THE lovely old house in the faubourg Saint-Honoré spread its French magnificence around three sides of a square, its long windows giving on a garden. At half-past five of a Sunday afternoon, there was a coming and going of butlers and flunkeys and potentates and slim girls and dowagers and animated young officers. In the left wing were spread long tables for the feast — steaming samovars, punch in deep glass bowls, wild strawberries floating in a golden liquid, golden crisp potato chips on shining salvers. On the other side, in an enormous awninged sun-room, a crush of people listened to the discourses of notables — Maréchal Joffre, the philosopher Bergson, and others. From time to time the sound of hand-clapping beat upon the still air. Along the paths outside, a dozen photographers were at their posts, anxious, haggard, and inelegant, lengthening and shortening their tripods, ducking under black cloths, climbing up on chairs.

Everything else, in the deep gardens of the Cercle des Alliés, was on a note of suavity and elegance. Purple clouds seemed to hang just over the tall treetops; an unearthly light imparted to the leaves and grass and rhododendrons a metallic, jeweled brilliance. Still the rain held off.

A brightly colored garden-party waited there, dawdling and chattering, with much pretty bowing and saluting and waving of parasols, until the discourses should be finished, and music and refreshments be in order. It was a brilliant and cosmopolitan company, a mingling of fashion and the military, diplomacy, and warwork: gold-braided French generals, beautiful American countesses, tall Russian officers, aristocratic Frenchwomen in lacy black and pearls, decorated Serbs and decorative Italians, in their brigandish capes, high RedCross officials, embassy secretaries and their wives, military attachés, pretty American girls, some in gray uniforms and boyish black sailors, most of them in drooping hats and furs and slim silk garments, strolling with their young lieutenants in the upper reaches of the garden — the sort of people you see in the pages of the Tatler and Sketch and Vanity Fair and l’Illustration.

On a stretch of green lawn just beyond the path that separated house and garden, two bands were waiting amid a glitter of musical instruments: one, the band of the Garde Républicaine, in dark blue and silver, the other, the—th Regimental band, in khaki. The Frenchmen were middleaged, correct, impassive, and elegantly dressed. The Americans were boys — young, excited boys in ill-fitting khaki coats, bare-headed. Looking at them, one felt their interest, their eagerness, their apprehension.

‘They’re North Dakota boys,’ said Colonel S—, commander of the American troops in Paris. ‘I talked with the leader this morning. He said they were all a bit scared at the thought of playing here next to the great French band. Said they’d do their best, and even if they did fall down, it would be a great experience. Nice chap!’

The Americans played first. It was an elaborate and commonplace march, but they took it with a good swing, a vigorous banging of brasses. In that old-world garden I suddenly fell to thinking of a circus in a little Minnesota town—elephants with their swinging trunks, great round tents, cages of wild beasts, tawdry pageants, dust, delicious youthful excitement.

Then the Garde Républicaine. Ah! the circus vanished. Here we were in the old gardens again, stately, melancholy. Old dances, minuets, fountains, powdered wigs, voluminous silks — there was the rustle and scent of all that in the grave minor music, and the melancholy of long-forgotten gayety.

The enchantment ceased. The French conductor, an elderly, stiff little man, took his seat, and the boys in the American band clapped politely, respectfully. There was a long murmur of applause. Again the American leader stood before his men — a tall, rather awkward figure, with a long neck, dark rumpled hair, a tense pale face. Br-r-oum—za—za went the brasses. This time it was a medley of American tunes, that went from a lively jig into a long-drawn dirge, whirled into a rag, then burst into star-spangled banners.

For the French it must have been madness, but most of the homesick Americans liked it — loved it! It was barbarous, but it meant something to them. It was the Red River Valley — it was the village band — it was the college glee-club — it was a ‘sing’ on the river — it was a sleigh-ride party with jingling bells and oyster stew afterwards — well, say what you like, it was America!

‘Great, is n’t it!’ I heard someone say.

I looked around. It was one of the directors of the Metropolitan Opera.

However, not all the Americans showed their pleasure, and some were more embarrassed than pleased. Some, standing with their French acquaintance, smiled and shook their heads. There was a faint sniff of superiority here and there. The presence of sophisticated Parisians constrained a few to deprecating manners.

When, for the third number, a bigchested stoutish boy stood up before us with a cornet, I confess I dreaded the performance, because I knew it would be ‘variations.’ It was, on every note. It was marvelous and it was terrible. It was humorous and pathetic and wonderful. I hated myself for minding it; I hated the American officer next me who kept murmuring under his breath, ‘O Lord! ’ I was glad when, after each tortured peroration, some American youngsters ‘gave him a hand.’ After a long while it was over, and there was great applause. The boy, flushed and proud and tired, went back to his place.

