Frederick Palmer at the Front for Everbody's
By Frederick Palmer
[Everybody's Magazine, October 1914]
Editors Note:— When the war storm broke Frederick Palmer was in Mexico for Everybody's. We wired him. Within four days he was on the Lusitania speeding toward the inconceivable tragedy of seven nations at war. Below is his first return, sent by cable and by two mail-steamers, as opportunity offered—hurried observations from three war-torn countries.
As this magazine goes to press, Mr. Palmer's place as the leading American war-correspondent has been recognized again, brilliantly. The London War Office ruled that only one American correspondent should be allowed at the front with the British troops. It asked Ambassador Page to name the man. Secretary Bryan, to whom the ambassador referred the problem, queried the four Press Associations serving all the daily papers. They united on Frederick Palmer, and asked Everybody's, permission to share his services.
Mr. Palmer's news bulletins will be published in all the daily papers anonymously. His signed articles—appearing exclusively in Everybody's—will not seek to cover the war in newspaper fashion, but to interpret the big dramatic events and tell the intimate inside stories as Mr. Palmer, only American correspondent at the front, gets them right on the field.
Mr. Palmer's work will be very ably supplemented by Henry Reuterdahl, the noted marine artist, who has just sailed with a commission which makes his magazine work exclusive to Everybody's.
The chronicle of this war, written and illustrated by two such men, should make the forthcoming magazines worth treasuring by all our readers.__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
A MONTH OF WAR
BY CABLE, SEPTEMBER 2__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The man with, the rifle—that one atomic unit which makes oceans of men in a cataclysm lose individuality—is still supreme in his will and skill, in the face of every form of projectile.
We have witnesses to courage by the millions, which history has not surpassed. We have seen men taken from daily peaceful toil, to rush in desperate charges and resist charges by bayonet under sprays of rapid firers. It proves that men need not have experience in order to have courage.
Battle on battle, charge on charge, gaining and losing along the great lines every second. There is not time to count the dead. The wires tick off to the staff the big results of the breathless straining of spirit and body.
Consider how multitudes of dead are marched over and fought over; and how, in order to waste no energy needed to make breastworks for the living, the dead are buried in shallow trenches with no more ceremony than vagrant mongrel dogs mercifully etherized.
It is as if every man knew war was slaughter; that he who had the reddest sword, regardless of his victim, must win.
Hereafter, when Spanish-American revolutionists are warned against their atrocities, they can point to the invaders of Belgium for justification. Ethics count for nothing. The twentieth century of popular education has reverted to the Middle Ages, when masses could not read nor write and did not know the world was round, and yet knew how to fight.
Aeroplanes and dirigibles have shown little offensive power against troops. Their utility lies in reconnaissance or in terrifying populations by bomb-dropping. They are about the only element which spectators have so far witnessed in action—being visible like swift flocks of great birds over battle-fields whence a continuous terrible roar proceeds.
Aviators, to see well, must descend low and take fearful risks as they sweep down to deal death or to gain information. Scores of airmen are being killed. More fly up and take their places.
If Germany destroys France, it is "might makes right." Her success will be due wholly to violation of Belgium's neutrality.
Apparently Germany used the big war tax of two years ago to prepare for this foreseen war by accumulating traction siege-guns, armored motors with rapid-fixers, which operate over the roads at the front with the infantry, and other secret supplies, to smash through Belgium in a catapultic drive by her massed strength.
Her spy service is infinitely superior. The way she struck the British at Mons, five to one, in the effort at capture, showed that though the British press did not know where the army was, the German staff knew precisely.
THE GERMAN PLAN
Yet there was no strategic surprise in her general plan. French military experts knew that Germany must come through Belgium; but could not convince democracy of the necessity for provision of proper defenses along the Belgian frontier; while German autocracy could act on expert advice without consulting the people. It was clear that the Belgian route offered the only possibility for German success. By any other approach the forces would have been stalemated, or slaughtered. Germany did precisely what the world's military experts expected—swinging into the open country of northern France with heavy flanking columns. Against critical positions she has driven great masses with certainty of sufficient survivors to gain them, thus forcing the Allies' line back again and again.
Cruelties have been part of her efficient brute calculation. A terrorized population in the field of the armies of France minimizes the necessity for policing garrisons and permits the whole army to move forward under action. In spite of German anger at any Belgian reprisals, the official instruction of the German Landsturm in case of the invasion of Germany is to strike the invaders in the back, using every trick of guerrilla warfare.
