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Full text of "War's dark frame"

WAR'S 
DARK FRAME 



WADSWORTH CAMP 




Class 4., j 

■ .L 



Gopyrii 






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CunKIG'H DEPOSm 



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 



BY 



WADSWORTH CAMP 

Author of "Sinister Island," etc. 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS ' 




NEW YORK 
DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY 

1917 






cc r 



COPYRIGHT, 1917 

UUDl), MKA1) AND COMPANY, 1m«. * 



*.'•/ t 



JIM 12 1917 



120 



TO 

MY WII ■!•: 
MY MOTHER 









CONTENTS 



CHATTER 
I 


The Submarine Zoni 


PAGE 
1 


II 


\ND .... 


• 14 


III 


\m> Democr 




IV 


Pari Spirit . 


• 44 


V 


ASTATION 


. 50 


VI 


Till. . tON .... 




VII 


The Persistent Bombardment . 


. 81 


XIII 


The Amazing Garden .... 


. 90 


IX 


Between the Lines 


. 100 


X 


With the BRITISH in Flanders 


. 108 


XI 


Hospitals and 1 1 rtlrs . 


121 


XII 


Under Tire in a Flat Land . 


133 


XIII 


K of Life A] 
at the Front 


I 

147 


XIV 


Tin [No Mines .... 




XV 

XVI 


Gas School and the Artillery 




17' 
IQO 


XVII 


The Mad Activity of a Dead City 




XVIII 


Where Men Are Like Ants . 


2\2 


XIX 
XX 

XXI 


The Grj of Intelligence . 

LETS 

The Advance 





ILLUSTRATIONS 

A British battery in Flanders .... Frontispiece 

FACING 

The Germans made a more thorough job here than 
in Louvain 

( > I * 1 men and children wandered around with a fur- 
tive air. as if in anticipation of aiiotl;- 
trophe 70 

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 

CHAPTER I 

1H! si BMARINE ZONE 

CANT be a submarine — We're too far 
out!" 

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- 
quiet. 

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 

l 



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 
the game. 

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- 
other commented. 

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 
it. 

" 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- 
bye — 

" 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, 
laughed resentfully. 



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 
Arabic. 

" 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 
any boat." 

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- 
land. 

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- 
sey. 

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 
alien officers. 

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 
you—" 

He paused, glancing at her curiously. At first 
she didn't answer. She turned with a gesture of 
despair. She walked spiritlessly away. 



CHAPTER II 

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 

14 



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 
over with." 

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 
brown. 



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 
service. 

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 
Ypres. 

" But when and how were you wounded?" I 
asked. 

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 
and ashamed. 

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 
here." 

His eyes twinkled. 

" And I guess there's some wee paragraphs still 
there." 

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- 
ality. 

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 
abashed. 

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 
work?" 

" 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- 
pable resistance. 

People ran into you or you ran into others, 
laughing apologies. 



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 
church first." 

" 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, 
before daybreak." 

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. 



CHAPTER III 

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 
influence. 

I was curious when his daughter didn't appear 
for luncheon. 

" 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 
30 



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 
sufferers. 

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- 
fice. 

" 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 
crutches. 

Certainly the plough girl was democratic. Yet, 
you couldn't help thinking, it was a pity her devo- 




w 

Q 

< 

CO 

a* 
w 

o 
s 



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 
British ship. 

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 
sympathy. 

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 
chief sufferers. 

" 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 
accomplished." 

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- 
appointment : 

" Daddy ! You promised I should see a Zep 
to-night." 

" 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 
gone." 

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 
failed her. 

11 A game of bridge," he suggested, " or is it too 
late?" 

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 
terror." 

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 
that." 

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 
certainly. 

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 
increased. 

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- 
pered. 

Many agreed. You couldn't help admiring 
these people who went forward in face of such a 
belief. 



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 
another. 

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 
around." 

" 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- 
tion. 

" 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 
light! " 

A great sigh went up. We all crowded to the 
front deck to watch that red and friendly greet- 
ing. 



CHAPTER IV 

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. 

44 



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 
spoke. 

" 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 
wise. 

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 
British. 

