The Amazing Interlude
In the little house of mercy two weeks went by, and then a third. Soldiers marching out to
the trenches sometimes wore flowers tucked gayly in their caps. More and more Allied
aeroplanes were in the air. Sometimes, standing in the streets, Sara Lee saw one far
overhead, while balloon-shaped clouds of bursting shells hung far below it.
Once or twice in the early morning a German plane, flying so low that one could easily
see the black cross on each wing, reconnoitered the village for wagon trains or troops.
Always they found it empty.
Hope had almost fled now. In the afternoons Marie went to the ruined church, and there
knelt before the heap of marble and masonry that had once been the altar, and prayed.
And Sara Lee, who had been brought up a Protestant and had never before entered a
Catholic church, took to going there too. In some strange fashion the peace of former
days seemed to cling to the little structure, roofless as it was. On quiet days its silence
was deeper than elsewhere. On days of much firing the sound from within its broken
walls seemed deadened, far away.
Marie burned a candle as she prayed, for that soul in purgatory which she had once loved,
and now pitied. Sara Lee burned no candle, but she knelt, sometimes beside Marie,
sometimes alone, and prayed for many things: that Henri should be living, somewhere;
that the war might end; that that day there would be little wounding; that some day the
Belgians might go home again; and that back in America Harvey might grow to
understand and forgive her. And now and then she looked into the very depths of her
soul, and on those days she prayed that her homeland might, before it was too late, see
this thing as she was seeing it. The wanton waste of it all, the ghastly cruelty the Germans
had brought into this war.
Sara Lee's vague thinking began to crystallize. This war was not a judgment sent from on
high to a sinful world. It was the wicked imposition of one nation on other nations. It was
national. It was almost racial. But most of all it was a war of hate on the German side.
She had never believed in hate. There were ugly passions in the world --jealousy, envy,
suspicion; but not hate. The word was not in her rather limited vocabulary.
There was no hate on the part of the men she knew. The officers who stopped in on their
way to and from the trenches were gentlemen and soldiers. They were determined and
grave; they resented, they even loathed. But they did not hate. The little Belgian soldiers
were bewildered, puzzled, desperately resentful. But of hate, as translated into terms of
frightfulness, they had no understanding.
Yet from the other side were coming methods of war so wantonly cruel, so useless save
as inflicting needless agony, as only hate could devise. No strategic value justified them.