The Graveyard by the Morava. I

I

AFTER the fall of Nish my division had retreated on the right bank of the Morava River; its task was to prevent the Bulgarians from crossing, and to keep open for traffic the high road toward the south on the left bank. The combined army of fifty thousand men had to pass along this road.

South of Nish, on the left bank of the river, stretched the valley of the Morava for twenty miles; in front of Leskovatz this valley became undulating and ascending. Around the town the mountains rose like a gigantic amphitheatre. In order to enter the town one must pass through a wide, natural gateway between two beautiful romantic hills which ended the amphitheatre. This pass faced the river, beyond which was the mountainside on which my division was intrenched. The highway from Nish and Kruschevatz went through the central part of the valley and turned to the left near Leskovatz, leading on through the pass and the town into the mountain fastnesses. If the whole combined army could get through this pass it would be secure; then my division could take positions around the town in natural fortresses, where they could easily defend the place and hold the enemy back until the combined army had time to escape beyond the mountains. But could this be done?

The Bulgarian army had not attacked us for some time with infantry, but had discharged their wicked shells, which exploded high above us, staining the pure blue of the skies with smoke. I took advantage of this respite to look through my field-glasses at the valley below me. Thousands and thousands of human beings were creeping along the valley! Here and there one could see masses moving very slowly. These masses were composed of men, women, and children, oxen, cows, sheep, goats, dogs — all jammed together, painfully pushing forward. I could see that they tried to hurry their slow march, but it seemed as if they stumbled at each step over invisible obstacles, and it seemed too as if some great force — the spirit of their native land, perhaps — held them and did not permit them to go forward.

The homes of these people had been burned and destroyed without pity. The fields had been trampled and their fruits ruthlessly crushed into the earth. The rivers were flowing turbid with blood. The songs of the brooks had been drowned by the scream and crash of shot and shell. The forests had been uprooted, broken, ruined, enveloped in smoke and stench. The cemeteries were demolished and desecrated, and the flow ers on the tombs were t rampled by the hoofs of horses. The bells would never ring again from the white towers of the churches. The grandfathers and grandmothers had been killed amid the ashes of their homes. Song and happiness were replaced by weeping and wailing, the crash of artillery, unspeakable ferocity and cruelty. It was now a land of horror from which they fled — this country which they thought would always be a land of happiness and love, a flowery corner where one could live as in Paradise. Always to be the good mother — their dear native land! And now? Human imagination could not picture a worse hell.

Fright had stiffened their limbs and horror had palsied their minds. My glasses showed me dreadful pictures. A mother carried her infant bound on her back. She clasped the next younger one to her breast, and the older ones, holding to her skirt, ran after her, barefooted, half-clothed, weeping and crying from fear, cold, and hunger. When one of these little ones grew so weak; when his little heart began to beat so slowly; when his little feet, wounded, cut, bloody, and exhausted, could no longer carry his tired body, and his tiny hand, which had held fast to his mother’s skirt, was no longer able to hold on, then he let go of the skirt, which was his only shelter; his mother was lost to him and he stood alone. The poor woman could not hear his appealing cry; there were five others around her who were weeping. Suddenly a flock of frightened sheep rushed by, and the child was thrown down into the mud; then came oxen and cows and wagons. Some one among the refugees, who had not yet lost his heart amid this horror, picked up the little body and threw it into a ditch near the road that it might not be crushed any more. In such times, unhappy is every woman who bears the name of mother!

I saw young girls carrying white bundles in which were all the wedding garments, which they had spun and woven in happiness of heart, always with songs on their beautiful lips. Shame, fear, and horror were marked upon their young faces, for the victors had no pity.

I saw men and old women loaded with things saved from the fire, or wrested from the bloody hands of the enemy. Oh, how they staggered, those old people, under the weight of these precious burdens, all that remained of their former riches, and the remnant of life’s labor! Before them were driven the weary and starving cattle. They begged these poor creatures to ‘go on, go on, my dears, only a little farther.’ No one knows the number who died in that grim valley, or the heartrending scenes there. When an only child fell, its mother would lie beside it and with her last strength gather the child to her breast and wait for their black fate.

