On "the morning after," October 1st, he had a delightful surprise:
Just a minute more because it is raining and my horse did not come, but as I looked out the window I rubbed my eyes for there was an American Ambulance section going by to the front, and my heart was in my mouth, in a minute. I rushed out to stop them for a second, and it was No. 93, as the boy said---the old American Ambulance, now the U. S. S., and I gave a big gulp and still realized that I am émotionné même ému. . . .
The boy who drove the ambulance just now recognized me and said that he had worked for me last year with "Christy" up in the Bronx, so I wanted to kiss him.
Yesterday a Congressman named Parker of New York State, not Wayne Parker, who also was here, said to me (1 did not remember him) "Bacon, I want to apologize to you," which rather surprised me, but he said that he and three other Congressmen of the State did more than any one else to defeat my nomination and now he was sorry and wanted to apologize.
It may amuse job Hedges if you see him confidentially, although it is a little late. I don't want to quote Mr. Parker generally for all that water has gone over the dam.
I am off now to my busy day. It is lucky for me that they are all busy, as I could not bear it if I had time to think. . . .
The next days were full to overflowing and did not give him the few minutes for a line to Mrs. Bacon, not even for a cable.
It is Sunday again and I have half an hour before dinner . . . . and I have wanted so to see you, to talk to you these last days, and to ask you if you still love me, and think of me kindly and not critically, as I perhaps deserve for going away to this awful war, and leaving you to fight it out alone. Somehow I don't think you would have had me not go if I could, in spite of my old age, and consequent uselessness as a soldier. What could I have done if I had remained at home! . . . Do you think I could have made good at home in this war after all that I have said, all that I have criticized, these last three years? You see . . . I am trying to justify myself in your eyes. I care for nothing else. If only I could feel that you know that I am doing right, that I did my duty as I saw it, and as many people think, I should be ten times less unhappy, ten times less dissatisfied, ten times more effective in everything I do.
I do try hard! I am so afraid all the time that my poor efforts are not considered successful that I am in a constant state of apprehension and doubt. Is it because I am losing my judgment, or is it the exaggeration of life-long qualities that you know so well? I know in my heart that I am doing well, as well as any one could do---the little things, the exacting continuous round of unimportant things that I have to do from five when the Angelus finds me awake until bed time, with never a let-up. I know that I do it well, but I am not a soldier, and I long for a word, a sign and look of encouragement---for some evidence that all my world thinks highly of me. You know what an old fool I have always been . . . and now I am worse than ever, not in lack of confidence in myself and what I can do, but in craving for esteem and good opinion of everyone. I long for it, and you are the only one in the world to whom I can say it or who understands. Do you understand how weak I am and do you think the less of me! This all sounds sort of morbid but it isn't, and my courage will hold out with only an occasional word of approval from you.... The 10th is at hand and brings back sweet memories of 34 years of never-failing, true love and patient, kindly forbearance on your part, dear, blessed Heart. No man was ever more blessed, and now I have gene away in the hour of trial and have left you to fight it out alone! If you feel that it was my duty to stay, and that the call that took me away was mistaken, then I ought not to have come. Of course the boys' sacrifice and the price that their little wives and families are paying is in many ways the same, and there will be a million or more of others, but you will say that all are of conscriptable age, and their duty is manifest, hard as it is, but old Bacon is too old, and of no use at the front, that is the answer, and it is nothing but selfish vanity that induces him to go. . . .
I am just up from dinner where we had a bottle of champagne, one bottle only for 10 men, which was all we had in the house to celebrate a great appointment, which came by cable to-day from Washington.(238) You will be able to guess, and also the promotion of two brigadier-generals of the family. To-day has been a holiday for me, the first for two months, and I was glad to get out into the country from this crowded place, where my job is to put square pegs into round holes, and to add several quarts of water to a pail already brimful.
It is storming to-night and winter is almost here by the feeling, but we are trying out our chauffage central---the only such luxury in the place. I lunched with a general to-day, who has many boys coming in the Army. I am most anxious to know what our boys will probably do, where and how long they will train, and what they want to do if there is any possible way I can help them know how to do it. Would any of them like to come over on a Staff position if it were possible? Tell them to study French hard every minute they have to spare. All my friends here are taking French lessons at great expense and trouble and regret more than anything else that they cannot speak or understand it. The superior officers are the ones who study hardest. I hope Professor Sabine of Harvard will call upon you. He is a splendid man and will tell you of a glimpse he had of me the other day. It is a perfectly hopeless feeling not to be able to write any of the many little things that I do or that the others do. It makes me think that it is not worth while writing except for my own small satisfaction and to relieve my overwrought thoughts.
I am pleased to-day to have a new plaything---a saddle and bridle from Paris which George Munroe sent me, but the good weather has gone and I shall have very little time to ride the Army horses, which the orderlies can sometimes bring me . . . I long to have you here in France, just to feel that you are here, and experiencing in a way the same things that I am so near to, breathing the same atmosphere, but my better judgment seems to say that it is better for you and for your little brood that you should be there to help and encourage and ward off danger, and protect and comfort those we love. You are wonderful . . . and you do so much for everyone and they all appreciate it now so deeply, more and more every day, and in all the loving care and sacrifice you are lavishing you are piling up precious legacies-priceless heritage that they will never forget, that they will never cease to love and reverence. This must be your reward, and there can be no greater than the full consciousness of the inestimable benefactions which your dear soul is pouring out upon them. Never were greater, finer, purer gifts bestowed by Mother upon her loved ones. I can give you nothing but the love and unbounded admiration and reverence of a lifetime which is the only thing that I have in the world. . . .
October 10th had come and gone out of his life, as it were. The dull, deadening routine of a Post Commandant absorbed him by day and troubled him by night, fearful as he was that he might not he performing its many duties as well as they should be done, or so well as someone else could do them. In any event, he was liberating "a real soldier," as Major Bacon would say, for "a soldier's job," by taking charge of the post. He did not think of this aspect of the case on Sunday night, October 21st, when he wrote,
This has been a day of varied emotions for me.