Thus far all reverses in this war have gone to democracy and all the successes to imperialism. Imperialism seeks to instil in all the population a sense of dutiful submission to the autocratic will. Against the French officers' fellowship with their men, the German military exclusive caste system appears to have military vindication, French generalship has suffered from commanders' acting on their own initiative at the front, while the autocratic German obedience has meant cohesion.
Not Heine and Goethe, but Nietzsche, is uppermost in Germany. One feels that democracy is fighting a monster whose rule stretches far beyond the Rhine.
PROPHECY FROM THE FRONT
I hazard that a Germany which has got only to Amiens by September 1st—the day set for the fall of Paris —is a losing Germany; a Germany that by October first has not taken Paris and demoralized the French army, unless the Austrians defeat the Russians, is a beaten Germany, particularly when the British talk of a long war and refer to the patient endurance of Abraham Lincoln, and the resolute resistance of Lee, and the determination of Grant before Richmond, with armies which were made from recruits after the war began, as the British are now about to make an army.
BELGIUM—THE MOUSE THAT HARRIED THE LION
Brussels, August 20.
If I could only write, if I could get the lump out of my throat, I might be able to impart something of the flood of impressions of the fortitude of a little nation.
You may have made the two-hour ride from Ostend to Brussels through a land which was like a patchwork of carefully tilled gardens. From, every house, the afternoon I went, flew a flag in honor of the valor of the garrison of Liège. No adult man of any physique between the ages of twenty and forty-five was in sight. It was a land despoiled of its strong manhood. Women and boys were working in the fields, and on the roads old men and women, and children, were taking their outing in Saturday-holiday fashion.
A little black dog, a shipperke, with his paws on the rails of a canal-boat, seemed to me as expressive of Belgian character as the bulldog of the British. The shipperke stays at home on his own boat. He is busy on watch all hours of the day and night. Though not much to look at, he is loyal, domestic, affectionate. He never goes out on the tow-path to pick quarrels with other dogs. But let anything with two or four feet try to go on board when his master is away, and every ounce of him is at war.
"We didn't know that the Belgians would fight," said an Englishman. "We thought all they cared for was to make money."
Yet there were two mottoes in French on the Belgian steamer to Ostend: one, "Glory is the recompense due to great men;" the other, "Art is the spark, the cry of the soul."
The citizens of the big nations had laughed at such dream stuff on a Channel steamer run by such a money-grubbing nation. But now we know they voiced a spirit which is regarded as finer than money-making. The Belgians had the art of living well with few resources. They have now won the glory due not to great kings and generals, but to the shopkeeper, the artisan, the farmer who fights for his threshold shipperke fashion against impossible odds.
"We asked only to be left alone!" Belgians kept repeating to me. Belgium, a thumb-mark on the map of Europe, wanted to be left alone in the peace of its gardens.
While other nations armed, Belgium worked. Statistics told us that she had the densest population in Europe. In finding work for her people at home she outdid all the paternalism of the ambitious Prussian, with his army and navy at his back.
BELGIUM IN HER GARDENS
The Belgians did make money; they made much of little with an amazing industry in a land where even the dogs worked, helping to draw the milk and vegetables to market. Their shrewd business sense missed no opportunity. Their capitalists profited by the neutrality of their position, slipping in where the jealousies of the great powers offered an opening. The international European sleeping-cars company and concessions from Mexico to China were Belgian. Gardens ran to the very walls of factories that sent their wares through the port of Antwerp, in competition with German goods throughout the world. Belgium, cutting all the grass by the roadside for her fat cows, was content in supplying quality where she could not compete in quantity. Those costly, big, black grapes called Hamburgs, so grateful to the palates of invalids, were Belgian; the French endive which the well-to-do can afford for salad was Belgian.
At the Brussels and again at the Antwerp exposition the world had glimpses of Belgian progress. The big nations sniffed a little, as much as to say, "What business has a little country with this sort of thing, anyway?" Still, a little nation might make money, it was agreed. But it could not have patriotism, which expresses itself in imperial armament.
Aristocrats complained that Belgium was bourgeois; everything in Belgium was on a level. Of course it was a pretty high level, with less poverty in Brussels and Antwerp than in London or Liverpool or Paris or Marseilles; but, then, levels are commonplace and uninteresting. It was a country with a coin worth only two-fifths of a cent, which would buy a poor man's newspaper. It dealt in bread-crumbs and counted its turnip-tops; which shows that Belgians must love Belgium—and perhaps that is patriotism—or they would have emigrated to less developed countries where land was plentiful. We heard of the spread of a socialism which is not the kind that some of our mouthing propagandists advocate at home. We heard of the cooperative societies in Ghent, which had actually reduced the cost of living in fact, instead of in literary symposiums.
