AU COUVENT DE L'ADORATION PERPETUELLE
Such an early breakfast as we had yesterday morning, for all our patients went to Descartes for their treatments de très bonne heure, so that they might be back in time to go to Soeur Marie de la Croix's funeral. Mlle. Mélanie and I had the beds made by nine; I persuaded her then to leave me all the dusting so she should not be late for the service. To my surprise, I got to the Chapel in time to give a helping hand to our two orderlies and two of the nuns who were carrying in the coffin. The bearers had never shown up, so these four, after waiting a while, had carried Soeur Marie the long distance from her room; down steep steps, across the big courtyard, in and out of doors and passages, and across the smaller court. The service was impressive and our aumonier militaire said mass beautifully, but there is nothing so comforting as our Anglican service. The Communauté, our patients, and a few people from outside, made up the congregation. Mlle. Mélanie and I thought Salle 1 looked especially well! Four of our patients wear the Croix de Guerre, and one the Legion d'Honneur besides. The service was long, and I had to leave before the end to set the table for le déjeuner de messieurs les officiers.
In the afternoon, a charming friend of Helen's came to see her, Madame de la Rive, who has a beautiful place near St. Avertin. Before the war, she had a sort of school where English boys came to learn French; so many, many of her former pupils have been killed!
This morning came a fine postcard from Dangés. He has been promoted, and is now maréchal de logis. I have had a nice letter from Madame Dangés too; she is working at Lyons as devotedly as ever. Before going to La Torterue this afternoon I sent off a hundred francs of Edith's money to a French hospital in Haute Garonne, which is run by a British Unit organized by Mrs. Leith-Ross, Admiral Grinnell's niece. Miss Aked, with whom I crossed from Southampton, is in charge of another hospital in this same group. She has tubercular wounded and ill; few recover, and there is terrible suffering before the end. Her hospital is in great need of everything, and I gave her one of Francie's hypodermic outfits; she wrote last week that she uses it with such gratitude. We have had a busy afternoon at La Torterue. It was clean clothes day, and before beginning that drill there was a good bit to do in the operating-room, for the last operation had not begun until one, and things were behindhand in consequence. Madame Pierracini gave me the clean clothes for the Boches to-day; they are in a room by themselves, and have a French sergeant to guard them, though they show no desire to escape. Three of them were huddled around the fire when I went in, while the fourth was staring out of the window with such a forlorn expression. I expect they know the truth now, and it can't be pleasant. It was strange to hear again such words as Guten Abend, gnädiges Fräulein, adieu, Fräulein under these circumstances. After finishing there, I went up with Helen to a gloomy attic, barely lighted by three small windows, and smoky from a stove which does n't heat. The attic is called le village noir, because seven Moroccans exist there, and only one poilu. To-day two of the former were in bed, one with a high temperature, pains in his chest, and a racking cough. We got him a drink and gave him some of our aspirin. The other was recovering from an op. and wanted something badly. He spoke no French, but one of his pals told us he longed for tea, which we eventually got him. Meanwhile the others sat stolidly about, smoking and playing cards, while the poilu busied himself weaving a big mat. When all the clean clothes were given out, Helen and I settled ourselves downstairs in the room with the piano. The rest of the afternoon passed in pulling threads in gauze, preparatory to cutting out dressings, while Helen and the other ladies worked on the flannel shirts. At odd times various poilus wandered in to try over their songs and the choruses for the concert Wednesday, while all the time Pierre and René talked quietly, Secch bounced in and out, and Doyé moped on the sofa.
The cold continues. Lyons is knee-deep in snow, and all communications are upset. In Paris the other day two women threw themselves in front of a coal truck, and while the driver's attention was distracted by them, others emptied the truck of its coal. We are fortunate in the Convent, because we have plenty of wood to carry us through the winter.
Captain Bonnet, our ranking officer, left yesterday to finish his convalescence. He has practically recovered from his last wound, a severe abdominal one. First wounded in September, 1914, in the throat, he spent eight days in the hospital, and twenty convalescing, and then insisted on rejoining his regiment at the front. He wears both the Croix de Guerre and the Légion d'Honneur, and is a fine fellow in every way. We shall miss him. It's so sickening, patching up people to go back to the horror of the front.
