Page:Britain's Deadly Peril.djvu/77

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We are not a nation of board-school children or hysterical girls. Over and over again the British public has shown that it can bear bad news with fortitude, just as it can keep its head in victory. Those of us who still remember the terrible "black week" in South Africa, with its full story of the horror of defeat at Colenso, Magersfontein, and Stormberg, remember how the only effect of the disaster was the ominous deepening of the grim British determination to "see it through": the tightening of the lips and the hardening of the jaws that meant unshakable resolve; the silent, dour, British grip on the real essentials of the situation that, once and for all, settled the fate of Kruger's ambitions.

Are Britons to-day so changed from the Britons of 1899 that they cannot bear the truth; that they cannot face disaster; that they are indeed the degenerates they have been labelled by boastful Germans? Perish the thought! Britain is not decadent; she is to-day as strong and virile as of old and her sons are proving it daily on the plains of Flanders, as they proved it when they fought the Kaiser's hordes to a standstill on the banks of the Marne during the "black week" of last autumn. Why then should the public be treated as puling infants spoon-fed on tiny scraps of good news when it is happily available, and left in the bliss of ignorance when things are not going quite so well?

From November 20th, 1914, up to February 17th, 1915—a period of three months of intense anxiety and strain—not one single word of news from the Commander-in-Chief of the greatest Army Britain has ever put into the field was vouchsafed to the British public. For that, of course, it is impossible to blame Sir John French. But the bare fact is