There had been a moment of constraint and disavowal — a dreadful little freezing breath of snobbism. I can bear to speak of it only because of what came afterwards.

Presently, while our band was playing, the Frenchmen gathered up their things to go. Our leader was marking time in silence, when the leader of the Garde Républicaine went over to him across the grass, bowed politely, and shook hands. The boy from Dakota kept on beating time with his left hand. Then our band was alone in the garden.

At once everything changed. Perhaps they had played their most showy pieces, and could now fall back on rollicking familiar airs. Perhaps the departure of the French band had relieved them of a touch of stage fright. Anyway, now they threw themselves into their performance with enjoyment and abandon. The leader, instead of standing stiff and grave before his men, went after them like a cheer-leader before a football crowd. He smiled, he coaxed the music out of them; now and then he crouched as if about to spring at them. They whirled into a Sousa march that made the blood leap.

Tins was n’t performing — it was playing, gamboling, frisking. I thought of young, fuzzy-haired colts galloping around a pasture. How they bent to it, blew their hearts into it, let themselves go, in their youth and eagerness!

The regimental band. I knew what that meant. There’s not much music at the front, and the men in the band, in the common course of warfare, are the stretcher-bearers. Their part is the most dangerous, their casualties the heaviest. I could not forget that, looking at those North Dakota boys playing in the French garden — with their ruffled blond heads, husky shoulders, big chests. There was something so gentle and young about them, so rude and fresh! So they’d be carrying the dead one of these days, carrying stretchers to the dying, over shellcursed fields. That’s what I thought of. It was n’t to be all Sousa marches for them — not much more of this.

One came out before them to play the fife. I don’t know why, but he stood for my young brother — for everyone’s young brother. He had a fine golden tan, his fair hair crinkled back from his forehead, his eyebrows were quaintly turned, giving him a wild, elfin look. He was a young faun playing his reed in a glade. No, he was my young brother, and he would have to put his reed away.

The audience had been changing. The constraint, the embarrassment, the snobbishness were gone. There was nothing but lively friendliness and enjoyment in the air. The leader felt it. He turned to us after the applause.

‘I wonder if you’d care to hear a good old rag?’ he drawled; ‘how about it?’

Everyone shouted, ‘Yes, give us a rag!’

Then, in spite of themselves, all those decorous, sophisticated, finemannered folk were in the grip of an intoxication they could scarcely conceal. A pied piper was making them dance — and if they never actually moved from the studied elegance of their positions (sitting in garden chairs, or dawdling in a circle about the grass), there was excitement and delight in their faces. They swayed ever so little, smiled happily — they were dancing inside to that savage, careless, devil-take-’em rhythm. Oh, the piper played and they danced!

They played ‘Maryland, my Maryland,’ and ‘Old Black Joe’ (singing bits of it in their husky deep voices), and ‘Tenting To-night,’ and ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ (that brought some homesick tears), and ‘Swanee River,’ and then the irresistible ‘Dixie.’ That was clapped all the way through.

A dignified old banker cried out, ‘Do you know “Cheer, cheer, the gang’s all here”?’ The leader flashed around: ‘Sure, we specialize in that’; and gave it to us.

By then most of the French people, and the Russians and the Italians and

the English and the Serbs, had melted away home. Indeed, it was getting on toward dinner-time — seven o’clock and after. But the Americans had been enchanted by their band. Wild Gothas could n’t have dragged them away. They crowded around in a close semi-circle. Ladies swished over the low foot-rail to have a word with the leader. Gentlemen ran around the sidepaths — wouldn’t they play this? and that? and do ‘Dixie’ just once more ?

After each piece, and sometimes all the way through, the crowd shouted out, ‘Bravo!’ and ‘Fine!’ and ‘Good work, boys!’ and finally joined in and sang—and even whistled in places!

The French butlers stood on the steps of the mansion, looking down into the garden. They were in deep trouble. They had much to do. It was dinner-time. They had to bring the chairs in. Besides, it would rain presently. The party — the real party — had been over an hour ago. But these people would n’t go home.

The butlers stood in a row at the top of the steps, looking down disapprovingly, indulgently, as on a flock of children. Then I caught the murmur so familiar in my ears of late, astonished and resigned, —

‘Ah — ces Américains!