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Title: In the Claws of the German Eagle
Author: Williams, Albert Rhys
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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IN THE CLAWS OF THE GERMAN EAGLE

ALBERT RHYS WILLIAMS



ACKNOWLEDGMENT

My thanks go to the Editors of The Outlook for permission to
reproduce the articles which first appeared in that magazine.

Also to many friends all the way from Maverick to Pasadena.
Above all to Frank Purchase, my comrade in the first weeks of the
war and always.



Contents

Instead of a Preface

Part I
The Spy-Hunters Of Belgium

Chapter
     I. A Little German Surprise Party
    II. Sweating Under The German Third Degree
   III. A Night On A Prison Floor
    IV. Roulette And Liberty

Part II
On Foot With The German Army

     V. The Gray Hordes Out Of The North
    VI. In The Black Wake Of The War
   VII. A Duelist From Marburg
  VIII. Thirty-Seven Miles In A Day

Part III
With The War Photographers In Belgium

    IX. How I Was Shot As A German Spy
     X. The Little Belgian Who Said, "You Betcha"
    XI. Atrocities And The Socialist

Part IV
Love Among The Ruins

Chapter

   XII. The Beating Of "The General"
  XIII. America In The Arms Of France
   XIV. No-Man's-Land

Afterword



Instead Of A Preface

The horrible and incomprehensible hates and brutalities of the
European War! Unspeakable atrocities! Men blood-lusting like a lot
of tigers!

Horrible they are indeed. But my experiences in the war zone
render them no longer incomprehensible. For, while over there, in
my own blood I felt the same raging beasts. Over there, in my own
soul I knew the shattering of my most cherished principles.

It is not an unique experience. Whoever has been drawn into the
center of the conflict has found himself swept by passions of
whose presence and power he had never dreamed.

For example: I was a pacifist bred in the bone. Yet, caught in Paris
at the outbreak of the war, my convictions underwent a rapid
crumbling before the rising tide of French national feeling. The
American Legion exercised a growing fascination over me. A little
longer, and I might have been marching out to the music of the
Marseillaise, dedicated to the killing of the Germans. Two weeks
later I fell under the spell of the self-same Germans. That long gray
column swinging on through Liege so mesmerized me that my
natural revulsion against slaughter was changed to actual
admiration.

Had an officer right then thrust a musket into my hand, I could
have mechanically fallen into step and fared forth to the killing of
the French. Such an experience makes one chary about dispensing
counsels of perfection to those fighting in the vortex of the world-storm.
Whenever I begin to get shocked at the black crimes of the belligerents,
my own collapse lies there to accuse me.

It is in the spirit of a non-partisan, then, that this chronicle of
adventure in those crucial days of the early war is written. It is a
welter of experiences and reactions which the future may use as
another first-hand document in casting up its own conclusions.
There is no careful culling out of just those episodes which support
a particular theory, such as the total and complete depravity of the
German race.

Despite my British ancestry, the record tries to be impartial--
without pro- or anti-German squint. If the reader had been in my
skin, zigzagging his way through five different armies, the things
which I saw are precisely the ones which he would have seen. So I
am not to blame whether these episodes damn the Germans or
bless them. Some do, and some don't. What one ran into was
largely a matter of luck.

For example: In Brussels on September 27, 1914, I fell in with a
lieutenant of the British army. With an American passport he had
made his way into the city through the German lines. We both
desired to see Louvain, but all passage thereto was for the
moment forbidden. Starting out on the main road, however, sentry
after sentry passed us along until we were halted near staff
headquarters, a few miles out of the city, and taken before the
commandant. We informed him of our overweening desire to view
the ruins of Louvain. He explained, as sarcastically as he could,
that war was not a social diversion, and bade us make a quick
return to Brussels, swerving neither to the right nor left as we went.

As we were plodding wearily back, temptation suddenly loomed up
on our right in the shape of a great gas-bag which we at first took
to be a Zeppelin. It proved to be a stationary balloon which was
acting as the eye of the artillery. It was signaling the range to the
German gunners beneath, who were pounding away at the Belgians.
In our excitement over the spectacle, we went plunging across fields
until we gained a good view of the great swaying thing, tugging away
at the slender filament of rope which bound it to the earth.

Sinking down into the grass, we were so intent upon the sharp
electric signaling as to be oblivious to aught else, until a voice rang
a harsh challenge from behind. Jumping to our feet, we faced a
squad of German soldiers and an officer who said:

"What are you doing here?"

"Came out to see the big balloon," we somewhat naively informed
him.

"Very good!" he said. And then, quite as if he were rewarding our
manifest zeal for exploration, he added, "Come along with me and
you can see the big commandant, too."

Three soldiers ahead and three behind, we were escorted down
the railroad track in silence until we began to pass some cars filled
with the recently wounded in a fearfully shot-to-pieces state. Some
one mumbled "Englishmen!" and the whole crowd, bandaged and
bleeding as they were, rose to the occasion and greeted us with
derisive shouts.

"Put the blackguards to work," growled one.

"No! Kill the damn spies!" shouted another, as he pulled himself
out of the straw, "kill them!"

A huge fellow almost wild from his wounds bellowed out: "Why
don't you stick your bayonet into the cursed Englishmen?" No
doubt it would have eased his pain a bit to see us getting a taste of
the same thing he was suffering.

Our officer, as if to make concessions to this hue and cry, growled
harshly: "Don't look around! Damn you! and take your hands out of
your pockets!"

We heaved sighs of relief as we left this place of pain and hate
behind. But a new terror took hold of us as a turn in the track
brought our destination into view. It was the staff headquarters in
which, two hours before, the commandant had ordered us to make
direct return to Brussels.

"Wait here," said the officer as he walked inside.

We stood there trying to appear unconcerned while we cursed the
exploring bent in our constitutions, and mentally composed
farewell letters to the folks at home.

But luck does sometimes light upon the banners of the daring. It
seems that in the two hours since we had left headquarters a
complete change had been made in the staff. At any rate, an
officer whom we had not seen before came out and addressed us
in English. We told him that we were Americans.

"Well, let's see what you know about New York," he said.

We displayed an intensive knowledge of Coney Island and the
Great White Way, which he deemed satisfactory.

"Nothing like them in Europe!" he assured us. "I did enjoy those
ten years in America. I would do anything I could for one of you
fellows."

He backed this up by straightway ordering our release, and
authenticated his claim to American residence by his last shot:

"Now boys, beat it back to Brussels."

We stood not on the order of our beating, but beat at once.

One may pick out of such an experience precisely what one
wishes to pick out: the imbecile hatred in the Teuton--the perfidy of
the British--the efficiency or the blundering of the German--or
perchance the foolhardiness of the American, just as his
nationalistic bias leads him.

So, from the narratives in this book, one may select just the
material which supports his theory as to the merits or demerits of
any nation. To myself, out of these insights into the Great
Calamity, there has come re-enforcement to my belief in the
essential greatness of the human stuff in all nations. Along with
this goes a faith that in the New Internationalism mankind will lay
low the military Frankenstein that he has created, and realize the
triumphant brotherhood of all human souls.



Part I
The Spy-Hunters Of Belgium



Chapter I

A Little German Surprise Party



"Two days and the French will be here! Three days at the outside,
and not an ugly Boche left. Just mark my word!"

This the patriarchal gentleman in the Hotel Metropole whispered to
me about a month after the Germans had captured Brussels. They
had taken away his responsibilities as President of the Belgian
Red Cross, so that now he had naught to do but to sit upon the
lobby divan, of which he covered much, being of extensive girth.
But no more extensive than his heart, from which radiated a genial
glow of benevolence to all--all except the invaders, the sight or
mention of whom put harshness in his face and anger in his voice.

"Scabbard-rattler!" he mumbled derisively, as an officer
approached. "Clicks his spurs to get attention! Wants you to look
at him. Don't you do it. I never do." He closed his eyes tightly, as if
in sleep.

Oftentimes he did not need to feign his slumber. But sinking slowly
down into unconsciousness his native gentleness would return
and a smile would rest upon his lips; I doubt not that in his dreams
the Green-Gray troops of Despotism were ridden down by the Blue
and Red Republicans of France.

Once even he hummed a snatch of the Marseillaise. An extra loud
blast from the distant cannonading stirred him from his reverie. "Ah
ha!" he exclaimed, clasping my arm, the artillery--"it's getting nearer
all the time. They are driving back the Boches, eh? We'll be free
to-morrow, certain. Then we'll celebrate together in my country-
home."

Walking over to the door, he peered down the street as if he
already expected to catch a glint of the vanguard of the Blue and
Red. Twice he did this and returned with confidence unshaken.
"Mark my word," he reiterated; "three days at the outside and we
shall see the French!"

That was in September, 1914. Those three days passed away into
as many weeks, into as many months, and into almost as many
years. I cannot help wondering whether the same hopes stirred
within him at each fresh outburst of cannonading on the Somme.
And whether through those soul-sickening months that white-
haired man peered daily down those Brussels streets, yearning for
the advent of the Red and Blue Army of Deliverance. Red and
Blue it was ever in his mind. If once it had come in its new uniform
of somber hue, it would have been a disappointing shock I fear.
He was an old man then; he is now perhaps beyond all such
human hurts. His pain was as real as anything I saw in all the war.
I had little time to dwell upon it, however, for presently I was put
into a situation that called for all my wits. I was introduced to it by
the announcement of the porter:

"An American gentleman to see you, sir."

That was joyful news to one held within the confines of a captive
city, from which all exit was, for the time being, closely barred.

It was September 28th, my birthday, too. The necessity of
celebrating this in utter boredom was a dismal prospect. Now this
came upon me like a little surprise-party.

Picking up a bit of paper on which I had been scribbling down a
few memoranda that I feared might escape my mind, I hastened
into the hallway to meet a somewhat spare, tall, and extremely
erect-appearing man. He greeted me with a smile and a bow--a
rather dry smile and a rather stiff bow for an American.

So I queried, "You're an American, are you?"

"Not exactly," he responded; "but I would like to talk with you."

Without the shadow of a suspicion, I told him it would be a great
relief from the tedium of the day to talk to any one.

"But I would prefer to talk to you in your room," he added.

"Certainly," I responded, stepping toward the elevator.

The hotel was practically deserted, so I was somewhat surprised
when two men, one a huge fellow built on a superdreadnaught
plan, followed us in and got out with us on the fifth floor. The
superdreadnaught sailed on into my room, which seemed a
breach of propriety for an un-introduced stranger. He closed the
door rudely behind him. I was prepared to resent this altogether
high-handed intrusion, when my tall guest said, very simply, "I am
representing the Imperial German Government."

I rallied under the shock sufficiently to say, "Will you take a chair?"

"No," came the laconic reply, "I will take you--and this," he said,
reaching for the piece of scribble-paper I had in my hands, "and
any baggage you have in your room."

I assured him that I had none, as I really expected to stay in
Brussels but a day. He pretended not to hear my reply, and said,

"We better take it with us, for we will probably need it."

He looked under the bed and unlocked the closet door. Finding
nothing, he asked for the key to my room. I handed it over, Room
Number 502.

"You will be so good as to follow me now."

Now every one knows that the Spy-Season in Europe opened with
the beginning of the war. Spy hunting became at once a veritable
mania.

Consequently no self-respecting person returns from the war-zone
without at least one hair-raising story of being taken as a spy.
Being just an average species of American, I exhale no particular
air of mystery or villainy; yet I suffered a score of times the laying
on of hands by German, French, Belgian, and even Dutch authorities.

But this experience is marked off from all my other ordeals in four
ways. In the first place, instead of casually falling into the hands of
my captors, they came after me in full force. In the second place, a
specific charge of using money for bribing information was laid
against me, and witnesses were at hand. In the third place, the
leader of the party arrested me in civilian dress, but before
examination and trial he changed to military uniform. In the fourth
place, the officials were in such a surly mood that my message to
the American Ambassador was undelivered, and at the last trial
before the American representatives there was no apology, but
rather the sullen attitude of those who had been balked in bagging
their game.

When my captor bade me follow him I asked:

"Can I leave word with my friends?" For an answer he smiled
satirically. By accident or design, the time chosen for my taking off
was one when both of my two casual acquaintances were out of
the hotel.

"Not now, but a little later perhaps, when this is fixed up," my
captor answered me.

We stepped into a carriage. The two assistants at the little surprise
party walked away, and my rising sense of fear was allayed by the
friendly offer of a cigarette. It was a brand-new experience to ride
away to prison in royal state like this. The almost pleasant attitude
of my companion reassured me. "After all," I mused, "this is a
lucky stroke; a little uncertain perhaps, but on the whole an
interesting way to while away the tedium of an otherwise eventless
birthday."

We stopped before the Belgian Government building, on the Rue
de la Loi, the headquarters of the German staff. At a word the
sentries dropped back and my companion bade me walk down a
long, dark corridor. I opened a door at the end, and found myself in
a room with a few officers in chairs, and a large array of
documents upon a table.

The moment I came within the safe confines of that room the
whole attitude of my captor changed. His mask of friendliness
dropped away. Perhaps his spirit responded and adapted itself to
the official atmosphere of the headquarters. Anyhow, at once he
froze up into the most rigid formality. Sitting down, he wrote out
what I deemed was the report of the morning's proceedings. I
watched him writing with all the semblance and precision of a
machine, except for a half-smile that sometimes flickered upon his
close-pressed lips.

He was a machine, or, more precisely, a cog in the great fighting
machine that was producing death and destruction to Belgium.
Just as the Germans have put men through a certain mold and
turned out the typical German soldier, in like manner through other
molds they have turned out according to pattern the German
secret service man. He is a kind of spy-destroyer performing in his
sphere the same service that the torpedo-boat destroyer does in
its domain. This man was the German reincarnation of Javert, the
police inspector who hung so relentlessly upon the flanks of Jean
Valjean. In his stolid silence I read an iron determination to "get"
me, and in that flickering smile I saw an inhuman delight in putting
the worst construction upon my case as he wrote it down.
Hereafter he shall be known as Javert.

Towards Javert I sustain a very distinct aversion. This is not the
result of any evil twist put into my constitution by original sin. Quite
the contrary. Hitherto I have always felt that I, like the man in
Oscar Wilde's play, could forgive anybody anything, any time,
anywhere. One can forgive even a hangman for doing his duty,
however it may thwart one's plans. Some men must play the part
of prosecutor and devil's advocate.

But such was the cold, cynical delight in this fellow's doing his duty,
such was his arrogant, overbearing attitude toward the helpless
peasant prisoners, that I know my prayers for the end of the war
were not motivated entirely by selfless considerations. I am
hankering to get into the neighborhood of this fellow when he
doesn't hold all the trump cards. In justice to Javert, I must say that
he reciprocated my feeling magnificently, and, inasmuch as he
was the cat and I the mouse, and a very small one at that, he
probably found much more spiritual satisfaction in the exercise of
his feelings than I did in mine. That is why I was anxious to have
the war end and embrace the first opportunity to change our roles.
I yearned to give him his proper place in the sun.

Having completed my case, he demanded my papers, and then
bade me open the door. There was a soldier waiting, and with him
ahead and Javert behind, I was escorted into the courtyard. Here
a double-door was opened, and I was thrust into a room filled with
a motley collection of persons guarded by a dozen soldiers with
rifles ready.

The sight was anything but reassuring. I turned toward Javert and
asked, somewhat frantically, I fear: "What is all this for? Aren't you
going to do anything about my case?"

My hitherto cool, smiling manner must have been an irritation to
him. A German official, especially a petty one, takes everything
with such deadly seriousness that he can't understand us taking
things so debonairly, especially when it is his own magisterial self.

So I think he thoroughly enjoyed my first signs of perturbation, and
said: "Your case will be settled in a little while--perhaps directly."
He turned to a soldier, bade him watch me, and disappeared.

About five minutes later I heard outside the command "Halt!" to a
squad of soldiers. The doors opened and Javert reappeared, this
time in the full uniform of an officer. For the moment I thought he
had come with a firing squad and they were going to make short
shrift of me. The grim humor of disposing of my case thus
"directly" came home to me. But merely flicking the ashes from his
cigarette, he glanced round the room without offering the slightest
recognition, and then disappeared. How he made his change from
civilian clothes so quickly I can't understand. It seemed like a
vainglorious display of his uniform in order to let us take full
cognizance of his eminence.

I began now a survey of my surroundings. Our room was in fact a
hallway crammed with soldiers and prisoners. The soldiers, with
fixed bayonets in their rifles, stood guard at the door. The
prisoners, some thirty-five in number, were ranged on benches,
overturned boxes, and on the floor. We were of every description,
from well-groomed men of the city to artisans and peasants from
the fields. The most interesting of the peasants was a young fellow
charged with carrying dispatches through the lines to Antwerp. The
most interesting of the well-dressed urban group was a theater
manager charged with making his playhouse the center of
distribution for the forbidden newspapers smuggled into Brussels.
There was a Belgian soldier in uniform, woefully battered and
beaten; and for the first time I saw a German soldier without his
rifle. He, too, was a prisoner waiting trial, having been sent up to
the headquarters accused of muttering against an under officer.

All these facts I learned later. Then I sat paralyzed in an
atmosphere charged with smoke and silence. The smoke came
not from the prisoners, for to them it was forbidden, but from the
soldiers, who rolled it up in great clouds. The silence came from
the suspicion that one's next neighbor might be a spy planted
there to catch him in some unwary statement. Each man would
have sought relief from the strain by unbosoming his hopes and
fears to his neighbor, but he dared not. That is one fearful curse of
any cause that is buttressed by a system of espionage. It scatters
everywhere the seeds of suspicion. All society is shot through with
cynical distrust. It poisons the springs at the very source--one's
faith in his fellows. Ordinarily one regards the next man as a
neighbor until he proves himself a spy. In Europe he is a scoundrel
and a spy until he proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is
a neighbor.

And then one is never certain. People were everywhere aghast to
find even their life-long friends in the pay of the enemy. A large
military establishment draws spies as certainly as a carcass draws
vermin; the one is the inevitable concomitant of the other. It is the
Nemesis of all human brotherhood.

Now to be taken as a prisoner of war was to most men more of a
Godsend than a tragedy. The prisoner knew that he was to be
corralled in a camp. But he was alive at any rate and he had but to
await the end of the war--then it was home again. The pictures
show phalanxes of these men smiling as if they were glad to be
captives. On the other hand there are no smiles in the pictures of
the spies and francs-tireurs. They know that they are fated for a
hasty trial, a drumhead decision, and to be shot at dawn. The
prospect of that walk through the early morning dews to the
execution-ground made their shoulders droop along with their
spirits.

With these thoughts on our mind we held our tongues and kept
our eyes on the door, wondering who would be the next guest to
arrive, and mentally conjecturing what might be the cause of his
incarceration.

The last arrival wore a small American flag wound round his arm,
and around his waist he wore a belt which contained 100 pounds
in gold. He spotted me, and, coming over to my corner, opened up
a conversation in English. I thought at first that this was merely a
clumsy German ruse to trap me into some indiscreet talking. To
his kindly advances I curtly returned "Yeses" and "Noes."

His name was Obels, a Belgian by birth but speaking English as
well as German, French, and Flemish. He was an invaluable
reporter for a great Chicago paper, and in his zeal for news had
run smack into the Germans at Malines, and had been at once
whisked off by automobile to Brussels for trial as a spy. He had a
passionate devotion to his calling. No mystic could have been
more consecrated to his Holy Church. I fully believe that he would
have consented to be shot as a spy with a smile on his face if he
could have got the story of the shooting to his paper. He was one
of the most straightforth fellows I have ever met, and yet I
regarded him there as I would a low-browed scoundrel. For a long
time I would not speak to him. I dared not. He might have been a
spy set to worm out any confidences, and then carry them to
Javert.

Left to himself, each man let his most pessimistic thoughts drag
his spirits down. Gloom is contagious, and it soon became as
heavy in the room as the gray clouds of smoke. The one bright,
hopeful spot was the lone woman prisoner. She alone refused to
succumb to the depressing atmosphere, and sought to play
woman's ancient role of comforter. She tried to smile, and
succeeded admirably, for she was very pretty. A wretched-looking
lad huddled up on a bag in the corner tried to reciprocate, but with
the tears glistening in his eyes he made a sorry failure of it. We
were a hard crowd to smile to, and growing tired of her attempts to
appear light-hearted, she at last gave herself up to her own
grievances, and soon was looking quite as doleful as the rest of
us. Our gloom was thrown into sharp relief by a number of soldiers
grouped around a table in the corner laughing and shouting over a
game of cards which they were playing for small stakes. We
dragged out the long afternoon staring doggedly at the bayonets of
our guards.

Only once did the guards show any awareness of our existence.
That was when suddenly the arrival of "Herr Major" was announced.
As the door was opened to let him pass through our hall to the stairway,
with a hoarse shout we were ordered to our feet. As his exalted
personage paraded by we stood, hats in hand, with bared heads,
with such humble and respectful expression as may be outwardly
assumed towards a fellow-being whom all secretly despised or
desired to kill. Was there really a murderous gleam in the averted
eyes of those Belgians arrayed in salute before the Herr Major, or
was it my imagination that put it there? Perhaps you can tell.

Picture your country devastated, your towns burned, your flag
prohibited, your farmers shot, your women and children terrified,
your papers and public meetings suppressed, your streets
patrolled by aliens with drawn swords as your enemies' bands
triumphantly play their national airs. Picture, then, yourself lied
about by hireling spies, thrown into prison, compelled to breathe
foul air and sleep upon a floor, fed on black bread, and held day
after day for sentence in nerve-racking suspense. Picture to
yourself now the abject humiliation of being compelled to stand
bare-headed in salute before these wreckers and spoilers of your
land. Do you think you might keep back from your eyes sparks
from that blazing rebellion in your soul? Then it was not
imagination that made me see the murderous gleam in the eyes of
those high-spirited Belgians. "Salute the Major!" the Germans
shouted. What seeds of hate those words planted in those Belgian
souls the future will show, when they who sow the wind shall reap
the whirlwind.

That is the unseen horror of war; pictures can reveal the damage
wrought by shot and shell, fire and flood in the blasted cities and in
the fields of the dead. But nothing can ever show the irreparable
spiritual damage wrought to the human soul by hates, humiliations,
fears and undying animosities.



Chapter II

Sweating Under The German Third Degree



By this time my lark-like spirit of the morning had folded its wings.
My musings took on a decidedly somber tinge. "Were the Germans
going to make a summary example of me to warn outsiders to cease
prowling around the war zone?" "Was I going to be railroaded off
to jail, or even worse?" It was no time to be wool gathering! It was
high time for doing. "But what pretexts could they find for such action?"
At any rate I resolved to furnish as few pretexts as possible.

I set to work hunting carefully through my pockets for everything
that might furnish the slightest basis for any charge against me.
Before coming to Brussels I had been warned not to carry
anything that might be the least incriminating, and there was not
much on me; but I did have a pass from the Belgian commander
giving me access to the Antwerp fortifications. I had figured on
framing it as a souvenir of my adventures, but my molars now
reduced it to an unrecognizable pulp. Cards of introduction from
French and English friends fared a similar fate. Their remains were
disposed of in the shuffling that accompanied the arrival of new
prisoners. This had to be done most craftily, for we never knew
where were the spying eyes.

About six o'clock I was resting from my masticatory labors when
Javert presented himself, accompanied by two soldiers. I was led
away into the council room where first I had been taken in the
morning. It was now turned into a trial chamber. Javert, as
prosecutor, was seated on one side of the table, while around the
farther end were ranged some officers and a few men in civilian
clothes who proved to be secret service agents. I stood until the
judge bade me take my seat at the vacant end of the table.

One by one my documents were disposed of--an American
passport issued in London; a permit from the German Consul at
Maastricht, Holland, to enter "the territory of Belgium-Germany,"
finally, this letter of introduction from the American Consulate at
Ghent:

Consulat Americain.

Gand le 22 Septembre, 1914.
Le Consul des Etats Unis d'Amerique a Gand, prie Messieurs les
autorites de bien vouloir laisser passer le porteur de la presente
Monsieur Albert Williams, citoyen Americain.

JULIUS VAN HEE,
Consul Americain.

I pointed to the recent date on it, the 22nd of September, and to
the signer of it, Julius van Hee.

Van Hee was a man who met the Germans on their own ground.
He informed the German officer at his hotel: "If you send any spy
prowling into my room, I'll take off my coat and proceed to throw
him out of the window." Shirt-sleeves diplomat indeed! Another
time he requested permission to take three Belgian women
through the lines to their family in Bruges. The German
commandant said "No." "All right," said Van Hee, taking out a
package of letters from captured German officers who were now in
the hands of the Belgians, and dangling the packet before the
commandant, "If I don't get that permit, you don't get these letters."
He got the permit.

After a few such clashes the invaders learned that when it came to
this Schrecklichkeit business they had no monopoly on the article.
Van Hee's name was not to be trifled with. But on the other hand
there must necessarily have existed a certain resentment against
him for his ruthless and effective diplomacy. It would no doubt
afford Javert a pleasant sensation to take it out on any one
appearing in any way as a protégé of Van Hee.

"Yes, it's Van Hee's signature all right," muttered Javert with a
shrug of his shoulders, "only he is not the consul, but the vice-
consul at Ghent and let us remember that he is of Belgian
ancestry--that wouldn't incline him to deep friendship with us."

On a card of introduction from Ambassador Van Dyke there were
the words "Writer for The Outlook." It's hard to understand how
that escaped my very scrutinous search, but there it was.

"Another anti-German magazine," commented, sardonically. I was
marveling at the uncanny display of knowledge of this man at the
center of the European maelstrom, aware of the editorial policy of
an American magazine.

"But that doesn't mean that I am anti-German," I protested; "we
can retain our own private opinions."

"Tommyrot," exclaimed Javert, "tommy-rot!" Strange language in a
military court! Where had he laid hold of that choice bit of our
vernacular?

"You know perchance," he continued, "what the penalty is for
newspaper men caught on the German side." I thought that surely
I was going to reap the result of the adverse reports that the
American correspondents had made already about the Germans,
when he added, "But you are here on a different charge."

