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On the Edge of the War Zone From the Battle of the Marne to the Entrance of the Stars and Stripes

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La Creste, Huiry, Couilly. S et M.

September 16, 1914 Dear Old Girl:—

More and more I find that we humans are queer animals.

All through those early, busy, exciting days of September,—can it be only a fortnight ago?—I was possessed, like the "busy bee," to "employ each shining hour" by writing out my adventures. Yet, no sooner was the menace of those days gone, than, for days at a time, I had no desire to see a pen.

Perhaps it was because we were so absolutely alone, and because, for days, I had no chance to send you the letters I had written, nor to get any cable to you to tell you that all was well.

There was a strange sort of soulagement in the conviction that we had, as my neighbors say, "échappé bien." I suppose it is human. It was like the first days of a real convalescence—life is so good, the world is so beautiful. The war was still going on. We still heard the cannon—they are booming this minute—but we had not seen the spiked helmets dashing up my hill, nor watched the walls of our little hamlet fall. I imagine that if human nature were not just like that, Life could never be beautiful to any thinking person. We all know that, though it be not today, it is to be, but we seem to be fitted for that, and the idea does not spoil life one bit.

It is very silent here most of the time. We are so few. Everybody works. No one talks much. With the cannon booming out there no one feels in the humor, though now and then we do get shaken up a bit. Everything seems a long time ago. Yet it is really only nine days since the French troops advanced—nine days since Paris was saved.

The most amazing thing of all is that our communications, which were cut on September 2, were reopened, in a sort of a way, on the 10th. That was only one week of absolute isolation. On that day we were told that postal communication with Paris was to be reopened with an automobile service from Couilly to Lagny, from which place, on the other side of the Marne, trains were running to Paris.

So Amélie gathered up my letters, and carried them down the hill, and dropped them hopefully in the box under the shuttered window of the post-office in the deserted town.

That was six days ago, and it is only this morning that I began to feel like writing to you again. I wanted to cable, but there is no way yet, so I can only hope that you know your geography well enough not to have worried since the 7th.

Although we are so shut in, we got news from the other side of the Marne on Wednesday, the 9th, the day after I wrote to you—the fifth day of the battle. Of course we had no newspapers; our mairie and post-office being closed, there was no telegraphic news. Besides, our telegraph wires are dangling from the poles just as the English engineers left them on September 2. It seems a century ago.

We knew the Germans were still retreating because each morning the booming of the cannon and the columns of smoke were further off, and because the slopes and the hills before us, which had been burning the first three days of the battle, were lying silent in the wonderful sunshine, as if there were no living people in the world except us few on this side of the river....