More Letters From France

April, 1917.
I HAVE met some interesting types lately. One is Jean B-, a sergeant of infantry. Jean has been about the world a good bit, and when the war broke out was just finishing a contract in Spain. He promptly came to France and volunteered, and had only fifteen days of training before being sent to the front for a big attack. Knowing nothing of military matters and having distinguished himself in the first day’s fighting, he was made a corporal at once; and next day, when the attack began again, he and his squad were the first to jump into a section of German trench. There, abandoned in the hasty retreat, was a brand-new German machine-gun and forty sacks of ammunition. Jean is a canny boy, and before the officers had got to where he was, he had his men hide gun and cartridges in a clump of bushes.
The French made a gain of about two miles at this point, and owing to the nature of the ground,—artillery emplacements, and so forth, — the new lines were nearly a mile apart. Under these conditions, both sides were constantly making daylight patrols in the broken country between the trenches; and as Jean’s captain was a good judge of men, he let him take his squad out daily, to do pretty much as he pleased. Pledging his men to absolute secrecy, Jean had them hide machine-gun and ammunition a little way in front of the new French lines, and then gave them a brief drill, in mounting and dismounting the gun, tripod, and so forth. (He had worked in an ordnance factory, by the way.) Each man carried either a part of the gun or a few belts of cartridges.
One morning, just before dawn, they crawled up close to the Germans and hid themselves in a brushy watercourse — mitrailleuse set up and ready for action. Presently there were sounds of activity in front, and as day broke, they made out thirty or forty Germans, who, so far away and out of sight of the French, were out in the open, working on a new trench. Jean’s men began to get excited and wanted action, but he calmed them, whispering to be patient. He himself is the most excitable man in the world — except in emergencies; a jovial type, with black hair and a pair of merry gray eyes set in a red, weatherbeaten face.
Hour after hour they bided their time, until the Germans, only 75 yards away, assembled in a group for a rest. Lying on his belly behind the gun, Jean sighted and pulled the lever, spraying lead into the unfortunate Boches until the last belt of 200 cartridges had raced through. Then it was all hands dismount the gun and retreat at top speed. Sneaking ‘ home’ by devious ways, they smiled to see shells begin to smash into the position they had so lately left.
At supper that evening (the meal known universally as ‘la soupe’), the colonel came strolling down the trench with Jean’s subaltern. The lieutenant nodded and pointed, then called Jean over.
’Ah,’ said the colonel, smiling, ‘so this is the type who was on patrol this morning — hum. I was in an advanced observation post on the hill above you and saw the whole affair with my glasses. And how many of those poor Germans did you kill?’
‘I did not wait to count, my colonel.’ ‘I will tell you, then; six escaped, out of thirty-eight — most remarkable rifle-fire I remember seeing. It sounded almost like a mitrailleuse at work. How many in your patrol? Five? Remarkable! Remarkable! Eh bien, good day, sergeant.’
‘He was a type not too severe,’ remarked the ex-corporal, in telling the tale; ‘in short, un bon garçon.’
This is the highest compliment a poilu can pay his officer; in fact, I once heard an ancient territorial say it irreverently of Marshal Joffre, whom he had known in younger days, somewhere in the Orient.
Jean is at home in several languages, speaking perfectly French, German, Italian, and Spanish. I usually chat with him in the latter, as in it I get the fine points of his narrative better than in French. His German was the means of getting him into an adventure such as very few men in the war have experienced. I cannot, of course, vouch for the truth of what follows, but I have no reason to doubt his word, and know him to be capable of any foolhardy rashness. Such a thing would be impossible at the present time.
One dark night, shortly after midnight Jean — on a solitary patrol—was lying just outside the wire, about ten metres from the German trench, listening to locate the sentries. There was a faint starlight. Suddenly a whisper came from beyond t he wire, a low voice speaking in broken French.
‘Why do you lie so quiet, my friend? I saw you crawl up and have watched you ever since. I don’t want to shoot you; I am a Bavarian.’
‘Good-evening, then,’ Jean whispered back in his perfect German.
‘So,’ said the sentry, ‘you speak our language. Wait a moment, till I warn the rest of my squad, and I will show you the way through the wire; there are no officers about at this hour.’
