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Title: Within the Rim and Other Essays
Author: James, Henry, 1843-1916
Language: English
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[Illustration: colophon]


Copyright 1918

     _Within the Rim_--Written in Feb. 1915 for Miss E. Asquith for a
     proposed album in aid of the Arts Fund. The idea of the album was
     abandoned, and the article was ultimately published in the
     _Fortnightly Review_, Aug. 1917.

     _Refugees in Chelsea_--Published in the _Times_ Literary
     Supplement, March 23, 1916.

     _The American Volunteer Motor-Ambulance Corps in France: A Letter
     to the Editor of an American Journal_--Issued as a pamphlet, 1914.

     _France_--Published in _The Book of France_, edited by Winifred
     Stephens, Macmillan, 1915.

     _The Long Wards_--Published in _The Book of the Homeless_, edited
     by Edith Wharton, Macmillan, 1916.

     Thanks are due in each case for the permission to reprint these



WITHIN THE RIM                                         11

REFUGEES IN CHELSEA                                    39

CORPS IN FRANCE: _A Letter to the Editor of an
American Journal_                                      63

FRANCE                                                 83

THE LONG WARDS                                         97


The first sense of it all to me after the first shock and horror was
that of a sudden leap back into life of the violence with which the
American Civil War broke upon us, at the North, fifty-four years ago,
when I had a consciousness of youth which perhaps equalled in vivacity
my present consciousness of age. The illusion was complete, in its
immediate rush; everything quite exactly matched in the two cases; the
tension of the hours after the flag of the Union had been fired upon in
South Carolina living again, with a tragic strangeness of recurrence, in
the interval during which the fate of Belgium hung in the scales and the
possibilities of that of France looked this country harder in the face,
one recognised, than any possibility, even that of the England of the
Armada, even that of the long Napoleonic menace, could be imagined to
have looked her. The analogy quickened and deepened with every elapsing
hour; the drop of the balance under the invasion of Belgium reproduced
with intensity the agitation of the New England air by Mr Lincoln's call
to arms, and I went about for a short space as with the queer secret
locked in my breast of at least already knowing how such occasions
helped and what a big war was going to mean. That this was literally a
light in the darkness, or that it materially helped the prospect to be
considered, is perhaps more than I can say; but it at least added the
strangest of savours, an inexpressible romantic thrill, to the harsh
taste of the crisis: I found myself literally knowing 'by experience'
what immensities, what monstrosities, what revelations of what
immeasurabilities, our affair would carry in its bosom--a knowledge that
flattered me by its hint of immunity from illusion. The sudden new tang
in the atmosphere, the flagrant difference, as one noted, in the look of
everything, especially in that of people's faces, the expressions, the
hushes, the clustered groups, the detached wanderers and slow-paced
public meditators, were so many impressions long before received and in
which the stretch of more than half a century had still left a
sharpness. So I took the case in and drew a vague comfort, I can scarce
say why, from recognition; so, while recognition lasted, I found it come
home to me that we, we of the ancient day, had known, had tremendously
learnt, what the awful business is when it is 'long,' when it remains
for months and months bitter and arid, void even of any great honour. In
consequence of which, under the rapid rise of presumptions of
difficulty, to whatever effect of dismay or of excitement, my possession
of something like a standard of difficulty, and, as I might perhaps feel
too, of success, became in its way a private luxury.

My point is, however, that upon this luxury I was allowed after all but
ever so scantily to feed. I am unable to say when exactly it was that
the rich analogy, the fine and sharp identity between the faded and the
vivid case broke down, with the support obscurely derived from them; the
moment anyhow came soon enough at which experience felt the ground give
way and that one swung off into space, into history, into darkness, with
every lamp extinguished and every abyss gaping. It ceased quite to
matter for reassurance that the victory of the North had been so delayed
and yet so complete, that our struggle had worn upon the world of the
time, and quite to exasperation, as could well be remembered, by its
length; if the present complication should but begin to be as long as it
was broad no term of comparison borrowed from the past would so much as
begin to fit it. I might have found it humiliating; in fact, however, I
found it of the most commanding interest, whether at certain hours of
dire apprehension or at certain others of the finer probability, that
the biggest like convulsion our generations had known was still but too
clearly to be left far behind for exaltations and terrors, for effort
and result, as a general exhibition of the perversity of nations and of
the energy of man. Such at least was the turn the comparison took at a
given moment in a remembering mind that had been steeped, so far as its
restricted contact went, but in the Northern story; I did, I confess,
cling awhile to the fancy that what loomed perhaps for England, what
already did so much more than loom for crucified Belgium, what was let
loose in a torrent upon indestructible France, might correspond more or
less with the pressure of the old terrible time as the fighting South
had had to know it, and with the grim conditions under which she had at
last given way. For the rest of the matter, as I say, the difference of
aspect produced by the difference of intensity cut short very soon my
vision of similitude. The intensity swallowed up everything; the rate
and the scale and the speed, the unprecedented engines, the vast
incalculable connections, the immediate presence, as it were, of France
and Belgium, whom one could hear pant, through the summer air, in their
effort and their alarm, these things, with the prodigious might of the
enemy added, made me say, dropping into humility in a manner that
resembled not a little a drop into still greater depths, 'Oh, no, that
surely can't have been "a patch" on this!' Which conclusion made
accordingly for a new experience altogether, such as I gratefully
embrace here an occasion not to leave unrecorded.

It was in the first place, after the strangest fashion, a sense of the
extraordinary way in which the most benign conditions of light and air,
of sky and sea, the most beautiful English summer conceivable, mixed
themselves with all the violence of action and passion, the other so
hideous and piteous, so heroic and tragic facts, and flouted them as
with the example of something far superior. Never were desperate doings
so blandly lighted up as by the two unforgettable months that I was to
spend so much of in looking over from the old rampart of a little
high-perched Sussex town at the bright blue streak of the Channel,
within a mile or two of us at its nearest point, the point to which it
had receded after washing our rock-base in its earlier ages, and staring
at the bright mystery beyond the rim of the farthest opaline reach.
Just on the other side of that finest of horizon-lines history was
raging at a pitch new under the sun; thinly masked by that shameless
smile the Belgian horror grew; the curve of the globe toward these
things was of the scantest, and yet the hither spaces of the purest, the
interval representing only charm and calm and ease. One grew to feel
that the nearer elements, those of land and water and sky at their
loveliest, were making thus, day after day, a particular prodigious
point, insisting in their manner on a sense and a wondrous story which
it would be the restless watcher's fault if he didn't take in. Not that
these were hints or arts against which he was in the least degree proof;
they penetrated with every hour deeper into the soul, and, the
contemplations I speak of aiding, irresistibly worked out an endless
volume of references. It was all somehow the history of the hour
addressing itself to the individual mind--or to that in any case of the
person, at once so appalled and so beguiled, of whose response to the
whole appeal I attempt this brief account. Round about him stretched
the scene of his fondest frequentation as time had determined the habit;
but it was as if every reason and every sentiment conducing to the
connection had, under the shock of events, entered into solution with
every other, so that the only thinkable approach to rest, that is to the
recovery of an inward order, would be in restoring them each, or to as
many as would serve the purpose, some individual dignity and some form.

It came indeed largely of itself, my main help to the reparatory, the
re-identifying process; came by this very chance that in the splendour
of the season there was no mistaking the case or the plea. 'This, as you
can see better than ever before,' the elements kept conspiring to say,
'is the rare, the sole, the exquisite England whose weight now hangs in
the balance, and your appreciation of whose value, much as in the easy
years you may have taken it for granted, seems exposed to some fresh and
strange and strong determinant, something that breaks in like a
character of high colour in a play.' Nothing could have thrilled me
more, I recognise, than the threat of this irruption or than the
dramatic pitch; yet a degree of pain attached to the ploughed-up state
it implied--so that, with an elderly dread of a waste of emotion, I fear
I almost pusillanimously asked myself why a sentiment from so far back
recorded as lively should need to become any livelier, and in fact
should hesitate to beg off from the higher diapason. I felt as the quiet
dweller in a tenement so often feels when the question of 'structural
improvements' is thrust upon him; my house of the spirit, amid
everything about me, had become more and more the inhabited, adjusted,
familiar home, quite big enough and sound enough for the spirit's uses
and with any intrinsic inconvenience corrected only since by that
principle's having cultivated and formed, at whatever personal cost
(since my spirit was essentially a person), the right habits, and so
settled into the right attitude for practical, for contented occupation.
If, however, such was my vulgar apprehension, as I put it, the case was
taken out of my hands by the fate that so often deals with these
accidents, and I found myself before long building on additions and
upper storys, throwing out extensions and protrusions, indulging even,
all recklessly, in gables and pinnacles and battlements--things that had
presently transformed the unpretending place into I scarce know what to
call it, a fortress of the faith, a palace of the soul, an extravagant,
bristling, flag-flying structure which had quite as much to do with the
air as with the earth. And all this, when one came to return upon it in
a considering or curious way, because to and fro one kept going on the
old rampart, the town 'look-out,' to spend one's aching wonder again and
again on the bright sky-line that at once held and mocked it. Just over
that line were unutterable things, massacre and ravage and anguish, all
but irresistible assault and cruelty, bewilderment and heroism all but
overwhelmed; from the sense of which one had but to turn one's head to
take in something unspeakably different and that yet produced, as by
some extraordinary paradox, a pang almost as sharp.

