CHARLES E. RYAN
With an Ambulance during the Franco-German War

 

CHAPTER XXI.

TO THE FRONT.---TURCO AND ZOUAVE ENCAMPMENTS.---SKIRMISHING.---FALSE NEWS.---THE SHAM FIGHT AT NEUVILLE.---RETURN TO THE CITY.

ON the evening of the 24th, our chief reported himself to the General Commandant, and asked for a "Feuille de route," and "Laissez passer," which were freely granted, together with instructions to push on as far as Neuville at once; for no doubt our services would be required there before many hours. Already we could hear the cannon booming in the distance, which satisfied us that this speculation was correct. Early next morning we started with our omnibus and train of waggons, leaving the town by the Faubourg Bannier. Every man carried with him all the portable necessaries, consisting of bandages, chloroform, morphia, lint, tourniquets, and instruments. When we were clear of the town, a good insight into the doings of the French during the past few weeks was permitted us. We saw how they had executed their plan for the fortification of Orleans, and had made an entrenched camp round about it, with ninety-five naval guns manned by the seamen from Cherbourg.

At regular intervals the road was intersected by trenches of great depth and width, running parallel to each other, and extending for miles round the town. They had been driven alike through the woods, the open country, and the vineyards. The cuttings which were thus made in the road had been filled with bundles of twigs and birch tops, packed together and covered with sods, so as to admit of one waggon crossing them.

It surprised me that our horses' feet did not go through; but I remarked that the bundles on the top were made of fine slender maple tops. The sensation experienced when crossing these elastic surfaces was very peculiar. The omnibuses and waggons sprang up and down, and rocked from side to side, as if they had been on india-rubber, until I thought we should be upset; but we were perfectly safe, and the materials proved admirably suited for their purpose. They had, of course, the advantage of being easily removed on the shortest notice. The covering of sods was nothing to speak of, and had by this time resolved itself into a mere crust.

The trenches, however, were not by any means so numerous as the shallow rifle pits and earthworks, which, taking a zigzag course, intersected one another, and seemed to form a network in every direction. It was clear to us that the deep trenches were intended to arrest the progress of artillery and cavalry, while the pits and mounds were for sheltering advancing infantry. All this pointed to the determination of the French to make a resolute stand at Orleans; but we all agreed that we should yet see the Germans making use of those very trenches to defeat the army which had constructed them. And so it turned out.

On our journey we passed through the forest near Orleans, where one portion of the French army had recently encamped. They had cut avenues through the trees, and crossed them again at right angles by others. At each side of these were erected little huts, made of branches set upright in the ground, and interwoven with smaller branches and twigs, while a rough thatch of broom and birch tops covered them. This gave the whole the appearance of an Indian village.

Some of the huts were large and commodious, and if not perfectly strong, made a comfortable shelter against the blast. When inhabited, one could well imagine what a picturesque appearance they must have presented, as seen at night by the blaze of the camp fires. We were told that here had been the quarters of some of the troops from Algiers. The French always kept these wild fellows as much as possible by themselves, and away from the towns, where they are apt to become unmanageable.

Some miles further on, in the middle of an open country, we met an encampment of Zouaves. The ground was all converted into a heavy slush, for it had been raining; and these unlucky men, stationed here during the past four days, were under orders to move on to the front in the morning. As a group of them stood beside a fire near the road, I was struck with their jaded and draggled appearance. Half famished, and up to their ankles in mud, they gave little earnest of the spirit with which they would go into action on the morrow. Numbers of them were moving about, carrying wood and water, while others were cooking their victuals. I felt much amused at the manner in which some of them performed their morning ablutions. Two fellows whom I noticed were kneeling on a board, washing their faces in some dirty water that had lodged in a waggon track. There were Turcos among them;---one a dark, fierce-looking brigand, who stalked up with an old barn-door cock in his hand and a turkey under his arm, jabbering to each of his victims a jargon, which they probably did not understand, though they fluttered and screamed in answer to him. These feathered captives were, no doubt, the result of a visit to some old dame's farmyard; for Turcos never pass through a country without stealing all the poultry and eggs they can lay hands on. Such is the "loot" on which they set value.

Further on, we marched through several hamlets which were almost entirely deserted, as were, indeed, most of the farmhouses. Presently, one of the sentinels at an outpost challenged us, and in half an hour we found ourselves at our destination. Neuville is a tidy village situated on the north-east of Orleans, which can boast its little square and town hall, or Mairie, and presented the clean and neat appearance of which I have so often spoken when describing the hamlets I came upon in my French travels. It lies on the outskirts of the forest of Orleans, and has a small but decent church at one end, and a fine corn market at the other. Its central square now afforded a most lively scene, being covered with tents from which the French soldiery were swarming out; and by their excited manner and,---even for them,---unusual volubility, it was not difficult to guess that some event of the gravest importance was threatening.

We reported ourselves to the Commandant, who looked at our papers, was made aware of our business and destination, and assigned us quarters. This gentleman, who was most courteous and communicative, informed us that there had been a battle on the day previously, in which the Prussians were repulsed, and that, although the engagement had been long and hotly contested, the losses on the French side were trivial; while those of the Germans, if not heavy, were yet not inconsiderable. We also learned that a few small skirmishes had taken place during the early part of the day, and that the cannon which we heard were further up the French lines to our right. The Commandant said that for the wounded at Neuville he had ample provision in his military surgeons; but added that he expected an engagement on the morrow, when our services would probably be useful.

Such appear to have been the facts. Yet, a few days afterwards, the French journals gave a glowing account of an engagement which had taken place on that very day, and in which a large number of Prussians were killed, with the loss of only one Garde Mobile and half a dozen wounded on the French side. Well and good, if the papers had confined themselves to the doings of the 24th, when there was really some brisk fighting, and some cannonading too, as I can testify; for I saw where a bombshell had entered the mayor's house, and, having passed through the roof, had burst inside, knocking in the ceiling of the sitting-room, and riddling the partition walls so that one could see into the adjoining chamber. But all beyond this was exaggeration or fable.

I remarked that many of the houses in Neuville had received the like treatment, and that, here and there, doors, windows, and sashes had been smashed by fragments of shells. Presently, while wending our way through the camp to our quarters, we fell in with a young corporal, who was of English descent on the mother's side. He had known Dr. May in Paris, spoke English fluently, and showed much refinement and intelligence. He told us that, on the day before, some thousand and odd Frenchmen had defeated in a pitched battle four thousand Prussians; but as the French had had fresh reinforcements that morning, they were now on a more equal footing with the enemy, and could muster, at least, three thousand men. About the movements or position of the other side no one seemed to have precise information, which rather astonished us, since they talked so confidently.

