Puslapio vaizdai


ing in their trenches like cunning beasts.lery, after four hours of a terrific duel,

'In torrid heat the battalion made a had completely silenced the Prussian brief halt in the pretty little village of batteries. Next day, on entering the Nantouillet. Seated on a stone, white village of Monthyon, while in pursuit with dust like the rest of us, streaming of the retreating foe, we came upon the with sweat, with beard unkempt, his shapeless débris of what had once been eyes sparkling behind his glasses, once ig guns, mingled with the bloody remmore I see our dear lieutenant, brave nants of the Boche artillerymen, blown Charles Péguy, writer, poet, soldier, to bits and disemboweled by our shells. whom we all loved as our friend; who, ‘While our big guns were fighting in Lorraine as well as during the re- thus victoriously, the battalion formed treat, insensible to fatigue, fearless un- for battle, and the company deployed der the rain of shells, went from man in sections by fours, Péguy's section to man, encouraging by word and deed; being on the right of the line. From running through the ranks of our com- time to time there was a sharp order pany from front to rear; eating, as we "Lie down; curl up like snails”; this to ate, only one day in three, without a avoid a volley of shells, which burst all word of complaint; always young de- about us without doing any damage. spite his age, familiar with the speech Sheltered behind a little rise in the which Parisians, as most of us were, ground, we awaited, under the inaccucan understand; reviving with a brief rate fire of the enemy, the moment for phrase, sometimes biting, sometimes attacking his intrenchments, a fruitsarcastic or jocose, the drooping spir- less attack having already been made its; always dauntless, preaching by ex- by the Moroccans on our right. ample - once more I see our dear lieu- ‘At last, word came, and we started tenant, inspiring us, when many were forward gladly, deployed as skirmishbeginning to despair, with his unshak- ers, under the energetic command of en convictions of final victory, while Captain Guérin, who was by Péguy's he read eagerly a letter from his family, side on the right of our line. It is a tear of happiness glistening in his eye. five o'clock; the German artillery, over

'An hour later, as the clock struck whelmed, has ceased to speak; but twelve, we reached, by a little shrub- when we reach the crest of the hill a lined path, the farm of La Trace, near terrific hail of bullets welcomes us: we the little village of Villeroy, where the dash for the leveled and tangled oatbattalion was to encamp. The whis- stalks, where many fall; it is difficult tles have barely blown the signal for ground. One more leap, and we find a brief halt, when suddenly German cover behind the embankment of the shells begin to fall all about us, Iverny-Chauconin road, gasping and causing some confusion in our ranks. breathless. The bullets hiss close above We are completely surprised by this our heads; we fire at five hundred terrible and unlooked for bombard- metres at the Germans, who are well ment, which kills or wounds a number sheltered behind the trees and thickets of men and horses; but the battery of that line the little stream of La Sorseventy-fives in advance of us goes cière, and are almost invisible in their gallantly into action amid shrapnel earth-colored uniforms. Through a gap and percussion shells, at the foot of the in the trees, we can catch momenlittle hamlet of La Baste. Though tary glimpses of German companies hard put to it at the outset, our artil- swiftly climbing the hill, supported by 1 Péguy was born in 1873.

the infernal fire of the battalions in


front of us. They are falling back on Most of us had lost our knapsacks at Monthyon and Chauconin, which they Ravenel, during the retreat, but a partly burn for spite. ...

knapsack at this moment would be a 'Back! They're falling back! In priceless shelter. And the lieutenant's clarion tones Lieutenant Péguy gives voice rings out ceaselessly, “Fire! the order to fire, indicates the range Fire! In God's name!”

, and the objectives. He stands behind “There is some whimpering: “We us, leaning against an abandoned road- have n't any knapsack, lieutenant; we roller, upright, gallant, and fearless un- shall all be done in!” — “No matder the downpour of bullets which hiss ter!” shouts Péguy, above the howling about us, while the infernal tap-tap of tempest. "I have n't one either, you the Prussian machine-guns beats time. see, so fire, fire!” And he straightens

“That wild rush through the oat-field up as if defying the balls, seeming to has exhausted our breath; we are bathed summon the death which he glorified in sweat, and our good lieutenant is

in his verse. in the same plight. A brief moment's ‘At that same instant a death-bearrespite, then, at a signal from the cap- ing bullet strikes the hero's head, tain, his voice rings out: “Forward!” crushes that broad and noble forehead.

