National Geographic : 1915 Apr
Photo by A. Nielen STILFSERJOCH PASS, ON THE BORDERS OF AUSTRIA AND ITALY, THE IIGIEST CARRIAGE ROAD IN EUROPE: ITS SUMMIT IS 9,055 FEET One sees them, too, at sterner practice than facing a photographer, lined up be fore an officer, very rigid, very precise, conscious that their comrades are joking and jibing at the rear. It does not soothe susceptibilities to stand under the weight of a piece of ordnance, however small, while one's superior makes sarcastic com ments upon one's ability or fires rapid peremptory questions as to what one would do in various emergencies one has never met; while one's chosen comrades, grouped at a safe distance behind the drill-master's back, are making uncompli mentary remarks concerning one's ap pearance. Each takes his turn, however, and in the long day all come out even. It seems so long ago-so drearily long ago-since those radiant days on moun tain tops near the sky. In the great peace, the indescribable stillness of those high places, the possi bilities of war seemed too remote to con template. The soldiers stood for grim realities, but we did not comprehend it. Our eyes, looking for loveliness, saw them as picturesque concomitants of a wonderful landscape, sometimes as de lightful playfellows. We were deaf and blind to all the uniforms meant. The cry to arms echoed and re-echoed through these mountains. War has not yet violated their majestic fastnesses, but the gay young soldiers have marched away to defend the bitterly contested passes in the Vosges; not again will they come to their Alpine drill ground. The snow lies soft and deep and thick there, the valleys are filled to the brim, the brooks are stilled beneath the ice. The flowers are buried, the passes closed, the villages isolated. No one comes and no one goes away. Life is at a standstill awaiting the spring. The Chasseurs-Alpins will come again, perhaps, but they will look at us with other eyes. The merry boys of last sum mer are old or dead.