When we had put up in a little tavern, situated in a by-lane, and as clean and comfortable as we could expect in time of war, we went out again to see what was going forward. On one side to the north of the village, our friends had constructed rifle pits, mounds, and trenches just as at Orleans, but on a smaller scale.

We directed our steps to the church, and found there several score or so of wounded, the greater number of whom were German. These latter were in charge of a very uncommunicative young surgeon of their own, who, although I have no desire to misjudge him, did not seem to be very deeply concerned about his patients. They were all gravely wounded, and lay on the flags, with but a scanty supply of straw beneath them, having neither blankets nor anything else to cover them, except their overcoats. Many were in a dying condition, their limbs mangled by fragments of shells, or traversed by bullets in some vital part. Two of them assured me that their wounds had not been dressed since they were brought in from the battlefield, and that the bullets were still unextracted; but this may have happened from want of Hospital plant and material. We had, however, the gratification of seeing the few out of that dying multitude who could bear removal, transported to our depot at Orleans; while the rest were left under the charge of their German doctor, let us hope to die in peace.

Some lay in the sanctuary of the church beside the altar; others made use of the steps to support their aching heads; and we noticed others again who were writhing on the ground in the agony of death.

But war had imposed its burden on us, and we took an early rest in order to be fresh for our work next morning. Dr. May was told off to rise at three, and ascertain when we might be expected to be up and moving. The morning came; but no firing had as yet begun, and Dr. May let us lie until seven. When we came down, the village presented a very different aspect from that of yesterday. Not a civilian was to be seen in the streets. A regiment silently drawn up was in the centre of the square. Every man stood in his place, with his hand on his rifle, and ready to begin at a moment's notice. Our forces at this point consisted of a regiment of marine infantry, a couple of regiments of the Line, a few hundred cavalry, and three batteries.

We took our position on the route Impériale, immediately outside the town, from which place one could observe how the forces were disposed, and the relation which we bore to the enemy. There was a forest in front of Neuville, some few thousand yards away from the earthworks, and in and beside this wood the Prussians held their ground. The French infantry were drawn up within and in front, as well as on the left of the town; while the artillery had taken up their position on a small hill to the right, from which they could rake the plain before them, should the Prussians give them battle. In the rear of the artillery, and away from the town, were placed the cavalry.

Now, when I talk of the infantry being drawn up, be it understood that they were not ranged in lines on the open plain, as the uninitiated might suppose,---far from it,---for, positively, on looking over the country, it was hard to make out their presence. The French forces were scattered about in farmyards; behind woods, orchards, and hedges; and close to the houses themselves.

The early part of the morning had been wet, But it was now quite fine; and my reader can imagine with what burning anxiety we kept our eyes on the plain before us, and with a fixed gaze waited for the moment when the familiar rattle at the outposts should declare that hostilities had begun.

Time passed, and no wounded were coming in. Some of us walked about unheeded, observing all we thought of interest. The Prussians were not visible, and we were moving along the road, when we saw the outposts engaged at two different points, as we judged by the smoke and the sounds of musketry.

We now retreated to our lines, feeling sure that this was the commencement of a hot day's work. However, it turned out otherwise; for after a considerable amount of shifting their position on the part of the infantry, and the advancing of a few companies, there was very little firing on either side save that which was kept up between the outposts; and they, in the end, got tired of firing in the air in the direction of one another. I should say, from the distance they were apart, that they might have gone on firing till the day of judgment, and done no execution on their respective enemies. In a little time two companies went forward and exchanged a few volleys with the Prussians, whereupon the latter retired altogether from the scene. Thus ended the battle of the 25th, without a drop of blood being shed or a single man being wounded.

Now, it may appear strange that I should have travelled into the details of so bloodless an engagement; but my reason for doing so is simply this, that a few days later, when perusing one of the French journals, I lighted on a glowing report of three brilliant victories which had been gained at Neuville by the French, on the 24th, 25th, and 26th of November, with all particulars at length.

The comments on the battle of the 24th, as I have said, were exaggerated; but in describing the two days subsequent, my newspaper stated that, after a determined resistance of many hours, the Prussians were completely routed, and had left eighty prisoners in the hands of the French, with a quantity of baggage and waggons. I have given the circumstances of this notable victory of the 25th, and the reader may draw his own conclusion. So much for French journalism, which, to my thinking, was not wholly guiltless of many of the disasters that befel the French arms. The facts I have related speak for themselves; they furnish, however, an example of the mania, which, at this period, seized the French press, and led them persistently to falsify the news from the seat of war. Not only did they strain every effort to blindfold their own people, and screen the truth from them,---which was that they were being hopelessly beaten,---but they did their best to persuade the world that they were winning, and that their ultimate success was certain.

These bare-faced falsehoods, which delayed negotiations, and put off the treaty of peace until the country was exhausted, could be matched only by a story which I heard long afterwards. An acquaintance of ours, who was staying at Tours in 1880, used to relate how his French host was in the habit of saying, when they fell to talking about old times, "Franchement, nous avons vaincu dans cette guerre, mais les gens ne veulent pas le reconnaître ". No, I say, they hardly could!

We returned to Orleans on the night of Saturday, the 26th, and next day, during a leisure half-hour, I wrote home rather a tame account of these glorious French victories.

Wonderful (I used to think), how easy it is to revive by abundant palaver the drooping spirits of the French! Not two months ago they had looked upon their prospects, if not with despair, yet with the most gloomy forebodings; but today, elated by a few slight successes, they were swaggering about the streets, boasting of what France had done in generations past, and of what she would do in the future. It was no uncommon thing to hear them in the cafés talking of the requisitions they would make when they had raised the siege of Paris, and were marching through Germany, about which they knew little more than they did of the interior of China. Nor would it have been safe to hint, at this period, that any Germans would still remain on French territory by that day six weeks.

It was amusing, if also, perhaps, exasperating, to hear them run on in this fashion; for we noncombatants all expected that ere many days we should see the German sentinels again at our Hospital gates. For ourselves, we were still branded by public opinion as Germans, and had nothing to protect us save our calling, and the flag which hung out all through, over our door on the Quai du Châtelet. Hence we were careful how we moved about after nightfall, lest we might come into collision with the soldiery, or such of the townsfolk as might have been disposed to interfere with us.

 

CHAPTER XXII.

BATTLE OF PATAY. --- THE FRENCH RETREAT. ---KNIGHTS TEMPLARS.---THE BATTLE CONTINUED.---ATTACK ON ORLEANS BY THE GERMANS.---BURNING OF THE PONTOON BRIDGE.

TIME went by in the ordinary routine of Hospital work, until the 1st December, when the news of a successful sortie from Paris, made by Trochu and Ducrot, put the whole town into a fever of excitement. Report said that the Army of Paris was already approaching Étampes.

