Page 3464


the story to the world, it was an incident

"worthy of the great traditions of Greece

and Rome." The heroic spirit of the

first Revolution, the spirit that comes

echoing forth from the Marseillaise, was

abroad in France. The soldiers of France

felt that spirit and kept of good courage.

In the face of such a stupendous crisis,

however, spirit alone can accomplish little

without intelligent leadership. Were the

leaders who held in their hands the destinies of France-nay, even the destinies

of the world-men who could rise to the

supreme demands of the hour ?

Let us consider for a moment the situation. The German hosts were at the

very gates of Paris. The French and

British for days had been falling back,

resigning to the enemy some of the fairest

parts of France. Only in the east did

the great barrier fortresses hold back the

tide, and at the north even these were

hard pressed. If the defenders fell back

much further, Paris would be besieged,

and the appalling power of the German

great guns, as revealed at Liege and Namur,

was such that military men knew that the

ring of fortresses might soon be broken.

The time was at hand when the army

must stand and fight, but if it were beaten,

it would doubtless be hemmed against

the eastern border and destroyed or captured in another vast Sedan. And the fate

of France was bound up in that army,

for there would neither be time to raise

another nor the men with which to compose it. With France out of the way,

Germany and Austria could easily overrun

Russia. Only England would then remain between the Teutons and world


As for the Germans, they appear to

have been supremely confident as to the

outcome. The rapidity of their advance

had been unexampled in warfare. The

minor checks they had received were

forgotten. In a week, at most, they

expected to be in Paris, and already considered the French armies and the "contemptible" little force that the British

had been able to put into the field as good

as destroyed. From East Prussia came

glorious tidings of a stupendous victory

over the Slavs. Tens of thousands of

Russians had been shot down or driven

into lakes and swamps to perish. Tens

of thousands of others had been captured.

The Black Eagles were irresistible. The

war would be over by Christmas. The

Central Powers would exact great cessions

of territories and vast money indemnities.

Deutschland would indeed be "uber alles."

The Vosische Zeitung expressed the feeling

of elation and absolute assurance of victory

in the following words: "The mind is

almost unable to conceive what is told

the German people about their victories

from the east and west. It is, as it were,

a judgment of God which condemns our

antagonists as the criminal originators of

this war."

Such were the triumphant feelings of

the German civilians and of the private

soldiers, and under officers. As for the

chiefs, just as the prize seemed almost

within their grasp, there arose an uneasy

feeling that perhaps the situation was

not exactly so roseate as it appeared.

For there was a master hand and brain

behind that retreat. At the head of the

French armies stood one Joseph Joffre,

a cooper's son but a veteran of the war

of 70 and of various little wars since that

time, no poseur and self-seeker like Boulanger but a deep student of military

science and a devoted lover of France.

Around him stood a group of able officers

like Pau, Foch, and de Castelnau. From

the time that the diversion into Alsace

and Lorraine had failed and the retreat

from the north had begun, General Joffre

had been working with a definite strategic

conception in his mind, and upon it he

was determined to stake the destinies of


The idea upon which-his plan was based

is what is sometimes called "the open

strategic square," which involves having

part of the army, "the operating corner,"

engage the enemy, while the remainder

is held in reserve in readiness to concentrate in overwhelming force upon a favorable point. The plan is not without its

dangers. In the present instance, the