Laura de Gozdawa Turczynowicz.
When the Prussians Came to Poland
OFF TO GALICIA
How tiresome it was in Vitebsk! We had only the ebb-tide of war; no excitement, unless the impossible newspaper extras could be regarded in this light. My Russian was most elementary, so it was out of the question to work in the hospitals; besides, there were sisters enough. We lived near a barracks, to my children's delight. Every time they went for a walk they brought back a soldier or two(!) who were delighted to have so much notice taken of them, and who played beautifully with the children.
There is a wonderful childlike quality in those men. The samovar was always ordered for them, lots of bread and butter and of course cigarettes. Naturally the popularity of the children grew by leaps and bounds. When I decided to go to Lemberg the first week in December, having had no word from my husband for five days, the children promised to be very good and content during my absence if they might have the soldiers to play with, and money to buy them little presents. A friend advised waiting and going into Galicia with a Red Cross train, but I was too impatient for that. At the station an officer told me in spite of my Red Cross uniform I could not get into Galicia without a permit, because there were so many spies about. But I decided to take my chances.
The journey to Kiew was uneventful, until we reached the long bridge just beyond the city. There we were held from nine o'clock in the evening until half-past one in the morning---why, nobody knew. The night was like day because of the searchlight. Finally, when a fast train thundered by we were released. Afterwards, I learned that a high personage was on his way from Lemberg and his train had to have a clear way.
Kiew is a lovely old-world city; so quaint, yet a busy, progressive place. After spending the rest of the night and the day there, I took the nine o'clock evening train for Brody. A very interesting lot of people were my travelling companions; especially I remember a Russian lady. We had a long stretch together for the train did not come in until eleven o'clock. In all that time I did not see one unusual thing; it might have been peace times.
At Brody, we had to change cars---then the gendarmes came for the special passports---I had only my Red Cross certificate. It seemed so strictly against orders that every one said I might as well make up my mind to wait for the next train. The gendarmes said that this was the only possible course; but I told them I could not, that it would bring me into Lemberg at night, that I did not know if my husband were in the city, and I demanded to see the Captain of the gendarmes. The Captain was very nice, but at first firm in his decision, even offering me his office to sit in until permission came from the Governor-General. I simply said, "Captain, I must go through now. You can't expect me to stop in Brody all night---such an awful hole---or to arrive in Lemberg at night!
Fig. 7. The Author in Red Cross Uniform
"Why did the lady not tell her husband? Will he wish to have the lady there?"
"Oh, if that is the difficulty you are safe---my husband wishes me to come, I am sure."
"It is impossible. There are many spies about. I would get into trouble."
"Please, Captain, I am an American, and I must go with that train. Send a telegram to my husband, but let me go!"
After looking through my documents and Red Cross papers once more, he decided to let me go with the promise my husband would himself tell the Governor-General how I got in. As he put me on the train, he said it was well for him all the ladies were not from America, since they did as they pleased.
We arrived in Lemberg at two o'clock. There were so few vehicles I had to wait a long time on the station---crowded, though it is an enormous place. There was the untidiness about it which goes with war, with soldiers lying about on the floor, etc.
After a long wait I got a doroszka, with a coachman who told me a lot about the occupation of Lemberg. How the Austrians went without a word---and the Russians just walked in---and were very free with their money.
Arriving at the address given me by my husband I found it was the magistrate (the city buildings) with two soldiers on guard, and a number of automobiles before the door.
When the soldier finally understood what it was I said, he dashed off, burst into my husband's room announcing,
"There is a Sister down below who says she is somebody's wife!"
My husband laughed and said, "She must be mine! That sounds like my wife's Russian!"
To say he was astonished is putting it mildly. My letters and telegrams began to come after I had been there a day or two. The Governor-General was also amused at my success in getting in, and gave me a permission to visit Galicia whenever I wished. Unfortunately this was of no avail.
Lemberg was in a curious state. There was a great deal of poverty, because all salaries had been stopped, the banks had gone, etc. The rich people were worse off than the poor.. Nevertheless the theatres were open, and were well patronized. The town was not sad. The shop people sold everything they had, but could not get more merchandise. A very good soup kitchen had been opened so the townspeople need not starve. Fuel was the greatest difficulty. Many peasants earned money by bringing wood from the surrounding forests.
Everything went on as usual, even to the number of Austrian uniforms seen upon the streets. The Russians gave their prisoners a great deal of freedom, the men living often in their own homes, or with friends. They were not objects of suspicion.
Looking back it seems like a dream---those happy days we had together in Lemberg, even Teodor, my husband's orderly acquires a halo. He was such a character. From the first moment, he almost roasted me with the tremendous fire he insisted on always making---we thought the stove would crack. It was his way of doing me honour. Teodor was wounded in the forefinger of his right hand, and was mightily afraid I would ask to see it. Comfortable he was, and not anxious to go back to the trenches. The engineers said that all their comforts were taken and brought to us. He was so proud of having a Sister in his care. Each day there would be something new which he had discovered---once a bunch of old English newspapers from before the war---again a powder box---to say nothing of an elaborate way to serve tea. Of himself he said he was "Gold, not Teodor," so honest he felt himself to be.
We called on many of our acquaintances. My husband's old professor was in the university there, and very glad to have a friend at court.
I talked with many people of the city. Most of them had relations in the Kingdom of Poland, and were glad they could go to Warsaw. Some said that, if the Russians evacuated, they would surely go along for fear of what would happen to them should their own army return, those poor people not knowing which direction to turn, but all believing in the ultimate triumph and freedom of Poland. A judge came to ask us if we could not get a pair of shoes for himself and wife. He had on galoshes, while she had to stay at home.
They had been on a visit and had been caught in Lemberg. Of course my husband gave them money for their most pressing needs, and was able to get some work for the judge. So it was with many. Galicia always was poor and full of people living on state salaries---which suddenly had stopped.
One night, we went to a cabaret where they tried to be gay without wine or spirits of any kind. It was funny to hear a man order a bottle of water. The Lemberger especially did not like it,---but how decorous was that cabaret! At the "Hotel George," the place of Lemberg, it was just the same! An American with the Red Cross said it was like a Sunday School. I suppose after there has been no wine nor wodka for many years, people will learn to be gay because they are glad, not because of anything they may have to drink.
On the 16th of December, I was once more in Vitebsk, finding all very well, and a pressing request for me to sing at a Red Cross concert (for the benefit of the Warsaw sufferers, to get coal, etc., for them) in the Opera House Christmas evening. Though I had not sung since the war began, it was impossible to refuse.
The concert was a great success, even though Warsaw was hanging in the balance---the battle fiercely raging. Our tableaus or living pictures were changed at the last moment for fear we had made them too decided, but patriotic they were!
I was Britania. Naturally a most lovely girl in national costume was Russia; poor little Belgium forgot her lines. France called for a box to stand on because she could not be seen, etc. but the concert and pictures were a success, and something over three thousand roubles cleared.
BACK TO SUWALKI
I WAS expecting my husband continually, but he did not come. New Years, and still alone! The whole month of January went by in anxious waiting. Finally, on the 28th, he came unannounced. In arranging a fever hospital near Lemberg he had contracted an illness, a serious one, and was really not fit to travel. This was the first of a series of misfortunes, for he had permission for us to return to Suwalki, and we decided to go. The hospital work called me and we were so badly situated in Vitebsk. Wherever we were, the separation was the same., Our own home was always better. Suwalki was quiet, schools were open, the Governor was in residence, so we decided to go on the 2nd of February.
This time the journey was made without difficulty in first-class carriages all the way. We arrived at midnight on the 3rd. I remember the ride over the snow, the sleigh bells, the glorious moonlight, through the quiet town to our home,---ours even if desecrated. Jacob had arranged six rooms in the left wing, and had transferred the kitchen to what had been the bathroom, big enough for two kitchens! There was furniture enough for this suite after a vigorous cleansing process. The rest of the house was shut off entirely. Even though it was so terribly cold, I heaved a sigh of relief to be back after all the wanderings.
My husband was tired out by the journey, so I bent all my energies to making him comfortable. However, I had a new patient. My little boy Wladek was feverish. Not much time for outside work for me! But enough to see how the little children picked up in the fields were getting on. With our Panna Jadwiga they were well cared for and getting to look more like children.
Food to buy we found in plenty. Petroleum, everything---a few bottles of spiritus for the lamps we also discovered. Of course there was no gas.
The townspeople were so glad to have us back.
It was quite touching. If all had been in good health I should have been almost happy for two days, helping rearrange the hospital in the first floor of our house.
Wladek grew no better. A curious lethargy had possession of the child. The doctor could not decide what the trouble was, but the fever grew.
On the 8th bad news came. My husband had to go back to his post, and Suwalki was once more to be evacuated.
On the 9th Wladek was no better. We suspected typhus. That night I insisted on my husband leaving, saying I would meet him in Warsaw. It was dangerous for him to stay longer. He must not be caught, and with the ill child I could not go. The poor little fellow began to be delirious. Ah! that night when we sat together and spoke as if the great separation were not at hand---and the good-bye!
I listened to my husband's footsteps on the frozen snow, one last look, then silence as of death. I knew the impossibility of going with Wladek, and his twin brother was sickening. Surely the Germans would come and find me!
In the morning the doctor promised to come again in the afternoon, but when he finally came in the evening, it was only for a moment to say he would come in the morning and . . . went straight to the station. He knew well enough what it was, but did not wish to tell me.
On the 10th the whole town was on the move---the same haste but less accommodation, and bitter cold weather. There were only unheated freight cars if I had wished to risk my boy's life. It seemed better to let him die in his bed than out in the open---I felt like a rat in a trap. Many people who had not stopped in the first evacuation were remaining, thinking if the Germans came their stay would be a short one.
