Adventures and Letters
Richard Harding Davis
Part 7 out of 7
have been waiting here hoping to get some sort of credentials
from Kitchener. But though Winston Churchill has urged him,
and tomorrow is going to urge him again, they give me no hope.
So I'll just go over "on my own" and I bet I'll see more than
anyone else. I have fine papers, anyhow. I am now writing
Scribner article, so THAT is off my mind. And now that
you are home, I have no "worries." I wish I had got your cable
earlier. I would have had oysters and champagne in
BATH TUBS. Give my love to all the flowers, and to Shea and
Paedrig, and Tom, and Louise, and Gouvey and the lake. And
take SUCH good care of yourself, and love me, and be happy
for I do so love you dear one. I DO SO LOVE YOU.
Tonight I got your cable in answer to mine asking if you were
well. All things considered twenty-four hours was not so long
for them to get the answer to me. You BET I will be
careful. I don't want to get nearer to a German than twenty
miles. At the battlefield I collected five German spiked
helmets but at the Paris gate they took ALL of them from me.
I WAS mad! I wanted to keep them in my "gym," and pound
them with Indian clubs. I wrote all day yesterday, so today I
did not work. There is nothing more here to do. And as soon
as my contract is up October 1st, I will make towards YOU!
Seeing the big battle was great luck. So far I have seen more
than anyone. I have had no credentials; and yet have been
with ALL the armies. Now I am just beating time, until I
can get home. The fighting is too far away even if I could go
to it. But I can't without being arrested. And I am fed up
on being arrested. Today all the little children came out of
doors. They have been locked up for fear of airships. It was
fine to see them playing in the Champs Elysees and making
forts out of pebbles, and rolling hoops.
God loves you, dear one, and I trust in Him. But I am awful
sick for a sight of you. What a lot we will have to tell each
other. One thing I never have to tell you, but it makes me
happy when I can. It is this: I LOVE YOU! And every minute
I think of you.
With all my love.
PARIS, September 15th, 1914.
I got this morning your letter of August 25th. In it you say
kind things about my account of the Germans entering Brussels.
Nothing so much pleases me as to get praise from you or to
know my work pleases you. Since the Germans were pushed in
every one here is breathing again. But for me it was bad as
now the armies are too far to reach by taxicab, and if you are
caught anywhere outside the city you are arrested and as a
punishment sent to Tours. Eight correspondents, among them
two Times men and John Reed and Bobby Dunn, were sent to
Tours Sunday. I had another piece of luck that day with
Gerald Morgan. I taxicabed out to Soissons and saw a wonderful
battle. So, now I can go home in peace. Had I been
forced to return without seeing any fighting I never would
have lived it down. I am in my old rooms of years ago. I got
the whole imperial suite for eight francs a day. It used to
be 49 francs a day. Of course, Paris that closes tight at
nine is hardly Paris, but the beauty of the city never so much
impressed me. There is no fool running about to take your
mind off the gardens and buildings. What MOST makes me know
I am in Paris, though, are the packages of segars lying on the
dressing table. Give my love to Dai, and tell her I hope soon
to see you. The war correspondent is dead. My only chance
was to get with the English who will take one American and
asked Bryan to choose, he passed it to the Press Association
and they chose Palmer. But I don't believe the official
correspondents will be allowed to see much. I saw the Germans
enter Brussels, the burning of Louvain and the Battle of
Soissons and had a very serious run in with the Germans and
nearly got shot. But now if you go out, every man is after
you, and even the gendarmes try to arrest you. It is
sickening. For never, of course, was there such a chance to
describe things that everyone wants to read about. Again my
love to Dai and you. I will see you soon.
In October Richard returned to the United States and settled
down to complete his first book on the war. During this
period and indeed until the hour of his death my brother
devoted the greater part of his time to the cause of the
Allies. He had always believed that the United States should
have entered the war when the Germans first outraged Belgium,
and to this effect he wrote many letters to the newspapers.
In addition to this he was most active in various of the
charities devoted to the causes of the Allies, wrote a number
of appeals, and contributed money out of all proportion to his
means. The following appeal he wrote for the Secours
"You are invited to help women, children and old people in
Paris and in France, wherever the war has brought desolation
and distress. To France you owe a debt. It is not alone the
debt you incurred when your great grandfathers fought for
liberty, and to help them, France sent soldiers, ships and two
great generals, Rochambeau and La Fayette. You owe France
for that, but since then you have incurred other debts.
"Though you may never have visited France, her art,
literature, her discoveries in Science, her sense of what is
beautiful, whether in a bonnet, a boulevard or a triumphal
arch, have visited you. For them you are the happier; and for
them also, to France you are in debt.
"If you have visited Paris, then your debt is increased a
hundred fold. For to whatever part of France you journeyed,
there you found courtesy, kindness, your visit became a
holiday, you departed with a sense of renunciation; you were
determined to return. And when after the war, you do revisit
France, if your debt is unpaid, can you without embarrassment
sink into debt still deeper? What you sought Paris gave you
freely. Was it to study art or to learn history, for the
history of France is the history of the world; was it to dine
under the trees or to rob the Rue de la Paix of a new model;
was it for weeks to motor on the white roads or at a cafe
table watch the world pass? Whatever you sought, you found.
Now, as in 1776 we fought, to-day France fights for freedom,
and in behalf of all the world, against militarism that is
`made in Germany.'
"Her men are in the trenches; her women are working in the
fields, sweeping the Paris boulevards, lighting the street
lamps. They are undaunted, independent, magnificently
capable. They ask no charity. But from those districts the
war has wrecked, there are hundreds of thousands of women and
little children without work, shelter or food. To them
throughout the war zone the Secours National gives instant
relief. In one day in Paris alone it provides 80,000
free meals. Six cents pays for one of these meals. One
dollar from you will for a week keep a woman or child alive.
"The story is that one man said, `In this war the women and
children suffer most. I'm awfully sorry for them!' and the
other man said, `Yes I'm five dollars sorry. How sorry are
"If ever you intend paying that debt you owe to France do not
wait until the war is ended. Now, while you still owe it, do
not again impose yourself upon her hospitality, her courtesy,
"But, pay the debt now.
"And then, when next in Paris you sit at your favorite table
and your favorite waiter hands you the menu, will you not the
more enjoy your dinner if you know that while he was fighting
on the Aisne, it was your privilege to help a little in
keeping his wife and child alive."
The winter of 1914-15 Richard and his wife spent in New York,
and on January 4, 1915, their baby, Hope, was born. No event
in my brother's life had ever brought him such infinite
happiness, and during the short fifteen months that remained
to him she was seldom, if ever, from his thoughts, and no
father ever planned more carefully for a child's future than
Richard did for his little daughter.
On April 11 my brother and his wife took Hope to Crossroads
for the first time. In his diary of this time he writes,
"Only home in the world is the one I own. Everything belongs.
It is so comfortable and the lake and the streams in the woods
where you can get your feet wet. The thrill of thinking a
stump is a trespasser! You can't do that on ten acres."
A cause in which Richard was enormously interested
at this time was that of the preparedness of his own country,
and for it he worked unremittingly. In August, 1915, he went
to Plattsburg, where he took a month of military training.
PLATTSBTTRG, N. Y.
DEAR OLD MAN:
This is a very real thing, and STRENUOUS. I know now why
God invented Sunday. The first two days were mighty hard, and
I had to work extra to catch up. I don't know a darned thing,
and after watching soldiers for years, find that I have picked
up nothing that they have to learn. The only things I have
learned don't count here, as they might under marching
conditions. My riding I find is quite good, and so is my
rifle shooting. As you could always beat me at that you can
see the conditions are not high. But being used to the army
saddle helps me a lot. I have a steeple chaser on one side
and a M. F. H. on the other, and they can't keep in the
saddle, and hate it with bitter oaths. The camp commander
told me that was a curious development; that the best
gentlemen jockeys and polo players on account of the saddle,
were sore, in every sense. Yesterday I rose at 5-30,
assembled for breakfast at six, took down tent to ventilate
it, when a cloud meanly appeared, and I had to put it up
again. Then in heavy marching order we drilled two hours as
skirmishers, running and hurling ourselves at the earth, like
falling on the ball, and I always seemed to fall where the
cinder path crossed the parade ground. We got back in time to
clean ourselves for dinner at noon. And then practised firing
at targets. At two we were drilled as cavalry in extended
order. We galloped to a point, advanced on foot, were driven
back by an imaginary enemy, and remounted. We galloped as a
squadron, and the sight was really remarkable when you think the
men had been together only four days. But the horses had been
doing it for years. All I had to do to mine was to keep on. He
knew what was wanted as well as did the Captain. After that
we put on our packs and paraded at retreat to the band. Then
had supper and listened to a lecture. I ache in every bone,
muscle, and joint. But the riding has not bothered me. It is
only hurling the damned rifle at myself. At nine I am sound
asleep. It certainly is a great experience, and, all the men
are helping each other and the spirit is splendid. The most
curious meetings come off and all kinds of men are at it from
college kids to several who are great grand fathers. Russell
Colt turned up and was very funny over his experiences. He
said he saluted everybody and one man he thought was a general
and stood at attention to salute was a Pullman car conductor.
The food is all you want, and very good. I've had nothing to
drink, but sarsaparilla, but with the thirst we get it is the
best drink I know. I have asked to have no letters forwarded
and if I don't write I hope you will understand as during the
day there is not a minute you are your own boss and at night I
am too stiff and sleepy to write.
All love to you.
It is now seven-thirty, and I have had twelve busy hours.
They made me pass an examination as though for Sing Sing, then
a man gave me a gun that at first weighed eight pounds and
then twenty. He made me do all sorts of things with it, such as
sentries used to do to me. Then I was given the gun to keep, and
packs, beds, blankets, and I made myself at home in a tent; then
I was moved to another tent with five other men. Then I got a
horse and they galloped us up and down a field for two hours. I
lost ten pounds. Then we were marched around to a band. I
had a sergeant on either side of me, so I did not go wrong,
OFTEN. Then, aching in every bone and with my head filled
with orders and commands, I got into the lake and escaped.
You can believe I enjoyed that bath. It certainly is a fine
thing, and I am glad I enrolled (for every one has been as
nice as could be), but I miss you and Hope terribly. It seems
years since I saw you. I am going to my cot quick. It is now
eight o'clock, and I feel like I had been beaten in a stone
crusher. Kiss Hope's foot for me.
Your loving husband,
I got such a beautiful letter from you! With pictures of
Hope playing with the Bunny. It is the best picture yet. I
carry it next to my heart because you made it, because it is
of her. And she sits up now? Well, I will miss the big
clothes-basket. I loved to see her in it. Years ago, when I
left home, she was trying to crawl out of it. What you tell
me of her--knowing what you mean when you say "Kitty" and
"Bunny"--is wonderful. How good it will be! You must come
close under my arm, and tell me every little thing. I feel so
much better now that we have broken into the last week, and
are on the home stretch. We have broken the backbone of the
long absence, and, the first thing you know, I'll be telephoning
to have you meet me at White Plains.
This is me sewing up a hole in my breeches. The socks are
drying on the line, my rubber bath is on the right. I am now
going to Canada. But I'll be back in half an hour; it's only
200 yards distant. All the folks here are French, and the
signs are in French. Last place we halted I bought
lumberman's socks to wear at night. I sleep very well, for I
buy my raincoat full of hay from the nearest farmer, and sleep
on that. Today we had another "battle." It began at 7.30
and ended at one o'clock. We were kept going all that time,
taking "cover" behind railroad embankments and stone walls and
in plowed fields, finally ending with a bayonet charge. I
killed so many I stopped counting.
Don't let Hope forget her father. Better put on a wrist-watch
and my horn spectacles, and hold her the wrong way, so she
will be reminded of her Dad.
