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Title: Tales from a Famished Land - Including The White Island—A Story of the Dardanelles
Author: Hunt, Edward Eyre
Language: English
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                   _TALES FROM A FAMISHED LAND_

                           _TALES FROM A
                          FAMISHED LAND_


                       _The White Island--A
                     Story of the Dardanelles_

                         _EDWARD EYRE HUNT_

                   _Author of “War Bread,” Etc._


                     _GARDEN CITY_ _NEW YORK_
                    _DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY_

                       _Copyright, 1918, by_
                     DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

              _All rights reserved, including that of
                translation into foreign languages,
                    including the Scandinavian_

             COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY P. F. COLLIER’S SONS

                              TO THE
                          MEMORY OF E. O.

_Collier’s Weekly_, _The Outlook_, _The New Republic_, _The
Atlantic Monthly_, and _The Red Cross Magazine_ have published
certain of these tales in serial form, and to them my thanks are
due for permission to republish in book form.


Herbert Clark Hoover, chairman of the Commission for Relief in
Belgium, once called that amazing organization, “the door in the
wall of steel.” Between November, 1914, and March, 1917, when
America entered the world war, there had passed through that door
millions of dollars in money, thousands of tons of foodstuffs and
clothing, and four or five dozen young Americans, most of them
just out of their ’teens, who played a part in Belgian history
which they are still trying to explain in words of one syllable to
admiring relatives and friends!

Theirs is a story of sweet romance, gallant adventure, grotesque
comedy, and grim tragedy. The tales which are here set down are a
part of their story. These tales are not strictly truth, but they
are not fiction. They are both. They try to describe the state of
mind, the atmosphere in which History--both truth and fiction--is
made; the atmosphere behind long lines of barbed-wire and bayonets,
behind waves of poisoned gas, in a famished land where ten million
heroic people, both French and Belgians, have silently and steadily
fought to keep their self-respect, their sanity, and their courage.

These tales have been written in a spirit of gratitude and love;
with gratitude and love first of all to Herbert Clark Hoover, then
to the other officers and members of the Commission for Relief
in Belgium, and then, and perhaps most of all, to those unnamed
French, Walloon, and Flemish millions with whom we Americans stood
shoulder to shoulder on the inside of the “door in the wall of

                                                         E. E. H.

  _4 Place de la Concorde, Paris_
    _New Year’s Day, 1918._



  FOREWORD                                ix

     I. SAINT DYMPNA’S MIRACLE             3

    II. LOVE IN A BARGE                   19


    IV. FIGURES OF THE DANCE              46

     V. THE SAVIOUR OF MONT CÉSAR         61

    VI. GHOSTS                            86

   VII. THE DESERTER                      96

  VIII. THE GLORY OF TINARLOO            114

    IX. A FLEMISH FANCY                  122

     X. THE SWALLOWS OF DIEST            135

    XI. PENSIONERS                       148

   XII. DOÑA QUIXOTE                     160


          OF THE DARDANELLES             176


_Tales From a Famished Land_



Pierre, the chauffeur, launched a savage kick at the newly
punctured tire and swore into the night. “Three quarters of an
hour, monsieur, to repair it,” he said reluctantly, switching off
the motor. “Do you wish----”

Into the sudden silence stole the slow, incessant roar of the
Yser cannon. The level stretches of the Campine, alternating
black vistas of scrub evergreens with little fields, peat bogs,
and kitchen gardens, lay fragrant and silent in the moonlight.
Heather was in bloom, nightingales were nesting and so were no
longer singing, and the narrow Flemish road before and behind the
automobile lay like a placid silver river, inviting one to quiet

“Yes,” I answered Pierre’s unfinished query. “I’ll go for a stroll
toward the next farmhouse. Take your time, Pierre. There’s no hurry

We had just left the town of Gheel, one of the most remarkable
places in Belgium, a town where more than a thousand insane folk
live quiet and useful lives, parcelled out among the peasants, but
under the supervision of district doctors. The insane are treated
as if they were normal beings, are given work according to their
strength, mental and physical, and find companionship among a
peasantry noted for industry and stubborn independence. This is
originally due to certain miracles of Saint Dympna, one of the
guardian saints of the insane--an Irish princess, converted to
Christianity, and martyred at Gheel by her pagan father on the 30th
of May in the year of Our Lord 600.

Under the bright moon the land seemed singularly like Ireland,
and a little old man stepping toward me down the silvery road,
his pipe in his mouth, his eyes screwed up, his bent legs wrapped
in ill-fitting trousers, his feet in wooden shoes, might have
been the fabled leprechaun, or Wee Hughie Gallagher of Donegal.
He wore a _brassard_ on his right sleeve, for he was one of the
village watch, guarding the telephone and telegraph wires so that
no accident might happen to them to give the Germans an excuse for
crushing the commune with an exorbitant fine.

“_Goe’n avond, mynheer_,” I called cheerfully.

“_Avond, mynheer_,” he answered in a weak voice.

“I am the American delegate of the _Komiteit voor Hulp en
Voeding_,” I explained.

“Mynheer is American?” he asked doubtfully, taking his pipe from
his mouth and scratching his head as if to recall where or what
America could be.

“_Ja wel._ Have you a cup of milk at your house?”

He turned and faced back down the road, still scratching his head.

“_Als ’t U belieft, mynheer_,” I added ceremoniously.

My superlative courtesy seemed to decide him, and he gave a gesture
of assent. Side by side and in silence then we walked down the
silver road to the first farmhouse. A black mass of protecting
trees hung close over the chimney, and low thatch swept down like
the back of some prehistoric monster, gray green in the clear
moonlight. The walls were lath filled in with clay. Two little
rectangular windows glowed dully, and the edges of the thick,
ill-fitting door shone with faint light.

“You live here, mynheer?” I asked.

“_Ja_, mynheer.”

“You own it?”

“I rent it.”

“I may enter?”

“You may enter, mynheer.”

He thrust open the door without knocking. I stumbled into the dimly
lighted room, hardly knowing what I expected to find. Peasants’
cottages were invariably interesting to me, and invariably they
contained surprises. But this was older and more primitive than
any I had yet visited--a relic of long-gone days. It was like
opening an ancient tomb or a buried city. I entered expectantly,
and lo! the centuries rolled backward, and I stood with people of
Froissart’s day, with peasants who had scarcely altered since the
Middle Ages, whose feet were hardly on the threshold of modernity.

The room was square. At one end was a brick fireplace, rude as if
aborigines had built it, with an iron frame squatting in the ashes,
a thick pot suspended by a chain, a broiling rack, a heavy iron
fork, a charred stick for a poker, and a rude crane. In the smoke
of a tiny turf fire on the hearth hung rows of drying vegetables
and skins of meat. The floor was beaten earth, hard as brick. The
walls were whitewashed. The ceiling was low and strung with onions
and other roots and vegetables, and the only touch of modern
things was a hanging lamp in the centre. In a corner hung a man’s
suit of Sunday clothes, like a creature which has been hanged. A
ladder beside it went up to the blind loft overhead. A picture
of the Virgin hung on one wall, and a plaster statuette of Saint
Anthony and Saint Joseph gleamed from a shelf over the fireplace,
drawing one’s eye to a row of plates and dishes. An odour of smoke
and cooking and manure heaps and the foul smells of unwashed human
beings crowded the little room, and the air droned with the sleepy
buzzing of innumerable flies.

A barefooted, prematurely aged woman, bent with too much
child-bearing, gave me a chair, wiping it ceremoniously with her
apron. The man spat on the floor behind us and scraped the spittle
with his sabot. Three children were asleep in a recess on a pile of
litter curtained from sight in the day-time. But the most striking
person in the room was a young woman, sitting before the turf fire
with a fourth child--evidently the youngest--in her lap. She wore
stockings, leather shoes, and a simple, black bombazine dress. Her
face was turned from me, but I saw that her hair was neatly coiled
about her head and pinned with a shell comb.

The older woman sprang to the hanging lamp and turned it high until
it smoked. “Good evening, mynheer,” she called in a panic of fear
and pleasure. “Be seated, if it please your Excellency.”

She dragged the chair beside the lamp and the table in the centre
of the room. During the next five minutes she was feverishly busy
offering me beer, milk, and everything else that her mean little
house afforded.

I stared at the woman beside the fireplace, and my host--who
refused to seat himself in my presence--at last touched his head
significantly. “Ah, monsieur,” he sighed. (He had been one of the
_franksmannen_, migratory labourers who work for several months of
the year in France, and he spoke tolerable French. Indeed he was
much better informed and quicker of wit than his person or his
home would indicate.) “She is mad: like all the world, she is mad.
All the world is mad.”

“You mean the war?”

“Yes, monsieur. Saint Dympna has received thousands of mad ones,
and of those who are mad but whom she has not received, there are
millions. When the war broke out two men went mad in this village.
They were carried away to Gheel, raving. Their eyes stared, their
lips frothed, and they twitched all over. When the Germans came
here, certain ones went mad at sight of them. I have seen it with
my eyes, monsieur. They say that when the Germans came into France
they sent whole long trainloads of mad ones back into their own
land. When the big shells burst in the forts, all the garrison
goes mad. When the aviator flies over the trench, men go mad. You
have seen there are always two German sentries together? It is so
that if one goes mad the other will be at hand. For they go mad,
monsieur, by dozens, by hundreds, by thousands. Have you seen their
eyes? They are mad. And their lips? They work like the lips of men
always talking to themselves. When the war began, I, too, was mad.
I dreamed terrible dreams. For two months I was mad--like all the

“But the woman there?” I asked, pointing to the figure beside the
turf glow.

The man clattered over to her and laid his hand gently on her
shoulder. “Madame,” he said, “there is a gentleman here to speak
with you.”

“Nay, mynheer,” she answered quietly, “not until midnight.”

“He is not the doctor, madame.”

She turned and gave me a searching glance. The movement revealed
that her breast was uncovered, and that she held the sleeping child
against her heart. “Nay,” she said again, “not until midnight.”