All this may seem a pretty poor background for war-correspondence, but I find it the right background for war-correspondence in Belgium.
"We'll march right through Belgium," German officers have often said to me. "And we need Antwerp as a port."
"Of course we know the Germans will try to flank us through Belgium," said French officers.
Knock out the partitions of your neighbor's house and run the steam-roller through his garden because you choose to go that way. All the world accepted the prospect.
But Belgium did have a sort of an army. Some of her people were in earnest about the army; others said that it was needless, as Belgium's neutrality made her safe. How could any one make war on her when she wanted to make war on no one?
Once a French officer was teasing a Belgian officer about his army.
"We'll come over and give you a taste of it some day," said the Belgian laughingly.
"How will you get it past the customs?" inquired the Frenchman.
STOPPING THE GERMAN CLOCK
When in a cavalry-riding contest some years ago a Belgian officer won over the best the German army could produce, the Kaiser did not enjoy the event, which, however, seemed to have given him no useful hint. And the Frenchman was to live to give his prayer of thanks for the Belgian army's service. The little Belgian threw the collar-button into the German clock and stopped the works. Whatever the future may bring, he gave the French time to effect their advance in Alsace and their resistance on the Belgian frontier, and the English time to bring their army to the firing-line.
"It will be only two or three days before the German army is here," said the German minister before leaving Brussels. "Poor little Belgium!" he added. "I hate to think—" For he was sure that it was the end of her nationality.
The officer chosen to cross the line and inform the burgomaster of Vise that the Germans were going to march through Belgium and to request that no opposition be made, was Major von Kloeber, the German military attaché in Belgium.
"I shall have to ask the military commander," said the burgomaster.
During his absence, Major von Kloeber slipped the burgomaster's servant a gold piece, saying, "Get me all the papers you can!"
When the burgomaster—bourgeois burgomaster—returned to give his answer to the aristocrat, he handed an envelope to the major. "It contains something that my servant wishes to return to you," he remarked. "The commandant says that we are going to fight. Good day, sir!"
And Belgium has a king as well as an army, though in few kingdoms is the fact of kingship so little in evidence. Albert was mild and hard-working; diffident rather than pretentious. People said that he had no ginger; that he lacked force—certainly the martial force which kings ought to have. But he, too, was shipperke when the German eagle set his talons on the taffrail of the canal-boat. Appearing in a simple service uniform before his hastily summoned Parliament, he struck the table with his fist and his voice was thrilling with his anger as he read his speech. "Aux armes!" To arms!
And from the tribune he went to the front. The Kaiser promised neutrality; he promised to let Belgium keep the deed to her house in return for allowing the imperial steam-roller to be moved through. If any Belgian would have liked to accept the offer for the sake of peace, none thought of doing so, because—there is the plain truth—they were sure that the Kaiser was lying. Such is the opinion which his neighbors have of William; not of his subjects. For I heard no Belgian, even in this hour of outrage, speak ill of the German people. Their war was on imperial Germany and her military caste, which were responsible for the aggression.
The thousands of Germans under the protection of Brand Whitlock, our minister to Belgium, who had taken over German affairs, became panic-stricken in the fear of reprisals for the raiding of Belgian villages by Uhlans. At the Cirque Royale they were gathered by the Civic Guards, with women and children hysterical, while rumors of wholesale massacre were spread. Gibson, the secretary of legation, turned stump speaker in French and German, as he tried to quiet their fears—very needless fears. A bearded old peasant of a Civic Guard picked up a little child and held it aloft and crooned to it as he said:
"We Belgians don't harm children. We love them. I've children of my own at home."
Other Civic Guards bought chocolate and food for the Germans with their own money and sent for milk for the babies.
SPEAKING OF CHIVALRY
Every German who confessed himself to be one was got safely away by our legation. Talk about the "after you" gallantry of the French and English cavaliers at Fontenoy! The Belgians let even the German reservists, who were rightfully prisoners of war, depart.
"We thought it was their right," an official explained to me.
Pretty fine and pretty civilized is this consideration for a guest when the guest's brother is a burglar with a jimmy at the door.
Which was the real chivalry?—that of the old peasant Civic Guard come to defend his farm or that of a captured German officer who exclaimed:
"I am a baron—a baron! And captured by the Belgians!"