Helen and I had tea yesterday with Captain Billion-Bourbon and his wife, who has come on from Poitiers for a few days. Lt. Hardouin, who shares Captain Billion-Bourbon's room was there too, --- a nice fellow; his four brothers are fighting, and his two sisters nursing. It was a wonderful party. Helen contributed a delicious American fruit cake, and there was an English plum cake, and pâtisseries, which can still be bought two days in the week. We drank our toast to the Allies in Vin fin de Xeres! Captain Billion-Bourbon quoted Washington, of whom he is a great admirer, and talked so interestingly. He has a splendid mind; what a sacrifice and loss such a man is to his country.
We had a long afternoon at La Torterue Saturday; in the course of our varied labors we came across some tin boxes marked comité de Boston, and found that for a long time the comité has supplied La Torterue with all its best dressings and gauze; they also sent some sheets, which are still called les Américains. Even the empty boxes are treasured, and made to serve in all sorts of ways. The discovery gave one a pleasant feeling. Doyé was terribly blue. "Trois mois et un jour, et ne vois pas mieux. Pas bon, pas bon." Poor child; he cried most of the afternoon. One of the Anamites, who has a terrible eye, tried to entertain Doyé by making a mouse out of his handkerchief and having if run up and down his arm and jump all over the room, but even this failed to cheer him. Secch is so different, full of larks, thinking about his Croix de Guerre, which he has earned but not yet received, and being altogether cold comfort to poor Doyé.
This morning Lt. Bourseul, who is getting his papers in order, as he expects to leave us shortly, showed us the radiographs and history of his wound. Some story! The wound which has kept him here so long was a bad compound fracture of the femur. It has been a hard pull and taken two operations to get the leg into shape at all, and it's shorter now than the other one. He could apply for a soft job; instead, he has asked for duty in aviation, since he is no longer fit for infantry. As he was originally in the Mounted Chasseurs, and was transferred to infantry at his own request when the losses grew so heavy, his present choice is not surprising. He is such a charming person, --- we shall miss him so much.
To-day has been heavenly, very clear, and good flying weather. Ever so many oiseaux de France were out, and it was wonderful to see them flash and gleam in the golden air, as they circled and did stunts high up over our old wonder city. Helen and I walked to Les Tilleuls for tea, and saw there three of Mlle. Edith's shell-shock pupils, whom she is teaching to talk again. Mme. Sourdillon took us over the hospital and we saw much that was interesting. Her cook is a refugee, whose husband and two sons are at the front. She read us a letter which had just gotten through from her village, where her father and mother are; a terrible letter, just a bald summary of death and desolation. The boys of fifteen and sixteen are hiding in the woods like ravenous hunted wild beasts, to escape fighting or working for the Boche. Tears of anguish poured down the poor soul's face as she talked. Little as she earns, she still manages to help others by sending food parcels to prisoners of war. I stayed behind a minute, and gave her a little money, out of Mrs. Merrill's contribution; I was so glad that I had brought some. Mons. Sourdillon appeared for tea, a delightful man, of great cultivation. Mlle. Edith and Mons. André, who was home on short leave, were there too, and the talk was immensely interesting. . . . It was lovely coming home; dusk just setting in over our enchanted valley, and little friendly lights beginning to twinkle as we walked along by the river, --- an unforgettable hour of peace and beauty, when horror and sorrow seemed remote. Yet every hour brings new horror and fresh sorrows. We have had our share of the latter lately here. Our gallant young Chasseur has just lost his only brother, and it is a terrible grief to him, his first. The brother took cold after a long march; Lt. Poirier went to Brest in response to the telegram which told him of his brother's illness, but he got there too late. The other men are so wonderful about helping him bear his great sorrow.
