A GLIMPSE OF THE ITALIAN ARMY.
One meets with such extreme kindness and consideration among the Italians that there is a real danger lest one’s personal feeling of obligation should warp one’s judgment or hamper one’s expression. Making every possible allowance for this, I come away from them, after a very wide if superficial view of all that they are doing, with a deep feeling of admiration, and a conviction that no army in the world could have made a braver attempt to advance under conditions of extraordinary difficulty. First a word as to the Italian soldier. He is a type by himself, which differs from the earnest solidarity of the new French army, and from the business alertness of the Briton, and yet has a very special dash and fire of its own, peered over by a very pleasing and unassuming manner. London has not yet forgotten Durando of Marathon fame. He was just such another easy smiling youth as I now see everywhere around me. Yet there came a day when 100,000 Londoners hung upon his every movement – when strong men gasped and women wept at his invincible but unavailing spirit. When he had fallen senseless in that historic race on the very threshold of his goal, so high was the determination within him that while he floundered on the track like a broken-backed horse, with the senses gone out of him, his legs still continued to drum upon the cinder path. Then when, by pure will power, he staggered to his feet and drove his dazed body across the line it was an exhibition of pluck which put the little sunburned baker straight-way among London’s heroes. Durando’s spirit is alive to-day, I see thousands of him all around me. A thousand such, led by a few young gentlemen of the type who occasionally give us object-lessons in how to ride at Olympia, make no mean battalion. It has been a war of most desperate ventures, but never once has there been a lack of volunteers. The Tyrolese are good men – too good to be fighting in so rotten a cause. But from the first to last the Alpini have had the ascendency in the hill fighting, as the line regiments have against the Kaiserlics upon the plain. Cæsar told how the big Germans used to laugh at his little men until they had been at handgrips with them. The Austrians could tell the same tale. The spirit in the ranks is something marvellous. There have been occasions when every officer has fallen, and yet the men have pushed on, have taken a position, and then waited for official directions.