Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Woman's Experience in the Great War
Author: Mack, Louise
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Woman's Experience in the Great War" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



A WOMAN'S EXPERIENCES IN THE GREAT WAR

BY

LOUISE MACK


(Mrs. CREED)

AUTHOR OF "AN AUSTRALIAN GIRL IN LONDON"

_With 11 full-page Illustrations_

LONDON: T. FISHER UNWIN Ltd

1915

[Illustration: THE AUTHOR.]



CONTENTS

CHAPTER
          I.   CROSSING THE CHANNEL
         II.   ON THE WAY TO ANTWERP
        III.   GERMANS ON THE LINE
         IV.   IN THE TRACK OF THE HUNS
          V.   AERSCHOT
         VI.   RETRIBUTION
        VII.   THEY WOULD NOT KILL THE COOK
       VIII.   "YOU'LL NEVER GET THERE"
         IX.   SETTING OUT ON THE GREAT ADVENTURE
          X.   FROM GHENT TO GRAMMONT
         XI.   BRABANT
        XII.   DRIVING EXTRAORDINARY
       XIII.   THE LUNCH AT ENGHIEN
        XIV.   WE MEET THE GREY-COATS
         XV.   FACE TO FACE WITH THE HUNS
        XVI.   A PRAYER FOR HIS SOUL
       XVII.   BRUSSELS
      XVIII.   BURGOMASTER MAX
        XIX.   HIS ARREST
         XX.   GENERAL THYS
        XXI.   HOW MAX HAS INFLUENCED BRUSSELS
       XXII.   UNDER GERMAN OCCUPATION
      XXIII.   CHANSON TRISTE
       XXIV.   THE CULT OF THE BRUTE
        XXV.   DEATH IN LIFE
       XXVI.   THE RETURN FROM BRUSSELS
      XXVII.   "THE ENGLISH ARE COMING"
     XXVIII.   MONDAY
       XXIX.   TUESDAY
        XXX.   WEDNESDAY
       XXXI.   THE CITY IS SHELLED
      XXXII.   THURSDAY
     XXXIII.   THE ENDLESS DAY
      XXXIV.   I DECIDE TO STAY
       XXXV.   THE CITY SURRENDERS
      XXXVI.   A SOLITARY WALK
     XXXVII.   ENTER LES ALLEMANDS
    XXXVIII.   "MY SON!"
      XXXIX.   THE RECEPTION
         XL.   THE LAUGHTER OF BRUTES
        XLI.   TRAITORS
       XLII.   WHAT THE WAITING MAID SAW
      XLIII.   SATURDAY
       XLIV.   CAN I TRUST THEM?
        XLV.   A SAFE SHELTER
       XLVI.   THE FLIGHT INTO HOLLAND
      XLVII.   FRIENDLY HOLLAND
     XLVIII.   FRENCH COOKING IN WAR TIME
       XLIX.   THE FIGHT IN THE AIR
          L.   THE WAR BRIDE
         LI.   A LUCKY MEETING
        LII.   THE RAVENING WOLF
       LIII.   BACK TO LONDON



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

  THE AUTHOR _Frontispiece_
  AN ORDER FROM THE BELGIAN WAR OFFICE
  A FRIENDLY CHAT
  PASSPORT FROM THE AUSTRALIAN HIGH COMMISSIONER
  THE AMERICAN SAFEGUARD
  A SPECIAL PERMIT
  BELGIAN REFUGEES IN HOLLAND
  THE DANISH DOCTOR'S NOTE
  MY HOSTS IN HOLLAND
  SOUP FOR THE REFUGEES
  PERMIT TO DUNKIRK
  SKETCH MAP OF BELGIUM



A WOMAN'S EXPERIENCES IN THE GREAT WAR



CHAPTER I

CROSSING THE CHANNEL


"What do you do for mines?"

I put the question to the dear old salt at Folkestone quay, as I am
waiting to go on board the boat for Belgium, this burning August night.

The dear old salt thinks hard for an answer, very hard indeed.

Then he scratches his head.

"There ain't none!" he makes reply.

All the same, in spite of the dear old salt, I feel rather creepy as the
boat starts off that hot summer night, and through the pitch-black
darkness we begin to plough our way to Ostend.

Over the dark waters the old English battleships send their vivid
flashes unceasingly, but it is not a comfortable feeling to think you
may be blown up at any minute, and I spend the hours on deck.

I notice our little fair-bearded Belgian captain is looking very sad and
dejected.

"They're saying in Belgium now that our poor soldiers are getting all
the brunt of it," he says despondently to a group of sympathetic
War-Correspondents gathered round him on deck, chattering, and trying to
pick up bits of news.

"But that will all be made up," says Mr. Martin Donohue, the Australian
War-Correspondent, who is among the crowd. "All that you lose will be
given back to Belgium before long."

"_But they cannot give us back our dead_," the little captain answers
dully.

And no one makes reply to that.

There is no reply to make.

It is four o'clock in the morning, instead of nine at night, when we get
to Ostend at last, and the first red gleams of sunrise are already
flashing in the east.

We leave the boat, cross the Customs, and, after much ringing, wake up
the Belgian page-boy at the Hotel. In we troop, two English nurses,
twenty War-Correspondents, and an "Australian Girl in Belgium."

Rooms are distributed to us, great white lofty rooms with private
bathrooms attached, very magnificent indeed.

Then, for a few hours we sleep, to be awakened by a gorgeous morning,
golden and glittering, that shews the sea a lovely blue, but a very sad
deserted town.

Poor Ostend!

Once she had been the very gayest of birds; but now her feathers are
stripped, she is bare and shivery. Her big, white, beautiful hotels
have dark blinds over all their windows. Her long line of blank, closed
fronts of houses and hotels seems to go on for miles. Just here and
there one is open. But for the most, everything is dead; and indeed, it
is almost impossible to recognise in this haunted place the most
brilliant seaside city in Europe.

It is only half-past seven; but all Ostend seems up and about as I enter
the big salon and order coffee and rolls.

Suddenly a noise is heard,--shouts, wheels, something indescribable.

Everyone jumps up and runs down the long white restaurant.

Out on the station we run, and just then a motor dashes past us, coming
right inside, under the station roof.

It is full of men.

And one is wounded.

My blood turns suddenly cold. I have never seen a wounded soldier
before. I remember quite well I said to myself, "Then it is true. I had
never really believed before!"

Now they are lifting him out, oh, so tenderly, these four other big,
burly Belgians, and they have laid him on a stretcher.

He lies there on his back. His face is quite red. He has a bald head. He
doesn't look a bit like my idea of a wounded soldier, and his expression
remains unchanged. It is still the quiet, stolid, patient Belgian look
that one sees in scores, in hundreds, all around.

And now they are carrying him tenderly on to the Red Cross ship drawn up
at the station pier, and after a while we all go back and try and finish
our coffee.

Barely have we sat down again before more shouts are heard.

Immediately, everybody is up and out on to the station, and another
motor car, full of soldiers, comes dashing in under the great glassed
roofs.

Excitement rises to fever heat now.

Out of the car is dragged a _German_.

And one can never forget one's first German. Never shall I forget that
wounded Uhlan! One of his hands is shot off, his face is black with
smoke and dirt and powder, across his cheek is a dark, heavy mark where
a Belgian had struck him for trying to throttle one of his captors in
the car.

He is a wretch, a brute. He has been caught with the Red Cross on one
arm, and a revolver in one pocket. But there is yet something cruelly
magnificent about the fellow, as he puts on that tremendous swagger, and
marches down the long platform between two lines of foes to meet his
fate.

As he passes very close to me, I look right into his face, and it is
imprinted on my memory for all time.

He is a big, typical Uhlan, with round close-cropped head, blue eyes,
arrogant lips, large ears, big and heavy of build. But what impresses
me is that he is no coward.

He knows his destiny. He will be shot for a certainty--shot for wearing
the Red Cross while carrying weapons. But he really is a splendid devil
as he goes strutting down the long platform between the gendarmes, all
alone among his enemies, alone in the last moments of his life. Then a
door opens. He passes in. The door shuts. He will be seen no more!

All is panic now. We know the truth. The Germans have made a sudden
sortie, and are attacking just at the edge of Ostend.

The gendarmes are fighting them, and are keeping them back.

Then a boy scout rushes in on a motor cycle, and asks for the Red Cross
to be sent out at once; and then and there it musters in the dining-room
of the Hotel, and rushes off in motor cars to the scene of action.

Then another car dashes in with another Uhlan, who has been shot in the
back.

And now I watch the Belgians lifting their enemy out. All look of fight
goes out of their faces, as they raise him just as gently, just as
tenderly as they have raised their own wounded man a few moments ago,
and carry him on to their Red Cross ship, just as carefully and
pitifully.

"Quick! Quick!" A War-Correspondent hastens up. "There's not a minute to
lose. The Kaiser has given orders that all English War-Correspondents
will be shot on sight. The Germans will be here any minute. They will
cut the telegraph wires, stop the boats, and shoot everyone connected
with a newspaper."

The prospect finally drives us, with a panic-stricken crowd, on to the
boat. And so, exactly six hours after we landed, we rush back again to
England. Among the crowd are Italians, Belgians, British and a couple of
Americans. An old Franciscan priest sits down, and philosophically tucks
into a hearty lunch. Belgian priests crouch about in attitudes of great
depression.

Poor priests!

They know how the Germans treat priests in this well-named "Holy War!"



CHAPTER II

ON THE WAY TO ANTWERP


A couple of days afterward, however, feeling thoroughly ashamed of
having fled, and knowing that Ostend was now reinforced by English
Marines, I gathered my courage together once more, and returned to
Belgium.

This time, so that I should not run away again so easily, I took with me
a suit-case, and a couple of trunks.

These trunks contained clothes enough to last a summer and a winter, the
MS. of a novel--"Our Marriage," which had appeared serially, and all my
chiffons.

In fact I took everything I had in my wardrobe. I thought it was the
simplest thing to do. So it was. But it afterwards proved an equally
simple way of losing all I had.

Getting back to Ostend, I left my luggage at the Maritime Hotel, and
hurried to the railway station.

I had determined to go to Antwerp for the day and see if it would be
possible to make my headquarters in that town.

"Pas de train!" said the ticket official.

"But why?"

"C'est la guerre!"

"Comment!"

"_C'est la guerre, Madame!_"

That was the answer one received to all one's queries in those days.

If you asked why the post had not come, or why the boat did not sail for
England, or why your coffee was cold, or why your boots were not
cleaned, or why your window was shut, or why the canary didn't
sing,--you would always be sure to be told, "c'est la guerre!"

Next morning, however, the train condescended to start, and three hours
after its proper time we steamed away from Ostend.

Slowly, painfully, through the hot summer day, our long, brown train
went creeping towards Anvers!

Anvers!

The very name had grown into an emblem of hope in those sad days, when
the Belgians were fleeing for their lives towards the safety of their
great fortified city on the Scheldt.

Oh, to see them at every station, crushing in! In they crowd, and in
they crowd, herding like dumb, driven cattle; and always the poor,
white-faced women with their wide, innocent eyes, had babies in their
arms, and little fair-haired Flemish children hanging to their skirts.
Wherever we stopped, we found the platforms lined ten deep, and by the
wildness with which these fugitives fought their way into the crowded
carriages, one guessed at the pent-up terror in those poor hearts! They
_must_, they _must_ get into that train! You could see it was a matter
of life and death with them. And soon every compartment was packed, and
on we went through the stifling, blinding August day--onwards towards
Antwerp.

But when a soldier came along, how eager everyone was to find a place
for him! Not one of us but would gladly give up our seat to any
_soldat_! We would lean from the windows, and shout out loudly, almost
imploringly, "Here, soldat! _Here!_" And when two wounded men from
Malines appeared, we performed absolute miracles of compression in that
long, brown train. We squeezed ourselves to nothing, we stood in back
rows on the seats, while front rows sat on our toes, and the passage
between the seats was packed so closely that one could scarcely insert a
pin, and still we squeezed ourselves, and still fresh passengers came
clambering in, and so wonderful was the spirit of goodwill abroad in
these desperate days in Belgium, that we kept on making room for them,
even when there was absolutely no more room to make!

Then a soldier began talking, and how we listened.

Never did priest, or orator, get such a hearing as that little
blue-coated Belgian, white with dust, clotted with blood and mud, his
yellow beard weeks old on his young face, with his poor feet in their
broken boots, the original blue and red of his coat blackened with
smoke, and hardened with earth where he had slept among the beet-roots
and potatoes at Malines.

He told us in a faint voice: "I often saw King Albert when I was
fighting near Malines. Yes, he was there, our King! He was fighting too,
I saw him many times, I was quite near him. Ah, he has a bravery and
magnificence about him! I saw a shell exploding just a bare yard from
where he was. Over and over again I saw his face, always calm and
resolute. I hope all is well with him," he ended falteringly, "but in
battle one knows nothing!"

"Yes, yes, all is well," answered a dozen voices. "King Albert is back
at Antwerp, and safe with the Queen!"

A look of radiant happiness flashed over the poor fellow's face as he
heard that.

Then he made us all laugh.

He said: "For two days I slept out in the fields, at first among the
potatoes and the beet-roots. And then I came to the asparagus." He drew
himself up a bit. "_Savez-vous_? The asparagus of Malines! It is the
best asparagus in the world? _C'est ça! AND I SLEPT ON IT, ON THE
MALINES ASPARAGUS!_"

About noon that day we had arrived close to Ghent, when suddenly the
train came to a standstill, and we were ordered to get out and told to
wait on the platform.

"Two hours to wait!" the stationmaster told us.

The grey old city of Ghent, calm and massive among her monuments,
looked as though war were a hundred miles away. The shops were all open.
Business was being briskly done. Ladies were buying gloves and ribbons,
old wide-bearded gentlemen were smoking their big cigars. Here and there
was a Belgian officer. The shops were full of English papers.

I went into the Cathedral. It was Saturday morning, but great crowds of
people, peasants, bourgeoisie and aristocracy, were there praying and
telling their rosaries, and as I entered, a priest was finishing his
sermon.

"Remember this, my children, remember this," said the little priest.
"Only silence is great, the rest is weakness!"

It has often seemed to me since that those words hold the key-note to
the Belgian character.

"_Seul la silence est grande; la reste est faiblesse._"

For never does one hear a Belgian complain!

At last, over the flat, green country, came a glimpse of Antwerp, a
great city lying stretched out on the flat lands that border the river
Scheldt.

From the train-windows one saw a bewildering mass of taxi-cabs all
gathered together in the middle of the green fields at the city's
outskirts, for all the taxi-cabs had been commandeered by the
Government. And near them was a field covered with monoplanes and
biplanes, a magnificent array of aircraft of every kind, with the
sunlight glittering over them like silver; they were all ready there to
chase the Zeppelin when it came over from Cologne, and in the air-field
a ceaseless activity went on.

Slowly and painfully our train crept into Antwerp station. The pomp and
spaciousness of this building, with its immense dome-like roof, was very
striking. It was the second largest station in the world. And in those
days it had need to be large, for the crowds that poured out of the
trains were appalling. All the world seemed to be rushing into the
fortified town. Soldiers were everywhere, and for the first time I saw
men armed to the teeth, with bayonets drawn, looking stern and
implacable, and I soon found it was a very terrible affair to get inside
the city. I had to wait and wait in a dense crowd for quite an hour
before I could get to the first line of Sentinels. Then I shewed my
passport and papers, while two Belgian sentinels stood on each side of
me, their bayonets horribly near my head.

Out in the flagged square I got a fiacre, and started off for a drive.

My first impression of Antwerp, as I drove through it that golden day,
was something never, never to be forgotten.

As long as I live I shall see that great city, walled in all round with
magnificent fortifications, standing ready for the siege. Along the
curbstones armed guards were stationed, bayonets fixed, while dense
crowds seethed up and down continually. In the golden sunlight thousands
of banners were floating in the wind, enormous banners of a size such as
I had never seen before, hanging out of these great, white stately
houses along the avenues lined with acacias. There were banners
fluttering out of the shops along the Chaussée de Malines, banners
floating from the beautiful cathedral, banners, banners, everywhere.
Hour after hour I drove, and everywhere there were banners, golden, red
and black, floating on the breeze. It seemed to me that that black
struck a curiously sombre note--almost a note of warning, and I confess
that I did not quite like it, and I even thought to myself that if I
were a Belgian, I would raise heaven and earth to have the black taken
out of my national flag. Alas, one little dreamed, that golden summer
day, of the tragic fate that lay in wait for Antwerp! In those days we
all believed her utterly impregnable.

After a long drive, I drove to the Hotel Terminus to get a cup of tea
and arrange for my stay.

It gave me a feeling of surprise to walk into a beautiful, palm-lined
corridor, and see people sitting about drinking cool drinks and eating
ices. There were high-spirited dauntless Belgian officers, in their
picturesque uniforms, French and English business men, and a sprinkling
of French and English War-Correspondents. A tall, charming grey-haired
American lady with the Red Cross on her black chiffon sleeve was having
tea with her husband, a grey-moustached American Army Doctor. These were
Major and Mrs. Livingstone Seaman, a wealthy philanthropic American
couple, who were devoting their lives and their substance to helping
Red Cross work.

Suddenly a man came towards me.

"You don't remember me," he said. "You are from Australia! I met you
fifteen years ago in Sydney."

It was a strange meeting that, of two Australians, who were destined
later on to face such terrific odds in that city on the Scheldt.

"My orders are," Mr. Frank Fox told me as we chatted away, "to stick it
out. Whatever happens, I've got to see it through for the _Morning
Post_."

"And I'm going to see it through, too," I said.

"Oh no!" said Mr. Fox. "You'll have to go as soon as trouble threatens!"

"Shall I?" I thought.

But as he was a man and an Australian, I did not think it was worth
while arguing the matter with him. Instead, we talked of Sydney, and old
friends across the seas, the Blue mountains, and the Bush, and our poets
and writers and painters and politicians, friends of long ago,
forgetting for the moment that we were chatting as it were on the edge
of a crater.



CHAPTER III

GERMANS ON THE LINE


I was coming back with my luggage from Ostend next day when the train,
which had been running along at a beautiful speed, came to a standstill
somewhere near Bruges.

There was a long wait, and at last it became evident that something was
wrong.

A brilliant-looking Belgian General, accompanied by an equally brilliant
Belgian Captain, who had travelled up in the train with me from Ostend,
informed me courteously, that it was doubtful if the train would go on
to-day.

"What has happened?" I asked.

"_Les Allemands sont sur la ligne!_" was the graphic answer.

With the Belgians' courteous assistance, I got down my suit-case, and a
large brown paper parcel, for of course in those day, no one thought
anything of a brown paper parcel; in fact it was quite the correct thing
to be seen carrying one, no matter who you were, king, queen, general,
prince, or War-Correspondent.

"Do you see that station over there?" Le Capitaine said. "Well, in a few
hours' time, a train _may_ start from there, and run to Antwerp But it
will not arrive at the ordinary station. It will go as far as the river,
and then we shall get on board a steamer, and cross the river, and shall
arrive at Antwerp from the quay."

Picking up my suit-case he started off, with the old General beside him
carrying my parasols, while I held my brown paper parcel firmly under
one arm, and grasped my hand-bag with the other hand. I was just
thinking to myself how nice it was to have a General and a Capitaine
looking after me, when, to my supreme disgust, my brown paper parcel
burst open, and there fell out an evening shoe. And such a shoe! It was
a brilliant blue and equally brilliant silver, with a very high heel,
and a big silver buckle. It was a shoe I loved, and I hadn't felt like
leaving it behind. And now there it fell on the station, witness to a
woman's vanity. However, the Belgian Captain was quite equal to the
occasion. He picked it up, and presented it to me with a bow, and said,
in unexpected English, "Yourra Sabbath shoe!"

It was good to have little incidents like that to brighten one's
journey, for a very long and tedious time elapsed before we arrived at
Antwerp that night. The crowded, suffocating train crawled along, and
stopped half an hour indiscriminately every now and then, and we
wondered if the Germans were out there in the flat fields to either side
of us.

When we arrived at the Scheldt, I trudged wearily on to the big river
steamboat, more dead than alive. The General was still carrying my
parasols, and the Capitaine still clung to my suit-case, and at last we
crossed the great blue Scheldt, and landed on the other side, where a
row of armed sentinels presented their bayonets at us, and kept us a
whole hour examining our passports before they would allow us to enter
the city.

Thanks to the kindly General, I got a lift in a motor car, and was taken
straight to the Hotel Terminus. I had eaten nothing since the morning.
But the sleepy hotel night-porter told me it was impossible to get
anything at that hour; everything was locked up; "_C'est la guerre!_" he
said.

Well, he was right; it was indeed the War, and I didn't feel that I had
any call to complain or make a fuss, so I wearily took the lift up to my
bedroom on the fourth floor, and speedily fell asleep.

When I awoke, _it was three o'clock in the morning_, and a most terrific
noise was going on.

It was pitch dark, darker than any words can say, up there in my
bedroom, for we were forbidden lights for fear of Zeppelins.

All day long I had been travelling through Belgium, and all day long, it
seemed to me, I had been turned out of one train into another, because
"les Allemands" were on the line.

So, when the noise awoke me, I knew at once it was those Germans that I
had been running away from all day long, between Ostend and Bruges, and
Bruges and Ghent, and Ghent and Boom, and Antwerp.

I lay quite still.

"They're come at last," I thought. "This is the real thing."

Vaguely I wondered what to do.

The roar of cannon was enormous, and it seemed to be just outside my
window.

And cracking and rapping through it, I heard the quick, incessant fire
of musketry--crack, crack, crack, a beautiful, clean noise, like
millions of forest boughs sharply breaking in strong men's hands.

Vaguely I listened.

And vaguely I tried to imagine how the Germans could have got inside
Antwerp so quickly.

Then vaguely I got out of bed.

In the pitch blackness, so hot and stifling, I stood there trying to
think, but my room seemed full of the roar of cannon, and I experienced
a queer sensation as though I was losing consciousness in the sea, under
the loud beat of waves.

"I mustn't turn up the light," I said to myself, "or they will see where
I am! That's the _one_ thing I mustn't do."

Again I tried to think what to do, and then suddenly I found myself
listening, with a sub-consciousness of immense and utter content, to the
wild outcry of those cannons and muskets, and I felt as if I must
listen, and listen, and listen, till I knew the sounds by heart.

As for fear, there was none, not any at all, not a particle.

Instead, there was something curiously akin to rapture.

It seemed to me that the supreme satisfaction of having at last dropped
clean away from all the make-believes of life, seized upon me, standing
there in my nightgown in the pitch-black, airless room at Antwerp, a
woman quite alone among strangers, with danger knocking at the gate of
her world.

Make-believe! Make-believe! All life up to this minute seemed nothing
else but make-believe. For only Death seemed real, and only Death seemed
glorious.

All this took me about two minutes to think, and then I began to move
about my room, stupidly, vaguely.

I seemed to bump up against the noise of the cannons at every step.

But I could not find the door, and I could not find a wrapper.

My hands went out into the darkness, grabbing, reaching.

But all the while I was listening with that deep, undisturbed content to
the terrific fire that seemed to shake the earth and heaven to pieces.

All I could get hold of was the sheet and blankets.

I had arrived back at my bed again.

Well, I must turn away, I must look elsewhere.

And then I quietly and unexpectedly put out my hand and turned up the
light in a fit of desperate defiance of the German brutes outside.

In a flash I saw my suit-case. It was locked. I saw my powder puff. I
saw my bag. Then I put out the light and picked up my powder-puff, got
to my bag, and fumbled for the keys, and opened my suit-case and dragged
out a wrapper, but no slippers came under my fingers, and I wanted
slippers in case of going out into the streets.

But by this time I had discovered that nothing matters at all, and I
quietly turned up the light again, being by then a confirmed and age-old
fatalist.

Standing in front of the looking-glass, I found myself slowly powdering
my face.

Then the sound of people rushing along the corridor reached me, and I
opened my door and went out.

"C'est une bataille! Ce sont les Allemands, n'est-ce-pas?" queried a
poor old lady.

"Mais non, madame," shouts a dashing big aeronaut running by. "Ce n'est
pas une bataille. C'est le Zeppelin!"

And so it was.

The Zeppelin had come, for the second time, to Antwerp! And the cannons
and musketry were the onslaughts upon the monster by the Belgian
soldiers, mad with rage at the impudent visit, and all ready with a hot
reception for it.

Down the stairs I fled, snatched away now from those wonderful moments
of reality, alone, with the noise of the cannons in the pitch-blackness
of that stifling bedroom; down the great scarlet-carpeted stairs, until
we all came to a full stop in the hotel lounge below.

One dim light, shaded half into darkness, revealed the silhouettes of
tall, motionless green palms and white wicker chairs and scarlet carpets
and little tables, and the strangest crowd in all the world.

The Zeppelin was sailing overhead just then, flinging the ghastliest of
all ghastly deaths from her cages as she sped along her craven way
across the skies, but that crowd in the foyer of the great Antwerp Hotel
remained absolutely silent, absolutely calm.

There was a tiny boy from Liège, whose trembling pink feet peeped from
the blankets in which he had been carried down.

There was a lovely heroic Liège lady whose gaiety and sweetness, and
charming toilettes had been making "sunshine in a shady place" for us
all in these dark days.

Everyone remembered afterwards how beautiful the little Liège lady
looked with her great, black eyes, still sparkling, and long red-black
hair falling over her shoulders, and a black wrapper flung over her
white nightgown.

And her husband, a huge, fair-haired Belgian giant with exquisite
manners and a little-boy lisp--a daring aviator--never seen except in a
remarkable pair of bright yellow bags of trousers. His lisp was
unaffected, and his blue eyes bright and blue as spring flowers, and his
heart was iron-strong.

And there was Madame la Patronne, wrapped in a good many things; and an
Englishman with a brown moustache, who must have had an automatic
toilette, as he is here fully dressed, even to his scarf-pin, hat, boots
and all; and some War-Correspondents, who always, have the incontestable
air of having arranged the War from beginning to end, especially when
they appear like this in their pyjamas; and a crowd of Belgian ladies
and children, and all the maids and garçons, and the porters and the
night-porters, and various strange old gentlemen in overcoats and bare
legs, and strange old ladies with their heads tied, who will never be
seen again (not to be recognised), and the cook from the lowest regions,
and the chasseur who runs messages--there we all were, waiting while the
Zeppelin sailed overhead, and the terrific crash and boom and crack and
deafening detonations grew fainter and fainter as the Belgian soldiers
fled along through the night in pursuit of the German dastard that was
finally driven back to Cologne, having dashed many houses to bits.

Then the little "chass," who has run through the street-door away down
the road, comes racing back breathless across the flagged stone
courtyard.

"Oh, mais c'est chic, le Zepp," he cries enthusiastically, his young
black eyes afire. "C'est tout à fait chic, vous savez!"

And if that's not truly Belge, I really don't know what is!



[Illustration: AN ORDER FROM THE BELGIAN WAR OFFICE.]



CHAPTER IV

IN THE TRACK OF THE HUNS


When I look back on those days, the most pathetic thing about it all
seems to me the absolute security in which we imagined ourselves
dwelling.

The King and Queen were in their Palace, that tall simple flat-fronted
grey house in the middle of the town. Often one saw the King, seated in
an open motor car coming in and out of the town, or striding quickly
into the Palace. Tall and fair, his appearance always seemed to me to
undergo an extraordinary change from the face as shewn in photographs.
It was because in real life those beautiful wide blue eyes of his,
mirrors of truth and simple courage, were covered with glasses.

And "la petite Reine," equally beloved, was very often to be seen too,
driving backwards and forwards to the hospitals, the only visits she
ever paid.

All theatres were closed, all concerts, all cinemas. All the galleries
were shut. Never a note of song or music was to be heard anywhere. To
open a piano at one's hotel would have been a crime.

And yet, that immense crowd gathered together in Antwerp for safety,
Ambassadors, Ministers and their wives and families, Consuls, Échevins,
merchants, stockbrokers, peasants, were anything but gloomy. A peculiar
tide of life flowed in and out through that vast cityful of people. It
was life, vibrant with expectation, thrilling with hope and fear,
without a moment's loneliness. They walked about the shady avenues. They
sat at their cafés, they talked, they sipped their coffee, or their
"Elixir d'Anvers" and then they went home to bed. After seven the
streets were empty, the cafés shut, the day's life ended.

Never a doubt crossed our minds that the Germans could possibly get
through those endless fortifications surrounding Antwerp on all sides.

Getting about was incredibly difficult. In fact, without a car, one
could see nothing, and there were no cars to be had, the War Office had
taken them all over. In despair I went to Sir Frederick Greville, the
English Ambassador, and after certain formalities and inquiries, Sir
Frederick very kindly went himself to the War Office, saw Count Chabeau
on my behalf, and arranged for my getting a car.

Many a dewy morning, while the sun was low in the East, I have started
out and driven along the road to Ghent, or to Liège, or to Malines, and
looking from the car I observed those endless forests of wire, and the
mined waters whose bridges one drove over so slowly, so softly, in such
fear and trembling. And then, set deep in the great fortified hillsides,
the mouths of innumerable cannon pointed at one; and here and there
great reflectors were placed against the dull earth-works to shew when
the enemy's aircraft appeared in the skies. Nothing seemed wanting to
make those fortifications complete and successful. It was heart-breaking
to see the magnificent old châteaux and the beautiful little houses
being ruthlessly cut down, razed to the earth to make clear ground in
all directions for the defence-works. The stumps of the trees used to
look to me like the ruins of some ancient city, for even they
represented the avenues of real streets and roads, and the black, empty
places behind them were the homes that had been demolished in this
overwhelming attempt to keep at least one city of Belgium safe and
secure from the marauding Huns.

Afterwards, when all was over, when Antwerp had fallen, I passed through
the fortifications for the last time on my way to Holland. And oh, the
sadness of it! There were the wire entanglements, untouched, unaltered!
The great reflectors still mirrored the sunlight and the stars. The
demolition of the châteaux and house had been all in vain. On this side
there had been little fighting, they had got in on the other side.

Every five minutes one's car would be held up by sentinels who rushed
forward with poised bayonets, demanding the password for the day.

That always seemed to me like a bit of mediæval history.

"Arrêtez!" cried the sentinels, on either side the road, lifting their
rifles as they spoke.

Of course we came to a stop immediately.

Then the chauffeur would lean far out, and whisper in a hoarse, low
voice, the password, which varied with an incessant variety. Sometimes
it would be "Ostend" or "Termond" or "Demain" or "General" or
"Bruxelles" or "Belgique," or whatever the War Office chose to make it.
Then the sentinel would nod. "Good," he would say, and on we would go.

The motor car lent me by the Belgian War Office, was driven by an
excitable old Belgian, who loved nothing better than to get into a
dangerous spot. His favourite saying, when we got near shell-fire, and
one asked him if he were frightened, was: "One can only die once." And
the louder the shells, the quicker he drove towards them; and I used to
love the way his old eyes flashed, and I loved too the keenly
disappointed look that crept over his face when the sentinels refused to
let him go any nearer the danger line, and we had to creep ignominiously
back to safety.

"Does not your master ever go towards the fighting?" I asked him.

"Non, madame," he answered sadly, "Mon general, he is the PAPA of the
Commissariat! He does not go near the fighting. He only looks after the
eating."

We left Antwerp one morning about nine o'clock, and sped outwards
through the fortifications, being stopped every ten minutes as usual by
the sentinels and asked to show our papers. On we ran along the white
tree-lined roads through exquisite green country. The roads were crowded
constantly with soldiers coming and going, and in all the villages we
found the Headquarters of one or other Division of the Belgian Army,
making life and bustle indescribable in the flagged old streets, and
around the steps of the quaint mediæval Town Halls and Cathedrals.

[Illustration: A FRIENDLY CHAT.]

We had gone a long way when we were brought to a standstill at a little
place called Heyst-op den Berg, where the sentinels leaned into our car
and had a long friendly chat with us.

"You cannot go any further," they said. "The Germans are in the next
town ahead; they are only a few kilometres away."

"What town is it?" I asked.

"Aerschot," they replied.

"That is on the way to Louvain, is it not?" I asked. "I have been trying
for a long time to get to Louvain!"

"You can never get to Louvain, Madam," the sentinels told me smilingly.
"Between here and Louvain lies the bulk of the German Army."

Just then, a _chasseur_, mounted on a beautiful fiery little brown
Ardennes horse, came galloping along, shouting as he passed, "The
Germans have been turned out of Aerschot; we have driven them out, _les
sales cochons!_"

He jumped off his horse, gave the reins to a soldier and leapt into a
train that was standing at the station.

A sudden inspiration flashed into my head. Without a word I jumped out
of the motor car, ran through the station, and got into that train just
as it was moving off, leaving my old Belgian to look after the car.

Next moment I found myself being carried along through unknown regions,
and as I looked from the windows I soon discovered that I had entered
now into the very heart of German ruin and pillage and destructiveness.
Pangs of horror attacked me at the sight of those blackened roofless
houses, standing lonely and deserted among green, thriving fields. I saw
one little farm after another reduced to a heap of blackened ashes, with
some lonely animals gazing terrifiedly into space. Sometimes just one
wall would be standing of what was once a home, sometimes only the front
of the house had been blown out by shells, and you could see right
inside,--see the rooms spread out before you like a panorama, see the
children's toys and frocks lying about, and the pots and pans, even the
remains of dinner still on the table, and all the homely little things
that made you feel so intensely the difference between this chill,
deathly desolation and the happy domestic life that had gone on in such
peaceful streams before the Huns set their faces Belgium-wards.

Mile after mile the train passed through these ravaged areas, and I
stood at the window with misty eyes and quickened breath? looking up and
down the lonely roads, and over the deserted fields where never a soul
was to be seen, and in my mind's eye, I could follow those peasants,
fleeing, fleeing, ever fleeing from one village to another, from one
town to another, hunted and followed by the cruel menace of War which
they, poor innocent ones, had done so little to deserve.

The only comfort was to think of them getting safely across to England,
and as I looked at those little black and ruined homes, I could follow
the refugees in their flight and see them streaming out of the trains at
Victoria and Charing Cross, and being taken to warm, comfortable homes
and clothed and fed by gentle-voiced English people. And then, waking
perhaps in the depths of the night to find themselves in a strange land,
how their thoughts would fly, with what awful yearning, back to those
little blackened homes, back to the memories of the cow and the horse
and the faithful dogs, and the corn in the meadows, and the purple
cabbages uncut and the apples ungarnered! Yes, I could see it all, and
my heart ached as it had never ached before.

When I roused myself from these sad thoughts, I looked about me and
discovered that I was in a train full of nothing but soldiers and
priests. I sat very still in my corner. I asked no questions, and spoke
to no one. I knew by instinct that this train was going to take me to a
place that I never should have arrived at otherwise, and I was right.
The train took me to Aerschot, and I may say now that only one other
War-Correspondent arrived there.

Alighting at the station at Aerschot, I looked about me, scarcely
believing that what I saw was real.

The railway station appeared to have fallen victim to an earthquake.



CHAPTER V

AERSCHOT


I think until that day I had always cherished a lurking hope that the
Huns were not as black as they were painted.

I had been used to think of the German race, as tinged with a certain
golden glamour, because to it belonged the man who wrote the Fifth
Symphony; the man who wrote the divine first part of "Faust," and still
more that other, whose mocking but sublime laughter would be a fitting
accompaniment of the horrors at Aerschot.

Oh, Beethoven, Goethe, Heine! Not even out of respect for your undying
genius can I hide the truth about the Germans any longer.

What I have seen, I must believe!

In the pouring rain, wearing a Belgian officer's great-coat, I trudged
along through a city that might well have been Pompeii or Herculaneum;
it was a city that existed no longer; it was absolutely _the shell of a
town_. The long streets were full of hollow, blackened skeletons of what
had once been houses--street upon street of them, and street upon
street. The brain reeled before the spectacle. And each of those houses
once a home. A place of thought, of rest, of happiness, of work, of
love.

All the inhabitants have fled, leaving their lares and penates just as
the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum sought to flee when the lava came
down on them.

Here a wall stands, there a pillar and a few bricks.

But between the ruins, strange, touching, unbelievable, gleaming from
the background, are the scarlet and white of dahlias and roses in the
gardens behind, that have somehow miraculously escaped the ruin that has
fallen on the solid walls and ceilings and floors so carefully
constructed by the brain of man, and so easily ruined by man's
brutality.

