Americans living in Europe before the war never really believed that there was going to be war. Gertrude Stein always tells about the little janitor’s boy who, playing in the court, would regularly every couple of years assure her that papa was going to the war. Once some cousins of hers were living in Paris, they had a country girl as a servant. It was the time of the russian-japanese war and they were all talking about the latest news. Terrified she dropped the platter and cried, and are the germans at the gates.
William Cook’s father was an Iowan who at seventy years of age was making his first trip in Europe in the summer of nineteen fourteen. When the war was upon them he refused to believe it and explained that he could understand a family fighting among themselves, in short a civil war, but not a serious war with one’s neighbours.
Gertrude Stein in 1913 and 1914 had been very interested reading the newspapers. She rarely read french newspapers, she never read anything in french, and she always read the Herald. That winter she added the Daily Mail. She liked to read about the suffragettes and she liked to read about Lord Roberts’ campaign for compulsory military service in England. Lord Roberts had been a favourite hero of hers early in her life. His Forty–One Years In India was a book she often read and she had seen Lord Roberts when she and her brother, then taking a college vacation, had seen Edward the Seventh’s coronation procession. She read the Daily Mail, although, as she said, she was not interested in Ireland.
We went to England July fifth and went according to programme to see John Lane at his house Sunday afternoon.
There were a number of people there and they were talking of many things but some of them were talking about war. One of them, some one told me he was an editorial writer on one of the big London dailies, was bemoaning the fact that he would not be able to eat figs in August in Provence as was his habit. Why not, asked some one. Because of the war, he answered. Some one else, Walpole or his brother I think it was, said that there was no hope of beating Germany as she had such an excellent system, all her railroad trucks were numbered in connection with locomotives and switches. But, said the eater of figs, that is all very well as long as, the trucks remain in Germany on their own lines and switches, but in an aggressive war they will leave the frontiers of Germany and then, well I promise you then there will be a great deal of numbered confusion.
This is all I remember definitely of that Sunday afternoon in July.
As we were leaving, John Lane said to Gertrude Stein that he was going out of town for a week and he made a rendezvous with her in his office for the end of July, to sign the contract for Three Lives. I think, he said, in the present state of affairs I would rather begin with that than with something more entirely new. I have confidence in that book. Mrs. Lane is very enthusiastic and so are the readers.
Having now ten days on our hands we decided to accept the invitation of Mrs. Mirlees, Hope’s mother, and spend a few days in Cambridge. We went there and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
It was a most comfortable house to visit. Gertrude Stein liked it, she could stay in her room or in the garden as much as she liked without hearing too much conversation. The food was excellent, scotch food, delicious and fresh, and it was very amusing meeting all the University of Cambridge dignitaries. We were taken into all the gardens and invited into many of the homes. It was lovely weather, quantities of roses, morris-dancing by all the students and girls and generally delightful. We were invited to lunch at Newnham, Miss Jane Harrison, who had been Hope Mirlees’ pet enthusiasm, was much interested in meeting Gertrude Stein. We sat up on the dais with the faculty and it was very awe inspiring. The conversation was not however particularly amusing. Miss Harrison and Gertrude Stein did not particularly interest each other.
We had been hearing a good deal about Doctor and Mrs. Whitehead. They no longer lived in Cambridge. The year before Doctor Whitehead had left Cambridge to go to London University. They were to be in Cambridge shortly and they were to dine at the Mirlees’. They did and I met my third genius.
It was a pleasant dinner. I sat next to Housman, the Cambridge poet, and we talked about fishes and David Starr Jordan but all the time I was more interested in watching Doctor Whitehead. Later we went into the garden and he came and sat next to me and we talked about the sky in Cambridge.
Gertrude Stein and Doctor Whitehead and Mrs. Whitehead all became interested in each other. Mrs. Whitehead asked us to dine at her house in London and then to spend a week end, the last week end in July with them in their country home in Lockridge, near Salisbury Plain. We accepted with pleasure.
We went back to London and had a lovely time. We were ordering some comfortable chairs and a comfortable couch covered with chintz to replace some of the italian furniture that Gertrude Stein’s brother had taken with him. This took a great deal of time. We had to measure ourselves into the chairs and into the couch and to choose chintz that would go with the pictures, all of which we successfully achieved. These chairs and this couch, and they are comfortable, in spite of war came to the door one day in January, nineteen fifteen at the rue de Fleurus and were greeted by us with the greatest delight. One needed such comforting and such comfort in those days. We dined with the Whiteheads and liked them more than ever and they liked us more than ever and were kind enough to say so.
Gertrude Stein kept her appointment with John Lane at the Bodley Head. They had a very long conversation, this time so long that I quite exhausted all the shop windows of that region for quite a distance, but finally Gertrude Stein came out with a contract. It was a gratifying climax.
Then we took the train to Lockridge to spend the week end with the Whiteheads. We had a week-end trunk, we Were very proud of our week-end trunk, we had used it on our first visit and now we were actively using it again. As one of my friends said to me later, they asked you to spend the week end and you stayed six weeks. We did.
There was quite a house party when we arrived, some Cambridge people, some young men, the younger son of the Whiteheads, Eric, then fifteen years old but very tall and flower-like and the daughter Jessie just back from Newnham. There could not have been much serious thought of war because they were all talking of Jessie Whitehead’s coming trip to Finland. Jessie always made friends with foreigners from strange places, she had a passion for geography and a passion for the glory of the British Empire. She had a friend, a finn, who had asked her to spend the summer with her people in Finland and had promised Jessie a possible uprising against Russia. Mrs. Whitehead was hesitating but had practically consented. There was an older son North who was away at the time.
Then suddenly, as I remember, there were the conferences to prevent the war, Lord Grey and the russian minister of foreign affairs. And then before anything further could happen the ultimatum to France. Gertrude Stein and I were completely miserable as was Evelyn Whitehead, who had french blood and who had been raised in France and had strong french sympathies. Then came the days of the invasion of Belgium and I can still hear Doctor Whitehead’s gentle voice reading the papers out loud and then all of them talking about the destruction of Louvain and how they must help the brave little belgians. Gertrude Stein desperately unhappy said to me, where is Louvain. Don’t you know, I said. No, she said, nor do I care, but where is it.
Our week end was over and we told Mrs. Whitehead that we must leave. But you cannot get back to Paris now, she said. No, we answered, but we can stay in London. Oh no, she said, you must stay with us until you can get back to Paris. She was very sweet and we were very unhappy and we liked them and they liked us and we agreed to stay. And then to our infinite relief England came into the war.
We had to go to London to get our trunks, to cable to people in America and to draw money, and Mrs. Whitehead wished to go in to see if she and her daughter could do anything to help the belgians. I remember that trip so well. There seemed so many people about everywhere, although the train was not overcrowded, but all the stations even little country ones, were filled with people, not people at all troubled but just a great many people. At the junction where we were to change trains we met Lady Astley, a friend of Myra Edgerly’s whom we had met in Paris. Oh how do you do, she said in a cheerful loud voice, I am going to London to say goodbye to my son. Is he going away, we said politely. Oh yes, she said, he is in the guards you know, and is leaving tonight for France.
In London everthing was difficult. Gertrude Stein’s letter of credit was on a french bank but mine luckily small was on a California one. I say luckily small because the banks would not give large sums but my letter of credit was so small and so almost used up that they without hesitation gave me all that there was left of it.
Gertrude Stein cabled to her cousin in Baltimore to send her money, we gathered in our trunks, we met Evelyn Whitehead at the train and we went back with her to Lockridge. It was a relief to get back. We appreciated her kindness because to have been at a hotel in London at that moment would have been too dreadful.
Then one day followed another and it is hard to remember just what happened. North Whitehead was away and Mrs. Whitehead was terribly worried lest he should rashly enlist. She must see him. So they telegraphed to him to come at once. He came. She had been quite right. He had immediately gone to the nearest recruiting station to enlist and luckily there had been so many in front of him that the office closed before he was admitted. She immediately went to London to see Kitchener. Doctor Whitehead’s brother was a bishop in India and he had in his younger days known Kitchener very intimately. Mrs. Whitehead had this introduction and North was given a commission. She came home much relieved. North was to join in three days but in the meantime he must learn to drive a motor car. The three days passed very quickly and North was gone. He left immediately for France and without much equipment. And then came the time of waiting.
Evelyn Whitehead was very busy planning war work and helping every one and I as far as possible helped her. Gertrude Stein and Doctor Whitehead walked endlessly around the country. They talked of philosophy and history, it was during these days that Gertrude Stein realised how completely it was Doctor Whitehead and not Russell who had had the ideas for their great book. Doctor Whitehead, the gentlest and most simply generous of human beings never claimed anything for himself and enormously admired anyone who was brilliant, and Russell undoubtedly was brilliant.
Gertrude Stein used to come back and tell me about these walks and the country still the same as in the days of Chaucer, with the green paths of the early britons that could still be seen in long stretches, and the triple rainbows of that strange summer. They used, Doctor Whitehead and Gertrude Stein, to have long conversations with game-keepers and mole-catchers. The mole-catcher had said, but sir, England has never been in a war but that she has been victorious. Doctor Whitehead turned to Gertrude Stein with a gentle smile. I think we may say so, he said. The game-keeper, when Doctor Whitehead seemed discouraged said to him, but Doctor Whitehead, England is the predominant nation, is she not. I hope she is, yes I hope she is, replied Doctor Whitehead gently.
The germans were getting nearer and nearer Paris. One day Doctor Whitehead said to Gertrude Stein, they were just going through a rough little wood and he was helping her, have you any copies of your writings or are they all in Paris. They are all in Paris, she said. I did not like to ask, said Doctor Whitehead, but I have been worrying.
