The general relations, indeed, between our soldiers and the French population could not be better. General after General, both in the bases, and at the front dwelt on this point. A distinguished General commanding one of our armies on the line, spoke to me of it with emphasis. “The testimony is universal, and it is equally creditable to both sides.” The French civilian in town and country is, no doubt, profiting by the large demand and prompt payments of the British forces. But just as in the case of the women munition workers, there is infinitely more in it than money. On the British part there is, in both officers and men, a burning sympathy for what France has suffered, whether from the outrages of a brutal enemy, or from the inevitable hardships of war. The headquarters of the General I have mentioned were not more than fifteen or twenty miles from towns where unspeakable things were done by German soldiers—officers no less than men—in the first weeks of the struggle. With such deeds the French peasantry and small townsfolk, as they still remain in Picardy and Artois, can and do contrast, day by day, the temper, the courtesy, the humanity of the British soldier. Great Britain, of course, is a friend and ally; and Germany is the enemy. But these French folk, these defenceless women and children, know instinctively that the British Army, like their own, whether in its officers, or in its rank and file, is incapable, toward any non-combatant, of what the German Army has done repeatedly, officially, and still excuses and defends.
[Illustration: One of the Wards of a Base Hospital Visited by the King.]
[Illustration: A Howitzer in the Act of Firing.]
The signs of this feeling for and sympathy with the French civils, among our soldiers, are many. Here is one story, slight but illuminating, told me by an eye-witness. She is one of a band of women under a noble chief, who, since very early in the war, have been running a canteen for soldiers, night and day, at the large railway-station of the very base I have been describing, where trains are perpetually arriving from and departing to the front. In