I have many hours of sadness and disappointment and a sense of failure for the first time in my life. In almost every other trial of strength and capacity and personal superiority I have won out but I am conscious of not having "put it over" so far, and I must confess it to you, although perhaps not to any one else, deeply as I feel it. Well! Enough of that side of the medal.(239)
This morning at 5:30 I got up determined to take a half holiday and go out into the country to see the Zeppelins which had been reported down not far away. You will have read all about them in the papers by this time. It has been certainly a wonderful sight, and no words of mine can describe my (I was going to say "admiration," but I can't, I so despise the boche) for the workmanship and scientific construction. The great wounded leviathan lay there with his nose in the valley across a stream, and his mighty body and tail away up the hillside, and over the trees, fully 600 feet long, and 75 in diameter, as if the Lusitania were lying there. The four gondolas for the men and the engines and the explosives and the wireless and the management were models of exquisite workmanship---like a watch movement, and the enormous aluminum frame with its envelope, thin as paper, and the silk air chambers were all very impressionnant. The nineteen men were held prisoners and prevented from destroying it by a rabbit hunter with a shot-gun, and near by, not many kilometers, were the remains of the engine's paraphernalia of another Zepp, which had risen again with four men (the rest, 16, having jumped out into trees and with parachutes. I saw the 16, of whom 2 were high ranking officers of the Navy, and was not sorry that they had come to grief and mortification). Two or three more are down to-day, out of the fleet of seven pirates who night before last killed and wounded many women and children at Scarborough.(240) They may all be down by this time, as evidently the whole bunch went astray for some reason in the fog. The country here is lovely, and my one relaxation is to ride for half an hour or so an hour before breakfast. At first I longed for my own horse, but now I don't care. I have only one real friend here, and with him I ride every morning. . . . I am going to do better, see it through and be cheerful about it. All these soldiers are just as far away from their dear ones as I am. I first came to this town on July 20th, and my being away on that day was the cause of much of the unfortunate denouement of our American Ambulance trouble. . . . Let us forget if we can all the late unpleasant part, and remember only the big and fine part of the last three years' work for French bleeding hearts and bodies . . . I was so glad that they did not forget you in the decoration which France gave. Nothing is good enough for you---but to come back to me and this place. Do you know where I am? You do not know the General of the Region, or the Maire or the Majeur de Garrison, or the Intendant and Chief of Police, and the leading citizens, all of whom I see daily, or the many, many popotes, or of the sanitation and defence, and the command of many troops, and departments of government, which has been given to me. The Commandant---but all these things are not to be repeated from me. I cannot tell you what an interesting old town it is, or its history and tradition, or how I know more about it than any one else of the Army, or even how the people here like me and know that I like them, and have confidence in me although I say it who should not---but now I must go to bed to get warm, as my fire is out again . . .
I am ashamed of my stupid little letters to you . . . but when I sit down to write, I seem to think that I must not say a word of what I am doing, although in the daytime I am constantly thinking aloud to you all sorts of things that at the moment seem to be perfectly harmless from the point of view of the Censor. There have been great promotions in the family, here at this mess I mean, two new generals and three new colonels, so that Captain P. is the only Captain left, and he is in the hospital, and I the only one else below rank of Colonel. General A., too, is sick in bed and General M. at the hospital, and Col. F. C. [Fox Conner] just recovering from an operation, and Col. P. absent on sick leave, but officers and men are coming in every few days and the town is as full as an egg already, so you must try to imagine how it is piling on to poor old me, for if you will look up the Army Regulations on the duties of Post Commander, and then add about 50 per cent. new additional responsibilities, plus those of liaison with the French, interpreter and general handy man, you will begin to have some idea of what I am conscientiously trying to do from six in the morning till bed-time---every human endeavor and activity. I know that I am doing it as well as it can be done under the circumstances, but I also know that no one else knows it. As I told my friend Col. S. [Simonds] at lunch to-day, he and I being left alone, all I want is an occasional kind word, and I don't care how hard I have to delve, but kind words are scarce in the Army, and every man must look after himself, and every one is surmené with more than he can possibly get away with from one week end to another. I keep up my riding with McCoy who, as you know, is a perfect corker. I am crazy about him. He and I and Col. H. and Col. W., an Englishman, had a good one to-day over wonderful hills and grass, with glorious autumn colors, browns, dull reds and yellows, almost like a dogwood, and dark patches of Christmas trees---miles and miles, if we like, in every direction.
I am just called away to the telephone to be told that a Zeppelin has been reported far off, coming this way, but I do not believe it. The French seem to have made a splendid advance on the Chemin des Dames to-day. . . . I suppose winter will settle down pretty soon now, and stop everything. . . . By the way, I have been thinking of late that it would amuse me to have Hereford try to collect some material for a memoir of myself, for myself and perhaps by myself of the last 40 years. It is just 40 years now since my first years in Cambridge, and I am old enough now to begin to take an, interest, senile perhaps, but quite keen and egoistic in the retrospect of good and bad, and I am looking for a Boswell, although I am ashamed even to say it. Seriously I should like to have Hereford give much of his time, if he will, and out of newspapers and things and the mouths and possibly pens of a few real friends---there are only a few---scrape together something for my old age. Hooper and Trimble might hand him a few plain truths of the early days, and the decade of panics and struggle from '84 to '94, and the next wonderful decade of constructive period with J. P., and the next of contact with public men and things of which much could be discovered. I wonder if you could not persuade Mr. Hutchings to carry along the little story of Daniel Carpenter through the life of William B. [acon, the father] for whom he had a high appreciation, and with the help of that brilliant wit, good old Hayward, who might set down a few things pleasant and interesting for me to remember.
Hereford might then take up the running with my utterly unworthy self and thus piece out a picture of 100 years, certainly of activity, which might one day, say 30 or 40 years hence, amuse Benny and his father, or Bob or Elliot and their boys and girls, or little Dor and Robert and their sweet mother, who would have then furnished new links for the family chain. I hope you don't think that I am in my dotage, but I am quite serious about it now that I write it down, and I am sure that good Jamesie Scott would think aloud a little of the last decade and job Hedges himself might inspire a few lines on my lamentable failure.
I don't know how Hereford is going to occupy his time, now that the Ambulance work has gone out of our lives . . . but I wish you would ask him to undertake this colossal literary work as a professional duty, and see what he says, when he realizes that I am not joking. Give my love too to Jamesie and to Roosevelt and to Root and to old Col. Harvey and to good little Dwight Morrow.(241) Those men understand now my obsession of the last three years. Davy, of course, appreciates now more than he did two or three years ago how I felt and suffered. It seems to me now sometimes as if the period of exaltation had passed or changed. No one, I think, quite understands my point of view, and my condition of these years of war. I seem to have been almost alone, and now the professional approach of many of my friends is not the same as my sympathy and almost anguish and shame of waiting.