The germans were getting nearer and nearer Paris and the last day Gertrude Stein could not leave her room, she sat and mourned. She loved Paris, she thought neither of manuscripts nor of pictures, she thought only of Paris and she was desolate. I came up to her room, I called out, it is alright Paris is saved, the germans are in retreat. She turned away and said, don’t tell me these things. But it’s true, I said, it is true. And then we wept together.
The first description that any one we knew received in England of the battle of the Marne came in a letter to Gertrude Stein from Mildred Aldrich. It was practically the first letter of her book the Hilltop on the Marne. We were delighted to receive it, to know that Mildred was safe, and to know all about it. It was passed around and everybody in the neighbourhood read it.
Later when we returned to Paris we had two other descriptions of the battle of the Marne. I had an old school friend from California, Nellie Jacot who lived in Boulogne-sur-Seine and I was very worried about her. I telegraphed to her and she telegraphed back characteristically, Nullement en danger ne t’inquiète pas, there is no danger don’t worry. It was Nellie who used to call Picasso in the early days a good-looking bootblack and used to say of Fernande, she is alright but I don’t see why you bother about her. It was also Nellie who made Matisse blush by cross-questioning him about the different ways he saw Madame Matisse, how she looked to him as a wife and how she looked to him as a picture, and how he could change from one to the other. It was also Nellie who told the story which Gertrude Stein loved to quote, of a young man who once said to her, I love you Nellie, Nellie is your name, isn’t it. It was also Nellie who when we came back from England and we said that everybody had been so kind, said, oh yes, I know that kind.
Nellie described the battle of the Marne to us. You know, she said, I always come to town once a week to shop and I always bring my maid. We come in in the street car because it is difficult to get a taxi in Boulogne and we go back in a taxi. Well we came in as usual and didn’t notice anything and when we had finished our shopping and had had our tea we stood on a corner to get a taxi. We stopped several and when they heard where we wanted to go they drove on. I know that sometimes taxi drivers don’t like to go out to Boulogne so I said to Marie tell them we will give them a big tip if they will go. So she stopped another taxi with an old driver and I said to him, I will give you a very big tip to take us out to Boulogne. Ah, said he laying his finger on his nose, to my great regret madame it is impossible, no taxi can leave the city limits to-day. Why, I asked. He winked in answer and drove off. We had to go back to Boulogne in a street car. Of course we understood later, when we heard about Gallieni and the taxis, said Nellie and added, and that was the battle of the Marne.
Another description of the battle of the Marne when we first came back to Paris was from Alfy Maurer. I was sitting, said Alfy at a café and Paris was pale, if you know what I mean, said Alfy, it was like a pale absinthe. Well I was sitting there and then I noticed lots of horses pulling lots of big trucks going slowly by and there were some soldiers with them and on the boxes was written Banque de France. That was the gold going away just like that, said Alfy, before the battle of the Marne.
In those dark days of waiting in England of course a great many things happened. There were a great many people coming and going in the Whiteheads’ home and there was of course plenty of discussion. First there was Lytton Strachey. He lived in a little house not far from Lockridge.
He came one evening to see Mrs. Whitehead. He was a thin sallow man with a silky beard and a faint high voice. We had met him the year before when we had been invited to meet George Moore at the house of Miss Ethel Sands. Gertrude Stein and George Moore, who looked very like a prosperous Mellins Food baby, had not been interested in each other. Lytton Strachey and I talked together about Picasso and the russian ballet.
He came in this evening and he and Mrs. Whitehead discussed the possibility of rescuing Lytton Strachey’s sister who was lost in Germany. She suggested that he apply to a certain person who could help him. But, said Lytton Strachey faintly, I have never met him. Yes, said Mrs. Whitehead, but you might write to him and ask to see him. Not, replied Lytton Strachey faintly, if I have never met him.
Another person who turned up during that week was Bertrand Russell. He came to Lockridge the day North Whitehead left for the front. He was a pacifist and argumentative and although they were very old friends Doctor and Mrs. Whitehead did not think they could bear hearing his views just then. He came and Gertrude Stein, to divert everybody’s mind from the burning question of war or peace, introduced the subject of education. This caught Russell and he explained all the weaknesses of the american system of education, particularly their neglect of the study of greek. Gertrude Stein replied that of course England which was an island needed Greece which was or might have been an island. At any rate greek was essentially an island culture, while America needed essentially the culture of a continent which was of necessity latin. This argument fussed Mr. Russell, he became very eloquent. Gertrude Stein then became very earnest and gave a long discourse on the value of greek to the english, aside from its being an island, and the lack of value of greek culture for the americans based upon the psychology of americans as different from the psychology of the english. She grew very eloquent on the disembodied abstract quality of the american character and cited examples, mingling automobiles with Emerson, and all proving that they did not need greek, in a way that fussed Russell more and more and kept everybody occupied until everybody went to bed.
There were many discussions in those days. The bishop, the brother of Doctor Whitehead and his family came to lunch. They all talked constantly about how England had come into the war to save Belgium. At last my nerves could bear it no longer and I blurted out, why do you say that, why do you not say that you are fighting for England, I do not consider it a disgrace to fight for one’s country.
Mrs. Bishop, the bishop’s wife was very funny on this occasion. She said solemnly to Gertrude Stein, Miss Stein you are I understand an important person in Paris. I think it would come very well from a neutral like yourself to suggest to the french government that they give us Pondichéry. It would be very useful to us. Gertrude Stein replied politely that to her great regret her importance such as it was was among painters and writers and not with politicians. But that, said Mrs. Bishop, would make no difference. You should I think suggest to the french government that they give us Pondichéry. After lunch Gertrude Stein said to me under her breath, where the hell is Pondichéry.
Gertrude Stein used to get furious when the english all talked about german organisation. She used to insist that the germans had no organisation, they had method but no organisation. Don’t you understand the difference, she used to say angrily, any two americans, any twenty americans, any millions of americans can organise themselves to do something but germans cannot organise themselves to do anything, they can formulate a method and this method can be put upon them but that isn’t organisation. The germans, she used to insist, are not modern, they are a backward people who have made a method of what we conceive as organisation, can’t you see. They cannot therefore possibly win this war because they are not modern.
Then another thing that used to annoy us dreadfully was the english statement that the germans in America would turn America against the allies. Don’t be silly, Gertrude Stein used to say to any and all of them, if you do not realise that the fundamental sympathy in America is with France and England and could never be with a mediaeval country like Germany, you cannot understand America. We are republican, she used to say with energy, profoundly intensely and completely a republic and a republic can have everything in common with France and a great deal in common with England but whatever its form of government nothing in common with Germany. How often I have heard her then and since explain that americans are republicans living in a republic which is so much a republic that it could never be anything else.
The long summer wore on. It was beautiful weather and beautiful country, and Doctor Whitehead and Gertrude Stein never ceased wandering around in it and talking about all things.
From time to time we went to London. We went regularly to Cook’s office to know when we might go back to Paris and they always answered not yet. Gertrude Stein went to see John Lane. He was terribly upset. He was passionately patriotic. He said of course he was doing nothing at present but publishing war-books but soon very soon things would be different or perhaps the war would be over.
Gertrude Stein’s cousin and my father sent us money by the United States cruiser Tennessee. We went to get it. We were each one put on the scale and our heights measured and then they gave the money to us. How, said we to one another, can a cousin who has not seen you in ten years and a father who has not seen me for six years possibly know our heights and our weights. It had always been a puzzle. Four years ago Gertrude Stein’s cousin came to Paris and the first thing she said to him was, Julian how did you know my weight and height when you sent me money by the Tennessee. Did I know it, he said. Well, she said, at any rate they had written it down that you did. I cannot remember of course, he said, but if any one were to ask me now I would naturally send to Washington for a copy of your passport and I probably did that then. And so was the mystery solved.
We also had to go to the american embassy to get temporary passports to go back to Paris. We had no papers, nobody had any papers in those days. Gertrude Stein as a matter of fact had what they called in Paris a papier de matriculation which stated that she was an american and a french resident.
The embassy was very full of not very american looking citizens waiting their turn. Finally we were ushered in to a very tired looking young american. Gertrude Stein remarked upon the number of not very american looking citizens that were waiting. The young american sighed. They are easier, he said, because they have papers, it is only the native born american who has no papers. Well what do you do about them, asked Gertrude Stein. We guess, he said, and we hope we guess right. And now, said he, will you take the oath. Oh dear, he said, I have said it so often I have forgotten it.
By the fifteenth of October Cook’s said we could go back to Paris. Mrs. Whitehead was to go with us. North, her son, had left without an overcoat, and she had secured one and she was afraid he would not get it until much later if she sent it the ordinary way. She arranged to go to Paris and deliver it to him herself or find some one who would take it to him directly. She had papers from the war office and Kitchener and we started.
I remember the leaving London very little, I cannot even remember whether it was day-light or not but it must have been because when we were on the channel boat it was daylight. The boat was crowded. There were quantities of belgian, soldiers and officers escaped from Antwerp, all with tired eyes. It was our first experience of the tired but watchful eyes of soldiers. We finally were able to arrange a seat for Mrs. Whitehead who had been ill and soon we were in France. Mrs. Whitehead’s papers were so overpowering that there were no delays and soon we were in the train and about ten o’clock at night we were in Paris. We took a taxi and drove through Paris, beautiful and unviolated, to the rue de Fleurus. We were once more at home.