On a Saturday night when I reached Brussels its main avenues were literally walled with flags—the Belgian colors: black, orange, and red. The statue to the city of Liège bore around its neck the great bronze cross of the Legion of Honor which France had conferred on the valorous city. The little mouse had nipped the lion's paw and made him stop—that was the favorite theme of the cartoon post-cards for sale. The streets were thronged with old and young, none knowing what relative they might have lost or might lose to-morrow, but all confident in their sacrifice to keep their gardens and their shops, Brussels was happy, infinitely happy.
The English were coming and also the French, to help. Brussels was safe.
The people's faith was a pitiful satire to those who knew that if the Germans wished to take Brussels it was not in the Allies' plans to defend it.
The jingle of coins in a locked tin box was always at your elbow. Girls of good family were collecting money for the Red Cross—-and some girls not of good family, who wanted to help. The proprietor of the hotel where I was staying had given twenty-five thousand dollars to the Red Cross the day that war was declared; servants begged their masters to advance their wages in order that they might turn the money over to the Red Cross. Every one was ready to give to save Belgium. The attitude of each individual was that of a man who turns to his savings-bank account without second thought when the life of a dear one is in danger and the best of surgeons is required.
Hundreds of stories you heard, told in snatches of sentences; stories on which you could base a novel. Each one expressed abandoned devotion in a transcendent crisis.
"Mon devoir!" (My duty!) "I am going!" was all that the American minister's valet said when he entered the Minister's room.
"Mon devoir! I am going as a private!" said the son of one of the oldest of the pre-Napoleon aristocracy of Belgium, while the government took his automobile.
A REAL ARISTOCRAT
On every hand you saw the evidences of the value of Belgium's industrial efficiency in the promptness with which all the needed material for war was supplied from its workshops.
With Baroness van der Elst, wife of the Sub-Secretary of Foreign Affairs, I went to see a large men's furnishing-store which had been turned into a hospital. The proprietor had given it freely to the cause, which used all except one small section where the tailors were busy making uniforms. The fitting-rooms became small wards; the main floors were screened off into other wards by curtains of white cotton. The wife of a doctor who had just returned from a medical congress in the United States was chief nurse, and under her were volunteers, all in tidy, new uniforms, exhibiting a tenderness of patriotic attention to the fellows on the cots which ordinary cases in civil life never receive. Operating-tables were in place where the leading line of haberdashery had been displayed; in the cellar, where stock had been stored, an X-ray apparatus with full equipment had been installed.
According to my own ideas, Baroness van der Elst, in her nurse's uniform—her husband had already gone on to Antwerp with the government, while she remained on duty to face the Germans—came as near being a real aristocrat as any woman I have ever met.
There are side-lights of another kind on the American girls who have married into the old aristocracy? Being expatriated, they had paid little attention to the Americans in Belgium until this crisis, when they hastened to the American Legation demanding protection and got the answer that their nationality was now their husband's. They were Belgian subjects.
But not all were like that. I met one who was making bandages in the furnishing-store and was very proud of being a Belgian and an American, too.
All the errands of the town were done by Boy Scoots. That is French for Boy Scouts. What efficient youngsters they were, on the run with a Foreign Office or an army paper in the pride of service!
THE BELGIAN "DOGS OF WAR"
And the Belgian "Dogs of War." If the dogs work in time of peace, why shouldn't they help in the desperate effort of little Belgium against great Germany? Therefore, the dogs draw a battery of mitrailleuses—rapid-fire, rifle-bullet guns—a battery unique in all the armies of the world. Now they lay resting, the same big, brindle, sturdy fellows who draw the vegetable carts, tongues out as they panted, ready if master said the word to give a tail wag and then go to it, pulling their best. I recalled how my old dog-musher in Alaska had said:
"Horses? Hell! Give me dogs to drive when you know 'em. They're the friends of man."
You have heard how, in the old days in Russia, food was thrown from sledges to the wolves to stay their advance. Belgium was the food which the Allies' had to throw.
SENTIMENT IN RED TROUSERS
I was at Boulogne as the last of the British, army moved away and disappeared behind the veil, to link its fate with that of the French. Then I saw the last of the French garrison march away, leaving "behind none but women, children, old men, boys, the stupid, the weaklings, and the undersized. Napoleon took the young life of France in instalments. Democracy sends it against the enemy in a wave.