I saw also the long, dark lines of infantry. How they staggered, wavered and broke, but quickly gathered themselves in order and marched on! Blackened, ragged, bloody, bearing many wounds, yet, with resolute looks and clenched teeth, carrying in their hearts faith in strength and justice, marched these men, stronger than death — the last defenders of their native land.

Everywhere along this valley one could see hundreds and hundreds of wagons. Some turned aside from the thronged roads into the fields, where they tried to go on; but the horses were worn out, the wagons overloaded, the men had made their last efforts. They could go no farther: they remained there, sunk in the deep mud.

An appalling sound rose from the valley, the mingled weeping, screaming, and crying of children, the groans of men, and the lowing and bellowing of the animals.

I leaned my head against the cold stone to shut out this horrible scene, and held both hands over my breast that my heart should not break.

II

At two o’clock in the afternoon the colonel called all the officers of my regiment. As my captain had been wounded ten days before, I, being the next oldest officer, had replaced him and gone to the colonel to take his orders. In a small narrow cup of the hills, shut in by gray rocks, I found him with the other officers around him. I was frightened by the looks of these men. They were pale, dirty, bloodstained, ragged, exhausted, and unshaven. Some of them had bandaged hands, others had bandaged heads. Most of them had no caps; some were shivering with fever; others could hardly stand because of intolerable pain. God! did I look the same? Could these be the healthy, handsome young men who went into the struggle two months ago?

As the youngest I took the last place. We were all standing motionless, waiting for orders from the colonel, who stood before us. He looked tenderly upon us; his eyes dimmed, and a shadow seemed to pass over his face. His glance fell; he sighed deeply. Suddenly he straightened himself and threw out his chest; and, looking upon us again with a firm resolute gaze, thus spoke the ‘Old Lion’: —

‘Gentlemen, I could have sent a written order to you, but I summoned you to say that our efforts have been rewarded. We have saved the combined army. Also I wish to say that the Vojvoda sends congratulations to you. And I, I admire you, gentlemen! This is not flattery. You know that I cannot flatter, nor do I wish to, for it would be an insult to your efforts and your bravery. Gentlemen, I simply admire you with all my heart. I see what you have done and I know what you must do. Officers, it is demanded of us to defend Lescovatz; Serbia demands that you die in order to save her other children!’

The colonel was silent for a moment. A deathly hush fell upon us, I looked upon the men around me. A young lieutenant beside me grasped convulsively at my hand to keep from falling. His head was bandaged around the cheek and chin with a dirty cloth through which the blood-drops crept, gathering on his chin and falling on his breast. A captain beside him had a wounded arm which was slung from his neck in a colored shawl, beneath which could be seen the hand, red and swollen; slowly he drew up his other hand and placed it over the wounded one, that the others might not look upon it. Another, a captain, clenched his teeth to prevent their chattering from the racking fever which shook him. But his clothing shivered as in the wind. Farther on stood a young major who was without a cap; his face was red, his hair wet, and from his forehead great drops of sweat ran down. One could see that he was consumed by raging fever. But in spite of all this, when the colonel spoke hislast words, every man straightened up. Their looks showed that they had understood the colonel and were ready to make this last sacrifice.

The colonel continued: ‘I have received orders from headquarters. During this day and the coming night, the combined army will pass through the pass of Lescovatz. You know that the main attack of the Bulgarians was against this army. It has fought for a month and withstood all these attacks, surviving superhuman efforts, and, at last, has marched day and night without rest. The men are exhausted. Beyond Lescovatz are the mountains, through which the advance is very difficult, and for these worn men it will be still more trying. This means that they must have time to reach safety. Our division must procure this for them by defending Lescovatz. Here is the plan. The Twentieth, Eighteenth, and our regiment will cross the Morava at once, and take the positions around the town. The Fourteenth regiment will remain here with a detachment of mountain artillery and check the enemy during the day and following night until three o’clock in the morning, when they will cross the river, blowing up the bridge behind them. Meanwhile we must make all possible preparations for the fight of the next day. My regiment will defend the position at the right of the town. To every company I give its section.’