It is as though the flowers had some miraculous power of
self-preservation, some secret unknown to bricks and mortar, some
strange magic, that keeps the sweet blossoms laughing and defiant under
the Hun's shell-fire. And the red and the pure white of them, and the
green, intensify, with a tremendous potency, the black horrors of the
town!

In every street I observed always the same thing; hundreds of empty
bottles. "Toujours _les bouteilles_," one of my companions kept
saying--a brilliant young Brussels lawyer who was now in this regiment.
The other officer was also a _Bruxellois_, and I was told afterwards
that these two had formerly been the "Nuts" of Brussels, the two
smartest young men of the town. To see them that day gave little idea
of their smartness; they both were black with grime and smoke, with
beards that had no right to be there, creeping over their faces, boots
caked with mud to the knees, and a general air of having seen activities
at very close quarters.

They took me to the church, and there the little old brown-faced
sacristan joined us, punctuating our way with groans and sobs of horror.

This is what I see.

Before me stretches a great dim interior lit with little bunches of
yellow candles. It is in a way a church. But what has happened to it?
What horror has seized upon it, turning it into the most hideous
travesty of a church that the world has ever known?

On the high altar stand empty champagne bottles, empty rum bottles, a
broken bottle of Bordeaux, and five bottles of beer.

In the confessionals stand empty champagne bottles, empty brandy
bottles, empty beer bottles.

In the Holy Water fonts are empty brandy bottles.

Stacks of bottles are under the pews, or on the seats themselves.

Beer, brandy, rum, champagne, bordeaux, burgundy; and again beer,
brandy, rum, champagne, bordeaux, burgundy.

Everywhere, everywhere, in whatever part of the church one looks, there
are bottles--hundreds of them, thousands of them, perhaps--everywhere,
bottles, bottles, bottles.

The sacred marble floors are covered everywhere with piles of straw, and
bottles, and heaps of refuse and filth, and horse-dung.

"Mais Madame," cries the burning, trembling voice of the distracted
sacristan, "look at this."

And he leads me to the white marble bas-relief of the Madonna.

The Madonna's head has been cut right off!

Then, even as I stand there trying to believe that I am really looking
at such nightmares, I feel the little sacristan's fingers trembling on
my arm, turning me towards a sight that makes me cold with horror.

They have set fire to the Christ, to the beautiful wood-carving of our
Saviour, and burnt the sacred figure all up one side, and on the face
and breast.

And as they finished the work I can imagine them, with a hiccup slitting
up the priceless brocade on the altar with a bayonet, then turning and
slashing at the great old oil paintings on the Cathedral walls, chopping
them right out of their frames, but leaving the empty frames there, with
a German's sense of humour that will presently make Germany laugh on the
wrong side of its face.

A dead pig lies in the little chapel to the right, a dead white pig with
a pink snout.

Very still and pathetic is that dead pig, and yet it seems to speak.

It seems to realise the sacrilege of its presence here in God's House.

It seems to say, "Let not the name of pig be given to the Germans. We
pigs have done nothing to deserve it."

"And here, Madame, voyez vous! Here the floor is chipped and smashed
where they stabled their horses, these barbarians!" says the young
Lieutenant on my left.

And now we come to the Gate of Shame.

It is the door of a small praying-room.

Still pinned outside, on the door, is a piece of white paper, with this
message in German, "This room is private. Keep away."

And inside?

Inside are women's garments, a pile of them tossed hastily on the floor,
torn perhaps from the wearers....

A pile of women's garments!

In silence we stand there. In silence we go out. It is a long time
before anyone can speak again, though the little sacristan keeps on
moaning to himself.

As we step out of the horrors of that church some German prisoners that
have just been brought in, are being marched by.

And then rage overcomes one of the young Lieutenants. White, trembling,
beside himself, he rushes forward. He shouts. He raves. He is thinking
of that room; they were of Belgium, those girls and women; he is of
Belgium too; and he flings his scorn and hatred at the Uhlans marching
past, he lashes and whips them with his agony of rage until the cowering
prisoners are out of hearing.

The other Lieutenant at last succeeds in silencing him.

"What is the use, mon ami!" he says. "What is the use?"

Perhaps this outburst is reported to headquarters by somebody. For that
night at the Officers' Mess, the Captain of the regiment has a few words
to say against shewing anger towards prisoners, and very gently and
tactfully he says them.

He is a Belgian, and all Belgians are careful to a point that is almost
beyond human comprehension in their criticisms of their enemies.

"Let us be careful never to demean ourselves by humiliating prisoners,"
says the Captain, looking round the long roughly-set table. "You see, my
friends, these poor German fellows that we take are not all typical of
the crimes that the Germans commit; lots of them are only peasants, or
men that would prefer to stay by their own fireside!"

"What about Aerschot and the church?" cry a score of irritated young
voices.

The Captain draws his kindly lips together, and attacks his black bread
and tinned mackerel.

"Ah," he says, "we must remember they were all drunk!"

And as he utters these words there flash across my mind those old, old
words that will never die:

"Forgive them, for they know not what they do."



CHAPTER VI

THE SWIFT RETRIBUTION


As I stood in the rain, down there in the ruined blackened piazza of
Aerschot, someone drew my attention to the hole in the back-window of
the Burgomaster's house.

In cold blood, the Germans had shot the Burgomaster.

And they had shot two of his children.

And as they could not find the Burgomaster's wife, who had fled into the
country, they had offered 4,000 francs reward for her.

A hoarse voice whispered that in that room with the broken window, the
German Colonel who had ordered the murder of the good, kind, beloved
Burgomaster, had met his own fate.

Yes! In the room of the dead Burgomaster's maidservant, the German
colonel had fallen dead from a shot fired from without.

By whose hand was it fired, that shot that laid the monster at his
victim's feet?

"By the hand of an inferieur!" someone whispers.

And I put together the story, and understand that the girl's village
sweetheart avenged her.

They are both dead now--the girl and her village swain--shot down
instantly by the howling Germans.

But their memory will never die; for they stand--that martyred boy and
girl,--for Belgium's fight for its women's honour and the manliness of
its men.



CHAPTER VII

THEY WOULD NOT KILL THE COOK


Besides myself, I discover only one woman in the whole of Aerschot--a
little fair-haired Fleming, with a lion's heart. She is the bravest
woman in the world. I love the delightful way she drops her wee
six-weeks-old baby into my arms, and goes off to serve a hundred hungry
Belgians with black bread and coffee, confident that her little treasure
will be quite safe in the lap of the "Anglaise."

Smiling and running about between the kitchen, the officers' mess, and
the bar, this brave, good soul finds time to tell us how she remained
all alone in Aerschot for three whole weeks, all the while the Germans
were in possession of the town.

"I knew that cooking they must have," she says, "and food and drink, and
for that I knew I was safe. So I remained here, and kept the hotel of my
little husband from being burned to the ground! But I slept always with
my baby in my arms, and the revolver beside the pillow. In the night
sometimes I heard them knocking at my door. Yes, they would knock,
knock, knock! And I would lie there, the revolver ready, if needs be,
for myself and the petite both! But they never forced that door. They
would go away as stealthily as they had come! Ah! they knew that if they
had got in they would have found a dead woman, not a live one!"

And I quite believed her.



CHAPTER VIII

"YOU'LL NEVER GET THERE"


As the weeks went on a strange thing happened to me.

At first vaguely, faintly, and then with an ever-deepening intensity,
there sprang to life within me a sense of irritation at having to depend
on newspapers, or hearsay, for one's knowledge of the chief item in this
War,--the Enemy.

An overwhelming desire seized upon me to discover for myself what a
certain darksome unknown quantity was like; that darksome, unknown
quantity that we were always hearing about but never saw; that we were
always moving away from if we heard it was anywhere near; that was
making all the difference to everything; that was at the back of
everything; that mattered so tremendously; and yet could never be
visualized.

The habit of a lifetime of groping for realities began to assert itself,
and I found myself chafing at not being able to find things out for
myself.

In the descriptions I gleaned from men and newspapers I was gradually
discovering many puzzling incongruities.

There are thinkers whose conclusions one honours, and attends to: but
these thinkers were not out here, looking at the War with their own
eyes. Maeterlinck, for instance, whose deductions would have been
invaluable, was in France. Tolstoi was dead. Mr. Wells was in England
writing.

To believe what people tell you, you must first believe in the people.

If you can find one person to believe in in a lifetime, and that one
person is yourself, you are lucky!

One day, towards the end of September, I heard an old professor from
Liège University talking to a young Bruxellois with a black moustache
and piercing black eyes, who had arrived that day at our hotel.

"So you are going back at once to Brussels, Monsieur?" said the old
professor in his shaky voice.

"Yes, Monsieur! Why don't you come with me?"

"I have not the courage!"

"Courage! But there is nothing to fear! You come along with me, and I'll
see you through all right. I assure you the trains run right into
Brussels now. The Germans leave us Bruxellois alone. They're trying to
win our favour. They never interfere with us. There is not the slightest
danger. And there is not half so much trouble and difficulty to get in
and out of Brussels as there is to get in and out Antwerp. You get into
a train at Ghent, go to Grammont, and there change into a little train
that takes you straight to Brussels. They never ask us for our passports
now. For myself, I have come backwards and forwards from Brussels half
a dozen times this last fortnight on special missions for our
Government. I have never been stopped once. If you'll trust yourself to
me, I'll see you safely through!"

"I desire to go very much!" muttered the old man. "There are things in
Liège that I must attend to. But to get to Liège I must go through
Brussels. It seems to me there is a great risk, a very great risk."

"No risk at all!" said the young Bruxellois cheerfully.

That evening at dinner, the young man aforesaid was introduced to me by
Mr. Frank Fox, of the _Morning Post_, who knew him well.

It was not long before I said to him: "Do you think it would be possible
for an Englishwoman to get into Brussels? I should like very much to go.
I want to get an interview with M. Max for my newspaper."

He was an extremely optimistic and cheerful young man.

He said, "Quite easy! I know M. Max very well. If you come with me, I'll
see you safely through, and take you to see him. As a matter of fact
I've got a little party travelling with me on Friday, and I shall be
delighted if you will join us."

"I'll come," I said.

Extraordinary how easy it is to make up one's mind about big things.

That decision, which was the most important one I ever made in my life,
gave me less trouble than I have sometimes been caused by such trifles
as how to do one's hair or what frock to wear.

Next day, I told everyone I was going to try to get into Brussels.

"You'll be taken prisoner!"

"You're mad!"

"You'll be shot!"

"You will be taken for a spy!"

"You will never get there!"

All these things, and hosts of others, were said, but perhaps the most
potent of all the arguments was that put up by the sweet little lady
from Liège, the black-eyed mother with two adorable little boys, and a
delightful big husband--the gallant chevalier, in yellow bags of
trousers, whom I have already referred to in an earlier chapter.

This little Liègeoise and I were now great friends; I shall speak of her
as Alice. She had a gaiety and insouciance, and a natural childlike
merriment that all her terrible disasters could not overcloud. What
laughs we used to have together, she and I, what talks, what walks! And
sometimes the big husband would give Alice a delightful little dinner at
the Criterium Restaurant in the Avenue de Kaiser, where we ate such
delicious things, it was impossible to believe oneself in a Belgian
city, with War going on at the gates.

When I told Alice that I was going to Brussels, she set to work with
all her womanly powers of persuasion to make me give up my project.

There was nothing she did not urge.

The worst of all was that we might never see each other again.

"But I don't feel like that," I told her. "I feel that I must go! It's a
funny feeling, I can't describe it, because it isn't exactly real. I
don't feel exactly that I must go. Even when I am telling you that, it
isn't exactly true."

"I am afraid this is too complicated for me," said Alice gravely.

"I admit it sounds complicated! I suppose what it really mean is that I
want to go, and I am going!"

"But my husband says we may be in Brussels ourselves in three weeks'
time: Why not wait and come in in safety with the Belgian Army!"

Other people gathered round us, there in the dimly-lit palm court of the
big Antwerp Hotel, and a lively discussion went on.

A big dark man, with a melancholy face, said wistfully, "I wish I could
make up my mind to go too!"

This was Cherry Kearton, the famous naturalist and photographer. He was
out at the front looking for pictures, and in his mind's eye, doubtless,
he saw the pictures he would get in Brussels, pictures sneakingly and
stealthily taken from windows at the risk of one's life, glorious
pictures, pictures a photographer would naturally see in his mind's eye
when he thought of getting into Brussels during the German occupation.

Mr. Kearton's interpreter, a little fair-haired man, however, put in a
couple of sharp words that were intended to act as an antidote to the
great photographer's uncertain longings.

"You'll be shot for a dead certainty, Cherry?" he said. "You get into
Brussels with your photographic apparatus! Why, you might as well walk
straight out to the Germans and ask them to finish you off!"

"Cherry" had his old enemy, malaria, hanging about him at that time, or
I quite believe he would have risked it and come.

But as events turned out it was lucky for him he didn't! For his King
and his Country have called him since then in a voice he could not
resist, and he has gone to his beloved Africa again, in Colonel
Driscoll's League of Frontiersmen.

When I met him out there in Antwerp, he had just returned from his
famous journey across Central Africa. His thoughts were all of lions,
giraffes, monkeys, rhinoceros. He would talk on and on, quite carried
away. He made noises like baboons, boars, lions, monkeys. He was great
fun. I was always listening to him, and gradually I would forget the
War, forget I was in Antwerp, and be carried right away into the jungle
watching a crowd of giraffes coming down to drink.

Indeed the vividness of Cherry's stories was such, that, when I think
of Antwerp now, I hear the roar of lions, the pad pad of wild beasts,
the gutteral uncouthness of monkeys--all the sounds in fact that so
excellently represent Antwerp's present occupiers! But the faces of
Cherry's wild beasts were kinder, humaner faces than the faces that
haunt Antwerp now.



CHAPTER IX

SETTING OUT ON THE GREAT ADVENTURE


It was on Friday afternoon, September 24th, that I ran down the stairs
of the Hotel Terminus, with a little brown bag in my hand.

Without saying good-bye to anybody, I hurried out, and jumped into a cab
at the door, accompanied by the old professor from Liège, and the young
Brussels lawyer.

It was a gorgeous day, about four o'clock in the afternoon, with
brilliant sunlight flooding the city; and a feeling of intense elation
came over me as our cab went rattling along over the old flagged
streets.

Overhead, in the bright blue sky, aeroplanes were scouting. The wind
blew sweet from the Scheldt, and the flat green lands beyond. All the
banners stirred and waved. French, English, Belgian and Russian. And I
felt contented, and glad I had started.

"First we call for Madame Julie!" said the young lawyer.

We drove along the quay, and stopped at a big white house.

To my surprise, I found myself now suddenly precipitated into the midst
of a huge Belgian party,--mamma, papa, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces,
friends, officers, little girls, little boys, servants gathered in a
great high-ceiled and be-windowed drawing-room crowded to the full. I
was introduced to everybody, and a lot of hand-shaking went on.

I thought to myself, "This is a new way to get to Brussels!"

Servants were going round with trays laden with glasses of foaming
champagne, and little sweet biscuits.

"We shall drink to the health of Julie!" said someone.

And we drank to Julie.

The sun poured in through the windows, and the genial affectionate
Belgian family all gathered closer round the beloved daughter, who was
going bravely back to-day to Brussels to join her husband there at his
post.

It was a touching scene.

But as I think of it now, it becomes poignant with the tragedy hidden
beneath the glittering sunlight and foaming champagne. That fine old
man, with the dignified grey head and beard, was a distinguished Belgian
minister, who has since met with a sad death. He was Julie's father, a
father any woman might have been proud of. He said to me, "Je suis
content that a lady is going too in this little company. It is hard for
my daughter to be travelling about alone. Yet she is brave; she does not
lack courage; she came alone all the way from Brussels three days ago
in order to bring her little girl to Antwerp and leave her in our care.
And now she feels it is her duty to go back to her husband in Brussels,
though we, of course, long to have her remain with us."

Then at last the parting came, and tall, brown-eyed, buxom Julie kissed
and was kissed by everybody, and everybody shook hands with me, and
wished me luck, and I felt as if I was one with them, although I had
never seen them in my life before, and never saw them in my life again.

We ran down the steps. And now, instead of getting into the old ricketty
fiacre, we entered a handsome motor car belonging to the Belgian
Ministry, and drove quickly to the quay. The father came with us, his
daughter clinging to his arm. At the quay we went on board the big river
steamer, and Julie bade her father farewell. She flung herself into his
arms, and he clasped her tight. He held her in silence for a long
minute. Then they parted.

They never met again.

As we moved away from the quay, it seemed to me that our steamer was
steering straight for the Hesperides.

All the west was one great blazing field of red and gold, and the sun
was low on the broad water's edge, while behind us the fair city of
Antwerp lit sparkling lights in all her windows, and the old Cathedral
rose high into the sunlight, with the Belgian banner fluttering from a
pinnacle; and that is how I shall always see Antwerp, fair, and
stately, and sun-wreathed, as she was that golden September afternoon.

When I think of her, I refuse to see her any other way!

I refuse to see her as she was when I came back to her.

Or as when I left her again for the Last Time.



CHAPTER X

FROM GHENT TO GRAMMONT


I don't know why we were all in such high spirits, for we had nothing
but discomfort to endure.

And yet, out of that very discomfort itself, some peculiar psychic force
seemed to spring to life and thrive, until we became as merry as
crickets.

A more inherently melancholy type than the old Liège professor could
scarcely be imagined.

Poor old soul!

He had lost his wife a week before the war, and in the siege of Liège
one of his sons had fallen, and he had lost his home, and everything he
held dear. He was an enormous man, dressed in deep black, the most
pronounced mourning you can possibly imagine, with a great black pot-hat
coming well down on his huge face. His big frame quivered like a jelly,
as he sat in the corner of the train, and was shaken by the rough
movements and the frequent stoppages. Yet he became cheerful, just as
cheerful as any of us.

Strange as it seems in the telling, this cheerfulness is a normal
condition of the people nearest the front. There is only one thing that
kills it, loss of freedom when loss of freedom means loss of
companionship. Ruin, danger, cold, hunger, heat, dirt, discomfort,
wounds, suffering, death, are all dashed with glory, and become
acceptable as part of the greatest adventure in the world. But loss of
freedom wrings the colour from the brain, and shuts out this world and
the next when it entails loss of comradeship.

When I first realised this strange phenomenon I thought it would take a
volume of psychology to explain it.

And then, all suddenly, with no effort of thought, I found the
explanation revealing itself in one magic blessed word,--_Companionship._

Out here in the danger-zones, the irksome isolation of ordinary lives
has vanished.

We are no longer alone; there are no such things as strangers; we are
all together wherever we are; in the trenches, on the roads, in the
trams, in the cities, in the villages, we all talk to each other, we all
know each other's histories, we pour out our hopes and fears, we receive
the warm, sweet stimulus of human comradeship multiplied out of all
proportion to anything that life has ever offered any single one of us
before, till even pain and death take on more gentle semblance seen with
the eyes of a million people all holding hands.

Young men who have not gone, go now! Find out for yourselves whether
this wonderful thing that I tell you is not true, that the battle-field,
apart from its terrific and glorious qualities, holds also that secret
of gaiety of heart that mankind is ever searching for!

We were at St. Nicolla now, and it was nearly dark, and our train was at
a standstill.

"I'll get out and see what's the matter," said the young lawyer, whom I
shall refer to hereafter as Jean.

He came back in a minute looking serious.

"The train doesn't go any further!" he said. "There's no train for Ghent
to-night."

We all got out, clutching our bags, and stood there on the platform in
the reddened dusk that was fast passing into night.

A Pontonnier, who had been in the train with us, came up and said he was
expecting an automobile to meet him here, and perhaps he could give some
of us a lift as far as Ghent.

However, his automobile didn't turn up, and that little plan fell
through.

Jean began to bite his moustache and walk up and down, smiling
intermittently, a queer distracted-looking smile that showed his white
teeth.

He always did that when he was thinking how to circumvent the
authorities. He had a word here with an officer, and a word there with a
gendarme. Then he came back to us:

"We shall all go and interview the stationmaster, and see what can be
done!"

So we went to the stationmaster, and Jean produced his papers, and Julie
produced hers, and the old professor from Liège produced his, and I
produced my English passport.

Jean talked a great deal, and the stationmaster shook his head a great
deal, and there was an endless colloquy, such as Belgians dearly love;
and just as I thought everything was lost, the stationmaster hastened
off into the dark with a little lantern and told us to follow him right
across the train lines, and we came to a bewildering mass of lights, and
at last we reached a spot in the middle of many train lines which seemed
extremely dangerous, when the stationmaster said, "Stand there! And when
train 57 comes along get immediately into the guard's van! There is only
one."

We waited a long time, and the night grew cold and dark before 57 came
along.

When it puffed itself into a possible position we all performed miracles
in the way of climbing up an enormous step, and then we found ourselves
in a little wooden van, with one dim light burning, and one wooden seat,
and in we got, seating ourselves in a row on the hard seat, and off we
started through the night for Ghent.

Looking through a peep-hole, I suddenly stifled an exclamation.

Pointing straight at me were the muzzles of guns.

"Mais oui," said Jean. "That is what this train is doing. It is taking
guns to Ghent. There are big movements of troops going on."

We were shaken nearly to pieces.

And we went so slowly that we scarcely moved at all.

But we arrived at Ghent at last, arrived of course, as usual in war
time, at a station one had never seen or heard of before, in a remote,
far-off portion of the town, and then we had to find our way back to the
town proper, a long, long walk. It was twelve o'clock when we got into
the beautiful old dreamlike town.

First we went to the Hotel Ganda.

"Full up!" said the fat, white-faced porter rudely. "No room even on the
floor to sleep."

"Can you give us something to eat?" we pleaded.

"Impossible! The kitchens are shut up."

He was a brute of a porter, an extraordinary man who never slept, and
was on duty all night and all day.

He was hand in glove with the Germans all the time, his face did not
belie him; he looked the ugliest, stealthiest creature, shewing a covert
rudeness towards all English-speaking people, that many of us remember
now and understand.

In the pitch darkness we set out again, clattering about the flagged
streets of Ghent, a determined little party now, with our high spirits
quite unchecked by hunger and fatigue, to try to find some sleeping
place for the night.

From hotel to hotel we wandered; everyone was full; evidently a vast
body of troops had arrived at Ghent that day. But, finally, at one
o'clock we went last of all to the hotel we should have gone to first.

That was the Hôtel de la Poste. It being the chief hotel at Ghent, we
had felt certain it would be impossible to get accommodation there. But
other people had evidently thought so too, and the result was we all got
a room.

From the outside, the hotel appeared to be in pitch darkness, but when
we got within we found lights burning, and great companies of Belgian
cavalry officers gathered in the lounge, and halls, finishing their
supper.

"There are great movements of troops going on," said Jean. "This is the
first time I have seen our army in Ghent."

To my delight I recognised my two friends from Aerschot, the "Brussels
nuts."

On hearing that I was going to Brussels one of them begged me to go and
see his father and sister, if I got safely there. And I gladly promised
to do so.

After that (about two o'clock in the morning it was then) we crawled
down some steps into the cellar, where the most welcome supper I have
ever eaten soon pulled us all round again. Cold fowl, red wine,
delicious bread and butter. Then we went up to our rooms, giving strict
injunctions to be called at six o'clock, and for four hours we slept the
sleep of the thoroughly tired out.

Next morning at half-past six, we were all down, and had our
café-au-lait in the restaurant, and then started off cheerfully to the
principal railway station.

So far so good!

All we had to do now was to get into a train and be carried straight to
Brussels.

Why, then, did Jean look so agitated when we Went to the ticket office
and asked for our tickets?

He turned to us with a shrug.

"Ah! Ces allemands! One never knows what the cochons are going to do!
The stationmaster here says that the trains may not run into Brussels
to-day. He won't book us further than Grammont! He believes the lines
are cut from there on!"

I was so absorbed in watching the enormous ever-increasing crowds on the
Ghent station that the seriousness of that statement passed me by. I did
not realise where Grammont was. And it did not occur to me to wonder by
what means I was going to get from Grammont to Brussels. I only urged
that we should go on.

The old Professor and Madame Julie argued as to whether it would not be
better to abandon their plans and return to Antwerp.

That seemed to me a tedious idea, so I did my best to push on.

Jean agreed.

"At any rate," he said, "we will go as far as Grammont and see what
happens there. Perhaps by the time we get there we shall find everything
alright again."

So at seven o'clock we steamed away from Ghent, out into the fresh
bright countryside.

Now we were in the region of danger. We were outside the _dernière
ligne_ of the Belgian Army. If one came this way one came at one's risk.
But as I looked from the train windows everything seemed so peaceful
that I could scarcely imagine there was danger. There were no ruins
here, there was no sign of War at all, only little farms and villages
bathed in the blue September sunlight, with the peasants working in the
fields.

As I tried to push my window higher, someone who was leaning from the
next window, spoke to me in English, and I met a pair of blue
English-looking eyes.

"May I fix that window for you? I guess you're English, aren't you,
ma'am?"

I gave him one quick hard look.

It was the War Look that raked a face with a lightning glance.

By now, I had come to depend absolutely on the result of my glance.

"Yes!" I said, "and you are American."

He admitted that was so.

Almost immediately we fell into talk about the War.

"How long do you think it will last?" asked the American.

"I don't know, what do you think?"

"I give it six weeks. I'll be over then."

And he assured me that was the general opinion of those he knew--six
weeks or less.

"But what are you doing in this train?" he added interestedly.

"Going to Brussels!"

"Brussels!"

He looked at me with amazed eyes.

"Pardon me! Did you say going to Brussels?"

"Yes."

"Pardon me! But how are you going to get to Brussels?"

"I am going there."

"But you are English?"

"Yes."

"Then you can't have a German passport to get into Brussels if you are
English."

"No. I haven't got one."

"But, don't you realise, ma'am, that to get into Brussels you have got
to go through the German lines?"

We began to discuss the question.

He was an American who had friends in Brussels, and was going there on
business. His name was Richards. He was a kindly nice man. He could
speak neither French nor Flemish, and had a Belgian with him to
interpret.

"What do you think I ought to do?" I asked.

"Go back," he promptly said. "If the Germans stop you, they'll take you
prisoner. And even if you do get in," he added, "you will never get out!
It is even harder to get out of Brussels than it is to get in."

"I'm going to chance it!"

"Well, if that's so, the only thing I can suggest is that if you do
manage to get into Brussels safely, you go to the American Consulate,
and shew them your papers, and they may give you a paper that'll help
you to get out."

[Illustration: PASSPORT FROM THE AUSTRALIAN HIGH COMMISSIONER.]

"But would the Americans do that for a British subject?"

"Sure! We're a neutral country. As a little American boy said, 'I'm
neutral! I don't care which country whips the Germans!'"

Then another idea occurred to Mr. Richards.

"But you mustn't go into Brussels with an English passport about you.
You'll have to hide that somehow!"

"I shall give it to Monsieur Jean to hide," I said. "He's the conductor
of the little Belgian party there!"

"Well, let me see your passport! Then, in case you have to part with it,
and you arrive in Brussels without it, I can satisfy our Consul that I
have seen it, and that you are an English subject, and that will make
things easier for you at the American Consulate."

I showed him my passport, and he examined it carefully and promised to
do what he could to help me in Brussels.

Then we arrived at Grammont.

And there the worst happened.

The train lines were cut, and we could go no further by rail.

To get to Brussels we must drive by the roads all the way.



CHAPTER XI

BRABANT


It was like a chapter out of quite another story to leave the train at
Grammont, and find ourselves in the flagged old Brabant square in front
of the station, that hot glittering end-o'-summer morning, while on the
ear rose a deafening babel of voices from the hundreds of little Belgian
carts and carriages of all shapes and sizes and descriptions, that stood
there, with their drivers leaning forward over their skinny horses
yelling for fares.

The American hurried to me, as I stood watching with deep interest this
vivacious scene, which reminded me of some old piazza in Italy, and
quite took away the sharp edge of the adventure--the sharp edge being
the Germans, who now were not very far away, judging by the dull roar of
cannon that was here distinctly audible.

The American said: "Ma'am, I have found this little trap that will take
us to Brussels for fourteen francs--right into Brussels, and there is a
seat for you in that trap if you'd care to come. I'd be very pleased and
happy to have you come along with me!"

"It is awfully good of you!" I said.

I knew he was running great risks in taking me with him, and I deeply
appreciated his kindness.

But Jean remonstrated, a little hurt at the suggestion.

"Madame, you are of our party! We must stick together. I've just found a
trap here that will take us all. There are four other people already in
it, and that will make eight altogether. The driver will take us to
Brussels for twelve francs each, with an extra five francs, if we get
there safely!"

So I waved good-bye to the little cart with the friendly American, who
waved back, as he drove away into the sunlight, shouting, "Good luck!"

"_Good luck!_"

As I heard that deep-sounding English word come ringing across the
flagged old Brabant village, it was as though I realised its meaning for
the first time.

"Good luck!"

And my heart clutched at it, and clung to it, searching for strength, as
the heart of women--and men too--will do in war time!



CHAPTER XII

DRIVING EXTRAORDINARY


The task of arranging that party in the waggonette was anything but
easy.

The old Liège professor, in his sombre black, sat on the back seat,
while in front sat an equally enormous old banker from Brussels, also in
black, and those two huge men seemed to stick up out of the carriage
like vast black pillars.

They moved their seats afterwards, but it did not make any difference.
Wherever they sat, they stuck up like huge black pillars, calling
attention to us in what seemed to me a distinctly undesirable way.

Two horses we had for our long drive to Brussels, and uncommonly bony
horses they were.

Our carriage was a species of long-drawn-out victoria.

It had an extra seat behind, with its back to the horses, a horrid,
tilting little seat, as I soon discovered, for it was there that I found
myself sitting, with Jean beside me, as we started off through the
golden Saturday morning.

Jean and I had each to curl an arm round the back of the seat; otherwise
we should have been tipped out; for a tremendously steep white
hill-road, lined with poplars, began to rise before us, and we were in
constant danger of falling forward on our noses.

But the only thing I cared about by then, was to sit next to Jean.

He seemed to be my only safeguard, my only hope of getting through this
risky adventure.

And in low voices we discussed what I should do, if we did indeed meet
the enemy, a contingency which began to grow more and more probable
every moment.

All sorts of schemes were discussed between us, sitting there at the
back of that jolting carriage.

But it was quite evident to both, that, though we might make up a
plausible story as to why I was going to Brussels, although I might call
myself an American, or an Italian, or a Spaniard (seeing that I could
speak those languages well enough to deceive the Germans, and seeing
also that I had the letter to the Spanish minister in my bag from the
Vice-Consul at Antwerp), still, neither I nor Jean could do the one
thing necessary; we could not produce any papers of mine that would
satisfy the Germans if I fell into their hands.

"But we're not going to meet them!" said Jean.

He lit a cigarette.

"You had better give me all your papers," he added airily.

"What will you do with them?"

He smoked and thought.

"If we meet the Germans, I'll throw them away somewhere."

"But how on earth shall I ever get them again? And suppose the Germans
see you throwing them away."

I did not like the phrase, "throw them away."

It seemed like taking from me the most precious thing in the world, the
one thing that I had firmly determined never to part with--my passport!

But I now discovered that Jean had a thoughtful mood upon him, and did
not want to talk. He wanted to think. He told me so.

He said, "It is necessary that I think out many little things now!
Pardon!"

And he tapped his brow.

So I left him to it!

Along the white sun-bathed road, as we drove, we met a continual
procession of carts, waggons, fiacres, and vehicles of all shapes,
kinds, and descriptions, full of peasants or bourgeoisie, all travelling
in the direction of Ghent. Every now and then a private motor car would
flash past us, flying the red, white and blue flag of Holland, or the
Stars and Stripes of America. They had an almost impudent insouciance
with them, those lucky neutral motor cars, as they rushed along the
sunny Brabant road to Brussels, joyously confident that there would be
no trouble for them if they met the Germans!

How I envied them! How I longed to be able by some magic to prove myself
American or Dutch!

Every ten minutes or so we used to shout to people on the road, coming
from the opposite direction.

"_Il y a des Allemands?_" or

"_Il y a de danger?_"

The answer would come back:

"_Pas des Allemands!_" or

"_Oui, les Allemands sont là_," pointing to the right. Or

"_Les Allemands sont là_," pointing to the left.

I would feel horribly uncomfortable then.

Although apparently I was not frightened in the least, there was one
thing that undeceived me about myself.

I had lost the power to think as clearly as usual.

I found that my brain refused to consider what I should do if the worst
came to the worst. Whenever I got to that point my thoughts jibbed.
Vagueness seized upon me.

I only knew that I was in for it now: that I was seated there in that
old rickety carriage; that I was well inside the German lines; and that
it was too late to turn back.

In a way it was a relief to feel incapable of dealing with the
situation, because it set my mind free to observe the exquisite beauty
of the country we were travelling through, and the golden sweetness of
that never-to-be-forgotten September day.

Up and up that long steep white hill our carriage climbed, with rows of
wonderful high poplars waving in the breeze on either side of us, and
gracious grey Belgian châteaux shewing their beautiful lines through
vistas of flower-filled gardens, and green undulating woods, of such
richness, and fertility, and calm happy opulence, that the sound of the
cannon growing ever louder across the valleys almost lost its meaning in
such a fair enchanted country. But the breeze blew round us, a soft and
gentle breeze, laden with the scent of flowers and green things. Red
pears of great size and mellowness hung on the orchard trees. The purple
cabbage that the Brabant peasants cultivate made bright spots along the
ground. In the villages, at the doors of the little white cottages I saw
old wrinkled Belgian women sitting. Little fair-haired, blue-eyed
children, with peculiarly small, sweet faces, stood looking up and down
the long roads with an expression that often brought the tears to my
eyes as I realised the fears that those poor little baby hearts must be
filled with in those desperate days.

And yet the prevailing note of the people we met along that road was
still gaiety, rather than sadness or terror.

"_Il y a des Allemands?_"

"_Il y a de danger?_"

We went on perpetually with our questions, and the answers would come
back laughingly with shakings of the head.

"No! Not met any Germans!" or:

"They are fighting round Ninove. We've been making détours all the
morning to try and get out of their way!"

And now the road was so steep, that Jean and I jumped down from our
sloping seat at the back and walked up the hill to save the bony horses.

Every now and then, we would pause to look back at that wide dreamlike
view, which grew more and more magnificent the higher we ascended, until
at last fair Brabant lay stretched out behind us, bathed in a glittering
sunlight that had in it, that day, some exquisitely poignant quality as
though it were more golden than gold, just because, across that great
plain to the left, the fierce detonations of heavy artillery told of the
terrific struggles that were going on there for life and death.

Presently we met a couple of black-robed Belgian priests walking down
the hill, and mopping their pale faces under their black felt hats.

"The Germans are all over the place to-day," they told us. "And
yesterday they arrested a train-full of people between Enghien and Hall.
They suspected them of carrying letters into Brussels. So they cut the
train lines last night, and marched the people off to be searched. The
young men have been sent into Germany to-day. Or so rumour says. That
may or may not be true. But anyway it is quite true that the train-load
of passengers was arrested wholesale, and that every single one of them
was searched, and those who were found carrying letters were taken
prisoners. Perhaps to be shot."

"_C'est ça!_" said Jean coolly.

We bade the priests good-bye, and trudged on.

Jean presently under his breath, said:

"I've got a hundred letters in, my pockets. I'm taking them from Antwerp
people into Brussels. I suppose I shall have to leave them somewhere!"

He smiled, his queer high-up smile, showing all his white teeth, and I
felt sure that he was planning something, I felt certain he was not
going to be baulked.

At the top of the hill we got into our trap again, and off we started,
travelling at a great rate.

We dashed along, and vehicles dashed past us in the opposite direction,
and I had the feeling that I was going for a picnic, so bright was the
day, so beautiful the surroundings, so quick the movements along the
road.

"At Enghien," said Jean, turning round and addressing the other people
in the carriage (by now they had all made friends with each other, and
were chattering nineteen to the dozen), "at Enghien we shall get lunch!"

"But there is nowhere that one finds lunch at Enghien," protested the
fat Brussels banker.

"I promise you as good a lunch as ever you have eaten, and good wine to
wash it down!" was Jean's reply.

At last we arrived at Enghien, and found ourselves in a little brown
straggling picturesque village on a hillside, full of peasants, who
were gathered in a dense crowd in the "grand place," which was here the
village common.