The judge started to cross-examine me as to all my antecedents.
My replies were in German--or purported to be--but in my
eagerness to clear myself I must have wrought awful havoc with
that classic language. I was forthwith ordered to talk English and
direct my remarks to Javert, acting now as interpreter. In the midst
of this procedure Javert, with a quick sudden stroke, produced the
scribble-paper which he had seized in the morning, held it fairly in
my face, and cried, "Whose writing is that?" The others all riveted
their gaze upon me.

I replied calmly, "It is mine."

"I want you to put it into full, complete writing," cried Javert. "As it
now stands it is a telegraphic code."

That is the most complimentary remark that has ever been made
upon my hieroglyphics. However, I shall be eternally grateful to
Providence for my Horace Greeley style. For, while that document
contained by no means any military secrets, there were, on the
other hand, uncomplimentary observations about the Germans. It
would not be good strategy to let these fall into their hands in their
present mood. At Javert's behest, I set to work on my paper, and
delivered to him in ten minutes a free, full, rapid translation of the
abbreviated contents. On inspecting it Javert said, irritably, "I want
an exact, precise transcript of everything here."

"I thought you wanted it in a hurry," I rejoined.

"No hurry at all. We have ample time to fix your case."

These words do not sound a bit threatening, but it was the general
setting in which they were said that made them so ominous, and
which set the cold waves rippling up and down my spinal column.

I set to work again, numbering every phrase in my scribble-paper,
and then in the same number on the other paper giving a full,
readable translation of it. I wrote out the things complimentary to
the Germans in the fullest manner. But how was I going to take the
sting out of the adverse comments?

Phrase No. 1 meant "Musical nature of the German automobile
horns." Their silver and flute-like notes had been a pleasing sound,
rolling along the roads. That was good.

Phrase No. 2 meant "The moderation of the Germans in not
billeting more troops upon the hotels." I wondered why they had
not commandeered quarters in more of the big empty hotels
instead of compelling men to sleep in railway stations and in the
open air. That was good.

Phrase No. 3 meant "German officers never refused to contribute
to the Belgian Relief Funds." These boxes were constantly shaken
before them in every cafe, and not once was a box passed to an
officer in vain. For all this I was very grateful and everything went
on very merrily until I came to phrase Number 4.

"If Bel I wld join posse Ger myself"; which, being interpreted,
reads, "If I were a Belgian, I would join a posse against the
Germans myself." That looked ugly, but I wanted to record for
myself the ugly mood of resentment I had felt when I saw Belgians
compelled to submit to certain humiliations and indignities from
their invading conquerors.

German or non-German--it makes no difference; any one who had
seen those swaggering officers riding it rough-shod over those
poor peasants would have felt the same tide of indignation
mounting up in him. In that mood it would have given me genuine
pleasure to have joined a little killing-party and wiped out those
officers. Now these self-same officers were gathered round me
trying to decide whether they were to have a little killing-party on
their own account.

There was sufficient justification for inciting their wrath in that one
sentence as it stood, and they were all combining to entrap me by
every possible means. Furthermore, they were hankering for a
victim. I had only my wits to match against their desires. I cudgeled
my brains as I never did before, but to no avail. Almost panic-
stricken I was ready to give up in despair and throw myself upon
the mercy of the court when, like a flash of inspiration, the right
reading came. I transcribed that ugly phrase now to read: "If I were
among the Belgians, I would join possibly the Germans myself."
What more could the most ardent German patriot ask for? That
met every abbreviation and made a beautifully exact reversal of
the intended meaning. Not as an example in ethics, but as a
"safety first" exhibit I must confess to a real pride in that piece of
work. I handed it over with the cherubic expression of the prize-
scholar in the Sunday School.

Javert had figured on finding incriminating data in it. It was to be
his chief evidence. He read it over with increasing disappointment
and gave it the minutest analysis, comparing it closely with the
original scribble-paper. For example, he called the attention of the
judge to the fact that "guarded" in one paper was spelled
"gaurded" in the other--some slip I had inadvertently made. He
thought it might now be made a clew to some secret code, but,
though he puzzled long and searchingly over the document, he
extracted from it nothing more than an increased vexation of spirit.

"Nothing on the surface here," Javert said to the judge; "but that
only makes it look the more suspicious. Wait till we hear from the
search of his room."

At this juncture a man in civilian dress arrived, and, handing over
the key of Room Number 502, reported that there was nothing to
bring back. This nettled Javert, and he made and X-ray examination
of my person, even tearing out the lining of my hat. Alas for him too late;
his search disclosed nothing more damnatory than a French
dictionary, which, because I was not an ostrich, I had been unable
to get away with in the afternoon. A few addresses had been
scribbled therein. He demanded a full account of each name.
Some I had really forgotten.

"That's strange," he sneered; "perhaps you don't find it convenient
to remember who they are."

Up till now I hadn't the slightest conception of the charge laid
against me. Suddenly the judge crashed into the affair and took
the initiative.

"Why did you offer money to find out the movement of German
troops!" he let go at me across the table in a loud voice.

At the same time his aides converged on me a full, searching
gaze. Going all day without food, for eight hours confined in a fetid
atmosphere, and for two hours grilled by a dozen inquisitors, is an
ordeal calculated to put the nerves of the strongest on edge.

I simply replied, "I didn't do any such thing."

"Don't lie!" "Tell the whole truth!" "Make a clean breast of it!" "No
use holding anything back!" "We have the witnesses who will
swear you did!" "Best thing for you is to tell all you know!"

This fusillade of command and accusation they roared and
bellowed at me, aiming to break down my defense with the
suddenness of the onslaught. They succeeded for a moment. I
couldn't rally my scattered and worn-out wits to think what the
basis of this preposterous charge might be.

Then I remembered a Dutchman who had accosted me the day
before on a street-car. He had volunteered the information that he
was taking people by automobile out through Liege into Holland,
giving one thus the opportunity to see a great many troops and
ruins along the way. I told him I had some money and would be
glad to invest in such a trip, at the same time giving him my
address at the Hotel Metropole. Guileless as he appeared, he
turned out to be an agent of the German Government. He naturally
wanted to make himself solid with his masters by delivering the goods,
so he had twisted all my words into the most damning evidence,
and had fixed up two or three witnesses ready to swear anything.

"No use wasting time or effort to save this man," they told de Leval
at the American Embassy, later. "We've got a cast-iron case
against him, with witnesses to back it up."

Javert no doubt proved himself an invaluable ally of the Dutchman
in fixing up the charges. I don't believe he would manufacture a
story out of whole cloth, but once his mind was set in a certain
direction he could build up a good one on very shaky foundations.
Perhaps he had an animus against these bumptious, undeferential,
overcritical Americans, and thought it was time to give one of them
a lesson. Perhaps he was tired of trapping ordinary garden variety
spies of the Belgian brand. It would be a pleasing variation in the
monotony of convicting defenseless, helpless Belgians if he
could show that one of these fellows masquerading as Americans
was a sham. Especially one of that journalistic tribe that had been
sending out reports of German atrocities. Furthermore, it would
redound greatly to his professional glory to hand me over to the
General with a case proved to the hilt.

There was no trick in the repertory of a prosecutor that was
unknown to Javert. He now shifted to the confidential and dropping
His voice very low, he said to me:

"You know that if you make a full, complete confession, I'll promise
to do my very best for you. And as a matter of fact you have been
under the eyes of our Secret Service ever since you came to
Belgium. We are aware of everything that you have done."

Was that a bluff or the truth? If it was true then they knew about
my capture near Louvain on the day before in suspicious
observation of the signaling-balloon. If this was a bluff, then my
confession would be simply a case of gratuitously damning myself
and likewise endangering my companion of yesterday's adventure--the
British lieutenant with the American passport. Yet again if Javert
knew all he pretended to, silence about that episode would make
it appear doubly heinous. So while with my tongue I retailed a simple,
harmless version of my doings in Belgium in my brain I carried on a
debate whether to make an avowal of the Louvain escapade or not.

I came to the decision that Javert was just bluffing. Later
developments proved me right. He knew nothing about it. Even
the German Secret Service is not omniscient. Getting no results
then from these wheedling tactics Javert shifted back to his
bullying and essayed once more to browbeat me into a confession.
Calling to his aid two officers who had been but casual onlookers
they began volleying charges at me with machine-gun rapidity.

"You know that you are a spy." "We know that you are a spy."
"Why do you deny it?" "You know that you have been lying."
"Better own up to all that you have done." "Out with it now!"

When one officer grew tired, he rested. Then the next one took up
the attack, and then he rested. But not one moment's respite for
me. I don't know what they call it in German, but it was the third
degree with a vengeance. Under this sweating process my nerves
were being torn to tatters. I felt like screaming and it seemed that if
this continued I would smash an officer with a chair and put an end
to it all. But the fact that I am writing these lines shows that I didn't.
Human nature is so constituted that it can always endure a little
more, and though they kept the tension high for many minutes I
did not buckle under the strain. However, I couldn't call up any
arguments to show the utter absurdity of the charge against me.
And my defense was very feeble.

The onslaught now ceased as suddenly as it had begun. There
was a coming and going of officers and some consultation in an
undertone. The judge left the room and the impassive-faced
Javert began that machine-like writing. After a while he stopped.

"Will you give me some idea of what you expect to do with me?" I
queried.

"A full report of your case goes up to the General for decision and
sentence," was his response.

My spirits took a downward plunge. Then a fierce resentment
amounting almost to rage came surging up within me. Masking it
as well as I could, I asked permission to send word to the
American authorities. Javert's reply was evasive.

"I have had nothing to eat all day," I announced. "Can't you do
something for me?"

"Go to that door there and open it," said Javert.

I did so and there stood four soldiers of the Kaiser, who ranged
themselves two in front and two behind, and marched me away.
Javert had a well-developed sense of the dramatic.

While I am excoriating Javert as representing the genius of
German officialdom, it is only fair that I should present his
antithesis. By continually referring to the German army as a
machine one gets the idea that it is an impersonal collection of
inhuman beings remorselessly and mechanically devoted to duty.
For a broad general impression that is perhaps a fair enough
statement to start with; but when I am tempted to let it go at that,
there is one striking exception that always rises up to point the
finger of denial at this easy and common generalization. It is that of
a young German officer, a mere stripling of twenty or thereabouts,
with the most frank, open, ingenuous expression. One would
expect to find him presiding at a Christian Endeavor social, rather
than right here at the very pivot of the most terrible military
organization of the world.

I had caught his look riveted upon me in my trial, and recognized
him when he came into the detention-room, to which the four
soldiers had led me. Hurriedly, he said to me: "Really, you know, I
ought not to come in here, but I heard your story, and it looks
rather bad; but somehow I almost believe in you. Tell me the whole
truth about your affair."

I proceeded vehemently to point out my innocence, when he
interrupted my story by asking, "But why did you make that
Schreibfehler on your paper?" He followed my recital anxiously
and sympathetically, and, looking me full in the face, asked, "Can
you tell me on your Ehrenwort (word of honor) that you are not a
spy? Remember," he added, solemnly, "on your Ehrenwort."

Grasping both of his hands and looking him in the eye, I said, most
fervently, "On my Ehrenwort, I am not a spy."

There was an earnestness in my heart that must have
communicated itself to my hands, because he winced as he drew
his hands away; but he said, "I shall try to put in a word for you; I
can't do much, but I shall do what I can. I must go now. Good-by."



Chapter III

A Night On A Prison Floor



"Prisoners are to be taken over into the left wing for the night," said
an orderly to the guards.

We had scarcely turned the corner, when an officer cried: "Not that
way, Dummkopf!"

"Our orders are for the left wing, sir," said the orderly.

"Never saw such a set of damned blockheads!" yelled the officer
in exasperation. "Can't you tell the difference between right and
left? Right wing, right wing, and hurry up!"

A little emery had gotten into the perfect-running machine. The
corridors fairly clanged with orders and counter orders. After much
confusion the general mix-up of prisoners was straightened out
and we were served black bread and coffee.

The strain of the day, along with the fever I had from exposure on
the battlefields, made the rough food still more uninviting,
especially as our only implements of attack were the greasy
pocketknives of the peasants and canteen covers from the
soldiers. The revolt of my stomach must have communicated itself
to my soul. I determined for aggressive action on my own behalf. I
resolved to stand unprotesting no longer while a solid case against
me was being constructed. Not without a struggle was I to be
railroaded off to prison or to Purgatory. Pushing up to the next
officer appearing in the room, in firm but courteous tones I
requested, as an American citizen, the right to communicate with
the American authorities.

He replied very decently that that was quite within my privileges,
and forthwith the opportunity would be accorded me. I was looking
for paper, when there came the order for all of us to move out into
the courtyard. With a line of soldiers on either side, we were
marched through labyrinthine passages and up three flights of
stairs. Here we were divided into two gangs, my gang being led off
into a room already nearly filled. We were told that it was our
temporary abode, and we were to make the best of it. It was an
administrative office of the Belgian Government now turned into a
prison. There were the usual fixtures, including a rug on the floor
and shelves of books. Ours was only one of many cells for
prisoners scattered through the building. The spy-hunters had
swooped down upon every suspect in Belgium and all who had
been caught in the dragnet were being dumped into these rooms.

We were thus informed by the officer whose wards we were. He
was a fussy, quick-tempered, withal kind-hearted little fellow, and
kept dashing in and out of the room, really perplexed over housing
accommodations for the night. The spy-hunters had been successful
in their work of rounding up their victims from all over the country and
corralling them here until the place was filled to overflowing. Our
official in charge was puffed up with pride in the prosperity of his
institution, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, petulantly belectured
us on adding ourselves to his already numerous burdens. This
was highly humorous, yet we all feared to commit lese-majeste
by expressing to him our collective and personal sorrow for
so inconveniencing him, and our willingness to make amends
for our thoughtlessness in getting arrested.

After more hesitation than I had hitherto observed, arrangements
for the night were completed and we were ordered to draw out
blankets from the pile in the corner. The new arrivals and the old
inmates maneuvered for the softest spots on the floor, which was
soon covered over with bodies and their sprawling limbs, while a
host of guards, fully armed, were posted at the door and along the
hall.

"I would give my right arm or my leg if I could get a flashlight of
this," said Obels, the reporter, enthusiastically. This elation made
him reckless as he went about, probing the experiences of each
victim.

"Great stuff!" "Great stuff!" he kept exclaiming. "Won't this open up
some eyes in Chicago, eh!"

He couldn't believe that the Providence which had led him to this
Bonanza would now deny him the opportunity of getting out some
of this wealth.

In the midst of these activities he was haled before the tribunal. He
returned, the spring out of his step and his zest for stories quite
gone. Javert had successively branded him an "Idiot" a "Liar" and
a "Spy."

The information that several of the inmates had been imprisoned
for a month or more spurred my drooping spirits and put me into
action. I uncovered a pile of the office writing-paper and, with the
aid of the Belgian who could speak English, I set to work preparing
a letter to Ambassador Whitlock. Whether Javert was apprised of
the doings of his charges or not I do not know, but in the midst of
my writing he glided into the room, and, pouncing upon my
manuscript, gathered it to himself, saying, "I'll take these." My
Belgian friend protested that a superior officer had given me
permission to do this. Javert handed back the paper, smiled, and
disappeared. Knowing that every word would be closely scrutinized
at the Staff Office, and that the least hint of anything derogatory to
the German authorities would keep the letter in the building, I couched
it in as pointed and telling terms as possible, having in mind the
eyes of the Germans, quite as much as the Ambassador.


Brand Whitlock,
United States Ambassador,
Brussels.

DEAR SIR:

As a native American citizen, born in Ohio, and now imprisoned by
the German authorities, I claim your intervention in my behalf. I am
thirty years of age, resident of East Boston, Massachusetts, for six
years. I am a graduate of Marietta College, Hartford Seminary, and
studied in Cambridge University in England, and Marburg
University in Germany.

Saturday Mr. Van Hee, the American consul at Ghent, brought me
here by automobile with Mr. Fletcher. Obliged to take back in his
car three ladies for whom he obtained permission from the
German Government, I was necessarily left behind; Mr. Van Hee
promising to return for me when diplomatic business brought him
to Brussels in a few days. Meantime I took a room at the Hotel
Metropole. From it I was taken by the German authorities this
morning. I do not know exactly what the charge against me is. I am
accused of offering money for information relative to the
movement of the German troops. I think that the man who worked
up the case against me is a Dutchman with whom I spoke upon a
car. He volunteered the information that he had been everywhere
by automobile; and I asked him if he was the one who carried
passengers out of Brussels by way of Liege and Aix-la-Chapelle.
Won't you look into my case at once? Mr. Fletcher, who called on
you Saturday, lent me some fifty dollars, so I am all right that way;
but this is not a comfortable situation to be in, though the officers
are very decent. If you want proof of my identity, you can
communicate with the following people in America; they are my
personal friends, and will confirm my absence from home on an
extended vacation.

His Excellency Governor Walsh, of the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts; Dr. Charles Fleischer, Chief Rabbi in the
Rabbinate of New England.

(If there was any Jewish blood on the German Staff I was going to
try to get the benefit of it.)

The Honorable George W. Coleman, of the Ford Hall Convocation
Meetings and President of the Pilgrim Amalgamated Associated
Advertising Clubs of America.

(Coleman being a cross between a Baptist deacon and an
anarchist, I knew that he would not object to this bit of sabotage.)

The Right Honorable William W. Mills, Esquire, President of the
First National Bank of Marietta, Ohio, Treasurer of the University of
Marietta, and Member of the National Council of Congregational
Churches of America, etc., etc.

If you will cablegram any of these, you will get an immediate reply.
While I have no money for this now, I feel certain Mr. Fletcher, who
is associated with Mr. Lane, of the United States Cabinet, will back
you up, and there will be unlimited funds in America.

Sincerely yours, ALBERT R. WILLIAMS.


My attention has been called to the omission of the Angel Gabriel,
Mary Pickford and Ty Cobb from the list of my intimate friends in
the above document. That was not meant as a slight--purely an
oversight. At any rate, I felt that the long list of men whose names
were written here would make the right response to any cablegram.
To atone for dragging them into the affray I call attention to the highly
deferential and decorative manner in which I referred to them.
Be it remembered that this document was prepared quite as
much for German eyes as for the Ambassador's, and nothing
gives a man standing and respect in the Teutonic mind as much
as a name fearfully and wonderfully adorned. I resolved that my
importance was not to suffer from lack of glory in my friends.
I bestowed more honorary degrees on them than the average
small college does in ten commencements. So lavish was I that
my friends hardly recognize their own titular selves. An officer
designated the guard who would deliver the letter. I gave it to
him along with a franc, which he protestingly accepted. He reported
that it was delivered to Javert. That was the last I ever heard from
that message. I imagine that it was by no means the last that the
German authorities heard from it, for when I related the story to
the Ambassador some time later I saw a characteristic Brand
Whitlock letter a-brewing. My message to Vice-Consul Naesmith
and to the Hotel Metropole shared a like fate--they were undelivered.

I simply offer the facts as they are. It may be that the courtesies of
polite intercourse are not easy to observe in war. Certainly they
were not obtrusive in Belgium. In extenuation it may be said that
the Brussels postmen had struck about this time; but, on the other
hand, through the forbidden shutters I saw fully fifty German Boy
Scouts marshaled in the courtyard below.

I had noticed them before as messengers going down the most
unguarded by-ways of the slums, quite as if they were agents of a
welcomed instead of hated army. They rode along serenely as if
totally unconscious of the shining targets that they made. I felt
certain that no American gang would let slip this opportunity for the
heaving of a brick. Were Brussels boys made of flabbier stuff? Not
if Belgian sons were of the same stripe as Belgian fathers. The fact
then that none of these German Scouts were massacred, as was
to be expected by all the rules of the game, showed how the threat
of reprisals operated to curb the strongest natural impulses of the
spirit. I presumed that one of these Scouts was speeding
posthaste to the Ambassador with my note, but he never did.

I am not berating the Germans. They were running their own war
according to their own code. In this code reporters, onlookers, and
uplifters of any brand were anathema.

We had no rights. Our only right was to the convictions within our
minds, provided we kept them there. I believe that were it not for
the surmises of the English lieutenant who took them to the
Ambassador I would be in prison yet. On second thought, I
wouldn't, either. I couldn't have endured the strain much longer. If I
had been caged in there a few hours more than I was, in my
nervous tension I probably would have vented my sense of
outraged justice by assaulting one of the officers myself. I wouldn't
have had a long time then to speculate upon the immortality of the
soul. I would have possessed first-hand information. One can
understand why, for their own protection, the Germans imposed
their iron laws upon the Belgians with their terrible penalties. What
is hard to understand is the long-suffering patience and self-
restraint of the Belgians. Occasionally some high-spirited or high-
strung fellow was no longer able to keep the lid on the volcano of
hatred and rage seething within him. This blowup brought down,
not only upon his own head, but upon the whole community, the
most hideous reprisals.

By the time my writing was completed the men were pretty well
settled down for the night. On the outside the roaring of the
Austrian guns, which for days had been bombarding their way into
Antwerp, now became less constant; less and less frequently the
hoarse commands of the officers, mingled with the rumbling of the
automobiles, came up from the courtyard below. At midnight the
only sounds were the groans and moans of the twisting sleepers
and the measured tread of the sentry as he paced up and down
the hall, his silhouette darkening at regular intervals the glass door
at the end of our little room.

I was placed in a. sort of adjoining closet with six others. A motley
mixture indeed; a Russian, an American, four Belgians, and a
German--all prisoners awaiting our sentences. As a last move, the
German soldier guards sandwiched themselves into the open
spaces on the floor, their long bayonets glistening in the electric
light that blazed down upon us. The peasants had characteristically
closed the windows to keep out the baneful night air. In the main
room a drop-light with shade flung its radiance on a table and lit up
the anxious faces of the few men gathered round it. It showed one
poor fellow bolt upright, unspeaking, unmoving, his fixed white
eyeballs staring into space, as though he would go stark mad.
Those eyes have forever burned themselves into my brain, a pitiful
protest against a mad, wild world at war.

Sleep was entirely out of the question with me. It wasn't the bad air
or the hard floor or the snores of my comrades, but just plain cold
fear. Now I possess an average amount of courage. Quite alone I
walked in and out of Liege when the Germans were painting the
skies red with the burning towns. My ribs were massaged all the
way by ends of revolvers, whose owners demanded me to give
forthwith my reasons for being there, they being sole arbiters of
whether my reasons were good or bad. I got so used to a bayonet
pointing into the pit of my stomach that it hardly looks natural in a
vertical position.

But this was a thrust from a different quarter. In the open a man
feels a sporting chance, at any rate, even if a bullet can beat him
on the run; but cooped up within four walls he is paralyzed by his
horrible helplessness. He feels that a military court reverses
ordinary procedure, holding that it is better for nine innocent to
suffer than for one guilty one to escape. He knows that his fate is
in the hands of a tribunal from whose arbitrary decision there is no
appeal, and that decision he knows may depend upon the whim of
the commandant, to whom a poor breakfast or a bad night's sleep
may give the wrong twist. The terrible uncertainty of it preys upon
one's mind.

I certainly prayed that the commandant was getting a better night
than mine, as I lay there staring up at the electric light with a
hundred hates and fears pounding through my brain. "I'm a
prisoner," was one thought. "Supposing the silence of the guns
means that the Germans, beaten, are being pressed back into
Brussels by the Allies. They may let us go. No, the Germans,
maddened by defeat, might order us all to be shot," was one idea.
"How does it feel to be blindfolded and stood up against a wall by a
firing squad?" was another pleasant companion idea that kept vigil
with me through the midnight hours. Then my fancies took a
frenzied turn, "Suppose these be brutes of soldiers and they run
us through, saying we were trying to escape."

"Escape!" The word no sooner leaped into my mind than an
almost uncontrollable impulse to escape seized me, or at least I
thought one had. I got upon my feet, observing that the two
soldiers lying beside me on the floor were fast asleep and the
guards at the outer door were nodding. I stepped over their
sleeping forms arid made a reconnoiter of the hallway. There in the
semi-darkness stood seven soldiers of the Kaiser with their seven
guns and their seven glistening bayonets.

Cold steel is not supposed to act as a soothing syrup; but one
glance at those bayonets and my uncontrollable impulse utterly
vanished. You will observe that the bayonet is continually cropping
up in my story. It does, indeed. A bayonet looks far different from
what it did on dress parade. Meet one in war, and its true
significance first dawns upon you. It is not simply a decoration at
the end of a rifle, but it is made to stick in a man's stomach and
then be turned round; and when you realize that this particular one
is made to stick in your particular stomach, it takes on a still
different aspect.

I crawled back into my lair, resolved to seek for deliverance by
mental means, rather than by physical; and as the first rays of light
stole through the window I composed the following document to
His Excellency:


The Officer who has the case of the American, Albert B. Williams,
under supervision: SIR:

As you seem willing to be fair in hearing my case, may I take the
liberty this morning of addressing you upon my charge? I fear that
I made but a feeble defense of myself yesterday; but when I was
accused of offering much money for information relative to the
movements of German troops, the accusation came so suddenly
that I could only deny it. May I now offer a few observations upon
this charge, the nature of which just begins to become clear to
me?

In the first place, it was a sheer impossibility for me to offer "much
money," because all I had was that which, as Mr. Van Hee knows,
Mr. Fletcher gave me when I was left behind.

In the second place, were I a spy, I certainly would not be offering
money in a voice loud enough to be heard by the several
witnesses that you have ready to testify.

In the third place, while not attempting to impeach the character of
my accuser, may I submit the fact that my own standing will be
vouched for by His Excellency the Governor of Massachusetts, the
President of the Pilgrim Amalgamated Associated Advertising
Clubs of America, the chief Rabbi in the Rabbinate of New
England, etc., etc.

These men will attest the utter absurdity of any such charge being
made against me.

In the last place, may I suggest that the theory of an unintentional
mistake throws the best light upon the case? For any conversation
with my accuser was either in German or English. You know my
German linguistic ability and the error that might be made there;
and as for English, I challenge my accuser to understand three
consecutive sentences in English.

I trust you will take these facts into account before sentence is
passed upon me.

Respectfully yours,

ALBERT R. WILLIAMS.


By the time this was finished a stir in the courtyard below heralded
the beginning of the day's activities. And what did this day hold in
store for me?



