CHAPTER VII.

FESTUBERT AND GIVENCHY.

May and June, 1915.



    WHEN our men came out of the line, the 2nd Field Ambulance was ordered back for rest and reorganization to a village called Ouderdom, three miles to the Southwest, and their O.C. invited me to follow them. It was late in the evening when I started to walk. The light was fading and, as I had no map, I was not certain where Ouderdom was. I went down the road, delighting in the sweet smells of nature. It was with a sense of unusual freedom that I walked along with all my worldly possessions in my haversack. I thought how convenient it was to lose one’s kit. Now I could lie down beside my haystack and feel quite at home. The evening air grew chillier and I thought I had better get some roof over my head for the night. I asked various men that I met where Ourderdom was. None of them knew. I was forced once again to take my solitary journey into the great unknown. It was therefore with much satisfaction that, when quite dark, I cam upon some wooden huts and saw a number of men round a little fire in a field. I went up to one of the huts and found in it a very kind and courteous middle-aged lieutenant, who was in charge of a detachment of Indian troops. When he heard I was looking for the Field Ambulance and going towards Ouderdom, he told me it was much too late to continue my journey that night. “You stay with me in my hut, Padré,” he said, “and in the morning I will give you a horse to take you to your men.” He told me that he had been living by himself and was only too delighted to have a companion to talk to. He treated me as bounteously as circumstances would permit, and after a good dinner, he gave me a blanket and straw bed on the floor of his hut. It was very pleasant to come out of the darkness and loneliness of the road and find such a kind host, and such good hospitality. We discussed many things that night, and the next day I was shown over the camp. Later on, the Lieutenant sent me on horseback to Ouderdom. There I found the Ambulance encamped in a pleasant field beside a large pond, which afforded us the luxury of a bath. I shall never forget those two restful days I spent at Ouderdom. [Page 74] I blamed the blankets, however, for causing an irritation of the skin, which lasted till I was able to have another wash and change.
    Pleasant as my life was with the Ambulance, I felt I ought to go back and join my Brigade. I got a ride to the transport at Brielen, and there, under a wagon cover, had a very happy home. Near us an Imperial battery fired almost incessantly all night long. While lying awake one night thinking of the men that had gone, and wondering what those ardent spirits were now doing, the lines came to me which were afterwards published in “The Times”;

“REQUIESCANT”

In lonely watches night by night,
Great visions burst upon my sight,
For down the stretches of the sky
The hosts of dead go marching by.

Strange ghostly banners o’er them float,
Strange bugles sound an awful note,
And all their faces and their eyes
Are lit with starlight from the skies.

The anguish and the pain have passed,
And peach hath come to them at last.
But in the stern looks linger still
The iron purpose and the will.

Dear Christ, who reign’st above the flood
Of human tears and human blood,
A weary road these men have trod,
O house hem in the home of God.

    The Quartermaster of the 3rd Brigade furnished me with a change of underwear, for which I was most grateful. I felt quite proud of having some extra clothes again. The battalions were moved at last out of the area and we were ordered off to rest. Our first stop was near Vlamertinghe. We reached it in the afternoon, and, chilly though it was, I determined to have a bath. Murdoch MacDonald got a bucket of water from a green and slimy pond and put it on the other side of a hedge, and there I retired to have a wash and change. I was just in the midst of the process when, to my confusion, the Germans began to shell the adjoining field, and splinters of shell fell in the hedge behind me. The transport [Page 75] men on the other side called out to me to run and take cover with them under the wagons. “I can’t, boys”, I replied, “I have got no clothes on.” They roared with laughter at my plight. Though clothes are not at all an impregnable armour, somehow or other you feel safer when you are dressed. There was nothing for it but to complete my ablutions, which I did so effectually in the cold spring air that I got a chill. That night I was racked with pains as I rode on the horse which the M.O. lent me, on our march to Bailleul.