Good-night, my dearest one. You will never know how terribly
I miss you and love you, and want you in my arms, and you
holding Hope so that I can have all my happiness in one big
armful of all that is good.
YOUR LOVING HUSBAND.
The Vitagraph people came today. They have a great film to
stir people to preparedness called "The Battle Cry of Peace."
It shows New York destroyed by Germans. They took pictures of
several of the better-known men showing "them" preparing. I
was taken cleaning my rifle, and, as the captain was passing,
I asked him to get in the picture with me and be shown
instructing me. He was delighted, but right in the middle of
the picture he "inspected" my barrel. I had not cleaned it,
and he forgot the camera, and gave me the devil. You can
imagine how the crowd roared, and the camera director man was
delighted. I wanted it retaken showing the captain patting me
on the back.
Roosevelt turned up today, and was very nice. Martin Egan
came with him and the British Naval Attache, and they have
asked me to dine at a real table at Hotel Champlain with two
other men. It will be fine to eat off china. The "hike"
begins Friday, and we sleep each night on the ground, but the
country we march through is beautiful. All that counts is
getting the days behind me and getting you in my arms. Doing
one's "bit" for one's country is right, but as the man said,
"God knows I love my country and want to fight for her, but I
hope to God I never love another country." Good-night, dear,
dear one! How wonderful it will be to see and hear you again.
Kiss Hope for her Dad.
This is writing with all the love, but with difficulties. I
am sitting on a log and the light is a candle. Today we had
our first fight. It happened the squad of eight men I am in
was sent in advance, and I was 100 yards in front, so I was
the first to come in touch with the scouts of the Red Army,
and I killed a lot. My squad was so brave that we all got
killed THREE TIMES. But as soon as the umpire rode away we
would come to life, and go on fighting. Finally, he took us
prisoners, and made us sit down and look on at the battle. As we
had been running around and each carrying a forty-pound pack, we
were glad to remain dead. But we have declared that nothing
can kill us tomorrow but asphyxiating gas. I have terrible
nightmares for fear something has happened to one of you, and
then I trust in the good Lord, and pray him to make the time
Good-night, and all the love and kisses for you both.
On October 19, 1915, Richard sailed on the Chicago for
France and his second visit to the Great War. He arrived at
Paris on October 30, and shortly afterward visited the Western
front at Amiens and Artois. He also interviewed Poincare, and
through him the French President sent a message to the
American people. At this time my brother had received
permission from the authorities to visit all of the twelve
sectors of the French front under particularly advantageous
conditions, and was naturally most anxious to do so. However,
through a misunderstanding between the syndicate he
represented and certain of the newspapers using its service,
he found it advisable, even although against his own judgment,
to go to Greece, and to postpone his visit to the sectors of
the French front he had not already seen. On November 13 he
left Paris bound for Salonica.
On Way to France, Oct. 18, 1915.
You are much more brave than I am. Anyway, you are much
better behaved. For all the time you were talking I was
crying, not with my eyes only, but with ALL of me. I am so sad.
I love you so, and I will miss you so. I want you to keep saying
to yourself all the time, "This is the most serious effort he
ever made, because the chances of seeing anything are so SMALL,
and because never had he such a chance to HELP. But, all the
time, every minute he thinks of me. He wants me. He misses my
voice, my eyes, my presence at his side when he walks or
sleeps. He never loved me so greatly, or at leaving me was so
unhappy as he is now."
Goodby, dear heart. My God-given one! Would it not be
wonderful, if tonight when I am up among the boats on the top
deck that girl in the Pierrot suit, and in her arms Hope,
came, and I took them and held them both? You will walk with
her at five, and I will walk and think of you and love you and
long for you.
God keep you, dearest of wives, and mothers.
MY DEAR DAUGHTER:
So many weeks have passed since I saw you that by now you are
able to read this without your mother looking over your
shoulder and helping you with the big words. I have six sets
of pictures of you. Every day I take them down and change
them. Those your dear mother put in glass frames I do not
change. Also, I have all the sweet fruits and chocolates and
red bananas. How good of you to think of just the things your
father likes. Some of them I gave to a little boy and girl.
I play with them because soon my daughter will be as big.
They have no mother like you, OF COURSE; they have no mother
like YOURS--for except my mother there never was a mother like
yours; so loving, so tender, so unselfish and thoughtful. If she
is reading this, kiss her for me. These little children have a
little father. He dresses them and bathes them himself. He
is afraid of the cold; and sits in the sun; and coughs and
shivers. His children and I play hide-and-seek, and, as you
will know some day, for that game there is no such place as a
steamer, with boats and ventilators and masts and alleyways.
Some day we will play that game hiding behind the rocks and
trees and rose bushes. Every day I watch the sun set, and
know that you and your pretty mother are watching it, too.
And all day I think of you both.
Be very good. Do not bump yourself. Do not eat matches. Do
not play with scissors or cats. Do not forget your dad.
Sleep when your mother wishes it. Love us both. Try to know
how we love you. THAT you will never learn. Good-night and
God keep you, and bless you.
PARIS, November 1.
Today is "moving" day, and I feel like ---- censored word, at
the thought of your having the moving to direct and manage by
yourself. I can picture Barney and Burke loading, and
unloading, and coal and wood being stored, and provisions and
ice, and finally Hope brought down to take her
third--no--fourth motor ride. And God will see she makes it
all safely, and that in her new house you are comfortable.
Last night I dreamed about Hope and you, a long dream, and it
made me so happy. Something happened today that you will like
to hear. When the war came the French students at the Beaux
Arts had to go to fight. The wives and children had nothing to
live on. So, the American students, about a dozen of them,
organized a relief league. The Beaux Arts is in a most wonderful
palace built by Cardinal Richelieu and decorated later by
Napoleon. In this they were gathering socks, asphyxiating masks,
warm clothes. They were hand painting postcards for fifty cents
apiece. The "masters" as they call their teachers, also were
painting them. I gave them some money which was received
politely, but, as it would not go far, without much
enthusiasm. As I was going, I said, "I'll be back tomorrow to
get some facts and I'll write a story about what you're doing."
