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These pot–bellied merchants don't seem to realize that they exist owing to our exertions. I was much struck with the beautiful orderliness of the small gardens which we have laid out since 1914, and, in fact, wherever one looks there is evidence of the genius of the German race for thorough organization. Yet these Belgians don't seem to appreciate it. I can't understand it. I find here that social life is very much gayer than at that mad town of Wilhelmshaven. At the High Seas Fleet bases there was the strictness and austerity that some people seem to consider necessary to show that we are at war, though Heaven knows there was precious little war in the High Seas Fleet; perhaps that was why the "blood and iron" régime was in full order ashore.
When I came up to her she proudly pointed to the place she had found. It was ideal. An outcrop of rock formed a miniature Matterhorn in the forest, and beneath its shelter with the old trees as silent witnesses we sat and joked and laughed, and made twenty attempts to light a fire. After lunch, a little incident happened which had an enormous effect on me; Zoe asked me whether I would mind if she smoked. How many women in these days would think of doing that? And yet, had she but known it, I am still sufficiently old–fashioned to appreciate the implied respect for any possible prejudices which was contained in her request.
Von Markel told me that the fighting here has not been previously equalled in the war, such is the intensity of the combat and the price each side is paying. I could see for myself that this was so, and the whole atmosphere of the place is pregnant with the supreme importance of this struggle, which may well be the dying convulsions of decadent France. His Imperial Majesty himself has arrived on the scene to witness the final triumph of our arms, and all agree that the end is imminent. Once we get Verdun, it is the general opinion that this portion of the French front will break completely, carrying with it the adjacent sectors, and the French Armies in the Vosges and Argonne will be committed to a general retreat on converging lines.