It was of course by the imagination that this latter was quickened to an
intensity thus akin to pain--but the imagination had doubtless at every
turn, without exception, more to say to one's state of mind, and dealt
more with the whole unfolding scene, than any other contributive force.
Never in all my life, probably, had I been so glad to have opened
betimes an account with this faculty and to be able to feel for the most
part something to my credit there; so vivid I mean had to be one's
prevision of the rate at which drafts on that source would require
cashing. All of which is a manner of saying that in face of what during
those horrible days seemed exactly over the way the old inviolate
England, as to whom the fact that she _was_ inviolate, in every valid
sense of the term, had become, with long acquaintance, so common and
dull, suddenly shone in a light never caught before and which was for
the next weeks, all the magnificence of August and September, to reduce
a thousand things to a sort of merciless distinctness. It was not so
much that they leaped forth, these things, under the particular
recognition, as that they multiplied without end and abounded, always in
some association at least that caught the eye, all together overscoring
the image as a whole or causing the old accepted synthesis to bristle
with accents. The image as a whole, thus richly made up of them--or of
the numberless testifying touches to the effect that we were not there
on our sea defence as the other, the harried, countries were behind such
bulwarks as they could throw up--was the central fact of consciousness
and the one to which every impression and every apprehension more or
less promptly related themselves; it made of itself the company in which
for the time the mind most naturally and yet most importunately lived.
One walked of course in the shade of the ambiguous contrast--ambiguous
because of the dark question of whether it was the liabilities of
Belgium and France, to say nothing of their awful actualities, that made
England's state so rare, or England's state that showed her tragic
sisters for doubly outraged; the action of the matter was at least that
of one's feeling in one's hand and weighing it there with the last
tenderness, for fullest value, the golden key that unlocked every
compartment of the English character.

Clearly this general mystery or mixture was to be laid open under stress
of fortune as never yet--the unprecedentedness was above all what came
over us again and again, armaments unknown to human experience looming
all the while larger and larger; but whatever face or succession of
faces the genius of the race should most turn up the main mark of them
all would be in the difference that, taken together, couldn't fail to
keep them more unlike the peoples off there beyond than any pair even of
the most approved of these peoples are unlike each other.
'Insularity!'--one had spent no small part of one's past time in mocking
or in otherwise fingering the sense out of that word; yet here it was in
the air wherever one looked and as stuffed with meaning as if nothing
had ever worn away from it, as if its full force on the contrary
amounted to inward congestion. What the term essentially signified was
in the oddest way a question at once enormous and irrelevant; what it
might _show_ as signifying, what it was in the circumstances actively
and most probably going to, seemed rather the true consideration,
indicated with all the weight of the evidence scattered about. Just the
fixed _look_ of England under the August sky, what was this but the most
vivid exhibition of character conceivable and the face turned up, to
repeat my expression, with a frankness that really left no further
inquiry to be made? That appearance was of the exempt state, the record
of the long safe centuries, in its happiest form, and even if any shade
of happiness at such an hour might well seem a sign of profanity or
perversity. To _that_ there were all sorts of things to say, I could at
once reflect, however; wouldn't it be the thing supremely in character
that England should look most complacently herself, irradiating all her
reasons for it, at the very crisis of the question of the true
toughness, in other words the further duration, of her identity? I
might observe, as for that matter I repeatedly and unspeakably did while
the two months lasted, that she was pouring forth this identity, as
atmosphere and aspect and picture, in the very measure and to the very
top of her consciousness of how it hung in the balance. Thus one
arrived, through the succession of shining days, at the finest sense of
the case--the interesting truth that her consciously not being as her
tragic sisters were in the great particular was virtually just her
genius, and that the very straightest thing she could do would naturally
be not to flinch at the dark hour from any profession of her genius.
Looking myself more askance at the dark hour (politically speaking I
mean) than I after my fashion figured her as doing in her mass, I found
it of an extreme, of quite an endless fascination to trace as many as
possible of her felt idiosyncrasies back to her settled sea-confidence,
and to see this now in turn account for so many other things, the
smallest as well as the biggest, that, to give the fewest hints of
illustration, the mere spread of the great trees, the mere gathers in
the little bluey-white curtains of the cottage windows, the mere curl of
the tinted smoke from the old chimneys matching that note, became a sort
of exquisite evidence.

Exquisite evidence of a like general class, it was true, didn't on the
other side of the Channel prevent the awful liability to the reach of
attack--its having borne fruit and been corrected or averted again was
in fact what half the foreign picture meant; but the foreign genius was
the other, other at almost every point; it had always in the past and on
the spot, one remembered, expressed things, confessed things, with a
difference, and part of that difference was of course the difference of
history: the fact of exemption, as I have called it, the fact that a
blest inviolacy was almost exactly what had least flourished. France and
Belgium, to refer only to them, became dear accordingly, in the light I
speak of, because, having suffered and suffered, they were suffering yet
again, while precisely the opposite process worked for the scene
directly beneath my eyes. England was interesting, to put it
mildly--which is but a shy evasion of putting it passionately--because
she hadn't suffered, because there were passages of that sort she had
publicly declined and defied; at the same time that one wouldn't have
the case so simple as to set it down wholly to her luck. France and
Belgium, for the past, confessed, to repeat my term; while England, so
consistently harmonised, with all her long unbrokenness thick and rich
upon her, seemed never to do that, nor to need it, in order to practise
on a certain fine critical, not to mention a certain fine prejudiced,
sensibility. It was the season of sensibility now, at any rate for just
those days and just that poor place of yearning, of merely yearning,
vigil; and I may add with all emphasis that never had I had occasion so
to learn how far sensibility may go when once well wound up. It was
saying little to say I did justice easiest at once and promptest to the
most advertised proposal of the enemy, his rank intention of clapping
down the spiked helmet, than which no form of headgear, by the way, had
ever struck one as of a more graceless, a more tell-tale platitude, upon
the priceless genius of France; far from new, after all, was that
measure of the final death in him of the saving sense of proportion
which only gross dementia can abolish. Those of my generation who could
remember the detected and frustrated purpose of a renewed Germanic
pounce upon the country which, all but bled to death in 1871, had become
capable within five years of the most penetrating irony of revival ever
recorded, were well aware of how in that at once sinister and grotesque
connection they had felt notified in time. It was the extension of the
programme and its still more prodigious publication during the quarter
of a century of interval, it was the announced application of the
extinguisher to the quite other, the really so contrasted genius the
expression of which surrounded me in the manner I have glanced at, it
was the extraordinary fact of a declared non-sufferance any longer, on
Germany's part, of either of the obnoxious national forms disfiguring
her westward horizon, and even though by her own allowance they had
nothing intellectually or socially in common save that they were
objectionable and, as an incident, crushable--it was this, I say, that
gave one furiously to think, or rather, while one thanked one's stars
for the luxury, furiously and all but unutterably to feel.

The beauty and the interest, the now more than ever copious and welcome
expression, of the aspects nearest me found their value in their being
so resistingly, just to that very degree of eccentricity, with that very
density of home-grownness, what they were; in the same way as the
character of the sister-land lately joined in sisterhood showed for
exquisite because so ingrained and incorrigible, so beautifully all her
own and inimitable on other ground. If it would have been hard really to
give the measure of one's dismay at the awful proposition of a world
squeezed together in the huge Prussian fist and with the variety and
spontaneity of its parts oozing in a steady trickle, like the sacred
blood of sacrifice, between those hideous knuckly fingers, so, none the
less, every reason with which our preference for a better condition and
a nobler fate could possibly bristle kept battering at my heart, kept,
in fact, pushing into it, after the fashion of a crowd of the alarmed
faithful at the door of a church. The effect was literally, yes, as of
the occasion of some great religious service, with prostrations and
exaltations, the light of a thousand candles and the sound of soaring
choirs--all of which figured one's individual inward state as determined
by the menace. One could still note at the same time, however, that this
high pitch of private emotion was by itself far from meeting the case as
the enemy presented it; what I wanted, of course, to do was to meet it
with the last lucidity, the fullest support for particular defensive
pleas or claims--and this even if what most underlay all such without
exception came back to my actual vision, that and no more, of the
general sense of the land. The vision was fed, and fed to such a tune
that in the quest for reasons--that is, for the particulars of one's
affection, the more detailed the better--the blades of grass, the
outlines of leaves, the drift of clouds, the streaks of mortar between
old bricks, not to speak of the call of child-voices muffled in the
comforting air, became, as I have noted, with a hundred other like
touches, casually felt, extraordinary admonitions and symbols, close
links of a tangible chain. When once the question fairly hung there of
the possibility, more showily set forth than it had up to then presumed
to be, of a world without use for the tradition so embodied, an order
substituting for this, by an unmannerly thrust, quite another and
really, it would seem, quite a ridiculous, a crudely and clumsily
improvised story, we might all have resembled together a group of
children at their nurse's knee disconcerted by some tale that it isn't
their habit to hear. We loved the old tale, or at least I did, exactly
because I knew it; which leaves me keen to make the point, none the
less, that my appreciation of the case for world-variety found the
deeply and blessedly familiar perfectly consistent with it. This came
of what I 'read into' the familiar; and of what I did so read, of what I
kept reading through that uplifted time, these remarks were to have
attempted a record that has reached its limit sooner than I had hoped.