Chapter IV

Roulette And Liberty



Our morning toilet was completed with the aid of one small, flimsy
towel for thirty of us. Hot water tinctured with coffee and milk was
served from a bucket with two or three cups. Bread which had
been saved from the previous day was brought forth from pockets
and hiding-places, and for some unaccountable reason a piece of
good butter was brought in. Apparently the Germans were trying to
escape the stigma of mistreating or underfeeding their prisoners.

Orders were given to get ready to move out. After an hour, they
were changed to "Clean up the room." When we had accomplished
this, an inspecting officer entered and began to sniff and snort
until his eyes fairly blazed with wrath, and then in a torrent of words
he expressed his private and official opinion of us. So fast and
freely did his language flow that I couldn't catch all the compliments
he showered upon us; but "Verdammte!" "Donnerwetter!" and
"Schwein!" were stressed frequently enough for me to retain
a distinct memory of the same. One did not have to be a German
linguist to get the drift of his remarks.

They had an electric effect upon the prisoners, who with one
accord got busy picking up microscopic and invisible bits from the
floor. To see these men crawling around upon their stomachs
must have been highly gratifying to His Self-inflated Highness. The
highly gratifying thing to myself now is the fact that I did not do any
crawling, but sat stolidly in my chair and stared back at him, letting
my indignation get enough the better of my discretion even to
sneer--at least I persuade myself now that I did. Outside of this
little act of gallantry I am heartily ashamed of my conduct at the
German Staff Headquarters. It was too acquiescent and obsequious
for some of those bureaucrats rough riding it over those helpless,
long-suffering, beaten Belgians.

Having called us "Schwein," at high noon they brought in the swill.
It was a gray, putrid-looking mess in a big, battered bucket. They
told us that it came dried in bags and all that was necessary was to
mix the contents with hot water. The mixture was put up in 1911
and guaranteed to keep for 20 years. It looked as though it might
have already forfeited on its guarantee. There was nothing to
serve it with, and search of the room uncovered no implements of
attack. Our discomfiture furnished a young soldier with much
entertainment.

"Nothing to eat your stew with? Well, just stand on that table there
and dive right into the bucket."

He was quite carried away with his own witticism, so that in sheer
good nature he went and returned with six soup plates which were
covered over with a thick grease quite impervious to cold water. I
had my misgivings about the mess and dreaded its steaming
odors. At last I summoned up courage and approached the
bucket, using my fingers in lieu of a clothes-pin as a defense for
my olfactory nerves. A surprise was in store for me; its palatability
and quality were quite the opposite of its appearance. While I
wouldn't enjoy that stew outside of captivity, and while the Brussels
men refused in any way to succumb to its charm, it was at least
very nutritious and furnished the strength to keep fighting.

But it is hard to battle against the blues, especially when all one's
comrades capitulate to them. Each man vied with the other in
radiating a blue funk, until the air was as thick as a London fog.

Picture, if you will, the scene. By a fine irony, the books on the
shelves were on international law, and by a finer irony the book in
green binding that caught my eye as it stood out from the black
array of volumes was R. Dimmont's "The Origins of Belgian
Neutrality." The Belgians who were enjoying the peculiar blessings
of that neutrality were sprawled over the floor or pacing restlessly
up and down the room, or, in utter despair, buried their heads in
their arms flung out across the table.

About three o'clock the name "Herr Peters" was called. He had
been found guilty of mumbling to his comrades that their captain
was pushing them too hard in an advance. One could believe the
charge, for, as his name was called, he was sullen and unconcerned.
"You are sentenced to imprisonment at hard labor in a fortress.
You must go at once."

He muttered in an undertone something about "being luckier in
prison in winter than out there on the cold, freezing ground," and,
flinging his knapsack upon his shoulder, lumbered off. In how
many such hearts is there this sullen revolt against the military
system, and how much of a factor will it be to reckon with in the
future?

There were four prisoners quite separated from the rest of us. It
was said that they were sentenced to be shot. I am not sure that
they were; but we were strictly forbidden any intercourse with
them. They were the most crestfallen, terror-stricken lot of men
that ever I had laid eyes upon, and at four o'clock they were led
away by a cordon of soldiers. There was enough mental suggestion
about it to plunge the room into a deep silence. It was oppressive.

At last Obels, the reporter, walked over and asked me if there
were proofs of the immortality of the soul, excusing himself by
saying that up to this time he had never had any particular time nor
reason for reflection on this subject. That was the only
psychological blunder that he made. However, it at last broke the
heavy, painful silence, and we speculated together, instead of
singly, how it might feel to have immortal bliss thrust upon us from
the end of a German musket.

I related to him my experience of the previous week. Some war
photographers wanted a picture of a spy shot. I had volunteered to
play the part of a spy, and, after being blindfolded, was led over
against a wall, where a Belgian squad leveled their rifles at me. I
assured him that the sensation was by no means terrible; but he
would not be comforted. Death itself he wouldn't mind so much, if
he could have found it in the open fighting gladly for his country;
but it seemed a blot on his good name to be shot for just snooping
around the German lines.

On the whole, after weighing all the pros and cons, we decided
that our pronounced aversion to being shot had purely an altruistic
origin. It was a wicked, shameful loss to the human race. That
point was very clear to us. But there was the arrant stupidity of the
Germans to be reckoned with. They have such a distorted sense
of real values. Rummaging through my pockets during these
reflections, I fished up an advertising folder out of a corner where I
had tucked it when it was presented to me by Dr. Morse. The
outside read, "How We Lost Our Best Customer." Mechanically I
opened it, and there, staring back at me from big black borders on
the inside, were the two words, "HE DIED."

These ruminations upon matters spiritual were interrupted by the
strains from a brass band which went crashing by, while ten
thousand hobnailed boots of the regiment striking the pavements
in unison beat out time like a trip-hammer.

"Perhaps the Germans are leaving Brussels," whispered a
companion; "and wouldn't we grow wild or faint or crazy to see
those guards drop away and we should find ourselves free men
again!"

The passing music had a jubilating effect upon our guards, who
paraded gayly up and down the room. One simple, good-hearted
fellow harangued us in a bantering way, pointing out our present
sorry plight as evidence of the sad mistake we had made in not
being born in Germany. He felt so happy that he took a little
collection from us, and in due time returned with some bread and
chocolate and soda water. But even the soda water, as if adjusting
itself to the spiritlessness of the prisoners, refused to effervesce.
The music had by contrast seemed only to increase the general
depression.

Only one free spirit soared above his surroundings. He was a
young Belgian--Ernest de Burgher by name--a kindly light amidst
the encircling gloom. He took everything in life with a smile. I am
sure that if death as a spy had been ordered for him at the door,
he would have met that with the same happy, imperturbable
expression. He had quite as much reason as I, if not more, for
joining our gloom-party. He, too, was waiting sentence. For six
days his wild, untamed spirit had been cabined in these walls; but
he had been born a humorist, and even in bonds he sought to play
the clown. He went through contortions, pitched coins against
himself, and staggered around the room with a soda-water bottle
at his lips, imitating a drunkard. But ours was a tough house even
for his irrepressible spirit to play to. Despite all his efforts, we sat
around like a convention of corpses, and only once did his comic
spirit succeed.

One prisoner sunk down in a comatose condition in his chair, as
though his last drop of strength and life had oozed away. Now de
Burgher was one of those who can resist anything but temptation.
He stole over and tied the man's legs to his chair. Then he got a
German soldier to tap the hapless victim on the shoulder. Roused
from his stupor to see the soldier standing over him like a
messenger of doom, the poor fellow turned ashen pale. He sprang
to his feet, but the chair bound to his legs tripped him up and he
fell sprawling on the floor. He apparently regarded the chair as
some sort of German infernal machine clutching him, and he lay
there wrestling with his inanimate antagonist as though it were a
demon. As soon as the victim understood the joke he joined in the
burst of merriment that ran round the room; but it was of short
duration. The gloom got us again, despite all that de Burgher could
do, and finally he succumbed to the prevailing atmosphere and
gave us up as a bad job.

He was a diminutive fellow, battered and rather the worse for wear.
Ever shall I think of him not only as the happy-souled, but as the
great-souled. My introduction into the room was at the point of a
steel bayonet. With him, that served me far better than any gilt-
edged introduction of high estate. He didn't know what crime was
charged against, me, but he felt that it must have been a sacrifice
for Belgium's sake. The fact that I was persona non grata to the
Germans was a lien upon his sympathy, and gave me high rank
with him at once. He instinctively divined my feelings of fear and
loneliness, and straightway set out to make me his ward, his
comrade, and his master.

Never shall I forget how, during that long night in prison, he
crawled over and around the recumbent forms to where I lay upon
the floor courting sleep in vain. I was frightened by this maneuver,
but he smiled and motioned me to silence. Reaching up beneath
my blanket, he unlaced one shoe and then the other. At first I
really thought that he was going to steal them, but the reaction
from the day had set in and I was too tired and paralyzed to make
any protest. Laying the shoes one side, he remarked, "That will
ease your feet." Then stripping off his coat and rolling it into a
bundle, he placed it as a pillow beneath my head.

A great, big hulking American, treated tenderly by this little Belgian,
how could I keep the tears from my eyes? And as they came
welling up--tears of appreciation for the generous fineness of his
spirit--he took them to be tears of grief, brought on by thoughts of
home and friends and all those haunting memories. But he was
equal to the occasion.

In a little vacant space he made a circle of cigarettes and small
Belgian coins. In the center he placed a small box, and on it laid a
ruler. "This is the roulette wheel at Monte Carlo, and you are the
rich American," he whispered, and with a snap of the finger he
spun the ruler round. Whenever it stopped, he presented me my
prize with sundry winkings and chucklings, interrupted by furtive
glances towards the door.

Rouge-et-noir upon a prison floor! To him existence was such a
game--red life or black death, as the fates ordained. His spirit was
contagious, and I found myself smiling through my tears. When he
saw his task accomplished, gathering in his coins, he crawled
away.

His was a restless spirit. Only once did I see him steadfastly quiet.
That was the next morning, when he sat with his eyes fixed upon
an opening in the shutter. He insisted upon my taking his seat, and
adjusting my angle of vision properly. There, framed in a window
across the forbidden courtyard, was a pretty girl watering flowers.
She was indeed a distracting creature, and de Burgher danced
around me with unfeigned glee. His previous experience with
Americans had evidently led him to believe that we were all
connoisseurs in pretty girls. I tried valiantly to uphold our national
reputation, but my thoughts at the time were much more heavenly
than even that fair apparition framed in the window, and I fear I
disappointed de Burgher by my lack of enthusiasm.

My other comrade, Constance Staes, must not be forgotten. For
some infraction of the new military regulations he had been hustled
off to prison, but he, too, was born for liberty, a free-ranging spirit
that fetters could never bind. He made me see the Belgian soul
that would never be subservient to German rule. The Germans
can be overlords in Belgium only when such spirits have either
emigrated or have been totally exterminated.

To Constance Staes every rule was a challenge. That's the reason
he had been put in jail. He had trespassed on forbidden way in
front of the East Station. Here in prison smoking was forbidden. So
Staes, with one eye upon the listless guard, would slip beneath a
blanket, take a pull at his cigarette, and come up again as innocent
as though he had been saying his prayers. I refused the offer of a
pull at his cigarette, but not the morsel of white bread which he
drew from behind a picture and shared with me. That bread,
broken and shared between us in that upper room, is to me an
eternal sacrament. It fed my body hunger then; never shall it
cease to feed the hunger of my soul.

Whenever temptation to play the cynic or think meanly of my
fellow-man shall come, my mind will hark back to those two
unpretending fellows and bow in reverence before the selflessness
and immensity of the human soul. Needing bread, they gave it
freely away; needing strength, they poured themselves out
unsparingly; needing encouragement, they became the ministers
thereof. For not to me alone, but to all, they played this role of
servant, priest, and comforter.

As I write these lines I wonder where their spirits are now.
Speeded thence, they may have already made the next world
richer by their coming. I do not know that; but I do know that they
have made my soul infinitely richer by their sojourn here; I do not
know whether they were Catholic or Atheist, but I do know how
truly the Master of all souls could say to these two brave little
Belgians: "When I was an hungered, ye gave me food; when I was
thirsty, ye gave me drink; when I was a stranger, ye took me in;
when I was sick and in prison, ye visited me."

The prison is the real maker of democracy. I saw that clearly when,
at five o'clock, joy came marching into the room. It was an officer
who was its herald with the simple words, "The theater manager is
free." That was a trumpet blast annihilating all rank and caste. The
manager, forgetting his office and his dignity, and embracing with
his right arm a peasant and with his left an artisan, danced round
the room in a delirium of delight. Twenty men were at one time
besieging him to grasp his hand, and tears, not rhetorically, but
actually, were streaming down their faces--Russian, German,
Belgian, and American, high and low, countrymen and citymen,
smocked and frocked. We were fused altogether in the common
emotion of joy and hope. For hope was now rampant. "If one man
can be liberated," we argued, "why not another? Perhaps the
General was thus giving vent to a temporary vein of good humor."
Each man figured that he might be the fortunate one upon whom
this good luck would alight.

At five-thirty there was much murmuring in the corridor, and
presently my Ehrenwort lad of the previous night came bursting
into the room, crying, "The American! The American!" I do not
have to describe the thrill of joy that those words shot through me;
but I wish that I might do justice to the beaming face of my young
officer friend. I am sure that I could not have looked more radiant
than he did when, almost like a mother, he led me forth to greet de
Leval and two other assistants from the American Ambassador.
Now de Leval is not built on any sylph-like plan, but he looked to
me then like an ethereal being from another world--the angel who
opened the prison door.

I presumed that I was to walk away without further ado; but not so
easy. We proceeded into another office, where the whole
assemblage was standing. I have no idea who the high superior
officer was; but he held in his hand a blue book which contained a
long report of my case, with all the documents except the defense
I had written. Again I was cross-examined, and my papers were
carefully passed upon one by one.

One they could not or would not overlook, and to it throughout all
this last examination they kept perpetually referring. When I had
made my thirty-seven-mile journey into Liege on August 20,1 had
secured this paper at Maastricht signed by the Dutch and German
authorities. Over the Dutch seal were the words, "To the passing
over the boundary into Belgian-Germany of Mr. Albert Williams
there exists on the part of the undersigned no objection. Signed,
The Commissioner of Police Souten." Over the German seal were
the words, "At the Imperial German Vice-Consulate the foregoing
signature is hereby attested to be that of Souten, the Police
Commissioner of Maastricht." For this beautifully non-committal
affair I had delivered up six marks. I would have cheerfully paid six
hundred to disown it now.

"What explanation is there for his possession of that paper?"
asked the General sternly.

De Leval pleaded cleverly, dilating upon the natural inquisitiveness
and roaming disposition of the American race.

"I know what the Wanderlust is," said the General, "but I fail to
understand the peculiar desire of this man to travel only in
dangerous and forbidden war zones."

"In the second place," the General continued, "there is no doubt
that he has made some remark to the effect that in the long run
Germany cannot win. That was overheard by an officer in a cafe
and is undeniable. The other charges we will for the time waive,"
said the General, drawing himself up with a fine hauteur. "But his
identifying evidence is very flimsy. Can you produce any better?"

Suddenly I bethought me of the gold watch in my pocket. It was a
presentation from some two hundred people of small means in an
industrial district in Boston. Three of the aides successively and
successfully damaged their thumbnails in their eagerness to pry
open the back cover. That is a source of considerable satisfaction
to me now; but it was embarrassing in that delicate situation when
my fate hung almost by a thread, and a trifle could delay my
release for days. If the General damaged his own thumb on it, I
feel sure that I would have been remanded back to prison. But,
luckily, the cover sprang open and revealed to the eyes the words:
"From friends at Maverick."

De Leval adroitly turned this to the best advantage. It was the last
straw. The General capitulated. Walking over into the adjoining
room, he wrote on the blue folder: "Er ist frei gelassen." I would
give lots for those folders; but, though safety was by no means
certain, I found I yet had nerve enough to take a venture. When I
was bidden to pick up my papers strewn across the desk, I tried
my best to gather in some of the other documents. Besides the
copies of the letter I wrote to the Ambassador the only thing I got
on my case was this letter, written by Mr. Whitlock to Baron von de
Lancken, the official German representative in charge of the
dealings with the American Embassy. It has the well-known
Whitlock straight-from-the-shoulder point and brevity to it.


BRUXELLES, le 29 Septembre, 1914, EXCELLENCE:

J'apprends a l'instant que Mr. Williams, citoyen Americain
residente a l'Hotel Metropole, aurait ete arrete lundi par les
Autorites allemande.

Pour le cas ou il n'aurait pas encore ete mis en liberte, je vous
saurais gre de me faire connaitre les raisons de cette arrestation,
et de me donner le moyen de communiquer aussitot avec lui, pour
pourvoir eventuellement lui fournir toute protection dont il pourrait
avoir besoin.

Veuillez agreer, Excellence, la nouvelle assurance de ma haute
consideration.

(S) BRAND WHITLOCK. A Son Excellence Monsieur le Baron von
der Lancken, Bruxelles.


Before my final liberation I was escorted into the biggest and
busiest office of all.

Here I was given an Erlaubnis to travel by military train through
Liege into Germany, and from there on out by way of Holland. The
destination that I had in mind was Ghent, but passing through the
lines thereto was forbidden. Instead of going directly the thirty
miles in three hours, I must go around almost a complete circle,
about three hundred miles in three days. But nothing could take
the edge off my joy. A strange exhilaration and a wild desire to
celebrate possessed me. With such a mood I had not hitherto
been sympathetic; on the contrary, I had been much grieved by
the sundry manifestations of what I deemed a base spirit in certain
Belgians. One of them had said, "Just wait until the Allies' army
comes marching into Brussels! Oh, then I am going out on one
glorious drunk!" In the light of the splendid sacrifices of his fellow-
Belgians, this struck me as a shocking degradation of the human
spirit.

I could not then understand such a view-point. But I could now. In
the removal of the long abnormal tension one's pent-up spirits
seek out an equally abnormal channel for expression. I, too, felt
like an uncaged spirit suddenly let loose. I didn't get drunk, but I
very nearly got arrested again. In my headlong ecstasy I was deaf
to the warnings of a German guard saying, "Passage into this
street is forbidden." I checked myself just in time, and in chastened
spirit made my way back to the Metropole.

Three times I was offered the prohibited Antwerp papers that had
been smuggled into the city and once the London Times for
twenty-five cents. The war price for this is said often to have run up
to as many dollars.

An English, woman, or at any rate a woman with a beautiful
English accent, opened a conversation with the remark that she
was going directly through to Ghent on the following day and that
she knew how to go right through the German lines. That was
precisely the way that the Germans had just forbidden me to go.
But this accomplice (if such she was) got no rise out of me. To all
intents I was stone-deaf. Compared to me, she would have found
the Sphinx garrulous indeed. She may have been as harmless as
a dove but, after my escapade, I wouldn't have talked to my own
mother without a written permit from the military governor. The
Kaiser himself would have found it hard work breaking through my
cast-iron spy-proof armor of formality. I had good reason, too, not
to let down the bars, for I was trailed by the spy-hunters. Not until
ten days later when I passed over the Holland border did I feel
release from their vigilant eyes. My key at the Metropole was never
returned to me and I know that my room was searched once, if not
twice, after my return to the hotel.

It would be interesting to see how all this tallies with the official
report of my case in the archives at Berlin. Perhaps some of these
surmises have shot far wide of the mark. Javert, for instance, may
not be a direct descendant of the ancient Inquisitor who had
charge of the rack and the thumb screws, as I believed. In his own
home town he may be a sort of mild-mannered schoolmaster and
probably is highly astounded as well as gratified to find himself
cast as the villain in this piece. Perhaps I may have been at other
times in far greater danger. I do not know these things. All I know
is that this is a true and faithful transcript of the feelings and sights
that came crowding in upon me in that most eventful day and
night.



PART II
On Foot With The German Army



Chapter V

The Gray Hordes Out Of The North



The outbreak of the Great War found me in Europe as a general
tourist, and not in the capacity of war-correspondent. Hitherto I had
essayed a much less romantic role in life, belonging rather to the
crowd of uplifters who conduct the drab and dreary battle with the
slums. The futility of most of these schemes for badgering the poor
makes one feel at times that these battles are shams and
unavailing. This is depressing. It is thrilling, then, suddenly to
acquire the glamorous title of war-correspondent, and to have
before one the prospect of real and actual battles.

Commissioned thus and desiring to live up to the code and
requirement of the office, I naturally opined that war-
correspondents rushed immediately into the thick of the fight. Later
I discovered what a mistake that was. Only very young and green
ones do so. The seasoned correspondent is inclined to view the
whole affair more dispassionately and with a larger perspective.
But being of the verdant variety, I naturally figured that if the
Germans were smashing down through Belgium onto Liege that
that was where I should be. By entering gingerly through the back
door of Holland, I planned to join them in their march down the
Meuse River.

To The Hague came descriptions of the hordes pressing down out
of the north through the fire-swept, blood-drenched plain of
northern Belgium. This could be seen from the Dutch frontier at
Maastricht. But passage thereto was interdicted by the military
authorities. Ambassador Van Dyke's efforts were unavailing.
Possessing a red-card, I enlisted the help of Troelstra, the socialist
leader of the Netherlands.

He had just returned from an audience with the Queen. The
government, seeking to rally all classes to face a grave crisis, was
paying court to the labor leaders. Accordingly, the war department,
at Troelstra's behest, received me with a handsome show of
deference. I was escorted from one gold-laced officer to another.
Each one smiled kindly, listened attentively and regretted
exceedingly that the granting of the desired permission lay outside
his own particular jurisdiction. They were polite, ingratiating,
obsequious even, but quite unanimous. At the end I came out by
the same door wherein I went--minus a permission.

Up till now my progress through the fringes of the war zone had
been in defiance of all orders and advice. Having failed here
officially, I took the matter in my own hands. Finding a seat in a
military train, I stuck steadfastly by it so long as our general
direction was south. At Eindhoven hunger compelled me to alight.
As I was stepping up to the hotel-bar, I felt a tap on my shoulder
and some one in excellent English said:

"You are under suspicion, sir. Follow me. Don't look around. Don't
get excited. If you are all right you don't need to get excited; if you
aren't it won't do you any good to get excited."

With this running fire of comment he led me into a side-room
where a half-hour's examination satisfied him of my good intent.
Without further untoward incident I came to Maastricht in
Limbourg. Limbourg is the name of the narrow strip of Dutch
territory which runs down between Germany and Belgium. At one
place this tongue of land is but a few miles wide. If the Germans
could have marched their troops directly across this they might
have been spared the two weeks' slaughter at the forts of Liege
and Paris, in all probability, would have fallen before them. It was a
great temptation to the Germans. That's the reason the Dutch
troops had been massed here by the tens of thousands--to
prevent Germany succumbing to that temptation.

At our approach to the great Meuse bridge an officer shouted into
each compartment:

"Every window closed. All cigars and pipes extinguished."

"Why?" we asked.

"The bridge is mined with explosives and a stray spark might set
them off," a soldier informed us.

The first German attempt to set foot on the bridge would be the
signal for sending the great structure crashing skywards.

The end of the run was Maastricht, now become a town of crucial
interest. It was like a city besieged. Barricades of barbed wire and
paving stones ripped from street ran everywhere. Iron rails and
ties blocked the exits and the small cannon disconcertingly thrust
their nozzles down upon one out of the windows.

I lingered here long enough to secure a carriage and with it made
quick time across the harvest fields. We were soon up on the little
hill back of Meuse. The sun was sinking and for the first time war,
in all its terrible spectacular splendor, smote me hard. From the hill
at my feet there stretched away a great plain filled with a dense
mass of German soldiery. One could scarcely believe that there
were men there so well did their gray-green coats blend with the
landscape. One would think that they were indeed a part of it,
could he not feel the atmosphere vibrant with the mass personality
of the myriad warriors tramping down the crops of the peasants. In
the rear the commissariat vans and artillery still came lumbering
up, while in the very front pranced the horses of the dreaded
Uhlans, who looked with contempt, I imagined, on the Dutch
soldiers as they stood there with the warning that here was
Netherlands soil.

In the fighting German and Belgian troops had already been
pushed up against this line. Here they were greeted with the
challenge: "Lay down your arms. This is the neutral soil of
Holland." Thus many were interned until the end of the war.

As even darkened into night, the endless plain became stippled
over with points of flame from countless campfires. There were
beauty and mystery in this vast menace sweeping the soul of the
onlooker now with horror, and now with admiration. There was a
terrible background to the spectacle--glowing red and luminous. It
was made of the still blazing towns of Mouland and Vise, burned to
the ground by order of the invaders. The fire had been set as a
warning to the inhabitants round about. They were taking the
warning and hastening by the thousands across the border into
Holland, their only haven of safety.

When we drove down from the hill into Eysden, we were in the
midst of these peasants, fleeing before the red wrath rolling up into
the sky. They came shambling in with a few possessions on which
they had hurriedly laid their hands, singly or in families, a pitiful
procession of the disinherited.

Some of the men were moaning as they marched along, but most
of them were taking it with the tragic oxlike resignation of the
peasant, stupefied more than terrified, puzzled why these soldiers
were coming down into their quiet little villages to fight out their
quarrels. The women were crying out to Mary and all the saints.
Indeed all the little crosses along the waysides or in the walls were
decked with flowers in gratitude for what had been spared them. In
most cases it was little more than their lives, their brood of
children, and their dogs that followed on.

My driver finally landed me in a shack on the outskirts of Eysden,
which boasted the name of a hotel. It had the worst bed I ever
slept in, and the only window was a hole in the roof.

I wandered out among the unfortunates, now herded in halls and
schools and packed in the homes of the friendly villagers. They
were full of the weirdest tales of loot and murder. And while there
were no tears in their eyes there was tragedy in their voices.

"It would be worth while getting over to the sources and verifying
the truth of these stories," I remarked.

"A sheer impossibility, and only a fool would want to go," was one
laconic commentary.

I kept up my plaint and was overheard by Souten, head of the
Limbourg police.

"American, aren't you?" he interjected. "Well, I have done more
work here in the last five days than I did in the five years that I lived
in New York. Had the best time in my life there. If you want to go
sight-seeing in Belgium, take this paper and get it countersigned at
the German consulate. It's the only one I've given out to-day."

I hurried off to the consul who, in return for six marks, duly
impressed it with the German seal. Later on I would gladly have
given six hundred marks to disown it.

