THE OPEN CHURCH IN MAN'S LAND
THIS is Man's Land. During the last few days I have seen scores of thousands of men. All were soldiers, and they represented many races---British, Colonial, French, Algerian, Negro, and German. But for more than three weeks, though I have travelled many miles, I have seen no woman or child. This is no place for women and children. The work to be done is men's work. The sights to be seen and the sufferings to be endured are for men. There is no woman or child for miles around. They, thank God, are out of it. One half, and that the better half, of humanity is saved amid this wreck of the world. I have seen nothing even to suggest the presence of women, except that two nights ago a beautiful grey kitten stole into my tent at supper-time. It suggested a home somewhere near; but there was none. It came from I know not whence---a sort of angel's visit. We were both a bit lonely, I suppose, and soon became chums. When I lay down on the ground to sleep it crept into my sleeping-bag with me and stayed there till morning. Then it escaped, I know not whither. Probably some homesick fellow kidnapped it. Dogs we have in plenty. They are men's friends. But cats are women's friends, and in all this wide camp I have seen none but my little lost kitten. The tents, 'bivvies,' and wood fires all declare this to be Man's Land, as do also the petrol tins used as pans and kettles and the biscuit-tin lids used as frying-pans.
The other night I walked into a little town some two miles away. In the market-place I stood for a long time watching the traffic. It was worth watching. Multitudes of mule-or pony-drawn limbers and motor-driven ammunition wagons rushed along in what seemed the most reckless fashion. The drivers were mostly French and Algerian, though now and then an English wagon or cycle passed. The sight was thrilling, but there were no women at the windows and no excited children at the doorways. The onlookers were all soldiers, mostly French. I was still in Man's Land. Behind me stood a church centuries old. Its stones had echoed to the tramp of many armies. The soldiers of the past had perished, but it had survived. I decided to enter. It never occurred to me that it might be closed. In France a closed church is a rarity. On entering a village or town I always make for the church, and it is seldom indeed that I have been repulsed by a lock. But this church was in Man's Land, and we have been told times innumerable that churches are for women and children; that they are not for men---especially men of valour. Besides, Frenchmen are said to be atheists. Did not France, a century or two ago, produce an atheist called Voltaire? I ought to have remembered these things, and I ought to have concluded that the door would be locked. But my memory is not good, and my instincts are.
I therefore followed my instincts and tried the door.
It opened, and I found myself in a beautiful old church. The light was dim, restful and conducive to religious meditation. The thick walls kept out both the sound of the guns and the noise of the madly rushing traffic of the street. A glance round revealed beautifully stained-glass windows, pictures, and plaster statues. A fine organ stood in the back gallery. There was a splendid central altar, flanked by simpler side altars, and the massive pillars gave the sides of the church the appearance of side chapels, and as such they are often used. I quietly took a seat; I was not alone, but I was unnoticed. Here and there was a French soldier in his war-worn grey-blue uniform. How restful it was to sit in the softened light after looking on the hectic flush of the dying day! The door opened continually and other soldiers entered, but no one turned to look at them. The worshippers gave their whole attention to God. On entering, each soldier went up to the shell of holy water and, dipping his fingers in it, made the sign of the cross upon his brow and breast---reconsecrating to Christ brain and heart. Two come in together, and I saw a beautiful expression of comradeship. The one nearest the shell dipped his hand in the water, touched with his wet fingers the hand of his comrade, and together they made the sign of the cross. They were comrades in the trenches and comrades in the church. Having made the sign of the cross, each soldier entering knelt, on one knee, towards the altar, and then stepped into a pew. There he sat for a time in quiet meditation, and then knelt in prayer. His act of worship completed, he stepped back into the aisle, bowed towards the altar, crossed himself again, and left the church. Within half an hour I watched scores of soldiers enter, worship, and leave. There were no doorkeeper, no steward, no priest, no lights, and no books. The organ was silent. No one looked about, and no one uttered a word. They came to worship, and having worshipped they departed. No Quaker was ever more independent of priest or preacher. Somehow the Roman Catholic Church is a people's Church. Into the most gorgeous cathedrals women enter on their way from market. They put their shopping bag on one chair and kneel on the next. Their devotions ended, they go home and cook the midday meal. Dirty, unshaved soldiers, straight from the trenches, enter any church they see, by day or night, say their prayers, and pass on their way.