I was not then to the manner born, but my apprehension of what it was on
the part of others to be so had been confirmed and enriched by the long
years, and I gave myself up to the general, the native image I thus
circled around as to the dearest and most precious of all native images.
That verily became at the crisis an occupation sublime; which was not,
after all, so much an earnest study or fond arrangement of the mixed
aspects as a positive, a fairly sensual bask in their light, too kindled
and too rich not to pour out by its own force. The strength and the
copious play of the appearances acting in this collective fashion
carried everything before them; no dark discrimination, no stiff little
reserve that one might ever have made, stood up in the diffused day for
a moment. It was in the opposite way, the most opposite possible, that
one's intelligence worked, all along the line; so that with the warmth
of the mere sensation that 'they' were about as good, above all when it
came to the stress, as could well be expected of people, there was the
acute interest of the successive points at which one recognised why.
This last, the satisfaction of the deepened intelligence, turned, I may
frankly say, to a prolonged revel--'they' being the people about me and
every comfort I had ever had of them smiling its individual smile
straight at me and conducing to an effect of candour that is beyond any
close notation. They didn't know how good they were, and their candour
had a peculiar lovability of unconsciousness; one had more imagination
at their service in this cause than they had in almost any cause of
their own; it was wonderful, it was beautiful, it was inscrutable, that
they could make one feel this and yet not feel with it that it at all
practically diminished them. Of course, if a shade should come on
occasion to fall across the picture, that shade would perhaps be the
question whether the most restless of the faculties mightn't on the
whole too much fail them. It beautified life, I duly remembered, it
promoted art, it inspired faith, it crowned conversation, but hadn't
it--always again under stress--still finer applications than these, and
mightn't it in a word, taking the right direction, peculiarly conduce to
virtue? Wouldn't it, indeed, be indispensable to virtue of the highest
strain? Never mind, at any rate--so my emotion replied; with it or
without it we seemed to _be_ taking the right direction; moreover, the
next best thing to the imagination people may have, if they can, is the
quantity of it they may set going in others, and which, imperfectly
aware, they are just exposed to from such others, and must make the best
of: their advantage becoming simply that it works, for the connection,
all in their favour. That of the associated outsider, the order of whose
feelings, for the occasion, I have doubtless not given a wholly lucid
sketch of, cultivated its opportunity week after week at such a rate
that, technical alien as he was, the privilege of the great partaking,
of shared instincts and ideals, of a communion of race and tongue,
temper and tradition, put on before all the blest appearances a
splendour to which I hoped that so long as I might yet live my eyes
would never grow dim. And the great intensity, the melting together of
the spiritual sources so loosed in a really intoxicating draught, was
when I shifted my watch from near east to far west and caught the enemy,
who seemed ubiquitous, in the long-observed effort that most fastened on
him the insolence of his dream and the depth of his delusion. There in
the west were those of my own fond fellowship, the other, the ready and
rallying partakers, and it was on the treasure of our whole unquenchable
association that in the riot of his ignorance--this at least apparently
armour-proof--he had laid his unholy hands.


This is not a Report on our so interesting and inspiring Chelsea work,
since November last, in aid of the Belgians driven thither from their
country by a violence of unprovoked invasion and ravage more appalling
than has ever before overtaken a peaceful and industrious people; it is
the simple statement of a neighbour and an observer deeply affected by
the most tragic exhibition of national and civil prosperity and felicity
suddenly subjected to bewildering outrage that it would have been
possible to conceive. The case, as the generous American communities
have shown they well understand, has had no analogue in the experience
of our modern generations, no matter how far back we go; it has been
recognised, in surpassing practical ways, as virtually the greatest
public horror of our age, or of all the preceding; and one gratefully
feels, in presence of so much done in direct mitigation of it, that its
appeal to the pity and the indignation of the civilised world
anticipated and transcended from the first all superfluity of argument.
We live into--that is, we learn to cultivate--possibilities of sympathy
and reaches of beneficence very much as the stricken and suffering
themselves live into their dreadful history and explore and reveal its
extent; and this admirable truth it is that unceasingly pleads with the
intelligent, the fortunate, and the exempt, not to consent in advance to
any dull limitation of the helpful idea. The American people have surely
a genius, of the most eminent kind, for withholding any such consent and
despising all such limits; and there is doubtless no remarked connection
in which they have so shown the sympathetic imagination in free and
fearless activity--that is, in high originality--as under the suggestion
of the tragedy of Belgium.

I have small warrant perhaps to say that atmospheres are communicable;
but I can testify at least that they are breathable on the spot, to
whatever effect of depression or of cheer; and I should go far, I feel,
were I to attempt to register the full bitter-sweet taste, by our
Chelsea waterside, all these months, of the refugee element in our vital
medium. (The sweet, as I strain a point perhaps to call it, inheres, to
whatever distinguishability, in our hope of having really done
something, verily done much; the bitter ineradicably seasons the
consciousness, hopes and demonstrations and fond presumptions and all.)
I need go no further, none the less, than the makeshift provisional
gates of Crosby Hall, marvellous monument transplanted a few years since
from the Bishopsgate quarter of the City to a part of the ancient
suburban site of the garden of Sir Thomas More, and now serving with
extraordinary beneficence as the most splendid of shelters for the
homeless. This great private structure, though of the grandest civic
character, dating from the fifteenth century, and one of the noblest
relics of the past that London could show, was held a few years back so
to cumber the precious acre or more on which it stood that it was taken
to pieces in the candid commercial interest and in order that the site
it had so long sanctified should be converted to such uses as would
stuff out still further the ideal number of private pockets. Dismay and
disgust were unable to save it; the most that could be done was to
gather in with tenderness of care its innumerable constituent parts and
convey them into safer conditions, where a sad defeated piety has been
able to re-edify them into some semblance of the original majesty.
Strange withal some of the turns of the whirligig of time; the priceless
structure came down to the sound of lamentation, not to say of
execration, and of the gnashing of teeth, and went up again before cold
and disbelieving, quite despairing, eyes; in spite of which history
appears to have decided once more to cherish it and give a new
consecration. It is, in truth, still magnificent; it lives again for our
gratitude in its noblest particulars; and the almost incomparable roof
has arched all this winter and spring over a scene probably more
interesting and certainly more pathetic than any that have ever drawn
down its ancient far-off blessing.

The place has formed, then, the headquarters of the Chelsea circle of
hospitality to the exiled, the broken, and the bewildered; and if I may
speak of having taken home the lesson of their state and the sense of
their story, it is by meeting them in the finest club conditions
conceivable that I have been able to do so. Hither, month after month
and day after day, the unfortunates have flocked, each afternoon; and
here the comparatively exempt, almost ashamed of their exemption in
presence of so much woe, have made them welcome to every form of succour
and reassurance. Certain afternoons each week have worn the character of
the huge comprehensive tea-party, a fresh well-wisher discharging the
social and financial cost of the fresh occasion--which has always
festally profited, in addition, by the extraordinary command of musical
accomplishment, the high standard of execution, that is the mark of the
Belgian people. This exhibition of our splendid local resource has
rested, of course, on a multitude of other resources, still local, but
of a more intimate hospitality, little by little worked out and applied,
and into the details of which I may not here pretend to go beyond noting
that they have been accountable for the large housed and fed and clothed
and generally protected and administered numbers, all provided for in
Chelsea and its outer fringe, on which our scheme of sociability at
Crosby Hall itself has up to now been able to draw. To have seen this
scheme so long in operation has been to find it suggest many
reflections, all of the most poignant and moving order; the foremost of
which has, perhaps, had for its subject that never before can the wanton
hand of history have descended upon a group of communities less
expectant of public violence from without or less prepared for it and
attuned to it.

The bewildered and amazed passivity of the Flemish civil population, the
state as of people surprised by sudden ruffians, murderers, and thieves
in the dead of night and hurled out, terrified and half clad, snatching
at the few scant household gods nearest at hand, into a darkness
mitigated but by flaring incendiary torches--this has been the
experience stamped on our scores and scores of thousands, whose
testimony to suffering, dismay, and despoilment silence alone, the
silence of vain uncontributive wonderment, has for the most part been
able to express. Never was such a revelation of a deeply domestic, a
rootedly domiciled and instinctively and separately clustered people, a
mass of communities for which the sight of the home violated, the
objects helping to form it profaned, and the cohesive family, the
Belgian ideal of the constituted life, dismembered, disembowelled, and
shattered, had so supremely to represent the crack of doom and the end
of everything. There have been days and days when under this particular
impression the mere aspect and manner of our serried recipients of
relief, something vague and inarticulate as in persons who have given
up everything but patience and are living, from hour to hour, but in the
immediate and the unexplained, has put on such a pathos as to make the
heart sick. One has had just to translate any seated row of figures,
thankful for warmth and light and covering, for sustenance and human
words and human looks, into terms that would exemplify some like exiled
and huddled and charity-fed predicament for our superior selves, to feel
our exposure to such a fate, our submission to it, our holding in the
least together under it, darkly unthinkable. Dim imaginations would at
such moments interpose, a confused theory that even at the worst our
adventurous habits, our imperial traditions, our general defiance of the
superstition of domesticity, would dash from our lips the cup of
bitterness; from these it was at all events impossible not to come back
to the consciousness that almost every creature there collected was
indebted to our good offices for the means to come at all. I thought of
our parents and children, our brothers and sisters, aligned in borrowed
garments and settled to an as yet undetermined future of eleemosynary
tea and buns, and I ask myself, doubtless to little purpose, either what
grace of resignation or what clamour of protest we should, beneath the
same star, be noted as substituting for the inveterate Belgian decency.

I can only profess at once that the sense of this last round about one
was, at certain hours when the music and the chant of consolation rose
in the stillness from our improvised stage at the end of the great hall,
a thing to cloud with tears any pair of eyes lifted to our sublime saved
roof in thanks for its vast comprehension. Questions of exhibited type,
questions as to a range of form and tradition, a measure of sensibility
and activity, not our own, dwindled and died before the gross fact of
our having here an example of such a world-tragedy as we supposed Europe
had outlived, and that nothing at all therefore mattered but that we
should bravely and handsomely hold up our quite heavy enough end of it.
It is because we have responded in this degree to the call
unprecedented that we are, in common with a vast number of
organisations scattered through these islands, qualified to claim that
no small part of the inspiration to our enormous act of welcome resides
in the moral interest it yields. One can indeed be certain of such a
source of profit but in the degree in which one has found oneself
personally drawing upon it; yet it is obvious that we are not treated
every day to the disclosure of a national character, a national
temperament and type, confined for the time to their plainest and
stoutest features and set, on a prodigious scale, in all the relief that
the strongest alien air and alien conditions can give them. Great
salience, in such a case, do all collective idiosyncrasies acquire--upon
the fullest enumeration of which, however, as the Belgian instance and
the British atmosphere combine to represent them, I may not now embark,
prepossessed wholly as I am with the more generally significant social
stamp and human aspect so revealed, and with the quality derived from
these things by the multiplied examples that help us to take them in.
This feeling that our visitors illustrate above all the close and
comfortable household life, with every implication of a seated and
saturated practice of it, practice of the intimate and private and
personal, the securely sensual and genial arts that flow from it, has
been by itself the key to a plenitude of observation and in particular
to as much friendly searching insight as one could desire to enjoy.

