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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

In certain emergencies becomes trivial


It

is indeed fortunate for the alliance that France--Army, Government and People--is united in the determination to fight this war through to its logical conclusion. For France is apt to be the nation which pays the piper. England is physically safe behind her fleets, Russia proper is physically safe behind her distances, for the German invasion is not apt to go far beyond her alien provinces of Courland and Poland.

But France is not at sword's length, but at dagger's point, with her enemy--one little slip by any one, from an absent-minded General down to a sleeping sentinel, and she may become not a defeated, but a conquered nation.

And this you can see in the faces of the French to-day. Not anger, not bitterness, not sadness; neither excitement nor despondency is in their faces, but a look of hushed and solemn suspense. It is a nation with straining ears, with straining eyes, with bated breath, waiting, waiting.

After leaving the hush of France, England appears at a disadvantage largely undeserved. Compared with the atmosphere of strain in Paris, the atmosphere of London seems one of relaxation. Contrasted with the breathless struggle for self-preservation in France, the British attitude toward the war seems almost dilettante.

This is unquestionably due in part to the fact that in England a very literal-minded race is shipping its soldiers

to fight in merely geographical localities for seemingly abstract principles. The trouble is that England has the Channel and France has the imagination. It is obvious how markedly stronger the combination would be if Britain were fighting an invader and France were fighting for a sentiment.

The superficial impression of holiday soldiering that one gets in England is emphasized by the British hatred of the dramatic and the British worship of sport. The British go on laughing, dining, play-going, dancing, supping; in fact, frivolling, because they think it would be melodramatic to forswear these pursuits because of the war. They go on cricketing, racing, fishing, shooting, hunting, because they go on eating, drinking, sleeping and bathing. These are part of the bodily functions of the Briton.

To any other nation, sport, no matter how intimate a part of the national life, in certain emergencies becomes trivial. To say that to an Englishman would be equivalent to saying that under any circumstances childbirth or prayer could be trivial. It is a national characteristic which must simply be accepted.

The impression made on superficial observers by these manners and habits of casual unconcern does England a certain injustice. For as far as her duties to her allies are concerned she has undoubtedly gone far beyond her obligations.

As one of her Cabinet members (a man who may well be her next Prime Minister) put it to me:

"The best two ways that I know of to prove one's devotion to a cause are to pay for it and to die for it. England is voluntarily doing both in far greater measure than her commitments call for. When the war started she agreed to help France on land with an army of 150,000 men. She has now raised an army of 3,000,000 men.


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