104 THE FORERUNNERS
a war prisoner, before being sent home incapacitated by my wound. I could flood you with war anecdotes. I have no desire to do anything of the kind. Nevertheless I am writing a book on the war. I compress into it all that my heart has felt, all that one man has suffered during these months of unspeakable horror, and likewise all the joy he experienced when he came to perceive, by rare flashes of light, that humanity still lives, that kindliness still exists, on both sides of the Rhine, the world over. You, M. B., sing ' The war in which it is beautiful and sweet to die for our country ! ' All those who have faced this death will tell you that while it may have been necessary, it was neither beautiful nor sweet. You glorify the sublime and tattered tricolour : blue is the blouse of our workmen ; white is the cornette of our splendid sisters of charity. . . . You will excuse me for cutting you short before coming to the red, for my unaided memory here suffices me : the red blood of my wounds flowing and clotting on the frozen mud of Argonne that terrible morning in December, 1914 ; the red mud of pestilential slaughter-houses ; the shat- tered heads of dead comrades ; mangled stumps irrigated with peroxide solution so that the living corruption was half hidden by bloodstained foam ; red visions glimpsed everywhere in these ghastly and tragical days, you chase one another through the mind tumultuous and hateful. Like the poet, I would fain say, ' A very little more and my heart would break ! '
To bring his philippic to a close he quotes another soldier-author, G. Thuriot-Franchi, who, in the same fighting style, with no pretty phrases and with no conceal- ments, compels these Hectors of the study to swallow their boasts : I
" Men who are too young or too old, poets in pyjamas, jealous doubtless of the strategists in slippers, regard it as their duty to be lavish in patriotic song. The trumpets of rhetoric blare ; invective has become the chosen method of argument ; a thousand blue-stockings, under cover of the Red Cross, when one chats with them out strolling,
1 G. Thuriot-Franchi, Les Marches de France.