
You looked upon the men in uniform with a new
sympathy, a broader comprehension, and you
talked of nothing but the war.
It was about that time, I remember, that a
German spy was caught under dramatic circum-
stances and shot with a deserved despatch. Of
that case it is impossible to write, but it reminded
me that when I had sailed for Europe I had
planned to find out something about these men
and women — not so much their ciphers and
signals and mathematical routine, rather the kind
of people they are, and the type of drama they
play continuously behind the lines. So I reviewed
my own contact with them, and the stories I had
heard of their daring.
In the first place, officially in Europe spying has
ceased to exist. One speaks of Intelligence, yet
it doesn't make much difference under what label
a man faces a firing squad or feels the noose
GAME OF INTELLIGENCE 221
tighten about his neck. For, as a matter of fact,
there are more spies than ever, better spies, spies
with a lack of fear nearly superhuman.
.There is, of course, a good deal that can't be
publicly told, but it isn't all tragedy, as you'll learn
from the curious case of the near-sighted London
clerk. Nor do these men perpetually work in the
shadow of death. You may not know that an
Entente intelligence officer assigned to New York
informed London of the approaching Irish ex-
cursion of Sir Roger Casement, but you must have
guessed the presence of the spies of both sides in
America; you may have suspected that, often in
a legitimate way, they are not uninterested in you.
Have you ever smiled at a German waiter's bored
expression during an after dinner discussion of
the war? Since hostilities commenced have you
tried to visit England or France? In the latter
case you may be sure that both sides know enough
about you and your sympathies to exalt your own
importance and to justify your admiration of the
After docking on the other side, for instance,
as I told you in an early chapter, the passengers
are virtually imprisoned in the dining-room until
the chief alien officer has had his fling. He ap-
pears to possess a dossier of each person. In my
own case he asked me to fill in a blank, largely
222 WAR'S DARK FRAME
repeating the information on my passport. He
attached this to the passport. On the London
train I asked other passengers if they had been
similarly decorated. Enthusiastically they denied
it. It seemed definite, since I was a correspond-
ent, that a check had been placed upon my move-
ments. The American embassy offered that
doleful interpretation. When I applied at Bow
Street for an identity book the clerk admitted that
the slip was a code for the police. So I went to
an acquaintance in the intelligence department and
threw myself on his mercy.
" What in the name of heaven," I demanded,
" is this soiled piece of paper? "
" They gave you your identity book at Bow
Street, didn't they? You know it might be a
recommendation on information from America."
I explained patiently that I had sailed on two
days' notice. His smile didn't alter, and from all
that happened afterwards I know he was right.
It isn't simple to elude a system that works so
quickly, and that's the reason the Germans early
in the war ceased getting many spies to England
or France through New York. They turned, as
a consequence, to Spanish America. That men-
ace, too, a distinguished officer of the intelligence
corps told me, was well under control. A few
GAME OF INTELLIGENCE 223
days before, he said, a clever attempt to get a
man through had been defeated, partly by acci-
dent, for the fellow captured had had a genius
for make-up. He had looked like a Latin. He
had talked like one. On the long journey from
South America he had hoodwinked the crew and
all the passengers except one woman who had
known him for years and who had penetrated his
disguise. Still she had been friendly, and he had
had unlimited confidence in his masquerade.
When the boat reached England he was one of
the first hailed before the alien officer. He went
jauntily because he knew his passport was in per-
fect order. The alien officer found it so, but he
glanced suspiciously at the man and told him to
stand aside for a few minutes. That was really
only his compliance with recent orders to be care-
ful with Spanish-Americans. As a matter of fact
he suspected nothing out of the way. But the
fellow hadn't forecasted anything like that. It
appeared to threaten more than the fact. In a
panic he scribbled a note requesting the woman
not to speak to him in any language except Span-
When he slipped it to her the sharp eyes of the
intelligence men saw. They drew the woman out-
side and got the note from her. They went back
and took the man into custody. He laughed at
224 WAR'S DARK FRAME
them, showing no fear, declaring his innocence
with a tolerant air. They hurried him to London
and before the official who told me the story.
" I spoke to him in German," the official went
on, u and at odd times — suddenly. I couldn't
trap him. He said he was a South American mer-
chant on a peaceful commercial enterprise. He
didn't know a word of German. I began to doubt,
because when I spoke the language his eyelids
never moved. It seemed to me he must show
some response if he understood. As a last re-
sort I simply shouted out, ' Achtung! ' "
The official smiled a trifle sadly.
" His heels," he went on, " clicked together.
His chin came up. His hands straightened at his
sides. He tried with a convulsive effort to check
that mechanical response, but it was too late. I
had him and he knew it. He broke down and
took his medicine. He was a German reservist.
A military command was the one thing to which
his whole nature had to respond."
Even if that defence at the ports is overcome,
there's an interior net to furnish spies to the ex-
ecutioner. I learned to understand the misgiv-
ings of hotel acquaintances that their luggage had
been entered although they missed nothing. One
man complained that the servants were a badly-
GAME OF INTELLIGENCE 225
trained lot. They burst into his room at all
hours, retiring with the apology that they had not
known he was there. I didn't tell him that the
refuse of his waste basket and the litter of his
writing desk had probably furnished an interest-
ing puzzle for some intelligence officer. Hotel
espionage in England and France, however, is a
knife that cuts both ways.
