RED CROSS work in Paris has been disappointing. At the beginning f the war a great fuss was made by the fair dames of Paris of all nationalities. Ambulances were organized by “society women,” and palatial private homes were offered to house them. Red Cross was “le “le chic.” Thousands volunteered, with the best will in the world, for nursing. Training classes sprang up in every quarter. Women abandoned their vocations and came back to Paris to attend these courses and to enlist in this work. There was enthusiasm in subscribing and collecting money and in getting fitted out in Red Cross uniforms.
It is an old axiom that the Parisiennes look well in anything. The rather forbidding uniform of the hospital nurse was deftly changed into what we had to admit was a “ravishing” costume. Everywhere one met them, these ladies f the Red Cross, always dressed in uniform, and generally riding about in automobiles de luxe, which flew the Geneva flag, and were driven by attractive youths en soldat.
At first, the military authorities declared that they would probably bring no wounded to Paris, and that, if they did, the public hospitals, and the ambulances organized on a large scale by the central organizations of the Red Cross Society, would prove more than sufficient. But the fair dames persisted in organizing, and in planning the equipment of private ambulances, until It is not a very pretty story, but it must be told. The Red Cross was a fad to most of the rich and idle society women. The exceptions were very few. Butterflies could not be in earnest, even at a time like this. When it came to a question of definite service, under discipline, many of the fair dames dropped out. When the Germans approached Paris, those who had persevered fled from the city to wait for the wounded at Biarritz and Pau !
It is true that there is no crying need for volunteer aid. Not many wounded have been brought to Paris. But if the Germans had succeeded in the Battle f the Marne and if they had attacked Paris, the Minister of War would have needed to call upon all these private ambulances. Where would he have found their personnel?
Our own American Ambulance is an example of this’ Generously fitted out on the scale in which all things American are done, it was planned to accommodate at first two hundred beds, and, if necessary, up to one thousand. he ladies of the American Colony were invited to volunteer for service at the American Hospital. A great number registered. !They came dressed in their best frocks and hats.’ The physician-in-charge was business-like from the beginning. Perhaps he knew his audience only too well. He told them that the ambulance would give a blessed opportunity for service, but that it meant strict discipline and the ability to do cheerfully disagreeable work.
“I want women,” he said, “who would come at eight o’clock in the morning and stick to the job all day long, and who can be counted upon to come every day.”
After the physician had finished, the ladies were invited to register.
” I can come every day from two to four,” said one.
“I could never get away out here before ten in the morning,” said another.
I’ll come afternoons,” said a third.
“I can come mornings, but must leave at half past eleven,” said a fourth.
And so it went. Out of the eager throng of butterflies, one could count on the fingers of his; hands the women really willing to make a sacrifice to serve.
The American Ambulance employs nearly fifty trained nurses, and has a hard time to get enough patients to fill its beds. It is better so, of course. No untrained woman, with all the good will in the world, can do the work of a trained nurse. But what if we had our thousand in the American Ambulance? What if the whole city were filled with wounded ten thousand coming in at one time, as I saw at Constantinople, after the battle of Lule Burgas?
I can answer. There would be plenty of women to give all the loving care necessary to our heroes of the battlefields. But they would not be the women who paraded around here in Red Cross umiforms during the first days of the mobilization, who rode importantly through the streets in their automobiles, and busily talked about raising money and forming ambulances over their teacups.
The real Red Cross worker does not couple her work with the thought of advertisement or of diversion. But then the real Red Cross worker is not the typical society woman.
There is an interesting story from Russia that illustrates the spirit desired for Red Cross work and the difficulty in getting volunteers who show that spirit.
Grand Duke Nicholas, Commander of the Russian army in Poland, is said to have passed recently in review a corps of a hundred women who had volunteered to follow the army in the field ambulances. But he did not need that many. How choose among them? A happy thought carne to him.
He said, “I would like to know how many of you are willing to volunteer for the work of devoting yourselves exclusively to the care of wounded officers?”