This is the part that is embarrassing to write, but you will
understand. They gave a cheer and a yell just as though I had
said, "Peace is declared" or "I will give you Carnegie's
fortune." And they danced around, and shook hands, and
Whitney Warren, who is at the head of it, all but cried.
Later, he told me the letter I had written for his wife's fund
for orphans by the war had brought in $5000, that was why they
were so pleased. So we, you and I, will try to look at it
that way, and try to believe that from this separation, which
is cruel for us, others may get some benefit. Tomorrow, I am
to be received at the Elysee by the President, and I am going
to try to make him say something that will draw money from
America for the French hospitals. If he will only ask, I know
our people will give. In a day or two, I think I will be
allowed to see something, but, that you will know best by
reading The Times.
Your loving husband is lonely for you, and so it will be always.
My last letter was such a complaining one that I am ashamed.
But, not leaving me to decide what was best for the papers,
made me mad. Since I wrote, I ought to be madder, for I have
been to the trenches outside of Rheims in Champagne; and, had
they not deviled the spirit out of me with cables, I believe I
could have written such a lot of stories of France that no one
else has had the opportunity to write. Believe me no one has
yet told the story of the trench war. Anyway, in spite of all
the photographs and articles, to me it was all new. I was
allowed to go alone, and given carte blanche to see whatever
I wished. I saw everything, but it would not be possible to
write of it yet. It was wonderful. I was in the three lines,
reaching the FIRST line by moonlight. No one spoke above a
whisper. The Germans were only 300 to 400 yards distant. But
worst of all were the rats. They ran over my feet and I was a
darned sight more afraid of them than the Germans. I saw the
Cathedral, and the only hotel open (from which I sent you and
Hope a postal) was the same one in which we stopped a year
ago. I had sent the hotel my book in which I said
complimentary things, and I got a great welcome. They even
gave me a room with a fire in it, and so I was warm for the
first time since I left the Crossroads. And this morning it
SNOWED. On my way back to Paris, I stopped to tell the
General what I had seen and to thank him. He said, "Oh, that
is nothing. When you return, I will take you out myself, and
I will show you something worth while." I am going to carry a
rat-trap, and two terriers on a leash. Tonight, when I got
back, there was a letter from you, but no writing,
but there was a photo of Her, and me holding her. How is it
possible that any living thing is so beautiful as my child?
How fat, and wonderful, and dear, and lovable, and how
terribly I want to hold her as I am holding her in the
picture, and how much better as I really don't need my left
arm to hold such a mite), if I had you close to me in it. I
miss you so, and love you so! I told Wheeler before I left as
I was not going to waste time traveling I would not go to
Servia. So, as soon as I arrived, I was fretted with cables
to go. I cabled to stop giving me advice, that I had a much
better chance in France than anyone could have anywhere else.
Maybe, before I arrive, the Greeks will have joined the
Germans, in which case, I WON'T LEAVE THE SHIP. I'll come
straight back on her to the Allies.
This is the way Hope's cat looks, "My whiskers!" she says, "I
never knew I was to be let in for anything like this!" When I
told her about the big rats in the trenches she wanted to go
with me next time, but, today when I told her that the Crown
Prince of Servia made his servants eat live mice (he is no
longer Crown Prince), she looked just as she does in the
picture. "Then, what do _I_ eat in Servia?" she said, and I
told her both of us would live on goat's milk.
You will be glad when I tell you I have been, warm. We came
pretty far south in two days, and, the damp chill of Paris is
gone. On the train a funny thing happened. An English
officer and I got talking and he was press censor at Salonica
where I am going after Athens. I asked him to look over the
many letters I had and tell me if any of them would be likely
to get me in bad, being addressed to pro-Germans, for example.
He said, "Well, THIS chap is all right anyway. I'll vouch
for him, because this letter is addressed to me."
SEE THE CAT!
HOPE GAVE THE CAT TO HER DAD.
IS THE CAT SAD?
IS THE DAD SAD?
WHY IS THE CAT AND THE DAD SAD?
THEY WANT HOME AND HOPE.
DO THEY LOVE HOPE?
DON'T MAKE THEM LAUGH!
We leave, the Basses, the English officer and
I, in a small tub of a boat for Patras, and train to Athens.
I will try to go at once to Servia. Harjes, who are the Paris
house of J. P. Morgan, gave me a "mission" to try and organize
for the Servians the same form of relief as has been arranged
for the Belgians. He gave me permission if I saw the need for
help was imminent (and it will be) to cable him for whatever I
thought the Serbs most needed. So, it is a chance to do much.
To get out news will be impossible. However, here I am and
tomorrow I'll be good and seasick.
I have your charm around my neck, and all the pictures, and
the luck-bringing cat, and the scapular, and the love you give me
to keep me well and bring us soon together. That is the one
thing I want. God bless you both, Hope's dad and your husband.
I am off tonight for Salonica. I am not very cheerful for I
miss you very, very terribly, and the further I go, the worse
I feel. But now I am nearly as far as I can get, and when you
receive this I will--thank God--be turned back to Paris, and
London, and HOME! I thought so often of you this morning
when I took a holiday and climbed the Acropolis. On the top
of it I picked a dandelion for you. It was growing between
the blocks of marble that have been there since 400 years
before our Lord: before St. Paul preached to the Athenians. I
was all alone on the rock, and could see over the AEgean Sea,
Corinth, Mount Olympus, where the Gods used to sit, and the
Sphinx lay in wait for travelers with her famous riddle. It
takes two days and one night to go to Salonica, and the boats
are so awful no one undresses but sleeps in his clothes on top
of the bed.
Goodby, sweetheart, and give SUCH a kiss to my precious
daughter. How beautiful she is. Even the waiter who brought
me a card stopped to exclaim about her picture. So, of
course, being not at all proud I showed him her in my arms. I
want you both so and I love you both SO. And, I wanted you
so this morning as I always do when there is a beautiful
landscape, or flowers, or palms. I know how you love them.