It may be indiscreet to call attention to a per-
fectly obvious fact. The Swiss are a problem for
the entente allies. Except for such natives as
have been retained through disability for the
army the male hotel service is largely in the hands
of the Swiss. The sons of this neutral nation
must have the privileges, the courtesy, and the
protection that other neutrals receive, and because
of the nature of their employment and its per-
manence it is difficult to keep tabs on them. The
natives of northern Switzerland often have Ger-
man names, speak the German language, sub-
scribe, perhaps, to the German idea. It would
take unlimited confidence to pronounce one man
a northern Swiss and another a southern German.
So while the entente gets much valuable intel-
ligence from the hotels, it is safe to guess that the
Teutons have found the servants useful too.
I was told that early in the war the top floor of
one of London's large hotels had been closed be-
226 WAR'S DARK FRAME
cause of suspected signalling of Zeppelins. That
night of which I have written, when the Zeppelins
were, in fact, trying to get over us, a British floor
valet muttered dark things about the foreign serv-
ants as we gazed at the bursting shrapnel and the
searchlights. In his less emotional moments,
however, he had nothing to say, for it is bad form
audibly to doubt neutrals.
But with all that the German spy has ceased to
be a terrible and unavoidable curse in Europe.
Those in authority have probed his methods and
chained his activities. He has even become an
object of thoughtful criticism. One day this point
was under discussion by some of the men who have
made that cheerful situation possible.
" German intelligence is universal," one said.
" Every German, no matter where he is, feels him-
self a divinely appointed agent of his government.
He sends what he can to the Wilhelmstrasse. He
is ambitious to impress the Wilhelmstrasse. Con-
sequently he sometimes hits false trails and puts
the real agents off on wild goose chases. In the
long run it is a weakness to use amateurs in the
About that time, as if to prove that every rule
has its exceptions, the case of the near-sighted
London clerk came unsolicited to the department.
It was valuable intelligence, because it gave solidity
GAME OF INTELLIGENCE 227
to the many rumours about at that time of Aus-
tria's anxiety to make peace. The official who
handled the case told it to me with a reminiscent
" It is hard," he said, " to learn just how much
is behind these rumours of a nation's desire to
make peace. It seemed likely that Austria would
be rather better out of it, but you can't place much
reliance on newspaper gossip. Then this youth
came shambling into my office, white as a sheet,
his eyes red beneath huge spectacles, stoop-shoul-
dered, trembling as if he had a chill. His flashy
clothing looked absurd. Mourning would have
become him better. I fancy he expected to be
condemned to death. He tried to avoid that by
telling all he knew.
" He worked in a city office — clerical work in
an insufficient light that explained his eyes and
his shoulders and his bad complexion. You know
how little that type gets. You know how destruc-
tive to ambition such work is. He plodded along
with no bad habits, with no future, an inoffensive,
pitiful little chap. Then the great romance came.
A visitor was taken through the office one day.
The clerk noticed him because he was so big
and handsome and prosperous. He was nearly
tongue-tied when this impressive figure paused and
chatted with him. It developed that the visitor
228 WAR'S DARK FRAME
had known the clerk's father. He expressed
some interest in the young man. He took him to
dinner. In many ways he was kind to him. The
man declared that he was worried about the clerk.
He looked underfed and on the edge of an illness.
Something ought to be done about that. After
a little thought he slapped his knee. He had just
the thing. Business was taking him to a neutral
country across the channel for a few days.
" ' Suppose you get leave of absence,' he pro-
posed, ' and come with me. I'll pay your ex-
penses because you're your father's son, and be-
cause I like you.'
" The young fellow demurred. He couldn't
trespass on such generosity.
" ' It's all right,' the older man said. * No
charity about it. As a matter of fact I could use
a secretary for a few days. There's sure to be a
man or two I won't want to talk to myself, and
that sort I can shunt off on you. Meantime you'll
get a vacation that will give you a fresh start and
maybe save you a bad illness. Tell 'em at the
office your uncle's going to give you a little holi-
" The clerk, unable to believe in this sudden
stroke of luck, arranged it. His friend gave him
a new suit of clothes. His studious expression
GAME OF INTELLIGENCE 229
went well with this new prosperity. They sailed.
On the other side there were some aristocratic-
appearing men who paced the dock. When the
clerk and his host landed these men came up with
bows and words of welcome. For the first time
the youth realised what an important person his
benefactor was. But the men paid an incompre-
hensible attention to his insignificant self. They
were solicitous about his health. They apolo-
gised for the poor comforts he would find in this
town. The best available had been prepared for
him. He had a vague idea that all this was really
meant for the other man. At the first oppor-
tunity he asked who these people were.
" ' They talked to me so strangely, as if I was
a lord or something.'
" ' You be nice to them, my boy,' his host said.
1 Treat 'em well. Let 'em give you anything they
want, and you act as if that was what you were
raised to. They're friends of mine, and I'd hate
to have 'em offended. If you think they're crazy,
keep it to yourself and give 'em their way.'
" There was a private suite at the hotel, a sol-
itary dinner, more grandeur than the clerk had
ever imagined existed outside the covers of a
" The next morning a servant appeared, an-
2 3 o WAR'S DARK FRAME
nouncing that the gentlemen awaited the clerk's
arrival in a remote parlour which they had re-
" ' Go along, sonny,' his host said, yawning.
' I can't be bothered with these people. You go
sit down and have a nice chat with 'em, and let
'em get whatever they have on their minds out
of the way.'
" ' But what do you want me to say to them? '
" ' Say as little as possible, I tell you. You
say, " I must return for further instructions to
England." Yes. That's a nice answer. That
can't offend 'em. You say just that, and now and
then you might put in, " Gentlemen, you interest
" The clerk looked at him appealingly, but his
host waved him away.