Then the colonel told the commanders their sections, and gave the precise information. Presently he came to me:

‘Second company of the fourth battalion?’ he asked me.

‘Yes, sir.’

‘How many soldiers have you in your company?’

‘About one hundred and fifty, sir.’

‘That means that you have lost more than a hundred. Take better care of your children, my boy!’ he added, jokingly.

I smiled bitterly.

‘One hundred and fifty!’ continued the colonel. ‘That is a fine number. Others do not have half as many. Because of this I have decided to give you a very important position. You will occupy the position at Mirno Brdo [Peaceful Hill], which is at the right side of the pass. You will dig trenches toward the pass and the valley. I will give you two field-cannon and three machine-guns. Do you see how I take care of my children? Remember— dig the trenches deep as possible and as soon as you can. Do you understand ? '

‘Yes, sir.’

I was the last one to receive orders. Meanwhile the other commanders went to places where they could examine the valley and the position of Lescovatz. Some used field-glasses and all had maps. I took my map to locate my ‘Peaceful Hill,’ and quickly found it.

I felt as if I had been struck: I saw the mark of a cemetery on my position. Unable to believe this, I took my fieldglasses to make sure that I was right. It was true; I distinctly saw the crosses, the graves, and the white monuments.

A cemetery! I did not know what to think. The colonel was moving away. I ran over to him.

‘There is a cemetery, sir, over the whole of my position!’

The colonel looked at me with surprise and smiled bitterly.

‘I know. Well?’

‘The firing line goes along the crest of the hill and I shall have to dig my trenches through the middle of the cemetery among the graves —’

‘I know! Well?’

‘How can I dig up the graves?’

‘How? With pick — with pick and shovel, my boy! Listen! I do not defend the dead, but the living. I do not defend cemeteries, but our native land. Do you understand ? ’

‘Yes, sir,’ I whispered.

‘ How right he is! ’ I thought to myself; and went quickly to my company.

My company still had four platoons. The sergeants of these were good men and very brave. Two of them I was especially fond of, Bora and Cheda. Bora was a lad scarcely twenty years old. He was a student in the University of Geneva, where I had met him two years before. He was a handsome, well-built fellow; smiles and songs were always on his lips. In the most terrible battles he had sung. He used to say that when a man sings he has no time to think about fear, suffering, fatigue, or pain. And so he sang and sang. He was always cheerful and never complained. We all loved him. Many times I have heard the soldiers say, ‘We would die to save a hair of Bora’s head.’

Cheda was the opposite of Bora — an older man, small, bent, always serious and quiet. He was a peasant, but naturally very intelligent, with a big heart and an idealist’s soul. I never saw a braver man. In the most dreadful battles he would put his hands in his pockets and give commands to his soldiers with marvelous coolness and calmness; he never sought to shelter himself. He was a married man, with three children. I loved him, too! To Cheda and Bora I was not a commander, but a real brother.

The time came for my company to cross the bridge. The weary and careworn soldiers went silently. Perhaps they were quiet because of fatigue, pain, and hunger, or perhaps it was because I was very sad, worried and anxious, for I usually talked and joked with them. Bora, too, was quiet for a while, but presently he came to me, asking in a worried tone, ‘ Why are you so gloomy?’

I could not answer him; I could not speak. My head dropped.

But the lad continued, ‘Where are we going?’

‘To the cemetery,’I replied shortly.

He laughed. ‘For more than ten days we have been walking in a cemetery! Joking aside, where are we going?’

‘To the cemetery, to the real cemetery, to dig up the graves!’

Bora grasped my sleeve and looked in my face, his fine eyes wide with consternation and fright. I saw that he was much overcome, and spoke quietly to him.

‘I have received orders to take the position at Peaceful Hill. And that is the cemetery of Lescovatz. We are obliged to dig up the graves in order to make the trenches. Do you understand now?’

‘ So it is true, after all,’ he said. Then without waiting for my answer he ran to tell Cheda the news. In a short time the whole company knew where we were going.