And now the nation is really on fire, is really the beginning of that nation of which I have dreamt, for which I feared, and which saved itself by such a narrow squeak in spite of itself, in spite of its leaders. We have become a nation with one bound, and I believe we will endure as a nation, which we would not have done had we not come into this war. The price will be dreadful---We must pay, some of us must pay dearly the awful price, but the soul of the nation will be tested in the crucible and you and I . . . the atoms, will be forgotten, though we may pay the price that the nation may live. . . .
Major Bacon speaks of his guests in his letter of November 6th, the next in the series,
It is late to-night . . . and gone are all the guests, "gros Bonnets" they were too, high up in the military hierarchy, whose names I dare not mention, but yesterday we had here a party in many automobiles, 18 in all, congressmen and their secretaries, and I'm glad they came because they will know a little better and can explain what it is all about to the folks back home. Oh! the dear folks back home! How I long to see them! At last your letters came and your cable, and I felt not quite so far away, and you told what I wanted to know, a little about yourself and the bairns and I had a nice letter from Sister, too. Tell her I loved it, and am hungry for more. The photos of the babes were fine. How they are all growing old. Little Elliot and little, big Robert (what do you all call him?) are already real persons whom I don't know, and your report of Benny and little G. and the little girls at Chattanooga all thrilled me with interest. I can just see dear blessed Ma ruffling her feathers, and protecting her chicks, and I love her and try to think of everything she may be doing. Wasn't it pretty sweet of McCoy to write you? He told me that he had and it touched me deeply, although I know not what he said. He is a perfect dear, and I am crazy about him. Then came good Sir Walter Lawrence, and you must surely go yourself to see him wherever he is, as he is really splendid and besides has a scrawl from me to you and some cards which my good friend General W., the French General commanding, gave me. I have seen him, the General, every day now for about three months, all my daily duties are done with him d'accord, and he has been awfully amiable and accueillant. He has a baby two weeks old whom he has named Pierre John after General Pershing. He is of Alsace, which is not far from here.
Of the advantage to the country of Major Bacon's prestige, and of his relations to General "W," Brigadier-General Frank McCoy writes,(242)
From my first day in Paris, June, 1917, I renewed my old-time friendship and association, and I know how much his prestige and personality and knowledge of France and French helped us to nick in the strange environment for an American Headquarters. He was invaluable in smoothing over the natural friction in receiving into the Military Service the many American organizations and enthusiastic war workers who had been more or less going it alone before we came into the war. This was particularly so in regard to the American Ambulance and the Ambulance Field Service. . . .
The French Regional Commander General Wirbel was a very peppery old chap, whom I feared would be a standing stone to our smooth operations, but Colonel Bacon won him so completely as a friend and co-worker that our moving right into his headquarters resulted in the pleasantest and most sympathetic relations during the remainder of the war. Upon our arrival in Chaumont, when Colonel Bacon was made Headquarters Commandant, a great organization developed on broadest lines and without bother of the details of quarters, billeting, construction, etc., all of which he handled, and for six months to come, with great tact and ability.
Major Bacon makes another attempt to tell what he is doing, but if Mrs. Bacon was not enlightened, her mind was relieved to learn that he had got the better of his cold although she might still be in the dark as to the details of the "job".
I wonder if you have any idea of what I am trying to do. Well, I am trying to do everything for everybody, all the little things that nobody wants to do, and I am just going to peg away from morning till night till they drive me away---and I am well . . . really pretty well for an old wreck, and so far can stand as much as any one. I threw off an incipient cold much to my delight and the regular matutinal ride seems to be helpful.
The rides which restored his health and kept him well were invariably with General McCoy, who thus writes of them;
During this period we kept ourselves fit by riding before breakfast, and I don't think that he and I missed a day, rain, snow, or shine, until he left for British General Headquarters late in the winter. I must confess that I should not have been so regular at seven o'clock on those cold, raw mornings were it not for the fact that I knew he was sure to be on the dot.
The valleys of the Marne and the Suize were delightful riding grounds, and we would come in for a hearty breakfast quite uplifted over the cross country and the charm of the hills and streams, and he with his eye for the picturesque soon discovered ways of coming up from the valleys to the town which would give us the best views of the old city with its Cathedral and the Haute Feuille tower of the Counts of Champagne, which was his particular delight and which he knew from every angle.
November 7th was a red letter day.
Did you ever know a small boy . . . away from home at boarding school for the first time, perhaps, homesick, but trying to keep a stiff upper lip and a brave face---often with a trembling lip and a wet eye, who when his first package arrived from home, pretended not to care much, but at the first opportunity rushed upstairs to his room, locked the door, opened his precious bundle, and broke down and cried like a child, and poured his heart out to his mother as he had never done before, and loved each separate thing that her dear hands had made and sent to him, the socks, the sweater, the belly-bands even for his cold winter, and the chocolate and the thoughtful saccharine, and the gloves for his blue fingers. The boy never forgets those moments, and they stand out I am sure all his life and grow in grateful sweetness through the years. Well, this old boy is going through all the blessed sensations to-day even to the scalding tears, and is not ashamed.
It isn't a sign of weakness, either, or senility, for he was never better mentally, morally, or physically (for his age)---and full of good fight, but full, too, of the finer, softer things which make life worth living in spite of the pain, and which the boy but half understands till long after.
Good-bye now . . . I just wanted a word with you after lunch and I must run. I shall try to send this by someone who may be going on the French ship.
Ten days passed before Major Bacon could write again:
It is a long time since I have written you . . . and why I don't know, for I think of you all the time, and all my little troubles, and worries, and doubts I want to pour out to you every day, but somehow I never have a moment. Never during the day, and at night I am pretty well done up lately, and do not seem to have the courage to sit up in this little cabinet de toilette where I am writing now, so generally drop into bed to keep warm, sleep pretty well till the small hours and then lie awake, and think and half dream till Gicquel comes in at 6.45.
Your dear letters have come, and tell me all the things I long to hear. I can see you at your parties distributing cake and ice cream to your eight hundred, but giving out your blessed self and all your love and sympathy to those homeless boys, priceless gifts which they will never forget. I should think they would appreciate it and you, for if ever there was a saint on earth it is you . . . but try, try not to use up all your strength. Do spare yourself a little for the sake of all of us who are so dependent upon you and your love. I am all excitement to see George(243), who is surely coming over with Tom(244)---so I hear. When I received your cable about him, I could not imagine what he was coming for, and now I do not know, but I am tempted to try to keep him. There would be lots for him to do, and his ability and usefulness would soon be recognized and appreciated, and he would become a Staff officer. I feel sure he would get a commission if the Morgans would let him stay. I shall get him out here if I possibly can, for I cannot get away to Paris for even half a day. I wonder if any of the friends who have gone home from here have given you any idea of what I am doing, and what it means of hard , thankless, endless tasks---the "goat," in fact, of this centre of the A. E. F, but "he also served, etc.," and this is the only way now that I can do my bit. I am afraid that your headlines in the newspapers are giving you all false impressions. The Senators who were here this week, and with whom I spent two days, went home, I am sure, with a much clearer idea of the immensity of the task, which I am afraid the nation does not even yet appreciate. We went out to the training of the troops, and watched them in all their wonderful youth and vigor, and listened to the ominous booming of the guns far away to the north out of reach. . . .