They had come in out of the fields, these peasants, stained with mud and
all the discolourations of the soil. Their innocent faces spoke of the
calm sweet things of nature. But mixed with the innocence was a great
wonder and bewilderment now.

All this time, ever since we left Ghent, we had never seen a Belgian
_militaire_.

That of itself told its own story of how completely we were outside the
last chance of Belgian protection.--outside _la dernière ligne_.



CHAPTER XIII

THE LUNCH AT ENGHIEN


Dear little Enghien! I shall always remember you.

It was so utterly-out-of-the-ordinary to drive to the railway station,
and have one's lunch cooked by the stationmaster.

A dear old man he was, that old grey-bearded Belgian.

A hero too!

His trains were stopped; his lines were cut; he was ever in the midst of
the Germans, but he kept his bright spirits happy, and when Jean ushered
us all in to his little house that formed part of the railway station,
he received us as if we were old friends, shook us all by the hand, and
told us, with great gusto, exactly what he would give us.

And he rolled the words out too, almost as though he was an Italian, as
he promised us a _bonne omelette,_ followed by a _bon bif-steak_, and
fried potatoes, and cheese, and fruit and a _bon café_!

Then he hurried away into the kitchen, and we heard him cracking the
eggs, while his old sister set the table in the little dining-room.

We travellers all sat on a seat out in front of the railway line, under
the sweet blue sky, facing green fields, and refreshed ourselves with
little glasses of red, tonic-like Byrrh.

It was characteristic of those dear Belgian souls that they one and all
raised their little glasses before they drank, and looking towards me
said, "_Vive l'Angleterre!_"

To which I responded with my tiny glass, "_Léve la Belgique!_"

And we all added, "_A bas le Kaiser!_"

And from across the fields the noise of the battle round Ninove came
towards us, louder and louder every moment.

As we sat there we discussed the cannonading that now seemed very near.

So loud and so close to us were the angry growlings of the guns that I
felt amazed at not being able to see any smoke.

It was evident that some big encounter was going on, but the fields were
green and still, and nothing at all was to be seen.

By now I had lost all sense of reality.

I was merely a figure in an extraordinary dream, in which the great guns
pounded on my right hand, and the old stationmaster's omelette fried
loudly on my left.

Jean strolled off alone, while two of the ladies of the party went away
to buy some butter.

In Brussels, they said, it was impossible to get good butter under
exorbitant prices, so they paid a visit to a little farm a few steps
away, and came back presently laden with butter enough to keep them
going for several weeks, for which they had paid only one franc each.

And now the old stationmaster comes out and summons us all in to lunch.

He wishes us "_bon appétit_" and we seat ourselves round the table under
the portraits of King Albert and "_la petite reine_" in his little
sitting-room.

A merrier lunch than that was never eaten. The vast omelette melted away
in a twinkling before the terrific onslaught made upon it, chiefly by
the Liège professor and the Brussels banker, who by now had got up their
appetites.

The Red Cross lady, who took it upon herself to help out the food, kept
up a cheerful little commentary of running compliments which included us
all, and the beef-steak, and the omelette, and the potatoes, and the
stationmaster, until we could hardly tell one from the other, so
agreeable did we all seem!

The old stationmaster produced some good Burgundy, sun-kissed, purply
red of a most respectable age.

When everything was on the table he brought his chair and joined in with
us, asking questions about Antwerp, and Ghent, and Ostend, and giving us
in return vivid sketches of what the Germans had been doing in his part
of the world. The extraordinary part of all this was that though we were
in a region inhabited by the Germans there was no sign of destruction.
The absence of ruin and pillage seems to conceal the fact that this was
invested country.

After our _bon café_ we all shook hands with the stationmaster, wished
him good luck, and hurried back to the village, where we climbed into
our vehicle again.

This time I took a place in the inside of the carriage, leaving Jean and
another man to hang on to that perilous back seat.

At two o'clock we were off.

The horses, freshened by food and water, galloped along now at a great
pace, and the day developed into an afternoon as cloudless and
glittering as the morning.

But almost immediately after leaving Enghien an ominous note began to be
struck.

Whenever we shouted out our query:

"_Il y a des Allemands?_" the passers-by coming from the opposite
direction shouted back,

"_Oui, oui, beaucoup d'Allemands!_"

And suddenly there they were!



CHAPTER XIV

WE MEET THE GREY-COATS


My first sight of the German Army was just one, man.

He was a motor cyclist dressed in grey, with his weapons slung across
his back, and he flashed past us like lightning.

Everyone in the carriage uttered a deep "Oh!"

It seemed to me an incredible thing that one German should be all alone
like that among enemies. I said so to my companions.

"The others are coming!" they said with an air of certainty that turned
me cold all over.

But it was at least two miles further on before we met the rest of his
corps.

Then we discovered fifty German motor cyclists, in grey uniforms, and
flat caps, flying smoothly along the side path in one long grey line.

Their accoutrements looked perfect and trim, their general appearance
was strikingly smart, natty, and workmanlike in the extreme.

Just before they reached us Jean got down and walked on foot along the
road at the edge of the side path where they were riding.

And as they passed quite near him Jean turned his glance towards me and
gave me an enormous wink.

I don't know whether that was Jean's sense of humour.

I always forgot afterwards to ask him what it meant.

I only know that it had a peculiarly cheering effect on me to see that
great black eye winking and then turning itself with a quiet, careless
gaze on the faces of the fifty German cyclists.

They passed without doing more than casting a look at us, and were lost
to sight in a moment flashing onwards with tremendous speed towards
Enghien.

We were now on the brow of a hill, and as we reached it, and began to
descend, we were confronted with a spectacle that fairly took away my
breath.

The long white road before us was literally lined with Germans.



CHAPTER XV

FACE TO FACE WITH THE HUNS


Yes, there they were! And when I found myself face to face with those
five hundred advancing Germans, about two kilometres out of Enghien, I
quite believed I was about to lose my chance of getting to Brussels and
of seeing the man I was so anxious to see. Little did I dream at that
moment, out there on the sunny Brabant hillside, seated in the old
voiture, with that long, never-ending line of Germans filling the
tree-lined white dusty highway far and wide with their infantry and
artillery, their cannon, and the prancing horses of their officers, and
their gleaming blue and scarlet uniforms, and glittering appointments,
that it was not I who was going to be taken prisoner by "les Allemands"
that brilliant Saturday afternoon, but Max of Brussels himself.

Up and down the long steep white road to Brussels the Germans halted,
shouting in stentorian voices that we were to do likewise.

Our driver quickly brought his two bony horses to a standstill, and in
the open carriage with me our queer haphazard party sat as if turned to
stone.

The Red Cross Belgian lady had already hidden her Red Cross in her
stocking, so that the Germans, if we met them, should not seize her and
oblige: her to perform Red Cross duties in their hated service.

The guttural voice of an erect old blue-and-scarlet German colonel fell
on my ears like a bad dream, as he brought his big prancing grey horse
alongside our driver and demanded roughly what we were doing there,
while in the same bad dream, as I sat there in my corner of the voiture,
I watched the expressions written all over those hundreds of fierce,
fair, arrogant faces, staring at us from every direction.

In a blaze of hatred, I told myself that if ever the brute could be seen
rampant in human beings' faces there it was, rampant, uncontrolled,
unashamed, only just escaping from being degraded by the accompanying
expressions of burning arrogance, and indomitable determination that
blazed out of those hundreds of blue Teutonic eyes. The set of their
lips was firm and grim beyond all words. Often a peculiar ironic smirk,
caused by the upturning of the corners of their otherwise straight lips,
seemed to add to their demoniac suggestiveness. But their physique was
magnificent, and there was not a man among them who did not look every
inch a soldier, from his iron-heeled blucher boots upwards.

As I studied them, drinking in the unforgettable picture, it gave me a
certain amount of satisfaction to know that I was setting my own small
womanly daring up against that great mass of unbridled cruelty and
conceit, and I sat very still, very still indeed, stiller than any
mouse, allowing myself the supreme luxury of a contemptuous curl of my
lips. Picture after picture of the ruined cities I had seen in Belgium
flashed like lightning over my memory out there on the sunny Brabant
hillside. Again I saw before me the horrors that I had seen with my own
eyes at Aerschot, Termonde, and Louvain, and then, instead of feeling
frightened I experienced nothing but a red-hot scorn that entirely
lifted me above the terrible stress of the encounter; and whether I
lived or died mattered not the least bit in the world, beside the
satisfaction of sitting there, an English subject looking down at the
German Army, with that contemptuous curl of my lips, and that blaze of
hatred in my heart.

Meanwhile our driver's passport with his photograph was being examined.

"Who is this?" shouted the silly old German Colonel, pointing to the
photograph.

"C'est moi," replied the driver, and his expression seemed to say, "Who
on earth did you think it was?"

The fat Colonel, who obviously did not understand a word of French, kept
roaring away for one "Schultz," who seemed to be some distance off.

The roaring and shouting went on for several minutes.

It was a curious manifestation of German lack of dignity and I tried in
vain to imagine an English Colonel roaring at his men like that.

Then "Schultz" came galloping up. He acted as interpreter, and an
amusing dialogue went on between the roaring Colonel and the young
dashing "Baverois," who was obviously a less brutal type than his
interrogator.

The old banker from Brussels was next questioned, and his passport to
come in and out of Brussels being correctly made out in German and
French, the Germans seized upon Jean and demanded what he was doing
there, why he was going to Brussels, and why he had been to Grammont.
Jean's answer was that he lived in Brussels and had been to Grammont to
see his relations, and "Schultz's" explanations rendered this so
convincing that the lawyer's passport was handed back to him.

"You are sure none of you have no correspondence, no newspapers?" roared
the Colonel. "What is in that bag?"

Leaning into the carriage a soldier prodded at _my_ bag.

I dared not attempt to speak. My English origin might betray me in my
French. I sat silent. I made no reply. I tried to look entirely
uninterested. But I was really almost unconscious with dread.

But the Red Cross lady replied with quiet dignity that there was nothing
in her bag but requisites for the journey.

Next moment, as in a dream, I heard that roaring voice shout:

"Gut! Get on!"

Our driver whipped lightly, the carriage moved forward, and we proceeded
on our way, filled with queer thoughts that sprang from nerves
over-strained and hearts over-quickly beating.

Only Jean remained imperturbable.

"Quel Chance! They were nearly all Baverois! Did you see the dragon
embroidered on their pouches? The Baverois are always plus gentilles
than any of the others."

This was something I had heard over and over again. According to the
Belgians, these Baverois had all through the War, manifested a better
spirit towards the Belgians than any other German Regiment, the
accredited reason being, that the Belgian Queen is of Bavarian
nationality. When the Uhlans slashed up the Queen's portrait in the
Royal Palace at Brussels the "Baverois" lost their tempers, and a fierce
brawl ensued, in which seven men were killed. All the Belgians in our
old ramshackle carriage were loud in their expressions of thankfulness
that we had encountered Baverois instead of Uhlans.

So at last that dread mysterious darksome quantity known as "les
Allemands," ever moving hither and thither across Belgium, always talked
of on the other side of the Belgian lines, but never seen, had
materialised right under my very eyes!

The beautiful rich Brabant orchard country stretched away on either
side of the road, and behind us, along the road, ran like a wash of
indigo, the brilliant Prussian blue of the moving German cavalcade
making now towards Enghien and Grammont.

And now the old professor from Liège drew all attention towards himself.

He was shaking and quivering like a jelly.

"J'ai peur!" he said simply.

"Mais non, Monsieur!" cried Jean. "It's all over now."

"_Courage! courage! Pas de danger_," cried everyone, encouragingly.

"It was only a ruse of the enemy, letting us go," whispered the
Professor. "They will follow and shoot us from behind!"

Plaintively, as a child, he asked the fat Brussels banker to allow him
to change places, and sit in front, instead of behind.

In a sudden rebound of spirits, the Red Cross lady and I laughingly sat
on the back seat, and opened our parasols behind us, while the old
Brussels banker, when the two fat men had exchanged seats not without
difficulty, whispered to us:

"And all the while there are a hundred letters sewn up inside the
cushion of the seat our friend from Liège is sitting on _now_!"



CHAPTER XVI

A PRAYER FOR HIS SOUL


On we drove, on and on.

All the road to Brussels was patrolled now. At the gates of villa
gardens, on the side paths, grey German sentries were posted, bayonets
fixed. We drove through Germans all the way. They looked at us quietly.
Once only were we stopped again, and this time it was only the driver's
passport that was looked at.

At last we arrived at Hall, an old-world Brabant town containing a
"miracle." As far as I can remember, it was a bomb from some bygone War
that came through the church wall and was caught in the skirts of the
Madonna!

"Hall," said Jean, "is now the headquarters of the German Army in
Belgium! The État-Majeur has been moved here from Brussels. He is in
residence at the Hôtel de Ville. Voilà! See the Germans. They always
pose themselves like that on the steps where there are any steps to pose
on. Ah, mais c'est triste n'est-ce-pas? Mon pauvre Belgique!"

We clattered up the main street and stopped at a little café, facing the
Hotel de Ville.

Stiffly we alighted from our waggonette, and entering the café quenched
our thirst in lemonade, watching the Germans through the window as we
rested.

Nervous as I was myself, I admired the Belgians' sangfroid. They
manifested not the slightest signs of nervousness. Scorn was their
leading characteristic. Then a sad little story reached my ears. An old
peasant was telling Jean that an English aviator had been shot down at
Hall the day before, and was buried somewhere near.

How I longed to look for my brave countryman's grave! But that was
impossible. Instead, I breathed a prayer for his soul, and thought of
him and his great courage with tenderness and respect.

It was all I could do.



CHAPTER XVII

BRUSSELS


Finally, after a wild and breathless drive of thirty-five miles through
rich orchard-country all the way, and always between German patrols, we
entered Brussels. Crowds of German officers and men were dashing about
in motor cars in all directions, while the populace moved by them as
though they were ghosts, taking not the slightest notice of their
presence. The sunlight had faded now, and the lights were being lit in
Brussels, and I gazed about me, filled with an inordinate curiosity. At
first I thought the people seemed to be moving about just as usual, but
soon I discovered an immense difference between these Brussels crowds,
and those of normal times and conditions. It was as though all the red
roses and carnations had been picked out of the garden. The smart world
had completely disappeared. Those daintily-dressed, exquisite women, and
elegant young and old men, that made such persuasive notes among the
streets and shops of Brussels in ordinary times, had vanished completely
under the German occupation. In their place was now a rambling, roaming
crowd of the lower middle-classes, dashed with a big sprinkling of
wide-eyed wrinkled peasants from the Brabant country outside, who had
come into the big city for the protection of the lights and the houses
and the companionship, even though the dreaded "Allemands" were there.
Listlessly people strolled about. They looked in the shop windows, but
nobody bought. No business seemed to be done at all, except in the
provision shops, where I saw groups of German officers and soldiers
buying sausages, cheese and eggs.

Crowds gathered before the German notices, pasted on the walls so
continuously that Brussels was half covered beneath these great black
and white printed declarations, which, as they were always printed in
three languages--German, French and Flemish--took up an enormous amount
of wall space. Here and there Dutch journalists stood hastily copying
these "_affiches_" into their note-books. Now and then, from the crowd
reading, a low voice would mutter languidly "Les sales cochons!" But
more often the Brussels sense of humour would see something funny in
those absurd proclamations, and people were often to be seen grinning
ironically at the German official war news specially concocted for the
people of Brussels. It was all the Direct Opposite of the news in
Belgian and English papers. _We_, the Allies, had just announced that
Austria had broken down, and was on the verge of a revolution. _They_,
the Germans, announced precisely the same thing--only of Servia! And the
Brussels people coolly read the news and passed on, believing none of
it.

And all the time, while the Belgians moved dawdlingly up and down, and
round about their favourite streets and arcades, the Germans kept up one
swift everlasting rush, flying past in motors, or striding quickly by,
with their firm, long tread. They always seemed to be going somewhere in
a hurry, or doing something extraordinarily definite. After I had been
five minutes in Brussels, I became aware of this curious sense of
immense and unceasing German activity, flowing like some loud, swift,
resistless current through the dull, depleted stream of Brussels life.
All day long it went without ceasing, and all night, too. In and out of
the city, in and out of the city, in and out of the city. Past the
deserted lace shops, with their exquisite delicate contents; past the
many closed hotels; past the great white beauties of Brussels
architecture; past the proud but yellowing avenues of trees along the
heights; past those sculptured monuments of Belgians who fell in bygone
battles, and now, in the light of 1914, leapt afresh into life again,
galvanised back into reality by the shriek of a thousand _obus_, and the
blood poured warm on the blackened fields of Belgium.

We drove to an old hotel in a quiet street, and our driver jumped down
and rang the courtyard bell.

Then the door opened, and an old Belgian porter stood and looked at us
with sad eyes, saying in a low voice, "Come in quickly!"

We all got down and went through the gateway.

We found ourselves in a big old yellow stone courtyard, chilly and
deserted.

The driver ran out and returned, carrying in his arms the long flat
seat-cushion from the carriage.

Then the old porter locked the gate and we all gathered round the brave
little Flemish driver who was down on his knees now, over the cushion,
doing something with a knife.

Next minute he held up a bundle of letters, and then another and then
another,--

"And here is your English passport, Madame," Jean said to me.

Unknown to most of us, the driver and Jean, while we waited at Enghien,
had made a slit in the cushion, had taken out some stuffing, and put in
instead a great mass of letters and papers for Brussels, then they had
wired up the slit, turned the cushion upside down, and let us sit on it.

It was rather like sitting on a mine.

Only, like the heroine of the song: "We didn't care, we didn't KNOW!"



CHAPTER XVIII

BURGOMASTER MAX


The hotel is closed to the public.

"We shut it up so that we should not have Germans coming in," says the
little Bruxellois widow who owns it. "But if Madame likes to stay here
for the night we can arrange,--only--there is no cooking!"

The old professor from Liège asks in his pitiful childlike way if he can
get a room there too. He would be glad, so glad, to be in a hotel that
was not open to the public, or the Germans.

Leaving my companions with many expressions of friendliness, I now rush
off to the Hotel de Ville, accompanied by the faithful Jean.

Just as we reach our destination, we run into the man I have come all
this way to see.

I see a short, dark man, with an alert military bearing. It seems to me
that this idol of Brussels is by no means good-looking. Certainly, there
is nothing of the hero in his piquant, even somewhat droll appearance.
But his eyes! They are truly extraordinary! They bulge right out of
their sockets. They have the sharpness and alertness of a terrier's.
They are brilliant, humorous, stern, merry, tender, audacious,
glistening, bright, all at once. His beard is clipped. His moustaches
are large and upstanding. His immaculate dress and careful grooming give
him a dandified air, as befitting the most popular bachelor in Europe,
who is also an orphan to boot. His forehead is high and broad. His
general appearance is immediately arresting, one scarcely knows why.
Quite unlike the conventional Burgomaster type is he.

M. Max briefly explains that he is on his way to an important meeting.
But he will see me at eleven o'clock next morning if I will come to the
Hotel de Ville. Then he hurries off, his queer dark face lighting up
with a singularly brilliant smile as he bids us "Au revoir!" An historic
moment that. For M. Max has never been seen in Brussels since!

Of itself, M. Max's face is neither particularly loveable, nor
particularly attractive.

Therefore, this man's great hold over hearts is all the more remarkable.

It must, of course, be attributed in part to the deep, warm audacious
personality that dwells behind his looks.

But, in truth, M. Max's enormous popularity owes itself not only to his
electric personality, his daring, and sangfroid, but also to his
_common-sense_, which steered poor bewildered Brussels through those
terribly difficult first weeks of the German occupation.

Nothing in history is more touching, more glorious, than the sudden
starting up in time of danger of some quiet unknown man who stamps his
personality on the world, becomes the prop and comfort of his nation, is
believed in as Christians believe in God, and makes manifest again the
truth that War so furiously and jealously attempts to crush and
darken--the power of mind over matter, the mastery of good over evil.

From this War three such men stand out immortally--King Albert, Max of
Brussels, Mercier of Malines.

And Belgium has produced all three!

Thrice fortunate Belgium!

Each stone that crumbles from her ruined homes seems, to the watching
world, to fly into the Heavens, and glow there like a star!

On foot, swinging my big yellow furs closer round me in the true Belgian
manner, I walked along at Jean's side, trying to convince myself that
this was all real, this Brussels full of grey-clad and blue-clad
Prussians, Saxons, and Baverois, with here and there the white uniform
of the Imperial Guard. Suddenly I started. Horribly conscious as I was
that I was an English authoress and with no excuse to offer for my
presence there, I felt distinctly nervous when I saw a queer young man
in a bulky brown coat move slowly along at my side with a curious
sidling movement, whispering something under his breath.

I was not sure whether to hurry on, or to stand still.

Jean chose the latter course.

Whereupon the stranger flicked a look up and down the street, then put
his hand in his inner breast pocket.

"_Le Temps_," he whispered hoarsely, flashing looks up and down the
street.

"How much?" asked Jean.

"Five francs," he answered. "Put it away toute suite, vous savez c'est
dangereux."

Then quickly he added, walking along beside us still, and speaking still
in that hoarse, melodramatic voice (which pleased him a little, I
couldn't help thinking), "Les Allemands will give me a year in prison if
they catch me, so I have to make it pay, n'est-ce-pas? But the Brussels
people _must_ have their newspapers. They've got to know the truth about
the war, n'est-ce-pas? and the English papers tell the truth!"

"How do you get the newspapers," I whispered, like a conspirator myself.

"I sneak in and out of Brussels in a peasant's cart, all the way to
Sottegem," he whispered back. "Every week they catch one of us. But
still we go on--n'est-ce-pas? We don't know what fear is in Brussels.
That's because we've got M. Max at the head of us! Ah, there's a man for
you, M. Max!"

A look of pride and tenderness flashed across his dark, crafty face,
then he was gone, and I found myself longing for the morning, when I
should talk with M. Max myself.

But Sunday I was awakened by the loud booming of cannon, proceeding from
the direction of Malines.

"What is happening?" I asked the maid who brought my coffee "Isn't that
firing very near?"

"Oui, Madam! On dit that in a few days now the Belgian Army will
re-enter Brussels, and the Germans will be driven out. That will be
splendid, Madam, will it not?"

"Splendid," I answered mechanically.

This optimism was now becoming a familiar phrase to me.

I found it everywhere. But alas! I found it alongside what was
continually being revealed as pathetic ignorance of the true state of
affairs.

And the nearer one was to actual events the greater appeared one's
ignorance.

This very day, when we were saying, "In a few days now the Germans will
be driven out of Brussels," they were commencing their colossal attack
upon Antwerp, and we knew nothing about it.

The faithful Jean called for me at half-past ten, and hurrying through
the rain-wet streets to meet M. Max at the Hotel de Ville, we became
suddenly aware that something extraordinary was happening. A sense of
agitation was in the air. People were hurrying about, talking quickly
and angrily. And then our eyes were confronted by the following
startling notice, pasted on the walls, printed in German, French and
Flemish, and flaming over Brussels in all directions:--

      "_AVIS._

      "Le Bourgmestre Max ayant fait default aux
      engagements encourus envers le Gouvernement
      Allemand je me suis vu force de le suspendre
      de ses fonctions. Monsieur Max se trouve en
      detention honourable dans une forteresse.

                      "Le Gouverneur Allemande,
                               "VON DER GOLTZ."

      Bruxelles,
      _26th Septembre_, 1914.

Cries of grief and rage kept bursting from those broken-hearted
Belgians.

Not a man or woman in the city was there who did not worship the very
ground Max walked on. The blow was sharp and terrible; it was utterly
unexpected too. Crowds kept on gathering. Presently, with that
never-ceasing accompaniment of distant cannon, the anger of the populace
found vent in groans and hisses as a body of Uhlans made its appearance,
conducting two Belgian prisoners towards the Town Hall. And then, all in
a moment, Brussels was in an uproar. Prudence and fear were flung to the
wind. Like mad creatures the seething crowds of men, women, and children
went tearing along towards the Hotel de Ville, groaning and hooting at
every German they saw, and shouting aloud the name of "Max," while to
add to the indescribable tumult, hundreds of little boys ran shrieking
at the tops of their voices, "_Voici le photographie ed Monsieur Max,
dix centimes!_"

The Civic Guard, composed now mostly of elderly enrolled Brussels
civilians, dashed in and out among the infuriated mob, waving their
sticks, and imploring the population to restrain itself, or the
consequences might be fatal for one and all.

Meanwhile the Aldermen were busy preparing a new _affiche_ which was
soon being posted up in all directions.

     "_AVIS IMPORTANT._

     "Pendant l'absence de M. Max le marche des
     affaires Communales et le Maintenance de
     l'ordre seront assurés par le College Echevinal.
     Dans l'interêt de la cité nous faisons un suprême
     appel au calme et sangfroid de nos concitoyens.
     Nous comptons sur le concours de tous pour
     assurer le maintien de la tranquilité publique.

     Bruxelles.  "LE COLLEGE ECHEVINAL."

Accompanied by Jean, I hurried on to the Hotel de Ville.

"Voyez vous!" says Jean under his breath. "Voici les Allemands dans
l'Hôtel de Ville! Quel chose n'est-ce-pas!"

And I hear a sharp note in the poor fellow's voice that told of bitter
emotion.

It was an ordeal to walk through that beautiful classic courtyard,
patrolled by grey-clad German sentinels armed to the teeth. The only
thing to do was to pass them without either looking or not looking. But
once inside I felt safer. The Germans kept to their side of the Town
Hall, leaving the Belgian Municipality alone. We went up the wide
stairs, hung with magnificent pictures and found a sad group of Belgians
gathered in a long corridor, the windows of which looked down into the
courtyard below where the Germans were unloading waggons, or striding up
and down with bayonets fixed.

Looking down from that window, while we waited to be received by M. le
Meunier, the Acting-Burgomaster who had promptly taken M. Max's place, I
interested myself in studying the famous German leg. A greater part of
it was boot. These boots looked as though immense attention had been
given to them. In fact there was nothing they didn't have, iron heels,
waterproof uppers, patent soles an immense thickness, with metal
intermingled, an infinite capacity for not wearing out. I watched these
giant boots standing in the gateway of the exquisite Hotel de Ville,
fair monument of Belgium's genius for the Gothic! I could see nothing of
the upper part of the Germans, only their legs, and it was forced upon
my observation that those legs were of great strength and massive, yet
with a curious flinging freedom of gait, that was the direct result of
goose-stepping.

Then I saw two officers goose-stepping into the courtway. I saw their
feet first! then their knees. The effect was curious. They appeared to
kick out contemptuously at the world, then pranced in after the kick.
The conceit of the performance defies all words.

Then Jean's card was taken into the acting Burgomaster, and next moment
a Belgian Échevin said to us, "Entrez, s'il vous plaît," and we passed
into the room habitually occupied by M. Max.

We found ourselves in a palatial chamber, the walls covered thickly with
splendid tapestries and portraits. From the high gilded ceiling hung
enormous chandeliers, glittering and pageantesque. Under one of these
giant chandeliers stood an imposing desk covered with papers. An elderly
gentleman with a grey wide beard was seated there. We advanced over the
thick soft carpets.

M. le Meunier received us with great courtesy.

"Nous avons perdu notre tête!" he murmured sadly.--"Without M. Max we
are lost!"

The air was full of agitation.

Here was a scene the like of which might well have been presented by the
stage, so spectacular was it, so dramatic--the lofty chamber with its
superb appointments and hangings, and these elderly, grey-bearded men of
state who had just been dealt the bitterest blow that had yet fallen on
their poor tortured shoulders.

But this was no stage scene. This was real. If ever anything on earth
was alive and real it was this scene in the Burgomaster's room in
Brussels, on the first day of Max's imprisonment. Throbbing and
palpitating through it was human agony, human grief, human despair, as
these grey-bearded Belgians stared with dull heavy eyes at the empty
space where their heroic chief no longer was. Tragic beyond the words of
any historian was that scene, which at last however, by sheer intensity
of concentrated and concealed emotion, seemed to summon again into that
chamber the imprisoned body, the blazing, dauntless personality of the
absent one, until his prison bonds were broken, and he was here, seated
at this desk, cool, fearless, imperturbable, directing the helm of his
storm-tossed bark with his splendid sanity, and saying to all:

"Fear nothing, mes enfants! There is no such thing as fear!"



CHAPTER XIX

HIS ARREST


The story of Max's arrest was characteristic.

He was busy at the Hotel de Ville with his colleagues when a peremptory
message arrived from Von der Goltz, bidding him come at once to an
interview.

"I cannot come at once!" said Max, "I am occupied in an important
conference with my colleagues. I'll come at half-past four o'clock."

Presently the messenger returned.

"Monsieur Max, will you come at once!" he said in a worried manner. "Von
der Goltz is angry!"

"I am busy with my work!" replied Max imperturbably. "As I said before,
I shall be with Von der Goltz at four-thirty."

At four-thirty he went off, accompanied by his colleagues, and a
dramatic conference took place between the Germans and Belgians.

Max now fearlessly informed the Germans that he considered it would be
unfair for Brussels to pay any more at present of the indemnity put upon
it by Germany.

One reason he gave was very simple.

The Germans had posted up notices in the city, declaring that in future
they would not pay for anything required for the service of the German
Army, but would take whatever they wanted, free.

"You must wait for your indemnity," said Max. "You can't get blood from
a stone."

"Then we arrest you all as hostages for the money," was the German's
answer.

At first Max and all his Échevins were arrested.

Two hours later the aldermen were released.

But not Max.

He was sent to his _honorable detention_ in a German fortress.

The months have passed.

He is still there!



CHAPTER XX

GENERAL THYS


By degrees Brussels calmed down. But the Germans wore startled
expressions all that grey wet Sunday, as though realising that within
that pent-up city was a terribly dangerous force, a force that had been
restrained and kept in order all this time by the very man they had been
foolish enough to imprison because Brussels found herself unable to pay
up her cruelly-imposed millions.

Later, on that Sunday afternoon, I fulfilled my promise and went to call
on General Thys, the father of one of my Aerschot acquaintances.

I found the old General in that beautiful house of his in the Chaussée
de Charleroi, sitting by the fireside in his library reading the Old
Testament.

"The only book I can read now!" the General said, in a voice that shook
a little, as if with some burning secret agitation.

I remember so well that interview. It was a grey Sunday afternoon, with
a touch of autumn in the air, and no sunlight. Through the great glass
windows at the end of the library I could see that Brussels garden, with
some trees green, and some turning palely gold, already on their way
towards decay.

Seated on one side of the fire was the beautiful young unmarried
daughter of the house, sharing her father's terrible loneliness, while
on the other side sat the handsome melancholy old Belgian hero, whose
trembling voice began presently to tell the story of his beloved nation,
its suffering, its heroism, its love of home, its bygone struggles for
liberty.

And outside in the streets Germans strode up and down, Germans stood on
the steps of the Palais de Justice, Germans everywhere.

Mademoiselle Thys, a tall, fair, very beautiful young girl, chats away
brightly, trying to cheer her father. Presently she talks of M. Max.
Brussels can talk of nothing else to-day. She shows him to me in a
different aspect. Now I see him in society, witty, delightful, charming,
débonnaire.

"I did so love to be taken into dinner by M. Max!" exclaims the bright
young belle. "He was so interesting, so amusing. And so nice to flirt
with. He did not dance, but he went to all the balls, and walked about
chatting and amusing himself, and everyone else. Before one big fancy
dress ball--it was the last in Brussels before the war--M. Max announced
that he could not be present. Everyone was sorry. His presence always
made things brighter, livelier. Suddenly, in the midst of the ball a
policeman was seen coming up the stairs, his stick in his hand. Gravely,
without speaking to anyone he moved down the corridors. 'The Police,'
whispered everyone. 'What can it mean?' And then one of the hosts went
up to the policeman, determined to take the bull by the horns, as you
say in Angleterre, and find out what is wrong. And voilà! It is no
policeman at all. It is M. Max!"

Undoubtedly, the hatred and terror of Germany at this time was all for
Russia.

In Russia, Germany saw her deadliest foe. Every Belgian man or woman
that I talked with in Brussels asserted the same thing. "The Germans are
terrified of Russia," said the old General. "They see in Russia the
greatest enemy to their plans in Asia Minor. They fear Russian
civilisation--or so they say! Civilisation indeed! What they fear is
Russian numbers!"

It was highly interesting to observe as I was forced to do a little
later, how completely that hatred for Russia was passed on to England.

The passing on occurred _after English troops were sent to the
assistance of Antwerp!_

From then on, the blaze of hatred in Germany's heart was all for
England, deepening and intensifying with extraordinary ferocity ever
since October 4th, 1914.

And why? The reason is obvious now.

Our effort to save Antwerp, unsuccessful as it was, yet by delaying
200,000 Germans, enabled those highly important arrangements to be
carried out on the Allies' western front that frustrated Germany's hopes
in France, and stopped her dash for Calais!



CHAPTER XXI

HOW MAX HAS INFLUENCED BRUSSELS


In their attitude to the Germans, the _Bruxellois_ undoubtedly take
their tone from M. Max.

For his sake they suppressed themselves as quickly as possible that
famous Sunday and soon went on their usual way. Their attitude towards
the Germans revealed itself as a truly remarkable one. It was perfect in
every sense. They were never rude, never sullen, never afraid, and until
this particular Sunday and afterwards again, they always behaved as
though the Germans did not exist at all. They walked past them as though
they were air.

No one ever speaks to the Huns in Brussels. They sit there alone in the
restaurants, or in groups, eating, eating, eating. Hour after hour they
sit there. You pass at seven and they are eating and drinking. You pass
at nine, they are still eating and drinking. Their red faces grow redder
and redder. Their gold wedding rings grow tighter and tighter on their
fingers.

The Belgians wait on them with an admirable air of not noticing their
presence, never looking at them, never speaking to them, the waiters
bringing them their food with an admirable detached air as though they
are placing viands before a set of invisible spectres.

Always alone are the Germans in Brussels, and sometimes they look
extremely bored. I can't help noticing that.

They do their best to win a little friendliness from the Belgians. But
in vain. At the restaurants they always pay for their food. They also
make a point of sometimes ostentatiously dropping money into the boxes
for collecting funds for the Belgians. But the _Bruxellois_ never for
one moment let down the barriers between themselves and "les Allemands,"
although they do occasionally allow themselves the joy of "getting a
rise" out of the Landsturm when possible,--an amusement which the
Germans apparently find it impolite to resent!

I sat in a tram in Brussels when two Germans in mufti entered and quite
politely excused themselves from paying their fares, explaining that
they were "military" and travel free.

"But how do I know that you are really German soldiers!" says the plucky
little tram guard, while all the passengers crane forward to listen.
"You're not in uniform. I don't know who you are. You must pay your
fares, Messieurs, or you must get out."

With red annoyed faces the Germans pull out their soldiers' medals,
gaudy ornate affairs on blue ribbons round their necks.

"I don't recognise these," says the tram guard, examining them
solemnly. "They're not what our soldiers carry. I can't let you go free
on these."

"But we have no money!" splutter the Germans.

"Then I must ask you to get out," says the guard gravely.

And the two Germans, looking very foolish, actually get out of the tram,
whereupon the passengers all burst into uncontrollable laughter, which
gives them a vast amount of satisfaction, while the two Germans, very
red in the face, march away down the street.

As for the street urchins, they flourish under the German occupation,
adopting exactly the same attitude towards their conquerors as that
manifested by their elders and M. Max.

Dressed up in paper uniforms, with a carrot for the point of their
imitation German helmet they march right under the noses of the Germans,
headed by an old dog.

Round the old dog's neck is an inscription:

"_The war is taking place for the aggrandisement of Belgium!_"

The truth is--the beautiful truth--that the spirit of M. Max hangs over
Brussels, steals through it, pervades it. It is his ego that possesses
the town. It is Max who is really in occupation there. It is Max who is
the true conqueror. It is Max who holds Brussels, and will hold it
through all time to come. For all that the Germans are going about the
streets, and for all that Max is detained in his "honorable" fortress,
the man's spirit is so indomitable, so ardent, that he makes himself
felt through his prison walls, and the population of Brussels is able to
say, with magnificent sangfroid, and a confidence that is absolutely
real:--

"They may keep M. Max in a fortress! But even les alboches will never
dare to hurt a hair of his head!"



CHAPTER XXII

UNDER GERMAN OCCUPATION


In my empty hotel the profoundest melancholy reigns.

