Page 1

A_Communique

THE SATURDAY EVENING POST January 23, 19,5 C0 PE NE }L--')83y CoTa°0 Eci2TE3b)0 Zoo= Me Allilfiee og Allilfiea-)7 ciamdee YY1070. BY BflOWN IlliOTMENS, NEW YO... BY SHOWN BROTHERS, NEW YO. CITY Seroian Women Being Taught How to Shoot Belgian Women Refugees at Ostend, Homeless and Penniless ISPENT my last day in France in a second-class railway carriage. This is the one place I have found in this country where French reserve changes into the most guileless confidence, where the news is not censored, and where the military authorities do not control the situation— unless, indeed, they stop the train, call the passengers out and fill it with troops! We read in all the papers of the success of the Allied Armies in Northern France, but I saw a long line of soldiers digging trenches and throwing up breastworks not twenty miles from Paris. In time of war it is best to be prepared for the worst even if it does not happen. These fortifications will come in handy for Gallieni's army if the Germans do break through and march again on Paris. No one knows what is really happening. When the daily communiques proclaimed that the British forces were advancing we heard privately that they were falling back at the rate of two kilometers every day. The snow was falling when we reached B . A little old nun with a face like a red and shriveled winter apple trotted up and down outside selling bread to the passengers. The door of my compartment was flung open. An old man and two women climbed in. The man settled himself in one corner, looked up cheerfully and remarked: "But there's one good thing about this war—it gives old men a chance to work in the place of the young ones who have joined the army." No one noticed him. He pulled his cap over his eyes, wrapped his hands in his smock and fell asleep, snoring rhythmically, like a barrel organ grunting out a tune. The Suspense of the Waiting Mothers ISHALL never forget the face of one of the women. I I have seen the same anguished expression upon that of a woman suffering intense physical pain, but never upon any man's. She sat stiffly erect as if she must go somewhere presently, as if to remain still was intolerable. Her eyes were deeply sunken, restless, like the black wings of a bird beating against the bars in the effort to escape. She began talking at once to the other woman about her son: "He joined his regiment early in August, went out of my house that day and I have never seen or heard from him since. But it is terrible!" No reply. "Have you a son in the army?" she persists. "Yes," answered the other; "but he has been taken prisoner, thank God! I hear from him regularly." "And you can send him money, little gifts?" " Yes. It costs two francs to send him five, but I do not mind that." "We do not mind the cost of anything now. But my son—he was like a girl, timid. He was not a soldier. He had to go. And I do not know if he is living or dead." The old man heard her in his sleep, that wailing voice of a woman in pain. He snorted, stirred, opened his eyes and looked at her from under his cap. "But, madame, why don't you write to the colonel of his regiment for information?" he exclaimed. " I have, yes; every day I write to somebody. But no one answers. I go to the War Office—they do not know there either. They send me somewhere else, always somewhere else!" she moaned. "There are the lists of the dead and wounded published regularly," he suggested. "But yes; I have all of them from the beginning. His name is never there. It is as if he vanished from sight when he went out of the door of my house!. And he was not a soldier, but timid like a girl." The same thought, I believe, was in the mind of each of us who listened. This boy who was like a girl—what happened to such lads? Perhaps he had deserted, or been cleaned from his regiment by a drastic military system which does not tolerate the frailty of girlishness in a soldier. So his name never appeared among the honorable dead, nor the missing, nor the wounded. The authorities were mercifully silent concerning his fate to this distracted mother. Yet any certainty would have been better than such suspense. One could have wished to put her out of pain at whatever cost. At the next station there was a great crowd. Three young soldiers and a Belgian climbed in. The Belgian had walked eighty miles with all his possessions tied up in a bedquilt. The soldiers had been working in a factory at Lille when that town was bombarded. The factory was destroyed and they joined the army. The oldest could not have been seventeen and the youngest was a boy of fifteen, very small, very pale, caked from head to foot with mud, grimed with powder as if he had that moment come from the trenches. But I have never seen such vitality. His face glowed like a smoked lantern. He caught everybody's eye and laughed in reply. Also he was hungry like a child in the middle of the afternoon. He would refresh himself. Did we mind? We did not. He pulled a loaf of bread from his knapsack, which appeared to have gone through the bombardment with him—it was polished sleek and black at the ends. He held the loaf against his breast and cut off a piece the thickness of his boot and about the same size. The woman who could not find her son tossed him an apple. The other woman remembered that she had some cheese—of all things! in her pocket, which she passed over to him. The old man pulled out a bottle with some dregs of wine in the bottom, which he contributed. Never have I seen such an appetite! This was merely the first course. Before he finished he had eaten the lunch of everybody in the compartment. And the more he ate the more his spirits rose. You might have thought, to hear him, that he had been a child playing in the trenches but for the fact that he carried a half-healed wound on his temple of which he was exceedingly proud. With his mouth crammed full of bread and sausage he showed me how an Indian regiment took the Germans' trenches at a certain place. He leaped up, stiffened his knees like lower elbows, brandished his jackknife and charged up and down that crowded compartment, yelling and making the most horrible faces. "But yes; that's the way they fight, those Indians. The Germans are afraid of the very sight of them. I am myself !" he laughed, dropping back into his seat. "Is your mother living?" asked the woman who had lost her son. "No, madame," he answered gravely. "I am glad," she sighed. "But why, madame?" "Yes, if she were alive she would be thinking of you to-night, wondering if you had been killed, if you were lying wounded in this snow, always thinking, thinking of you. "All the mothers in France are like that now. They cannot sleep. In the morning they get up very early, go to mass and pray for their sons. They burn candles before the Virgin. But they do not know if those candles are for the living or the dead!" The train drew into one of the junctions between Paris and Boulogne. They all got out. A French captain and a Belgian private took their places. It was as if the curtain had fallen for a moment and then risen again upon another scene in the same tragedy, which has moved with such swiftness since the first of August in France. The Belgian had been wounded in the hand, which he still carried bandaged. He would never use it again. The fingers were paralyzed. Queen Elisabeth at the Front THE captain brushed the snow from his cloak, took out his supper—two loaves of bread and a bottle of wine— and spread it upon the seat beside him. The soldier reached back into the tail of his long coat and drew forth a very small apple which he began to munch. Seeing that apple, the captain offered him one loaf of his bread. They divided the wine equally between them. By way of reciprocity the soldier gave the officer the bullet with which he had been wounded. The Socialists have lost many tail feathers during this war. First, they funked their principles in Germany and obeyed the call to arms. Next, the German Socialists in London who insisted upon kissing their English brethren at a great meeting in Trafalgar Square are now imprisoned in the detention camp for aliens, where there is nothing but the dreariest kind of Socialism. Last, and most important, the officers of the French Army have accomplished the noblest ideal of human brotherhood where it never has been done before—in the trenches. As a rule no man preserves his caste with more insolence than the ranking military man. But these officers, from the generals down, have literally shared every danger, every hardship and every comfort with the privates. The Belgian soldier had much to say of the same spirit in King Albert, who holds the rank of a private in his own army. And at the mention of Queen Elisabeth he lifted his cap reverently and said: "She is ours and we all belong to her!" We have records of valiant queens who led their troops to battle, but I believe Elisabeth of Belgium is the first queen in history who has remained with her husband on the fighting line—not as a queen but as a nurse, who has performed, without flinching, her share of service to the


A_Communique
To see the actual publication please follow the link above