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MARTIAL MUSIC AND MARRIAGE BELLS
HE home must ever be a new and diviner place to every man who spent any time in
the army. So also it will always have a deeper spiritual meaning to those who stood upon the threshold and bid farewell to dear ones who went away to fight for love and home and native land. Mothers, fathers, war brides, sweethearts and little brothers as well as big brothers have all done their part to glorify love. The home is the cradle of love, of spiritual ideals and of that real democracy which is born of love and idealism. If a nation would be truly great it must first become a nation of Christian homes where God is honored, true love kept undefiled and where each new born child is reverenced as a spiritual gift from heaven.
At the center of the home is a natural reverence for parenthood and because of this the influence of the mother and father in shaping character and in imparting religious faith is a fact of the very highest educational value. The parent who for any reason forfeits this inborn reverence of the child very largely destroys the home as a religious educational institution. It is a natural step in the child's experience to pass from reverence for parents to reverence for God which is the beginning of all wisdom and character. The influence of the home was revealed in a thousand ways during the long days of struggle and pain and heartache. Intending to make some purchases before sailing for America, I entered the Grand Maison Blanc, a linen store situated on the main Paris Boulevard. In one of the display rooms were two lads, looking at some lace collars. When they saw a representative of the Young Men's Christian Association, his aid was immediately enlisted by the following hearty invitation:
"Hello, 'Y' man! Come over and help us select some lace collars for Christmas presents for our mothers.” The invitation was promptly accepted and soon we were admiring the delicate creations deftly placed before us. Each of us instinctively sensed the stirring up of deep emotions in the heart of the fellow next to him, as imagination and memory formed fond images of dear ones far away. It became desperately hard to resist the temptation to buy the whole store and ship it home as a slight expression of affection. Perhaps this explains why one always saw so many American and British soldiers standing longingly before shop windows with their faces pressed close up to the glass, like street waifs the day before Christmas, hungering for something they knew they could not have.
“You see,” said the soldier, “this is not exactly in our line, but they are for our mothers and they have got to be right.”
I had to admit that I was not an expert in buy. ing for women folks, but together we made a selection of what we thought were two particularly beautiful pieces of real lace.
When the saleslady had gone away to tie up the packages for mailing and make change we fell to talking
“What Division are you in?" I inquired, a very natural and frequent question.
“The Third Division, sir," answered the lad who had invited me to join them.
“The Third Division !" I exclaimed in surprise. “They are at the Verdun Front, holding the line just north of Montfacon. I came from there yester
“So did we,” was the prompt rejoinder. “We have a three days' leave." Then he added in a tone of voice which indicated the sudden awakening of some horrible memory that would not be effaced, "If ever there was a hell, mister, it is up there in that Argonne Forest.”
This comment no doubt urged his companion to offer the following explanation of their presence in Paris.
“Our Division was all ready to come out of the line for a long rest and reorganization when orders came for us to stay and join the big offensive which will begin day after tomorrow. Of couse we were disappointed, but buddy and I have been in the fighting since Chateau-Thierry and we had a sevenday leave coming to us. Instead of seven days we got a special leave of three days. We got to thinking it all over and we made up our minds that if we had to go into another big push up there our chances of getting out alive were mighty slim, so we decided that we would just come down to Paris and buy something fine for our mothers for Christmas. Then if they get a telegram saying we have been killed, they will also receive a present to let them know we were thinking about them. You see, it is the mothers that suffer most and not us fellows who do the fighting.”
Just then the saleslady returned with the packages and a small amount of change. Looking for an instant at the present in his hand, he added, “That is why we had to buy something fine. What is money worth, any way, if you do not use it to make other people happy? Isn't that so, buddy?”
And buddy said with a significant toss of his head, “You bet it is !"
A mist came over my eyes, and I thought of the Savior of men who remembered His mother in the hour of his martyrdom, and words became impotent to express the rush of poignant emotion that filled my breast and crowded up into my throat when say. ing good-bye. I watched them go slowly down the store and out into the night on their way to the railroad station, the one with his arm thrown about the shoulders of the other, expressive of that intimate comradeship which only those who share together the sacrifices of a great cause can ever know. As I thus watched them, I said softly to myself, What noble sons, but Oh, what glorious mothers to have reared such sons! Who taught these boys how to live and love duty and look death in the face with such transcendent serenity? It is inconceivable that the homes from which they came were not shrines of true devotion and centers of effective religious education.
Men are born to love, to dream of love, and to fight for love and so it often came about that, amidst the sturdy beat of martial music, one could often catch the sweeter strains of marriage bells. This was true not only in America but often close up to the battle line. I recall distinctly one incident of this kind. He was a handsome young aviator whom everyone looked upon as a coming ace. With the speed of an eagle he would climb to dizzy heights and engage in daring combat work, yet he was amazingly subdued in the presence of a pair of coy and fascinating eyes. Because he is still alive and very shy we will call him Lieutenant Singleton. This chivalrous young knight of the air was ardently in love with a Red Cross nurse. It was painful to watch them during the excruciatingly brief times they could be together, always in company with another nurse. He was gallant, brave and bashful. She was winsome and clever, full of initiative and self-reliant. Her heart returned his affection, but her innate modesty and good breeding forbade her taking advantage of his hesitancy to hasten matters along, so we could only be patient and speculate. On the evening of the third of July