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twelve degrees, Fahrenheit; and one element in the atmosphere essential to the support of human life is gasoline, the other being, presumably, 'Mobiloil.'
The female of the species, if not more deadly than the male, is, in the boy's mind, more pervasive, for the feminine of ram is doe, dam, yew, roe, nannygoat, and she-ram; while the feminine of farmer-hardly a fair question, that - is milkmaid, old maid, farmeuse, husband-woman, and Mrs. Farmer.
It has long been maintained that no English word rhymes with window, but one test brought to light several such rhymes, among them widow, Hindu, akimbo, shadow, billow, and potato!
When the history and geography of the United States are in question, the answers are equally astounding. The largest city of Ohio is Detroit, St. Louis, 'Sinsinnatah,' and 'Omerhaw.' (The average boy refuses to be a slave to orthography.) Washington, Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Roosevelt were all impeached, Farragut was admiral in the Spanish war, and Mr. Taft was the third President of the United States. In the youthful mind 'a hundred years are as a day,' and it matters little whether Lee surrendered at Appomattox or at Yorktown.
There is, however, a brighter side of the picture. Mother-wit often comes to the aid of ignorance, and the task of the examiner is lightened by many a gleam of humor. What, for instance, could be better than the answer which one boy gave to the question, 'Who discovered the Pacific Ocean?' His natural answer would have been, 'You can search me'; but flippancy is not encouraged; so he replied, "The natives who lived along the shore.' Another defined conjunctivitis as 'the knack of getting along with people'; and a third would have a barracuda 'a feast where oxen are roasted whole.'
'How many legs has a Kaffir?' was a
staggerer. Conjecture ranged from two to twelve, the majority favoring three, without making it clear what the unfortunate creature could do with the odd leg.
What is the conclusion of the whole matter? May we say in our haste that all boys are fools? Prithee, not too fast. These are out-of-doors boys, living in a world of motor-cars, air-planes, and wireless. Many a boy who could not for his life name a member of Mr. Harding's Cabinet, can, by the sound of the engine, 'spot' every motor-car made in this country, improvise an aerial from the springs of his bed, or draw a model of a gasoline engine that would do credit to a mechanical engineer. Children of Martha, 'they are concerned with matters hidden — under the earthline their altars lie.'
Perhaps they have chosen the better part. Who can say? At any rate, they are content to leave letters to those who love them; to let their secretaries do their spelling, and politicians manage the government, 'while they finger death at their gloves' end.'
I, who can distinguish but two makes of automobiles without giving a furtive glance at the hub-caps, am thankful that it is mine to ask the questions, not to answer them. I know full well that many boys who cannot say whether Keats is a poet or a breakfast food could make out a test that would put their masters to shame.
Times have changed, and those who aspire to ride the whirlwind have neither time nor inclination to trudge along the dusty paths of learning that their fathers trod.
Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;
and he who judges a quarrel between the mountain and the squirrel has no easy task.
The little village on the hill, the gray ruins of the Gothic church, the belltower, the classic lines of the old market, the red-tiled roofs of the few rebuilt cottages all these, with the French and American flags and garlands of laurel leaves, made an incomparable setting for the ceremony.
The idea came about through a conversation with my host, the curé of Hattonchâtel, in which he told me of the ancient glories of the village, of its long ecclesiastical history dating back to the tenth century. In those early days Hattonchâtel was famous as a place of retreat for the bishops of Verdun, Metz, and Toul, from one of whom, Bishop Hatton, it took its name, châtel, of course, being the old form of château; and for several succeeding centuries it belonged to the Church — a fortress village enclosed by high, thick walls.
It was during its ecclesiastical existence that Hattonchâtel acquired most of its glory. The present church was built then, pure Gothic in style, as were the cloisters connecting the church with the bishop's palace at the end of the street; for bishops in those days did not walk exposed to the elements. Houses for the priests who came in the bishop's train were built then, also, and the famous old Market, now one of the
Monuments Historiques of France. But though Hattonchâtel was, first of all, an ecclesiastical village, it was not unknown to the Court; its forest was one of the hunting preserves of Louis XIV; and during the season for chasing the wild boar, Hattonchâtel heard more than the mass.
Wars were fought around the village; for Hattonchâtel has always been the heart's desire of conquerors. Lying as it does on the crest of a high hill, which juts out like a promontory into the valley of the Meuse six hundred feet below, it dominates the countryside, and in the days of milder warfare was practically unassailable.
The Swedish bombardment, however, of the fourteenth century did its work well. The walls of the fortress were broken down, the strong gates demolished, and its entrance being no longer barred, peasant-life appeared in Hattonchâtel.