Helen has heard from Mr. Simonds that he is sailing for home soon. We gather he has had a satisfactory and encouraging trip. This is one of the days when I feel profoundly discouraged. Not about the outcome of the war, for there is no doubt about that --- but about the endless problems and their appalling bigness; the war has created so many, and they increase every day it lasts. One often feels as though one should never have another thought of anything except to try and make some of these shattered lives happier and better. Helen is accomplishing so much with her enterprise and resources, and I am continually grateful for the money which I hold in trust, for all the dear people who gave to me. It means so much here, more than they can possibly imagine.
Last night while Helen and I were at supper, Soeur Geraldine mysteriously handed us an envelope, whispering, "C'était d'un militaire!" This was the enclosure: "Le médecin-chef du Service Centrale d'Ophthalmologie de la 9ième Région présente ses respectueux hommages à Miss Hélène et Miss Catherine et les prie de vouloir bien lui faire le plaisir de venir à la petite réception toute intime qui suivra la remise de sa décoration, demain, mercredi vers 3res 1/2 de l'après-midi à l'hôpital." So this afternoon saw us at the Remise de Décoration. The sun came out for an hour or two, and as we walked down the Boulevard Béranger, the world seemed one huge spring; children were playing, couples were loitering, and old people were sunning themselves. It was the day of the Flower Market, and Helen and I bought some violets and white stocks from a nice old Lady, whose splendid dog was named Ami. Just as we got to the Place de la Gare, the General and his staff marched on. The Place is flanked on one end by the station, and at the other by the lovely garden of the Préfecture. On the station end cuirassiers and dragoons were drawn up, and on the two sides companies of the 66th Infantry and another regiment (class of 1917), while towards the Préfecture stood the men to be decorated. They were in two rows, facing the station, and behind them a third row; these were civilians in deep mourning, parents and relatives who were to receive the decorations of the fallen ones. Dr. Térrien was the third man decorated, and made a fine military appearance. François, from La Torterue (the miner) was also decorated; he received the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille Militaire. It was all very impressive, --- General Poline's readings of the citations in his big round voice, the precision of his movements as he decorated the men, and the feeling of the whole thing. Then came the inspection of the troops, while the Cuirassiers' trumpeters played the fanfare for inspection, and one felt the lump in one's throat coming. But when the ceremony was over, and the troops marched by to the music of the Cuirassiers' marching tune, and the flag passed, and the poor little child-like soldiers of the class of 1917 moved so bravely by, the lump was there, and the tears, too.
The reception toute intime was delightful. Generals and staff were there, and Dr. Térrien and the other doctors, and the wives, and there was a delicious tea, and Vouvray Mousseux! As we were leaving to go back to work, we met René, who had taken Pierre to the Remise de Decoration. They had François with them; he and Pierre had been at some pains to arroser leur decorations, and felt very happy. It's both pitiful and wonderful to think that they can still find life here exciting in spite of their disabilities, and it's amusing to think of little René's steering these two blind ones through the devious ways of Tours and her buvettes! We celebrated Mardi Gras for La Torterue by giving every one chocolate, --- some hit!
This afternoon we have been doing errands on the rue Nationale, and such life as there was! Cavalry recruits were coming in from the country in charge of a snappy young officer, merry shaggy ponies and adorable infinitesimal donkeys passed drawing picturesque carts, and sometimes dogs, in pairs or singly, helping to do the same. And soldiers, soldiers everywhere, --- sick and well, ---some bent over double from their wounds, just beginning to live again, some coming back for a short permission, others marching to the station in little groups, laden with well-filled musettes, tin helmets, and entrenching tools; they rather remind one of the Knight in "Alice in Wonderland," and all "his own inventions." The big, gray official limousine, with the headquarters' insignia on the door, passed and re-passed, and ambulances and two-wheeled supply carts from the Cuirassiers' Depot, added to the excitement. We walked to the Cher before we came home; the sweet country and quiet river and soft air were very spring-like. A troop of dragoons passed us on the bridge; good horses and good riders.
