The advance guard of the American Expeditionary Forces had landed in France, and other detachments were arriving almost daily. They were received by the French with open arms and a big parade as soon as they landed. Flowers were tossed in their path and garlands were flung about them. They were lauded and praised on every hand. On the crest of this wave of enthusiasm they could have swept joyously into battle and never lost their smiles.
But instead of going to the front at once they were billeted in little French villages and introduced to French rain and French mud.
When one discovers that the houses are built of stone, stuck together mainly by this mud of the country, and remembers how many years they have stood, one gets a passing idea of the nature of this mud about which the soldiers have written home so often. It is more like Portland cement than anything else, and it is most penetrative and hard to get rid of; it gets in the hair, down the neck, into the shoes and it sticks. If the soldier wears hip-boots in the trenches he must take them off every little while and empty the mud out of them which somehow manages to get into even hip-boots. It is said that one reason the soldiers were obliged to wear the wrapped leggings was, not that they would keep the water out, but that they would strain the mud and at least keep the feet comparatively clean.
Director of War Work in France
There were sixteen of these camps at this time and probably twelve or thirteen thousand soldiers were already established in them.
There was no great cantonment as at the camps on this side of the water, nor yet a city of tents, as one might have expected. The forming of a camp meant the taking over of all available buildings in the little French peasant villages. The space was measured up by the town mayor and the battalion leader and the proper number of men assigned to each building. In this way a single division covered a territory of about thirty kilometers. This system made a camp of any size available in very short order and also fooled the Huns, who were on the lookout for American camps.
These villages were the usual farming villages, typical of eastern France. They are not like American villages, but a collection of farm yards, the houses huddled together years ago for protection against roving bands of marauders. The farmer, instead of living upon his land, lives in the village, and there he has his barn for his cattle, his manure pile is at his front door, the drainage from it seeps back under the house at will, his chickens and pigs running around the streets.
These houses were built some five or eight hundred years ago, some a thousand or twelve hundred years. One house in the town aroused much curiosity because it was called the "new" house. It looked just like all the others. One who was curious asked why it should have received this appellative and was told because it was the last one that was built--only two hundred and fifty years ago.
There is a narrow hall or court running through these houses which is all that separates the family from the horses and pigs and cows which abide under the same roof.
The whole place smells alike. There is no heat anywhere, save from a fireplace in the kitchen. There is a community bakehouse.
The soldiers were quartered in the barns and outhouses, the officers were quartered in the homes of these French peasants. There were no comforts for either soldier or officer. It rained almost continuously and at night it was cold. No dining-rooms could be provided where the men could eat and they lined up on the street, got their chow and ate it standing in the rain or under whatever cover they could find. Few of them could understand any French, and all the conditions surrounding their presence in France were most trying to them. They were drilled from morning to night. They were covered with mud. The great fight in which they had come to participate was still afar off. No wonder their hearts grew heavy with a great longing for home. Gloom sat upon their faces and depression grew with every passing hour.
Into these villages one after another came the little military side-car with its pioneer Salvationists, investigating conditions and inquiring the greatest immediate need of the men.
All the soldiers were homesick, and wherever the little car stopped the Salvation Army uniform attracted immediate and friendly attention. The boys expressed the liveliest interest in the possibility of the Salvation Army being with them in France. These troops composed the regular army and were old-timers. They showed at once their respect for and their belief in the Salvation Army. One poor fellow, when he saw the uniform, exclaimed: "The Salvation Army! I believe they'll be waiting for us when we get to hell to try and save us!"
It appeared that the pay of the American soldier was so much greater than that of the French soldier that he had too much money at his disposal; and this money was a menace both to him and to the French population. If some means could be provided for transferring the soldier's money home, it would help out in the one direction which was most important at that time.
It will be remembered that the French habit of drinking wine was ever before the American soldier, and with 165 francs a month in his pocket, he became an object of interest to the French tradespeople, who encouraged him to spend his money in drink, and who also raised the price on other commodities to a point where the French population found it made living for them most difficult.
The Salvation Army authorities in New York were all prepared to meet this need. The Organization has one thousand posts throughout the United States commanded by officers who would become responsible to get the soldier's money to his family or relatives in the United States. A simple money-order blank issued in France could be sent to the National Headquarters of the Salvation Army in New York and from there to the officer commanding the corps in any part of the United States, who would deliver the money in person.
In this way the friends and relatives of the soldier in France would be comforted in the knowledge that the Salvation Army was in touch with their boy; and if need existed in the family at home it would be discovered through the visit of the Salvation Army officer in the homeland and immediate steps taken to alleviate it.
Perhaps this has done more than anything else to bring the blessing of parents and relatives upon the organization, for tens of thousands of dollars that would have been spent in gambling and drink have been sent home to widowed mothers and young wives.
This suggestion appealed very strongly to the military general, who said that if the Salvation Army got into operation it could count upon any assistance which he could give it, and if they conducted meetings he would see that his regimental band was instructed to attend these meetings and furnish the music.
Several chaplains, both Protestant and Catholic, expressed themselves as being glad to welcome the Salvation Army among them.
Among the Regular Army officers there was rather a pessimistic attitude. It was in nowise hostile, but rather doubtful.
One general said that he did not see that the Salvation Army could do any good. His idea of the Salvation Army being associated altogether with the slums and men who were down and out. But on the other hand, he said that he did not see that the Salvation Army could do any harm, even if they did not do any good, and as far as he was concerned he was agreeable to their coming in to work in the First Division; and he would so report to General Pershing.
St. Nazaire, the base, was being used for the reception of the troops as they reached the shores of France. Here was a new situation. The men had been cooped up on transports for several days and on their landing at St. Nazaire they were placed in a rest camp with the opportunity to visit the city. Here they were a prey to immoral women and the officer commanding the base was greatly concerned about the matter and eagerly welcomed the idea of having the Salvation Army establish good women in St. Nazaire who would cope with the problem.
The report given to General Pershing resulted in an official authorization permitting the Salvation Army to open their work with the American Expeditionary Forces, and a suggestion that they go at once to the American Training Area and see what they could do to alleviate the terrible epidemic of homesickness that had broken out among the soldiers.
In the meantime, back in New York, the Commander had not been idle. Daily before the throne she had laid the great concerns of her Army, and daily she had been preparing her first little company of workers to go when the need should call.
There was no money as yet, but the Commander was not to be daunted, and so when the report came from over the water, she borrowed from the banks twenty-five thousand dollars.
She called the little company of pioneer workers together in a quiet place before they left and gave them such a charge as would make an angel search his heart. Before the Most High God she called upon them to tell her if any of them had in his or her heart any motive or ambition in going other than to serve the Lord Christ. She looked down into the eyes of the young maidens and bade them put utterly away from them the arts and coquetries of youth, and remember that they were sent forth to help and save and love the souls of men as God loved them; and that self must be forgotten, or their work would be in vain. She commanded them if even at this last hour any faltered or felt himself unfit for the God-given task, that he would tell her even then before it was too late. She begged them to remember that they held in their hands the honor of the Salvation Army, and the glory of Jesus Christ their Saviour as they went out to serve the troops. They were to be living examples of Christ's love, and they were to be willing to lay down their lives if need be for His sake.
There were tears in the eyes of some of those strong men that day as they listened, and the look of exaltation on the faces of the women was like a reflection from above. So must have looked the disciples of old when Jesus gave them the commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel. They were filled with His Spirit, and there was a look of utter joy and self-forgetfulness as they knelt with their leader to pray, in words which carried them all to the very feet of God and laid their lives a willing sacrifice to Him who had done so much for them. Still kneeling, with bowed heads, they sang, and their words were but a prayer. It is a way these wonderful people have of bursting into song upon their knees with their eyes closed and faces illumined by a light of another world, their whole souls in the words they are singing--"singing as unto the Lord!" It reminds one of the days of old when the children of Israel did everything with songs and prayers and rejoicing, and the whole of life was carried on as if in the visible presence of God, instead of utterly ignoring Him as most of us do now.
The song this time was just a few lines of consecration:
"Oh, for a heart whiter than snow!
Saviour Divine, to whom else can I go?
Thou who hast died, loving me so,
Give me a heart that is whiter than snow!"
The dramatic beauty of the scene, the sweet, holy abandonment of that prayer-song with its tender, appealing melody, would have held a throng of thousands in awed wonder. But there was no audience, unless, perchance, the angels gathered around the little company, rejoicing that in this world of sin and war there were these who had so given themselves to God; but from that glory-touched room there presently went forth men and women with the spirit in their hearts that was to thrill like an electric wire every life with which it came in contact, and show the whole world what God can do with lives that are wholly surrendered to Him.
It wtas a bright, sunny afternoon, August 12th, when this first party of American Salvation Army workers set sail for France.
No doubt there was many a smile of contempt from the bystanders as they saw the little group of blue uniforms with the gold-lettered scarlet hatbands, and noticed the four poke bonnets among the number. What did the tambourine lassies know of real warfare? To those who reckoned the Salvation Army in terms of bands on the street corner, and shivering forms guarding Christmas kettles, it must have seemed the utmost audacity for this "play army" to go to the front.
When they arrived at Bordeaux on August 21st they went at once to Paris to be fitted out with French uniforms, as General Pershing had given them all the rank of military privates, and ordered that they should wear the regulation khaki uniforms with the addition of the red Salvation Army shield on the hats, red epaulets, and with skirts for the women.
A cabled message had reached France from the Commander saying that funds to the extent of twenty-five thousand dollars had been arranged for, and would be supplied as needed, and that a party of eleven officers were being dispatched at once. After that matters began to move rapidly.
A portable tent, 25 feet by 100 feet, was purchased and shipped to Demange;--and a touring car was bought with part of the money advanced.
Purchasing an automobile in France is not a matter merely of money. It is a matter for Governmental sanction, long delay, red tape--amazing good luck.
At the start the whole Salvation Army transportation system consisted of this one first huge limousine, heartlessly overdriven and overworked. For many weeks it was Colonel Barker's office and bedroom. It carried all of the Salvation Army workers to and from their stations, hauled all of the supplies on its roof, inside, on its fenders, and later also on a trailer. It ran day and night almost without end, two drivers alternating. It was a sort of super-car, still in the service, to which Salvationists still refer with an affectionate amazement when they consider its terrific accomplishments. It hauled all of the lumber for the first huts and a not uncommon sight was to see it tearing along the road at forty miles an hour, loaded inside and on top with supplies, several passengers clinging to its fenders, and a load of lumber or trunks trailing behind. For a long time Colonel Barker had no home aside from this car. He slept wherever it happened to be for the night--often in it, while still driven. One night he and a Salvation Army officer were lost in a strange woods in the car until four in the morning. They were without lights and there were no real roads.
Later, of course, after long waiting, other trucks were bought and to-day there are about fifty automobiles in this service. Chauffeurs had to be developed out of men who had never driven before. They were even taken from huts and detailed to this work.
In this first touring car Colonel Barker with one of the newly arrived adjutants for driver, started to Demange.
Twenty kilometers outside of Paris the car had a breakdown. The two clambered out and reconnoitered for help. There was nothing for it but to take the car back to Paris. A man was found on the road who was willing to take it in tow, but they had no rope for a tow line. Over in the field by the roadside the sharp eyes of the adjutant discovered some old rusty wire. He pulled it out from the tangle of long grass, and behold it was a part of old barbed-wire entanglements!
In great surprise they followed it up behind the camouflage and found themselves in the old trenches of 1914. They walked in the trenches and entered some of the dugouts where the soldiers had lived in the memorable days of the Marne fight. As they looked a little farther up the hillside they were startled to see great pieces of heavy field artillery, their long barrels sticking out from pits and pointing at them. They went closer to examine, and found the guns were made of wood painted black. The barrels were perfectly made, even to the breech blocks mounted on wheels, the tires of which were made of tin. They were a perfect imitation of a heavy ordnance piece in every detail. Curious, wondering what it could mean, the two explorers looked about them and saw an old Frenchman coming toward them. He proved to be the keeper of the place, and he told them the story. These were the guns that saved Paris in 1914.
The Boche had been coming on twenty kilometers one day, nineteen the next, fourteen the next, and were daily drawing nearer to the great city. They were so confident that they had even announced the day they would sweep through the gates of Paris. The French had no guns heavy enough to stop that mad rush, and so they mounted these guns of wood, cut away the woods all about them and for three hundred meters in front, and waited with their pitifully thin, ill-equipped line to defend the trenches.
Then the German airplanes came and took pictures of them, and returned to their lines to make plans for the next day; but when the pictures were developed and enlarged they saw to their horror that the French had brought heavy guns to their front and were preparing to blow them out of France. They decided to delay their advance and wait until they could bring up artillery heavier than the French had, and while they waited the Germans broke into the French wine cellars and stole the "vin blanche" and "vin rouge." The French call this "light" wine and say it takes the place of water, which is only fit for washing; but it proved to be too heavy for the Germans that day. They drank freely, not even waiting to unseal the bottles of rare old vintage, but knocked the necks off the bottles against the stone walls and drank. They were all drunk and in no condition to conquer France when their artillery came up, and so the wooden French guns and the French wine saved Paris.