The inherent sadness of the occupied city seems to have full sway here.
The palm court, with its high glassed roof, is swept with ghostly
echoes, especially when the day wanes towards dusk, the great deserted
dining-salon, with its polished tables and its rows of chairs is like a
mausoleum for dead revellers, the writing-rooms with their desks always
so pitifully tidy, the smoking-rooms, the drawing-rooms, the floor upon
floor of empty, guestless bedrooms, with the beds rolled back and the
blinds down; they ache with their ghastly silences and seem to languish
away towards decay.

The only servant is Antoine, the bent little old faithful white-haired
porter, who has passed his lifetime in the service of the house.

Madame la Patronne, in heavy mourning, with her two small boys clinging
to either arm, sometimes moves across the palm court to her own little
sitting-room.

And sometimes some Belgian woman friend, always in black, drops in, and
she and la Patronne and the old porter all talk together, dully,
guardedly, relating to each other the gossip of Brussels, and wondering
always how things are going with "les petits Belges" outside in the
world beyond.

In front, the great doors are locked and barred.

One tiny door, cut in the wooden gate at the side, is one's sole means
of exit and entrance.

But it is almost too small for the Liège professor, and he tells me
plaintively that he will be glad to move on to Liège.

"I get broken to pieces squeezing in and out of that little door," he
says. "And I am always afraid I will stick in the middle, and the
Germans in the restaurant will see me, and ask who I am, and what I am
doing here!"

"I can get through the door easily enough," I answer. "But I suffer
agonies as I stand there on the street waiting for old Antoine to come
and unlock it."

"And then there is no food here, no lunch, no dinner, and I do not like
to go in the restaurants alone; I am afraid the Germans will notice me.
I am so big, you see, everybody notices me. Do you think I will ever get
to Liège?"

"Of course you will."

"But do you think I will ever get back from Liège to Antwerp?"

"Of course you will."

"J'ai peur!"

"Moi aussi!"

And indeed, sitting there in the dusk, in the eerie silences of the
deserted hotel, with the German guns booming away in the distance
towards Malines, there creeps over me a shuddering sensation that is
very like fear at the ever-deepening realization of what Belgium has
suffered, and may have to suffer yet; and I find it almost
intolerable--the thought of this poor brave old trembling Belgian,
weighted with years and flesh, struggling so manfully to get back to
Liège, and gauge for himself the extent of the damage done to his house
and properties, to see his servants and help them make arrangements for
the future. Like all the rest of the Belgian fugitives, he knows nothing
_definite_ about the destruction of his town. It may be that his home
has been razed to the ground. It may be that it has been spared. He is
sure of nothing, and that is why he has set out on this long and
dangerous journey, which is not by any means over yet.

Then the old porter approaches, gentle, sorrowful.

"Monsieur, good news! there is a train for Liège to-morrow morning at
five o'clock!"

"Merci bien," says the old professor. "Mais, j'ai peur!"

I rise at four next morning and come down to see him off. We two, who
have never seen each other before, seem now like the only relics of some
bygone far-off event. To see his fat, old, enormous face gives me a
positive thrill of joy. I feel as if I have known him all my life, and
when he has gone I feel curiously alone. The melancholy old fat man's
presence had lent a semblance of life to the hotel, which how seems
given over to ghosts and echoes. Unable to bear it, I moved into the
Métropole.

It was very strange to be there, very strange indeed! This was the
Métropole and yet not the Métropole! Sometimes I could not believe it
was the Métropole at all--the gay, bright, lively, friendly,
companionable Métropole--so sad was this big red-carpeted hotel, so full
of gloomy echoing silences, and with never a soul to arrive or leave, to
ask for a room or a time-table.

There were Italians in charge of the hotel, for which I was profoundly
thankful.

How nice they were to me, those kindly sons of the South.

They allowed me to look in their visitors' book, and as I expected, I
found that the dry hotel register had suddenly become transformed into a
vital human document, of surpassing interest, of intense historic value.

As I glanced through the crowded pages I came at last upon an ominous
date in August upon which there were no names entered.

It was the day on which Brussels surrendered to the Germans.

On that day the register was blank, entirely blank.

And next day also, and the next, and the next, and the next, were those
white empty sheets, with never a name inscribed upon them.

For weeks this blankness continued. It was stifling in its
significance. It clutched at one's heart-strings. It shouted aloud of
the agony of those days when all who could do so left Brussels, and only
those who were obliged to remained. It told its desolate tale of the
visitors that had fled, or ceased to come.

Only, here and there after a long interval, appeared a German name or
two.

Frau Schmidt arrived; Herr Lemberg; Fräulein Gottmituns.

There was a subdued little group of occupants when I was there; Mr.
Morse, the American pill-maker, Mr. Williams, another American, an
ex-Portuguese Minister and his wife and son (exiles these from
Portugal), a little Dutch Baroness who was said to be a great friend of
Gyp's, half a dozen English nurses and two wounded German officers.

I made friends quickly with the nurses and the Americans, and to look
into English eyes again gave me a peculiarly soothing sense of relief
that taught me (if I needed teaching) how alone I was in all these
dangers and agitations.

Mr. Williams had a queer experience. I have often wondered why America
did not resent it on his account.

He was arrested and taken prisoner for talking about the horrors of
Louvain in a train. He was released while I was there. I saw him dashing
into the hotel one evening, a brown paper parcel under his arm. There
was quite a little scene in the waiting-room; everyone came round him
asking what had happened. It seemed that as he stepped out of the tram
he was confronted by German officers, who promptly conducted him into a
"detention honorable."

There he was stripped and searched, and in the meanwhile private
detectives visited his room at the Métropole and went through all his
belongings.

Nothing of a compromising nature being found, Mr. Williams was allowed
to go free after twenty-four hours, having first to give his word that
in future he would not express himself in public.

When I invited him to describe to me what happened in his "detention
honorable," he answered with a strained smile, "No more talking for me!"

Surely this insult to a free-born American must have been a bitter dose
for the American Consulate to swallow.

But perhaps they were too busy to notice it!

When I called at the Consulate the place was crowded with English nurses
begging to be helped away from Brussels. I found that Mr. Richards had
already put in a word on my behalf.

This is what they gave me at the American Consulate in Brussels as a
safeguard against the Germans. I shouldn't have cared to show it to the
enemy! It seemed to me to deliver me straight into their hands. I hid it
in the lining of my hat with my passport.

[Illustration: THE AMERICAN SAFEGUARD.]



CHAPTER XXIII

CHANSON TRISTE


Chilly and wet to-day in Brussels.

And oh, so triste, so triste!

Never before have I known a sadness like to this.

Not in cemetery, not in ruined town, not among wounded, coming broken
from the battle, as on that red day at Heyst-op-den-Berg.

A brooding soul--mist is in the air of Brussels. It creeps, it creeps.
It gets into the bones, into the brain, into the heart. Even when one
laughs one feels the ghostly visitant. All the joy has gone from life.
The vision is clouded. To look at anything you must see Germans first.

Oh, horrible, horrible it is!

And hourly it grows more horrible.

Its very quietness takes on some clammy quality associated with graves.

Movement and life go on all round. People walk, talk, eat, drink, take
the trams, shop. But all the while the Germans are there, the Germans
are in their hotels, their houses, their palaces, their public
buildings, Town Hall, Post Office, Palais de Justice, in their trams, in
their cafés, in their restaurants--

At last I find a simile.

It is like being at home, in one's beloved home with one's beloved
family all around one, and every room full _of cockroaches_!



CHAPTER XXIV

THE CULT OF THE BRUTE


Repellant, unforgettable, was the spectacle of the Germans strutting and
posing on the steps of the beautiful Palais de Justice.

So ill did they fit the beauty of their background, that all the artist
in one writhed with pain. Like some horrible vandal attempt at
decoration upon pure and flawless architecture these coarse, brutish
figures stood with legs apart, their flat round caps upon their solemn
yokel faces giving them the aspect of a body of convicts, while behind
them reared those noble pillars, yellow and dreamlike, suffering in
horror, but with chaste dignity, the polluting nearness of the Hun.

The more one studies Hun physiognomy and physique, the more predominant
grow those first impressions of the Cult of the Brute. Brutish is the
clear blue eye, with the burning excited brain revealing itself in
flashes such as one might see in the eye of a rhinoceros on the attack.
Brutish is the head, so round and close cropped, resembling no other
animal save German. Brutish are the ears flapping out so redly. The
thick necks and incredibly thick legs have the tenacious look of
elephants.

And oh, their little ways, their little ways!

In the Salle Du Tribunal de Commerce they put up clothes-lines, and hung
their shirts and handkerchiefs there, while a bucket stood in the middle
of the beautiful tesselated floor. And then, in exquisite taste, to give
the Belgians a treat, this interior has been photographed and forced
into an extraordinary little newspaper published in Brussels, printed in
French but secretly controlled by the Germans, who splatter it with
their photographs in every conceivable (and inconceivable) style.

And so we see them in their kitchen installed at the foot of the
Monument, wearing aprons over their middle-aged tummies, blucher boots,
and round flat caps. A pretty picture that!

They posed themselves for it; alone they did it. And this is how. They
tipped up a big basket, and let it lie in the foreground on its side.
Two Germans seized a table, lifting it off the ground. One man seated
himself on a wooden bench with a tin of kerosene. Half a dozen others
leaned up against the portable stoves, with folded arms, looking as if
they were going to burst into Moody and Sankey hymns. All food, all
bottles, were hidden. The dustbin was brought forward instead. And then
the photographer said "gut!" And there they were! It was the Hunnish
idea of a superb photograph of Army Cooks. Contrast it with Tommy's! How
do you see Tommy when a war photographer gets him? His first thought is
for an effect of "Cheer-oh!" He doesn't hide bottles and glasses. He
brings them out, and lets you look at them. He doesn't, in the act of
being photographed, lift a table. He lifts a tea-pot or a bottle if he
has one handy. Give us Tommy all the time. Yes. All the time!

Another photograph shews the Huns in the Auditoire of the Cour de
Cassation! More funny effects! They've brought forward all their
knap-sacks, and piled them on a desk for decoration. They themselves lie
on the carpeted steps at full length. But they don't lounge. They can't.
No man can lounge who doesn't know what to do with his hands. And
Germans never know what to do with theirs.

When I saw that picture, showing the Hun idea of how a photograph should
be taken, I felt a suffocation in my larynx. Then there was a gem called
Un Coin de la Cour de Cassation. This shewed dried fish and sausages
hanging on an easel! cheeses on the floor; and washing on the
clothes-line.

And opposite this, on the other page was a photo of General Leman and
his now famous letters to King Albert, the most touching human documents
chat were ever written to a King.

SIRE,

Après des combats honorables livrés les 4, 5, et 6 août par la 3ème
division d'armée renforcée, a partir du 5, par la 15ème brigade, j'ai
estimé que les forts de Liège ne pouvaient plus jouer que le rôle de
forts d'arrêt. J'ai néanmoins conservé le gouvernement militaire de la
place afin d'en coordonner la défense autant qu'il m'était possible et
afin d'exercer une action morale sur les garnisons des forts.

Le bien-fondé de ces résolutions à reçu par la suite des preuves
sérieuses.

Votre Majesté n'ignore du reste pas que je m'étais installé au fort de
Loncin, à partir du 6 août, vers midi.

SIRE,

Vous apprendrez avec douleur que ce fort a sauté bier à 17 h. 20
environ, ensevelissant sous ses ruines la majeure partie de la garnison,
peut-être les huit-dixièmes.

Si je n'ai pas perdu la vie dans cette catastrophe, c'est parce que mon
escorte, composée comme suit: captaine commandant Collard, un
sous-officier d'infanterie, qui n'a sans doute pas survécu, le gendarme
Thevénin et mes deux ordonnances (Ch. Vandenbossche et Jos. Lecocq) m'a
tiré d'un endroit du fort ou j'allais être asphyxié par les gaz de la
poudre. J'ai été porté dans le fossé où je suis tombé. Un captaine
allemand, du nom de Gruson, m'a donné à boire, mais j'ai été fait
prisonnier, puis emmené à Liège dans une ambulance.

Je suis certain d'avoir soutenu l'honneur de nos armes. Je n'ai rendu ni
la forteresse, ni les forts.

Daignez me pardonner, Sire, la négligeance de cette lettre je suis
physiquement très abimé par l'explosion de Loncin.

En Allemagne, où je vais être dirigé, mes pensées seront ce qu'elles ont
toujours été: la Belgique et son Roi. J'aurais volontiers donné ma vie
pour les mieux servir, mais la mort n'a pas voulu de moi.

G. LEMAN.



CHAPTER XXV

DEATH IN LIFE


What is it I've been saying about gaiety?

How could one ever use such a word?

Here in the heart of Brussels one cannot recall even a memory of what it
was like to be joyful!

I am in a city under German occupation; and I see around me death in
life, and life in death. I see men, women, and children, with eyes that
are looking into tombs. Oh those eyes, those eyes! Ah, here is the agony
of Belgium--here in this fair white capital set like a snowflake on her
hillside. Here is grief concentrated and dread accumulated, and the days
go by, and the weeks come and pass, and then months--_then months_!--and
still the agony endures, the Germans remain, the Belgians wake to fresh
morrows, with that weight that is more bitter and heavier than Death,
flinging itself upon their weary shoulders the moment they return to
consciousness.

Yes. Waking in Brussels is grim as waking on the morn of execution!

Out of sleep, with its mercy of dream and forgetfulness, the
_Bruxellois_ comes back each morning to a sense of brooding tragedy.
Swiftly this deepens into realization. The Germans are here. They are
still here. The day must be gone through, the sad long day. There is no
escaping it. The Belgian must see the grey figures striding through his
beloved streets, shopping in his shops, walking and motoring in his
parks and squares. He must meet the murderers in his churches, in his
cafés. He must hear their laughter in his ears, and their loud arrogant
speech. He must see them in possession of his Post Offices, his Banks,
his Museums, his Libraries, his Theatres, his Palaces, his Hotels.

He must remain in ignorance of the world outside. Worst of all! When his
poor tortured thoughts turn to one thought of his Deliverance, he must
confront a terror sharper than all the rest. Then, he sees in clear
vision, the ghastly fate that may fall upon the unarmed Brussels
population the day the Germans are driven out. The whole beautiful city
may be in flames, the whole population murdered. There is no one who can
stop the Germans if they decide to ruin Brussels before evacuating it.
One can only trust in their common-sense--and their mercy!

And at thought of mercy the _Bruxellois_ gazes away down the flat, dusty
road--away towards Louvain!

The peasants are going backwards and forwards to Louvain.

Little carts, filled with beshawled women and children, keep trundling
along the road. A mud-splashed rickety waggonette is drawn up in front
of a third-rate café. "Louvain" is marked on it in white chalk. On a
black board, in the café window, is a notice that the waggonette will
start when full. The day is desperately wet. There is a canvas roof to
the waggonette, but the rain dashes through, sideways, and backwards and
forwards. Under cover of the rain as it were, I step into the
waggonette, and seat myself quietly among a group of peasants. Two more
get in shortly after. Then off we start. In silence, all crouching
together, we drive through the city, out through the northern gateway;
soon we are galloping along the drear flat country-road that leads to
the greatest tragedy of the War. It is ten o'clock when we start. At
half-past eleven we are in Louvain. On the way we meet only peasants and
little shop-keepers going to and from Brussels.

Over the flat bare country, through the grey atmosphere comes an
impression of whiteness. My heart beats suffocatingly as I climb out of
the waggonette and stand in the narrow Rue de la Station, looking along
the tram-line. The heaps of débris nearly meet across the street.

The rain is falling in Louvain; it beats through the ruined spaces; it
does its best to wash out the blood-stains of those terrific days in
August. And the people, oh, the brave people. They are actually making a
pretence of life. A few shops are opened, a café opposite the ruined
theatre is full of pale, trembling old men, sipping their byrrh or
coffee; Louvain is just alive enough to whisper the word "_Death!_"

But with that word it whispers also "Immortality."

In its ruin Louvain seems to me to have taken on a beauty that could
never have belonged to it in other days. Those great fair buildings with
gaps in their sides, speak now with a voice that the whole world listens
to. The Germans have smashed and flattened them, burnt and destroyed
them. But the glory of immortality that Death alone can confer rests
upon them now. Out of those ruins has sprung the strongest factor in the
War. Louvain, despoiled and desolate, has had given into her keeping the
greatest power at work against Germany. Louvain, in her waste and
mourning, has caused the world to pause and think. She has made hearts
bleed that were cold before; she has opened the world's eyes to
Germany's brutality!

Actually, in Africa, Louvain it was that decided a terribly critical
situation. Because of Louvain, many, many hesitating partisans of
Germany threw in their cause with the Allies.

Ah, Louvain! Take heart! In your destruction you are indestructible. You
faced your day of carnage. Your civilians bravely opposed the enemy. It
was all written down in Destiny's white book. The priests that were shot
in your streets, the innocent women and children who were butchered,
they have all achieved great things for Belgium, and they will achieve
still greater things yet. Louvain, proud glorious Louvain, it is
because of you that Germany can never win. Your ruins stand for
Germany's destruction. It is not you who are ruined. It is Germany!

       *       *       *       *       *

I wander about. I am utterly indifferent to-day. If a German officer
took it in his head to suspect me I would not care. Such is my state of
mind wandering among the ruins of Louvain.

I am surprised to find that in the actual matter of ruins Louvain is
less destroyed than I expected.

Compared with Aerschot, the town has not been as ruthlessly destroyed.
Aerschot no longer exists. Louvain is still here. Among the ruined
monuments, houses and shops are occupied. An attempt at business goes
on. The heaps of masonry in the streets are being cleared away. With her
interior torn out, the old theatre still stands upright. The train runs
in and out among the ruins.

The University is like a beautiful skeleton, with the wind and rain
dashing through the interstices between her white frail bones.

Where there are walls intact, and even over the ruins, the Germans have
pasted their proclamations.

Veuve D. for insulting an official was sentenced to ten years in prison.

Jean D. for opposing an official, was shot.

And in flaunting placards the Germans beg the citizens of Louvain to
understand that they will meet with nothing but kindness and
consideration from Das Deutsche Heer, as long as they behave
themselves.

I step into a little shop as a motor car full of German officers dashes
by.

"How brave you are to keep on," I say to the little old woman behind the
counter. "It must be terribly sad and difficult."

"If we had more salt," she says, "we shouldn't mind! But one must have
salt. And there is none left in Louvain. We go to Brussels for it, but
it grows more and more difficult to obtain, even there."

"And food?"

"Oh, the English will never let us starve," she says. "Mon Mari, he says
so, and he knows. He was in England forty years ago. He was in the
household of Baron D., the Belgian Ambassador in London. Would you like
to see Mon Mari."

I went into the room behind the shop.

Mon Mari was sitting in a big chair by the window, looking out over some
rain-drenched purple cabbages.

He was a little old Belgian, shrivelled and trembling. He had been shot
in the thigh on that appalling August day when Louvain attempted to
defend herself against the murderers. He was lame, broken, useless,
aged. But his sense of humour survived. It flamed up till I felt a red
glow in that chilly room looking over the rain-wet cabbages, and
laughter warmed us all three among the ruins, myself, and the little
old woman, and Mon Mari.

"Yesterday," he said, "an American Consul was coming in my shop. He was
walking with a German Colonel. The American says: 'How could you Germans
destroy a beautiful city like Louvain?' And the Alboche answered, 'We
didn't know it was beautiful'!"

And the old woman echoes ponderingly:

"_Didn't know it was beautiful!_"



CHAPTER XXVI

THE RETURN FROM BRUSSELS


From Brussels to Ninove, from Ninove to Sottegem, from Sottegem to
Ghent, from Ghent to Antwerp; that was how I got back!

At the outskirts of Brussels, on a certain windy corner, I stood,
waiting my chance of a vehicle going towards Ghent.

The train-lines were still cut, and the only way of getting out of
Brussels was to drive, unless one went on foot.

At the windy corner, accompanied by Jean and his two sisters, I stood,
watching a wonderful drama.

There were people creeping in, as well as creeping out, peasants on
foot, women and children who had fled in terror and were now returning
to their little homes. It seemed to me as if the Germans must purposely
have left this corner unwatched, unhindered, probably in the hope of
getting more and more to return.

Little carts and big carts clattered up and came to a standstill
alongside an old white inn, and Jean bargained and argued on my behalf
for a seat.

There was one tiny cart, drawn by a donkey, with five young men in it.

The driver wanted six passengers, and began appealing to me in Flemish
to come in.

"I will drive you all the way to Ghent if you like," he said.

"How much?"

"Ten francs."

Suddenly a hand pulled at my sleeve, and a hoarse voice whispered in my
ear:

"Non, non, Madam. You mustn't go with them. Don't you know who they
are?"

It was a rough-faced little peasant, and his blue eyes were full of
distress.

I felt startled and impressed, and wondered if the five young men were
murderers.

"They are the Newspaper Sellers!" muttered the blue-eyed peasant under
his breath.

If he had said they were madmen his tone could not have been more
awestruck.

After a while I found a little cart with two seats facing each other,
two hard wooden seats. One bony horse stood in the shafts. But I liked
the look of the three Belgian women who were getting in, and one of them
had a wee baby. That decided me. I felt that the terrors of the long
drive before me would be curiously lightened by that baby's presence.
Its very tininess seemed to make things easier. Its little indifferent
sleeping face, soft and calm and fragrant among its white wool dainties,
seemed to give the lie to dread and terror; seemed to hearten one
swiftly and sweetly, seemed to say: "Look at me, I'm only a month old.
But I'm not frightened of anything!"

And now I must say good-bye to Jean, and good-bye to his two plump young
sisters.

They are the dearest friends I have in the world--or so it seems to me
as I bid them good-bye.

"Bonne chance, Madam!" they whisper.

I should like to have kissed Jean, but I kissed the sisters instead,
then feeling as if I were being cut in halves, I climbed, lonely and
full of sinister dread, into the little cart, and the driver cracked his
whip, shouting, "Allons, Fritz!" to his bony horse and off we started, a
party of eight all told. The three Belgian women sat opposite me; two
middle-aged men were beside me, and the driver and another man were on
the front seat.

Hour after hour we drove, hour after hour there was no sun. The land
looked flat and melancholy under this grey sky, and we were at our old
game now.

"Have you seen the Germans?"

"Yes, yes, the Germans are there," pointing to the right.

And we would turn to the left, tacking like a boat in the storm.

Terrific firing was going on. But the baby, whose name the mother told
me was Solange, slept profoundly, the three women chattered like
parrots, and the driver shouted incessantly, "Allons, Fritz,
allez-Komm!" and Fritz, throwing back his head, plodded bravely on,
dragging his heavy load with a superb nonchalance that led him into
cantering up the hills, and breaking into gallops when he got on the
flat road again. Hour after hour Fritz cantered, and galloped and
trotted, dragging eight people along as though they were so many pods.


                                    Ce 10. 12. 14.

MADAME CREED,

Le passage à Londres, je me permets de me rappeler à votre bon souvenir.
En effet, rappelez-vous votre retour de Bruxelles, en octobre dernier:
dans la carriole se trouvaient 2 messieurs et 3 dames (l'une avec un
bébé que vous avez tenu dans les bras) dont 2 institutrices. J'en suis
une des deux, Mme. Stoefs. J'ai été à Gand espérant vous revoir, mais
vous étiez repartie déjà. Peut être ici à Londres, amais-je ce plaisir.
J'y suis encore jusqu'à la fin de cette semaine, donc soyez assez
aimable de me dire où et quand nous pourrions nous rencontrer. Voici mon
adresse: Mme. Stoefs: Verstegen, 53, Maple Street, W. Au plaisir de vous
revoir, je vous présente mes cordiales salutations.

CHARLOTTE STOEFS.

Institutrice à Bruxelles.

One bleak December day in London there came to me this letter, and by it
alone I know that Fritz and the baby Solange, and the eight of us are no
myth, no figment of my imagination. We really did, all together, drive
all day long through the German-infected country, to east, to west, to
north, to south, through fields and byways, and strange little villages,
over hills and along valleys, with the cannon always booming, the baby
always sleeping and old Fritz always going merry and bright.

By noon, we might have known each other a thousand years. I had the baby
on my knee, the three men cracked walnuts for us all, and everyone
talked at once; strange talk, the strangest in all the world.

"So they killed the priest!"

"She hid for two days in the water-closet."

"She doesn't know what has happened to her five children."

"They were stood in a row and every third one was _fusillé_."

"They found his body in the garden!"

"Il est tout-à-fait ruiné."

Then suddenly one of the ladies, who knew a little English, said with a
friendly smile:

"I have liked very much the English novel--how do you call it--something
about a lamp. Everyone reads it. It is our favourite English book. It is
splendid. We read it in French too."

And every now and then for hours she and I would try guessing the name
of that something-about-a-lamp book. But we never got it. It was weeks
later when I remembered "The Lamplighter."

At last we crossed the border from Brabant into Flanders, and galloping
up a long hill we found ourselves in Ninove. It was in a terrific state
of excitement. Here we saw the results of the fighting I had heard at
Enghien on the Saturday. The Germans had pillaged and destroyed. Houses
lay tumbled on the streets, the peasants stood grouped in terror, the
air was full of the smell of burning. At a house where we bought some
apples we saw a sitting-room after the Huns had finished it. Every bit
of glass and china in the room was smashed, tumblers, wine-glasses,
jugs, plates, cups, saucers lay in heaps all over the floor. All the
pictures were cut from the frames, all the chairs and tables were broken
to bits. The cushions were torn open, the bookshelves toppled forward,
the books lay dripping wet on the grey carpet as if buckets of water had
been poured over them. Jam tins, sardine tins, rubbish and filth were
all over the carpet, and bottles were everywhere. It was a low,
degrading sight.



CHAPTER XXVII

"THE ENGLISH ARE COMING"


I am back in Antwerp and the unexpected has happened.

We are besieged.

The siege began on Thursday.

The mental excitement of these last days passes all description.

And yet Antwerp is calm outwardly, and but for the crowds of peasants,
pouring into the city with their cows and their bundles, one would
hardly know that the Germans were really attacking us at last.

The Government has issued an order that anyone who likes may leave
Antwerp; but once having done so no one will be permitted to return; and
that quite decides us; we will remain.

All day long the cannon are booming and pounding; sometimes they sound
so near that one imagines a shell must have burst in Antwerp itself; and
sometimes they grow fainter, they are obviously receding.

Or so we tell ourselves hopefully.

We are always hopeful; we are always telling each other that things are
going better.

Everyone is talking, talking, talking.

Everyone is asking, "What do you think? Have you heard any news?"

Everyone is saying, "But of course it will be all right!"

"The Germans have been driven back five kilometres," says one civilian.

"Have you heard the news? The Germans have been driven back six
kilometres!" says another.

And again: "Have _you_ heard the good news? Germans driven back seven
kilometres!"

And at last a curious mental condition sets in.

We lose interest in the cannon, and we go about our business, just as if
those noises were not ringing in our ears, even as we sit at dinner in
our hotel.

There is one little notice pasted up about the hotel that, simply as it
reads, fills one with a new and more active terror than shell-fire:--

"_Il n'y a pas d'eau!_"

This is because the German shells have smashed the Waterworks at Wavre
S. Catherine. And so, in the meantime, Antwerp's hotels are flooded with
carbolic, and we drink only mineral waters, and wait (hopeful as ever)
for the great day when the bathrooms will be opened again.

These nights are stiflingly hot. And the mosquitoes still linger. Indeed
they are so bad sometimes that I put eucalyptus oil on my pillow to keep
them away. How strange that all this terrific firing should not have
frightened them off! I come to the conclusion that mosquitoes are deaf.

The curious thing is, no one can tell, by looking at Antwerp, that she
is going through the greatest page in all her varied history. Her shops
are open. People sit at crowded cafés sipping their coffee or beer. A
magnificent calm prevails. There is no sense of active danger. The
lights go out at seven instead of eight. By ten o'clock the city is
asleep, save for the coming and going of clattering troops over the
rough-flagged streets and avenues. Grapes and pears and peaches are
displayed in luxuriant profusion, at extraordinarily low prices. Fish
and meat are dearer, but chickens are still very cheap. The
"_Anversois_" still take as much trouble over their cooking, which is
uncommonly good, even for Belgium.

And then on Saturday, with the sharpness and suddenness of lightning,
the terrible rumour goes round that Antwerp is going to
_surrender_,--yes, surrender--rather than run the risk of being
destroyed like Louvain, and Termonde, and Aerschot.

The Legation has received orders that the Government is about to be
moved to Ostend. Crowds of people begin to hurry out of Antwerp in motor
cars, until the city looks somewhat like London on a Sunday afternoon,
half-empty, and full of bare spaces, instead of crowded and animated as
Antwerp has been ever since the Government moved here from Brussels.

And then, on Sunday, comes a change.

The news spreads like wild-fire that the Legations have had their
orders countermanded early in the morning.

They are to wait further instructions. Something has happened. _THE
ENGLISH ARE COMING!_



CHAPTER XXVIII

MONDAY


A golden, laughing day is this 5th of October.

As I fly along in my car I soon sense a new current, vivid and electric,
flowing along with the stream of Belgian life.

Oh, the change in the sad, hollow-eyed Belgian officers and men! They
felt that help was coming at last. All this time they had fought alone,
unaided. There was no one who could come to them, no one free to help
them. And the weeks passed into months, and Liège, and Louvain, and
Brussels, and Aerschot, and Namur, and Malines, and Termonde have all
fallen, one by one. And high hopes have been blighted, and the enemy in
its terrific strength has swept on and on, held back continually by the
ardour and valour of the little Belgian Army which is still indomitable
at heart, but tired, very tired. Haggard, hollow-eyed, exhausted,
craving the rest they may not have, these glorious heroes revive as if
by magic under the knowledge that other troops are coming to help theirs
in this gargantuan struggle for Antwerp. The yellow khaki seems to sweep
along with the blue uniforms like sunlight. But the gentle-faced,
slow-speaking English are humble and modest enough, God knows!

"It's the high-explosive shells that we mind most," says a Belgian
Lieutenant to an English Tommy.

"P'raps we'll mind them too," says Tommy humbly. "We ain't seen them
yet!"

At the War Office, Count Chabeau has given me a special permit to go to
Lierre.

Out past Mortsell, I notice a Belgian lady standing among a crowd of
soldiers. She wears black. Her dress is elegant, yet simple. I admire
her furs, and I wonder what on earth she is doing here, right out in the
middle of the fortifications, far from the city. Belgian ladies are
seldom seen in these specified zones.

Suddenly her eyes meet mine, and she comes towards me, drawn by the
knowledge that we are both women.

She leans in at my car window. And then she tells me her story, and I
learn why she looks so pale and worried.

Just down the road, a little further on, in the region in which we may
not pass, is her villa, which has been suddenly requisitioned by the
English. All in a hurry yesterday, Madame packed up, and hurried away to
Antwerp, to arrange for her stay there. This morning she has returned to
fetch her dogs.

But voilà! She reaches this point and is stopped. The way is blocked.
She must not go on. No one can pass without a special laisser-passer;
which she hasn't got.

[Illustration: A SPECIAL PERMIT.]

So here, hour after hour, since six o'clock in the morning, she stands,
waiting pitifully for a chance to get back to her villa and take away
her dogs, that she fears may be starving.

"Mes pauvre chiens!" she keeps exclaiming.

And now a motor car approaches from the direction of Lierre, with an
English officer sitting beside the chauffeur.

I tell him the story of the dogs and ask what can be done.

The officer does not reply.

He almost looks as if he has not heard.

His calm, cool face shows little sign of anything at all.

He merely turns his car round and flashes away along the white
tree-shadowed and cannon-lined road that he has just traversed.

Ten minutes go by, then another ten.

Then back along the road flashes the grey car.

And there again is Colonel Farquharson, cool, calm, and unperturbed.

And behind him, in the car, barking joyfully at the sight of their
mistress, are three big dogs.

"Mais comme les Anglais sont gentils!" say the Belgian soldiers along
the road.

       *       *       *       *       *

Out of the burning town of Lierre that same day a canary and a grey
Congo parrot are tenderly handed over to my care by a couple of English
Tommies who have found them in a burning house.

The canary is in a little red cage, and the Tommies have managed to put
in some lumps of sugar.

"The poor little thing is starving!" says a Tommy compassionately.
"It'll be better with you, ma'am."

I bring the birds back in my car to Antwerp.

But the parrot is very frightened.

He will not eat. He will not drink. He looks as if he is going to die,
until I ask Mr. Cherry Kearton to come and see him. And then, voilà! The
famous English naturalist bends over him, talks, pets him, and in a few
minutes "Coco" is busy trimming Cherry Kearton's moustache with his
little black beak, and from that very moment the bird begins to recover.

As I write the parrot and canary sit here on my table, the parrot
perching on the canary's cage.

The boom of cannon is growing fainter and fainter as the Germans appear
to be pushed further and further back; the canary is singing, and the
grey parrot is cracking nuts; and I think of the man who rescued them,
and hope that all goes well with him, who, with death staring him in the
face, had time and thought to save the lives of a couple of birds. His
name he told me was Sergeant Thomas Marshall of Winston Churchill's
Marines.

He said: "If you see my wife ever, you can tell her you've met me,
ma'am."



CHAPTER XXIX

TUESDAY


It is Tuesday now. At seven o'clock in the morning old sad-eyed Maria
knocks at my door.

"Good news, Madame! Malines has been retaken!"

That is cheering. And old Maria and myself, like everyone else, are
eager to believe the best.

The grey day, however, is indescribably sombre.

From a high, grassy terrace at the top of the hotel I look out across
the city towards the points where the Germans are attacking us. Great
black clouds that yet are full of garish light float across the city,
and through the clouds one, two, three, four aeroplanes can be seen,
black as birds, and moving continually hither and thither, while far
below the old town lies, with its towers and gilded Gothic beauty, and
its dark red roofs, and its wide river running to meet the sea.

I go down to the War Office and see Commandant Chabeau. He looks pale
and haggard. His handsome grey eyes are full of infinite sadness.

"To-day it would be wiser, Madame, that you don't go out of the city,"
he says in his gentle, chivalrous voice. "C'est trop dangereux!"

I want to ask him a thousand questions.

I ask him nothing, I go away, back to the hotel. One o'clock, and we
learn that the fighting outside is terribly hot.

Two o'clock.

Cars come flying in.

They tell us that shells are falling about five miles out, on Vieux
Dieux.

Three o'clock.

A man rushes in and says that all is over; the last train leaves Antwerp
to-night; the Government is going; it is our last chance to escape.

"How far is Holland?" asks someone.

"About half an hour away," he answers.

I listen dreamily. Holland sounds very near. I wonder what I am going to
do. Am I going to stay and see the Germans enter? But maybe they will
never enter. The unexpected will happen. We shall be saved at the
eleventh hour. It is impossible that Antwerp can fall.

"They will be shelling the town before twenty-four hours," says one
young man, and he calls for another drink. When he has had it he says he
wishes he hadn't.

"They will never shell the town," says a choleric old Englishman. And he
adds in the best English manner, "It could never be permitted!"

Outside, the day dies down.

The sound of cannon has entirely ceased.

One can hear nothing now, nothing at all, but the loud and shrill cries
of the newsboys and women selling _Le Matin d'Anvers_ and _Le
Métropole_ in the streets.

A strange hushed silence hangs over the besieged city, and through the
silence the clocks strike six, and almost immediately the _maître
d'hôtel_ comes along and informs us that we ought to come in to dinner
soon, as to-day the lights must go out at nightfall!

But I go into the streets instead.

It seems to me that the population of Antwerp has suddenly turned into
peasants.

Peasants everywhere, in crowds, in groups, in isolated numbers.
Bareheaded women, hollow-cheeked men, little girls and boys, and all
with bundles, some pathetically small, done up in white or blue cloths,
and some huge and grotesque, under which the peasants stagger along
through the streets that were fashionable streets only just now, and now
have turned into a sort of sad travesty of the streets of some distant
village.

A curious rosy hue falls over the faces in the streets, the shop-windows
glow like rubies, the gold on the Gothic buildings burns like crimson
fire.

Overhead a magnificent sunset is spreading its banners out over the
deserted city.

Then night falls; the red fades; Antwerp turns grey and sombre.

But the memory of that rose in the west remains, and in hope we wait, we
are still waiting, knowing not what the morrow may bring forth.



CHAPTER XXX

WEDNESDAY


Last night the moon was so bright that my two pets, rescued from the
ruins of Lierre, woke up and began to talk.

Or was it the big guns that woke them, the canary, and the grey Congo
parrot?

It might have been!

