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The_Bravest_of_the_Brave

THE SATURDAY EVENING POST 7 She belongs, as immortelles belong, above the graves of the brave; as hope transfigures despair. Such dignity and such repose have never been surpassed by the women of any nation invaded by a hostile army. I do not know where she keeps her sorrow, but she does not keep her tenderness at all. She spends it prodigally everywhere. She is the mother of all the men in the trenches, the sister of every woman, however low, in the streets; and there is no limit to her courtesy and kindness to the stranger within her gates. Even the wounded German soldier, who is brought in occasionally, shares her mercies equally with the Frenchman in the next cot. There is a certain hospital near Paris where every bed in the big ward has a locker in which the patient may keep his few possessions; along with the bullet or fragment of shell that has been taken from his wound. And it is the fancy of these men to stick the flag of the nation to which they belong above their lockers; so that ward is very gay with French and British colors. Recently a desperately wounded German soldier, in this hospital, lay in the corner bed at the end of a long row. Naturally he had no flag above his locker—not until the pain left him and he was able to perceive his inglorious condition. He mended that, no one knows how, with both legs broken. But one day, when mademoiselle the nurse came to take his temperature, she was amazed to see an English flag sticking out of his locker. She was scandalized. "Where did you get it?" she cried, snatching the sacred emblem. The German only grinned up at her, wan and invincible. He had stolen it sometime during the night from the sleeping Englishman lying next to him. The following morning he had it again. It is very good for him—stealing that flag. We thought he would surely die, so dreadfully wounded was he; but he has kept himself alive just to do that," mademoiselle explained, laughing. There was no spite against this fallen foe; only a whimsical French sense of humor at the situation, a woman's kindness, so delicate and so intelligent. The Lady at the Altar THEY are great, these little French ladies; they have added the right cubit to their stature. It is only when these Germans steal their jam that their housewifely rage gets the better of their dignity—a quaint touch of the feminine, which no one wishes them to forego. It is not what they do. The English, and no doubt the German, women far surpass them in the wisdom of service and charity. The French lack the faculty of organization. They think and live as individuals. This accounts for their never-ending system of red tape. It is the effort they make to overcome a sort of dropped stitch in their nature. The women's charities show this even more. These are sporadic, individual, often futile. Many of their ouvroirs are already discontinued for one reason or another. So, I say, it is not what they do together that counts, it is what they are—each woman herself a perfect example of what a woman should be under conditions that would destroy the poise of the average woman. There are no average women now in France. They are all above themselves. When one reads of what is happening in France and sees, day by day, the bonds of poverty tightening about them—the evidences of death; the continual processions of military funerals; the messengers from the front flying into Paris with news that must bring the worst tidings to women, even when they publish victories—one is amazed at their repose. It is not stolid; it is magnificent, informed with the very chastity of courage. These people believe in the woman part of their religion and in the woman part of their war spirit. They pray now especially to the Virgin, not so much to the Prince of Peace. Day by day they go in great numbers to the churches and cathedrals. They buy candles, which they light before some figure of this Mary Mother, with countenance so aloof, with eyes so far removed from them, as though forever she stared through all the centuries of time, beyond war and death into eternity. One day I saw a woman enter St.- Germain l'Auxerrois and walk hurriedly, as though she had a certain thing to do that admitted -of no doubt in her mind. She was slender and young, with the white face and coal-black eyes of these new Frenchwomen. She looked neither to the COPYRIGHT, IN II NNAlluhAl NI WS SERVICE, MEW YORK LI I As the German Troops Pass Through the Belgian Towns They Put Inscrip• tions on the Doors. This Picture Shows an Inscription, Which Read "Good People—Let Them A lone," Outside a Peasant's Cottage right nor left. I doubt whether she was conscious of the presence of another person besides herself. For a moment the brown shadows closed about her. The light from the stained-glass windows hung like a lavender mist above her head. Then a tiny flame glowed on the altar—one candle in that wide, brown gloom; but it revealed the white figure of the Virgin. The woman laid her hand on the foot of this figure. I felt a strange awe of her—not of the marble image. It was as though I beheld a woman disappear out of time and sense into the mystery of the unknown. She was no longer there, a creature of flesh and blood. She was a part of that tiny flame; merely a prayer laying hold of the feet of the infinite with firmness and faith. The minutes passed. They lengthened into a quarter of an hour, then into half an hour. Still she did not move. She was not less rigid than the white marble figure standing above her, with lifted eyes that did not