    We arrived in the quaint old town about two in the morning, and I made my way in the dark to the hotel in the Square. I was refused admission on the reasonable plea that every bed was already occupied. I was just turning away, wondering where I could go, for I was hardly able to stand up, when an officer came out and said I might go up to a room on the top storey and get into his bed as he would need it no more. It was quite delightful, not only to find a bed, but one which had been so nicely and wholesomely warmed. I spent a most uncomfortable night, and in the morning I wondered if my batman would find out where I was and come look after me. About ten o’clock I heard a knock at the door and called out “Come in.” To my astonishment, a very smart staff officer, with a brass hat and red badges, made his way into my room, and startled me by saying, “I am the Deputy-Judge-Advocate-General.” “Oh”, I said, “I was hoping you were my batman.” He laughed at that and told me his business. There had been a report that one of our Highlanders had been crucified on the door of a barn. The Roman Catholic Chaplain of the 3rd Brigade and myself had tried to trace the story to its origin. We found that the nearest we could get to it was, that someone had told somebody else about it. One day I managed to discover a Canadian soldier who said he had seen the crucifixion himself. I at once took some paper out of my pocket and a New Testament and told him, “I want you to make that statement on oath and put your signature to it.” He said, “It is not necessary.” But he had been talking so much about the matter to the men around him that he could not escape. I had kept his sworn testimony in my pocket and it was to obtain this that the Deputy-Judge-Advocate-General had called upon me. I gave it to him and told him that in spite of the oath, I thought the man was not telling the truth. Weeks afterwards I got a letter from the Deputy-Judge telling me he had [Page 76] found the man, who, when confronted by a staff officer, weakened, and said he was mistaken in swearing that he had seen the crucifixion he had only been told about it by someone else. We have no right to charge the Germans with the crime. They have done so many things equally bad, that we do not need to bring charges against them of which we are not quite sure.
    The Brigade was quartered in the little village of Steenje. It was a pretty place, and it was delightful to be back in the peaceful country again. May was bringing out the spring flowers and the trees wore fresh green leaves. There was something about the exhilarating life we were leading which made one extremely sensitive to the beauties of nature. I have never cared much for flowers, except in a general way. But now I noticed a great change. A wild flower growing in a ditch by the wayside seemed to me to be almost a living thing, and spoke in its mute way of its life of peace and contentment, and mocked, by its very humility, the world of men which was so full of noise and death. Colour too made a most powerful appeal to the heart. The gleam of sunlight on the moss that covered an old thatched roof gave one a thrill of gladness. The world of nature putting on its fresh spring dress had its message to hearts that were lonely and anxious, and it was a message of calm courage and hope. In Julian Grenfell’s beautiful poem “Into Battle,” he notes this message of the field and trees. Everything in nature spoke to the fighting man and gave him its own word of cheer.
    Of course all the men did not show they were conscious of these emotional suggestions, but I think they felt them nevertheless. The green fields and shining waters around Steenje had a very soothing effect upon minds that had passed through the bitterest ordeal in their life’s experience. I remember one morning having a service of Holy Communion in the open air. Everything was wonderful and beautiful. The golden sunlight was streaming across the earth in full radiance. The trees were fresh and green, and hedges marked out the field with walls of living beauty. The grass in the meadow was soft and velvety, and, just behind the spot where I had placed the altar, a silver stream wandered slowly by. When one adds to such a scene, the faces of a group of earnest, well-made and heroic young men, it is easily understood that the beauty of the service was complete. When it was over, I reminded them of the twenty-third Psalm, “He maketh me to lie [Page 77] down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters.” There too was the table prepared before us in the presence of our enemies.
    At Steenje, as no billet had been provided for me, the Engineers took me in and treated me right royally. Not only did they give me a pile of straw for a bed in the dormitory upstairs, but they also made me an honorary member of their mess. Of the work the “Sappers”, in the Great War, one cannot speak too highly. Brave and efficient, they were always working and co-operating enthusiastically with the infantry. Every week now that passed was deepening that sense of comradeship which bound our force together. The mean people, the men who thought only of themselves, were either being weeded out or taught that there was no place for selfishness in the army. One great lesson was impressed upon me in the war, and that is, how wonderfully the official repression of wrong thoughts and jealousies tends to their abolition. A man who lets his wild fancies free, and gives rein to his anger and selfishness, is going to become the victim of his own mind. If people at home could only be prevented, as men were in the war, from at saying all the bitter and angry things they feel, and from criticizing the actions of their neighbours, a different temper of thought would prevail. The comradeship men experienced in the Great War was due to the fact that everyone knew comradeship was essential to our happiness and success. It would be well if all over Canada men realized that the same is true of our happiness and success in times of peace. What might we not accomplish if our national and industrial life were full of mutual sympathy and love!