"Of course you understand that this is simply a paper issued by
the civil authorities," said the consul, as he passed it out. "Use it at
your own risk. If you go ahead and get shot by the military
authorities, don't come back and blame us."

I promised that I wouldn't and was off again to my hotel.

As darkness deepened, with two Hollanders come to view the
havoc of war, I sat on the stoop of our little inn. A great rumbling of
cannon came from the direction of Tongres. A sentry shot rang out
on the frontier just across the river which flowed not ten rods away.
This was the Meuse, which ran red with the blood of the
combatants, and from which the natives drew the floating corpses
to the shore. Now its gentle lapping on the stones mingled with the
subdued murmur of our talk. In such surroundings my new friends
regaled me with stories of pillage and murder which the refugees
had been bringing in from across the border. All this produced a
distinct depreciation in the value that I had hitherto attached to my
permit to go visiting across that border. Souten's declarations of
friendship for America had been most voluble. It began dawning
on me that his apparently generous and impulsive action might
bear a different interpretation than unadulterated kindness.

At this juncture, I remember, a great light flared suddenly up. It
was one of the fans of a wind-mill fired by the Germans. In the
foreground we could see the soldiers standing like so many gray
wolves silhouetted against the red flames. In that light it did seem
that motives other than pure affection might have prompted the
Police Commissioner's action. The hectic sleep of the night was
broken by the endless clatter of the hoofs of the German cavalry
pushing south.

My courage rose, however, with the rising sun. In the morning I
climbed to the lookout on the hill. The hosts had vanished. A
trampled, smoldering fire-blackened land lay before me. But there
was the lure of the unknown. I walked down to where the great
Netherlands flag proclaimed neutral soil. The worried Dutch
pickets honored the signature of Souten and with one step I was
over the border into Belgium, now under German jurisdiction. The
helmeted soldiers across the way were a distinct disappointment.
They looked neither fierce nor fiery. In fact, they greeted me with a
smile. They were a bit puzzled by my paper, but the seal seemed
echt-Deutsch and they pronounced it "gut, sehr gut." I explained
that I wished to go forwards to Liege.

"Was it possible?"

For answer they shrugged their shoulders.

"Was it dangerous?"

"Not in the least," they assured me.

The Germans were right. It was not dangerous--that is, for the
Germans. By repeatedly proclaiming the everlasting friendship of
Germany and America, and passing out some chocolate, I made
good friends on the home base. They charged me only not to
return after sundown, giving point to their advice by relating how,
on the previous night, they had shot down a peasant woman and
her two children who, under the cloak of darkness, sought to
scurry past the sentinels. They told this with a genuine note of grief
in their voices. So, with a hearty hand-shake and wishes for the
best of luck, they waved adieu to me as I went swinging out on the
highroad to Liege.



Chapter VI

In The Black Wake Of The War



A half mile and I came for the first time actually face to face with
the wastage of war. There was what once was Mouland, the little
village I had seen burning the night before. The houses stood
roofless and open to the sky, like so many tombstones over a
departed people. The whitewashed outer walls were all shining in
the morning sun. Inside they were charred black, or blazing yet
with coals from the fire still slowly burning its way through wood
and plaster. Here and there a house had escaped the torch.

By some miracle in the smashed window of one of these houses a
bright red geranium blossomed. It seemed to cry for water, but I
dared not turn aside, for fear of a bullet from a lurking sentry. In
another a sewing-machine of American make testified to the thrift
and progressiveness of one household. In the last house as I left
the village a rocking-horse with its head stuck through the open
door smiled its wooden smile, as if at any rate it could keep good
cheer even though the roofs might fall.

My road now wound into the open country; and I was heartily glad
of it, for the hedges and the houses at Mouland provided fine
coverts for prowling German foragers or for Belgians looking for
revenge. Dead cows and horses and dogs with their sides ripped
open by bullets lay along the wayside. The roads were deep
printed with the hoofs of the cavalry. The grain-fields were
flattened out. Nine little crosses marked the place where nine
soldiers of the Kaiser fell.

This smiling countryside, teeming with one of the densest
populations in the world, had been stripped clean of every
inhabitant. Along the wasted way not the sign of a civilian, or for
that matter even a soldier, was to be seen. I was glad even of the
presence of a pig which, with her litter, was enjoying the unwonted
pleasure of rooting out her morning meal in a rich flower-garden.
She did not reciprocate, however, with any such fellow feeling.
Perhaps of late she had seen enough of the doings of the genus
homo. Surveying me as though I had been the author of all this
destruction, she gave a frightened snort and plunged into a nearby
thicket.

I craved companionship of any living creature to break the spell of
death and silence. I was destined to have the wish gratified in
abundance. Fifteen minutes brought me to the outskirts of Vise,
and there, coming over the hills and wending their way down to the
river, were two long lines of German soldiers escorting wagons of
the artillery and the commissariat. They came slowly and
noiselessly trudging on and I was upon them as they crossed the
main road before I realized it. The men were covered with dust; so
were the horses. The wagons were in their somber paint of gray.
There was something ominous and threatening in the long sullen
line which wound down over the hill. The soldiers were evidently
tired with the tedious uneventful march, and the drivers were
goaded to irritability by the difficulty of the descent. Could I have
retreated I would have done so with joy and would never have
stopped until my feet were set on Holland soil.

But I dared not do it. As the train came to a stop, I started bravely
across the road. A soldier, dropping his gun from his shoulder,
cried:

"Halt!"

"Is this the way to Vise?" I asked.

"Perhaps it is," he replied, "but what do you want in Vise?"

As he spoke, he kept edging up, pointing his bayonet directly at
me. A bayonet will never look quite the same to me again. Total
retreat, as I remarked, was out of the question. My inward
anatomy, however, did the next best thing. As the bayonet point
came pressing forward, my stomach retired backward. I could feel
it distinctly making efforts to crawl behind my spine. At my first
word of German his face relaxed. Ditto my stomach.

"You are an American," he said. "Well, good for that. I don't know
what we would have done were you a Belgian. Our orders are to
suffer no Belgian in this whole district."

Then he began an apologia which I heard repeated identically
again and again, as if it were learned by rote: "The Germans had
peacefully entered the land; boiling hot water was showered on
them from upper stories; they were shot at from houses and
hedges; many soldiers had thus been killed; the wells had been
poisoned. Such acts of treachery had necessarily brought
reprisals, etc., etc." It was the defense so regularly served up to
neutrals that we learned in time to reproduce it almost word for
word ourselves.

We all rise to the glorification of suffering little Belgium. Whatever
brief we may hold for her though, we ought not to picture even her
peasant people as a mild, meek and inoffensive lot. That isn't the
sort of stuff out of which her dogged and continuing resistance was
wrought. That isn't the mettle which for two weeks stopped up the
German tide before the Liege forts, giving the allies two weeks to
mobilize, and all they had asked the Belgians for was two or three
days of grace. But before the German avalanche hurled itself on
Liege it was this peasant population which bore the first brunt of
the battle.

A mistake in the branching roads brought this home to me. I
turned off in the direction of Verviers and was puzzled to see the
road on either side strewn with tree-trunks, their sprawling limbs
still green with leaves. It was along this highway that the invaders
first entered Belgium. The peasants, turning their axes loose on
the poplars and the royal elms that lined the road, had filled it with
a tangle of interlocking limbs.

The Imperial army arrived with cannon which could smash a fort to
pieces as though it were made of blue china, but of what avail
were these against such yielding obstructions? Maddened that
these shambling creatures of the soil should delay the military
promenade through this little land, officers rushed out and held
their pistols at the heads of the offenders, threatening to blow their
brains out if they did not speedily clear the way. Many a peasant
did not live to see his house go up in flames--his dwelling dyed by
his own blood was now turned into a funeral pyre. These were the
first sacrificial offerings of Belgium on the altar of her
independence.

I now entered Vise, or rather what once had been the little city of
Vise. It was almost completely annihilated and its three thousand
inhabitants scattered. Through the mass of smoking ruins I
pushed, with the paving-stones still hot beneath my feet. Quite
unawares I ran full tilt into a group of soldiers, looking as ugly and
dirty as the ruins amongst which they were prowling.

The green-gray field-uniform is a remarkable piece of obliterative
coloration. I had seen it blend with grass and trees, but in this
instance it fitted in so well with the stones and debris they were
poking over that I was right amongst them without warning. They
straightened up with a sudden start and scowled at me. Hollanders
and Belgians had faithfully assured me that such marauding bands
would shoot at sight. Here was an excellent test-case. Three
hundred marks, a gold watch and a lot of food which crammed my
pockets would be their booty.

I took the initiative with the bland inquiry, "What are you hunting
for, corpses?"

"No," they responded, pointing to their mouths and stomachs,
"awful hungry. Hunting something to eat."

I bade a mental farewell to my food-supplies as I emptied out my
pockets before these ravagers. I expected everything to be
grabbed with a summary demand for more. From these despoilers
of a countryside I was ready for any sort of a manifestation--any,
except the one that I received. With one accord they refused to
take any of my provisions. I recovered from my surprise sufficiently
to understand that they were thanking me for my good will while
they were constantly reiterating:

"It is your food and you will need every bit of it."

In the name of camaraderie I persuaded each to take a piece of
bread and chocolate. They received this offering with profound
gratitude. With much cautioning and many solemn Auf Wiedersehens
bestowed upon me, I was off again.

Below Vise an entirely new vista opened to me. Tens of thousands
of soldiers were marching over the pontoon bridges already flung
across the river. Perhaps five hundred more were engaged in
building a steel bridge which seemed to be a hurried but
remarkable piece of engineering. It was replacing the old structure
which had been dynamited by the Belgians, and which now lay a
tangled mass of wreckage in the river.

For the next eight miles to Jupilles the country was quite as much
alive as the first four miles were dead. It was swarming with the
military. Through all the gaps in the hills above the River Meuse
the German army came pouring down like an enormous tidal
wave--a tidal wave with a purpose, viz: to fling itself against the
Allies arranged in battle line at Namur, and with the overwhelming
mass of numbers to smash that line to bits and sweep on
resistlessly into Paris. I thought of the Blue and Red wall of French
and English down there awaiting this Gray-Green tide of Teutons.

By the hundreds of thousands they were coming; patrols of cavalry
clattering along, the hoof-beats of the chargers coming with
regular cadence on the hard roads; silent moving riders mounted
on bicycles, their guns strapped on their backs; armored
automobiles rumbling slowly on, but taking the occasional spaces
which opened in the road with a hollow roaring sound and at a
terrific pace; individual horsemen galloping up and down the road
with their messages, and the massed regiments of dust-begrimed
men marching endlessly by.

I was glad to have the spell which had been woven on me broken
by strains of music from a wayside cafe, or rather the remains of a
cafe, for the windows had been demolished and wreckage was
strewn about the door, but the piano within had survived the
ravages. Though it was sadly out of tune, the officer, seated on a
beer keg, was evoking a noise from its battered keys, and to its
accompaniment some soldiers were bawling lustily:

"Deutschland, Deutschland uber Alles!"

The only other music that echoed up along those river cliffs came
from a full-throated Saxon regiment.

Evidently the Belgians from Vise to Liege had not roused the ire of
the invaders as furiously as had the natives on the other side of
Vise. They had as a whole established more or less friendly
relations with the alien hosts.

On the other side of Vise nothing had availed to stay the wrath of
the Germans. Flags of truce made of sheets and pillow-cases and
white petticoats were hung out on poles and broom handles; but
many of these houses before which they hung had been burned to
the ground as had the others.

One Belgian had sought for his own benefit to conciliate the
Germans, and as the Kaiser's troops at the turn of the road came
upon his house, there was the Kaiser's emblem with the double-
headed eagle raised to greet them. The man had nailed it high up
in an apple tree, that they might not mistake his attitude of truckling
disloyalty to his own country, hoping so to save his home. But let it
be said to the credit of the Germans, that they had shown their
contempt for this treachery by razing this house to the ground, and
the poor fellow has lost his earthly treasures along with his soul.

I now came upon some houses that were undamaged and
showed signs of life therein. Below Argenteau there was a vine-
covered cottage before which stood a peasant woman guarding
her little domain. Her weapon was not a rifle but several buckets of
water and a pleasant smile. I ventured to ask how she used the
water. She had no time to explain, for at that very moment a
column of soldiers came slowly plodding down the dusty road. She
motioned me away as though she would free herself from whatever
stigma my presence might incur. A worried look clouded her face,
as though she were saying to herself: "I know that we have been
spared so far by all the brigands which have gone by, but perhaps
here at last is the band that has been appointed to wipe us out."

This water, then, was a peace-offering, a plea for mercy.

As soon as the soldiers looked her way she put a smile on her
face, but it ill concealed her anxiety. She pointed invitingly to her
pails. At the sight of the water a thirsty soldier here and there
would break from the ranks, rush to the pails, take the proffered
cup, and hastily swallow down the cooling draught. Then returning
the cup to the woman, he would rush back again to his place in the
ranks. Perhaps a dozen men removed their helmets, and, extracting
a sponge from the inside, made signs to the woman to pour water
on it; then, replacing the sponge in the helmet, marched on refreshed
and rejoicing.

A mounted officer, spying this little oasis, drew rein and gave the
order to halt. The troopers, very wearied by the long forced march,
flung themselves down upon the grass while the officer's horse
thrust his nose deep into the pail and greedily sucked the water
up. More buckets were being continually brought out. Some of
them must surely have been confiscated from her neighbors who
had fled. The officer, dismounting, sought to hold converse with his
hostess, but even with many signs it proved a failure. They both
laughed heartily together, though her mirth I thought a bit forced.

I do not remember witnessing any finer episode in all the war than
that enacted in this region where the sky was red with flames from
the neighbors' houses, and the lintels red with blood from their
veins. A frail little soul with only spiritual weapons, she fought for
her hearth against a venging host in arms; facing these rough war-
stained men, she forced her trembling body to outward calm and
graciousness. Her nerve was not unappreciated. Not one soldier
returned his cup without a word of thanks and a look of admiration.

Nor did this pluck go unrewarded. Three months later, passing
again through this region as a prisoner, I glimpsed the little cottage
still standing in its plot by the flowing river. I want to visit it again
after the war. It will always be to me a shrine of the spirit's splendid
daring.



Chapter VII

A Duelist From Marburg



A squad of soldiers stretched out on a bank beckoned me to join
them; I did so and at once they begged for news. They were not of
an order of super-intelligence, and informed me that it was the
French they were to fight at Liege. Unaware that England had
entered the lists against Germany, "Belgium" was only a word to
them. I took it upon myself to clear up their minds on these points.
An officer overheard and plainly showed his disapproval of such
missionary activity, yet he could not conceal his own curiosity. I
sought to appease him by volunteering some information.

"Japan," I blandly announced, "is about to join the foes of
Germany." As the truth, that was unassailable; but as diplomacy it
was a wretched fluke.

"You're a fool!" he exploded. "What are you talking about? Japan
is one of our best friends, almost as good as America. Those two
nations will fight for us--not against us. You're verruckt."

That was a severe stricture but in the circumstances I thought best
to overlook the reflection upon my mentality. One of the soldiers
passed some witticism, evidently at my expense; taking advantage
of the outburst of laughter, I made off down the road. They did not
offer to detain me. The officer probably reasoned that my being
there was guarantee enough of my right to be there, taking it for
granted that the regular sentries on the road had passed upon my
credentials. However, I made a very strong resolution hereafter to
be less zealous in my proclamation of the truth, to hold my tongue
and keep walking.

In the midst of my reflections I was startled by a whistle, and,
looking back, saw in the distance a puff of steam on what I
supposed was the wholly abandoned railway, but there, sure
enough, was a train rattling along at a good rate. I could make out
soldiers with guns sitting upon the tender, and presumed that they
were with these instruments directing the operations of some
Belgian engineer and fireman. In a moment more I saw I was
mistaken, for at the throttle was a uniformed soldier, and another
comrade in his gray-green costume was shoveling coal into the
furnace. One of the guards, seeing me plodding on, smilingly
beckoned to me to jump aboard. When I took the cue and made a
move in that direction he winked his eye and significantly tapped
upon the barrel of his gun. The train was loaded with iron rails and
timbers, and I speculated as to their use, but farther down the line I
saw hundreds of men unloading these, making a great noise as
they flung them down the river bank to the water's edge. They
were destined for a big pontoon bridge which these men were, with
thousands of soldiers, throwing across the stream. Ceaselessly
the din and clangor of hammerings rang out over the river. My way
now wound through what was, to all purposes, one German camp,
strung for miles along the Meuse. The soldiers were busy with
domestic duties. Everywhere there was the cheer and rhythm of
well-ordered industry in the open air. In one place thousands of
loaves of black bread were being shifted from wagon to wagon. In
another they were piling a yard high with mountains of grain. The
air was full of the drone of a great mill, humming away at full
speed, while the Belgian fields were yielding up their golden
harvests to the invaders. Apples in great clusters hung down
around the necks of horses tethered in the orchards. With their
keepers they were enjoying a respite from their hard fatiguing
exertions.

Here and there among the groves, or along the wayside, was a
contrivance that looked like a tiny engine; smoke curled out of its
chimney and coals blazed brightly in the grate. They were the
kitchen-wagons, each making in itself a complete, compact
cooking apparatus. Some had immense caldrons with a spoon as
large as a spade. In these the stews, put up in dry form and
guaranteed to keep for twenty years, were being heated. A savory
smell permeated the air and at the sound of the bugle the men
clustered about, each looking happy as he received his dish filled
with steaming rations.

Through this scene the native Belgians moved freely in and out.
Tables had been dragged out into the yard, and around them
officers were sitting eating, drinking, and chatting with the peasant
women who were serving them and with whom they had set up an
entente cordiale. Indeed, these Belgians seemed to be rather
enjoying this interruption in the monotony of their lives, and a few
were making the most of the great adventure. In one case I could
not help believing that a certain strikingly-pretty, self-possessed girl
was not altogether averse to a war which could thus bring to her
side the attentions of such a handsome and gallant set of officers
as were gathered round her. At any rate, she was equal to the
occasion, and over her little court, which rang with laughter, she
presided with a certain rustic dignity and ease.

The ordinary soldier could make himself understood only with
motions and sundry gruntings, and consequently had to content
himself with smoking in the sun or sleeping in the shade.
Everywhere was the atmosphere of physical relaxation after the
long journey. So far did my tension wear off, that I even forgot the
resolution to hold my tongue. Two officers leaning back in their
chairs at a table by the wayside surveyed me intently as I came
along. Rather than wait to be challenged, I thought it best to turn
aside and ask them my usual question, "How does one get to
Liege?"

One of them answered somewhat stiffly, adding, "And where did
you learn your German?" "I was in a German university a few
months," I replied. "Which one?" the officer asked. "Marburg," I
replied.

"Ah!" he said, this time with a smile; "that was mine. I studied
philology there."

We talked together of the fine, rich life there, and I spoke of the
students' duels I had witnessed a few miles out.

"Ah!" he said, uncovering his head and pointing to the scars
across his scalp; "that's where I got these. Perhaps I will get some
deeper ones down in this country," he added with a smile.

Ofttimes in the early morning hours I had trudged out to a
students' inn on the outskirts of Marburg. As many times I had
heard the solemn announcement of the umpire warning all
assembled to disperse as the place might be raided by the police
and all imprisoned. That was a mere formality. No one left. The
umpire forthwith cried "Los," there was a flash of swords in the air
as each duelist sought, and sometimes succeeded, in cutting his
opponent's face into a Hamburg steak. It was a sanguinary affair
and undoubtedly connived at by the officials. When I had asked
what was the point of it all, I was told that it developed Mut and
Enschlossenheit--a fine contempt of pain and blood. That dueling
was not without its contribution to the general program of German
preparedness. Only now the bloodletting was gone at on a
colossal scale.

"Yes, that's where I received these cuts," this young officer said,
"and if I do not get some too deep down here I'll write to you after
the war," he added with another smile. As I gave him my address,
I asked for his.

"It's against all the rules," he answered. "It can't be done. But you
shall hear from me, I assure you," he said with a hearty
handshake.

Only once all the way into Liege did I feel any suspicion directed
towards me. That was when I presented my paper to the next
guard, a morose-looking individual. He looked at it very puzzled,
and put several questions to me. His last one was,

"Where is your home?"

"I come from Boston, Massachusetts," I replied.

Encouraged with my success with the last officers, I ventured to
ask him where he came from.

Looking me straight in the eyes, he replied very pointedly, "Ich
komme aus Deutschland."

Good form among invading armies, I found, precluded the guest
making inquiry into anyone's antecedents. I made a second
resolution to keep my own counsel, as I hurried down the road.

There was no release from his searching eyes until a turn in the
highway put an intervening obstacle between myself and him. But
this relief was short-lived, for no sooner had I rounded the bend
than a cry of "Halt!" shot fear into me. I turned to see a man on a
wheel waving wildly at me. I thought it was a summons back to my
inquisitor, and the end of my journey. Instead, it was my officer
from Marburg, who dismounted, took two letters from his pocket,
and asked me if I would have the kindness to deliver them to the
Feld Post if I got through to Liege. He said that seemed like a God-
given opportunity to lift the load off the hearts of his mother and his
sweetheart back home. Gladly I took them, with his caution not to
drop them into an ordinary letter-box in Liege, but to take them to
the Feld Post or give them to an officer. I went on my way rejoicing
that I could add these letters to my credentials. I now passed down
the long street of Jupilles, which was plastered with notices from
the German authorities guaranteeing observance of the rights of
the citizens of Jupilles, but threatening to visit any overt acts
against the soldiers "with the most terrible reprisals."

I arrived on the outskirts of Liege with the expectation of seeing a
sorry-looking battered city, as the reports which had drifted to the
outer world had made it; but considering that it had been the
center around which the storm of battle had raged for over two
weeks, it showed outwardly but little damage. The chief marks of
war were in the shattered windows; the great pontoon bridge of
barges, which replaced the dynamited structure by the Rue
Leopold, and hundreds of stores and public buildings, flying the
white flag with the Red Cross on it. The walls, too, were fairly white
with placards posted by order of the German burgomaster Klyper.
It was an anachronism to find along the trail of the forty-two
centimeter guns warnings of death to persons harboring courier
pigeons.

Another bill which was just being posted was the announcement of
the war-tax of 50,000,000 francs imposed on the city to pay for the
"administration of civil affairs." That was the first of those war-
levies which leeched the life blood out of Belgium.

The American consul, Heingartner, threw up his hands in
astonishment as I presented myself. No one else had come
through since the beginning of hostilities. He begged for
newspapers but, unfortunately, I had thrown my lot away, not
realizing how completely Liege had been cut off from the outer
world. He related the incidents of that first night entry of German
troops into Liege. The clatter of machine gun bullets sweeping by
the consulate had scarcely ceased when the sounds of gun-butts
battering on the doors accompanied by hoarse shouts of "Auf
Steigen" (get up) reverberated through the street. As the doors
unbolted and swung back, officers peremptorily demanded
quarters for their troops, receiving with contempt the protests of
Heingartner that they were violating precincts under protection of
the American flag.

On the following day, however, a wholehearted apology was
tendered along with an invitation to witness the first firing of the big
guns.

"Put your fingers in your ears, stand on your toes, and open your
mouth," the officer said. There was a terrific concussion, a black
speck up in the heavens, and a ton of metal dropped down out of
the blue, smashing one of the cupolas of the forts to pieces. That
one shot annihilated 260 men. I shuddered as we all do. But it
should not be for the sufferings of the killed. For they did not suffer
at all. They were wiped out as by the snapping of a finger.

The taking of those 260 bodies out of the world, then, was a
painless process. But not so the bringing of these bodies into the
world. That cost an infinite sum of pain and anguish. To bring
these bodies into being 260 mothers went down into the very
Valley of the Shadow of Death. And now in a flash all this life had
been sent crashing into eternity. "Women may not bear arms, but
they bear men, and so furnish the first munitions of war." Thus are
they deeply and directly concerned in the affairs of the state.

The consul with his wife and daughter gave me dinner along with a
cordial welcome. At first he was most appreciative of my exploits.
Then it seemed to dawn on him that possibly other motives than
sheer love of adventure might have spurred me on. The harboring
of a possible spy was too large a risk to run in the uncertain
temper of the Germans. In that light I took on the aspects of a
liability.

The clerks of the two hotels to whom I applied assumed a like
attitude. In fact every one with whom I attempted to hold converse
became coldly aloof. Holding the best of intents, I was treated like
a pariah. The only one whom I could get a raise from was a
bookseller who spoke English. His wrath against the spoilers
overcame his discretion, and he launched out into a bitter tirade
against them. I reminded him that, as civilians, his fellow-
countrymen had undoubtedly been sniping on the German troops.
That was too much.

"What would you do if a thief or a murderer entered your house?"
he exploded. "No matter if he had announced his coming, you
would shoot him, wouldn't you?"

Realizing that he had confided altogether too much to a casual
passerby, he suddenly subsided. The only other comment I could
drag out of him was that of a German officer who had told him that
"one Belgian could fight as good as four Germans." My request for
a lodging-place met with the same evasion from him as from the
others.



Chapter VIII

Thirty-Seven Miles In A Day



"Death if you try to cross the line after nightfall." Thus my soldier
friends picketing the Holland-Belgium frontier had warned me in
the morning. That rendezvous with death was not a roseate
prospect; but there was something just as omnious about the
situation in Liege. To cover the sixteen miles back to the Dutch
border before dark was a big task to tackle with blistered feet. I
knew the sentries along the way returning, but I knew not the
pitfalls for me if I remained in Liege. This drove me to a prompt
decision and straightway I made for the bridge.

It was no prophetically favorable sight that greeted me at the
outset. A Belgian, a mere stripling of twenty or thereabouts, had
just been shot, and the soldiers, rolling him on a stretcher, were
carrying him off. I made so bold as to approach a sentry and ask:
"What has he been doing?" For an answer the sentry pointed to a
nearby notice. In four languages it announced that any one caught
near a telegraph pole or wire in any manner that looked suspicious
to the authorities would be summarily dealt with. They were
carrying him away, poor lad, and the crowd passed on in heedless
fashion, as though already grown accustomed to death.