When the two men finally arrived in Demange the Military General greeted them gladly and invited them to dine with him.
He had for a cook a famous French chef who provided delicious meals, but for dessert the chef had attempted to make an American apple pie, which was a dismal failure. The colonel said to the general: "Just wait till our Salvation Army women get here and I will see that they make you a pie that is a pie."
The General and the members of his staff said they would remember that promise and hold him to it.
The pleasure which the thought of that pie aroused furnished a suggestion for work later on.
Within two or three days the hut had arrived. The question of a lot upon which to place it was most important. The billeting officers stated that none could be had within the town and insisted that the hut would have to be placed in an inaccessible spot on the outskirts of the town, but Colonel Barker asked the General if he would mind his looking about himself and he readily assented. The indomitable Barker, true to the "never-say-die" slogan of the Salvation Army, went out and found a splendid lot on the main street in the heart of the town, which was being partly used by its owner as a vegetable garden. He quickly secured the services of a French interpreter and struck a bargain with the owner to rent the lot for the sum of sixteen dollars a year, and on his return with the information that this lot had been secured the General was greatly impressed.
A wire had been sent to Paris instructing the men of the party to come down immediately. A couple of tents were secured to provide temporary sleeping accommodation and the men lined up in the chow line with the doughboys at meal-time.
The six Salvationists pulled off their coats at once and went to work, much to the amusement of a few curious soldiers who stood idly watching them.
They discovered right at the start that the building materials which had been sent ahead of them had been dumped on the wrong lot, and the first thing they had to do was to move them all to the proper site. This was no easy task for men who had but recently left office chairs and clerical work. Unaccustomed muscles cried out in protest and weary backs ached and complained, but the men stubbornly marched back and forth carrying big timbers, and attracting not a little attention from soldiers who wondered what in the world the Salvation Army could be up to over in France. Some of them were suspicious. Had they come to try and stuff religion down their throats? If so, they would soon find out their mistake. So, half in belligerence, half in amusement, the soldiers watched their progress. It was a big joke to them, who had come here for serious business and longed to be at it.
Steadily, quietly, the work went on. They laid the timbers and erected the framework of their hut, keeping at it when the rain fell and soaked them to the skin. They were a bit awkward at it at first, perhaps, for it was new work to them, and they had but few tools. The hut was twenty-five feet wide and a hundred feet long. The walls went up presently, and the roof went on. One or two soldiers were getting interested and offered to help a bit; but for the most part they stood apart suspiciously, while the Salvation Army worked cheerily on and finished the building with their own hands.
Colonel Barker meanwhile had gone back to Paris for supplies and to bring the women overland in the automobile, because he was somewhat fearful lest they might be held up if they attempted to go out by train. The idea of women in the camps was so new to our American soldiers, and so distasteful to the French, that they presented quite a problem until their work fully justified their presence.
It got about that some real American girls were coming. The boys began to grow curious. When the big French limousine carrying them arrived in the camp it was greeted by some of the soldiers with the greatest enthusiasm while others looked on in critical silence. But very soon their influence was felt, for a commanding officer stated that his men were more contented and more easily handled since the unprecedented innovation of women in the camp than they had been within the experience of the old Regular Army officers. Profanity practically ceased in the vicinity of the hut and was never indulged in in the presence of the Salvationists.
While the hut was being erected meetings were conducted in the open air which were attended by great throngs, and after every meeting from one to four or five boys asked for the privilege of going into the tent at the back and being prayed with, and many conversions resulted from these first open-air meetings. Boys walked in from other camps from a distance as far away as five miles to attend these meetings and many were converted. The hut was finally completed and equipped and was to be formally opened on Sunday evening.
In the meantime the Y.M.C.A. was getting busy also establishing its work in the camps; therefore, the Salvation Army tried to place their huts in towns where the Y. was not operating, so that they might be able to reach those who had the greatest need of them.
Officers had been appointed to take charge of the Demange hut and immediately further operations in other towns were being arranged.
A Y.M.C.A. hut, however, followed quickly on the heels of the Salvation Army at Demange and the night of the opening of the Salvation Army hut someone came to ask if they would come over to the Y. and help in a meeting. Sure, they would help! So the Staff-Captain took a cornetist and two of the lassies and went over to the Y.M.C.A. hut.
It was early dusk and a crowd was gathered about where a rope ring fenced off the place in which a boxing match had been held the day before, across the road from the hut. The band had been stationed there giving a concert which was just finished, and the men were sitting in a circle on the ground about the ring.
The Salvationists stood at the door of the hut and looked across to the crowd.
"How about holding our meeting over there?" asked the Staff-Captain of the man in charge.
"All right. Hold it wherever you like."
So a few willing hands brought out the piano, and the four Salvationists made their way across to the ring. The soldiers raised a loud cheer and hurrah to see the women stoop and slip under the rope, and a spirit of sympathy seemed to be established at once.
There were a thousand men gathered about and the cornet began where the band had left off, thrilling out between the roar of guns.
Up above were the airplanes throbbing back and forth, and signal lights were flashing. It was a strange place for a meeting. The men gathered closer to see what was going on.
The sound of an old familiar hymn floated out on the evening, bringing a sudden memory of home and days when one was a little boy and went to Sunday school; when there was no war, and no one dreamed that the sons would have to go forth from their own land to fight. A sudden hush stole over the men and they sat enthralled watching the little band of singers in the changing flicker of light and darkness. Women's voices! Young and fresh, too, not old ones. How they thrilled with the sweetness of it:
"Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee,
E'en though it be a cross
That raiseth me."
A cross! Was it possible that God was leading them to Him through all this awfulness? But the thought only hovered above them and hushed their hearts into attention as they gruffly joined their young voices in the melody. Another song followed, and a prayer that seemed to bring the great God right down in their midst and make Him a beloved comrade. They had not got over the wonder of it when a new note sounded on piano and cornet and every voice broke forth in the words:
"When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound
And time shall be no more--"
How soon would that trumpet sound for many of them! Time should be no more! What a startling thought!
Following close upon the song came the sweet voice of a young girl speaking. They looked up in wonder, listening with all their souls. It was like having an angel drop down among them to see her there, and hear her clear, unafraid voice. The first thing that struck them was her intense earnestness, as if she had a message of great moment to bring to them.
Her words searched their hearts and found out the weak places; those fears and misgivings that they had known were there from the beginning, and had been trying hard to hide from themselves because they saw no cure for them. With one clear-cut sentence she tore away all camouflage and set them face to face with the facts. They were in a desperate strait and they knew it. Back there in the States they had known it. Down in the camps they had felt it, and had made various attempts to find something strong and true to help them, but no one had seemed to understand. Even when they went to church there had been so much talk about the "supreme sacrifice" and the glory of dying for one's country, that they had a vague feeling that even the minister did not believe in his religion any more. And so they had whistled and tried to be jolly and forget. They were all in the same boat, and this was a job that had to be done, they couldn't get out of it; best not think about the future! So they had lulled their consciences to sleep. But it was there, back in their minds all the time, a looming big awful question about the hereafter; and when the great guns boomed afar as a few were doing tonight and they thought how soon they might be called to go over the top, they would have been fools not to have recognized it.
But here at last was someone else who understood!
She was telling the old, old story of Jesus and His love, and every man of them as he listened felt it was true. It had been like a vague tale of childhood before; something that one outgrows and smiles at; but now it suddenly seemed so simple, so perfect, so fitted to their desperate need. Just the old story that everybody has sinned, and broken God's law: that God in His love provided a way of escape in the death of His Son Jesus on the Cross, from penalty for sin for all who would accept it; that He gave every one of us free wills; and it was up to us whether we would accept it or not.
There were men in that company who had come from college classes where they had been taught the foolishness of blood atonement, and who had often smiled disdainfully at the Bible; there were boys from cultured, refined homes where Jesus Christ had always been ignored; there were boys who had repudiated the God their mothers trusted in; and there were boys of lower degree whose lips were foul with blasphemy and whose hearts were scarred with sin; but all listened, now, in a new way. It was somehow different over here, with the thunder of artillery in the near distance, the hovering presence of death not far away, the flashing of signal lights, the hum of the airplanes, the whole background of war. The message of the gospel took on a reality it had never worn before. When this simple girl asked if they would not take Jesus tonight as their Saviour, there were many who raised their hands in the darkness and many more hearts were bowed whose owners could not quite bring themselves to raise their hands.
Then a lassie's voice began to sing, all alone:
"I grieved my Lord from day to day,
I scorned His love, so full and free,
And though I wandered far away,
My Mother's prayers have followed me.
I'm coming home, I'm coming home,
To live my wasted life anew,
For Mother's prayers have followed me,
Have followed me, the whole world through.
"O'er desert wild, o'er mountain high,
A wanderer I chose to be---
A wretched soul condemned to die;
Still Mother's prayers have followed me.
"He turned my darkness into light,
This blessed Christ of Calvary;
I'll praise His name both day and night,
That Mother's prayers have followed me!
I'm coming home, I'm coming home---"
Only the last great day will reveal how many hearts echoed those words; but the voices were all husky with emotion as they tried to join in the closing hymn that followed.
There were those who lingered about the speakers and wanted to inquire the way of salvation, and some knelt in a quiet corner and gave themselves to Christ. Over all of them there was a hushed thoughtfulness. When the workers started back to their own hut the crowd went with them, talking eagerly as they went, hovering about wistfully as if here were the first real thing they had found since coming away from home.
Over at the Salvation Army hut another service had been going forward with equal interest, the dedication of the new building. The place was crowded to its utmost capacity, and crowds were standing outside and peering in at the windows. Some of the French people of the neighborhood, women and children and old men, had drifted over, and were listening to the singing in open-eyed wonderment. Among them one of the Salvation Army workers had distributed copies of the French "War Cry" with stories of Christ in their own language, and it began to dawn upon them that these people believed in the same Jesus that was worshipped in their French churches; yet they never had seen services like these. The joyous music thrilled them.
Before they slept that night the majority of the soldiers in that vicinity had lost most of their prejudice against the little band of unselfish workers that had dropped so quietly down into their midst. Word was beginning to filter out from camp to camp that they were a good sort, that they sold their goods at cost and a fellow could even "jawbone" when he was "broke."
Salvation Army huts gave the soldiers "jawbone," this being the soldier's name for credit. No accounts were kept of the amount allowed to each soldier. When a soldier came to the canteen and asked for "jawbone," he was asked how much he had already been allowed. If the amount owed by him already was large, he was cautioned not to go too deeply into his next pay check; but never was a man refused anything within reason. Frequently one hut would have many thousands of francs outstanding by the end of a month. But, although there was no check against them, soldiers always squared their accounts at pay-day and very little indeed was lost.
One man came in and threw 300 francs on the counter, saying: "I owe you 285 francs. Put the change in the coffee fund."
One Salvation Army Ensign frequently loaned sums of money out of his own pocket to soldiers, asking that, when they were in a position to return it, they hand it in to any Salvation Army hut, saying that it was for him. He says that he has never lost by doing this.
One day as he was driving from Havre to Paris he met six American soldiers whose big truck had broken down. They asked him where there was a Salvation Army hut; but there was none in that particular section. They had no food, no money, and no place to sleep. He handed them seventy francs and told them to leave it at any Salvation Army hut for him when they were able. Five months passed and then the money was turned in to a Salvation Army hut and forwarded to him. With it was a note stating that the men had been with the French troops and had not been able to reach a Salvation Army establishment. They were very grateful for the trust reposed in them by the Salvationist. Undoubtedly there are many such instances.
The Salvation Army officer who with his wife was put in charge of the hut at Demange, soon became one of the most popular men in camp. His generous spirit, no less than his rough-and-ready good nature, manful, soldier-like disposition, coupled with a sturdy self-respect and a ready humor, made him blood brother to those hard-bitten old regulars and National Guardsmen of the first American Expeditionary Force.
The Salvation Army quickly became popular. Meetings were held almost every night at that time with an average attendance of not less than five hundred. Meetings as a rule were confined to wonderful song services and brief, snappy talks. At first there were very few conversions, but there have been more since the great drives in which the Americans have taken so large a share. The Masons, the Moose and a Jewish fraternity used the hut for fraternal gatherings. Catholic priests held mass in it upon various occasions. The school for officers and the school for "non-coms" met in it. The band practiced in it every morning. Because of its popularity among the men it was known among the officers as "the soldiers' hut." General Duncan once addressed his staff officers in it upon some important matters.
It rained every day for three months. The hut was on rather low ground and in back of it ran the river, considerably swollen by the rains. One night the river rose suddenly, carried away one tent and flooded the other two and the hut. The Salvation Army men spent a wild, wet, sleepless night trying to salvage their scanty personal belongings and their stock of supplies. When the river retreated it left the hut floor covered with slimy black mud which the two men had to shovel out. This was a back-breaking task occupying the better part of two days.