Sunday was lovely, and began happily, for it was my turn to go to la messe des aveugles. It's a joy singing with the men; they love it so, and we sing some beautiful cantiques de guerre. I have copied one for you. One of the singers is Fernand Deloison, a sweet, gentle lad, who comes from Cambrai. His sight was injured by a premature explosion, but it's improving, and he will soon return to aviation. He has asked me to make him a bag for ses petits effets. "Un pauvre poilu a bien de la peine de rien garder pour lui, Mademoiselle." He wants me to make one for his chum, too, Clovis Godin, a melancholy Cuirassier, who comes from Roubaix. This town is in the hands of the Germans, so he has heard nothing from his father and mother and three pretty sisters since the war began. He has four brothers fighting, besides, so it's small wonder he's oppressed. Was n't it nice of Fernand to ask for Clovis as well as himself ? They both want me to be their Marraine; my family is growing!
Thursday afternoon we met a big gang of Boche prisoners, employed on railroad work here. It was the first time we had seen so many together, and the different types were striking. They looked well-fed, and many seemed happy, though some looked profoundly sad. Most of them were young. It was curious to hear the familiar-tongue as they joked among themselves. The day was beautiful, soft and balmy, ---a day which spoke of hope and joy, seeming to triumph over the sorrowful sights, the crowd of poor brave souls, some with remade faces, some legless, some armless, others blind, --- the huge army of living martyrs to the cause which, thank God, we have made our own at last. What were their thoughts as prisoners and convalescents passed each other?
We've just said good-bye to Lt. Raffy. His application for duty in Salonica was accepted, and he leaves to-night on furlough before sailing. George Hollister is still out. there, but he wrote me that he expected to come back in April. I have given Lt. Raffy a letter to him, just in case they happen to be near each other. George wrote such a splendid letter!
Our two Génie lieutenants are receiving formidable looking documents relating to their future movements. Everyone is being rounded up, and I expect there'll be lots doing soon.
La Mère got back this afternoon from a two days' absence at the Mother House in Paris. It was raining, and all the nuns pattered across the court in their sabots to welcome her, holding huge umbrellas with great care over their caps. They were so full of joy at having their beloved Mère among them again, and she was so happy to be with them once more; it was a sweet picture. The caps look alike in front, but La Mère's is very different in the back, rising to a point, while all the others are just round!
How about the German blockade of U.S.A.? The general opinion here seems to be that the Boche is bluffing. Otherwise, why does n't he sink some American ships? Everyone is very excited by the British progress, and one hears on all sides, "Les Anglais marchent bien." It's such a great, terrible, sweet, sad world to live in, but always wonderful, and I would not be doing anything else but this, though se dévouer pour la France takes many forms, from singing to cleaning knives!
Monday, March 5.
Helen and les demoiselles Providence and I had an outing yesterday afternoon. We took the tram at Pont de Pierre, and ran past St. Cyr and Les Maisons Blanches, passing enchanting little houses and mysterious avenues; later, open fields, where old men and women and boys and girls were working, and always on our left the river gleamed. We left the tram at Mareuil, and walked up to Luynes, an adorable village nestling at the foot of the castle. Passing a wonderful old house, called La maison espagnole, we presently found ourselves at the bottom of a long, long flight of beautiful steps. When we had climbed to the top, we were on the castle terrace, and turned to such a perfect view of the smiling valley, the tender green of the fields, shimmering in veiled beauty through the soft spring haze. Then we made a tour of the courtyard and the gardens. One does n't visit the house inside, but we went up on the fortifications and saw to the north our towers and Tours, gleaming like an enchanted city, while aeroplanes circled like birds over it. Then we walked to the ruins of the Gallo-Roman Aqueduct; it was strange to stand under those arches and hear overhead the whirr of an Avion de Chasse! Walking back to the tram, we met a dear old peasant, driving home her three goats, with her dog, Fidèle; she told us she had also a pony named Bijou. We had a look at one of the strange cliff-dwellings by the river, and then came home. Such a happy, peaceful afternoon; yet one's heart is sore, looking over the lovely country, and thinking of all those who will never, never see it again.