When the troops at the front are taking lives by the thousands,
those guarding the lines at the rear catch the contagion of killing.
Knowing that this was the temper of some of the sentries, I
speeded along at a rapid rate, daring to make one cut across a
field, and so came to Jupilles without challenge. Stopping to get a
drink there, I realized what a protest my feet were making against
the strain to which I was putting them. Luckily, a peasant's
vegetable cart was passing, and, jumping on, I was congratulating
myself on the relief, when after a few hundred yards the cart
turned up a lane, leaving me on the road again with one franc less
in my pocket.

There were so few soldiers along this stretch that I drove myself
along at a furious pace, slowing up only when I sighted a soldier. I
was very hot, and felt my face blazing red as the natives gazed
after me stalking so fiercely past them. But the great automobiles
plunging by flung up such clouds of dust that my face was being
continually covered by this gray powder. What I most feared was
lest, growing dizzy, I should lose my head and make incoherent
answers.

Faint with the heat I dragged myself into a little wayside place.
Everything wore a dingy air of poverty except the gracious keeper
of the inn. I pointed to my throat. She understood at once my signs
of thirst and quickly produced water and coffee, of which I drank
until I was ashamed.

"How much!" I asked.

She shook her head negatively. I pushed a franc or two across the
table.

"No," she said smilingly but with resolution.

"I can't take it. You need it on your journey. We are all just friends
together now."

So my dust and distress had their compensations. They had
brought me inclusion in that deeper Belgian community of sorrow.

It was apparent that the Germans were going to make this rich
region a great center for their operations and a permanent base of
supply. There must have been ten thousand clean-looking cattle
on the opposite bank of the river; they were raising a great noise
as the soldiers drove their wagons among them, throwing down
the hay and grain. Otherwise, the army had settled down from the
hustling activities of the morning, and the guards had been posted
for the oncoming evening. I knew now that I was progressing at a
good pace because near Wandre I noticed a peasant's wagon
ahead, and soon overtook it. It was carrying eight or nine Belgian
farm-hands, and the horse was making fair time under constant
pressure from the driver.

I did not wish to add an extra burden to the overloaded animal, but
it was no time for the exercise of sentiment. So I held up a two-
franc piece to the driver. He looked at the coin, then he looked at
the horse, and then, picking out the meekest and the most
inoffensive of his free passengers, he bade him get off and
motioned me to take the vacated seat at my right as a first-class
paying passenger. Two francs was the fare, and he seemed highly
gratified with the sum, little realizing that he could just as well have
had two hundred francs for that seat. We stopped once more to
hitch on a small wood-cart, and with that bumping behind us, we
trailed along fearfully slowly. Gladly would I have offered a
generous bounty to have him urge his horse along, but I feared to
excite suspicion by too lavish an outlay of money. So I sat tight
and let my feet dangle off the side, glad of the relief, but feeling
them slowly swelling beneath me.

I was saving my head as well as my feet, for the perpetual
matching of one's wits in encounters with the guards was
continually nerve-frazzling. But now as the cart joggled past, the
guard made a casual survey of us all, taking it for granted that I
was one of the local inhabitants. For this respite from constant
inquisition I was indebted to the dust, grime and sweat that
covered me. It blurred out all distinction between myself and the
peasants, forming a perfect protective coloration.

To slide past so many guards so easily was a net gain indeed.
However, the end of such easy passing came at the edge of
Charrate, where the driver turned into his yard, and I was dumped
down into an encampment of soldiers. Acting on the militarists'
dictum that the best defensive is a strong offensive I pushed my
way boldly into the midst of a group gathered round a pump and
made signs that I desired a drink. At first they did not understand,
or, thinking that I was a native Belgian, they were rather taken
aback by such impertinence; but one soldier handed me his cup
and another pumped it full. I drank it, and, thanking them, started
off. This calm assurance gained me passage past the guard, who
had stood by watching the procedure. In the next six hundred
yards I was brought to a standstill by a sudden "Halt!" At one of the
posts some soldiers were ringed around a prisoner garbed in the
long black regulation cassock of a priest. Though he wore a white
handkerchief around his arm as a badge of a peaceful attitude, he
was held as a spy. His hands and his eyes were twitching
nervously. He seemed to be glad to welcome the addition of my
company into the ranks of the suspects, but he was doomed to
disappointment, for I was passed along. The next guard took me
to his superior officer directly. But the superior officer was the
incarnation of good humor and he was more interested in a little
repast that was being made ready for him than in entering into the
questions involved in my case.

"Search him for weapons," he said casually, while he himself
made a few perfunctory passes over my pockets. No weapons
being found, he said, "Let him go. We've done damage here
enough."

These interruptions were getting to be distressingly frequent. I had
journeyed but a few hundred yards farther when a surly fellow
sprang out from behind a wagon and in a raucous voice bade me
"Stand by." He had an evil glint in his eye, and was ready to go out
of his way hunting trouble. Totally dissatisfied with any answer I
could make, he kept roaring louder and louder. There was no
doubt that he was venting his spleen upon an unprotected and
humble civilian, and that he was thoroughly enjoying seeing me
cringe under his bulldozing. It flashed upon me that he might be a
self-appointed guardian of the way. So when he began to wax still
more arrogant, I simply said, "Take me to your superior officer."

He softened down like a child, and, standing aside, motioned me
along.

I would put nothing past a bully of that stripe. He was capable of
committing any kind of an atrocity. And his sort undoubtedly did.
But what else can one expect from a conscript army, which, as it
puts every man on its roster, must necessarily contain the worst as
well as the best? Draft 1,000 men out of any community in any
country and along with the decent citizens there will be a certain
number of cowards, braggarts and brutes. When occasion offers
they will rob, rape and murder. To such a vicious strain this fellow
belonged.

The soldier whom next I encountered is really typical of the
Gemutlichheit of the men who, on the 20th of August, were
encamped along the Meuse River. I was moving along fast now
under the cover of a hedge which paralleled the road when a voice
called out "Halt!" In a step or two I came to a stop. A large fellow
climbed over the hedge, and, coming on the road, fell, or rather
stumbled over himself, into the ditch. I was afraid he was drunk,
and that this tumble would add vexation to his spirits; but he was
only tired and over-weighted, carrying a big knapsack and a gun, a
number of articles girdled around his waist, along with too much
avoirdupois. It seems that even in this conquered territory the
Germans never relaxed their vigilance. Fully a thousand men
stood guarding the pontoon bridge, and this man, who had gone
out foraging and was returning with a bottle of milk, carried his full
fighting equipment with him, as did all the others. I gave him a
hand and pulled him to his feet, offering to help carry something,
as he was breathing heavily; but he refused my aid. As we walked
along together I gave him my last stick of chocolate, and, being
assured by my demeanor that I was a friend, he showed a real
kindly, fatherly interest in me.

"A bunch of robbers, that's what these Belgians are," he asserted
stoutly. "They charged me a mark for a quart of milk."

I put my question of the morning to him: "Is it dangerous traveling
along here so late?" His answer was anything but reassuring.
"Yes, it is very dangerous."

Then he explained that one of his comrades had been shot by a
Belgian from the bluffs above that very afternoon and that the men
were all very angry. All the Belgians had taken to cover, for the
road was totally cleared of pedestrians from this place on to
Mouland.

"Well, what am I to do?" I asked.

"Go straight ahead. Swerve neither to the right nor left. Be sure
you have no weapons, and stop at once when the guard cries
'Halt!' and you will get through all right. But, above all, be sure to
stand stock still immediately at the challenge. Above all--that," he
insisted.

"But did I not stop still when you cried 'Halt!' a minute ago?" I
asked.

"No," he said; "you took two or three steps before you came to a
perfect stop. See, this is the way to do it." He started off briskly,
and as I cried "Halt!" came to a standstill with marvelous and
sudden precision for a man of his weight.

"Do it that way and cry out, 'Ready, here!' and it will be all right."

I would give a great deal for a vignette of that ponderous fellow
acting as drillmaster to this stray American. The intensity of the
situation rapidly ripened his interest into an affection. I was fretting
to get away, but the amenities demanded a more formal leave-
taking. At last, however, I broke away, bearing with me his paternal
benediction. Far ahead a company of soldiers was forming into
line. Just as I reached the place they came to attention, and at a
gesture from the captain I walked like a royal personage down
past the whole line, feeling hundreds of eyes critically playing upon
me. I suspect that the captain had a sense of humor and was
enjoying the discomfiture he knew I must feel.

Estimating my advance by the signboards, where distances were
marked in kilometers, it appeared that I was getting on with
wretched slowness, considering the efforts I was making. At this
rate, I knew I should never reach the Holland frontier by nightfall,
and from the warnings I had received I dreaded to attempt
crossing after sundown. Sleeping in the fields when the whole
country was infested by soldiers was out of the question, so I
turned to the first open cottage of a peasant and asked him to take
me in for the night. He shook his head emphatically, and gave me
to understand it would be all his life were worth if he did so. So I
rallied my energies for one last effort, and plunged wildly ahead.

The breeze was blowing refreshingly up the river, the road was
clear, and soon I was rewarded by seeing the smoke still curling
up from the ruins of Vise. I looked at my watch, which pointed to
the time for sunset, and yet there was the sun, curiously enough,
some distance up from the horizon. The fact of the matter is that I
had reset my watch at Liege, and clocks there had all been
changed to German time. With a tremendous sense of relief I
discovered that I had a full hour more than I had figured on.

There was ample time now to cover the remaining distance, and
so I rested a moment before what appeared to be a deserted
house. Slowly the shutters were pushed back and a sweet-faced
old lady timorously thrust her head out of an upper window. She
apparently had been hiding away terror-stricken, and there was
something pathetic in the half-trusting way she risked her fate
even now. In a low voice she put some question in the local patois
to me. I could not understand what she was asking, but concluded
that she was seeking comfort and assurance. So I sought to
convey by much gesturing and benevolent smiling that all was
quiet and safe along the Meuse. She may have concluded that I
was some harmless, roaming idiot who could not answer a plain
question; but it was the best I could do, and I walked on to Vise
with the fine feeling of having played the role of comforter.

At Vise I was heartened by two dogs who jumped wildly and
joyously around me. I gathered courage enough here to swerve to
the right, and from the window of a still burning roadside cafe
extracted three wine-glasses as souvenirs of the trip.

Presently I was in Mouland, whose few forlorn walls grouped about
the village church made a pathetic picture as they glowed
luminously in the setting sun. A flock of doves were cooing in the
blackened ruins. Now I was on the home-stretch; and, that there
might be no mistake with my early morning comrades, I cried out
in German, "Here comes a friend!" With broad smiles on their
faces, they were waiting there to receive me.

They made a not unpicturesque group gathered around their
camp-fire. One was plucking a chicken, another making the straw
beds for the night. A third was laboriously at work writing a post-
card. I ventured the information that I had made over fifty
kilometers that day. They punctured my pride somewhat by stating
that that was often the regular stint for German soldiers. But,
pointing to their own well-made hobnailed boots, they added,
"Never in thin rubber soles like yours." After emptying my pockets
of eatables and promising to deliver the post-card, I passed once
more under the great Dutch banner into neutral territory.

My three Holland friends were there with an automobile, and,
greeting me with a hearty "Gute Knabe!" whisked me off to
Maastricht. For the next three days I did all my writing in bed,
nursing a, couple of bandaged feet. I wouldn't have missed that
trip for ten thousand dollars. I wouldn't go through it again for a
hundred thousand.


Part 3
With the War Photographers in Belgium



Chapter IX

How I Was Shot As A German Spy



IN the last days of September, the Belgians moving in and through
Ghent in their rainbow-colored costumes, gave to the city a
distinctively holiday touch. The clatter of cavalry hoofs and the
throb of racing motors rose above the voices of the mobs that
surged along the streets.

Service was normal in the cafes. To the accompaniment of music
and clinking glasses the dress-suited waiter served me a five-
course lunch for two francs. It was uncanny to see this blaze of life
while the city sat under the shadow of a grave disaster. At any
moment the gray German tide might break out of Brussels and
pour its turbid flood of soldiers through these very streets. Even
now a Taube hovered in the sky, and from the skirmish-line an
occasional ambulance rumbled in with its crimsoned load.

I chanced into Gambrinus' cafe and was lost in the babbling sea of
French and Flemish. Above the melee of sounds, however, I
caught a gladdening bit of English. Turning about, I espied a little
group of men whose plain clothes stood out in contrast to the
colored uniforms of officers and soldiers crowded into the cafe.
Wearied of my efforts at conversing in a foreign tongue, I went
over and said: "Do you really speak English!" "Well, rather!"
answered the one who seemed to act as leader of the group. "We
are the only ones now and it will be scarcer still around here in a
few days." "Why!" I asked.

"Because Ghent will be in German hands." This brought an
emphatic denial from one of his confreres who insisted that the
Germans had already reached the end of their rope. A certain
correspondent, joining in the argument, came in for a deal of
banter for taking the war de luxe in a good hotel far from the front.

"What do you know about the war?" they twitted him. "You've
pumped all your best stories out of the refugees ten miles from the
front, after priming them with a glass of beer."

They were a group of young war-photographers to whom danger
was a magnet. Though none of them had yet reached the age of
thirty, they had seen service in all the stirring events of Europe and
even around the globe. Where the clouds lowered and the seas
tossed, there they flocked. Like stormy petrels they rushed to the
center of the swirling world. That was their element. A free-lance, a
representative of the Northcliffe press, and two movie-men
comprised this little group and made an island of English amidst
the general babel.

Like most men who have seen much of the world, they had
ceased to be cynics. When I came to them out of the rain, carrying
no other introduction than a dripping overcoat, they welcomed me
into their company and whiled away the evening with tales of the
Balkan wars.

They were in high spirits over their exploits of the previous day,
when the Germans, withdrawing from Melle on the outskirts of the
city, had left a long row of cottages still burning. As the enemy
troops pulled out the further end of the street, the movie men
came in at the other and caught the pictures of the still blazing
houses. We went down to view them on the screen. To the gentle
throbbing of drums and piano, the citizens of Ghent viewed the
unique spectacle of their own suburbs going up in smoke.

At the end of the show they invited me to fill out their automobile
on the morrow. Nearly every other motor had been commandeered
by the authorities for the "Service Militaire" and bore on the front
the letters "S. M." Our car was by no means in the blue-ribbon
class. It had a hesitating disposition and the authorities, regarding
it as more of a liability than an asset, had passed it over.

But the correspondents counted it a great stroke of fortune to have
any car at all; and, that they might continue to have it, they kept it
at night carefully locked in a room in the hotel.

They had their chauffeur under like supervision. He was one of
their kind, and with the cunning of a diplomat obtained the permit
to buy petrol, most precious of all treasures in the field of war.
Indeed, gasoline, along with courage and discipline, completed the
trinity of success in the military mind.

With the British flag flying at the front, we sped away next morning
on the road to Termonde. At Melle we came upon the blazing
cottages we had seen pictured the night before. Here we
encountered a roving band of Belgian soldiers who were in a free
and careless mood and evinced a ready willingness to put
themselves at our disposal. Under the command of the photographers,
they charged across the fields with fixed bayonets, wriggled up
through the grass, or, standing behind the trenches, blazed away
with their guns at an imaginary enemy. They did some good acting,
grim and serious as death. All except one.

This youth couldn't suppress his sense of humor. He could not, or
would not, keep from laughing, even when he was supposed to be
blowing the head off a Boche. He was properly disciplined and put
out of the game, and we went on with our maneuvers to the
accompaniment of the clicking cameras until the photographers
had gathered in a fine lot of realistic fighting-line pictures.

One of the photographers sat stolidly in the automobile smoking
his cigarette while the others were reaping their harvest.

"Why don't you take these too?" I asked.

"Oh," he replied, "I've been sending in so much of that stuff that I
just got a telegram from my paper saying, 'Pension off that Belgian
regiment which is doing stunts in the trenches.'"

While his little army rested from their maneuvers the Director-in-
Chief turned to me and said:

"Wouldn't you like to have a photograph of yourself in these war-
surroundings, just to take home as a souvenir?"

That appealed to me. After rejecting some commonplace
suggestions, he exclaimed: "I have it. Shot as a German Spy.
There's the wall to stand up against; and we'll pick a crack firing-
squad out of these Belgians. A little bit of all right, eh?"

I acquiesced in the plan and was led over to the wall while a
movie-man whipped out a handkerchief and tied it over my eyes.
The director then took the firing squad in hand. He had but
recently witnessed the execution of a spy where he had almost
burst with a desire to photograph the scene. It had been
excruciating torture to restrain himself. But the experience had
made him feel conversant with the etiquette of shooting a spy, as it
was being done amongst the very best firing-squads. He made it
now stand him in good stead.

"Aim right across the bandage," the director coached them. I could
hear one of the soldiers laughing excitedly as he was warming up
to the rehearsal. It occurred to me that I was reposing a lot of
confidence in a stray band of soldiers. Some one of those
Belgians, gifted with a lively imagination, might get carried away
with the suggestion and act as if I really were a German spy.

"Shoot the blooming blighter in the eye," said one movie man
playfully.

"Bally good idea!" exclaimed the other one approvingly, while one
eager actor realistically clicked his rifle-hammer. That was
altogether too much. I tore the bandage from my eyes, exclaiming:

"It would be a bally good idea to take those cartridges out first."
Some fellow might think his cartridge was blank or try to fire wild,
just as a joke in order to see me jump. I wasn't going to take any
risk and flatly refused to play my part until the cartridges were
ejected. Even when the bandage was readjusted "Didn't-know-it-
was-loaded" stories still were haunting me. In a moment,
however, it was over and I was promised my picture within a
fortnight.

A week later I picked up the London Daily Mirror from a
newsstand. It had the caption:


Belgian Soldiers Shoot a German Spy Caught at Termonde


I opened up the paper and what was my surprise to see a big
spread picture of myself, lined up against that row of Melle
cottages and being shot for the delectation of the British public.
There is the same long raincoat that runs as a motif through all the
other pictures. Underneath it were the words:

"The Belgians have a short, sharp method of dealing with the
Kaiser's rat-hole spies. This one was caught near Termonde and,
after being blindfolded, the firing-squad soon put an end to his
inglorious career."

One would not call it fame exactly, even though I played the star-
role. But it is a source of some satisfaction to have helped a royal
lot of fellows to a first-class scoop. As the "authentic spy-picture of
the war," it has had a broadcast circulation. I have seen it in
publications ranging all the way from The Police Gazette to
"Collier's Photographic History of the European War." In a
university club I once chanced upon a group gathered around this
identical picture. They were discussing the psychology of this "poor
devil" in the moments before he was shot. It was a further source
of satisfaction to step in and arbitrarily contradict all their
conclusions and, having shown them how totally mistaken they
were, proceed to tell them exactly how the victim felt. This high-
handed manner nettled one fellow terribly:

"Not so arbitrary, my friend!" he said. "You haven't any right to be
so devilish cocksure."

"Haven't I?" I replied. "Who has any better right? I happen to be
that identical man!" But that little episode has been of real value to
me. It is said that if one goes through the motions he gets the
emotions. I believe that I have an inkling of how a man feels when
he momentarily expects a volley of cold lead to turn his skull into a
sieve.

That was a very timely picture. It filled a real demand. For spies
were at that time looming distressingly large in the public mind.
The deeds they had done, or were about to do, cast a cold fear
over men by day and haunted them by night. They were in the
Allies' councils, infesting the army, planning destruction to the
navy. Any wild tale got credence, adding its bit to the general
paralysis, and producing a vociferous demand that "something be
done." The people were assured that all culprits were being duly
sentenced and shot. But there was no proof of it. There were no
pictures thereof extant. And that is what the public wanted.

"Give the public what it wants," was the motto of this enterprising
newspaper man. Herewith he supplied tangible evidence on which
they could feast their eyes and soothe their nerves.

As to the ethics of these pictures, they are "true" in that they are
faithful to reality. In this case the photographer acted up to his
professional knowledge and staged the pictures as he had actually
seen the spy shot. They must find their justification on the same
basis as fiction, which is "the art of falsifying facts for the sake of
truth." And who would begrudge them the securing of a few
pictures with comparative ease?

Most of the pictures which the public casually gazes on have been
secured at a price--and a large one, too. The names of these men
who go to the front with cameras, rather than with rifles or pens,
are generally unknown. They are rarely found beneath the
pictures, yet where would be our vivid impression of courage in
daring and of skill in doing, of cunning strategy upon the field of
battle, of wounded soldiers sacrificing for their comrades, if we had
no pictures? A few pictures are faked, but behind most pictures
there is another tale of daring and of strategy, and that is the tale
concerning the man who took it. That very day thrice these same
men risked their lives.

The apparatus loaded in the car, we were off again. Past a few
barricades of paving-stones and wagons, past the burned houses
which marked the place where the Germans had come within five
miles of Ghent, we encountered some uniformed Belgians who
looked quite as dismal and dispirited as the fog which hung above
the fields. They were the famous Guarde Civique of Belgium. Our
Union Jack, flapping in the wind, was very likely quite the most
thrilling spectacle they had seen in a week, and they hailed it with a
cheer and a cry of "Vive l'Angleterre!" (Long live England!) The
Guarde Civique had a rather inglorious time of it. Wearisomely in
their wearisome-looking uniform, they stood for hours on their
guns or marched and counter-marched in dreary patrolling, often
doomed not even to scent the battle from afar off.

Whenever we were called to a halt for the examination of our
passports, these men crowded around and begged for newspapers.
We held up our stock, and they would clamor for the ones with
pictures. The English text was unintelligible to most of them, but
the pictures they could understand, and they bore them away to
enjoy the sight of other soldiers fighting, even if they themselves
were denied that excitement. Our question to them was always
the same, "Where are the Germans?"

Out of the conflicting reports it was hard to tell whether the
Germans were heading this way or not. That they were expected
was shown by the sign-posts whose directions had just been
obliterated by fresh paint--a rather futile operation, because the
Germans had better maps and plans of the region than the
Belgians themselves, maps which showed every by-path, well and
barn. The chauffeur's brother had been shot in his car by the
Germans but a week before, and he didn't relish the idea of thus
flaunting the enemy's flag along a road where some German
scouting party might appear at any moment. The Union Jack had
done good service in getting us easy passage so far, but the driver
was not keen for going further with it.

It was proposed to turn the car around and back it down the road,
as had been done the previous day. Thus the car would be
headed in the home direction, and at sight of the dreaded uniform
we could make a quick leap for safety. At this juncture, however, I
produced a small Stars and Stripes, which the chauffeur hailed
with delight, and we continued our journey now under the aegis of
a neutral flag.

It might have secured temporary safety, but only temporary; for if
the Englishmen with only British passports had fallen into the
hands of the Germans, like their unfortunate kinsmen who did
venture too far into the war zone, they, too, would have had a
chance to cool their ardor in some detention-camp of Germany.
This cheerful prospect was in the mind of these men, for, when we
espied coming around a distant corner two gray-looking men on
horseback, they turned white as the chauffeur cried, "Uhlans!"

It is a question whether the car or our hearts came to a dead
standstill first. Our shock was unnecessary. They proved to be
Belgians, and assured us that the road was clear all the way to
Termonde; and, except for an occasional peasant tilling his fields,
the country-side was quite deserted until at Grembergen we came
upon an unending procession of refugees streaming down the
road. They were all coming out of Termonde. Termonde, after
being taken and retaken, bombarded and burned, was for the
moment neutral territory. A Belgian commandant had allowed the
refugees that morning to return and gather what they might from
among the ruins.

In the early morning, then, they had gone into the city, and now at
high noon they were pouring out, a great procession of the
dispossessed. They came tracking their way to where--God only
knows. All they knew was that in their hearts was set the fear of
Uhlans, and in the sky the smoke and flames of their burning
homesteads. They came laden with their lares and penates,--
mainly dogs, feather beds, and crayon portraits of their ancestors.

Women came carrying on their heads packs which looked like
their entire household paraphernalia. The men were more
unassuming, and, as a rule, carried a package considerably lighter
and comporting more with their superior masculine dignity. I recall
one little woman in particular. She was bearing a burden heavy
enough to send a strong American athlete staggering down to the
ground, while at her side majestically marched her faithful knight,
bearing a bird-cage, and there wasn't any bird in it, either.

Nothing could be more mirth-provoking than that sight; yet,
strangely enough, the most tear-compelling memory of the war is
connected with another bird-cage. Two children rummaging
through their ruined home dug it out of the debris. In it was their
little pet canary. While fire and smoke rolled through the house it
had beat its wings against the bars in vain. Its prison had become
its tomb. Its feathers were but slightly singed, yet it was dead with
that pathetic finality which attaches itself to only a dead bird--its
silver songs and flutterings, once the delight of the children, now
stilled forever.

The photographers had long looked for what they termed a first-
class sob-picture. Here it was par excellent. The larger child stood
stroking the feathers of her pet and murmuring over and over
"Poor Annette," "Poor Annette!" Then the smaller one snuggling
the limp little thing against her neck wept inconsolably.

Instead of seizing their opportunity, the movie man was clearing
his throat while the free lance was busy on what he said was a
cinder in his eye. Yet this very man had brought back from the
Balkan War of 1907 a prime collection of horrors; corpses thrown
into the death-cart with arms and legs sticking out like so much
stubble; the death-cart creeping away with its ghastly load; and the
dumping together of bodies of men and beasts into a pit to be
eaten by the lime. This man who had gone through all this with
good nerve was now touched to tears by two children crying over
their pet canary. There are some things that are too much for the
heart of even a war-photographer.

To give the whole exodus the right tragic setting, one is tempted to
write that tears were streaming down all the faces of the refugees,
but on the contrary, indeed, most of them carried a smile and a
pipe, and trudged stolidly along, much as though bound for a fair.
Some of our pictures show laughing refugees. That may not be
fair, for man is so constituted that the muscles of his face
automatically relax to the click of the camera. But as I recall that
pitiful procession, there was in it very little outward expression of
sorrow.

Undoubtedly there was sadness enough in all their hearts, but
people in Europe have learned to live on short rations; they rarely
indulge in luxuries like weeping, but bear the most unwonted
afflictions as though they were the ordinary fortunes of life. War
has set a new standard for grief. So these victims passed along
the road, but not before the record of their passing was etched for
ever on our moving-picture films. The coming generation will not
have to reconstruct the scene from the colored accounts of the
journalist, but with their own eyes they can see the hegira of the
homeless as it really was.