Probably not one man in a thousand would have taken such a chance, but he did, and ten minutes later was standing in the trench in a German cloak and fatigue cap (in case of passing officers), chatting amiably with a much interested group of Bavarian soldiers. They gave him beer, showed him their dugouts, and arranged a whistle signal for future visits, before bidding him a regretful good-night. ‘We are Bavarians,’ they said; ‘we like and admire the French, and fight only because we must.’
With characteristic good sense, Jean went at once to his captain the following morning and told him the whole story. The officer knew and trusted him and said without hesitation, ‘Go as often as you want, and keep your ears open.’
So he made many a midnight crawl through the wires, after whistling the soft signal. He carried with him each time a few litres of wine (a great luxury to the German soldier), and in return they took him on long excursions through their trenches. Once he was in the German third line, more than a mile back. The sector was a very quiet one, though the trenches were close together, and one morning a crude arrow dropped into the French trench, bearing a note to Jean.
‘Get into your dugouts at five this afternoon,’ it read; ‘ there will be a bombardment, but no attack, we hope.’
Another time, after a French bombardment, a similar note dropped in: ‘ Don’t send so many torpedoes— shells are all right, but your torpedoes have ruined some of our best sleeping-places.
Remember we are not Prussians, but Bavarians.’
Jean is just now back from a ’permission. He went away a reckless, jolly sort of an adventurer, and has come back sober, serious, and tremendously in love. He told me a little about it, as we sat together in my dugout (I have a private one now, with a stove, a tiny window stickingup discreetly six inches above ground, and pictures on the walls), and the tale is so typical of wartime France that I can’t resist telling it to you.
They had carried on quite a correspondence, as godmother and godson, before the longed-for permission came; and when A-, with her parents, of course, met him at the train, she seemed like an old friend. She is charming, as I know from her photograph, and sturdy brown Jean, togged out in his special permission uniform, with his neat shoes, bright leather puttees and belt, képi de fantaisie, and gold sergeant’s woundand service-stripes, looks every inch a soldier of France. At the end of the second day, he was walking with A-and could contain himself no longer.
‘Mademoiselle,’ he said, ‘I cannot, as a man of honor, stay here longer. I love you, — there, I have said it, — but I am penniless, and after the war shall have only what I can earn. Your father, on the other hand, is the most important merchant in this district — so you see it would (even if you were willing) be quite impossible for me to ask for your hand, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to a poor soldier; it has given me a glimpse of Paradise.’
That evening, as he sat in his room, trying to make up an excuse to give the old people for leaving, the girl’s mother came in, saying that she underst ood he was going, and was much hurt to think that her house had not pleased him.Then the old gentleman rushed in, radiant with smiling good humor.
‘ But hush, maman,' he cried, ‘ I know all. Also I know a man when I see one. You love our little A-, eh, sergeant? Well, what of it? And you are poor — well, what of that? When we old ones are gone, she will have everything — she is all we have, since Louis was killed at the Marne. You are a type that I love, my boy — out there at the front, helping to push the Boche out of France; do you suppose I would not rather have you for a son-in-law than some sacré espèce of a rich embusqué, riding by in his limousine?’
Rather superb, I think.
So, as an engaged man, he is making a poor attempt to be cautious. Also, he has a frightful case of cafard, that mysterious malady of the trenches, which is nothing but concentrated homesickness and longing for the sight of one’s womenfolk, sweethearts, sisters, mothers. A couple of days ago, he came to me with a brilliant idea.
‘See, Chariot,’ he said, ‘I have a scheme. You know Lieutenant P-, chief of the corps franc — tell him of me, that I can speak German and can take prisoners, and tell him to ask my captain to detach me for the next coup de main.’
To understand this, you must know that a coup de main is a raid, made after a brief artillery preparation, on the enemy trenches, not with the idea of gaining ground, but simply to get a few prisoners for information regarding regiments, and so forth. In the French army such raids are made by special selected companies of each regiment, who have no routine duty and get eight days’ special leave after each raid that results in prisoners. These men are termed corps franc. As you can see, Jean thought this a quick way to get back to his fiancée.