He came slowly back. “When a child is sick, she knows it and she
comes,” he explained apologetically. “At midnight she goes back to
the doctor’s house.”


“Alone, monsieur. God and the Devil alike love the mad. God and the
Devil alike watch over them. This one”--he pointed to the woman
with the child--“was a lady of Louvain, of the Krakenstraat; she
was rich; she had a husband and two children. They were killed by
the Germans and she was wounded in the shoulder. Her house was
burned; her money lost. She went mad. She was taken to Duffel, I
think; then to Antwerp, then to Hoogstraeten, then she was brought
to Gheel, screaming for her children and her husband--mad--mad and
soon to die. Then, monsieur, Saint Dympna wrought a miracle through
the love of a little child, a little sick boy in the doctor’s house
where madame was confined, and she became well after a fashion. And
now in whatever house a child is ill, madame by the grace of God
knows of it, and she comes and nurses it back to health. The first
madness is of the Devil, monsieur, violent and bloody; the second
is of God, and it is kind.”

In the midst of his prattle the woman rose slowly, holding the
sleeping child in the hollow of her right arm and buttoning the
bosom of her dress with her left hand. “Hush!” she admonished
softly. “Listen, mynheeren!” From some instinct of courtesy I rose
to my feet. She raised her hand warningly but did not turn her
head. “Listen,” she repeated, staring toward the fireplace.

It was an uncanny thing. We stood as if frozen. The heavy breathing
of the peasant woman pulsed through the quiet room; the old man
stared with all his eyes; a sleepy chicken chuckled from an
adjoining shed, but there was no other sound from outside. A minute
went by; another; a third, and still we stood stiffly in the centre
of the room. At last madame beckoned to the peasant-mother, who
stole across the floor toward her and paused at her side. Silently
she gave the mother her child, her finger on her lips, her eyes
still fixed on the spot near the fireplace.

Then she turned, and laying her hands on the head of the sleeping
boy, she began in a strange, low, hissing voice, “This one shall
be an avenger of Louvain, he shall be an avenger of Dinant, and
Termonde, and Aerschot, and Andenne, and Liége, and Tamines, and
Visé. He shall avenge our nation. He shall not forget. In the days
of his happiness he shall remember our sorrow; in the days of
his prosperity he shall remember our misery; in the days of his
strength he shall remember our weakness. Go! Be healed!” Then in
her quiet, natural voice, pointing to the spot on a level with her
eyes at which she had stared, she added, “A sick child is there,
mynheeren. Three, four kilometres away it is, and I must go to it.”

“God!” the old man breathed.

“I must go now. The child is very ill. I must go now, or I shall be
too late.”

The old man crossed himself again and again. “God! God!” he
repeated helplessly.

The young woman wheeled suddenly. “What is that noise?” she
exclaimed, pointing to the roadway.

The roar of an automobile resounded outside, and I knew Pierre was

“Is it the Germans?”

“No, madame, it is my automobile, at your service.”

She showed no astonishment or perplexity. Her mind seemed wholly
absorbed in the problem of the sick child. “Take me in your
automobile to the child, monsieur,” she replied rapidly, speaking
in French. “Let us hurry, hurry!”

“But where, madame?”

“I do not know, monsieur, but I will show you. There! There!” She
waved her hand in the direction of Gheel.

We hurried like fugitives from the house and into the tonneau,
leaving the awe-struck peasants standing with mouths agape. Pierre
stared in consternation at our coming, but said no word. I did not
try to explain. Our passenger sat tense, her head turned to one
side as if she were listening closely.

We came quickly to a fork of the road. “Which way, monsieur?”
Pierre asked.

“I do not know. It is for madame to say,” I answered.

She was quiet for an instant. “To the right hand,” she exclaimed
suddenly. “Make haste! There! In that house!”

The car jerked to a stop, and I leaped out to help madame to the
ground. Now that we had arrived, to my astonishment she made no
move to leave the car. Her head sank slowly forward to her breast,
and she sat huddled listlessly, paying no attention to Pierre or me.

“Is it this house, madame?” I asked, hoping to arouse her.

“This house,” she said, “but we are too late.”

“But no, madame!” I exclaimed. “Go quickly and help!” At the moment
I believed in her supernatural powers as firmly as any peasant of
the Campine.

She lifted her head. A sad light had come into her eyes. “It is too
late. The avenger of Belgium is not to come from this house,” she

“But yes! Hurry!”

The madness of my words did not occur to me until days afterward:
the lunacy of thinking either that she could heal, or that the
child of these poor peasant-folk when healed would avenge his
nation on her enemies. God knows what wild thoughts were in my mind
that night! God knows, and Saint Dympna!

“I will go in then,” she said, rising, giving her hand with a
queenly gesture, and stepping from the car. “Thank you, monsieur.
You need not wait; indeed you must not wait. I am here with
friends. Adieu!”

She clutched my arm in a sudden spasm of fright.

“Listen!” she whispered.

A piercing wail rose from the quiet cottage; a dull lamp flared as
it was borne hastily past a window; a man’s deep voice groaned
horribly. Children in the loft, wakened by the outcry, began to
scream, and a startled dog far away howled in terror.

Madame released my arm and walked slowly toward the house of death.
At the door she turned and looked back at us as if she feared to
go in. Her left hand fumbled for the latch; her right waved our
dismissal. “Adieu, monsieur, adieu,” she called in a strained,
unhappy tone. And we drove quietly away and left her under the
placid moon.



A little Spitz ran back and forth on the deck of the lighter
_Cornelis de Vriendt_, barking defiance at all the world and
especially at me for my efforts to come aboard. Two fat Flemish
babies clad only in shirts and no underclothes sat in the bow
watching him.

“Hay, skipper,” I shouted, “where are you? Call off your dog!”

A gigantic shock of red hair appeared from the cabin, followed by
a long face, prodigiously wrinkled, and a thin body in blue shirt
and nondescript trousers, from which protruded broad red hands and
naked feet. Like the babies, the captain stared at me in silence
and made no move to come nearer.

“Are you the skipper?” I demanded, losing patience.

“_Ja_, mynheer.”

“Call off your dog. I’m the American delegate of the Relief

“What, mynheer?”

I aimed a kick at the dancing, barking bundle of fur and feet,
lost my balance on the edge of the wharf, and came down on the
sloping deck of the _Cornelis de Vriendt_ on all fours. The dog
went wild, and the frightened babies howled, but the skipper
watched motionless as before. “What did you say, mynheer?” he asked

It seemed no time for the French or Flemish languages. In an
emotional crisis, such as a deathbed repentance or losing one’s
heart or one’s temper, the tongue turns to the speech of youth,
and I fell to cursing in most excellent and idiomatic English. The
shock-head stared. “For God’s sake, sir,” he exclaimed at last, in
English like my own, “are you a British spy?”

“A spy, you idiot? I’m the American delegate of the Commission for
Relief in Belgium. What do you mean by staring at me like that and
letting your crazy dog bark his head off at me? I’m the consignee
of this cargo, and I’ve come to inspect it.”

The bargeman leaped to the peak of the vessel and came forward,
his bare toes clutching the ridge of the deck, smacked the nearest
infant into silence, swore at the dog, and came down to me. He drew
an old cap from his pocket and began to clean my clothes, using the
cap as a dust cloth. “I’m sorry, sir,” he said meekly, “but you
see, sir, I has to be careful, wot with the Germans and all.”

“With that accent I should think you would have to be careful,” I
retorted grimly.

“Ow no, sir,” he returned, “I’m a Belgian all right-o, but I ’ave
served my time in the British navy.”

“And now you’re skipper of a barge!”

He smiled and scratched his head. “There was a woman, sir, as done
me into doing it--leaving the navy, I mean. O’ course she wasn’t
the first woman I ever see, but when I saw her I thort she was.”

“Well, you’re a funny one!” I exclaimed heartily, feeling a sudden
kinship with the lanky red-crowned scarecrow before me--a kinship
which would have been impossible without our common language. “Is
this Queen of Sheba still travelling with you?”

“Beg pardon, sir?”

“Is your wife on board?”

“Yes, indeed, sir, and here are two of my little shavers.” He
pointed with extraordinary pride at the half-naked youngsters
clinging to their precarious seats on the sloping deck. “Fine
little fellers, aren’t they, sir? I’ve got three children, and
there is going to be a fourth. These is twins--both boys,” he said.

“So I see,” I retorted. The jest was lost on him. “Well, open up
hatches and let’s look at your cargo.”

He bent to the fastenings and slipped off the round lead seals.
“Funny thing about these Germans, sir, ’ow careful they are. That
Johnny standing sentry-go over there”--he pointed to the lonely
watch in the distance--, “’e always comes up and asks me for
them little bits of lead. I gives ’em to ’im, sir. ’E gets paid
for ’em and they don’t do me no good, so I gives ’em to him.” He
lifted the first hatch, still chatting affably. “It’s a good lot
o’ flour, sir, as I sees it. Only up at Rotterdam sometimes they
has to unload too fast, and they piles it into the lighters in all
kinds o’ weather. I’ve got forty-eight bags of bad flour in ’ere
myself--spoilt by the rain in Rotterdam.”

“We can use it here for making dog bread.”

“They uses ’ooks on the bags, too, sir, and that ain’t right.
Ortn’t to use no ’ooks. They always break the bags. Still, they’re
a good sort up there, and they treat me right so far.... Now this
flour, sir, it’s first rate--better than the Belgians is used to,
if I do say it, and well stowed, ain’t it?” He dusted the white
meal from his hands and replaced the hatches. “It ain’t bad, is
it, sir?”

“Pretty good,” I answered.

“No, I don’t regret being skipper on a canal boat ’stead of
hordinary seaman banging ’round in a cruiser’s forecastle and
target-practising at the ’Uns. It’s an awful life, sea-faring is,
sir. A man wot is a man owes it to himself to marry and settle

“You certainly are a domestic animal, skipper.”