The moving, the lacerating thing is the fashion after which such a
reading of the native elements, once adopted, has been as a light
flaring into every obscurest retreat, as well as upon any puzzling
ambiguity, of the state of shock of the national character under the
infamy of the outrage put upon it. That _they_, of all people the most
given over to local and patriarchal beatitude among the admirable and
the cherished objects handed down to them by their so interesting
history on every spot where its action has been thickest--that is, on
every inch, so to speak, of their teeming territory--should find
themselves identified with the most shamelessly cynical public act of
which the civilised world at this hour retains the memory, is a fact
truly representing the exquisite in the horrible; so peculiarly
addressed has been their fate to the desecration of ideals that had
fairly become breath of their lungs and flesh of their flesh. Oh, the
installed and ensconced, the immemorially edified and arranged, the
thoroughly furnished and provided and nourished people!--not in the
least besotted or relaxed in their security and density, like the
self-smothered society of the ancient world upon which the earlier Huns
and Vandals poured down, but candidly complacent and admirably
intelligent in their care for their living tradition, and only so off
their guard as to have consciously set the example of this care to all
such as had once smoked with them their wondrous pipe of peace. Almost
any posture of stupefaction would have been conceivable in the shaken
victims of this delusion: I can speak best, however, but of what I have
already glanced at, that temperamental weight of their fall which has
again and again, at sight of many of them gathered together, made the
considering heart as heavy for them as if it, too, had for the time been

However, it would take me far to tell of half the penetrating
admonitions, whether of the dazed or of the roused appearance, that have
for so long almost in like degree made our attention ache. I think of
particular faces, in the whole connection, when I want most to
remember--since to remember always, and never, never to forget, is a
prescription shining before us like a possible light of dawn--faces
saying such things in their silence, or in their speech of quite
different matters, as to make the only thinkable comment or response
some word or some gesture of reprieve to dumb or to dissimulated
anguish. Blest be the power that has given to civilised men the
appreciation of the face--such an immeasurable sphere of exercise for it
has this monstrous trial of the peoples come to supply. Such histories,
such a record of moral experience, of emotion convulsively suppressed,
as one meets in some of them: and this even if, on the whole, one has
been able to think of these special allies, all sustainingly, much
rather as the sturdiest than as the most demonstrative of sufferers. I
have in these rapid remarks to reduce my many impressions to the fewest,
but must even thus spare one of them for commemoration of the admirable
cast of working countenance we are rewarded by the sight of, wherever we
turn amid the quantity of helpful service and all the fruitful
industries that we have been able to start and that keep themselves
going. These are the lights in the picture; and who indeed would wish
that the lights themselves should be anything less than tragic? The
strong young man (no young men are familiarly stronger,) mutilated,
amputated, dismembered in penalty for their defence of their soil
against the horde, and now engaged at Crosby Hall in the making of
handloom socks, to whom I pay an occasional visit--much more for my own
cheer, I apprehend, than for theirs--express so in their honest
concentration under difficulties the actual and general value of their
people that just to be in their presence is a blest renewal of faith.
Excellent, exemplary, is this manly, homely, handy type, grave in its
somewhat strained attention, but at once lighted to the briefest,
sincerest humour of protest by any direct reference to the general
cruelty of its misfortune. Anything but unsuggestive, the range of the
'quiet' physiognomy, when one feels the consciousness behind it not to
have run thin. Thick and strong is the good Flemish sense of life and
all its functions--which fact is responsible for no empty and really
unmodelled 'mug.'

I am afraid at the same time that, if the various ways of being bad are
beyond our reckoning, the condition and the action of exemplary goodness
tend rather to reduce to a certain rich unity of appearance those marked
by them, however dissociated from each other such persons may have been
by race and education. Otherwise what tribute shouldn't I be moved to
pay to the gentleman of Flanders to whom the specially improvised
craftsmen I have just mentioned owe their training and their
inspiration? through _his_ having, in his proscribed and denuded state,
mastered the craft in order to recruit them to it, and, in fine, so far
as my observation has been concerned, exhibit clear human virtue,
courage and patience and the humility of sought fellowship in privation,
with an unconscious beauty that I should be ashamed in this connection
not to have noted publicly. I scarce know what such a 'personality' as
his suggests to me if not that we had all, on our good Chelsea ground,
best take up and cherish as directly and ultimately as possible every
scrap of our community with our gentleman of Flanders. I make such a
point as this, at the same time, only to remember how, almost wherever I
have tried sustainingly to turn, my imagination and my intelligence have
been quickened, and to recognise in particular, for that matter, that
this couldn't possibly be more the case for them than in visiting a
certain hostel in one of our comparatively contracted but amply decent
local squares--riverside Chelsea having, of course, its own urban
identity in the multitudinous County of London: which, in itself as
happy an example, doubtless, of the hostel smoothly working as one need
cite, placed me in grateful relation with a lady, one of the victims of
her country's convulsion and in charge of the establishment I allude to,
whom simply to 'meet,' as we say, is to learn how singular a dignity,
how clear a distinction, may shine in active fortitude and economic
self-effacement under an all but crushing catastrophe. 'Talk about
faces----!' I could but privately ejaculate as I gathered the sense of
all that this one represented in the way of natural nobleness and
sweetness, a whole past acquaintance with letters and art and taste,
insisting on their present restrictedness to bare sisterly service.

The proud rigour of association with pressing service alone, with
absolutely nothing else, the bare commodious house, so otherwise known
to me of old and now--like most of our hostels, if I am not mistaken,
the most unconditioned of loans from its relinquishing owner--the
lingering look of ancient peace in the precincts, an element I had
already, as I passed and repassed at the afternoon hour, found somehow
not at all dispelled by the presence in the central green garden itself
of sundry maimed and hobbling and smiling convalescents from an
extemporised small hospital close at hand, their battered khaki replaced
by a like uniformity of the loose light blue, and friendly talk with
them through the rails of their enclosure as blest to one participant at
least as friendly talk with them always and everywhere is: such were the
hovering elements of an impression in which the mind had yet mainly to
yield to that haunting force on the part of our waiting proscripts which
never consents to be long denied. The proof of which universally
recognised power of their spell amid us is indeed that they have led me
so far with a whole side of my plea for them still unspoken. This,
however, I hope on another occasion to come back to; and I am caught
meanwhile by my memory of how the note of this conviction was struck for
me, with extraordinary force, many months ago and in the first flush of
recognition of what the fate that had overtaken our earliest tides of
arrival and appeal really meant--meant so that all fuller acquaintance,
since pursued, has but piled one congruous reality after another upon
the horror.

It was in September, in a tiny Sussex town which I had not quitted since
the outbreak of the war, and where the advent of our first handful of
fugitives before the warning of Louvain and Aerschoot and Termonde and
Dinant had just been announced. Our small hill-top city, covering the
steep sides of the compact pedestal crowned by its great church, had
reserved a refuge at its highest point; and we had waited all day, from
occasional train to train, for the moment at which we should attest our
hospitality. It came at last, but late in the evening, when a vague
outside rumour called me to my doorstep, where the unforgettable
impression at once assaulted me. Up the precipitous little street that
led from the station, over the old grass-grown cobbles where vehicles
rarely pass, came the panting procession of the homeless and their
comforting, their almost clinging entertainers, who seemed to hurry them
on as in a sort of overflow of expression of the fever of charity. It
was swift and eager, in the autumn darkness and under the flare of a
single lamp--with no vociferation and, but for a woman's voice, scarce a
sound save the shuffle of mounting feet and the thick-drawn breath of
emotion. The note I except, however, was that of a young mother carrying
her small child and surrounded by those who bore her on and on, almost
lifting her as they went together. The resonance through our immemorial
old street of her sobbing and sobbing cry was the voice itself of
history; it brought home to me more things than I could then quite take
the measure of, and these just because it expressed for her not direct
anguish, but the incredibility, as who should say, of honest assured
protection. Months have elapsed, and from having been then one of a few
hundred she is now one of scores and scores of thousands: yet her cry
is still in my ears, whether to speak most of what she had lately or of
what she actually felt; and it plays, to my own sense, as a great
fitful, tragic light over the dark exposure of her people.


_A Letter to the Editor of an American Journal_

SIR,--Several of us Americans in London are so interested in the
excellent work of this body, lately organised by Mr Richard Norton and
now in active operation at the rear of a considerable part of the
longest line of battle known to history, that I have undertaken to
express to you our common conviction that our countrymen at home will
share our interest and respond to such particulars as we are by this
time able to give. The idea of the admirable enterprise was suggested to
Mr Norton when, early in the course of the War, he saw at the American
Hospital at Neuilly scores of cases of French and British wounded whose
lives were lost, or who must incur life--long disability and suffering,
through the long delay of their removal from the field of battle. To
help energetically to remedy this dire fact struck him at once as
possible, and his application of energy was so immediate and effective
that in just three weeks after his return to London to take the work in
hand he had been joined by a number of his countrymen and of others
possessed of cars, who had offered them as ambulances already fitted or
easily convertible, and had not less promptly offered themselves as
capable chauffeurs. To this promptly gathered equipment, the recruiting
of which no red tape had hampered and no postponement to
committee-meetings had delayed, were at once added certain other cars of
purchase--these made possible by funds rapidly received from many known
and unknown friends in America. The fleet so collected amounted to some
fifteen cars. To the service of the British Red Cross and that of the St
John Ambulance it then addressed itself, gratefully welcomed, and
enjoying from that moment the valuable association of Colonel A. J.
Barry of the British Army, who was already employed in part on behalf of
the Red Cross. I have within a few days had the opportunity to learn
from this zealous and accomplished coadjutor, as well as from Mr Norton
himself, some of the particulars of their comprehensive activity, they
each having been able to dash over to London for a visit of the briefest
duration. It has thus been brought home to me how much the success of
the good work depends on American generosity both in the personal and
the pecuniary way--exercised, that is, by the contribution of cars, to
which personal service, that of their contributors, attaches itself, and
of course by such gifts of money as shall make the Corps more and more
worthy of its function and of the American name.