The resignation of the peasant in the face of the great calamity
was a continual source of amazement to us. Zola in "Le Debacle"
puts into his picture of the battle of Sedan an old peasant plowing
on his farm in the valley. While shells go screaming overhead he
placidly drives his old white horse through the accustomed
furrows. One naturally presumed that this was a dramatic touch of
the great novelist. But similar incidents we saw in this Great War
over and over again.

We were with Consul van Hee one morning early before the
clinging veil of sleep had lifted from our spirits or the mists from the
low-lying meadows. Without warning our car shot through a bank
of fog into a spectacle of medieval splendor--a veritable Field of
the Cloth of Gold, spread out on the green plains of Flanders.

A thousand horses strained at their bridles while their thousand
riders in great fur busbies loomed up almost like giants. A
thousand pennons stirred in the morning air while the sun burning
through the mists glinted on the tips of as many lances. The crack
Belgian cavalry divisions had been gathered here just behind the
firing-lines in readiness for a sortie; the Lancers in their cherry and
green and the Guides in their blue and gold making a blaze of
color.

It was as if in a trance we had been carried back to a tourney of
ancient chivalry--this was before privations and the new drab
uniforms had taken all glamour out of the war. As we gazed upon
the glittering spectacle the order from the commander came to us:

"Back, back out of danger!"

"Forward!" was the charge to the Lancers.

The field-guns rumbled into line and each rider unslung his
carbine. Putting spurs to the horses, the whole line rode past
saluting our Stars and Stripes with a "Vive L'Amerique." Bringing
up the rear two cassocked priests served to give this pageantry a
touch of prophetic grimness.

And yet as the cavalcade swept across the fields thrilling us with its
color and its action, the nearby peasants went on spreading
fertilizer quite as calm and unconcerned as we were exhilarated.

"Stupid," "Clods," "Souls of oxen," we commented, yet a
protagonist of the peasant might point out that it was perhaps as
noble and certainly quite as useful to be held by a passion for the
soil as to be caught by the glamour of men riding out to slaughter.
And Zola puts this in the mind of his peasants.

"Why should I lose a day? Soldiers must fight, but folks must live.
It is for me to keep the corn growing."

Deep down into the soil the peasant strikes his roots. Urban
people can never comprehend when these roots are cut away how
hopelessly-lost and adrift this European peasant in particular
becomes. Wicked as the Great War has seemed to us in its
bearing down upon these innocent folks, yet we can never
understand the cruelty that they have suffered in being uprooted
from the land and sent forth to become beggars and wanderers
upon the highroads of the world.



Chapter X

The Little Belgian Who Said, "You Betcha"



In the fighting around Termonde the bridge over the Scheldt had
been three times blown up and three times reconstructed. Wires
now led to explosives under the bridge on the Termonde side, and
on the side held by the Belgians they led to a table in the room of
the commanding officer. In this table was an electric button. By the
button stood an officer. The entrance of the Germans on that
bridge was the signal for the officer to push that button, and thus to
blow both bridge and Germans into bits.

But the Belgians were taking no chances. If by any mishap that
electric connection should fail them, it would devolve upon the
artillery lined upon the bank to rake the bridge with shrapnel. A
roofed-over trench ran along the river like a levee and bristled with
machine guns whose muzzles were also trained upon the bridge.
Full caissons of ammunition were standing alongside, ready to
feed the guns their death-dealing provender, and in the rear, all
harnessed, were the horses, ready to bring up more caissons.

Though in the full blaze of day, the gunners were standing or
crouching by their guns. The watchers of the night lay stretched
out upon the ground, sleeping in the warm sun after their long,
anxious vigil. Stumbling in among them, I was pulled back by one
of the photographers.

"For heaven's sake," he cried, "don't wake up those men!"

"Why?" I asked.

"Because this picture I'm taking here is to be labeled 'Dead Men in
the Termonde Trenches,' and you would have them starting up as
though the day of resurrection had arrived."

After taking these pictures we were ready to cross the bridge; but
the two sentries posted at this end were not ready to let us. They
were very small men, but very determined, and informed us that
their instructions were to allow no one to pass over without a
permit signed by the General. We produced scores of passes and
passports decorated with stamps and seals and covered with
myriad signatures. They looked these over and said that our
papers were very nice and undoubtedly very numerous, but
ungraciously insisted on that pass signed by the General.

So back we flew to the General at Grembergen. I waited outside
until my companions emerged from the office waving passes.
They were in a gleeful, bantering mood. That evening they
apprised me of the fact that all day I had been traveling as a rich
American with my private photographers securing pictures for the
Belgian Relief Fund.

Leaving our automobile in charge of the chauffeur, we cautiously
made our way over the bridge into the city of Termonde, or what
was once Termonde, for it is difficult to dignify with the name of city
a heap of battered buildings and crumbling brick--an ugly scar
upon the landscape.

I was glad to enter the ruins with my companions instead of alone.
It was not so much fear of stray bullets from a lurking enemy as
the suggestion of the spirits of the slain lingering round these
tombs. For Termonde appeared like one vast tomb. As we first
entered its sepulchral silences we were greatly relieved that the
three specter-like beings who sat huddled up over a distant ruin
turned out not to be ghosts, but natives hopelessly and pathetically
surveying this wreck that was once called home, trying to rake out
of the embers some sort of relic of the past.

A regiment of hungry dogs came prowling up the street, and,
remembering the antics of the past week, they looked at us as if
speculating what new species of crazy human being we were. To
them the world of men must suddenly have gone quite insane, and
if there had been an agitator among them he might well have
asked his fellow-dogs why they had acknowledged a race of
madmen as their masters. Indeed, one could almost detect a
sense of surprise that we didn't use the photographic apparatus to
commit some new outrage. They stayed with us for a while, but at
the sight of our cinema man turning the crank like a machine gun,
they turned and ran wildly down the street.

Emptied bottles looted from winecellars were strung along the
curbs. To some Germans they had been more fatal than the
Belgian bullets, for while one detachment of the German soldiers
had been setting the city blazing with petrol from the petrol flasks,
others had set their insides on fire with liquors from the wine flasks,
and, rolling through the town in drunken orgy, they had fallen
headlong into the canal.

There is a relevant item for those who seek further confirmation as
to the reality of the atrocities in Belgium. If men could get so
drunken and uncontrolled as to commit atrocities on themselves (i.e.,
self-destruction), it is reasonable to infer that they could commit
atrocities on others--and they undoubtedly did. The surprise lies
not in the number of such crimes, but the fewness of them.

Three boys who had somehow managed to crawl across the
bridge were prodding about in the canals with bamboo poles.

"What are you doing?" we inquired.

"Fishing," they responded.

"What for?" we asked.

"Dead Germans," they replied.

"What do you do with them--bury them?"

"No!" they shouted derisively. "We just strip them of what they've
got and shove 'em back in."

Their search for these hapless victims was not motivated by any
sentimental reasons, but simply by their business interest as local
dealers in helmets, buttons and other German mementos.

We took pictures of these young water-ghouls; a picture of the
Hotel de Ville, the calcined walls standing like a shell, the inside a
smoking mass of debris; then a picture of a Belgian mitrailleuse
car, manned by a crowd of young and jaunty dare-devils. It came
swinging into the square, bringing a lot of bicycles from a German
patrol which had just been mowed down outside the city. After
taking a shot at an aeroplane buzzing away at a tremendous
distance overhead, they were off again on another scouting trip.

I got separated from my party and was making my way alone
when a sharp "Hello!" ringing up the street, startled me. I turned to
see, not one of the photographers, but a fully-armed, though
somewhat diminutive, soldier in Belgian uniform waving his hand
at me.

"Hello!" he shouted; "are you an American?"

I could hardly believe my eyes or my ears, but managed to shout
back, "Yes, yes, I'm an American. Are you?" I asked dubiously.

"You betcha I'm a 'Merican," he replied, coming quickly up to me. It
was my turn again.

"What are you doing down here--fighting?" I put in fatuously.

"What the hell you think I'm doing?" he rejoined.

I now felt quite sure that he was an American. Further offerings of
similar "language of small variety but great strength" testified to his
sojourn in the States.

"You betcha I'm a 'Merican," he reiterated, "though I was over
there but two years. My name is August Bidden. I worked in a
lumber-mill in Wagner, Wisconsin. Came back here to visit my
family. The war broke out. I was a Reservist and joined my
regiment. I'm here on scout-duty. Got to find out when the
Germans come back into the city."

"Been in any battles?"

"You betcha," he replied.

"Kill any Germans?"

"You betcha."

"Did you enjoy it?"

"You betcha."

"Any around here now?"

"You betcha. A lot of them down in the bushes over the brook."
Then his eyes flashed a sudden fire as though an inspired idea
had struck him. "There's no superior officer around," he exclaimed
confidentially. "Come right down with me and you can take a pot-
shot at the damned Boches with my rifle." He said it with the air of
a man offering a rare treat to his best friend. I felt that it devolved
on me to exhibit a proper zest for this little shooting-party and save
my reputation without risking my skin. So I said eagerly:

"Now are you dead sure that the Germans are down there!"
implying that I couldn't afford any time unless the shooting was
good.

"You betcha they're down there," was his disconcerting reply. "You
can see their green-gray uniforms. I counted sixteen or seventeen
of them."

The thought of that sixteen-to-one shot made my cheeks take on
the color of the German uniforms. The naked truth was my last
resort. It was the only thing that could prevent my zealous friend
from dragging me forcibly down to the brookside. He may have
heard the chattering of my teeth. At any rate he looked up and
exclaimed, "What's the matter? You 'fraid?"

I replied without any hesitation, "You betcha."

The happy arrival of the photographer at this juncture, however,
redeemed my fallen reputation; for a soldier is always peculiarly
amenable to the charms of the camera and is even willing to quit
fighting to get his picture taken.

This photograph happens to hit off our little episode exactly. It
shows Ridden serene, smiling, confident, and my sort of evasive
hangdog look as though, in popular parlance, I had just "got one
put over me."

Then, while seated on a battered wall, Ridden poured out his story
of the last two months of hardships and horrors. It was the single
individual's share in the terrific gruelling that the Belgian army had
received while it was beaten back from the eastern frontier to its
stand on the river Scheldt. Always being promised aid by the Allies
if they would hold out just a little longer, they were led again and
again frantically to pit their puny strength against the overwhelming
tide out of the North. For the moment they would stay it. Eagerly
they would listen for sounds of approaching help, asking every
stranger when it was coming. It never came. From position to
position they fell back, stubbornly fighting, a flaming pillar of sparks
and clouds of smoke marking the path of their retreat.

Though smashed and broken that army was never crushed. Its
spirit was incarnate in this cheerful and undaunted Ridden. He
recounted his privations as nonchalantly as if it was just the way
that he had planned to spend his holiday. As a farewell token he
presented me with an epaulet from an officer he had killed, and a
pin from a German woman spy he had captured.

"Be sure to visit me when you get back to America," I cried out
down the street to him.

He stood waving his hand in farewell as in greeting, the same
happy ingenuous look upon his face and sending after me in reply
the same old confident standby, "You betcha." But I do not cherish
a great hope of ever seeing Ridden again. The chances are that,
like most of the Belgian army, he is no longer treading the gray
streets of those demolished cities, but whatever golden streets
there may be in the City Celestial. War is race suicide. It kills the
best and leaves behind the undermuscled and the under-brained
to propagate the species.

Striking farther into the heart of the ruins, we beheld in a section all
burned and shattered to the ground a building which stood straight
up like a cliff intact and undamaged amidst the general wreckage.
As we stumbled over the debris, imagine our surprise when an old
lady of about seventy thrust her head out of a basement window.
She was the owner of the house, and while the city had been the
fighting ground for the armies she had, through it all, bravely stuck
to her home.

"I was born here, I have always lived here, and I am going to die
here," she said, with a look of pride upon her kindly face.

Madame Callebaut-Ringoot was her name. During the
bombardment of the town she had retired to the cellar; but when
the Germans entered to burn the city she stood there at the door
watching the flames rolling up from the warehouses and factories
in the distance. Nearer and nearer came the billowing tide of fire. A
fountain of sparks shooting up from a house a few hundred yards
away marked the advance of the firing squad into her street, but
she never wavered. Down the street came the spoilers, relentless,
ruthless, and remorseless, sparing nothing. They came like priests
of the nether world, anointing each house with oil from the petrol
flasks and with a firebrand dedicating it to the flames. Every one,
panic-stricken, fled before them. Every one but this old lady, who
stood there bidding defiance to all the Kaiser's horses and all the
Kaiser's men.

"I saw them smashing in the door of the house across the way,"
said Madame Callebaut, "and when the flames burst forth they
rushed over here, and I fell down on my knees before them, crying
out, 'For the love of Heaven, spare an old woman's house!'"

It must have been a dramatic, soul-curdling sight, with the wail of
the woman rising above the crashing walls and the roaring flames.
And it must have been effective pleading to stop men in their wild
rush lusting to destroy. But Madame Callebaut was endowed with
powerful emotions. Carried away in her recital of the events, she
fell down on her knees before me, wringing her hands and
pleading so piteously that I felt for a moment as if I were a fiendish
Teuton with a firebrand about to set the old lady's house afire. I
can understand how the wildest men capitulated to such pleadings,
and how they came down the steps to write, in big, clear words,

"NICHT ANBRENNEN"
(Do not set fire)

Only they unwittingly wrote it upon her neighbor's walls, thus
saving both houses.

How much a savior of other homes Madame Callebaut had been
Termonde will never know. Certainly she made the firing squad
first pause in the wild debauch of destruction. For frequently now
an undamaged house stood with the words chalked on its front,
"Only harmless old woman lives here; do not burn down."
Underneath were the numbers and initials of the particular corps of
the Kaiser's Imperial Army. Often the flames had committed Lese
majeste by leaping onto the forbidden house, and there amidst the
charred ruins stood a door or a wall bearing the mocking
inscription, "Nicht Anbrennen."

Another house, belonging to Madame Louise Bal, bore the words,
"Protected; Gute alte Leute hier" (good old people here). A great
shell from a distant battery had totally disregarded this sign and
had torn through the parlor, exploding in the back yard, ripping the
clothes from the line, but touching neither of the inmates. As the
Chinese ambassador pertinently remarked when reassured by
Whitlock that the Germans would not bombard the embassies,
"Ah! but a cannon has no eyes."

These houses stood up like lone survivors above the wreckage
wrought by fire and shell, and by contrast served to emphasize the
dismal havoc everywhere. "So this was once a city," one mused to
himself; "and these streets, now sounding with the footfalls of
some returning sentry, did they once echo with the roar of traffic?
And those demolished shops, were they once filled with the babble
of the traders? Over yonder in that structure, which looks so much
like a church, did the faithful once come to pray and to worship
God? Can it be that these courtyards, now held in the thrall of
death-like silence, once rang to the laughter of the little children?"
One said to himself, "Surely this is some wild dream. Wake up."

But hardly a dream, for here were the ruins of a real city, and fresh
ruins, too. Still curling up from the church was smoke from the
burning rafters, and over there the hungry dogs, and the stragglers
mournfully digging something out of the ruins. However preposterous
it seemed, none the less it was a city that yesterday ran high with
the tide of human life. And thousands of people, when they recall
the lights and shadows, the pains and raptures, which make up the
thing we call life, will think of Termonde. Thousands of people,
when they think of home and all the tender memories that cluster
round that word, say "Termonde."' And now where Termonde was
there is a big black ragged spot--an ugly gaping wound in the
landscape. There are a score of other wounds like that.

There are thousands of them.

There is one bleeding in every Belgian heart.

The sight of their desolated cities cut the soldiers to the quick.

They turned the names of those cities into battle cries. Shouting
"Remember Termonde and Louvain," these Belgians sprang from
the trenches and like wild men flung themselves upon the foe.



Chapter XI

Atrocities And The Socialist



"With these sentries holding us up at every cross-roads, there is no
use trying to get to Antwerp," said the free-lance.

"Yes, there is," retorted the chauffeur. "Watch me the next time."
He beckoned to the first sentry barring the way, and, leaning over,
whispered into the man's ear a single word. The sentry saluted,
and, stepping to one side, motioned us on in a manner almost
deferential. We had hardly been compelled to stop.

After our tedious delays this was quite exhilarating. How our
chauffeur obtained the password we did not know, nor did we
challenge the inclusion of 8 francs extra in his memorandum of
expenses. As indicated, he was a man of parts. The magic word of
the day, "France," now opened every gate to us.

Behind the Antwerp fortifications the Belgian sappers and miners
were on an organized rampage of destruction. On a wide zone
every house, windmill and church was either going up in flames or
being hammered level to the ground.

We came along as the oil was applied to an old house and saw
the flames go crackling up through the rafters. The black smoke
curled away across the wasted land and the fire glowed upon the
stolid faces of the soldiers and the trembling woman who owned it.
To her it was a funeral pyre. Her home endeared by lifetime
memories was being offered up on the altar of Liberty and
Independence. Starting with the invaders on the western frontier,
clear through to Antwerp by the sea, a wild black swathe had been
burnt.

By such drastic methods space was cleared for the guns in the
Belgian forts, and to the advancing besiegers no protection would
be offered from the raking fire. The heart of a steel-stock owner
would have rejoiced to see the maze of wire entanglement that ran
everywhere. In one place a tomato-field had been wired; the green
vines, laden with their rich red fruit, were intertwined with the steel
vines bearing their vicious blood-drawing barbs whose intent was
to make the red field redder still. We had just passed a gang
digging man-holes and spitting them with stakes, when an officer
cried:

"Stop! No further passage here. You must turn back."

"Why?" we asked protestingly.

"The entire road is being mined," he replied.

Even as he spoke we could see a liquid explosive being poured
into a sort of cup, and electric wires connected. The officer
pictured to us a regiment of soldiers advancing, with the full tide of
life running in their veins, laughing and singing as they marched in
the smiling sun. Suddenly the road rocks and hell heaves up
beneath their feet; bodies are blown into the air and rained back to
the earth in tiny fragments of human flesh; while brains are
spattered over the ground, and every crevice runs a rivulet of
blood. He sketched this in excellent English, adding:

"A magnificent climax for Christian civilzation, eh! And that's my
business. But what else can one do?"

For the task of setting this colossal stage for death, the entire
peasant population had been mobilized to assist the soldiers. In
self-defense Belgium was thus obliged to drive the dagger deep
into her own bosom. It seemed indeed as if she suffered as much
at her own hands, as at the hands of the enemy. To arrest the
advancing scourge she impressed into her service dynamite, fire
and flood. I saw the sluice-gates lifted and meadows which had
been waving with the golden grain of autumn now turned into silver
lakes. So suddenly had the waters covered the land that hay-
cocks bobbed upon the top of the flood, and peasants went out in
boats to dredge for the beets and turnips which lay beneath the
waters.

The roads were inundated and so we ran along an embankment
which, like a levee, lifted itself above the water wastes. The sun,
sinking down behind the flaming poplars in the west, was touching
the rippling surface into myriad colors. It was like a trip through
Fairyland, or it would have been, were not men on all sides busy
preparing for the bloody shambles.

After these elaborate defensive works the Belgians laughed at any
one taking Antwerp, the impregnable fortress of Western Europe.
The Germans laughed, too. But it was the bass, hollow laugh of
their great guns placed ten to twenty miles away, and pouring into
the city such a hurricane of shell and shrapnel that they forced its
evacuation by the British and the Belgians. Through this vast array
of works which the reception committee had designed for their
slaughter, the Germans came marching in as if on dress parade.

A few shells were even now crashing through Malines and had
played havoc with the carillon in the cathedral tower. During a lull
in the bombardment we climbed a stairway of the belfry where,
above us, balanced great stones which a slight jar would send
tumbling down. On and up we passed vents and jagged holes
which had been ripped through these massive walls as if they
were made of paper. It was enough to carry the weight of one's
somber reflections without the addition of cheerful queries of the
movie-man as to "how would you feel if the German gunners
suddenly turned loose again?"

We gathered in a deal of stone ornaments that had been shot
down and struggled with a load of them to our car. Later they
became a weight upon our conscience. When Cardinal Mercier
starts the rebuilding of his cathedral, we might surprise him with
the return of a considerable portion thereof. To fetch these
souvenirs through to England, we were compelled to resort to all
the tricks of a gang of smugglers.

I made also a first rate collection of German posters. By day I
observed the location of these placards, announcing certain death
to those who "sniped on German troops," "harbored courier-
pigeons," or "destroyed" these self-same posters.

At night with trembling hands I laid cold compresses on them until
the adhering paste gave way; then, tucking the wet sheets
beneath my coat, I stole back to safety. At last in England I feasted
my eyes on the precious documents, dreaming of the time when
posterity should rejoice in the possession of these posters relating
to the German overlordship of Belgium, and give thanks to the
courage of their collector. Unfortunately, their stained and torn
appearance grated on the aesthetic sensibilities of the maid.

"Where are they?" I demanded on my return to my room one time,
as I missed them.

"Those nasty papers?" she inquired naively.

"Those priceless souvenirs," I returned severely. She did not
comprehend, but with a most aggravatingly sweet expression said:

"They were so dirty, sir, I burned them all up."

She couldn't understand why I rewarded her with something akin
to a fit of apoplexy, instead of a liberal tip. That day was a red-letter
one for our photographers. They paid the price in the risks which
constantly strained their nerves. But in it they garnered vastly more
than in the fortnight they had hugged safety.

But, despite all our efforts, there was one object that we were after
that we never did attain. That was a first-class atrocity picture.
There were atrocity stories in endless variety, but not one that the
camera could authenticate. People were growing chary of verbal
assurances of these horrors; they yearned for some photographic
proof, and we yearned to furnish it.

"What features are you looking for?" was the question invariably
put to us on discovering our cameras.

"Children with their hands cut off," we replied. "Are there any
around here?"

"Oh, yes! Hundreds of them," was the invariable assurance.

"Yes, but all we want is one--just one in flesh and bone. Where
can we find that?"

The answer was ever the same. "In the hospital at the rear, or at
the front." "Back in such-and-such a village," etc. Always
somewhere else; never where we were.

Let no one attempt to gloss the cruelties perpetrated in Belgium.
My individual wish is to see them pictured as crimson as possible,
that men may the fiercer revolt against the shame and horror of
this red butchery called war. But this is a record of just one
observer's reactions and experiences in the war zone. After weeks
in this contested ground, the word "atrocity" now calls up to my
mind hardly anything I saw in Belgium, but always the savageries I
have witnessed at home in America.

For example, the organized frightfulness that I once witnessed in
Boston. Around the strikers picketing a factory were the police in
full force and a gang of thugs. Suddenly at the signal of a shrill
whistle, sticks were drawn from under coats and, right and left,
men were felled to the cobblestones. After a running fight a score
were stretched out unconscious, upon the square. As blood
poured out of the gashes, like tigers intoxicated by the sight and
smell thereof, the assailants became frenzied, kicking and beating
their victims, already insensible. In a trice the beasts within had
been unleashed.

If in normal times men can lay aside every semblance of restraint
and decency and turn into raging fiends, how much greater cause
is there for such a transformation to be wrought under the stress of
war when, by government decree, the sixth commandment is
suspended and killing has become glorified. At any rate my
experiences in America make credible the tales told in Belgium.

But there are no pictures of these outrages such as the Germans
secured after the Russian drive into their country early in the war.
Here are windrows of mutilated Germans with gouged eyes and
mangled limbs, attesting to that same senseless bestial ferocity
which lies beneath the veneer.

All the photographers were fired with desire to make a similar
picture in Belgium, yet though we raced here and there, and
everywhere that rumor led us, we found it but a futile chase.

Through the Great Hall in Ghent there poured 100,000 refugees.
Here we pleaded how absolutely imperative it was that we should
obtain an atrocity picture. The daughter of the burgomaster, who
was in charge, understood our plight and promised to do her best.
But out of the vast concourse she was able to uncover but one
case that could possibly do service as an atrocity.

It was that of a blind peasant woman with her six children. The
photographers told her to smile, but she didn't, nor did the older
children; they had suffered too horribly to make smiling easy.
When the Germans entered the village the mother was in bed with
her day-old baby. Her husband was seized and, with the other
men, marched away, as the practice was at that period of the
invasion, for some unaccountable reason. With the roof blazing
over her head, she was compelled to arise from her bed and drag
herself for miles before she found a refuge. I related this to a
German later and he said: "Oh, well, there are plenty of peasant
women in the Fatherland who are hard at work in the fields three
days after the birth of their child."

The Hall filled with women wailing for children, furnished
heartrending sights, but no victim bore such physical marks as the
most vivid imagination could construe into an atrocity.

"I can't explain why we don't get a picture," said the free lance.
"Enough deviltry has been done. I can't see why some of the stuff
doesn't come through to us."

"Simply because the Germans are not fools," replied the movie-
man; "when they mutilate a victim, they go through with it to the
finish. They take care not to let telltales go straggling out to damn
them."

Some one proposed that the only way to get a first-class atrocity
picture was to fake it. It was a big temptation, and a fine field for
the exercise of their inventive genius. But on this issue the chorus
of dissent was most emphatic.

The nearest that I came to an atrocity was when in a car with Van
Hee, the American vice-consul at Ghent. Van Hee was a man of
laconic speech and direct action. I told him what Lethbridge, the
British consul, had told me; viz., that the citizens of Ghent must
forthwith erect a statue of Van Hee in gold to commemorate his
priceless services. "The gold idea appeals to me, all right," said
Van Hee, "but why put it in a statue!" He routed me out at five one
morning to tell me that I could go through the German lines with
Mr. Fletcher into Brussels. We left the Belgian Army cheering the
Stars and Stripes, and came to the outpost of sharpshooters.
Crouching behind a barricade, they were looking down the road.
They didn't know whether the Germans were half a mile, two miles,
or five miles down that road.

Into that uncertain No-Man's-Land we drove with only our honking
to disturb the silence, while our minds kept growing specters of
Uhlans the size of Goliath. Fletcher and I kept up a hectic
conversation upon the flora and fauna of the country. But Van
Hee, being of strong nerves, always gleefully brought the talk back
to Uhlans.

"How can you tell an Uhlan?" I faltered.

"If you see a big gray man on horseback, with a long lance,
spearing children," said Van Hee, "why, that's an Uhlan."

Turning a sharp corner, we ran straight ahead into a Belgian
bicycle division--scouting in this uncertain zone. In a flash they
were off their wheels, rifles at their shoulders and fingers on
triggers.