He grinned. “Yes, sir. Why, the first time I sawr ’er she was
a-standing behind the till in a sweets-shop, in Flushing, and
a-crying ’er pretty eyes out.”

“Who was?”

“Blimey! my wife! I thort I ’ad told you, sir.”

“You’ve told me nothing.”

“It’s an awful life, sea-faring is, sir----”

“You’ve told me that already, but what about your wife?”

“Ow, yes, sir. She was a-standing behind the counter in a
sweets-shop and a-crying ’er pretty eyes out, and I come in just
off the ship with a ’unger for sweets so strong my tongue was fair
’anging out of my mouth. (You gets that way banging round in a
cruiser’s forecastle, sir.)

“Sniff--sniff--sniff---- ‘What’ll ye ’ave, mynheer?’ she says to me.

“‘Good-day juffrouw, and what’s the matter with you, my pretty
dear?’ I says back at her. ‘I’ll ’ave a kiss,’ I says.

“‘You’ll ’ave nothing of the sort, you bad man,’ she says, wiping
her eyes and glaring at me.

“‘Juffrouw,’ I says, free and easy, ‘I’m just off ship and I’m
’ungry--so ’ungry I could fair eat you--and I never see a pretty
maid crying but I kiss ’er tears away. I ain’t been drinking
either. I ain’t a drinking man.’

“I was serious for all my glib talk, sir. I was that serious as I’d
never been in my life before; and, between ourselves, sir, though
I ’ate to admit it, I didn’t kiss no tears away that day. She
wouldn’t ’ave it.

“Wot was she weeping for? She’d just lorst ’er sweetheart, sir,
that was wot for! ’E was a sheep-faced Dutchman--I sawr ’im
afterward, I did, and he ’adn’t a merit to ’im. She didn’t really
love ’im, but she thort she did, and that’s where I come in
a-asking for a kiss!

“‘Oom Jan,’ she yells to the back of the shop. ‘Come ’ere and throw
out this drunken sailor-man.’

“Lucky for me ’er uncle didn’t ’ear ’er, so I leans across the
counter and I says very serious, ‘Juffrouw, I love you. Tell me,
wot’s the tears about?’”...

“I tell you, sir,” he interrupted his story to observe, “in dealing
with women tell ’em the truth first pop. If you love ’em, tell ’em
so. Lies is all right in dealing man to man, but with the wimmen,
tell ’em the truth.

“So it wasn’t long till we was fair intimate. I ’ung ’round ’er
shop for three days, I did, and then I thort as ’ow I might take a
few liberties with ’er.

“‘No,’ she says, ‘nothing of that, George. I want to make you a
good wife,’ she says.

“‘Wife,’ I says to myself. I was sitting in the potaties all
right-o, with a quid a month and no ‘ome ner nothing. Wife! Wot
’ave I let myself in for?’ But she was that simple ’earted I
couldn’t say no to ’er and I loved her fair to distraction.

“I went back to my ship, but I couldn’t stand it, so at last I gave
it up and went to her and we was married in a church and set up
’ousekeeping in a barge!”

A sharp voice from the cabin cut short our colloquy. The skipper
jumped as if shot. “Coming, coming,” he called in a very respectful
voice, “coming, my dear!”

“It’s----” I left the useless question unfinished. I knew it was
the Queen of Sheba, the heroine of the sweets-shop in Flushing, the
Mrs. Noah of the barge.

“Yes, it’s my wife. A strong bellus she has, sir: good lungs; and
the little shavers has ’em, too.” He pointed to the babies on the
deck. “Sea-faring men needs good lungs, you know, sir. But my lads
don’t seem to take much to salt water, sir. They prefers canals.
They gets sick on the Hollandsch Diep. Can’t make sailor-men o’
them, sir.”

“Sailor-men!” I retorted. “What about that cruiser’s forecastle
talk you were giving me, and marrying and settling down? Were you
joking with me, skipper? Isn’t love in a barge all it’s cracked up
to be?”

“No, sir; yes, sir,” he said, answering both my questions at once
but pulling a very sober face. “A man what is a man owes it to
hisself to marry and settle down. But a lad, now! that’s another
question, sir. I tell you, sir, confidential-like, I’m going to
name the next lad after Sir David Beatty!”

“Whew!” I whistled. “And if the lad is a girl?”

“I’ll name her ‘Rule Brittania,’ sir--if my wife agrees.... Coming,
coming, my dear; coming,” he called. “Good day, sir; thank you,



“You-all are in charge of the Relief Commission, suh? I am Mistah
Solslog, of Alabama. I’m lookin’ for my sistah.”

The tense blue eyes of my fellow-countryman stared at me
searchingly, and I at him. He wore a rubber collar and a false
shirt front of a style which afforded popular subjects for
caricature twenty-five years ago. His salt-and-pepper suit was
cheap, horribly cheap, thin, cotton, summer weight, but immaculate.
His hat--an old, well-brushed Stetson--was in his hand. He had
no luggage. In the cold winter light of my office in Antwerp his
slight, lean features looked prematurely aged, but neither age nor
hardship had changed the characteristically even Southern drawl.

“Sit down, Mr. Solslog,” I said. “We’re feeding eleven hundred
thousand Belgians here, and clothing and giving work, too, but an
American citizen certainly has a claim.”

His face reddened. “Thank you, suh, but it ain’t that sort of help
I reequiah, Preehaps you did not understand me. I’m a-lookin’ for
my sistah.”


“She was in Maubeuge when the war broke out.” He pronounced it
Maw-booge. “She was a governess, suh. I read in the _Atlanta
Constitution_ that war was declared. That was on a Sunday. I quit
my job in the lumberyard an’ come straight over here on the old
_Saint Paul_, and I ain’t found her--not yet.”

“But, Mr. Solslog, it’s February now. You left America in August?”

“Yes, suh,” he said gently. “I come in August.”

“Where have you been, then, in the meantime?” I demanded.

“Well, suh, first I went to Maw-booge.”

“The Germans captured Maubeuge on August 27th; they took the
fortress on September 6th.”

“Yes, suh. I know they did. I was there. You don’t quite understand
me. I was lookin’ for my sistah.”

The man amazed, angered, and puzzled me. Common-sense told me that
the Germans allowed no one--least of all a stray American--to
wander into Belgium, inside the German lines, on the flimsy excuse
of “looking for his sister,” but here was just such a man. Worst of
all, he really seemed simple and candid: the more dangerous as a
spy, probably, though what he was to spy upon I had not the ghost
of an idea.

“_Sprechen Sie Deutsch, Herr Solslog? Warum sind Sie hier in
Belgien? Sind Sie Spion? Vous parlez Français, n’est-ce pas? Vous
êtes espion, oui? ’ut U Veaamsch klappen?_” I shot at him rapidly.

He smiled a smile which disarmed my suspicions, a pathetic,
whimsical, puzzled smile. “People are always sayin’ things to me
I cain’t understand in these here foreign countries. No, suh, I
don’t understand any language but plain You-nited States. I can say
‘_uh franc, doo franc_’--that’s French, you know, suh--and I know
‘Muhsoor’, that’s French for ‘Mistah’ and ‘my sistah.’ I’ll never
forget that word.

“It’s like this, suh: I got up almost to Maw-booge--oh, yes, suh, I
had a pass. I got up there with the French. Just walked along with
’em; they couldn’t understand me; I couldn’t understand them, but
we walked along. Then we got ’most to Maw-booge where my sistah
was--red roofs, like all them pretty towns in France--I could see
the town, fightin’ everywhere. I was with a battery, what they call
_swasuntcans_. The officer could speak my language.

“‘Go back,’ he says. ‘Go with these refugee people.’ Everybody was
runnin’ away--the fields was full of ’em, dirty and tired, but
still runnin’. ‘Go to Paris,’ he says.

“‘But I’m lookin’ for my sistah,’ I says.

“‘She’ll most likely be in Paris. Go quick,’ he says.

“We was standin’ in a poppy field, his battery was firing in
fours--pop! pop! pop! pop!--like that. A German ae-reoplane come
over like a big bee and dropped a bomb. They screamed and run,
everybody did, but the bomb busted and nothin’ come out but
powdered lime. Then everybody laughed. But in three minutes more
the Germans was a-droppin’ shells all over us. That lime was just a

“They hit my officer friend. ‘Git out,’ he says again to me, ‘Git
out quick.’ His fingers dug into the poppies, he was hurt so bad;
hit in the stomach. Then he kind of smiled once and pulled off a
poppy flower and held it up to me. ‘Here’s a red poppy--the blood
of France,’ he says. ‘Take it as a souvenir, and git out.’

“They got me, though--the Germans did. I was in Mardeevay” (I have
no idea what the name of the town was) “when they come in. After
all the fightin’ I’d seen I went to sleep in a church, and along
come the Germans. They was massacreein’ the people. They wanted to
shoot me, too, but one of ’em understood my lingo and he took me to
the gen’ral. ‘So you’re an English spy,’ he says politely. ‘We’ll
examine you a little bit, and then we’ll have you shot. Good-day,’
he says. Then they drug me into a little room in the town hall
and kep’ me there. But next day come a man who spoke You-nited
States; he’d been in Birmingham, Alabama--funny, ain’t it, how they
travel?--and he found out I wasn’t no spy.

“Then I went to Paris----”

“You went to Paris from inside the German lines?”

Mr. Solslog smiled his slow, child-like smile. “Yes, suh. It wasn’t
hard a-tall. I was captured by the French. You see, suh, it ain’t
hard to travel about in the war so long as the fightin’ is goin’
on. Them French peesants was captured by the Germans, then captured
by the French, then captured by the Germans again, then captured
by their own people again. It’s when the armies sits down and quits
fightin’ on their feet that you cain’t git around. I could a-gone
from Berlin right to Paris through all the fightin’ durin’ the
first month of the war, before the battle of the Marne.

