A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 141

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PARIS SAVED


inspired all and dictated one tragic duty—to confront the worst dangers with a firm heart. What would have happened if the Germans had been able to attempt to take Paris by a sudden stroke? The answer is better left in the region of conjecture.

But the African troops had come in the nick of time to reinforce the army of Paris, and it was soon known that a battle was raging between the French forces and those German troops which were trying to turn the entrenched camp. One heard the cannons. The great guns of the forts, it was said, were firing on the enemy's advance-guard, but it was no more than the echo carried by the east wind. The anxiety of the whole population reached its maximum. It was as though people no longer dared to speak, but greeted one another in silence, as though they were awaiting sentence of life or death from a throw of the dice. Those were tragic hours which those who lived through them will never forget.

Suddenly the communiqués, while retaining their brevity, lost their tone of vague embarrassment. They became more definite, and gave an impression that something decisive was happening. It was the communiqué of September 8 which announced that the battle was general, and during three days Paris and the whole of France anxiously awaited the result. Those three days were long. The defeat of the Allied troops would mean the enemy in Paris almost immediately. At last the communiqué of the 11th said that "the Franco-British troops had crossed the Marne," and on the 12th General Joffre, in his general order No. 15, told the troops: "The battle which has been in progress for the last five days is ending in incontestable victory." If all France felt relieved, Paris experienced veritable joy. This joy found no expression in acclamations, or in flying flags. The same coolness, the same calm temper which had faced danger, greeted victory. "Paris is saved," we said, "but the enemy is still formidable, and a whole rich region of France still remains to be freed."

The trench war, which was drawn out to such interminable length, made it possible to grant frequent leave to the troops. In Paris, one by one, a few theatres reopened, reviving on their bills pieces that had been successes before the war, while others produced revues, in which actualities were caricatured, and, in spite of the tragic circumstances of the moment, satire and the comic spirit found free vent, so far as the strict military censorship allowed.

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