I have a tiny, tiny house here with a tiny kitchen, three rooms and a bonne à tout faire where I put any of my friends who need a bed, and as there is hardly a bed left in town, it may be of some use. George will tell you all about me when he goes back. I shall fill him full of all the dope, which I have been afraid to write you, and I am looking forward to his visit with the greatest joy. I hope he doesn't hit upon the very same day as a large official party of twenty, of whom I read in the papers, and who will of course turn up here to add to my tribulations.
This is a poor little hurried scrawl . . . in the hope of getting it off by a friend who is sailing to-morrow, or next day. I am beginning to think of you at Christmas and to wonder with all my loving sympathy. . . .
The letter of November 25th is cheerful from beginning to end:
MY BLESSED SAINT,
Your wonderful little pacquets have come to-day, and yesterday six letters all at once, and I am full of all your news, and your love, and the dear atmosphere of home, and I am chuckling to myself over my ambro coca, and my little casserole, and I think I will wear the woolly tricot to bed it is so soft and warm, and Marie, that's the cook, says I ought to keep my stomach warm.
And I am all of a twitter to-day because I am going to have a lunch party to-morrow at the little house, 4 rue du Palais, which little rue has been rue-ing since the 10th Century, just as it is now. And who do you suppose is coming to lunch? I shall have a darn good bottle of Monton Rothschild to warm his fat stomach and a chicken and salad and a good cheese and an entremet and plenty of sugar in his coffee, and a good fire in the stove, and a warm welcome, and I shall hear all about you, Mother dear, and Sister and Dor, and fat Bob and the boys, and everybody, and now you can guess who is coming, for I won't tell you, but it's going to be a tête-à-tête, and I don't see what I am going to send you by him for Christmas, for there is certainly nothing in this old place that you want, except this old feller and him I can't send you, bless your heart, and my heart will sink when George goes back without me. . . .
Aren't the British fine up at Cambrai,(245) and beyond Ypres these last days. Doesn't it make you tingle and choke and gulp to read about it, and dream of sweeping through with the cavalry and rolling up their old Hindenburg line for ever! and giving us back our good old world, which is cursed and all changed for ever by their wanton madness. Good old world---better perhaps for future generations after it has passed through this fiery furnace, but never the same again for you and me. . . .
I have a Guest House too where the "White Feathers," the grosses légumes, tarry while here officially. Generals and Senators and Congressmen and Commissioners and such, from time to time, and the nice widow, whom I have to run it, and her sister, bring me apples and fresh eggs from their modest home twenty kilometres away---in fact their nice old mother brings them in her basket. Oh, there are many sweet simple touching things below the deceptive surface. The people here are awfully nice to me, and appreciative of a little sympathy and understanding, and call me one of them. Add ais to the name you looked up on your map. That is what they say I am already, and I like the compliment---(Chaumont-ais) . . . .
Three days later, November 28th, he writes from "The same place for I never move,"
A snowy raw winter's day, and up here all alone wrapped up in woolen, snuggled up to my little wood fire "thinking, Mother dear, of you, in my bright and happy home so far away, and the tears they fill my eyes spite of all that I can do." I dined all alone to-night, for every one has gone away, to all sorts of places, but my little job keeps me here tugging from morning till night. I am an engineer among other things, and am hard at work erecting barracks. And who do you suppose is working for me?---but I mustn't say, and George will tell you. We had our little lunch party yesterday, and he went away to Paris, but he and Tom will come to see me again perhaps next week. I am full of excitement to-night, and do not expect to sleep a wink, for I have a secret wish, and almost hope, that I may be allowed to do something else. I am burning with impatience, for to-morrow to come, for I mean to speak of it to a friend of mine; I may be doomed to bitter disappointment, but my imagination is running wild to-night. The nuit, even, may bring conseil, and I may not have the courage to ask for it, but my constructive job here is nearly finished, and although I shall be proud to stick to it, and run the show if they really want me, there are other things, entre nous, which appeal to me much more, and to-night I am full of youthful (God save the mark) ambition.
I think every day of the boys' plans, and wonder what they are doing next. Their Camp must be over, and they may be at Fort Sill, or on their way over here from what you say. Will Bob come first, after all? Did Gaspar's battery win the guidon? Are Ett's polaks licked into shape? And is Yaphank [Elliot's Camp] even worse than you feared as a winter resort? Did Benny [Gaspar's boy] nearly jump out of his skin with excitement sleeping in G [aspar]'s tent?
Tell me every little detail you can think of. George has told me much of his sweet wife and fat sons, and the little breath of home has been very tender and sweet and makes me hungrier than ever. Lizzie Reid(246) has kindly written me to dine in Paris on Thanksgiving, but my turkey will be here with my one best friend.(247) Did you ever get his letter?
Tell the boys again from me to spend every spare minute studying French. I can't exaggerate the importance of it, or what a handicap it is to all these splendid Staff officers not to know it. They are all digging away at it like school boys and making great sacrifices in the hope of improving. Fit them out with Larousses and verbs and vocabularies and conversations, and above all teach them yourself whenever you are with them, how to pronounce and enunciate. Make them read aloud to themselves, Madame Métivet (I don't know how to spell it after all these years although I know her birthday!). The girls can be of greatest help if they realize the importance of it. They are all such good French scholars. "Voici des fleurs---et voici mon coeur qui ne bat que pour vous," my blessed Saint. The Mayor of this place, who is my intimate, and who has a nice little wife, and a son who has been prisonnier de guerre for over two years, flatters me by telling me that my French has improved à marveille since my arrival. At any rate I chatter all day and sometimes dream in French! I heard a woman singing "Te souviens tu," in much too fast time---much faster than we used to sing it---but my fire is nearly out and my little stock of thoughts too confused to make this letter worth reading, but they go out to you . . . as does my poor old heart. . . .