Everybody who had seemed so far away came to see us. Alfy Maurer described being on the Marne at his favourite village, he always fished the Marne, and the mobilisation locomotive coming and the germans were coming and he was so frightened and he tried to get a conveyance and finally after terrific efforts he succeeded and got back to Paris. As he left Gertrude Stein went with him to the door and came back smiling. Mrs. Whitehead said with some constraint, Gertrude you have always spoken so warmly of Alfy Maurer but how can you like a man who shows himself not only selfish but a coward and at a time like this. He thought only of saving himself and he after all was a neutral. Gertrude Stein burst out laughing. You foolish woman, she said, didn’t you understand, of course Alfy had his girl with him and he was scared to death lest she should fall into the hands of the germans.
There were not many people in Paris just then and we liked it and we wandered around Paris and it was so nice to be there, wonderfully nice. Soon Mrs. Whitehead found means of sending her son’s coat to him and went back to England and we settled down for the winter.
Gertrude Stein sent copies of her manuscripts to friends in New York to keep for her. We hoped that all danger was over but still it seemed better to do so and there were Zeppelins to come. London had been completely darkened at night before we left. Paris continued to have its usual street lights until January.
How it all happened I do not at all remember but it was through Carl Van Vechten arid had something to do with the Nortons, but at any rate there was a letter from Donald Evans proposing to publish three manuscripts to make a small book and would Gertrude Stein suggest a title for them. Of these three manuscripts two had been written during our first trip into Spain and Food, Rooms etcetera, immediately on our return. They were the beginning, as Gertrude Stein would say, of mixing the outside with the inside. Hitherto she had been concerned with seriousness and the inside of things, in these studies she began to describe the inside as seen from the outside. She was awfully pleased at the idea of these three things being published, and immediately consented, and suggested the title of Tender Buttons. Donald Evans called his firm the Claire Marie and he sent over a contract just like any other contract. We took it for granted that there was a Claire Marie but there evidently was not. There were printed of this edition I forget whether it was seven hundred and fifty or a thousand copies but at any rate it was a very charming little book and Gertrude Stein was enormously pleased, and it, as every one knows, had an enormous influence on all young writers and started off columnists in the newspapers of the whole country on their long campaign of ridicule. I must say that when the columnists are really funny, and they quite often are, Gertrude Stein chuckles and reads them aloud to me.
In the meantime the dreary winter of fourteen and fifteen went on. One night, I imagine it must have been about the end of January, I had as was and is my habit gone to bed very early, and Gertrude Stein was down in the studio working, as was her habit. Suddenly I heard her call me gently. What is it, I said. Oh nothing, said she, but perhaps if you don’t mind putting on something warm and coming downstairs I think perhaps it would be better. What is it, I said, a revolution. The concierges and the wives of the concierges were all always talking about a revolution. The french are so accustomed to revolutions, they have had so many, that when anything happens they immediately think and say, revolution. Indeed Gertrude Stein once said rather impatiently to some french soldiers when they said something about a revolution, you are silly, you have had one perfectly good revolution and several not quite so good ones; for an intelligent people it seems to me foolish to be always thinking of repeating yourselves. They looked very sheepish and said, bien sun mademoiselle, in other words, sure you’re right.
Well I too said when she woke me, is it a revolution and are there soldiers. No, she said, not exactly. Well what is it, said I impatiently. I don’t quite know, she answered, but there has been an alarm. Anyway you had better come. I started to turn on the light. No, she said, you had better not. Give me your hand and I will get you down and you can go to sleep down stairs on the couch. I came. It was very dark. I sat down on the couch and then I said, I’m sure I don’t know what is the matter with me but my knees are knocking together. Gertrude Stein burst out laughing, wait a minute, I will get you a blanket, she said. No don’t leave me, I said. She managed to find something to cover me and then there was a loud boom, then several more. It was a soft noise and then there was the sound of horns blowing in the streets and then we knew it was all over. We lighted the lights and went to bed.
I must say I would not have believed it was true that knees knocked together as described in poetry and prose if it had not happened to me.
The next time there was a Zeppelin alarm and it was not very long after this first one, Picasso and Eve were dining with us. By this time we knew that the two-story building of the atelier was no more protection than the roof of the little pavilion under which we slept and the concierge had suggested that we should go into her room where at least we would have six stories over us. Eve was not very well these days and fearful so we all went into the concierge’s room. Even Jeanne Poule the Breton servant who had succeeded Hélene, came too. Jeanne soon was bored with this precaution and so in spite of all remonstrance, she went back to her kitchen, lit her light, in spite of the regulations, and proceeded to wash the dishes. We soon too got bored with the concierge’s loge and went back to the atelier. We put a candle under the table so that it would not make much light, Eve and I tried to sleep and Picasso and Gertrude Stein talked until two in the morning when the all’s clear sounded and they went home.
Picasso and Eve were living these days on the rue Schoelcher in a rather sumptuous studio apartment that looked over the cemetery. It was not very gay. The only excitement were the letters from Guillaume Apollinaire who was falling off of horses in the endeavour to become an artilleryman. The only other intimates at that time were a russian whom they called G. Apostrophe and his sister the baronne. They bought all the Rousseaus that were in Rousseau’s atelier when he died. They had an apartment in the boulevard Raspail above Victor Hugo’s tree and they were not unamusing. Picasso learnt the russian alphabet from them and began putting it into some of his pictures.
It was not a very cheerful winter. People came in and out, new ones and old ones. Ellen La Motte turned up, she was very heroic but gun shy. She wanted to go to Servia and Emily Chadbourne wanted to go with her but they did not go.
Gertrude Stein wrote a little novelette about this event.
Ellen La Motte collected a set of souvenirs of the war for her cousin Dupont de Nemours. The stories of how she got them were diverting. Everybody brought you souvenirs in those days, steel arrows that pierced horses’ heads, pieces of shell, ink-wells made out of pieces of shell, helmets, some one even offered us a piece of a Zeppelin or an aeroplane, I forget which, but we declined. It was a strange winter and nothing and everything happened. If I remember rightly it was at this time that some one, I imagine it was Apollinaire on leave, gave a concert and a reading of Blaise Cedrars’ poems. It was then that I first heard mentioned and first heard the music of Erik Satie. I remember this took place in some one’s atelier and the place was crowded. It was in these days too that the friendship between Gertrude Stein and Juan Gris began. He was living in the rue Ravignan in the studio where Salmon had been shut up when he ate my yellow fantaisie.
We used to go there quite often. Juan was having a hard time, no one was buying pictures and the french artists were not in want because they were at the front and their wives or their mistresses if they had been together a certain number of years were receiving an allowance. There was one bad case, Herbin, a nice little man but so tiny that the army dismissed him. He said ruefully the pack he had to carry weighed as much as he did and it was no use, he could not manage it. He was returned home inapt for service and he came near starving. I don’t know who told us about him, he was one of the early simple earnest cubists. Luckily Gertrude Stein succeeded in interesting Roger Fry. Roger Fry took him and his painting over to England where he made and I imagine still has a considerable reputation.
Juan Gris’ case was more difficult. Juan was in those days a tormented and not particularly sympathetic character. He was very melancholy and effusive and as always clear sighted and intellectual. He was at that time painting almost entirely in black and white and his pictures were very sombre. Kahnweiler who had befriended him was an exile in Switzerland, Juan’s sister in Spain was able to help him only a little. His situation was desperate.
It was just at this time that the picture dealer who afterwards, as the expert in the Kahnweiler sale said he was going to kill cubism, undertook to save cubism and he made contracts with all the cubists who were still free to paint. Among them was Juan Gris and for the moment he was saved.
As soon as we were back in Paris we went to see Mildred Aldrich. She was within the military area so we imagined we would have to have a special permit to go and see her. We went to the police station of our quarter and asked them what we should do. He said what papers have you. We have american passports, french matriculation papers, said Gertrude Stein taking out a pocket full. He looked at them all and said and what is this, of another yellow paper. That, said Gertrude Stein, is a receipt from my bank for the money I have just deposited. I think, said he solemnly, I would take that along too. I think, he added, with all those you will not have any trouble.
We did not as a matter of fact have to show any one any papers. We stayed with Mildred several days.
She was much the most cheerful person we knew that winter. She had been through the battle of the Marne, she had had the Uhlans in the woods below her, she had watched the battle going on below her and she had become part of the country-side. We teased her and told her she was beginning to look like a french peasant and she did, in a funny kind of way, born and bred new englander that she was. It was always astonishing that the inside of her little french peasant house with french furniture, french paint and a french servant and even a french poodle, looked completely american. We saw her several times that winter.
At last the spring came and we were ready to go away for a bit. Our friend William Cook after nursing a while in the american hospital for french wounded had gone again to Palma de Mallorca. Cook who had always earned his living by painting was finding it difficult to get on and he had retired to Palma where in those days when the spanish exchange was very low one lived extremely well for a few francs a day.
We decided we would go to Palma too and forget the war a little. We had only the temporary passports that had been given to us in London so we went to the embassy to get permanent ones with which we might go to Spain. We were first interviewed by a kindly old gentleman most evidently not in the diplomatic service. Impossible, he said, why, said he, look at me, I have lived in Paris for forty years and come of a long line of americans and I have no passport. No, he said, you can have a passport to go to America or you can stay in France without a passport. Gertrude Stein insisted upon seeing one of the secretaries of the embassy. We saw a flushed reddish-headed one. He told us exactly the same thing. Gertrude Stein listened quietly. She then said, but so and so who is exactly in my position, a native born american, has lived the same length of time in Europe, is a writer and has no intention of returning to America at present, has just received a regular passport from your department. I think, said the young man still more flushed, there must be some error. It is very simple, replied Gertrude Stein, to verify it by looking the matter up in your records. He disappeared and presently came back and said, yes you are quite correct but you see it was a very special case. There can be, said Gertrude Stein severely, no privilege extended to one american citizen which is not to be, given similar circumstances, accorded to any other american citizen. He once more disappeared and came back and said, yes yes now may I go through the preliminaries. He then explained that they had orders to give out as few passports as possible but if any one really wanted one why of course it was quite alright. We got ours in record time.