As I went on ahead of my company, I could hear an angry murmur and now and then an exclamation: ‘This is sacrilege!’ ‘It will bring misery to us!’ ' God will punish us! ’ ‘ Must we dig up the dead?’ ‘Must we take out the bones of the dead ? ’

Every sentence came like a blow on my head. At the same time we fell in with the throng in the valley. We saw those who were unable to go on, who were weeping, or writhing in pain. We saw the wagons mired to the hubs in the deep mud, and it seemed to me that the men clustered round them had lost their reason, for they were shouting madly, and cruelly beating the poor exhausted horses. And then we came to those who were dying, and the dead lying in the ditches.

Three regiments had crossed the river. They were trying to move on across the valley, but the confusion and disorder in the throng was dismaying. I could not endure it any longer.

‘Bring me my horse!’ I called to my orderly.

After I had mounted I said to Cheda, ‘ I am going ahead to look over my position; you bring the soldiers to the cemetery. Take care that no one stays behind.’

I spurred my horse so as to leave that hell as quickly as possible.

III

How beautiful was the cemetery! How quiet it was there at Peaceful Hill!

At the crest of the hill was a large rounded plateau, quite level. The old cemetery was on this plateau. It was like a park. Wide straight paths, strewn with yellow sand, went in all directions, and above them great linden trees formed beautiful arches. Between the paths were the graves, surrounded by low borders of evergreen, or old iron fences, with monuments of black or white marble, and a low seat of stones near each grave. At each grave there was a tiny lamp, in many of which red and yellow flames burned. And everywhere were many flowers and sweet odors.

The citizens of Lescovatz had thought this hill-top would always be large enough for their cemetery; but death had been busy in poor Serbia the last five years. Because of this the cemetery had extended down the slopes in all directions; in this new part were hundreds and hundreds of new graves. There were no wide paths between these, nor high monuments of marble, nor iron fences. They were low mounds with simple wooden crosses — the graves of soldiers. But still each grave had its lamp, and many of the flowers which grow so quickly from tears.

I got off my horse, hitched him to a tree, and went to examine the locations where the trenches must be dug. I went first to the south side where the trenches must face the pass. When I reached this place I wanted to cry out in great joy. A wide path ran along the crest just where I must dig the trenches. Never in my life had I felt greater joy and relief. ‘If only it would be the same on the other side!’ I said aloud to myself, as in prayer. It was easy to establish the points where the trenches were to be dug, for the whole space before the path was entirely clear; the little wooden crosses at the new graves of soldiers below were almost innumerable. Lower down were vineyards and the little cabins of the vine-growers. It was a fine place for my trenches.

Afterwards I rode across to the east side, facing the valley; there all my joy and hopes vanished. Not only were there no paths, but the old and new cemeteries overlapped. While I was riding to the cemetery I had made up my mind that I must destroy the graves. But now, when the moment came that I must really do this, I felt stunned, and my brain refused to act. A cold sweat broke out upon my body; drops trickled down my forehead into my eyes and stung them. Then the words of the colonel came to my mind: ‘ I do not defend the dead but the living.’ I grasped this reason as a drowning man clutches at a straw.

I examined the ground where the line for the trenches must be marked. Here I would have to destroy five old graves and two new ones; there, I would have to dig up seven new and three old ones. But, after a while, I found a line between the graves, which, though not very strategic, would not cross many graves. Only four would have to be destroyed; and of these three were old; two were very old — sunken, and so covered with grass as to be scarcely recognizable. The other old one was surrounded by a black iron fence, and a white marble monument stood near the mound, on which was chiseled in golden letters, ‘To our good Mama.’ There were many dead roses on the grave, but the beautiful crowns of the chrysanthemums were open.

The new grave was that of a soldier. On the mound were many flowers, and a lamp which burned in its tiny white church. On the left, side the earth was pressed down by being knelt upon. At the head of the grave was a small red cross of wood with the words —

YOVAN MILICH
Died of Wounds Received
in tlie Battle of Kosmaj
October 2, 1915

I looked upon these two graves sadly. In one was lying a son, a soldier, a warrior, a defender of his native land. In the second a mother — the dearest being, the most holy person to her children. It came over me that I must kneel before these graves and pray. But, suddenly I looked upon myself. I was dirty, disheveled, bloodstained.

