But the details we get regarding the brief German occupation are too disgusting for words. It is not the actual destruction of the battle—for Barcy alone of the towns in sight from here seems to be practically destroyed—which is the most painful, it is the devastation of the German occupation, with its deliberate and filthy defilement of the houses, which defies words, and will leave a blot for all time on the records of the race so vile-minded as to have achieved it. The deliberate ingenuity of the nastiness is its most debasing feature. At Penchard, where the Germans only stayed twenty-four hours, many people were obliged to make bonfires of the bedding and all sorts of other things as the only and quickest way to purge the town of danger in such hot weather.
I am told that Penchard is a fair example of what the Germans did in all these small towns which lay in the line of their hurried retreat.
It is not worth while for me to go into detail regarding such disgusting acts.
Your imagination, at its most active, cannot do any wrong to the race which in this war seems determined to offend where it cannot terrorize.
It is wonderfully characteristic of the French that they have accepted this feature of their disaster as they have accepted the rest—with courage, and that they have at once gone to work to remove all the German “hall-marks” as quickly as possible—and now have gone back to their fields in the same spirit.
It was not until yesterday that I unpacked my little hat-trunk and carefully put its contents back into place.
It has stood all these days under the stairs in the salon—hat, cape, and gloves on it, and shoes beside it, just as I packed it.
I had an odd sensation while I was emptying it. I don’t know why I put it off so long. Perhaps I dreaded to find, locked in it, a too vivid recollection of the day I closed it. It may be that I was afraid that, with the perversity of inanimate things, it had the laugh on me.
I don’t believe I put it off from fear of having to repack it, for, so far as I can know myself, I cannot find in my mind any signs, even, of a dread that what had happened once could happen again. But I don’t know.
I wish I had more newsy things to write you. But nothing is happening here, you see.
October 2, 1914
Well, Amelie came back yesterday, and I can tell you it was a busy day. I assure you that I was glad to see her about the house again. I liked doing the work well enough,—for a little while. But I had quite all I wanted of it before the fortnight was over. I felt like “giving praise” when I saw her coming into the garden, looking just as good as new, and, my word for it, she made things hum yesterday.
The first thing she did, after the house was in order, and lunch out of the way, was to open up the cave in which she had stored her household treasures a month ago, and I passed a rare afternoon. I spent a good part of it getting behind something to conceal my silent laughter. If you had been here you would have enjoyed it—and her.