And we went to Palma thinking to spend only a few weeks but we stayed the winter. First we went to Barcelona. It was extraordinary to see so many men on the streets. I did not imagine there could be so many men left in the world. One’s eyes had become so habituated to menless streets, the few men one saw being in uniform and therefore not being men but soldiers, that to see quantities of men walking up and down the Ramblas was bewildering. We sat in the hotel window and looked. I went to bed early and got up early and Gertrude Stein went to bed late and got up late and so in a way we overlapped but there was not a moment when there were not quantities of men going up and down the Ramblas.
We arrived in Palma once again and Cook met us and arranged everything for us. William Cook could always be depended upon. In those days he was poor but later when he had inherited money and was well to do and Mildred Aldrich had fallen upon very bad ways and Gertrude Stein was not able to help any more, William Cook gave her a blank cheque and said, use that as much as you need for Mildred, you know my mother loved to read her books.
William Cook often disappeared and one knew nothing of him and then when for one reason or another you needed him there he was. He went into the american army later and at that time Gertrude Stein and myself were doing war work for the American Fund for French Wounded and I had often to wake her up very early. She and Cook used to write the most lugubrious letters to each other about the unpleasantness of sunrises met suddenly. Sunrises were, they contended, alright when approached slowly from the night before, but when faced abruptly from the same morning they were awful. It was William Cook too who later on taught Gertrude Stein how to drive a car by teaching her on one of the old battle of the Marne taxis. Cook being hard up had become a taxi driver in Paris, that was in sixteen and Gertrude Stein was to drive a car for the American Fund for French Wounded. So on dark nights they went out beyond the fortifications and the two of them sitting solemnly on the driving seat of one of those old two-cylinder before-the-war Renault taxis, William Cook taught Gertrude Stein how to drive. It was William Cook who inspired the only movie Gertrude Stein ever wrote in english, I have just published it in Operas and Plays in the Plain Edition. The only other one she ever wrote, also in Operas and Plays, many years later and in french, was inspired by her white poodle dog called Basket.
But to come back to Palma de Mallorca. We had been there two summers before and had liked it and we liked it again. A great many americans seem to like it now but in those days Cook and ourselves were the only americans to inhabit the island. There were a few english, about three families there. There was a descendant of one of Nelson’s captains, a Mrs. Penfold, a sharp-tongued elderly lady and her husband. It was she who said to young Mark Gilbert, an english boy of sixteen with pacifist tendencies who had at tea at her house refused cake, Mark you are either old enough to fight for your country or young enough to eat cake. Mark ate cake.
There were several french families there, the french consul, Monsieur Marchand with a charming italian wife whom we soon came to know very well. It was he who was very much amused at a story we had to tell him of Morocco. He had been attached to the french residence at Tangiers at the moment the french induced Moulai Hafid the then sultan of Morocco to abdicate. We had been in Tangiers at that time for ten days, it was during that first trip to Spain when so much happened that was important to Gertrude Stein.
We had taken on a guide Mohammed and Mohammed had taken a fancy to us. He became a pleasant companion rather than a guide and we used to take long walks together and he used to take us to see his cousins’ wonderfully clean arab middle class homes and drink tea. We enjoyed it all. He also told us all about politics. He had been educated in Moulai Hafid’s palace and he knew everything that was happening. He told us just how much money Moulai Hafid would take to abdicate and just when he would be ready to do it. We liked these stories as we liked all Mohammed’s stories always ending up with, and when you come back there will be street cars and then we won’t have to walk and that will be nice. Later in Spain we read in the papers that it had all happened exactly as Mohammed had said it would and we paid no further attention. Once in talking of our only visit to Morocco we told Monsieur Marchand this story. He said, yes that is diplomacy, probably the only people in the world who were not arabs who knew what the french government wanted so desperately to know were you two and you knew it quite by accident and to you it was of no importance.
Life in Palma was pleasant and so instead of travelling any more that summer we decided to settle down in Palma. We sent for our french servant Jeanne Poule and with the aid of the postman we found a little house on the calle de Dos de Mayo in Terreno, just outside of Palma, and we settled down. We were very content. Instead of spending only the summer we stayed until the following spring.
We had been for some time members of Mudie’s Library in London and wherever we went Mudie’s Library books came to us. It was at this time that Gertrude Stein read aloud to me all of Queen Victoria’s letters and she herself became interested in missionary autobiographies and diaries. There were a great many in Mudie’s Library and she read them all.
It was during this stay at Palma de Mallorca that most of the plays afterwards published in Geography and Plays were written. She always says that a certain kind of landscape induces plays and the country around Terreno certainly did.
We had a dog, a mallorcan hound, the hounds slightly Crazy, who dance in the moonlight, striped, not all one colour as the spanish hound of the continent. We called this dog Polybe because we were pleased with the articles in the Figaro signed Polybe. Polybe was, as Monsieur Marchand said, like an arab, bon accueil a tout le monde et fidèle a personne. He had an incurable passion for eating filth and nothing would stop him. We muzzled him to see if that would cure him, but this so outraged the russian servant of the english consul that we had to give it up. Then he took to annoying sheep. We even took to quarrelling with Cook about Polybe. Cook had a fox terrier called Marie–Rose and we were convinced that Marie–Rose led Polybe into mischief and then virtuously withdrew and let him take the blame. Cook was convinced that we did not know how to bring up Polybe. Polybe had one nice trait. He would sit in a chair and gently smell large bunches of tube-roses with which I always filled a vase in the centre of the room on the floor. He never tried to eat them, he just gently smelled them. When we left we left Polybe behind us in the care of one of the guardians of the old fortress of Belver. When we saw him a week after he did not know us or his name. Polybe comes into many of the plays Gertrude Stein wrote at that time.
The feelings of the island at that time were very mixed as to the war. The thing that impressed them the most was the amount of money it cost. They could discuss by the hour, how much it cost a year, a month, a week, a day, an hour and even a minute. We used to hear them of a summer evening, five million pesetas, a million pesetas, two million pesetas, goodnight, good-night, and know they were busy with their endless calculations of the cost of the war. As most of the men even those of the better middle classes read wrote and ciphered with difficulty and the women not at all, it can be imagined how fascinating and endless a subject the cost of the war was.
One of our neighbours had a german governess and whenever there was a german victory she hung out a german flag. We responded as well as we could, but alas just then there were not many allied victories. The lower classes were strong for the allies. The waiter at the hotel was always looking forward to Spain’s entry into the war on the side of the allies. He was certain that the spanish army would be of great aid as it could march longer on less food than any army in the world. The maid at the hotel took great interest in my knitting for the soldiers. She said, of course madame knits very slowly, all ladies do. But, said I hopefully, if I knit for years may I not come to knit quickly, not as quickly as you but quickly. No, said she firmly, ladies knit slowly. As a matter of fact I did come to knit very quickly and could even read and knit quickly at the same time.
We led a pleasant life, we walked a great deal and ate extremely well, and were well amused by our Breton servant.
She was patriotic and always wore the tricolour ribbon around her hat. She once came home very excited. She had just been seeing another french servant and she said, imagine, Marie has just had news that her brother was drowned and has had a civilian funeral. How did that happen, I asked also much excited. Why, said Jeanne, he had not yet been called to the army. It was a great honour to have a brother have a civilian funeral during the war. At any rate it was rare. Jeanne was content with spanish newspapers, she had no trouble reading them, as she said, all the important words were in french.
Jeanne told endless stories of french village life and Gertrude Stein could listen a long time and then all of a sudden she could not listen any more.
Life in Mallorca was pleasant until the attack on Verdun began. Then we all began to be very miserable. We tried to console each other but it was difficult. One of the frenchmen, an engraver who had palsy and in spite of the palsy tried every few months to get the french consul to accept him for the army, used to say we must not worry if Verdun is taken, it is not an entry into France, it is only a moral victory for the germans. But we were all desperately unhappy. I had been so confident and now I had an awful feeling that the war had gotten out of my hands.
In the port of Palma was a german ship called the Fangturm which sold pins and needles to all the Mediterranean ports before the war and further, presumably, because it was a very big steamer. It had been caught in Palma when the war broke out and had never been able to leave. Most of the officers and sailors had gotten away to Barcelona but the big ship remained in the harbour. It looked very rusty and neglected and it was just under our windows. All of a sudden as the attack on Verdun commenced, they began painting the Fangturm. Imagine our feelings. We were all pretty unhappy and this was despair. We told the french consul and he told us and it was awful.
Day by day the news was worse and one whole side of the Fangturm was painted and then they stopped painting. They knew it before we did. Verdun was not going to be taken. Verdun was safe. The germans had given up hoping to take it.
When it was all over we none of us wanted to stay in Mallorca any longer, we all wanted to go home. It was at this time that Cook and Gertrude Stein spent all their time talking about automobiles. They neither of them had ever driven but they were getting very interested. Cook also began to wonder how he was going to earn his living when he got to Paris. His tiny income did for Mallorca but it would not keep him long in Paris. He thought of driving horses for Félix Potin’s delivery wagons, he said after all he liked horses better than automobiles. Anyway he went back to Paris and when we got there, we went a longer way, by way of Madrid, he was driving a Paris taxi. Later on he became a trier-out of cars for the Renault works and I can remember how exciting it was when he described how the wind blew out his cheeks when he made eighty kilometres an hour. Then later he joined the american army.