“Funny thing about that battle. I was all through it, and I never
knowed till afterward in Paris that it was the battle of the Marne.

“Then I got to Paris. Paris was awful, half dead, Zeppelins
comin’ over most every night, government in Bordoo. I got to the

“Mr. Solslog,” I interrupted, “how on earth did you get about
knowing not a word of French?”

“Oh, I made mistakes, in course. But an American can do anything,
suh; can git anywhere he has a mind to, I mean. They was always
some one who could say a few words of my language--English Tommies,
American reporters--they was everywhere I went.”

“But money?”

“I had a hundred and forty francs when I got to Paris. I paid for
everything,” he said proudly, “and they never cheated me so’s
I could notice it. They’re great people, the Frenchies. Once I
worked for ’em two weeks in one of their field hospitals, just
because I liked ’em. ‘_Muhsoor luh_ American,’ they called me.
‘_Muhsoor_’--that’s French for ‘Mistah’ and my sis----But I told
you that beefore.

“I got a pass from the Embassy----”

“How did you do that?”

“I told ’em about my sistah. They hadn’t had word about her, so
I got the pass. Then I got a pass from General Caselnow and went
to the front.” His tired eyes gleamed restlessly as he went on.
“You-all here cain’t imagine it, I reckon, how dirty it is and how
it stinks. War is mostly bad smells. The men cain’t wash, they’re
covered with live things, flies is awful, rotten horses and rotten
men have to lie about, sometimes for weeks, till people can bury
’em. Soldiers marching through a town you can smell for blocks

“I got arrested, in course, but the Frenchies is always kind. It’s
the English is hard. They locked me up in Calais; wouldn’t listen
to me. I told ’em about my sistah, but they only laughed. They let
me write to the Embassy, though, and Mr. Herrick made ’em release
me. That was in November, I think, and I hadn’t had word of my

“Then I went to London on an empty horse transport. They knew I
was stowed away on it, all right, and it was ’gainst orders, so
they chased me--tried to find me all night. The transport was awful
dirty after all them horses had been in it, but I had to git to
London to see if they had got word of my sistah. I slid down a
ventilator and lit in a horse stall. It half killed me: knocked me
plum out and sprained my back so’s I couldn’t run no more. They
come a-snoopin’ round with lanterns, right up into the stall, till
the light fell plum on my face. I didn’t hardly breathe, but my
hurt back seemed broken right through, so I says, ‘Here I am.’ An’
they found me.

“They talk a queer kind of language, the English do: it’s a little
like ours, and they’re more like us Americans than the Frenchies,
or the Dutchmen, or the Germans. They helped me up, cussed me out a
lot; but they got hot water and bathed my back, and one of ’em, a
dirty hostler from Chelsea, he bedded me down for the rest of the
night and give me tobacco. So I got along all right. They smuggled
me off.

“Mr. Page’s secretary in London told me they hadn’t heard of my
sistah, and he sent me to see Hoover’s committee--the committee to
send Americans home, preehaps you know. It was about closed up, but
I didn’t want to go home, not without my sistah, and they hadn’t
any word of her, so I went back to the Embassy. They was a man
there. I misrecollect his name now, he was very good to me. He told
me to go home. I says I wouldn’t--without my sistah I wouldn’t,
so he helped me to git over to Holland. Oh, I forgot to tell you,
suh, I was sick in London; had some kind of fever and stayed in
the hospital two months. It hurts me still here,” he pointed
solemnly at his forehead. “I had awful dreams: dreamed that the
Germans had caught my sistah--they had her in a little house, and
she was screamin’.” His eyes lighted dreadfully. “You-all cain’t
understand it, preehaps, but I hear her screamin’ ’most every night
and sometimes in the daytime if I ain’t feeling very well. Listen!
Listen, suh! I’m huntin’ for my sistah, and you-all must help me!
You-all’s got to help me, or I’ll--I’ll--I’ll go crazy--I’ll kill

The soft Southern drawl mounted to a shriek, and my visitor had
me by the throat. I fought him off desperately. His sickness had
weakened him, or else he would have throttled me. Suddenly his
hands relaxed, his eyes lost their light, and he spoke again in the
slow, gentle voice he had first used:

“You-all must pardon me, suh. I--I’m right ashamed of myself. I’ve
spoiled your tie.” He deftly rearranged the crumpled folds before
I could interfere. “I--I reckon I’m not quite reesponsible when I
think of--of things that might have happened. It’s seven months,
suh, and I ain’t had word of my sistah.” He drew out a tattered
paper, stamped with many stamps, sealed with many seals, and showed
me a line in German script.

“To look for his sister, reported to be in Maubeuge at the
beginning of the war.”

“I cain’t read what the German says,” he observed quietly.

“To go to Antwerp, Brussels, Mons, Charleroi, Maubeuge, Dinant,
Namur, Liége,” I translated aloud, “to look for his sister.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Months later Mr. Solslog came again. “There is a gentleman in the
reception room waiting for monsieur: an American gentleman----”
Leon shrugged his shoulders expressively, spread out his palms,
and went on in a rapid whisper: “He asked for monsieur. Nothing
else could I understand. He has waited for monsieur four hours, and
he talks, talks to himself always!”

From the hall I heard a steady gentle voice talking, talking,
talking. “Mr. Solslog,” I hailed him. The voice stopped. He must
have stepped swiftly from the thick carpet to the tiled floor of
the hall, for he came like a man running.

“You-all here, suh,” he asked, without an interrogative lift to
the question. “Let me--let me hold on to your hand for a minute.
I--I’m right glad to see you. They’ve just--I’ve just got out.” He
gathered his voice and breath for a tremendous effort. His next
sentence came like a blast of prophecy. “Oh, may God damn the
Germans!” he screamed.

“Leon,” I shouted, “bring brandy, quick!”

“Oh, no, suh; not for me. I don’t use it.” Mr. Solslog gently
released my hands and walked beside me into the reception room.
His face was whiter than before, the lines in it deeper, and the
pathetic, patient eyes stranger than when I had seen him last; but
the fever fit of passion passed and left him calm as usual.

“I haven’t found my sistah--it isn’t that,” he explained in his
slow, drawling voice. “I’ve jist got out of prison here in Antwerp,
suh. I told the German officer if I ever see him again I’ll kill
him. I’m going to kill him if I ever see him again. I’m going

“Yes, yes,” I said soothingly. The monotonous recitative I had
heard on first entering the house had begun.

“I told him I’d kill him, I’d kill him, suh, kill him, I’d kill

“But your sister?”

“Oh, yes.” He gathered himself together. “I went to Brussels
and Charleyroy--I say I’ll kill him--and Maw-booge. She ain’t
there--at none of those places. I dream about her all the time, I
see her and hear her. Preehaps you don’t altogether understand me.
Suh--they’re chokin’ her--and--and mistreatin’ her, the Germans
are, suh; and she’s callin’ to me--screamin’ and callin’--I told
him I’d kill him! Then I come back to Malines. I got a paper from
the burgomaster to go out and see ’em diggin’ up the dead Belgian
soldiers and buryin’ ’em in new cemeteries.” Some wild, morbid
impulse must have led him to do this thing. “And the Germans
caught me, suh. They said my passport was expired. I cain’t read
German, suh, so how was I to know? They drug me up here to Antwerp,
and a German officer--I told him I’d kill him--and in the police
place, he said I was an English spy. They stripped me, suh. They
searched my skin. They took photygraphs of my clothes and looked
at my collar against a light. They even went over my money with a
microscope and looked under my hair to see if anything was tattooed
on to me. I told that officer I’d kill him!

“‘Where is your baggage?’ he says.

“‘I haven’t got any.’

“‘You damned spy’--I told him I’d kill him--‘you dirty spy,’ he

“‘I’m just as clean as you are,’ I told him. ‘I buy a shirt when I
need it. I reckon I’m as clean as you, and I’ll kill you!’

“He jumped at me and beat me with his fists. ‘I’ll kill you! Some
day I’ll kill you,’ I says. They wouldn’t let me sleep; hectored me
for two nights, but ‘I’ll kill you,’ I says to him. ‘I’ll----’”

He rose to his feet and faced me, then his knees sagged, and
slowly, very slowly, he fell over in a dead faint.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is little to add to this strange tale. The wilder wanderings
of a sick mind followed the wild wanderings of his broken body.
He was lodged in a private house where he had good care, but his
case was hopeless from the start. About a month before his death I
received a note written in his own hand. It read:

“They says I am vury sick but I doo not beleeve them in a few days
moor I am gooen back to Mawbooj. I beleeve my sister is there still

                                              Yurs truly

                                                   MR. SOLSLOG.”

His sister was never found.



The poet finished his recitation and resumed his cigarette, waiting
for our applause.

“It is a man absolutely extraordinary,” murmured the dancing-master
across the table at my left, under cover of the hand-clapping. “He
is the greatest poet of Belgium, monsieur. Verhaeren, Cammaerts,
Maeterlinck--they are nothing. If you bring him an album--presto!
he writes you an ode in it.”

In the tight little supper-room over the Café de la Toison d’Or
we were sweltering and dining at the expense of McTeague. It was
a night in August, and the heat of noon had not yet died out of
the boulevards and streets of Brussels, _ville basse_. The cheap
cotton curtains at the two windows fronting on the avenue waved
languidly to and fro, and the air of the room reeked with cigarette
smoke and the odours of Belgian cooking.

McTeague sat at the table’s head--a huge, lonely, unsophisticated
American, with a mop of gray hair topping a face like a child’s,
tired eyes, slightly Roman nose, and what once was a rose-bud
mouth. At his right was Yvette, the dancer of the Scala; pretty, of
course, the big, muscular, operatic-soprano type of beauty rather
than the petite beings we usually think of in the dance; sleek,
serpentine, appraising the world about her. Next her was I; then
Yvette’s husband, the poet; then Guilbert, her dancing-master.

“Thanks! thanks! I thank you infinitely, monsieur. Bravo! _Bis_,
_bis_!” said McTeague, in his heavy Scotian French.