The next letter, dated December 18th, is very characteristic:
Six dear welcome letters . . . in two days. That is going some, and oh I was glad to get them. The "25th Nov." came first and two days after the "9th Nov." and I suppose the same thing is happening to you, although I am very much afraid from what you say that some of my poor scrawls have gone astray, and never reached you at all. Mc[Coyl got your letter too to-day and was mighty pleased as I knew he would be and kept saying how glad he was that he had written. He is really one of the very sweetest and finest in the land, and I can never express or repay what he has been to me in my days of discouragement. Strictly between you and me . . . to have done something and to have been somebody, especially an Ambassador to France, has been a real handicap to me,(248) but I don't mind it a bit, and am perfectly content to peg away at my little unprofessional things from daylight to dark, with no hope of recognition or promotion or anything like that, if only I can serve and if I can get a smile or a sympathetic word now and then. I love to work and never put more into my work than I have done these last six months. . . . I would not do other than lie in the bed that I have deliberately made, and I am proud to be here, and consider it a privilege to serve in any capacity. You know that I always said that I would like to serve in the ranks. If I had succeeded in going to the Senate it would have perhaps been a fine ending, and I regret it more and more, especially when I realize that the people of New York now know that they would rather have had me. I might never have come to France masquerading as a soldier, although my foolish and rather Quixotic crusading spirit might have still led me over here. . . . But when all is said and done, and searching my innermost soul, I would rather be one of the stars in your proud service flag than anything in the world, and there is no reward which I seek no reward so great as the knowledge and conviction that you are proud and pleased in your anguish. . . . Here everything is growing and expanding and improving wonderfully! I have greater and greater admiration for and confidence in this little Army, and its traditions, and its organization, and its efficiency.
Nothing could be finer than the unselfish devotion of its Chief, and of its General Staff. Je m'incline! Their precept and example are beyond all praise, and it is an honor and privilege to be with them, and in their confidence. Xmas will be here again in a few days, and I kiss your dear eyes, wet I know with tears for the days when we were all together. It will be a sad one too for me and for us all. I shall do what little I can for the children hereabouts and you will be my inspiration.
We are to have a Xmas tree at the Y. M. C. A. hut, which is just across the road from my barracks where my command is growing bigger and bigger. A tree for the children of Chaumont , and there will be a Santa Claus and lots of little things such as you would revel in. "Il fait si froid dans leurs foyers déserts," for "La neige tombe et la terre est toute gelée," and the boche is over there holding, holding hard, but "nous verrons" and the world will be free.
I simply eat up all your news of yourself and the children, and am crazy about all the wonderful things you send me. I am really foolish about them. . . .
In a letter of December 22nd, Major Bacon announces the advent of his great and good friend, Bishop Brent,(249) who was to share his little house with him, in Chaumont, and to occupy it after Major Bacon had been detailed to other and more important duties,
Pretty near Xmas, . . . and this is the time when, as Bishop Brent, said this evening at the Y. M. C. A. "the bars of distance are transformed into bands of union". . . . I suppose you will be a little jealous when you hear that the Bishop is staying here with us for a day, and that I lunched and dined with him, and had an hour or two tête-à-tête with him this evening. He is splendid as usual, and to-morrow he is off to spend Xmas with his Canadians in the trenches. I sort of wish I could go, too, for there in the British front is much of my heart, and I am more than ever convinced that for the future of the world the absolute union of the English-speaking people is necessary. Remember what I have preached to unbelieving ears these last four winters!
We are to have a Xmas dinner en famille and three of our family, who have left us, will come back, the "gunner," Captain Épatant, and Schally all from their schools. How I wish I were young enough and intelligent enough to be sent to school, but all the world goes away to their different callings, and I stay here wearing my hair shirt, and trying to get comfort out of the thought that I am inconspicuously helping someone else to do something and be somebody. I am too old and too handicapped by having done something in the past to be called upon to do much of anything more. But I hold on first of all to my sense of humor and to some courage, which I take in both hands, and the days go by. Your wonderful presents have all come---two more bundles of welcome white socks and so much to eat that I come up here to my room and stuff, much to the detriment of my figure. What did you think of my Xmas present to you with all the shadows and wrinkles washed out from around the eyes? I thought it might amuse you and that you would like the book of Bouchor about whom George will tell you. I am waiting now to hear of George's arrival, although I don't know what ship he took. I hope he will take home an impression of this place and of my life here, which I do not seem to be able to tell you anything about. His flying visit though was hardly long enough to get an idea of the tremendous work which is going on here in this old town, where International events took place long ago and where now a marble slab in the Hotel de Ville commemorates the coming of Americans, and where the ladies, "God bless 'em," have presented a wonderful flag of silk to the C. in C. . . .
International events had indeed taken place long ago, "in this old town," as Major Bacon put it. They were many and important, but for present purposes only one may be noted. The conclusion of the treaty of Chaumont on March 1., 1814, between Austria, Great Britain, Prussia, and Russia, by which the august monarchs of those countries, in person or by their representatives severally bound themselves not to make a separate peace with Napoleon, then on his last legs and at bay in France, and to continue the war until that devoted country was reduced to the limits of 1792, in which year the war of the French Revolution began.
There is, at the landing of the first flight of stairs of the building which partially replaces an older structure in 6 rue Bouchardon, a stained glass window representing the signing of this treaty on March 9, 1814, with figures of Francis, Emperor of Austria; Frederick William, King of Prussia; Alexander 1, Czar of Russia; Castlereagh, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, representing the Prince Regent of Great Britain, the soul of the coalition and resistance to Napoleon, and figures of Metternich of Austria, Nesselrode of Russia, Hardenhurg and William von Humboldt of Prussia.
The Americans were in Chaumont for the purpose, among others, of restoring France to its limits of 1870, before the rape of Alsace-Lorraine by Prussia, as a consequence of the war of that year with France, forced on that unfortunate country by the fraud and forgery of Bismarck.
Another point worth noting is that the treaty of Chaumont was the first step to the League which posterity has contemptuously called "The Holy Alliance," and it provided for congresses or conferences of the Powers, which were to settle and keep settled "the prescriptions of right," which the victors of 1815 imposed upon the nations of Europe.
So much for one of the "international events" which Major Bacon had in mind. The newer building has a personal interest for his admirers, for in it he, upon his own initiative and at his own expense, installed the Interallied Military Circle or Club, in their large and comfortable quarters.
Major Bacon barely mentions the Club in his letters. Among his papers there was found a letter from the French General, commanding the 21st "Region," addressed to him when Commandant of Chaumont. It tells part of the story:
General Wirbel, Commander of the 21st Region, to Major Bacon,
Chief of General Headquarters of the American Expeditionary Force.
MY DEAR COMMANDANT:
The Interallied Military Club is constituted to-day.
