Surely, indeed, there is a third side to war: for what had the doll done, that used to have a green pram, to deserve to share thus in the fall and punishment of an Emperor?
As I walked through Arras from the Spanish gate, gardens flashed as I went, one by one, through the houses.
I stepped in over the window-sill of one of the houses, attracted by the gleam of a garden dimly beyond: and went through the empty house, empty of people, empty of furniture, empty of plaster, and entered the garden through an empty doorway.
When I came near it seemed less like a garden. At first it had almost seemed to beckon to passers-by in the street, so rare are gardens now in this part of France, that it seemed to have more than a garden’s share of mystery, all in the silence there at the back of the silent house; but when one entered it some of the mystery went, and seemed to hide in a further part of the garden amongst wild shrubs and innumerable weeds.
British aeroplanes frequently roared over, disturbing the congregation of Arras Cathedral a few hundred yards away, who rose cawing and wheeled over the garden; for only jackdaws come to Arras Cathedral now, besides a few pigeons.
Unkempt beside me a bamboo flourished wildly, having no need of man. On the other side of the small wild track that had been the garden path the skeletons of hothouses stood, surrounded by nettles; their pipes lay all about, shattered and riddled through.
Branches of rose break up through the myriad nettles, but only to be seized and choked by columbine. A late moth looks for flowers not quite in vain. It hovers on wing-beats that are invisibly swift by its lonely autumn flower, then darts away over the desolation which is no desolation to a moth: man has destroyed man; nature comes back; it is well: that must be the brief philosophy of myriads of tiny things whose way of life one seldom considered before; now that man’s cities are down, now that ruin and misery confront us whichever way we turn, one notices more the small things that are left.
One of the greenhouses is almost all gone, a tumbled mass that might be a piece of Babylon, if archaeologists should come to study it. But it is too sad to study, too untidy to have any interest, and, alas, too common: there are hundreds of miles of this.
The other greenhouse, a sad, ungainly skeleton, is possessed by grass and weeds. On the raised centre many flower-pots were neatly arranged once: they stand in orderly lines, but each separate one is broken: none contain flowers any more, but only grass. And the glass of the greenhouse lies there in showers, all grey. No one has tidied anything up there for years.