" 4 Go on. Don't ask so many questions. I
hired you to talk to people like this. Do as you're
told, and you'll be all right.'
" So the clerk went to the remote parlour, and
at his entrance the elderly, aristocratic gentlemen
arose, bowing most profoundly.
" ' Will you sit here, your excellency? You
slept well? You were not too uncomfortable in
those insufficient rooms? You find that chair to
your liking? Suppose we speak informally of
that which brings us together.'
GAME OF INTELLIGENCE 231
" The bewildered clerk leaned his elbows on
the table. He wanted to smoke a cigarette, but
he thought it might offend the old men. He
wanted to say, 'What does bring us together?'
Instead he murmured:
" ' Gentlemen, you interest me.'
" They smiled at that. They bent closer to
him genially. He realised he had made a hit.
He determined to use that phrase as often as pos-
sible. He had had no idea any one phrase could
be so successful. Then his ears tingled. He
felt confusion sweep him,. He was like a man
lost in a deep woods. Some one had said pleas-
" ' Then perhaps, you will give us your gov-
" For a long time he kept his head bent. He
" ' Of course we understand,' he heard a voice
drone, ' that this conference is quite informal, and
that the terms you mention must, to an extent, be
considered tentative. Still it is a beginning, an
encouraging one. We must begin somewhere.
The tentative terms, please.'
" The drumming in his ears increased. He
scarcely heard his own voice murmur:
" ' Gentlemen, you interest me.' "
This time there was no good-natured response.
232 WAR'S DARK FRAME
The others stirred and made no effort to hide their
surprise. Clearly something else was demanded
off him, so he took courage and completed the
recital of his lesson.
" ' I must return for further instructions to
" The others sprang up and paced about the
room. They gathered in a corner, evidently con-
sulting. One greybeard approached him with an
air of timidity.
" * What has occurred, your excellency? We
have heard of no great victory. Yet since you
left England something must have occurred.
Something must have happened since you arrived
last night, when we all spoke of your cheerful at-
" The clerk shook his head. He had only one
thought, to escape from that conference about
which he knew nothing, yet which was clearly of
grave import, concerning matters in which he
could have no honest share. He was ready to
burst into tears. He arose and made for the
door, combining his two phrases in a desperate
effort to explain his retreat.
" * Gentlemen, you interest me, but I must re-
turn for further instructions to England. 1
" He was aware of consternation and whispered
astonishment behind him. He stumbled into the
GAME OF INTELLIGENCE 233
private suite and with a'trembling voice demanded
some explanation. But his host was more curious
as to what had happened at the conference.
When he had got all that from the clerk he rubbed
his hands and smiled with satisfaction.
" ' Just the thing/ he grinned. ' You did
well, my boy. YouVe got 'em guessing. Now
you go on home just as you said you would, and
we'll arrange another conference a little later.'
" ' Who are these people? ' the clerk burst out.
' They treat me as if I was the King or Lloyd-
" ' Friends of mine,' his host said airily, ' and
they're giving me a pleasant experience. I'd hate
to have it lapse.'
" So the clerk came back to England, but he
couldn't wait to hear from the impressive man.
He didn't want a repetition of his glittering holi-
day. The cold chills were running up and down
his back. He came here and told the whole story.
Of course we had to get to the bottom of it. The
intelligence department persuaded his flashy host
to come here. He's locked up now, but I doubt
if we keep him. You see, he's a swindler of inter-
national reputation. He was a trifle disappointed
to be interfered with, but evidently he'd made
something out of his game, and, really, I don't
think such a confidence game was ever attempted
234 WAR'S DARK FRAME
before. The Austrian government had been his
— what do you call it? — his sucker. He had
actually approached Vienna, whispering that
Great Britain was readier to talk peace than any
one knew on the outside. The British govern-
ment, he said, would discuss tentative terms, but
it- would have to be done informally and secretly.
He was the man to arrange matters, to put the
thing through — for a consideration.
" Vienna, to all appearances, actually took that
bait. Money was no object. If the swindler
would bring the British representative to a neutral
country they would send commissioners to confer
" It became necessary for the swindler to find
the British plenipotentiary he had agreed to pro-
duce. You know how he got him. Poor little
chap ! He kept his word. He did come to Eng-
land for further instructions, and he received them
— to go back to his desk and forget all about it.
I daresay he's there now, bending over figures in a
bad light, thinking that a diplomatic career has
its drawbacks after all. Meantime the aristo-
cratic commissioners — doubtless they are still
I knew of two secluded rooms in London afyout
which this business of intelligence centred, and of
GAME OF INTELLIGENCE 235
two men, quiet geniuses, who largely controlled it.
If for nothing else than contrast I wanted to see
those rooms and those men, for through their
inventions England has been pretty completely
purged of the spy terror and Germany has been
given a spy terror of its own. The thing was
arranged. I walked from the smug respectability
of the Embankment into the amazing somnolence
of Scotland Yard. In the office of a church
society one would have found more movement,
more irritability, more anxiety. Except for the
bobby who strolled away with my card no one was
The man I had come to see sat behind a littered
desk. He wore a light alpaca jacket and his neck-
tie was a trifle awry. He had the pleasantest and
the sharpest eyes imaginable, which, however,
showed something of that strain I was to notice so
generally in men's eyes at the front. It was as
if, while risking nothing physical himself, he
shared the deadly anxiety of his agents at work
far from the safety and the quiet of this place.
His squarely-cut and powerful features suggested
a secretive mind. That at least was in keeping
with one's idea of Scotland Yard. The necessity
for it, he let me know, was infinitely graver than
ever before in the history of British intelligence.