The first snow fell on the bitterest night of the year. It was preceded by the rain and was damp and heavy. The soldiers suffered terribly, especially the men on guard duty who had perforce to endure the full blast of the storm. During the earlier hours of the night the girls served all comers with steaming coffee and filled the canteens of the men on guard (free). When they saw how severe the night would be they remained up to keep a supply of coffee ready for the Salvation Army men who went the rounds through the storm every half hour, serving the sentries with the warming fluid.
That first Expeditionary Force wanted for many things, and endured hardships unthought of by troops arriving later, after the war industries at home had swung into full production. It was almost impossible to secure stoves, and firewood was scarce. For every load that went to the Salvation Army Hut, men of the American Expeditionary Force had to do without, and yet wood was always supplied to the Salvationists (it could not be bought).
At St. Joire, the wood pile had entirely given out and it looked as if there was to be no heat at the Salvation Army hut that night. The sergeant promised them half a load, but the wood wagon lost a wheel about a hundred yards out of town.
"Never mind," said the sergeant to the girls, "the boys will see that you get some to-night."
So he requested every man going up to the Salvation Army hut that evening to carry a stick of wood with him ("a stick" may weigh anywhere from 10 to 100 pounds). By eight o'clock there was over a wagon load and a half stacked in back of the hut.
Two small stoves cast circles of heat in the big hut at Demange. Around them the men crowded with their wet garments steaming so profusely that the hut often took on the appearance of a steam-room in a Turkish bath. The rest of the hut was cold; but compared to the weather outside, it was heaven-like. For all of its size, the hut was frail, and the winter wind blew coldly through its many cracks; but compared with the soldier's billets, it was a cozy palace. The Salvationists spent hours each week sitting on the roof in the driving rain patching leaks with tar-paper and tacks.
The life was a hard one for the girls. They nearly froze during the days, and at nights they usually shivered themselves to sleep, only sleeping when sheer exhaustion overcame them. There were no baths at all. The experience was most trying for women and only the spirit of the great enterprise in which they were engaged carried them through the winter. Even soldiers were at times seen weeping with cold and misery.
One night the gasoline tank which supplied light to the hut exploded and set the place on fire. A whole regiment turned out of their blankets to put out the blaze. This meant more hours for those in charge repairing the roof in the snow. They also had to cut all of the wood for the hut. Later details were supplied to every hut by the military authorities to cut wood, sweep and clean up, carry water, etc. Soldiers used the hut for a mess hall. There was no other place where they could eat with any degree of comfort.
By this time the fact that the Salvation Army was established at Demange was becoming known throughout the division.
One of the towns where there had been no arrangements made for welfare workers at all was Montiers-sur-Saulx, where the First Ammunition Train was established, and here the officer temporarily commanding the ammunition train gave a most hearty welcome to the Salvation Army.
Two large circus tents had been sent on from New York and one of these was to be erected until a wooden building could be secured.
The touring car went back to Demange, picked up a Staff-Captain, a Captain, five white tents, the largest one thirty by sixty feet, the others smaller, carried them across the country and dropped them down at the roadside of the public square in Montiers.
There stood the Salvationists in the road wondering what to do next.
Then a hearty voice called out: "Are you locating with us?" and the military officer of the day advanced to meet them with a hand-shake and many expressions of his appreciation of the Salvation Army.
"We are going to stay here if you will have us," said the Staff-Captain.
"Have you! Well, I should say we would have you! Wait a minute and I'll have a detail put your baggage under cover for the night. Then we'll see about dinner and a billet."
Thus auspiciously did the work open in Montiers.
In a few minutes they were taken to a French café and a comfortable place found for them to spend the night.
Soon after the rising of the sun the next morning they were up and about hunting a place for the tents which were to serve for a recreation centre for the boys. The American Major in charge of the town personally assisted them to find a good location, and offered his aid in any way needed.
Before nightfall the five white tents were up, standing straight and true with military precision, and the two officers with just pride in their hard day's work, and a secret assurance that it would stand the hearty approval of the commanding officer whom they had not as yet met, went off to their suppers, for which they had a more than usually hearty appetite.
Suddenly the door of the dining-room swung open and a gruff voice demanded: "Who put up those tents?" The Salvation Army Staff-Captain stood forth saluting respectfully and responded: "I, sir." "Well," said the Colonel, "they look mighty fine up on that hill--mighty fine! Splendid location for them--splendid! But the enemy can spot them for a hundred miles, so I expect you had better get them down or camouflage them with green boughs and paint by tomorrow night at the latest. Good evening to you, sir!"
The Staff-Captain and his helper suddenly lost their fine appetites and felt very tired. Camouflage! How did they do that at a moment's notice? They left their unfinished dinner and hurried out in search of help.
The first soldier the Staff-Captain questioned reassured him.
"Aw, that's dead easy! Go over the hill into the woods and cut some branches, enough to cover your tents; or easier yet, get some green and yellow paint and splash over them. The worse they look the better they are!"
So the weary workers hunted the town over for paint, and found only enough for the big tent, upon which they worked hard all the next morning. Then they had to go to the woods for branches for the rest. Scratched and bleeding and streaked with perspiration and dirt, they finished their work at last, and the white tents had disappeared into the green and the yellow and the brown of the hillside. Their beautiful military whiteness was gone, but they were hidden safe from the enemy and the work might now go forward.
Then the girls arrived and things began to look a bit more cheerful.
"But where is the cook stove?" asked one of the lassies after they had set up their two folding cots in one of the smaller tents and made themselves at home.
Dismay descended upon the face of the weary Staff-Captain.
"Why," he answered apologetically, "we forgot all about that!" and he hurried out to find a stove.
A thorough search of the surrounding country, however, disclosed the fact that there was not a stove nor a field range to be had--no, not even from the commissary. There was nothing for it but to set to work and contrive a fireplace out of field stone and clay, with a bit of sheet iron for a roof, and two or three lengths of old sewer pipe carefully wired together for a stovepipe. It took days of hard work, and it smoked woefully except when the wind was exactly west, but the girls made fudge enough on it for the entire personnel of the Ammunition train to celebrate when it was finished.
When the girls first arrived in Montiers the Salvation Army Staff-Captain was rather at a loss to know what to do with them until the hut was built. They were invited to chow with the soldiers, and to eat in an old French barn used as a kitchen, in front of which the men lined up at the open doorways for mess. It was a very dirty barn indeed, with heavy cobwebs hanging in weird festoons from the ceiling and straw and manure all over the floor; quite too barnlike for a dining-hall for delicately reared women. The Staff-Captain hesitated about bringing them there, but the Mess-Sergeant offered to clean up a corner for them and give them a comfortable table.
"I don't know about bringing my girls in here with the men," said the Staff-Captain still hesitating. "You know the men are pretty rough in their talk, and they're always cussing!"
"Leave that to me!" said the Mess-Sergeant. "It'll be all right!"
There was an old dirty French wagon in the barnyard where they kept the bread. It was not an inviting prospect and the Staff-Captain looked about him dubiously and went away with many misgivings, but there seemed to be nothing else to be done.
The boys did their best to fix things up nicely. When meal time arrived and the girls appeared they found their table neatly spread with a dish towel for a tablecloth. It purported to be clean, but there are degrees of cleanliness in the army and there might have been a difference of opinion. However, the girls realized that there had been a strenuous attempt to do honor to them and they sat down on the coffee kegs that had been provided en lieu of chairs with smiling appreciation.
The Staff-Captain's anxiety began to relax as he noticed the quiet respectful attitude of the men when they passed by the doorway and looked eagerly over at the corner where the girls were sitting. It was great to have American women sitting down to dinner with them, as it were. Not a "cuss word" broke the harmony of the occasion. The best cuts of meat, the largest pieces of pie, were given to the girls, and everybody united to make them feel how welcome they were.
Then into the midst of the pleasant scene there entered one who had been away for a few hours and had not yet been made acquainted with the new order of things at chow; and he entered with an oath upon his lips.
He was a great big fellow, but the strong arm of the Mess-Sergeant flashed out from the shoulder instantly, the sturdy fist of the Mess-Sergeant was planted most unexpectedly in the newcomer's face, and he found himself sprawling on the other side of the road with all his comrades glaring at him in silent wrath. That was the beginning of a new order of things at the mess.
The Colonel in charge of the regiment had gone away, and the commanding Major, wishing to make things pleasant for the Salvationists, sent for the Staff-Captain and invited them all to his mess at the chateau; telling him that if he needed anything at any time, horses or supplies, or anything in his power to give, to let him know at once and it should be supplied.
The Staff-Captain thanked him, but told him that he thought they would stay with the boys.
The boys, of course, heard of this and the Salvation Army people had another bond between them and the soldiers. The boys felt that the Salvationists were their very own. Nothing could have more endeared them to the boys than to share their life and hardships.
The Salvation Army had not been with the soldiers many hours before they discovered that the disease of homesickness which they had been sent to succor was growing more and more malignant and spreading fast.
The training under French officers was very severe. Trench feet with all its attendant suffering was added to the other discomforts. Was it any wonder that homesickness seized hold of every soldier there?
It had been raining steadily for thirty-six days, making swamps and pools everywhere. Depression like a great heavy blanket hung over the whole area.
The Salvation Army lassies at Montiers were in consultation. Their supplies were all gone, and the state of the roads on account of the rain was such that all transportation was held up. They had been waiting, hoping against hope, that a new load of supplies would arrive, but there seemed no immediate promise of that.
"We ought to have something more than just chocolate to sell to the soldiers, anyway," declared one lassie, who was a wonderful cook, looking across the big tent to the drooping shoulders and discouraged faces of the boys who were hovering about the Victrola, trying to extract a little comfort from the records. "We ought to be able to give them some real home cooking!"
They all agreed to this, but the difficulties in the way were great. Flour was obtainable only in small quantities. Now and then they could get a sack of flour or a bag of sugar, but not often. Lard also was a scarce article. Besides, there were no stoves, and no equipment had as yet been issued for ovens. All about them were apple orchards and they might have baked some pies if there had been ovens, but at present that was out of the question. After a long discussion one of the girls suggested doughnuts, and even that had its difficulties, although it really was the only thing possible at the time. For one thing they had no rolling-pin and no cake-cutter in the outfit. Nevertheless, they bravely went to work. The little tent intended for such things had blown down, so the lassie had to stand out in the rain to prepare the dough.
The first doughnuts were patted out, until someone found an empty grape-juice bottle and used that for a rolling-pin. As they had no cutter they used a knife, and twisted them, making them in shape like a cruller. They were cooked over a wood fire that had to be continually stuffed with fuel to keep the fat hot enough to fry. The pan they used was only large enough to cook seven at once, but that first day they made one hundred and fifty big fat sugary doughnuts, and when the luscious fragrance began to float out on the air and word went forth that they had real "honest-to-goodness" home doughnuts at the Salvation Army hut, the line formed away out into the road and stood patiently for hours in the rain waiting for a taste of the dainties. As there were eight hundred men in the outfit and only a hundred and fifty doughnuts that first day, naturally a good many were disappointed, but those who got them were appreciative. One boy as he took the first sugary bite exclaimed: "Gee! If this is war, let it continue!"
The next day the girls managed to make three hundred, but one of them was not satisfied with a doughnut that had no hole in it, and while she worked she thought, until a bright idea came to her. The top of the baking-powder can! Of course! Why hadn't they thought of that before? But how could they get the hole? There seemed nothing just right to cut it. Then, the very next morning the inside tube to the coffee percolator that somebody had brought along came loose, and the lassie stood in triumph with it in her hand, calling to them all to see what a wonderful hole it would make in the doughnut. And so the doughnut came into its own, hole and all.
That was at Montiers, the home of the doughnut.
One of the older Salvation Army workers remarked jocularly that the Salvation Army had to go to France and get linked up with the doughnut before America recognized it; but it was the same old Salvation Army and the same old doughnut that it had always been. He averred that it wasn't the doughnut at all that made the Salvation Army famous, but the wonderful girls that the Salvation Army brought over there; the girls that lay awake at night after a long hard day's work scheming to make the way of the doughboy easier; scheming how to take the cold out of the snow and the wet out of the rain and the stickiness out of the mud. The girls that prayed over the doughnuts, and then got the maximum of grace out of the minimum of grease.
The young Adjutant lassie who fried the first doughnut in France says that invariably the boys would begin to talk about home and mother while they were eating the doughnuts. Through the hole in the doughnut they seemed to see their mother's face, and as the doughnut disappeared it grew bigger and clearer.
The young Ensign lassie who had originated and made the first doughnut in France contrived to make many pies on a very tiny French stove with an oven only large enough to hold two pies at a time. Meanwhile, frying doughnuts on the top of the stove.
It wasn't long before the record for the doughnut makers had been brought up to five thousand a day, and some of the unresting workers developed "doughnut wrist" from sticking to the job too long at a time.
It was the original thought that pie would be the greatest attraction, but it was difficult to secure stoves with ovens adequate for baking pies, and after the ensign's experiment with doughnuts it was found that they could more easily be made and were quite as acceptable to the American boy.