Two boys, gasping with fear, thrust their guns up into our very
faces. In our gray coats we had been taken for a party of German
officers. They were positive that a peasant was hanging in a barn
not far away. But we insisted that our nerves had had enough for
the day. Even Van Hee was willing to let the conversation drift
back to flowers and birds. We drove along in chastened spirit until
hailed by the German outpost, about five miles from where we had
left the Belgians. No-Man's-Land was wide in those days.

But what is it that really constitutes an atrocity? In a refugee shed,
sleeping on the straw, we found an old woman of 88. All that was
left to her was her shawl, her dress, and the faint hope of seeing
two sons for whom she wept. Extreme old age is pitiful in itself.
With homelessness it is tragic. But such homeless old age as this,
with scarce one flickering ray of hope, is double-distilled tragedy. If
some marauder had bayoneted her, and she had died therefrom, it
would have been a kindly release from all the anguish that the
future now held in store for her. Of course that merciful act would
have constituted an atrocity, because it would have been a breach
in the rules of the war game.

But in focusing our attention upon the violations of the code, we
are apt to forget the greater atrocity of the violation of Belgium, and
the whole hideous atrocity of the great war. That is getting things
out of proportion, for the sufferings entailed by these technical
atrocities are infinitesimal alongside of those resulting from the war
itself.

Another point has been quite overlooked. In recounting the
atrocities wrought by Prussian Imperialism, no mention is made of
those that it has committed upon its own people. And yet at any
rate a few Germans suffered in the claws of the German eagle
quite as cruelly as any Belgians did. One fine morning in
September three Germans came careening into Ghent in a great
motor car. They were dazed to find no evidence of their army
which they supposed was in possession. Before the men became
aware of their mistake, a Belgian mitrailleuse poured a stream of
lead into their midst, killing two of them outright. The third German,
with a ball in his neck, was rescued by Van Hee and placed under
the protection of the American flag.

Incidentally that summary action, followed by a quick visit to the
German general in his camp on the outskirts, saved the city. That
is a long story. It is told in Alexander Powell's "Fighting in
Flanders," but it suffices here to state that by a pact between the
Belgian burgomaster of Ghent and the German commandant it
was understood that the wounded man was not to be considered a
prisoner, but under the jurisdiction of the American Consulate.

A week after this incident Van Hee paid his first visit to this
wounded man in the Belgian hospital. He was an honest fellow of
about forty--the type of working-man who had aspired to nothing
beyond a chance to toil and raise a family for the Fatherland.
Weltpolitik, with its vaunting boast of "World-power or Downfall,"
was meaningless to him and his comrades gathered in the beer-
gardens on a Sunday.

Suddenly out of this quiet, uneventful life he was called to the
colors and sent killing and burning through the Belgian villages.
His officers had told him that it would be a sorry thing for any
German soldier to be captured, for these Belgians, maddened by
the pillage of their country, would take a terrible revenge upon any
luckless wretches that fell into their hands. Now, more suddenly
than anything else had ever happened in his life, a bullet had
stabbed him in the throat and he found himself a prisoner at the
mercy of these dreaded Belgians.

"Why are they tending me so carefully during these last seven
days?" "Are they getting me ready for the torturing?" "Are they
making me well in order that I may suffer all the more?" Grim
speculation of that kind must have been running through his
simple mind. For when we opened the door of his room, he slunk
cowering over to his bed, staring at us as if we were inquisitors
about to lead him away to the torture chamber, there to suffer
vicariously for all the crimes of the German army.

His body, already shrunken by overwork, visibly quivered before
us, the perspiration beading on his ashen face.

We had come to apprise him of his present status as a citizen
under the protectorate of America.

Van Hee approached the subject casually with the remark: "You
see, you are not a Frenchman!"

"No, I am not a Frenchman," the quailing fellow mechanically
repeated.

"And you are not a Belgian," resumed Van Hee.

He was not quite sure about disclaiming that, but he saw what was
expected of him. So he faltered: "No, I am not a Belgian." "And
you are not an Englishman, eh?" According to formula he
answered: "No, I am not an Englishman!" but I sensed a bit more
of emphasis in the disavowal of any English taint to his blood.

Van Hee was taking this process of elimination in order to clear the
field so that his man could grasp the fact that he was to all intents
an American, and at last he said:

"No longer are you a German either."

The poor fellow was in deep seas, and breathing hard. Everything
about him proclaimed the fact that he was a German, even to his
field-gray uniform, and he knew it. But he did not venture to
contradict Van Hee, and he whispered hoarsely: "No, I am not a
German either."

He was completely demoralized, a picture of utter desolation.

"If you are not German, or Belgian, or French, or English, what are
you then?"

The poor fellow whimpered: "0 Gott! I don't know what I am."

"I'll tell you what you are. You're an American!" exclaimed Van Hee
with great gusto. "That's what you are--an American! Get that? An
American!"

"Ja, ja ich bin ein Amerikaner!" he eagerly cried ("Yes, yes, I am an
American!"), relieved to find himself no longer a man without a
country. Had he been told that he was a Hindoo, or an Eskimo, he
would have acquiesced as obediently.

But when he was shown an American flag and it began to dawn on
him that he had nothing more to fear from his captors, his
tenseness relaxed. And when Van Hee said: "As the American
consul I shall do what I can for you. What is it you want the most?"
a light shone in the German's eyes and he replied:

"I want to go home. I want to see my wife and children."

"I thought you came down here because you wanted to see the
war," said Van Hee.

"War!" he gasped, and putting hands up to his eyes as if to shut
out some awful sights, he began muttering incoherently about
"Louvain," "children screaming," "blood all over his breast,"
repeating constantly "schrecklich, schrecklich." "I don't want to see
any more war. I want to see my wife and my three children!"

"The big guns! Do you hear them?" he said.

"I don't want to hear them," he answered, shaking his head.

"They're killing you Germans by the thousands down there,"
announced Van Hee. "I should think you would want to get out and
kill the French and the English."

"I don't want to kill anybody," he repeated. "I never did want to kill
anybody. I only want to go home." As we left him he was repeating
a refrain: "I want to go home"--"Schrecklich, schrecklich." "I never
did want to kill anybody."

Every instinct in that man's soul was against the murder he had
been set to do. His conscience had been crucified. A ruthless
power had invaded his domain, dragged him from his hearthside,
placed a gun in his hands and said to him: "Kill!"

Perhaps before the war, as he had drilled along the German
roads, he had made some feeble protest. But then war seemed so
unreal and so far away; now the horror of it was in his soul.

A few days later Van Hee was obliged to return him to the German
lines. Again he was marched out to the shambles to take up the
killings against which his whole nature was in rebellion. No slave
ever went whipped to his task with greater loathing.

Once I saw slowly plodding back into Brussels a long gray line of
soldiers; the sky, too, was gray and a gray weariness had settled
down upon the spirits of these troops returning from the
destruction of a village. I was standing by the roadside holding in
my arms a refugee baby.

Its attention was caught by an officer on horseback and in baby
fashion it began waving its hand at him. Arrested by this sudden
gleam of human sunshine the stern features of the officer relaxed
into a smile. Forgetting for the moment his dignity he waved his
hand at the baby in a return salute, turning his face away from his
men that they might not see the tears in his eyes. But we could
see them.

Perhaps through those tears he saw the mirage of his own
fireside. Perhaps for the moment his homing spirit rested there,
and it was only the body from which the soul had fled that was in
the saddle here before us riding through a hostile land. Perhaps
more powerfully than the fulminations of any orator had this
greeting of a little child operated to smite him with the senseless
folly of this war. Who knows but that right then there came flashing
into his mind the thought: "Why not be done with this cruel
orphaning of Belgian babies, this burning down of their homes and
turning them adrift upon the world?"

Brutalizing as may be the effect of militarism in action, fortified as
its devotees may be by all the iron ethics of its code, I cannot help
but believe that here again the ever-recurring miracle of
repentance and regeneration had been wrought by the grace of a
baby's smile; that again this stern-visaged officer had become just
a human being longing for peace and home, revolting against
laying waste the peace and homes of his fellowmen. But to what
avail? All things would conspire to make him conform and stifle the
revolt within. How could he escape from the toils in which he was
held? Next morrow or next week he would again be in the saddle
riding out to destruction.

The irony of history again! It was this German folk who said,
centuries ago: "No religious authority shall invade the sacred
precincts of the soul and compel men to act counter to their
deepest convictions." In a costly struggle the fetters of the church
were broken. But now a new iron despotism is riveted upon them.
The great state has become the keeper of men's consciences.
The dragooning of the soul goes on just the same. Only the power
to do it has been transferred from the priests to the officers of the
state. To compel men to kill when their whole beings cry out
against it, is an atrocity upon the souls of men as real as any
committed upon the bodies of the Belgians.

Amidst the wild exploits and wilder rumors of those crucial days
when Belgium was the central figure in the world-war, the
calmness of the natives was a source of constant wonder. In the
regions where the Germans had not yet come they went on with
their accustomed round of eating, drinking and trading with a sang
froid that was distressing to the fevered outsider.

Yet beneath this surface calmness and gayety ran a smoldering
hate, of whose presence one never dreamed, unless he saw it
shoot out in an ugly flare.

I saw this at Antwerp when about 300 of us had been herded into
one of the great halls. As one by one the suspects came up to the
exit gate to be overhauled by the examiners, I thought that there
never could be such a complacent, dead-souled crowd as this.
They had dully waited for two hours with scarce a murmur.

The most pathetic weather-worn old man--a farm drudge, I
surmise--came up to the exit. All I heard were the words of the
officer: "You speak German, eh?"

At a flash this dead throng became an infuriated blood-thirsting
mob. "Allemand! Espion!" it shouted, swinging forward until the
gates sagged. "Kill him! Kill the damned German!"

The mob would have put its own demand into execution but for the
soldiers, who flung the poor quivering fellow into one corner and
pushed back the Belgians, eager to trample him to the station
floor.

There was the girl Yvonne, who, while the color was mounting to
her pretty face, informed us that she "wanted the soldiers to keel
every German in the world. No," she added, her dark eyes
snapping fire, "I want them to leave just one. The last one I shall
keel myself!"

Yet, every example of Belgian ferocity towards the spoilers one
could match with ten of Belgian magnanimity. We obtained a
picture of Max Crepin, carbinier voluntaire, in which he looks
seventy years of age--he was really seventeen. At the battle of
Melle he had fallen into the hands of the Germans after a bullet
had passed clean through both cheeks. In their retreat the
Germans had left Max in the bushes, and he was now safe with
his friends.

He could not speak, but the first thing he wrote in the little book the
nurse handed him was, "The Germans were very kind to me."
There was a line about his father and mother; then "We had to lie
flat in the bushes for two days. One German took off his coat and
wrapped it around me, though he was cold himself. Another
German gave me all the water in his canteen." Then came a line
about a friend, and finally: "The Germans were very kind to me." I
fear that Max would not rank high among the haters.

Whenever passion swept and tempted to join their ranks, the
figure of Gremberg comes looming up to rebuke me. He was a
common soldier whose camaraderie I enjoyed for ten days during
the skirmishing before Antwerp. In him the whole tragedy of
Belgium was incarnated. He had lost his two brothers; they had
gone down before the German bullets. He had lost his home; it
had gone up in flames from the German torch. He had lost his
country; it had been submerged beneath the gray horde out of the
north.

"Why is it, Gremberg," I asked, "you never rage against the
Boches? I should think you would delight to lay your hands on
every German and tear him into bits. Yet you don't seem to feel
that way."

"No, I don't," he answered. "For if I had been born a Boche, I know
that I would act just like any Boche. I would do just as I was
ordered to do."

"But the men who do the ordering, the officers and the military
caste, the whole Prussian outfit?"

"Well, I have it in for that crowd," Gremberg replied, "but, you see,
I'm a Socialist, and I know they can't help it. They get their orders
from the capitalists."

The capitalists, he explained, were likewise caught in the vicious
toils of the system and could act no differently. Bayonet in hand,
he expounded the whole Marxian philosophy as he had learned it
at the Voorhuit in Ghent. The capitalists of Germany were racing
with the capitalists of England for the markets of the world, so they
couldn't help being pitted against each other. The war was simply
the transference of the conflict from the industrial to the military
plane, and Belgium, the ancient cockpit of Europe, was again the
battlefield.

He emphasized each point by poking me with his bayonet. As an
instrument of argument it is most persuasive. When I was a bit
dense, he would press harder until I saw the light. Then he would
pass on to the next point.

I told him that I had been to Humanite's office in Paris after Jaures
was shot, and the editors, pointing to a great pile of anti-war
posters, explained that so quickly had the mobilization been
accomplished, that there had been no time to affix these to the
walls.

"The French Socialists had some excuse for their going out to
murder their fellow workers," I said, "and the Germans had to go or
get shot, but you are a volunteer. You went to war of your own
free-will, and you call yourself a Socialist."

"I am, but so am I a Belgian!" he answered hotly. "We talked
against war, but when war came and my land was trampled,
something rose up within me and made me fight. That's all. It's all
right to stand apart, but you don't know."

I did know what it was to be passion swept, but, however, I went
on baiting him.

"Well, I suppose that you are pretty well cured of your Socialism,
because it failed, like everything else."

"Yes, it did," he answered regretfully, "but at any rate people are
surprised at Socialists killing one another--not at the Christians.
And anyhow if there had been twice as many priests and churches
and lawyers and high officials, that would not have delayed the
war. It would have come sooner; but if there had been twice as
many Socialists there would have been no war."

The free-lance interrupted to call him out for a picture before it was
too dark. Gremberg took his position on the trench, his hand
shading his eyes. It is the famous iron trench at Melle from which
the Germans had withdrawn.

He is not looking for the enemy. If they were near, ten bullets
would have brought him down in as many seconds. He is looking
into the West.

And to me he is a symbol of all the soldiers of Europe, and all the
women of Europe who huddle to their breasts their white-faced,
sobbing children. They are all looking into the West, for there lies
Hope. There lies America. And their prayer is that the young
republic of the West shall not follow the blood-rusted paths of
militarism, but somehow may blaze the way out of chaos into a
new world-order.



PART IV
Love Among The Ruins



Chapter XII

The Beating Op "The General,"



"The saddest sound in all the world," says A Sardou, "is the beating
of the General." On that fateful Saturday afternoon in August,
after nearly fifty years of silence through the length and breadth of
France, there sounded again the ominous throbbing of the drums
calling for the general mobilization of the nation. At its sound the
French industrial army melted into a military one. Ploughshares
and pruning-hooks were beaten into machine-guns and Lebel
rifles. The civilian straightway became a soldier.

We were returning from Malmaison, the home where Napoleon
spent with Josephine the happiest moments of his life. Our
Parisian guide and chauffeur were in chatting, cheerful mood
though fully alive to all the rumors of war. They were sons of
France, from their infancy drilled in the idea that some day with
their comrades they were to hear this very drum calling them to
march from their homes; they had even been taught to cherish the
coming of this day when they should redeem the tarnished glory of
France by helping to plant the tricolor over the lost provinces of
Alsace and Lorraine.

But that the dreaded, yet hoped-for day had really arrived, seemed
preposterous and incredible--incredible until we drove into the
village of Reuilly where an eager crowd, gathering around a soldier
with a drum, caused our chauffeur to draw sharply up beside the
curb and we came to a stop twenty feet from the drummer. He was
a man gray enough to have been, if not a soldier, at least a
drummer boy in 1870. The pride that was his now in being the
official herald of portentous news was overcast by an evident
sorrow.

As if conscious of the fact that he was to pound not on the dead
dry skin of his drum, but on living human hearts, he hesitated a
moment before he let the sticks falls. Then sharp and loud
throbbed the drum through the still-hushed street. Clear and
resolute was the voice in which he read the order for mobilization.
The whole affair took little more than a minute. Those who know
how heavily the disgrace and disaster of 1870 lie upon the French
heart will admit that it is fair to say that all their life this crowd had
lived for this moment. Now that it had come, they took it with tense
white looks upon their faces. But not a cheer, not a cry, not a
shaking of the fist.

The only outwardly tragic touch came from our chauffeur. When
he heard the words "la mobilization" he flung down his cap, threw
up his hands, bowed his head a second, then gripped his steering
wheel and, for fifteen miles, drove desperately, accurately, as
though his car were a winged bullet shooting straight into the face
of the enemy. That fifteen-mile run from Reuilly to Paris was
through a long lane of sorrow: for not to one section or class, but
to all France had come the call to mobilize. Every home had been
summoned to the sacrifice of its sons.

We witnessed nowhere any wailings or wringing of hands or
frantic, foolish pleading to stay at home. Long ago the question of
their dear ones going had been settled. Through the years they
had made ready their hearts for this offering and now they gave
with a glad exaltation. How bravely the French woman met the
demand upon her, only those of us who moved in and out among
the homes during those days of mobilization can testify. The
"General" was indeed to these mothers, wives and sweethearts
left behind the saddest sound in all the world.

But if it were so sad as Sardou said in 1870, when 500,000
answered to its call, how infinitely sadder was it in 1914 when ten
times that number responded to its wild alarum, a million never
returning to the women that had loved them. But such statistics
are just the unemotional symbols of misery. We can look at this
colossal sum of human tragedy without being gripped one whit. If
we look into the soul of one woman these figures become invested
with a new and terrible meaning.

Such an opportunity was strangely given me as we stood in a long
queue outside the American embassy waiting for the passports
that would make our personages sacrosanct when the German
raiders took the city. A perspiring line, we shuffled slowly forward,
thanking God that we were not as the Europeans, but had had the
good sense to be born Americans. While in the next breath we
tiraded against the self-same Government for not hurrying the
American fleet to the rescue.

The alien-looking gentleman behind me mopped his brow and
muttered something about wishing that he had not thirsted for
other "joys than those of old St. Louis."

"Pennsylvania has her good points, too," I responded.

That random shot opened wide to me the gates of Romance and
High Adventure. It broke the long silence of the girl just ahead.

"It's comforting just to hear the name of one's own home state,"
she said. "I lived in a little village in the western part of
Pennsylvania," and, incidentally, she named the village where my
father had once been minister of the church. I explained as much
to her and marveled at the coincidence.

"More marvel still," she said, "for we come not only from the same
state and the same village, but from the same house. My father
was minister in that same church."

Nickleville is the prosaic name of that little hamlet in western
Pennsylvania. Any gentle reader with a cynic strain there may
verify this chronicle and find fresh confirmation for the ancient
adage that "Fact is stranger far than Fiction."

That selfsame evening we held reunion in a cafe off the Boulevard
Clichy. There I first discerned the slightness of her frame and
marveled at the spirit that filled it. She was exuberant in the joy of
meeting a countryman and, with the device of laughter, she kept in
check the sadness which never quite came welling up in tears.

She was typical American but let her bear here the name by which
her new friends in France called her--Marie. One might linger upon
her large eyes and golden hair, but this is not the epic of a fair face
but of a fair soul--vigorous and determined, too. To the power
therein even the stolid waiter paid his homage.

"Pardon," he interjected once, "we must close now. The orders are
for all lights out by nine. It is the government. They fear the
Zeppelins."

"But that's just what I'm afraid of, too," Marie answered. "How can
you turn us out into that darkness filled with Zeppelins?" He
succumbed to this radiant banter and, covering every crevice that
might emit a ray of light, he let us linger on long after closing time.

Marie's was one of those classic souls which by some anomaly,
passing by the older lineages and cultures of the East, find
birthplace in a bleak untutored village of the West. To this bareness
some succumb, and the divine afflatus dies. Still others roam
restlessly up and down, searching until they find their milieu and
then for the first time their spirit glows.

Music had breathed upon this girl's spirit, touched with a vagabond
desire. To satisfy it she must have money. So she gave lessons to
children. Then a publisher bought some little melodies that she
had set to words. And lastly, grave and reverend committeemen,
after hesitating over her youth, made her head of music in a
university of western Montana.

Early in 1914, with her gold reserves grown large enough for the
venture, she set sail for the siege of Paris. To her charm and
sterling worth it had soon capitulated--a quicker victory than she
had dared to hope for. Around her studio in a street off the
Champs Elysees she gathered a coterie of kindred souls. She told
of the idealism and camaraderie of the little circle, while its foibles
she touched upon with much merriment. Behind this outward
jesting I gained a glimpse of the fight she had made for her
advance.

"It's been hard," I said, "but what a lot you have found along the
way."

"Yes, far more than you can imagine," she replied; "I have found
Robert le Marchand."

"And who is he?"

"Well, he is an artist and an athlete, and he is just back from
Albania--where he had most wonderful adventures. He has written
them up for 'Gaulois.' His home is in Normandy. And he is heir to a
large estate in Italy in the South--in what looks like the heel on the
map. And he has a degree from the Sorbonne and he is the real
prince of our little court. And, best of all, he loves me."

Then she told the story of her becoming the princess of the little
court.

"From his ancestral place in Italy," she said, "Robert sent me
baskets of fruit gathered in his groves by his own hands. In one he
placed a sprig of orange-blossoms. We laughed about it when we
met again and------"

I saw that after this affairs had ripened to a quick conclusion. In
drives along the boulevards, in walks through the moonlit woods,
at dinners, concerts, dances--these two mingled their dreams for
their home in Normandy. The only discord in this summer
symphony was a frowning father.

Marie was the epitome of all charms and graces. Yes. But she
came undowered--that was all. And firm he stood against any
breach in the long established code of his class. But they did not
suffer this to disturb their plans and reveries, and through those
soft July days they roamed together in their lotus-land. Then
suddenly thundered that dream-shattering cannon out of the north.

"I was out of town for the week end," Marie continued; "I heard the
beating of the 'General' and at call for mobilization I flew back here
as quickly as I could. It was too late. There was only a note saying
that he had gone, and how hard it was to go without one farewell."

"Now what are you going to do?"

"What can I do with Robert gone and all his friends in the army
too?"

"Let me do what I can. Let me play substitute," I volunteered.

"Do you really mean what you just said?" she queried.

"I really do," I answered.

"Well, then, do you paddle a canoe?"

"Yes, but what has that to do with the question?" I replied
perplexedly.

"Everything," she responded. "Robert is stationed at Corbeille,
fifteen miles below here on the Seine. I have the canoe and
tomorrow I want you to go with me down the river to Robert.".

My mind made a swift diagnosis of the situation. All exits from
Paris carefully watched; suspicion rife everywhere--strangers off in
a canoe; a sentinel challenge and a shot from the bank.

"Let us first consider------" I began.

"We can do that in the canoe to-morrow," she interrupted.

And I capitulated, quite as Paris had.

We stepped out into the darkness that cloaked the silent city from
its aerial ravagers. As we walked I mused upon this modern
maiden's Iliad. While a thousand hug the quiet haven, what was it
that impelled the one to cut moorings and range the deep? A
chorus of croaking frogs greeted our turn into a park.

"Funny," said Marie, "but frogs drove me out of Nickleville! There
was nothing to do at home but to listen to their eternal noise; to
save my nerves I simply had to break away."

The prospect of that canoe trip was not conducive to easy
slumber. The frog chorus in that Pennsylvania swamp, why had it
not been less demonstrative? Still lots could happen before
morning. One might develop appendicitis or the Germans might
get the city. With these two comforting hopes I fell asleep. Morning
realizing neither of them, I walked over to Marie's studio.

"Well, then, all ready for the expedition?" I said, masking my
pessimism with a smile.

For reply she handed this note which read:

"Dear Marie: I have been transferred from Corbeille to Melun. It
makes me ill to be getting ever farther and farther away.--Robert."

With the river trip cancelled, life looked more roseate to me. "And
now we can't go after all," I said, mustering this time the
appearance of sadness.

"Oh, don't look so relieved," she laughed, "because we're going
anyhow."

"But what's the use? He has gone."

"Well, we are going where he has gone, that's all," she retorted.

I pointed out the facts that only military trains were running to
Melun; that we weren't soldiers; that the river was out of the
question; that we had no aeroplane and that we couldn't go
overland in a canoe.

"But we can with our wits," Marie added.

I explained how lame my wits were in French, and that two
consecutive sentences would bring on trial for high treason to the
language.

"Oh, but you don't furnish the wits," Marie retorted. "You just
furnish the body."

In her plan of campaign I gathered that I was to act as a kind of
convoy, from which she was to dart forth, torpedoing all obstacles.
I was quite confident of her torpedoing ability but not of my fitness
to play a star part as a dour and fear-inspiring background. She
packed her bag and presently we were making our way to the
station through a blighted city.

At the Gare du Nord a cordon of soldiers had been thrown about
the station; crowds surged up against the gates, a few frantically
pleading and even crying to get through. The guards, to every plea
and threat returned a harsh "C'est impossible." Undaunted by the
despair of others, she looked straight into the eyes of the somber
gate-keeper and, with every art, told the story of Robert le
Marchand, brave young officer of France; of his American girl and
his deep longing for her. When she had stirred this lethargic
functionary into a show of interest in this girl, with a revealing
gesture she said: "And here she is; please, Monsieur, let me go."
"Ah, Mademoiselle, I would like to," he replied, "but are not all the
soldiers of France longing for wives and sweethearts! Mon Dieu! if
they all rode there would be no room for the militaire. The Boches
would take us in the midst of our farewells. There is never any end
to leave-takings."

"But, Monsieur, I did not have one good-by."

"No, Mademoiselle. C'est impossible."

The guardian of the second gate took her plea in a way that did
more credit to his heart than to his knowledge of geography. He
thought (and we made no effort to disillusionize him) that she had
come all the way from America since the outbreak of war. It nearly
moved him to tears. Was he surrendering? Almost. But recovering
his official negative head-shake and trusting not to words, he fell
back upon the formula: "No, Madame, c'est impossible."

The truth had failed and so had the half-truth. To the next
forbidding guard Marie came as a Red Cross nurse, hurrying to
her station.

"Your uniform, Madame," he interposed.

"No time to get a uniform; no time to get a permission," she
explained.

"Take time, Madame," was his brusque dismissal.

Each time rebuffed, she tried again, but against the full battery of
her blandishments the line was adamant.

"It's no use," I said. "We may as well go home."

"No retreat until we've tried our last reserves," she responded,
clinking some coins together in her hand. "We'll try a change of
tactics."