regard her. The taper burned low, she was accompanying that symbol of prayer with strange intensity. I thought of Jacob and his wrestling angel: "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." So she clung to the feet of that cold image. It was terrible and it was beautiful. This is faith, an instinct that draws the helpless toward the shelter of the Almighty when they have no other protection. As I went out of the church, leaving her still standing there, I wondered what God would do about that woman enmeshed in the symbolism of her creed but with her faith passing through it as the light of her candle parted the dark shadows of that altar. For faith places God under obligations. I wondered what He would do about all these women who have now no other refuge. Even if victories beyond hope crown the arms of France, there will still remain the dead, their irretrievable losses of love and life. Now, in every crisis of French history some woman, a Joan of Arc or a Charlotte Corday—Mademoiselle Dodu I.OPYRIGHT, INTERNATI s NAL NEWS SERVICE, MEW YORK CITY Belgian Peasant Woman an Object of Charity After Her Home Had Been Burned by the Invading Germans. She is Shown Here Sitting in Front of A11 That Remains of Her Little Home, With Her Fatherless Children at Her Side. Her Husband Was Slain in Battle in 1870—has arisen to save France or her native town or city. But clearly one must not look in the churches before altars for the woman of France in this hour. Such a woman is not a prayer; she must be the accomplishment of prayer. She must rise, like a miracle, at the crucial moment out of the very clouds of war. She must have no arms, no defense, save the valor of her own spirit. And, with that, she must accomplish something so startling and splendid that there can be no doubt about her share in the glory of France. The merely heroic is not enough. If it were, many volumes could be filled with the deeds of these women, some of whom have stood beside surgeons performing operations, with shells bursting near enough to break the basins round the operating table. They have helped to carry wounded soldiers, often Germans, into cellars when the very walls above were cracking and flaming. One woman traveled on the hospital trains for a month, ministering to the wounded. At the beginning of the war the Association des Dames Frangaises had a hospital fitted up on the frontier, with one hundred beds. After a certain battle they received a thousand wounded there. And, while the town was being bombarded, they bandaged the less grievously wounded and got them off on trains. They assisted in operations when the danger was so imminent that the patient must be moved to another part of the building before an operation could be finished. There is not a convent in any town through which the enemy has passed where some little dim nun has not sheltered women and children, often at the risk of her life. There are women who have walked all the way from the frontier, between the opposed firing lines and have brought their children through to Paris in safety. In Quest of Madame Macheres ALL this is in the terrific order of things here. History will never record it; but it will become part of the character of these women, what they have endured and what they have survived, almost without emotion—as though they had only performed a duty in which one woman has not surpassed another, each merely fulfilling the opportunity that came to her. I was in Madame Ernest Carnot's office at the headquarters of the Dames Frangaises in Paris one day, still vaguely in search of the Woman. Three very fierce old French gentlemen were seated behind desks, busily engaged in some committee work. Madame Carnot, who is president of the Association des Dames Frangaises, was entertaining me with the story of a little Belgian scout who had been provided with twenty francs and sent to the front on a dangerous mission. He had just returned after a four days' journey—with the twenty francs still in his pocket! Presently somebody mentioned the name Macherez. I shall never be sure who called it, for the scene which followed was so astounding that my wits were scattered. The three old Frenchmen leaped from their chairs, gesticulating, speaking rapidly, fiercely, thrusting their faces forward— literally volcanic with emotion. They closed with one another. I thought I was about to witness a free fight. They parted, glaring at each other. They rushed on us, all talking at once. Madame Carnot smiled indulgently at them. I could hear the name Macherez and the word decoration; but I could make no sense out of this commotion. Each of them wore a spot of red on the lapel of his coat no larger than a drop of blood. Finally, when they subsided, chiefly from exhaustion I believe, Madame turned to me and explained that they were discussing ways and means of obtaining the decoration of the Legion of Honor for Madame Macherez. "But why? Who is this Madame Macherez?" I asked. "Have you not heard of her?" I explained; I excused myself. I had not been long in France. I hoped I might be pardoned for my ignorance. The story which followed convinced me that I was at last on the trail of the Woman. I was resolved to hear it from her own lips. This was the beginning of my search for Madame Macherez, an old lady of sixty-four who lived near Soissons and who had saved the town from the Germans in a manner that left no doubt about her deserving the decoration of the Legion of Honor and at least a page in the history of this war.


The_Bravest_of_the_Brave
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