This afternoon we have been busy at La Torterue. There were three ops., big ones, and lots of cleaning up in the operating-room, and needles to thread and tiny wicks to make in preparation for next operating day. Karl, one of the Boches, has been having trouble from abdominal adhesions, so this morning a surgeon came over from Descartes, and operated for that, while Dr. Térrien operated on Karl's eye. His three Kamerade were allowed to see him in the recovery room late this afternoon, and enjoyed it, even if he did n't! We also had a visit from an old civil, who came over from Chenonceaux to have a terribly infected eye treated. Dr. Cerise cleaned it up and did what he could to alleviate the pain. The poor old papa has been in agony for some days, but he bears the frightful pain bravely, as befits a veteran of 1870. I had just invested some of Miss Underhill's money in fruit for La Torterue, so our brave patient was rewarded for his good behavior with une citronade! The Château of Chenonceaux is now owned by the Chocolat Menier people, and they have turned La Grande Galerie into a hospital of sixty beds, with chauffage centrale, plumbing, electric lights, and all hospital conveniences; I believe they finance it entirely. Our old veteran went there first, but eyes are n't taken care of anywhere else in the 9ième Région except at La Torterue.
When I was opening the cumbersome blinds this morning, I'abbé Pinault was just going to his duties at La Torterue. " Mais Mademoiselle, vous êtes très matinale, il me semble." "Au contraire, c'est vous, Monsieur l'Abbé, qui l'êtes, puisque vous êtes déjà sorti et je suis toujours chez moi "! He looked so well in his bleu horizon. The big army wagon, drawn by its pair of magnificent grays, passed just then on one of its innumerable journeys, so salutes were exchanged all around. Soon the sun was shining in the wards, and the postman brought a big American mail, the first for a long time, so Mademoiselle Irma insisted I should read your letters, anyway, and I was so glad of all your good news. It's splendid to read how the U.S. is taking the fence at last, but oh, it's so late!
Afterwards, Helen and I assisted at an énucléation at La Torterue, making ourselves generally useful in the operating-room. The patient has been at La Bretêche (a big hospital just across the river, also in a Convent) for trepanning and a bad hand; a bursting shell caused all this and left splinters in the eye. He is a little Parisien, and fortunately has a wife and child to comfort him. He had only primary ether, and came out very quickly, announcing loudly, "Tu sais, mon vieux, je n'ai qu'un oeil; ils m'ont enlevé l'autre! " Dr. Térrien operated, and Mons. l'Abbé etherized; it was beautifully done, but it's a painful operation to watch, for somehow it hurts one especially to see that member of the body's family taken away. Dr. Térrien gets himself up very daintily, as does Monsieur I'Abbé, who is a wonderful combination of strength, sweetness and efficiency. He had a parish in Amboise, but that is now in charge of an older man; mobilization brought our Abbé here, and what a treasure he is. The men simply adore him, and no wonder, for their well-being is his only thought.
What a week it's been! The good news from the front is thrilling. . . . Helen and I have been sending colis to the fighting brothers and cousins and nephews of the nuns (many of whom are prisoners). We meet in the Economat and with Soeur Catherine and Soeur Maxime to help us, we make up wonderful parcels of eatables permitted by the Boche, and socks and other things; Soeur Marie-Eudoxie gives us the names from a long list the nuns send to regularly. I am using almost the last of my funds for these colis, but more will come. Yesterday, René came to say good-bye; he is going en permission agricole for a month. Also Clovis and Fernand came to have their pictures taken, and Soeur Donatienne and I had out all the lovely old chairs from the officers' dining-room, and stood them in the cloister while we waxed and polished them. She is such a dear to work with. This week, too, Salle 1 has been having its spring cleaning from ceiling to floor; les demoiselles Providence and I have had a busy time, but it looks so nice and fresh, now it's all done.
Monday night as we were going off to bed, we met Soeur Aline crossing the court with a militaire réformé. He was homeward bound for le Midi, and had just come from le Mans, where the nuns have a house. The poor soul is voiceless from shell-shock, and well used up generally, but how he enjoyed the good supper Soeur Aline had us take to him; soup and eggs and potatoes, with apple sauce and cheese for dessert. "Comment, vous lui donnez gras un jour maigre?" said Soeur Hégésippe. "Mais vous savez bien que les militaires ne doivent pas faire maigre!" answered Soeur Celestine. She is pretty, makes divine omelettes, and is the sister of Soeur Albanie, who takes such good care of Captain Billion- Bourbon.
