In German hands. The diary of a severely wounded prisoner.
October 13. About jive o'clock. I was
lying at this moment on the edge of the field
of lucerne, somewhat hidden by the tall grass,
and in the pale morning light, through the
mists that were rising from the ground, I saw
three German patrols moving over the ground.
Some of the wounded called out to them,
begging for water. The Germans finished
them off with the butt-ends of their rifles or
their bayonets, and then robbed them. I saw
this done a few yards from where I was. A
group of seven or eight men were lying there,
struck down by cross-fire from the machine-
guns. Some of them were still alive, and
spoke imploringly to the Germans. They were
butchered as I say, robbed, and thrown in a
I gathered from the cries that reached me from
other parts of the field, from the laughter, followed by dull blows, and the subsequent silence,
that other hapless creatures were sharing the
same fate. I will not describe the anguish I endured. I thought my last hour was at hand,
and if I lifted up my soul to God, it was less
to ask Him to save me for I had so little
hope for myself at that moment than to
implore Him to soften and heal the grief of
those dear to me. I prepared for death.
Footsteps approached above me on the left.
A minute before I had determined to die
bravely, denouncing those who were outraging
humanity by such deeds as cowards and murderers. Something stronger than myself made
me close my eyes. I stiffened my body and
lay motionless. The Germans thought I was
dead. One of them turned me over with a
violent kick, and greedy, brutal hands began
to strip me of my possessions. I felt them
taking the watch I was wearing on my wrist
in a leather bracelet, my modest purse,
containing a little gold, and a knife with
several blades which I had bought at Toulouse
the day before I left. My pocket-book, my
pencil, and a notebook, which I had slipped
between my shirt and my skin, escaped
their search, and also my tobacco-pouch, my
cigarette-papers, and my matches, which I
had put into my right-hand pocket under
The footsteps died away ; but I remained
perfectly still. I gave myself up for lost.
After this patrol another would pass. I
thanked God for His intervention, and I
awaited death, almost desiring to hasten the
end of my tortures.
More than an hour passed in this manner.
I had at last ventured to turn over by dint
of agonized efforts and had got into a somewhat less painful position, when fresh footsteps drew near. I had neither the time nor
the inclination to feign a second time, for
bayonets were already at my breast. A last
instinctive impulse, an effort of thought,
nevertheless brought the words that were
to save me to my lips. I know a little
German, of the kind one learns at school.
But I managed to elaborate the following
" Why," I asked, " do you want to kill me ?
Is it thus you respect the lives of your fellow-
creatures ? Can a disarmed man be an
enemy ? "
I spare the reader the faults of syntax
which no doubt graced it ; however, it was
effectual. The two weapons were withdrawn
at an authoritative gesture. " Germany is
merciful. She does not kill the wounded,"
said a man, who, as I afterwards learned,
was a Bavarian student.
Alas ! I knew the exact opposite ! I had
seen it with my own eyes. But I refrained
from saying so. It was hardly the moment
A fusillade began, distant and intermittent.
The soldiers left me, but not till my protector
had assured me that I need fear nothing. He
was on duty in that sector, and would keep
an eye on me till the stretcher-bearers could
come and fetch me.