As I talked with the man with the pleasant,
236 WAR'S DARK FRAME
sharp, and tired eyes, I had to remind myself that
a secret service net covering Great Britain, France,
and large portions of the war zone was amenable
to his hand.
Sir Roger Casement had been secretly spirited
here after that dramatic dawn in Tralee. He had
stood there beyond the desk, rather proud than
worried. It was impossible not to question how
many guilty ones had stood beyond the desk, read-
ing in those tired, quiet, questioning eyes their con-
demnation to the extreme penalty.
The quiet of the eyes, the quiet of the room,
the quiet of the building made such pictures seem
incredible. The place offered no appearance of
an inquisition, no stagey atmosphere of danger.
Now and then a clerk tip-toed in and out, as in any
office, leaving more bundles of paper to litter
the desk. And yet the room was crowded with
shadows. It was full of death.
One thing I carried out of it. In such places
there is none of the common contempt for the spy,
none of the customary aversion for the degrada-
tion of his penalty. Such men find in the stealthy
and anonymous heroism of the secret agent some-
thing sublime, the most perfect sacrifice.
The Admiralty isn't far from Scotland Yard.
That other room was there, that other man who
within a few months overcame new conditions
GAME OF INTELLIGENCE 237
and largely laid the foundations for England's
success in snaring submarines, in policing the
channel, in watching the movements of Zeppelins
and Germany's high seas fleet.
One's first impression is quite different over
there. The moment you cross the threshold of
the Admiralty you face an air of secrecy and mys-
tery. There are policemen to be passed, and you
notice civilians who seem to be on some errand,
also, but who watch you with too much interest.
When your credentials have been examined a
guide is furnished, and you need him, for he takes
you down steps and up steps, through intermin-
able dim corridors, extricating you from the
demands of guards who appear here and there
from the obscurity. He leaves you at last in front
of a leather-covered door behind which a great
The opening of that door alters everything.
Dazzling light floods a large room through
windows facing the Horse Guards' Parade. A
fire burns briskly. There is a solidity about the
room and its furnishings that goes with its air of
unalterable purpose. Men move about, but
immediately one figure catches the attention and
holds it. On the padded fender sits a slender,
wiry man in the conventional naval uniform.
Above his smiling face a broad forehead recedes
238 WAR'S DARK FRAME
between fringes of curling hair. Still he looks
young, possessed of an abundant vitality. He
springs up, smiling a welcome. ' He lights a
cigarette, pacing about the room as he talks. His
smile never hides the uninterrupted anxiety of his
eyes. That makes him seem at first like the very
different figure in the alpaca jacket.
I spoke, I remember, of the trawlers I had seen
in St. George's Channel and the Irish Sea — hun-
dreds of tossing trawlers, fishing for submersibles,
and, when necessary, making themselves the bait.
I had marvelled at the bravery of their sailors.
As I watched the smiling, active figure, as I saw
the smoke curl from his cigarette, I realised that
there are harder tasks, that the assumption of
responsibility may be a greater sacrifice, than the
risk of one's life. Through the leather door at
any moment might slip a tragic reflection of his
system; word, perhaps, of many lives lost through
a breakdown somewhere.
Certainly this room was too cheerful. It made
it more difficult to picture the details of a story I
had recently heard — one of those cases about
which little is said, because it involves signalling,
and the simple word makes any official tongue-
tied. Yet it is obvious that the German spies have
used that form of communication under favoura-
ble conditions. At any rate, not long before a
GAME OF INTELLIGENCE 239
trawler's crew had observed a red flash from a
Those who man these filthy craft are largely
of the naval reserve class — men out of comfort-
able homes and convenient clubs. Consequently
they bring to their work an exceptional intelligence.
They didn't dash in shore in the hope of finding
something. The light suggested too many possi-
bilities. Instead, they held their patrol and at
the first opportunity reported to the Admiralty.
There have been many rumours of a German sub-
marine base hidden away on the shores of the
British Isles. The Admiralty, therefore, ordered
the trawler to keep about its routine work while
an intelligence man with the clothing and accent
of the vicinity, appeared in the nearest town. He
had to work carefully. Often at night he slipped
out and crawled through underbrush and behind
the rocks, seeking out that base which the signal-
ling had suggested. He found no indication of a
base, no likely cache for supplies. He reported
the existence of a cove behind the headland.
There was a beach, favourable for the landing of
a small boat. The neighbourhood was wild.
There was only one house within a radius of
several miles. It was occupied by an unkempt old
man who had consistently turned back his efforts
at an entrance, who had snubbed his attempts to
2 4 o WAR'S DARK FRAME
talk. Aside from that there was nothing. Except
for the old man, who might be of foreign birth,
the people of the neighbourhood were beyond
The intelligence officer was recalled, but the
trawler was kept on that post just at the edge of
the radius of the red light. The commander had
a detailed map of the cove and the beach and the
headland. He waited.
" That man," he told his crew, " can't know his
lamp is visible at this distance. Some fine
night — "
And one very dark night the red winking came
across the water. The clouds were so thick that
the commander knew he could sail close to the
headland unobserved. He felt, in fact, when he
entered the cove that his presence there was quite
This business of waiting in the dark for the
shaping of unknown forces into defeat or victory
is the hardest portion of the men assigned to
intelligence work. The red light no longer
showed. Although the boat was not many yards
from the beach there was nothing to be seen.