Thursday evening Miss Guerber (a delightful American woman, who was caught by the war in Tours, and is the third American in the city) got La Mère's permission to have a little evening of music. La Mère came herself and stayed through, and Miss Guerber asked all the dames réfugiées and some of our military family. What a concert it was! First of all, "Tipperary," by request; and then "Swanee River" and other American folk-songs, also by request. Then many French songs, songs in English, and of course at the end the hymns of the Allies, including "The Star-Spangled Banner." "Puisque nous sommes déjà alliés par le coeur, Miss!" It was picturesque to hear the click of Lt. Santucchi's spurs on the stone floor as every one stood up for the Allies' hymns. He and his wife are charming people; she comes to our table. Everyone seemed to have such a good time, and at the end there was dear Soeur Albanie, waiting to guide us down the dark little steps and across the court with her faithful lantern.
The next day I got word that the Olmsteds' puzzles were at the station, so I sallied down in the afternoon to claim them, and signed innumerable papers guaranteeing their harmlessness. They will mean so much pleasure to the men, and it was good of the Olmsteds to send them.
These are cheerful days at La Torterue. Pierre is soon to be fitted to his artificial hands, and Doyé is to be operated on shortly. He has been happier since the arrival of a Lieutenant of Tirailleurs d'Afrique, who takes a great interest in Doyé, and is able to speak his dialect. The lieutenant took Doyé out for a walk one day; I met them as I was going to the hospital, and Doyé was actually laughing! One has to know the abysmal depths of his melancholy to appreciate the change. Karl. is doing very well, and making great progress with French and English; now, he says, " Good-night, Miss," when I leave. One of the poilus has taught him this. Karl has no desire to go back to Germany, but looks forward to England or America, though I do my best to discourage that idea. The last time we were there we were saying to a poilu, how strange it was not to feel more personal enmity between the poilus and the Boche prisoners. "Eh bien, voyez vous, Miss, la souffrance est individuelle mais la rancune nationale."
I have been to the Musée this afternoon. There is a good collection of pictures, and many interesting things. For example, the bed that Napoleon slept in when he was in Tours. But the garden was best of all, with its long noble terrace and alleys of clipped trees. Below, children were playing, and their mothers were sitting near, talking and knitting in the warm spring rain. It was a wonderful feeling to steep one's self in the peace and beauty of it all. I walked home by the Tour de Guise and along the river-bank, where I passed a magnificent young Sheik, be-medalled and superb in his spotless white robes and head-dress.
Is n't the news wonderful! You can't imagine the thrill of living in a country where such an advance is taking place. Some of our refugee ladies come from Noyons, and the emotions of the last days have been almost too much for them. If we can only take St. Quentin. I can never forget Sunday morning and the first rumors of la prise de Bapaume. It was a glorious morning, and everyone was touched with joy and excitement and gratitude.
Being the fourth Sunday in Lent, it was permissible to have singing at mass, so I sang the Franck "Panis Angelicus" and the Bach-Gounod "Ave Maria" at la messe de la Communauté. Soeur Marie-Vincent, who is a splendid musician, accompanied me wonderfully, and I loved doing it; there was a special happiness about singing on such a day of thanksgiving. At one came the papers, and we all gathered round Lt. Bouryot, who had hobbled out into the court to read us the details. In the afternoon, Madame Sourdillon had her fête in the Salle Brunet, and when I sang "God Save the King," the audience could n't wait for the end to applaud and cheer and call, "Vive les Anglais!" The whole fête was a great success, but that was the crowning moment. Our day wasn't over even then, for in the evening Helen took Miss Guerber and me to a performance at the Théâtre Français for the benefit of the Fund for les Prisonniers de Guerre du Département. It was a wonderful evening. The theatre was packed, and nine hundred francs taken in the quête alone. General Lacotte and his staff were there, and lots of troops from the garrison, all en tenue de ville, and Dr. Térrien, who came and spoke to us. The programme was varied and interesting, --- songs, recitations, and violin-playing. It ended with an enchanting comedy by Meilhac, "L'été de la St. Martin," done by people down from Paris. We got home very late, and crept in by the Chapel door. Dear Soeur Thomassine let us in. She had waited for us after finishing her Adoration.
