And at the foundation of it all—the human and personal effort!—the lives given for England, the blood so generously shed for her, the homes that have sacrificed their all, our “golden lads” from all quarters and classes, whose young bodies lie mingled with an alien dust that “is for ever England,” since they sleep there and hallow it; our mothers who mourn the death or the wreck of the splendid sons they reared; our widowed wives and fatherless children. And this, in a quarrel which only very slowly our people have come to feel as in very deed their own. At first we thought most often and most vividly of Belgium, of the broken treaty, and of France, so wantonly attacked, whose people no English man or woman could ever have looked in the face again, had we forsaken her. Then came the hammer blows that forged our will—Louvain, Aerschot, Rheims, the air-raids on our defenceless towns, the senseless murder of our women and children, the Bryce report, the Lusitania, the execution of Edith Cavell—the whole stupefying revelation of the German hatred and greed towards this country, and of the qualities latent in the German character. Now we know—that it is they, or we—since they willed it so. And this old, illogical, unready country is only just arriving at its full strength, only just fully conscious of the sternness of its own resolve, only just putting out its full powers, as the German power is weakening, and the omens are changing—both in East and West.
No!—the effort of England during the past eighteen months in spite of all temporary ebbs and difficulties, in spite of that chorus of self-blame in which the English nation delights, has been one of the great things in the history of our country. We have “improvised the impossible” in every direction—but one.
In one point, indeed, there has been no improvisation. Nothing was trusted to chance. What is it that alone has secured us the time to make the effort we have made?
It is now about a month ago that, by permission of the Admiralty, I found myself driving towards a certain pier in a harbour opening on the North Sea. The Commodore of a Cruiser Squadron was to send his boat for me, and I was to lunch with him on board his Flag-ship. I duly passed the distrustful sentry on the road leading to the pier, arrived at the pier-head and descended from the motor which had brought me. The morning was mistily sunny, and the pier strangely deserted. Where was the boat? Where was my friend who had hoped to come for me himself? No signs of either. The few old sailors employed about the pier looked at me in astonishment, and shook their heads when I inquired. Commodore ——’s boat was not there; no boat had been in that morning from the ships. I took the Commodore’s letter from my hand-bag, to assure myself I had not been dreaming, and reread it in perplexity. No dates could be clearer—no directions more