In the name of the officers of the Garrison of Chaumont it is my duty to state precisely the great part which you had in its foundation.
The Club is, in truth, your personal work.
In spite of numerous difficulties, you have preserved a place for it ever since your arrival.
Finally, with a discretion which has astounded me beyond measure, you secured, from your own resources, the money for the equipment, which is as comfortable as it is elegant.
Then, with a thought which will touch the hearts of all your French comrades, you desired that this equipment be later returned to the Garrison as a souvenir of the passage of the American General Headquarters.
Permit me, then, my dear Commandant, to express to you the warmest thanks and the most cordial gratitude of the Allied officers, and in particular of the French officers. Your generous initiative will permit them to form among themselves the affectionate relations of comradeship so useful to our common cause.
We should all have been pleased to confer the presidency of the Club upon you. It is your right. But I must bow before the delicate reasons of your refusal. However, your name will not be the less revered in the Club of Chaumont. Yours will ever be a living memory there.
Accept, I pray you, my dear Commandant. the expression of my deep sympathy and sincere friendship.
The rest of the story is told by General McCoy:
Amongst the side issues which meant much for the friendly relations between the French and American officers, was his instigating and organizing the Franco-American Club, which, with his usual modesty and generosity, he largely effected through me, including the outfitting of some fine old rooms in the most historic house in town.
In a letter of January 9, 1918, there is a reference to the Club. which Major Bacon attributes to Mrs. Bacon's inspiration, and dedicated to her:
This clipping account of your Club will interest you and I don't mind saying that it is a pretty good Club, and very much appreciated by pretty much everyone here. The historic room [in which the treaty was apparently signed], which is the principal salon, adds to its interest as a Foyer Inter-Allié, and the big logs in the big old chimney with new green curtains and green covered fauteuils and canapé, and a big table would appeal to you I am sure . . . who are the inspiration of it all.
Then again your "Sanitary train" is still going strong for the French wounded, manned by American doctors, and still rolling all over France, well-known as the Train Sanitaire de I'Ambulance Américaine, equipped and maintained by Mrs. Robert Bacon, and the other day when there was urgent need to evacuate an American Hospital, and the American Army train broke down, the request was made of the French to lend your train to the American Army, so there have been many American sick as well as thousands of French wounded whom you have helped and will continue to help and relieve of their suffering. . . .
The last letter of the year 1917 and the first of the year 1918:
For the clocks are striking . . . and the New Year is coming in, and how can I begin it so well as with just a word of blessed love to you? Another year, and we are all hoping, praying that it may be brighter, finer, more elevating than any of its predecessors---for if we don't wish and hope and try for that---there is nothing, in spite of trials which may be in store for us, if our souls cannot rise above fear and apprehension, even pain and anguish and agony if need be then we are not so worthy, and if our steel is to be tempered in the crucible of suffering and sacrifice and survives then it will be true steel, and mine are not forebodings. My heart is quieter, calmer, perhaps stouter, though I say it who should not, than ever before, and this with full and sympathetic knowledge of everything you feel.
There has never been a time in our full forty years, my blessed Saint, when I was any surer of our perfect oneness of thought and understanding, you and 1, and for me it is very tender and sweet, and I know that there is nothing that we do not share in common. I love to feel that you feel just as I do about it all-that I feel just as you do.
My motor trucks are working outside my window in the snow all through the night, unloading freight cars to relieve the encombrement which always threatens, and the tasks multiply and the obstacles are harder to overcome, and the unfamiliar methods, and one fervent wish of mine for the New Year is that I may prove equal to my small tasks and make good.
Good-night, my sweetest Mother-May God bless and keep you and bring peace to your troubled heart. . . .
Jan. 6th, 1918.
My heart is very full to-night. . . ! Overflowing with emotion and pride, for I have been promoted to a full Colonel, and the eagles have been already pinned on my haughty shoulders! What do you think of that! And I wasn't able even to thank the General property, so nearly did I come to breaking down and crying like a child. You cannot know what it means to me to-day, and I cannot begin to tell you for I never suspected it, or thought it possible for a moment, and after the last six months of real work, and of doubt as to whether they thought that I was making good, although I was putting everything I had left in me into every day, when suddenly to-day at 5 o'clock---out of a clear sky I found that they had thought I had been doing well what I had to do, and I was sent for by the C. of S. and all unsuspecting was asked if I could stand a shock---then he shook hands with me and called me Colonel, and told me that the General had made me one of his personal A. D. C., and had assigned me to a special important post and duty, as his personal representative. Well, you can just see me. . . . You who know so well my failings and weakness and my sentiment-foolish perhaps. I was speechless. I am ordered away from here, this nice old town, and this big official family, of whom I have grown very fond---whose every want I have tried my best to help satisfy, and I confess that I go out into the world again with a pang of regret for the trying work which has been my life, and which I was just beginning to feel that I had well in hand. It has been in a sense local, however, but of the greatest value to me, and now I am off to a bigger field---International in fact, and you will remember what I have thought and said, these last years and months, as to what I considered the most important phase of this war for us, and for the future of the world, in fact for the winning of the war, perhaps you will guess what my job is to be. I expect to live somewhere in the neighborhood of where I lived in the spring of 1915, and I am to be the Senior officer of the job. The best of it all is that it could not have been thought of or done in a nicer way, and I consider it the greatest honor that could have been done me. The General is certainly the sweetest thing, with all his iron discipline and apparent disregard of personal considerations and of sentiment. I wish you could sometime get hold of that cunning boy of his, who is living with his Aunt in Nebraska. You remember I told you that I saw him in Washington in May. Madame Joffre, by the way, sent him a full uniform---perfect in every detail, sword and all, of a Maréchal de France. If you ever run across him, you will be crazy about him. Well . . . I am bubbling over like an old goose to-night, but withal I am conscious of a deep sense of the seriousness and importance, and the possibilities of my new job.