We went home by way of Madrid. There we had a curious experience. We went to the american consul to have our passports visaed. He was a great big flabby man and he had a filipino as an assistant. He looked at our passports, he measured them, weighed them, looked at them upside down and finally said that he supposed they were alright but how could he tell. He then asked the filipino what he thought. The filipino seemed inclined to agree that the consul could not tell. I tell you what you do, he said ingratiatingly, you go to the french consul since you are going to France and you live in Paris and if the french consul says they are alright, why the consul will sign. The consul sagely nodded.
We were furious. It was an awkward position that a french consul, not an american one should decide whether american passports were alright. However there was nothing else to do so we went to the french consul.
When our turn came the man in charge took our passports and looked them over and said to Gertrude Stein, when were you last in Spain. She stopped to think, she never can remember anything when anybody asks her suddenly, and she said she did not remember but she thought it was such and such a date. He said no, and mentioned another year. She said very likely he was right. Then he went on to give all the dates of her various visits to Spain and finally he added a visit when she was still at college when she was in Spain with her brother just after the spanish war. It was all in a way rather frightening to me standing by but Gertrude Stein and the assistant consul seemed to be thoroughly interested in fixing dates. Finally he said, you see I was for many years in the letter of credit department of the Crédit Lyonnais in Madrid and I have a very good memory and I remember, of course I remember you very well. We were all very pleased. He signed the passports and told us to go back and tell our consul to do so also.
At the time we were furious with our consul but now I wonder if it was not an arrangement between the two offices that the american consul should not sign any passport to enter France until the french consul had decided whether its owner was or was not desirable.
We came back to an entirely different Paris. It was no longer gloomy. It was no longer empty. This time we did not settle down, we decided to get into the war. One day we were walking down the rue des Pyramides and there was a ford car being backed up the street by an american girl and on the car it said, American Fund for French Wounded. There, said I, that is what we are going to do. At least, said I to Gertrude Stein, you will drive the car and I will do the rest. We went over and talked to the american girl and then interviewed Mrs. Lathrop, the head of the organisation. She was enthusiastic, she was always enthusiastic and she said, get a car. But where, we asked. From America, she said. But how, we said. Ask somebody, she said, and Gertrude Stein did, she asked her cousin and in a few months the ford car came. In the meanwhile Cook had taught her to drive his taxi.
As I said it was a changed Paris. Everything was changed, and everybody was cheerful.
During our absence Eve had died and Picasso was now living in a little home in Montrouge. We went out to see him. He had a marvellous rose pink silk counterpane on his bed. Where did that come from Pablo, asked Gertrude Stein. Ah ea, said Picasso with much satisfaction, that is a lady. It was a well known chilean society woman who had given it to him. It was a marvel. He was very cheerful. He was constantly coming to the house, bringing Paquerette a girl who was very nice or Irene a very lovely woman who came from the mountains and wanted to be free. He brought Erik Satie and the Princesse de Polignac and Blaise Cendrars.
It was a great pleasure to know Erik Satie. He was from Normandy and very fond of it. Marie Laurencin comes from Normandy, so also does Braque. Once when after the war Satie and Marie Laurencin were at the house for lunch they were delightfully enthusiastic about each other as being nor-mans. Erik Satie liked food and wine and knew a lot about both. We had at that time some very good eau de vie that the husband of Mildred Aldrich’s servant had given us and-Erik Satie, drinking his glass slowly and with appreciation, told stories of the country in his youth.
Only once in the half dozen times that Erik Satie was at the house did he talk about music. He said that it had always been his opinion and he was glad that it was being recognised that modern french music owed nothing to modern Germany. That after Debussy had led the way french musicians had either followed him or found their own french way.
He told charming stories, usually of Normandy, he had a playful wit which was sometimes very biting. He was a charming dinner-guest. It was many years later that Virgil Thomson, when we first knew him in his tiny room near the Gare Saint–Lazare, played for us the whole of Socrate. It was then that Gertrude Stein really became a Satie enthusiast.
Ellen La Motte and Emily Chadbourne, who had not gone to Serbia, were still in Paris. Ellen La Motte, who was an ex Johns Hopkins nurse, wanted to nurse near the front. She was still gun shy but she did want to nurse at the front, and they met Mary Borden–Turner who was running a hospital at the front and Ellen La Motte did for a few months nurse at the front. After that she and Emily Chadbourne went to China and after that became leaders of the anti-opium campaign.
Mary Borden–Turner had been and was going to be a writer. She was very enthusiastic about the work of Gertrude Stein and travelled with what she had of it and volumes of Flaubert to and from the front. She had taken a house near the Bois and it was heated and during that winter when the rest of us had no coal it was very pleasant going to dinner there and being warm. We liked Turner. He was a captain in the British army and was doing contre-espionage work very successfully. Although married to Mary Borden he did not believe in millionaires. He insisted upon giving his own Christmas party to the women and children in the village in which he was billeted and he always said that after the war he would be collector of customs for the British in Düsseldorf or go out to Canada and live simply. After all, he used to say to his wife, you are not a millionaire, not a real one. He had british standards of millionairedom. Mary Borden was very Chicago. Gertrude Stein always says that chicagoans spent so much energy losing Chicago that often it is difficult to know what they are. They have to lose the Chicago voice and to do so they do many things. Some lower their voices, some raise them, some get an english accent, some even get a german accent, some drawl, some speak in a very high tense voice, and some go chinese or spanish and do not move the lips. Mary Borden was very Chicago and Gertrude Stein was immensely interested in her and in Chicago.
All this time we were waiting for our ford truck which was on its way and then we waited for its body to be built. We waited a great deal. It was then that Gertrude Stein wrote a great many little war poems, some of them have since been published in the volume Useful Knowledge which has in it only things about America.
Stirred by the publication of Tender Buttons many newspapers had taken up the amusement of imitating Gertrude Stein’s work and making fun of it. Life began a series that were called after Gertrude Stein.
Gertrude Stein suddenly one day wrote a letter to Masson who was then editor of Life and said to him that the real Gertrude Stein was as Henry McBride had pointed out funnier in every way than the imitations, not to say much more interesting, and why did they not print the original. To her astonishment she received a very nice letter from Mr. Masson saying that he would be glad to do so. And they did. They printed two things that she sent them, one about Wilson and one longer thing about war work in France. Mr. Masson had more courage than most.
This winter Paris was bitterly cold and there was no coal. We finally had none at all. We closed up the big room and stayed in a little room but at last we had no more coal. The government was giving coal away to the needy but we did not feel justified in sending our servant to stand in line to get it. One afternoon it was bitterly cold, we went out and on a street corner was a policeman and standing with him was a sergeant of police. Gertrude Stein went up to them. Look here, she said to them, what are we to do. I live in a pavillon on the rue de Fleurus and have lived there many years. Oh yes, said they nodding their heads, certainly madame we know you very well. Well, she said, I have no coal not even enough to heat one small room. I do not want to send my servant to get it for nothing, that does not seem right. Now, she said, it is up to you to tell me what to do. The policeman looked at his sergeant and the sergeant nodded. Alright, they said.
We went home. That evening the policeman in civilian clothes turned up with two sacks of coal. We accepted thankfully and asked no questions. The policeman, a stalwart breton became our all in all. He did everything for us, he cleaned our home, he cleaned our chimneys, he got us in and he got us out and on dark nights when Zeppelins came it was comfortable to know that he was somewhere outside.
There were Zeppelin alarms from time to time, but like everything else we had gotten used to them. When they came at dinner time we went on eating and when they came at night Gertrude Stein did not wake me, she said I might as well stay where I was if I was asleep because when asleep it took more than even the siren that they used then to give the signal, to wake me.
Our little ford was almost ready. She was later to be called Auntie after Gertrude Stein’s aunt Pauline who always behaved admirably in emergencies and behaved fairly well most times if she was properly flattered.
One day Picasso came in and with him and leaning on his shoulder was a slim elegant youth. It is Jean, announced Pablo, Jean Cocteau and we are leaving for Italy.
Picasso had been excited at the prospect of doing the scenery for a russian ballet, the music to be by Satie, the drama by Jean Cocteau. Everybody was at the war, life in Montparnasse was not very gay, Montrouge with even a faithful servant was not very lively, he too needed a change. He was very lively at the prospect of going to Rome. We all said goodbye and we all went our various ways.
The little ford car was ready. Gertrude Stein had learned to drive a french car and they all said it was the same. I have never driven any car, but it would appear that it is not the same. We went outside of Paris to get it when it was ready and Gertrude Stein drove it in. Of course the first thing she did was to stop dead on the track between two street cars. Everybody got out and pushed us off the track. The next day when we started off to see what would happen we managed to get as far as the Champs Elysées and once more stopped dead. A crowd shoved us to the side walk and then tried to find out what was the matter. Gertrude Stein cranked, the whole crowd cranked, nothing happened. Finally an old chauffeur said, no gasoline. We said proudly, oh yes at least a gallon, but he insisted on looking and of course there was none. Then the crowd stopped a whole procession of military trucks that were going up the Champs Elysées. They all stopped and a couple of them brought over an immense tank of gasoline and tried to pour it into the little ford. Naturally the process was not successful. Finally getting into a taxi I went to a store in our quarter where they sold brooms and gasoline and where they knew me and I came back with a tin of gasoline and we finally arrived at the Alcazar d’Eté, the then headquarters of the American Fund for French Wounded.
Mrs. Lathrop was waiting for one of the cars to take her to Montmartre. I immediately offered the service of our car and went out and told Gertrude Stein. She quoted Edwin Dodge to me. Once Mabel Dodge’s little boy said he would like to fly from the terrace to the lower garden. Do, said Mabel. It is easy, said Edwin Dodge, to be a spartan mother.
However Mrs. Lathrop came and the car went off. I must confess to being terribly nervous until they came back but come back they did.