While we talked, by a freak of luck, who should knock at my door but Lieutenant P-, chief of our local corps franc, a very good friend and one I am proud to have. He is the perfect quintessence of a French subaltern, — 26 years old, slight, wiry, and handsome; an Anglophile in everything relating to sport, as exquisite in dress and person as Beau Brummel, and as recklessly brave as Morgan’s buccaneers. He has risen from the ranks, wears a gold bracelet, and has every decoration that a French soldier or officer can get, including the red ribbon. His croix de guerre has seven citations, and he has been five times wounded. He took to Jean at once, saying that he needed an interpreter for a raid which was coming in two or three days, and promised to see the captain about it at once.
‘Better come with us,’ he said to me, whimsically. ‘I want to run down to Paris next week, and if the sergeant here and I don’t get a prisoner or two, it will be because there are none left in the first line. Come on — you ’ll see some fun!’
‘But,’ I said, ‘what is there in it for me? I’m ruined if I’m caught in any such escapade, and in any case I get no permission.'
‘Oh, we’ll fix that. Maybe you’d get a nice little wound like my last one; and if not, I’m an expert with grenades; I think I could toss one so you would just get an éclat or two in the legs — good for a week in Paris.’
I thanked him without enthusiasm and declined.
The sequel to this came last night as I lay reading in my bunk. The evening had been absolutely quiet, not a rifleshot along the trenches, until suddenly, about 10.30, the batteries set up their sullen thumping, mingled with the thud of exploding aerial torpedoes.
To my ears, concentrated artillery fire — not too far off—has a strangely mournful sound—heavy, dull, and fitful, like a dark thunderstorm in Dante’s hell. The bombardment lasted exactly forty minutes, then absolute silence except for an occasional pistol-shot (no one uses rifles in raids), and once more the sudden stammer of a mitrailleuse. As I lay there, safe in my warm bunk, I thought of gallant little P-and jolly old lovelorn Jean, perhaps at that moment stealing through torn German wire with a brace of prisoners ahead of them, crouching low each time a star shell sent up its warning trail of sparks, — or perhaps —
To-morrow, when I go back to the village for two days’ rest, I shall look for them.

April 10, 1917. I am writing this in a new post of ours — a village several kilometres from the lines, where there are still civilians. As the hospital is very noisy at night, and one would have to sleep in a barrack, packed in among the wounded, I have arranged with a motherly old woman (patronne of the local café) to let me have her spare room. I found an old cow-bell and by an arrangement of strings and hooks have rigged it so that it can be rung at night from the street below. Talk about luxury! I have a real bed (about five feet long) with sheets, pillows, and a feather-bed that reaches from feet to waist. When a night call comes, the bell tinkles, I leap out of bed, pull on breeches and coat and high felt ‘arctics,’ and in three minutes am off.
As there are no men about, I have been (in odd moments) splitting wood and moving the heavy beer and wine casks as required — work really far too heavy for women. The old lady, in return, often invites me in for a cup of steaming coffee with a dash of schnapps, and to-day she asked me to a family dinner — a superb civilian meal of ham and boiled potatoes and homemade choucroute. The latter must be tasted to be appreciated. She is quite bitter about a branch of the Y.M.C.A. — called Foyer du Soldat—just opened here, which, with its free movies, papers, and so forth, has lured away much of her trade. ’I pay a heavy license tax,’ she says, ‘and they pay nothing — nothing.’
Useless to try to explain to the good old soul that the innocent must suffer in order that virtue shall triumph — or in other words, that the fantassin shall have amusement without beer. I comforted her with the regrettable truth that her boys will all be back when the novelty is worn off.
A great many of the men here are muleteers from the Spanish and Italian borders. Where the country is hilly and trails constitute the shortest route to the trenches, the French use a great many pack-mules to carry up provisions, ammunition, and supplies. A Western packer would be interested in their methods. Each mule has its master, who packs it, washes it, feeds it, and on the march walks ahead, leading it by a rope. The pack-saddles and rigging are wonderful — they must be when one considers that the mules often carry 300 pounds twenty miles a day, and sore backs are unknown.
