THE news from the great battle in the north, unless the official communiques are misleading us, indicates that the Germans have failed in their last supreme effort to surround and destroy the armies that have stood between them and a triumphal entry into Paris. There is nothing left now for the Germans but to retreat step by step from the invaded departments of France and from Belgium, until they have recrossed the Rhine.
But there are two reasons why Paris is not rejoicing, in spite of the good news. In the first place, the victory has been purchased at too dear a price. The British and Germans have published their lists of killed and wounded and prisoners. The French have not. The invader has been repulsed, but we do not yet know the cost. We can only suspect. Most of the families in Paris fear that they ought to be wearing mourning for loved ones. In the second place, driving the enemy out of France is only the first, and perhaps not the greatest, phase of this awful war. Every one knows that a greater effort remains yet to be made than has already been called for, or than is being called for in the present still defensive operations.
The German superiority in men of military age is so great, in spite of the fact that they are fighting the Russians on the East, that their losses have not meant so much up to this point to them as to the French. For carrying the war into the enemy’s country, France will need fresh forces, and France will have to make fresh sacrifices.
The spirit of Paris today is one of wistful determination. The war is not over. The peace which ends it must be decisive. As the Jesuit Father expressed it to me yesterday, “If we do not do more than drive the Germans out of France and restore Belgium to our plucky little allies, our success will be a delusion. We must break the military power of Germany, or we shall have to live again under the terrible nightmare of 1870, to which will have been added the nightmare of 1914.”
This opinion of the seriousness and the long duration of the effort that must be made to crush Germany is shared by the British. The British General Staff, and the various military services of the British army, have leased buildings in Paris for three years.
So it is that I see in the morning, when I am going to my office at eight o’clock, the boys of Paris marching through the streets with sticks for guns on their way to drill in the Luxembourg. For an hour before school the boys of the classes of 1916 and 1917 are getting ready to take the places o those who have fallen on the Marne, the Aisne, and in the North. The class of 1914 has already been called out. The class of 1915 is impatiently awaiting its summons.
Jusqu’au bout! To the bitter end France intends to fight. But the price of victory will, make 1915 the bloodiest year of history.
How much better if France had awakened years ago to the perils of the future, and had advocated a law of three children in each family rather than a law of three years’ military service. Then this war would not have been, for Germany would never have dared to risk it.