Next day, 2nd December, we heard heavy firing going on all along the lines, so far as we could judge, from Neuville and Chevilly on the right, to Patay on the left. A severe frost had set in during the past fortnight, and there had been a heavy fall of snow during the last few days. The ground was hard, and the air clear, so that the roar of the guns thundered in our ears as if they had been only a few furlongs instead of eight miles away. Of course, it was devoutly held by the Orleaners that Trochu was fighting his way through the Prussian lines, and would be in Orleans to-morrow.

We, however, guessed what the real state of things was. During the last week we had obtained permission from the French authorities to have the old Church of St. Euverte, in the Rue St. Aignan, fitted up as a Hospital, and the Mayor had provided about 300 beds with their bedding. We had been actively employed the past three days in transferring our wounded from D'Allaine's to our new abode; and by the evening of the 3rd all our arrangements were made to receive the wounded. The cooking department was seen to by an energetic Frenchman, M. Bonjour, whose services throughout our stay at Orleans can never be forgotten by us.

Towards the evening of that same day, the firing became fierce and continual; it appeared to come nearer than it had been in the morning. Both sides had heavy guns, eighteen and twenty-four pounders, hard at work. Nor were the mitrailleuses inactive. It was not until long after dark that the cannonading ceased. As may be supposed, no one knew, though every one pretended to know, the result of this long engagement. Some I heard saying that Prince Frederick Charles had been taken prisoner with 20,000 men; while others ventilated equally foolish reports. But ere long convoys of wounded arrived, and we soon had no doubt as to what had happened. The French were evidently getting the worst of it.

Next day, the 4th December, a furious cannonade raged outside the town, making a most terrific din, though still several miles away. It told us that the French were making a determined stand. Early in the morning our Ambulance, minus Tilghman, Mackellar, Hayden and myself, quitted Orleans, and went on to the battlefield. We four were left behind to receive the wounded, as well as to look after those who were already on our hands. I had been under orders to go; but Dr. Warren, who was burning to be in the thick of it, asked me to effect an exchange with him; and I consented to the arrangement, subject to the necessary permission of our chief. My friend had never been among the bullets; and great was his anxiety to receive what Louis Napoleon called in a famous despatch, the "baptism of fire ". As I had a great deal of useful work to do, I was quite willing to stay. After my late experience, curiosity alone, without the call of duty, never would prompt me to go again into a battlefield; but I had had my baptism. As regards the success of this expedition, I may add that, when they arrived on the scene of action, they found the French were fighting in retreat, and there was no possibility of establishing a temporary field Hospital. They had, therefore, to content themselves with bringing home as many of the wounded as they could accommodate in their waggons.

The description which they gave of the slaughter was fearful. The Prussian artillery had raked the French lines through and through before their eyes; and Dr. Warren confessed to me that, short as was the time they had been on the battlefield, he had seen sights so horrible that the recollection of them would haunt him till his dying day.

Long before the return of our comrades, we became aware that the French must be fighting in retreat, by the extended convoys of provision and baggage waggons, that streamed down the Rue Royale and across the Loire. For upwards of ten hours the baggage, provision, and ammunition train of the French army continued to pour across that bridge in unbroken succession. It was a sight to fill one with amazement; one could hardly believe that it was not all a dream.

In the middle of the day, while going to see some of my wounded who were quartered in a neighbouring street, I met a convoy of Prussian prisoners being hurried along by a detachment of marines. They must have been some time in the hands of the French, for they looked thin and worn; and it made my blood boil to see the malignant delight which beamed in the faces of the townsfolk as they scanned these famished and half-frozen wretches passing along.

But an hour later, I witnessed in the Rue Jeanne d'Arc a scene, the novelty of which, to my mind, was without a parallel. Moving down the street towards me at a slow hand-gallop,---almost at a walking pace,---came a troop of African cavalry, from the borders of the Sahara. I don't know that anything had ever excited in me so much curiosity as did the sight of these Spahis; and a more strange and wild-looking collection of men and beasts it would be impossible to conceive. They halted opposite the Cathedral, so that I had ample time to take stock of them. The townspeople displayed as much astonishment as I did, and flocked after them in crowds, just as if they had been the outriders of some great circus.

They were tall, fine-looking men, with bronzed faces, but of various tints, some light, some almost black, some handsome, others square-faced, and, one had almost said, ugly. There were those among them who had well-chiselled features, with dark eyes, and so piercing a look as to give one the idea that they could see right through one. Their outer dress consisted of long-flowing mantles in white flannel, which trailed along the ground when they dismounted, and were fastened over one shoulder, somewhat after the fashion of the Roman toga. This garment, however, had attached to it a hood and a short cape. On their heads I saw what appeared to be a high coil of whitewashed rope, entangled in the hair, which, so far as 1 could judge, they wore long. This coil was looped up about their head-dress like the ordinary turban. The hood, of which I have spoken, was partly drawn up over the turban or coil, just far enough to catch the apex, and the whole appeared as if each man carried on his head a small turret. Add to these details, a lean, ugly, big-boned, square-hipped, straight-shouldered Arab horse, with a wooden frame set on a large pad for a saddle, and having a high piece going up behind, so as to reach half-way up the rider's back. The whole thing looked more like a diminutive chair than a saddle. The girths by which it was secured passed round saddle, horse and all. Wooden shoes came out at each side, with strips of hide for stirrups; there was a strong crupper behind, and blinkers were set on the bridles of untanned leather. It was, I think, the oddest specimen of an equestrian turn-out that ever showed on a European battlefield.

These men are supposed to be about the best riders in the world. As they moved on, I remarked that they all rocked in their saddles in the most curious fashion, and thrust out their toes in tailorlike style. They each carried a musket about the length of one's arm, a brace of pistols, and a sword, which did not look like a sword, it was so much bent. Yet this is their favourite weapon. I could well imagine an enemy being taken aback when he approached these mysterious foes, and beheld their grim dark faces peering through a small loophole at the top of a tower of white flannel. They certainly had more the resemblance of cowled monks than of a troop of cavalry, and might have been introduced by Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe, as Moslem Knights Templars.

When I had seen this curious sight, I went on my way to look after a captain of the Garde Mobile, who was shot through the foot, and a young corporal of the Line, shot through the left lung. The latter was a very bad case, not likely to recover; the ball had descended in the cavity of the chest, and the air which the poor lad was breathing entered and escaped through the perforation. Presently, a boy of about sixteen came in, the friend and companion of the dying corporal. He had but a few minutes to remain, and in this short time he learned from me that his friend's wound was mortal, and that he must now bid him a hasty farewell. The parting scene between them was most touching, for they were attached comrades.

