Through War Torn Europe: An official trip after WWI told in the words of James Gordon Steese
Number Twenty-Nine
Paris, Friday, September 19th.
Yesterday, all day was taken up in official visits to half a dozen different offices, each one from one to four times. Though the Chief of Staff himself ordered that arrangements be made for me to keep my car another day, by the time the order was passed along down finally to a field clerk, it lost its identity. After waiting till ten o'clock, I went out and had my first experience with a French telephone. I finally got the garage and found they had no orders for any car.

Then I went down to District of Paris Headquarters, where I found them investigating the non-appearance of my car. I also found out that my car had been taken out of storage specially for this trip, had evidently gone back into storage, and no one knew what car it was, nor where it had gone. The executive had on his desk three reports already on the case. As all I wanted was a car, he seemed greatly relieved when I suggested that he drop the whole file in his waste basket and give me a car out of his pool.

Finally, I got all my business done and everything fixed for a speedy departure, so I took the evening off and saw a very poor show at the Casino. Our "Follies" have it all over anything in either Paris or London. The shows in Paris are very poorly put on. Even in London there is nothing like the lavish expenditures for costumes and property that we are accustomed to in New York City.

 Today I got a man from Cook's and saw a little of the tourists Paris which I had not had time for heretofore. I visited Notre Dame, Lee Invalides, Napoleon's Tomb, the Arc de Triomphe, the Tuileries Gardens, the Louvre, the Luxembourg Museum, and Versailles. I must confess, however, that I have reached the stage where every cathedral looks exactly like a place of worship, both inside and out, and all pictures and statuary look alike, I was sorry not to have a whole day for the Louvre, so as to look up some of the stuff in the book. There was so much interesting pottery, etc., that I had time only to glance at.

Tonight I leave for Brest. If I can get my heart lesion by the Medical examiners, I expect to sail tomorrow on the Von Steuben. I expect to sleep continuously for the first three days out.

I have been living quite luxuriously these past three days. I fell heir to the house of an officer who has gone to Italy and Greece for a few weeks. Marie - aged somewhere between 50 and 80 - comes in early and pulls the blinds so the early morning light will not disturb me, shines my boots and Sam Browne belt, gives me hot water for shaving, draws me a hot bath, and then gives me breakfast on a tray. My clothes are all cleaned and pressed and I have so much fresh laundry I don't know what to do with it. I am almost civilized again and shall soon be calling for finger bowls, which they do not seem to have in Europe, even after serving raw pears.

By the way, I tried some French oysters last night, just for conversational purposes. They are all Irvin Cobb says they are. I am beginning to dream of those wonderful Chincoteagues at the Army and Navy Club preceding a Chicago beefsteak smothered in onions with crisp, almost burned edges, and that followed by an alligator pear.

I don't understand much of Marie's French, but she seems to get me alright. I find I knew a lot more French in Italy and the Balkans than I do in Paris. When I gave her a note for Colonel ******, the owner of this apartment, upon his return, she quite eulogized him, ending by saying he is "tres gentil", the greatest compliment. I added maliciously, “et tres sage aussi, eh, Marie?" She laughed quite merrily and replied: "Pas toujours, mon Colonel!"

I gave Marie an order on the commissary yesterday for 5 kilos of sugar, five pieces each of soap and milk chocolate, and a carton of cigarettes, all presumably for the house. It now develops she is taking a holiday, Sunday, and is going home to Brittany for two weeks. I gave her 25 francs and told her to get some matches and chewing gum also. She laughed. She will certainly be a fairy godmother when she arrives in Brittany with all that contraband. Sugar, especially, is very scarce in France though fairly plentiful elsewhere. Outside Paris, cigarettes make better tips than sous. All the kids yell for gum (goom) whenever they see an American.

Marie has just brought in the concierge's little boy to sing and recite for me. Poor kid, he is just as embarrassed as I am. She also has given me a box of breakfast for my train gets in at 9:30 A. M., if on time, and carries no diner. It also has no wagon-lit, but I got a couchette, whatever that is, I have not ran into one heretofore. I have been duly warned against them, but I am going to risk it this once. When I came up from Brest last July, I had to sit up all night and then the train was seven hours late. I had almost nothing to eat all day. I hope to have better luck this time.

When you get this, I shall be in Washington, I hope.

End Notes and Bibliography