“No, no, monsieur,” the poet answered gloomily, shaking his head.
“I demand pardon, but no.”

“Ah, it is the war, then! You feel such a sadness that you cannot
be gay, monsieur?”

“No, it is not the war. What is the war? It is of nations. For me
nations are nothing: men, men--Pushkin, Byron, Whitman, Schiller,
Napoleon, Goethe, Victor Hugo--those for me are worth while. The
rest? Pah!”

“Oh, la, la, la, la!”

“Do not mind, monsieur,” the dancing-master whispered ecstatically,
as if he feared such sentiments might offend me, “it is a poet,
_n’est-ce pas_? Art--art--that is a world of itself.” He mopped
his forehead, beaded with drops of perspiration, his little black
eyes rolled in his head, and he drummed on the tablecloth as if his
fingertips would do the office of his toes. The man was a genuine
enthusiast. To dance and to teach others to dance--that was life!

“Yvette, you have brought your ballet costume so you can dance for
messieurs the Americans?” he asked.

“Yes, my old Guilbert,” she answered languidly.

“Come, then.”

We drained our coffee cups reluctantly, rose from the table, and
stirred out into the hot passageway, Yvette and McTeague ahead,
old Guilbert following with me, the poet trailing behind. Through
little winding streets, dusky, sleepy, and sweltering we passed,
and at length out beside the Maison du Roi and the golden Flemish
splendours of the corporation halls and the Hôtel de Ville on the
Grand’ Place. We wound through the lines of German sentries and up
the steps of a new restaurant--the Café du Cid--up dirty, twisting
stairs behind the bar rail, to the dancing-hall where Guilbert

“Now,” he exclaimed in rapture, turning on his toes with a movement
of astonishing grace for one so old and fat. “Monsieur le poète to
the piano! Madame Yvette to the dressing-room, quick! _Messieurs
les Américains_, seat yourselves, if you please! Quick! Quick!
Quick! Everybody!

“Messieurs!” He flung up his fingers and addressed us as we sank
languidly into chairs before the open windows. “It is a dance
which I have myself composed--the dance of the ourang-outang. I am
he--the great man-ape. I dance so.... Music!” he called to the poet
at the piano. “Music! Moussorgsky--slow--terrible--so!”

The poet smote the ivory keys, keys yellow as the teeth of an old
horse, and the dance began _solo_. Old Guilbert swayed and leaped
over the dusty floor under the hanging lamps--swayed and leaped
heavily, horribly, bestially, while the wild music of the piano
panted and coughed through the room. The hot night air doubtless
added to the grim effect on McTeague and me. I seemed to breathe
the very exhalations of a jungle, and watched as if fascinated the
contortions of the dancing-master.

As he danced he roared explanations and orders. “It is a forest,
messieurs, and I, the ourang-outang, I dance in the moonlight under
the trees, so, and so, and so; and as I dance I long for something
to love, something to destroy. I am seeking here, there, as I
dance.... Ah! I have found her--there, there!”

He made an extraordinary succession of leaps toward Madame Yvette’s
dressing-room, and suddenly she floated out before us, her heavy
body spinning on her toes, light as a cloud and almost as swift;
her eyes half closed, her hands at her breast, a Liberty cap on her
head; and at the end of her turn she sank quietly into a heap in
the middle of the floor.

Guilbert’s horrid dance began again, and the rapid flow of his
explanation: “She is asleep, messieurs, this fay in the forest.”
He paused ecstatically before her. “I have found her, I love her,
I will have her, I shall win her by my dancing.” He touched her on
the breast. She leaped to her feet and spun across the floor like
a whirlwind, terror and amazement and grace and voluptuousness
all portrayed in her movements. The ape leaped after her, dancing
round and round her, enmeshing her like a firefly in a cage of
grass. Her eyes grew wider with terror, she danced this way and
that, trying to escape him; he seized her, and she flew to right
and left, still fast in his clutches; she leaped straight up, and
he caught her firmly in his arms and yelled, actually yelled, with

And then--it seems utterly impossible even as I tell it--into the
music came a wild, unholy burst of “The Watch on the Rhine.” The
two figures on the floor leaped and curveted. A hoarse cheer rose
to us from outside, and below the windows I saw three ecstatic
German soldiers swaying and bellowing applause.... The ape held the
forest-fay securely as they danced.... It must have been the music
which first warned me of change, for into the German hymn stole a
wilder motif--the great chords of an alien theme intruded, fought,
conquered, and swept over the fragments of the old, and like a wild
mob of music bursting from prisons of silence poured forth the
“Marseillaise.” The dance was symbolic, then: Germany and Europe!
The conquest of the world!... The knit figures still swayed and
leaped, but the ape was weakening. The taller figure of the woman
slowly dominated and then submerged the male. With a sudden thrust
she flung him prone, but the music went on. There came a howl at
our backs, and I saw the soldiers in the square below waving their
rifles and dancing with anger.

McTeague stared as if he were just recovering from a trance,
shook himself clumsily, and muttered through the “Marseillaise”:
“Strange, isn’t it, how artistic these Belgians are? Now if you and
I were arranging a dance----”

The loud howls of the Germans beneath us interrupted McTeague’s
moralizings. Swift feet were upon the stair, the proprietor of the
café and his wife burst in upon us, weeping, gesticulating, talking
all at once. Guilbert lay quietly in the middle of the floor, still
acting his part; the poet at the piano pounded lustily. Yvette,
more practical than they, ran to a window at the back of the hall
and looked out, then ran back to us and grasped us. “Come quickly,”
she exclaimed. “We can escape before the Germans come.”

“But your husband, and Guilbert?” I asked.

“Drag them behind us, then,” she replied, shrugging her naked
shoulders. “Come at once. The Germans are on the stair!”

Directly beneath our feet we heard a tumult of rough voices, a
clatter of dishes and pans, and then tramping boots coming up the
winding stair. Panic seized on McTeague and me simultaneously.
We leaped at the performers and hustled them across the floor
behind the twinkling feet of the dancing-girl. Before we reached
the window she had already scrambled through it and dropped to a
roof five or six feet below. We leaped after her and ran across
a space sloping like a deck. Guilbert and the poet had not yet
spoken a word. I had begun to laugh--a wild, hysterical laugh
which irritated McTeague, so that while we ran he remonstrated
with me: “Germans--’ll hear--come after us,” he panted. “What--’s

Yvette stopped abruptly before a whitewashed wall and gazed up at
an open window three feet above the level of her head.

“Lift me up, messieurs,” she whispered, catching her breath.

“Why?” I demanded.

“Quick! We must escape this way.”

“_Jamais de la vie!_” I stuttered. “It’s right to escape, but I
won’t be caught breaking and entering somebody’s house.”

“But quick!”


“But I know this room,” she sobbed. “I have the right.”

“You have what?”

“The right to enter. _Mon Dieu! C’est la chambre de mon ami,

       *       *       *       *       *

Nothing is stranger than truth; nothing more grotesque, more
dramatic, more truly unreal. I can imagine how this revelation
would have been received on the stage in any of the five
continents: the gestures of the outraged husband, the tableau of
the horrified perceptor, and the amazement of the guests. But
clinging to our precarious footing on the roof, we received it only
as a stroke of luck--a means of escape from our awful predicament.
We thanked Heaven for Yvette’s lover!

“Up with her!” I hissed at the poet. “Stoop down, man, and I’ll
lift her into the room.”

He leaned obediently against the bricks. I grasped the dancer
firmly by the sole of her soft dancing buskin and boosted her
against the wall, the poet clumsily bent lower still, and she
clambered over him to the window sill. Scraping, gasping,
struggling, she reached it, slipped her arms over the sill, and
rose. There was a flutter of stiff dancing skirt, her twinkling,
white-clad legs and feet slipped over the ledge and out of sight.
Then came a pause. McTeague and I stared at each other soberly.
“Hm!” he breathed deeply. “Hm! Hm!”

Her head, with the Liberty Cap ridiculously awry, peeped over the
window ledge. “It’s all right. He isn’t here. I’ll help you in,
messieurs,” Yvette said calmly, and in two minutes more we stood
beside her in the unlighted bedroom of her _ami_.

“Follow,” she said. “If you please. Here is my hand.”

In single file we tiptoed across the room and reached the door. I
heard the knob turn softly; a rush of hot air streamed over our
perspiring faces, we pattered out to a landing from which descended
another flight of stairs, and stood breathlessly listening. The
night seemed to pant with the heat, the dull heavy noises of life
spoke behind closed doors, and far away I heard the tramp of a
squad of soldiers off to relieve the guard.

“Come,” said Yvette softly. “It would not do for my friend to find
us here, _n’est-ce pas_? One of you, messieurs, he might mistake
for a rival!” I am afraid I laughed as she said this; for McTeague,
who usually treated me with great respect, laid his hot moist
hand on my mouth. “Hush!” he said. “You mustn’t laugh at her. You
mustn’t approve. These people don’t look at these things as we do.
They’re unmor----”

A door slammed in the darkness below us, and the scrape of heavy
boots echoed from the stair-well! “_Mon Dieu!_” Yvette whispered.
“It is he! It must be he! Here!” She leaped back into the gloom,
hustling us with her, and crouched in the farthest corner of the
hall. McTeague was first in the line; then I; then the poet; then
Guilbert; then Yvette. The heavy tread of the newcomer sounded
louder and louder, but no louder than the anguished beating of our
hearts. He reached the top of the stair. An odour of lambic or faro
scented the fetid air. We could see in the darkness an immense
bulk, and Yvette trembled. It was her that he must have heard, for
even while his hand was on the knob, he turned.

“Hello, old fellow,” he called jocularly. “What have you got there?
Let me see?”

In the vague semi-darkness I saw McTeague scramble slowly to his
feet. I thought he would surrender at discretion, but the sound
of his voice disillusioned and astonished me. “Go into that room,
you villain,” he roared, advancing on the friendly inebriate and
bawling fit to wake the dead. “Go in! Go in!”