Sixty of the hundred immediately stepped out. The Grand Duke waved them aside.
“Red Cross work knows no distinction between friend and enemy, between rich and poor, between high and low,” he told them. “It is a work f humanity, to be carried on most effectively by those whose one and sole thought is the alleviation of human suffering. Who it is that is suffering, and why he is suffering has nothing whatever to do with this work. I shall take to the front with me the forty women who do not care to devote themselves exclusively to officers.”
STRANGE how different things really are from what they are reported to be,” said the Girl. “I wish I had made a collection of all the stories I heard at St. Jean-du-Doigt about what was going on in Paris. Of course, I did not believe ‘any f them, even when people swore to me that they were true. I remembered Constantinople when the Bulgarians were at Tchataldja. How we used to laugh at what they were writing, when newspapers came from home ! People were so petsistent, though, this summer, that I was glad I had your letters to back up my denial f their readily accepted canards. And now I have been home for almost two weeks. I find Paris just as usual, except that so many people are still away from town and that the musical and theatrical season has not yet opened. But then we are hardly in October yet!”
We were taking a Sunday afternoon walk up the Boulevard Raspail and the Avenue d’Orléans to Montrouge. There I showed the Girl the elaborate preparations that had been made to defend Paris against a sudden raid of Uhlans or armored automobiles. Everything was just as it was a month ago when the Germans were at Chantilly and Meaux. No, on a thorough examination, I saw that the defenses had been greatly improved since then. Freshly turned earth indicated that workmen were still being used in executing new schemes of defense.
This is an indication of something I had never noticed before in the French character, and something I had often noticed the absence of. It is what a psychologist would call continuity f effort in measures f prevention. The French wake up to a sudden calamity, to a sudden contingency against the occurrence of which they had not provided. While the calamity is upon them, while the contingency presses them hard and embarrasses them, they are full of energy, and spend themselves in persistent and plucky efforts to ward off the approaching danger, or to face it when it has already come upon them. But once the danger over, they are quick to forget, and easily persuaded to abandon their work of defense and prevention. There is a lot of talk for a few weeks about “taking steps.” It ends there.
“Are they still working for the defense f Paris?”
I asked the Girl incredulously. “How is it possible?”
“Yes,” I answered, pointing to a ditch with my cane. “That earth has certainly not been turned more than twenty-four hours.”
We looked at each other, and laughed. “Well of all things !” the Girl exclaimed. “The” French have a new light.”
There was no need for words. We were both thinking of that awful flood five years ago, in some ways much more of a disaster to Paris than the German Invasion of 1914. ‘What wonderful heroism was shown in the face of a calamity hat no earthly power seemed able to stave off ! That memorable Friday afternoon at the Place de la Concorde, that Friday night on the quai between the Pont Neuf and the Pont des Saints-Pèrs when soldiers and civilians were making dikes and building up the parapets with bags of cement how they did fight the water ! And then, when the flood receded, Paris began to think of the new Rostand play, Chantecler. Nothing has been do e since then to guard against another flood.
Right in this very year itself, less than two months before the outbreak of the war, we were at the Salon one afternoon, when a heavy thunderstorm broke over Paris. The interminable diggings all over Paris for extensions of the subway system were flooded.
A few hundred feet from the Grand Palais, small boys coming from choir practice at Saint-Philippedu-Roule were swallowed up; a taxicab crossing in front of Saint Augustin disappeared in the ground; in front of Raoul’s shoestore on the corner f the Boulevard Haussmann and the Rue de Havre a kiosque and some pedestrians fell into the subway. In many other parts f Paris the earth opened up. Something must be done ! That was the eight days’ cry. And then came the Caillaux trial.
Do you wonder that the Girl and I were surprised to see that Paris is still thinking of its defenses, after the Germans have fallen back across the Aisne’? Is it possible that for the Parisians a danger past is not a danger forgotten’?