The wires were cut. I could not telegraph! And all the doctors were gone! I tried to put all thought out of my mind except my children; to accept the inevitable.
Again supplies were bought and carried in, all I could get, and the moment it was possible to leave Wladek I spent concealing them in various places where it seemed unlikely any one would look.
On the 11th of February, 1915, Suwalki was once more quite empty. All avenues of escape were closed. We were waiting the sacrifice. The Russian army was retreating.
That night, bending over my sick boy, hearing sounds of voices in the house, I woke my cook and taking a candle went to investigate. The place was full of Russian soldiers ready for the march. They begged leave to rest. I told them they should have what comfort I could give them if they would only be quiet as there was a sick child.
My cook boiled samovar after samovar, but even then there was too little to go round. The officers were invited into the rooms I was occupying, and they told me a little of what was happening. The whole army was on the move. They asked if I could not get away.
The next morning my midnight visitors were all gone, but the gardens and streets were alive with men---all mixed together, infantry, artillery, Red Cross, forage-wagons, wounded, Sisters, doctors, priests---with that curious murmur as of many bees. Muddy slush almost to the knees. A thaw had set in. Men and animals suffered discomfort, and were dissatisfied. I went out in all this to find a doctor who would come to us. I shall not forget that search; in and out among the wagons, among the horses---and I am timid by nature. Before the war I was afraid of a mouse, of thunder. But no more!
The soldiers assisted me as much as possible. I found several lazarettes with doctors in charge, but they were forbidden to leave without permission, and to get the permission was difficult.
I was sorry for the Red Cross Sisters. They looked wearied and dishevelled after the retreat, and all were anxious.
I finally found the surgeon in charge---like a general---and he came most willingly.
The diagnosis was typhus, the bad kind. I had known it myself. The doctor said:
"Keep up your courage; on you depends your child's life. God will help you. He will save the boy without a doctor!"
The kind soul, often I thought and prayed for him, a poor ill-used prisoner that he was.
I went back with him to where his staff was waiting. His wife, who was a Sister, had grown anxious in his absence. How I envied her! He gave me two bottles of champagne. Our cellars had been emptied by the Germans, and there was great need of something for my poor baby. I said good-bye to those kind, unfortunate people, and picked my way through the streets across the park towards home. Many of the men, tired out, had thrown themselves down on the ground. One had to climb over them. Some had built fires to cook food. How miserable it was; and we were all in the same boat.
Four soldiers who were very ill, hardly able to walk, were entrusted to my care by a doctor, who I met on my way back. He said they would be better with me. It was no use torturing them by dragging them along, so I took them home, giving them into my cook's care.
Wladek was growing steadily worse. It was necessary to forget everything in the fight for his life. The babble of delirium was awful to hear. It tore my heart when he constantly called for his father, "Tatus´---Tatus´." I thought after living through that moment---nothing could reach me, but I did not know.
"At least we had a comfortable, well-arranged apartment. Surely the Germans if they came, would leave me that corner of my own house. We had food, fuel, and I must think only of the children," so I talked to myself.
Little Wanda and Stas still played together, though I noticed Stas was not himself. What one of the twins had the other invariably took.
There was a nurse; Panna Jadwiga had gone to Vilno with those children when the town was evacuated; my coot, a host in herself! Jacob the butler, his wife, and daughter, a girl not yet seventeen.
Jacob lived in what had been our kitchen in reach of the bell. It might have been worse, I told myself, and prepared to face the situation.
The Russian army left suddenly, going toward Sejny---not a soul on the streets. Silence! Three or four hours later they came rapidly through the town, going towards Augustowo, and once more silence. At eleven o'clock there were still artillery wagons on the streets. I went to the four soldiers. The cook had given them food, they were lying in comfortable beds, and so pitifully grateful. They said, "If the Germans come we will leave you, little Sister!"
That was an awful night! I had to hold Wladek in bed. The little tongue never stopped an instant. I was worn out, having been already three nights continually on my feet, but at last morning dawned on an empty town. Not a soldier or a horse was in sight.
About nine o'clock a peasant came to tell me the Germans were coming! Some one had seen them. I made the four soldiers eat, and gave them food and cigarettes to carry with them. They were ill men. After a mutual blessing they went back to await their fate.
Suddenly hearing an uproar, I saw some of the bad elements of the town looting, searching for food, knocking each other down, screaming---a horrid sight! The Jews who were always so meek, had now more self-assert on, strutting about, stretching up until they looked inches taller. It was hard work to tear myself away from the balcony. I, too, seemed unable to control myself, running from the balcony to the child and from the child to the balcony.
,At eleven the streets again grew quiet, the time was near, and I saw the first pikel-haube come around the corner, rifle cocked-on the lookout for snipers!
THE GERMANS OCCUPY SUWALKI
THE first one was soon followed by his comrades. Then an officer, who rounded the comer, coming to a stop directly before our windows. An old Jewess stepped out and saying, "Guten Tag," handed him a packet of papers, and gave various directions with much gesticulation. A spy at our very door! A woman I had seen many times! Busy with Wladek I saw no more for a while when a cry from the two other children made me rush to the window. They were coming into our court. The soldiers! And in a moment rushed into the room where we were, in spite of the signs tacked up on all doors "Tyfus." Seeing me in the Red Cross uniform they held back a moment. One bolder than his comrades laughed saying, "She is trying to deceive us," and came toward me with a threatening gesture. Then with all my fear, God gave me strength to defy them. In German, which fortunately I speak very well, I asked what they wanted.
"Food and quarters."
"You cannot stop here. There is typhus."
"Show us the ill ones."
Opening the door to my own bedroom where the child lay, talking, moving the little hands incessantly, I saw that the nurse from the excess of fright had crawled under the bed. The soldier yanked her out, saying he would not hurt her, chucked her under the chin, and called her a " pretty animal!" Poor Stephania, she could hardly stand! I, in my anxiety, pushed the soldier from the room, to find the others already making themselves at home.
"You cannot stop here. Go away! I am not afraid of you; I am an American. If you do any harm to us the world shall hear of it.
They had been drinking, and the very fact that I defied them made an impression.
"Go out on the road. I will send food to you."
They went. One of them, giving me a look of sympathy, said:
"You have my sympathy, Madame."
That gave me courage, and shutting the door I went back to my boy. Always the same; I should not have left his side for an instant.
The town by now was in an uproar, every one seemed screaming together. As I looked from the window, my hand touched the prayer-book lying on the table.
"Lord, give me a word, a promise, to keep me steadfast and sane!" The book opened at the 55th Psalm---"As for me I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me." Even in the stress of the moment reading to the end of the chapter---"Cast thy burden on the Lord." A conviction came to me then that God would keep us all safe!
Soon I had to wake to the fact that the house was being looted. Jacob, his wife, and daughter ran into the room. The soldiers had been knocking them about, taking all the food they could lay their hands upon. It was pandemonium let loose! An under-officer came to make a levy on my food for the army going through to Augustowo. He, with his men, looked into every hole and corner, but did not think to look inside the couches, which were full of things! To see your provisions carried off by the enemy is not a pleasant sensation. I asked the under-officer if it were possible the town was to be looted and burned.
"Looted---yes---to revenge East Prussia! Burned, not yet,---not unless we go!"
These first men had a black cover drawn over their caps and afterwards I heard they were from the artillery. Always the worst! Just at this time there was a great tramping of horses right in the rooms under us---where the hospital had been arranged---a thundering knock on the door, and a captain with his staff walked in. A tremendously big man, he seemed to fill the place!
"Guten Tag, meine Schwester---Hier habe ich quartier.
"Are you not afraid of typhus?"
" Nonsense---we are all inoculated. Is there really typhus?
"Have you a doctor, captain? Let him decide!"
A very fat boy just from the university was presented to me; so young, twenty-three and inexperienced, to have such a responsibility. Examining Wladek he decided it was dysentery, and tore down my notices!
As there was no appeal, I tried to be amiable. The Herr Kapitain was not so bad; he cleared the house out, and at least only orderlies came through; but for us was left only the bedroom. Children, servants, all packed together with the typhus patient. The Captain was courteous enough, but said I would have to feed staff and men. That day seemed endless. With every moment came fresh troops, and I was glad the Herr Kapitain was in my apartments. At least there would be no looting. The rest of the house was full to overflowing with soldiers. Naturally they blamed the horrible disorder there on to the Russians. A telephone was soon in operation, and we were headquarters. All sorts of wires there were, and a rod sticking out of the roof. We were forbidden to go near that part of the house.
Every few minutes some one came to ask me to help them; the poor people, they thought I could make the soldiers give up pig or horse or chickens. At six the Captain told me he wished supper in half an hour. The cook seemed on the verge of losing her reason with some one continually making a raid on the kitchen, but she managed to get ready by seven. There were eight officers at the table---and they demanded wine.
"I have no wine."
"The old Jewess told us you brought home two bottles of wine when the Russians left."
"That was given me for my children."
"The children have no typhus, the doctor says, so they do not need wine---bring it to us."
So I gave up my precious bottles. The forage-wagons of the Germans had not come; they had no food with them and no wines, but the town fed them---to the last mouthful. They turned in at half-past ten, leaving an atmosphere you could cut. It was so thick with tobacco smoke! Once more I could be without interruption with my children, for I had to serve the officers, pour their tea, etc.; it seemed as if one could not live through another such day. My boy was unconscious,---talking---talking---talking---all night long---no rest for me! He needed constant attention, and his brother Stas was also very feverish, while Wanda girl was so nervous and excited she could not sleep, wishing to talk with her mother. That night, the first of the German occupation, I began a journal, to write all that happened, like a daily letter to my husband. I hoped the Germans would not stay long! About my boy, I knew it was typhus,---the officers knew it too, only it did not please them to say so. And I resolved to pay no attention to what that fat boy, the medical student, should order. He wished to give all sorts of medicines---when the best treatment was constant baths (which, under the circumstances were impossible), or a cold compress around the body to take the temperature down. I knew it was a fight between heart and fever. The medicine was a spoonful of champagne at moments of great weakness, but the officers had finished that!---and a spoonful of milk, as food, but this also was out of the question. Nevertheless, I was determined to find something. Black coffee was to be had, and turned out to be my only medicine.