His voice or his impressive advance frightened Yvette’s friend. The
door banged open; there was a short pause; then it slammed shut and
I could hear a panting, frightened human mass flung hard against it
to keep out the intruder.

“Go away, you dirty Germans!” bawled a muffled voice. “_Sales

McTeague gripped the handle of the door and tried to turn it, but
Yvette--more wise than he--clutched him about the waist and flung
him with all her force toward the stair. “Hurry, hurry, we must
run!” she sobbed. “Hurry, hurry!” And we charged down the dark

At the door we peered cautiously out. No one had been aroused.
The hot night breathed about us as softly as a sleeping child,
ignorant, indifferent, and calm. Tragedy, comedy, farce--we had
played them all unwittingly, and no one knew or cared but we!

An old herdick hitched to a decrepit horse stood in the shadow of
the street corner! We thrust Yvette, Guilbert, and the poet into
its shelter and waved them good-night. “_Au revoir, messieurs!_”
the three called to us gaily.

“Adieu!” McTeague responded. “It is not au revoir: it is
good-bye!” Then he added, _sotto voce_, to me, “They are true
artists--unmoral--like marionettes--just figures of the dance,
aren’t they?... Come!” he said, after a pause. “They have forgotten
it already, but we must go back to the Café du Cid and get the
proprietor out of this scrape. Right?”

“Right,” I responded. And we slowly followed the creaking herdick
down the narrow street.



Rain fell softly, as it frequently falls in Belgium, drenching
the ripening fields of Brabant and the ghosts of ruined towns. By
six o’clock in the evening we had reached Louvain. My motor-car
rolled through the porte de Bruxelles and down the narrow, slippery
Flemish streets into the heart of the city. From a sentry box
marked with barber-pole stripes in the German colours--black,
white, red; black, white, red again--a bearded Landsturm man
leaped out, wearing a helmet like a Yohoghany miner’s cap, a faded
gray-green service uniform, and high, mud-coloured boots. The car
skidded past him over the moist cobblestones. “Halt!” he shouted,
waving his rifle; but I flaunted my celluloid-covered pass-case at
him and yelled in tourist German, “Amerikanische Hilfskomite,” and
he nodded and crawled back into his shelter.

It was the first anniversary of the destruction of Louvain.

Before the majestic Hôtel de Ville--its six slender open towers
riding high like a stranded ship in a waste of ruins--sole relic of
the old glories of Louvain’s Grand’ Place, Pierre stopped the car
and looked back at me inquiringly.

“I shall spend the night at Mont César, Pierre.”

“Good, monsieur.”

“Go to the Kommandantur and ask the commandant for a garage for the
Relief Commission’s car.”


“I shall walk to the monastery,” I added in response to his
unspoken question. “You may go now.”

“Pardon, but is monsieur to assist at the ceremony in memory of the
saviour of Mont César?”

“What saviour, Pierre?”

“Monsieur has not heard--the German officer who saved the
monastery: the Prussian who would not burn the monastery, although
he was so ordered. Monsieur has not heard?”

“Nonsense, Pierre,” I laughed. “What foolishness is this?”

“_Si, si, si, monsieur!_ It is true,” he insisted vehemently,
“every word. I swear it. He would not burn the monastery, that
German; and so to-night and for one hundred years the monks sing
and march in procession for him.”

“Go find a garage!” I ordered in disgust. The idea of Belgian
monks holding service for a German was absurd. Chauffeur tales, I
had found, while often interesting, were not always true. “Pierre
must think me a fool indeed to tell me such a stupid falsehood,” I
thought, as I went grumblingly up the street.

Dusk and the gray rain fell together, covering the gray city with
an impenetrable shroud. Ghostly walls and empty balconies, bricks,
ashes, gaunt wooden fences to hide the worst of the ruins; a stray
dog which snapped as he ran past; women with black shawls over
their bent heads hurrying along the street; a file of stodgy German
Landsturm plodding through the rain--these things I saw as I walked
through the city where Lipsius had taught, the city which had
been the home of learning and art and the seat of Catholic piety
for more than five centuries, the city whose ruin is one of many
eternal blots on the ’scutcheon of Germany.

I climbed up past the tall stately hill called Mont César--a height
on which local legend says Cæsar built a camp and a fortress--where
the dour, unbeautiful monastery of Mont César broods over the
wrecked city.

The _pater hospitalis_, Jan Heynderyckx, greeted me with grave
pleasure. He was not old, yet the beard which just touched the
breast of his Benedictine habit was almost white, his eyes were
gray and tired, and his skin, in the fluttering candlelight, was
like the vellum of mediæval manuscripts. I had an odd fancy that
his face was a perfect transcript of his life, limned by the hands
of life and death, fear, ecstasy, hope, ambition, love, and hate.
He bowed me into a small reception room at the right of the arched
door and went for sherry and tobacco. Far away, from the chapel,
came the faint thunder of bass voices chanting a service. It echoed
and re-echoed through the hollow halls, roaring and subsiding like
distant waves. The monks were singing litanies for the murdered

The room where I sat was curious; little larger than a closet. On
the four walls hung old oil paintings of fathers-superior of the
Benedictine order: Dom Pothier, Dom Schmitt, Dom Egbert--sombre,
saintly men whose bones long since were dust. But over the wooden
mantel opposite me hung a framed photograph. It amused and
fascinated me--that one touch of modernity in the bleak monastic
hall--and I stared at it dreamily.

“Ah, the photograph, monsieur?” The monk had entered quietly and
stood beside me. He, too, gazed at the picture, while his hands
poured the wine and set forth Turkish cigarettes. “To your good
health, monsieur le Délégué. The photograph?” He took a huge pinch
of snuff, flourished his handkerchief, and breathed noisily. “You
may look at it if you wish.”

“A thousand thanks, brother,” I answered indifferently, rising and
going toward the little frame. The monk followed me, catching up a
flickering candle and holding it close to the glass for me to see
the better.

“My God!” I almost shouted the words in my astonishment. “It is
a German officer!” The picture before us was a cheap cabinet
photograph of a lieutenant of infantry, evidently a Prussian, his
crop head showing beneath his cap, his steady, narrow eyes gazing
straight into ours! His right cheek was slashed with _Schmizzes_
of student duels; his hard mouth was half covered with bristling
moustaches, and the white and black ribbon of the Iron Cross,
second class, peeped from his buttonhole. “Mahn, _Ober-Leutnant_,”
I read, written across the lower half of the photograph with a
military flourish, and under it in fine Flemish script in another
hand, “The saviour of Mont César, Louvain, August, 1914.”

“Monsieur is puzzled?”

“Puzzled? I am thunder-struck! Is this Belgium, or is it Germany,

Father Jan gazed at me sorrowfully. “You do not yet understand.
This is still Belgium, and God will punish the guilty. Listen,
monsieur, you understand Latin?” He pointed down the corridors
where the bass voices were chanting again in unison. “You hear what
they are singing?”

“No,” I said.

“Listen, monsieur le Délégué,
_Primo_--_anno_--_magni_--_belli_--in the first year of the Great
War--_sub_--_bono_--_rege_--_Alberto_--in the reign of good King
Albert--_praefectus Mahnius_--_monasterium_--_montis Caesarii_--_ab
exitio_--_servavit_--_laus Deo_!--Officer Mahn saved from
destruction the monastery of Mont César.”

“We had fled to Malines, monsieur, we monks of Mont César, and two
days after Louvain had been put to the torch Dom Egbert ordered
me to return to the monastery and care for it. Such lamentations,
monsieur! My brothers and I knew I was going to my death, and my
blood froze even to think of what the Germans might do to me; but
I went, monsieur, I went guided by God, doubtless, through the
hordes of refugees along the roads, and the Belgian outposts, and
the Germans, and so at dusk I reached the porte de Malines and saw
our sacred monastery still unharmed by the fires, untouched by the

“Louvain flared like a furnace. From kilometres away I saw it
like a red blot on the sky, and the stench of its burning spread
thoughts so mournful that one entered veritably as if into the
house of death.

“Monsieur le Délégué, there was no sound here at our monastery, so
I knocked, and then suddenly some one had me by the throat with
harsh hands and a voice grunted in German, ‘So, spy! I have thee?’

“I was as one dead, monsieur, and fell flat on the stone; but that
one said, ‘Up, spy. Ha! Ha! In priest’s costume, art thou, eh?
We shall have sport with thee--a spy-priest!’ For he had felt of
my cassock in the darkness and he believed, as all the Germans
believe, that Belgian officers wore the garb of priests, that they
spied disguised as priests, that they even directed rifle-fire and
artillery-fire gowned as priests--in a word, they believed every
lie which their generals could invent of us. And so my captor
dragged me through the doorway and down the black corridor, where
all smelled of naphtha as if one were ready to kindle a great fire.

“He stopped; he beat softly on a door; a voice called ‘_Herein_’:
the door opened, and I was flung into the very cell where we sit,

“There sat a man at the table where you sit, monsieur le
Délégué--the man whose photograph you see--a man young, and hard,
and cruel, in the costume of a German officer. He sat alone before
his untasted supper dishes. At either end of the table a candle
dripped and sputtered. The man’s elbows were propped against the
edge of the table, and his head hung forward between the candles,
as if he were ill or broken with anxiety.

“He had been reading, monsieur, and he thrust a paper into the
breast of his uniform as we entered--the sentry and I. His hand
trembled, and his voice trembled, too, but he roared out, ‘Speak,
one of you.’

“‘A spy, _Herr Leutnant_,’ grunted the soldier behind me. ‘He was
prowling round the door.’


“‘He says he is a monk of this monastery.’


“‘He says he ran away before we burned Louvain.’


“‘He is a damned spy--a damned _franc-tireur_. Else why did he
come back?’