‘ Men like me cannot pray to God!' I said aloud. And I felt that it did not pay to live.

By this time my company had arrived at the cemetery. The many experiences which these men had known in their unending fighting had taught them where to go and what to do as soon as they came to a new situation. But now they went hesitatingly, they stopped, they hid behind each other, and all sought to be in the rear line. They were frightened.

‘Third and fourth platoons, follow me!’ I said, and went to the south side. When we came to the path I said to them, ‘You are lucky. You will not have to dig up the graves. The trenches will go along the edge of this path. You will start at this monument and end beyond that tree. You must begin work right away and try to finish before dark. Go on, men, go on to work! ’

Afterwards I came back to the first place. Some of the soldiers were going from grave to grave, reading the inscriptions and whispering among themselves. Many had laid down on the grass. Some were asleep. When I came, they all rose, and stood silently awaiting my order. It seemed to me that they stood before the last judgment. Bora and Cheda came to me.

‘Listen!’ I said to them. ‘You will begin at this fence, dig over this new grave and those with white monuments, and end beyond the two old graves. Begin at once. We must finish this in four hours. Come on!’

The soldiers, with shovels on their shoulders, advanced slowly and hesitatingly and stood near each other on the line I marked out. A great hulking fellow, tanned almost black, with bandaged head, the stock of whose gun bore more than thirty scratches (each scratch meant that he had killed a man), stood over the soldier’s grave and with his heavy boot kicked at the earth of the mound and trampled the flowers. I would rather he had trampled on my heart.

When the soldiers were all in line, Cheda said, ‘Begin!’

Each man bent and began to dig at his place. Cheda came to the big soldier and quietly said to him, ‘You must not throw down the cross!’

‘No fear, Sergeant, it’s not in my way,’ replied the giant, and struck his shovel into the mound.

I went a little farther and sat down on a bank, that I might not see.

The sun was going down. Its last red rays shone through the crowns of the lindens whose yellow and faded leaves covered the paths and the graves. The trees and monuments made long shadows on the leaf-strewn ground, which looked like a beautiful carpet of a thousand colors, rosy with the gleam of the sunset. The little lamps on the graves began to shine more brightly and weirdly. At first I heard only the strokes of picks and shovels behind me; then the soldiers began to murmur, to talk, then to call to each other, to swear, and finally to laugh. I heard a voice.

‘It is not so terrible to dig here.’

‘Surely, it is not. The sexton does this all his life!’

I recognized the voice as that of the giant who dug into the soldier’s grave.

‘Eh! How easy the shovel goes in this wet earth — like into a cheese,’ said another.

‘In a cemetery the earth is always wet — with tears!’ I heard Bora’s voice.

‘Dig! dig!’ said Cheda, in a low, serious tone.

‘Oh, yes! dig! dig!’ replied Bora. ‘It’s all the same. If we dig in the fields, pastures, vineyards, rocks, mountains, forests, or cemeteries, it is all the same; everywhere we destroy human toil and God’s works. In every case we are sinners. In other places we throw out only stones, but here a skull. But it is all the same anyway; neither can speak, neither can feel. Dig! dig!’

Presently I saw an old man who was trying to hurry toward us. He was unable to run, but he cried out something and made signs with his hands. I rose and met him at the trench. He was very, very old, his hair was all white, his eyes were wide with horror. He tried to speak, but he had lost his breath from hurrying and no words came. He gasped for breath a few moments, stretched his hands toward the soldiers as if he wanted to make them stop, then cried,—

‘What are you doing here, men?’

‘Can’t you see? We’re digging trenches!’ said Cheda in a low angry voice. He hated to be interfered with.

‘But in the cemetery!’ exclaimed the poor old man. ‘In my cemetery! Don’t you know that I have taken care of this cemetery more than forty years? I swore before God that I would keep forever his holy things. I do not permit this. Do you understand ? I do not permit you to dig here! It is impossible! From a thousand other places you choose just this to destroy!’