Among the number brought in to-day by our ambulance was one who came under my charge, and whose case was of interest by reason of his tender years. He was a fine lad, only seventeen, and had served in the Garde Mobile. He had been shot through the leg; but the principal cause of his lamentation was not his wound; it was that he had not fired a shot the whole day, nor even so much as got a chance of bowling over a German, though all the while shells and bullets were falling about him like rain, and dealt wholesale destruction on his company. The account which he gave of the fighting outside was terrible; it seemed to have made a deep impression on his imagination, yet did not in the least take from his courage. He told me he had not eaten for twenty-four hours. How, I often said to myself, could soldiers fight, who were habitually suffering from hunger, cold, and fatigue, like these poor fellows?

All this time the ground literally shook from the conflict which was going on outside the town. I think that, as an artillery fight, it was second only to Sedan.

It had been freezing very hard every night, and snow was lying deep on the ground.

If people at home (and there are some who talk much around their comfortable fires about going to war on every paltry provocation) could have seen the waggon-loads of half-frozen wounded which were brought in to us on the night of the 4th, and those again who lay outside the town without assistance, their wounds uncared for, and exposed to the bitterly cold night air, how soon they would change their idle tone! how they would loathe and abominate the very name of war!

I can understand that men find a pleasure in studying the art of fighting, as they do in playing a game of chess; and I have allowed in my own case the fascination which even its horrid reality is capable of exercising over one. But for the man who deems it a pleasure and a glory to use the science of war as a weapon wherewith to annihilate thousands of human beings, for the delusion called "prestige," or in the game of politics, I would have him to know that it is a foul and monstrous thing, full of hideous suffering, cruelty, and injustice, with nothing to redeem it, save the courage whereby such miseries are endured.

However, let me go on with my proper theme. Immediately the darkness set in on the 3rd, the cannonading ceased. This night we snatched but a few hours' sleep; for, at the first dawn of daylight, a repetition of yesterday's performance began with redoubled vigour. From the belfry tower of our church, during the past two days, we had been able to get a fair idea how the battle was going. It commanded a fine view of the country around. But now that the Germans had driven the French back on the outskirts of the town we could see much more of the contest. Early on the 4th we beheld the whole cavalry, numbering about 3000 men, come down the Rue Royale and pass over the bridge on the Quai du Châtelet,---some at a swinging trot, others at a gallop. It was a rare sight, for here were represented men of every regiment in France---Cuirassiers, Lancers, Chasseurs d'Afrique and the rest. This host of armed men and horses, extending as far as the eye could reach (which was certainly half a mile), formed a coup d'oeil not easily forgotten; and the clatter they made on the pavement, during their stampede, was loud enough to have been heard far outside the town.

Towards evening I availed myself of a few minutes' leisure to ascend the church tower and watch the battle, which still continued. The roar of the fighting, which was now going on in the vineyards and entrenchments at the end of the Faubourg Bannier, baffles description. The heavy French marine guns were all going simultaneously, while on each side of the town the infantry also were in close conflict. Quite near us, at the end of our own Faubourg St. Vincent, just where the convent stood in which Miss Pearson and Miss McLoughlin were at work, the fighting seemed heaviest. On some portion of the ground that was not so thickly covered with vineyards, the dead were strewn in heaps, many being the victims of their own mitrailleuses which the Germans had captured, and were now using with more precision and deadly effect than their original possessors. But all this time, the French, though retreating, kept up a continuous and well-directed fire upon the advancing Prussians, whose losses, as we afterwards discovered, were quite as great as those of the vanquished.

This they attributed themselves to the great tact and ability which the French marines displayed in the management of their heavy guns. But for these, indeed, as I have heard the French say, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for them to have covered the retreat of their army.

The sun shone brilliantly that afternoon of the 4th, and the arms and accoutrements of the contending forces were flashing brightly, as they moved about among the vineyards. In the distance we could see in several places the field-artillery galloping along in different directions, wheeling round suddenly, and stopping, when the little puffs of smoke told us their reason for doing so. But these reports were lost in the general tumult of the battle. One or two more repetitions of these little puffs, then a limber-up, and a dash ahead as before in their onward course, only to repeat the same manoeuvres further on; such were the tactics which, as from a box at the theatre, we repeatedly noticed, standing in the belfry of Ste. Euverte.

And here I may mention an incident witnessed by Drs. May and Tilghman. There was a hot contest being waged close to the Hospital, among the double rows of trees on the Boulevard St. Vincent, when, in the midst of the confusion, a young lieutenant of the Line was seen stepping out from a house just beside the church. He had gone but a few paces, when a young girl rushed out after him and took a last embrace, after which he moved quickly out of her sight. But evidently he was not yet out of the mind of the young girl; for she stood as if rooted to the spot, gazing after her lover, heedless of the bullets which were whistling past, and of the storm of the battle raging round her. In another moment, May and Tilghman realised her frightful situation. May sprang over the paling which was between them, but arrived only in time to receive her bleeding and senseless into his arms. A spent bullet had struck her between the angle of the eye and the cheek bone, and had stripped back the soft parts of the side of the face as far as the ear, with a portion of the scalp.

The wound, though not so very dangerous, for the bone of the head was only grazed and not broken,---was, nevertheless, an ugly one. The girl was at once taken into her own house, where May and Tilghman skilfully adjusted the torn portions of the scalp by a neat operation, bestowing on the case every attention in their power. It will doubtless be gratifying to my reader when I tell him that this girl made a splendid recovery. I had the privilege of watching her convalescence in the absence of Dr. May. Nor was she much disfigured; for, in consequence of the prompt treatment, the parts united admirably, leaving an almost imperceptible scar, which was, however, sufficiently well marked to remind her of that romantic, but perilous, moment at Orleans. Love is proverbially blind. In this case, love was blind and deaf too.

I was kept hard at work in the Hospital, and could steal only a moment to observe the stirring scenes which were going on around. Each newcomer brought with him, in addition to his own sad story, a list of harrowing details from the day's battlefield. But things were all going one way. Early in the afternoon, the main body of the French army had fallen back upon the town. The Germans had gained possession of the two principal approaches of the Faubourgs Bannier and St. Vincent, and had already demolished numerous buildings on the outskirts. They did not, however, shell the town itself, as we feared they were on the point of doing; and when night set in, there was a temporary armistice. Both sides, by mutual consent, desisted, on the understanding that the bridges were not to be blown up.

Now it was that the whole French army commenced their hurried march across the Loire, by the pontoon bridge, and the two permanent ones. It was a bright, still, moonlight night, and nothing was to be heard but the trampling of feet, as that mighty host hurried along. I stood at the corner of the Quai du Châtelet and watched them. Some of the regiments, which had happened to lag behind, doubled down the Rue Royale, but they marched over the pontoons at the regulation pace.