For sometimes the city seemed to shake all over, and as I lay in bed I
wondered who was firing: Germans, Belgians, English, which?

About three o'clock, between dozing and listening to the cannon, I heard
a new sound, a strange sound, something so awful that I almost felt my
hair creep with horror.

It was a man crying in the room under mine.

Through the blackness of the hour before dawn a cry came stealing:

"_Mon fils! Mon fils!_"

Out of the night it came, that sudden terrific revelation of what is
going on everywhere beneath the outward calm of this nation of heroes.

And one had not realised it because one had seen so few tears.

One had almost failed to understand, in the outer calm of the Belgians,
what agony went on beneath.

And now, in the midnight, the veil is torn aside, and I see a human
heart in extremis, writhing with agony, groaning as the wounded never
groan, stricken, bleeding, prostrate, overwhelmed with the enormity of
its sorrow.

"_Mon fils! Mon fils!_"

Since I heard that old man weeping I want to creep to the feet of Christ
and the Mother of Christ, and implore Their healing for these poor
innocent broken hearts, trodden under the brutal feet of another race of
human beings.

       *       *       *       *       *

At four, unable to sleep, I rose and dressed and went downstairs.

In the dim, unswept palm court I saw a bearded man with two umbrellas
walking feverishly up and down, while the sleepy night porter leaned
against a pillar yawning, watching for the cab that the _chass_ had gone
to look for. It came at last, and the bearded gentleman, with a sigh,
stepped in, and drove away into the dusky dawn, a look of unutterable
sadness seeming to cloak his face and form as he disappeared.

"_Il est triste, ce monsieur là_," commented our voluble little Flemish
porter. "He is a Minister of the Government, and he must leave Antwerp,
he must depart for Ostend. His boat leaves at five o'clock this
morning."

"So the Government is really moving out," I think to myself
mechanically.

A little boy runs in from the chill dawn-lit streets.

It is only half-past four, but a Flemish paper has just come out.--_Het
Laatste Nieuws._

The boy throws it on the table where I sit writing to my sister in
England, who is anxious for my safety.

I struggle to find out what message lies behind those queer Flemish
words.

_De Toestand Te Antwerpen Is Zeer Ernstig._

What does it mean?

_Zeer Ernstig?_

Is it good? Is it bad? I don't know the word.

I call to the night porter, and he comes out and translates to me, and
as I glean the significance of the news I admire that peasant boy's
calm.

"_La situation à Anvers est grave_" he says. "The Burgomaster announces
to the population that the bombardment of Antwerp and its environs is
imminent. It is understood, of course" (translating literally), "that
neither the threat nor the actual bombardment will have any effect on
the strength of our resistance, which will continue to the very last
extremity!"

So we know the worst now.

Antwerp is not to hand herself over to the Germans. She is going to
fight to the death. Well, we are glad of it! We know it is the only
thing she could have done!

       *       *       *       *       *

And now the hotel wakes right up, and dozens of sleepy, worn,
hollow-cheeked officers and soldiers in dirty boots come down the
red-carpeted stairs clamouring for their _café-au-lait_.

The morning is very cold, and they shiver sometimes, but they are better
after the coffee and I watch them all go off smoking cigarettes.

Poor souls! Poor souls!

After the coffee, smoking cigarettes, they hurry away, to....

The day is past sunrise now, and floods of golden light stream over the
city, where already great crowds are moving backwards and forwards.

Cabs drive up continually to the great railway station opposite with
piles of luggage, and I think dreamily how very like they are to London
four-wheelers, taking the family away to the seaside!

And still the city remains marvellously calm, in spite of the
ever-increasing movements. People are going away in hundreds, in
thousands. But they are going quietly, calmly. Processions of
black-robed nuns file along the avenues under the fading trees. Long
lines of Belgian cyclists flash by in an opposite direction in their gay
yellow and green uniforms. The blue and red of the French and English
banners never looked brighter as the wind plays with them, and the
sunlight sparkles on them, while the great black and red and gold
Belgian flags lend that curious note of sombre dignity to the crowded
streets.

But not a word of regret from anyone. That is the Belgian way.

Belgians all, to-day I kneel at your feet.

Oh God, what those people are going through!

God, what they are suffering and to suffer! How can they bear it? Where
do they get their heroism? Is it--it must be--from Above!

[Illustration: BELGIAN REFUGEES IN HOLLAND]



CHAPTER XXXI

THE CITY IS SHELLED


That day, seated in wicker chairs in the palm court, we held a counsel
of war, all the War-Correspondents who were left. The question was
whether the Hotel Terminus was not in too dangerous a position. Its
extreme nearness to the great railway station made its shelling almost
inevitable when the bombardment of the city began in earnest. We argued
a lot. One suggested one hotel, one another. To be directly northward
was clearly desirable, as the shells would come from southward.

Mr. Cherry Kearton, Mr. Cleary, and Mr. Marshall, decided on the Queen's
Hotel, somewhere near the quay. Their point was that it would be easier
to get away from there. Mr. Robinson and Mr. Phillips refused to change
from the Terminus. Mr. Fox, Mr. Lucien Arthur Jones, and myself chose
the Wagner, as being in the most northerly direction, the farthest away
from the forts, and the nearest to the Breda Gate, which led to Holland.
In the moonlight, after dinner, taking my canary with me, I moved to my
new quarters, accompanied to the doors by that little band of
Englishmen, Cherry Kearton carrying my parrot. It was then ten o'clock.

Strange things were to happen before we met again.

Precisely at eleven the first shell fell. Whiz! It fled in a fury across
the sky and burst somewhere in the direction of the Cathedral. As it
exploded I shut my eyes, clenched my hands, and sank on the floor by my
bedside, saying to myself, "God, I'm dead!"

And I thought I was too.

The enormity of that sound-sensation seemed to belong to a transition
from this world to the next. It scarcely seemed possible to pass through
that noise and come out alive.

That was the first shell, and others followed quickly. The Hotel was
alive immediately. Sleep was impossible. I crept down into the
vestibule. It was all dark, save for one little light at the porter's
door! I got a chair, drew it close to the light and sat down. I had a
note-book and pencil, and to calm and control myself and not let my
brain run riot I made notes of exactly what people said. I sat there all
night long!

Every now and then the doors would burst open and men and women would
rush in.

Once it was two slim, elegant ladies in black, with white fox stoles,
who had run from their house because a shell had set fire to the house
next door.

They came into the pitch-black vestibule, moving about by the little
point of light made by their tiny electric torch. They asked for a
room. There was none. So they asked to sit in the dark, empty
restaurant, and as I saw them disappear into that black room where many
refugees were already gathered, sleeping on chairs and floors and tables
I could not help being amazed at the strangeness of it all, the
unlikeness of it all to life,--these two gently-nurtured sisters with
their gentle manners, their white furs, their electric light, gliding
noiselessly along the burning, beshelled streets, and asking for a room
in the first hotel they came to without a word about terror, and with
expressions on their faces that utterly belied the looks of fright and
terror that the stage has almost convinced us are the real thing.

Swing goes the door and in comes a man who asks the porter a question.

"Is Monsieur L. here?"

"Oui, Monsieur," replies the porter.

"Where is he?"

"He is in bed."

"Go to him and tell him that a shell has just fallen on the Bank of
Anvers. Tell him to rise and come out at once. He is a Bank Official and
he must come and help to save the papers before the bank is burned down!
Tell him Monsieur M., the Manager, came for him."

Swing, and the Bank Manager has gone through the door again out into
that black and red shrieking night.

Swing again, and three people hurry in, three Belgians, father, mother
and a little fair-haired girlie, whom they hold by each hand, while the
father cradles a big box of hard cash under one arm.

"The shells are falling all around our home!" they say.

The porter points to the restaurant door.

"Merci bien," and "Je vous remerci beaucoup," murmur father and mother.

They vanish into the dark, unlit restaurant with its white table-cloths
making pale points athward the stygian blackness of the huge room.

Then an Englishman comes down the stairs behind me, flapping his
Burberry rainproof overcoat. He is a War-Correspondent.

"What a smell!" he says to the porter. "Is gas escaping somewhere?"

"No, sir," says the porter, pulling his black moustache.

He is very distrait and hardly gives the famous War-Correspondent a
thought.

"It _is_ gas!" persists the War-Correspondent. "There must be a leakage
somewhere."

He opens the door.

A horrible whiff of burning petroleum and smoke blows in, and a Belgian
soldier enters also.

"What's the smell?" asks the War-Correspondent.

"The Germans are dropping explosives on the city, trying to set fire to
it," answers the Belgian.

"Good lor, I must have a look!" says the War-Correspondent. He goes
out.

Two wounded officers come down the stairs behind me.

"Bill, please, porter. How much? We must be off now to the forts!"

"Don't know the bill," says the porter. "I'm new, the other man ran
away. He didn't like shells. You can pay some other time, Messieurs!"

"Bien!" says the officers.

They swing their dark cloaks across their shoulders and pass out.

They come back no more, no, never any more.

Then an old, old man limps in on the arm of a young, ever-young Sister
of Mercy.

"He is deaf and dumb," she says, "I found him and brought him here. He
will be killed in the streets."

Her smile makes sunshine all over the blackness of that haunted hall;
the mercy of it, the sweetness of it, the holiness are something one can
never forget as, guiding the old man, she leads him into the dark
restaurant and tends him through the night.

Then again the door swings open.

"The petroleum tanks have been set on fire by the Belgians themselves!"
says a big man with a big moustache. "This is the end."

He is the proprietor himself.

And here up from the stairs behind us that lead down into the cellars,
comes his wife, wrapped in furs.

"Henri, I heard your voice. I am going. I cannot stand it. I shall flee
to Holland with little Marie. Put me into the motor car. My legs will
not carry me. I fear for the child so much!"

A kiss, and she and little Marie flee away through the madness of the
night towards the Breda Gate and the safety of some Dutch village across
the border.

Every now and then I would open the swing-doors and fly like mad on
tip-toe to the corner of the Avenue de Commerce, and there, casting one
swift glance right and left, I would take in the awful panorama of
scarlet flames. They were leaping now over the Marché Aux Souliers, the
street which corresponds with our Strand. While I watched I heard the
shrieking rush of one shell after another, any one of which might of
course well have fallen where I stood.

But I knew they wouldn't. I felt as safe and secure there in that
shell-swept corner as if I had been a child again, at home in silent,
sleepy, far-away Australia!

The fact is when you are in the midst of danger, with shells bursting
round you, and the city on fire, and the Germans closing in on you, and
your friends and home many hundreds of miles away, your brain works in
an entirely different way from when you are living safely in your
peaceful Midlands.

Quite unconsciously, one's ego asserts itself in danger, until it seems
that one carries within one a world so important, so limitless, and
immortal, that it appears invincible before hurt or death.

This is an illusion, of course; but what a beautiful and merciful one!

When danger comes your way this illusion will begin to weave a sort of
fairy haze around you, making you feel that those shrieking shells can
never fall on you!

Seldom indeed while I was at the front did I hear anyone say, "I'm
afraid." How deeply and compassionately considerate Nature is to us all!
She has supplied us with a store of emotional glands, and fitted us up
with many a varying sensation, of which curiosity is the liveliest and
strongest. Then when it comes to a race between Fear and Curiosity, in
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred Curiosity wins hands down. In real
danger our curiosity, and our unconscious but deep-seated belief in the
ego, carry us right over the frightful terrors that we imagine we should
feel were we thinking the thing out quietly in a safe land. _Then_, we
tremble and shiver! _Then_, we remember the word "Scream." _Then_, we
understand the meaning of fear! _Then_, we run (in our thoughts) into
caves and cellars. But when the real thing comes we put our heads out of
the windows, we run out into the streets, we go towards danger and not
away from it, driven thither by the mighty emotion of Curiosity, which,
when all is said and done, is one of the most delightful because the
most electrifying of all human sensations.

Is this brutal? Is it hard-hearted? Is it callous, indifferent, cruel?
_No_! For it bears no relation to our feelings for other people, _it
only relates to our own sensations about ourselves_. When a group of
wounded Belgians comes limping along, you look into their hollow,
blackened faces, you feel your heart break, and all your soul seems to
dissolve in one mighty longing to die for these people who have
sacrificed their all for _you_; and you run to them, you help them all
you can, you experience a passionate desire to give them everything you
have, you turn out your pockets for them, you search for something,
anything, that will help them.

No! You are not callous because you are curious! Quite the reverse, in
fact. You are curious because you are alive, because you dwell in this
one earth, and because you are created with the "sense" that you have a
right to see and hear all the strange and wonderful things, all the
terrors as well as all the glories that go to make up human existence.

Not to care, not to want to see, not to want to know, that is the
callousness beyond redemption!



CHAPTER XXXII

THURSDAY


Thursday is a queer day, a day of no beginning and no ending.

It is haunted by such immense noise that it loses all likeness to what
we know in ordinary life as "a day"--the thing that comes in between two
nights.

It is, in fact, nothing but one cataclysmal bang and shriek of shells
and shrapnel. The earth seems to break open from its centre every five
minutes or so, and my brain begins to formulate to itself a tremendous
sense of height and space, as well as of noise, until I feel as though I
am in touch with the highest skies as well as with the lowest earth,
because things that seem to belong essentially to earth are now
happening in the skies.

The roof of the world is now enacting a rôle that is just as strange and
just as surprising as if the roof of a theatre had suddenly begun to
take part in a drama.

One looks above as often as one looks below or around one.

Flinging themselves forward with thin whinging cries like millions of
mosquitoes on the attack, the shrapnel rushes perpetually overhead, and
the high-explosive shells pour down upon the city, deafening,
stupefying, until at last, by the very immensity of their noise, they
gradually lose their power to affect one, even though they break all
round.

Instead of listening to the bombardment I find myself listening crossly
to the creaking of our lift, which makes noises exactly like those of
the shrapnel outside.

In fact, when I am in my bedroom, and the lift is going up and down, I
really don't know which is lift and which is shrapnel.

       *       *       *       *       *

Seven o'clock on Thursday morning.

The bombardment goes on fiercely, but I forget about it here in the big,
bare, smoky café, because I cannot hear the lift.

A waiter brings me some coffee and I stand and drink it and look about
me.

The café is surrounded with glass doors, and through these doors I see
thousands and thousands of people hurrying for dear life along the
roads.

As time goes on their numbers increase, until they are flowing by as
steadily as some ceaseless black stream moving Holland-wards.

Men, women, children, nuns, priests, motor cars, carriages, cabs, carts,
drays, trolleys, perambulators, every species of human being and of
vehicle goes hurrying past the windows, and always the vehicles are
laden to the very utmost with their freight of human life.

One's brain reels before the immensity of this thing that is happening
here; a city is being evacuated by a million inhabitants; the city is in
flames and shells are raining down on it; yet the cook is making soup in
the kitchen....

Among the human beings struggling onwards towards the Breda Gate which
will lead them to Holland, making strange little notes in the middle of
the human beings, I see every now and then some poor pathetic animal,
moving along in timid bewilderment--a sheep--a dog--a donkey--a cow--a
horse--more cows perhaps than anything, big, simple, wondering cows,
trudging along behind desolate little groups of peasants with all their
little worldly belongings tied up in a big blue-and-white check
handkerchief, while crash over their heads goes on the cannonading from
the forts, and with each fresh shock the vast concourse of fleeing
people starts and hurries forward.

It seems to me as though the End of the World will be very like to-day.

A huge gun-carriage, crowded with people, is passing. It is twenty feet
long, and drawn by two great, bulky Flemish horses. Sitting all along
the middle, with great wood stakes fixed along the edges to keep them
from falling out, are different families getting away into Holland.
Fathers, mothers, children. Two men go by with a clothes-basket covered
with a blanket. Dozens of beautiful dogs, bereft of their collars in
this final parting with their masters, run wildly back and forth along
the roads. A boy with a bicycle is wheeling an old man on it. Three
wounded blue and scarlet soldiers march along desolately, carrying brown
paper parcels. Belgian Boy Scouts in khaki, with yellow handkerchiefs
round their necks, flash past on bicycles. A man pushes a dog-cart with
his three children and his wife in it, while the yellow dog trots along
underneath, his tongue out. A black-robed priest rides by, mounted on a
great chestnut mare, with a scarlet saddle cloth.

All the dramas of Æschylus pale into insignificance before this
scene....

It is more than a procession of human beings. It is a procession of
broken hearts, of torn, bleeding souls, and ruined homes, of desolate
lives, of blighted hopes, and grim, grey despair--grim, grey despair in
a thousand shapes and forms; and ever It hurries along the roads, ever
It blocks the hotel windows, casting its thick shadows as the sun rises
in the heavens, defying the black smoke palls that hang athwart the
skies.

Sometimes I find tears streaming down my cheeks, and as they splash on
my hands I look at them stupidly, and wonder what they are, and why they
come, for no one can think clearly now.

Once it is the sight of a little, young, childlike nun, guarding an old,
tottering, white-bearded man who is dumb as well as deaf, and who can
only walk with short, little, halting steps. Is she really going to try
and get him to Holland, I wonder?



CHAPTER XXXIII

THE ENDLESS DAY


Years seem to have passed.

Yet it is still Thursday morning, ten o'clock.

The horror darkens.

We know the worst now. Antwerp is doomed. Nothing can save her, poor,
beautiful, stately city that has seemed to us all so utterly impregnable
all these months.

The evacuation goes on desperately, but the crowds fleeing northwards
are diminishing visibly, because some five hundred thousands have
already gone.

The great avenues, with their autumn-yellow trees and white, tall,
splendid houses, grow bare and deserted.

Over the city creeps a terrible look, an aspect so poignant, so
pathetic, that it reminds me of a dying soldier passing away in the
flower of his youth.

The very walls of the high white houses, the very flags of the stony
grey streets seem to know that Antwerp has fallen victim to a tragic
fate; her men, women, and children must desert her; her homes must stand
silent, cold and lonely, waiting for the enemy; her great hotels must
be emptied; her shops and factories must put up their shutters; all the
bright, gay, cheerful, optimistic life of this city that I have grown to
love with an indescribable tenderness during the long weeks that I have
spent within her fortified area is darkened now with despair.

Of the ultimate arrival of the Germans there is no longer any doubt,
whether they take the town on a surrender, or by bombardment, or by
assault.

I put on my hat and gloves, and go out into the streets. Oh, God! What a
golden day!

Unbearable is the glitter of this sunlight shining over the agony of a
nation!



CHAPTER XXXIV

I DECIDE TO STAY


For the moment the bombardment has ceased entirely. These little pauses
are almost quaint in their preciseness.

One can count on them quite confidently not to be broken by stray
shells.

And in the pause I am rushing along the Avenue de Commerce, trying to
get round to the hotel where all my belongings are, when I run into
three Englishmen with their arms full of bags, and overcoats, and
umbrellas, and for a moment or two we stand there at the corner opposite
the Gare Central all talking together breathlessly.

It was only last night at seven o'clock that we all dined together at
the Terminus; but since then a million years have rolled over us; we
have been snatched into one of History's most terrific pages; and we all
have a burning breathless Saga of our own hanging on our lips, crying to
be told aloud before the world.

We all fling out disjointed remarks, and I hear of the awful night in
that quarter of the city.

"How are you going to get away?"

"And you, how are you going to get away?"

The tall, slight young man with the little dark moustache is Mr.
Jeffries of the _Daily Mail_, who has been staying at the Hotel de
l'Europe. With him is the popular Mr. Perry Robinson of the _Times_. The
third is Mr. P. Phillips of the _Daily News_.

"I have just come from the État Majeur," Mr. Jeffries tells me
hurriedly. "There is not a ghost of a hope now! Everyone has gone. We
must get away at once."

"I am not going," I say. For suddenly the knowledge has come to me that
I cannot leave the greatest of my dramas before the curtain rolls up in
the last scene. In vain they argue, tell me I am mad. I am not going.

So they say good-bye and leave me.



CHAPTER XXXV

THE CITY SURRENDERS


Antwerp has surrendered!

It is Friday morning. All hope is over. The Germans are coming in at
half-past one.

"Well," Says Mr. Lucien Arthur Jones at last, at the end of a long
discussion between him and Mr. Frank Fox and myself, "if you have really
decided to stay, I'm going to give you this key! It belongs to the house
of some wealthy Belgians who have fled to England. There is plenty of
food and stores of all kind in the house. If need be, you might take
shelter there!"

And he gave me the key and the address, and I,--luckily for myself,--I
remembered it afterwards.

With a queer little choke in my throat, I stood on the hotel door-step,
watching those two Englishmen on their bicycles whirling away down the
Avenue de Commerce.

In a moment they were swallowed up from my sight in the black pall of
cloud and smoke that hung above the city, dropping from the leaden skies
like long black fringes, and hovering over the streets like thick
funeral veils.

So they were gone!

The die was cast. I was alone now, all alone in the fated city.

At first, the thought was a little sickening.

But after a minute it gave me a certain amount of relief, as I realised
that I could go ahead with my plans without causing anyone distress.

To feel that those two men had been worrying about my safety, and were
worrying still, was a very wretched sensation. They had enough to think
of on their own account! Somehow or other they had now to get to a
telegraph wire and send their newspapers in England the story of
Antwerp's fall, and the task before them was Herculean. The nearest
wires were in Holland, and they had nothing but their bicycles.

Turning back into the big, dim, deserted restaurant, I went to look for
the old patronne, whose black eyes dilated in her sad, old yellow face
at the sight of me in my dark blue suit, and white veil floating from my
little black hat.

"What, Madame! But they told me _les deux Anglais_ have departed. You
have not gone with them?"

"Listen, Madame! I want you to help me. I am writing a book about the
War, and to see the Germans come into Antwerp is something I ought not
to miss. I want to stay here!"

"_Mais, c'est dangereux, Madame! Vous êtes Anglaise!_"

"Well, I'm going to change that; I'm going to be Belgian. I want you to
let me pretend I'm a servant in your hotel. I'll put on a cap and
apron, and I'll do anything you like; then I'll be able to see things
for myself. It'll only be for a few hours. I'll get away this afternoon
in the motor. But I must see the incoming of the Germans first!"

The old woman seemed too bewildered to protest, and afterwards I doubted
if she had really understood me from the way she acted later on.

Just at that moment Henri drove up in the motor, and came to a
standstill in front of the hotel.

The poor fellow looked more dead than alive. His pie-coloured face was
hollow, his lips were dry, his eyes standing out of his head. He was so
exhausted that he could scarcely step out of the car.

"I am sorry I am late," he groaned, "but it was impossible, impossible."

"You needn't worry about me, Henri," I whispered to him reassuringly.
"I'm not going to try to get out of Antwerp for several hours. In fact,
I am going to wait to see the Germans come in!"

Henri showed no surprise. There was no surprise left in him to show.

"Bon!" he said. "Because, to tell you the truth, Madame, I wouldn't go
out of the city again just now. I couldn't do it. Getting to Holland,
indeed," he went on, between gasps as he drank off one cup of coffee
after another, "it's like trying to get through hell to get to Paradise
... I've been seven hours driving about four miles there and back. It
was horrible, it ... was unbelievable ... the roads are blocked so thick
that there are no roads left. A million people are out there,
struggling, fighting, and trying to get onwards, lying down on the earth
fainting, dying."

And he suddenly sat down upon a chair, and fell fast asleep.

The sharp crack, crack of rifle fire woke him about five minutes later,
and we all rushed to the door to see what was happening.

Oh, nerve-racking sight!

Across the grey square, through the grey-black morning, dogs were
rushing, their tongues out.

The gendarmes pursuing them were shooting them down to save them the
worse horrors of starvation that might befall them if they were left
alive in the deserted city at the mercy of the Germans.

Madame X, a sad, distinguished-looking woman, a refugee from Lierre,
whose house had been shelled, and who was destined to play a strange
part in my story later on, now came over to us, and implored Henri to
take her old mother in his car round to the hospital.

"She is eighty-four, _ma pauvre mère_! We tried to take her to Holland,
but it was impossible. But now that the bombardment has ceased and the
worst is over, it seems wiser to remain. In the hospital the mère will
be surely safe! As for us, my husband and I, truly, we have lost our
all. There is nothing left to fear!"

I offered to accompany the old lady to the hospital, and presently we
started off. Henri and I, and the old wrinkled Flemish woman, and the
buxom young Flemish servant, Jeanette.

We drove along the Avenue de Commerce, down the Avenue de Kaiser,
towards the hospital. The town was dead. Not a soul was to be seen. The
Marché aux Souliers was all ablaze; I saw the Taverne Royale lying on
the ground. Next to it was the Hotel de l'Europe, bomb-shattered and
terrific in its ruins. I thought of Mr. Jeffries of the _Daily Mail_ and
shivered; that had been his hotel. The air reeked with petroleum and
smoke. At last we got to the hospital.

The door-step was covered with blood, and red, wet blood was in drops
and patches along the entrance.

As I went in, an unforgettable sight met my eyes.

I found myself in a great, dim ward, with the yellow, lurid skies
looking in through its enormous windows, and its beds full of wounded
and dying soldiers; and just as I entered, a white-robed Sister of Mercy
was bending over a bed, giving the last unction to a dying man. Some
brave _petit Belge_, who had shed his life-blood for his city, alas, in
vain!

All the ordinary nurses had gone.

The Sisters of Mercy alone remained.

And suddenly it came to me like a strain of heavenly music that death
held no terrors for these women; life had no fears.

Softly they moved about in their white robes, their benign faces shining
with the look of the Cross.

In that supreme moment, after the hell of shot and shell, after the
thousands of wounded and dead, after the endless agonies of attack and
repulse and attack and defeat and surrender, something quite unexpected
was here emerging, the essence of the Eternal Feminine, the woman
supreme in her sheer womanhood; and like a bright bird rising from the
ashes, the spirit of it went fluttering about that appalling ward.

The trained and untrained hospital nurses, devoted as they were, and
splendid and useful beyond all words, had perforce fled from the city,
either to accompany their escaping hospitals, or beset by quite natural
fears of the Huns' brutality to their kind.

But the Sisters of Mercy had no fears.

The Cross stood between them and anything that might come to them.

And that was written in their faces, their shining gentle faces....

Ah yes, the Priests and the half-forgotten Sisters of Mercy have indeed
come back to their own in this greatest of all Wars!

Moving between the long lines of soldiers' beds I paused at the side of
a little bomb-broken Belgian boy whose dark eyes opened suddenly to meet
mine.

I think he must have been wandering, poor little child, and had come
back with a start to life.

And seeing a face at his bedside he thought, perhaps, that I was German.

In a hoarse voice he gasped out, raising himself in terror:

"_Je suis civil!_"

Poor child, poor child!

The fright in his voice was heart-breaking. It said that if the
"_Alboches_" took him for a _soldat_, they would shoot him, or carry him
away into Germany....

I bent and kissed him.

"_Je suis civil!_"

He was not more than six years old.

       *       *       *       *       *

In another room of the hospital I found about forty children, little
children varying from six months to five years. Some gentle nuns were
playing with them.

"Les pauvres petites!" said one of the sisters compassionately. "They've
all been lost, or left behind; there's no one to claim them, so we have
brought them here to look after them."

And the baby gurgled and laughed, and gave a sudden leap in the sweet
nun's arms.

Out of the hospital again, over the blood-stained doorstep, and back
into the car.

There were a few devoted doctors and priests standing about in silence
in the flower-wreathed passage entrance to the hospital. They were
waiting for The End, waiting for the Germans to come in.

I can see them still, standing there in their white coats, or long black
cassocks, staring down the passage.

A great hush hung over everything, and through the hush we slid into the
awful streets again, with the houses lying on the ground.

Before we had gone far, we heard shouts, and turning my head I
discovered some wounded soldiers, limping along a side-road, who were
begging us to give them a lift towards the boat.

We filled the car so full that we all had to stand up, except those who
could not stand.

Bandaged heads and faces were all around me, while bandaged soldiers
rode on the foot-board, clinging to whatever they could get hold of, and
then we moved towards the quay. It was heart-breaking to have to deny
the scores of limping, broken men who shouted to us to stop, but as soon
as we had deposited one load we went back and picked up others and ran
them back to the quay, and that we did time after time. A few of the men
were our own Tommies, but most were Belgians. Backwards and forwards we
rushed, backwards and forwards, and now that dear Henri's eyes were
shining, his sallow, pie-coloured face was lit up, he no longer looked
tired and dull and heavy, he was on fire with excitement. And the car
raced like mad backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, venturing
right out towards the forts and back again to the quay, until at last
reaction set in with Henri and he was obliged to take the car back to
the hotel, where he fell in a crumpled heap in a corner of the
restaurant.

As we came in the patronne handed me a note.

"While you were out," she said, looking at me sorrowfully, "M. Fox and
M. Jones returned on their bicycles to look for you."

Then I read Mr. Fox's kind message.

     "We have managed to secure passages on a special military boat for
     Flushing that leaves at half-past eleven and of course we have got
     one for you. We have come back for you, but you are not here. Your
     car has arrived, so you will be all right, I hope. You have seen
     the bombardment through, bravo!"

I was glad they had got away. But for myself some absolutely
irresistible force held me to Antwerp, and I now slipped quietly out of
the hotel and started off on a solitary walk.



CHAPTER XXXVI

A SOLITARY WALK


Surely, surely, this livid, copper-tinted noontide, hanging over
Antwerp, was conceived in Hades as a presentation of the world's last
day.

Indescribably terrible in tone and form, because of its unearthly
qualities of smoke, shrapnel, petroleum-fumes, and broken, dissipated
clouds, the darkened skies seemed of themselves to offer every element
of tragedy, while the city lying stretched out beneath in that agony of
silence, that lasted from twelve o'clock to half-past one, was one vast
study in blood, fire, ruined houses, ruined pathways, smoke, appalling
odours, heart-break and surrender. The last steamer had gone from the
Port. The last of the fleeing inhabitants had departed by the Breda
Gate. All that was left now was the empty city, waiting for the entrance
of the Germans.

Empty were the streets. Empty were the boats, crowded desolately on the
Scheldt. Empty were those hundreds of deserted motor cars, heaped in
great weird, pathetic piles down at the water's edge, as useless as
though they were perambulators, because there were no chauffeurs to
drive them. Empty was the air of sound except for the howling of dogs
that ran about in terror, crying miserably for their owners who had been
obliged to desert them. Through the emptiness of the air, when the dogs
were not howling, resounded only a terrible, ferocious silence, that
seemed to call up mocking memories of the noise the shells had been
making incessantly, ever since two nights ago.

It was an hour never to be forgotten, an hour that could never, never
come again.

I kept saying that to myself as I continued my solitary walk.

"Solitary walk!"

For the first time in a lifetime that bit of journalese took on a
meaning so deep and elemental, that it went right down to the very roots
of the language. The whole city was mine. I seemed to be the only living
being left. I passed hundreds of tall, white, stately houses, all
shattered and locked and silent and deserted. I went through one wide,
deadly street after another. I looked up and down the great paralysed
quays. I stared through the yellow avenues of trees. I heard my own
footsteps echoing, echoing. The ghosts of five hundred thousand people
floated before my vision. For weeks, for months, I had seen these five
hundred thousand people laughing and talking in these very streets. And
yesterday, and the day before, I had seen them fleeing for their lives
out of the city--anywhere, anywhere, out of the reach of the shells and
the Germans.

And I wondered where they were now, those five hundred thousand ghosts.

Were they still struggling and tramping and falling along the roads to
Holland?

As I wondered, I kept on seeing their faces in these their doorways and
at these their windows. I saw them seated at these their cafés, along
the side-paths. I heard their rich, liquid Antwerp voices speaking
French with a soft, swift rush, or twanging away at Flemish with the
staccato insistence of Flanders. I felt them all around me, in all the
deserted streets, at all the shuttered windows. It was too colossal a
thing to realise that the five hundred thousand of them were not in
their city any longer, that they were not hiding behind the silence and
the shutters, but were out in the open world beyond the city gates,
fighting their way to Holland and freedom.

And now I wondered why I was here myself, listening to my echoing
footsteps through the hollow silences of the "Ville Morte."

Why had I not gone with the rest of them?

Then, as I walked through the dead city I knew why I was there.

It was because the gods had been keeping for me all these years the
supreme gift of this solitary walk, when I should share her death-pangs
with this city I so passionately loved.

That was the truth. I had been unable to tear myself away. If Antwerp
suffered, I desired to suffer too. I desired to go hand in hand with
her in whatever happened when the Germans came marching in.

Many a time before had I loved a city--loved her for her beauty, her
fairness, her spirit, her history, her personal significance to me.
Pietra Santa, Ravenna, Bibbiena, Poppi, Locarno, Verona, Florence,
Venice, Rome, Sydney, Colombo, Arles, London, Parma, for one reason or
another I have worshipped you all in your turn! One represents beauty,
one work, one love, one sadness, one joy, one the escape from the ego,
one the winging of ambition, one sheer æstheticism, one liquid, limpid
gladness at discovering oneself alive.

But Antwerp was the first and only city that I loved because she let me
share her sufferings with her right through the Valley of Death, right
up to the moment when she breathed her last sigh as a city, and passed
into the possession of her conquerors.

Suddenly, through the terrific, inconceivable lull, hurtling with a
million memories of noises, I heard footsteps, heavy, dragging, yet
hurried, and looking up a side-street opposite the burning ruins of the
Chaussée de Souliers, I saw two Belgian soldiers, limping along, making
towards the Breda Gate.

Both were wounded, and the one who was less bad was helping the other.

They were hollow-cheeked, hollow-eyed, starved, ghastly, with a growth
of black beard, and the ravages of smoke and powder all over their poor
faded blue uniforms and little scarlet and yellow caps.

They were dazed, worn-out, finished, famished, nearly fainting.

But as they hurried past me the younger man flung out one breathless
question:

"_Est-ce que la ville est prise?_"

It seemed to be plucked from some page of Homer.

Its potency was so epic, so immense, that I felt as if I must remain
there for ever rooted to the spot where I had heard it....

It went thrilling through my being. It struck me harder than any shell,
seeming to fell me for a moment to the ground....

Then I rose, permeated with a sense of living in the world's greatest
drama, and _feeling_, not _seeing_, Art and Life and Death and
Literature inextricably and terribly, yet gloriously mixed, till one
could not be told from the other....

For he who had given his life, whose blood dropped red from him as he
moved, knew not what had happened to his city.

He was only a soldier!

His was to fight, not to know.

"_Est-ce que la ville est prise?_"

It is months since then, but I still hear that perishing soldier's
voice, breaking over his terrific query.

       *       *       *       *       *

... Presently, rousing myself, I ran onwards and walked beside the men,
giving my arm to the younger one, who took it mechanically, without
thanking me.

I liked that, and all together we hastened through the livid greyness
along the Avenue de Commerce, towards the Breda Gate.

In dead silence we laboured onwards.

It was still a solitary walk, for neither of my companions said a word.

Only sometimes, without speaking, one of them would turn his head and
look backwards, without stopping, at the red flames reflected in the
black sky to northward.

Suddenly, to our amazement, we saw a cart coming down a side-street,
containing a man and a little girl.

I ran like lightning towards it, terrified lest it should pass, but that
man in the cart had a soul, he had seen the bleeding soldiers, he was
stopping of himself, he offered to take me, too.

"Quick, quick, mes amis!" he said. "The Germans are coming in at the
other end even now! The petite here was lost, and thanks to the Bon Dieu
I have just found her. That is why I am so late."

As the soldiers crawled painfully into the little cart, I whispered to
the elder one:

"Do you know where your King is, Monsieur?"

Ah, the flash in that hollow eye!

It was worth risking one's life to see it, and to hear the love that
leapt into the Belgian's voice as he answered:

"Truly, I know not exactly! But wherever he is I _do_ know this. _Notre
Roi est sur le Champ de Bataille._"

Oh, beautiful speech!

"_Sur le Champ de Bataille!_"

Where else would Albert be indeed?

"_Sur le Champ de Bataille!_"

I put it beside the Epic Question!

Together they lie there in my heart, imperishable, and more precious
than any written poem!



CHAPTER XXXVII

ENTER LES ALLEMANDS


It is now half-past one, and I am back at the hotel.

At least, my watch says it is half-past one.

But all the many great gold-faced clocks in Antwerp have stopped the day
before, and their hands point mockingly to a dozen different times.

One knows that only some ghastly happening could have terrified them
into such wild mistakes.

Heart-breaking it is, as well as appalling, to see those distracted
timepieces, and their ignorance of the fatal hour.

Half-past one!

And the clocks point pathetically to eleven, or eight, or five.