The night wore away. The child grew terribly weak about four o'clock, and it seemed as if he were going and were held only by sheer force of my desire. If he could only sleep! Stas slept restlessly. Little Wanda was sorry for her mother, constantly waking to ask why Mammy did not lie down.
When six o'clock came the Captain thundered in, demanding breakfast, and hoping I had slept well.
Arousing those poor people lying about on the floor, I freshened my own costume, trying to look as formal as possible. There was no bread. The Captain, informed of this, brought a loaf. They finished my butter, and drank an enormous amount of coffee. As I served them the cook came to tell me a lot of people were waiting, begging me to intercede for them. An old man rushed in after her, threw himself on the floor, kissing my hands and knees, weepingly telling how the soldiers had held him, had taken his two young daughters, had looted the hut, even to his money buried in the earth of the floor. They had then gone, taking the girls with them. The poor father crawled around the table, kissing the officers' hands. They laughed uproariously when one gave him a push which sent him sprawling over the floor.
The Captain, seeing my look of disgust (I learned to conceal my feelings better afterwards), asked me, "Whatever was the trouble---why he howled so!"
After I told him what had happened the Captain looked black and silent for a moment; then said he could do nothing. The girls now belonged to the soldiers, and I even saw he was sorry. One of the others, however, laughed, saying the father was foolish to have stopped about when he was not wanted. That was my introduction to Prussian Schrecklichkeit.
The other people waiting had mostly been turned out of doors while the soldiers slept in their beds, or were asking help to get back a pig or a horse, or else they were injured. I told them to go away and be glad they had their lives, that just now there was no help, but I would do all that lay in my power.
We heard the sound of battle all that day over Augustowo way. It seemed already like a friend, our only connection with the world. Another day of miserable anxiety, the boy always worse, and the trouble of providing food for those men.
I knew that a friendly seeming attitude on my part was our salvation. The Captain under all his gruffness had a kind heart, but even in that short time I had learned what the German system means. Their idea is so to frighten people that all semblance of humanity is stamped out! Every time something awful happened they said there was East Prussia to pay for.
A lady who had remained, came to ask me to beg that her bed clothing should not all be taken. The Captain inquired if the things asked for were mine.
"Then I cannot interfere. When something is taken from my quarters is time enough to make an inquiry."
It was about dinner-time when this occurred, and as in retribution, the officers were just about to sit down when my cook rushed in crying out that two soldiers came into the kitchen---while one held her (I am sure he bore the marks of her nails!) the other ran off with a ham and the potatoes ready for the table.
The officers were furious, and went out to find the culprits. They were found, and a part of the ham and potatoes also. Both got a terrible lashing, enough to take all the manhood out of them.
When this was told me as their supper was served, I asked why the men had been punished. They all had license to do as they pleased. Many dinners had been taken from the stoves that day in Suwalki. "But not where die Herrn Offiziere are!" The was the whole story. We did not exist---therefore no one could be punished for what they might do to harm us!
During that supper, it seemed as if the officers in Suwalki came to say good-evening. I would hardly get one samovar emptied and go to the children than they would ask for another, at the same time expressing sorrow for my trouble, and saying the officers wished to meet the American lady,---and I dared not refuse! It was possible to avoid giving my hand in greeting because of the sick child. How miserable to be so torn asunder! To be kept there with those men when my baby needed me every minute, but what was there to do? C'est la Guerre, as all the Germans remarked in exceedingly bad French. One of the officers who came was evidently a very great personage. They paid him such deferential respect. He looked just like an Englishman. I told him so and he said his mother was an English woman---seemingly taking great pleasure in my remark, going on, however, to say the stain could only be washed from his blood by the shedding of much English blood! I shivered to hear the awful things he said; about having fought since the beginning of the war on the west front where he had many to his account; how, when the affair with the Russians was settled, and a peace made, he was going to England to call on his cousins, with not less than a hundred lives to the credit of his good sabre! It made me ill to hear him talk. In their power, one loses the vision of freedom or right; they filled the horizon; it is very difficult not to lose courage and hope. I did ask if there were no one else to take into consideration.
"God stands on the side of the German weapons!
That night was worse than the first, the forage-wagons had come! The drinking began. After I had served many samovars of tea, if you could call it so, half a cup of rum and a little tea, in and out, in and out from the children to the table, the officer whose mother's blood he wished to wash away, had sufficient decency to say I was tired and should be left undisturbedly with the children. That second night was as the first, only Stas also began to rave, talking in that curious dragging, almost lilting, tone,---one who has heard does not forget that dread sign!
Going from one little bed to the other, placing compresses, wetting the lips so cruelly dry, changing the sheets,---while in the next room those men caroused! It was only God's mercy kept me sane. Afraid to put on a dressing-gown I remained as I was.
About five o'clock there was a great rushing about. Fresh troops were ordered to Augustowo. Many from our house were leaving. The staff remained, but my acquaintance of the night before was off. He came at that hour to wish me good-bye, showing me the picture of his wife and little daughter, telling me how "brilliantly" the child was going through the teething process! A gallant figure he was, mounted on a beautiful horse, as I looked out of the window, thinking sadly what those new troops meant.
That morning a Jew came to tell me he had some bread. By paying him well he gave me quite a quantity. Our supplies were getting low. The officers' mess had come, which served them with meat---but there was still much for me to provide, and it was only the third day!
The house was much quieter that morning, so that the sound of the little voices carried into the sitting-room. Every once in awhile Stas would shriek horribly, frightening me even more; but as a rule, during the day, they lay, constantly moving hands and head, talking incessantly, not recognizing me, and not sleeping. I should have given them milk, but there was none,---the only thing I had was tea or coffee---both rapidly disappearing.
The weather was very bad, snowing, the icy kind, which hurts one's face; it seemed to fit in with the other misery.
The officers were gay at dinner. They told me that day about the amiable project to surround Great Britain with submarines, that no atom of food might reach her shores. How in a few days the blockade was to begin, every ship was to be torpedoed! England through starvation was to be brought to her knees, the Germans were to be the lords of the universe, etc., etc. What a picture was drawn for me! Hard to keep one's balance and think the other side would also have a word to say in such a matter, not sitting idly by while the Germans put the world into their idea of order!
Shortly after dinner they all went away, leaving only the orderlies to watch things. The two belonging to the Captain were very unpleasant. I could not bear them about, especially Max. Fritz was brutal and stupid---Max was cruel and not stupid! About my usual work, and trying to amuse Wanda girl, we all suddenly stopped still, breathless at sounds from the street! Wanda cried out:
"Oh, Mammy, our soldiers have come back---I hear their voices."
Yes, they had come back,---but how! The street was full of them, thousands, driven along like dogs, taunted, beaten, if they fell down, kicked until they either got up or lay forever still; hungry, exhausted by the long retreat and the terrible battle. I could have screamed aloud at what was enacted before my eyes, but there was my poor little girlie to quiet; she cried so bitterly. I told her she should carry bread to the Russians. My cook brought the bread cut up in chunks. I told her to go down to the mounting block with Wanda, thinking surely a little delicate child would be respected, and the surest means of getting the bread into the prisoners' hands. It seemed to me if I could not help some of those men I should go mad. Leaving the nurse with my sons, I went to the balcony, seeing many familiar faces in the company of misery. When Wanda and the cook reached the block, there was a wild rush for the bread; trembling hands reached out, only to be beaten down. One German took a piece from my little girl's hands, broke off little bits, throwing them into the air to see those starving men snatch at them and then hunt in the mud. Finally one Christian among them gave the cook assistance; the bread was getting to the men, only we had so little. Then something so terrible happened that while I live it can never be blotted from my memory. Wanda , my little tender, sensitive child, had a chunk of bread in her hand, in the act of reaching it to a prisoner, when Max, the Captain's orderly came up. Taking the bread from her hand he threw it in the mud, stamping on it! The poor hungry prisoner with a whimpering cry, stooped down, wildly searching, when Max raised his foot, and kicked him violently in the mouth! Wanda screamed: "Don't hurt Wanda's soldier!" The blood spurted all over her!
Rushing down-stairs I gathered my poor little girlie into my arms, her whole little body quivering with sobs, and faced the brute, which had done the deed.
"What religion are you, Max?"
"Then I hope the Mother of God will not pray for you when you die, for you have offended one of God's little ones."
The soldier with bleeding mouth was lying on the side of the road; my cook tried to help him, but was roughly driven away.
Carrying Wanda up stairs, trying to still her; heart-broken myself, what could I tell the little creature? Suddenly she asked:
"Mammy---why does God sleep?"
God is not asleep, darling."
Then Wanda don't love God when He lets the soldiers be hurt and kicked!"
"God sees all and loves all---but the bad man gets into the hearts of some of His children."
Difficult it was to do anything when I came back into that room where my little sons lay raving, not to just sit down and nurse my girlie, six years old, to have seen such sights! While attending the boys, another scream from Wanda took me to the window. No wonder she screamed! The captured guns were being brought into the town with the Russians hitched to them, driven with blows through the icy slush of the streets, while the horses were led along beside them! Wanda cried so hysterically, that she had to have bromide; the child was ill. Surely there was nothing worse to come?