A mule’s a mule, however, wherever you meet him — these are just the same ‘ornery’ brutes we have at home. Their effect on the explosive southern French temperament is sometimes ludicrous. I stopped the other day to ask the way of a mule-skinner who was limping dejectedly ahead of his charge — the rest of the train was far ahead. After putting me on the road, he leaned wearily against a tree and explained that in all the world there was probably not another mule like his. It had kicked him yesterday, it had bitten him severely this morning, and just now, while he adjusted the pack, it had kicked him on the hip, so that in all likelihood he would limp for life. While he talked, the mule sidled over, with drooping eyelids and sagging ears, and planted one foot firmly on the unfortunate Frenchman’s toes. The whole thing seemed to have been done by accident — I could almost see the dotted line of innocence running from the mule’s sleepy eye off into space. Without a word, the man set his shoulder against the mule, forced its weight off his foot, and tenderly inspected the injured part. Then, hands on hips, he regarded the mule with a long stare of dramatic contempt.
‘ Would thou kill me, sacré espèce of a camel?’ he said at last; ‘well, death would be better than this. Come, here I am! ’
The day before yesterday, when I was out at one of our posts on the front, an Austrian 88mm. shell fell in a crowd of mules and their drivers. Fortunately no one was hurt (by one of the freaks of shells), but three mules were killed by the splinters. Thatnighi, with some misgivings, I tried a steak from the hind-quarter of a five-yearold mule. It was bully. When you come to think of it, a mule is just as good food as a steer.
A week ago I was waiting at a front post for some wounded, when a mule train came by, packed with the huge winged aerial torpedoes so much in vogue just now. Each mule carried four of these truly formidable things. As the last mule passed, he slipped on the muddy slope, his feet flew out, and down he came with a whack, torpedoes and all. You ought to have seen us scatter, — officers, men, and muledrivers, — like fragments of a bursting shell. As the mule showed signs of struggling, we had to rush back and gingerly remove the load before helping him up.
These torpedoes play a great part in war nowadays. They are cheap to manufacture, carry an enormous bursting charge, and — shot out of small mortar-like guns, into which the steel or wooden ‘stem’ of the torpedo is inserted— have a range of six or seven hundred yards. On days of attack you can see them, like huge black birds, soar slowly up from behind the trenches, hang poised for an instant, and dart down to make their formidable explosion, which sends clouds of debris, timber, and dirt, high into the air. Their fragments are very bad — long, thin, jagged things that come whizzing by and inflict terrible wounds. Many of them are equipped with ‘trailers,’ which outline their course in a shower of crimson sparks; and on nights of attack the sky is scored with their fiery trails.
A night attack is a wonderful thing to see: the steady solemn thunder of the guns, the sky glaring with starshells and trails, the trenches flaming and roaring with bursting shell. It is like a vast natural phenomenon, — Krakatoa or Mont Pelée, — too vast and cataclysmic to be man’s handiwork; and yet, into the maelstrom of spouting flames, hissing steel, shattering explosions, insignificant little creatures like you and me will presently run — offering, with sublime courage, their tender bodies to be burned and pierced and mangled. To me that is war’s one redeeming feature — it brings out in men a courage that is of the spirit alone — above all earthly things.

April 26, 1917.
This afternoon the general of the division ordered us to present ourselves at headquarters at four o’clock. From lunch on there was a great shaving and haircutting, brushing and pressing of uniforms, and overhauling of shoes and puttees. Four o’clock found us lined up at the door of the wonderful old chateau, and next moment a superb officer, who spoke English, — of the Oxford variety, — stepped out, introduced himself all around with charming courtesy, took our names, and ushered us in.
The general, a hawk-faced man of sixty, straight and slender as an arrow, with sparkling dark eyes, stood surrounded by his resplendent staff. As each name was announced, we walked forward to him, saluted and bowed, and shook hands. This over, we stepped back and mingled with the staff officers, who displayed a wonderful trick of making us feel at home in the first stiffness. Presently orderlies brought in champagne and glasses, and when every one had his glass in hand the buzz stopped while the general spoke.