Not a word was spoken,---an unusual state of things among Frenchmen,---and all, as they well might, seemed dispirited. Some of the men had no arms; many had lost their képis; and all showed visible signs of having lately seen hard times. Tired, at length, of watching them pass in that unbroken stream, I went to my quarters at No. 64 on the Quai hard by.

I had hardly entered, when my attention was called by the tramp of feet on the pavement outside the open window. On looking out, I beheld what appeared to be the remains of several regiments. Most of them were without arms, and all went limping along, evidently quite foot-sore, while numbers were slightly wounded, to judge from various bandages, which they displayed round their heads, legs, and arms. They looked more like a procession of invalids out for a walk, than soldiers still capable of fighting. The poor fellows were dead beat, and did not so much march as shuffle along, some in a tottering condition, and lagging behind the rest, having evidently done as much as was in their power.

But what was my rage and indignation, when a captain, in the rear, who carried in his hand not a sword, but a thick cane, belaboured with it, again and again, any unfortunate who did not keep up with the rest! One of these poor fellows made a sign to me for something to drink. Swiftly as possible, I seized a large can of water which stood beside the window, and poured it slowly on the footway. Several that were near put their mouths under the little jet, and then began a sort of scramble for what one of them told me he had not tasted during fourteen hours. But their gallant leader, having dealt half a dozen blows at random with his stick among this thirsty crowd, dispersed them, indulging the while in strong language, and gesticulated at me in the most excited manner. However, the frame of mind I was in---to say nothing of my safe position---made me equal to the occasion. I complimented him on the able style in which Monsieur le Maréchal used his bâton; and he slunk away, muttering curses, as he did so, at me and his men.

This piece of excitement over, I went to the pontoon bridge, where the stream of soldiers continued to pour across. Although I had been on duty the previous night and all that day, I could not but stay up to watch this historic and interesting spectacle,---the retreat of 200,000 men, composing the whole Army of the Loire, across that river. It was now nearly eleven o'clock, and they had been passing for hours. But the living current flowed on unceasingly during the night, until the last of the troops were over. When this had been accomplished, then the silence of the frosty scene was broken by the sound of hammers, hatchets, and saws; and the air resounded with the hacking and the chopping of the sappers, who were busily engaged cutting the moorings and the cross planks, while others set fire to the bridge in about a dozen places. Just at the same hour, there was a great tramp and rattle of horses and waggons over the permanent bridge to our right, caused by a number of batteries of artillery, which galloped furiously onwards in headlong career. They were the last of the fugitive army. The battle of Patay had been lost and won.

Now the Loire was much flooded, and the blocks of ice borne down in the current were very large, so that when the different sections of the bridge were cut loose,---and, later on, when they became again subdivided, as well as during the process of freeing themselves,---the grating, groaning, creaking, and crashing of one against the other, and also against the great blocks of ice, was unlike any other sound I ever heard. Moreover, every raft of boats and planks formed the base of a pillar of fire, which brilliantly illuminated the snow-covered slopes, the trees, and the ice-bound banks of the river,-reflecting in the water above and below us, as if in a looking-glass, the arches and the battlements of two of the finest bridges in France, which now stood out, in all their architectural beauty, relieved against the pitchy darkness of the night.

As each of these burning sections of the pontoon became disconnected from its fellow, it turned round on its own axis, and staggered about in the river for a short time, until finally, having arrived in mid stream, it swept down with the current, making a loud grating noise as it struck the ice blocks,---and at last with a tremendous crash was hurled against the mighty granite bulwarks of the bridge. There it either became a total wreck, or, being broken up into fragments, swirled hither and thither till it passed out of view. It was a strange and magnificent spectacle, unequalled by anything I have seen before or since, in the combination of light and dark, the enormous power displayed, and the gigantic ruin upon the waters.

When I was taking a last look at all this before retiring to rest, a number of soldiers came up, intending to cross over; but they found the bridge demolished, and themselves cut off from retreat.

These, I heard afterwards, were some few hundred men, inclusive of the Foreign Legion, who formed the rear guard of the army, and had got lost in the darkness. They neglected to avail themselves of the railway bridge nearest them, which, like that in our neighbourhood, was also, during this night, taken and guarded by the Prussians.

 

CHAPTER XXIII.

FIGHTING IN THE STREETS.---THE TOWN CARRIED BY ASSAULT.---NARROW ESCAPES.---THE RED PRINCE ENTERS WITH HIS WHOLE ARMY.

OVERCOME by fatigue and excitement, I had thrown myself on my bed just as I was, and never stirred until daylight, when Warren awoke me with the news that fighting was going on in the streets. I rubbed my eyes and went to the window, when, to my utter astonishment, I beheld six Prussians confronting about fifteen Frenchmen. They had come upon the latter by surprise round a corner, and the French looked at first as if they were going to fire; but, on seeing a large body of Prussians advancing under cover of the trees, they lowered their rifles, and coolly stacked their arms not twenty paces from my window. The six Germans, meanwhile, quietly stood round them with fixed bayonets. In another minute they were walking off up a by-street as prisoners.

All this came upon a man who had been just awakened rather by surprise; but, when I heard some desultory firing in different parts of the town, I made up my mind that we were to have hot work in the streets. Having performed a hasty toilette, I sallied forth, eager not to lose the sight of what was going on. I had not proceeded many yards up the Quai, when I perceived a body of Prussians stationed near the bridge at the end of the Rue Royale. Seeing these drawn up in battle array, and finding myself the only person on the Quai du Châtelet, I paused for a moment or two, and looked down in the other direction towards the railway bridge. There I beheld a goodly number of Frenchmen, ranged over against the church of St. Aignan at the other extremity of the Quai. Thinking that this looked like business I remarked to Dr. Warren that we were in an awkward position, and had better retire. The words were no sooner out of my mouth, and we had only just stepped back into the hall, when a volley of bullets whizzed along by us in the direction of a French officer, who was galloping across the bridge at that moment. Some of the balls must have gone very close to him, for he ducked his head repeatedly behind his horse's neck and redoubled his speed. Shot after shot went after him until he lay quite flat on his saddle. How he rushed the guard on the bridge was a mystery I could never solve; but that he did escape I can certify.

This was the signal for a general fusillade. The Germans at the end of the Rue Royale, advancing on the bridge, knelt down behind the parapets, so that we could see nothing but the spikes of their helmets and the muzzles of their rifles which glittered in the morning sun. The French answered from behind the trees on the Quai, and from the corners of the by-streets. We now perceived that a company of Prussians were advancing in single file down the Quai towards us, and were entering the houses. This was more than we could stand. So slipping out of No. 64 up the nearest lane, we ran out by the rear into our headquarters at No. 66.

Here we found Dr. Parker, who had just been out in another part of the town, but was very nearly seeing and experiencing more than he had bargained for. In going up a side street off the Rue Bourgogne, he found a sharp cross-fire opened from each end of the street, and as the bullets struck the wall beside him, he had to take refuge in the doorways, in order to escape them. The company of Prussians, to whom I have already referred, were still advancing slowly in our direction; and a brisk return fire was kept up by a small knot of French at the other end.

The manner of the Prussian advance was peculiar. First went four sappers, who in one second broke through each of the doors which did not happen to be open. These carried hatchets, handsaws, jemmies, and crowbars; and it was marvellous how short a time they took to enter, and how they made the timber fly like match-wood. Our gate was thrown open, and in due course a number of men filed in one by one from the next house. Three of them went through the form of searching the place, while the remainder, about a dozen in number, were ordered out, two by two, to kneel on the footway and fire at the enemy. When they had done so, they withdrew until their turn came round again. The house was speedily filled with smoke, for the soldiers crouched close into the wall, and remained almost inside the porch.

The necessity of this proceeding was soon apparent. For in another minute bullets came hitting the wall beside the door, and sent the plaster flying into my eyes, while I was craning my neck round the jamb of the open door to see what was going on. Luckily, they glanced off the flags a couple of feet away from where I stood.

The leaden pipe, which ran down beside the entrance, was now riddled in various places; our old English flag, which hung down over the door from a long pole above the window, was likewise torn; but I have it in my possession yet.

We were at the highest pitch of excitement while all this was going on. Prompted by curiosity, I went upstairs, and looking out from one of the windows, saw standing in the middle of the street, exposed to all the fire, a German Captain of the Line, coolly giving, or rather shouting, his orders to the various non-commissioned officers and soldiers, who lined the walls or manned the doorways above and below us. I expected every moment to see him fall. Amongst the French, who were replying persistently from their position at the end of the Quai, I espied one Zouave in particular, who fired five or six shots at this officer. I felt satisfied that it was at him he aimed, for he singled himself out from his comrades, and crept on his hands and knees to the middle of the roadway, taking a deliberate shot, and we could not perceive that there was any one else in the direct line of his fire. When the Zouave had discharged about the sixth shot, a ball from the Prussians tumbled him over on his back with his legs in the air; but for all that, he was not killed, as he scrambled away with the aid of a companion. A thud and a splutter of the plaster on the wall just beside me, suggested the advisability of curtailing my observations; so I shifted my quarters to the hall below, where I found Dr. Parker giving some of the Prussians a nip of brandy,---in order, as he jocosely remarked, to put a twist in their powder. I knelt down behind one of the men at the doorway, as he was taking aim at the Frenchmen, and looked over the sight to see where his game lay. He fired, and, as he did so, a ball struck the pavement above five yards from where he and I were kneeling.

It was a regular business of sharp-shooting; for a head, or a head and a pair of shoulders, were all we could see of the enemy.

In the midst of the practice great commotion was caused by an old woman appearing on the Quai. For a few seconds firing was suspended; an officer came out into the middle of the street and made signs to her to retire, which the ancient dame speedily did. What she meant by coming out thus, it would be vain to conjecture, unless she was stone deaf. She was clearly no Jeanne d'Arc.

In a short time the French, seeing that they had no hope of making good their retreat across the bridge, ceased firing. A flag of truce went to them from the Mairie, stating that the town had been in possession of the Germans since midnight; and they had better yield. They laid down their arms; and the town of Orleans, as we had all along anticipated, was once more in the hands of the Prussians. It was eight o'clock in the morning of 5th December. An hour passed, and the Prussians came marching in, the bands playing their most lively strains; and we found ourselves among our old acquaintance.

The first step which the invaders took was to get together all their prisoners, numbering 10,000, and shut them up in the Cathedral.

Of course, the minute we were free to do so, we all got off to our work at Ste. Euverte, where we already found many of our old friends awaiting us.

The little Captain Schrenk was there; also the young ecclesiastic of whom I have spoken; and, later on in the day, the giant cuirassier stalked in, gorgeously arrayed in scarlet and gold, and seeking for his hidden cuirass. They shook hands with us over and over again, exhibiting unmistakable satisfaction and pleasure at finding we were still at our posts, and safe and sound. Surgeon-General Von Nussbaum paid us a visit, and complimented us on the manner in which we had stood by their wounded during the French occupation. In fact, congratulations rained down on all sides; and from this time forward the Germans looked upon us as their staunch and trusty friends, giving us notice that in due time our services would be officially remembered. The wounded now began to pour into the town, and our Hospital church was quickly crowded, together with every house in the vicinity.

At eleven A.M. we went to our quarters for breakfast; but hearing that the entry of Prince Frederick Charles's troops had commenced, I snatched a few mouthfuls, and hurried off, to witness the scene from a window in M. Proust's house, No. 12 Rue Royale, with which I was to be more intimately acquainted ere I left Orleans.

The troops entered with bayonets set, flags flying, bands playing, and all the pomp and circumstance which are usual on such occasions, and the air resounded with a storm of military music.

It was noteworthy, indeed, to see that host pass by, consisting of 130,000 as fine-looking men as any country in the world could produce; and what was most astonishing about them was the neatness and cleanliness of their dress, the brightness of their arms and accoutrements, and their general well-dressed appearance, reminding me more of our handful of soldiers at home, as they marched past the Lord Lieutenant in the Phoenix Park on a field day, than of an army that had been fighting all the past week, and had endured the privations and hardships of a six months' campaign.

The sun shone through the frosty air, and, as the mist had now cleared off, the helmets and bayonets of that mighty array flashed and glistened everywhere. While these sturdy, well-built and well-fed fellows passed on, I compared them mentally with the regiments I had seen straggling onward to the bridge. The difference spoke eloquently in favour of that elaborate and admirable scheme of military organisation which had brought them to such a degree of perfection. It also elicited from a British officer who was with me at the time, a remark that, unless we ourselves take up some more comprehensive system of organising our forces, we shall be thrashed by this ambitious race of soldiers the first time we come into conflict with them. Nay, more, it is possible that they might invade and overrun England in a short campaign, should they, ever become as great adepts in the art of war on the high seas as they are on land.

Many of the German officers whom I have met were of opinion that such an enterprise was not beyond the scope of German ambition and German energy. More than once I heard them anticipating that the result of their victorious career would be to bring all the nations of Europe under the wing of their Imperial eagle. And though willing to allow that England would be the last to come in, since without a mighty fleet they could not get at her, yet she too must share the fate of her neighbours. It amused,---perhaps it angered us,---to find these highly intellectual men of the world holding such views, gravely arguing among themselves and with us, that such would be the inevitable result of a united Germany, and that all she wanted to annex Europe, and carry out the ideas of Alexander the First of Russia, was a little time, and a favourable opportunity.

