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8 THE SATURDAY EVENING POST March 6, 1915 back, and people live among Middle-Age crudities as though they had never seen anything better or anything different. Where there has been fighting to any considerable extent the abnormality of conditions is enormously accentuated; and yet all hands endure that too. I have seen Belgium and Northern France, and I imagine from what I have been told that Eastern Prussia must be much like most of Belgium and part of France. A fair and pleasant town becomes a jungle of havoc and ruination. Fecund fields are wasted, and the harvests of those fields are squandered under hoofs and feet and cannon wheels. Hundreds of men—perhaps thousands of men—cease within the space of a few hours to be whole men and are turned into lumps of messed and bloodied carrion fit only to be shoveled into trenches and hidden under the merciful clods. All that makes for comfort and happiness and prosperity, and the customary intercourse between people, disappears within an hour—swallowed up in the belly of war. With those who survive it does not seem, from outward appearances, to very much matter. Those who yesterday had homes den now in noisome ruins. Those who were comfortably off in worldly goods beg for food and are glad to get scraps to eat. Those who are wounded endure their hurts in silence, for the most part. Those who are dead go underground, and that is the end of them. In France I have seen gnarled old peasant women grubbing the mildewing remnants of their crops out of the ground literally within the fighting zone, with shells bursting over them and near them. Unless a shell burst very near, however, they scarcely raised their heads to look. It was as though they had always gathered their beets and turnips on the fringe of an artillery duel; a dogged fatalism had become their creed. In Belgium I have seen ragged children, who doubtless were also hungry, playing at housekeeping among the racked and toppled walls of their own ruined homes. In Germany I have seen streams of wounded men going through the streets of a town in automobiles and trucks and wagons; and the casual pedestrian often did not turn to look at the lamentable caravan as it passed him. A month before the sight would have stunned him by its pitiable horror and its unutterable criminal uselessness. Now he accepted it as a matter of course. Pretty Dreams and Hideous Realities THE new soldier who went into this war must have undergone a profound disillusionment if he lived long enough after he reached the front to undergo anything but wounding or death. Doubtless he pictured war as something glorious and immensely uplif ting—a splendid jumble of crash and clamor, winning charges and splendid victories— and then, at the last, a triumphal return with bands playing and flags floating. What he found was physical filth and physical discomfort; a pigsty to live in and pig's food to live on—the customary cooked ration is apt to look and smell exceedingly like swill; a dreary, weary, unending round of day labor to be pursued without any glamour or any cheer to it; tremendous exertion—and tremendous fatigue for a reward; small chance for individual achievement, and a constantly enlarging chance of being mangled or destroyed outright by an enemy whom he never saw and who never saw him. Yet I found the soldier enduring what befell him with the same phlegm and stolid fortitude that marked the civilian. His pretty dream had died a-borning; but he accepted the hideous reality without complaint and seemingly without any prolonged sense of surprise. This was true of the officers and in an even greater degree of the men in the ranks. Personally I noticed that nothing about war—not a single detail or incident of it—corresponded with my own conceptions of the institution in operation. Men on the march did not march as I had expected they would march. At the close of a hard day's march I have marked how the ranks lost all formation and regularity. The laboring men no longer stepped in unison—but they panted in unison. The sound of their labored gasps for breath caught a sort of rhythmic pulsing; the drumbeat of their straining lungs and the whistle of their choking throats came in a weird chorus. Also, I noted how slobber ran down from their opened mouths and dappled their breasts like lather on the breastyokes of overdone horses. And, fifty yards away, sometimes you could smell the exhalations that arose from the sweated, fetid, unwashed mass. Troops going into battle did not in the least look as I, in my ignorance, had thought they should look. I had imagined they would wear an exalted mien, with knitted brows and tight-gripped hands and tense muscles bespeaking resolution and a high and a noble purpose. As a matter of fact they seemed slightly nervous and very tired—and that was all. Otherwise they were not to be distinguished from troops engaged in any less hazardous employment. The camps of reality were not the camps of my fancy. Wounded men did not deport themselves as wounded men always do