‘ Your country, gentlemen,’ he said, ‘has done France the honor of setting aside this day for her. It is fitting that I should ask you here, in order to tell you how much we appreciate America’s friendship, which you and your comrades have been demonstrating by actions rather than words. I am an old man, but I tell you my heart beat like a boy’s when the news came that the great Sister Republic — united of old by ideals of human liberty — had thrown in her lot with ours. I ask you to drink with me to the future of France and America— the sure future. You have seen France: our brave women, ready to make any sacrifices for the motherland; our little soldiers, invincible in their determination. Let us drink then to France, to America, and to the day of ultimate victory, which is coming as surely as the sun will rise to-morrow.’
As he ceased, he stepped forward to touch glasses with each of us, — the invariable French custom, — and next moment a magnificent Chasseur band, outside on the terrace, crashed into the ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’ Quite thrilling, I assure you. Later, we strolled through the stately old gardens, chatting with the officers while the band played. The general, while the most military man imaginable, has a very attractive brusque affability. We are a good-sized crowd as Americans run, and the French, who average shorter and stockier, never cease to wonder at our height. The old chap grabbed three or four of us by the shoulders and lined us up.
‘Mais vous êtes des gaillards,’ he said, smiling; ‘see, I am five or six centimetres shorter than any of you. But wait, we have a giant or two.’
With that he called over a grinning captain and pulled him back to back with our biggest man, whom he topped by a full inch.
‘But, my general,’ laughed the officer, ‘it is not good to be so tall — too much of one sticks out of a trench.’
The owner of the château — a stately woman of fifty, proud of her name, her race, and her country, and an angel from heaven to the sick and poor for miles around — is an example of the kind of patriotism of which, I fear, we are in need. Her husband is dead; when the war broke out she had a daughter and two sons — gallant young officers whose brief lives had been a constant source of satisfaction and pride to their mother. The elder was killed at the Marne, and a while ago, the younger, her special pet, was killed here in an attack. A woman of her kind, to whom the continuance of an old name was almost a religion, could undergo no harder experience. At the graveside she stood erect and dry-eyed, with a little proud smile on her lips, as her last boy was buried. ‘Why should I weep?’ she asked some one who would have comforted her; ‘there is nothing finer my boys could have done if they had lived out their lives.’ Her heart must be very nearly broken in two, but never a sign does she give; going about among her hospitals and peasant families as cheerful, interested, even gay, as if her only cares were for others. There is true courage for you!
To-day I went to a new post for some sick men, and who should be waiting for me but my friend Jean, of whom I wrote you before! His company has been transferred to this place. It was great to see his grinning face and to chatter Spanish with him. As the sick men had not finished lunch, Jean asked me to his mess, and we had a jolly meal with his pals. I have had to give up wine, as it seems to blacken our teeth horribly (all of us have noticed it, and we can trace it to no other source), and the Frenchmen can’t get over the joke of seeing one drink water — extraordinary stuff to drink! All right to run under bridges or for washing purposes, but as a beverage — a quaint American conceit, handed down no doubt from the red aborigines — les peaux rouges indigènes — of our continent. Jean admitted that since December, 1914, he had not tasted water, and no one else could remember the last occasion when he had tried it.
As word had just come from the trenches that a wounded man was on the way in, I got my helmet and we strolled down the boyau to meet the stretcher-bearers. It was, to me, a new section of the front and very interesting. The country is broken and hilly, and the lines zigzag about from crest to valley in the most haphazard way, which really has been painfully worked out to prevent enfilading fire. There is scarcely any fighting here, as neither side has anything to gain by an advance, which would mean giving up their present artillery positions.
In one place the boyau ran down a steep slope, badly exposed, and Jean said, ‘Follow me on the run!’ We sprinted for twenty yards, and next moment, tat-tat-tat-tat came from the Boches, and little spurts of dust shot up behind us. They can never shoot quickly enough to hurt any one at this point, Jean said, but after all, ‘You can’t blame a fellow for trying.’ At the next turn we came on a train of the little grenade donkeys — so small that they make the tiniest Mexican burro seem a huge clumsy brute. They do not show above the shallowest trench, and each one carries two panniers full of grenades. These last are vicious little things of cast iron, checkered so as to burst into uniform square fragments, and about the size and shape of lemons. They make an astonishingly loud bang when they go off, and if close enough, as in a narrowtrench, are pretty bad. At a little distance, of course, they are not very dangerous. In the trench warfare — raids, infantry attacks, and so forth— they seem to have supplanted rifles, just as the knife has supplanted the bayonet.