You must think of me for weeks---perhaps months, if I make good, in an entirely different atmosphere, and one of which it will be even more difficult for me to speak to you than it has been, but I will try to get to you somehow some idea of what I am doing. Most of my old friends of the early days of the war will have gone, but there will be new ones, and everyone will be most hospitable and kind and accueillant I am sure. So much for old me. The photographs of the boys . . . gave me a real thrill of pleasure and emotion. What of them all? . . . Are they coming over here? It breaks my heart to think that I may not know it or see them, or even know where they are when they do come, but I will find out somehow, if you will send me all the news you can, and I will find some excuse to see them. Trust me for that---for from time to time I shall get away for a few hours, and if I can only keep the Rolls Royce going, I may get to Paris, or even out here for a minute. But William's feet and his courage gave out the other day and he says he must go home, so what I shall do for a driver I don't know. I have been on foot now for a month but it has done me good. To-day I had a marvellous ride of an hour and a half, just before sunset in the snow with my little sympathetic friend Mc [Coy], who is just back from a visit to his old General. You know who.(250)
This has been a big day for me, and I feel a little as I felt when you and I went down the Avenue with the babes in 1894, sort of broken away from the moorings and adrift again to make my way on life's dark sea, what there is of it left, but I seem to be just as keen as I was twenty-five years ago, just as anxious to do the right thing and to succeed in the little things that I have to do. My one great regret is not to have you at my side, to pour into your dear sympathetic and understanding ears my longings and hopes and fears---you, who have always been and now more than ever are the mainstay and strength of us all. Ce qu'est le lierre sans l'ormeaux, qui fut l'appui de toute sa vie, voila ce que je suis sans toi. . . . My heart turns to you every day, in every moment of joy and sorrow, and I worship the ground you walk upon, and see you and keep you on a pinnacle, which grows higher every day and week and year. If appreciation of what you are and what you do is any recompense for a mens conscia recti, you would feel partly repaid. Tell this to the boys and girls and see what they say.
I do not know quite what to say about my address but I should say that Col. R. B., A. E. F. c/o M. H. & Co., Paris, or M. G. & Co., London, depending upon whether it is coming by a British or French ship would be forwarded to me at the right place. Good-night, my Saint. . .
Three days later, on January 9th, Colonel Bacon is to reverse the proverb, "planning to get off with the old love before getting on with the new."
My time is getting short . . . for on Saturday I am planning to pack up and start off in compliance with the enclosed order, to proceed to British G. H. Q., and my successor Lt. Col. B.(251) has arrived, and is installed in this house, and in my office, and I am doing my best to explain all the details of my past life and duties of the past six months. I am sort of pleased and gratified that everyone seems to know that I have had a hard job, and they are all so cordial and appreciative in their congratulations on my eagles and my new job that I am more than rewarded for everything that I have tried to do. I am leaving them with a certain feeling of regret, but B. who will go on with it is a splendid officer, and will "carry on" much better than I could, so I must be content, and I am proud, as I told you. to be ordered onto my new job. My one thought all the time is of you and the boys, and of my apparent helplessness to do anything for them and to lessen your anxiety. If they would only do as you suggest and accept Staff positions for which they are so well fitted, I have said to them all that their usefulness and opportunity for service would be greater, but they have all felt impelled by a sense of duty and noblesse oblige to go in for the real thing in the line.
The boys took after the father, whose ambition it was to be in the line, and to "go over the top," as appears from the beautiful letter which Colonel Babcock, his successor, wrote many months later, October 18, 1919, to Mrs. Bacon, upon his return to America:
Although I am entirely unknown to you, may I send you this short letter of sympathy?
In January, 1918, I relieved your husband as Military Commander of Chaumont, when he was appointed liaison officer at British Headquarters in France.
My respect and admiration for him were instantaneous, and during the year and a half following, when I saw him frequently, we became, I hope, real friends.
No member of the American Expeditionary Force had a finer spirit than Colonel Bacon, nor set a higher example of soldierly qualities. His generous and unknown acts of kindness and assistance to our Army did much toward the care of the wounded and sick, and the maintenance of a high standard of morale.
Later when I commanded an infantry regiment, Colonel Bacon asked me several times to let him go "over the top" with an infantry platoon.
This was, of course, a responsibility I dared not take, but when a man like Colonel Bacon sets such an example, is it any wonder that our men did their duty in France?
Colonel Babcock refers to Colonel Bacon's "generous and unknown acts of kindness," mentioning particularly "the care of the wounded." Two instances may be appropriately noted, one referring to "the care of the wounded," the other an unknown act which would have remained unknown if the little letter recounting it had not been found among a bundle of Colonel Bacon's papers, and in the handwriting of the beneficiary.
The first is only one of many, and not more typical. It is recounted by the late Mr. Walter H. Page, then American Ambassador to Great Britain, in a letter dated December 1, 1917, to the late Major General Thomas H. Barry, United States Army:
As you will doubtless see Major Bacon shortly, I send you this account of an anecdote which I know will be of interest to his family and be appreciated by him.
On September 18th last at the "Grand Headquarters General" of the Belgian Army at Socx I met the Countess Von Steen de Jehay, director of the I'Hospital Elizabeth à Poperinghe and on the 20th, upon her invitation, I visited the "Hospital" in the city, now largely destroyed by intermittent shell fire, and also the place to which its main work has been removed, some four miles outside.
In showing me around, she asked if I knew a Mr. Bacon. I asked if she meant the Major Bacon, ex-Ambassador to France, and she said "Yes" and added:
"I shall never forget him. It was like this: It was some time since but there was a time when all the operations of our hospital were on the point of being abandoned for lack of funds and I was in despair. At this time appeared before me a tall, handsome man who said: 'Madame, can I not do something for you?' to which I replied, 'No, nothing because,' she explained, 'the world seems to be absolutely without hope.'
"He went away for a few minutes and then returned and handed me a check of $5,000. When I saw it," she said, " I could hardly believe my eyes. It seemed to restore the roof of heaven. It came as the gift of an angel. I shall never forget him. It enabled our work to go on as you see it is now proceeding to do."
I went through the hospital, which seems to do work collateral to that of the Red Cross in taking care of civilians who have been gassed' or injured by shells. The administration of the hospital under the directorship of the Countess, who says she is called the "Old Major," is wonderfully efficient.
If you see Major Bacon please give him my regards.
(Signed) W. H. PAGE.
The second incident is likewise one of many:
Chaumont, December 1, 1917.
Pardon me, sir, for the liberty I take in writing to you. Permit me, sir, to send you fifty francs in order to place a wreath on the grave of the little American soldier who died far away from his country coming to the aid of France. I did not myself dare to carry it there, else I should already have done so. Do not refuse, sir, the humble offering of a French woman who loves America above all things; who in memory of those dear dead, who have died for their country is proud and happy to offer a wreath to the American soldier who died far away from his mother, in order to come to the assistance of the children of France.
I shall always remember, sir, that you gave me permission to set up a little stand opposite the barracks. Thank you, sir. I beg you, sir, not to refuse to place a wreath for this little soldier. I believe it will bring happiness to my husband. I do not dare do it myself.
Thanking you, sir, accept my sincere good wishes for America and for France.