    Our rest at Steenje was not of long duration. Further South another attack was to be made and so one evening, going in the direction whither our troops were ordered, I was motored to the little village of Robecq. There I managed to get a comfortable billet for myself in the house of a carpenter. My bedroom was a tiny compartment which looked out on the backyard. It was quite delightful to lie in a real bed again and as I was enjoying the luxury late in the morning I watched the carpenter making a baby’s coffin. Robecq then was a very charming place. The canal, on which was a hospital barge, gave the men an opportunity for a swim, and the spring air and the sunshine put them in high spirits.
    It was at Robecq, that I had my first sight of General Haig. I was standing in the Square one afternoon when I saw the men on [Page 78] the opposite side spring suddenly to attention. I felt that something was going to happen. To my astonishment, I saw a man ride up carrying a flag on a lance. He was followed by several other mounted men. It was so like a pageant that I said to myself, “Hello, here comes Joan of Arc.” Then a general appeared with his brilliant staff. The General advanced and we all saluted, but he, spying my chaplain’s collar, rode over to me and shook hands and asked if I had come over with the Canadians. I told him I had. Then he said, “I am so glad you have all come into my Army.” I did not know who he was or what army we were in, or in fact what the phrase meant, but I thought it was wise to say nice things to a general, so I told him we were all very glad too. He seemed gratified and rode off in all the pomp and circumstance of war. I heard afterwards that he was General Haig, who at that time commanded the First Army. He had from the start, the respect of all the British Expeditionary Force.
    A sudden call “to stand to”, however, reminded us that the war was not yet won. The Brigadier told me that we had to move the next morning at five. The he asked me how I was going and I quoted my favourite text, “The Lord will provide.” My breakfast at 3.30 next morning consisted of a tin of green peas without bread or other adulterations and a cup of coffee. At five a.m. I started to walk, but it was not long before I was overtaken by the car of an artillery officer, and carried, in great glory, past the General and his staff, whose horses we nearly pushed into the ditch on the narrow road. The Brigadier waved his hand and congratulated me upon the way in which Providence was looking after me. That afternoon our brigade was settled in reserve trenches at Lacouture. There were a number of Ghurka regiments in the neighbourhood, as well as some Guards battalions. I had a service for the bomb-throwers in a little orchard that evening, and I found a billet with the officers of the unit in a particularly small and dirty house by the wayside.
    Some of us lay on the floor and I made my bed on three chairs—a style of bed which I said I would patent on my return to Canada. The chairs, with the middle one facing in the opposite direction to prevent one rolling off, were placed at certain distances where the body needed special support, and made a very comfortable resting place, free from inhabitants which infested the ordinary places of repose. Of course we did not sleep much, and [Page 79] somebody, amid the roars of laughter called for breakfast about two-thirty a.m. The cook who was sleeping in the same room got up and prepared bacon and coffee, and we had quite an enjoyable meal, which did not prevent our having a later one about nine a.m., after which, I beguiled the time by reading aloud Leacock’s “Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich.” Later in the day, I marched off with our men who were going into the trenches, for the battle of Festubert. We passed the place called Indian Village and went to the trenches just beyond.
    We met a bearer-party bringing out a young German prisoner who was badly wounded. I went over to him and offered him a cigarette. This he declined, but asked for some water, putting out his dry tongue to show how parched it was. I called to some of our men to know if they could spare him a drink. Several gladly ran across and offered their water-bottles. They were always kind to wounded prisoners. “If thine enemy thirst give him drink.” Just before the men went into the trenches, I shook hands with one or two and then, as they passed up, half the battalion shook hands with me. I was glad they did, but at the same time I felt then that it was not wise for a chaplain to do anything which looked as if here were taking matters too seriously. It was the duty of everyone to forget private feelings in the one absorbing desire to kill off the enemy. I saw the different battalions going up and returning towards headquarters when whom should I meet but the dreaded Brigadier coming up the road with his staff. It was impossible to dodge him; I could see already that he was making towards me. When he came up to me, he asked me what I was doing there, and ordered me back to Headquarters on pain of a speedy return to No. 2 General Hospital. “If you come east of my Headquarters,” he said, “you will be sent back absolutely certainly.” That night I took my revenge by sleeping in his deserted bed, and found it very comfortable.