Its function is primarily that of gathering in the wounded, and those
disabled by illness (though the question is almost always of the
former,) from the _postes de secours_ and the field hospitals, the
various nearest points to the Front, bestrewn with patient victims, to
which a motor-car can workably penetrate, and conveying them to the base
hospitals, and when necessary the railway stations, from which they may
be further directed upon places of care, centres of those possibilities
of recovery which the splendid recent extension of surgical and medical
science causes more and more to preponderate. The great and blessed fact
is that conditions of recovery are largely secured by the promptitude
and celerity that motor-transport offers, as compared with railway
services at the mercy of constant interruption and arrest, in the case
of bad and already neglected wounds, those aggravated by exposure and
delay, the long lying on the poisonous field before the blest regimental
_brancardiers_ or stretcher-bearers, waiting for the shelter of night,
but full also of their own strain of pluck, can come and remove them.
Carried mostly by rude arts, a mercy much hindered at the best, to the
shelter, often hastily improvised, at which first aid becomes possible
for them, they are there, as immediately and tenderly as possible,
stowed in our waiting or arriving cars, each of which receives as large
a number as may be consistent with the particular suffering state of the
stricken individual. Some of these are able to sit, at whatever cost
from the inevitable shake over rough country roads; for others the lying
posture only is thinkable, and the ideal car is the one which may
humanely accommodate three men outstretched and four or five seated.
Three outstretched is sometimes a tight fit, but when this is impossible
the gain in poor _blessés assis_ is the greater--wedged together though
broken shoulder or smashed arm may have to be with a like shrinking and
shuddering neighbour. The moral of these rigours is of course that the
more numerous the rescuing vehicles the less inevitable the sore
crowding. I find it difficult to express to you the sense of practical
human pity, as well as the image of general helpful energy, applied in
innumerable chance ways, that we get from the report of what the Corps
has done, and holds itself in readiness to do, thanks to the admirable
spirit of devotion without stint, of really passionate work, animating
its individual members. These have been found beneficently and
inexhaustibly active, it is interesting to be able to note, in
proportion as they possess the general _educated_ intelligence, the
cultivated tradition of tact, and I may perhaps be allowed to confess
that, for myself, I find a positive added beauty in the fact that the
unpaid chauffeur, the wise amateur driver and ready lifter, helper,
healer, and, so far as may be, consoler, is apt to be a University man
and acquainted with other pursuits. One gets the sense that the labour,
with its multiplied incidents and opportunities, is just unlimitedly
inspiring to the keen spirit or the sympathetic soul, the recruit with
energies and resources on hand that plead with him for the beauty of the
vivid and palpable social result.

Not the least of the good offices open to our helpers are the odds and
ends of aid determined by wayside encounters in a ravaged country, where
distracted women and children flee from threatened or invaded villages,
to be taken up, to be given the invaluable lift, if possible, in all
the incoherence of their alarm and misery; sometimes with the elder men
mixed in the tragic procession, tragi-comic even, very nearly, when the
domestic or household objects they have snatched up in their headlong
exodus, and are solemnly encumbered with, bear the oddest misproportion
to the gravity of the case. They are hurried in, if the car be happily
free, and carried on to comparative safety, but with the admirable
cleverness and courage of the Frenchwoman of whatever class essentially
in evidence in whatever contact; never more so, for instance, than when
a rude field hospital has had of a sudden to be knocked together in the
poor schoolhouse of a village, and the mangled and lacerated, brought
into it on stretchers or on any rough handcart or trundled barrow that
has been impressed into the service, have found the _villageoises_,
bereft of their men, full of the bravest instinctive alertness, not
wincing at sights of horror fit to try even trained sensibilities,
handling shattered remnants of humanity with an art as extemporised as
the refuge itself, and having each precarious charge ready for the
expert transfer by the time the car has hurried up. Emphasised enough by
the ceaseless thunder of the Front the quality of the French and the
British resistance and the pitch of their spirit; but one feels what is
meant none the less when one hears the variety of heroism and the
brightness of devotion in the women over all the region of battle
described from observation as unsurpassable. Do we take too much for
granted in imagining that this offered intimacy of appreciation of such
finest aspects of the admirable immortal France, and of a relation with
them almost as illuminating to ourselves as beneficent to them, may
itself rank as something of an appeal where the seeds of response to her
magnificent struggle in the eye of our free longings and liberal
impulses already exist?

I should mention that a particular great Army Corps, on the arrival of
our first cars on the scene, appealed to them for all the service they
could render, and that to this Corps they have been as yet
uninterruptedly attached, on the condition of a reserve of freedom to
respond at once to any British invitation to a transfer of activity.
Such an assurance had already been given the Commissioner for the
British Red Cross, on the part of Mr Norton and Colonel Barry, with
their arrival at Boulogne, where that body cordially welcomed them, and
whence in fact, on its request, a four-stretcher-car, with its American
owner and another of our Volunteers in charge, proceeded to work for a
fortnight, night and day, along the firing line on the Belgian frontier.
Otherwise we have continuously enjoyed, in large, defined limits, up to
the present writing, an association with one of the most tremendously
engaged French Armies. The length of its line alone, were I to state it
here in kilometres, would give some measure of the prodigious fighting
stretch across what is practically the whole breadth of France, and it
is in relation to a fraction of the former Front that we have worked.
Very quickly, I may mention, we found one of our liveliest
opportunities, Mr Norton and Colonel Barry proceeding together to
ascertain what had become of one of the field hospitals known to have
served in a small assaulted town a few days before, when, during a
bombardment, Colonel Barry had saved many lives. Just as our Volunteers
arrived a fresh bombardment began, and though assured by the fleeing
inhabitants, including the mayor of the place, who was perhaps a trifle
over-responsibly in advance of them, that there were no wounded left
behind--as in fact proved to be the case--we nevertheless pushed on for
full assurance. There were then no wounded to bring out, but it was our
first happy chance of bearing away all the hopeless and helpless women
and children we could carry. This was a less complicated matter,
however, than that of one of Colonel Barry's particular reminiscences,
an occasion when the Germans were advancing on a small place that it was
clear they would take, and when pressing news came to him of 400 wounded
in it, who were to be got out if humanly possible. They were got out and
motored away--though it took the rescuing party thus three days, in the
face of their difficulties and dangers, to effect the blest clearance.
It may be imagined how precious in such conditions the power of the
chauffeur-driven vehicle becomes, though indeed I believe the more
special moral of this transaction, as given, was in the happy fact that
the squad had blessedly been able to bring and keep with it four
doctors, whose immediate service on the spot and during transport was
the means of saving very many lives. The moral of that in turn would
seem to be that the very ideal for the general case is the not so
inconceivable volunteer who should be an ardent and gallant and not
otherwise too much preoccupied young doctor with the possession of a car
and the ability to drive it, above all the ability to offer it, as his
crowning attribute. Perhaps I sketch in such terms a slightly fantastic
figure, but there is so much of strenuous suggestion, which withal
manages at the same time to be romantic, in the information before me,
that it simply multiplies, for the hopeful mind, the possibilities and
felicities of equipped good-will. An association of the grimmest reality
clings at the same time, I am obliged to add, to the record of success I
have just cited--the very last word of which seems to have been that in
one of the houses of the little distracted town were two French Sisters
of Mercy who were in charge of an old bedridden lady and whom, with the
object of their care, every effort was made in vain to remove. They
absolutely declined all such interference with the fate God had
appointed them to meet as nuns--if it was His will to make them martyrs.
The curtain drops upon what became of them, but they too illustrate in
their way the range of the Frenchwoman's power to face the situation.

Still another form of high usefulness comes to our Corps, I should
finally mention, in its opportunities for tracing the whereabouts and
recovering the identity of the dead, the English dead, named in those
grim lists, supplied to them by the military authorities, which their
intercourse with the people in a given area where fighting has occurred
enables them often blessedly to clear up. Their pervasiveness, their
ubiquity, keeps them in touch with the people, witnesses of what happens
on the battle-swept area when, after the storm has moved on, certain of
the lifeless sweepings are gathered up. Old villagers, searched out and
questioned, testify and give a clue through which the whereabouts of the
committal to thin earth of the last mortality of this, that, or the
other of the obscurely fallen comes as a kind of irony of relief to
those waiting in suspense. This uncertainty had attached itself for
weeks to the fate in particular of many of the men concerned in the
already so historic retreat of the Allies from Mons--ground still
considerably in the hands of the Germans, but also gradually accessible
and where, as quickly as it becomes so, Colonel Barry pushes out into it
in search of information. Sternly touching are such notes of general
indication, information from the Curé, the village carpenter, the
grave-digger of the place, a man called so-and-so and a gentleman called
something else, as to the burial of forty-five dead English in the
public cemetery of such and such a small locality, as to the interment
somewhere else of 'an Englishman believed to be an officer,' as to a
hundred English surprised in a certain church and killed all but forty,
and buried, as is not always their fortune for their kindred, without
removal of their discs of identification. Among such like data we move
when not among those of a more immediate violence, and all to be in
their way scarce less considerately handled. Mixed with such gleanings
one comes upon other matters of testimony of which one hopes equal note
is made--testimony as to ferocities perpetrated upon the civil
population which I may not here specify. Every form of assistance and
inquiry takes place of course in conditions of some danger, thanks to
the risk of stray bullets and shells, not infrequently met when cars
operate, as they neither avoid doing nor wastefully seek to do, in
proximity to the lines. The Germans, moreover, are noted as taking the
view that the insignia of the Red Cross, with the implication of the
precarious freight it covers, are in all circumstances a good mark for
their shots; a view characteristic of their belligerent system at large,
but not more deterrent for the ministers of the adversary in this
connection than in any other, when the admirable end is in question.