The Captain, hearing the sounds and wanting his supper, came into the room.
"Go away, Captain, if you are a man, and leave me alone with my babies."
"What is the trouble? Is the little girl ill also?"
"Have you seen what is happening with the Russian soldiers, taken prisoners?"
"Yes, I have seen."
I told him what his orderly, Max, had done. He slowly, gravely answered:
"Yes, that is bad."
"Where are all those prisoners?"
"In the churches."
Then he said, "Do not show so much sympathy---it will only do you harm and help no one. A great man will be quartered here tomorrow. Do not let him see you like this; some day when the children are well you will wish to get away from here."
"But the Russians will have retaken Suwalki long before that day, and my husband will be here."
"Never, and never, not while there is a German soldier! Now, be brave and smile, and I will help you as lays in my power."
But that evening I was not begged to serve tea! What a night it was. My boys were so ill, and I could not pray that God save them for me. I dare not! God knows, I had come to a stone wall. It was not even possible to feel that somewhere my husband was alive. We were cut off from the living.
THE next day, Friday, the Great Man was quartered on us, the staff officers finding some place else to sleep, coming only to meals. Much food also made its appearance, so my couchfuls were stiff fairly undisturbed. I had hoped to be let alone, that it would not be necessary to serve; but I was not allowed that luxury. It was necessary to serve coffee, and look pleased with doing so. After the meal, I showed the workings of the samovar to the detestable Max and left. The Great Man paid little attention to me except to, greet me courteously. I could have done with less courtesy if he had given different orders to the army. All the misery, the awful orders, came from him, the Schrecklichkeit we were face to face with. By his orders, the prisoners were cruelly deprived of food, and the levies were laid upon the people.
I do not think soldiers meant anything to him as men, they were simply creatures of his to serve his ends. It is said that all great men are egoists,---this one certainly was. We were so absolutely in this man's power, and he was ruthless!
When a man's personality weighs down those about him with a hopeless depression, in Poland they say, "he sits on my head." It is a wonderfully expressive phrase. The Great Man "sat on my head" very heavily. He drank copiously (in fact, I have never seen such a capacity for Schnapps), ate tremendously, and the only topic of conversation was what he had done or was about to do.
My house was only to be used a day or so. There were other quarters being arranged.
Saturday a strange piece of news came to my ears. The officer with the English mother, after having been two days in battle at Augustowo---hand to hand engagements---and---most desperate fighting---was at mess with the other officers in a peasant's hut. Called to the telephone he had scarcely picked up the receiver when a shell from the Russians, one of the few they sent that day, burst near the hut. A piece came through the roof, instantly killing the man who had been so sure God was an interchangeable word with Kaiser! When the news was told me it seemed like a rebuke. That man appeared to be so mighty, backed by an invincible force, but when God said enough, how quickly was he still!
The days went by without rest for me. I was a machine---night after night with my patients---how pitiful they looked---little grey shadows of my darling boys. They never stopped talking---only the voices grew weaker---each night meant a battle with death. I used to stand over them and say, "Dearies, you must not leave your Mamusia---you must get well---your father must have his boys!"
From half-past three until five it was impossible to count the pulse. I could only pour a few drops of black coffee into the little mouths so hideously disfigured by typhus sores. Near this dreadful disease lay my little daughter,---nervous, hardly speaking at all. She was not the same child. We spoke together of "Tatus´" when I had time. She had escaped so far, but, breathing the same air with them, how could she escape the typhus, despite all my care in disinfecting.
The Great Man went and I was heartily grateful, for his atmosphere of inexorable power to crush us was almost too much to bear. It was as if a black cloud had been cleared from our horizon; though we still felt the effect of the orders given to the army, still we did not have to look at him or serve him with coffee. During the few days he was under my roof, many delicate dishes had appeared upon my table, but no one had asked me if I had the necessary food to give my children. The Great Man was served from a "Feld Küche" with the more substantial dishes, and I had to provide an entrée or two. One day the food in the "Feld Küche" went sour, and I had to manage the whole meal.
No wonder I was glad that the "Colossus" went---whenever I looked at him I seemed to hear bones being cracked and ground into powder. No tiny detail, nothing which could make the townspeople suffer was too insignificant to be turned into an order and signed by the Great Man. In fact, he brought so much "Kultur" into Poland that the Poles were almost exterminated by it. We were not the only ones who felt the weight of his fist. The German soldiers were treated with extreme severity, though given the greatest license to harm and fill the unfortunate townspeople with fear. It did no good to complain of any outrage---for outrage was ordered and encouraged and rewarded. The soldiers were forbidden to show sympathy. One curious thing---the soldiers had all sorts of articles stamped with the Great Man's picture---I asked one of the orderlies if he felt it was quite the thing to use a handkerchief so decorated! The man told me "perhaps not," but that he thoroughly agreed with his suspenders! Bright red, these were, bearing a tiny picture of the Great Man, and, of course "Gott strafe England " embroidered upon them in flowing German script. That legend seemed to grow upon everything the soldiers used.
On the last day that the Great Man was with us, another Great Personage was also there a fat, beery scion of royalty, neither clever nor interesting. The change in this young man's appearance was a distinct shock. As a girl I had often seen him in Berlin with his father or with some of his brothers or others of the family and at that time his extreme popularity (he was very much the people's favourite) seemed easily explained by his good looks and his charming manners. I know these made, from a distance, a greatly favourable impression upon me. And now---such a change! Was it due to "Kultur"?
The gruff but kind Captain also received the order for Augustowo; night and day there were the sounds of battle; the immediate needs and misery were too great to pay much attention. The last day those officers were in the house I went one more step on the via dolorosa. It was Sunday morning; the prisoners had been removed from the Roman Catholic Church. There were services going on, so the townspeople had for the first time appeared upon the streets. A foolish, talkative little woman, who had remained with her husband and little daughter, came to see me on her way from early mass. I was dreading to leave the children long enough to serve coffee to the officers, so I asked this woman to sit with the children while I had to leave the room. When opening the door she said to me:
" They say the Russians are in Marjampol---and the Russian chief of police never left-he is here "
I told her sharply to be still. She answered the Germans did not understand Polish. When I went into the next room, right near the door the medical student "doctor" was sitting. He always hung about. I really paid no attention to what the woman had said, but after having served coffee I had barely returned to the children when my cook burst in calling out jubilantly the same piece of news. She was also told to hush (the doctor still sat near the door reading), but as if two of them were not enough, the nurse girl, Stephania, also came in telling instantly the same story with more details; and the three, in spite of all I could do, would discuss it.
At dinner-time, two o'clock, the officers had finished eating and drinking,---they were about to drink black coffee---when an orderly called the Captain. In a few moments he returned, looking very grave, and told me there was somebody to see me from the secret police; he advised perfect frankness. I almost died of fright, seeing fortresses and dungeons of all sorts looming up before my eyes!
A horrid, degenerate-looking man---this secret agent---who instantly told me the police knew I was a Russian sympathizer, and that I had a centre of information in my house, that I fed the prisoners, and rebuked the German soldiers for carrying out the orders issued to the army; that I incited the public to resistance, and was to be removed as a menace to the army, to Germany; that he was sent to fetch me. I told him that what he said was mostly untrue, and the rest misrepresented; that the people in the town naturally looked up to and trusted me; I could not help their coming,---there was little time I gave to anybody. I had given bread to the captured Russian soldiers, but when the Russians were here, the captive Germans had also received help from me.
The secret agent said, well, I had "something to my credit," immediately giving in detail the conversation of those women; but I told him that was the gossip of the town. "So much the worse"---it did no good to tell him I did not allow them to talk---the order had gone out. I was to be removed! No use to tell him of the children either; that they were at the point of death. He simply said that this did not interest the Government; only the fact that I was hostile, and arousing the sympathy of the people at this moment. I heard the Captain clanking heavily about in the next room, and, in my distress, called to him. Big, burly, with a look of contempt at the "Agent" in his civilian clothes, the Captain came in.
When I had told him the secret police wished to take me to a fortress, and the reasons, how my children were to die, as they surely would without my care, he flew into a terrible rage, and ordered the man out, saying he gave his word for me, that as a man and an officer he would permit no such thing. With that, he took hold of the Agent marching him into the room where my boys lay.
"There,---look! And go tell the secret police what you have seen."
The man disappeared with alacrity; no more was heard of him!
The Captain stood leaning on my boy's bed, shaking his head.
"It is such nonsense makes us so hated,---just as in Belgium! But---I told you not to show your sympathy."
I reached out my hand.
"Captain, there may be typhus germs on my hand, but there are also the thanks and blessing of a mother whose life you have saved!"
Somehow things took a different colour after that terrible experience. I knew then that there were still worse things than I had to endure. The Captain told me he would get the Ober-Kommando to occupy my house---as someone must---and his regiment was leaving the next morning.
The Russians had made an advance and excitement prevailed. Hope sprang up once more.
That night Wladek took a terrible turn. Two fingers were paining him, typhus sores,---and no doctor! I used everything to allay the fever, but the crisis was near.
The Captain with his men left before dawn.
When they went, the medical student came to say good-bye---in Polish! I told him I hoped he was satisfied with his noble work! Four officers from the Ober-Kommando took up quarters with us. I told them there was no more food. I had only macaroni, zwieback, and a few jars of strawberry and raspberry preserves---no potatoes, and about a half-pound of coffee and tea.
The children were so near death that day that I went from one to the other, changing compresses, wetting the lips with weak tea (made of melted snow water---the wells were not possible), imploring them not to leave me. One of the new officers told me there was a celebrated doctor in Suwalki that day. Did I not wish to see him? How I blessed the man for his thought. In a short time the doctor came. Of course he only looked at the children when he said:
"Typhus,---and one near the crisis, "that very soon the finger would have to be operated upon, also that the military could not be quartered in the house. I would at least be alone. The nurse, Stephania, had never come back after the secret police got after her, so that day I called Jacob's daughter, Manya, into service in the sick room.
