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The Letters of a Young American Girl Describing Her Experiences While Driving an
Inspector for the American Fund for French Wounded and Delivering
Hospital Supplies in the Reconquered Portion of France





We left Paris in the truck passing through Compiègne, the headquarters of the French General Staff, and on through woods, fortunately not damaged as the Germans withdrew too quickly after the battle of the Marne. Trenches run through them at intervals, but not until we came out into the little village of Tracy Le Val did we see the real destruction done by the war. That town was the line of defense for two years, and is a mass of ruins, owing to the intermittent artillery fire from both sides. The débris has been cleared from the main highway, and we passed between lines of ruined houses. Trenches zig-zag in every direction: they run through gardens, across the road, under walls, through the cellars, crossing and recrossing-an almost endless web, and an ideal place to get lost in. To avoid this, at every crossing there are wooden signs marking the direction, or rather the name of the trench to which they lead. We saw signs, "Vers Maison Rouge;" and above the remains of a tiny red brick house, "Boyot Prince Ruprecht," leading to a row of dugouts; and the most important "Poste de Secours," marked also by a red cross of cloth on a wooden square. There the French and German trenches were so close together that it was impossible for us to distinguish between them. But when we found a piano in a dugout, twenty-five feet below ground, we decided that that trench at least was German! Everything is being cleaned out of the trenches by the French Engineers and German prisoners; and wooden walks, stoves, bottles, etc., lie neatly piled along the roads.

At the turn of the road are the remains of the village church. The façade still stands, but the side walls and tower have fallen in. At the entrance is a sign, "Please respect these ruins, they were once the House of God."

From Tracy we passed across a small plain covered with trenches, shell holes, barbed wire, and flowers-a tiny no-man's land! In the woods beyond, German prisoners were clearing up the débris they had helped to make. They were dismantling bombproofs, and rolling up barbed wire.

A little farther we passed a cemetery in the woods built by the Germans for their dead. A large chain surrounds a square with rows of white stone crosses, beautifully carved, and a large central monument to the regiment quartered there. Another part is full of wooden crosses, carved and shellacked, some with the date of death as late as March 3, 1917. Each grave has a cross of boxwood, or flowers growing on it.

Almost opposite this cemetery is a group of German officers' bombproof huts: All that we went into had two rooms, and some had three. The central hut of the group had wooden walks leading up to it, with handrails of white birch. The roof was covered with grass and ferns and edged with the same white birch. A little garden with a box hedge and flowers surrounded it, and a sleeping lion carved in stone, a foot high, was over the door. To one side was a small summer house with table and chairs. The furniture had been thrown out and the remains of a beautifully carved mahogany sofa, a desk, and a marble-topped table were scattered on the ground. A charming little round mahogany table was also lying near by with a big upholstered chair. The usual large amount of champagne bottles were very much in evidence!

The Cathedral spires of Noyon were in sight as we left the woods, and soon we were in one of the most talked of towns in France. Here the Germans had mined many houses, we found, but cut the canal dam too soon, thus flooding the mines before they went off; but they cut all the drain pipes, so that chloride

of lime has to be sprinkled every day in the gutters. The wells and pumps are all marked: a blue sign with Eau Potable, Eau bon à boire. (Water, fit to drink) or a red sign, Eau Dangereuse Défense de Boire (Poisoned Water, Drinking forbidden).

We went at once to the Captain in charge of the civilian work. An officer was sent to show us the house which had been assigned to us for our little shop. We had expected to live on the top floor, and had each brought a bed, chair and table; but we stopped at the hotel, hoping to find a room there. The proprietrice told us that she had plenty of rooms, but not a piece of furniture as the Germans had destroyed everything they could not take away. This fitted in nicely for us and we moved our furniture in, after the rooms had been scrubbed from top to bottom. My room has one small window, but there is always plenty of air, as a bomb fell on the back half of the house smashing all the windows and part of the roof, and the Germans have cut holes for stovepipes in the walls.


The picturesqueness of this place impresses one very much. The officers ride in the morning, and to-day General H—, commanding this Army, passed with his aides, and two soldiers in steel helmets followed, with bright uniforms, fine horses, etc.-like the wars of long ago! Long lines of Paris motor-busses, painted gray,wait near the station to get fresh meat for the Army. They have huge letters, "S. V. F." (Service Viand Fraiche), painted on each side. The other evening there was an out-of-door "movie," as it was a church holiday, and the Cathedral Square was crowded with soldiers waiting until it was dark enough to throw on the picture. A camion carries the electrical power and machine, and a screen is put on the side of a house. As soon as darkness comes comic pictures are shown which keep the men in gales of laughter. The color effect was wonderful; the fading light, the dusty blue uniforms, lit up by that of an officer with the traditional red trousers. The same dusky gray of the church, and a sky from which the sunset light was leaving the clouds, obliterating them into a harmonious covering of the selfsame gray-blue-truly the "bleu d'horizon," the wonderful blue of France!

Tuesday afternoon we went into the Cathedral to see the beautiful cloisters. The sacris

tan's wife came out of a crowd at one end of the nave to answer our bell. We asked what was going on, and she said that Monsieur l'Archepretre was expected any minute. He was coming back from Germany where he had been deported in February. We asked her how the Cathedral had fared during the occupation. She told us that the Germans came immediately to her husband, asking for the subterranean passage where the treasure was supposed to be kept. They denied the existence of any such passage. The family, including two children, were put in prison for a week, and the father sent to Germany. One day as she was sweeping the church, an officer entered and told her that if any one was seen in the towers she would be immediately shot. She told him that as she was only a woman he had better keep the keys himself. He was rather astonished, but took them to the Hôtel de Ville. Every so often they would come "treasure hunting." As they retreated, an officer and men came for a last look and ordered her to open all the doors of the sacristy. She took us into the sacristy and went over the scene, as she had done it that day. The room is panelled in oak, and behind one of the panels was the treasure chest. She first opened the door, partly covering that panel, then all the other doors around the room, and came back and stood against the first door. They were in a hurry, and seeing nothing but vestments went out. In the most simple way she told us that she had been given strength and presence of mind by a relic and the Dean's cross which she carried in her pocket. She was so happy, because in a few moments she was to see the Dean, and had the good news to tell him that the treasure, which he thought gone, was still safe.


We took our first trip into the country to-day. From Noyon to Ham the road runs straight, mile after mile, often with barbed wire on each side disappearing in the rye or among the poppies, and a few trenches and gun emplacements under some trees in the fields. Railroads and bridges were all torn up; the beautiful trees on each side of the road were cut, in places where they could be used for camouflage. But the towns were in fairly good condition on that road. We passed signs: "Route Gardé―attention aux Consignes," and "Camions ne doublez pas." At Ham we had the first

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