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Home Fires in France
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Perhaps the first thing which brought our boys to a halt, and a long, long look around them, was the age of the place. Apparently it has-the statement is hardly exaggerated-always been there. As a matter of historical fact it has been there for more than a thousand years. On hearing that, the American boys always gasped. They were used to the conception of the great age of "historical" spots, by which they meant cities in which great events have occurred-Paris, Rome, Stratford-on-Avon, Granada. But that an inconsiderable settlement of a thousand inhabitants, where nothing in particular ever happened beyond the birth, life, and death of its people, should have kept its identity through a thousand years gave them, so they said, "a queer feeling." As they stood in the quiet gray street, looking up and down, and taking in the significance of the fact, one could almost visibly see their minds turning away from the text-book idea of the Past as an unreal, sparsely settled period with violent historical characters in doublet and ruff or chain mail thrusting broadswords into one another or signing treaties which condemned all succeeding college students to a new feat of memory; you could almost see their brilliant, shadowless, New World youth deepened and sobered by a momentary perception of the Past as a very long and startlingly real phenomenon, full, scaringly full of real people, entirely like ourselves, going about the business of getting born, being married and dying, with as little conscious regard as we for historical movements and tendencies. They were never done marveling that the sun should have fallen across Crouy streets at the same angle before Columbus discovered America as to-day; that at the time of the French Revolution just as now, the big boys and sturdy men of Crouy should have left the same fields which now lie golden in the sun and have gone out to repel the invader; that people looked up from drawing water at the same fountain which now sparkles under the sycamore trees and saw Catherine de Medici pass on her way north as now they see the gray American Ambulance rattle by.... "And I bet it was over these same cussed hard-heads!" cried the boy from Ohio, trying vainly to ease his car over the knobby paving-stones.
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