The country is lovely here in winter—so different from what I remember of it at home. My lawn is still green, so is the corbeille d’argent in the garden border, which is still full of silvery bunches of bloom, and will be all winter. The violets are still in bloom. Even the trees here never get black as they do in New England, for the trunks and branches are always covered with green moss. That is the dampness. Of course, we never have the dry invigorating cold that makes a New England winter so wonderful. I don’t say that one is more beautiful than the other, only that each is different in its charm. After all, Life, wherever one sees it, is, if one has eyes, a wonderful pageant, the greatest spectacular melodrama I can imagine. I’m glad to have seen it. I have not always had an orchestra stall, but what of that? One ought to see things at several angles and from several elevations, you know.
December 5, 1914
We have been having some beautiful weather.
Yesterday Amelie and I took advantage of it to make a pilgrimage across the Marne, to decorate the graves on the battlefield at Chambry. Crowds went out on All Soul’s Day, but I never like doing anything, even making a pilgrimage, in a crowd.
You can realize how near it is, and what an easy trip it will be in normal times, when I tell you that we left Esbly for Meaux at half past one—only ten minutes by train—and were back in the station at Meaux at quarter to four, and had visited Monthyon, Villeroy, Neufmontier, Penchard, Chauconin, Barcy, Chambry, and Vareddes.
The authorities are not very anxious to have people go out there. Yet nothing to prevent is really done. It only takes a little diplomacy. If I had gone to ask for a passport, nine chances out of ten it would have been refused me. I happened to know that the wife of the big livery-stable man at Meaux, an energetic—and, incidentally, a handsome— woman, who took over the business when her husband joined his regiment, had a couple of automobiles, and would furnish me with all the necessary papers. They are not taxi-cabs, but handsome touring-cars. Her chauffeur carries the proper papers. It seemed to me a very loose arrangement, from a military point of view, even although I was assured that she did not send out anyone she did not know. However, I decided to take advantage of it.
While we were waiting at the garage for the car to be got out, and the chauffeur to change his coat, I had a chance to talk with a man who had not left Meaux during the battle, and I learned that there were several important families who had remained with the Archbishop and aided him to organize matters for saving the city, if possible, and protect the property of those who had fled, and that the measures which those sixty citizens, with Archbishop Marbeau at their head, took for the safety of the poor, the care for the wounded and dead, is already one of the proudest documents in the annals of the historic town.