When the officers had gone I found all our stores of wood had been burned; coal had long since been out of question. It was cold in that great empty place, filled no longer with the memory of happy days. The night got over somehow, but in the morning it was evident that Wladek's finger must be operated upon. His hand was black, his arm swollen. I sent a note to the Commandant asking for a doctor, adding that a few hours' delay would mean death! The cook brought a reply saying that a doctor would be sent. I prepared a table with everything ready to operate, and waited . . . until nine o'clock in the evening. I meant to operate myself if the doctor did not come. When the doctor did come I was face to face with the living example of "Schrecklichkeit!" He said:
"Good-evening. My fee is thirty marks! Gold!"
I told him it was difficult to give him so much, the contribution of the town had fallen so heavily upon me. He simply said that, without the gold, he would not operate, so my boy's finger had to wait while the money was fetched. After the fee had been pocketed, I gave him an apron, and he went in to look at the children, saying immediately he thought both would die. He asked me what I had done, said it was right, and walked back to the operating table. I carried Wladek out,---with no difficulty for he was like a shadow. Hardly was I seated when with a flourish of the surgical scissors,---I shall never forget it---the surgeon grabbed hold of Wladek's finger, and, without even disinfecting it, or using the ether, which stood on the table, snipped it off like a bit of old cloth. The blood and matter spurted all over me Wladek screamed, and then was still. The doctor got up, saying that I would know how to disinfect and bandage the wound. I begged him to stop and help me. Replying only, "I have no time," he walked out, leaving me alone with my unconscious boy. It was very difficult to manage the cruelly used finger, and to hold the child at the same time. I could not feel his heart beat. Stas, in the other room, was crying,---and neither the cook nor Manya came.
The hand was finally bandaged and a compress laid on to keep it moist. After making every effort, I finally managed to rouse him, so that the poor little fellow began to moan. On carrying him back to bed, I found his brother lying fainting on the floor! The wonderful sympathy between the twins had caused Stas, even in delirium of fever, to wish to go to his brother's aid, and I had two unconscious, stiff boys. The room was freezing cold!
After they were once more in bed covered with everything to be found, I threw my self down in the big chair to watch them. Catching a glimpse of the mirror, I wondered who that wild, white, strange-looking woman was---after a time recognizing myself! Then, by a mighty effort of the will I drew back from the black pit of despair,, saying over and over again, "I will call upon God, "and the Lord shall save me!" until I could once more get up and go about preparing things for the night. That night when it was to be decided life or death for Wladek! How still it was---I was glad when the boys simultaneously began to rave. I at least knew then they were alive! The big guns sounded far off. I was quite alone. The cook was not in the kitchen---Manya did not come when I rang, nor did Jacob.
A long time afterward my cook came. She had difficulty in controlling herself, but finally made me understand. The doctor had taken Manya---not yet seventeen! God help her!
Jacob came in looking like a hurt animal. He had been struck in the mouth by the doctor. The blood dripped on his hands together with his tears. Manya was his pride, his little girl. She knew how to read---he began to tell me little stories of her childhood, "before my lady was in Poland!"
I gave him a double dose of veronal, washing his wounded nose and mouth, and promising. we should get Manya back tomorrow.
"Tomorrow!" with a cry like an animal. Quieting down once more, he crawled into a comer by the stove, instantly sleeping,---worn out. An example of the freedom and happiness the Kultur träger had brought to us in Poland!
That night Wladek fell asleep. I feared to breathe---suddenly he grew icy cold. I put hot cloths on him, gave him spoonfuls of black coffee. Tried to count the pulse---so faint-wildly calling on God to save him! The dear eyes opened. He tried to say "Mamusia," and slept! Saved! The twenty-first day since he last knew his mother. I laid my head on his bed, weeping until there were no more tears left, and also slept---to be wakened by a cry from Stas who was stiff, talking, moving head and hands as if automatically. A curious feeling came over me. I did not wish to move; as in a dream---everything was so far off; the room grew very warm---like summer.
WHEN the cook came at five o'clock to sit with the children while I rested, she found me for the first time in all those days not dressed in my uniform, but wearing a thin kimono, and saying how warm it was. She was frightened. It was so difficult for me to speak. My tongue would not obey me, but I made her understand that Wladek was better---saved---and that for Stas the crisis would likely come that night. The poor creature began to cry, saying, "Oh, my lady, you also are ill with the fever!"
That I could not agree to. There was no time for me to be ill. We spoke of the need of fuel. A Jew had some wood and wanted fifty roubles for it. Another had a few potatoes. These things were sorely needed. But no milk! For Wladek it was so absolutely necessary. There was still a ten pound package of sugar. Wladek was conscious, too weak to speak, pitiful beyond measure. I tried to force myself to have energy enough to dress his hand,---succeeding after a terrible effort. Stas was calling out, talking wildly as usual. For my little daughter the problem of food faced me. What to give her! She was always difficult to please with food---and now would hardly touch our fare.
The day wore away. Late in the afternoon the doctor came. I had quite forgotten about Manya.
"You have also the typhus!"
In a voice that seemed to belong to some one else, I told him, "No---I have no time for the typhus, the children would die if I gave up," and refused to go to bed.
That night the fever laid its hand heavily upon me, and I went to bed. My cook told me afterwards how I sang what she called "church music" till she thought the end was near---that already the angels were there!
Seemingly a hundred years after, in reality a few hours, it was borne in upon my consciousness by a pure mother instinct undoubtedly, that someone was crying. I opened my eyes to see the cook bending over Stas, crying, "if my lady would only wake up, and tell me what to do!"
I forced my voice back from the far-away country, telling her to put Stas beside me, compresses also, that I could attend him, and, with God's help, I did; after awhile getting to my feet, keeping always a tight hold of my senses, lest they wander. The very overpowering anxiety for my children cast the fever off!
Stas lived through the crisis that night, just as Wladek had done. I sat in the big chair between the little cribs, telling the cook what to do.
For two days it was difficult to drag about. It was as if I had never rested or sat down in my life.
The second day when the doctor came, there suddenly flashed across my mind the story of Manya, and I asked him where she was. He told me it was "not my affair." Wladek's second finger had to have an operation, but knowing the tender methods of the doctor, I bathed it in ether myself.
Wladek was hungry,---like a wolf. I gave him the juice of my strawberry preserves. The hunger of the boys grew so alarmingly, and I had only the tea, toast, and preserves, not a diet for typhus patients. The Jew had sold his potatoes to some one else.
Four days after Manya's disappearance, news was brought to me that she was in the house of an old Jewess, a cigarette maker. Leaving the cook with the children, and hardly able to drag myself along, I went with Jacob to find his daughter. How strange it was in the streets, the soldiers were everywhere, staring curiously at us. Impossibly dirty, it bore no resemblance to the town I had known; bits of furniture were standing about, all sorts of things spilled over the streets.
After many difficulties, we finally found the place, and paying no attention to the soldiers about, pushed our way into the room where Manya was. . . . what had been Manya. When she, poor creature, saw us, she threw herself on the floor, sobbing; springing up when I knelt beside her. An officer came in to ask our business with the girl.
"She is my maid---stolen! This is her father. I have come to take her home."
"I am very sorry, but you are not allowed to take her, she belongs to the soldiers."
"Don't you see Herr Offizier, the girl is dying?"
"Ill she is, and shall have the best of care. We have a doctor to attend just such cases, " and I had to leave her! Jacob's face was without expression, he seemed to have lost the power to think or feel,---his little girl---
Not long after that, when things were at their very worst in the matter of food, an officer walked into the room where I was busy with the children, a doctor of the sanitary service, of Polish blood! Oh! how glad I was to see him, and how kind he was examining into all the details, not only of the children's health, but how we lived, I also told him of the brutal doctor. That afternoon this good doctor, Sanitats Rat, sent me a loaf of bread and four eggs! Nothing I have ever seen, no jewels, were ever so precious in my eyes as that white bread and eggs, for in the town the food had all been taken, and there was none to buy!
About this time, the terrible contribution was laid on Suwalki in answer to Memel, which the Russians had taken. Two hundred thousand marks to be raised by those poor people! The guns were in front of the church. The town was to be blown into the air unless this great sum was paid by a certain day. I saw how they took the Russian priest and the Jewish rabbi (one of the Roman Catholic priests had long since been taken) to keep as hostages, yanking them along the street by a rope. The soldiers were amusing themselves.
In and out of the houses those levying officers went, taking the very blood, one might say, from the people. I was told after my hunt for Manya, to keep at home. Jacob bad disappeared, carried off to dig in the trenches. Those were fearsome times! After paying my large share of the contribution, also giving up my jewels, it seemed as if when food would be there to purchase, at the existing prices, I should soon be without money. The good doctor had tried to get help for me. There were a number of the Russian Red Cross Sisters captured with the army and held in Suwalki, but they were not allowed to come; though for six weeks I had been nursing my boys, and struggling with the fever myself.
I complained about Manya, and was promised that the case should be taken up, "made an example of ." So it was! The old Jewess, though quite innocent in the matter, was arrested, kept five days on bread and water (what the rest of the town lived on, too!) and made to pay a fine of three hundred marks! How the case was made out was difficult to imagine. When I told them the old Jewess had done nothing, that she was simply turned out of her own home, I was told that the doctor could not be even questioned, he belonged to the military, but that a Jew could always be punishedl
THE CHILDREN RECOVER
MY boys grew slowly better, through the period where they continually slept, on to the point where they cried with hunger. Sometimes I was able to buy a little food---if there was any in the town my cook was sure to find it. I doled the toasted bread and preserves out with a miserly hand. Our sugar was gone, coffee also, but I still had tea.