I was about to leave when some one entered with two branching candlesticks of five lights each, and placed them on the side-altar nearest the door. Though many soldiers had left, the pews in front of me were filling. The priest entered, but the congregation did not stand. He entered as unobtrusively as the soldiers, and, like them, reverently knelt to pray. Then, still kneeling, he lifted up his voice in prayer. It was a rich, full baritone voice, and, instead of intoning, he sang the prayers. I did not understand a word, nor did I need to, for I understood his spirit and could share in his devotions. At the end of each prayer the soldiers sang the response, and my heart sang with them. These soldiers---some of them young lads, others bearded men---had come from many a scattered village or town in France or her colonies. Yet without a book, and with no help but the organ, they were able to join in the responses. They knew both the music and the words, and there, in the twilight of the old church, in the very heart of a raging war, they sang like nightingales their evening prayer. After the prayers they sang a hymn. With the plaintive sweetness of a Welsh congregation they sang, and with the touching simplicity and fervour of revival services. The tears welled up in my eyes. There will surely be a revival of religion in France. There is a revival. That singing was a revival set to music. There was something in it that I have not heard, no, not in Israel; something that touched the hidden springs of life.
Deep called unto deep. The singers wore on their arms the braid that spoke of eighteen months or two years at the Front. They were not weak-kneed emotionalists, though they sang with emotion. They were men who had delivered Verdun and many a fair town of France. After the hymn there were the recitation of a creed, the elevation of the Host, more beautiful singing, and at last the Benediction. Then we passed out-they to their comrades in blue, I to my comrades in khaki, some of the dearest of whom laid down their lives but yesterday. Those French soldiers and I will never meet again here, but as surely as we are comrades in arms so are we comrades in Christ, and we shall meet above where there is but one language and one Church.
I picked my way through the traffic and mud and reached the tented fields. On my right roared the guns, while their flashes lit up my way like sheet-lightning. On my left were heaps of spent shells, and behind them twinkled innumerable little camp fires. The lads were cooking their evening meal. it is less than a .week ago, yet many of those lads are now lying still in death. They died yesterday, and many more go forth to die to-morrow. For the second time in one week they have 'to go over the top into the jaws of death, into the mouth of hell.' Many are unnerved by yesterday's horrors, but it is
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
This is Man's Land. But in Man's Land there is a church with doors always open; and often among the tents there are heard the songs of praise and prayer, for in the Valley of the Shadow of Death man cannot live by bread alone.
COURAGE AND THE CURTAIN
DURING the most deadly battle of the Somme campaign the regiments of our division had forced their way into the German trenches, and were holding on to them with desperate valour. As the hours wore on it became obvious that retirement was inevitable; but the men were out to win, and would not consider the possibility of failure so long as there was even a forlorn hope. The task of the runners between the regiments and their headquarters was one of desperate adventure. In fact, the casualties were so heavy that messages had to be duplicated and even triplicated in order to ensure one getting through. It was with the utmost excitement, an orderly-room sergeant told me, that they watched the runners crossing 'No Man's Land.' One after another as the poor fellows handed in their messages they fell down in a swoon, and had to be revived with brandy. One of them had picked up a German helmet in the captured trench and tied it to his waist. As he ran across 'No Man's Land' and pierced the curtain of fire he was observed to be in a state of collapse, but each time when about to fall he glanced down at the helmet, placed his hand upon it, and staggered on. At last he reached the head-quarters, handed in his message, and fainted away. The helmet had reminded him of his friends at home, who would be proud of it; of the trenches captured from the enemy, which must be held at all cost; and of his comrades left there in deadly peril.
One of the messages brought through the curtain was from a captain who, by his marvellous courage and coolness, saved his company from utter disaster. It ran: 'No bombs left. I have three alternatives. One, to stay and be wiped out; two, to surrender; three, to retire. One and two are distasteful to me. With your permission I will retire.' Still smoking a cigarette he handed the note to a runner, who dashed with it across 'No Man's Land' to the colonel. The captain was without bombs because it was impossible to get them through the curtain. Three regimental companies of bomb-carriers, each numbering sixteen, had been wiped out. Rifles were useless, and the weary fighters had to return through the curtain of fire they had so gallantly pierced in the morning. During the evening there was an attempt to bring in the wounded under cover of darkness, but the bombardment had been so terrible that some of the men had lost all strength of nerve'. A doctor who had been decorated with the M.C. told me that when he called on a stretcher-bearer to follow him into 'No Man's Land' the young fellow fainted away. He called on another, and he also fainted. They were of no use, and he had to call on others. The stretcher-bearers are noted for their courage, but the curtain of fire which had hung all day over 'No Man's Land' had left little strength for the dangerous duties of the evening. One who was sent out to bring in a wounded man discovered when he bent over him that it was his own brother, and had a just reward for his courage.
