About twenty-one years old this boy, round-faced and blue-eyed, who saw in Queen Louisa the most beautiful heroine of all history. The hole in his blouse which the bullet had made was nicely sewed up and his wound had healed. He was fighting in France when he was hit; the name of the place he did not know. Karl, his chum, had been killed. The doctor had given him the bullet, which he exhibited proudly as if it were different from other bullets, as it was to him. In a few days he must return to the front. Perhaps the war would be over soon; he hoped so.
The French were brave; but they hated the Germans and thought that they must make war on the Germans, and they were a cruel people, guilty of many atrocities. So the Fatherland had fought to conquer the enemies who planned her destruction. A peculiar, childlike naivete accompanied his intelligence, trained to run in certain grooves, which is the product of the German type of popular education; that trust in his superiors which comes from a diligent and efficient paternalism. He knew nothing of the atrocities which Germans were said to have committed in Belgium. The British and the French had set Belgium against Germany and Germany had to strike Belgium for playing false to her treaties. But he did think that the French were brave; only misled by their Government. And the Kaiser? His eyes lighted in a way that suggested that the Kaiser was almost a god to him. He had heard of the things that the British said against the Kaiser and they made him want to fight for his Kaiser. He was only one German—but the one was millions.
In actual learning which comes from schoolbooks, I think that he was better informed than the average Frenchman of his class; but I should say that he had thought less; that his mind was more of a hot-house product of a skilful nurseryman’s hand, who knew the value of training and feeding and pruning the plant if you were to make it yield well. A kindly, willing, likable boy, peculiarly simple and unspoiled, it seemed a pity that all his life he should have to bear the brand of the Lusitania on his brow; that event which history cannot yet put in its true perspective. Other races will think of the Lusitania when they meet a German long after the Belgian atrocities are forgotten. It will endure to plague a people like the exile of the Acadians, the guillotining of innocents in the French Revolution, and the burning of the Salem witches. But he had nothing to do with it. A German admiral gave an order as a matter of policy to make an impression that his submarine campaign was succeeding and to interfere with the transport of munitions, and the Kaiser told this boy that it was right. One liked the boy, his loyalty and his courage; liked him as a human being. But one wished that he might think more. Perhaps he will one of these days, if he survives the war.