“I was speechless, monsieur. My throat ached horribly, for I was
half throttled; my senses ebbed and flowed like water; I could say

“‘You understand German, spy?’ the Lieutenant spat at me. ‘You
understand German bullets, _nicht_? You understand Leffe, Latour,
Gelrode, Bovenloo?’ He named over some of the towns where our
brother-priests had been done to death.

“I spoke. I said, ‘I am Brother Jan, of this monastery.’

“‘You are a spy!’

“‘I am no spy! I am Brother Jan of Mont César!’

“His eyes seemed to probe me in the candlelight. ‘Come here!’ he

“I advanced a step.


“I stood directly opposite.

“‘You see this revolver?’ He slipped a metal thing from its holster
and placed it beside his plate. ‘I will shoot you if you move so
much as a millimetre! Now we shall see who you are.’ He stared past
me at the sentry. ‘Fetch the caretaker!’ he ordered.

“Then, monsieur, when we were alone together, the German became
strangely quiet. He became as one who is puzzled and who wishes to
believe something which he scarcely dares believe. ‘Who are you?’
he asked, almost gently.

“‘I am a Benedictine--Brother Jan Heynderyckx.’

“‘You are of this monastery?’

“‘I am of this monastery.’

“‘You know the monastery?’

“‘As I know my hand.’

“‘Why are you here?’

“‘My father-superior ordered me back from Malines to stay in the
monastery--to care for it.’

“The German leaned forward. He took up the revolver and tapped it
against the nearer candlestick. ‘If you lie, you die,’ he said
roughly, yet it seemed to me, monsieur, as if he wished to believe
me, as if he desired something of me, as if a new thought had
risen in his mind, or a new and better impulse in his soul, and as
if he had resolved on a higher course. I have been a parish priest,
monsieur; I needs must know the human heart.

“The door opened and the sentry entered, pushing before him old
Piet, the man-of-all-work in the monastery cellars--old Piet whom
we had forgotten and left behind when we fled to Malines. He was
trembling like an aspen leaf and he bent almost to the floor.

“‘Stick him with the bayonet if he doesn’t stand up,’ the
Lieutenant roared. ‘Do you know this person?’ He pointed at me.

“Piet did not look up.

“‘Speak out!’ thundered the officer. ‘Do you know him?’

“‘I cannot understand.’

“‘_Hein? hein?_ You know him?’

“Piet stole a glance at me. ‘Nay,’ he whispered.

“The Lieutenant rose from his chair. His face became the face of
a madman. He whipped the revolver from the table and pointed it
wildly. His hand shook, his eyes rolled, so that even the sentry
was terrified and tried to hide behind old Piet and me. ‘_Bitte!
Bitte!_’ he ejaculated, ‘_Bitte, Herr Leutnant!_’ But suddenly my
courage came, and I spoke swiftly in the familiar Flemish.

“‘Don’t you know me, Piet?’ I asked. ‘I am Brother Jan. Surely you
know me!’

“‘You, mynheer Jan, you? Of course, of course I know you. I was
afraid,’ the old man babbled. ‘I was afraid of him--the mad devil
in the chair. He is going to burn the monastery. He has put naphtha
in all the rooms. He is going to burn Mont César!’

“The Lieutenant smiled like one who is pleased, and slid down again
into his chair. ‘What does he say?’ he asked.

“‘That you are going to burn Mont César.’

“‘Good, good! You are an honest man, Herr monk. I asked you to
see if you would lie to me. I understand Flemish. Take the old man
away,’ he ordered, turning again to the sentry, ‘then come here.’

“Then, monsieur, there happened the strangest thing of all. The
door closed. We stared into each other’s faces, we were like
gamblers with all at stake, haggard, eager, watchful--a priest
against a soldier.

“The German leaned forward. ‘Herr monk,’ he said in a voice which
was like a whisper, ‘I am not going to burn your monastery. You see
before you the saviour of Mont César!’

“Monsieur, for one breathless moment I stood like a stone. I could
not believe my ears. The man had gone mad, or else I was myself mad.

“‘You see before you the saviour of Mont César,’ he repeated softly.

“I screamed at him. I thought a thousand horrible things in
a moment, men pierced on stakes, boiled in oil, crucified. I
screamed, ‘Kill me! Kill me quickly, but do not murder me with
words. I will not talk with a madman!’

“‘Herr monk,’ he answered, ‘I am not mad. See!’ He thrust his hand
into the bosom of his uniform and pulled out a crumpled paper,
‘See! Here is von Manteuffel’s order; it is dated August 26th. It
directs me to burn Mont César. The paper shall be yours, and the
monastery is saved!’

“‘You lie!’ I screamed again. ‘What is this new trick of a scrap of

“‘It is von Manteuffel’s order for me to burn Mont César.’

“‘Ha!’ I laughed at him. ‘A German is ordered to burn a monastery
and he disobeys! That is indeed droll! A German who has murdered
scores in Belgium, who has burned and pillaged and outraged, now
saves a monastery! Ha, ha! That is likely, is it not?’

“‘I have saved Mont César,’ he repeated steadily. ‘Here is the
order.’ He thrust the crumpled paper into my hand.

“I stared at it. Monsieur, though the thing is incredible, it is
true. The paper was an order from Major von Manteuffel directing
Ober-Leutnant Mahn to burn Mont César! The thing was not a forgery.
It is incredible, but it is true. I held in my hand the thing which
could destroy Mont César!

“‘Give it to me,’ he said. I gave it. ‘It shall be yours, if----’


“‘If you do not forget him who saved Mont César.’

“‘Ha!’ I laughed at him again. ‘You disobey an order--you who are
a lieutenant of infantry--but does that save Mont César? Yours is
a relentless, cruel race. You have saved our monastery for a day,
maybe: von Manteuffel will burn it to-morrow!’

“This, monsieur, I said because I doubted God’s providence, because
I feared men more than God!

“‘Manteuffel will not burn it to-morrow or ever, Herr monk,’ he
replied. ‘I have learned that Berlin is angry at the scandal of
Louvain, and has forbidden more burnings. Two days have gone by.
Your monastery is saved. I have saved Mont César.’

“A third time the sentry entered, and a third time the officer’s
face grew stern and his voice rose angrily: ‘Take this monk through
the monastery; then bring him here. Be quick. There is no time
to lose,’ he said. And I followed the sentry out into the black

“He secured a lantern and I followed him down the long halls. In
each monastery cell, in the refectory, in the kitchen, in the
library, everything had been piled in a heap, soaked in naphtha,
and prepared for burning. Everything was ready, monsieur, and had
been ready for two days. This lieutenant alone had defeated the
machinations of that man-devil--that Manteuffel who commanded in
Louvain. Why? I do not know, except that it was the will of God
that Mont César should be preserved, and the good God, monsieur,
uses even the vilest of men to work His will. The Good God uses
even Germans----

“Again I stood in the little cell before the saviour of Mont César.
‘_Herr Offizier_,’ I said, ‘Give me the order, and by the good God
whose instrument you are----’

“‘This is not God’s work: it is the devil’s!’ he exclaimed bitterly.

“‘What is the devil’s work--that you have saved the monastery? No.
That is of God.’

“‘God or the devil, I am disgraced.’

“‘By God’s will you are saved.’


“‘God will not forget.’

“‘God has forgotten already. I shall be shot for this. I have
disobeyed orders.’

“Monsieur, it was the mood of the confessional, was it not? And
this man was indeed an instrument of God. Do you blame me that I
heard his confession, and that I gave him comfort--he, an alien,
an enemy, a Prussian, who had saved Mont César and did not know
why he had saved it, except that God had led him? He knew that von
Manteuffel had learned of his disobedience; he knew that death
and disgrace were before him; yet knowing these things he had
persisted, and Mont César was saved.

“Monsieur, God’s will is strange, and the seed that God plants
bears strange fruit. All men long for immortality; all men long
for something which will bear their name to posterity, and he who
had saved Mont César--do you blame him if he longed to be held in
remembrance by the monks of our monastery? I promised to place
his photograph here where you see it. I promised to write on it
‘The Saviour of Mont César’--as you see. I swore by the cross I
wear that all this should be done, and yet--it was God’s will,
monsieur--the German was not satisfied. I could see that his mind
was tormented still.

“‘Promise me one thing more, Herr monk,’ he begged.

“‘What is it?’ I asked.

“‘Promise me just one thing more.’

“‘Very well. I promise, my son,’ I said. You see, monsieur, I
called him ‘son,’ for he was a true son of the Church although a
Prussian, and he had obeyed the voice of the good God although he
was my enemy.

“‘Your processions on holy days, you monks sing in them?’

“‘We sing, my son.’

“‘Promise me that your monks will remember me.’

“‘I have promised you that.’

“‘Promise me that you will sing in your processions--that you will
sing of the saving of Mont César.’

“I promised him, monsieur.

“‘Promise that you will sing of me, of Lieutenant Mahn, who saved
your monastery; that you will sing of me for one hundred years!’

“‘Herr, I cannot promise that!’ I exclaimed.

“‘You have promised. Fulfil what you have promised.’

“‘I cannot.’

“His face became like the face of one dead. ‘You have promised,’ he
muttered. ‘Sing only that I saved your monastery; only that.’

“Place yourself in that situation, monsieur! Was it so great a
thing he asked? God made us to long for immortality; was it after
all so great a thing the German asked of me?

“Maybe you think he bargained with me, maybe to you it seems a
high price to pay even to him who had saved Mont César--the price
of a procession once a year for one hundred years and a chant of
remembrance. But no, monsieur, it was not excessive, that price.
It was God who demanded it--not he. It was God who willed that he
should save Mont César, that he should disobey, that he should be
led out in disgrace to die, and that his memory should be held
accurst by all but his enemies--by all save the monks of Mont
César. Was it, then, so great a thing he asked? I had vowed: I must
keep my vow. I bent my head in prayer, and in an instant I was
answered. Monsieur, I promised! I would grant that strange wish!

“‘Tell me, Herr monk, what will you sing?’ he begged. ‘Tell me in
Latin, just as you will sing it.’