Inside the great dim restaurant a pretence of lunch is going on between
the little handful of people left.

Everybody sits at one table, the chauffeur, Henri, the refugees from
Lierre, their maidservant, Jeanette, the proprietor, and his old sister,
and his two little grandchildren, and their father, the porter, and a
couple of very ugly old Belgians, who seem to belong to nobody in
particular, and have sprung from nobody knows where.

We have some stewed meat with potatoes, a rough, ill-cooked dish.

This is the first bad meal I have had in Antwerp.

But what seems extraordinary to me, is that there should be any meal at
all!

As we sit round the table in the darkness of that lurid noontide, the
dead city outside looks in through the broken windows, and there comes
over us all a tension so great that nobody can utter a word.

We are all thinking the same thing.

We are thinking with our dull, addled, clouded brains that the Germans
will be here at any minute.

And then suddenly the waiter cries out in a loud voice from across the
restaurant:

"_LES ALLEMANDS!_"

We all spring to our feet. We stand for a moment petrified.

Through the great uncurtained windows of the hotel we see one grey
figure, and then another, walking along the side-path up the Avenue de
Commerce.

"They have come!" says everyone.

After a moment's hesitation M. Claude, the proprietor, and his old
sister, move out into the street, and mechanically I, and all the others
follow as if afraid to be left alone within.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

"MY SON!"


And now through the livid sunless silences of the deserted city, still
reeking horribly of powder, shrapnel, smoke and burning petroleum, the
Germans are coming down the Avenues to enter into possession.

Here they come, a long grey line of foot-soldiers and mounted men, all
with pink roses or carnations in their grey tunics.

Suddenly, a long, lidded, baker's cart dashes across the road at a
desperate rate, wheeled by a poor old Belgian, whose face is so wild,
that I whisper as she passes close to me:

"Is somebody ill in your cart?"

Without stopping, without looking even, her haggard eyes full of
despair, she mutters:

"_Dead!_ My son! He was a soldat."

Then she hurries on, at a run now, to find a spot where she can hide or
bury her beloved before the Germans are all over the city.



CHAPTER XXXIX

THE RECEPTION


A singular change now comes over the silent, deserted city.

First, a few stray Belgians shew on the side-paths. Then more appear,
and more still, and as the procession of the Germans comes onwards
through the town I discover little groups of men and women sprung out of
the very earth it seems to me.

All along the Avenue de Commerce, gathered in the heavy greyness on the
side-paths, are little straggling groups of _Anversois._

As I look at them, I suddenly experience a sensation of suffocation.

Am I dreaming?

Or are they really _smiling_, those people, _smiling to the Germans!_

Then, to my horror, I see two old men waving gaily to that long grey
oncoming line of men and horses.

And then I see a woman flinging flowers to an officer, who catches them
and sticks them into his horse's bridle.

At that moment I realise I am in for some extraordinary experience,
something that Brussels has not in the least prepared me for!



CHAPTER XL

THE LAUGHTER OF BRUTES


Along the Avenue the grey uniforms are slowly marching, headed by fair,
blue-eyed, arrogant officers on splendid roan horses, and the clang and
clatter of them breaks up the silence with a dramatic sharpness--the
silence that has never been heard in Antwerp since!

As they come onward, the Germans look from left to right.

I stand on the pavement watching, drawn there by some irresistible
force.

Eagerly I search their faces, looking now for the horrid marks of the
brute triumphant, gloating over his prey. But the brute triumphant is
not there to-day, for these thousands of Germans who march into Antwerp
on this historic Friday, are characterised by an aspect of dazed
incredulity that almost amounts to fear.

They all wear pink roses, or carnations, in their coats, or have pink
flowers wreathed about their horses' harness or round their
gun-carriages and provision motors; and sometimes they burst into
subdued singing; but it is obvious that the enormous buildings of
Antwerp, and its aspect of great wealth, and solidarity, fairly take
away their breath, and their eyes quite plainly say chat they cannot
understand how they come to be in possession of this great, rich,
wonderful prize.

They look to left and right, their blue eyes full of curiosity. As I
watch, I think of Bismarck's remark about London: "_What a city to
loot!_"

That same thought is in the eyes of all these thousands of Germans as
they come in to take possession of Antwerp, and they suddenly burst into
song, "Pappachen," and "Die Wacht am Rhein."

But never very cheerily or very loudly do they sing.

I fancy at that moment, experiencing as they are that phase of naive and
genuine amazement, the Germans are really less brute than usual.

And then, just as I am thinking that, I meet with my first personal
experience of the meaning of "_German brute_."

A young officer has espied a notice-board, high above a café on the
left.

A delighted grin overspreads his face and he quickly draws his
companion's attention to it.

Together the two gaze smiling at the homelike words: "_WINTER GARTEN_,"
their blue eyes glued upon the board as they ride along.

The contrast between their gladness, and that old Belgian mother's
agony, suddenly strikes through my heart like a knife.

The pathos and tragedy of it all are too much for me. To see this
beloved city possessed by Germans is too terrible. Yes, standing there
in the beautiful Avenue de Commerce, I weep as if it were London itself
that the Germans were coming into, for I have lived for long
unforgettable weeks among the Belgians at war, and I have learned to
love and respect them above all peoples. And so I stand there in the
Avenue with tears rolling down my cheeks, watching the passing of the
grey uniforms, with my heart all on fire for poor ruined Belgium.

Then, looking up, I see a young Prussian officer laughing at me
mockingly as he rides by.

He laughs and looks away, that smart young grey-clad Uhlan, with roses
in his coat; then he looks back, and laughs again, and rides on, still
laughing mockingly at what he takes to be some poor little Belgian
weeping over the destruction of her city.

To me, that is an act of brutality, that, small as it may seem, counts
for a barbarity as great as any murder.

Germany, for that brutal laugh, no less than for your outrages, you
shall pay some day, you shall surely pay!



CHAPTER XLI

TRAITORS


And now I see people gathering round the Germans as they come to a halt
at the end of the Avenue. I see people stroking the horses' heads, and
old men and young men smiling and bowing, and a few minutes later,
inside the restaurant of my hotel, I witness those extraordinary
encounters between the Germans and their spies. I hear the clink of
gold, and see the passing of big German notes, and I watch the flushed
faces of Antwerp men who are holding note-books over the tables to the
German officers, and drinking beer with them, to the accompaniment of
loud riotous laughter. That is the note struck in the first hour of the
German entrance; and that is the note all the time as far as the
German-Anversois are concerned. Before very long I discover that there
must have been hundreds of people hiding away inside those silent
houses, waiting for the Germans to come in. The horror of it makes me
feel physically ill.

The procession comes to a standstill at last in front of a little green
square by the Athene, and next moment a group of grey-clad officers with
roses in their tunics are hurrying towards the hotel, and begin
parleying with Monsieur Claude, our proprietor.

I expected to see him icily resolute against receiving them. But to my
surprise he seems affable. He smiles. He waves his hand as he talks. He
is eager, deferential, and quite unmistakably friendly, friendly even to
the point of fawning. Turning, he flings open his doors with a bow, and
in a few minutes the Germans are crowding into his great restaurants.

Cries of "Bier" resounded on all sides.

Outside, on the walls of the Theatre Flamand, the Huns are at it already
with their endless proclamations.

"_EINWOHNER VON ANTWERPEN!_

"Das deutsche Heer betritt Euere Stadt als
Sieger. Keinem Euerer Mitbürger wird ein Leid
geschehen und Euer Eigentum wird geschont
werden, wenn ihr Euch jeder Feindseligkeit
enthaltet.

"Jede Widersetzlichkeit dagegen wird nach
Kriegsrecht bestraft und kann die Zerstörung
Euerer schonen Stadt zur Folge haben.

"DER OBERBEFEHLSHABER DER
                         DEUTSCHEN TRUPPEN."


"_INWONERS VAN ANTWERPEN!_

"Het Duitsche leger is als overwinnaar in
uwe stad gekomen. Aan geen enkel uwer
medeburgers zal eenig leed geschieden en uwe
eigendommen zullen ongeschonden blijven,
wanneer gij u allen van vijandelijkheden
onthoudt.

"Elk verzet zal naar oorlogsrecht worden
bestraft en kan de vernietiging van uwe schoone
stad voor gevolg hebben.

"DE HOOFDBEVELHEBBER DER
             DUITSCHE TROEPEN."


"_HABITANTS D'ANVERS!_

"L'armée allemande est entrée dans votre
ville en vainquer. Aucun de vos concitoyens
ne sera inquiété et vos propriétés seront respectées
à la condition que vous vous absteniez de toute
hostilité.

"Toute résistance sera punie d'après les lois
de la guerre, et peut entraîner la destruction de
votre belle ville.

"LE COMMANDANT EN CHEF DES
                TROUPES CHEF ALLEMANDS."



CHAPTER XLII

WHAT THE WAITING MAID SAW


At this point, I crept down stealthily into the kitchen and proceeded to
disguise myself.

I put on first of all a big blue-and-red check apron. Then I pinned a
black shawl over my shoulders. I parted my hair in the middle and
twisted it into a little tight knot at the back, and I tied a
blue-and-white handkerchief under my chin.

Looking thoroughly hideous I slipped back into the restaurant where I
occupied myself with washing and drying glasses behind the counter.

It was a splendid point of observation, and no words can tell of the
excitement I felt as I stooped over my work and took in every detail of
what was going on in the restaurant.

But sometimes the glasses nearly fell from my fingers, so agonising were
the sights I saw in that restaurant at Antwerp, on the afternoon of
October 9th--the Fatal Friday.

I saw old men and young men crowding round the Germans. They sat at the
tables with them drinking, laughing, and showing their note-books, which
the Germans eagerly examined. The air resounded with their loud riotous
talk. All shame was thrown aside now. For months these spies must have
lived in terror as they carried on their nefarious espionage within the
walls of Antwerp. But now their terror was over. The Germans were in
possession. They had nothing to fear. So they drank deeply and more
deeply still, trying to banish from their eyes that furtive look that
marked them for the sneaks they were. Some of them were old greybeards,
some of them were chic young men. I recognised several of them as people
I had seen about in the streets of Antwerp during those past two months,
and again and again burning tears gathered in my eyes as I realised how
Antwerp had been betrayed.

As I am turning this terrible truth over in my mind I get another
violent shock. I see three Englishmen standing in the middle of the now
densely-crowded restaurant. At first I imagine they are prisoners, and a
wave of sorrow flows over me. For I know those three men; they are the
three English Marines who called in at this hotel yesterday; seeing that
they were Englishmen by their uniforms I called to them to keep back a
savage dog that was trying to get at the cockatoo that I had rescued
from Lierre. They told me they were with the rest of the English Flying
Corps at the forts. Their English had been perfect. Never for a minute
had I suspected them!

And now, here they are still, in their English uniforms, and little
black-peaked English caps, talking German with the Germans, and sitting
at a little table, drinking, drinking, and laughing boisterously as only
Germans can laugh when they hold their spying councils.

English Marines indeed!

They have stolen our uniforms somehow, and have probably betrayed many a
secret. Within the next few hours I am forced to the conclusion that
Antwerp is one great nest of German spies, and over and over again I
recognised the faces of old men and young men whom I have seen passing
as honest Antwerp citizens all these months.

Seated all by himself at a little table sits a Belgian General, who has
been brought in prisoner.

In his sadness and dignity he makes an unforgettable picture. His black
beard is sunk forward on his chest. His eyes are lowered. His whole
being seem to be wrapt in a profound melancholy that yet has something
magnificent and distinguished about it when compared with the riotous
elation of his conquerors.

Nobody speaks to him. He speaks to nobody. With his dark blue cloak
flung proudly across his shoulder he remains mute and motionless as a
statue, his dark eyes staring into space. I wonder what his thoughts are
as he sees before him, unashamed and unafraid now that German occupation
has begun, these spies who have bartered their country for gold. But
whatever he thinks, that lonely prisoner, he makes no sign. His dignity
is inviolable. His dark bearded face has all the poignancy and beauty
of Titian's "Ariosto" in the National Gallery in London.

He is a prisoner. Nobody looks at him. Nobody speaks to him. Nobody
gives him anything to eat. Exhaustion is written on his face. At last I
can bear it no longer. I pour out a cup of hot coffee, and take a
sandwich from the counter. Then I slip across the Restaurant, and put
the coffee and the sandwich on the little table in front of him. A look
of flashing gratitude and surprise is in his dark sad eyes as they lift
themselves for a moment. But I dare not linger. The Flemish maid, with
the handkerchief across her head, hurries back to her tumblers.

Two little priests have been brought in as prisoners also.

But they chat cheerily with their captors, who look down upon them
smilingly, showing their big white teeth in a way that I would not like
if I were a prisoner!

None of the prisoners are handcuffed or surrounded. They do not seem to
be watched. They are all left free. So free indeed, that it is difficult
to realise the truth--one movement towards the door and they would be
shot down like dogs!

In occupying a town without resistance the Germans make themselves as
charming as possible. Obviously those are their orders from
headquarters. And Germans always obey orders. Extraordinary indeed is
the discipline that can turn the brutes of Louvain and Aerschot into
the lamb-like beings that took possession of Antwerp. They asked for
everything with marked courtesy, even gentleness. They paid for
everything they got. I heard some of the poorer soldiers expressing
their surprise at the price of the Antwerp beer.

"It's too dear!" they said.

But they paid the price for it all the same.

They always waited patiently until they could be served. They never
grumbled. They never tried to rush the people who were serving them. In
fact, their system was to give no trouble, and to create as good an
impression as possible on the Belgians from the first moment of their
entrance--the first moment being by far the most important
psychologically, as the terrified brains of the populace are then most
receptive to their impressions of the hated army, and anything that
could be done to enhance and improve those impressions is more valuable
then than at any other time.

Almost the first thing the Germans did was to find out the pianos.

It was not half an hour after they entered Antwerp when strains of music
were heard, music that fell on the ear with a curious shock, for no one
had played the piano here since the Belgian Government moved into the
fortified town. They played beautifully, those Germans, and every now
and then they burst into song. From the sitting-rooms in the Hotel I
heard them singing to the "Blue Danube." And the "Wacht am Rhein"
seemed to come and go at intervals, like a leitmotif to all their
doings.

About four o'clock, Jeanette, the Flemish servant, whispered to me that
Henri wanted to speak to me in the kitchen.

"A great misfortune has happened, Madame!" said Henri, agitatedly. "The
Germans have seized my car. I shall not be able to take you out of
Antwerp this afternoon. But courage! to-morrow I will find a cart or a
fiacre. To-day it is impossible to do anything, there is not a vehicle
of any kind to be had. But to-morrow, Madame, trust Henri; He will get
you away, never fear!"

Half an hour after, the faithful fellow called to me again.

His pie-coloured face looked dark and miserable.

"The Germans have shut the gates all round the city and no one is
allowed to go in and out without a German passport!" he said.

This was serious.

Relying on my experience in Brussels, I had anticipated being able to
get away even more easily from Antwerp, because of Henri's motor car.
But obviously for the moment I was checked.

As dusk fell and the lights were lit, I retired into the kitchen and
busied myself cutting bread and butter, and still continuing my highly
interesting observations. On the table lay piles of sausage, and
presently in came two German officers, an old grey-bearded General, and
a dashing young Uhlan Lieutenant.

"We want three eggs each," said the Uhlan roughly, addressing himself to
me. "Three eggs, soft boiled, and some bread with butter, with much
butter!"

I nodded but dared not answer.

And the red-faced young Lieutenant, thinking I did not understand,
ground his heel angrily, and muttered "Gott!" when his eyes fell on the
sausage, and his expression changed as if by magic.

"Wurst?" he ejaculated to the General. "Here there sausage is!"

It was quite funny to see the way these two gallant soldiers bent over
the sausage, their eyes beaming with greedy joy, and in ten minutes
every German was crying out for sausage, and the town was being
ransacked in all directions in search of more.



CHAPTER XLIII

SATURDAY


The saddest thing in Antwerp is the howling of the dogs.

Thousands have been left shut in the houses when their owners fled, and
all day and night these poor creatures utter piercing, desolate cries
that grow louder and more piercing as time goes on.

It is Saturday morning, October 10th.

Strange things have happened.

When I went to my door just now, I found it locked from the outside.

I have tried the other door. That is locked, too.

What does it mean, I wonder?

Here I am in a little room about twelve feet by six, with one window
looking on to the back wall of one of the Antwerp theatres.

I can hear the sounds of fierce cannonading going on in the distance,
but the noise within the hotel close at hand is so loud as to deaden the
sounds of battle; for the Germans are running up and down the corridors
perpetually, shouting, singing, stamping, and the pianos are going, too.

Nobody comes near me. I knock at both the doors, but gently, for I am
afraid to draw attention to myself. Nobody answers. The old woman and
the two little children have left the room on my right, the old man has
left the room on my left. I am all alone in this little den. I dress as
well as I can, but the room is just a tiny sitting-room; there are no
facilities for making one's toilette. I have to do without washing my
face. Instead, I rub it with Crême Floreine, and the amount of black
that comes off is appalling.

Then I lie down at full length on my mattress and wonder what is going
to happen next.

Hour after hour goes by.

In a corner of the room I discover an English weekly history of the War,
and lying there on my mattress I read many strange stories that seem
somehow to mock a little at these real happenings.

Then voices just outside in the corridor reach me.

Out there two old Belgians are talking.

"_Ce sont les Anglais qui ne veulent pas rendre les forts!_" says one.

They are discussing the fighting which still goes on fiercely in the
forts around the city.

My head aches! I am hungry; and those big guns are making what the
Kaiser would call World Noises.

Strange thoughts come over me, attacking me, like Samson Agonistes'
"deadly swarm of hornets armed."

In a terrific conflict it doesn't seem to matter much which side is
victorious, all hatred of the conquerors dies away; in fact the
conquerors themselves may seem like deliverers since peace comes in
with their entrance.

And I am weak and weary enough at this moment to wish _les Anglais_
would give it up, let the forts be rendered, and let the cannons cease.

Anything for peace, for an end of slaughter, an end of terror, an end of
this cruel soul-racking thunder.

Terrible thoughts ... deadly thoughts.

Do they come to the soldiers, thoughts like these? Heaven help the poor
fellows if they do!

They are more deadly than Death, for they attack only the immortal part
of one, leaving the mortal to save itself while they blight and corrode
the spirit.

       *       *       *       *       *

I am weary. I have not slept for five nights, and I feel as if I shall
never sleep again.

I daresay that's partly why I have been weak enough to wish for an end
of noise.

It's five o'clock and darkness has set in.

Nobody has been near me, I'm still here, locked up in this little room.

I roam about like a caged animal. I look from the window. The blank back
wall of the Antwerp Theatre meets my eye, but a corner of the hotel
looks in also, and I can see three tiers of windows, so I hastily move
away. In all those rooms there are Germans quartered now. What if they
glanced down here and discovered _me_? I pull the curtains over the
window, and move back into the room.

This is Saturday afternoon, October 10th, and all of a sudden a queer
thought comes over me.

October 10th is my birthday.

I lie down on the mattress again, and my thoughts begin dreamily to
revolve round an extraordinary psychic mystery that I became conscious
of when I was little more than a baby in far-away Australia.

I became conscious at the age of four that I heard in my imagination the
sounds of cannon, and I became certain too that those cannon were going
to be real cannon some day.

Yes! All my life, ever since I could think, I have heard heavy firing in
my ears, and have known I was going to be very close to battle, some
far-off day or other.

Have other people been born with the same belief, I wonder?

I should like so much to know.

Gradually a vast area of speculative psychology opens out before me,
and, like one walking in a world of dreams, I lose myself in its dim
distances, seeking for some light, clear opening, wherein I can discover
the secret of this extraordinary psychic or physiological mystery, that
has hidden itself for a lifetime in my being. I say hidden itself; yet,
though it has kept itself dark and concealed, it has always been teasing
my sub-consciousness with vague queer hints of its presence, until at
last I have grown used to it, and have even arranged a fairly
comfortable explanation of its existence between my soul and myself.

I have told myself that it is something I can never, never understand.
And that it is all the explanation I have ever been able to give to
myself of the presence of this uninvited guest who has dwelt for a
lifetime in the secret-chambers of my intuitions, who has hidden there,
veiled and mysterious, never shewing a simple feature to betray
itself--eye, lips, brow--always remaining unseen, unknown, uninvited,
unintelligible--yet always potent, always softly disturbing one's belief
in one's ordinary everyday life with that dull roar of cannon which
seemed to visualize in my brain with an image of blinding sunlight.

Lying there on the bare mattress, on this drear October day which goes
down to history as the day on which Germany set up her Governor in
Antwerp, I begin to wonder if my sublimable consciousness has been
trying, all these years, to warn me that danger would come to me some
day to the sound of battle. And am I in that danger now? Is this the
moment perhaps that the secret, silent guest has tried to shew me lay
lurking in await for me, ready to make me fulfil my destiny in some dark
and terrible way?

No. I can't believe it.

I can't see it like that.

I _don't_ believe that that is what the roar of cannon has been trying
to say to me all my life.

I can't sense danger--I won't. No, I mean I _can't._ My reason assures
me there isn't any danger that is going to _catch_ me, no matter how it
may threaten.

And then the hornet flies to the attack.

"It says, 'People who are haunted with premonitions nearly always
disregard them until too late.'"

So occupied am I with these dreams and philosophings that I lie there in
the darkness, forgetful of time and hunger, until I hear voices in the
next room, and there is the old woman opening my door, and the two
little yellow-haired children staring in at me curiously.

The old woman gives me some grapes out of a basket under her bed, and a
glass of water.

"_Pauvre enfant!_" she says. "I am sorry I could bring you no food, but
the Germans are up and down the stairs all day long, and I dare not risk
them asking me, "Who is that for?"

"But why are you so afraid?" I ask. "Last night you were so nice to me.
What has happened? Come, tell me the truth."

"Alors, Madame, I will tell you! You recollect that German who leaned
over the counter for such a long time when you were washing glasses?"

"Yes." My lips felt suddenly dry as wood.

"Alors, Madame! He said to me, that fellow, '_She_ never speaks!'"

"Who did he mean?"

"Alors, Madame, he meant you!"

(This then, I think to myself, is what happens to one when one is really
frightened. The lips turn dry as chips. And all because a German has
noticed me. It is absurd.)

I force a smile.

"Perhaps you imagine this," I said.

"No, because he said to me to-day, 'Where is that mädchen who never
spoke?'"

"What did you say?"

"She is deaf," I told him. "She does not hear when anyone speaks to
her!"

"So that is why you locked me up."

"_C'est ça_, Madame. It was my brother who wished it. He is very afraid.
And now, Madame, good-night. I must put the little girls to bed."

"Well, I think this is ridiculous," I said. "How long am I to stay
here?"

She shook her head, and began to unfasten little fair-haired Maria's
black serge frock, pushing her out of my room as she did so, with the
evident intention of locking me in again.

But just then someone knocked at the outer door.

It was Madame X. who came stealing in, drawing the bolt noiselessly
behind her. I looked in her weary face, with its white hair, and
beautiful blue eyes, and saw gentleness and sympathy there, and
sincerity.

She said: "Mon Mari has been talking in the restaurant with a friend of
his, a Danish Doctor, a Red Cross Doctor, Madame, you understand, and
oh, he is so sorry for you, Madame, and he thinks he can help you to
escape! He wants to come up and see you for a moment. I advise you to
see him."

"Will you bring him up," I said.

"Immediately!"

The old patronne went on undressing the little girls, getting them
hurriedly into bed and telling them to be quiet.

They kept shouting out questions to me, and whenever they did so their
grandmother would smack them.

"Silence. _Les alboches_ will hear you!"

But they were terribly naughty little girls.

Whenever I spoke they repeated my words in loud, mocking voices.

Their sharp little ears told them of my foreign accent, and they plucked
at every strange note in my voice, and repeated it loud and shrill, but
the grandmother smacked them into silence and pulled the bedclothes up
over their faces.

Then a gentle tap, and Madame X. and the Danish Doctor came stealing in.

Ah! how piercing and pathetic was the look I cast on that tall stranger.
I saw a young fair-haired man in grey clothes, with blue eyes, and an
honest English look, quiet, kind, sincere, wearing the Red Cross badge
on his arm! I looked and looked. Then I told myself he was to be
trusted.

In English he said, "I heard there was an English lady here who wants to
get away from Antwerp?"

I interrupted sharply.

"Please don't speak English! The Germans are always going up and down
the corridor. They may hear!"

He smiled at my fears, but immediately changed into French to reassure
me.

"No, no, Madame! You mustn't be alarmed. The Germans are too busy with
themselves to think of anything else just now. And I want to help you.
Your Queen Alexandra is a Dane. She is of my country, and she has kept
the bonds very close and strong between Denmark and England. Yes, if
only for the sake of Queen Alexandra I want to help you now. And I think
I can do so. If you will pass as my sister I can get a pass for you from
the Danish Consul, and that will enable you to leave Antwerp in safety."

"May I see your papers?" I asked him now. "I am sure you are sincere.
But you understand that I would like to see your papers."

"Certainly!"

And he brought out his papers of nationality and I saw that he was
undoubtedly a Dane, working under the Red Cross for the Belgians.

When I had examined his papers I let him examine mine.

"And now I must ask you one thing more," he said. "I must ask for your
passport. I want to shew it to my Consul, in order to convince him that
you are really of British nationality. Will you give me your passport? I
am afraid that without it my Consul may object to do this thing for me."

That was an agonized moment. I had been told a hundred times by a
hundred different people that the one thing one should never do, never,
never, never, not under any circumstances, was to part with one's
passport. And here was this gentle Dane pleading for mine, promising me
escape if I would give it. I looked up at him as he stood there, tall
and grave. I was not _quite_ sure of him. And why? Because he had spoken
English and I still thought that was a dangerous thing to do. No, I was
not quite sure. I stood there breathless, stupefied, trying to think.
Madame X. watched me in silence. I knew that I must make up my mind one
way or the other.

"Well, I shall trust you," I said slowly. I put my passport into his
hands.

His face lit up and I, watching in that agony of doubt, told myself
suddenly that he was genuine, that was real gladness in his eyes.

"Ah, Madame, I _do_ thank you so for trusting me!" His voice was moved
and vibrant. He bent and kissed my hand. Then he put the passport in his
pocket. "To-morrow at three o'clock I will come here for you. Trust me
absolutely. I will arrange for a peasant's cart or a fiacre, and I will
myself accompany you to the Dutch borders. Have courage--you will soon
be in safety!"

Ten minutes after he had gone Monsieur Claude burst into the room.

His face was black as night and working with rage.

"What is this you have done?" he cried in a hoarse voice. "_Il parle
avec les allemands dans le restaurant!_"

Horrible words!

It seems to me that as long as I live I shall hear them in my ears.

"It is not true." I cried. "It _can't_ be true." "He is talking to the
Germans in the Restaurant," he repeated. His rage was undisguised. He
flung on the table a little packet of English papers that I had given
him to hide for me. "Take these! I have nothing to do with you. You are
my sister's affair, I have nothing to do with you at all!"

I rushed to him. I seized him by the arm. But he flung me off and left
the room. In and out of my brain his words went beating, in and out, in
and out. The thing was simple, clear. The Dane had gone down to betray
me, and he had all the evidence in his hands. Oh, fool that I had been!
I had brought this on myself. It was my own unaccountable folly that had
led me into this trap. At any moment now the Germans would come for me.
All was over. I was lost. They had my passport in their possession. I
could deny nothing. The game was up.

I got up and looked at myself in the glass.

The habit of a lifetime asserted itself, for all women look at
themselves in the glass frequently, and at unexpected times. I saw a
strange white face gazing at me in the mirror. "It is all up with you
now! Are you ready for the end? Prepare yourself, get your nerves in
order. You cannot hope to escape, it is either imprisonment or death for
you! What do you think of that?" And then, at that point, kindly Mother
Nature took possession of the situation and sleep rushed upon me
unawares. I fell on the mattress and knew no more, till a soft knocking
at my door awoke me, and I saw it was morning. A light was filtering in
dimly through the window blind.

I jumped up.

I was fully dressed, having fallen asleep in my clothes.

"Madame!" whispered a voice. "Open the door toute suite n'est-ce-pas."
It was the old woman's voice.

I pulled away the barricading chair, and let her in.

Over her shoulder I saw a man.

It was no German, this!

It was dear pie-coloured Henri in a grey suit with a white-and-black
handkerchief swathed round his neck.

Behind him were the two little girls.

"Quick, quick!" breathes the old woman, "you must go, Madame, you must
go at once! My brother is frightened; he refuses to have you here any
longer. He is terrified out of his life lest the Germans should discover
that he has been allowing an English woman to hide in his house!"

She threw an apron on me, and hurriedly tied it behind me, then she
brought out a big black shawl and flung it round my shoulders. Then she
picked up the blue-and-white check handkerchief lying on the table, and
nodded to me to tie it over my head.

"You must go at once, you must leave everything behind you. You must not
take anything. We will see about your things afterwards. You must pass
as Henri's wife. There! Take his arm! And you, Henri, take one of the
little girls by the hand! And you, Madame, you take the other. There!
Courage, Madame. Oh, my poor child, I am sorry for you!"

She kissed me, and pushed me out at the same time.

Next moment, hanging on to Henri's arm, I found myself outside in the
corridor walking towards the staircase.

"Courage!" whispered Henri in my ear.

Suddenly I ceased to be myself; I became a peasant; I was Henri's wife.
These little girls were mine. I leaned on Henri, I clutched my little
girl's fingers close. I felt utterly unafraid. I thought as a peasant. I
absolutely precipitated myself into the woman I was supposed to be. And
in that new condition of personality I walked down the wide staircase
with my husband and my children, passing dozens of German officers who
were running up and down the stairs continually.

I got a touch of their system. They moved aside to let us pass, the poor
little pie-coloured peasant, his anxious wife, the two solemn children
with flowing hair.

The hall below was crowded with Germans. I saw their fair florid faces,
their grim lips and blazing eyes. But I was a peasant now, a little
Belgian peasant. Reality had left me completely. Fear was fled. The
sight of the sunlight and the touch of the fresh air on my face as we
reached the street set all my nerves acting again in their old
satisfactory manner.

"Courage, Madame!" whispered Henri.

"Don't call me Madame! Call me Louisa!" I whispered back. "Where are we
going?"

"To a friend."

We turned the corner and crossed the street and I saw at once that
Antwerp as Antwerp has entirely ceased to exist. Everywhere there were
Germans. They were seated in the cafés, flying past in motor cars,
driving through the streets and avenues just as in Brussels, looking as
if they had lived there for ever.

"Voici, Madame!" muttered Henri.

"Louisa!" I whispered supplicatingly.



CHAPTER XLIV

CAN I TRUST THEM?


We entered a café. I shrank and clutched his arm. The place was full of
Germans, but they were common soldiers these, not Officers. They were
drinking beer and coffee at the little tables.

"Take no notice of them!" whispered Henri. "You are all right! Trust
me!"

We walked through the Restaurant, Henri and I arm in arm, and the little
girls clinging to our hands.

They really played their parts amazingly, those little girls.

"I have found my wife from Brussels," announced Henri in a loud voice to
the old proprietor behind the counter.

"How are things in Brussels, Madame?" queried an old Belgian in the
café.

But I made no answer.

I affected not to hear.

I went with Henri on through the little hall at the far end of the café.

Next moment I found myself in a big, clean kitchen. And a tall stout
woman, her black eyes swimming in tears, was leaning towards me, her
arms open.

"Oh, poor Madame!" she said.

She clasped me to her breast.

Between her tears, in her choking voice she whispered, "I told Henri to
bring you here. You are safe with me. We are from Luxemburg. We fled
from home at the beginning of the war rather than see our state swarming
with Prussians, as it is now. We Luxemburgers hate Germans with a hate
that passes all other hate on earth. And I have three children, who are
all in England now. I sent them there a week ago. I sold my jewels, my
all to let them go. I know my children are safe in England. And you,
Madame, you are safe with me!"

"Don't call me Madame, call me Louisa."

"And call me Ada," she said.

"So, au revoir!" said Henri. "I shall come round later with your
things."

He seized the little girls, and with a nod and "Courage, Louisa," he
disappeared.

Oh, the kindness of that broken-hearted Luxemburg woman.

Her poor heart was bleeding for her children, and she kept on weeping,
and asking me a thousand questions about England, while she made coffee
for me, and spread a white cloth over the kitchen table. What would
happen to her little ones? Would the English be kind to them? Would they
be safe in England? And over and over again she repeated the same sad
little story of how she had sent them away, her three beloveds, George,
Clare, and little Ada with the long fair curls; sent them away out of
danger, and had never heard a word from them since the day she kissed
them and bade them good-bye at the crowded train.

The whole of that day I remained in the kitchen there at the back of the
café I could hear the Germans coming in and out. They were blowing their
own trumpets all the time, telling always of their victories.

Ada's little old husband would walk up and down, whistling the cheeriest
pipe of a whistle I have ever heard. It did me good to listen to him. It
brought before one in the midst of all this terror and ruin an image of
birds.

At six o'clock that day, when dusk began to gather, Ada shut up the
café, put out the lights, and she and her old husband and I sat together
in the kitchen round the fire.

Presently, in came Henri, with my little bag, accompanied by Madame X.,
and her big husband, and two enormous yellow dogs.

They told me that the Danish Doctor came back at three o'clock, asked
for me, and was told I had gone to Holland.

"If it were not for the Danish Doctor I should feel quite safe," I said.
"Was he angry?"

"He was very surprised."

"Did he give you back my passport?"

"No."

"Did he get the passport from his Consul?"

"He said so."

"Did he want to know how I got away?"

"He said he hoped you were safe."

"Did he believe you?"

"I don't know."

"Do you _think_ he believed you?"

"I don't know."

"Did he _look_ as if he believed you?"

"He looked surprised."

"And angry?"

"A little annoyed."

"Not _pleased?_"

"Perhaps!"

"And _very_ surprised?"

"Yes, very surprised."

"I don't believe that he believed you."

"Perhaps not."

"Perhaps he will try and find me?"

"But he is no spy," answered Henri. "If he had wanted to betray you he
would have done it last night."

"C'est ça!" agreed the others.

"What did you know about him?" I asked. "What made you send him up to
me, François? Surely you wouldn't have told him about me unless you
_knew_ he was trustworthy!"

"C'est ça!" agreed big, fat, sad-eyed François. "I have known him for
some time. I never doubted him. I am sure he is to be trusted. He has
worked very hard among our wounded."

"But why did he speak with the Germans in the restaurant?"

"He is a Dane, he can speak as he chooses."

"Then you don't think he was speaking of _me_?"

"No, Madame! C'est évident, n'est-ce-pas? You have left the hotel in
safety!"

"Perhaps he will ask Monsieur Claude where I am?"

"Monsieur Claude will tell him he knows nothing about you, has never
seen you, never heard of you!"

"Perhaps he will ask Monsieur Claude's sister?"

"We must tell her not to tell him where you are."

"_What!_"

I started violently.

"Do you mean to say that you haven't warned her already not to tell him
where I've really gone to?"

"But of course she will not tell him. She is devoted to you, Madame."

"Call me Louisa."

"Louisa!"

"She might tell him to get rid of him," says Ada slowly.

"C'est ça!" agree the others thoughtfully.

And at that all the terror of last night returns to me. It returns like
a _memory_, but it is troublous all the same.

And then, opening my bag to inspect its contents, I suddenly see a big
strange key.

What is this?

And then remembrance rushes over me.

It is the key that Mr. Lucien Arthur Jones gave me, the key of the
furnished house in Antwerp.

A house! Fully furnished, and fully stored with food! And no occupants!
And no Germans! In a flash I decided to get into that house as quickly
as possible. It was the best possible place of hiding. It was so good,
indeed, that it seemed like a fairy tale that I should have the key in
my possession. And then, with another flash, I decided that I could
never face going into that house _alone_. My nerves would refuse me. I
had asked a good deal of them lately, and they had responded
magnificently. But they turned against living alone in an empty house in
Antwerp, quite definitely and positively, they turned against that.

Casting a swift glance about me, I took in that group of faces round the
kitchen fire. Who were they, these people? François, and Lenore, Henri,
Ada, and the little old grey-moustached man whistling like a bird, who
were they? Why were they here among the Germans? Why had they not fled
with the million fugitives. Was it possible they were spies? For I knew
now, beyond all doubting, that there were indeed such things as spies,
though the English mind finds it almost impossible to believe in the
reality of something so dedicated to the gentle art of making melodrama.
Until three days ago I had never seen these people in my life. I knew
absolutely nothing about them. Perhaps they were even now carefully
drawing the net around me. Perhaps I was already a prisoner in the
Germans' hands.