We reconnoitered and decided that an opening might be made
through guardian number two. He had almost surrendered in the
first engagement. This time, along with the smile, she flashed a
coin. Perchance he had already repented of his first refusal.
Anyhow, if an officer of France could be made happy with his
sweetheart and at the same time a brave gendarme could be
made richer by a five-franc piece, would not La Belle France fight
so much the better? The logic was incontestable. "This way,
Mademoiselle, Monsieur, and be quick, please."

We had passed through the lines into a riot of red and blue
uniforms. Soldiers were everywhere sprawled over the platforms,
knotted up in sleep, yawning, stretching their limbs, eating,
smoking and swearing. No one knew anything about tickets, trains
or aught else.

Swirled about in an eddying tide of entraining troops, we were
flung up against a stationary being garbed as a railway dispatcher.
He bluffed and blustered a bit. Our story, however, supplemented
by some hard cash, procured calm and presently we found
ourselves in a compartment with two tickets marked Melun, a few
rations and sundry admonitions not to converse with fellow-
passengers until the train started.

It is hard to explain why any one should want to communicate in
German to an American girl in a French railway compartment in
wartime. But explain why some people want to play with trip-
hammers and loaded guns. We know they do. And so, though
aware that there were spy-hunting listeners all around, a mad
desire to utter the forbidden tongue obsessed me. Wry faces from
Marie, emphasized by repeated pinches at each threatened
outbreak, brought me back to my senses and to Anglo-Saxon.

Not only one who spoke, but even one who understood the hated
tongue was a suspect. For the least knowledge of the enemy's
language was to some the hall-mark of a spy. The game played
throughout France and Belgium was to fling a sudden command at
the suspect, catching the unwary fellow off-guard, and thus trap
him into self-betrayal.

An official would say sharply: "Nehmen Sie ihre Hutte ab" (Take off
your hat). Or there would come a sudden challenge on the street,
"Wohin gehen Sie?" (Where are you going?) If instinctively one
obeyed or replied in German, he was there caught with the goods.

Our major domo under the influence of the coin, or what he had
procured at the vintner's in exchange therefor, grew a bit playful.
He suddenly flung open the door and cried, "Steigen Sie auf." If I
had comprehended his meaning involuntarily I would have
obeyed, but luckily my brain has a slow shifting language gear. By
the time it began dawning upon me that we had been told to
vacate the car Marie had fixed me with her eyes and gripped me
like a vise with her hand so that I knew that I was to stay put. One
man involuntarily started and then checked himself. He was so
patently a Frenchman though that everybody laughed. The major
domo chuckled and marched away, much pleased with his playful
humor.

At last, with much jolting, we started on our crawling journey.
Sometimes the snail-pace would be accelerated; our hopes would
then expand, only to collapse again with a bang. Again we would
be sidetracked to let coal-cars, cattle cars and flat cars with guns
go by. Civilians were ciphers in the new order, and if it served any
military purpose to dump us into the river, in we would have gone
with no questions asked. We sat about, a wilted and dispirited lot.
Occasionally some one would thrust his head out the window to
observe progress. He was generally rewarded by a view of the
Eiffel Tower from a new angle, for it seemed that we were simply
being shunted in and about and all around the city.

The most icy reserve must find itself cracked and thawing in the
intimacies which a jerking railway car precipitates. There is no
dignity which is proof against a sound bump upon the head. Thus
our irritations and suspicions gave way to laughter, and laughter
brings all the barriers down. The compartment became a confessional.
The anxious looking man opposite was hoping to get to his estate
and to bury a few of his most treasured things before the Germans
came. The two young fellows with scraggly beards were brothers,
given five days' leave to see a dying father; three days had been
spent in a vain effort to get started there. Another man had a half
telegram which read, "Accident at home you------" Not another word
had he been able to get through. The silent young man in the corner
smiled pleasantly when his turn came but volunteered no information.
I likewise passed.

Marie, wishing to fortify herself with all possible help in her venture,
told her tale in full. An immediate proffer came from the hitherto
taciturn young man in the corner. "Why, this is romance in earnest.
I do wish that I might be of some help," he said with genuine
interest.

Our new friend we found had for a grandfather no less a dignitary
than Alexander Dumas. His name he told us was Louis Dumas, an
artist, not yet called to the colors, and bound now for Villeneuve,
"and before we can really get acquainted, here we are," he said as
the train came to a stop.

As he stepped to the door it was flung open by an officer who
shouted, "Everybody out! This car is for the military." We
protested. We displayed our tickets. The officer laughed and,
seizing one reluctant passenger, dragged him out. A quickly
ejected and much dejected band, we found ourselves upon the
street of a little outlying village nine miles from Paris. It had taken
half as many hours to get there.

We fell upon the one village gendarme with a volley of questions.
By pitching her voice above the hubbub, Marie got in her inquiry
about the distance to Melun.

"Thirty kilometers by the main road," he answered.

This, then, was the issue of that tense day of strategy and daring:
to be stranded in this suburb from which it was impossible to go
forward to Melun and almost as difficult to return to Paris. Marie
crumpled under the blow and then I realized how much it had cost
her to maintain that calm outward demeanor.

By sheer will-power she had kept the tears from her eyes and the
tremor from her limbs. Long held in leash, they now leaped out to
possess her.

Dumas ran hither and thither, hunting conveyance but in vain.
Three of his friends had automobiles. He called them by
telephone. All cars had been commandeered. He stood with head
drooping in real dejection.

"Ah, I have it!" he exclaimed, "my friend Veilleau, he has an
aeroplane and he will do it."

This was quite too much even for Marie's soaring spirit; but she
scarcely had time to picture herself ranging the sky when Dumas
was back again, sorrowfully confessing failure. Aeroplanes likewise
had heard the tocsin; they had sterner business than wafting
lovers through the sky; they were carrying explosives and
messages in the service of France. Dumas looked almost as
disappointed as the wilted little figure he was trying to help.

When the villagers understood her plight, they were full of
sympathy, full of condolences, but also full of tales of arrest for
those traveling on the main road.

"Where was this road, anyhow?"

"Out there," they replied.

Turning a corner, we looked down the long row of poplars that
lined the main road to Melun.



Chapter XIII

America In The Arms Op France



Any poplar-fringed road in France holds its strange lure. Dignity
and grace lie in these tall swaying trees sentinelling the way on
either side. To the poet, it is at all times the way to Arcady. But at
eventide when the mystic light comes streaming from the west,
touching the billowing green into gold, then even to the prosaic
there is a call from the whispering, wind-stirred leaves to go a-
grailing and to find at the end the palace or the princess. This time
it was the prince who was calling. This little sad-featured girl was a-
tune to hear his call. Perhaps in the purple mist she could even
see her prince and feel the pleading of those outstretched arms.
Wistfully she looked down her road to Arcady; but how far away
the end and so bestrewn with terrors.

Are psychic forces subject to ordinary physical laws, and do they
act most powerfully along unobstructed ways? At any rate the
voltage was high in the psychic currents that swept the straight
road to Melun that afternoon, for when this saddened girl turned
from her long gaze down the road to Melun it was with a
transfigured face. Her tear-dimmed eyes shone with a calm
resolve and the uplifted chin foreboded, I perceived, no good to
my dreams of rest and resignation.

To know the worst I ventured: "Well, how are we going to get to
Paris?"

"You mean Melun?" she gently smiled.

"Sheer madness," I replied. "A carriage is out of the question, and
if we had one there would be a hundred guards to turn us back."

We stepped aside while two military trucks in their gray war-paint
went lurching by. She followed them with her eyes until they disappeared
 into the distant haze where poplar and purple sky melted into one.

"Going straight to Robert," she cried, clasping her hands, "and if
they only knew how much I want to go, I don't believe they would
refuse me."

Preposterous as it was, if they could indeed have seen the longing
in her eyes I felt certain they wouldn't either. Discreetly I refrained
from saying so.

We walked slowly back to the partial barricade which compelled
the motors to slow down. A siren heralded the approach of a car. I
drew her aside into the ditch. Wrenching her hand loose she cried:

"I don't care what happens. I'm going to stop this car!" Planting
herself squarely in the path of the great gray thing, she signaled
wildly for it to stop. The goggled driver bore straight down upon the
little figure, then swerving sharply to one side jammed on the
brakes and came to a sudden halt.

"What's the trouble?" said the other occupant of the car, a thick-
set swarthy fellow in a captain's uniform. "Washout, bombs or
Uhlans?"

"No, it's Robert!" Marie exclaimed.

"Robert?" he cried, angered at this delay.

His aroused curiosity took the sting out of his words as he
exclaimed, "Who the devil is Robert?"

She told him who Robert was, told it with her soul naming in her
face. Her voice implored. Her eyes entreated. The black cloud that
had overcast the captain's countenance at the impertinence of her
action melted slowly away into a genial smile. And yet had fortune
been unkind she might have brought us some calculating routinist
with pride in strict obedience to the letter of the military law.

"It's a plain infraction of all the regulations," he said, "but if you can
risk all this for him, I can risk this much for you. Step up," he
added, lifting her into a seat, and giving me a place behind with the
baggage. It had happened all too swiftly for comprehension. We
were on the road to Arcady again--and this time in high estate.
With fifty horses racing away under the hood of our royal car, we
were speeding forward like a bullet.

Adown this road in the days of chivalry traveled oft the noble
chevaliers and knights. In shining cavalcades they rode forth for
glory in their lady's name. But never was there truer tribute to the
spirit of High Romance than when down this same road, athrone
upon a war-gray car, came this little Pennsylvania music-teacher.

All the way we rode exalted, with hearts too full for speech. And
our benefactor gave us no occasion for it. His eyes were fixed
straight ahead upon the speeding road, alert for obstacles or rapt
in visions of his own dear ones; or, more probable still, deep in
reconsideration of his rashness in harboring two strangers who
might turn out to be traitors.

"Ten spies were shot here in the last two days," was his one
laconic communication. As the Romanesque towers of Melun's
Notre Dame came into view, he drew up by a post which marked a
mile from the city, saying,

"The rest of the way I believe you had better go on foot." With a
polite bow and a smile he bade us adieu and was off, leaving us
quite non-plussed. But the swift ride had driven refreshment and
resolution into us. After some spirited passages with a few
astounded sentries, we found ourselves in the city of our quest.

It was a small garrison center. Into it now from every side had
poured rivulets of soldiers until the street shimmered with its red
and blue. Melun had changed roles with Paris. A desert quiet
brooded over the gay capital, while this drab provincial place was
now athrum with activity--not the activity of parade but of the
workshop. The air was vibrant with the clangor of industry.
Everywhere soldiers were cleaning guns, grooming horses, piling
sacks. The only touch to lighten this depressing dead-in-
earnestness came from a group of soldiers engaged in filling a
huge bolster. They playfully tried to push one of their number in
with the straw. In one doorway two men were seeking to render
their uniforms less of a target by inking their brass-buttons black,
while two rollicking fellows perched high upon a bread-wagon were
making the welkin ring with vociferous demands for passage way.
That was what everybody wanted. We, too, pressed forward into
the throng.

Enough other civilians were scattered amidst the masses of
soldiery to render us not too conspicuous. And such a weltering
anarchy it was: men, horses, and guns jammed together in one
grand promiscuous jumble. Who was to organize discipline and
victory out of such a turmoil? But that there was a directing mind
moving through this democratic chaos, the Germans later learned
to know full well. Likewise, the two strangers congratulating
themselves on being lost in the vast confusion.

To get our bearings we seated ourselves in a small cafe, and were
intently poring over a map when a shuffling noise made us look up.
A detachment of soldiers was entering the cafe. Much to our
astonishment, they came to attention in front of us. They
constituted the spy-hunting squad. All day they walked the city on
the trail of suspects. To trap a prospective victim, and just as they
were relishing the shooting of him to be compelled to release him,
and then to drag on to the next prospect, and to repeat the
process was not inspiriting. Apparently luck had gone against
them, but at sight of us a new hope lit their eyes.

Two officers, bowing politely, said: "Pardon, Monsieur; pardon,
Madame! Your papers."

Being held up as a spy, however nerve-racking, contributes
considerably to one's sense of self-importance. It's a rare thrill for a
civilian to be waited on by a reception committee in full dress
uniform.

But this was by all odds the most imposing array of military yet. I
remember being distinctly impressed by the comic opera setting;
the gay costumed soldiers in a crowded French cafe, the big
American and the little heroine. In a moment the soldier chorus
would go rollicking off singing some ditty like:

"Let high respect come to their station, For they are members of a
mighty nation."

I deliberated for a few seconds, for presently our papers like
talismen would exorcise all dangers. With a gesture suitably
sweeping for the close of this act, I smiled assuringly, reached into
that inner right-hand pocket, and felt a terrific thump of the heart as
I clutched an empty void and forthwith drew out an empty hand.
The smile turned a little sickly. I repeated. Likewise a third time.
The smile died and a cold sweat gathered on my brow. It was now
more like a Turkish bath than a comic opera. The rollicking soldier
chorus began to look curiously like a band of assassins.

I was positive that I had tucked these papers in that pocket. Had
some evil spirit whisked them away? I conducted a frantic and
furious search through every pocket. As one after another they
turned out empty an increasing gloom settled down upon my face,
and upon the faces of the assassins was registered a corresponding
increment of joy.

Reader, have you ever been warden of the theater tickets? As
your party thronged up to the entrance, do you remember the
stand-still of your heart when you found that the tickets weren't in
the pocket that you put them, followed by the discovery that they
weren't in any other pocket? Do you remember spasmodically
ramming your hands into all your pockets until your arms took on
the motions of a sailor at the pump, trying to save the old ship at
sea? Remember the black looks insinuating you were an idiot and
the growing conviction on your part that they were not far wrong?
Multiply and intensify all these sensations a thousandfold and you
will get a faint idea of how one feels when he is trying to locate his
passports and the officials are hoping that he can't.

Several months elapsed in as many seconds. To break the
appalling silence, I began gibbering away in a jargon compound of
gesticulation, English and remnants of High School French. Why,
oh, why wouldn't somebody say something? At last the commissionaire,
hitherto impassive, said:

"Vielleicht Sie konnen Deutsch sprechen." ("Perhaps you can
speak German.") It was so kind of him that I plunged headlong into
the net. "Ja ich kann Deutsch sprechen," I fairly shouted.

("Yes, I can speak German.") I would have confessed to Chinese
or Russian, so anxious was I to get on speaking terms with some
one.

"So you speak German," said the commissionaire significantly; "I
thought as much." The soldiers looked at their Lebel rifles as
though the not unpleasant duty of making them speak for France
would soon be theirs. In their eyes now I was a German spy and
Marie was my accomplice. I began to be almost convinced of it
myself.

Now if this were fiction and not just a straight setting down of facts
the papers might here be produced by a breathless courier or
dropped from an aeroplane. But they weren't.

At this crisis when all seemed lost, Marie rallied. She said: "Look in
the lining of your coat."

I was unaware of any hole in the lining but, duly obedient, I
reached inside and found an opening. Some papers rustled in my
hand. I clutched them like a madman, violently drew them forth
and, perceiving that they were the precious documents, waved
them about like a dancing dervish. The soldiers were distinctly
disappointed and cast an evil eye on Marie, as though holding her
personally responsible for cheating them out of a little target-
practice.

The commissionaires examined the papers, smiled as graciously
as before they had frowned and, with the crestfallen soldiers
resuming their old look of boredom, they disappeared as
mysteriously as they had come.

Out into the gathering gloom we followed too, and trudged to the
barracks upon the hill.

At the entrance the familiar "Qui va la?" (Who goes there?) rang a
challenge to our approach. We informed the subaltern that it was
Sergeant le Marchand that we sought.

A confusion of calls echoed through the court. An orderly then
announced that Robert le Marchand was sick; this was followed by
the report that he was out; then some more conflicting reports,
followed by Robert le Marchand himself. A new-lit lantern in the
archway diffused a wan light around his pale face while he peered
forward into the dusk. He could not see at first, but as by a dream-
voice out of the mist came his name, twice repeated: "Robert,
Robert."

Was this some torturing hallucination? Before he had time to
consider that, the reality flung herself into his arms. Again and
again he clasped the nestling figure, as if to assure himself that it
was not an apparition that he held but his very own sweetheart.

They stood there in the archway, quite oblivious to the passing
soldiers. The soldiers seemed to understand and, smiling approval
of this new entente--America in the arms of France--they silently
passed along.

The first transports of surprise and joy being over, he begged for
an explanation of this miracle. Briefly I sketched the doings of the
day, and as he saw this wisp of a girl braving all dangers for love's
sake, he was in one moment terror-stricken at the risks she had
run, and in the next aglow with admiration for her splendid daring.
Dangers had haloed her and he sat silent like a worshiper.

"Instead of a tragedy," he exclaimed, "it's like a story with a happy
ending. But let me tell how narrowly we escaped a tragic ending,"
he added, drawing Marie closer to him.

On the fifth of August it seems that his squad had been stationed
upon the bridge over the Seine at Corbeille. The orders were to
prevent any passage over the bridge and under the bridge--
particularly the latter, as the authorities suspected an attempt upon
the part of enemy plotters to use the waterways in and out of Paris.
Traffic had been suspended and orders had been explicit: "Shoot
any water-craft, without challenge, as it turns the bend at the
Corbeille bridge."

Corbeille had been the objective of our proposed canoe journey.
There had been abundant warrant then in the very constitution of
things for my psychic shivers at the first broaching of that canoe-
trip.

Our escape had been by a narrow margin. If that telegram, "Left
Corbeille and gone to Melun," had missed us, Robert le Marchand's
first shot might have meant death, not to his enemy but to his own
life and soul. On the eve of the great war he might have embraced
his dearest one cold and lifeless. But instead of that somber ending,
here she was, warm, radiant and laughing--doubly precious by the
trials through which she had passed and the death from which
she had been delivered.



Chapter XIV

No-Man's-Land



The movements of the 231ier Regiment d'Infanterie were publicly
announced. It was scheduled to entrain on the morrow for the front
between Metz and Nancy. Robert le Marchand needed not to go.
Pronounced unfit by the regimental doctor, his name had been
placed upon the hospital list. Amidst the bustle of preparation for
departure he spent the day in quietude, and Marie played nurse to
the invalid.

Her little tale about being a Red Cross worker told at the Gare du
Nord turned out to be the truth and not the fable that she had
fancied. Robert's recovery was so rapid that the doctor was
astonished. He was understanding, however; also he was a very
kindly doctor. He came and smiled and nodded his approval.

Then he went away, still leaving Robert on the sick list.

A long season of such delightful convalescence was now his for
the taking. Golden days they promised to be to him and to Marie,
but to France those early August days held portents of defeat and
disaster. So one gathered from the ugly rumors from the frontier.
The great battle raging in the north had its miniature in their souls.
Theirs to choose days of ease and dalliance or the call to duty.

When the 231st regiment formed into line the afternoon of August
7th, the sergeant, radiant and happy, was with them again. But the
tears in his eyes? That perplexed his comrades. Those who knew
the secret let the romance lose none of its glamour in the telling
until Marie became, forsooth, the heroine of the regiment.

At four o'clock the regimental band struck up the Marseillaise and
the regiment moved down the road. The sergeant's feet kept time
with his marching men, while his eyes turned to the blue figure on
a balcony, whose hand was fluttering a limp white handkerchief.
She was striving her best to wave a cheerful farewell. The
repeated strains: "Ye sons of France awake to glory," came each
time more faintly as the regiment moved steadily away. There is
always pain in such a growing distance. But it was not all pain to
the tear-stained girl upon the balcony. She had her part in that
glory. Had she not, too, made her sacrifice.

It was quite as if the regiment had sailed away under sealed
orders. Metz and Nancy had been broadcasted about as the
objective of the 231st. But that had been just a blind for German
informers. For the next communiqué mentioning the regiment
came from far to the west, where it had been hurried to hold up the
grave threat upon Paris. At Soissons the gray-green advance
rolled itself up against the red and blue of the 231st.

Back and forth the battle line surged through the old streets, now
lurid with the light of blazing houses. A shell falling on the town-hall
fired this ancient land-mark. A great flame-fountain burst up from
the heart of the city. "Rescue the archives!" was the cry. For this,
volunteers were called. The dash of a sergeant and his men into
the burning hall and back again through the bullet-spattered
streets is related in the Journal Officiel. It tells of the safe return of
the archives, but of few survivors. For impetuous valor in this
exploit, the name of Sergeant le Marchand was changed to
Lieutenant le Marchand.

That was my last tidings of Marie and Robert, until a year later a
letter came to me in a shaky but familiar hand. It had the post-
mark of Hornell Sanitarium, New York. It was from Marie, and one
glance revealed the tragedy. Briefly it was this:

In the attempted Champagne drive of 1915 the 231st regiment
was ordered to rush the barbed wire barricade and drive a wedge
into the enemy's line. At command Lieutenant le Marchand leaped
from cover to lead the charge of his men. Scarcely had he uttered
his cry, "En avant!" when he was dropped in his tracks, a bullet
through his brain. Over his body, with revenge adding to their fury,
the regiment swept like mad. The trenches, a quarry of prisoners,
and the thrill of high praise from the general were theirs--a triumph
with a bitter taste, for some, creeping back, had found their young
lieutenant crumpled where he fell, the moonlight cold upon his
blood-stained face. "In order that France might live he was willing
to close his eyes upon her forever." Curiously his sword was
sticking upright just as it had dropped from his hand. They buried
him where he lay upon the edge of No-Man's-Land. Tears were
showered on his grave, and on that fatal bullet many bitter curses.

But this does not complete the tale of murder wrought by that slug
of lead. Each plunging bullet blazes its black trail of the spirit-killed.

A month later and three thousand miles away this German missile
struck the heart of an American girl with a more cruel impact than it
had struck the brain of this lieutenant of France. She, too,
crumpled and fell upon the thorns. His had been a speedy,
painless death; one sharp electric stroke and then the closing
night. A like oblivion would have been sweet to her. But she had to
face it out alone. Upon her torn heart were beaten a thousand
hammer-strokes, and through the endless nights she bore the
anguish of a thousand deaths.

The death-lists of Europe hold 5,000,000 other names besides
Lieutenant le Marchand's. Behind each name there marches with
springless steps one or more figures shrouded in black.

A year later one of these figures arose from her burial alive, a
whitened shadow of her former self.

"I know that I ought not to have collapsed, just as I know that I
ought not to hate the Germans," Marie wrote. "I'm pulling myself
together now, and I am trying to work and to forgive. But my
thoughts are always wandering out to just one spot--that is where
Robert lies. When peace comes I'm going straight over there and
with my own hands I shall dig through every trench until I find him."

Tragic futility indeed! One recompense for the colossal slaughter
and the long war; few shall ever find their dead.

On a recent Sunday morning I stepped into a church of a Lake
City of the West. The organ was filling the large structure with its
sounds; gradually out of the dim light came the face of the player.

A hard road had she traveled since last I saw her, a trim little blue-
clad figure waving good-by from that balcony in Melun. It was not
strange that her face was white. There was nothing strange either
in the passion of that music.

These experiences of Gethsemane and Calvary had been first
enacted in her own soul. The organ was but giving voice to them.
There was a plaintive touch in the minor chords, as if pleading for
days that were gone. It climbed to a closing rapture, as if two who
had parted here had, for the moment, hailed each other in the
world of Souls.



Afterword



It seems sometimes as if the torch of civilization had been almost
extinguished in this deluge of blood. This darkening of the face of
the earth has cost more than the blood and treasure of the race--it
has involved a terrific strain on the mind and soul of man.

The blasting of hundreds of villages, the sinking of thousands of
ships, and the killing of millions of men is no small monument to
the power of the human will. Deplore as we may the sanguinary
ends to which this will has been bent, it has at any rate shown itself
to be no weakling. We must marvel at the grim tenacity with which
it has held to its goal through the long red years.

But now it is challenged by an infinitely bigger task.

The great nations sundered apart by this hideous anarchy have
become hissings and by-words to each other. One group has
been cast outside the Pale to become the Ishmaels of the
universe. The purpose is to keep them there.

Yet try as we may we cannot live upon a totally disrupted planet
without bringing a common disaster upon us all. It may be a matter
of decades and generations but eventually the reconciliation must
come.

To start civilization on the upward path again, to make the world
into a neighborhood anew, to achieve the moral unity of humanity,
is that infinitely bigger task with which the human will is challenged.
As in the last years it has relentlessly concentrated its energies
upon the Great War, now through the next decades and generations
it must as steadfastly hold them to the Great Reconciliation. The
tragedy of it all is that humanity must go at this crippled by a hatred
like acid eating into the soul.

Villages will arise again from their ruins, the plow shall turn anew
the shell-pitted fields into green meadow-lands, a kindly nature will
soon obliterate the scars upon the landscape, but not the deep
searings on the soul. Europe must grapple with this work of
reconstruction handicapped by this black devil poisoning the mind
and vitiating every effort. The worst curse bequeathed to the
coming generations is not the mountain of debt but this heritage of
hate.

It does not behoove Americans to stand on inviolate shores and
prate of the wickedness of wrath. Moreover, this evil is not to be
exorcised by a pious wish for it not to be. It is. And there is every
excuse under the arch of heaven for its existence.

If we had felt the eagles' claws tearing at our flesh; if, like Europe,
our soil was crimsoned with the blood of our murdered; if millions
of our women were breaking their hearts in anguish--we too would
consider it a gratuitous bit of impertinence to be told not to cherish
rancor towards those who had unleashed the hellhounds of lust
and carnage upon us.

As it is, we are not sacrosanct. Three thousand miles have not
sufficed to keep the deadly virus out of our system. The violation of
Belgium kindled a fire against the invaders which the successive
cruelties served to fan into a flaming resentment.

Then came our own losses--a mere grazing of the skin alongside
of the bleeding white of Europe. But it has touched us deep
enough to rouse even a sense of vindictiveness. This kept to
ourselves will do injury to ourselves alone. But when we shout or
whisper across the seas that we too despise the barbarians we
help no one. We simply help to render the heartbreaking task of
reconciliation well-nigh impossible by lashing to a wilder fury the
people already blinded, embittered and frenzied by their own hate.
Those who, above the luxury of giving full rein to their own
passions, put the welfare of the French, English, Belgians and
other broken peoples of earth, will do everything in their power to
eradicate this gangrene from their souls.





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