But to return to Colonel Bacon's letter of January 9th:
Who has been staying with us for several days but . . . Bishop Brent, who has consented to come here to us as Chaplain of the Headquarters. Isn't that fine, bless his heart, and with him has been one of the nicest men I have met in many a day, Bishop Gwynn of the British Army, who has been with them since the early days of the war, and who has invited me to come and stop with him up there in Northern France where I am going, and you bet I will. I shall see Cummins and Thresher and perhaps some other of my old friends, who, strange as it is, seem to like me, and I like to be liked as you know, so I am trying to "cheer up and be gay," and to look upon the brighter side, although its oh, so hard.
You are pretty cunning to send me all those wonderful things, and I am the envy of all the young men in my office. The boxes from Charles, the chocolates, and the bully white warm socks, and now the undershirts and the helmet and the scarf, and the tricots, all of which I wear and revel in. I am trying to hold on to William but I am afraid I shall lose him, as his feet have given out, and now Gicquel, who was much touched by your sweet thought of him, too, for Xmas, may have to go to take care of his wife who seems to be ill and all gone to pieces moralement, which apparently means something "cérébrale." And what shall I do in the north in my new household! Marie, the cook, pleads to be allowed to go with me, and valet me, but I cannot take her away from here. I wish Murphy had come, for I believe that I have bought a horse and what I shall do with him without Murphy I do not know, but he wouldn't be happy here, and probably couldn't stand it any better than Félix and William have, so I must paddle along alone. . . .
Colonel Bacon's promotion and detail, which gave him such merited satisfaction, and such consolation to his family for his absence from home, occupy but a few lines,
Special Orders, No. 6, of January 6, 1918:
15. Major Robert Bacon, Quartermaster Corps, U. S. R., is appointed and announced as Colonel, Aide-de-Camp to General John J. Pershing, U. S. Army.
Special Orders, No. 8, of January 8, 1918:
18. Colonel Robert Bacon, A. D. C., will proceed to the British General Headquarters, for duty as Chief of the American Military Mission with the British Expeditionary Forces, with station in the city in which those headquarters are located.
The travel directed is necessary in the military service.
On January 13th, Colonel Bacon is in Paris, getting ready for the Northern post, and he writes on that date,
73 rue de Varenne, Jan. 13, '18.
A new chapter seems to be beginning for me and here I am back in Paris after five months of the closest concentration on my job "out there," and just about to start out again, this time to the North as I told you in my letter from C----. Gicquel and I and two soldiers, one my secretary, Corporal Gerard, and my "striker" Austin, who is also going to take care of my horse, if I succeed in taking him with me later. . . .
I am hoping still that I can keep Gicquel. I don't know what I shall do without him, if he is obliged to stay in Paris to soigner and surveiller his wife. Oh I wish I could soigner mine---dear, brave, patient wonderful soul, who soigners everybody else but her dear self. I must confess I am rather pleased and proud of my five galloons coming as they did with a post of personal confidence, after these doubtful months of trial and apprenticeship, and Chef de Mission sounds rather grand after the daily drudgery and inconspicuous tasks of my last "place." My life seems to be cutting up like pieces of pie, quite distinct from each other. I must off now for a busy day, having just seen the General off by the early morning train. I have two short days to get ready for the North, not in the same town where I used to be, but near by. . . .
But things did not go as planned. Colonel Bacon is still in Paris on the 16th:
Waiting impatiently for my car, which is to take me out into the world up into the North.
I am having many contretemps. William has finally left me with a broken-down Rolls Royce, and my other car, a little Schneider, is also en panne where I have been living at C.
They have promised me a military car to take me on to-day, but it doesn't seem to come! The Rolls Royce will follow in a few days, if it can be repaired, and Gicquel and Austin will come by train with all my worldly goods. I am taking Corporal Gerard with me, all the papers, permis, laissez passers, ordres de transport, sauf-conduits, cartes d'identités etc., etc., having been arranged. My only other thick uniform has been sent to C., and to-day I am sending a Frenchman after it, as I must need more than one. I don't know what I shall do if Gicquel has to leave me too. His son, 19, is just off to his depot to train for nearly a year before going in. He is of the class dix-neuf. . . .
We had a congenial party Sunday night at Alex' Hotel de France et Choiseul---Alex and Nelly, Leonard Wood and his Aide, Harry Stimson, Jim Perkins, Harvey Cushing, and I showed them photos of my sons and boasted about them.
General Bell, the other day, was full of your praise, and said you had been a " tower of strength " as you always are to everybody.
Good-bye now, Honey, I must finish my packing. Think of me among nice new friends up there. . . .
Things righted themselves and he got away on the 17th. The sojourn at Chaumont was one of great personal anxiety and official responsibility. He took "his job" seriously and he wrote of it seriously. Still, there were lighter moments which he would have recounted if he had been able. Fortunately, General McCoy has done so:
But in spite of the hard and harrowing work as Headquarters Commandant, these evenings with old friends and the best of company brought back his boyish enjoyment and a proper relaxation from war strain.
I remember one celebration on the conferring of the Fourragère(252) on De Chambrun's regiment and unbeknownst to De Chambrun had the Fourragère for himself brought on in the soup bowl at a dinner where Colonel Bacon presided with even more unusual charm. After pinning the Fourragère on De Chambrun and drinking his health, Bacon led in singing the Marseillaise, Madelon, Malbrouk s'en va-t-en guerre, etc. and let out that charming voice of his with the sparkle of his spirit. De Chambrun then brought in his orderly, and decorated him, and we all drank his health, which so affected the old poilu that he wept.
Another famous dinner . . . was our Thanksgiving one, when we gathered in various of the younger soldiers from the "hedges and byways" including an attempt to round up Ted and Archie Roosevelt and Dick Derby, but without success due to a lost motor car. Bacon was the life of that dinner which involved considerable excitement, as in an endeavor to give the field soldiers a hot bath before dinner, the French automatic heater blew up and made it seem like front line work for awhile. . . .
Before the winter was over he knew nearly everybody in town, and all the children, old poilus and market women, and even the hags with faggots on their backs, knew him by sight and smile. He had, of course, a fondness for the fascinating French children and a particular affection for the little children of General Wirbel where we dined and called together. . . .
He came in one night very much affected by a visit from an old French market woman who brought to him a very grand wreath bought with her month's savings, for the first American soldier's grave, which she felt she must charge herself with for the soldier buried so far away from his own mother.
When he left to go to British General Headquarters it was not only our own pang that was evident, but the townspeople and the French authorities all showed it deeply. . . .
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