Three years of world war draw to a close, as France prepares to celebrate the birthday of her liberty. Never in the thousand years of her tumultuous history has she been so calm, so sure of the path she treads, red with the blood of her young men. She has never drunk any cup of joy so deeply as this cup of her agony. In the early months of the war, there were doubts and dismays, and the cheap talk of compromise. There were black days and black moods, and a swaying indecision. But under the immense pressure of crisis, France has lifted to a clear determination. This war will be fought to a finish. No feeble dreams of peace, entertained by loose thinkers and fluent phrase makers, no easy conciliations, will be tolerated. France has made her sacrifice. It remains now that it shall avail. She will fulfill her destiny. Time has ceased to matter, Death is only an incident in the ongoing of the nation. No tortures by mutilation, no horrors of shell fire, no massing of machine guns, can swerve the united will. The "Sacred Union" of Socialist and royalist, peasant and politician, is firm to endure. The egoisms and bickerings of easy untested years have been drowned in a tide that sets towards the Rhine. The premier race of the world goes forth to war. That war is only in its beginning. The toll of the dead and the wounded may be doubled before the gray lines are broken. But they will be broken. A menace is to be removed for all time. The German Empire is not to rule in Paris. Atrocities are not to be justified by success. Spying will be no longer the basis of international relationship. France faces in one direction. She waits in arms at Revigny and along the water courses of the North for the machine to crack. That consummation of the long watch may be nearer than we guess. It may be many months removed. It does not matter. France waits in unshattered line, reserve on reserve, ready to the call.
Only once or twice in history has the world witnessed such a spectacle of greatness at tension. It is not that factories are busy on shells. It is that everything spiritual in a race touched with genius has been mobilized. Fineness of feeling, the graces of the intellect, clarity of thought, all the playful tender elements of worthy living are burning with a steady light.
The author was enabled to visit Verdun and the peasant district, and to obtain access to the German diaries through J. J. Jusserand, Ambassador of France, Frank H. Simonds, editor of the New York Tribune., and Theodore Roosevelt, by whose courtesy the success of the three months' visit was assured. On arrival in France the courtesy was continued by Emile Hovelaque, Madame Saint-René Taillandier, Judge Walter Berry, Mrs. Charles Prince, Leon Mirman, Préfêt de Meurthe-et-Moselle, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of War.