Meantime, the pie was coming into its own, back in Demange also.
It was only a little stove, and only room to bake one pie at a time, but it was a savory smell that floated out on the air, and it was a long line of hungry soldiers that hurried for their mess kits and stood hours waiting for more pies to bake; and the fame of the Salvation Army began to spread far and wide. Then one day the "Stars and Stripes," the organ of the American Army, printed the following poem about the lassie who labored so far forward that she had to wear a tin hat:
"Home is where the heart is"--
Thus the poet sang;
But "home is where the pie is"
For the doughboy gang!
Crullers in the craters,
Pastry in abris--
This Salvation Army lass
Sure knows how to please!
Tin hat for a halo!
Ah! She wears it well!
Making pies for homesick lads
Sure is "beating hell!"
In a region blasted
By fire and flame and sword,
This Salvation Army lass
Battles for the Lord!
Call me sacrilegious
And irreverent, too;
Pies? They link us up with home
As naught else can do!
"Home is, where the heart is"--
True, the poet sang;
But "home is where the pie is"--
To the Yankee gang!
It was no easy task to open up a chain of huts, for there was an amazing variety of details to be attended to, any one of which might delay the work. A hundred and one unexpected situations would develop during the course of a single day which must be dealt with quickly and intelligently. The fact that the Salvation Army section of the American Expeditionary Force is militarized and strictly accountable for all of its action to the United States military authorities is complicated in many places by the further fact that the French civil and military authorities must also be taken into consideration and consulted at every step. Nevertheless, in spite of all difficulties the work went steadily forward. The patient officers who were seeing to all these details worked almost night and day to place the huts and workers where they would do the most good to the greatest number; and steadily the Salvation Army grew in favor with the soldiers.
It was extremely difficult to obtain materials for the erection of huts-- in many cases almost impossible. Once when Colonel Barker found troops moving, he discovered the village for which they were bound, rushed ahead in his automobile, and commandeered an old French barracks which would otherwise have been occupied by the American soldiers. When the soldiers arrived they were overjoyed to find the Salvation Army awaiting them with hot food. They were soaked through by the rain, and never was hot coffee more welcome. There was a little argument about the commandeered barracks. It was to have been used as headquarters, but when the commanding officer went out into the rain and saw for himself what service it was performing for his men, and how overjoyed they were by the entertainment he said: "We'll leave it to the men, whether they will be billeted here or let the Salvation Army have the place." The men with one accord voted to give it to the Salvation Army.
In one town, after an animated discussion with a crowd of enlisted men, a sergeant came to the Salvation Army Major as he worked away with his hammer putting up a hut and said: "Captain, would it make you mad if we offered our services to help?"
After that the work went on in record time. In less than a week the hut was finished and ready for business. Two self-appointed details of soldiers from the regulars employed all their spare time in a friendly rivalry to see which could accomplish the most work. When it was dedicated the popularity of the hut was well assured. Later, in another location, a hut 125 feet by 27 feet was put up with the assistance of soldiers in six hours and twenty minutes.
More men and women had arrived from America, and the work began to assume business-like proportions. There were huts scattered all through the American training area.
As other huts were established the making of pies and doughnuts became a regular part of the daily routine of the hut. It was found that a canteen where candy and articles needed by the soldiers could be obtained at moderate prices would fill a very pressing need and this was made a part of their regular operation.
The purchase of an adequate quantity of supplies was a great problem. It was necessary to make frequent trips to Paris, to establish connections with supply houses there, and to attend to the shipping of the supplies out to the camps. At first it was impossible to purchase any quantity of supplies from any house. The demand for everything was so great that wholesale dealers were most independent. Three hundred dollars' worth of supplies was the most that could be purchased from any one house, but in course of time, confidence and friendly relations being established, it became possible to purchase as much as ten thousand dollars' worth at one time from one dealer.
The first twenty-five thousand dollars, of course, was soon gone, but another fifty thousand dollars arrived from Headquarters in New York, and after a little while another fifty thousand; which hundred thousand dollars was loaned by General Bramwell Booth from the International Treasury. The money was not only borrowed, but the Commander had promised to pay it back in twelve months (which guarantee it is pleasant to state was made good long before the promised time), for the Commander had said: "It is only a question of our getting to work in France, and the American public will see that we have all the money we want."
So it has proved.
In the meantime another hut was established at Houdelainecourt.
The American boys were drilling from early morning until dark; the weather was wet and cold; the roads were seas of mud and the German planes came over the valleys almost nightly to seek out the position of the American troops and occasionally to drop bombs. It was necessary that all tents should be camouflaged, windows darkened so that lights would not show at night, and every means used to keep the fact of the Americans' presence from the German observers and spies.
Another party of Salvation Army officers, men and women, arrived from New York on September 23rd, and these were quickly sent out to Demange which for the time being was used as the general base of supplies, but later a house was secured at Ligny-en-Barrios, and this was for many months the Headquarters.
One interesting incident occurred here in connection with this house. One of its greatest attractions had been that it was one of the few houses containing a bathroom, but when the new tenants arrived they found that the anticipated bathtub had been taken out with all its fittings and carefully stowed away in the cellar. It was too precious for the common use of tenants.
All Salvation Army graduates from the training school have a Red Cross diploma, and many are experienced nurses.
A Salvation Army woman Envoy sailed for France with a party of Salvationists about the time that the epidemic of influenza broke out all over the world. Even before the steamer reached the quarantine station in New York harbor a number of cases of Spanish influenza had developed among the several companies of soldiers who were aboard, a number of whom were removed from the ship. So anxious were others of these American fighting men to reach Prance that they hid away until the steamer had left port.
Land was hardly out of sight before more cases of the disease were reported--so many, in fact, that special hospital accommodations had to be immediately arranged. The ship's captain after consulting with the American military officers, requested the Salvation Army Envoy to take entire responsibility for the hospital, which responsibility, after some hesitation, she accepted. Under her were two nurses, three dieticians (Y.M.C.A. and Red Cross), a medical corps sergeant (U.S.A.), and twenty-four orderlies. She took charge on the fourth day of a thirteen day voyage, working in the sick bay from 12 noon to 8 P.M., and from 12 midnight to 8 A.M. every day. She had with her a mandolin and a guitar with which, in addition to her sixteen hours of duty in the sick bay, she every day spent some time (usually an hour or two) on deck singing and playing for the soldiers who were much depressed by the epidemic. To them she was a very angel of good cheer and comfort.
Many amusing incidents occurred on the voyage.
Stormy weather had added to the discomforts of the trip and most of the passengers suffered from seasickness during the greater part of the voyage.
On board there was also a woman of middle age who could not be persuaded to keep her cabin porthole closed at night. Again and again a ray of light was projected through it upon the surface of the water and the quarter-master, whose duty it was to see that no lights were shown, was at his wit's end. His difficulty was the greater because he could speak no English, and she no French. Finally, a passenger took pity on the man, and, as the light was really a grave danger to the ship's safety, promised to speak to the woman, who insisted that she was not afraid of submarines and that it was foolish to think they could see her light.
"Madam," he said, "the quartermaster here tells me that the sea in this locality is infested with flying fish, who, like moths, fly straight for any light, and he is afraid that if you leave your porthole open they will dive in upon you during the night."
If he had said that the sea was infested with flying mice, his statement could not have been more effective. Thereafter the porthole stayed closed.
When the first man died on board, the Captain commanding the soldiers and the ship's Captain requested a Salvation Army Adjutant to conduct the funeral service.
At 4.30 P.M. the ship's propeller ceased to turn and the steamer came up into the wind. The United States destroyer acting as convoy also came to a halt. The French flag on the steamer and the American flag on the destroyer were at half-mast. Thirty-two men from the dead man's company lined up on the after-deck. The coffin (a rough pine box), heavily weighted at one end, lay across the rail over the stern. Here a chute had been rigged so that the coffin might not foul the ship's screws. The flags remained at half-mast for half an hour. The Salvation Army Adjutant read the burial service and prayed. Passengers on the promenade deck looked on. Then a bugler played taps. Every soldier stood facing the stern with hat off and held across the breast. As the coffin slipped down the chute and splashed into the sea a firing squad fired a single rattling volley. The ship came about and, with a shudder of starting engines, continued her voyage, the destroyer doing likewise.
During the passage the Adjutant conducted six such funerals, two more being conducted by a Catholic priest. Four more bodies of men who died as they neared port were landed and buried ashore.
In the hospital the Envoy was undoubtedly the means of saving several lives by her endless toil and by the encouragement of her cheerful face in that depressing place. The sick men called her "Mother" and no mother could have been more tender than she.
"You look so much like mother," said one boy just before he died. "Won't you please kiss me?"
Another lad, with a great, convulsive effort, drew her hand to his lips and kissed her just as he passed away.
All of the American officers and two French officers attended the funerals in full dress uniform and ten sailors of the French navy were also present.
The night before the ship docked at Bordeaux a letter signed by the Captain of the ship and the American officers was handed to the Envoy lady. It contained a warm statement of their appreciation of her service. Officers of the Aviation Corps who were aboard the ship arranged a banquet to be held in her honor when they should reach port; but she told them that she was under orders even as they were and that she must report to Paris Headquarters at once. And so the banquet did not take place.
As she left the ship, the soldiers were lined up on the wharf ready to march. When she came down the gangplank and walked past them to the street, they cheered her and shouted: "Good-bye, mother! Good luck!"
As the fame of the doughnuts and pies spread through the camps a new distress loomed ahead for the Salvation Army. Where were the flour and the sugar and the lard and the other ingredients to come from wherewith to concoct these delicacies for the homesick soldiers?
It was of no use to go to the French for white flour, for they did not have it. They had been using war bread, dark mixtures with barley flour and other things, for a long time. Besides, the French had a fixed idea that everyone who came from America was made of money. Wood was thirty-five dollars a load (about a cord) and had to be cut and hauled by the purchaser at that. There was a story current throughout the camps that some Frenchmen were talking together among themselves, and one asked the rest where in the world they were going to get the money to rebuild their towns. "Oh," replied another; "haven't we the only battlefields in the world? All the Americans will want to come over after the war to see them and we will charge them enough for the sight to rebuild our villages!"
But even at any price the French did not have the materials to sell. There was only one place where things of that sort could be had and that was from the Americans, and the question was, would the commissary allow them to buy in large enough quantities to be of any use? The Salvation Army officers as they went about their work, were puzzling their brains how to get around the American commissary and get what they wanted.
Meantime, the American Army had slipped quietly into Montiers in the night and been billeted around in barns and houses and outhouses, and anywhere they could be stowed, and were keeping out of sight. For the German High Council had declared: "As soon as the American Army goes into camp we will blow them off the map." Day after day the Germans lay low and watched. Their airplanes flew over and kept close guard, but they could find no sign of a camp anywhere. No tents were in sight, though they searched the landscape carefully; and day after day, for want of something better to do they bombarded Bar-lé-Duc. Every day some new ravishment of the beautiful city was wrought, new victims buried under ruins, new terror and destruction, until the whole region was in panic and dismay.
Now Bar-lé-Duc, as everyone knows, is the home of the famous Bar-lé-Duc jam that brings such high prices the world over, and there were great quantities stored up and waiting to be sold at a high price to Americans after the war. But when the bombardment continued, and it became evident that the whole would either be destroyed or fall into the hands of the Germans, the owners were frightened. Houses were blown up, burying whole families. Victims were being taken hourly from the ruins, injured or dying.
A Salvation Army Adjutant ran up there one day with his truck and found an awful state of things. The whole place was full of refugees, families bereft of their homes, everybody that could trying to get out of the city. Just by accident he found out that the merchants were willing to sell their jam at a very reasonable price, and so he bought tons and tons of Bar-lé-Duc jam. That would help out a lot and go well on bread, for of course there was no butter. Also it would make wonderful pies and tarts if one only had the flour and other ingredients.
As he drove into Montiers he was still thinking about it, and there on the table in the Salvation Army hut stood as pretty a chocolate cake as one would care to see. A bright idea came to the Adjutant:
"Let me have that cake," said he to the lassie who had baked it, "and I'll take it to the General and see what I can do."
It turned out that the cake was promised, but the lassie said she would bake another and have it ready for him on his return trip; so in a few days when he came back there was the cake.
Ah! That was a wonderful cake!
The lassie had baked it in the covers of lard tins, fourteen inches across and five layers high! There was a layer of cake, thickly spread with rich chocolate frosting, another layer of cake, overlaid with the translucent Bar-lé-Duc jam, a third layer of cake with chocolate, another layer spread with Bar-lé-Duc jam, then cake again, the whole covered smoothly over with thick dark chocolate, top and sides, down to the very base, without a ripple in it. It was a wonder of a cake!
