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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

And looked up at its cliff like facade


Then

we came out into the great square before the cathedral, and looked up at its cliff-like facade.

I heaved a sigh of relief. I seemed to be looking at the same incredible beauty that I had looked at just over a year ago, when the world was still at peace. It is true that half the great rose window was empty of glass; that here and there stood statues headless or with chipped and mutilated limbs. But in the vast profusion of carvings on the facade these were almost lost. Gradually, however, the full tragedy bore in on me.

Have you ever seen an exquisite cameo face congested by drunkenness or disease so that it remains but a blurred and subtly bloated semblance of its former loveliness? If you have, you will know what has befallen the facade at Rheims. It stood away from the German guns so that not a shell hit it. But Fate and inefficiency left it covered with scaffolding which caught fire, and the towering blaze licked and licked so furiously at every sculptured angle, line and curve that in a few hours all those keenly chiselled outlines which the centuries themselves had only faintly mellowed, became flabby, blunt and indeterminate. One used at times to gaze at the facade through half-closed lids, so that no exquisite detail should distract from the swimming, hazy glory of the whole. That glory it still possesses, but to those who knew it in its earlier unmarred splendor it seems to stand, straining aloft, in

patient martyrdom. A heavy barricade, built at a distance of some twenty yards, prevented entrance or even a close approach. As we stood counting the shrapnel scars on the horse of Jeanne d'Arc, which ended the myth that this statue had come through the whole bombardment miraculously untouched, a little girl approached with a basket full of pieces of colored glass. These she offered for sale as fragments of the priceless stained glass of the cathedral. It required no expert to see that they were pitifully spurious. Thus huckstering makes pennies out of tragedy.

We departed silently, and leaving Captain F---- to return to his headquarters for the night, we were quickly speeding through the twilight on our way back to Epernay.

III

IN THE FRENCH TRENCHES

WITH THE 5TH FRENCH ARMY, _Aug. 3_ (_via Paris_).

On the anniversary of the last day of the world's peace, the 365th day of the war, I stood in the darkness of a very advanced front trench.

A short section where I stood was roofed and bomb-proofed. Through a row of very narrow rifle-slits came little beams of daylight that rested in flecks on the white, chalky back of the trenches and were thrown up very faintly against the logs of the trench roof.

Very dimly, I could gradually make out a narrow plank standing-platform running along below the slits. A card was tacked to the wooden frame of each opening, bearing the name of the particular soldier to whom that opening belonged. Above each slit hung (or could hang) its owner's rifle in slings from the roof.


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