In the old wars soldiers grew accustomed to the whizzing of bullets or the rush of cannonballs, and the nerves of veterans were scarcely impaired. But no one can get used to the shellfire of modern war. Shells are as terrifying to veterans as to new-comers. High explosives have a power to frighten such as is possessed neither by rifles nor machine-guns. The shell rushes at you with a piercing scream, but so swiftly that it cannot be seen. It bursts with a horrible crash, scoops out a deep crater, and scatters the soil and its own fragments far and wide. A thick cloud of green, white, or black smoke rises above it, and fills the air with the smell of powder. I have seen a grave in which were buried the twenty-six victims of a single shell. Even when no one is hit the shell carries dismay to those near enough to see it burst, for no one knows where the next will fall. The average dug-out is no protection against a direct hit, and in deep dug-outs there is danger of being buried alive. After long exposure to such dangers men are apt to lose their nerve and be come wellnigh worthless. To guard against the danger of demoralization regiments are taken out of the line for regular rests in billets, and 'leave' to go home is given as often as possible. During an offensive divisions cannot be used with success for more than short periods. New divisions must relieve them so that they may make good their losses, and, what is more important still, recover their nervous force. To rest men is to save them as effectives. The army which is compelled to keep its men longest in the trenches and opposed to the heaviest shelling will have the greatest wastage in sick, and will sooner or later become utterly demoralized, for shell-fire is insupportable for long periods, and is becoming increasingly intolerable as the War proceeds. You cannot kill or wound a whole army, but you can frighten one, and when it is sufficiently frightened it either runs or surrenders. The aim of battle, therefore, is to frighten the enemy, and for this purpose there is nothing to equal high-explosive shells. Mere shell-shock incapacitates men, and sometimes it even carries death. In one of our trenches after the explosion of a shell a young officer quietly fell over on his side, dead, although quite free from wounds. One of our doctors told me that as he entered Combles he saw a youth lifted high into the air by the force of a shell. On examining the body a few minutes later he found it quite dead but without the slightest mark of injury upon it. Men cannot listen to and see bursting shells month after month without the exhaustion of their nervous force. The bravest of the brave will become timid, and the veteran will be more affected than the new-comer. When men are called upon to dash over a stretch of ground upon which the enemy is concentrating all his guns so as to form a veritable curtain of fire, they must be more than brave; they must be fresh. My own division was taken out of the line for three months before being thrown into the fighting on the Somme. The British soldier is confident in his cause, in God, and in himself. After proper resting he will dash through the thickest curtain of fire ever formed, and snatch victory out of even the jaws of death. All are not equally brave, but the average of courage is incredibly high. The charge of cowardice is extremely rare; and if some fall short of all that is expected of them, it is not for us who have never faced the curtain to judge them. They are all volunteers, and we must remember the heroic resolve which brought them out. If sometimes the body fails to second the will, we must neither be surprised nor censorious. Those who have been through the most and have shown the greatest courage are ever, I have noticed, the last to speak unkindly of those who fail.
Cases of even comparative failure are few, while cases of astounding courage have almost ceased to surprise. One of the sergeants of the Westminsters who was ordered to remain in reserve during the fight of July 1 had the audacity to persuade another sergeant, who had to go over the top, to exchange places with him. Three times he went to the company commander and pleaded with him to sanction the arrangement. Permission was refused, but he found his chance in later battles, and before the end of the summer had won the D.C.M. On the other hand, a doctor told me of a youth who shrank from the ordeal, and tried to get out of it by feigning illness. The attempt was a failure, and he was called upon to do his duty. The day after the battle there was a short truce, and the doctor went over into 'No Man's Land' to gather in the wounded. To his dismay the first dead body he saw was the body of this youth. He had 'made good,' and died a hero's death. 'If you have a stretcher left when you have got in the wounded, carry back this body,' he commanded the bearers. It was done and the soldier who had at first shrunk from the fight and then faced it was given special burial; but none knew why save the doctor. When one remembers that the prodigies of valour daily seen on the Front are performed by just ordinary men, such as we used to see on football-grounds, or in city offices, workshops, and churches, a new faith in humanity and its future is begotten. Men are greater than we thought, and the soul has triumphed over the body to a degree undreamed of. The courage is not brute courage. The body trembles and afraid. It is pushed on through the curtain of fire by the soul within. I have spoken with many heroes, but never with one who was without fear. The strongest-nerved and stoutest-hearted men in the Army tremble as they cross 'No Man's Land' through a barrage of shells, but they force themselves on at the leisurely pace ordered beforehand, and take the enemy trenches or die. It is a fact of immense spiritual significance and hope. Men faint away, but do not run away. They force themselves through the inferno of fire as Livingstone forced his weakened body through the fever-haunted swamps of Africa, and perhaps at last faint away as he did into the arms of death. This spiritual courage is the doom of war.
