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Men in War   By: (1876-1943)

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"I am convinced the time will come when all will think as I do."










The time was late in the autumn of the second year of the war; the place, the garden of a war hospital in a small Austrian town, which lay at the base of wooded hills, sequestered as behind a Spanish wall, and still preserving its sleepy contented outlook upon existence.

Day and night the locomotives whistled by. Some of them hauled to the front trains of soldiers singing and hallooing, high piled bales of hay, bellowing cattle and ammunition in tightly closed, sinister looking cars. The others, in the opposite direction, came creeping homeward slowly, marked by the bleeding cross that the war has thrown upon all walls and the people behind them. But the great madness raced through the town like a hurricane, without disturbing its calm, as though the low, brightly colored houses with the old fashioned ornate façades had tacitly come to the sensible agreement to ignore with aristocratic reserve this arrogant, blustering fellow, War, who turned everything topsy turvy.

In the parks the children played unmolested with the large russet leaves of the old chestnut trees. Women stood gossiping in front of the shops, and somewhere in every street a girl with a bright kerchief on her head could be seen washing windows. In spite of the hospital flags waving from almost every house, in spite of innumerable bulletin boards, notices and sign posts that the intruder had thrust upon the defenseless town, peace still seemed to prevail here, scarcely fifty miles away from the butchery, which on clear nights threw its glow on the horizon like an artificial illumination. When, for a few moments at a time, there was a lull in the stream of heavy, snorting automobile trucks and rattling drays, and no train happened to be rumbling over the railroad bridge and no signal of trumpet or clanking of sabres sounded the strains of war, then the obstinate little place instantly showed up its dull but good natured provincial face, only to hide it again in resignation behind its ill fitting soldier's mask, when the next automobile from the general staff came dashing around the corner with a great show of importance.

To be sure the cannons growled in the distance, as if a gigantic dog were crouching way below the ground ready to jump up at the heavens, snarling and snapping. The muffled barking of the big mortars came from over there like a bad fit of coughing from a sickroom, frightening the watchers who sit with eyes red with crying, listening for every sound from the dying man. Even the long, low rows of houses shrank together with a rattle and listened horrorstruck each time the coughing convulsed the earth, as though the stress of war lay on the world's chest like a nightmare.

The streets exchanged astonished glances, blinking sleepily in the reflection of the night lamps that inside cast their merrily dancing shadows over close rows of beds. The rooms, choke full of misery, sent piercing shrieks and wails and groans out into the night. Every human sound coming through the windows fell upon the silence like a furious attack. It was a wild denunciation of the war that out there at the front was doing its work, discharging mangled human bodies like so much offal and filling all the houses with its bloody refuse.

But the beautiful wrought iron fountains continued to gurgle and murmur complacently, prattling with soothing insistence of the days of their youth, when men still had the time and the care for noble lines and curves, and war was the affair of princes and adventurers. Legend popped out of every corner and every gargoyle, and ran on padded soles through all the narrow little streets, like an invisible gossip whispering of peace and comfort. And the ancient chestnut trees nodded assent, and with the shadows of their outspread fingers stroked the frightened façades to calm them... Continue reading book >>

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