We were deserted. No one came near us, except the good doctor. He came, and so I kept in touch with the world. Also there was the never ceasing panorama before my windows. The automobiles were stationed there. Many a time they were already for flight, the Russians making an advance, only to be pushed back. We, in the town, never gave up hope.
Great numbers of prisoners were kept in Suwalki, starving to death! The wounded were crowded together without comfort or cleanliness, and the townspeople "allowed" to feed them. They who had nothing themselves!
I was afraid to help openly for a time, but my cook carried pails of soup (macaroni) to the hospital, where the wounded lay upon the floor, without straw in the intense cold. One day she told me something was happening. The prisoners' hospital was being cleaned, beds put in, and even clean linen for the men. Just after she told me this the doctor came, our kind friend. I asked him why the sudden, change, and heard to my delight that attachés from the neutral countries were to make a visit. In some way it had leaked out how the prisoners were being treated, and an investigation was to be made. I immediately wrote a petition that I should be allowed to see the American attaché, thinking in this way to get word to my husband, letting him know we were still alive. The interview was promised me on the condition that I would speak only of the question of communication with my husband and not a word about what I had seen in Suwalki.
Such a cleaning there was those three days we were expecting the important visitors. The prisoners were fed. Those in the hospital got cocoa, very satisfying to an empty stomach!
I was unquiet over Wanda, seeing her wilt before my eyes like a little flower, but the prospect of getting some word to my husband, made me feel brighter than usual.
The attachés came, saw what ideal conditions prevailed in Suwalki (for at least three days!) and went! I was not permitted to see the American attaché, and was only told it was not considered expedient that I should.
That night Wanda developed the typhus, and for the second time during my captivity I cried, until there were no more tears left. Again, the old miserable story to go through with, the watching by night and by day. Wanda had quite a different form of the fever. After a few hours of the singsong delirious talking, she grew silent, and never spoke nor opened her eyes, unless I made her, for---fourteen days. The only way I knew she lived, by looking at her, was by the faint red patches on her cheeks. The crisis past, she recovered more rapidly than her brothers. Also there was milk to be had! I was able to get two quarts a day, but it cost one rouble. A Jew somehow had got two cows. The precious fluid was taken away from my cook by soldiers so many times, even though she made them understand it was for typhus patients, that I had to get a special permit to carry milk unmolested through the streets . Once my cook found a chicken! It also was taken from her. She cried and called down such vengeance upon the thieves, the soldiers of the army of occupation, that I told her she would be shot if they understood what she said. Not long after a Jew brought me five chickens. Five roubles apiece! If I could keep them they meant eggs for the children. So I had them shut up in what had been our beautiful library. They roosted on the pretty old shelves, clawed over the books, and I did not care or have any feeling about it. Those things were finished, passed out of my life.
After that we were able to buy more food. Potatoes were to be had at a ruinous price, and also wood. There came a day when Wladek got up out of bed. Grown so tall, with legs like a pencil, he bore no resemblance to my bonny boy. And hungry! The toast was finished, but Wladek could eat mashed potatoes. How he begged for all sorts of things.
A few days after his twin brother also rose from the dead, and because nothing could come singly, something happened! It was Holy Week. A tremendous battle was on, the big guns almost cracked the windows, we could also hear the machine guns. In the midst of the din I was rejoicing over my sons, that they had taken a step; when several people walked into the room---Russians, the first I had seen to speak to. A doctor and three sisters, with four German soldiers. How pleasant it was to see some one not a German! The doctor, a splendid man, but with his misery stamped upon his face, told me he had been sent to open a "typhus hospital" in my house! The disease was all over the town, and now it was to be centred under my roof. I asked him what I should do. The Germans had told him I was to provide beds, etc! The German soldiers grew impatient that we only talked and did nothing, and began to threaten. I gave them cigarettes, which I had had for the Russian soldiers, and asked them to leave us alone for a while.
The doctor suggested as my children were better to offer the lower floor as a military hospital, saying I did not wish the civilians so near, they would bring more diseases. He advised me to beg that the Russian hospital be there, giving as reason that I belonged to the Red Cross and would like to work in the hospital, but could not go far. So we decided.
The doctor told me a little of his life. They would have also starved, only a man who had a restaurant begged to feed the doctor and three nurses. At least they had some sort of a dinner every day; but what indignities they suffered upon the street! Our conversation was not a long one, for the soldiers finished their cigarettes and came pounding across the floor. One laid his hand on the doctor's shoulders, and turned him rudely about. "Come then. See what you dirty Russians have done," was the soldier's mode of address, leading the way to the unused part of our house.
The next morning a party of prisoners were sent to clean. Six starving human beings! I told my cook to make soup with a few of our precious potatoes and much macaroni---useless for the children, so heavy and rubbery it was! Taking a lot of cigarettes I went to interview the soldiers on guard. The Russians came about me when they saw "a Sister," but were driven---not gently---back to work.
I asked the soldier, giving him at the same time a. handful of cigarettes, if I were permitted to give the prisoners something to eat? He agreed readily enough, saying he saw no reason why the men should be kept without food, but he could only allow them five minutes to eat, as they were so slow. How could they be anything else so long without food!
I told the prisoners they should have hot soup; the look in their eyes when they heard this! While the soup was cooking I wrote my petition that the military hospital be in my house, giving as grounds my fear that the civilian population would bring not only typhus with them; begging to be allowed to help! How long that soup took to cook! I had a picture before my eyes of those men waiting.
The children already tried to amuse themselves, sitting propped up with cushions, in the deep windows, watching the streams of soldiers, wagons, guns, and wounded. The battle was terrific. A hope sprang up that the Russians would be in for Easter.
Begging the children to stop alone just one moment while the cook carried the pot of soup to the Russian soldiers, I went down with her, to talk to the German on guard.
The cook had a trite reception "Hinaus!" (Get out!) The man was polite enough to me, and called the Russians. I had fetched four dishes and ladled out a portion for each, begging them to eat slowly. One of them spoke softly to me in English; he had been in America! I told him they were to eat slowly and sit on the floor to rest themselves, giving them cigarettes and a box of matches, and turned my attention to the German. At first he only wished to speak of the dirtiness of the prisoners; when I asked "if they were given facilities to be clean." He said, No, but if they wished to be clean they could be. A difficult matter without soap or water, comb or brush! Clothes and linen worn night and day since they were taken captive!
Soon the man got away from the favourite topic of conversation because I asked him if he had a family. He had in Memel---and how pathetic he was on the subject, when speaking of his wife alone there and his small children, but he could not see the point when I told him he should show consideration and help the unfortunate prisoners. For himself and the Germans, he was very sorry; but for the Russians he had only a curse or a kick. He grew so excited talking to me, defending the policy of "frightfulness" that the Russian prisoners had ample time to finish and smoke the cigarettes. They had all eaten too much for starving men. The copper was empty---I had thought they would carry home half in their little tin pails. The soldier who spoke English told me it was the first warm food he had eaten since December when he was taken prisoner at the battle of Warsaw---since then not even hot tea! Sometimes they got chunks of black bread.
We did not get the typhus hospital, but Saturday of Holy Week I was given permission to feed two parties of prisoners daily, a party consisting of twenty-one men. I did not see how it was to be done, but gladly took the permission. As a Sister, I was allowed to help the men, if they were brought to me. Near our house a number of prisoners were to be employed, also cleaning the streets.
Easter was truly a rising from the dead. Wanda girl got up on her feet, white and weak, but the worst was past, and I could once more count one, two, three little heads. We had hoped the Russians would be back for Easter, but instead great reinforcements arrived for the Germans.
The typhus signs protected me from the military, but the rest of the town was overrun.
On Easter afternoon I had two visitors, one of our priests, and a German General who had been quartered in my house. The General said it was very tiresome in Suwalki so he thought he would come to see how we were getting along, if the quarantine was soon to be raised so the good quarters could once more be occupied. The Polish priest and German General spoke of my affairs together, and as a result of my visitors' conversation I wrote my first petition to be allowed to leave Suwalki. With every day life grew more difficult for me. The children were ravenous, and needed delicate, nourishing food, not only potatoes and milk, of which there was not always two quarts, though paid for. Black bread cost enormously, but occasionally was to be had, the Jews demanding as much as three roubles a loaf! This bread could not be given to typhus patients, as much as the children begged for it. Once I saw a soldier on the street eating an orange---biting into it as if an orange was quite ordinary fare in Suwalki---I would have given anything under the sun to get that orange for the children, but had to be glad they were warm and had milk and potatoes. Every day there was the excitement of feeding the two parties of prisoners; once there was nothing but soup made of meal, and a very old and dry ham bone! To make so much soup with one small bone! The prisoners found it good, hot at least. The Jews knew I was feeding prisoners and so brought anything they could get to me, knowing they would be paid---the Germans taking things without the ceremony of paying!
FROM this time I was nearer to the life of the town. Every moment was occupied or I should have gone mad! I knew my husband must have been outside, beyond the trenches, for the Russians were only five and a half miles away. They held Sejny and Kalvarya.
A German soldier came into the kitchen one day. My cook, not understanding what he wanted, begged me to speak with him. He wished to sit awhile and drink tea. I told him he might have tea if he had it himself; we would give him hot water. He wished to talk to some one, and showed me pictures of wife and child. How full of desire for sympathy they always were, but never had any to spare for other people! This soldier told me that in two hours time he was going to the trenches to pump fire on the Russians; told how he could make the liquid fire spring sixty-five feet! How it burned all it touched to cinders, spreading on all sides. I had to listen, fascinated by the horror of it!