The dandelion is very modest and I hope the censor won't lose
it out, for she has a long way to go and carries a burden of
love. I wish I was bringing them in the door of the Scribner
cottage at this very minute.
VOLO, November 27.
I got here today, after the darnedest voyage of two days in a
small steamer. We ran through a snow storm and there was no
way to warm the boat. So, I DIED. You know how cold
affects me--well--this was the coldest cold I ever died of. I
poured alcohol in me, and it was like drinking iced tea. Now,
I am on shore in a cafe near a stove. We continue on to
Salonica at midnight. There are 24 men and one woman, Mrs.
Bass, on board. I am much too homesick to write more than to
say I love you, and I miss you and Hope so, that I don't look
at the photos. Did you get the cable I sent
Thanksgiving--from Athens, it read: "Am giving thanks for
Hope and you." I hope the censor let that get by him. The
boat I was on was a refrigerator ship; it was also peculiar in
that the captain dealt baccarat all day with the passengers.
It was a sort of floating gambling house. This is certainly a
strange land. Snow and roses and oranges, all at once. I
must stop. I'm froze. Give the kiss I want to give to Her,
and know, oh! how I love and love and love her mother--NEVER
SO MUCH AS NOW.
SALONICA November 30th, 1915.
DEAR OLD MAN:
I got here to night and found it the most picturesque spot I
ever visited. I am glad I came. It was impossible to get a
room but I found John McCutcheon and two other men occupying a
grand suite and they have had a cot put in for me. To-morrow
I hope to get a room. The place is filled with every nation
except Germans and even they are here out of uniforms. We had
a strange time coming. The trip from Athens should have taken
two nights and a day but we took four. The Captain of the
boat anchored and played baccarat whenever he thought there
were enough passengers not seasick to make it worth his while.
He played from eleven in the morning until four in the
morning. I don't know now who ran the ship. It is so cold
when you bathe, the steam runs off you. I never have suffered
so. But, it looked as though every one else was singing "Its
going to be a hard, hard winter" from the way they, dress.
Tomorrow I am going to buy fur pants. You can't believe what
a picture it is. Servians, French, Greeks, Scots in kilts,
London motor cars, Turks, wounded and bandaged Tommies and
millions of them fighting for food, for drink, for a place at
the "movies," and more "rumors" than there are words in the
directory. To-morrow, I present my letters and hope to get to
the "front." I only hope the front doesn't come to us. But,
it ought to be a place for great stories. All love to you old
man, and bless you both. How I look forward to our first
lunch in your wonderful home! And to sit in front of your
fire, and hear all the news. All love to you both.
December 6, 1915.
I have been away so could not write. They took us to the
French and English "front" and away from Greece; we were in
Bulgaria and Servia. It was at a place where the three
boundaries met. We saw remarkable mountain ranges and deep
snow, and some fine artillery. But throwing shells into that
bleak, white jumble of snow and rocks--there was fifty miles of
it--was like throwing a baseball at the Rocky Mountains. Still,
it was seeing something. Now, I have a room, and a very
wonderful one. I had to bribe everyone in the hotel to get
it; and I have something to write and, no more moving about I
hope, for at least a week. I am able to see the ships at
anchor for miles, and the landing stage for all the warships
is just under my window. As near as McCoy Rock from the
terrace. It is like a moving picture all the time. I bought
myself an oil stove and a can of Standard oil, and, instead of
trying to warm the hotel with my body, I let George do it.
But it is a very small stove, and to really get the good of
it, I have to sit with it between my legs. Still, it is such
a relief to be alone, and not to pack all the time.
McCutcheon and Bass, Hare and Shepherd are fine, but I felt
like the devil, imposing on them, and working four in a room
is no joke. We dine together each night. Except them, I see
no one, but have been writing. Also, I have been collecting
facts about Servian relief. Harjes, Morgan's representative
in Paris, gave me carte blanche to call on him for money or
supplies; but I waited until today to cable, so as to be sure
where help was most needed. It is still cold, but that
AWFUL cold spell was quite unprecedented and is not likely
to come again. I NEVER suffered so from cold, and, as you
know, I suffer considerable. All the English officers who had
hunted in cold places, said neither had they ever felt such
cold. Seven hundred Tommies were frost bitten and toes and
fingers fell off. I do not say anything about how awful it is
not to hear. But, if I had had your letters forwarded to this
dump of the Levant, I never would have got them. Now, I have to
wait for them until I get to Paris, but there I will surely get
them. Cables, of course, can reach me, but no cables mean to me
that you are all right. Nor do I want to "talk" about Christmas.
You know how I feel about that, and about missing the first one
SHE has had. But it will be the LAST one we will know apart.
I want you in my arms and to hear you laugh and see your eyes.
I am in need of you to make a fuss over me. McCutcheon and
Co. don't care whether I have cold hands or not. You do.
Your ointment and gloves saved my fingers from falling off
like the soldiers' did. And your "housewife" I use to put on
buttons, and, your scapular and medal keep me well. But your
love is what really lifts me up and consoles me. When I think
how you and I care for each other, then, I am scared, for it
is very beautiful. And we must not ever be away from each
other again. God keep you my beloved, and both my blessings.
I cannot bear it--when I think of all I am missing of her,
and, all that she is doing. God guard you both. My darling
and dear wife and mother of Hope.
SALONICA, December 18th.
DEAREST WIFE AND SWEETHEART:
I am very blue tonight, and NEVER was so homesick.
Yesterday just to feel I was in touch with you I sent a cable
through the fog, it said, "Well, homesick, all love to you
both." I did not ask if you and Hope were well, because I
KNOW the good Lord will not let any harm come to you. I am
certainly caught by the heels this time. And it will be the last
time. As you know, I meant only to go to France where no time
would be wasted in travel, and I would be able to get back soon.
But the blockade held up the ship and on the other one the
captain stayed at anchor, and, then when I got here, the Allies
retreated, and I had to stay on to cover what is to come next.