There were no sounds beyond the cries of a rising
wind. And the minutes lengthened. The com-
mander had reached the conclusion that the affair
was founded on a delusion, or else some trick of
GAME OF INTELLIGENCE 241
shrubbery through which the wind permitted an in-
nocent light to gleam intermittently. The men
lost their caution, murmuring from time to time.
The commander spoke to them sharply. Then a
sudden sound aroused the crew. It was magnified
in the black silence, suggesting the scraping of a
hard object on sand, and after a moment came a
guttural laugh, followed by a prolonged hiss for
" Hold that searchlight ready/' the commander
cautioned. " Not till I give the word. We'll
wait a while longer."
A stealthy stroking of oars rewarded him. A
small boat was making from the beach for the
entrance of the cove. It would have to pass close
to the trawler.
" Now! " the commander cried.
And the light flashed out, circling the cove with
a white eagerness, catching at last at the end of its
ray a collapsible boat filled with men. The men
stared up at the trawler open-mouthed. One
cursed in German. Another laughed foolishly in
a feminine note. The commander couldn't believe
his ears, for a third commenced to sing a rollick-
They knew they were caught. They permitted
themselves to be lined up on the deck of the
trawler while the commander examined their col-
242 WAR'S DARK FRAME
lapsible. It held nothing except the oars. There
wasn't an indication that it had ever been used to
carry supplies. The commander turned to the
line of prisoners. He noticed that his own men
glanced at them with curiosity. He went closer,
questioning. He was met by that absurd laugh.
The song recommenced.
11 What is this? " he asked.
His second in command strolled up to him.
" Most of these men, sir, are drunk. Ah, there
goes that light again."
The commander turned sharply. The light
didn't flash from the headland. It was far down
the beach. It went out. Its purpose was clear.
It had warned away a submarine to which these
men belonged, to which they had started to row
in their boat.
The commander lighted a cigar, relieved to be
able to smoke again. He knew, because of the
shifting of the light, it might be impossible to
implicate the unkempt man on the headland who
by this time must have destroyed every evidence.
On the other hand the intelligence department
would be grateful to the commander for he could
say definitely now that there was no submarine
base in this secluded cove, that it had never shel-
tered any serious plot. The amazing truth
cried itself from the grinning faces of the line
GAME OF INTELLIGENCE 243
of prisoners. It wasn't at all funny though that
they should risk so much for no graver purpose
than to come to a drinking party ashore. It
visualised for the commander the suspense and
confinement suffered by these submarine crews.
No risk was too great for an escape from that, for
a momentary stretching of one's limbs, for a little
release from the expectation of being crushed like
a beetle beneath the gigantic heel of the British
THE stealthy watchfulness that makes such
hauls possible is continually with one
in Europe these days. Intelligence has
very special phases for the French and for the
British in France. In the beginning spies actually
moved through the ranks of both armies. The
siege war of the trenches has made that game
impractical. Under these conditions the problem
of getting information through is increasingly dif-
ficult. Code letter-writing through neutral coun-
tries, while comparatively sure, is a very slow
expedient. Often intelligence is demanded in a
hurry, must be had at any cost. For a time
carrier pigeons were used with success. They
cried, however, their own warning. There aren't
many carrier pigeons in the conquered provinces
now. To be found with one on your property
amounts to a condemnation to death. I was sur-
prised to learn that Germany and France both
experiment with them still. I was told that an
airman not long before had come across the lines
at night and dropped a basket full of pigeons in
TRAGIC SECRETS 245
a lonely spot. The conspirator behind the lines
was supposed to find the basket, fasten duplicates
of his message to each bird, and release them all.
The innocent-appearing empty basket would be
the only evidence left.
The aeroplane has revolutionised spying as
completely as it has scouting. It's a risky busi-
ness. It's even unpopular among the air corps —
as courageous a body of youngsters as war has
ever produced. I have shown them to you, sail-
ing through bursting shrapnel, photographing and
observing with impudent indifference. In an air
battle they will take suicidal chances, but they
don't like these quiet rides through the night to
It isn't that they are physically afraid. They
shrink from the work because it threatens the
spy's penalty. The airman, like his passenger,
is tried, condemned, and executed as a spy. And
these boys, who know less than the quiet, worried
men in London, Paris, and Petrograd, or in Vienna
and Berlin, have a horror of the spy's work and
the spy's death. Still they do it. It amounts to
this: Among the British and the French the
belief in this war is so general that to ask for
volunteers for any task is practically to take your
pick of the entire army. This particular strata-
gem, moreover, must be seen through in the face
246 WAR'S DARK FRAME
of an enemy intelligence system that from the
filmiest hint unravels conspiracy and caps it with
black tragedy. One pitiful case comes instantly
to mind. It's about the boastful indiscretion of
an airman, who didn't want a spy's death, nearly
got it, then, through his escape, unwittingly con-
demned the man who had saved him.
After crossing the lines and safely landing his
passenger he arose with a sigh of relief and started
to return. Through one of those accidents no
man can guard against, his engine went bad, and
from a great height he dropped swiftly through
the night. He failed to right his machine. He
fell, evidently unobserved, in a field at the edge of
a town. But a native living in a house on the out-
skirts, had heard enough to draw him to the field.
He found the unconscious airman. This native
was an old man. Alone he couldn't lift the air-
man. He returned to the house where he lived
with his daughter.
11 There's a man out there in the field," he
whispered, for they've learned that even the walls
have ears in the conquered provinces. " If we
don't hide him," he went on, " the Germans will
find him at daylight, and he can't help himself
because he's injured. He may die. Shall we let
a friend die or be taken ? You must help me carry
TRAGIC SECRETS 247
" That," the girl whispered back, " may mean
death for all of us, will probably mean death — "
" A friend! " the old man said.