I have doubtless said enough, however, in illustration of the interest
attaching to all this service, a service in which not one of the forces
of social energy and devotion, not one of the true social qualities,
sympathy, ingenuity, tact, and taste, fail to come into play. Such an
exercise of them, as all the incidental possibilities are taken
advantage of, represents for us all, who are happily not engaged in the
huge destructive work, the play not simply of a reparatory or
consolatory, but a positively productive and creative virtue in which
there is a peculiar honour. We Americans are as little neutrals as
possible where any aptitude for any action, of whatever kind, that
affirms life and freshly and inventively exemplifies it, instead of
overwhelming and undermining it, is concerned. Great is the chance, in
fact, for exhibiting this as our entirely elastic, our supremely
characteristic, social aptitude. We cannot do so cheaply, indeed, any
more than the opposite course is found, under whatever fatuity of
presumption, inexpensive and ready-made. What I therefore invite all
those whom this notice may reach to understand, as for that matter they
easily will, is that the expenses of our enlightened enterprise have to
be continuously met, and that if it has confidence in such support it
may go on in all the alert pride and pity that need be desired. I am
assured that the only criticism the members of the Corps make of it is
that they wish more of their friends would come and support it either
personally or financially--or, best of all, of course, both. At the
moment I write I learn this invocation to have been met to the extent of
Mr Norton's having within two or three days annexed five fresh cars,
with their owners to work them--and all, as I hear it put with elation,
'excellent University men.' As an extremely helpful factor on the part
of Volunteers is some facility in French and the goodwill to stay on for
whatever reasonable length of time, I assume the excellence of these
gentlemen to include those signal merits. Most members of the Staff of
thirty-four in all (as the number till lately at least has stood) have
been glad to pay their own living expenses; but it is taken for granted
that in cases where individuals are unable to meet that outlay
indefinitely the subscribers to the Fund will not grudge its undertaking
to find any valuable man in food and lodging. Such charges amount at the
outside to 1 dollar 75 per day. The expenses of petrol and tyres are
paid by the French Government or the British Red Cross, so that the
contributor of the car is at costs only for the maintenance of his
chauffeur, if he brings one, or for necessary repairs. Mr Eliot Norton,
of 2 Rector Street, New York, is our recipient of donations on your side
of the sea, Mr George F. Read, Hon. Treas., care of Messrs Brown,
Shipley & Co., 123 Pall Mall, S.W., kindly performs this office in
London, and I am faithfully yours,


LONDON, _November 25, 1914_.


I think that if there is a general ground in the world, on which an
appeal might be made, in a civilised circle, with a sense of its being
uttered only to meet at once and beyond the need of insistence a certain
supreme recognition and response, the idea of what France and the French
mean to the educated spirit of man would be the nameable thing. It would
be the cause uniting us most quickly in an act of glad intelligence,
uniting us with the least need of any wondering why. We should
understand and answer together just by the magic of the mention, the
touch of the two or three words, and this in proportion to our feeling
ourselves social and communicating creatures--to the point, in fact, of
a sort of shame at any imputation of our not liberally understanding, of
our waiting in any degree to be nudged or hustled. The case of France,
as one may hold it, where the perceptive social mind is concerned and
set in motion, is thus only to be called exquisite--so far as we don't
seem so to qualify things _down_. We certainly all feel, in the
beautiful connection, in two general ways; one of these being that the
spring pressed with such happy effect lifts the sense by its mere
vibration into the lightest and brightest air in which, taking our world
all round, it is given to our finer interest about things to breathe and
move; and the other being that just having our intelligence, our
experience at its freest and bravest, taken for granted, is a compliment
to us, as not purely instinctive persons, which we should miss, if it
were not paid, rather to the degree of finding the omission an insult.

Such, as I say, is our easy relation to the sound of a voice raised,
even however allusively and casually, on behalf of that great national
and social presence which has always most oppositely, most sensibly,
most obsessively, as I surely may put it, and above all most dazzlingly,
neighboured and admonished us here: after such a fashion as really to
have made the felt breath of its life, across an interval constantly
narrowing, a part of our education as distinguished from our luck. Our
luck in all our past has been enormous, the greatest luck on the whole,
assuredly, that any race has ever had; but it has never been a conscious
reaction or a gathered fruition, as one may say; it has just been a
singular felicity of position and of temperament, and this felicity has
made us observe and perceive and reflect much less than it has made us
directly act and profit and enjoy: enjoy of course by attending
tremendously to all the business involved in our position. So far as we
have had reactions, therefore, they have not sprung, when they have been
at all intensified, from the extraordinary good fortune of our state.
Unless indeed I may put it that what they _have_ very considerably
sprung from has been exactly a part of our general prodigy--the good
fortune itself of our being neighboured by a native genius so different
from our own, so suggestive of wondrous and attaching comparisons, as
to keep us chronically aware of the difference and the contrast and yet
all the while help us to see into them and through them.

We were not, to all appearance, appointed by fate for the most
perceptive and penetrative offices conceivable; so that to have over
against us and within range a proposition, as we nowadays say, that
could only grow more and more vivid, more and more engaging and
inspiring, in the measure of our growth of criticism and curiosity, or,
in other words, of the capacity just to pay attention, pay attention
otherwise than by either sticking very fast at home or inquiring of the
Antipodes, the Antipodes almost exclusively--what has that practically
been for us but one of the very choicest phases of our luck aforesaid,
one of the most appraisable of our felicities? the very one, doubtless,
that our dissimilarity of temperament and taste would have most
contradictiously and most correctively prescribed from the moment we
were not to be left simply to stew in our juice! If the advantage I so
characterise was to be in its own way thoroughly affirmative, there was
yet nothing about it to do real or injurious violence to that abysmal
good nature which sometimes strikes me as our most effective
contribution to human history. The vision of France, at any rate, so
close and so clear at propitious hours, was to grow happily
illustrational for us as nothing else in any like relation to us could
possibly have become. Other families have a way, on good opportunity, of
interesting us more than our own, and here was this immense acquaintance
extraordinarily mattering for us and at the same time not irritating us
by a single claim of cousinship or a single liberty taken on any such
score. Any liberties taken were much rather liberties, I think, of
ours--always abounding as we did in quite free, and perhaps slightly
rough, and on the whole rather superficial, movement beyond our island
circle and toward whatever lay in our path. France lay very much in our
path, our path to almost everything that could beckon us forth from our
base--and there were very few things in the world or places on the
globe that didn't so beckon us; according to which she helped us along
on our expansive course a good deal more, doubtless, than either she or
we always knew.

All of which, you see, is but a manner of making my point that her name
means more than anything in the world to us but just our own. Only at
present it means ever so much more, almost unspeakably more, than it has
ever done in the past, and I can't help inviting you to feel with me,
for a very few moments, what the real force of this association to which
we now throb consists of, and why it so moves us. We enjoy generous
emotions _because_ they are generous, because generosity is a noble
passion and a glow, because we spring with it for the time above our
common pedestrian pace--and this just in proportion as all questions and
doubts about it drop to the ground. But great reasons never spoil a
great sympathy, and to see an inspiring object in a strong light never
made any such a shade less inspiring. So, therefore, in these days when
our great neighbour and Ally is before us in a beauty that is tragic,
tragic because menaced and overdarkened, the closest possible
appreciation of what it is that is thereby in peril for ourselves and
for the world makes the image shine with its highest brightness at the
same time that the cloud upon it is made more black. When I sound the
depth of my own affection so fondly excited, I take the like measure for
all of us and feel the glad recognition I meet in thus putting it to
you, for our full illumination, that what happens to France happens to
all that part of ourselves which we are most proud, and most finely
advised, to enlarge and cultivate and consecrate.

Our heroic friend sums up for us, in other words, and has always summed
up, the life of the mind and the life of the senses alike, taken
together, in the most irrepressible freedom of either--and, after that
fashion, positively lives _for_ us, carries on experience for us; does
it under our tacit and our at present utterly ungrudging view of her
being formed and endowed and constantly prompted, toward such doing, on
all sorts of sides that are simply so many reasons for our standing
off, standing off in a sort of awed intellectual hush or social
suspense, and watching and admiring and thanking her. She is sole and
single in this, that she takes charge of those of the interests of man
which most dispose him to fraternise with himself, to pervade all his
possibilities and to taste all his faculties, and in consequence to find
and to make the earth a friendlier, an easier, and especially a more
various sojourn; and the great thing is the amiability and the
authority, intimately combined, with which she has induced us all to
trust her on this ground. There are matters as to which every set of
people has of course most to trust itself, most to feel its own genius
and its own stoutness--as we are here and all round about us knowing and
abiding by that now as we have never done. But I verily think there has
never been anything in the world--since the most golden aspect of
antiquity at least--like the way in which France has been trusted to
gather the rarest and fairest and sweetest fruits of our so tremendously
and so mercilessly turned-up garden of life. She has gardened where the
soil of humanity has been most grateful and the aspect, so to call it,
most toward the sun, and there, at the high and yet mild and fortunate
centre, she has grown the precious, intimate, the nourishing, finishing
things that she has inexhaustibly scattered abroad. And if we have all
so taken them from her, so expected them from her as our right, to the
point that she would have seemed positively to fail of a passed pledge
to help us to happiness if she had disappointed us, this has been
because of her treating us to the impression of genius as no nation
since the Greeks has treated the watching world, and because of our
feeling that genius at that intensity is infallible.