While men were little better than animals the ordeal of battle sufficed, but now that the soul has won such complete ascendency over the body it is inadequate and excessively costly. New methods of settling differences and of winning power and prestige must be found. This may well prove the last of wars amongst great nations, for the courage of the average man is as the Star of Bethlehem leading the wise on. ward through the night to the reign of peace. Men are feeling the need of something bigger than war for their energy and valour, and they will find it in the battle against poverty, suffering, ignorance, and sin.
THE FALLING STATUE OF ALBERT
THE regiment was coming out of the trenches after fourteen days of hardship and danger in which neither officer nor man had washed or shaved or taken off his boots. With the stores and transport I was in advance of the regiment, and had reached the sandpit where our tent was to be pitched for the night. Evening was coming on, but it was still light, and my eyes were fixed on a town some two miles away. 'That is Albert,' said the quartermaster, joining me. 'Do you see the statue of the Virgin on the top of the church tower? The dome of the tower has been hit by a shell, and the statue has fallen towards the streets. It is said that the people of Albert believe that when the statue falls to the ground the War will end.' Even from the sandpit, two miles away, I could see the statue hanging over the street as if falling, and I determined to visit the church at the first opportunity.
Next morning I cycled into the town, and, leaving my bicycle in the central square, walked towards the church. It is known as La Basilique de Notre-Dame de Brebieres, and is a magnificent building in the Byzantine style. I found it in ruins. Hundreds of shells had been hurled at it, and windows, walls, and roofs had all alike been shattered. The tower could hardly keep its balance, so much had been blown away. Barbed wire barred the entrance lest falling stones should carry death to the unwary. Nevertheless one could see something of the desolation within. The Germans had turned a sanctuary into a death-trap. In that stark, staring ruin of what was once so good and fair we see something of the baneful moral and spiritual significance of modern Germany. The homes around the church were all empty and in ruins, for when the church is destroyed there can be little security for the home. I entered some of the houses and walked from basement to garret, but there was no patter of little feet and no sound of feasting. The women had taken their children and household goods to some place of safety, and had not troubled to close the doors behind them. The men had woven barbed wire about their church that the holy place might remain untouched until their return---if they should return. Then they had taken their rifles and gone after the desolater of their sanctuary.
There will be no return and no rebuilding of home or church until the evil-doer has been brought to justice, and life and well-being have been made secure. I have seen the gleaming of the French bayonets on the desolated fields of the Somme. They were forged in the home fires and altar fires of their ruined towns, and they will go deep into the hearts of the invaders. The sword that drove Adam out of Paradise never gleamed more terribly. The steel is tipped with the vengeance of heaven. Were Germany's soldiers innumerable as the sand they could not face the gleaming eyes and bayonets of France. It is not France that Germany is up against; it is God. The names Louvain, Lusitania, Lille, and Rheims are but a modern rendering upon Germany's walls of 'Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin.'
