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On The Death Of A Little Soldier
by [?]

When I speak of this little soldier who fell a few days ago, up there in the Vosges, it is not that I may mourn him publicly. It behoves us in these days to mourn our dead in secret. Personal sorrows no longer count; and we must learn how to suppress them in the presence of that greater sorrow which extends over all the world, the particular sorrow of the mothers who are setting us an example of the most heroic silence that human suffering has been taught to observe since suffering first visited womankind. For the admirable silence of the mothers is one of the great and striking lessons of this war. Amid that tragic and sublime silence no regret dare make itself heard.

But, though my grief remains dumb, my admiration can still raise its voice; and in speaking of this young soldier, who had not reached man’s estate and who died as the bravest of men, I speak of all his brothers-in-arms and hail thousands like him in his name, which name becomes a great and glorious symbol; for at this time, when a prodigious wave of unselfishness and courage, surging up from the very depths of the human race, uplifts the men who are fighting and giving their lives for its future, they all resemble one another in the same perfection.

My friend Raymond Bon was a sergeant in the 27th battalion of the Chasseurs Alpins. He left for the front in August, 1914, with the other recruits of the 1915 class, which means that he was hardly twenty years of age; and he won his stripes on the battlefield, after being twice named in dispatches. The second time was on returning from a murderous assault at Thann, in Upper Alsace, in which he had greatly distinguished himself. I quote the exact words:

“Corporal Bon is mentioned in the orders of the battalion for his gallantry under fire and his indifference to danger. When the leader of his section was killed, Bon took command, rushed to the front and, shouting to his men to follow him, gave proofs of the greatest initiative and courage. He was the first in the enemy’s trenches with his section.”

That day he was promoted to sergeant and complimented by the general in front of his battalion in the following terms:

“This is the second time, my friend, that I am told what you have done; next time you shall be told what I have done.”

To-day men tell of his death, but also of the undying glory which death alone confers.

“At Hartmannsviller,” writes one of Bon’s comrades, “according to his captain’s story, our friend’s company was held in reserve, waiting to support the attack delivered by a regiment of infantry. The order came to support and reinforce the attack. The company at once leapt from the trenches, with the captain and Bon at its head. There was a salvo of artillery; and the bursting of a great shell caught Raymond almost full in the body, smashing his right leg and his chest. The captain was hit in the right hand. Notwithstanding his horrible wounds, Bon did not lose consciousness; he was able to stammer out a few words and to press the hand which the captain gave him. In less than two minutes all was over.”

And the captain adds:

“Always ready to sacrifice himself; a brave among the brave.”

These are modest and yet glorious details: modest because they are so very common, because they are constantly being repeated in their noble monotony and springing up from every side, numberless as the essential actions of our daily life; and glorious because before this war they seemed so rare and almost legendary and incomprehensible.