The Russians were making tremendous efforts to re-enter Suwalki, the Germans just as great ones to keep them out, for it was the gateway to East Prussia. That word! I tried not to hate anything, but even to hear East Prussia mentioned aroused something akin to that feeling in me. East Prussia was their slogan, the stick to beat the Poles with, to stamp them into the earth! Every woman outraged, if she were not fortunate enough to take her own life, was caged up "for the soldiers." Furniture was carted daily to East Prussia, the woods were cut down, every agricultural implement taken! All for the same reason; what a maw it is that East Prussia! All Poland was to be emptied and carted away, beaten into the bargain, and made to pay such terrible contributions!
The peasants' grain was taken when the Germans first came, no seed grain nor potatoes left, and now the Commandant notified all who had ground, to cultivate it, and that seed grain could be had for twenty-five marks a measure. The use of a horse two marks a day---no matter to whom the horse belonged! After the ground was sown all horses were to be removed by the military. Any one not buying grain and industriously cultivating the land was to be evicted, the military taking possession. Poor people! Those who could scrape the money together somehow, did; but there were many driven away from their bits of ground, the thing they tied to. And thus were forced to join the fast increasing beggar population. The others patiently bought back their own grain, labouring unceasingly with the fear of being driven away ever before their eyes.
A soup kitchen was opened by our committee, ostensibly. True, the town had to get all food somehow; but the law did not lie in our hands. Also from there the food for the wounded was taken,---men with terrible wounds, or typhus, fed on pea soup! Such peas, which if they were cooked a month, were still like little glass marbles rolling about.
One day I had a visitor. Some one whose face was familiar---a Pole and a nobleman. An acquaintance, one of the civil engineers belonging to my husband's department. He had been caught with three other Poles---they were with the retreating army---having left Suwalki too late. His horses naturally were taken, boxes and everything in the wagon; and all this time he had been kept in a cellar on occasional chunks of bread. No wonder he was changed beyond recognition. He said he was so anxious about us he had to come to enquire, though not good for me. He was "suspected" and harried continually,---the man looked on the verge of insanity. The same man who fed the Russian doctor and sisters was feeding him. I insisted on giving him money and what cigarettes still remained,---he was so pitiful an example of what the Prussians' idea of "free" Poland is!
Not long after this I had another visitor, Pan W., a man who stood out before the war as a very rich Pole, a nobleman, who because he was deformed thought he might remain without question on his estates, two very large modern ones near Suwalki. His wife and two daughters were in Warsaw, his two young sons, fourteen and fifteen, with him. Pan W. found his deformity did not protect him; for, when the Kultur träger came, they instantly accused him of having telephonic communication with the Russians and bound the unfortunate man in his own cellar together with his young sons. The military occupied the palace, taking everything out of it for East Prussia. All stock, farm implements, automobiles, all had disappeared, when six weeks afterwards Pan W. and his sons were released from the cellar. He was asked by the commanding officer which he preferred, "German or Russian rule?" Pan W. replied, not daring to answer frankly, that "the Russians had never imprisoned him!" For this answer he was given another month in the cellar! Then they were taken out and driven into Suwalki like animals, literally without a shirt to their backs. This treatment for a man, a nobleman universally respected, a man who had lived a luxurious life before the war. I found some of my husband's shirts, collars, and ties for this poor victim---but had no clothes for him. How glad he was. We drank tea together. I begged him to share our food daily. He could not trust himself to speak of his wife and daughters, but told me of his sons. One had always been very delicate and spent the winters in Switzerland! Now without food except chunks of bread occasionally, and water; after being kept in a dark cellar so many weeks! The two boys were sent to work on a new railroad the Germans were completing. His voice rings in my ears, the pity of it; he told me of his hope that they would be paid something. He refused to take meals he could not pay for at. the restaurant where many officers ate. He had asked the commandant to give him some money, a slight return for the enormous amount of stuff taken from his estate, amounting to much over a hundred thousand roubles. He had not even a paper to show those things had been taken. After great efforts a paper was given him payable by the Russian Government, for automobiles, farm machinery, etc., and twenty marks from the Germans(!) with a paper to sign freeing the Germans from further payment or responsibility, being told if he did not sign he would not get the twenty marks---but it would make no difference to the result!
Poor man! It was a difficult position, but the sounds of battle were near that day, giving him courage. Much the same thing had happened to a priest from an outlying village, one of the first in the path of the enemy. When they came on, the officer in command told the priest to feed his men. and horses; that they would pay their way because the village was a poor one. The officer knew the peasants had brought their grains and fodder to the priest for safety (those Germans knew everything). The priest treated the officers most courteously, let them feed the horses with delight, thinking of the money for his poor parishioners; but, when the soldiers dug up the silver altar vessels and a jewelled cross, he protested. The commanding officer did not stop his men, but instead, gave the priest a paper to sign,---payment in full---four marks! Refusing to sign, the priest was driven in front of the soldiers to Suwalki, tried for resisting and insulting the military, and thrown into prison. Into a room with many others, men and women, mostly Jews! There were too many to lie down. In filth and horror they lived three weeks, two of the women giving birth to children. Finally, the prison was put in order, the priest getting a cell with two other men, one of whom went mad and took his life. After that the priest was released, and allowed to go to the church house to live. I saw him once, and shall not readily forget his martyred face. He had grown to be like a saint of old. More than one priest grew a halo, they were so persecuted.
One day a German priest came walking into our rooms---florid, too well-fed---he was a contrast to the Polish priests. Having seen the children about---they had even been in the garden by this time---he decided to come to make acquaintance with their mother, whom he said he had also seen upon the street feeding the prisoners, giving me to understand in his opinion my energies were misdirected. He also asked me why I wore the Russian Red Cross uniform. I told him for three reasons. First that I was a member of the Red Cross; second, it protected me from the German soldiers who made a practice of insulting every woman; third, I had been ordered to wear it, as the Germans found me in uniform. He, said he would get permission for me to wear "civil" clothing. I thanked him saying it was better, that I was more comfortable in my sister's dress, and I felt it was a comfort to the prisoners. This German priest (how sorry I am not to give his name---it so exactly expresses the man! But even he eventually helped me---so I dare not be ungrateful!) made himself at home in our house. The children loathed him and were dreadfully naughty whenever he showed his face.
I knew he felt incensed at the unfriendly attitude of my little, still weak babies. My cook, too, had a severe strain put upon her religion, for, crossing herself violently, she would say she wished the father would not favour us with so much of his company,---and she never left me alone. After a while, this priest even stopped to meals---I could do nothing---he even followed me about when I was bathing the children and putting them to bed. In fact, he frightened me more than any other of the Germans. Speaking Polish he asked me about everybody and everything. One day telling me because he was refused something by our priest (something which was of course not there to give), he intended moving away from the church house, and having it filled with common soldiers. In order to do this he took for his services the Russian church which had to have the filth dug out of it by the Russian prisoners.
Was it any wonder the town was full of sickness? Hunger and filth went hand in hand. When the prisoners were working in the church after a long, hard morning, driven by blows, kicked on the slightest provocation, as a part of the system, they were led out to sit in front of the church for a noon pause. I say advisedly "noon pause." Dinnertime it was not---for they were given no food! Dropping with fatigue, unhappy, dumb with misery! The townspeople were not allowed near them. Why, only the peculiar mental processes of the Prussian torturer knew! I could see them from the windows in the right wing of my house and to them carried food. I was using my money at a tremendous rate, assured that God would send more when the need came. The look of those men is burned, seared in, upon my mind. That sound of their voices when they saw us coming, for there was no one else but me to help my cook carry the pot of soup; then she left to take care of the children, while I doled out whatever there was to those reaching, trembling hands. I, too, had grown to take the attitude of the people, nothing could melt their captors. It felt like trying to stay death and damnation,---inexorable. All I could do was to feed as many as possible. But now, here in America, the question often occurs to me, what will happen when the inevitable day of reckoning comes to those who gave such orders, who caused such fiendish suffering to come upon those poor, honest, simple-hearted men? Just peasant boys---taken into the army of their own country. Shall they not stretch out trembling hands for mercy---not finding it---lost--
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap!" Why take thought over the outcome?
THE CONDITIONS AMONG THE MILITARY PRISONERS
My children were gradually gaining strength. If they could have had the proper nourishing food their recovery would have been rapid. I lived in the hope of getting away, of going over Sweden to my husband. Every day rising with the thought "perhaps today my petition will be answered!" I was certain before the green was on the trees we should be re-united. Many times I was indifferent about the petition thinking before the answer came, the Russians would be back. The big guns talked to us of our friends in the outer world, every night. From eleven until four in the morning was the usual programme. Well it was that summer was coming for constant cannonading made it necessary to keep the windows ajar, lest they be broken.
One day, our kind friend, the doctor, told me my house was to be a German Hospital. My protectors, the "Tyfus" signs were to be removed, but I should not be molested by the military because the whole house would be under the jurisdiction of the surgeon-in-charge. Also I was given permission to feed the prisoners without molestation. That I owed to the kind doctor.
The hospital was arranged; orderlies sleeping in the rooms just beyond those occupied by us. The furniture was taken, much of it, away from me, for when the signs were gone, the military were free to enter without knocking. Many of them had good taste, knowing an old and valuable piece of furniture when they saw one! Our pictures disappeared. My portrait made the journey into Prussia, the officer who took it asking me if I thought it would arrive safely. The frame had been taken apart---all was packed with extreme, shall I say, efficiency! Those things had ceased to trouble me, they were laid down long ago, but it began to wear on my spirit,---the delay---!
