Who will sing the dirge of General Hamilton in the little cemetery of Lacouture last October, when the farewell salute over his grave was turned to repel a German attack, while the voice of the priest kept on, calm and clear, to the end of the service? Who will sing the destruction of the Royal Scots, two weeks later, in the battle of Ypres? Who will sing the arrival of General Moussy, and of the French corps on the last day of that first battle of Ypres, when a motley gathering of cooks and laborers with staff officers and dismounted cavalry, in shining helmets, flung themselves pellmell into a bayonet charge with no bayonets, to relieve the hard-pressed English division under General Bulfin? And did it. Who will sing the great chant in honor of the 100,000 who held Ypres against half a million, and locked the door to the Channel? Who will sing the bulldog fighting qualities of Rawlinson’s 7th division, which held the line in those October days until reinforcements came, and which, at the end of the fight, mustered 44 officers out of 400, and only 2336 men out of 23,000? Who will sing the stirring scene of the French Chasseurs, advancing with bugles and shouting the “Marseillaise,” to storm and take the col de Bonhomme in a style of warfare as old as French history? And these are but single exploits in a war now settled down to sullen, dull trench work, a war only in the early months of what looks like years of duration.
Doesn’t it all make your blood flow fast? You see it tempts me to make an oration. You must overlook my eloquence! One does—over here, in the midst of it—feel such a reverence for human nature today. The spirit of heroism and self-sacrifice lives still amongst us. A world of machinery has not yet made a race incapable of greatness. I have a feeling that from the soil to which so many thousands of men have voluntarily returned to save their country’s honor must spring up a France greater than ever. It is the old story of Atlas. Besides, “What more can a man do”—you know the rest. It is one of the things that make me sorry to feel that our own country is evidently going to avoid a movement which might have been at once healthy and uplifting. I know that you don’t like me to say that, but I’ll let it go.
June 1, 1915
Well, I have really had a very exciting time since I last wrote you. I have even had a caller. Also my neighbor at Voulangis, on the top of the hill, on the other side of the Morin, has returned from the States, to which she fled just before the Battle of the Marne. I even went to Paris to meet her. To tell you the actual truth, for a few days, I behaved exactly as if there were no war. I had to pinch myself now and then to remind myself that whatever else might be real or unreal, the war was very actual.
I must own that Paris seems to get farther and farther from it every day. From daybreak to sunset I found it hard to realize that it was the capital of an invaded country fighting for its very existence, and the invader no farther from the Boulevards than Noyon, Soissons, and Rheims—on a battle-front that has not changed more than an inch or two—and often an inch or two in the wrong direction—since last October.