    Our Brigade Headquarters were at Le Touret in a large farm surrounded by a moat. We were quite happy, but on the next day, which I spent in censoring the letters of the 13th Battalion, I was told that the 2nd Brigade were coming to occupy the billet and that I had to get out and forage for myself. At half past six in the evening I saw from my window the giant form of General Currie followed by his staff, riding across the bridge over the moat. He looked very imposing, but I knew it meant that the bed I had slept [Page 80] in was no longer mine. I called my friend Murdoch MacDonald and I got him to pack my haversack. “Murdoch”, I said, “once more we have to face the big, black world alone, but—‘the Lord will provide.’” The sun had set, the air was cool and scented richly with the fermented manure spread upon the land. Many units were scattered through the fields. We went from one place to another, but alas there was no billet for us. It was tiring work, and both Murdoch and I were getting very hungry and also very grumpy. The prospect of sleeping under the stars in the chilly night was not pleasant. I am shamed to say my faith began to waver, and I said to Murdoch MacDonald, “Murdoch, my friend, the Lord is a long time providing for us tonight.” We made our way back to the main road and there I saw an Imperial Officer who was acting as a point man and directing traffic. I told him my difficulty and implored him, as it was now getting on towards eleven p.m., to tell me where I could get a lodging for the night. He thought for a while and then said, “I think you may find a bed for yourself and your man in the prison.” The words had an ominous sound, but I remembered how often people at home found refuge for the night in the police station. He told me to go down the road to the third farmhouse, where I should find the quarters of some Highland officers and men. The farm was called the prison, because it was the place in which captured Germans were to be held until they were sent down the line. Followed by Murdoch, I made my way again down the busy road now crowded with transports, troops and ambulances. It was hard to dodge them in the mud and dark. I found the farmhouse, passed the sentry, and was admitted to the presence of two young officers of the Glasgow Highlanders. I told them who I was and how I had been bidden by the patrol officer to seek refuge with them. They received me most cordially and told me they had a spare heap of straw in the room. They not only said they would arrange for me for the night, but they called their servant and told him to get me some supper. They said I looked worn out. A good dish of ham and eggs and a cup of strong tea at that time was more refreshing and when I had finished eating, seeing a copy of the Oxford Book of Verse on the table, I began to read it to them, and finally, and quite naturally, found myself later on, about one a.m., reciting my own poems. It was most interesting meeting another set of men. The barn, which was kept as a prison for Germans was large and commodious. [Page 81] As we took only five or six prisoners at that time, it was more than sufficient for the purpose. The officers told me that the reason why so few prisoners turned up was that the Canadians got tired of their charges before they arrived at the prison, and only handed over a few as souvenirs. I really think the Scotsmen believed it. The Glasgow men moved away and were succeeded by a company of Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders. The tables were now turned, for as I had kept on inhabiting the large room with the three heaps of straw in it, the two officers who came “to take over” asked my permission to make their billet in the prison.
    In the meantime, the fighting in the trenches was very fierce. I spent my days in parish visiting and my nights at the various dressing stations. The batteries of artillery were all round us in the fields and orchards, and there was great concentration of British and Canadian guns. In spite of the brigadier’s orders, I often went east of Headquarters. One lovely Sunday evening I had a late service for men of the 16th Battalion in an orchard. They were going off later into No Man’s Land on a working party. The service, which was a voluntary one, had therefore an underlying pathos in it. Shells were falling in the fields on both sides of us. The great red sunset glowed in the west and the trees overhead cast an artistic gray green light upon the scene. The men were facing the sunset, and I told them as usual that there lay Canada. The last hymn was “Abide with Me,” and the words, “Hold Though Thy Cross before my closing eyes,” were peculiarly touching in view of the fact that the working party was to start as soon as the service was ended. At Festubert our Cavalry Brigade, now deprived of their horses, joined us, and I remember one morning seeing Colonel, now General, Macdonell, coming out of the line at the head of his men. They were few in number and were very tired, for they had had a hard time and had lost many of their comrades. The Colonel, however, told them to whistle and keep step to the tune, which they were doing with a gallantry which showed that, in spite of the loss of their horses, the spirit of the old squadron was still undaunted.
    Our batteries round Le Touret were very heavily and systematically shelled, and of course rumour had it that there were spies in the neighbourhood. The French Police were searching for Germans in British uniforms, and everyone felt that some of the inhabitants might be housing emissaries from the German lines. [Page 82] Some said lights were seen flashing from farmhouses; others averred that the French peasants signalled to the enemy by the way they ploughed their fields and by the colour of the horses used. In Belgium we were told that the arrangement of the arms of windmills gave away the location of our troops. At any rate everyone had a bad attack of spy-fever, and I did not escape it. One night about half past ten I was going down a dark road to get my letters from the post office, when an officer on a bicycle came up to me and, dismounting, asked me where a certain British Artillery Brigade was. I was not concerned with the number of the brigade, but I was horrified to hear the officer pronounce his “rs” in the back of his throat. Of course, when we are not at war with Germany, a man may pronounce his “rs” however he pleases, but when we are at war with the great guttural hordes of Teutons it is different. The moment I heard the sepulchral “r” I said, “This man is a German.” He told me he had come from the Indian Army and had a message for the artillery brigade. I took him by subtlety, thinking all was fair in war, and I asked him to come with me. I made for the billet of our signallers and told the sentry that the officer wanted a British Brigade. At the same time I whispered to the man to call out the guard, because I thought the stranger was a spy.