‘Hey, cheecha, as far as you can see the trenches are dug everywhere round the town. Now understand me, everywhere they —’ began Bora.

‘I don’t care! ’ broke out the cheecha, angrily, to Bora. ‘You can dig everywhere, you can destroy everything, you can do what you wish, but not here!'

For a moment there was silence. The soldiers stopped their work and watched to see what happened.

The old sexton, seeing this, thought that we had given up and said more gently, ‘Hayde, hayde dobri moye. Fly from here!’

‘That’s impossible; we are not birds,’ laughed a soldier.

‘What! you will not go from here? You will not leave my graves in peace? ’ ‘I beg of you, cheecha, go away,’ said Cheda sternly; ‘go, go at once, and get out of our way.’ And turning to the soldiers, he said, ‘Go on digging.’

The men, who were amused at this scene, began to dig, laughing. When the poor old man saw this, he screamed as if he had been wounded, and rushing to the giant who was digging at the soldier’s grave, grasped his shovel with both hands, trying to take it away from him, and crying, —

Hae! you shall not, you shall not dig here while I am alive!’

The big soldier, from whom the devil himself could not wrest anything, held the shovel in one hand; with the other he brushed away the old man, saying,

‘ Let me alone, cheecha. Let me alone, I tell you! If I had to defend such as you, certainly I would not destroy these graves; but,’ pointing to the valley, ‘for those down there, I would do anything; for those I would die!’

And, knowing that he was right, in his excitement he pushed the old man so hard that he fell to the ground. I hurried to them, crying,—

‘What are you doing, you fools?’ Then, for the first time, the old man saw me. He crept to me, clasped my feet with his arms, and weeping, begged me: —

‘O sir! sir! I beg of you, if you know God, don’t let them destroy the graves; don’t let them commit a terrible sacrilege! God will punish them!’

I bent over him and said, —

‘Be reasonable, cheecha, we have to dig here. This place is a very important strategic point. If we do not defend it, the Bulgarians will enter quickly into the town and do frightful things. Serbia is dying, cheecha, her people are perishing. We have to do everything in order to save them. We must take every help. The time is coming when we must take help of the dead too. Understand, the dead have to help us now!’

The old sexton looked at me in amazement, as if he did not understand me. Suddenly his head drooped; he fell to the ground and wept like a child. Cheda looked at me. I gave him a sign with my head and he went to the soldiers.

‘Two men here! Take that old man and carry him to his home, and say to his wife, or to anybody else, that they must leave the cemetery at once.’

Two soldiers lifted the old man, taking him under the arms, and went off. The old sexton looked as if he were dead. After going a little distance, he jerked himself away from the soldiers, straightened up and cried in a solemn voice, —

‘You have to know that you dig your own grave. God will punish you! He will bury you to-morrow!’

Then suddenly he collapsed and fell into the arms of the soldiers, an inert mass. The men were laughing and calling, —

‘Oh, we know that!’

‘We came here for that!’

‘At least, we know that we will have a good sexton! ’

‘Be silent! Work!’ said Cheda, angrily.

The soldiers became quiet and began to work again. It seemed as if I had dreamed all this, that I was not alive. I felt as if the heart and soul had gone out of me and I had neither nerves nor brain. I returned to the bank and sat down. The sun had set but it was still light. It was one of those beautiful last days of autumn, which tell us that Nature will soon die, but also give promise of a new springtime. Alas! the springtime will never come again to poor Serbia!

For a while the soldiers worked quietly. They saw the night coming, and as they knew that the trenches must be finished before dark, they used their last strength hurriedly. Occasionally I heard a sad, tired sigh, the sigh of a man who can no longer move. Then I would hear the voice of his friend: —

‘Go, go on, bata [little brother], only for a little longer. We will have the whole night to rest!’

Then I heard a strange noise of many voices calling, —

‘Hee! Bones!’

‘How black and yellow they are!’

‘ How large they are! One cannot believe they are human bones!’

