From across the fields, borne by the chill December wind, comes the strain of "The end of a perfect day," played on a battered comet by an old soldier of many, many years' service.
I stand at the cross tracks on a wind-swept plateau in Artois. The little unit to which I am attached is encamped in the tiny hamlet of a score mud houses down the shaded lane to the North. The hovels are built for the joint use of man and beast. Those dignified by the name of farm have each a large square courtyard in front, with an odiferous pool, stagnant and black, and heaps of garbage and evil smelling refuse. To the South, East, and West, stretch out the open, hedgeless fields, mostly newly turned. The sun is dipping to rest far away behind a village church spire standing like one of God’s sentinels against a blood-stained sky.
Here and there a gaunt tree stripped stark by unpitying blasts throws up suppliant arms in a silent appeal to unseen forces.
From the North and East comes a sinister rumble—The Thunder of the Guns; ominous, chilling, fearful. Nearer, the sweetly pathetic lilt of "The end of a perfect day." Striking contrasts—the savage tune of the guns, the evil portent of an angry sky, and the restful melody lipped out on the battered comet.
As I watch, the sun sinks from sight, and some fairy clouds o’erhead are transformed from snow to delicate pink as by a magic hand. As twilight creeps upon the land, the fiery sky subdues its angry color, and a silent peace steals over nature. The harsher hues are toned away to delicate tints of wonderful pigment harmoniously blended by a Master Artist. The Thunder of the Guns loses its sinister meaning, and speaks only of righteous indignation against the arrogant claim of might o’er right. God’s own sweet peace steals over me; the faint lullaby of the wind soothes my spirit; Heaven’s own calm pervades my being.
The restful pastoral scene, undulating land, with delicate tinted sky, the lilting cadences of the sweet melody, preach a sermon of peace—the perfect ending of one of God’s most glorious days. In face of such manifestations, when all nature whispers gentle thoughts of love, can one doubt God’s infinite care? Everything works together for good. Even the guns are hastening the Millennium by blasting away the evil forces which militate against the world’s peace. The realization that good can come from evil is difficult to understand in the midst of so much sorrow, but a better world is really in the molding.
The last few lingering rays shoot upward to a darker sky in which the angel lamps are being lit, and, as I wend my way to our encampment, the Peace of God which passeth all understanding sets its seal on the end of a perfect day.