With the departure of the French garrison, Boulogne became an undefended city, open to any regiment of German cavalry that might get past the French army. This was wisdom, as it was at Brussels. The war must be waged by armies and not by civilian populations. When your army is beaten, submit and pray that it will yet regain the lost ground.
I had a devout wish that as each French soldier went to the train he might step up to a dotting counter and get a suit of khaki. It is four years since French music-halls and satirists made sport of the proposed new French uniform of a neutral tint. There sentiment played into the hands of the Germans, all of whom received at their mobilization stations a pea-green uniform which, in European fields, is less discernible than khaki. The Germans were slow, but at last they did condescend to take a leaf out of the books of the regular armies of England and America; while the French insisted on fighting against long-range bullets in the red trousers and red caps and blue coats which their grandfathers wore against rifle bullets that carried only a sixth of the distance of bullets to-day. What their grandfathers wore was good enough for them.
"We can not see the Germans!" the French soldiers complain.
When a bunch of Germans start down one end of a village street and a bunch of French down another, the Germans are bound to have the first glimpse of the enemy and to be the first to fire a fusillade. So it is where skirmish lines feel each other out; so it is when the main attack moves; so it is for the bullet machine rapid-firers looking for targets; so it is for the aeroplane seeking out the positions of marching columns and of masses of reserves as a target for field gunfire. Red can be seen the farthest of all colors. Soldiers are ever urged to fire low, for their natural tendency is' to shoot high. Red trousers are a low target.
"Shoot at the red!" the German officers tell their men.
A little touch of sentiment has cost the French thousands of lives against an enemy who is cruelly practical and businesslike.
THE WONDERFUL MUDDLERS
The French with their red trousers are not the only victims of sentiment in fighting the German machine. If England had had a form of conscription that would have enabled her to put five hundred thousand soldiers across the Channel, the French would not now be fighting the Germans inside of French territory. Never has that stretch of salt water called the Channel seemed so precious to Britain as now.
The sense of the sea barrier's security has become second nature to Englishmen; a guarantee that they would have time to prepare for any crisis. It is this that keeps the latest cricket scores in the same column of "stop press" news with word of heavy casualties to General Sir John French's army.
What if—what if—the fear looms larger in the background of the British mind. The suspense grows heavier. You begin to see the shadow of it in the faces of the people who boast that they somehow "muddle along," and will "see a thing through."
And yet your English muddler is a wonderful being in the average. On the pier at Boulogne, where for twelve hours a mass of humanity had waited for the Folkestone steamer, I fell in with a number of them, returning wounded to England, especially a British lieutenant, Irish, of the Lancers, assisting a Belgian woman, infant in arms, to press forward through the gangway. He had a piece of shrapnel in his leg.
"We had a good go at them, hell for "leather—lance to lance," he said, "till I got hit. I don't know what happened, then, except I had my wound dressed and got away. If I were taken prisoner I know I'd not have another chance at them. No, thank you"—when one offered an arm to help him across the deck. "If I appear dependent, they'll be keeping me in hospital for a long time."
He regarded a second chance to face fire as he would a second at an opponent at cricket or golf.
The wounded privates also wanted another "go."
"It's only ten days ago since I saw your regiment in England," said an Englishman to a group of British wounded. "Quick work!"
"My word, yus!" said a Cockney.
From none could you get any connected account of action; none knew anything of the battle itself; he knew only of the part that his little group of atoms had played in the great mass. Their tired brains dwelt on small personal details which rose bright to them out of the murk of battle. One with a bullet in his arm had crawled a mile across a field under fire all the while. He was mud-caked, a grotesque parody on the Tommy who had marched off to the front from the British base at Boulogne; but, as Lord Kitchener says, he had tasted "the salt of life." No glamour of war about him or the others. They had marched and counter-marched without sleep; they had known shrapnel fire all night and all day; they had had to fall back step by step, holding off German charges as they went—the most difficult and trying work that a soldier can do.
"And the Frenchies had dug trenches all ready for us at Mons," said one; and, being under cover, he thought the German artillery fire was good.
"It was that German aeroplane that gave us away," said another. "We were massed in a valley ready to go at them when that plane came shooting by. We all fired—and it was gone and we hadn't hit it! It told the German guns where we were and then the shrapnel came in showers." There was but one dominating impression—the Germans kept coming on, wave after wave.
"You saw them close, then?" I asked a Highlander.
"So close, mon," he said, "'twas like hitting a cottage door from across the road. There wasn't many of us, but we put a few holes in the door before we had to go."