The girl arose, and went to the field with her
father, and helped him carry the man to the house
where they hid him. They both knew the risks
of that journey even in those quiet hours before
the dawn. When they had completed it they
glanced at each other and smiled.
11 God is with us," the old man said.
And through the weeks that followed they
seemed miraculously protected. The presence of
the man was never suspected. They nursed him
back to his former ability. They started him on
his road back. For there is a road back, out of
the conquered provinces, out of the hands of the
Germans. The execution of Edith Cavell didn't
close it. Innumerable other executions haven't
closed it, because that is something the Germans
can't do. In every war that conquers peoples
such a road persists. It penetrates even the
vaunted barrier across the Dutch frontier. So
the recovered airman was passed from guide to
guide on that road until finally he slipped from the
grasp of the Germans and reported himself ready
for duty to his own people.
His exaltation demanded expression. He
wanted to shout out his contempt of the German
248 WAR'S DARK FRAME
intelligence system which he had so easily mocked.
In broad daylight he flew high over the lines and
dropped into the town, where he had been con-
cealed, a jibing letter which stated the exact period
he had waited beneath the noses of the Germans
for the moment of his escape. Of course he
didn't think. His pride had overcome his judg-
ment. He had underestimated the Teutonic skill.
The sequel slipped to him as more important intel-
ligence slips from beyond the German trenches.
That man has lost his exultation. He wonders
that his life should have been given back to him.
For from the single clue of the note the German
agents found their way to the house on the edge
of the town. The gossip of the cafes, shrewd
guesses, a painstaking process of elimination were
their mileposts, and when they knocked at the door
and drew the old man roughly from his house they
were sure. He stared at them, trying to shake off
their hands, with a great surprise, because it had
been so long, because he had forgotten to be
At that moment an acquaintance brushed against
the daughter in the market place. She was di-
rected to a friend's house where she was told that
her father had been taken. So she, too, was
placed upon that underground road of sympathy
and patriotism, and during the dawn of her escape
TRAGIC SECRETS 249
the old man was made to stand, blind-folded,
against a wall. While he still marvelled over the
miracle of his success in saving the airman he was
sent abruptly to probe the greater miracle.
In the early days when there was retreating and
advancing, before the neutral zone had narrowed
itself to the few sinister yards of No-Man's Land,
the aeroplane gathered its intelligence well in
advance of the troops. At night, pilots and ob-
servers were frequently condemned to strange
lodgings, filled with apprehension, where sleep was
uneasy. Sometimes they came back with shaken
I was told of such an experience. A machine
was caught ahead of its division by the sudden
approach of a storm at nightfall. The darkness
possessed a resistive power. The first rain made
it like a soggy, smothering garment. The ma-
chine descended in a country still smoking from
the devastation of war. To struggle back to the
blackness and the rising wind would be an invita-
tion to disaster, and with their own eyes the pilot
and the observer had seen the enemy retreat
beyond this point.
" At least," the pilot said, " we can't sleep in
The observer indicated a tiny gleam of light not
2 5 o WAR'S DARK FRAME
far ahead, evidently the light of a candle diffused
through windows. They walked towards the light
and found a small farm house. It surprised them
first of all because war seemed to have passed it
by. They knocked at the door. A French woman
with a pleasant, middle-aged face opened for
them. Immediately both men experienced a sense
of something out of the way. There was a queer-
ness, not at all definable, about the pleasant face.
It frightened them, made them want to go where
its stare could no longer include them. But they
couldn't go. The storm had become violent.
They were exhausted by a day of labour and per-
petual risk. They told the woman they must
spend the night in her house. She continued to
stare. At last she shook her head with a me-
Were there no men? The men were all at the
Her voice had the quality of her face, pleasant,
determined — staring.
They explained that they understood that her
house was small, but surely it contained two rooms.
They called her attention to the storm.
" You must see that it is necessary for us to
spend the night here."
Again her head moved mechanically.
" You cannot spend the night here."
TRAGIC SECRETS 251
" You must tell us why."
" You cannot spend the night here. I tell you
you cannot. It is quite impossible."
They glanced at each other. They looked
again at the woman who stood in the light of the
candle just within the doorway.
" Queer! " the pilot whispered.
The observer drew him aside. While the
woman continued to stare at them without any
apparent interest they consulted about her.
" Looks dangerous," the observer said.
" Loyal French are never inhospitable. This
woman speaks the language all right, but we're
not so far from the frontier. Perhaps she is
hiding some one — a German, wounded, more
than likely. We know they retreated through
The pilot shivered in the rising storm.
" You're probably right, and the danger's for
the German and not for us. We'll stay in spite
of this woman, who doesn't get angry, who doesn't
plead, who offers no excuses, who simply forbids
us. Naturally we will protect ourselves. We
must search the house."
So they went back to the woman and told her
that they intended to enter and search as a pre-
liminary to spending the night whether she
wanted them or not.
25 2 WAR'S DARK FRAME
" You cannot spend the night here," she
repeated with her mechanical dulness.
But she didn't resist when they pushed past her.
She only turned to stare after them with her
pleasant, determined eyes.
There were, as they had guessed, two bedrooms,
opening from opposite sides of the hall. They
glanced in the one on the left which was clearly
occupied by the woman as her clothes lay about
in some confusion. They opened the door of the
other, evidently a spare room, for the bed was
larger and it had a canopy and curtains. They
passed on to the kitchen. That, too, offered no
signs of life. The fire in the stove was out.
They glanced back, startled, for the woman was
at their heels, moving with the precise awkward-
ness of an automaton, while her strange eyes
stared at them.
" We're getting close," the pilot whispered.
" In a moment she'll break down."
He questioned her.
" You've had no dinner? "
She shook her head.
" If we light the fire you will prepare our
Again she shook her head.
" You cannot eat in this house."
The pilot made a gesture of impatience.
TRAGIC SECRETS 253
" What is the matter with this house that we
can't sleep or eat in it? We will find out. You
are sailing pretty close to the wind. That, I sup-
pose, is the door to the cellar."
He opened the door. With revolvers drawn
the two men went down the stone steps, their
hearts in their throats, while the woman stood
perfectly still in the middle of the room, staring
In the cellar they went carefully. They heard
" Come out! " they demanded while they held
their revolvers ready.
They struck matches and searched the corners.
Except for themselves the cellar was empty.
" Queer ! Queer ! " they muttered.
More afraid than if they had found something,
they climbed the steps and looked at the woman
who still stood in the centre of the floor, staring
" Clearly," the pilot said, " we are getting a
case of nerves. There is no danger here — noth-
ing at all, except this woman who stares and stares
and tells us we can't spend the night. I'm tired.
IVe a biscuit or two and some chocolate. We'll
disturb her as little as possible. We'll sleep in
the spare room, and, if you think it wise, watch,
turn and turn about."
254 WAR'S DARK FRAME
They entered the room and lighted a sconce of
candles on a bureau. The woman, who had fol-
lowed them mutely, stood in the doorway. Now
she spoke with that mechanical intonation which
possessed a certain vagueness.
" You can't spend the night here."
This time they laughed at the reiteration of
those words which seemed to possess no meaning.
Still there was something uncomfortable about
their laugh. It did not last long. They munched
their biscuits and chocolate.
The pilot brushed the crumbs from his hand.
He lighted a caporal and strolled to the bed to
make it ready.
" We'll tumble in here — "
He drew back the faded red plush curtains
which shook a little, as the candles shook, in the
wind from the door. The woman had come
closer. She spread her hands helplessly, as one
who is suddenly justified. About the gesture,
however, was something of despair.
The pilot bent over the bed. Then he shrank
away. The observer advanced. The woman did
not move. Her hands remained extended in that
gesture of justification.
During many minutes the three stared at the
young girl outstretched on the bed. There were
stains, now nearly black, across the simple
TRAGIC SECRETS 255
clothing and straying to the edge of the coverlet.
For the young girl's throat had been laid open by
a sabre. But the stains and the agony hadn't
driven from the pretty face a vague and helpless
determination, very like the mother's.
" You see," the woman was saying, with a
mechanical hoarseness, " you cannot spend the
With awkward and sympathetic gestures they
slipped past her and quietly left that house. In
the turbulence of the storm they read a welcome.
Like hotel espionage, the use of one's own
people behind the enemy's line has two sides.
During that visit to Rheims, I heard something
there that made me ponder pretty uncomfortably.
I knew there must be some explanation of the
systematic destruction beyond the fact that the
Germans had, for a short time, occupied the town.
I remember questioning the cheerful little staff
officer. He looked away.
" The bombardment," he said, " is directed
from within. Some of the Boches have re-
mained. They direct the bombardment of their
neighbours' homes. There have been many and
there still are some Boche spies in Rheims. You
see great quantities of Boches lived and worked
here before the war."
256 WAR'S DARK FRAME
Then I remembered that the Germans had
always been active in the champagne industry, that
many had been employed in the vineyards and the
factories of Rheims. Still it seemed beyond
" This ruined city was their home," I said.
" These houses must have belonged to their
" It is hard to handle them," he said. " They
are very clever at reporting damage and offering
ranges. It will continue to be so until there is not
one of these people left in Rheims. Yesterday
two of them were shot."
The sound of guns was very loud. He gestured
sadly at the ruins.
11 Still the bombardment goes on."
And I recalled the authoritative statement of
the intelligence officer in London that every Ger-
man, no matter where he lived, believed himself
a divinely appointed agent of his government.
And I looked at the ruins, wondering.
During my trip to the war zone of Lorraine I
found this give and take of intelligence more pro-
nounced than anywhere else. I have written of
the material agony. In addition I was arrested
by a mental distress, born of a situation not unlike
The Church at M
Had Been Blasted by Great
Shells Sent from Guns Many Miles Away
TRAGIC SECRETS 257
that which made our own Civil War so terrible.
In these border provinces the population is very
much mixed. On the German side there are many
men who through forty years of enemy rule have
never lost their true nationality. On the French
side one hears many German names, sees many
Teutonic faces. Here naturally was an oppor-
tunity which during all these years the Wilhelm-
strasse wasn't likely to neglect. Who is to draw
the line? Who is to say that this Teutonic type
is a loyal Frenchman or a German spy? And on
the other side of the trenches the Germans ask
themselves precisely the reverse of that question.
It is a dreadful thing to suspect one's neigh-
bours, to search for guilt behind the eyes of those
who, before the war, were one's friends. And no
spy could expect mercy from these people. The
wantonness of the destruction rankles in the border
provinces as it never has in any other war, and
when you have wandered through the devastated
districts, as the Quaker and I did, you understand
why. The church at M brought it home.
It had no military value since a line of hills rolled
between it and the enemy. Yet it had been
blasted by great shells sent from guns many miles
away, and the neighbouring houses, mere skeletons
now, had been blasted with it. Its bronze bells,
distorted and silent, lay in a pool of mud at the
258 WAR'S DARK FRAME
entrance. I saw it on a Sunday morning. The
officer who accompanied me said :
" Now let us look at the real church."