What that is, or whether nothing happens, you will know by the
time this reaches you. So, here I am. For TEN days until
this morning we have never seen the sun. In sixty years
nothing like it has happened. The Salonicans said the English
transports brought the fog with them. Anyway, I got it. My
room is right on the harbor. I never thought I would LOVE
an oil stove. I always thought they were ill-smelling,
air-destroying. But this one saved my life. I wrote with it
between my knees, I dry my laundry on it, and use the tin pan
on top of it to take the dampness out of the bed. The fog
kept everything like a sponge. Coal is thirty dollars a ton.
To get wood for firewood the boatmen row miles out, and wait
below the transports to get the boxes they throw overboard. I
go around asking EVERYBODY if this place is not now a dead
duck for news. But they all give me no encouragement. They
say it is the news center of the world. I hope it chokes. I
try to comfort myself by thinking you are happy, because you
have Hope, and I have nobody, except John McCutcheon and Bass
and Jimmie Hare, and they are as blue as I am, and no one can
get any money. I cabled today to Wheeler for some via the
State Department. I went to the Servian camp for the little
orphans whose fathers have been killed, and they all knelt and
kissed my hands. It was awful. I thought of Hope, and hugged
a few and carried them around in my arms and felt much better.
Today for the first time, I quit work and went to see an American
film at the cinema to cheer me. But when I saw the streetcars,
and "ready to wear" clothes, and the policemen I got suicidal. I
went back and told the others and they all rushed off to see
"home" things, and are there now. This is a yell of a letter,
but it's the only kind I can write. My stories and cables are
rotten, too. I have seen nothing--just traveled and waited for
something to happen. Goodnight, dearest one. I love you so.
You will never know how much I love you. Kiss my darling for
me, and, think only of the good days when we will be together
again. Such good days. Goodnight again--all love.
HARBOR SALONICA, December 19th.
I am a happy man tonight! And that is the first time I have
been able to say so since I left you. The backbone of the
trip is broken! and my face is turned West--toward you and
Hope. John McCutcheon gave me a farewell dinner tonight of
which I got one half, as the police made me go on board at
nine, although we do not sail until five in the morning. So
there was time for only one toast, as I was making for the
door. Was it to your husband? It was not. It was to Hope
Davis, two weeks yet of being one year old, and being toasted
by the war correspondents in Salonica. They knew it would
please me. And I went away very choken and happy. SUCH a
boat as this is! I have a sofa in the dining-room, and at
present it is jammed with refugees and all smoking and not an
air port open. What a relief it will be to once more get
among clean people. We must help the Servians, and God knows
they need help. But, if they would help each other, or
themselves, I would like them better. I am now on deck under the
cargo light and, on the top floor of the Olympus Hotel, can see
John's dinner growing gayer and gayer. It is like the man who
went on a honeymoon alone. I am so happy tonight. You seem so
near now that I am coming West.
How terribly I have missed you, and wanted you, and longed for
your voice and LAUGH, and to have you open the door of my
writing room, and say, "A lady is coming to call on you," and
then enter the dearest wife and dearest baby in the world!
God bless you, and all my love.
MY DEAREST, DEAREST, DEAREST:
I planned to get to Paris late Christmas night. I cabled
Frazier at the Embassy, to have all my letters at the Hotel de
l'Empire. I MEANT to spend the night reading of you and
Hope. I made a record trip from Salonica. By leaving the
second steamer at Messina and taking an eighteen-hour trip
across Italy I saved ten hours. But when I got here I found
the French Consul had taken a holiday, AND WAS OUT BUYING
CHRISTMAS PRESENTS! So, I could not get permission to enter
France. With some Red Cross Americans, I raged around the
French Consulate, but it was no use. So I am here, and cannot
leave UNTIL MIDNIGHT CHRISTMAS. When I found I could not
get away, I told Cook's to give me their rapid-fire guide, and
I set out to SEE ROME. The Manager of Cook's was the same
man who, 19 years ago, sold me tickets to the Greek war in
Florence, when the American Consulate was in the same building
with Cook's, and Charley was Consul. So he gave me a great
guide. We began at ten this morning and we stopped at six.
They say it takes five years to see Rome, but when I let the
rapid-fire guide escape, he said he had to compliment me; we
climbed more stairways and hills than there are in all New
York and Westchester County; and there is just one idea in my
mind, and that is that you and I must see this sacred place
together. On all this trip I have wanted YOU, but NEVER
so as today. And I particularly inquired about the milk. It
is said to be excellent. So we will come here, and you, with
all your love of what is fine and beautiful, will be very
happy, and Hope will learn Italian, and to know what is best
in art, and statues and churches. I have seen 2900 churches,
and all of them built by Michael Angelo and decorated by Raphael;
and it was so wonderful I cried. I bought candles and
prayers, and I am afraid Christian Science had a dull day.
Tomorrow we start at nine, and go to high mass at St. Peter's,
and then into the country to the catacombs, where the early
Christians hid from the Romans. It is not what you would call
an English Christmas, but it is so beautiful and wonderful
that you BOTH ARE VERY NEAR.
I sent you a cable, the second one, because it is not sure
they are forwarded, and I hung up a stocking for Hope. One of
the peasant women made in Salonica. I am bringing it with me.
And the cat is on my window--still looking out on the Romans.
The green leaf I got in the forum, where Mark Antony made his
speech over Caesar's body. It is the plant that gave Pericles
the idea of the Corinthian column. You remember. It was
growing under a tile some one had laid over it--and the yellow
flower was on my table at dinner, so I send it, that we may know
on Christmas Eve we dined together.
Good-night, now, and God bless you. I am off to bed now, in a
bed with sheets. The first in six days. How I LOVE you,
and LOVE you. Such good wishes I send you, and such love to
you both. May the good Lord bless you as he has blessed
me--with the best of women, with the best of daughters. I am
a proud husband and a proud father; and soon I will be a
HAPPY husband and a HAPPY father.
Good-night, dear heart.
PARIS, December 28th, 1915.