Yet the blasted church and the ruined homes around it were not the things that impressed my imagination most. Such sights are common in France, and I have seen them almost daily for months. It is the statue on the top of the tower that draws all eyes. There is nothing quite like it on any front. The tower is of great height, and before the War the statue stood upright on the dome. It is the figure of the Virgin Mary holding above her head the infant Jesus. He was held by her high above the town, as if to receive the worship of mankind, and His arms were outspread in blessing. It was an attitude of triumph. Then the War came, and the statue fell over, and ever since it has remained hanging half-way over the street, so that passers-by see above them the outspread arms of Jesus. To some it is the picture of a falling Christ. To others it is the picture of a Christ who stoops to bless the oppressed and afflicted. In a recent article Mr. Arnold Bennett, the novelist, wrote: 'The War has finally demonstrated the authenticity of an event which, in importance, far transcends the war itself---namely, the fall of the Christian religion.' The words are perhaps hardly worth quoting, because in the same article Mr. Bennett makes a self-revelation which sends down the value of his opinion on religious matters to zero. He declares: 'My curiosity about a future life is intermittent and mild. It never inconveniences me. I shall stick to life as long as I can, but the prospect of death gives me no moral or spiritual qualm. I have no supernatural religion, and I never had one. I do not feel the need of a supernatural religion, and I have never felt such a need.'
Seeing, therefore, that he is totally without experience of, or curiosity about, the Christian religion, his judgment on it has no more value than a criticism of his novels of the Five Towns by a Chinaman who has never been out of his native land. I quote his words, therefore, not because of their intrinsic value as an opinion, but because he is well known, and states his view with a baldness and vigour such as only those can who either know everything or nothing about their subject. The words serve as an expression of the doubt which has come to some who have even had considerable experience of Christianity and have a great 'curiosity about a future life.' Most of us felt alarmed for Christianity when the War broke out. We were alarmed as the good Catholics of Albert were when they saw the' statue of the Virgin and Child fall from its upright position. It seemed as if it were falling to the ground. If Christ ruled on high, could such atrocities happen in Belgium? Could it be possible that we had been mistaken, and that Christ still slept in a Syrian grave? Were not the outbreak and continuance of barbarism a sign that Christianity had failed? Then came the magnificent and voluntary rally to the flag in defence of Belgium. As we saw our young men march out to die for others, freely and without compulsion, we saw again the cross on Calvary, and we knew that Christ was sleeping in no Syrian grave, but dwelling in the hearts of our gallant brothers, and inspiring them to follow in his steps. The glorious rally to the defence of liberty, justice, truth and humanity dwarfed in its sensationalism the lapse into barbarism. Never before had so many offered to die for the ideals of Christianity. We saw that Christianity had stooped from the sky to the street. It had become incarnate. Christianity was no more a thing high and remote from men, something merely ideal and worthy of homage. It had become a practical thing, something to live and die for. We could not pass along the commonest street without seeing a vision of the Babe who came to bring peace and goodwill to men by living and dying for them. Christ had not fallen. He had stooped, and stooped in order to bless. When something of Belgium's sorrow came on us, and the blinds of our windows were drawn, we ceased to look for a Christ remote and distant; we found Him by the vacant chair, and kissed the pierced hands that brought to us the peace of God.
Our regiment had lost heavily in the fighting at Leuze Wood, and, after two days' rest, was returning to the attack. I therefore held a service on the ground where it had bivouacked the night before, and gave the men a few words of Christian comfort before they marched. At the close of the service a young Churchman---a candidate for Holy Orders--came to me. Taking from his breast-pocket a worn and dirty copy of Francis Thompson's Hound of Heaven, he told me how, in the last battle, he had been cut off, and compelled to shelter in a shell-hole, and wait for the night to enable him to crawl back to his regiment. During those five hours of terrible suspense he read The Hound of Heaven, and in its assurance of God's love found the comfort and strength he needed. If ever a place seemed forsaken of God it was Leuze Wood, or, as the men called it, Lousy Wood, on the day of battle. It was hidden by the smoke of bursting shells, and it seemed impossible that any who had entered it would ever return. Yet like a 'hound of heaven' the love of God had tracked the young soldier to his shell-hole, and remained with him to the end. Sceptics sitting at home in comfortable chairs point to the shell-ploughed fields of the Somme as the burial-place of a fallen Christianity; but that is not the view of the officers and men on the spot. There, amid the evidences of man's cruel hatred and greed, they realize most fully the presence of Christ and the love that made Him die for them. They cannot understand the mystery of God's providence, but they are assured of His presence and love. It is there, too, that they are seen at their noblest. Often have they made me feel that I was in the presence of men 'whose shoes I am not worthy to bear.' And often has my faith been shamed by the faith and testimony of the wounded. It is at home and not on the Somme that men grow sceptical. 'You must just trust in God, and do your best,' I said to a group on the evening before a battle. 'We shall not fail to do that, sir,' said one of them, upon whose breast was the ribbon of the D.C.M.