All of a sudden I heard an angry exclamation, the cry of a man who had endured for a long time and can no longer bear up.

‘I cannot work any longer! I shall stifle! It smells horribly!’

‘What? It smells!' I heard Bora’s voice. ‘Ha, bato moj, this is no perfumer’s shop, it is a cemetery; it is not the festival of Mi-Carême, it is war. Have you forgotten the days of CernaBara, when we had to remain for fifteen days in our trenches, and around us lay the corpses which had rotted in the summer sun, because we could not bury them? Do you remember that?’

‘ I remember, but it was not as —’

‘It was worse,’ said Cheda angrily. ‘It is not worth your while to complain. Better work! Dig!’

Again they were silent. Again only the stroke of the picks.

‘Auh!’ cried a frightened voice. ‘Bora, look here! A skull!’

‘ A skull! Throw it up here. How terrible and cold it is! Can it be possible that this was once covered with flesh, and moved above the earth? Brothers, for a long time I have wished to act Hamlet; finally my opportunity is here. No actor would wish a better stage. But instead of applause, it is the thunder of cannon. It is more magnificent! And instead of laurels, perhaps I will get a bullet through my forehead. But it is all the same. This scene is worth death! The story is, that a khedive, throwing away his koran and his ingiales, gave liberty to all his slaves and the wives of his harem. He stood before a window and saw how these unhappy ones joyfully breathed the beautiful air of liberty. Never khedive saw a more magnificent picture! Later, he committed suicide in the great delight of his heart, with these words on his lips, “These scenes will not happen every day.”

‘A skull! Is that a skull of a politician, a lawyer, or a buyer of land? Is that a skull of those men whom Hamlet bated and despised? No, no, it is the skull of a mother. Do you see what is written here: “To our good Mama!” Mother! Sometimes you had heard those words, my poor skull, my good mother, and you were the happiest among human beings. Mother! She is our source of life, of nourishment, — our teacher, protector, defender, angel, love, life—our God! All this is one woman, one mother, to her children. Skull, what are you to me? Nothing but cold, dirty, dead bones. And yet, in these dark sockets were once eyes, like those of my mother, which wept with happiness when I smiled, or with pain when I but cut my little finger. Oh! dear mother’s eyes! Here were the lips, like the lips of my mother, which kissed me and called me “my angel.” Here were the cheeks, like the cheeks of my mother, which I kissed uncounted times!’

Something thrilled in my heart and soul when I heard Bora’s words. I felt that his words burned me, scathed me, and kindled great pain within me; but at the same time, I felt that a strange warmth was melting the ice around my heart which had formed there during these last days of horror. It seemed to me that I wanted to listen to his words, to drink them in, and yet, at the same time, to close my ears to them. All the feelings which I had hidden and kept deep in my heart, this good boy, in his honesty and youth, had drawn out without pity. Never, never should one speak of mother in the war! When I heard the words about mother, I felt as if I could not breathe, and that I could no longer endure to hear him speak, and I called out to him, —

‘Stop, Bora! Come here.’

Slowly he came over. He was pale as death.

I was frightened by his looks, and I put both hands on his shoulders, shook him and said, —

‘Bora, be a man!’

He looked at me, then he smiled, opened his eyes widely, his face flushed, and in an eager and excited voice, he said to me, —

‘God protect them! Is it not so?’

‘Yes, Bora, God protect them!’ I repeated, prayerfully; and suddenly I felt that a great hope had entered my heart. Just then the big black soldier’s voice broke in.

‘Lieutenant!’

‘What is the matter?’

‘A coffin, sir, entirely new! Look! a fine red coffin! Here it is peeping out from the earth. If I dig deeper it will take more than a half of the trench. What shall I do now?’

‘The trench is not deep enough,’I said to him; ‘dig around it and leave it exposed.’

‘That is a fine idea. For a long time you have wished to have a chair in the trench. Now you will have one!'

‘Fool!’ said Cheda, angrily.

‘It’s a fine idea, anyway!’ said the big fellow, chuckling, and he began to dig.

(To be continued)