Through all that night after the bombardment I could hear each hour the call of the trumpet from the great overhanging tower, a double note at once thin and musical, that reported no enemy in sight in the sky and all well. From far away, at the gate in the wall, came the reply of the distant watchman’s horn softened by distance.
“All well here also,” it said.
Following the trumpets the soft-toned chimes of the church rang out a hymn that has chimed from the old tower every hour for generations, extolling and praising the Man of Peace.
The ambulances had finished their work. The dead lay with folded hands, surrounded by candles, the lights of faith. And under the fading moon the old city rested and watched.
NO MAN’S LAND
I have just had this conversation with the little French chambermaid at my hotel. “You have not gone to mass, Mademoiselle?”
“But here, so near the lines, I should think—”
“I do not go to church. There is no God.” She looked up with red-rimmed, defiant eyes. “My husband has been killed,” she said. “There is no God. If there was a God, why should my husband be killed? He had done nothing.”
This afternoon at three-thirty I am to start for the front. I am to see everything. The machine leaves the Mairie at three-thirty.
* * * * *
Do you recall the school map on which the state of Texas was always pink and Rhode Island green? And Canada a region without colour, and therefore without existence?
The map of Europe has become a battle line painted in three colours: yellow for the Belgian Army, blue for the British and red for the French. It is really a double line, for the confronting German Army is drawn in black. It is a narrow line to signify what it does—not only death and wanton destruction, but the end of the myth of civilisation; a narrow line to prove that the brotherhood of man is a dream, that modern science is but an improvement on fifth-century barbarity; that right, after all, is only might.
It took exactly twenty-four hours to strip the shirt off the diplomacy of Europe and show the coat of mail underneath.
It will take a century to hide that coat of mail. It will take a thousand years to rebuild the historic towns of Belgium. But not years, nor a reclothed diplomacy, nor the punishment of whichever traitor to the world brought this thing to pass, nor anything but God’s great eternity, will ever restore to one mother her uselessly sacrificed son; will quicken one of the figures that lie rotting along the battle line; will heal this scar that extends, yellow and blue and red and black, across the heart of Western Europe.