The army of Prince Frederick Charles, now marching through Orleans, was on its road to Blois, and in pursuit of General Chanzy. Turning from this splendid sight, I went back to St. Euverte; and there spent the remainder of that day---and a long day it was---in assisting at the operation-table, and dressing and attending to the wounded who were brought to us in crowds. As we had only accommodation for 250, we were obliged to send out into the houses of the Rue de St. Aignan all who were not seriously wounded; after which we still found it necessary to lay a number of those who were gravely wounded on the floor, with straw under them. These latter were not at all so badly off, when we consider that some half score waggon-loads of men had to remain out in the frost and snow for a whole night and part of the next day, so greatly did the demand exceed the supply of accommodation in Orleans just then. To add to their misfortune---and I am speaking literally of hundreds,---there followed a great scarcity of bread, which was felt chiefly by the civil population, and by those quartered on them. It did not affect the garrison in the least; for their commissariat never failed.

An army entering thus, devours, like a swarm of locusts, in a few hours everything that is eatable in a town, and leaves the inhabitants nothing but what they can supply from their secret stores---which, however, they always manage to reserve. The condition of chronic hunger, from which the inhabitants of Orleans suffered for several weeks at this period, was truly distressing to witness.

By noon on the 6th of December, all was quiet again, the garrison had been billeted in their quarters, the sentries were at their accustomed posts, and everything in Orleans betokened the return of the old orderly régime, to which we had been so long accustomed. There was an entire absence of that wild disorder, and noisy confusion, which had lasted, not for hours but for days, after the French took possession of the town, and which I have endeavoured to describe, but have not adequately depicted in the words at my command. And thus began the second German occupation of Orleans.

 

CHAPTER XXIV.

DESECRATION OF THE CATHEDRAL.---MY FIRST CAPITAL OPERATION.---MORE FIGHTING.---WOUNDED BAVARIANS

SOON after the mayor had issued his parlementaire, all the French prisoners, to the number, as I have said, of 10,000, were marched into the Cathedral, where they were confined until such time as preparations could be made for their transport into Germany.

As the weather was bitterly cold, the prisoners ---it will be remembered that they were French and Catholic---began at once to break up the chairs and benches with which to make fires. These they kindled at the base of the great stone pillars for which the Cathedral is celebrated. Towards evening, as I happened to pass that way, I saw the men and lads warming themselves at these great blazing fires, that lighted up the whole edifice, the roof of which, however, could scarcely be seen through the wreaths of thick smoke that formed a dense cloud overhead. It was an ungodly spectacle, the more so that many of the men sang and joked, while one amused himself at the organ.

I confess the scene was very disagreeable to me. Every now and then one of these fellows would lay hold of a chair, and with one blow shatter it in pieces against the tiles or the nearest pillar, and then cast the fragments into the blaze. There they sat, smoking, eating, and drinking,---what little they could get to eat and drink,--- cursing Bismarck and the Emperor, and rehearsing that oft-told preposterous lie, how universal treachery was the cause of their presence there that night. I stood for some time looking on at a display which, if curious, was still more revolting. The stalls of the Sanctuary, which I had seen a few days previously graced by the canons and other, dignitaries who surrounded Monseigneur Dupanloup, during the pomp and splendour of the Episcopal ceremonies, and at High Mass, were now filled with the vilest of the French soldiery, some of whom lolled about at their leisure and conversed together, while others, overcome by hunger and fatigue, were lying fast asleep all over the church. On the steps of the High Altar fellows were stretched out in deep slumber, and not one appeared to regard the nature of the place in which they were quartered. The lines of fires down each side of the building, the din and the confusion to which this herd of men gave rise, and the manner in which they seemed to be swarming about all parts of the Cathedral, as the light of the fires glanced on them, made an extraordinary combination, and one might have fancied that the age of Gil Blas had returned in the nineteenth century.

For two days the Cathedral was possessed by this motley congregation ; then the prisoners were sent off in batches by train from Orleans, and we were glad to get rid of them. Their destination, as usual, was over the Rhine.

I met one of these convoys on their way to the station. They were marched, or rather driven along, before half a dozen mounted troopers; and when any straggled or fell behind, these put spurs to their chargers and rode in amongst their captives, in some instances trampling them under the horses' feet, and lashing them with their riding whips in the most wanton manner. The sight was enough to make one's blood boil. Had any one told me of such a thing, I should have received his statement with caution, if not with distrust but I relate that of which I was myself an eyewitness. When I had cooled down a little, I consoled myself with the idea that such was the treatment which these very Germans received at the hands of their own officers and under-officers, while going through their training and their drill, as I have already testified from personal observation. They gave the French, therefore, only what they had been treated to themselves.

During the whole of the 6th and 7th, and the intervening night, we were hard at work in the Hospital, the greater part of our time being taken up at the operation table. I may here mention a fact, which is highly interesting to me, viz., that now, by permission of our chief, I performed my first capital operation, in a case of compound comminuted fracture of the bone of the arm, which I had to amputate below the shoulder. Nor were the circumstances of the place in which I went through my task, of a common sort. It was Sunday morning; and the operation table stood in a side chapel, at the foot of the Lady Altar, not many yards from the Shrine of Ste. Euverte. But although one's first impressions might be that such work, on such a spot, was a profanation, yet on second thoughts it will not appear so. The deed, though sanguinary, was not cruel; and where should the wounded find refuge if not under the sacred roof?

On the evening of the 7th, we received intelligence that the Germans had come up with the French army; that fighting had begun; and that a general engagement was expected. Accordingly, Dr. Tilghman, with May and Mackellar, started with a supply of surgical appliances and waggons for bringing the wounded off the field.

I was set down for work at the Hospital, and did not go with them. But Dr. Tilghman subsequently gave me a full account of the whole affair, and described the carnage as very great. The town of Beaugency and the neighbouring villages were literally, crammed with wounded; and they had hardly any one to look after them, and but very little to eat. In fact, so scarce were provisions that many sank from privation alone, aggravated, indeed, by the bitter cold, which just at this time was intense. He mentioned, among other ghastly details, that owing to the hard frost, the bodies of the slain were glued to the ground, while their clothes were so hard and stiff that it was impossible to move the dead from where they lay.

Dr. Tilghman returned on the 10th with his confrères, bringing some waggon-loads of wounded. That the fighting about Beaugency had been severe I could discern from the appearance of all that was left of the Bavarian army, which returned to Orleans about the 14th. Jaded and fatigued, spattered with mud, with their uniforms in some instances torn, and their plumes lost, they trudged sulkily and silently into the town. About 8000 of all ranks had survived of the 30,000 men that left Germany. They, too, like the French, were a contrast to their North German brethren in arms. But, as usual, they had been set in the forefront of the hottest battle; they had everywhere borne the brunt against vastly superior forces; and had in the end conquered, though at the expense of half their numbers. From the beginning of the war this had been the inevitable fate of the Bavarians; they were butchered to make the new German Empire.

