For a whole week we got no explanation of that five minutes’ excitement. Then it leaked out that the officer of the General Staff, who has been stationed at the Chateau de Conde, halfway between here and Esbly, was about to change his section. He had, in the park there, four German shells from the Marne battlefield, which had not been exploded. He did not want to take them with him, and it was equally dangerous to leave them in the park, so he decided to explode them, and had not thought it necessary to warn anybody but the railroad people.
It is a proof of how simple our life is that such an event made conversation for weeks.
February 16, 1916
Well, we are beginning to get a little light—we foreigners—on our situation. On February 2, I was ordered to present myself again at the mairie. I obeyed the summons the next morning, and was told that the military authorities were to provide all foreigners inside the zone des armees, and all foreigners outside, who, for any reason, needed to enter the zone, with what is called a “carnet d’etrangere,” and that, once I got that, I would have the privilege of asking for a permission to circulate, but, until that document was ready, I must be content not to leave my commune, nor to ask for any sort of a sauf-conduit.
I understand that this regulation applies even to the doctors and infirmieres, and ambulance drivers of all the American units at work in France. I naturally imagine that some temporary provision must be made for them in the interim.
I had to make a formal petition for this famous carnet, and to furnish the military authorities with two photographs—front view,—size and form prescribed.
I looked at the mayor’s secretary and asked him how the Old Scratch —I said frankly diable—I was to get photographed when he had forbidden me to leave my commune, and knew as well as I that there was no photographer here.
Quite seriously he wrote me a special permit to go to Couilly where there is a man who can photograph. He wrote on it that it was good for one day, and the purpose of the trip “to be photographed by the order of the mayor in order to get my carnet d’etrangere,” and he solemnly presented it to me, without the faintest suspicion that it was humorous.
Between you and me, I did not even use it. I had still one of the photographs made for my passport and other papers. Amelie carried it to Couilly and had it copied. Very few people would recognize me by it. It is the counterfeit presentment of a smiling, fat old lady, but it is absolutely reglementaire in size and form, and so will pass muster. I have seen some pretty queer portraits on civil papers.
We are promised these carnets in the course of “a few weeks,” so, until then, you can think of me as, to all intents and purposes, really interned.