"We dismounted to fire and went back to our horses," said a cavalryman, "covering our part of the retreat. It was stiff work. When we came into the edge of the woods there were the Frenchies, thousands of them, ready to take the reception out of our hands."
THE ENGLISH VOLUNTEER
They made it all matter-of-fact, for they were regulars; the men molded of clay who fight England's battles over the sea and had been in the opening of the greatest battle in the world's history. Their numbers were few beside the French or the Germans, but they seem to have been worthy of their traditions.
The difference between them and the Continental soldiers is that they enlisted to fight for the Queen's shilling, while on the Continent every able-bodied man serves his term with the colors. Where in France you saw women and boys packing the wheat sheaves to the barn in the absence of their menfolk, from the train window from Folkestone to London you noted an able-bodied man trimming a hedge. Trains were running on regular schedules; all England was running on its regular schedule. The only visible signs of war were the guards at the railroad bridges. Across from me sat two well-built young Englishmen of the upper class. They were saying how the French surely had the Germans now. The taxicab driver at the station was young; the streets were sprinkled with young men. On the taxicab wind-shield was a sheet with big red letters, "Enlist for the war. Discharged when over." Posters and newspapers were crying to patriotism to answer the call of "God and country." All the poets and novelists were writing letters to the press in an urgent strain of high-pitched, literary fervor.
"We believe that a man fights best when he offers himself as a volunteer," the English say, and that is our idea inherited from England. Conscription is against the very principle of English individualism.
Every non-soldier Briton has two minds: One is attending to the thing in hand, whether it be his business to sew on buttons or to run a bank. He must sew on the buttons well or he may lose his place. He must watch his bank well under the greatest financial strain in history. The other mind is with Sir John Jellicoe's fleet in the North Sea and with the Allied troops. It is asking what if—what if England should lose command of the sea? What if the German army should reach Paris again? What if—! Telepathy exchanges the thought between all men and women. They do not say it aloud.
They go on thinking to themselves, "We muddle along," and saying so rather proudly in expression of the calm way they have of doing things. An individual may have dignity often; a nation only on great occasions. England as a nation has dignity now, in this terrible ordeal of spirit.
"We muddle along"—but all the throbbing traffic keeps to the left, and out of the chaos of "luggage" dumped on the platform from the "goods van" of the train the porters bring your trunk and put it on top of the venerable four-wheeler, giving you the same old "Thank you!" for a tip. "We muddle along"—and fifteen hundred thousand dollars' worth of luxurious fittings are torn out of the great new liner Aquttania, and out she goes as a collier to the North Sea. "We muddle along"—and General So-and-So, K. C. B., V. C., who is too old to go to the war, takes his afternoon constitutional to the club as usual and carefully and leisurely adjusts his glasses before he reads the latest war extra. Lady So-and-So, who has to remain in town, takes her drive, smiles to all her friends and cuts all her enemies, quite as if the Kaiser were on a peaceful holiday.
Costermonger and retired general, maid and lady, all are thinking what if—! And the costermonger begins, "Gor blimey!" and the old general "By Jove!" and the lady "My dear," and all together they say: "We'll see the thing through!"
After all, a nation is only an assemblage of units; and every unit in England—Irish, Welsh, Scotch, English—feels as you may have felt if ever one near and dear to you were in danger and all you possessed were at stake. In that event, didn't you make an exalted, earnest point of appearing perfectly natural; of saying "Good morning" at the breakfast-table in the usual tone and passing the time of day with a neighbor, and of keeping at your work with particular concentration in order to drive that haunting "What if" out of mind, and to give courage and fortitude to those around you?
THE SPIRIT OF ENGLAND
That middle-aged English woman talking to another in the hotel reception-room on all kinds of petty topics, when any hour a war edition may tell her that her son has died on the field of honor, emphasizes it pretty well; but not so poignantly as that young bride, a typical English country girl, come up to London with her young husband of the Territorials—the equivalent of our National Guard—who may get his orders any minute. She tries to appear there in the dining-room as if they had been married for some time and to enjoy the favorite dishes he has ordered, though every mouthful sticks in her throat. But she is not going to break down when he leaves. No. She might if he were to be away on a business trip in comfortable hotels in the States for six months, but not when he is going out to face bullets in a supreme struggle.
She seems too frail to be Spartan. She is simply a shy country girl, prizing a gold band on her finger, who expresses the spirit of England. And she speaks the language in which Magna Charta and the Constitution of the United States are written.
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013.
If you appreciate the articles, read the e-novel informed by them —
THE HEADLONG FURY
A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald