At the end of the first year of the war the scene has stretched out so tremendously that my poor tired brain can hardly take it in. I suppose it is all clear to the general staff, but I don’t know. To me it all looks like a great labyrinth,—and the Germans are at the gates of Warsaw. Of course this does not “alter the final result”—when that comes—but it means more destruction, more land to win back, and, I imagine, such desolation in Poland as makes even the Belgian disaster look, by comparison, small.
Oddly enough, while we know that this will brace up the Germans, fighting all about their borders on invaded territory, it does not effect the faith of the people here, who have even the courage to turn aside from their own grief, with tears in their eyes, to pity Poland. What a price Belgium pays for her courage to be honorable, and at what a price Poland must accept her independence! Everyone is philosophical here, but one does not have to be heartless to be that.
I find it ironical that my flowers bloom, that gay humming-birds hover over my Mas de Perse, that I have enough to eat, that sleep comes to me, and that the country is so beautiful.
Our dragoons have ridden away—on to the front, I am told, and silence has settled down on us.
I am well—there ends the history of a month, and I am not the only one in France leading a life like that,—and still the cannon are pounding on in the distance.
August 6, 1915
Well, the sans gene days seem to be passed.
Up to now, as I have told you, the sauf-conduit matter, except on the last day I was at Meaux, was the thinnest sort of formality. I had to have one to leave the commune, but the blank forms were lying around everywhere. I had only to stop at the hotel at Couilly, step into the cafe, pick up a form and ask the proprietor to fill it out, and that was all that was necessary. I might have passed it on to anyone, for, although my name was written on it, no one ever took the trouble to fill out the description. The ticket-seller at the station merely glanced at the paper in my hand when I bought a ticket, and the gendarmes at the ticket window in Paris, when there were any,—often there were none—did no more. Of course, the possession of a sauf-conduit presupposes all one’s papers en regle, but I never saw anyone examining to make sure of that.
All this is ended. We are evidently under a new regime.
I had my first intimation yesterday, when I had a domiciliary visit from the gendarmes at Esbly. It was a very formal, thorough affair, the two officers treating me, at the beginning of the interview, as if I were a very guilty person.
I was upstairs when I saw them arrive on their wheels. I put down my sewing, and went down to be ready to open the door when they knocked. They didn’t knock. I waited a bit, then opened the door. There was no one on the terrace, but I heard their voices from the other side of the house. I went in search of them. They were examining the back of the house as if they had never seen one like it before. When they saw me, one of them said sharply, without the slightest salute: “There is no bell?”