A French poster hangs on my wall. It is drawn and colored with the deliberate excellence of the Gallic craftsman. Its sentiment is simple and sincere. Four children have stopped in their play to salute two wounded soldiers. The children are equipped with odds and ends of military trappings. A little boy of a realistic turn has an old canteen slung over his shoulder. A little girl, being without arms or accoutrements, has made good her claim to the flag. The soldiers, bandaged and lame, stump unconcernedly by. They are no more identifiable with the gentle and debonair patients of ‘Mademoiselle Miss’ than with the greedy, smutty, feeble-minded degenerates who were so unfortunate as to be nursed by Miss La Motte. They are sons of France who, as a matter of course, have defended their country in the hour of her utmost peril; and they are unaware that the children of France have opened to them the doors of the citadel where dwell the secret things of childhood; that they have been accepted as companions in arms, as creatures recognizable and understood. A sense of comradeship is expressed in the round-eyed stare of the little boys, a dawning perception of the great sacrifice has stiffened their swaggering little bodies to attention. They pay their homage eagerly, although they cannot reckon the extent of their indebtedness. They do not know that France is giving her men to save her children, to hand down to these unconscious beneficiaries her untarnished honor, and the holy of holies, freedom.
For this is what war means to the nations which are now combating the great Teuton drive. This what is implied in Lloyd George’s simple statement: ‘The British Empire has invested thousands of her best lives to purchase future immunity for civilization, and the investment is too high-priced to be thrown away.’ If the Allies permitted themselves to be caught sleeping in a fool’s paradise, they woke up to see their children’s heritage imperiled by their illusion, and they have spared no cost to preserve it. The orphans of war are the innocent causes of their own uttermost desolation. The menace which threatened them has been intercepted by their dead fathers, and they live, poor little wondering ones, to see—as God wills—the vindication of justice, or its final defeat and dishonor.