Welcome to the eighth episode of our current Tale for Our Time: John Buchan's classic race across Europe to stop the Germans setting the Muslim world afire - Greenmantle. In tonight's episode, Richard Hannay continues his recuperation in a peasant hovel in southern Germany:
As we sat there in the firelight, with the three white-headed children staring at me with saucer eyes, and smiling when I looked their way, the woman talked. Her man had gone to the wars on the Eastern front, and the last she had heard from him he was in a Polish bog and longing for his dry native woodlands. The struggle meant little to her. It was an act of God, a thunderbolt out of the sky, which had taken a husband from her, and might soon make her a widow and her children fatherless. She knew nothing of its causes and purposes, and thought of the Russians as a gigantic nation of savages, heathens who had never been converted, and who would eat up German homes if the good Lord and the brave German soldiers did not stop them. I tried hard to find out if she had any notion of affairs in the West, but she hadn't, beyond the fact that there was trouble with the French. I doubt if she knew of England's share in it. She was a decent soul, with no bitterness against anybody, not even the Russians if they would spare her man.
That night I realized the crazy folly of war. When I saw the splintered shell of Ypres and heard hideous tales of German doings, I used to want to see the whole land of the Boche given up to fire and sword. I thought we could never end the war properly without giving the Huns some of their own medicine. But that woodcutter's cottage cured me of such nightmares. I was for punishing the guilty but letting the innocent go free. It was our business to thank God and keep our hands clean from the ugly blunders to which Germany's madness had driven her. What good would it do Christian folk to burn poor little huts like this and leave children's bodies by the wayside? To be able to laugh and to be merciful are the only things that make man better than the beasts.
Thank you for all your generous comments on this series - including this one from brand new Club member David Rettie:
I too am thoroughly enjoying this story. I am currently experiencing some challenges with my wellbeing, so listening to the latest episode is a tea all treat every day. I am very glad to be a new Mark Steyn Club member.
Sorry to hear that, David, but I'm glad that our latest radio serial is providing some nightly amelioration, and delighted to have you in our little club.
If you've yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. For more details, see here. And please join me on Saturday for a brand new video edition of Mark's Mailbox, answering questions from Steyn Club members, and later in the day for Part Nine of Greenmantle.