    The sentry went into the house, and in a few seconds eager Canadians with fixed bayonets came out of the building and surrounded the unfortunate officer. Canadians were always ready for a bit of sport. When I saw my man surrounded, I asked him for his pass. He appeared very much confused and said he had none, but had come from the Indian Army. What made us all the more suspicious was the fact that he displayed a squared map as an evidence of his official character. I told him that anybody could get a squared map. “Do you take me for a spy?” he said. I replied gently that we did, and that he would have to come to Headquarters and be identified. He had an ugly looking revolver in his belt, but he submitted very tamely to his temporary arrest. I was taking him off to our Headquarters, where strange officers were often brought for purposes of identification, when a young Highland Captain of diminutive stature, but unbounded dignity, appeared on the scene with four patrol men. He told me that as he was patrolling the roads for the capture of spies, he would take over the custody of my victim. The Canadians were loath to lose their prey. So we all followed down the road. After going a short distance, the signallers [Page 83] had to return to their quarters, much to my regret, for it seemed to me that the safety of the whole British Army depended on our capturing the spy, and I knew I could depend upon the Canadians. However I made up my mind that I would follow to the bitter end.
    The Highlander put the officer between us and, followed by the four patrol men, we went off down a lonely road. The moon had now risen. After walking about half a mile we came to a large barn, outside of which stood a sentry. It was the billet of a battalion of Highlanders. I told the man privately, that we had arrested the officer under suspicion of his being a spy, and if the sentry on duty should see him coming back along the road, he was to detain and have him identified. As we walked along, a number of men who had been concealed in the ditches on each side of the road rose up and followed us. They were men of the patrol commanded by the young Highlander on the other side of our prisoner. It was a delightfully weird experience. There was the long quiet moonlit road and the desolate fields all around us. While I was talking to one of the men, the patrol officer, unknown to me, allowed the spy to go off on his wheel, and to my astonishment when I turned I saw him going off down the road as hard as he could. I asked the officer why he had let him go. He said he thought it was all right and the man would be looked after. Saying this, he called his patrol about him and marched back again. The thing made me very angry. It seemed to me that the whole war might depend on our capturing the spy. At least, I owed it to the British Army to do my best to be certain the man was all right before I let him go. So I continued to follow him by myself down the road. The next farm I came to was about a mile off. There I was halted by a sentry, and on telling my business I was shown into a large barn, where the sergeant-major of the Scottish battalion got out of the straw and came to talk to me. He told me that an officer riding a wheel had passed sometime before, asking his way to a certain artillery brigade. I told the sergeant-major my suspicions and while we were talking, to our astonishment, the sentry announced that the officer, accompanied by a Black Watch despatch rider, had turned up again, having heard that the brigade he wanted was in the other direction.
    The sergeant and I went out and challenged him and said that he had to come to colonel and be identified. The colonel was in the back room of a little cottage on the other side of the road. I made my way through the garden and entered the house. The colonel, [Page 84] an oldish man, was sitting at a table. In front of him was an empty glass and an empty whisky bottle. It struck me from a superficial glance that the colonel was the only full thing in the room. He seemed surprised at having so late a visitor. I told him my suspicions. “Show the man in, Padré,” he said, and I did.
