A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 136

The home of the Lonsdale Battalion 1914-1918
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Proofread. The contents of this page have been proofread at least once for errors and inconsistencies.

The population remained quite calm, in spite of certain wicked rumours circulated by one or two anti-republican sheets, which falsely accused of treason such leaders as Generals Sarrail and Percin. These culpable attempts to break at such a moment the compact of "sacred union" had not the least success, and earned for those who ventured them the rebuke and the contempt of decent men. However, it is a common, historical phenomenon—when a nation suffers a reverse obscure mischief makers are always to be found to suggest to the credulous a suspicion that they are betrayed, and to hand over at once to vengeance the very men in some cases who have best served their country, as was most certainly true of the generals disloyally accused.

The invadon spread. The enemy advanced by forced marches towards Paris, into which were already flowing streams of refugees from the north and the east, who disseminated tales of the atrocities committed upon the unarmed population. The worst was expected and prepared for. In the city itself and the populous outlying districts every facility was afforded to the population of departing before the arrival of the enemy. All those who were able to take refuge in the provinces on their estates, or with relations or friends, were invited to go, to diminish the total of useless mouths in case Paris should be invested or occupied. The trains which returned to the west or the south in quest of troops took away thousands of people. The central administration and the municipalities collaborated actively to ensure the feeding of the population, which remained large in spite of all the departures. The same bodies were also occupied in arranging ration lists and food tickets. All this was done in most orderly fashion, and carried out with diligent activity.

It seemed as if the capital could hardly escape from the lot which threatened it. If, in spite of all, Parisians—and with them all France—still clung to hope, there was some merit in doing so, for every day the news became less and less reassuring. However, the worst pessimists were obliged to recognize that three great facts dominated the situation. First, the unanimous impulse which had inspired the whole nation and its unalterable resolve never to yield, never to be influenced by the hardest reverses, and to resist to the bitter end. On the other hand,the news of the Russian advance encouraged the most despondent. The term steam roller had captured popular imagination, which already pictured the Russian masses pouring out like a devasta-

← 135   ·   136   ·   137 →
(page index)