We had a consultation with Mrs. Lathrop and she sent us off to Perpignan, a region with a good many hospitals that no american organisation had ever visited. We started. We had never been further from Paris than Fontainbleau in the car and it was terribly exciting.
We had a few adventures, we were caught in the snow and I was sure that we were on the wrong road and wanted to turn back. Wrong or right, said Gertrude Stein, we are going on. She could not back the car very successfully and indeed I may say even to this day when she can drive any kind of a car anywhere she still does not back a car very well. She goes forward admirably, she does not go backwards successfully. The only violent discussions that we have had in connection with her driving a car have been on the subject of backing.
On this trip South we picked up our first military god-son. We began the habit then which we kept up all though the war of giving any soldier on the road a lift. We drove by day and we drove by night and in very lonely parts of France and we always stopped and gave a lift to any soldier, and never had we any but the most pleasant experiences with these soldiers. And some of them were as we sometimes found out pretty hard characters. Gertrude Stein once said to a soldier who was doing something for her, they were always doing something for her, whenever there was a soldier or a chauffeur or any kind of a man anywhere, she never did anything for herself, neither changing a tyre, cranking the car or repairing it. Gertrude Stein said to this soldier, but you are tellement gentil, very nice and kind. Madame, said he quite simply, all soldiers are nice and kind.
This faculty of Gertrude Stein of having everybody do anything for her puzzled the other drivers of the organisation. Mrs. Lathrop who used to drive her own car said that nobody did those things for her. It was not only soldiers, a chauffeur would get off the seat of a private car in the place Vendôme and crank Gertrude Stein’s old ford for her. Gertrude Stein said that the others looked so efficient, of course nobody would think of doing anything for them. Now as for herself she was not efficient, she was good humoured, she was democratic, one person was as good as another, and she knew what she wanted done. If you are like that she says, anybody will do anything for you. The important thing, she insists, is that you must have deep down as the deepest thing in you a sense of equality. Then anybody will do anything for you.
It was not far from Saulieu that we picked up our first military god-son. He was a butcher in a tiny village not far from Saulieu. Our taking him up was a good example of the democracy of the french army. There were three of them walking along the road. We stopped and said we could take one of them on the step. They were all three going home on leave and walking into the country to their homes from the nearest big town. One was a lieutenant, one was a sergeant and one a soldier. They thanked us and then the lieutenant said to each one of them, how far have you to go. They each one named the distance and then they said, and you my lieutenant, how far have you to go. He told them. Then they all agreed that it was the soldier who had much the longest way to go and so it was his right to have the lift. He touched his cap to his sergeant and officer and got in.
As I say he was our first military god-son. We had a great many afterwards and it was quite an undertaking to keep them all going. The duty of a military god-mother was to write a letter as often as she received one and to send a package of comforts or dainties about once in ten days. They liked the packages but they really liked letters even more. And they answered so promptly. It seemed to me, no sooner was my letter written than there was an answer. And then one had to remember all their family histories and once I did a dreadful thing, I mixed my letters and so I asked a soldier whose wife I knew all about and whose mother was dead to remember me to his mother, and the one who had the mother to remember me to his wife. Their return letters were quite mournful. They each explained that I had made a mistake and I could see that they had been deeply wounded by my error.
The most delightful god-son we ever had was one we took on in Nîmes. One day when we were in the town I dropped my purse. I did not notice the loss until we returned to the hotel and then I was rather bothered as there had been a good deal of money in it. While we were eating our dinner the waiter said some one wanted to see us. We went out and there was a man holding the purse in his hand. He said he had picked it up in the street and as soon as his work was over had come to the hotel to give it to us. There was a card of mine in the purse and he took it for granted that a stranger would be at the hotel, beside by that time we were very well known in Nîmes. I naturally offered him a considerable reward from the contents of the purse but he said no. He said however that he had a favour to ask. They were refugees from the Marne and his son Abel now seventeen years old had just volunteered and was at present in the garrison at Nîmes, would I be his god-mother. I said I would, and I asked him to tell his son to come to see me his first free evening. The next evening the youngest, the sweetest, the smallest soldier imaginable came in. It was Abel.
We became very attached to Abel. I always remember his first letter from the front. He began by saying that he was really not very much surprised by anything at the front, it was exactly as it had been described to him and as he had imagined it, except that there being no tables one was compelled to write upon one’s knees.
The next time we saw Abel he was wearing the red four-ragère, his regiment as a whole had been decorated with the legion of honour and we were very proud of our filleul. Still later when we went into Alsace with the french army, after the armistice, we had Abel come and stay with us a few days and a proud boy he was when he climbed to the top of the Strasbourg cathedral.
When we finally returned to Paris, Abel came and stayed with us a week. We took him to see everything and he said solemnly at the end of his first day, I think all that was worth fighting for. Paris in the evening however frightened him and we always had to get somebody to go out with him. The front had not been scareful but Paris at night was.
Some time later he wrote and said that the family were moving into a different department and he gave me his new address. By some error the address did not reach him and we lost him.
We did finally arrive at Perpignan and began visiting hospitals and giving away our stores and sending word to headquarters if we thought they needed more than we had. At first it was a little difficult but soon we were doing all we were to do very well. We were also given quantities of comfort-bags and distributing these was a perpetual delight, it was like a continuous Christmas. We always had permission from the head of the hospital to distribute these to the soldiers themselves which was in itself a great pleasure but also it enabled us to get the soldiers to immediately write postal cards of thanks and these we used to send off in batches to Mrs. Lathrop who sent them to America to the people who had sent the comfort-bags. And so everybody was pleased.
Then there was the question of gasoline. The American Fund for French Wounded had an order from the french government giving them the privilege of buying gasoline. But there was no gasoline to buy. The french army had plenty of it and were ready to give it to us but they could not sell it and we were privileged to buy it but not to receive it for nothing. It was necessary to interview the officer in command of the commissary department.
Gertrude Stein was perfectly ready to drive the car anywhere, to crank the car as often as there was nobody else to do it, to repair the car, I must say she was very good at it, even if she was not ready to take it all down and put it back again for practice as I wanted her to do in the beginning, she was even resigned to getting up in the morning, but she flatly refused to go inside of any office and interview any official. I was officially the delegate and she was officially the driver but I had to go and interview the major.
He was a charming major. The affair was very long drawn out, he sent me here and he sent me there but finally the matter was straightened out. All this time of course he called me Mademoiselle Stein because Gertrude Stein’s name was on all the papers that I presented to him, she being the driver. And so now, he said, Mademoiselle Stein, my wife is very anxious to make your acquaintance and she has asked me to ask you to dine with us. I was very confused. I hesitated. But I am not Mademoiselle Stein, I said. He almost jumped out of his chair. What, he shouted, not Mademoiselle Stein. Then who are you. It must be remembered this was war time and Perpignan almost at the spanish frontier. Well, said I, you see Mademoiselle Stein. Where is Mademoiselle Stein, he said. She is downstairs, I said feebly, in the automobile. Well what does all this mean, he said. Well, I said, you see Mademoiselle Stein is the driver and I am the delegate and Mademoiselle Stein has no patience she will not go into offices and wait and interview people and explain, so I do it for her while she sits in the automobile. But what, said he sternly, would you have done if I had asked you to sign something. I would have told you, I said, as I am telling you now. Indeed, he said, let us go downstairs and see this Mademoiselle Stein.
We went downstairs and Gertrude Stein was sitting in the driver’s seat of the little ford and he came up to her. They immediately became friends and he renewed his invitation and we went to dinner. We had a good time. Madame Dubois came from Bordeaux, the land of food and wine. And what food above all the soup. It still remains to me the standard of comparison with all the other soups in the world. Sometimes some approach it, a very few have equalled it but none have surpassed it.
Perpignan is not far from Rivesaltes and Rivesaltes is the birthplace of Joffre. It had a little hospital and we got it extra supplies in honour of Papa Joffre. We had also the little ford car showing the red cross and the A.F.F.W. sign and ourselves in it photographed in front of the house in the little street where Joffre was born and had this photograph printed and sent to Mrs. Lathrop. The postal cards were sent to America and sold for the benefit of the fund. In the meantime the U.S. had come into the war and we had some one send us a lot of ribbon with the stars and stripes printed on it and we cut this up and gave it to all the soldiers and they and we were pleased.
Which reminds me of a french peasant. Later in Nîmes we had an american ambulance boy in the car with us and we were out in the country. The boy had gone off to visit a waterfall and I had gone off to see a hospital and Gertrude Stein stayed with the car. She told me when I came back that an old peasant had come up to her and asked her what uniform the young man was wearing. That, she had said proudly, is the uniform of the american army, your new ally. Oh, said the old peasant. And then contemplatively, I ask myself what will we accomplish together, je me demande je me demande qu’est-ce que nous ferons ensemble.
Our work in Perpignan being over we started back to Paris. On the way everything happened to the car. Perhaps it had been too hot even for a ford car in Perpignan. Perpignan is below sea level near the Mediterranean and it is hot. Gertrude Stein who had always wanted it hot and hotter has never been really enthusiastic about heat after this experience. She said she had been just like a pancake, the heat above and the heat below and cranking a car beside. I do not know how often she used to swear and say, I am going to scrap it, that is all there is about it I am going to scrap it. I encouraged and remonstrated until the car started again.
It was in connection with this that Mrs. Lathrop played a joke on Gertrude Stein. After the war was over we were both decorated by the french government, we received the Reconnaissance Française. They always in giving you a decoration give you a citation telling why you have been given it. The account of our valour was exactly the same, except in my case they said that my devotion was sans relache, with no abatement, and in her case they did not put in the words san relache.