We climbed up on the outer mound of the fortifications beyond the moat, and walked around toward a little trou of a gate, known only to those who are accustomed to roam in this quarter, where one can get through to the Parc Montsouris.
“Another illustration!” I cried, pointing eastward toward the sky. It was one of the tireless sentinels of the air whose duty it is to protect us from a return f the German aviators. But no ! My arm fell. Could it be? I had never seen one, but I did not think I could be mistaken. For who in Paris had not been poring over the models of aeroplanes in L’Illustration and other journals?
“It looks to me like an Aviatik,” I said.
Others had stopped and were gazing heavenward. The aeroplane passed over us. No doubt of it! Simultaneously the cry went up, “Les Boches!”
They had come again !
But had they? We walked to the Pare Mont-souris, and down that wonderful slope by the Oriental Pavilion where one sees all Paris before him. The day was clear. No sign of clouds. No specks in the air that might be birds of human making. The Aviatik, if it was one, had gone. The Sunday crowd in the park was not thinking of aeroplanes. We must have been mistaken.
We turned homeward through the Rue de la Santé, a street reminiscent of Jean Valjean, where one sees the suburban Paris of Louis Philippe, when unpretentious private houses with a bit of garden were the order of the day. No Baron Haussmann has ever turned his attention to this quarter of Paris. No subway has caused the rise of apartment houses following the rise of land.
As we walked along, thinking it would be ideal to live in one of these real houses, if only there were some quick means of communication with “the world” (how narrow and insular we city folks are without realizing it!), we heard the unmistakable whirr of a propeller. Before we had time to look up, several shots rang out. The street was deserted. Our portion of the sky seemed to be deserted, too. But we still heard that whirr. Then appeared the cause of it, a bare hundred feet above us, the most beautiful of aeroplanes, a Taube. A man was looking down. We could see his goggles. He had something in his hand. Was he going to throw a bomb?
Just as suddenly as it had come, the aeroplane disappeared. We hurried towards the nearest open space on the Boulevard St. Jacques. The Germans had gone.
We had seen two German aeroplanes. How had they been able to reach Paris on this remarkably clear Sunday afternoon? Had they dropped bombs anywhere? We thought of our three babies in the Luxembourg Garden. The first question was lost in the compelling apprehension of the second. Ten minutes later, we were looking among the thousand baby carriages for our own. It was the usual, happy, carefree Sunday afternoon crowd in the Luxembourg. Children were playing Diabolo and tennis, rolling hoops and sailing boats. The Old Guard were as intent as usual upon their croquet. No signs at all of perturbation. Had the aeroplanes flown over the Luxembourg?
The question was answered for us by our eldest child. She spied us as we climbed the steps of the parterre towards the Guignol, and came running towards us.
“Oh, Mamma, oh, Papa,” she greeted us. “Why did n’t you come before’? Do you know, there were three big German birds here, and the French birds came and chased them away. They were naughty birds, they were. But oh, it was such fun!”
Following close upon Christine’s heels, Dorothy, our English. nursemaid, pushing a baby carriage with one hand and holding Lloyd with the other, confirmed Christine’s story.
“It was very exciting,” she said, laughing,
And Loyd broke in. “The French birds chased them, yes, they did !”
When I opened my Temps this evening, I read that there have been five German aeroplanes over Paris today. They dropped a number of bombs, one of them on the roof Notre Dame. Many people were killed.
“In the midst of life we are in death.” True, is n’t it? But Paris, having been born on a sunny ‘day, cannot help looking upon the sunny side One may express a contrast in such a way as to bring despair and hopelessness. But one may also express it with terms reversed, and get just the opposite result. Paris says, “In the midst of death we are in life.” So we are.
“But the French birds came and chased them away,” said Christine. And Lloyd echoed her. That was, after all, the important thing. It is because my babies are the product of their atmosphere, that Christine put this clause at the end of the sentence, and that Lloyd echoed it. The impression on their mind was not that the terrible Tauben had come, but that they were chased away !
Paris is peopled with Christines and Lloyds.