He led me to a house comparatively whole.
He opened a door. Within were gathered two or
three bent old men, many women, and a host of
little children. They sat on rough chairs arranged
before an improvised altar whose boards had been
draped with white cloths. One had a feeling that
the simplicity of their worship concealed a desire
for the only justice they could understand — an
eye for an eye. They glanced at us with that
desire in their faces, and with pride and suspicion.
I was glad not to stand there unconducted. I
should hate to enter the border provinces at all
without iron-bound credentials. It was, I fancy,
pride more than habit that had held these people
to the vicinity of their desolate homes. There
would have been, their stolid faces seemed to say,
a special degradation in seeking comfort and
whole houses and unsoiled churches at the com-
mand of Germany's destructive voice. They
seemed trying to tell me that Germany had had
nothing to do with this, that they were making the
best of matters after a bad fire or a levelling
I was glad to have seen that, for it offered a
solution I had been seeking ever since my arrival
TRAGIC SECRETS 259
in France. I hadn't been able to understand how
the French could develop, largely within two years,
their amazingly successful intelligence system. It
had seemed miraculous that at the same time they
should have brought to so little the German system
of many decades' growth. In these faces the
answer lay. One saw there an infinite capacity
for sacrifice. One read also that alert watchful-
ness, that greed for justice. And the entire
country is to some extent like that, because there
are few who haven't suffered personally from
this war with its new and intolerable methods.
Every man and woman is a potential trapper of
Moreover, as I looked, it seemed to me that on
the simple altar before which these determined
people worshipped, the supernal and France had
become inextricably tangled.
THE grey and crimson tints of all these
phases colour Europe too morbidly.
There is no escape. When, on my way
back to America, I reached Bordeaux, the gay
southern city seemed at first to offer with a smile
just that evasion which every one who sees the war
with an intimate understanding must narrowly
crave. German prisoners, working in the fields
and on the roads in the outskirts, were, to be sure,
a reminder; but they appeared to have borrowed
something from the warm, bland countryside to
which they had been transplanted. Their faces
were without anger or regret. They seemed
happier than the free men condemned to the
In Bordeaux itself there were fewer uniforms
than one sees to the north and less of the eternal
military display in shop windows. There was a
much heralded theatrical production that night,
and, announced for Sunday, an open air perform-
ance of " Samson and Delilah. "
But almost immediately the black war shadow
THE ADVANCE 261
showed itself. There was uncertainty as to when
the boat would sail; a promise, ever more clearly
defined, of an extended delay; a sense of lurking
danger at the mouth of the Garonne.
And the next morning, when I stepped from
my hotel, I heard the throaty music of bugles, and
I saw march past thousands of Senegalese, just
landed and about to entrain for the front. Be-
neath red fezzes their black and childish faces
shown with the heat. They swung along with a
naive pride. One questioned if they foresaw
anything of the facts.
America, with its lights and its careless pleasure-
seeking, attained a visionary quality. Was it pos-
sible such a place actually existed? At first one
was happy at the prospect of that refuge, but the
bugles continued, blaring the truth of this war, and
one became ashamed, reading in such a state a
vital wrong which sooner or later would have to
be paid for.
As the gangway from pier to ship in New York
had shown itself to be the threshold of war, so,
too, it was apparent, would it prove itself the only
exit. For on the boat, sitting in the steamer chair
next to mine, occupying a seat at the same table,
was a young fellow from Brooklyn, decorated with
the Croix de Guerre and the Medaille Militaire.
He moved about only infrequently because of the
262 WAR'S DARK FRAME
artificial leg to which he failed to accustom him-
I tried to sound the impulse that had urged him
to leave a broker's office to enlist in the Foreign
Legion. He could only express it in this way :
" I wanted a look in at the last war."
One sought to vindicate his anxiety and his
Moreover, he was very modest about his
There were other soldiers who had been
decorated — either French-Americans on permis-
sion, or poor devils like the boy from the Foreign
Legion, cast into the vast and pitiful slag heap of
There was a wrinkled Canadian-Belgian in the
" I am fifty-six," he lamented. " I have been
wounded three times, but each time I have gone
back to the trenches. Now because they say my
lungs are weakened they won't let me fight any
more. That is absurd. And it was I who de-
stroyed the bridge at Termonde. The fuse had
been cut, and the Boches were coming across, firing
their machine guns from behind shields of mat-
tresses. I crawled along inside a metal cask to
the point where the fuse had been cut. And I
lighted the broken end. Pouf! You should
THE ADVANCE 263
have heard that! You should have seen that! "
He lifted the medal of St. George which was
pinned to his rough tunic.
" The King himself," he said proudly, " placed
that there, and there are few who have won it."
So through the tiresome voyage there was no
escape. Then one afternoon we steamed into
New York harbour, and I saw a city that seemed
proud of an incomprehensible ignorance of the
meaning of war.
The dusk thickened and lights flashed in a
strange extravagance. Through the streets, as I
drove uptown, passed laughing men and women,
in and out of restaurants, into theatres and dance
halls. It was like a city, uninstructed in reality.
After a time the sense of wrong vanished. One
watched these men and women with a quick sym-
pathy, limiting the period of their carelessness.
For a question had survived through the months
in Europe :
11 How long before we, too, will be at war? "
As I drove on the question drifted inevitably
into a statement, brutal and unescapable:
" We, too, will be at war. It will not be long."