On the way back to Paris we, as I say had everything happen to the car but Gertrude Stein with the aid of an old tramp on the road who pushed and shoved at the critical moments managed to get it to Nevers where we met the first piece of the american army. They were the quartermasters department and the marines, the first contingent to arrive in France. There we first heard what Gertrude Stein calls the sad song of the marines, which tells how everybody else in the american army has at sometime mutinied, but the marines never.
Immediately on entering Nevers, we saw Tarn McGrew, a californian and parisian whom we had known very slightly but he was in uniform and we called for help. He came. We told him our troubles. He said, alright get the car into the garage of the hotel and to-morrow some of the soldiers will put it to rights. We did so.
That evening we spent at Mr. McGrew’s request at the Y. M. C. A. and saw for the first time in many years americans just americans, the kind that would not naturally ever have come to Europe. It was quite a thrilling experience. Gertrude Stein of course talked to them all, wanted to know what state and what city they came from, what they did, how old they were and how they liked it. She talked to the french girls who were with the american boys and the french girls told her what they thought of the american boys and the american boys told her all they thought about the french girls.
The next day she spent with California and Iowa in the garage, as she called the two soldiers who were detailed to fix up her car. She was pleased with them when every time there was a terrific noise anywhere, they said solemnly to each other, that french chauffeur is just changing gears. Gertrude Stein, Iowa and California enjoyed themselves so thoroughly that I am sorry to say the car did not last out very well after we left Nevers, but at any rate we did get to Paris.
It was at this time that Gertrude Stein conceived the idea of writing a history of the United States consisting of chapters wherein Iowa differs from Kansas, and wherein Kansas differs from Nebraska etcetera. She did do a little of it which also was printed in the book, Useful Knowledge.
We did not stay in Paris very long. As soon as the car was made over we left for Nîmes, we were to do the three departments the Gard, the Bouches-du-Rhône and the Vaucluse.
We arrived in Nîmes and settled down to a very comfortable life there. We went to see the chief military doctor in the town, Doctor Fabre and through his great kindness and that of his wife we were soon very much at home in Nîmes, but before we began our work there, Doctor Fabre asked a favour of us. There were no automobile ambulances left in Nîmes. At the military hospital was a pharmacist, a captain in the army, who was very ill, certain to die, and wanted to die in his own home. His wife was with him and would sit with him and we were to have no responsibility for him except to drive him home. Of course we said we would and we did.
It had been a long hard ride up into the mountains and it was dark long before we were back. We were still some distance from Nîmes when suddenly on the road we saw a couple of figures. The old ford car’s lights did not light up much of anything on the road, and nothing along the side of the road and we did not make out very well who it was. However we stopped as we always did when anybody asked us to give them a lift. One man, he was evidently an officer said, my automobile has broken down and I must get back to Nîmes. Alright we said, both of you climb into the back, you will find a mattress and things, make yourselves comfortable. We went on to Nîmes. As we came into the city I called through the little window, where do you want to get down, where are you going, a voice replied. To the Hotel Luxembourg, I said. That will do alright, the voice replied. We arrived in front of the Hôtel Luxembourg and stopped. Here there was plenty of light. We heard a scramble in the back and then a little man, very fierce with the cap and oak leaves of a full general and the legion of honour medal at his throat, appeared before us. He said, I wish to thank you but before I do so I must ask you who you are. We, I replied cheerfully are the delegates of the American Fund for French Wounded and we are for the present stationed at Nîmes. And I, he retorted, am the general who commands here and as I see by your car that you have a french military number you should have reported to me immediately. Should we, I said, I did not know, I am most awfully sorry. It is alright, he said aggressively, if you should ever want or need anything let me know.
We did let him know very shortly because of course there was the eternal gasoline question and he was kindness itself and arranged everything for us.
The little general and his wife came from the north of France and had lost their home and spoke of themselves as refugees. When later the big Bertha began to fire on Paris and one shell hit the Luxembourg gardens very near the rue de Fleurus, I must confess I began to cry and said I did not want to be a miserable refugee. We had been helping a good many of them. Gertrude Stein said, General Frotier’s family are refugees and they are not miserable. More miserable than I want to be, I said bitterly.
Soon the american army came to Nîmes. One day Madame Fabre met us and said that her cook had seen some american soldiers. She must have mistaken some english soldiers for them, we said. Not at all, she answered, she is very patriotic. At any rate the american soldiers came, a regiment of them of the S.0.S. the service of supply, how well I remember how they used to say it with the emphasis on the of.
We soon got to know them all well and some of them very well. There was Duncan, a southern boy with such a very marked southern accent that when he was well into a story I was lost. Gertrude Stein whose people all come from Baltimore had no difficulty and they used to shout with laughter together, and all I could understand was that they had killed him as if he was a chicken. The people in Nîmes were as much troubled as I was. A great many of the ladies in Nîmes spoke english very well. There had always been english governesses in Nîmes, and they, the nimoises had always prided themselves on their knowledge of english but as they said not only could they not understand these americans but these americans could not understand them when they spoke english. I had to admit that it was more or less the same with me.
The soldiers were all Kentucky, South Carolina etcetera and they were hard to understand.
Duncan was a dear. He was supply-sergeant to the camp and when we began to find american soldiers here and there in french hospitals we always took Duncan along to give the american soldier pieces of his lost uniform and white bread. Poor Duncan was miserable because he was not at the front. He had enlisted as far back as the expedition to Mexico and here he was well in the rear and no hope of getting away because he was one of the few who understood the complicated system of army book-keeping and his officers would not recommend him for the front. I will go, he used to say bitterly, they can bust me if they like I will go. But as we told him there were plenty of A.W.O.L. absent without leave the south was full of them, we were always meeting them and they would say, say any military police around here. Duncan was not made for that life. Poor Duncan. Two days before the armistice, he came in to see us and he was drunk and bitter. He was usually a sober boy but to go back and face his family never having been to the front was too awful. He was with us in a little sitting-room and in the front room were some of his officers and it would not do for them to see him in that state and it was time for him to get back to the camp. He had fallen half asleep with his head on the table. Duncan, said Gertrude Stein sharply, yes, he said. She said to him, listen Duncan. Miss Toklas is going to stand up, you stand up too and fix your eyes right on the back of her head, do you understand. Yes, he said. Well then she will start to walk and you follow her and don’t you for a moment move your eyes from the back of her head until you are in my car. Yes, he said. And he did and Gertrude Stein drove him to the camp.
Dear Duncan. It was he who was all excited by the news that the americans had taken forty villages at Saint–Mihiel. He was to go with us that afternoon to Avignon to deliver some cases. He was sitting very straight on the step and all of a sudden his eye was caught by some houses. What are they, he asked. Oh just a village, Gertrude Stein said. In a minute there were some more houses. And what are those houses, he asked. Oh just a village. He fell very silent and he looked at the landscape as he had never looked at it before. Suddenly with a deep sigh, forty villages ain’t so much, he said.
We did enjoy the life with these doughboys. I would like to tell nothing but doughboy stories. They all got on amazingly well with the french. They worked together in the repair sheds of the railroad. The only thing that bothered the americans were the long hours. They worked too concentratedly to keep it up so long. Finally an arrangement was made that they should have their work to do in their hours and the french in theirs. There was a great deal of friendly rivalry. The american boys did not see the use of putting so much finish on work that was to be shot up so soon again, the french said they could not complete work without finish. But both lots thoroughly liked each other.
Gertrude Stein always said the war was so much better than just going to America. Here you were with America in a kind of way that if you only went to America you could not possibly be. Every now and then one of the american soldiers would get into the hospital at Nîmes and as Doctor Fabre knew that Gertrude Stein had had a medical education he always wanted her present with the doughboy on these occasions. One of them fell off the train. He did not believe that the little french trains could go fast but they did, fast enough to kill him.
This was a tremendous occasion. Gertrude Stein in company with the wife of the préfet, the governmental head of the department and the wife of the general were the chief mourners. Duncan and two others blew on the bugle and everybody made speeches. The Protestant pastor asked Gertrude Stein about the dead man and his virtues and she asked the doughboys. It was difficult to find any virtue. Apparently he had been a fairly hard citizen. But can’t you tell me something good about him, she said despairingly. Finally Taylor, one of his friends, looked up solemnly and said, I tell you he had a heart as big as a washtub.
I often wonder, I have often wondered if any of all these doughboys who knew Gertrude Stein so well in those days ever connected her with the Gertrude Stein of the newspa pers.
We led a very busy life. There were all the americans, there were a great many in the small hospitals round about as well as in the regiment in Nîmes and we had to find them all and be good to them, then there were all the french in the hospitals, we had them to visit as this was really our business, and then later came the spanish grippe and Gertrude Stein and one of the military doctors from Nîmes used to go to all the villages miles around to bring into Nîmes the sick soldiers and officers who had fallen ill in their homes while on leave.
It was during these long trips that she began writing a great deal again. The landscape, the strange life stimulated her. It was then that she began to love the valley of the Rhône, the landscape that of all landscapes means the most to her. We are still here in Bilignin in the valley of the Rhône.
She wrote at that time the poem of The Deserter, printed almost immediately in Vanity Fair. Henry McBride had interested Crownin shield in her work.
One day when we were in Avignon we met Braque. Braque had been badly wounded in the head and had come to Sorgues near Avignon to recover. It was there that he had been staying when the mobilisation orders came to him. It was awfully pleasant seeing the Braques again. Picasso had just written to Gertrude Stein announcing his marriage to a jeune fille, a real young lady, and he had sent Gertrude Stein a wedding present of a lovely little painting and a photograph of a painting of his wife.