In return for these heroic services, the Prussians affected to look down on them; they snubbed them openly; and took pains to hinder rather than to cultivate a friendly feeling between themselves and their Southern allies. I have seen quarrels take place in private houses where Prussians and Bavarians were billeted together, simply because my lords of Brandenburg disdained to share their quarters with King Ludwig's men. Such bickerings went from words to blows, in which the hearty ill-will of both branches of the great Teutonic race to one another became only too visible.

In the week which followed the battle of Beaugency, nothing happened worthy of special record; we were always at work from daylight to dark, and fresh convoys of wounded were brought in daily from that neighbourhood. When one has such an absorbing subject of interest as the routine of an Ambulance, from its very nature, and especially after a severe engagement, the days pass like hours. So it was with us; for, except an occasional few minutes which we spent in listening to the splendid military bands that performed every day in the Place Jeanne d'Arc, we had little to divert our minds from our business. There is, however, a matter of interest connected with the battle of Beaugency that I will ask leave to set down here.

The 11th Prussian infantry regiment, serving under the Red Prince, had suffered severely, and were nearly decimated on the 8th December. Six of these men came under my care. One of them gave me the following history of a most dangerous bullet wound, which he had received through the upper arm. His name was Henry Schroeder, under-officer (Unter-officier) in that regiment, and he spoke French fluently and English intelligibly. He was advancing with his company along the skirts of a wood, in the face of a most murderous fire from the French, and his men were falling on all sides, when he perceived two of these, whom he knew to be rascals, edging away from the rest into the wood, with the clear intent of shirking their duty, and endeavouring to screen themselves from the fire.

He sent a soldier to them with this message, that he would have them shot forthwith, unless they returned to their places. Not many minutes had elapsed, when, in the confusion and heat of a charge, as they were bursting along in the open, he received a bullet from behind which felled him to the earth. A single glance made him aware that these two miscreants were at his back, but were now hard at work against the enemy.

This poor fellow, of whom we shall hear more later on, eventually succumbed, at home in Hamburg, to his wounds. He died with the firm conviction that it was one of these two villains who had shot him, though, of course, no one could prove it against the man.

Just about this time it happened that I got permission from Dr. May to amputate a thigh midway between the hip and the knee. As I was on the point of making the first incision, who should walk up to the operation table but Professor Langenbeck, of Berlin? This great person had come into the Hospital to glance at our surgical work, and to observe the manner in which we treated his Imperial master's subjects. For a moment, the presence of perhaps the greatest military surgeon living, and the father of German field surgery, made me very uncomfortable. However, I regained my self-possession pretty quickly, and was fortunate enough to get through the operation without a hitch or misadventure, receiving at the end a gracious bow, and a "Sehr schön mein Herr," from the old veteran, who diligently smoked a cigar all the while. I need hardly add that my confrères had a great laugh over the incident, and at my sudden exhibition of panic, which they assured me was quite evident.

In our Hospital we made, as far as possible, an equal division of labour, by allowing to each man so many beds. Though I was only an assistant surgeon by promotion, I had practically the position of surgeon and not assistant, having the sole charge of my division, which consisted of all the beds between the pillars and the wall down the middle aisle of the Church, and numbered about thirty-three. It must be remembered that these beds were occupied by none but the gravely wounded, and that we had under our charge numbers of others, placed out in private houses through the town, along with those who were billeted in the houses just outside the Church. These last were under the same management as those in Ste. Euverte itself.

About the 18th December an incident occurred which caused some stir among our circle. Mr. Frederick Wombwell, who had started the previous day for Versailles to bring back medical stores, arrived with the intelligence that Dr. Pratt and Captain Hozier had been arrested in Étampes. It seems that they had met Captain Keith Fraser and the correspondent of the Illustrated London News, as also the correspondent of the Pall Mall Gazelle, on their way to Versailles, and that whole party fraternised and dined together at the hotel. The Prussian Commandant's suspicions were aroused by this convivial meeting of foreigners, and he promptly placed them under arrest. Captain Hozier and Dr. Pratt, after a day's detention, were allowed to return to Orleans; but Captain Fraser and his two companions were sent on to Versailles under a heavy escort of dragoons, at which place they were liberated without delay.

Just about this time, also, there was much excitement caused by the arrival from Kiel of two hundred sailors to man the gunboats on the Loire, which had been captured from the French. These bearded tars were fine, burly fellows, and to judge by their rollicking spirits seemed to enjoy the prospect of the job before them.

Another week elapsed in the old routine, without any stirring events having come to pass, and we found ourselves on the eve of Christmas, but with nothing to remind us of its approach, save the snow, which lay more than a foot deep on the ground, and the intense cold of the weather. It was freezing so hard, both in and out of doors, that the water in the jug and basin of my bedroom became almost a solid mass.

The manner in which we spent Christmas Day may be described in five words,---it was all hard work. Nevertheless, we contrived in the afternoon to have a good dinner, and a little jollification over a blazing fire in our quarters on the Quai. The custom of Midnight Mass, so impressive in Catholic countries, had been this year abrogated by the Bishop's order. And there was no religious service for our wounded, though all had been arranged with a view to it. I ought not to omit the reason, which was hardly, in my judgment, a sound one. The hour fixed for Mass was 7 A. M. It came to pass, however, that when in the morning the old Curé learned that the Protestant Chaplain had been before him, and had preached a sermon to his Protestant brethren from the pulpit, he straightway refused to begin his own service. I confess I was much scandalised at this unreasonable exhibition of bigotry. Under the circumstances, I hold, the Protestant Chaplain only did what it was perfectly right and proper that he should do. And I expressed that opinion pretty strongly to the Sisters of Charity, and the Curé himself, who was referred to me as the only Roman Catholic on the staff.

However, we dressed the Church with holly and ivy, and had a Christmas tree in the middle decorated with ribbons. We likewise gave each man a flannel shirt and a pair of drawers, which were looked upon by them as most appropriate and acceptable Christmas boxes.

Friends have asked me since how much I saw of that famous Bishop Dupanloup, and what was his line of conduct during the German occupation. I can but reply, that I never saw him in the city. All the while he remained shut up in his palace, the greater part of which had been converted into ambulance wards, despite a vehement protest from the cathedral chapter. But their protest did not avail; and when the very churches had to serve as hospitals for the wounded, and accommodation was everywhere less than sufficient, I do not know that even a Bishop's palace could have been exempted from so plain a duty of love and compassion towards the suffering, whether friends or foes.


Chapter Twenty-Five
Table of Contents