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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

Including motoring there and motoring back

Well, then, could we not return early to-morrow morning to get the flight?

"Malheureusement ca ne peut pas se faire." (French euphemism for "No.") To-morrow morning I was slated for a visit to a base hospital which, including motoring there and motoring back, would consume most of the morning.

But I would infinitely prefer to go for a "petite promenade" in the Caudron than to inspect the most unique base hospital in the world.

Yes, they could understand that perfectly, but unfortunately the hospital was among "the arrangements" and the "petite promenade" was not. Personally they would throw the hospital overboard in a minute, but the matter was beyond their control.

So off we went, Captain F---- full of sympathy and I full of sulks, and at about half past five visited what under other circumstances would have been an exceedingly interesting big hospital full of hundreds of sick and wounded horses. But I fear I was in no mood to appreciate the ingenuity and thoroughness with which the kilometre or more of hospital sheds had been constructed by the soldiers on a framework of poles, with wicker-work sides covered with a sort of adobe, and a sloping roof of thatched straw with little gables built here and there for the mere love of beautifying which is apparently ever present in the French race, whether at war or peace.

[Illustration: Page 85


On we went for another long run till we reached the enormous encampment of supply-wagons, which carry the complete supplies for three full days for one army corps. They had been there since the armies dug themselves in.

"We are not useful now," the Colonel in Command regretfully confided to me; "for almost all the supplies reach our armies by rail. But only wait till the advance begins. Then we shall show what we can do."

This great encampment which covered some square miles of countryside had begun as a bivouac and ended as a town. One walked down avenues and side streets solidly flanked by the huts which this army had built itself. They were all more or less standardized in building materials--wattled walls covered with clay, and thatched straw roofs. But there the uniformity abruptly ended. For these little houses had not been merely constructed by builders as they would have been in nearly any other country. This was France and they had been conceived by architects. And each house expressed the original conception of the soldier-architect who had designed it.

No one who has not walked through this mushroom town or the many others like it can imagine the infinite variety of architectural forms which can be wrought in one-story shacks of wattle, clay and straw. The pliable wattle and clay lent themselves to effects which could not have been possible in stone, brick or wood. Extraordinary bays and alcoves, never before dreamed of by the Ecole des Beaux Arts gave light and shadow to long walls. Bas-relief and high-relief were done with spirit and often with fine art in the clay which covered the wattled walls, the thatched straw of the roofs was erected into strange gables, dormer windows, turrets and machicolations. Eccentric, grotesque many of these experiments unquestionably were, but they meant on the part of the tired soldiers hours and days and weeks of extra and unnecessary work, lavished, not for their creature comfort, not for their physical safety, but solely for their artistic satisfaction.

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