There was little time to think of myself except the long nights with their bursting grenade and thunderous cannon. Very often I did not undress, thinking surely the Germans would be driven out,---over and over that happened.
One day a company of prisoners were passing. just in front of our windows one fell to the ground. Armed with my permission I went out to see what could be done. Not much! Green-yellow, wearing the heaviest fur cap and coat of winter, the man was plainly dying of starvation. The Germans in charge even tried to help me when they saw my permission. One was kind enough to offer me his flask. As I poured a few drops of cognac down the poor prisoner's throat I hoped it would not prolong his suffering. In a state of filth unimaginable, covered with vermin, a skeleton, why should he be kept alive? The other prisoners even told me that it would be better to let him be. When the German soldier on guard saw the man had ceased to breathe, he told me there were some men whom I could help---with frightful boils---they would wait while I attended the sores. Three men, suffering, emaciated, were escorted to my kitchen; they should have had hospital care. The poor creatures instantly begged me for food.
"Little Sister, give us something to eat. We have been kept in the forest, near the trenches, working---there was nothing to eat---many of us died like our comrade!"
My cook did not need to be told what to do; she had the samovar already going, and the usual soup for the prisoners was cooking.
The Germans camped outside the house with their prisoners promising to wait until I had quite finished attending the men. My patients were in such a dreadful state it was difficult to know where to begin. I gave them hot water and soap---their first wash since being taken captive! It was part of the Kultur to keep them dirty. One had insects under the skin of his back. I had still a few of our hospital shirts and drawers, and I told the men to put them on while I got things together to dress the terrible boils. They were like little children in their delight with the clean linen; they looked almost like human beings! Their heads were about the worst---hundreds of men packed together---no attempt at cleanliness---no water---no soap---no combs---! how could it be otherwise? I gave them each a half cupful of soup; they protested at the amount, but after taking a few sips they suffered pain.
It was not pleasant work attending them. Before the war I could not have looked at such things, now--- After cleansing as much as possible their sores, I placed compresses of alcohol and water covered with oiled silk upon them, binding them up. More than the hideous sores were to my eyes the marks of the blows upon the men; the back of one of them was fairly flayed for some misdemeanour. He had been tied to the triangle. Were they men or fiends to do such things? One of the men was without hands. He told how they were lost. When a great company of prisoners came on some where in East Prussia there was no barracks to accommodate them. The men were forced to wait in the bitter cold of January two days, without shelter, with their hands tied behind them. When the barracks were finally ready many were dead---frozen---those still alive were herded under sheds dignified by the name of barracks, the heat of their bodies melting the snow which formed the floor. Many of the men lost hands and feet. Their food was raw potatoes and green tea. And the patience of those prisoners,---even now I cannot think calmly of those men.
After my patients were bound up I returned them to the German soldiers. How their poor comrades stared, imploring like favours for themselves. They had eaten the soup cooked for my other prisoners, those by the church, who that day went hungry, and when it was time for them to pass the house I hid myself knowing what my failure to send food meant. The next day when I carried food to them how they welcomed me. They thought I had been punished for helping them. When they understood why, for there were many Poles, who explained to the Russians why I had failed to come, they said yes, it was right; one of them counting already five times he had been lucky enough to be fed by me! All the prisoners were glad to be detailed to that horrible work for a little food! One day they dug up fourteen Germans who had been buried in our garden, the first time the Germans occupied Suwalki. Buried hurriedly, after eight months to remove them absolutely without consideration for those who were compelled to do the work, or the people who were near, and could not move away! But, of course, we did not exist, therefore could not have eyes or senses offended or sickened; we had no right to feet! I arranged a room where the prisoners, who were my patients, might come, having to stand at the window in sight of the German soldier on guard. They all had the dreadful boils, livid and purple. One of those men fairly haunts me. He was worse than usual. He had been so many months a prisoner that when I spoke to him kindly he wept piteously,---a wreck of a man, broken by hunger and ill-usage. I gave him soup and had just started to iodine his back when his guard took him off . . . ! Can anything ever take the memory of his eyes away from me,---and I never saw him afterwards! That supremely miserable man I was not allowed to help.
Once I heard a German Sister telling a Russian to stop something, and went to see what was happening. The Russian was digging in a horrid heap of hospital refuse, having found a crust of bread. He showed it joyfully to his companions, then started to eat it! The German Sister told him he would die---why did he eat such a thing? I asked her if she could not give him something better; that he really was not anxious to eat such a filthy crust of bread. She hesitated; Sisters have not many rights in a German hospital. An orderly heard us talking, and brought a big dish of soup, thick, with lumps of meat! The prisoner ate it ravenously, and three hours afterwards was dead. One by one they rise up before my eyes, those creatures who had been men---soldiers!
At the back of our house was employed daily a party of eight. The German in charge often came to sit in my kitchen, allowing the prisoners to fetch and carry. One of them, Ivan, was especially afflicted with boils, and so intensely grateful for anything done for him, as indeed they all were. He had been a cabinet-maker and one day brought three toys for the children---Cossacks, cleverly carved. Of course all the Germans wanted them for their children also. This was a good thing for Ivan, bringing him a little favourable notice, and more freedom. Upon one occasion he told me of a plot the prisoners had made to kill one of their own number, a Russian soldier, but neither a Russian nor a Pole, who having swung over to the German side, was put in authority over his fellows, telling on them, continually getting them punished, beaten. The spy was of course well fed, and Ivan told me he spied also upon me, with the help of his co-religionists in the town. That frightened me, but I tried to make them stop planning to kill him. The spy was in authority over them at night, at least he reported their every word. How I loathed his leering humility, pitying the man who had sold himself. There was no preventing the plot from being carried out, short of reporting it to the Germans, which would be a spy's work. After all it was what Ivan had called it,---an execution. The spy had deserted his comrades, causing them untold suffering. How the plan was carried out I do not know, but it succeeded. A success dearly paid for! Every man the spy had reported being "severely punished." When those people who were to enlighten an ignorant world with their Kultur said "severe punishment" it meant those punished were left with their lives, just this side of death---and preferring it a thousand times!
THE CAPTAIN RETURNS
THE time wore on. The Germans made order, commanding all gardens to be cleaned. Prisoners were made to dig up and plant with grass seed the park in the centre of the town. As it was directly in front of our windows I could watch much that happened. As always the planting of the park began when a great battle was on. At such times some extra demonstration of power was invariably made to impress the townspeople with the hopelessness of resistance. We breathed more freely when the big guns sounded near. A ripple of excitement breaking the grey sea of misery surrounding us. I have seen the prisoners stop and listen---one could almost read their thoughts by their attitude---hoping and wondering if their own men would not carry the enemy's trenches. Just between our house and the park lay the road which led to East Prussia. Each time a battle took an unfortunate turn we would see the few remaining stores carried off. Bags of grain, even the stores of provisions in the military shops, furniture, pianos, and people went at such times. Suwalki was absolutely empty, but they always seemed to find something overlooked. The people were left without a pot or a pan to cook food in, if they could get it. The samovars were gone; so there was no longer the comfort of hot water to make tea.
Hope awakened each time the battle drew near, but we paid dearly for it. All sorts of punishments were laid upon the townspeople because they dared to show a little more interest. Then, when we would really rejoice thinking at last the moment had arrived---reinforcements for the Germans would come singing through the town. Pandemonium once more reigned and brutalities were committed. We feared the troops when they sang! Once more the wounded would come pouring in, pitiful remnants of men, and worst of all fresh prisoners! That was the most difficult to bear. Once a Cossack was caught and hung---shot full of holes, and left to hang. This happened more than once, but this instance I saw!
With all their cleverness the Germans were sometimes fooled; for they did not always find out who their prisoners were. Upon one occasion there was a tremendous battle, and four prisoners got away. Three were strong enough to try for the Russian trenches; they had German uniforms. One came to me and I kept him hidden for almost two weeks and many people knew it. I finally got some clothes for him, deciding that at the first opportunity he should be put into the kitchen to work, as a relation of one of my servants. Just the very day I felt it unsafe to wait longer, and put him into the kitchen, where so many people went in and out, the bluff Captain came back. It was a shock.
The Captain had been ill of a fever and spent most of his time in a hospital; later he had gone once more to Augustowo, and now was in Suwalki on sick leave. As he greeted me, he asked if I would take care of him. Naturally I had to. So once more I had the military in my rooms, and the odious orderlies, Max and Fritz. I wondered why God let Max live and took so many of the soldiers who were kind. The Russian soldier (a Pole, twenty years old, a volunteer) was sent to carry some hot water to the Captain, for I felt it was better to be bold, and the Captain said never a word. He was really ill, absolutely unable to digest anything, and drank too much. I made him some gruel, thereby getting a supply of Quaker oats for the children. Noticing something strange about the look of the gruel left on the plate I resolved to find out the next time what it was, and caught the Captain in the act of pouring a half bottle of cognac into his gruel. I told him so long as he was my patient he could not touch alcohol, for I was responsible to the doctor. The Captain was ill, but two days afterwards announced his departure for the trenches. He told me how the drink habit had grown upon him, because the war made him so nervous, the everlasting danger, and the waiting in the trenches. While in my house he received a new decoration, making a brave display upon his uniform. A kind-hearted man was the Captain; verily I believe the brutalities he was forced to countenance made drink his only refuge from his own thoughts. Some time afterwards I was not surprised to learn from his orderly, Fritz, that the Captain had died in delirium tremens; and Fritz, having lost his master, was on his way to the trenches. Max was in the commissary department,---a good one, he, to press the last drop of blood from the people. After keeping the Russian soldier as long as I dared, he went to ask for work on the railroad. If he got paid, is another story. At least he got some sort of food and was treated with more consideration than a military prisoner would have been. But, it was a terrible risk I ran!
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