May 11, 1917.
Sunday, another lovely day. It is 7 A.M., and already the indefinable Sunday atmosphere has come over the camp. The shower-baths are open and strings of men are coming and going with towels on their arms. Under the trees little groups are shaving and cutting one another’s hair, amid much practical joking and raillery. One becomes very fond of the French soldier. Large floods of rhetoric have been poured out in describing him, and yet nearly every day one discovers in him new and interesting traits. Let me try and sketch for you a composite picture of the French infantryman — the fantassin who is winning the war for France. On the whole, I do not see him as a boy, but as a sturdy middle-aged man — the father of a family. He is short and solidly built, with thick calves and heavy shoulders. His round head, on which the hair is short, crisp, and black, is surmounted by a battered blue helmet. He wears a long overcoat, looped up and buttoned at the sides, showing evidence, in several places, of home-made patching. It was once horizon blue, but has now faded to an ideally protective shade of blue-green-gray. About his middle is a worn cartridgebelt, and from either shoulder, their straps crossing on breast and back, hang his musettes — bags of brown canvas for carrying extra odds and ends, including everything from a bottle of wine to a dictionary. On his back is his square pack, an affair of formidable weight, to which he has lashed his rolled blanket in the form of a horseshoe, points down. Perched on top of this, he carries his gamelle and quart — the saucepan and cup which serve for both cooking and eating; and beside them you perceive with astonishment that he has strapped a large German trench torpedo — a souvenir for the home folks. From his belt hangs the tin box, painted horizon-blue, which contains his gas-mask, and on the other side his long slender bayonet rattles against his thigh. A large calloused hand, not too clean, holds his shouldered rifle at a most unmilitary angle. The gun has seen hard service, the wood is battered, and in places bright steel shows through the bluing; but look closely and you will see that it is carefully greased, and in the muzzle a little plug of cloth keeps out dust and moisture. In spite of a load which would make a burro groan, he walks sturdily, whistling a march between puffs of a cigarette. Glance at his face. The eyes are dark gray, deepset, and twinkling with good humor; they are the clear decisive eyes of a man who knows what he wants and has set about getting it. The nose is aquiline, the mouth strong and ironically humorous, the unshaven chin positive and shapely. It is the face of a breed that has been settling to type for many centuries, a race old in cultivation and philosophy.
What is he in civil life? That is hard to say. A lawyer, a farmer, a customhouse clerk, a cook — probably a cook; most of them seem to be cooks, and mighty good ones. Ours at the mess was assistant chef at the Savoy, in London, and when he has the material (for example a hind-quarter of mule, a few potatoes, some dandelions, a tin of lobster, and an egg) he can turn out a dinner hard to equal any where—delicious hors d’œuvres, superb soup, roast, saute potatoes, salad, and so on.
The French soldier’s one great joy and privilege is to grumble. Back in billets where he goes to rest, he spends the whole day at it — hour after hour, over a book or a litre of wine, he complains of everything: the food, the uniforms, the trenches, the artillery, the war itself. To hear him, one would suppose that France was on the verge of ruin and disintegration. Let some unwise stranger make the slightest criticism of France and watch the change. The poilu takes the floor with a bound. There is no country like France — no better citizens or braver soldiers than the French.
‘ Dis done, mon vieux,' he ends triumphantly, ‘where would Europe be now if it were not for us?’