With shining eyes and eager look the Adjutant took that beautiful cake, took also twelve hundred great brown sugary doughnuts, and a dozen fragrant apple pies just out of the oven, stowed them carefully away in his truck, and rustled off to the Officers' Headquarters. Arrived there he took his cake in hand and asked to see the General. An officer with his eye on the cake said the General was busy just now but he would carry the cake to him. But the Adjutant declined this offer firmly, saying: "The ladies of Montiers-sur-Saulx sent this cake to the General, and I must put it into his hands"
He was finally led to the General's room and, uncovering the great cake, he said:
"The Salvation Army ladies of Montiers-sur-Saulx have sent this cake to you as a sample of what they will do for the soldiers if we can get flour and sugar and lard."
The General, greatly pleased, took the cake and sent for a knife, while his officers stood about looking on with much interest. It appeared as if every one were to have a taste of the cake. But when the General had cut a generous slice, held it up, observing its cunning workmanship, its translucent, delectable interior, he turned with a gleam in his eye, looked about the room and said: "Gentlemen, this cake will not be served till the evening's mess, and I pity the gentlemen who do not eat with the officer's mess, but they will have to go elsewhere for their cake."
The Adjutant went out with his pies and doughnuts and distributed them here and there where they would do the most good, getting on the right side of the Top Sergeant, for he had discovered some time ago that even with the General as an ally one must be on the right side of the "old Sarge" if one wanted anything. While he was still talking with the officers he was handed an order from the General that he should be supplied with all that he needed, and when he finally came out of Headquarters he found that seven tons of material were being loaded on his car. After that the Salvation Army never had any trouble in getting all the material they needed.
After the tents in Montiers were all settled and the work fully started, the Staff-Captain and his helpers settled down to a pleasant little schedule of sixteen hours a day work and called it ease; but that was not to he enjoyed for long. At the end of a week the Salvation Army Colonel swooped down upon them again with orders to erect a hut at once as the tents were only a makeshift and winter was coming on. He brought materials and selected a site on a desirable corner.
Now the corner was literally covered with fallen walls of a former building and wreckage from the last year's raid, and the patient workers looked aghast at the task before them. But the Colonel would listen to no arguments. "Don't talk about difficulties," he said, brushing aside a plea for another lot, not quite so desirable perhaps, but much easier to clear. "Don't talk about difficulties; get busy and have the job over with!"
One big reason why the Salvation Army is able to carry on the great machinery of its vast organization is that its people are trained to obey without murmuring. Cheerfully and laboriously the men set to work. Winter rains were setting in, with a chill and intensity never to be forgotten by an American soldier. But wet to the skin day after day all day long the Salvationists worked against time, trying to finish the hut before the snow should arrive. And at last the hut was finished and ready for occupancy. Such tireless devotion, such patient, cheerful toil for their sake was not to be passed by nor forgotten by the soldiers who watched and helped when they could. Day after day the bonds between them and the Salvation Army grew stronger. Here were men who did not have to, and yet who for the sake of helping them, came and lived under the same conditions that they did, working even longer hours than they, eating the same food, enduring the same privations, and whose only pay was their expenses. At the first the Salvationists took their places in the chow line with the rest, then little by little men near the head of the line would give up their places to them, quietly stepping to the rear of the line themselves. Finally, no matter how long the line was the men with one consent insisted that their unselfish friends should take the very head of the line whenever they came and always be served first.
One day one of the Salvation Army men swathed in a big raincoat was sitting in a Ford by the roadside in front of a Salvation Army hut, waiting for his Colonel, when two soldiers stopped behind him to light their cigarettes. It was just after sundown, and the man in the car must have seemed like any soldier to the two as they chatted.
"Bunch of grafters, these Y.M.C.A. and Salvation Army outfits!" grumbled one as he struck a match. "What good are the ‘Sallies' in a soldier camp?"
"Well, Buddy," said the other somewhat excitedly, "there's a whole lot of us think the Salvation Army is about it in this man's outfit. For a rookie you sure are picking one good way to make yourself unpopular tout de suite! Better lay off that kind of talk until you kind of find out what's what. I didn't have much use for them myself back in the States, but here in France they're real folks, believe me!"
So the feeling had grown everywhere as the huts multiplied. And the huts proved altogether too small for the religious meetings, so that as long as the weather permitted the services had to be held in the open air. It was no unusual thing to see a thousand men gathered in the twilight around two or three Salvation Army lassies, singing in sweet wonderful volume the old, old hymns. The soldiers were no longer amused spectators, bent on mischief; they were enthusiastic allies of the organization that was theirs. The meeting was theirs.
"We never forced a meeting on them," said one of the girls. "We just let it grow. Sometimes it would begin with popular songs, but before long the boys would ask for hymns, the old favorites, first one, then another, always remembering to call for ‘Tell Mother I'll Be There.'"
Almost without exception the boys entered heartily into everything that went on in the organization. The songs were perhaps at first only a reminder of home, but scon they came to have a personal significance to many. The Salvation Army did not hare movies and theatrical singers as did the other organizations, but they did not seem to need them. The men liked the Gospel meetings and came to them better than to anything else. Often they would come to the hut and start the singing themselves, which would presently grow into a meeting of evident intention. The Staff-Captain did not long have opportunity to enjoy the new hut which he had labored so hard to finish at Montiers, for soon orders arrived for him to move on to Houdelainecourt to help put up the hut there, and leave Montiers in charge of a Salvation Army Major. The Salvation Army was with the Eighteenth Infantry at Houdelainecourt.
It was an old tent that sheltered the canteen, and it had the reputation of having gone up and down five times. When first they put it up it blew down. It was located where two roads met and the winds swept down in every direction. Then they put it up and took it down to camouflage it. They got it up again and had to take it down to camouflage it some more. The regular division helped with this, and it was some camouflage when it was done, for the boys had put their initials all over it, and then, had painted Christmas trees everywhere, and on the trees they had put the presents they knew they never would get, and so in all the richness of its record of homesickness the old tent went up again. They kept warm here by means of a candle under an upturned tin pail. The tent blew down again in a big storm soon after that and had to be put up once more, and then there came a big rain and flooded everything in the neighborhood. It blew down and drowned out the Y.M.C.A. and everything else, and only the old tent stood for awhile. But at last the storm was too much for it, too, and it succumbed again.
After that the Salvation Army put up a hut for their work. A number of soldiers assisted. They put up a stove, brought their piano and phonograph, and made the place look cheerful. Then they got the regimental band and had an opening, the first big thing that was recognized by the military authorities. The Salvation Army Staff-Captain in charge of that zone took a long board and set candles on it and put it above the platform like a big chandelier. The Brigade Commander was there, and a Captain came to represent the Colonel. A chaplain spoke. The lassies who took part in the entertainment were the first girls the soldiers had seen for many months.
Long before the hour announced for the service the soldier boys had crowded the hutment to its greatest capacity. Game and reading tables had been moved to the rear and extra benches brought in. The men stood three deep upon the tables and filled every seat and every inch of standing room. When there was no more room on the floor, they climbed to the roof and lined the rafters. There was no air and the Adjutant came to say there was too much light, but none of these things damped the enthusiasm.
With the aid of the regimental chaplain, the Staff-Captain had arranged a suitable program for the occasion, the regimental band furnishing the music.
When the General entered the hutment all of the men stood and uncovered and the band stopped abruptly in the middle of a strain. "That's the worst thing I ever did--stopping the music," he exclaimed ruefully. He refused to occupy the chair which had been prepared for him, saying: "No, I want to stand so that I can look at these men."
The records of the work in that hut would be precious reading for the fathers and mothers of those boys, for the Fighting Eighteenth Infantry are mostly gone, having laid their young lives on the altar with so many others. Here is a bit from one lassie's letter, giving a picture of one of her days in the hut:
"Well, I must tell you how the days are spent. We open the hut at 7; it is cleaned by some of the boys; then at 8 we commence to serve cocoa and coffee and make pies and doughnuts, cup cakes and fry eggs and make all kinds of eats until it is all you see. Well, can you think of two women cooking in one day 2500 doughnuts, 8 dozen cup cakes, 50 pies, 800 pancakes and 225 gallons of cocoa, and one other girl serving it? That is a day's work in my last hut. Then meeting at night, and it lasts two hours."
A lieutenant came into the canteen to buy something and said to one of the girls: "Will you please tell me something? Don't you ever rest?" That is how both the men and officers appreciated the work of these tireless girls.
Men often walked miles to look at an American woman. Once acquainted with the Salvation Army lassies they came to them with many and strange requests. Having picked a quart or so of wild berries and purchased from a farmer a pint of cream they would come to ask a girl to make a strawberry shortcake for them. They would buy a whole dozen of eggs apiece, and having begged a Salvation Army girl to fry them would eat the whole dozen at a sitting. They would ask the girls to write their love letters, or to write assuring some mother or sweetheart that they were behaving themselves.
Soldiers going into action have left thousands of dollars in cash and in valuables in the care of Salvation Army officers to be forwarded to persons designated in case they are killed in action or taken prisoner. In such cases it is very seldom that a receipt is given for either money or valuables., so deeply do the soldiers trust the Salvation Army.
One of the girl Captains wears a plain silver ring, whose intrinsic value is about thirty cents, but whose moral value is beyond estimate. The ring is not the Captain's. It belongs to a soldier, who, before the war, had been a hard drinker and had continued his habits after enlisting. He came under the influence of the Salvation Army and swore that he would drink no more. But time after time he fell, each time becoming more desperate and more discouraged. Each time the young lassie-Captain dealt with him. After the last of his failures, while she was encouraging him to make another try, he detached the ring from the cord from which it had dangled around his neck and thrust it at her.
"It was my mother's," he explained. "If you will wear it for me, I shall always think of it when the temptation comes to drink, and the fact that someone really cares enough about my worthless hide to take all of the trouble you have taken on my behalf, will help me to resist it."
"No one will misunderstand" he cried, seeing that the lassie was about to decline, "not even me. I shall tell no one. And it would help."
"Very well," agreed the girl, looking steadily at him for a moment, "but the first time that you take a drink, off will come the ring! And you must promise that you will tell me if you do take that drink."
The soldier promised. The lassie still wears the ring. The soldier is still sober. Also he has written to his wife for the first time in five years and she has expressed her delight at the good news.
On more than one occasion American aviators have flown from their camps many miles to villages where there were Salvation lassies and have returned with a load of doughnuts. On one occasion a bird-man dropped a note down in front of the hut where two sisters were stationed, circling around at a low elevation until certain that the girls had picked up the note, which stated that he would return the following afternoon for a mess of doughnuts for his comrades. When he returned, the doughnuts were ready for him.
The Adjutant of the aerial forces attached to the American Fifth Army around Montfaucon on the edge of the Argonne Forest, before that forest was finally captured at the point of American bayonets, drove almost seventy miles to the Salvation Army Headquarters at Ligny for supplies for his men. He was given an automobile load of chocolate, candies, cakes, cookies, soap, toilet articles, and other comforts, without charge. He said that he knew that the Salvation Army would have what he wanted.
The two lassies who were in Bure had a desperate time of it. Things were most primitive. They had no store, just an old travelling field range, and for a canteen one end of Battery F's kitchen. They were then attached to the Sixth Field Artillery. This was the regiment that fired the first shot into Germany.
The smoke in that kitchen was awful and continuous from the old field range. The girls often made doughnuts out-of-doors, and they got chilblains from standing in the snow. All the company had chilblains, too, and it was a sorry crowd. Then the girls got the mumps. It was so cold here, especially at night, they often had to sleep with their clothes on. There was only one way they could have meetings in that place and that was while the men were lined up for chow near to the canteen. They would start to sing in the gloomy, cold room, the men and girls all with their overcoats on, and fingers so cold that they could hardly play the concertina, for there was no fire in the big room save from the range at one end where they cooked. Then the girls would talk to them while they were eating. Perhaps they did not call these meetings, but they were a mighty happy time to the men, and they liked it.
A minister who had taken six months' leave of absence from his church to do Y.M.C.A. work in France asked one of the boys why he liked the Salvation Army girls and he said: "Because they always take time to cheer us up. It's true they do knock us mighty hard about our sins, but while it hurts they always show us a way out." The minister told some one that if he had his work to do over again he would plan it along the lines of the Salvation Army work.
You may hear it urged that one reason the boys liked the Salvation Army people so much was because they did not preach, but it is not so. They preached early and often, but the boys liked it because it was done so simply, so consistently and so unselfishly, that they did not recognize it as preaching.
In Menaucourt as Christmas was coming on some United States officers raised money to give the little refugee children a Christmas treat. There was to be a tree with presents, and good things to eat, and an entertainment with recitations from the children. The school-teacher was teaching the children their pieces, and there was a general air of delightful excitement everywhere. It was expected that the affair was to be held in the Catholic church at first, but the priest protested that this was unseemly, so they were at a loss what to do. The school-house was not large enough.
The Salvation Army Staff-Captain found this out and suggested to the officers that the Salvation Army hut was the very place for such a gathering. So the tree was set up, and the officers went to town and bought presents and decorations. They covered the old hut with boughs and flags and transformed it into a wonderland for the children. The officers were struggling helplessly with the decorations of the tree when the Salvation Army man happened in and they asked him to help.