And yet they were all I had in the way of acquaintances, they were all I
had to trust in.

Could I trust them?

I looked at them again.

It was strange, and rather wonderful, to have nothing on earth to help
one but one's own judgment.

Then Ada's voice reached me.

"Voici, Louisa!" she is saying. "Voici le photographie de mon Georges."

And she bends over me with a little old locket, and inside I see a small
boy's fair, brave little face, and Ada's tears splash on my hand....

"I sent them away because I feared the Alboches might harm them," she
breaks out, uncontrollably. "For mon Mari and myself, we have no fear!
And we had not money for ourselves to go. But my Georges, and my Clare,
and my petite Ada--I could not bear the thought that the Alboches might
hurt them. Oh, mes petites, mes petites! They wept so. They did not want
to go. 'Let us stay here with you, Mama.' But I made them go. I sold my
bijoux, my all, to get money enough for them to go to England. Oh, the
English will be good to them, won't they, Louisa? Tell me the English
will be good to my petites."

Sometimes, in England since, when I have heard some querulous suburban
English heart voicing itself grandiloquently, out of the plethora of
its charity-giving, as "_a bit fed up with the refugees_" I think of
myself, with a passionate sincerity and fanatic belief in England's
goodness and justice, assuring that weeping mother that her Georges and
Clare and little Ada with the long hair curls would be cared for by the
English--the tender, generous, grateful English--as though they were
their own little ones--even better perhaps, even better!

Ada's tears!

They wash away my fears. My heart melts to her, and I tell her
straightway about the house in the avenue L.

"But how splendid!" she cries exuberantly.

"Quel chance, Louisa, quel chance!" cries Lenore.

"To-morrow morning we shall all take you there!" declares Henri.

Their surprise, their delight, allay my last lingering doubts.

"But mind," I urge them feverishly. "You must never let the Danish
Doctor know that address."

That night I sleep in a feather-bed in a room at the top of dear Ada's
house.

Or try to sleep! Alas, it is only trying. My windows look on a long
narrow street, a dead street, full of empty houses, and from these
houses come stealing with louder and louder insistence the sounds of
those imprisoned dogs howling within the barred doors of the empty
houses. Their cries are terrible, they are starving now and perishing
of thirst. They yelp and whine, and wail, they bark and shriek and
plead, they sob, they moan. They send forth blood-curdling cries, in
dozens, in hundreds, from every street, from every quarter, these massed
wails go up into the night, lending a new horror to the dark. And
through it all the Germans sleep, they make no attempt either to destroy
the poor tortured brutes, or to give them food and water, they are to be
left there to die. Hour after hour goes by, I bury my head under a
pillow, but I cannot shut out those awful sounds, they penetrate through
everything, sometimes they are death-agonies; the dogs are giving up,
they can suffer no longer. They understand at last that mankind, their
friend, who has had all their faith and love, has deserted them, and
then with fresh bursts of howling they seem afresh to make him listen,
to make him realize this dark and terrible thing that has come to them,
this racking thirst and hunger that he has been so careful to provide
against before, even as though they were his children, his own little
ones, not his dogs. And, they howl, and cry, the dead city listens, and
gives no sign, and they shiver, and shriek, and wail, but in vain, in
vain. It is the most awful night of my life!



CHAPTER XLV

A SAFE SHELTER


Next morning at ten o'clock, Lenore and I and the ever-faithful Henri
(carrying my parrot, if you please!) and Ada strolled with affected
nonchalance through the Antwerp streets where a pale gold sun was
shining on the ruins.

Germans were everywhere. Some were buying postcards, some sausages.
Motor cars dashed in and out full of grey or blue uniforms. Fair, grave,
sardonic faces were to be seen now, where only a few brief days ago
there had been naught but Belgians' brave eyes, and lively, tender
physiognomy. Our little party was silent, depressed. I wore a
handkerchief over my head, tied beneath my chin, a big black apron, and
a white shawl, and I kept my arm inside Henri's.

"Voici, Madame," he exclaimed suddenly. "Voilà les Anglais."

"Et les Anglaises," gasped Ada under her breath.

We were just then crossing the Avenue de Kaiser--that once gay, bright
Belgian Avenue where I had so often walked with Alice, my dear little
_Liègeoise_, now fled, alas, I knew not where.

A procession was passing between the long lines of fading acacias. A
huge waggon, some mounted Germans, two women.

"Oh, mon Dieu!" says Ada.

Lying on sacks in the open waggon are wounded English officers, their
eyes shut.

And trudging on foot behind the waggon, with an indescribable
steadfastness and courage, is an English nurse in her blue uniform, and
a tall, thin, erect English lady, with grey hair and a sweet face under
a wide black hat.

"They are taking them to Germany!" whispers Henri in my ear.

"Mon Dieu, mon Dieu!" moans Ada under her breath. "Oh, les pauvres
Anglaises!"

It was all I could do to keep from flying towards them.

An awful longing came over me to speak to them, to sympathise, to do
something, anything to help them, there alone among the Germans. It was
the call of one's race, of one's blood, of one's country. But it was
madness. I must stand still. To speak to them might mean bad things for
all of us.

And even as I thought of that, the group vanished round the corner,
towards the station.

As we walked along we examined the City. Ah, how shocking was the
change! People are wont to say of Antwerp that it was very little
damaged. But in truth it suffered horribly, far beyond what anyone who
has not seen it can believe. The burning streets were still on fire. The
water supply was still cut off. The burning had continued ever since
the bombardment. I looked at the Hotel St. Antoine and shivered. A few
days ago Sir Frederick Greville and Lady Greville of the British Embassy
had been installed in that hotel and countless Belgian Ministers. The
Germans had tried hard to shell it, but their shells had fallen across
the road instead. All the opposite side of the street lay flat on the
ground, smouldering, and smoking, in heaps of spread-out burning ruins.

At last we reached the house for which I had the key.

From the outside it was dignified, handsome, thoroughly Belgian,
standing in a street of many ruined houses.

Trembling, I put the key into the lock, turned it, and pushed open the
door. Then I gasped. "Open Sesame" indeed! For there, stretching before
me, was a magnificent hall, richly carpeted, with broad, low marble
stairs leading upwards on either side to strangely-constructed open
apartments lined with rare books, and china, and silver. We crept in,
and shut the door behind us. Moving about the luxurious rooms and
corridors, with bated breath, on tip-toe we explored. No fairy tale
could reveal greater wonders. Here was a superb mansion stocked for six
months' siege! In the cellars were huge cases of white wines, and red
wines, and mineral waters galore. In the pantries we found hundreds of
tins of sardines, salmon, herrings, beef, mutton, asparagus, corn, and
huge bags of flour, boxes of biscuits, boxes of salt, sugar, pepper,
porridge, jams, potatoes. At the back was a garden, full of great trees,
and grass, and flowers, with white roses on the rose-bush.

Agreeable as was the sight, there was yet something infinitely touching
in this beautiful silent home, deserted by its owners, who, secure in
the impregnability of Antwerp, had provided themselves for a six months'
siege, and then, at the last moment, their hopes crushed, had fled,
leaving furniture, clothes, food, wines, everything, just for dear
life's sake.

Tender-hearted Ada wept continually as she moved about.

"Oh, the poor thing!" she sighed every now and then. And forgetting
herself and her own grief, her angel heart would overflow with
compassion for these people whom she had never seen, never heard of
until now.

For the first time for days I felt safe, and when Lenore (Madame X.) and
her husband promised to come and stay there with me, and bring Jeanette
and the old grandmère from the hospital I was greatly relieved. In fact
if it had not been for the Danish Doctor I should have been quite happy.

They all came in that afternoon, and Henri too, and how grateful they
were to get into that nest.

We quickly decided to use only the kitchen, and Lenore and her husband
shewed such a respect for the beauties of the house, that I knew I had
done right in bringing the poor refugees here.

Through the barred kitchen windows, from behind the window curtains, we
watched the endless rush of the German machinery. Occasionally Germans
would come and knock at the door, and Lenore would go and answer it.
When they found the house was occupied they immediately went away.

So I had the satisfaction of knowing that I was saving that house from
the Huns.

The haunted noontide silence of my solitary walk seemed like a dream
now. Noise without end went on. All day long the Germans were rushing
their machineries through the Chaussée de Malines, or Rue Lamarinière,
or along the Avenue de Kaiser. At some of the monsters that went
grinding along one stared, gasping, realising for the first time what
_les petits Belges_ had been up against when they had pitted courage and
honour and love of liberty against machinery like that. Three days
afterwards along the road from Lierre two big guns moved on locomotives
towards Aerschot, suggesting by their vastness that immense mountain
peaks were journeying across a landscape. I felt physically ill when I
saw the size of them. A hundred and fifty portable kitchens ensconced in
motor cars also passed through the town, explaining practically why all
the Germans look so remarkably well-fed. Motor cycles fitted with
wireless telegraphy, motor loads of boats in sections, air-sheds in
sections, and trams in sections dashed by eternally. The swift rush of
motor cars seemed never to end.

Yet, busy as the Germans were, and feverishly concentrated on their new
activities, they still found time to carry out their system as applied
to their endeavours to win the Belgian people's confidence in their
kindness and justice as Conquerors! They paid for everything they
bought, food, lodging, drink, everything. They asked for things gently,
even humbly. They never grumbled if they were kept waiting. They patted
the children's heads. Over and over again I heard them saying the same
thing to anybody who would listen.

"We love you Belgians! We _know_ how brave you are. We only wanted to go
through Belgium. We would never have hurt it. And we would have paid you
for any damage we did. We don't hate the French either. They are '_bons
soldats_,' the French! But the '_Englisch_' (and here a positive hiss of
hatred would come into their guttural voices), the '_Englisch_' are
false to _everyone._ It was they who made the war. It is all their
fault, whatever has happened. We didn't want this war. We did all we
could to stop it. But the '_Englisch_' (again the hiss of hatred,
ringing like cold steel through the word) wanted to fight us, they were
jealous of us, and they used you poor brave Belgians as an excuse!"

That was always the beginning of their Litany.

Then they would follow the Chant of their victories.

"And now we are going to Calais! We shall start the bombardment of
England from there with our big guns. Before long we shall all be in
London."

And then would come the final strain, which was often true, as a matter
of fact, in addition to being wily.

"I've left my good home behind me and my dear good wife, and away there
in the Vaterland I have seven children awaiting my return. So you can
imagine if _I_ and men like me, wanted this war!"

It was generally seven children.

Sometimes it was more.

But it was never less!

The system was perfect, even about as small a thing as that!



CHAPTER XLVI

THE FLIGHT INTO HOLLAND


For five wild incredible days I remained in Antwerp, watching the German
occupation; and then at last, I found my opportunity to escape over the
borders into Holland.

There came the great day when François managed to borrow a motor car and
took me out through the Breda Gate to Putte in Holland.

Good-bye to Ada, good-bye to Henri, good-bye to Lenore, Jeanette and la
grandmère!

I knew now that Madame X. could be trusted to the death. She had proved
it in an unmistakable way. In my bag I had her Belgian passport and her
German one also. I was passing now as François' wife. The photograph of
Lenore stamped on the passport was sufficiently like myself to enable me
to pass the German sentinels, and Lenore, dear, sweet, lovable Lenore,
had coached me diligently in the pronunciation of her queer Flemish
name--which was _not_ Lenore, of course.

As for my own English passport, Monsieur X. went several times to the
young Danish Doctor asking for it on my behalf.

The Dane refused to give it up. "How do I know," said he, "that you
will restore it to the lady?"

[Illustration: The Danish Doctor's note.]

Finally Monsieur X. suggested that he should leave it for me at the
American Consulate.

Eventually, long after it came to me in London from the American
Consulate, with a note from the Dane asking them to see that I got it
safely.

When I think of it now, I feel sad to have so mistrusted that friendly
Dane. What did he think, I wonder, to find me suddenly flown? Perhaps he
will read this some day, and understand, and forgive.

Ah, how mournful, how heart-breaking was the almost incredible change
that had taken place in the free, happy country of former days and this
ruined desolate land of to-day. As we flashed along towards Holland we
passed endless burnt-out villages and farms, magnificent old châteaux
shelled to the ground, churches lying tumbled forward upon their
graveyards, tombstones uprooted and graves riven open. A cold wind blew;
the sky was grey and sad; in all the melancholy and chill there was one
thought and one alone that made these sights endurable. It was that the
poor victims of these horrors were being cared for and comforted in
England's and Holland's big warm hearts.

I could scarcely believe my eyes when I saw on the Dutch borders those
sweet green Dutch pine-woods of Putte stretching away under the peaceful
golden evening skies. Trees! _Trees!_ Were there really such things
left in the world? It seemed impossible that any beauty could be still
in existence; and I gazed at the woods with ravenous eyes, drinking in
their beauty and peace like a perishing man slaking his thirst in clear
cold water.

Then, suddenly, out of the depths of those dim Dutch woods, I discerned
white faces peering, and presently I became aware that the woods were
alive with human beings. White gaunt faces looked out from behind the
tree-trunks, faces of little frightened children, peeping, peering,
wondering, faces of sad, hopeless men, gazing stonily, faces of
hollow-eyed women who had turned grey with anguish when that cruel hail
of shells began to burst upon their little homes in Antwerp, drawing
them in their terror out into the unknown.

Right through the woods of Putte ran the road to the city of
Berg-op-Zoom, and along this road I saw a huge military car come flying,
manned by half a dozen Dutch Officers and laden with thousands of loaves
of bread. Instantly, out of the woods, out of their secret lairs, the
poor homeless fugitives rushed forward, gathering round the car, holding
out their hands in a passion of supplication, and whispering hoarsely,
"Du pain! Du pain!" Bread! Bread!

It was like a scene from Dante, the white faces, the outstretched arms,
the sunset above the wood, and the red camp fires between the trees.

[Illustration: MY HOSTS IN HOLLAND.]



CHAPTER XLVII

FRIENDLY HOLLAND


Yesterday I was in Holland.

To-day I am in England.

But still in my ears I can hear the ring of scathing indignation in the
voices of all those innumerable Dutch when I put point-blank to them the
question that has been causing such unrest in Great Britain lately: "Are
the Dutch helping Germany?"

From every sort and condition of Dutchmen I received an emphatic
"never!" The people of Holland would never permit it, and in Holland the
people have an enormous voice. Nothing could have been more emphatic or
more convincing than that reply. But I pressed the point further. "Is it
not true, then, that the Dutch allowed German troops to pass through
Holland?"

The answer I received was startling.

"We have heard that story. And we cannot understand how the Allies could
believe it. We have traced the story," my informant went on, "to its
origin and we have discovered that the report was circulated by the
Germans themselves."

I pressed my interrogation further still.

"Would it be correct, then, to say that the attitude of Holland towards
England is distinctly and unmistakably friendly among all sections of
the community in Holland?"

My informant, one of the best known of Dutch advocates, paused a moment
before replying.

Then seriously and deliberately he made the following statement:--

"In the upper circles of Dutch Society--that is to say, in Court circles
and in the military set that is included in this classification--there
has been, it is true, a somewhat sentimental partiality for Germany and
the Germans. This preference originated obviously from Prince Henry's
nationality, and from Queen Wilhelmina's somewhat passive acceptance of
her husband's likes and dislikes. But the situation has lately changed.
A new emotion has seized upon Holland, and one of the first to be
affected by this new emotion was Prince Henry himself. When the million
Belgian refugees, bleeding, starving, desperate, hunted, flung
themselves over the Dutch border in the agony of their flight, we
Dutch--and Prince Henry among us--saw for ourselves for the first time
the awful horror of the German invasion."

"And so the Prince has shewed himself sympathetic towards the Allies?"

"He has devoted himself to the Belgian Cause," was the reply. "Day after
day he has taken long journeys to all the Dutch cities and villages
where the refugees are congregated. He has visited the hospitals
everywhere. He has made endless gifts. In the hospitals, by his
geniality and simplicity he completely overcame the quite natural
shrinking of the wounded Belgian soldiers from a visitor who bore the
hated name of German."

I knew it was true, too, because I had myself seen Prince Henry going in
and out of the hospitals at Bergen-op-Zoom, his face wearing an
expression of deep commiseration.

"But what about England?" I went on hurriedly. "How do you feel to us?"

"We are your friends," came the answer. "What puzzles us is how England
could ever doubt or misunderstand us on that point. Psychologically, we
feel ourselves more akin to England than to any other country. We like
the English ways, which greatly resemble our own. Just as much as we
like English manners and customs, we dislike the manners and customs of
Germany. That we should fight against England is absolutely unthinkable.
In fact it would mean one thing only, in Holland--a revolution."

Over and over again these opinions were presented to me by leading
Dutchmen.

A director of a big Dutch line of steamers was even more emphatic
concerning Holland's attitude to England.

"And we are," he said, "suffering from the War in Holland--suffering
badly. We estimate our losses at 60 per cent, of our ordinary trade and
commerce."

He pointed out to me a paragraph in a Dutch paper.

     "If the export prohibition by Britain of wool, worsted, etc., is
     maintained, the manufactures of woollen stuffs here will within not
     a very long period, perhaps five to six weeks, have to be closed
     for lack of raw material.

     "A proposition of the big manufacturers to have the prohibition
     raised on condition that nothing should be delivered to Germany is
     being submitted to the British Government. We hope that England
     will arrive at a favourable decision."

"You know," I said tentatively, "that rumour persists in attributing to
Holland a readiness to do business with Germany?"

"Let me be quite frank about that," said the director thoughtfully. "It
is true that some people have surreptitiously been doing business with
Germany. But in every community you will find that sort of people. But
our Government has now awakened to the treachery, and we shall hear no
more of such transactions in the future."

"And is it true that you are trying to change your national flag because
the Germans have been misusing it?"

"It is quite true. We are trying to adopt the ancient standard of
Holland--the orange--instead of the red, white and blue of to-day."

As an earnest of the genuine sympathy felt by the Dutch as a whole
towards the Belgian sufferers I may describe in a few words what I
saw in Holland.

[Illustration: Soup for the refugees.]

Out of the black horrors of Antwerp, out of the hell of bombs and
shells, these million people came fleeing for their lives into Dutch
territory. Penniless, footsore, bleeding, broken with terror and grief,
dying in hundreds by the way, the inhabitants of Antwerp and its
villages crushed blindly onwards till they reached the Dutch frontiers,
where they flung themselves, a million people, on the pity and mercy of
Holland, not knowing the least how they would be treated. And what did
Holland do? With a magnificent simplicity, she opened her arms as no
nation in the history of the world has ever opened its arms yet to
strangers, and she took the whole of those million stricken creatures to
her heart.

The Dutch at Bergen-op-Zoom, where the majority of the refugees were
gathered, gave up every available building to these people. They filled
all their churches with straw to make beds for them; they opened all
their theatres, their schools, their hospitals, their factories and
their private homes, and, without a murmur, indeed, with a tenderness
and gentleness beyond all description, they took upon their shoulders
the burden of these million victims of Germany's brutality.

"It is our duty," they say quietly; and sick and poor alike pour out
their offerings graciously, without ceasing.

In the Grand Place of Bergen-op-Zoom stand long lines of soup-boilers
over charcoal fires.

Behind the line of soup-boilers are stacks of bones, hundreds of bags
of rice and salt, mountains of celery and onions, all piled on the flags
of the market-place, while to add to the liveliness and picturesqueness
of the scene, Dutch soldiers in dark blue and yellow uniforms ride
slowly round the square on glossy brown horses, keeping the thousands of
refugees out of the way of the endless stream of motor cars lining the
Grand Place on its four sides, all packed to the brim with bread, meat,
milk, and cheese.

Inside the Town hall the portrait of Queen Wilhelmina in her scarlet and
ermine robes looks down on the strangest scene Holland has seen for many
a day.

The floors of the Hotel de la Ville are covered with thousands of big
red Dutch cheeses. Twenty-six thousand kilos of long loaves of brown
bread are packed up almost to the ceiling, looking exactly like enormous
wood stacks. Sacks of flour, sides of pork and bacon, cases of preserved
meat and conserved milk, hundreds of cans of milk, piles of blankets,
piles of clothing are here also, all to be given away.

The town of Bergen-op-Zoom is full of heart-breaking pictures to-day,
but to me the most pathetic of all is the writing on the walls.

It is a tremendous tribute to the good-heartedness of the Dutch that
they do not mind their scrupulously clean houses defaced for the moment
in this way.

Scribbled in white chalk all over the walls, shutters, and fences,
windows, tree-trunks, and pavements, are the addresses of the frenzied
refugees, trying to get in touch with their lost relations.

On the trees, too, little bits of paper are pinned, covered with
addresses and messages, such as "The Family Montchier can be found in
the Church of St. Joseph under the grand altar," or "Anna Decart with
Pierre and Marie and Grandmother are in the School of Music." "Les
soeurs Martell et Grandmère are in the Church of the Holy Martyrs."
"La Famille Deminn are in the fifth tent of the encampment on the
Artillery ground." "M. and Mme. Ardige and their seven children are in
the Comedy Theatre." .... So closely are the walls and shutters and the
windows and trees scribbled over by now that the million addresses are
most of them becoming indistinguishable.

While I was in Holland I came across an interesting couple whom I
speedily classified in my own mind.

One was a dark young man.

He had a peculiar accent. He told me he was an Englishman from
Northampton.

Perhaps he was.

He said the reason he wasn't fighting for his country was because he was
too fat.

Perhaps he was.

The other young man said he was American.

Perhaps he was.

He had red hair and an American accent. He had lived in Germany a great
deal in his childhood. All went well until the red-haired man made the
following curious slip.

When I was describing the way the Germans in Antwerp fled towards the
sausage, he said, "How they will roar when I tell them that in Berlin!"
Swiftly he corrected himself.

"In New York, I mean!" he said.

But a couple of hours later the Englishman left suddenly for London, and
the American left for Antwerp. As I had happened to mention that I had
left my baggage in Antwerp, I could quite imagine it being overhauled by
the Germans there, at the instigation of the red-haired young gentleman
with the pronounced American accent.

A rough estimate of the cost to the Dutch Government of maintaining the
refugees works out at something like £85,000 a week. This, of course, is
quite irrespective of the boundless private hospitality which is being
dispensed with the utmost generosity on every hand in Rotterdam,
Haarlem, Flushing, Bergen-op-Zoom, Maasstricht, Rossendal, Delft, and
innumerable other towns and villages.

Some of the military families on their meagre pay must find the call on
them a severe strain, but one never hears of complaints on this score,
and in nine cases out of ten they refuse absolutely to accept payment
for board and lodging, though many of the refugees are eager to pay for
their food and shelter.

"We can't make money out of them!" is what the Dutch say. A new reading
this, of the famous couplet of a century ago:--

     In matters of this kind the fault of the Dutch,
     Was giving too little and asking too much.



CHAPTER XLVIII

FRENCH COOKING IN WAR TIME


There is no more Belgium to go to.

So I am in France now.

But War-Correspondents are not wanted here. They are driven out wherever
discovered. I shall not stay long.

All my time is taken up in running about getting papers; my bag is
getting out of shape; it bulges with the Laisser Passers, and Sauf
Conduits that one has to fight so hard to get.

However, to be among French-speaking people again is a great joy.

And to-day in Dunkirk it has refreshed and consoled me greatly to see
Madame Piers cooking.

The old Frenchwoman moved about her tiny kitchen,--her infinitesimally
tiny kitchen,--and I watched her from my point of observation, seated on
a tiny chair, at a tiny table, squeezed up into a tiny corner.

It really was the smallest kitchen I'd ever seen, No, you couldn't have
swung a cat in it--you really couldn't.

And no one but a thrifty French housewife could have contrived to get
that wee round table and little chair into that tiny angle.

Yet I felt very cosy and comfortable there, and the old grey-haired
French mother, preparing supper for her household, and for any soldier
who might be passing by, seemed perfectly satisfied with her cramped
surroundings, and kept begging me graciously to remain where I was,
drinking the hot tea she had just made for me, while my boots (that were
always wet out there) dried under her big charcoal stove. And always she
smiled away; and I smiled too. Who could help it?

She and her kitchen were the most charming study imaginable.

Every now and then her fine, old, brown, thin, wrinkled hand would reach
over my head for a pot, or a brush, or a pan, from the wall behind, or
the shelf above me, while the other hand would stir or shake something
over the wee gas-ring or the charcoal stove. For so small was the
kitchen that by stretching she could reach at the same time to the wall
on either side.

Then she began to pick over a pile of rough-looking green stuff, very
much like that we in England should contemptuously call weeds.

Pick, pick, pick!

A diamond merchant with his jewels could not have been more careful,
more delicate, more, watchful. And as I thought that, it suddenly came
over me that to this old, careful, thrifty Frenchwoman those weedy
greens were not weeds at all, but were really as precious as diamonds,
for she was a Frenchwoman, clever and disciplined in the art of thrift,
and they represented the most important thing in all the world
to-day--food.

Food means life.

Food means victory.

Food means the end of the War, and PEACE.

You could read all that in her black, intelligent eyes.

Then I began to sit up and watch her more closely still.

When she had picked off all those little hard leaves, she cracked up the
bare, harsh stalks into pieces an inch long, and flung them all, leaves
and stalks, into a saucepan of boiling water, which she presently pushed
aside to let simmer away gently for ten minutes or so.

Meanwhile she is carefully peeling a hard-boiled egg, taking the shell
off in two pieces, and shredding up the white on a little white saucer,
never losing a crumb of it even.

An egg! Why waste an egg like that? But indeed, she is not going to
waste it. She is using the yolk to make mayonnaise sauce, and the white
is for decoration later on. With all her thrift she must have things
pretty. Her cheap dishes must have an air of finish, an artistic touch;
and she knows, and acts up to the fact, that the yellow and white egg is
not wasted, but returns a hundred per cent., because it is going to make
her supper look a hundred times more important than it really is.

Now she takes the greens from the saucepan, drains them, and puts them
into a little frying-pan on the big stove; and she peppers and salts
them, and turns them about, and leaves them with a little smile.

She always has that little smile for everything, and I think that goes
into the flavour somehow!

And now she pours the water the greens were boiled in, into that big
soup-pot on the big stove, and gives the soup a friendly stir just to
shew that she hasn't forgotten it.

She opens the cupboard, and brings out every little or big bit of bread
left over from lunch and breakfast, and she shapes them a little with
her sharp old knife, and she hurries them all into the big pot, putting
the lid down quickly so that even the steam doesn't get out and get
wasted!

Now she takes the greens off the fire, and puts them into a dear little
round white china dish, and leaves them to get cold.

She opens her cupboard again and brings out a piece of cold veal cutlet
and a piece of cold steak left over from luncheon yesterday, and to-day
also. What is she going to do with these? She is going to make them our
special dish for supper. She begins to shred them up with her old sharp
blade--shreds them up finely, not mincing, not chopping, but shredding
the particles apart--and into them she shreds a little cold ham and
onion, and then she flavours it well with salt and pepper. Then she
piles this all on a dish and covers it with golden mayonnaise, and
criss-crosses it with long red wires of beetroot.

The greens are cold now, and she dresses them. She oils them, and
vinegars them, and pats and arranges them, and decorates them with the
white of the chopped egg and thin little slices of tomato.

"Voilà! The salad!" she says, with her flash of a smile.

Salad for five people--a beautiful, tasty, green, melting, delicious
salad that might have been made of young asparagus tips! And what did it
cost? One farthing, plus the labour and care and affection and time that
the old woman put into the making of it--plus, in other words, her
thrift!

Now she must empty my tea-pot.

Does she turn it upside down over a bucket of rubbish as they do in
England, leaving the tea-leaves to go to the dustman when he calls on
Friday?

She would think that an absolutely wicked thing to do if she had ever
heard of such proceedings, but she has not.

She drains every drop of tea into a jug, puts a lid on it, and places it
away in her safe; then she empties the tea-leaves into a yellow
earthenware basin, and puts a plate over them, and puts them up on a
shelf.

I begin to say to myself, with quite an excited feeling, "Shall I ever
see her throw anything away?"

Potatoes next.

Ah! Now there'll be peelings, and those she'll have to throw away.

Not a bit of it!

There are only the very thinnest, filmiest scrapings of dark down off
this old dear's potatoes. And suddenly I think of poor dear England,
where our potato skins are so thick that a tradition has grown from
them, and the maids throw them over their shoulders and see what letter
they make on the floor, and that will be the first letter of _his_ name!
Laughing, I tell of this tradition to my old Frenchwoman.

And what do you think she answers?

"The skin must be very thick not to break," she says solemnly. "But then
you English are all so rich!"

Are we?

Or are we simply--what?

Is it that, bluntly put, we are lazy?

After the fall of Antwerp, when a million people had fled into Holland,
I saw ladies in furs and jewels holding up beseeching, imploring hands
to the kindly but bewildered Dutch folk asking for bread--just bread! It
was a terrible sight! But shall we, too, be begging for bread some day?
Shall we, too, be longing for the pieces we threw away? Who knows?

Finally we sat down to an exquisite supper.

First, there was croûte au pot--the nicest soup in the world, said a
King of France, and full of nourishment.

Then there was a small slice each of tender, juicy boiled beef out of
the big soup-pot, never betraying for a minute that that beautiful soup
had been made from it.

With that beef went the potatoes sautée in butter, and sprinkled with
chopped green.

After that came the chicken mayonnaise and salad of asparagus tips
(otherwise cold scraps and weeds).

There are five of us to supper in that little room behind the milliner's
shop--an invalided Belgian officer; a little woman from Malines looking
after her wounded husband in hospital here; Mdlle. Alice, the daughter,
who keeps the millinery shop in the front room; the old mother, a high
lace collar on now, and her grey hair curled and coiffured; and myself.
The mother waits on us, slipping in and out like a cat, and we eat till
there is nothing left to want, and nothing left to eat. And then we have
coffee--such coffee!

Which reminds me that I quite forgot to say I caught the old lady
putting the shells of the hard-boiled egg into the coffee-pot!

And that is French cooking in War time!



[Illustration: Permit du Dunkirque.]



CHAPTER XLIX

THE FIGHT IN THE AIR


Next morning, Sunday, about half-past ten, I was walking joyfully on
that long, beautiful beach at Dunkirk, with all the winds in the world
in my face, and a golden sun shining dazzlingly over the blue skies into
the deep blue sea-fields beneath.

The rain had ceased. The peace of God was drifting down like a dove's
wing over the tortured world. From the city of Dunkirk a mile beyond the
Plage the chimes of Sabbath bells stole out soothingly, and little
black-robed Frenchwomen passed with prayer books and eyes down bent.

It was Sunday morning, and for the first time in this new year religion
and spring were met in the golden beauty of a day that was windswept and
sunlit simultaneously, and that swept away like magic the sad depression
of endless grey monotonous days of rain and mud.

And then, all suddenly, a change came sweeping over the golden beach and
the turquoise skies overhead and all the fair glory of the glittering
morning turned with a crash into tragedy.

Crash! Crash!

Bewildered, not understanding, I heard one deafening intonation after
another fling itself fiercely from the cannons that guard the port and
city of Dunkirk.

Then followed the shouts of fishermen, soldiers, nurses and the motley
handful of people who happened to be on the beach just then.

Everybody began shouting and everybody began running and pointing
towards the sky; and then I saw the commencement of the most
extraordinary sight this war has witnessed.

An English aeroplane was chasing a German Taube that had suddenly
appeared above the coast-line. The German was doing his best to make a
rush for Dunkirk, and the Englishman was doing his best to stop him. As
I watched I held my breath.

The English aeroplane came on fiercely and mounted with a swift rush
till it gained a place in the bright blue skies above the little
insect-like Taube.

It seemed that the English aviator must now get the better of his foe;
but suddenly, with an incredible swiftness, the German doubled and,
giving up his attempt to get across the city, fled eastwards like a mad
thing, with the Englishman after him.

But now one saw that the German machine responded more quickly and had
far the better of it as regards pace, leaving the pursuing Englishman
soon far behind it, and rushing away across the skies at a really
incredible rate.

But while this little thrilling byplay was engaging the attention of
everyone far greater things were getting in train.

Another Taube was sneaking, unobserved, among the clouds, and was
rapidly gaining a place high up above Dunkirk.

And now it lets fall a bomb, that drops down, down, into the town
beneath.

Immediately, with a sound like the splitting of a million worlds,
everything and everyone opens fire, French, English, Belgians, and all.

The whole earth seems to have gone mad. Up into the sky they are all
firing, up into the brilliant golden sunlight at that little black,
swiftly-moving creature, that spits out venomously every two or three
minutes black bombs that go slitting through the air with a faint
screech till they touch the earth and shed death and destruction all
around.

And now--what's this?

All along the shore, slipping and sailing along across the sky comes
into sight an endless succession of Taubes.

They glitter like silver in the sunlight, defying all the efforts of the
French artillery; they sail along with a calm insouciance that nearly
drives me mad.

Crash! crash! crash! Bang! bang! bang! The cannon and the rifles are at
them now with a fury that defies all words.

The firing comes from all directions. They are firing inland and they
are firing out to sea. At last I run into a house with some French
soldiers who are clenching their hands with rage at that Taube's
behaviour.

One! two! three! four! five! six! seven! eight! nine! ten!

Everyone is counting.

Eleven! twelve! thirteen! fourteen! fifteen! sixteen!

"Voilà un autre!" cry the French soldiers every minute.

They utter groans of rage and disgust.

The glittering cavalcade sails serenely onward, until the whole sky-line
from right to left above the beach is dotted with those sparkling
creatures, now outlined against the deep plentiful blue of the sky, and
now gliding and hiding beneath some vast soft drift of feathery
grey-white cloud.

It is a sight never to be forgotten. Its beauty is so vivid, so
thrilling, that it is difficult to realise that this lovely spectacle of
a race across the sky is no game, no race, no exhibition, but represents
the ultimate end of all the races and prizes and exhibitions and
attempts to fly. Here is the whole art of flying in a tabloid as it
were, with all its significance at last in evidence.

The silver aeroplanes over the sea keep guard all the time, moving along
very, very slowly, and very high up, until the Taube has dropped its
last bomb over the city.

Then they glide away across the sea in the direction of England.

I walked back to the city. What a change since I came through it an
hour or so before! I looked at the Hotel de Ville and shuddered.

All the windows were smashed; and just at the side, in a tiny green
square, was the great hole that showed where the bomb had fallen
harmlessly.

All the afternoon the audacious Taube remained rushing about high above
Dunkirk.

But later that afternoon, as I was in a train en route for Fumes, fate
threw in my way the chance to see a glorious vindication!

The train was brought suddenly to a standstill. We all jumped up and
looked out.

It was getting dusk, but against the red in the sky two black things
were visible.

One dropped a bomb, intended for the railway station a little further
on.

By that we knew it was German, but we had little time to think.

The other aeroplane rushed onwards; firing was heard, and down came the
German, followed by the Frenchman.

They alighted almost side by side.

We could see quite plainly men getting out and rushing towards each
other.

A few minutes later some peasants came rushing to tell us that the two
Germans from the Taube both lay dead on the edge of that sandy field to
westward.

Then our train went on.



CHAPTER L

THE WAR BRIDE


The train went on.

It was dark, quite dark, when I got out of it ac last, and looked about
me blinking.

This was right at the Front in Flanders, and a long cavalcade of French
soldiers were alighting also.

Two handsome elderly Turcos with splendid eyes, black beards, and
strange, hard, warrior-like faces, passed, looking immensely
distinguished as they mounted their arab horses, and rode off into the
night, swathed in their white head-dresses, with their flowing
picturesque cloaks spread out over their horses' tails, their swords
clanking at their sides, and their blazing eyes full of queer, bold
pride.

Then, to my great surprise, I see coming out of the station two ladies
wrapped in furs, a young lady and an old one.

"Delightful," I think to myself.

As I come up with them I hear them enquiring of a sentinel the way to
the Hotel de Noble Rose, and with the swift friendliness of War time I
stop and ask if I may walk along with them.

"Je suis Anglais!" I add.

"Avec beaucoup de plaisir!" they cry simultaneously.

"We are just arrived from Folkestone," the younger one explains in
pretty broken English, as we grope our way along the pitch-black cobbled
road. "Ah! But what a journey!"

But her voice bubbles as she speaks, and, though I cannot see her face,
I suddenly become aware that for some reason or other this girl is
filled with quite extraordinary happiness.