Out of the stones of the almost wholly destroyed church property the newcomers built their homes; and as the centuries passed, the fame of Hattonchâtel was no longer in the splendor of the Roman Church or in the brilliance of the French Court; rather, its glory lay in the courage of those spirits whose descendants, undaunted, are to-day resurrecting their devastated provinces the peasants of France.
Monsieur le curé sadly called my attention to the empty bell-tower, and told me what the church bell means to a rural community in France: how the
villagers love and listen for it and sing songs about it, and how they speak of it affectionately as of a person, for bells have names in France. It is the bell that wakens them in the early morning and sends them to the fields to work; it tells them the noon hour; and again, the day's work done, it sounds the Angelus, bidding the faithful to prayer. It announces all the fêtes, it rings for the marriages, the births, the deaths.
Then the curé went on to tell me how, during the German occupation of the village, their church bell had been taken away and melted for military purposes, and they had heard no bell in Hattonchâtel for five long years.
The story was so simple, so appealing, that I could only say, 'Oh, monsieur le curé, let me replace the stolen bell.'
He replied, 'Ah, mademoiselle, Germany must pay for the wanton destruction she wrought in our villages, but, of course, we do not know when we can collect the money, and in the meantime - perhaps -'
So the bell was ordered, of bronze, a metre in height.
It is beautifully embossed with the symbols of the Roman Church, to which was added, according to custom, its
I fell in with the curé's suggestion that the bell should have my name; but my name is Belle, and the curé with a rueful shake of his head objected that no saint had ever been named Belle, and church bells must bear the names of saints. I admitted that I had been christened Isabel. Smiling approval, and with a splendid disregard of the English spelling, the curé wrote out, 'Isabelle.'
But that was not all. A bell, it seems, must have two Christian names.
The curé looked at me inquiringly. I suggested Ruth, my other name. With a deprecating gesture he replied
testily, 'No, no, we cannot have Ruth.' As I had no other name to offer, the curé, inscrutable as the Sphinx, impatiently tapped his pencil on the table and said, "Then choose a name.'
Almost with fear and trembling I gave my mother's, 'Sarah.'
'Ah, Sarah has been sainted,' he replied softly, and wrote in full, 'Sarah Isabelle.'
It piqued my disposition to inquire - Isabelle a saint in perfectly good standing: Ruth without the fold. Why, I wondered? But I did not ask the curé. I rarely bother him with questions. When I am a part of his household, I feel that I am living Balzac, and I would not venture to show an indiscreet curiosity that might break the charm.
In that war-torn house the spell of the eighteenth century is everywhere - in the irregular flagstones of the corridors, in the bits of faded wall-paper still hanging here and there, even in the cheap oak centre table about which we sat for our many conferences strange company: the curé alert, resourceful, always the dominant figure; the mayor shy, silent, determined; the notary looking like a sketch by Thackeray, and talking grandiloquently these three children of Hattonchâtel breathing forth the atmosphere of old France, and I of another age and world, yet feeling through them the antiquity, the splendor, and the genius of their country, their ideal of patriotism; seeing through their eyes the changeless character and fearless courage of the men and women of Northern France, who, in the face of seemingly insuperable difficulties and hardships, are already beginning life anew amid the ruins.
Hattonchâtel on the Côtes-de-Meuse, in all its quaint beauty, has been quite unknown to tourists. Before the war the only way of visiting the village was
on foot. Now there is a good motorroad to the top of the hill; but the village itself remains the France of two hundred years ago, unchanged. Generation after generation of French peasants have lived as their fathers lived, and died as their fathers died, within the village walls, knowing nothing and desiring nothing but Hattonchâtel.
This village, then, gave the setting for the medieval ceremony of the christening of the bell. We had chosen the date September the thirteenth, the second anniversary of the liberation of the village by French and American troops, the two armies having come together at the foot of the hill. The exact point of meeting is marked by a stone shaft erected about a year ago, by the Salvation Army, to the memory of the First Division, the first of our troops to engage with the French in the battle for Hattonchâtel.
Perhaps because the hill was of such military importance during the Great War, perhaps because it was wrested from the Germans by the help of America, perhaps, too, a little because the new church bell would so soon and for always speak of America's love for France-perhaps for these reasons the authorities decided to add to the christening ceremony exercises by the State in celebration of the partial reconstruction of the village, especially the installation of the water-system. General Berthélot, Governor-General of Metz, was chosen to represent the Army, and the Sous-Préfet of the Meuse, to represent the Department.