"Why, sure!" he said heartily. "That's my regular work!" So they eagerly put it into his hands and departed. The Staff-Captain worked so hard at it and grew go interested in it that he forgot to go for his chow at lunch-time, and when supper-time came the hall was so crowded and there was so much still to be done that he could not get away to get his supper. But it was a grand and glorious time. The place was packed. There were two American Colonels, a French Colonel, and several French officers. The soldiers crowded in and they had to send them out again, poor fellows, to make room for the children, but they hung around the doors and windows eager to see it all.
The regimental band played, there were recitations in French and a good time generally.
The seats were facing the canteen where the supplies were all stocked neatly, boxes of candy and cakes and good things. The Colonel in charge of the regiment looked over to them wistfully and said to the Staff-Captain: "Are you going to sell all those things?" The Staff-Captain, with quick appreciation, said: "No, Colonel, Christmas comes but once a year and there's a present up there for you." And the Colonel seemed as pleased as the children when the Staff-Captain handed him a big box of candy all tied up in Christmas ribbons.
In the huts, phonographs are never silent as long as there is a single soldier in the place. One night two of the Salvation Army girls, who slept in the back room of a certain hut, had closed up for the night and retired. They were awakened by the sound of the phonograph, and wondered how anyone got into the hut and who it might happen to be. They were a little bit nervous, but went to investigate. They found that a soldier on guard had raised a window, and although this did not allow him room to enter the hut, he was able to reach the table where the phonograph stood. He had turned the talking machine around so that it faced the window, and, placing a record in position, had started it going. He was leaning up against the outer wall of the hut, smoking a cigarette in the moonlight, and enjoying his concert. The girls returned to bed without disturbing the audience.
One of the most popular French confections sold in the huts was a variety of biscuits known under the trade name of "Boudoir Biscuits" One day a soldier entered a hut and said: "Say, miss, I want some of them there-them there--Dang me if I can remember them French names!--them there (suddenly a great light dawned)--some of them there bedroom cookies." And the lassie got what he wanted.
The Salvation Army men who worked among the soldiers in advanced positions from which all women are barred are among the heroes of the war. Here during the day they labored in dugouts far below the shell-tortured earth, often going out at night to help bring in the wounded; always in danger from shells and gas; some with the ammunition trains; others driving supply trucks; still others attached to units and accompanying the fighting men wherever they went, even to the active combat of the firing trench and the attack. These are unofficial chaplains. Such a one was "La Petit Major," as the soldiers called him, because of his smallness of stature.
The Little Major commenced his service in the field with the Twenty-sixth Infantry, First Division, at Menaucourt. Soon he was transferred to command the hut at Boviolles. At this place was the battalion of the Twenty-sixth Infantry, commanded by Major Theodore Roosevelt. His brother, Captain Archie Roosevelt, commanded a company in this battalion. He was for the greater part of the time alone in the work at Boviolles.
By his consistent life and character and his willingness to serve both men and officers, he won their esteem.
When they left the training area for the trenches the Major was requested to go with them. He turned the key in the canteen door and went off with them across France and never came back, establishing himself in the front-line trenches with the men and acting as unofficial chaplain to the battalion.
There is an interesting incident in connection with his introduction to Major Roosevelt's notice.
For some reason the Salvation Army had been made to feel that they were not welcome with that division. But the Little Major did not give up like that, and he lingered about feeling that somehow there was yet to be a work for him there.
A young private from a far Western state, a fellow who, according to all reports, had never been of any account at home, was convicted of a most horrible murder and condemned to die by hanging because the commanding officer said that shooting was too good for him.
He accepted his fate with sullen ugliness. He would not speak to anyone and he was so violent that they had to put him in chains. No one could do anything with him. He had to be watched day and night; and it was awful to see him die this way with his sin unconfessed. Many attempts were made to break through his silence, but all to no effect. Several chaplains visited him, but he would have nothing to do with them.
On the morning of his execution, to the surprise of everybody he said that he had heard that there was a Salvation Army man around, and he would like to see him. The authorities sent and searched everywhere for the Little Major, and some thought he must have left, but they found him at last and he came at once to the desperate man.
The criminal sat crouched on his hard bench, chained hand and foot. He did not look up. He was a dreadful sight, his brutal face haggard, unshaven, his eyes bloodshot, his whole appearance almost like some low animal. Through the shadowy prison darkness the Little Major crept to those chains, those symbols of the man's degradation; and still the man did not look up.
"You must be in great trouble, brother. Can I help you any?" asked the Little Major with a wonderful Christ-like compassion in his voice.
The man lifted his bleared eyes under the shock of unkempt hair, and spoke, startled:
"You call me brother! You know what I'm here for and you call me brother! Why?"
The Little Major's voice was steady and sweet as he replied without hesitation:
"Because I know a great deal about the suffering of Christ on the Cross, all because He loved you so! Because I know He said He was wounded for your transgressions, He was bruised for your iniquities! Because I know He said, 'Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson they shall be as wool!' So why shouldn't I call you brother?"
"Oh," said the man with a groan of agony and big tears rolling down his face. "Could I be made a better man?"
Then they went down on their knees together beside the hard bench, the man in chains and the man of God, and the Little Major prayed such a wonderful prayer, taking the poor soul right to the foot of the Throne; and in a few minutes the man was confessing his sin to God. Then he suddenly looked up and exclaimed:
"It's true, what you said! Christ has pardoned me! Now I can die like a man!"
With that great pardon written across his heart he actually went to his death with a smile upon his face. When the Chaplain asked him if he had anything to say he publicly thanked the military authorities and the Salvation Army for what they had done for him.
The Colonel, greatly surprised at the change in the man, sent to find out how it came about and later sent to thank the Little Major. Two days later Major Roosevelt came in person to thank him:
"I knew that someone who knew how to deal with men had got hold of him," he said, "but I almost doubted the evidence of my own eyes when I saw how cheerfully he went to his death, it all seemed too wonderful!"
The little Major was with this battalion in all of its engagements, and on several occasions went over the top with the men and devoted himself to first aid to the wounded and to bringing the men back to the dressing station on stretchers. Between the times of active engagements, the Major gave himself to supplying the needs of the men and made daily trips out of the trenches to obtain newspapers, writing material, and to perform errands which they could not do for themselves.
One of the lieutenants said of him: "He is worth more than all the chaplains that were ever made in the United States Army. He will walk miles to get the most trivial article for either man or officer. The men know that he loves them or he would not go into the trenches with them, for he does not have to go. You can tell the world for me that he is a real man!"
One of the fellows said of him he had seen him take off his shoes and bring away pieces of flesh from the awful blisters got from much tramping.
The men soon learned to love their gray haired Salvation Army comrade. When an enemy attack was to be met with cold steel he was the first to follow the company officers "over the top," to cheer and encourage the onrushing Americans in the anxious semi-calm which follows the lifting of a barrage. A non-combatant, unarmed and fifty-three years of age, he was always in the van of the fierce onslaught with which our men repulsed the enemy, ready to pray with the dying or help bring in the wounded, and always fearless no matter what the conditions. By his unfearing heroism as well as his willingness to share the hardships and dangers of the men, he so won their confidence that it was frequently said that they would not go into battle except the Major was with them. The men would crouch around him with an almost fantastic confidence that where he was no harm could come. Knowing that many earnest Christian people were praying for his safety and having seen how safely he and those with him had come through dangers, they thought his very presence was a protection. Who shall say that God did not stay on the battlefield living and speaking through the Little Major?
When the first division was moved from the Montdidier Sector he travelled with the men as far as they went by train. When they detrained and marched he marched with them, carrying his seventy pound pack as any soldier did. He was by the side of Captain Archie Roosevelt when he received a very dangerous wound from an exploding shell, and was in the battle of Cantigny in the Montdidier Sector, where his company lost only two men killed and four wounded, while other companies' losses were much more severe.
Protestant, Catholic and Jew were all his friends. One Catholic boy came crawling along in the waist-deep trench one day to tell the Major about his spiritual worries. After a brief talk the Major asked him if he had his prayer book. The boy said yes. "Then take it out and read it," said the Major. "God is here!" And there in the narrow trench with lowered heads so that the snipers could not see them, they knelt together and read from the Catholic prayer book.
In one American attack the Little Major followed the Lieutenant over the top just as the barrage was lifted. The Lieutenant looking back saw him struggling over the crest of the parapet, laughed and shouted: "Go back, Major, you haven't even a pistol!" But the Major did not go back. He went with the boys. "I have no hesitancy in laying down my life," he once said, "if it will help or encourage anyone else to live in a better or cleaner way."
He was always striving for the salvation of his boys, and in his meetings men would push their way to the front and openly kneel before their comrades registering their determination to live in accordance with the teachings of Jesus. One tells of seeing him kneel beside an empty crate with three soldiers praying for their souls.
It was because of all these things that the men believed in him and in his God. He used to say to the men in the meetings, "We are not afraid because we have a sense of the presence of God right here with us!"
One night the battalion was "in" after a heavy day's work strengthening the defenses and trying to drain the trenches, and the men were asleep in the dugouts. The Major lay in his little chicken-wire bunk, just drowsing off, while the water seeped and dripped from the earthen roof, and the rats splashed about on the water covered floor.
Across from him in a bunk on the other side of the dugout tossed a boy in his damp blankets who had just come to the front. He was only eighteen and it was his first night in the line. It had been a hard day for him. The shells screamed overhead and finally one landed close somewhere and rocked the dugout with its explosion. The old-timers slept undisturbed, but the boy started up with a scream and a groan, his nerves a-quiver, and cried out: "Oh, Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!"
The Little Major was out and over to him in a flash, and gathered the boy into his arms, soothing him as a mother might have done, until he was calmed and strengthened; and there amid the roaring of guns, the screaming of shells, the dripping of water and splashing of rats, the youngest of the battalion found Christ.
An old soldier came down from the front and a Salvationist asked him if he knew the Little Major.
"Well, you just bet I know the Major--sure thing!" And the Major is always on hand with a laugh and his fun-making. In the trenches or in the towns, where the shells are flying, the Little Major is with his boys. No words of mine could express the admiration the boys have for him. The boys love him. He calls them "Buddie." They salute and are ready to do or die. The last time I saw him he had hiked in from the trenches with the boys. He carried a heavy "war baby" on his back and a tin hat on his head. He was tired and footsore, but there was that laugh, and before he got his pack off he jabbed me in the ribs. "No, sir, we can't get along without our Major!" So says "Buddie."
A request came from a chaplain to open Salvation Army work near his division. The Brigade Commander was most favorable to the suggestion until he learned that the Salvation Army would have women there and that religious meetings would be conducted. As this was explained the General's manner changed and he declared he did not know that the work was to be carried on in this way; that he did not favor the women in camps, or any religion, but thought it would make the soldier soft, and the business of the soldier was to kill, to kill in as brutal a manner as possible; and to kill as many of the enemy as possible; and he did not propose to have any work conducted in the camps or any influence on his soldiers that would tend to soften them.
He ordered them, therefore, not to extend the work of the Salvation Army within his brigade. It was explained to him that Demange was now within the territory named. He appeared to be put out that the Salvation Army was already established in his district, but said that if they behaved themselves they could go on, but that they must not extend.
He reported the matter to the Divisional Headquarters and an investigation of the Salvation Army activities was ordered. A major who was a Jew was appointed to look into the matter. During the next two weeks he talked with the men and officers and attended Salvation Army meetings. The leaders, of course, knew nothing about this, but they could not have planned their meetings better if they had known. It seemed as though God was in it all. At the end of two weeks there came a written communication from the General stating that after a thorough examination of the Salvation Army work he withdrew his objections and the Salvation Army was free to extend operations anywhere within his brigade.
The Salvation Army hut was a scene of constant activity.
At one place in a single day there was early mass, said by the Catholic chaplain, later preaching by a Protestant chaplain, then a Jewish service, followed by a company meeting where the use of gas masks was explained. All this, besides the regular uses of the hut, which included a library, piano, phonograph, games, magazines, pies, doughnuts and coffee; the pie line being followed by a regular Salvation Army meeting where men raised their hands to be prayed for, and many found Christ as their Saviour.
It was in an old French barracks that they located the Salvation Army canteen in Treveray. One corner was boarded off for a bedroom for the girls. There were windows but not of glass, for they would have soon been shattered, and, too, they would have let too much light through. They were canvas well camouflaged with paint so that the enemy shells would not be attracted at night, and, of course, one could not see through them.
Inside the improvised bedroom were three little folding army cots, a board table, a barrack bag and some boxes. This was the only place where the girls could be by themselves. On rainy days the furniture was supplemented by a dishpan on one cot, a frying-pan on another, and a lard tin on the third, to catch the drops from the holes in the roof. The opposite corner of the barracks was boarded off for a living-room. In this was a field range and one or two tables and benches.
The rest of the hut was laid out with square bare board tables. The canteen was at one end. The piano was at one side and the graphophone at the other. Sometimes in places like this, the hut would be too near the front for it to be thought advisable to have a piano. It was too liable to be shattered by a chance shell and the management thought it unwise to put so much money into what might in a moment be reduced to worthless splinters. Then the boys would come into the hut, look around disappointedly and say: "No piano?"