“Ah! this time it is no laughing mat- He has fallen on his side, motionless, ter. Scaling the embankment and without a cry; in the retreat of the skimming over the ground, stumbling barbarians he had the last prevision among the beet-roots and clods of of the impending victory; and when earth, bent double so as to offer a leaping forward like a lunatic, a hunsmaller target for the bullets, we rush dred metres farther on, I cast a terrified to the assault. The harvest continues, glance behind, I see yonder, as one frightful to see; the song of death hums black spot amid a multitude of others, about us. Thus we press on for two stretched lifeless on the scorched and hundred metres; but to go farther for dusty ground, half-buried in the broad the moment, with no support in our green leaves of the beet-tops, the body rear and no possibility of replenishing of our brave, our dear lieutenant.' our cartridge-belts, is sheer madness. It means a general massacre; not ten Here is the official report of the most of us will get through! Captain Guérin glorious of deaths. After the war, there and the other lieutenant, M. de La will rest upon us the duty of inviting Cornillère, are stark dead.

all Frenchmen to read the poet who ““Lie down," roars Péguy, "and fire died for us, and who sang, at will!” But he himself remains on

Heureux ceux qui sont morts pour une juste his feet, field-glass in hand, directing

guerre, our fire — heroic in hell.

Heureux les épis mûrs et les blés moisonnés. "We shoot like madmen, black with powder, and the muskets burning our

Heureux ceux qui sont morts dans les grandes

batailles, fingers. Every second there are shrieks

Couchés dessus le sol à la face de Dieu.! and groans and gasps which tell their story: dear friends are killed at my i Fortunate they who have died in a just war; side. How many are dead? how many Fortunate the ripened sheaves and the harwounded? They are past counting now.

vested grain. 'Péguy is still standing, despite our Fortunate they who have fallen in the great cries to him to lie down - a glorious

battles fool with that reckless courage of his. Fallen upon the earth in the sight of God.

Péguy arrived in the other world heroes of the great epic. Let us try to with a splendid escort of his friends — meditate upon the sublime virtues of a whole chivalry ennobled by gaping the soldiers of 1914–17. But, however wounds. Whence, pray, comes this we may profit by them, to remember miracle which, at the fated moment, them is like dipping water from the raises up her indispensable sons to Ocean with the hand. I can take you serve France? Eternal truths have into the woods, to see springs which I found their youthful witnesses. This know well; but in these three years of war sets before us, by tens of thousands, war all the subterranean streams are examples whereby France shall live, bubbling to the surface, all the powers as our ancestors, in days of old, lived, of sanctity and heroism are gushing by the example of Roland and the forth, and we, overwhelmed with reblameless knights of the old ballads, spect, stand on the brink of the chasm, and yesterday, by the example of the on the shore of this new sea.



The young poet Paul Drouot, grand- above all the rest. From time to time, nephew of General Drouot, the first when his heart overflowed with admiraNapoleon's faithful follower and friend tion for his comrades and his officers, he in adversity, who was known by the wrote to me. Shall I read you his last sonorous title of 'Sage of the Grande letter? I received it two or three days Armée,' had published, before the out- before the fatal missive which told me break of the war, two collections of of his death. It is a beautiful letter, full poems

Le Chanson d'Eliacin and La of good sense. There you will see, Grappe de Raisin - which lovers of sketched on his death-bed, — the slope letters will keep among their precious of that conquered trench where he was treasures. But he fell in battle, near struck down, the countenance of a Notre Dame de Lorette in Artois, a sol- true leader of men, the noble countedier in the ranks, in June, 1915; and it nance of Major Madelin, who fell in the is time now for us to broaden the con- assault on Lorette; and in looking at ception we had formed of him. He has the portrait, you will learn to know the gone hence to the world of heroes, and artist, Paul Drouot himself, who, but it is right for us, by the aid of authentic a few days later, was destined to sprindocuments, to tell the story of his moral kle with his own blood the ground from nobility and of the high poetic sense which he had lifted his beloved comin which he understood his duty, and mander. to interpret the scenes amid which he The picture is like one of those old died.

groups of the knight succored by his Although in poor health, really a squire, scattered through the history of sick man, Drouot was too proud to ancient France - all, in their various give heed to his ailments; he wished guises, eternally true and never losing to prove himself, in his unadorned

the power to stir our hearts. Paul tunic, a worthy descendant of General Drouot, poet and soldier, who bears Drouot, and a fit member of the battal- his commander, covered with blood, ion. He was enrolled in the light infan- through the rain of bullets and the nettry, and — unmistakable sign of a war- work of barbed wire, who sits weeping rior's spirit — he ranked his battalion beside the body while he writes to me

very tall,

with a

in praise of his hero, and who is des- to see is the creative organizer, ever tined soon himself to fall, pierced to ready for emergencies, for undertaking the heart by a fragment of shell — tell new duties, or for modifying the old me — is not he the peer of Bayard's ones to meet present needs. He was the loyal servitor? It is the simple truth, noblest example of a man made in his that never, in any age, has there been

Maker's image. So vast a number of deeds after the "The soldiers knew him through and high French fashion!

