We were under a heavy fire for thirteen hours and certainly had some very close escapes. At times the firing was so fierce that if you had raised your arm above your head, the hand would have been instantly torn off. We had to lie on our stomachs with our chins in the dirt and not so much as budge. This was when the Turkish fire happened to be directed on our trench. At such times all the other trenches would fire so as to draw the attack away, and we would have to wait until it was over. The shells sounded like the jarring sound of telegraph wires when one hits the pole they hang from with a stone; and when the shells were close they sounded like the noise made by two trains passing in opposite directions when the wind is driven between the cars. The bullets were much worse than the shells as you could always hear them coming, and the bullets slipped up and passed you in a sneaking way with a noise like rustling silk, or if some one had torn a silk handkerchief with a sharp pull. One shell struck three feet from me and knocked me over with the dirt and stones and filled my nose and mouth with pebbles. I went back and dug it out of the ground while it was still hot and have it as a souvenir. I swore terribly at the bullets and Bass used to grin in a sickly way. It made your hair creep when they came very close. One man next me got a shot through the breast while he was ramming his cleaner down the barrel, and there were three killed within the limits of our fifty yards. We could not get back because there was a cross fire that swept a place we had to pass through, just about the way the wind comes around the City Hall in the times of a blizzard. We called it Dead Man's Curve, after that at Fourteenth Street and Union Square, because it was sprinkled with dead ammunition, mules and soldiers. We came through it the first time without knowing what we were getting into and we had no desire to go back again. So we waited until the sun set. I took some of the finest photographs and probably the only ones ever taken of a battle at such close range. Whenever the men fired, I would shoot off the camera and I expect I have some pretty great pictures. Bass took some of me so if there is any question as to whether I was at the Coronation, there will be none as to whether I was at Velestinos.
Our house was hit with two shells and bullets fell like the gentle rain from heaven all over the courtyard, so we would have been no safer there than behind the trenches. We sent off the first account of the battle written by anybody by midday, and stayed on until the next day at four when the place was evacuated in good order because, as usual, the Crown Prince was running away--from Pharsalia this time. They say in Greece "Lewes, the peasant, won the race from Marathon, but Constantine the prince, won the race from Larissa."
I was all right until I got to Volo when my right leg refused absolutely to do its act and I had to be carried on a donkey. A Greek thought I looked funny sitting groaning on the little donkey; which I did--I looked ridiculous. So he laughed, and Bass and a French journalist batted him over the face and left me clinging to the donkey's neck and howling to them to come back and hold me up. But they preferred to fight, and a policeman came along and arrested the unhappy Greek and beat him over the head, just for luck, and marched him off to jail, just for laughing.
They took me to the hospital ship which was starting, and I came to Athens that way with one hundred and sixteen wounded; the man on my right had his ankles gone and the man on the left had a bullet in his side. They groaned all night and so did I. Then when the sun rose they sang, which was worse. I never saw anything more beautiful than the red-cross nurses, and I guess that is the most beautiful picture I shall ever see--those sweet-faced girls in blue and white bending over the dirty frightened little peasant boys and taking care of their wounds. I made love to all of them and asked three to marry me. I was in bed for two days after I got to Athens but had a fine time, as all the officers from the San Francisco, from the admiral down, came to see me, and the minister, consul and the rest did all that could have been done. I am now all right and was bicycling in the dear old Cascine this morning. On the whole it was a most successful trip. Sylvester Scovel and Phillips of The World arrived just as it was all over, and so Bass and I are about the only two Americans who were in it.
The train from Brindisi stopped at Rome on the way back and I went to see the Pages. They took me out and showed me Rome by moonlight in one hour. It was like a cinematograph. They are here now and coming to dinner tonight. Last night the consul had all our friends to dinner to welcome me back, and maybe I was not glad. I had been living on cheese and brown bread and cold lamb for two weeks, with no tobacco, and sleeping five hours a night on floors and sofas. Sometimes the officers and men fought for food, and we never got anything warm to eat except occasionally tinned things which we cooked in my kit. It was the most satisfactory trip all round I ever had. I have been twenty years trying to be in a battle and it will be twenty years more before I will want to be in another.
On the eighteenth I start for London, stopping one day in Paris to see the Clarks and Eustises. It is going to be bigger than the Coronation for crowds, and Mother need not worry, I shall keep out of it. The Minister to Russia sent me word that the Czar's prime minister has given him my article and that the Czar said thank him very much. So that is all right. Also Hay is to present me to the Prince at the levee on the 3tst of May, and I shall send him a copy, too. I am looking forward to London with such joy. Tell Mother to send me the Bookbuyer with her article in it. I have only read the reviews of it, and they are so enthusiastic that I must have the whole thing quick. It was such a fine thing to do about Poe, and to give those other two fetishes the coup de grace. It reads splendidly and I want it all. What did Dad think of the Inauguration article? I send you all my dearest love and will have lots to tell you when I get back this time.
Richard left Florence the latter part of May, and went to London where he had made arrangements to report the Queen's Jubilee. He began his round of gayeties by being presented at Court. The Miss Groves and Miss Wather to whom he refers in the following letter were the clerks at Cox's hotel.
LONDON, June 2nd, 1897. DEAR FAMILY: