These chapters are not histories of sieges, but narratives of such incidents as occur in beleaguered cities, and illustrate human nature in some of its strangest moods. That “facts are stranger than fiction” these stories go to prove: such unexpected issues, such improbable interpositions meet us in the pages of history. What writer of fiction would dare to throw down battlements and walls by an earthquake, and represent besiegers as paralysed by religious fear? These tales are full, indeed, of all the elements of romance, from the heroism and self-devotion of the brave and the patient suffering of the wounded, to the generosity of mortal foes and the kindliness and humour which gleam even on the battle-field and in the hospital. But the realities of war have not been kept out of sight; now and then the veil has been lifted, and the reader has been shown a glimpse of those awful scenes which haunt the memory of even the stoutest veteran.
We cannot realize fully the life that a soldier lives unless we see both sides of that life. We cannot feel the gratitude that we ought to feel unless we know the strain and suspense, the agony and endurance, that go to make up victory or defeat. In time of war we are full of admiration for our soldiers and sailors, but in the past they have been too often forgotten or slighted when peace has ensued. Not to keep in memory the great deeds of our countrymen is mere ingratitude.
Hearty acknowledgments are due to the authors and publishers who have so kindly permitted QUOTATION from their books. Every such permission is more particularly mentioned in its place. The writer has also had many a talk with men who have fought in the Crimea, in India, in France, and in South Africa, and is indebted to them for some little personal touches such as give life and colour to a narrative.