What it has all amounted to, as I say, is that we have never known
otherwise an agent so beautifully organised, organised from within, for
a mission, and that such an organisation at free play has made us really
want never to lift a finger to break the charm. We catch at every turn
of our present long-drawn crisis indeed that portentous name: it's
displayed to us on a measureless scale that our Enemy is organised,
organised possibly to the effect of binding us with a spell if anything
_could_ keep us passive. The term has been in a manner, by that
association, compromised and vulgarised: I say vulgarised because any
history of organisation from without and for intended aggression and
self-imposition, however elaborate the thing may be, shows for merely
mechanical and bristling compared with the condition of being naturally
and functionally endowed and appointed. This last is the only fair
account of the complete and perfect case that France has shown us and
that civilisation has depended on for half its assurances. Well, now, we
have before us this boundless extension of the case, that, as we have
always known what it was to see the wonderful character I speak of range
through its variety and keep shining with another and still another
light, so in these days we assist at what we may verily call the supreme
evidence of its incomparable gift for vivid exhibition. It takes our
great Ally, and her only, to be as vivid for concentration, for
reflection, for intelligent, inspired contraction of life toward an end
all but smothered in sacrifice, as she has ever been for the most
splendidly wasteful diffusion and communication; and to give us a view
of her nature and her mind in which, laying down almost every advantage,
every art and every appeal that we have generally known her by, she
takes on energies, forms of collective sincerity, silent eloquence and
selected example that are fresh revelations--and so, bleeding at every
pore, while at no time in all her history so completely erect, makes us
feel her perhaps as never before our incalculable, immortal France.


There comes back to me out of the distant past an impression of the
citizen soldier at once in his collective grouping and in his impaired,
his more or less war-worn state, which was to serve me for long years as
the most intimate vision of him that my span of life was likely to
disclose. This was a limited affair indeed, I recognise as I try to
recover it, but I mention it because I was to find at the end of time
that I had kept it in reserve, left it lurking deep down in my sense of
things, however shyly and dimly, however confusedly even, as a term of
comparison, a glimpse of something by the loss of which I should have
been the poorer; such a residuary possession of the spirit, in fine, as
only needed darkness to close round it a little from without in order to
give forth a vague phosphorescent light. It was early, it must have
been very early, in our Civil War; yet not so early but that a large
number of those who had answered President Lincoln's first call for an
army had had time to put in their short period (the first term was so
short then, as was likewise the first number,) and reappear again in
camp, one of those of their small New England state, under what seemed
to me at the hour, that of a splendid autumn afternoon, the thickest
mantle of heroic history. If I speak of the impression as confused I
certainly justify that mark of it by my failure to be clear at this
moment as to how much they were in general the worse for wear--since
they can't have been exhibited to me, through their waterside settlement
of tents and improvised shanties, in anything like hospital conditions.
However, I cherish the rich ambiguity, and have always cherished it, for
the sake alone of the general note exhaled, the thing that has most kept
remembrance unbroken. I carried away from the place the impression, the
one that not only was never to fade, but was to show itself susceptible
of extraordinary eventual enrichment. I may not pretend now to refer it
to the more particular sources it drew upon at that summer's end of
1861, or to say why my repatriated warriors were, if not somehow
definitely stricken, so largely either lying in apparent helplessness or
moving about in confessed languor: it suffices me that I have always
thought of them as expressing themselves at almost every point in the
minor key, and that this has been the reason of their interest. What I
call the note therefore is the characteristic the most of the essence
and the most inspiring--inspiring I mean for consideration of the
admirable sincerity that we thus catch in the act: the note of the quite
abysmal softness, the exemplary genius for accommodation, that forms the
alternative aspect, the passive as distinguished from the active, of the
fighting man whose business is in the first instance formidably to
bristle. This aspect has been produced, I of course recognise, amid the
horrors that the German powers had, up to a twelvemonth ago, been for
years conspiring to let loose upon the world by such appalling engines
and agencies as mankind had never before dreamed of; but just that is
the lively interest of the fact unfolded to us now on a scale beside
which, and though save indeed for a single restriction, the whole
previous illustration of history turns pale. Even if I catch but in a
generalising blur that exhibition of the first American levies as a
measure of experience had stamped and harrowed them, the signally
attaching mark that I refer to is what I most recall; so that if I
didn't fear, for the connection, to appear to compare the slighter
things with the so much greater, the diminished shadow with the
far-spread substance, I should speak of my small old scrap of truth,
miserably small in contrast with the immense evidence even then to have
been gathered, but in respect to which latter occasion didn't come to
me, as having contained possibilities of development that I must have
languished well-nigh during a lifetime to crown it with.

One had during the long interval not lacked opportunity for a vision of
the soldier at peace, moving to and fro with a professional eye on the
horizon, but not fished out of the bloody welter and laid down to pant,
as we actually see him among the Allies, almost on the very bank and
within sound and sight of his deepest element. The effect of many of the
elapsing years, the time in England and France and Italy, had indeed
been to work his collective presence so closely and familiarly into any
human scene pretending to a full illustration of our most generally
approved conditions that I confess to having missed him rather
distressfully from the picture of things offered me during a series of
months spent not long ago in a few American cities after years of
disconnection. I can scarce say why I missed him sadly rather than
gladly--I might so easily have prefigured one's delight in his absence;
but certain it is that my almost outraged consciousness of our
practically doing without him amid American conditions was a revelation
of the degree in which his great imaging, his great reminding and
enhancing function is rooted in the European basis. I felt his
non-existence on the American positively produce a void which nothing
else, as a vivifying substitute, hurried forward to fill; this being
indeed the case with many of the other voids, the most aching, which
left the habituated eye to cast about as for something to nibble in a
state of dearth. We never know, I think, how much these wanting elements
have to suggest to the pampered mind till we feel it living in view of
the community from which they have been simplified away. On these
occasions they conspire with the effect of certain other, certain
similar expressions, examples of social life proceeding as by the
serene, the possibly too serene, process of mere ignorance, to bring to
a head for the fond observer the wonder of what is supposed to strike,
for the projection of a finished world, the note that they are not there
to strike. However, as I quite grant the hypothesis of an observer still
fond and yet remarking the lapse of the purple patch of militarism but
with a joy unclouded, I limit myself to the merely personal point that
the fancy of a particular brooding analyst _could_ so sharply suffer
from a vagueness of privation, something like an unseasoned
observational diet, and then, rather to his relief, find the mystery
cleared up. And the strict relevancy of the bewilderment I glance at,
moreover, becomes questionable, further, by reason of my having, with
the outbreak of the horrors in which we are actually steeped, caught
myself staring at the exhibited militarism of the general British scene
not much less ruefully than I could remember to have stared, a little
before, at the utter American deficit. Which proves after all that the
rigour of the case had begun at a bound to defy the largest luxury of
thought; so that the presence of the military in the picture on the mere
moderate insular scale struck one as 'furnishing' a menaced order but in
a pitiful and pathetic degree.

The degree was to alter, however, by swift shades, just as one's
comprehension of the change grew and grew with it; and thus it was that,
to cut short the record of our steps and stages, we have left
immeasurably behind us here the question of what might or what should
have been. That belonged, with whatever beguiled or amused ways of
looking at it, to the abyss of our past delusion, a collective state of
mind in which it had literally been possible to certain sophists to
argue that, so far from not having soldiers enough, we had more than we
were likely to know any respectable public call for. It was in the very
fewest weeks that we replaced a pettifogging consciousness by the most
splendidly liberal, and, having swept through all the first phases of
anxiety and suspense, found no small part of our measure of the matter
settle down to an almost luxurious study of our multiplied defenders
after the fact, as I may call it, or in the light of that acquaintance
with them as products supremely tried and tested which I began by
speaking of. We were up to our necks in this relation before we could
turn round, and what upwards of a year's experience of it has done in
the contributive and enriching way may now well be imagined. I might
feel that my marked generalisation, the main hospital impression,
steeps the case in too strong or too stupid a synthesis, were it not
that to consult my memory, a recollection of countless associative
contacts, is to see the emphasis almost absurdly thrown on my
quasi-paradox. Just so it is of singular interest for the witnessing
mind itself to feel the happy truth stoutly resist any qualifying
hint--since I am so struck with the charm, as I can only call it, of the
tone and temper of the man of action, the creature appointed to advance
and explode and destroy, and elaborately instructed as to how to do
these things, reduced to helplessness in the innumerable instances now
surrounding us. It doesn't in the least take the edge from my impression
that his sweet reasonableness, representing the opposite end of his
wondrous scale, is probably the very oldest story of the touching kind
in the world; so far indeed from my claiming the least originality for
the appealing appearance as it has lately reached me from so many sides,
I find its suggestion of vast communities, communities of patience and
placidity, acceptance and submission pushed to the last point, to be
just what makes the whole show most illumination.