The cheerful woman behind the counter would say sympathetically: "No, boys, no piano. Too many shells around here for a piano."
The boys would droop around silently for a minute or two and then go off. In a little while back they would come with grim satisfaction on their faces bearing a piano.
"Don't ask us where we got it," they would answer with a twinkle in reply to the pleased inquiry. "This is war! We salvaged it!"
Around the room on the tables were plenty of magazines, books and games. Checkers was a favorite game. No card playing, no shooting crap. The canteen contained chocolate, candy, writing materials, postage stamps, towels, shaving materials, talcum powder, soap, shoestrings, handkerchiefs in little sealed packets, buttons, cootie medicine and other like articles. The Salvation Army did not sell nor give away either tobacco or cigarettes. In a few cases where such were sent to them for distribution they were handed over to the doctors for the badly wounded in the hospitals or the very sick men accustomed to their use, who were almost insane with their nerves. They also procured them from the Red Cross for wounded men, sometimes, who were fretting for them, but they never were a part of their supplies and far from the policy of the Salyation Army. Furthermore, the Salvation Army sent no men to France to work for them who smoked or used tobacco in any form, or drank intoxicating liquors. No man can hold a commission in the Salvation Army and use tobacco! It is a remarkable fact that the boys themselves did not want the Salvation Army lassies to deal in cigarettes because they knew it would be going against their principles to do so.
Occasionally a stranger would come into the canteen and ask for a package of cigarettes. Then some soldier would remark witheringly: "Say, where do you come from? Don't you know the Salvation Army don't handle tobacco?"
The men were always deeply grateful to get talcum powder for use after shaving. It seemed somehow to help to keep up the morale of the army, that talcum powder, a little bit of the soothing refinement of the home that seemed so far away.
To this hut whenever they were at liberty came Jew and Gentile, Protestant and Catholic, rich and poor. War is a great leveler and had swept away all differences. They were a great brotherhood of Americans now, ready, if necessary, to die for the right.
To one of the huts came a request from the chaplain of a regiment which was about to move from its temporary billet in the next village. The men had not been so fortunate as to be stationed at a town where there was a Salvation Army hut and it had been over four months since they had tasted anything like cake or pie. Would the Salvation Army lassies be so good as to let them have a few doughnuts before they moved that night? If so the chaplain would call for them at five o'clock.
The lassies worked with all their might and fried thirty-five hundred doughnuts. But something happened to the ambulance that was to take them to the boys, and over an hour was lost in repairs. Back at the camp the boys had given up all hope. They were to march at eight o'clock and nothing had been heard of the doughnuts. Suddenly the truck dashed into view, but the boys eyed it glumly, thinking it was likely empty after all this time. However, the chaplain held up both hands full of golden brown beauties, and with a wild shout of joy the men sprang to "attention" as the ambulance drew up, and more soldiers crowded around. The villagers rushed to their doors to see what could be happening now to those crazy American soldiers.
When the chaplain stood up in the car flinging doughnuts to them and shouting that there were thousands, enough for everybody, the enthusiasm of the soldiers knew no bounds. The girls had come along and now they began to hand out the doughnuts, and the crowd cheered and shouted as they filed up to receive them. And when it came time for the girls to return to their own village the soldiers crowded up once more to say good-bye, and give them three cheers and a "tiger."
These same girls a few days before had fed seven hundred weary doughboys on their march to the front with coffee, hot biscuits and jam.
In one of the Salvation Army huts one night the usual noisy cheerfulness was in the air, but apart from the rest sat a boy with a letter open on the table before him and a dreamy smile of tender memories upon his face. Nobody noticed that far-away look in his eyes until the lassie in charge of the hut, standing in the doorway surveying her noisy family, searched him out with her discerning eyes, and presently happened down his way and inquired if he had a letter. The boy looked up with a wonderful smile such as she had never seen on his face before, and answered:
"Yes, it's from mother!" Then impulsively, "She's the nearest thing to God I know!"
Mother seemed to be the nearest thought to the heart of the boys over there. They loved the songs best that spoke about mother. One boy bought a can of beans at the canteen, and when remonstrated with by the lassie who sold them, on the ground that he was always complaining of having to eat so many beans, he replied: "Aw, well, this is different. These beans are the kind that mother used to buy."
In the dark hours of the early morning a boy who belonged to the ammunition train sat by one of the little wooden tables in the hut, just after he had returned from his first barrage, and pencilled on its top the following words:
Mother o' mine, what the words mean to me
Is more than tongue can say;
For one view to-night of your loving face,
What a price I would gladly pay!
The wonderful face . . .
. . . smiling still despite loads of care,
Tis crowned by a silvering sheen.
Your picture I carry next to my heart;
With it no harm can befall.
It has helped me to smile through many a care,
Since I heeded my country's call.
O mother who nursed me as a babe
And prayed for me as a boy,
Can I not show, now at man's estate,
That you are my pride and joy?
Good night! God guard you, way over the ocean blue,
Your boy loves you and his dreams are bright,
For he's dreaming of home and you.
One of the letters that was written home for "Mother's Day" in response to a suggestion on the walls of the Salvation Army hut was as follows:
Dearest Little Mother of Mine:
They started a campaign to write to mother on this day, and, believe me, I didn't have to be urged very hard. If I wrote you every time I think of you this war would go hang as far as I am concerned, for I think of you always and there are hundreds of things that serve as an eternal reminder.
Near our billet is one lone, scrubby little lilac bush that has a dozen blossoms, and it doesn't take much mental work to connect lilacs with mother. Then, too, the distant whistle of a train 'way down the valley reminds me of how you would listen for the whistle of the Montreal train on Saturday morning and then fix up a big feed for your boy to offset a week of boarding-house grub. Those and many other things remind me many times a day of the one who bid me good-by with a smile and saved her tears 'till she was home alone; who knit helmets, wristlets and sweaters to keep out the cold when she should have been sleeping; who (I'll bet a hat) didn't sleep one of the thirteen nights I was on the ocean, and who writes me cheerful, newsy letters when all others fail.
And I appreciate all those things too, although I'm not much on showing affection. I haven't always been as good to you as I ought, but I'm going to make up by being the soldier and the man "me mudder" thinks I am.
And when I come back home, all full of prunes and glory, we're going to have the grandest time you ever dreamed of. We'll go joy riding, eat strawberry shortcake and pumpkin pie, and have all the lilacs in the U.S.A. Wait till I walk down Main Street with you on my arm all fixed up in a swell dress and a new bonnet and me with a span new uniform, with sergeant-major's chevrons, about steen service stripes, a Mex. campaign badge and a Croix de Guerre (maybe), then you'll be glad your boy went to be a soldier.
I was on the road all of night before last and on guard last night and I'm a wee bit tired so I'm making this kinder short; but it's a little reminder that the boy who is 5,000 miles away is thinking, "I love you my ma," same as I always did.
And, by gosh, don't forget about that pumpkin pie!
Good-night, mother of mine; your soldier boy loves you a whole dollar's worth.
far below the shell-tortured earth"
and their buttons sewed on
was no quiet refuge"
were killed a few days after the picture was taken
The Salvation Army hut was home to the boys over there. They came to it in sorrow or joy. They came to ask to scrape out the bowl where the cake batter had been stirred because mother used to let them do it; they came to get their coats mended and have their buttons sewed on. Sometimes it seemed to the long-suffering, smiling woman who sewed them on, as if they just ripped them off so she could sew them on again; if so, she did not mind. They came to mourn when they received no word from home; and when the mail came in and they were fortunate they came first to the hut waving their letter to tell of their good luck before they even opened it to read it. It is remarkable how they pinned their whole life on what these consecrated American women said to them over there. It is wonderful how they opened their hearts to them on religious subjects, and how they flocked to the religious meetings, seeming to really be hungry for them.
Word about these wonderful meetings that the soldiers were attending in such numbers got to the ears of another commanding officer, and one day there came a summons for the Salvation Army Major in charge at Gondrecourt to appear before him. An officer on a motor cycle with a side car brought the summons, and the Major felt that it practically amounted to an arrest. There was nothing to do but obey, so he climbed into the side car and was whirled away to Headquarters.
The Major-General received him at once and in brusque tones informed him most emphatically:
"We want you to get out! We don't want you nor your meetings! We are here to teach men to fight and your religion says you must not kill. Look out there!" pointing through the doorway, "we have set up dummies and teach our men to run their bayonets through them. You teach them the opposite of that. You will unfit my men for warfare!"
The Salvationist looked through the door at the line of straw dummies hanging in a row, and then he looked back and faced the Major-General for a full minute before he said anything.
Tall and strong, with soldierly bearing, with ruddy health in the glow of his cheeks, and fire in his keen blue eyes, the Salvationist looked steadily at the Major-General and his indignation grew. Then the good old Scotch burr on his tongue rolled broadly out in protest:
"On my way up here in your automobile"--every word was slow and calm and deliberate, tinged with a fine righteous sarcasm--"I saw three men entering your Guard House who were not capable of directing their own steps. They had been off on leave down to the town and had come home drunk. They were going into the Guard House to sleep it off. When they come out to-morrow or the next day with their limbs trembling, and their eyes bloodshot and their heads aching, do you think they will be fit for warfare?
"You have men down there in your Guard House who are loathsome with vile diseases, who are shaken with self-indulgence, and weakened with all kinds of excesses. Are they fit for warfare?
"Now, look at me!"
He drew himself up in all the strength of his six feet, broad shoulders, expanded chest, complexion like a baby, muscles like iron, and compelled the gaze of the officer.
"Can you find any man--" The Salvationist said "mon" and the soft Scotch sound of it sent a thrill down the Major-General's back in spite of his opposition. "Can you find any mon at fifty-five years who can follow these in your regiment, who can beat me at any game whatever?"
The officer looked, and listened, and was ashamed.
The Major rose in his righteous wrath and spoke mighty truths clothed in simple words, and as he talked the tears unbidden rolled down the Major-General's face and dropped upon his table.
"And do you know," said the Salvationist, afterward telling a friend in earnest confidence, "do you know, before I left we had prayer together! And he became one of the best friends we have!"
Before he left, also, the Major-General signed the authority which gave him charge of the Guard Houses, so that he might talk to the men or hold meetings with them whenever he liked. This was the means of opening up a new avenue of work among the men.
The Scotch Major had a string of hospitals that he visited in addition to his other regular duties. He knew that the men who are gassed lose all their possessions when their clothes are ripped off from them. So this Salvationist made a delightful all-the-year-round Santa Claus out of himself: dressing up in old clothes, because of the mud and dirt through which he must pass, he would sling a pack on his back that would put to shame the one Old Santa used to carry. Shaving things and soap and toothbrushes, handkerchiefs and chocolate and writing materials. How they welcomed him wherever he came! Sick men, Protestants, Jews, Catholics. He talked and prayed with them all, and no one turned away from his kindly messages.
Six miles from Neufchauteul is Bazoilles, a mighty city of hospital tents and buildings, acres and acres of them, lying in the valley. Whenever this man heard the rumbling of guns and knew that something was doing, he took his pack and started down to go the rounds, for there were always men there needing him.
Then he would hold meetings in the wards, blessed meetings that the wounded men enjoyed and begged for. They all joined in the singing, even those who could not sing very well. And once it was a blind boy who asked them to sing "Lead Kindly Light Amid the Encircling Gloom, Lead Thou Me On."
One Sunday afternoon two Salvation Army lassies had come with their Major to hold their usual service in the hospital, but there were so many wounded coming in and the place was so busy that it seemed as if perhaps they ought to give up the service. The nurses were heavy-eyed with fatigue and the doctors were almost worked to death. But when this was suggested with one accord both doctors and nurses were against it. "The boys would miss it so," they said, "and we would miss it, too. It rests us to hear you sing."
After the Bible reading and prayer a lassie sang: "There Is Sunshine in My Heart To-day," and then came a talk that spoke of a spiritual sunshine that would last all the year. The song and talk drifted out to another little ward where a doctor sat beside a boy, and both listened. As the physician rose to go the wounded boy asked if he might write a letter.
The next day the doctor happened to meet the lassie who sang and told her he had a letter that had been handed to him for censorship that he thought she would like to see. He said the writer had asked him to show it to her. This was the letter:
Dear Mother: You will be surprised to hear that I am in the hospital, but I am getting well quickly and am having a good time. But best of all, some Salvation Army people came and sang and talked about sunshine, and while they were talking the sunshine came in through my window--not into my room alone, but into my heart and life as well, where it is going to stay. I know how happy this will make you.
The hospital work was a large feature of the service performed by the Salvation Army. In every area this testimony comes from both doctors, nurses and wounded men. Yet it was nothing less than a pleasure for the workers to serve those patient, cheerful sufferers.
A lassie entered a ward one day and found the men with combs and tissue paper performing an orchestra selection. They apologized for the noise, declaring that they were all crazy about music and that was the only way they could get it.
"How would you like a phonograph?" she asked.
"Oh, Boy! If we only had one! I'll tell the world we'd like it," one declared wistfully.