The last days have come, and they are hard. These have been happy months with Helen, and everyone in this dear old Convent, and though I am anxious for my bit in England, still it's not easy leaving here. Tuesday La Mère gave me permission to invite all of my patients to hear me sing, and they in their turn had prepared a surprise for Helen and me. In their dining-room was spread a delicious little repast, pâtisseries and Vouvray Mousseux, and my godson, the Chasseur, made me, for them all, a most charming little speech, which none but a child of France could have imagined or made. It was a real surprise, and I was so overcome that I don't know what I said, for I was too moved to be able to appear otherwise. It was a pity some little bird had not whispered to us of the surprise, for Helen had arranged to take me out of town that afternoon, and we had to cut short the delightful party; it will always be a regret for me that it had to be so. . . . We went out by tram to St. Avertin, where we were met by a boy from La Branchoire, where Helen's attractive friend, Mlle. d'Ornano, lives. The boy was leading a huge black dog, very old, who was returning, we learned, from un séjour chez le véterinaire. We all started off together, and after a walk of about two kilometres we came to the dense woods which surround La Branchoire. Presently we turned in at the gate, and we were there. Our dog friend was released and promptly retired to his kennel to forget his troubles in slumber. The château is simple, a long façade, with a terrace from which one looks down a wide grass avenue toward the village of Chambray. Mlle. Vannina and her aunt, Mlle. de Reyneval, and four fox terriers were waiting to greet us. We spent two delightful hours with them in a lovely Louis XIV drawing-room, full of interesting and lovely things, each one with its story. Mlle. de Reyneval told us that an ancestor, Claude de Reyneval, was an ambassador to the United States, and she showed us an engraving of his portrait by Peale, which hangs in Independence Hall. We also saw a little war book, full of snapshots taken by Captain d'Ornano, and letters to him from his men, and copies of his citations. He must be a fine sort, a born soldier and leader. They are a military family, for a d'Ornano was one of Napoleon's marshals. It was a wonderful afternoon, spent with two rare people. After a little music and tea, Helen and I walked back to the tram through a torrent of rain which had long been threatening. The country was lovely, even in the rain, but there is a feeling of profound sadness over everything; how can it be otherwise?
Fernand and Clovis came to-day to ask me whether they might not come and get my luggage in a little handcart from La Torterue. I can't let them do that, but they are to come to the station to see me off. La Mère has just given me some little treasures; a penholder from Lourdes, and a carved wooden box made by one of the nuns. How dear they've all been to me, and how little I've done for them, compared with what I should like to have done. It's not three months since I came, and yet how much a part of my life it has all become. Goodnight, now. I'm going to say good-bye to my dear demoiselle Providence and to Soeur Donatienne. I shall write from Paris. Things may be a little troublesome about my getting through, but I hope not to be delayed long. I shall get Madame Lebon's box off this time, and I hope to see Madame Laporte. Here is a copy of the speech:
Permettez-moi, au nom de "votre petite famille" comme vous vous plaisiez à l'appeler, de vous remercier pour l'audition que vous venez de nous offrir et pendant laquelle nous avons pu apprécier tout votre talent que nous goûtâmes déjà dimanche dernier. Qu'il me soit surtout permis de vous dire toute notre affection et notre reconnaissance pour les soins que vous nous avez prodigués avec tant de dévouement et de joie. Vous retournez là-bas en Amérique, bien loin de nous, dans votre patrie qui est cependant bien près de la nôtre par le coeur et la pensée. Nous esperons que vous n'emporterez point un mauvais souvenir de l'hôpital où vous fûtes la bienvenue. Quant à nous, Miss, soyez assurée que toujours et de tous, vous conserverez l'affection et la gratitude.
England, April 12, 1917
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