'Wonderful that, from east to west, they must _all_ be like this,' one
says to oneself in presence of certain consistencies, certain positive
monotonies of aspect; 'wonderful that if joy of battle (for the classic
term, in spite of new horrors, seems clearly still to keep its old
sense,) has, to so attested a pitch, animated these forms, the
disconnection of spirit should be so prompt and complete, should hand
the creature over as by the easiest turn to the last refinements of
accommodation. The disconnection of the flesh, of physical function in
whatever ravaged area, _that_ may well be measureless; but how
interesting, if the futility of such praise doesn't too much dishonour
the subject, the exquisite anomaly of the intimate readjustment of the
really more inflamed and exasperated part, or in other words of the
imagination, the captured, the haunted vision, to life at its most
innocent and most ordered!' To that point one's unvarying thought of
the matter, which yet, though but a meditation without a conclusion,
becomes the very air in which fond attention spends itself. So far as
commerce of the acceptable, the tentatively helpful kind goes, one looks
for the key to success then, among the victims, exactly on that ground
of the apprehension pacified and almost, so to call it, trivialised. The
attaching thing becomes thus one's intercourse with the imagination of
the particular patient subject, the individual himself, in the measure
in which this interest bears us up and carries us along; which name for
the life of his spirit has to cover, by a considerable stretch, all the
ground. By the stretch of the name, moreover, I am far from meaning any
stretch of the faculty itself--which remains for the most part a
considerably contracted or inert force, a force in fact often so
undeveloped as to be insusceptible of measurement at all, so that one
has to resort, in face of the happy fact that communion still does hold
good, to some other descriptive sign for it. That sign, however,
fortunately presents itself with inordinate promptitude and fits to its
innocent head with the last perfection the cap, in fact the very crown,
of an office that we can only appraise as predetermined good nature. We
after this fashion score our very highest on behalf of a conclusion, I
think, in feeling that whether or no the British warrior's good nature
has much range of fancy, his imagination, whatever there may be of it,
is at least so good-natured as to show absolutely everything it touches,
everything without exception, even the worst machinations of the enemy,
in that colour. Variety and diversity of exhibition, in a world
virtually divided as now into hospitals and the preparation of subjects
for them, are, I accordingly conceive, to be looked for quite away from
the question of physical patience, of the general consent to suffering
and mutilation, and, instead of that, in this connection of the sort of
mind and thought, the sort of moral attitude, that are born of the
sufferer's other relations; which I like to think of as being different
from country to country, from class to class, and as having their
fullest national and circumstantial play.

It would be of the essence of these remarks, could I give them within my
space all the particular applications naturally awaiting them, that they
pretend to refer here to the British private soldier only--generalisation
about his officers would take us so considerably further and so much
enlarge our view. The high average of the beauty and modesty of these,
in the stricken state, causes them to affect me, I frankly confess, as
probably the very flower of the human race. One's apprehension of
'Tommy'--and I scarce know whether more to dislike the liberty this mode
of reference takes with him, or to incline to retain it for the
tenderness really latent in it--is in itself a theme for fine notation,
but it has brought me thus only to the door of the boundless hospital
ward in which, these many months, I have seen the successive and the so
strangely quiet tides of his presence ebb and flow, and it stays me
there before the incalculable vista. The perspective stretches away, in
its mild order, after the fashion of a tunnel boring into the very
character of the people, and so going on for ever--never arriving or
coming out, that is, at anything in the nature of a station, a junction
or a terminus. So it draws off through the infinite of the common
personal life, but planted and bordered, all along its passage, with the
thick-growing flower of the individual illustration, this sometimes
vivid enough and sometimes pathetically pale. The great fact, to my now
so informed vision, is that it undiscourageably continues and that an
unceasing repetition of its testifying particulars seems never either to
exhaust its sense or to satisfy that of the beholder. Its sense, indeed,
if I may so far simplify, is pretty well always the same, that of the
jolly fatalism above-mentioned, a state of moral hospitality to the
practices of fortune, however outrageous, that may at times fairly be
felt as providing amusement, providing a new and thereby a refreshing
turn of the personal situation, for the most interested party. It is
true that one may be sometimes moved to wonder which is the most
interested party, the stricken subject in his numbered bed or the
friendly, the unsated inquirer who has tried to forearm himself against
such a measure of the 'criticism of life' as might well be expected to
break upon him from the couch in question, and who yet, a thousand
occasions for it having been, all round him, inevitably neglected, finds
this ingenious provision quite left on his hands. He may well ask
himself what he is to do with people who so consistently and so
comfortably content themselves with _being_--being for the most part
incuriously and instinctively admirable--that nothing whatever is left
of them for reflection as distinguished from their own practice; but the
only answer that comes is the reproduction of the note. He may, in the
interest of appreciation, try the experiment of lending them some scrap
of a complaint or a curse in order that they shall meet him on congruous
ground, the ground of encouragement to his own participating impulse.
They are imaged, under that possibility, after the manner of those
unfortunates, the very poor, the victims of a fire or shipwreck, to whom
you have to lend something to wear before they can come to thank you for
helping them. The inmates of the long wards, however, have no use for
any imputed or derivative sentiments or reasons; they feel in their own
way, they feel a great deal, they don't at all conceal from you that to
have seen what they have seen is to have seen things horrible and
monstrous--but there is no estimate of them for which they seek to be
indebted to you, and nothing they less invite from you than to show them
that such visions must have poisoned their world. Their world isn't in
the least poisoned; they have assimilated their experience by a process
scarce at all to be distinguished from their having healthily got rid of

The case thus becomes for you that they consist wholly of their applied
virtue, which is accompanied with no waste of consciousness whatever.
The virtue may strike you as having been, and as still being, greater in
some examples than in others, but it has throughout the same sign of
differing at almost no point from a supreme amiability. How can
creatures so amiable, you allow yourself vaguely to wonder, have
welcomed even for five minutes the stress of carnage? and how can the
stress of carnage, the murderous impulse at the highest pitch, have left
so little distortion of the moral nature? It has left none at all that
one has at the end of many months been able to discover; so that perhaps
the most steadying and refreshing effect of intercourse with these
hospital friends is through the almost complete rest from the facing of
generalisations to which it treats you. One would even like, perhaps, as
a stimulus to talk, more generalisation; but one gets enough of that out
in the world, and one doesn't get there nearly so much of what one gets
in this perspective, the particular perfect sufficiency of the
extraordinary principle, whatever it is, which makes the practical
answer so supersede any question or any argument that it seems fairly to
have acted by chronic instinctive anticipation, the habit of freely
throwing the personal weight into any obvious opening. The personal
weight, in its various forms and degrees, is what lies there with a head
on the pillow and whatever wise bandages thereabout or elsewhere, and it
becomes interesting in itself, and just in proportion, I think, to its
having had all its history after the fact. All its history is that of
the particular application which has brought it to the pass at which you
find it, and is a stream round about which you have to press a little
hard to make it flow clear. Then, in many a case, it does flow,
certainly, as clear as one could wish, and with the strain that it is
always somehow English history and illustrates afresh the English way of
doing things and regarding them, of feeling and naming them. The sketch
extracted is apt to be least coloured when the prostrate historian, as I
may call him, is an Englishman of the English; it has more point, though
not perhaps more essential tone, when he is a Scot of the Scots, and has
most when he is an Irishman of the Irish; but there is absolutely no
difference, in the light of race and save as by inevitable variation
from individual to individual, about the really constant and precious
matter, the attested possession on the part of the contributor of a free
loose undisciplined quantity of being to contribute.

This is the palpable and ponderable, the admirably appreciable,
residuum--as to which if I be asked just how it is that I pluck the
flower of amiability from the bramble of an individualism so bristling
with accents, I am afraid I can only say that the accents would seem by
the mercy of chance to fall together in the very sense that permits us
to detach the rose with the fewest scratches. The rose of active good
nature, irreducible, incurable, or in other words all irreflective,
_that_ is the variety which the individualistic tradition happens, up
and down these islands, to wear upon its ample breast--even it may be
with considerable effect of monotony. There it is, for what it is, and
the very simplest summary of one's poor bedside practice is perhaps to
confess that one has most of all kept one's nose buried in it. There
hangs about the poor practitioner by that fact, I profess, an aroma not
doubtless at all mixed or in the least mystical, but so unpervertedly
wholesome that what can I pronounce it with any sort of conscience but
sweet? That is the rough, unless I rather say the smooth, report of it;
which covers of course, I hasten to add, a constant shift of impression
within the happy limits. Did I not, by way of introduction to these
awaiters of acknowledgment, find myself first of all, early in the
autumn, in presence of the first aligned rows of lacerated
Belgians?--the eloquence of whose mere mute expression of their state,
and thereby of their cause, remains to me a vision unforgettable for
ever, and this even though I may not here stretch my scale to make them,
Flemings of Flanders though they were, fit into my remarks with the
English of the English and the Scotch of the Scotch. If other witnesses
might indeed here fit in they would decidedly come nearest, for there
were aspects under which one might almost have taken them simply for
Britons comparatively starved of sport and, to make up for that, on
straighter and homelier terms with their other senses and appetites. But
their effect, thanks to their being so seated in everything that their
ripe and rounded temperament had done for them, was to make their
English entertainers, and their successors in the long wards especially,
seem ever so much more complicated--besides making of what had happened
to themselves, for that matter, an enormity of outrage beyond all
thought and pity. Their fate had cut into their spirit to a peculiar
degree through their flesh, as if they had had an unusual thickness of
this, so to speak--which up to that time had protected while it now but
the more exposed and, collectively, entrapped them; so that the ravaged
and plundered domesticity that one felt in them, which was mainly what
they had to oppose, made the terms of their exile and their suffering an
extension of the possible and the dreadful. But all that vision is a
chapter by itself--the essence of which is perhaps that it has been the
privilege of this placid and sturdy people to show the world a new
shade and measure of the tragic and the horrific. The first wash of the
great Flemish tide ebbed at any rate from the hospitals--creating
moreover the vast needs that were to be so unprecedentedly met, and the
native procession which has prompted these remarks set steadily in. I
have played too uncertain a light, I am well aware, not arresting it at
half the possible points, yet with one aspect of the case staring out so
straight as to form the vivid moral that asks to be drawn. The deepest
impression from the sore human stuff with which such observation deals
is that of its being strong and sound in an extraordinary degree for the
conditions producing it. These conditions represent, one feels at the
best, the crude and the waste, the ignored and neglected state; and
under the sense of the small care and scant provision that have attended
such hearty and happy growths, struggling into life and air with no
furtherance to speak of, the question comes pressingly home of what a
better economy might, or verily mightn't, result in. If this abundance
all slighted and unencouraged can still comfort us, what wouldn't it do
for us tended and fostered and cultivated? That is my moral, for I
believe in Culture--speaking strictly now of the honest and of our own
congruous kind.


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