on the stage and as they nearly always do in fiction; and dead men on the field were not heroic sights but unpleasant and unwholesome blemishes of the landscape. After my first few experiences of seeing dead men there was nothing particularly horrifying about the spectacle. It was disgusting but it was not terrible. For two reasons I believe war on a wholesale scale will go out of fashion—not immediately, but eventually. This war will probably spawn a brood of wars. And, so long as men have passions and tempers and greeds, no doubt there will be wars waged on a small jobbing basis, for at bottom all wars are trade wars; but I am quite sure universal wars, so called, and world wars, so called, will cease to be popular. In the first place war conducted elaborately does not yield large dividends in these times. Once it did, but not now. Merely altering national boundaries does not alter national instincts; too many people read newspapers and do their own thinking nowadays. And war has become very expensive. Putting aside the fact that a good part of Europe is already underground, and an even greater part is on crutches, the winner of this war will be bankrupt for a long while to come; and probably the loser will be teetotally ruined. So, since war does not pay its own way now, the kings and the chancellors, and behind them the great commercial and business interests that breed war fevers and bring on wars, will, I think, quit looking with such favor on the industry. There is another and a more cogent reason however. War is not a romantic calling under modern conditions. It has lost its glamour and its picturesqueness; and, lacking these, in time it will no longer appeal to the imagination of the man in the street—who does the fighting. That is plain human nature, I think; and human nature may always be depended on to come to the surface whenever the habits of centuries and the customs of environment begin to crumble and cave. In this war, news sources have all been dried up at their fountainheads. People within the zone of hostilities and in districts occupied by the enemy's forces have largely gone back to the same word-of-mouth way of spreading information their greatgreat grandparents used. They have had to; there is a reason for this, or, rather, a number of reasons. The Martyr Maid of Dolhaim WITH their newspapers either suppressed outright or in hostile hands; with the telegraph in the hands of the military censor or possibly chopped down; with the telephone interdicted; with ordinary avenues of travel blocked off altogether; with residents restricted in their movements to certain prescribed areas; with mail service suspended; with carrier pigeons even confiscated out of the possession of their rightful owners—it is easy to understand that stirring and historic events occurring but a few miles away should not be known generally for weeks and months. It is equally easy to understand how false and spectacular rumors, if only they be false enough and spectacular enough to roll of their own initiative, fly fast and fly wide and are accepted as truths wherever they alight. On this premise, to a considerable degree, the number of perfectly baseless tales of atrocities, which had so great a vogue in Northern and Northwestern Europe in the earliest stages of the war, may be accounted for—not that some atrocities did not occur. Given so much smoke, inevitably there must have been a little fire; so that any fabrication sufficiently lurid and sufficiently blood-curdling was guaranteed a tremendous circulation. Inversely, the real things have been smothered and buried; the screen of secrecy with which most of the warring nations have mantled their operations—or, at any rate, the names and performances of individuals—is responsible for this. Years after peace comes, historians will still be digging out of official reports the tallies of personal acts of heroism and gallantry—all the accumulated tragedy and pathos of this mightiest and most moving of world events. The pity of it is that all this wealth of material will be bloodless and fleshless then; that there will be only bare bones of fact, wrapped in the dry skins of official language. In my own experience I know how laggard and slow and incomplete is the movement of worthwhile tidings. I had been in the German border city of Aix-la-Chapelle for upward of a fortnight, as I now recall, before I heard, through roundabout and devious backways, of that young girl whom I have mentally christened the Martyr Maid of Dolhaim. Yet, measured by miles, Dolhaim is distant from Aix-la-Chapelle but a very little way, and the tale itself was six weeks old before I heard of that girl's splendid end. In other times than these the world would have rung with the tale of her death; but then, in other times than these she would not have died. War, which killed her, likewise stifled the story of her taking-off. What should (Continued on Page 40) The Secret Agent Has as Many Willing Volunteers as He Feels Like Enrolling


Wars_Back_Fire
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