    The spy seemed worried and excited and his “rs” were more gutteral than ever. The old Colonel, who had himself been in India, at once put the suspect through his facings in Hindustani. Then the Colonel came out to me, and taking me aside said, “It’s all right, Padré, he can talk Hindustani. I never met a German who could do that.” Though still not quite satisfied, I said “Good night,” and went out into the garden to return home. Immediately the young despatch rider came up to me and said, “Who are you, who are stopping a British officer in the performance of duty? I arrest you. You must come to the Colonel and be identified.” This was a turning of the tables with a vengeance, and as I had recently laid stress on its being the duty of every officer to prove his identity whenever called upon, I had nothing to do but to go back into the presence of the Colonel and be questioned. I noticed this time that a full bottle of whiskey and another tumbler had been provided for the entertainment of the Indian Officer. The despatch rider saluted the Colonel and said, “I have brought in this officer, Sir, to be identified. He says he is a Canadian chaplain but I should like to make sure on the point.” I stood there feeling rather disconcerted. The Colonel called to his adjutant who was sleeping in a bed in the next room. He came out in a not very agreeable frame of mind and began to ask me who I was. I immediately told my name, showed my identification disc and engraved silver cigarette case and some cablegrams that I had just received from home. The Colonel looked up with bleary eyes and said “Shall I put him in the guard-room?” but the adjutant had been convinced by my papers that I was innocent and he said, “I think we can let him go, Sir.” It was a great relief to me, because guard-rooms were not very clean. I was just making my way from the garden when out came the young despatch rider. I bore him no malice for his patriotic zeal. I felt that his heart was in the right place, so I said to him, “You have taken the part of this unknown officer, and now that you are sure I am all right, may I ask you what you know about him?” “I don’t’ know anything,” he said, “only that I met him and he asked me the way to [Page 85] the Brigade, and as I was going there myself I told him I would act as his guide.” “Well”, I said, “we are told that there are spies in the neighbourhood reporting the location of our batteries to the Germans, so we ought to be very careful how we give these locations away.” “I tell you what, Sir,” he replied, “I’ll go and examine his wheel and see what the make is; I know a good deal about the wheels used in the army.” We went over to the wheel and by the aid of my flashlight he examined it thoroughly and then said, “This is not an English wheel, I have never seen one like it before. This wheel was never in use in our army.” The despatch rider now got an attack of spy-fever. It was decided that he should ride on to the Brigade Headquarters and find out if an Indian officer was expected there. He promised to come back as soon as possible and meet me in the road. We trusted that the bottle of whiskey in the Colonel’s billet would cause sufficient delay for this to be accomplished. The night was cool and beautiful and the sense of an adventure added charm to the situation. I had not gone far down the road when to my horror I heard a wheel coming behind me, and turning, I saw my spy coming towards me as fast as he could. I was not of course going to let him get past. The added information as to the character of the wheel gave me even greater determination to see that everything was done to protect the army from the machinations of a German spy.
    I stood in the road and stopped the wheel. The poor man had to dismount and walk beside me. I wished to delay him long enough for the despatch rider to return with his message from the Brigade. Our conversation was a trifle forced, and I remember thinking that if my friend was really a British officer he would not have submitted quite so tamely to the interference of Padré. Then I looked at the revolver in his belt, and I thought that, if, on the other hand, he was a German spy he would probably use his weapon in that lonely road and get rid of the man who was impeding his movements. We went on till we came to the sentry whom I had warned at first. At once, we were challenged, “Halt, who are you?” and the suspected spy replied “Indian Army.” But the sentry was not satisfied, and to my delight he said, “You will both have to come in and be identified.” We were taken into the guard-room and told that we should have to stay there for the night. My friend got very restless and said it was too bad to be held up like this. I looked anxiously down the road to see if there were any signs of the [Page 86] returning despatch rider. The sentries were obdurate and said they wouldn’t let us go till we could be identified in the morning. Then the officer requested that he might be sent to the Brigade under escort. The sergeant asked me if that would meet with my approval. I said, “Certainly,” and so, turning out three members of the guard with fixed bayonets, they marched us off towards the Brigade. They spy had a man with a fixed bayonet on each side of him: they gave me only one. I felt that this was a slight upon my manhood, and asked why they did not put a soldier on each side of me too, as I was as good a man as the other. It was a queer procession in the moonlight. At last we came to the orchard in which stood the billet of the General commanding the Artillery Brigade. I was delighted to find that some Canadian Batteries were there, and told the men what my mission was. They instantly, as true Canadians, became fired with interest and spy-fever. When we got to the house I asked to see the General. He was asleep in a little room off the kitchen. I was shown in, and he lit a candle and proceeded to get up. I had never seen a general in bed before, so was much interested in discovering what he looked like and how he was dressed. I found that a general in war time goes to bed in his underclothes, like an ordinary private. The General got up and went outside and put the spy through a series of questions, but he did so in a very sleepy voice, and with a perfunctory manner which seemed to me to indicate that he was more concerned about getting back to bed than he was in saving the army from danger. He told the officer that it was too late then to carry on the business for which he had come, but that he would see about it in the morning. The spy with a guttural voice then said, “I suppose I may go, Sir?” and the General said, “Certainly.” Quickly as possible, fearing a further arrest, the stranger went out, took his wheel, and sped down the road. When I went into the garden, I found a number of men from one of our ambulances. They had turned up with stolen rifles and were waiting with the keenest delight to join in “Canon Scott’s spy hunt.” Imagine therefore, their disappointment when the officer came out a free man, answered the sentry’s challenge on the road, and disappeared in the distance.