They know that Christ has not fallen, but has stooped to be nearer the timid and wounded and sorrowful. Their favourite hymn on the Somme was:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
They realize that 'in all their afflictions He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them.
THE MEN OF THE LIMP
THE falling statue at Albert is worthy of study, for the sculptor was a thinker. His work is called 'The Virgin of the Limp,' because the Madonna he has chiselled is lame. The sculptor has made the figure of Christ perfect, but he has deformed the Virgin by giving her a limp. Christ is perfect and pre-eminent; and as she holds her Son high above her for the world's admiration the Virgin seems to say,' Not unto me, not unto me, but unto Him be all the glory.' Like John the Baptist, she proclaims to all who draw near, 'Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.' She is but the candlestick. He is the Light. He is without blemish, but she is disfigured. The only glory the sculptor has given her is the glory of exalting her Son and Saviour. She is 'highly favoured' and 'blessed among women' because she has been appointed nurse to her infant Lord, and has responded to the call with humility and joy. To the privilege are attached the pain and disfigurement of lameness. She upholds and exalts Christ, but the strain causes lameness. Possibly the sculptor knew from experience something of the self-sacrifice of mothers, for he has given the Madonna the true spirit of motherhood. She has crippled herself for her Son. Had the Virgin kept Jesus strained to her breast and hidden from the world, she would not, in the statue, have been lame. But, unselfishly, she holds Him aloft, for He is not only the Light of her own heart, but also the Light of the World. The strain has crippled her, but her deformity is her glory.
The sculptor has preached better than he knew. His statue in the heart of the Somme has become more than the artistic expression of the unselfish service of the Virgin Mother. It has become the spiritual interpretation of the great struggle on the Somme front. Hundreds of thousands of French and English soldiers have looked up at the limp Virgin as they have marched through the shell-torn streets of Albert on their way to battle. A few days later many of them lay mangled and dead, while ambulance wagons came rushing back with the limp and maimed. A statue of a lame English soldier holding above his head, out of harm's way, a beautiful and perfect child would, to my mind, be the most perfect expression of England's part in this great struggle. I have heard of a frightened Belgian child who could not be lulled to sleep; but when a khaki-clad doctor entered the room, she stretched out her arms to him, crying, 'English, English,' and fell asleep on his breast. That is it.
There are times when men can only 'enter into life maimed,' and our soldiers have chosen maiming rather than stand outside the pale of honour and chivalry. One morning while home on leave I entered the refreshment-room at Euston Station to get some breakfast. A soldier, wounded in the arm, sat at the next table, and a little later a smiling youth in civilian clothes came limping in the same direction. The soldier quickly rose and lent him his unwounded arm. I was slow in understanding, and did not grasp the situation until the youth was seated. 'Why do you limp?' I asked. He then told me of a great battle in which he had been wounded. Bullets had caught him in the arm and shoulder, and his right leg had been shattered. This, he told me, was his first day with an artificial leg; and he tapped it merrily with his stick. He was a bit clumsy at present, but would, he thought, soon get used to it and walk quite well. Later on I saw him limping down the corridor of the train. He was still smiling. He will play no more games, for his place will be with the old men when youth is at its sport. But he will still smile, knowing well that the children owe their unshadowed joy and freedom to his lameness.
On my way back from England I breakfasted at Rouen with a young officer who had brought out a draft. He enlisted at fifteen, and went out to the Front as a private. There, carrying his pack on the long marches, he strained his heart. Later he was given a commission, but his father, a soldier in the trenches, wishes him to resign it on account of the weakness of his heart. He is under age and can resign with honor, but his father will plead in vain. Such a youth is priceless; and later, as we stood together in the place where Joan of Arc was martyred, I thought him not unworthy to be compared with her. He has the heart of an Atlas, though not the strength, and we need not fear for the world while there are such to uphold it. His heart has a limp in it, but the hearts of our children will be unfettered and free. The present generation has accepted maiming that it may lift the coming generation out of the fear and suffering of war. By their unselfishness these men of the limp have brought back our minds to the redeeming work of Christ. They have given us a deeper insight into the Atonement, and it will have a larger place in the thought and preaching of the future. When we see them limping through our streets or into our churches, we shall think of Him who trod the way of Calvary, that we might tread the way of peace.
Chapter XXII: A Dark Ride
Table of Contents