When I looked out of my window in the curé's house, at eight o'clock on the morning of the great day, the hill was already black with people coming to the fête. Some of them had walked half the night, so eager were they to be present. Up the hill they came, in families, in pairs, in groups of eight or ten,
old and young, weak and strong, many of them wearing the costumes of Alsace and Lorraine, all in holiday attire, their worn faces aglow with pleasure and excitement - coming to the Christening.
The exercises began with mass at ten o'clock, at which a tablet dedicated to the memory of the soldier dead of Hattonchâtel was unveiled. This ceremony, conducted by Monseigneur Génisty, the Bishop of Verdun, took place in the ruins of the church. There was no cover over our heads. Not a vestige of roof remains. During the five years that the interior of the church has been exposed to the weather, shrubs four or five feet high have grown up in the nave; and it was against this lovely background of green that we built a temporary altar. On one side of the altar was improvised a throne for the bishop; on the other the peasant choir was grouped about a little portable
The scene amid the ruins: the bishop in his purple robes, the acolytes in crimson slowly swinging the golden censers, the low chanting of the attendant priests and the youthful voices of the choir in response - this, with the sun's rays glinting on fragments of precious old glass still hanging in the battered window-frames, making them flash like jewels, and every available nook and corner packed with peasants, their heads bowed in reverence, made an unforgettable picture. As the services proceeded and the prayers were read, a fanfare of trumpets, from the chasseurs-à-pied stationed in the cloister, thrilled us with the thought of what the French army had meant to civilization, as it saddened us with the remembrance of France's terrible losses in the war, the while the smoke of the burning incense rising through the roofless church to heaven made us feel that every prayer for the soldier dead was mounting straight to the Throne of God.
The mass ended, we went outside for the principal event of the day-the Christening of the Bell.
This ceremony of mediæval origin, performed with all the pomp and dignity of the Roman Church, was full of picturesque details. Above us was the cloudless blue, around us were the wrecks of war- heaps and heaps of stones piled high, the tottering walls of the church, its bell-tower strangely upright; beyond, on all sides, the peasants, the black Alsatian bows and the white caps of Lorraine mingling with the dull gray garments of every day, all eagerly crowding in. Against these sombre colors the brilliant uniforms of the general and his staff stood out in vivid contrast; while stretching up the village street and fading away into the sky were masses of horizon blue, the uniform of the poilu of France.
The bell was placed on a low platform near the entrance to the cloisters. It was hung in a wooden frame entwined with green garlands and pink roses, and surmounted by a golden cross. At the right of the platform stood the godfather and godmother of the bell. On the other side were the priests and the choir. Opposite, and facing the bell, we built a tribune for the speakers and invited guests, and decorated it with the flags of France and America.
But the bell did not hang in the frame in its naked bronze: it was draped in a white lace robe, veiled from curious eyes as is a bride, and at a given point in the ceremony, the veil was laid back just as a bride is unveiled at the altar, and the bishop, amid the low chanting of the priests and the burning of the incense, touched it with holy water and pronounced its name.
'Je m'appelle Sarah Isabelle. J'ai pour parrain Monsieur Jules Haldrech, Maire. J'ai pour marraine Miss Skinner. J'ai été baptisée par Monseigneur
Génisty, l'Evêque de Verdun, le 13 Septembre, 1920, l'Abbé Thierry étant curé à Hattonchâtel.'
The tongue was then placed in the bell, for as yet, remember, no one had heard its voice; a long blue ribbon was attached to it, which the bishop pulled three times, announcing in loud tones to Hattonchâtel and the whole countryside the advent, let us hope, of happier days for those stricken villages. His Grace then passed the ribbon to me, and I too sent the rich tone ringing out across the valley; in turn, the mayor and the curé followed.
Then to the music of the Marche Lorraine we crossed over to the tribune, where the civil exercises were opened by General Berthélot. The general paid a graceful tribute to America's help in the St. Mihiel Salient, with particular reference to Hattonchâtel; after which Monsieur le Sous-Préfet spoke eloquently of the work of reconstruction in the Department of the Meuse, and of what had already been accomplished there. He was followed by Major Cotchett, representing the American Embassy at Paris.
The speeches ended, the marraine of the bell, as a part of the christening ceremony and in keeping with its mediæval character, stepped out from the tribune and, amid acclaims and huzzas, quite in the manner of a feudal lord giving largesse, scattered dragées to the crowds.
So ended the christening.
Immediately afterward luncheon was served. It was like the feeding of the five thousand, with the miracle left out. The peasants of the village were served in their own homes; the principal guests were seated at a long table in the open square; the crowds found places for themselves among the ruins; but all were served. While we were engaged in eating, the newly christened bell was hoisted into the belfry, and a little later,