To be a French general is a terrible responsibility. Their ears must burn continually, for every act is criticized, picked to pieces, and proved a fatal mistake, daily, in a thousand roadside wine-shops. Some celebrity once remarked, that every French soldier was a potential general. He knew them; he was right. They are no carping destructive critics who tear things down but suggest no method of building up. On the contrary, any chance-met poilu will tell you exactly how any manoeuvre or bit of strategy should be carried out — from a trench-raid to an enveloping movement, which will — he is sure of it! — net fifty thousand prisoners. In last night’s coup de main they caught only three Germans. ‘Do you know why, my friend ? I will tell you. Our artillery cut the wires all right, and tapped on the front trench. Good. After that they raised their guns for the barrage, but pouf! the Boches had already run back to their dugouts in the second or third lines. Had the gunners made a barrage on the second line from the beginning, the Germans would have been forced to remain in the first line, and instead of three, we would have bagged thirty. Oh, well, we get our extra leave anyhow, and you should have heard them squeal when we dropped grenades down their stovepipes ! ’
The French infantryman would drive a foreign officer mad until he began to understand him and appreciate his splendid hidden qualities. The only thing he does without grumbling is fight; and, after all, when you come to think of it, that is a rather important part of a soldier’s duty.
An officer wants a new boyau dug — you never heard such grumbling and groaning and kicking. Finally, a bit put out, he says, —
‘All right, don’t dig it, if you are all sick and tired, and think I make you work simply to keep you busy. It was only a whim of mine anyhow — the Boches put up a new machine-gun last night, which enfilades the old boyau, and when day breaks and you go back to the third lines, they will doubtless put a dozen of us out of our misery.’
As if by magic the new zigzag trench is dug, and the chances are that the officer finds a supply of extra-good firewood in his abri next day.
In an army like France’s, one finds many odd birds among the simple soldiers. I was playing ‘shinny’ (we introduced it and it has become very popular in our section) the other evening, and, when a soldier took off his coat, four thousand francs in bills dropped out of the breast pocket. Another evening, in a café, a roughly dressed soldier stood up to give us a bit of music—and for an hour the world seemed to stand still while one of the greatest violinists of France (two years at the front, twice wounded, croix de guerre, with several citations) made us forget that anything existed except a flood of clear throbbing sound. It was a rough, drinking crowd — a moment before there had been a pandemonium of loud voices and clattering plates; but for an hour the listeners were still as death — not a whisper, not even a hand-clap of applause. It was, I think, the finest tribute I ever saw paid a musician. And so it goes: one never knows what variety of man is hidden beneath the uniform of faded horizon-blue.

June 17, 1917.
At last I am free to sit down quietly for a letter to you. It has been a week of rather frenzied running about — passing examinations, and the like. I arrived here in the expectation of taking the first boat, crossing the continent, and seeing you.
A talk with some American officers changed the whole aspect of affairs and showed me that, if I was to be of any use, my job was to remain here. At home, it seems, men are a drug on the market — the rub is to train them and fit them in. Here, on the other hand, they fairly welcome healthy young men — and will train us and put us where we will do the most good, with the least possible delay. Don’t let yourself think that flying over here is unduly hazardous—a skillful pilot (as I hope to be) has as good a chance of living to a ripe old age as his comrades in the infantry. Numbers of them have been at it since 1914. The school where I hope to be is the finest in the world and the machines beyond praise.
Since writing the above, I have received my papers of acceptance in the Foreign Legion, conditional on passing the French physical tests. I have already passed the tests of the FrancoAmerican Committee. Before cabling I took all the tests.

I have passed the French examination and am to leave for the school in a day or two. I have been lucky!
It was interesting at the Paris recruiting office. I stood in line with dozens of other recruits for the Foreign Legion — all of us naked as so many fish, in the dirty corridor, waiting our turns. Each man had a number: mine was seven — lucky, I think! Finally the orderly shouted, ‘Numéro sept,’ and I separated myself from my jolly polyglot neighbors, marched to the door, did a ‘demi-tour à gauche,’and came to attention before a colonel, tw o captains, and a sergeant.
‘Name, Nordhoff, Charles Bernard — born at London, 1887 — American citizen — unmarried — no children — desires to enlist in Foreign Legion for duration of war — to be detached to the navigating personnel of the Aviation,’ read the sergeant, monotonously. In two minutes I had been weighed, measured, stethoscoped, ears and eyes tested, and passed.
The colonel looked at me coldly and turned to the captain.
‘Not so bad, this one, hein? He has not the head of a beast.’
I bowed with all the dignity a naked man can muster, and said respectfully, ‘Merci, mon colonel.’
‘Ah, you speak French,’ he rejoined with a smile; ‘good luck, then, my American.’