DEAR OLD MAN:
Hurrah for the Dictator! He has been a great good friend to
me. I will know to-day about whether I can go back to the
French front. If not I will try the Belgians and then London,
and home. I spent Christmas day in Rome in the catacombs. I
could not wear my heart upon my sleeve for duchesses to peck
at. It is just as you say, Dad and Mother made the day so
dear and beautiful. I did not know how glad I would be to be
back here for while the trip East led to no news value, to me
personally it was interesting. But I am terribly tired after
the last nine days, sleeping on sofas, decks, a different deck
each night and writing all the time and such poor stuff. But,
oh! when I saw Paris I knew how glad I was! WHAT a
beautiful place, what a kind courteous people. We will all be
here some day. Tell Dai she must be my interpreter. All love
to her, and you, and good luck to the syndicate. YOUR
syndicate. I have not heard from mine for six
weeks. They have not sent me a single clipping of anything,
so I don't know whether anything got through or not, and I
have nothing to show these people here that might encourage
them to send me out again. They certainly have made it hard
hoeing. Tell Guvey his letter about the toys was a great
success here, and copied into several papers.
Goodbye, and God bless you, and good luck to you.
PARIS, December 31st, 1915.
DEAR OLD MAN:
To wish you and Dai a Happy New Year. It will mean a lot to
us when we can get together, and take it together, good and
bad. I am awfully pleased over the novel coming out by the
Harper's and, in landing so much for me out of The Dictator.
You have started the New Year for me splendidly. I expect I
will be back around the first of February. I am now trying to
"get back," but, I need more time. I can only put the trip
down to the wrong side of the ledger. Personally, I got a lot
out of it, but I am not sent over here to improve my knowledge
of Europe, but to furnish news and stories and that has not
I am constantly running against folks who knew you in
Florence, and I regret to say most of them are in business at
the Chatham bar. What a story they make; the M----'s and the
like, who know Paris only from the cocktail side. One of our
attaches told me to-day he had been lunching for the last 18
months at the grill room of the Chatham, where the "mixed
grill" was as good as in New York. He had no knowledge of any
other place to eat. The Hotel de l'Empire is a terrible
tragedy. They are so poor, that I believe it is my eight francs
a day keeps them going; nothing else is in sight. But, it is the
exception. Never did a people take a war as the French take this
worst of all wars. They really are the most splendid of people.
I only wish I could have had one of them for a grandfather or
grandmother. Bessie writes that Hope is growing wonderfully and
beautifully, and I am sick for a sight of her, and for you. Good
night and God bless you and the happiest of New Years to you both.
Your loving brother,
These postcards are "originals" painted by students of the
Beaux-Arts to keep alive, and to keep those students in the
trenches. They are for Dai.
PARIS, December 31, 1915.
The old year, the dear, old year that brought us Hope, is very
near the end. I am not going to watch him go. I have drunk
to the New Year and to my wife and daughter, and before there
is "a new step on the floor, and a new face at the door," I
will be asleep. Of all my many years, the old year, that is
so soon to pass away, has been the best, for it has brought
you to me with a closer tie, has added to the love I have for
every breath you breathe, for your laugh and your smile, and
deep concern, that comes if you think your worthless husband
is worried, or cross, or dismayed. Each year I love you more;
for I know you more, and to know more of the lovely soul you
are, is to love more. Just now we are in a hard place. I am
sure you cannot comprehend how her father, her "Dad" and your
husband can keep away. Neither do I understand.
But, for both your sakes, I want, before I own up that this
adventure has been a failure, to try and pull something out of
the wreck. If the government says I CAN, then I still may
be able to do something. If it says, "NO," then it's Home,
boys, Home, and that's where I want to be. It's home, boys,
home, in the old countree. 'Neath the ash, and the oak, and
the spreading maple tree, it's home, boys, home, to mine own
countree! This is Hope and you. So know, that in getting to
you I have not thrown away a minute. I have been a
slave-driver, to others as well as to myself. But you cannot
get favors with a whip; and, the French war office has other
matters to occupy it, that it considers of more importance
than an impatient war correspondent. So long as you
understand, it will not matter. Nothing hurts, except that
you may not understand. The moment I see you, and you see me,
you will understand. So, goodnight, and God bless you, you,
my two blessings. Here is to our own year of 1915, your year
and Hope's year, and, because I have you both, my year. I
send you all the love in all the world.
January 5, 1916.
MY DEAREST ONE:
WHAT PICTURES! WHAT HAPPINESS! What a proud Richard! On
top of my writing yesterday that I had had no sketches of
yours, and no kodaks of Hope, eight came to-night, and oh! I
am so proud, so homesick. What a wonderful nurse and mother
you are! Was ever there anything so lovable? And that she
should be ours, to hold and to love, and to make happy. These
last eight days in Paris, in and out, have made me so homesick
for those I love, that you will never know what the delays meant.
I felt just the way poor women feel who kidnap babies. In the
parks I know the nurse-maids are afraid of me. I stick my head
under the hoods of the baby carriages, and stop and stand
watching them at play. And tonight when all these beautiful
pictures came, I was the happiest father anywhere.
The delay was no one's fault, not mine anyway, nor can I blame
anyone. These people are splendid. They are willing to do
anything for one, but it takes time. When they are fighting
for their lives and have not seen their own babies in a year,
that you want to see yours is only natural and to oblige you
they can't see why they should upset the whole war. But now
it looks less as though I would have to call it a failure.
And Hope may be proud of me, and you may be proud of me, and I
will have enough ammunition to draw on for many articles and
letters, and another book.
It has been a cruel time; and when I tell you how I worked to
get it over, and to be back with you, you will understand many
things. The most important of all will be how I love you.
Only wait until I can lay eyes on you, you will just take one
look and know that it couldn't be helped, that the delay was
the work of others, that, all I wanted was my Bessie and my
How heavy she will be, if she is anything like the picture of
her on the coverlet, she is a prize baby. And if she is
anything like as beautiful as in the baby carriage she is an
angel straight from God. I want to sit in the green chair and
have you on one knee and her majesty on the other, and have
her climb over me, and pull my hair and bang my nose, and in
time to know how I love you both.