    On the following day, the French military police came to my billet and asked for particulars about the Indian officer. They told Murdoch MacDonald that they were on the lookout for a German [Page 87] spy who was reported to be going about through our lines dressed in a British uniform. He had been seen at an observation post, and was making enquiries which aroused suspicions. This of course made me more sorry than ever that I had allowed the spy to get through my fingers. Like the man the French police were after, the officer was fair, had a light moustache and was of good size and heavily built.
    My adventures with my friend did not end there. When we had left Festubert and got to the neighbourhood of Bethune, I took two young privates one day to have lunch with me in a French hotel near the Square. We were just beginning our meal when to my astonishment the suspected spy, accompanied by a French interpreter, sat down at an opposite table. He looked towards me but made no sign of recognition—a circumstance which I regarded as being decidedly suspicious. I naturally did not look for any demonstration of affection from him, but I thought he might have shown, if he were an honest man, that he remembered one who had caused him so much inconvenience. Once more the call of duty came to my soul. I felt that this man had dodged the British authorities and was now giving his information to a French interpreter to transmit it at the earliest possible moment to the Germans. I told my young friends to carry on as if nothing had happened, and excusing myself, said I would come back in a few minutes. I went out and inquired my way to the Town Major’s office. There, I stated the object of my journey and asked for two policemen to come back with me and mount guard till I identified a suspicious looking officer. I then returned and finished my lunch. When the officer and the interpreter at the conclusion of their meal went out into the passage, I followed them and asked for their identification. The officer made no attempt to disguise or check his temper. He said that there must be an end to this sort of work. But the arrival of the two policemen in the passage showed that he had to do what I asked him. This he did, and the interpreter also, and the police took their names and addresses. Then I let my friends go, and heard them depart into the street hurling denunciations and threats of vengeance upon my devoted and loyal head.

    It was about a week or ten days afterwards that I was called into our own Brigadier’s office. He held a bundle of letters in his hand stamped with all sorts of official seals. The gist of it all was that the G.O.C. of the Indian Division in France had reported to [Page 88] General Alderson the extraordinary and eccentric conduct of a Canadian Chaplain, who persisted in arresting a certain British officer whenever they happened to meet. He wound up with this cutting comment, “The conduct of this chaplain seems to fit him rather for a lunatic asylum than for the theatre of great war.” Of course explanations were sent back. It was explained to the General that reports had reached us of the presence in our lines of a German spy in British uniform, who from the description given, resembled the Indian officer in all particulars.
    It is needless to say that every one was immensely amused at “the Canon’s spy story,” and I mentally resolved that I would be more careful in the future about being carried away by my suspicions. I told people however that I would rather run the risk of being laughed at over making a mistake than to let one real spy escape.
    Festubert made a heavy toll upon our numbers, and we were not sorry when we were ordered out of the line and found ourselves quartered in the neighbourhood of Bethune. Bethune at that time was a delightful place. It was full of people. The shops were well provided with articles for sale, and a restaurant in the quaint Grande Place, with its Spanish tower and Spanish houses, was the common meeting ground of friends. The gardens behind private residences brought back memories of pre-war days. The church was a beautiful one, built in the 16th century. The colours of the windows were especially rich. It was always delightful to enter it and think how it had stood the shock and turmoil of the centuries.
    One day when I was there the organ was being played most beautifully. Sitting next to me in a pew, was a Canadian Highlander clad in a very dirty uniform. He told me that a friend of his had been killed beside him drenching him in blood. The Highlander was the grandson of a British Prime Minister. We listened to the music till the recital was over, and then I went up to the gallery and made myself known to the organist. He was a delicate young fellow, quite blind, and was in a state of nervous excitement over his recent efforts. I made a bargain with him to give us a recital on the following evening. At the time appointed, therefore, I brought some of our men with me. The young organist met us at the church and I led him over to a monastery in which a British ambulance was making its headquarters. There, in the chapel, the blind man poured out his soul in the strains of a most beautiful instrument. We sat entranced in the evening light. He [Page 89] transported us into another world. We forgot the shells, the mud, the darkness, the wounded men, the lonely graves, and the hideous fact of war. We wandered free and unanxious down the avenues of thought and emotion which were opened up before us by the genius of him whose eyes were shut to this world. It was with deep regret that, when the concert was over, we heard him close the keyboard. Three years later the organist was killed by a shell while he was sitting at his post in the church he loved so well and had never seen.
