Sometimes I think that I have laughed more in the last two years than in all the rest of my life. The demonstrator looked at me, and asked why I was so grave. I replied that I did not know—perhaps in surprise that they were so gay.
He understood at once. Quite simply he said: “Well, my dear madame, we must be gay. What would we do otherwise? If we thought too often of the comrades who are gone, if we remembered too often that we risked our skins every day, the army would be demoralized. I rarely think of these things except just after an attack. Then I draw a deep breath, look up at the sky, and I laugh, as I say to my soul, ‘Well, it was not to be this time, perhaps it never will be.’ Life is dear to each of us, in his own way, and for his own reasons. Luckily it is not so dear to any of us as France or honor.”
I turned away and looked out of the window a moment—I could not trust myself,—and the next minute they were all shaking hands, and were off down the road to get ready.
The loaded camions began to move just after dark. No one knows the destination, but judging by the direction, they were heading for Soissons. They were moving all night, and the first thing I heard this morning was the bugle in the direction of Quincy, and the news came at breakfast time that the 65th Regiment—the last of the big fighting regiments to go into action at Verdun, and the last to leave, was marching in. The girl from the butcher’s brought the news, and “Oh, madame,” she added, “the Americans are with them.”
“The what?” I exclaimed.
“A big American ambulance corps—any number of ambulance automobiles, and they have put their tents up on the common at Quincy.”
You can imagine how excited I was. I sent someone over to Quincy at once to see if it was true, and word came back that Captain Norton’s American Corps Sanitaire—forty men who have been with this same division, the 31st Corps—for many months—had arrived from Verdun with the 65th Regiment, and was to follow it into action when it advanced again.
This time the cantonnement does not come up to Huiry—only to the foot of the hill at Voisins.
Of course I have not seen our boys yet, but I probably shall in a few days.
March 28, 1917
Well, all quiet on the hilltop again—all the soldiers gone—no sign of more coming for the present. We are all nervously watching the advance, but controlling our nerves. The German retreat and the organized destruction which accompanies it just strikes one dumb. Of course we all know it is a move meant to break the back of the great offensive, and though we knew, too, that the Allied commanders were prepared for it, it does make you shiver to get a letter from the front telling you that a certain regiment advanced at a certain point thirty kilometres, without seeing a Boche.