Goodnight, dear heart, I wish you had had yourself in the
picture. I have three in the summer time with you holding her
and that is the way I like to see you, that is the way I think
of you. I love you, and I love her for making you so happy,
and I love her for her sake, and because she is OURS: and
has tied us tighter and closer even than it has ever been. I
love you so that I can't write about it, and I am going to do
nothing all spring but just sit around, and be in everybody's
way, watching you together.
How jealous I am of you, and homesick for you. Of course, she
knows "mamma" is YOU; and to look at you when they ask,
"Where's mother?" Who else could be her mother BUT THE
DEAREST WOMAN IN THE WORLD, and the one who loves her so, and
in so wonderful a way. She is beautiful beyond all things
human I know. If ever a woman deserved a beautiful daughter,
YOU DO, for you are the best of mothers, and you know how
"to care greatly."
Good-night, my precious, dear one, and God keep you, as He
will, and help me to keep you both happy. What you give me
you never will know.
THE LAST DAYS
After a short visit to London, Richard returned to New York in
February, 1916. During his absence his wife and Hope had
occupied the Scribner cottage at Mount Kisco, about two miles
from Crossroads. Here my brother finished his second book on
the war, and wrote numerous articles and letters urging the
immediate necessity for preparedness in this country. As to
Richard's usefulness to his country at this time, I quote in
part from two appreciations written after my brother's death
by the two most prominent exponents of preparedness.
Theodore Roosevelt said:
"He was as good an American as ever lived, and his heart
flamed against cruelty and injustice. His writings form a
text-book of Americanism which all our people would do well to
read at the present time."
Major-General Leonard Wood said:
"The death of Richard Harding Davis was a real loss to the
movement for preparedness. Mr. Davis had an extensive
experience as a military observer, and thoroughly appreciated
the need of a general training system like that of Australia
or Switzerland and of thorough organization of our industrial
resources in, order to establish a condition of reasonable
preparedness in this country. A few days before his death he
came to Governors Island for the purpose of ascertaining in
what line of work he could be most useful in building up
sound public opinion in favor of such preparedness
as would give us a real peace insurance. His mind was bent on
devoting his energies and abilities to the work of public
education on this vitally important subject, and few men were
better qualified to do so, for he had served as a military
observer in many campaigns.
"Throughout the Cuban campaign he was attached to the
headquarters of my regiment in Cuba as a military observer.
He was with the advanced party at the opening of the fight at
Las Guasiinas, and was distinguished throughout the fight by
coolness and good conduct. He also participated in the battle
of San Juan and the siege of Santiago, and as an observer was
always where duty called him. He was a delightful companion,
cheerful, resourceful, and thoughtful of the interests and
wishes of others. His reports of the game were valuable and
among the best and most accurate.
"The Plattsburg movement took a very strong hold of him. He
saw in this a great instrument for building up a sound
knowledge concerning our military history and policy, also a
very practical way of training men for the duties of junior
officers. He realized fully that we should need in case of
war tens of thousands of officers with our newly raised
troops, and that it would be utterly impossible to prepare
them in the hurry and confusion of the onrush of modern war.
His heart was filled with a desire to serve his country to the
best of his ability. His recent experience in Europe pointed
out to him the absolute madness of longer disregarding the
need of doing those things which reasonable preparedness
dictates, the things which cannot be accomplished after
trouble is upon us. He had in mind at the time of his death a
series of articles to be written especially to build up interest
in universal military training through conveying to our people an
understanding of what organization as it exists to-day means, and
how vitally important it is for our people to do in time of peace
those things which modern war does not permit done once it is
"Davis was a loyal friend, a thoroughgoing American devoted to
the best interests of his country, courageous, sympathetic,
and true. His loss has been a very real one to all of us who
knew and appreciated him, and in his death the cause of
preparedness has lost an able worker and the country a devoted
and loyal citizen."
Although suffering from his strenuous experiences in France,
and more particularly from those in Greece, Richard continued
to accomplish his usual enormous amount of work, and during
these weeks wrote his last short story, "The Deserter."
The following letter was written to me while I was in the
Bahamas and was in reference to a novel which I had dedicated
MOUNT KISCO--February 28, 1916.
DEAR OLD MAN:
No word yet of the book, except the advts. I enclose. I will
send you the notices as soon as they begin to appear. I am so
happy over the dedication, and, very proud. So, Hope will be
when she knows. As I have not read the novel it all will come
as a splendid and pleasant surprise. I am looking forward to
sitting down to it with all the pleasure in the world.
You chose the right moment to elope. Never was weather so cold,
cruel and bitter. Hope is the only one who goes out of doors.
I start the fires in the Big House tomorrow and the plumbers
and paper hangers, painters enter the day after.
The attack on Verdun makes me sick. I was there six weeks ago
in one of the forts but of course could not then nor can I now
write of it. I don't believe the drive ever can get through.
For two reasons, and the unmilitary one is that I believe in a
just God. Give my love to Dai, and for you always
P. S. I am happy you are both so happy, but those post cards
with the palms were cruelty to animals.
On the 21st of March, 1916, Richard and his wife and daughter
moved from the Scribner cottage to Crossroads, and a few days
later he was attacked by the illness that ended in his death
on April 11. He had dined with his wife and afterward had
worked on an article on preparedness, written some letters and
telegrams concerning the same subject and, while repeating one
of the latter over the telephone, was stricken. Within a week
of his fifty-third year, just one year from the day he had
first brought his baby daughter to her real home, doing the
best and finest work of his career in the cause of the Allies
and preparedness, quite unconscious that the end was near, he
left us. In those fifty-two years he had crowded the work,
the pleasures, the kind, chivalrous deeds of many men, and he
died just as I am sure he would have wished to die, working
into the night for a great cause, and although ill and tired,
still fretful for the morning that he might again take up the fight.
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