Picking our way along the road in the dark, with the cannons growling
away fiercely some six miles off, she tells me her "petite histoire."

She is a little Brussels bride, in search of her soldier bridegroom, and
she has, by dint of persistent, never-ceasing coaxing, persuaded her old
mother to set out from Brussels, all this long, long way, through
Antwerp, to Holland, then to Flushing, then to Folkestone, then to
Calais, then to Dunkirk, and finally here, to the Front, where her
soldier bridegroom will be found. He is here. He has been wounded. He is
better. He has always said, "No! no! you must not come." And now at last
he had said, "Come," and here she is!

She is so pretty, so simple, so girlish, and sweet, and the mother is
such a perfect old duck of a mother, that I fall in love with them both.

Presently we find ourselves in the quaint old Flemish Inn with oil lamps
and dark beams.

The stout, grey-moustached landlord hastens forward.

"Have you a message for Madame Louis." The bride gasps out her question.

"Oui, Oui, Madame!" the landlord answers heartily. "There is a message
for you. You are to wait here. That is the message!"

"Bien!"

Her eyes flame with joy.

So we order coffee and sit at a little table, chattering away. But I
confess that all I want is to watch that young girl's pale, dark face.

Rays of light keep illuminating it, making it almost divinely beautiful,
and it seems to me I have never come so close before to another human
being's joy.

And then a soldier walks in.

He comes towards her. She springs to her feet.

He utters a word.

He is telling her her husband is out in the passage.

Very wonderful is the way that girl gets across the big, smoky, Flemish
café.

I declare she scarcely touches the ground. It is as near flying as
anyone human could come. Then she is through the door, and we see no
more.

Ah, but we can imagine it, we two, the old mother and I!

And we look at each other, and her eyes are wet, and so are mine, and we
smile, but very mistily, very shakily, at the thought of those two in
the little narrow passage outside, clasped in each others' arms.

       *       *       *       *       *

They come in presently.

They sit with us now, the dear things, sit hand in hand, and their young
faces are almost too sacred to look at, so dazzling is the joy written
in both his and hers.

They are bathed in smiles that keep breaking over their lips and eyes
like sun-kissed breakers on a summer strand, and everything they say
ends in a broken laugh.

And then we go into dinner, and they make me dine with them, and they
order red wine, and make me have some, and I cease to be a stranger, I
become an old friend, intermingling with that glorious happiness which
seems to be mine as well as theirs because they are lovers and love all
the world.

The old mother whispers to me softly when she got a chance: "He will be
so pleased when he knows! There's a little one coming."

"Oh, wonderful little one!" I whisper back.

She understands and nods between tears and smiles again, while the two
divine ones sit gazing at the paradise in each other's eyes.

And through it all, all the time, goes on the hungry growl of cannons,
and just a few miles out continue, all the time, those wild and
passionate struggles for life and death between the Allies and Germans,
which soon--God in His mercy forbid--may fling this smiling, fair-headed
boy out into the sad dark glory of death on the battle-field, leaving
his little one fatherless.

Ah, but with what a heritage!

And then, all suddenly, I think to myself, who would not be glad and
proud to come to life under such Epic Happenings. Such glorious heroic
beginnings, with all that is commonplace and worldly left out, and all
that is stirring and deep and vital put in.

       *       *       *       *       *

Never in the history of the world have there been as many marriages as
now. Everywhere girls and men are marrying. No longer do they hesitate
and ponder, and hang back. Instead they rush towards each other,
eagerly, confidentially, right into each others' arms, into each others'
lives.

"Till Death us do part!" say those thousands of brave young voices.

Indeed it seems to me that never in the history of this old, old world
was love as wonderful as now. Each bride is a heroine, and oh, the hero
that every bridegroom is! They snatch at happiness. They discover now,
in one swift instant, what philosophers have spent years in
teaching;--that "life is fleeting," and they are afraid to lose one of
the golden moments which may so soon come to an end for ever.

But that is not all.

There is something else behind it all--something no less beautiful,
though less personal.

There is the intention of the race to survive.

Consciously, sometimes,--but more often unconsciously--our men and our
women are mating for the sake of the generation that will follow, the
children who will rise up and call them blessed, the brave, strong,
wonderful children, begotten of brave, sweet women who joyously took all
risks, and splendid, heroic men with hearts soft with love and pity for
the women they left behind, but with iron determination steeling their
souls to fight to the death for their country.

How superb will be the coming generation, begotten under such glorious
circumstances, with nothing missing from their magnificent heritage,
Love, Patriotism, Courage, Devotion, Sacrifice, Death, and Glory!

       *       *       *       *       *

A week after that meeting at the Front I was in Dunkirk when I ran into
the old duck of a mother waiting outside the big grey church, towards
dusk.

But now she is sorrowful, poor dear, a cloud has come over her bright,
generous face, with its affectionate black eyes, and tender lips.

"He has been ordered to the trenches near Ypres!" she whispers sadly.

"And your daughter," I gasp out.

"Hush! Here she comes. My angel, with the heart of a lion. She has been
in the church to pray for him! She would go alone."

Of our three faces it is still the girl wife's that is the brightest.

She has changed, of course.

She is no longer staring with dazzled eyes into her own bliss.

But the illumination of great love is there still, made doubly beautiful
now by the knowledge that her beloved is out across those flat sand
dunes, under shell-fire, and the time has come for her to be noble as a
soldier's bride must be, for the sake of her husband's honour, and his
little one unborn.

"Though he fall on the battle-field," she says to me softly, with that
sweet, brave smile on her quivering lips, "he leaves me with a child to
live after him,--his child!"

And of the three of us, it is she, the youngest and most sorely tried,
who looks to have the greatest hold on life present and eternal.



CHAPTER LI

A LUCKY MEETING


To meet some one you know at the Front is an experiment in psychology,
deeply interesting, amusing sometimes, and often strangely illuminative.

Indeed you never really know people till you meet them under the sound
of guns.

It is at Furnes that I meet accidentally a very eminent journalist and a
very well-known author.

Suddenly, up drives a funny old car with all its windows broken.

Clatter, clatter, over the age-old cobbled streets of Furnes, and the
car comes to a stop before the ancient little Flemish Inn. Out jump four
men. Hastening, like school-boys, up the steps, they come bursting
breezily into the room where I have just finished luncheon.

I look! They look!! We all look!!!

One of them with a bright smile comes forward.

"How do you do?" says he.

He is the chauffeur, if you please, the chauffeur in the big
golden-brown overcoat, with a golden-brown hood over his head. He looks
like a monk till you see his face. Then he is all brightness, and
sharpness, and alertness. For in truth he is England's most famous
War-Photographer, this young man in the cowl, with the hatchet profile
and dancing green eyes, and we last saw each other in the agony of the
Bombardment of Antwerp.

And then I look over his shoulder and see another face.

I can scarcely believe my eyes.

Here, at the world's end, as near the Front as anyone can get, driving
about in that old car with the broken windows, is our eminent
journalist, in baggy grey knee breeches and laced-up boots.

"Having a look round," says the journalist simply. "Seeing things for
myself a bit!"

"How splendid!"

"Well, to tell you the truth, I can't keep away. I've been out before,
but never so near as this. The sordidness and suffering of it all makes
me feel I simply can't stay quietly over there in London. I want to see
for myself how things are going."

Then, dropping the subject of himself swiftly, but easily, the
journalist begins courteously to ask questions; what am I doing here?
where have I come from? where am I going?

"Well, at the present moment," I answer, "I'm trying to get to La Panne.
I want to see the Queen of the Belgians waiting for the King, and
walking there on the yellow, dreamy sands by the North Sea. But the tram
isn't running any longer, and the roads are bad to-day, very bad
indeed!"

All in an instant, the journalistic instinct is alive in him, and
crying.

I watch, fascinated.

I can see him seeing that picture of pictures, the sweet Queen walking
on the lonely winter sands, waiting for her hero to come back from the
battlefields, just over there.

"Let us take you in our car! What are we doing? Where were we going?
Anyway, it doesn't matter. We'll take the car to La Panne!"

And after luncheon off we go.

Every now and then I turn the corner of my eye on the man beside me as
he sits there, hunched up in a heavy coat with a big cigar between his
babyish lips, talking, talking; and what is so glorious about it all is
that this isn't the journalist talking, it is the idealist, the
practical dreamer, who, by sheer belief in his ideals has won his way to
the top of his profession.

I see a face that is one of the most curiously fascinating in Europe. A
veiled face, but with its veil for ever shifting, for ever lifting, for
ever letting you get a glimpse of the man behind. Power and will are
sunk deep within the outer veil, and when you look at him at first you
say to yourself, "What a nice big boy of a man!" For those lips are
almost babyish in their curves, the lips of a man who would drink the
cold pure water of life in preference to its coloured vintages, the lips
of an idealist. Who but an idealist could keep a childish mouth through
the intense worldliness of the battle for life as this man has fought
it, right from the very beginning?

Over the broad, thoughtful brow flops a lock of brown hair every now and
then. His eyes are grey with blue in them. When you look at them they
look straight at you, but it is not a piercing glance. It seems like a
glance from far away. All kinds of swift flashing thoughts and impulses
go sweeping over those eyes, and what they don't see is really not worth
seeing, though, when I come to think of it, I cannot recall catching
them looking at anything. As far as faces go this is a fine face.
Decidedly, a fine arresting face. Sympathetic, likeable. And the strong,
well-made physique of a frame looks as if it could carry great physical
burdens, though more exercise would probably do it good.

Above and beyond everything he looks young, this man; young with a youth
that will never desert him, as though he holds within himself "the
secrets of ever-recurring spring."

On we fly.

We are right inside the Belgian lines now; the Belgian soldiers are all
around us, brave, wonderful "_Petits Belges!_"

They always speak of themselves like that, the Belgian Army: "Les Petits
Belges!"

Perhaps the fact that they have proved themselves heroes of an
immortality that every race will love and bow down to in ages to come,
makes these blue-coated men thus lightly refer to themselves, with that
inimitable flash of the Belgian smile, as "little Belgians."

For never before was the Belgian Army greater than it is to-day, with
its numbers depleted, its territory wrested from it, its homes ruined,
its loved ones scattered far and wide in strange lands.

Like John Brown's Army it "still goes fighting on," though many of its
uniforms, battered and stained with the blood and mud and powder of one
campaign after another, are so ragged as to be almost in pieces.

"We are no longer chic!"

A Belgian Captain says it with a grin, as he chats to us at a halt where
we shew our passes.

He flaps his hands in his pockets of his ragged overcoat and smiles.

In a way, it is true! Their uniforms are ragged, stained, burnt, torn,
too big, too little, full of a hundred pitiful little discrepancies that
peep out under those brand new overcoats that some of them are lucky
enough to have obtained. They have been fighting since the beginning of
the War. They have left bits of their purple-blue tunics at Liège,
Namur, Charleroi, Aerschot, Termonde, Antwerp. They have lost home,
territory, family, friends. But they are fighting harder than ever. And
so gloriously uplifted are they by the immortal honour they have wrested
from destiny, that they can look at their ragged trousers with a grin,
and love them, and their torn, burnt, blackened tunics, even as a
conqueror loves the emblems of his glory that will never pale upon the
pages of history.

A soldier loosens a bandage with his teeth, and breaks into a song.

It is so gay, so naive, so insouciant, so truly and deliciously Belge,
that I catch it ere it fades,--that mocking song addressed to the
Kaiser, asking, in horror, who are these ragged beings:

     THE BELGIAN TO THE GERMAN.

     Ils n'ont pas votre bel tunique,
     Et ils n'ont pas votre bel air
     Mais leur courage est magnifique.
     Si ils n'ont pas votre bel tunique!
     A votre morgue ils donnent la nicque.
     Au milieu de leur plus gros revers,
     Si ils n'ont pas votre bel tunique,
     Et ils n'ont pas votre bel air!

"What those poor fellows want most," says the journalist as we flash
onwards, "is boots! They want one hundred thousand boots, the Belgian
Army. You can give a friend all sorts of things. But he hardly likes it
if you venture to give him boots. And yet they want them, these poor,
splendid Belgians. They want them, and they must have them. We must give
them to them somehow. Lots of them have no boots at all!"

"I heard that the Belgians were getting boots from America," the author
puts in suddenly.

The journalist turns his head with a jerk.

"What do you mean," he asks sharply. "Do you mean that they have
_ordered_ them from America, or that America's _giving_ them."

"I believe what my informant, a sick officer in the Belgian Army, whom
I visited this morning, told me was that the Americans were _giving_ the
boots."

"Are you sure it's _giving_?" the journalist persists. "We English ought
to see to that. Last night I had an interview with the Belgian Minister
of War and I tried to get on this subject of boots. But somehow I felt
it was intrusive of me. I don't know. It's a delicate thing. It wants
handling. Yet _they must have the boots._"

And I fancy they will get them, the heroes of Belgium. I think they will
get their hundred thousand boots.

Then a whiff of the sea reaches us and the grey waves of the North Sea
stretch out before us over the edge of the endless yellow sands, where
bronze-faced Turcos are galloping their beautiful horses up and down.

We are in La Panne.

The journalist sits still in his corner of the car, not fussing, not
questioning, leaving it all to me. This is my show. It is I who have
come here to see the gracious Queen on the sands. All the part he plays
in it is to bring me.

So the journalist, and the author and the others remain in the car. That
is infinitely considerate, exquisitely so, indeed.

For no writer on earth would care to go looking around with the Jupiter
of Journalists at her elbow!

       *       *       *       *       *

Rush, rush, we are on our way back now. The cold wind of wet, flat
Flanders strikes at us as we fly along. It hits us in the face and on
the back. It flicks us by the ear and by the throat. The window behind
us is open. The window to right and the window to left are open too. All
the windows are open because, as I said before, they are all broken!

In fact, there are no windows! They've all been smashed out of
existence. There are only holes.

"We were under shell-fire this morning," observes the journalist
contentedly. Then truthfully he adds, "I don't like shrapnel!"

Any woman who reads this will know how I felt in my pride when a
malicious wind whisked my fur right off my shoulders, and flung it
through the back window, far on the road behind.

If it hadn't been sable I would have let it go out of sheer humiliation.

But instead, after a moment's fierce struggle, remembering all the
wardrobe I had already lost in Antwerp, I whispered gustily, "My stole!
It's blown right out of the window."

How did I hope the journalist would not be cross, for we were racing
back then against time, _without lights_, and it was highly important to
get off these crowded roads with the soldiers coming and going, coming
and going, before night fell.

Cross indeed!

I needn't have worried.

Absence of fuss, was, as I decided later, the most salient point about
this man. In fact, his whole desire seemed to make himself into an
entire nonentity. He never asserted himself. He never interfered. He
never made any suggestions. He just sat quiet and calm in his corner of
the car, puffing away at his big cigar.

Another curious thing about him was the way in which this man, used to
bossing, organizing, suggesting, commanding, fell into his part, which
was by force of circumstances a very minor one.

He was incognito. He was not the eminent journalist at all. He was just
an eager man, out looking at a War. He was there,--in a manner of
speaking, on suffrance. For in War time, civilians are _not_ wanted at
the Front! And nobody recognized this more acutely than the man with the
cigar between his lips, and the short grey knee breeches showing sturdy
legs in their dark grey stockings and thick laced-up boots.

The impression he gave me was of understanding absolutely the whole
situation, and of a curiously technical comprehension of the wee little
tiny part that he could be allowed to play.

"Where are you staying in Dunkirk?" he asked.

"In a room over a milliner's shop. The town's full. I couldn't get in
anywhere else."

"Then will you dine with us to-night at half-past seven, at the Hotel
des Arcades?"

"I should love to."

And we ran into Dunkirk.

And the lights flashed around me, and that extraordinary whirl of
officers and men, moving up and down the cobbled streets, struck at us
afresh, and we saw the sombre khaki of Englishmen, and the blue and red
of the Belgian, and the varied uniforms and scarlet trousers of the
Piou-Piou, and the absolutely indescribable life and thrill and crowding
of Dunkirk in these days, when the armies of three nations moved surging
up and down the narrow streets.

At seven-thirty I went up the wide staircase of the Hotel des Arcades in
the Grand Place of Dunkirk. Quite a beautiful and splendid hotel though
innumerable Taubes had sailed over it threatening to deface it with
their ugly little bombs, but luckily without success so far,--very
luckily indeed considering that every day at lunch or dinner some poor
worn-out Belgian Officer came in there to get a meal.

Precisely half-past seven, and there hastening towards me was our host.

He had not "dressed," as we say in England. He had merely exchanged the
short grey Norfolk knickerbockers for long trousers, and the morning
coat for a short dark blue serge.

His eyes were sparkling.

"There's a Belgian here whom I want you to meet," he said in his boyish
manner, that admirably concealed the power of this man that one was for
ever forgetting in his presence, only to remember it all the more
acutely when one thought of him afterwards. "It's the chief of the
Belgian Medical Department. He's quite a wonderful man."

And we went in to dinner.

The journalist arranged the table.

It was rather an awkward one, numerically, and I was interested to see
how he would come out of the problematic affair of four men and one
woman.

But with one swift wave of his hand he assigned us to our places.

He sat on one side of the table with the Head of the Belgian Medical
Corps at his right.

I sat opposite to him, and the author sat on my left, and the other man
who had something to do with Boy Scouts on his left, and there we all
were, and a more delightful dinner could not be imagined, for in a way
it was exciting through the very fact of being eaten in a city that the
Germans only the day before had pelted with twenty bombs.

Personalities come more clearly into evidence at dinner than at any
other time, and so I was interested to see how the journalist played his
part of host.

What would he be like?

There are so many different kinds of hosts. Would he be the all-seeing,
all-reaching, all-divining kind, the kind that knows all you want, and
ought to want, and sees that you get it, the kind that says always the
right thing at the right moment, and keeps his party alive with his
sally of wit and gaiety, and bonhomie, and makes everyone feel that they
are having the time of their lives?

No!

One quickly discovered that the journalist was not at all that kind of
host.

At dinner, where some men become bright and gay and inconsequential,
this man became serious.

The food part of the affair bored him.

Watching him and studying him with that inner eye that makes the bliss
of solitude, one saw he didn't care a bit about food, and still less
about wine. It wouldn't have mattered to him how bad the dinner was. He
wouldn't know. He couldn't think about it. For he was something more
than your bon viveur and your social animal, this man with his wide grey
eyes and the flopping lock on his broad forehead. He was the dreamer of
dreams as well as the journalist. And at dinner he dreamed--Oh, yes,
indeed, he dreamed tremendously. It was all the same to him whether or
not he ate pâté de fois gras, or fowl bouillé, or sausage. He was rapt
in his discussion with the Belgian Doctor on his right.

Anæsthetics and antiseptics,--that's what they are talking about so
hard.

And suddenly out comes a piece of paper.

The journalist wants to send a telegram to England.

"I'm going to try and get Doctor X. to come out here. He's a very clever
chap. He can go into the thing thoroughly. It's important. It must be
gone into."

And there, on the white cloth, scribbled on the back of a menu, he
writes out his telegram.

"But then," says the journalist, reflectively, "if I sign that the
censor will hold it up for three days!"

The Head of the Belgian Medical Department smiles.

He knows what that telegram would mean to the Belgian Army.

"Let _me_ sign it," he says in a gentle voice, "let me sign it and send
it. My telegrams are not censored, and your English Doctor will meet us
at Calais to-morrow, and all will be well with your magnificent idea!"

Just then the author on the left appears a trifle uneasy.

He holds up an empty Burgundy bottle towards the light.

"A dead 'un!" he announces, distinctly.

But our host, in his abstraction, does not hear.

The author picks up the other bottle, holds it to the light, screws up
one eye at it, and places it lengthwise on the table.

"That's a dead 'un too," he says.

Just then, with great good luck, he manages to catch the journalist's
grey eye.

"That's a dead 'un too," he repeats loudly.

How exciting to see whether the author, in his quite natural desire to
have a little more wine, will succeed in penetrating his host's
dreaminess and absorption in the anæsthetics of the Belgian Army.

And then all of a sudden the journalist wakes up.

"Would you like some more wine?" he inquires.

"These are both dead 'uns," asserts the author courageously.

"We'll have some more!" says the journalist.

And more Burgundy comes! But to the eminent journalist it is
non-existent. For his mind is still filled with a hundred thousand
things the Belgian Army want,--the iodine they need, and the
anæsthetics. And nothing else exists for him at that moment but to do
what he can for the nation that has laid down its life for England.

Burgundy, indeed!

And yet one feels glad that the author eventually gets his extra bottle.
He has done something for England too. He has given us laughter when our
days were very black.

And our soldiers love his yarns!



CHAPTER LII

THE RAVENING WOLF


How hard it must be for the soldiers to remember chat there ever was
Summer! How far off, how unreal are those burning, breathless days that
saw the fighting round Namur, Termonde, Antwerp. Here in Flanders, in
December, August and September seem to belong to centuries gone by.

Ugh! How cold it is!

The wind howls up and down this long, white, snow-covered road, and away
on either side, as far as the eyes can see, stretches wide flat Flanders
country, white and glistening, with the red sun sinking westward, and
the pale little silvery moon smiling her pale little smile through the
black bare woods.

In this little old Flemish village from somewhere across the snow the
thunder and fury of terrific fighting makes sleep impossible for more
than five minutes at a time.

Then suddenly something wakes me, and I know at once, even before I am
quite awake, that it is not shell-fire this time.

What is it?

I sit up in bed, and feel for the matches.

But before I can strike one I hear again that extraordinary and very
horrible sound.

I lie quite still.

And now a strange thing has happened.

In a flash my thoughts have gone back over years and years and years,
and it is twenty-eight years ago and I have crossed thousands and
thousands of "loping leagues of sea," and am in Australia, in the
burning heat of mid-summer. I am a schoolgirl spending my Christmas
holidays in the Australian bush. It is night. I am a nervous little
highly-strung creature. A noise wakes me. I shriek and wake the
household. When they come dashing in I sob out pitifully.

"There's a wolf outside the window, I heard it howling!"

"It's only a dingo, darling!" says a woman's tender voice, consolingly.
"It's only a native dog trying to find water! It can't get in here
anyway."

I remember too, that I was on the ground floor then, and I am on the
ground floor now, and I find myself wishing I could hear that comforting
voice again, telling me this is only a dingo, this horrible howling
thing outside there in the night.

I creep out of bed, and tiptoe to the window.

Quite plainly in the silvery moonlight I see, standing in the wide open
space in front of this little Flemish Inn, a thin gaunt animal with its
tongue lolling out. I see the froth on the tongue, and the yellow-white
of its fangs glistening in the winter moonlight. I ask myself what is
it? And I ask too why should I feel so frightened? For I _am_
frightened. From behind the white muslin curtains I gaze at that
apparition, absolutely petrified.

It seems to me that I shall never, never, never be able to move again
when I find myself knocking at the Caspiar's door, and next minute the
old proprietor of the Inn and his wife are peeping through my window.

"Mon Dieu! It is a wolf!"

Old Caspiar frames the word with his lips rather than utter them.

"You must shoot it," frames his wife.

Old Caspiar gets down his gun.

But it falls from his hands.

"I can't shoot any more," he groans. "I've lost my nerve."

He begins to cry.

Poor old man!

He has lost a son, eleven nephews, and four grandsons in this War, as
well as his nerve. Poor old chap. And he remembers the siege of Paris,
he remembers only too well that terrible, far-off, unreal, dreamlike
time that has suddenly leapt up out of the dim, far past into the
present, shedding its airs of unreality, and clothing itself in all the
glaring horrors of to-day, until again the Past is the Present, and the
Present is the Past, and both are inextricably and cruelly mixed for
Frenchmen of Caspiar's age and memories.

A touch on my arm and I start violently.

"Madame!"

It is poor old Madame Caspiar whispering to _me_.

"You are English. You are brave n'est-ce-pas? Can _you_ shoot the wolf."

I am staggered at the idea.

"Shoot! Oh! I'd miss it! I daren't try it. I've never even handled a
gun!" I stammer out.

I see myself revealed now as the coward that I am.

"Then _I_ shall shoot it!" says old Madame Caspiar in a trembling voice.

She picks up the gun.

"When I was a girl I was a very good shot!"

She speaks loudly, as if to reassure herself.

Old Caspiar suddenly jumps up.

"You're mad, Terèse. Vous êtes folle! You can't even see to read the
newspapers, _You!_"

He takes the gun from her!

She begins to cry now.

"I shall go and call the others," she says, weeping.

"Be quiet," he says crossly. "You'll frighten the beast away if you make
a noise like that!"

He crosses the room and peers out again!

"It's eating something!" he says. "Mon Dieu! _It's got_ Chou-chou."

Chou-chou is--_was_ rather, the Caspiar's pet rabbit.

"You shall pay for that!" mutters old Caspiar. Gently opening the
window, he fires.


       *       *       *       *       *

"Not since 1860 have I seen a wolf," says Caspiar, looking down at the
dead beast. "Then they used to run in out of the forest when I was an
apprentice in my uncle's Inn. We were always frightened of them. And
now, even after the Germans, we are frightened of them still."

"I am more frightened of wolves than I am of Germans," confesses Madame
Caspiar in a whisper.

We stand there in the breaking dawn, looking at the dead wolf, and
wondering fearfully if there are not more of its kind, creeping in from
the snow-filled plains beyond.

Other figures join us.

Two Red-Cross French doctors, a wounded English Colonel, la grandmère,
Mme. Caspiar's mother, and a Belgian priest, all come issuing gradually
from the low portals of the Inn into the yard.

Then in the chill dawn, with the glare of the snow-fields in our eyes,
we discuss the matter in low voices.

It is touching to find that each one is thinking of his own country's
soldiers, and the menace that packs of hungry wolves may mean to them,
English, Belgian, French; especially to wounded men.

"It's the sound of the guns that brings them out," says a French doctor
learnedly. "This wolf has probably travelled hundreds of miles. And of
course there are more. Oui, oui! C'est ça Certainly there will be more."

"C'est ça, c'est ça!" agrees the priest.

"Such a huge beast too!" says the Colonel.

He is probably comparing it with a fox.

I find myself mentally agreeing with Madame Caspiar that Germans are
really preferable to wolves.

The long, white, snow-covered road that leads back to the world seems
endlessly long as I stare out of the Inn windows realizing that sooner
or later I must traverse that long white lonely road across the plains
before I can get to safety, and the nearest town. Are there more wolves
in there, slinking ever nearer to the cities? That is what everyone
seems to believe now. We see them in scores, in hundreds, prowling with
hot breath in search of wounded soldiers, or anyone they can get.

We are all undoubtedly depressed.

Then a Provision "Motor" comes down that road, and out of it jumps a
little, old, white-moustached man in a heavy sheepskin overcoat and red
woollen gloves, carrying something wrapped in a shawl.

He comes clattering into the Inn.

His small black eyes are swimming with tears.

"Mon Dieu!" he says, gulping some coffee and rum. "Give me a little hot
milk, Madame! My poor monkey is near dying."

A tiny, black, piteous face looks out of the shawl, and huskily the man
with the red gloves explains that he has been for weeks trying to get
his travelling circus out of the danger-zone.

"The Army commandeered my horses. We had great difficulty in moving
about. We wanted to get to Paris. All my poor animals have been
terrified by the noises of the big guns. Especially the monkeys. They've
all died except this one."

"You poor little beast!" says the Colonel, bending down.

He has seen men die in thousands, this gaunt Englishman with his eye in
a sling.

But his voice is infinitely compassionate as he looks with one eye at
the little shivering creature, and murmurs again, "You _poor_ little
brute!"

"Yesterday," adds the man with the red gloves, "my trick wolf escaped.
She was a beauty, and so clever. When the War began I used to dress her
up as a French solider,--red trousers, red cap and all! _I s'pose you
haven't seen a wolf, M'sieur, running about these parts?_"

Nobody answers for a bit.

We are all stunned.

       *       *       *       *       *

But the old fellow brightens up when he hears that his wolf ate the
rabbit.

"Ah, but she was a clever wolf!" he cries excitedly. "Very likely the
reason why she ate your Chou-chou was because she has played the part of
a French soldier. _French soldiers always steal the rabbits!_"



CHAPTER LIII

BACK TO LONDON


I am on my way back to London, grateful and glad to be once more on our
side of the Channel.

"Five days!" exclaims a young soldier in the train.

He flings back his head, draws a deep breath, and remains staring like
an imbecile at the roof of the railway carriage for quite two minutes.

Then he shakes himself, draws another deep breath, and says again, still
staring at the roof:

"Five days!"

The train has started now out into the night. We have left Folkestone
well behind. We have pulled down all the blinds because a proclamation
commands us to do so, and we are softly, yet swiftly rushing through the
cool, sweet-smelling English country back towards good old Victoria
Station, where all continental trains must now make their arrivals and
departures.

"Have you been wounded, Sir?" asks an old lady in a queer black
astrakhan cap, and with a big nose.

"Wounded? Rather! Right on top of the head." He ducks his fair head to
shew us. "I didn't know it when it happened. I didn't feel anything at
all. I only knew there was something wet. Blood, I suppose. Then they
sent me to the Hospital at S. Lazaire, and I had a ripping Cornish
nurse. But lor, what a fool I was! I actually signed on that I wanted to
go back. Why did I do that? I don't know. I didn't want to go back.
_Want to go back?_ Good lor! Think of it! But I went back! and the next
thing was Mons! Even now I can't believe it, that march. The Germans
were at us all the time. It didn't seem possible we could do it. 'Buck
up, men! only another six kilometres!' an officer would say. Then it
would be: 'Only another seven kilometres! keep going, men!' Sometimes we
went to sleep marching and woke up and found ourselves still marching.
Always we were shifting and relieving. It was a wonderful business. It
seemed as if we were done for. It seemed as if we couldn't go on. But we
did. Good lor! _We did it!_ Somehow the English generally seem to do it.
Some of us had no boots left. Some of us had no feet. _But WE DID IT!_'"

The old lady with the black astrakhan cap nods vigorously.

"And the Germans wouldn't acknowledge that victory of ours," she says!
"I didn't see it in any of their papers."

It is rather lovely to hear the dear creature alluding to Mons as "our
victory!"

But indeed she is right. Mons is, in truth, our glory and our pride!

But it is still more startling to find she knows secret things about the
German newspapers, and we all look at her sharply.

"I've just come from Germany!" the old lady explains. "Just come from
Dresden, where I've been living for fifteen years. Oh dear! I did have a
time getting away. But I had to leave! They made me. _Dresden is being
turned into a fortified town and a basis for operations!_"

We all now listen to _her_, the soldiers three as well.

"Whenever we heard a noise in Dresden, everyone said, 'It's the Russians
coming!' So you see how frightened they are of the Russians. They are
scared to death. They've almost forgotten their hatred for England. They
talk of nothing now but the Russians. Their terror is really pathetic,
considering all the boasting they've been doing up to now. They made a
law that no one was to put his head out of the window under _pain of
death_!"

"Beasts!" says the wounded one.

"There's only military music in Dresden now. All the theatres and
concert rooms are shut. And of course from now there will be nothing but
military doings in Dresden! Yes, I lived there for fifteen years. I
tried to stay on. I had many English friends as well as Germans, and the
English all agreed to taboo all English people who adopted a pro-German
tone. Some did, but not many. My greatest friends, my dearest friends
were Germans. But the situation grew impossible for us all. We were not
alienated personally, but we all knew that there would come between us
something too deep and strong to be defied or denied, even for great
affection's sake. So I cut the cables and left when the order was given
that Dresden was henceforth to be a fortified town. Besides, it was
dangerous for me to remain. I was English, and they hissed at me
sometimes when I went out. It was through the American Consul's
assistance that I was enabled to get away. I saw such horrid pictures of
the English in all the shops. It made my blood boil. I saw one picture
of the Englishmen with _three legs to run away with!_"

"Beasts!" says the wounded one. "Wait till I travel in Germany!"

"And, oh dear!" goes on the old lady, "I was so frightened that I should
forget and put my head out without thinking! As I sat in the train
coming away from Dresden, I said to myself all the time, 'You must not
look out of the window, or you'll have your head shot off!' That was
because they feared the Russian spies might try to drop explosives out
of the trains on to their bridges!"

"Beasts!" says the wounded one again.

It is really remarkable what a variety of expressions this fair-haired
young English gentleman manages to put in a word.

He belongs to a good family and at the beginning of the War he cleared
out without a word to anyone and enlisted in the ranks. Now he is
coming home on five days' leave, covered with glory and a big scar, to
get his commission. He is a splendid type. All he thinks about is his
Country, and killing Germans. He is a gorgeous and magnificent type, for
here he is in perfect comradeship with his pal Tommy in the corner, and
the Irishman next to him. Evidently to him they are more than gentlemen.
They are men who've been with him through Mons, and the Battle of the
Aisne, and the Battle of Ypres, and he loves them for what they are! And
they love him for what he is, and they're a splendid trio, the soldiers
three.

"When I git into Germany," says Tommy, "I mean to lay hands on all I can
git! I'm goin' to loot off them Germans, like they looted off them pore
Beljins!"

"Surely you wouldn't be like the Crown Prince," says the old lady, and
we all wake up to the fact then that she's really a delightful old lady,
for only a delightful old lady could put the case as neatly as that.

"Shure, all I care about," says the big, quiet Irishman in the corner,
"is to sleep and sleep and sleep!"

"On a bed," says the wounded one. "Good lor! Think of it! To-night I'll
sleep in a bed. I'll roll over and over to make sure I'm there. Think of
it, sheets, blankets. We don't even get a blanket in the trenches. We
might get too comfortable and go to sleep."

"What about the little oil stoves the newspapers say you're having?"
asks the old lady.

"We've seen none of them!" assert the soldiers three.

"Divil a one of them," adds the Irishman.

"I've eat things I never eat before," says Tommy suddenly, in his simple
way that is so curiously telling. "I've eat raw turnips out of the
fields. They're all eatin' raw turnips over there. And I've eat sweets.
I've eat pounds of chocolates if I could get them and I've never eat
them before in my life sinst I was a kid."

"Oh, chocolates!" says the wounded one, ecstatically. "But chocolate in
the sheet--thick, wide, heavy chocolate--there's nothing on earth like
it! I wrote home, and put all over my letters, Chocolate, _chocolate_,
CHOCOLATE. They sent me out tons of it. But I never got it. It went
astray, somewhere or other."

"But they're very good to us," says Tommy earnestly. "We don't want for
nothin'. You couldn't be better treated than what we are!"

"What do you like most to receive?" asks the old lady.

"Chocolate," they all answer simultaneously.

"The other night at Ypres," says Tommy with his usual unexpectedness,
"a German came out of his trenches. He shouted: 'German waiter! want to
come back to the English. Please take me prisoner.' We didn't want no
German waiters. We can't be bothered takin' the beggars prisoners. We
let go at him instead!"

"They eat like savages!" puts in the Irishman. "I've see them shovelling
their food in with one hand and pushing it down with the other. 'Tis my
opinion the Germans have got no throats!"

"The Germans have lots to eat," asserts Tommy. "Whenever we capture them
we always find them well stocked. Brown bread. They always have brown
bread, and bully beef, and raisins."

"Beasts!" says the wounded one again. "But good lor, their Jack
Johnsons! When I think of them now I can't believe it at all. They're
like fifty shells a minute sometimes. Sometimes in the middle of all the
inferno I'd think I was dead; or in hell. I often thought that."

"Them guns cawst them a lot," says Tommy. "It cawst £250 each loading.
We used to be laying there in the trenches and to pass the time while
they was firing at us we'd count up how much it was cawsting them.
That's 17s. 6d., that bit of shrapnel! we'd say. And there goes another
£5! They waste their shells something terrible too. There's thirty
five-pound notes gone for nothing we'd reckon up sometimes when thirty
shells had exploded in nothin' but mud!"

Then the wounded one tells us a funny story.

"I was getting messages in one day when this came through: '_The Turks
are wearing fez and neutral trousers!_' We couldn't make head or tail of
the neutral trousers! So we pressed for an explanation. It came. '_The
Turks are wearing fez, breaches of neutrality!'_"

       *       *       *       *       *

And while we are laughing the train runs into Victoria Station and the
soldiers three leap joyously out into the rain-wet London night.

Then dear familiar words break on our ears, in a woman's voice.

"Any luggage, Mum!" says a woman porter.

And we know that old England is carrying on as usual!


THE END



[Illustration: SKETCH MAP OF BELGIUM]





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Woman's Experience in the Great War" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home