The phonograph was soon forthcoming and brought much pleasure.
A lassie offered to write a letter for a boy whose foot had just been amputated and whose right arm was bound in splints. He accepted her offer eagerly, but said:
"But when you write promise me you won't tell mother about my foot. She worries! She wouldn't understand how well off I really am. Maybe you had better let me try to write a bit myself for you to enclose. I guess I could manage that." So, with his left hand, he wrote the following:
Dearest Mother:--I am laid up in the hospital here with a very badly sprained ankle and some bruises, and will be here two or three weeks. Do not worry, I am getting along fine. Your loving Son.
Two automobiles, an open car and a limousine, were maintained in Paris for the sole purpose of providing outings for wounded men who were able to take a little drive. It was said by the doctors and nurses that nothing helped a rapid recovery like these little excursions out into an every-day beautiful world.
A boy on one of the hospital cots called to a passing lassie:
"I am going to die, I know I am, and I'm a Catholic. Can you pray for me, Salvation Army girl, like you prayed for that fellow over there?"
The young lassie assured him that he was not going to die yet, but she knelt by his cot and prayed for him, and soothed him into a sleep from which he awoke refreshed to find that she was right, he was not going to die yet, but live, perhaps, to be a different lad.
A sixteen-year-old boy who at the first declaration of war had run away from home and enlisted was wounded so badly that he was ordered to go back to the evacuation hospital. He was determined that he could yet fight, and was almost crying because he had to leave his comrades, but on the way back he discovered the entrance to a German dugout and thought he heard someone down in there moving.
"Come out," he shouted, "or I'll throw in a hand grenade!"
A few minutes later he reached the evacuation hospital with thirty prisoners of war, his useless arm hanging by his side. That is the kind of stuff our American boys are made of, and those are the boys who are praising the Salvation Army!
It was sunset at the Gondrecourt Officers' Training Camp. On the big parade ground in back of the Salvation Army huts three companies were lined up for "Colors." The sun was sinking into a black mass of storm clouds, painting the Western sky a dull blood red with here and there a thread of gleaming gold etched on the rim of a cloud. Three French children trudged sturdily, wearily, back from the distant fields where they had toiled all day. The elder girl pushed a wheelbarrow heavily laden with plunder from the fields. All bore farming implements, the size of which dwarfed them by comparison. They had almost reached the end of the drill ground when the military band blared out the opening notes of the "Star Spangled Banner," and the flag slipped slowly from its high staff. Instantly the farming tools were dropped and the three childish figures swung swiftly to "attention," hands raised rigidly to the stiff French salute. So they stood until the last note had died. Then on they tramped, their backs all bent and weary, over the hill and down into the grey, evening-shadowed village of the valley.
In a shell-marred little village at the American front, the Salvation Army once brought the United States Army to a standstill. Several hundred artillerymen had gathered for the regular Wednesday night religious service, held in the hutment, conducted by that organization at this point, and, in closing, sang vigorously three verses of "The Star Spangled Banner." A Major who was passing came immediately to attention, his example being followed by all of the men and officers within hearing, and also by a scattering of French soldiers who were just emerging from the Catholic church. By the time the second verse was well under way three companies of infantry, marching from a rest camp toward the front, had also come to a rigid salute, blocking the road to a quartermaster's supply train, who had, perforce, to follow suit. The "Star Spangled Banner" has a deeper meaning to the man who has done a few turns in the trenches.
They had a pie-baking contest in Gondrecourt one day, where the renowned "Aunt Mary" was located, with her sweet face and sweeter heart.
One of the other huts had baked two hundred and thirty-five pies in a day. The people in Gondrecourt believed they could do better than that, so they made their preparations and set to work.
The soldiers were all interested, of course. Who was to eat those pies? The more pies the merrier! The engineers had constructed a rack to hold them, so that they might be easily counted without confusion. The soldiers had appointed a committee to do the counting with a representative from the cooks to be sure that everything went right. Even the officers and chaplain took an interest in it.
This hut was in one of the largest American sectors. It was so well patronized that they used on an average fifty gallons of coffee every evening and seventy-five or more gallons of lemonade every afternoon. You can imagine the pies and doughnuts that would find a welcome here. One day they made twenty-seven hundred sugar cookies, and another day they fried eighteen hundred and thirty-six doughnuts, at the same time baking cake and pies; but this time they were going to try to bake three hundred pies between the rising and setting of the sun.
An army field oven only holds nine pies at a time, so every minute of the day had to be utilized. The fires were started very early in the morning and everything was ready for the girls to begin when the sun peeped over the edge of the great battlefield. They sprang at their task as though it were a delightful game of tennis, and not as though they had worked hard and late on the day before, and the many days before that.
It was very hot in the little kitchen as the sun waxed high. An army range never tries to conserve its heat for the benefit of the cooks. In fact that kitchen was often used for a Turkish bath by some poor wet soldiers who were chilled to the bone.
But the heat did not delay the workers. They flew at their task with fingers that seemed to have somehow borrowed an extra nimbleness. All day long they worked, and the pies were marshalled out of the oven by nines, flaky and fragrant and baked just right. The rack grew fuller and fuller, and the soldiers watched with eager eyes and watering mouths. Now and then one of the soldiers' cooks would put his head in at the door, ask how the score stood, and shake his head in wonder. On and on they worked, mixing, rolling, filling, putting the little twists and cuts on the upper crust, and slipping in the oven and out again! Mixing, rolling, filling and baking without any let-up, until the sun with a twinkle of glowing appreciation slipped regretfully down behind the hills of France again as if he were sorry to leave the fun, and the time was up. The committee gave a last careful glance over the filled racks and announced the final score, three hundred and sixteen pies, in shining, delectable rows!
By seven o'clock that evening the pie line was several hundred yards long. It was eleven o'clock when the last quarter of a pie went over the counter, with its accompanying mug of coffee. Think what it was just to have to cut and serve that pie, and make that coffee, after a long day's work of baking!
One of the officers receiving his change after having paid for his pie looked at it surprisedly:
"And you mean to tell me that you girls work so hard for such a small return? I don't see where you make any profit at all."
"We don't work for profit, Captain," answered the lassie. "I don't think any amount of money would persuade us to keep going as we have to here at times."
"You mean you sort of work for the joy of working?" he asked, puzzled.
"I don't know what you mean," responded the lassie pleasantly, "but when we are tired we look at the boys drilling in the sun and working early and late. They are splendid and we feel we must do our part as unreservedly as they do theirs."
"No wonder my men have so many good things to say about the Salvation Army!" said the Captain, turning to his companions. But as he went out into the night his voice floated back in a puzzled sort of half-conviction, as if he were thinking out something more than had been spoken:
"It takes more than patriotism to keep refined women working like that!"
These same girls were commissioned also to make frequent visits to the hospitals and talk with the sick soldiers. Often they read the Bible to them, and many a man through these little talks has found the way of eternal life. This in addition to their other work.
One night after a meeting in the hut a lad wanted to come into the room at the back and speak to one of the women about his soul. They knelt and prayed together, and the boy when he rose had a light of real happiness on his face. But suddenly the happiness faded and he exclaimed:
"But I can't read!"
"Read? What do you mean?" asked the lassie.
"My Bible. Nobody never learned me to read, and I can't read my Bible like you said in the meeting I should."
The lassie thought for a minute, and then suggested that he come to the hut every morning just before first call and she would teach him a verse of scripture and read him a chapter. This meant that the lassie must rise that much earlier, but what of that for a servant of the King?
Just a month this program was carried out, and then came marching orders for the boy, but by this time he had a rich store of God's word safe in his heart from the verses he had memorized. The last night when he came to say good-bye he said to his teacher:
"Your kindness has meant a lot of trouble for you, miss, but for me it has meant life! Before, I was afraid to fight; but now I don't even fear death. I know now that it can only mean a new life. Thank God for your goodness to me!"
There was one soldier who went by the name of Scoop. He had been a reporter back in the States and learned to love drink. When he joined the army he did not give up his old habits. Whenever anybody remonstrated with him he invariably replied gaily, "I'm out to enjoy life." On pay-days Scoop celebrated by drinking more than ever.
One day he happened into the Salvation Army hut. Whether the pie or the doughnuts or the homeyness of the place first attracted him no one knows. He said it was the pie. Something held him there. He came every night. The spirit of the Lord that lived and breathed in those consecrated men and girls began to work in his heart and conscience, and speak to him of better things that might even be for him.
When he felt the desire for drink or gambling coming on he gave his money to the girls to keep for him.
On the last pay-day before he was sent to another location he took a paint-brush and some paint and made a little sign which he set up in a prominent place in the hut, his silent testimony to what they had done for him: "For the first time on pay-day Scoop is sober!"
One morning a lassie was frying some doughnuts in the Gondrecourt hut, another was rolling and cutting, and both were very busy when a soldier came in with the mail. The girls went on with their work, though one could easily see that they were eager for letters. One was handed to the lassie who was frying the doughnuts. When she opened it she found it was an official dispatch. The others saw the change of her expression and asked what was the matter, but she made no reply while tears started down her cheeks. She, however, went on frying doughnuts. The others asked again what was the trouble and for answer the girl handed them the open dispatch, which stated briefly that one of her three brothers, who were all in the service, had been killed in action on the previous day. The others sympathetically tried to draw her away from her work, but she said: "No, nothing will help me to bear my sorrow like doing something for others." This is the spirit of the Salvation Army workers. Personal sorrows, personal feelings, personal difficulties, hardships, dangers, are not allowed to interrupt their labors of love. Fortunately, it was later discovered that this message about her brother was unfounded.
A boy told this lassie one day that the next day was his birthday, and she saw the homesickness and yearning in his eyes as he spoke. Immediately she told him she would have a birthday party for him and bake a cake for it.
She found some tiny candles in the village and placed nineteen upon the pretty frosted cake. They had to use a white bed-quilt for a tablecloth, and none of the cups and saucers matched, but the table looked very pretty when it was set, with little white paper baskets of almonds which the girls had made at each place, and all the candles lit on the white cake in the middle. The boy brought three of his comrades, and there were the Salvation Army Major in charge and the lassies. They had a beautiful time. Of course it was quite a little extra work for the lassie, but when someone asked her why she took so much trouble she had a faraway look in her eyes, and said she guessed it was for the sake of the boy's mother, and those who heard remembered that her own three brothers were in United States uniform somewhere facing the enemy.
There are several instances in which American soldiers coming from British and French Sectors, where they had been brigaded with armies of those nations, have upon entering a Salvation Army hut for the first time without noticing the sign over the door started to talk to the girls in French--very fragmentary French at that. When they found the girls to be Americans they were almost beside themselves with mingled feelings of bashfulness and delight. Most of the soldiers exhibit the former trait.
One boy approached one of our men officers.
"Can them girls speak American?" he asked, pointing at the girls.
On being assured that they could, he said: "Will they mind if I go up and speak to them? I ain't talked to an American woman in seven months."
Two soldiers were walking along the dusty roadway.
First soldier: "Let's go to the Salvation Army hut."
Second soldier: "No, I don't want to."
First soldier: "They've got a piano and a phonograph and lots of records."
Second soldier: "No, I don't want to."
First soldier: "They've got books and beaucoup games."
Second soldier: "No, I don't want to."
First soldier: "Two American ladies there!"
Second soldier: "No, I don't want to."
First soldier: "They've got swell coffee and doughnuts!"
Second soldier (angrily): "No! I said No!"
First soldier: "Aw, come on. They got real homemade pie!"
Second soldier: "I don't care!"
First soldier: "They cut their own wood and do their own work!"
Second soldier: "Well, that's different! Why didn't you say that right off, you bonehead? Come on. Where is it?"
And they entered the Salvation Army hut smiling.
One dear Salvation Army lady had a little hand sewing machine which she took about with her and wherever she landed she would sit down on an orange crate, put her machine on another and set up a tailor shop: sewing up rips; refitting coats that were too large; letting out a seam that was too tight; and helping the boys to be tidy and comfortable again. A good many of our boys lost their coats in the Soissons fight, and when they got new ones they didn't always fit, so this little sewing machine that went to war came in very handy. Sometimes the owner would rip off the collar or rip out the sleeves, or almost rip up the whole coat and with her mouthful of pins skillfully put it together again until it looked as if it belonged to the laddie who owned it. Then with some clever chalk marks replacing the pins she would run it through her little machine, and off went another boy well-clothed. One week she altered more than thirty-three coats in this way. The soldiers called her "mother" and loved to sit about and talk with her while she worked.
The men went in battalions to the Lunéville Sector for Trench Training facing the enemy. Of course, the Salvation Army sent a detachment also.
Over here they had to give up huts. No huts at all were allowed so near the front. No light of fire or even stove, no lights of any kind or everything would be destroyed by shell fire at once. An order went out that all huts near the front must be under ground. Yet neither did this daunt the faithful men and women whom God Himself had sent to help those boys at the front.
The work was extended to other camps in the Gondrecourt area and finally the time came for the troops to move up to the front to occupy part of a sector.