« ÎnapoiContinuați »
passion. But greater than all of these, there was a mighty expulsive power, expressed through loyalty and love. Men were always held true by loyalty to a great cause, by a personal affection for Jesus Christ, and by the love of a pure woman.
At last the bumping ride was ended and I reached the Central Y. M. C. A. building in time to help complete the preparations for the social function and explain the tardiness of Lieutenant Singleton, who arrived a little later with the coveted decorations. Every effort had been put forth to make the occasion as homelike as possible. The Red Cross and hospital nurses had been invited and all of the American women were permitted, for this evening, to lay aside their uniforms and wear their home clothes. The effect of this was remarkable. It brought out and emphasized one of the underlying facts of the war. For the first time in the history of nations, governments sought to follow men into battle with the refining and comforting influences of the home.
In the center of the room were several tables and on these, piled high on plates, were hundreds of home-made cookies, which the American Y. M. C. A. women had baked the day previous. These, along with hot chocolate or tea, were served, free of charge, to the men by the ladies, who were seated in hostess fashion at either end of the tables. Again and again I saw men come up to these tables, receive a few cordial words of greeting, take a bite out of one of the delicious cookies and then turn abruptly away, with clenched fist and set jaw in an effort to restrain the deep emotion that arose within them at the thought of home. There were many misty eyes that night, along with all the joy and the laughter and fine fellowship. Perhaps it was only a passing spell of homesickness of no great significance, but I am convinced it was something far deeper. Strong men got a new vision that night of what it was they were fighting for. The idea of home has taken on a vastly richer meaning than it has ever had before. Within the sacred precincts of the family, the inherent rights of childhood are recognized, human personality is reverenced for what it is worth, the divinity of motherhood is enthroned, all the noble virtues that make life stable and refined are inculcated, the love and worship of God are honored and exalted as above the price of rubies, and man is taught by close contact with others those social virtues which enable him to love his neighbor as himself.
It is needless to say that the cookies disappeared in a remarkably short time and that they were heartily relished by all of the men present. When the heart is gay the soul turns naturally to song, as it did upon this occasion. I never listened to a group of soldiers singing that sooner or later they did not come to "The Long, Long Trail.” This was true, I believe, of both the British and American soldiers. There is real sentiment in this song and in its winding words the sweetest dreams of youth become articulate. Married men were no exception. It was impossible to sing "The Long, Long Trail” in France without visualizing dear ones at home, and the heart, quickened to tenderness, felt that somehow, at the end of the trail, lead where it may, one would find joy unspeakable and the full realization of all his ideals. Men are born to love, to dream of love, to fight for love, to live a life of love, and this is just the reason why the most damnable and deeply crimson sin in all the world is the sin against love.
The cookies and the song or some other subtle influence deeply affected Lieutenant Singleton, overcoming all of his bashfulness, and that night he and the girl of his choice decided to take the long, long trail together. The wedding day was fixed, but innumerable difficulties arose, and military duties always came first. They both obtained a seven-day leave, and did not discover until it was too late that the dates were different. Before this discrepancy could be adjusted, Lieutenant Singleton was transferred to another training center for three weeks of special work. At last the wedding was arranged to take place in the town hall in the little village of Paudy. The bridal party left the camp by automobile, the groom was to come by motor from another direction. His machine broke down and he arrived nearly an hour late, covered with mud, and greatly humiliated over the delay. It was soon noised about the village that a wedding was to take place, and all of the inhabitants collected to grace the occasion. They crowded about the doorway,
peered into the windows, and formed a circle several rows deep about the automobile. In his office the mayor, a quaint little man, decorated with a tricolored sash, eagerly awaited the appointed hour. When the bridal couple appeared before him, his wife took a position directly behind her husband and prompted almost every word of the ceremony. Immediately following the completion of the civil contract, the two lives were again united in marriage by an American clergyman, thus adding the religious to the civil sanction, and once more we were conscious of the presence of that immortal Guest who graced the wedding in Cana of Galilee. As Lieutenant Singleton and his young wife were leaving the building, the mayor's wife presented the bride with a large bouquet of flowers, picked from her own garden. This was a signal to the waiting crowd, who cheered and shouted congratulations. It was with difficulty that a way was cleared to the carriage. After a seven days' leave the bride returned to her ministry of mercy and the groom departed for the front.
Most men love little children and are in turn loved and trusted by them. When nature lengthened the period of infancy in the human race so as to provide for the proper nurture and socialization of the soul life, the foundations were laid for the Christian home, the most spiritual and beautiful of all social institutions. Perhaps the greatest safeguard of the family is this mutual affection be tween men and little children. Nothing so enraged the Allied soldiers as the sight of devastated homes and mutilated children with all the laughter gone out of their young hearts. The great Chateau at Blois stands on a high hill overlooking the city. As one turns abruptly around the southeastern corner of the wall he descends a narrow winding street leading to the river bank below. One Sunday afternoon I found myself taking this curious lane. It was full of French children and American soldiers. At almost every doorway these stalwart fellows from across the sea were sitting, while about them and climbing over them, on their laps and shoulders, were laughing, romping youngsters. I never saw a happier, more contented lot of men. They were both playful and fatherly, even tender. At the foot of the hill stood the parish church, very ancient and with signs of decay. It was open to the public, so I entered and began to look about. To the left of the main altar was a room containing a smaller altar, lighted and covered with flowers. Three women dressed in black were kneeling, engaged in prayer. Close to the altar and on either side hung two banners, and on these I counted the names of one hundred and forty men who had given their lives for their country during the previous three years. As I left the edifice I inquired of the aged priest in attendance: