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I saw the grime and dirt of the city with new vision, and with an overpowering thought of the immaculate purity of those streets, 'like unto molten glass,' and of the incorruptible beauty of that fair country, that real 'Place' that Christ promised to prepare for us. It was good to think of her there.
When someone laid before me that beautiful sonnet of Richard Watson Gilder, 'Call me not Dead,' it came to me with new meaning:
Call me not dead when I, indeed, have gone
And our lost friend just catch one syllable
Of that three-centuried wit that kept so well;
I had thought of her meeting others. Perhaps she, too, had met Keats and others of those beautiful spirits gone from us, whose books she had loved to read, those masters of music and painting that she enjoyed most. It was a comfort to know that she had always delighted in new places and in making new friends. I pictured her amid groups and companies, amid love and light and harmonies of wonderful music. I could see her conversing, with her bright sparkle and vivacity, with these new friends. How she would enjoy them; and, I could not help thinking, how they would enjoy her!
Then I began to think of her, with a most persistent imagining, as moving in some free, swift, happy motion, almost
as if swept along by light clouds, or by electric currents. Not with the old idea of wings! As I saw her, in thought, she was always smiling, almost always laughing, with that light, joyous laugh of hers. And whenever I lifted my eyes, it seemed that, framed among the trees, wreathed in rainbow colors, there was a vanishing vision of her smiling face.
It took nothing from my comfort to think that memory and imagination each had its part in this strong new visualizing. Accustomed to analyze thought, I was aware of a new, strong element, which I believed to be divine.
Many things about the home have helped to make her, not a memory, but a living part of our daily lives. She seems immanent in all beauty, as a living part of it — in sunset or moonlight, in garden walks or woodland paths. And in all holy communion, being nearer to God, I feel nearer to her who is with God.
Most of all, the thought of her comes at sunrise, in the beauty of the quiet dawn, with the words of her best-loved hymn. The air is Mendelssohn's, but there always awakens at the same time the unearthly music of Grieg's 'Morning,' which she often played. It, too, has in it the faint, growing light of the dawn and the stir of awakening birds.
Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
When the bird waketh, and the shadows flee; Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight, Dawns the sweet consciousness-I am with Thee.
So shall it be at last, in that bright morning When the soul waketh, and life's shadows flee; O in that hour, fairer than daylight dawning, Shall rise the glorious thought—I am with Thee.
To that dawning I lift my eyes.
I received the above order within half an hour after reporting for duty as liaison officer for theth Division, A.E.F. Brief, to the point, apparently simple of execution, it was the cause of months of the most perfect and unmitigated hell to me.
My automobile, a beautiful Cadillac limousine, was waiting on the street, below the general's office. I climbed aboard, directing my chauffeur to drive toward the front we were then about ten miles behind the infantry lines. On the way, I stopped to pick up two Salvation Army girls, walking laboriously through the mud to their advanced station. About three miles back of the lines, we came to the field artillery, and were met in the road by a sentinel, who told me that that was the limit for automobiles. I sent the car back to Division Headquarters, grabbed a side-car, and went on. It was an active sector, and things became interesting very soon. We went on, however, until we reached
a camouflaged road. I got out, told the driver to wait for me at a town I showed him on my map, and went on afoot, gathering up a lieutenant liaison officer familiar with that section of the front.
We walked along the road a bit, leaving it at an opening in the camouflage, through which ran an abandoned Boche narrow-gauge railroad. We followed this railroad, picking our way carefully, while listening intently to the occasional Boche shells that came over, in order to drop on our bellies in case our ears told us the shells were close. At intervals we were jolted by our own artillery fire, as the seventy-fives searched for some irritating battery of the enemy.
Soon we reached the reserves of our infantry. I stopped at the P.C. of a regiment, asked the colonel about conditions, and went on, ditions, and went on, still up the abandoned Boche railroad. We were in the woods, and the railroad was the easiest road to travel. Shells came thicker, and now and than we would drop as fast as our legs would wilt, wait an instant for the crash, get up and go on. Soon the shelling became heavier, and one time I dropped and heard a man laugh at me. I got up and looked back at him. He was without a helmet, a dirty, nonchalant boy, not as bluffed as I had been by the shelling.
I looked to the front again, and just as I did so, I heard the most terrifying thing I had ever heard in my life-the loud, malicious scream of a big shell. I believe that there can be nothing more
utterly terrifying than that sound. It is wicked, awful; it makes one feel cold and sick when it is loud. These shells carry with them a warning of death in an awful form, from which there is no escape unless God is good to you and you are quick enough to get close to the ground before the spray of splintered steel flies in all directions. This shell was louder than any I had ever heard -it seemed to be right in front of my face; it called its message with a fluttering, whimpering scream that froze me, nauseated me, weakened my legs, made me breathe a most devout, heartfelt prayer: 'O my God, don't let that hit me!'
I dropped. I crumpled up. I simply collapsed on the ground. But I did not get there fast enough. As I was falling, the whole world blew up. It is indescribable, that crash of sound, so loud one cannot hear it. It stuns, it seems to hit you all over at once - things seem to stop going altogether. Perhaps I was knocked out; I don't know. I remember getting to my feet, my head throbbing, my ears banging, my legs wobbling a bit as I tried to get my balance and stay up. I put my hand to my head in a dazed way, to wipe away from my mind the fogginess that seemed to surround it.
Another crash came and knocked me down. Again I got up. The blue layers of smoke were lying all about me, layer on layer, quiet and still, with the trees showing in between. I turned around, and still I saw those horizontal layers of blue smoke. I could n't think, or move away from where I stood.
Then, as if it had just happened, I heard a man screaming. He was holding his body with both hands, kneeling on the ground, and screaming in agony. Another and another were lying quietly on the track. Then my eyes rested on what was left of the boy who had laughed at me, the blood pumping out of his body like red water from an overturned
bucket. Then I realized that the shelling was still going on-heavy, continuous crashes, following closely one after another, many at a time, a perfect din of sound. I fell to the ground, and rolled over and over, off the track into the woods on the side, into a shell-hole, and lay there. My head hurt, my face hurt, my ears and eyes - I hurt all over. I put my hand to my face where it seemed to burn, and found it was covered with blood. I thought how messy it would make my trench-coat, and wondered whether a dry cleaner could get blood out of a fur collar. I lay there in that hole until the barrage lifted a bit
it was a six-inch barrage: the Boche was covering our approaches, which he knew all too well, since we had just pushed him out of that same area the day before. He knew that track very well, and exactly where it was.
I went on to the front, slowly feeling my way, until I got to the lines. There were no trenches, our men were lying on their bellies in the grass, hugging the ground until they went forward a few yards more, only to hug the ground again. At a field-telephone, a bit later, I telephoned back what information I had, and started to return. It took me all the rest of the day to get back to a dressing-station, where I was sewed up. That night I investigated the rest of that immediate sector, found my sidecar, and went back to the division, hugging the right of the road, with no lights of any kind, meeting ammunitiontrains lumbering up on the other side, big spectres in the night, noisily making their way to the lines with their load of the iron ration. At times a shell would whinney and flutter - and crash to our right or left. It was a wild ride. Early in the morning we reached headquarters, and I breakfasted with the general and his staff. Jokes were cracked at my hurt face, and I was congratulated on having won a wound-stripe.
The Armistice came along in a few days, and I was assigned to command a field-artillery regiment that was to march into Germany. I was glad, as I wanted to make that historic trip. But I wished to high heaven that my head would quit aching. We got ready for the march in, gathering horses here and there, resting our men, sprucing up all we could under the circumstances, hating the quiet and inactivity of it all, wishing we could go home for a week or so, talking about the past already. And still I wished to high heaven that my head would stop its ache, its throb, its feeling as if it were in a vise.
Then our orders came, and in we went. Through miles of horribly devastated France, past miles on miles of barbed-wire entanglements, over roads full of shell-holes, past utterly ruined towns. And then into beautiful Luxemburg, with fields of grain, wonderful forests; through quaint towns, and then to Luxemburg City, where, as I rode at the head of my regiment, the children ran along and threw flowers under my horse's feet-flags waving from the windows, people cheering, until my heart came into my throat and tears to my eyes, and I realized that never in my life again would I feel as I did then. And always my head ached and throbbed, always I wished to high heaven it would some time stop.
The regimental surgeon began to dope me. Every night he would stick something into me, or give me something to drink, feel my pulse, chat a while. Next morning he would stop in and ask how I slept, and sometimes how I ate. I did n't sleep, I could n't eat. And always the ache. And then that dream! It would wake me up in a sweat. Every now and then I would hear that fluttering, whimpering squeal, -and then I would see myself lying on
the ground with my face gone - and the blood pumping itself out of the pieces of the boy who had laughed at me. I would wake up and not sleep any more. Then breakfast and no appetite - and always that damnable ache, and throb, and the vise would squeeze my head.
Food became more scarce, transportation was not adequate, the Boche was moving fast, and we must keep up to him. My horses had been gassed from grazing in gassed areas back of the front; they had not had sufficient nourishment, and were weak. My men were very weary. One time we were told that the next day's march was forty-two miles. It almost broke my heart to make the regiment turn out at 4 A.M., and march those forty-two long miles. Horses died, men were evacuated to the hospitals, and between nine and ten that night we staggered into our billets, almost all in. And the hill we climbed that day—what a pull for those horses! I love horses, and as I rode up that hill, I thought of how little these drafted men knew of driving a six-line team up a hill with a jack-knife turn at the top. So I stopped, spread the regiment out so that there was road-room between the carriages, and personally drove every gun-carriage around that turn. There were only three men in the regiment who knew how to keep six horses in draft around a turn like that. The two majors knew, one a West Pointer, the other an old-type field-artillery first sergeant. I was the other one. It took six hours to get the two miles of regiment over the top of that hill. They got there, though.
Across the river into Germany! How I do remember that day. From the laughter, the waving flags, the happy children strewing flowers in Luxemburg, into Germany-silent, sullen Germany. The women turned their backs, the children clung to their mothers'
skirts, and stared, or scampered into the house, looking backward as they ran. How quiet it all was! How sullenly antagonistic! My men joked and kidded each other about the way the girls turned their backs, 'and comments were made on how that would all change when the Q.M. furnished us with new uniforms. It did change, too, almost overnight, as if it had been ordered from the German Great Headquarters. Then we were treated well, almost as guests. The sullenness vanished, to be replaced by a welcoming hand and offers of food and shelter if we did not have enough. My orderly came to me and said, 'Colonel, we've been fighting the wrong people!' It shocked me for a moment and made me think, and has made me think a good deal since that remark. I began to learn how many of my men spoke German, how many had been born in Germany, or were of German parentage.
I was made military governor of an area, was treated well by my host, the mayor of the town where I made my headquarters. I remember how delicious his Frau's outing-flannel sheets felt to me at night, after the variety I had been accustomed to at the front. But I could not sleep well at all, nor could I eat well. The doctor began to talk of my taking a rest, a few days in the hospital, and so forth, to ease up a bit. And there was more dope in my arm, or something to drink. But the throb in my head kept on and so did the dream. For about three months that continued; ; my nerves were getting bad, I was becoming more and more irritable. I was ill, but did not quite know it. I was sent to the hospital, was transferred to another, fainted once, was put to bed. And then things began to fade away at times. They were kind to me there, very kind. I shall always remember the kindness of those nurses and doctors.
We were met in New York by a reception committee, and handed newspapers. Officers came to me, saying that the men were angry at something and wanted my opinion. I happened to be the senior officer on board and, although on sick-report, was, nevertheless, asked about this thing that bothered the men. After hearing it out, I put it up to the men themselves, and they voted to a man that they did not want to be received by a committee headed by a New York newspaper man whom they considered worse than a Boche. The Boche at least would fight — this man stayed home and did all he could to mess up our work apparently. So I told the committee that the men wanted no reception from them, and they departed. How odd it seemed to me that we should be met by a pro-German at such a time! As I look back, I remember this as the first of the disappointments which my country had in store for its men from overseas.