through. Major Madelin! You could Hearken to the voice of our dead tell it by the way they mentioned his friend; and may he forgive me for tell- name, or saluted him, or presented ing his story before so numerous an au- arms. I wish I might describe to you dience. It is done for public reasons. what the real type of French officer is;

but you know it better than I. Yet this 'I am going to try to give you,' man, this hero, at once so winning and writes Drouot, ‘a straightforward and with such control over his men, and exact account of the last day and death even over the changing phases of a of Major Madelin, the brother of our battle-I knew him intimately in the friend Louis Madelin, the historian. heat of action, and in all the activities

'Perhaps you may have happened to which, in men of noble nature, reveal meet him? He was a Lorrainer, from the heart and mind at once. He had atBar-le-Duc. First of all, I will intro- tained this mastery when very young, duce him to you.

as he died at thirty-six. 'He was tall,

‘As you know, he had admitted me personal charm which you felt the mo- to his intimacy - that is to say, I had ment you came within the circle of his been one of his secretaries for more influence and that circle was his than three months. He had offered me whole battalion. A twinkling blue eye, the position out of great consideration, a shrewd expression, an unaffected ele for he had learned that my poor health gance of manner — and then his breed- would not admit of my performing ing! the breeding of the officer. In short, regular company duty. Being of his just from listening to him, and watch- 'household' I was able to avoid many ing him welcome them, every fresh sol- 'fatigues'; I was always sure of finding dier in the reserves, who came up from a warm shelter, so as to take more or the station, though he may never have less care of myself; in fact, it enabled laid eyes on the major before, made up 'carry on.' And this was the foothis mind on the spot to go through fire ing on which I stood with him: a friendand water for him.

ly word from time to time, a moment's 'How well he knew them, too! how he conversation, and an abiding impresloved them! how he could return their sion that, although he never told me so, salutes, talk to them, rebuke or encour- he was a friend who kept a somewhat age them, with a glance! A wonderful closer watch upon me than upon the man to train men!

other men in his battalion. As battalion commander, he was a *Twice already the battalion had prodigy. I have had the honor of watch- gone into the trenches with orders to ing him writing his reports, preparing attack which set him all a-quiver with for an assault, looking through his files; impatience for victory. Twice the oreverything was done with the ease of ders were countermanded; there were men of superior mould who make light signs of irritation – muttering on the of difficulties. How admirable a sight part of the men, watchful exclamations

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from the officers. Were they making men they are! what men! even the busport of the infantry?

gler who sounded the charge!” Then “The third day came. The mines came the scene at the telephone; the were ready for the match, the disposi- distant congratulations of the brigade tions for the assault minutely made. commander. About four o'clock the artillery pre- ‘But already the major was on fire paration began. We breathed again. to get back to the first line. This time the attack would surely come One of his captains had had to preoff - only half an hour, only quarter vent him from going as far as the white of an hour more.

work, the original objective, past which *The Boches, on their side, were the attack had now swept. His second bombarding us violently. The major, in command was about to follow him, who had been absolutely calm all day, he, too, overflowing with feverish eagerapparently paying little heed to the ness and joy. “No,” he said with a thoughts of the passing moment but smile, “this time I am going to take with his mind intent upon the impend- Drouot along; he said he would like ing attack, and confident of the event, to go." started at last for the first line. Some We started

he and I and a young artillery officers and I remained at his artillery orderly full of snap. We walkstation in the second line, where we ed with long strides, difficult as it was could watch the whole development of to reach the first line of trenches when the assault. The hour struck. Through the passage was blocked with prisoners, the dense, black smoke of the bursting wounded, and fatigue parties. The mashells which divided us from the first jor tossed a remark or a question to the line, we perceived a thick yellowish va- soldiers filing past us toward the rear, por which rose slowly; the general up- but, in his haste to see what the state roar was so great that the explosion of of affairs was, he did not stop for an the mine seemed almost noiseless. On answer. the instant, the infantry darted for- 'In a moment we were in a position ward. All we could see was a very nar- to watch in amazement the wonderful row line of trench, from which men and spectacle, at close quarters: another more men, without end, came rushing company emerged from the trench and

‘Standing on the edge of a trench, rushed forward to attack. We could with uplifted cane, waving his arms to make put the holes in the enemy arouse his men, an officer was silhouet- trenches, which had been knocked to ted against the clouds of smoke — it pieces by the explosion, and the outline was the major. For ten full minutes he of the craters it had dug. Wounded stood there; we did not know whether men, who had fallen near by, were tryhe was applauding or encouraging his ing to crawl back to our lines. “Stay troops. Neither the artillerymen nor quietly where you are!" shouted the myself could take our eyes from that major, stepping out from cover, “it's immovable figure. Nobody paid any too dangerous crossing the ground beheed to the bombardment; everybody tween.” was weeping, so sublime was the sight. Meanwhile, as we hurried along the

'At last the major returned. It was shell-wrecked trench and leaped over necessary to telephone to the general. the piles of earth that blocked it, we His voice rang out, louder than usual raised our heads above the parapet and more distinct. The mere sound to cast a glance at the terrain and the electrified you. “Ah!” he cried, "what horizon narrowed by the smoke of the


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