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 
ready?" 

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 
out: 

" 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 
of precedence. 



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- 
ports?" 

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 
hopefully. 

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 
unsympathetic. 

" Let's see your passport," he growled. 
"What do you mean? I asked for diplomatic 
passports." 

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- 
terest. 

"New York! "he echoed. 

He swung the gate open. 

" Step right in, sir. Make yourself comfort- 
able." 

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 
Times Square." 

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 
drill. 

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- 
stroy. 

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 
widow said. 

He munched it without words until some one 
asked: 

" 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. 



CHAPTER V 

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. 

56 



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- 
structed. 

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- 
vestment." 

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- 
man system. 

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 
civilians. 

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- 
ment." 

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- 
plane." 

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- 
ticular ruin. 

" It was my home," he said simply. " Fortu- 
nately my family was not there when the shell 
struck." 

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 
laugh. 



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 
them shelter." 

The elderly Quaker shook his head. 

u Why should Nancy be bombarded in this 
fashion?" • 

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- 
viller." 

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 
fashion. 

" ' 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- 
fee. 

" 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- 
sibility." 



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 
promise. 

" Among other things," he added softly as he 
turned to go, " you will visit the ruins of Gerbe- 
viller — of Gerbeviller-la-Martyre." 



CHAPTER VI 

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 
lines. 

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- 
touched. 

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 
Lorraine. " 

And almost immediately we flashed through a 
village whose simple peasant houses were without 
roofs or else showed jagged breaches where shells 
had entered. 

" 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 
another catastrophe. 

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 
Bodies?" 

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 
very French." 

" 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 
relief. 

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 
we did: 

" 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 
vicious hands. 

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 plaza. 

" 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 
the sky. 

" There are no shell holes," the Quaker said. 

There was a flash of temper across his placid 
face. 

" 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 
said. 

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- 
ence. 

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 
window. 

" 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 




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THE SINISTER INVASION 79 

wounded and the dying, and some old men who 
are incapable of bearing arms, and I have Ger- 
mans.' 

" ' 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 
above Gerbeviller. 

" ' Save this little corner for sickness and 
death.' 

" 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 
glittered. 

" 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. 



CHAPTER VII 

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.' , 

81 



82 WAR'S DARK FRAME 

He took me to a flowering tree not far away 
and pointed out a polished round hole in the 
trunk. 

" 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 
feet." ' 

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 
walls. 

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 
upward. 

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 
longer consecrated." 

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 
wounded. 

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 




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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 
thrill. 

"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 
beauty. 

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 
my mind. 

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?" 

She laughed. 

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- 
ing. 

" 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. 



CHAPTER VIII 

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 
him. 

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 

90 



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 
line. 

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 
would ask. 

" 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 
menacing volubility. 

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 
trench. 

" While they are getting rid of that," our officer 
said, " the machine gun attends to their little 
affair." 

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- 
munication lines." 

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- 
rower flight. 

" We are just behind the first line," our guide 
explained. " Now I am going to show you some- 
thing." 

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- 
tected." 

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 
passages. 

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 
darkness. 

" 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 
afraid. 

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 
to headquarters. 

" 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 
of blood. 

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 
just ahead. 

" Besides, I am going to take you now to the 
very front line." 

He glanced at us curiously. His face was 
enigmatic. 

" And, perhaps — if you are not afraid — even 
beyond." 



CHAPTER IX 

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 
develop. 

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 
of discovery. 

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. 

100 



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 
grenade." 

We made indifferent gestures. We looked at 
each other suspiciously. There were no signals 
of retreat. 



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 
grenades. 

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 
tongue. 

" 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- 
tion: 

"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- 
terrupted. 

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 
earth. 

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 
can't understand." 

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. 



CHAPTER X 

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 
confused everything. 

" 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- 
quarters pass." 

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 

108 




o 

H 

< 
22 

< 



O 



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- 
wisps. 

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 
British lines. 

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 
pity: 

" 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 
well." 

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. 
"IsitaBoche?" 

" 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 
men. 

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 
these. 

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 
walking stick. 

"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 
once with: 

" 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 
facts. 

" At any rate you can choose your own hos- 
pital," one of them suggested. 

The officer's petulant striking at his boot con- 
tinued. 

" Wish I was sure of that," he said, " but I 



n6 WAR'S DARK FRAME 

fancy they send you where it's most conven- 
ient." 

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 
flame. 

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 
in France. 

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. 

"Poor fellow!" 

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 
amiably. 

" 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 
convalescent." 

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 
speech. 

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 
anonymity. 

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. 



CHAPTER XI 

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 
traditional fetiches. 

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." 

121 



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. 



HEADQUARTERS 123 

" 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 
machinery responded. 

" 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 
one's side. 

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 
despairing restlessness. 

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 
nurses." 

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 
camp. 

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 



HEADQUARTERS 125 

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- 
man. 

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 
like." 

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- 



HEADQUARTERS 127 

ing can be as deadly as bullets. The colonel re- 
mained placid. 

" 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 
by individuals. 

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 
little. 

" 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 
mind." 

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 



HEADQUARTERS 129 

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 
army." 

Williams' words sounded like a joke in bad 
taste. Yet the other headquarters town a little 
farther on was equally rural, quite as picturesque. 



HEADQUARTERS 131 

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- 
liams' hurry. 

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. 



CHAPTER XII 

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, 
133 



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 
exulted. 

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 
alluringly. 

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 
it." 

We sat in the cars, listening to the ugly roar 
while we studied this nerve centre of the fighting 
system. 

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 
louder. 

" 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 
said. 

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 
offered. 

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 
romance." 

No matter what impression you make on other 
people at the front you have no illusions about 
yourself. 

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. 

He grinned. 

" 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 
guess." 

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 
steel hats. 

" 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 
landscape. 

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 




< 

C3 
O 

W 
Q 



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 
away. 

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 
said. 

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 
bear. 

Rat-tat-tat-tat. 

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 
born. 

" Shrapnel ! " the officer muttered. " What are 
they after? " 

From the rear came Williams' voice. 

" What do the Huns think they're strafing out 
here?" 

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- 
ture. 

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 
sky. 

"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 
explode. 

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 
at hand. 

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. 



CHAPTER XIII 

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 
147 



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 
now." 

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- 
ant, too. 

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 
work. 

" 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 
shell. 

" 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 
Blank. 

" 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 
parachute." 

" 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- 
ing. 

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 
this." 

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 
harbours. 

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 
other. 

" You know, they're not bad at potting peri- 
scopes." 

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 
sergeant. 

" 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- 
ticular traverse. 

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- 
ment. 

" 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 
that." 

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 
question. 

" 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 
grenade. 

" 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 
laughed. 

" No, thank you. Our friends over there are 
jumpy this morning. They'd send a few back in 
our direction." 

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- 
stretched. 

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, 
from, slipping. 

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 
sickening stolidity! 

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 
can't." 

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 
pet. 

" 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 
Wales." 

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- 
ment. 

" This looks pretty good. And it smells 
good." 

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 
cheery voice. 

" 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- 
ner." 

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 
wall. 

" Wait a minute, Owen," the corporal mut- 
tered. 

The round, young face studied us again. 

"What's your bag this week?" the corporal 
went on. 

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 
said. 

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 
ease. 



CHAPTER XIV 

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 
foot. 

" Where is there blue mud around here? " we 
asked. 

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 
» 164 



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 
opening. 

" 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- 
nature : 



1 66 WAR'S DARK FRAME 

" I'll climb down with a candle so you can 
see." 

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 
new. 

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 
his cheeks. 

" 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 
line. 

We scurried from the shelter of Snipers' House 
along the devastated roads to brigade headquar- 
ters. 



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 
enough." 

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 
served. 

" 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 
aloof. 

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- 
tions. 

" 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 
fog." 

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- 
mum gift. 

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. 



CHAPTER XV 

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- 

176 



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 
leg." 

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 
fellows." 

" 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 
were stained. 

" 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 
tongue-tied. 

"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 
pots." 

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 
yards away. 

" Don't move," he grinned, seeing our startled 
expressions. " Only enough explosive to set it 
off well." 

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 
and again. 

" 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 
them. 

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 
black smoke. 

" 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 
horrible. 

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 
nervously. 

" 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 
familiar to-day. 

" What are the Huns strafing over there? " 

The general no more than any one else could 
answer. 

" They seem to be after a lot of things," some 
one said. 



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 
ears." 

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. 

11 Fire!" 

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 
longer vibrant. 

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 
said. 

" 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 
recollection. 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE BASE 

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 
the farm. 

" 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- 
derful people." 

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. 

190 



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 
irritably. 

" 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- 
print. 

" 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- 
papers. 

"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 
safe. 

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 
already dead. 

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 
asked. 

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- 
oned me. 



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 
great victory." 

" 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 
been sighted. 

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 
out: 

"Bakers! 'Shun!" 

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 
before night. 

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 
dead men. 

" 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 
present tense. 

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- 
gramme." 

And another encouraged us by adding: 

" Oh, you're almost certain to get some shells." 



CHAPTER XVII 

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 
unexpected. 

" 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 
that morning. 

Just beyond we left the main road and twisted 
through country lanes, while out of the morbid, 
threatening morning was born the hateful gun 

199 



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 
said. 

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 
briskly up. 

" 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- 
ference. 

" No comfort smoking in the cars in this wind," 
he said. 

Williams moved about close to the wall rest- 
lessly. 

" What's the best way in? " he asked the police- 
man. 

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 
trip. 

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 
many guns. 

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 
Japanese's inspection. 

" 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 
coloured it. 



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 
like fireworks." 

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. 

Williams nodded. 

" 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 
one said. 

" 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. 
But—" 

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 
the floor. 

" Arras to Douai, par Vitry-en-Artois," they 
read. 

" 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 
the trenches." 

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 
greeted us. 

" 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 
judgment day." 

" 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. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

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, 

212 



WHERE MEN ARE LIKE ANTS 213 

because the Hun airmen can't see us and disturb 
our luncheon." 

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 
yard. 

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 
line." 

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 
Marias! " 

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- 
lated. 

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 



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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 
hidden. 

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- 
etery's larger." 

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," 
Williams whispered. 

We swung into the long road again, increasing 
our speed. 

If we could get over that next hill without a 
shell — 

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- 
ish attitude. 

" I'm looking," I said, " for some one to tell 
me he doesn't mind shell fire." 

Williams snorted. 

" 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. 



CHAPTER XIX 

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 

220 



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 
system. 

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? " 

He smiled. 

" 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- 
ish. 

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 
intelligence game." 

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 
smile. 

" 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- 
day.' 

" 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 
novel. 

" 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- 
served. 

" ' 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 
me. 

" 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- 
antly : 

" ' Then perhaps, you will give us your gov- 
ernment's terms.' 

" For a long time he kept his head bent. He 
didn't answer. 

" ' 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 
England.' 

" 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- 
titude.' 

" 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- 
George.' 

" ' 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 
with him. 

" 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 
waiting." 

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 
visible. 

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 
silence broods. 

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 
distant headland. 

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 
question loyal. 

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 
unsuspected. 

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 
silence. 

" 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- 
ing chanty. 

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 
navy. 



CHAPTER XX 

TRAGIC SECRETS 

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 

244 



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 
lonely places. 

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 
him here." 



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 
afraid. 

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 
nerves. 

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 fields." 

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- 
chanical determination. 

Were there no men? The men were all at the 
war. 

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 
here, to-day." 

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 
dinner? " 

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 
after them. 

In the cellar they went carefully. They heard 
nothing. 

" 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 
at them. 

" 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 
night here." 

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 
belief. 

" This ruined city was their home," I said. 
" These houses must have belonged to their 
friends." 

He nodded. 

" 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 
tempest. 

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 
spies. 

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. 



CHAPTER XXI 

THE ADVANCE 

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 
trenches. 

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 
260 



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- 
self. 

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 
optimism. 

Moreover, he was very modest about his 
medals. 

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 
war. 

There was a wrinkled Canadian-Belgian in the 
steerage. 

" 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." 

THE END