That lovely little painting he copied for me many years later on tapestry canvas and I embroidered it and that was the beginning of my tapestrying. I did not think it possible to ask him to draw me something to work but when I told Gertrude Stein she said, alright, I’ll manage. And so one day when he was at the house she said, Pablo, Alice wants to make a tapestry of that little picture and I said I would trace it for her. He looked at her with kindly contempt, if it is done by anybody, he said, it will be done by me. Well, said Gertrude Stein, producing a piece of tapestry canvas, go to it, and he did. And I have been making tapestry of his drawings ever since and they are very successful and go marvellously with old chairs. I have done two small Louis fifteenth chairs in this way. He is kind enough now to make me drawings on my working canvas and to colour them for me.
Braque also told us that Apollinaire too had married a real young lady. We gossiped a great deal together. But after all there was little news to tell.
Time went on, we were very busy and then came the armistice. We were the first to bring the news to many small villages. The french soldiers in the hospitals were relieved rather than glad. They seemed not to feel that it was going to be such a lasting peace. I remember one of them saying to Gertrude Stein when she said to him, well here is peace, at least for twenty years, he said.
The next morning we had a telegram from Mrs. Lathrop. Come at once want you to go with the french armies to Alsace. We did not stop on the way. We made it in a day. Very shortly after we left for Alsace.
We left for Alsace and on the road had our first and only accident. The roads were frightful, mud, ruts, snow, slush, and covered with the french armies going into Alsace. As we passed, two horses dragging an army kitchen kicked out of line and hit our ford, the mud-guard came off and the tool-chest, and worst of all the triangle of the steering gear was badly bent. The army picked up our tools and our mudguard but there was nothing to do about the bent triangle. We went on, the car wandering all over the muddy road, up hill and down hill, and Gertrude Stein sticking to the wheel. Finally after about forty kilometres, we saw on the road some american ambulance men. Where can we get our car fixed. Just a little farther, they said. We went a little farther and there found an american ambulance outfit. They had no extra mud-guard but they could give us a new triangle. I told our troubles to the sergeant, he grunted and said a word in an undertone to a mechanic. Then turning to us he said gruffly, run-her-in. Then the mechanic took off his tunic and threw it over the radiator. As Gertrude Stein said when any american did that the car was his.
We had never realised before what mud-guards were for but by the time we arrived in Nancy we knew. The french military repair shop fitted us out with a new mud-guard and tool-chest and we went on our way.
Soon we came to the battle-fields and the lines of trenches of both sides. To any one who did not see it as it was then it is impossible to imagine it. It was not terrifying it was strange. We were used to ruined houses and even ruined towns but this was different. It was a landscape. And it belonged to no country.
I remember hearing a french nurse once say and the only thing she did say of the front was, c’est un paysage passionant, an absorbing landscape. And that was what it was as we saw it. It was strange. Camouflage, huts, everything was there. It was wet and dark and there were a few people, one did not know whether they were chinamen or europeans. Our fanbelt had stopped working. A staff car stopped and fixed it with a hairpin, we still wore hairpins.
Another thing that interested us enormously was how different the camouflage of the french looked from the camouflage of the germans, and then once we came across some very very neat camouflage and it was american. The idea was the same but as after all it was different nationalities who did it the difference was inevitable. The colour schemes were different, the designs were different, the way of placing them was different, it made plain the whole theory of art and its inevitability.
Finally we came to Strasbourg and then went on to Mulhouse. Here we stayed until well into May.
Our business in Alsace was not hospitals but refugees. The inhabitants were returning to their ruined homes all over the devastated country and it was the aim of the A.F.F.W. to give a pair of blankets, underclothing and children’s and babies’ woollen stockings and babies’ booties to every family. There was a legend that the quantity of babies’ booties sent to us came from the gifts sent to Mrs. Wilson who was supposed at that time to be about to produce a little Wilson. There were a great many babies’ booties but not too many for Alsace.
Our headquarters was the assembly-room of one of the big school-buildings in Mulhouse. The german school teachers had disappeared and french school teachers who happened to be in the army had been put in temporarily to teach. The head of our school was in despair, not about the docility of his pupils nor their desire to learn french, but on account of their clothes. French children are all always neatly clothed. There is no such thing as a ragged child, even orphans farmed out in country villages are neatly dressed, just as all french women are neat, even the poor and the aged. They may not always be clean but they are always neat. From this standpoint the parti-coloured rags of even the comparatively prosperous alsatian children were deplorable and the french schoolmasters suffered. We did our best to help him out with black children’s aprons but these did not go far, beside we had to keep them for the refugees.
We came to know Alsace and the alsatians very well, all kinds of them. They were astonished at the simplicity with which the french army and french soldiers took care of themselves. They had not been accustomed to that in the german army. On the other hand the french soldiers were rather mistrustful of the alsatians who were too anxious to be french and yet were not french. They are not frank, the french soldiers said. And it is quite true. The french whatever else they may be are frank. They are very polite, they are very adroit but sooner or later they always tell you the truth. The alsatians are not adroit, they are not polite and they do not inevitably tell you the truth. Perhaps with renewed contact with the french they will learn these things.
We distributed. We went into all the devastated villages. We usually asked the priest to help us with the distribution. One priest who gave us a great deal of good advice and with whom we became very friendly had only one large room left in his house. Without any screens or partitions he had made himself three rooms, the first third had his parlour furniture, the second third his dining room furniture and the last third his bedroom furniture. When we lunched with him and we lunched well and his alsatian wines were very good, he received us in his parlour, he then excused himself and withdrew into his bedroom to wash his hands, and then he invited us very formally to come into the dining room, it was like an old-fashioned stage setting.
We distributed, we drove around in the snow we talked to everybody and everybody talked to us and by the end of May it was all over and we decided to leave.
We went home by way of Metz, Verdun and Mildred Aldrich.
We once more returned to a changed Paris. We were restless. Gertrude Stein began to work very hard, it was at this time that she wrote her Accents in Alsace and other political plays, the last plays in Geography and Plays. We were still in the shadow of war work and we went on doing some of it, visiting hospitals and seeing the soldiers left in them, now pretty well neglected by everybody. We had spent a great deal of our money during the war and we were economising, servants were difficult to get if not impossible, prices were high. We settled down for the moment with a femme de ménage for only a few hours a day. I used to say Gertrude Stein was the chauffeur and I was the cook. We used to go over early in the morning to the public markets and get in our provisions. It was a confused world.
Jessie Whitehead had come over with the peace commission as secretary to one of the delegations and of course we were very interested in knowing all about the peace. It was then that Gertrude Stein described one of the young men of the, peace commission who was holding forth, as one who knew all about the war, he had been here ever since the peace. Gertrude Stein’s cousins came over, everybody came over, everybody was dissatisfied and every one was restless. It was a restless and disturbed world.
Gertrude Stein and Picasso quarrelled. They neither of them ever quite knew about what. Anyway they did not see each other for a year and then they met by accident at a party at Adrienne Monnier’s. Picasso said, how do you do to her and said something about her coming to see him. No I will not, she answered gloomily. Picasso came to me and said, Gertrude says she won’t come to see me, does she mean it. I am afraid if she says it she means it. They did not see each other for another year and in the meantime Picasso’s little boy was born and Max Jacob was complaining that he had not been named god-father. A very little while after this we were somewhere at some picture gallery and Picasso came up and put his hand on Gertrude Stein’s shoulder and said, oh hell, let’s be friends. Sure, said Gertrude Stein and they embraced. When can I come to see you, said Picasso, let’s see, said Gertrude Stein, I am afraid we are busy but come to dinner the end of the week. Nonsense, said Picasso, we are coming to dinner to-morrow, and they came.
It was a changed Paris. Guillaume Apollinaire was dead. We saw a tremendous number of people but none of them as far as I can remember that we had ever known before. Paris was crowded. As Clive Bell remarked, they say that an awful lot of people were killed in the war but it seems to me that an extraordinary large number of grown men and women have suddenly been born.
As I say we were restless and we were economical and all day and all evening we were seeing people and at last there was the defile, the procession under the Arc de Triomphe, of the allies.
The members of the American Fund for French Wounded were to have seats on the benches that were put up the length of the Champs Elysées but quite rightly the people of Paris objected as these seats would make it impossible for them to see the parade and so Clemenceau promptly had them taken down. Luckily for us Jessie Whitehead’s room in her hotel looked right over the Arc de Triomphe and she asked us to come to it to see the parade. We accepted gladly. It was a wonderful day.
We got up at sunrise, as later it would have been impossible to cross Paris in a car. This was one of the last trips Auntie made. By this time the red cross was painted off it but it was still a truck. Very shortly after it went its honourable way and was succeeded by Godiva, a two-seated runabout, also a little ford. She was called Godiva because she had come naked into the world and each of our friends gave us something with which to bedeck her.
Auntie then was making practically her last trip. We left her near the river and walked up to the hotel. Everybody was on the streets, men, women, children, soldiers, priests, nuns, we saw two nuns being helped into a tree from which they would be able to see. And we ourselves were admirably placed and we saw perfectly.
We saw it all, we saw first the few wounded from the Invalides in their wheeling chairs wheeling themselves. It is an old french custom that a military procession should always be preceded by the veterans from the Invalides. They all marched past through the Arc de Triomphe. Gertrude Stein remembered that when as a child she used to swing on the chains that were around the Arc de Triomphe her governess had told her that no one must walk underneath since the german armies had marched under it after 1870. And now everybody except the germans were passing through.
All the nations marched differently, some slowly, some quickly, the french carry their flags the best of all, Pershing and his officer carrying the flag behind him were perhaps the most perfectly spaced. It was this scene that Gertrude Stein described in the movie she wrote about this time that I have published in Operas and Plays in the Plain Edition,
However it all finally came to an end. We wandered up and we wandered down the Champs Elysées and the war was over and the piles of captured cannon that had made two pyramids were being taken away and peace was upon us.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:54