Edith Cavell

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BY G. K. CHESTERTON.

There is not much that can be said, or said easily, about the highest aspects of the murder of Edith Cavell. When we have said, ” Dear in the sight of God i the d feath oss hins ts”s,” fn’ hate said as much as mlire Il itatuil 11 has ever 1 ])(i i able to say in Ith miatter. laut tlis rtI mIrany- I”.lons i it concerning the hl trig probltem s itsth wih’ I si- i ill engaged And one of the mlost Ip’,fta’llc nas III iii sitilhliciciy ‘sltipfl and hr-e(t demean- ilr ‘elf ti t vii Ilt’ln hitl-ri l : especially in hler andour and Luitelle pt 11 l le gale Slli x -isC 1 patb t hbelll rtile i rpresenta- v’l i f tt l sl an! tIi]niat ite as ag-ainst that poswerlul half tlul tl n siilt 1 is aittipline t o destroy It, in the la, t thia t she ung d nild thntiteit altetr ith whole truth – that h \it ,ll n iiol anal, m le hss tihan what tlhe I ieshi, hn 11t ‘sits t ttall isp-ll, tL ll (it i lt I it Il i”1 iI t i’i to. i e deloi t d h’ t f allait s : it tears its a11 ifit lro gh i )i 1 iis – ike sll i-]thaplin ] through arited ‘s t ,li et si’ i il a ~l it’ i a iedl s tir i ler ctd as a defeince fr it If,, it I t – l ise tlb – plvhis r, it scorns to fspit out a Lgae that is ailt(adv d ided I( Inn tis, i a so man tl”sgs. It it i n fila td sonti-lset sifluth l lllr lrins l.st whslich S ihas bit ll iitt a l :in lit the ‘i lusian sbrain. In the trial II tlhe Itngli h nLe, it r tultpr:t summd up like a judge. And it tas the judges hI hatve shl.ffl,1d hlike culprits. isodes’ it ermtnlIy is gre at in ss ialth and long prepara- nI , it is tnot cp t int iiantlin else ; it is not even really la IutIn tyranny,. i()n e ry ottasion it has hidden itself it t li hasty net-vwork oif excuses trlich its greatest victini liap cially desp!ned. the quialnit of meannss scuriously m:a ks all its mercly inttellectual activities. It was the oloie, lsfor mat.ntes, liithe tt of eI tlgunst. In ansiwer to thlsat ancitll and nail ful q ‘stolns : ‘ last thou slain and l’, takein fspowsssii t ‘ ti’ 1l’s tssian is obliged to ansss’er ” Yes and I hal si helled also.” iIe stooped to declaring that he had at last fiund an exluse for a crisime-whlch, In alntl cas, hit’ had colin:ittt-d stithoilt cxcuse. He had sintllsig to sa it tdefence of hiaving murs.dered his nefgh bour except that hi hadl also robbeild hi m; and tihat thmsg hint oft his I apers had been the Imeans of robbing hu1 of his r5ttsllatni If ecirythinig he osai against his L:Ipy sictsi had lb”n its trtue as it ast false, he wouldI still have bot – mch lit more abiect figure of the two. .nd exactly tihe same note f pettainess anld posthumous Is litthis smarlss all lfts attimpts to excuse luittelf over theI tnsi-ll case. In one if Ills monkey tricks of vanity, he has even attetmphfd t twist tflus tragedy into a verve. nsoldi1teIVs ss-n’er about the accidents of the i ilitarv ctam- pasgn. lIe sats that the Allies have not yet had occasion st iurder ain ho.5spital nursets t hostile countries, because IlieV do int Ihold so mtlchis conquered territory. This wouil appearIii to mean, by the operations of nornial logic, ithat 11i we Lad s iolentiV atinnexed Ienmark in order to sL h tea fis’ It li and at[il the i-ic s I in t, we shsould by that deed of chlalry have o ar nLed ithel right to hbutshfr :oid o eninst lll sr bthas ilt as sulch. But as oulr recoird is tieoll of anl sItui asit os virtue., we caninot hope to partakse of the puetir iplasirets of tile Prussianl paradise. parenltl u ui thelthoe Rho pal no respect to itaiites are pill ilh.ged to pay sn respect 1o woms anhood. IEeln moreii Cntalls- nitlt, If lpo ssible is the excuse attempted by the itert responsible Prussian oflictal involved : the stg- t ntion ct t th shot i ae sit stts as erinitable as one whichl sholldn kill a is-an womian fighting in the Russian lines as a 1 man The parallel is not onily a pedantry; but it is, like lmost piedlantrits, o, tiotslvy unplhlosophical. Nobody would blaine the PltIsian sotldier wshose bullet pierced a woman in a lRussian unforin; first, because hlie is only expected to see thle tuniorln; and, second, because killing her is h ,cs probably the ll -nty was of preventsng her killinog hI liut Nurse Cavell as tnot setaring any unifoisrm of star, 1b sit the IssiV ersall recioglsed uniform i of peace; and she i ans not trfing to kill Ger’nan soldiers, fuat, on thie con- trIar, inr g to ticre thesi. That it(,e same hulnian com- A passIon whlict led her to help Gerianits to health led herC also to help Engl ishen to home, was certainly a technical offence ; ands among anyt people who could be regarded as ‘ sane, iou ll have received some technical punishmoent. Indeed, It sm’ighit have received a faierl heavy punishment, and one ansering all possble puerposes of German self- protection, and still not come within a thouisand Isiles of this extraval-nt act of vengeance. I need only allude n hre to that other netw ork ofi small evasions hich ‘ entangled the ettorts of the Asserican and Spanish inter- le cessors – It is all of a piece. It is that smallness of Ger- mia.- wheich has been so itmh more startling to is than at the liganes of Germans. But what 1 have just said of the more orh ios course of imprisonment, if the thing was ) cs wshich itrs vistatl to its in this war. The thing was not done to protect the Prussian power.l It was done to satisfy a Prussian appetite. The mad cc lisproportion between the possible need of restraining tthe frantic needlessness of killing her, is so simpl the measure of the asre e istance by whssich the distorted Prussian psychology has departed from the moral in- hl stincts of mankind. The key to the Prussian is in this If extraordinary fact that he does truly and in his heartj C1 beheve that hie is adired whenever he can nanage to be dreaded. An indefensible act of publhc violence is to him a what a poem is to a poet or a song to a bird It at once a relieves and expresses hi; lie feels more hinself while he is doing it. His whole conception of the State is a t series of such coups d’etat. In Poland, in Alsace, in pe Lorraine, in the Danish provinces, hlie has wholly failed to govern; indeed, he has never really attempted to govern. For governing means making people at home. Wherever we he goes, and whatever success he gains, he will always Th sake it an occasion for sanguinary pantomimes of this ag kind. And awsul as is the individual loss, it is well that plc now, at the very moment when nmen, wili or weak, are in beginning to talk of eoncidiatory possibilities in this a incurasshie criminal he shout hisself have pravided sit as with this appalling reply. ton We present as a Supplement to this issue a portrait ss of Miss Cavell, reproduced in photogravure. I her


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Issue 3993. - Vol CXLVII

Oct, 30 1915

Illustrated London News