    When we were at Bethune a very important event in my military career took place. In answer to repeated requests, Headquarters procured me a horse. I am told that the one sent to me came by mistake and was not that which they intended me to have. The one I was to have, I heard, was the traditional padré’s horse, heavy, slow, unemotional, and with knees ready at all times to sink in prayer. The animal sent to me, however, was a high-spirited chestnut thoroughbred, very pretty, very lively and neck-reined. It had once belonged to an Indian general, and was partly Arab. Poor Dandy was my constant companion to the end. After the Armistice, to prevent his being sold to the Belgian army, he was mercifully shot, by the orders of our A.D.V.S. Dandy certainly was a beauty, and his lively disposition made him interesting to ride. I was able now to do much more parish visiting, and I was rather amused at the way in which my mount was inspected by the different grooms in our units. I had to stand the fire of much criticism. Evil and covetous eyes were set upon Dandy. I was told he was “gone” in the knees. I was told he had a hump on the back—he had what is known as the “Jumper’s bump.” Men tickled his back and, because he wriggled, told me he was “gone” in the kidneys. I was told he was no proper horse for a padré, but that a fair exchange was always open to me. I was offered many an old transport hack for Dandy, and once was even asked if I would change him for a pair of mules. I took all the criticisms under consideration, and then when they were repeated I told the men that really I loved to ride a horse with a hump on its back. It was so biblical, just like riding a camel. As for bad kidneys, both Dandy and I were teetotalers and we could arrest disease by our temperance habits. The weakness of knees too was no objection in my eyes. In fact, I had so long, as a parson, sat over weak-kneed congregations that I felt quite at home sitting on a weak-kneed horse. [Page 90]
    Poor dear old Dandy, many were the rides we had together. Many were the jumps we took. Many were the ditches we tumbled into. Many were the unseen barbed wires and over-hanging telephone wires which we broke, you with your chest and I with my nose and forehead. Many were the risks we ran in front of batteries in action which neither of us had observed till we found ourselves deafened with a hideous explosion and wrapped in flame. I loved you dearly, Dandy, and I wish I could pull down your soft face towards mine once again, and talk of the times when you took me down Hill 63 and along Hyde Park corner at Ploegsteert. Had I not been wounded and sent back to England at the end of the war, I would have brought you home with me to show to my family—a friend that not merely uncomplainingly but cheerfully, with prancing feet and arching neck and well groomed skin, bore me safely through dangers and darkness, on crowded roads and untracked fields. What dances we have had together, Dandy, when I have got the bands to play a waltz and you have gone through the twists and turns of a performance in which you took an evident delight! I used to tell the men that Dandy and I always came home together. Sometimes I was on his back and sometimes he was on mine, but we always came home together.
    A few days later my establishment was increased by the purchase of a well-bred little white fox-terrier. He rejoiced in the name of Philo and became my inseparable companion. The men called him my curate. Dandy, Philo and I made a family party which was bound together by very close ties of affection. Though none of us could speak the language of the others, yet the sympathy of each enabled us to understand and appreciate one another’s opinions. I always knew what Dandy thought and what he would do. I always knew too what Philo was thinking about. Philo had a great horror of shells. I put this down to the fact that he was born at Beuvry, a place which had been long under shell-fire. When he heard a shell coming in his direction, Philo used to go to the door of the dugout and listen for the explosion, and then come back to me in a state of whining terror. He could not even stand the sound of our own guns. It made him run around and round barking and howling furiously.
    It was while we were out in rest at Bethune that I was told I could go on a week’s leave to London. I was glad of this, not only for the change of scene, but for the sake of getting new [Page 91] clothes. I awoke in the early morning and listened to the French guns pounding away wearily near Souchez. At noon I started with a staff officer in a motor for Boulogne. It was a lovely day, and as we sped down the road through little white unspoilt villages and saw peaceful fields once again, it seemed as if I were waking from a hideous dream. That evening we pulled in to Victoria Station, and heard the Westminster chimes ringing out half past eight. [Page 92]