The Mother

The Mother

By FRANK CRANE, in the St. Louis Star

(Copyright, 1914, by Frank Crane)


The War Lord Emperor sat in his tent surrounded by his generals. Reports were coming in every few moments from the gigantic battle, where three million men were wrestling along a two-hundred mile line.

The air was charged with the voltage of great events. The Emperor’s brow was dark. He was nervous. His words were sharp and rasping. He would sit for tense intervals in silence.

Suddenly he said: “What is that noise? Go and see.”

An aid saluted, disappeared, returned in a little while and announced, “It is a woman, your majesty. For some reason the guards will not touch her. She demands to see you.”

“Bring her here.”

The woman was led in. She was of peasant type not uncomely. Her clothes were tattered, her hair disheveled, her eyes were of fire and fever.

“Who are you?” said the emperor brusquely.

“I am a mother.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I seek my boy.”

“What do you mean? Go on; tell your story. Be brief.”

“I am a mother,” said the woman, standing erect and looking fearlessly in his eye. “They took away my boy, my Karl. I want him. That is all.”

After a moment she continued: “I live in the country, by Pasing, in Bavaria. My man died just after Karl was born. I kept my child, worked for him, brough him up to be a man. Then they came and took him to the war.

“When he was gone, I could not stand it. I sat for days with my head in my hands –so. My heart broke. My brain was burning.

“So I said, I will go to the Kaiser and ask him for my boy. He has so many –millions of them, like the stars –he can spare one. He is all I have. I will go. They can but shoot me. Better dead than as I am.

“I had no money. I walked all the way. I went through towns; all gave me food because I am a mother. Farmers gave me rides on their carts when they knew I was a mother.

“Thieves and robbers took me, but they let me go because I am a mother.

“Wolves came at me in the forests, but would not attack me, for I am a mother.

“The storm did not hurt me, the lightnings did not strike me, a mother.

“When I came to camps of soldiers, they let me pass, for when they challenged me I said ‘I am a mother, and I seek my boy.’

“I walked through battlefields. No bullets would strike a mother.

“I came to your tent; your guards would not lay hands on me when I told them I was a mother, that I came to see my Kaiser to get my boy.

“He has no quarrel with the Frenchmen and the English. He has no wish to kill them. He only wants to tend our land and live by me.

“They shoot and kill, and I do not know what it is all about. I want my boy. That is all I know.

“You had a mother, highness. You would know how she feels when she cannot find you and you may be lying dead in some field.

“Give me my boy.”

There was a brief silence. One of the generals made as if to speak. The war lord stayed him with a gesture. Then he said:

“Go and finish this woman’s son. Let it be an imperial order that he go back with her and till his land. At once! And may God in heaven not forget this one thing I do!”