“And I, slowly seeking for the words, began to speak those which
you have heard to-night in the halls of Mont César: ‘_Primo anno
magni belli, sub bono rege Alberto, praefectus Mahnius_----’

“‘That means Lieutenant Mahn?’ he asked with eagerness.

“‘Yes. _Praefectus Mahnius monasterium montis Caesarii ab exitio
servavit--laus Deo!_’

“‘Sing it for me,’ he entreated when I was done. And I slowly
chanted the words. ‘Teach it to me.’

“Slowly, very slowly I repeated the words again and again and
again; and ‘... _ab exitio servavit, laus Deo!_’ he recited after

“How shall I tell you the end, monsieur? There were loud footfalls
in the corridor and the door resounded to heavy blows!

“‘They have come for me, Herr monk,’ the officer whispered.
‘Good-bye. I am a dead man. _Primo anno magni belli_--those are the
words?... _Herein!_’ he called confidently.

“Then in they came--a non-commissioned officer and four privates
who filed through the doorway, saluted, and stood at attention.
‘I am named Sergeant Schneider--_Herr Leutnant_ Mahn?’ the leader

“‘Yes,’ responded the lieutenant quietly.

“‘My warrant,’ said the sergeant, offering a paper. ‘You are under
arrest. Come.’

“The lieutenant rose slowly from his chair. He thrust his pistol
into its holster. His eyes were bright and very calm. For an
instant I admired him although he was my enemy; he was so calm, so
sure. God was with him, I know. ‘_Ab exitio servavit, nicht_, Herr
monk?’ he asked.

“He picked up from the table the written order of von Manteuffel.
‘Your passport and _carte d’identite_,’ he continued slowly, as
if we had been speaking of them. ‘You may stay in charge of the
monastery with Piet. All is in order.... Your photograph, Herr.’ He
handed me his own photograph--the photograph you see on the wall,
monsieur. ‘Your _Ausweiss!_’ He gave me the written order from von
Manteuffel directing that the monastery be burned. Then he turned
quietly to the file of soldiers and walked out before them....

“It is not the face of a bad man, that face in the photograph,
monsieur,” said Brother Jan, as I stared again into the steady,
narrow eyes of the picture of Lieutenant Mahn. “God asks no
questions of men when He would use them. Our monastery is saved
through the hand of a stranger and an enemy. It is the work of God,
_laus Deo!_ Let us praise God, monsieur.”



Belgian peasants say that on the Eve of All Souls unquiet spirits
are loosed from their graves for an hour after sunset. Those who
died by violence, or those who died unshriven, rise from the dark
and speak to passersby; they rise with the load of their sins upon
them, with the hatred, or fear, or agony, or longing which they
felt while dying, still in their tortured hearts, and they beg the
passersby to take vengeance on their enemies, or to give them news
of those they loved or hated. And after a brief hour they sink back
again into the dust.

I believe the story, for I have met those sad spirits. It was on
a foggy evening in October--All Souls’ Eve--on the road from
Brussels to Antwerp, where Belgians and Britons a year before
faced the German hordes in weeks of bitter fighting. We were in a
terrible hurry. Pierre, the chauffeur, was driving the motor-car;
I was seated beside him. The headlights blurred like drowned eyes,
and the open windshield dripped with wet. If we met a belated cart,
or if we misjudged distances on that winding road, we would never
reach our destination alive! But we were in a hurry, for it was All
Souls’ Eve--the night of the dead.

Drowned trees writhed in the blurred light, culverts leaped out
of the yellow flood like fountains, and dead walls in the burned
and ravished villages seemed like rows of Roman tombs. We flew
through the murdered town of Eppeghem, down vacant alleys lined
with gaunt, disembowelled dwellings, beneath the shell of a church,
beside stark walls lit for a breathless instant by the headlight
of the motor then blotted into chaos. It was eerie and terrifying.
A peculiar odour of decay, the odour of sour soil in early spring
when the grip of the ice is relaxed and the buried abominations of
winter steal up into the sun, rose from the town and pursued us--a
smell like rotten fungi in old crypts. Sounds like the flapping of
garments on a clothesline stole through the steady bass roar of the
motor, and to my heavy eyes, tortured with staring into the yellow
blur ahead, a vague shape seemed to float beside the car, a shape
which was strangely human; erect, but rigid, flying along like a
dry leaf upright in a gale.

I could see it only with the tail of my eye. It disappeared
when I turned my head. It was clearest when I rolled my eyes
high and looked through the lower part of the retina--a sort
of second-sight, I suppose. The thing puzzled, angered, then
frightened me. “Faster! _Vite! Vite!_” I yelled, suddenly grasping
Pierre by the arm. The shadowy thing danced into the edges of the
blur of light directly ahead. “Look out, Pierre!” The emergency
brake came on with a grind and jolt, and the lights flared with
the pulse of the engine. “It’s nothing,” I protested, half ashamed
of myself, for evidently Pierre saw nothing. “_Encore plus vite._”

We seemed to have lost the shadow-thing, until suddenly I
discovered that there were others with it, swinging rigid through
the fog like trees uprooted in a cyclone. My eyes were smarting
with cold tears: it was like swimming with one’s eyes open in
a stiff current. And all the time I watched the shadow-shapes
gathering closer. Faintly luminous pale yellow blots seemed to grow
in the dingy black of the racing forms. They were phosphorescent,
as I think of them now. Something brushed my hair. A clicking sound
like castanets came from the empty tonneau behind me, and then a
whistling, like the speech of a man with no palate.

“_Sssss--Feld--Feld--Feldwebel war ich, aus
Bayern--sechs--sechsundzwanzigsten--infanterie Regiment_.”

I turned my head with an involuntary sob. There was absolutely
nothing in the car. Pierre put on brakes violently.

“Do you see anything?” I demanded.

“Nothing, monsieur.”

“Do you hear or smell anything?”

We listened and sniffed. “Nothing, monsieur,” Pierre said,
quivering and crossing himself. The noise of the motor died, and
we sat motionless in gruesome darkness listening to the hollow
dripping of fog-water on the fallen leaves in the roadway. We were
swallowed, lost in mist, with only a square yard of paved road
visible before us. “Go on, Pierre,” I said softly.

Then gradually I saw the ghosts more plainly. A woman, bent like an
old hinge, flung along beside the flying motor-car, and a naked,
frightened child ran fearfully before her. “Ask him, Grutje, ask
him about home!” a thin child-voice sobbed. A younger woman whose
head had been hacked from her shoulders floated along with them,
fondling the severed member and wailing, “_De Deutschers_--the
Germans!” A group of mangled bodies of Belgian artillerymen hung
like a swarm of bees together, mouthing curses as they flew, and a
gigantic peasant, with clotted beard and arms stretched rigid in
the form of a cross, stared with a face stabbed through and through
like honey-comb.

“_Feldwebel Stoner. König, Kaiser, Vaterland, sie leben hoch!_”
whispered a voice.

The swarming spirits grew till they darkened the mist. We flew
through the empty corridors of Malines, and on to Waelhem--first of
the Antwerp forts to fall--up the ridge to Waerloos and Contich,
toward Oude God and the inner forts. Still the swarms grew,
crowding closer and closer. The eyes of the dead peered like cats’
eyes in the yellow dark, and my soul chilled to ice. The odour of
dead clay was so strong I nearly fainted, and bony fingers seemed
to press against my back and shoulders as if heavy wires were
freezing into the flesh. “Light the dash-light, for God’s sake,
Pierre!” I cried, hoping the new electric blur would banish the
phantoms, but their sulphurous eyes glowed only the more in its
feeble ray.

And the hissing, clicking, and rattling grew. “_Feldwebel Stoner,
aus Bayern, tot, Eppeghem, September dreizehn ... König, Kaiser,
und Vaterland--hoch!_” a voice shrilled; “_De Deutschers! de
Deutschers!_” sobbed an echo after it. And then, with a sudden
access of horror, I remembered the saying of the peasants; I knew
what had wakened those unquiet spirits; knew that they wished to
question me; knew that I must answer their questions in the brief
hour of their release; all of them I must answer!

“... _leben hoch!_” screamed the German voice. “Are we in Paris?”

“No!” I shouted.

“... _suis Français. Vive la France!_ ...Have we reached the Rhine?”


“... _Belge._ Is Belgium free?”


“... honour, the honour of my country, honour--honour?”


“... _Sozialdemokrat_--for world-peace I fought, that the world
might have peace. Is there peace?”


“... curé of Weerloo, dead for my church and my flock. Are we


“Ask, Grutje, ask!” trilled a child’s voice, and a sad shriek
answered it: “Home--the little farm on the road to Elewyt beside
Kasteel Weerde--is it safe?”

I knew that farm, a blackened ruin like the castle beside it,
with two lath crosses leaning crazily over sunken graves in the
dooryard. “No!”

“No, no, no!” The horrid refrain beat them back. By ones and tens
and hundreds they asked and were denied. They had died as most men
live, hoping to-morrow would bring bliss which yesterday withheld.
They had died, as most men live, for dreams. In all the world there
was no consolation for them, no word of honest hope or recompense.
In all the world there was nothing for them but a shallow grave and
a little wooden cross.

“I came from Devon to Antwerp, sir, with the Marines. Have we
whipped the Huns?”


A woman’s passionate voice screamed out: “They murdered my child,
they murdered my man, they murdered me. Vengeance! Vengeance!

“No!... No!... No!...” And I fell forward in the car senseless.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I awoke the fog had almost disappeared, Pierre was chafing
my cold hands, and the shadow-shapes had gone. They had sunken
again into their hollow graves, unsatisfied, unconsoled. We rode
swiftly on toward Antwerp. A clean breeze stole up from the west,
purifying the stricken fields and their sad memories. It tore the
last remnants of gray veil from the sky. And as we turned into
the black, silent city streets, I leaned my head far back and
stared up into the night with a sudden sense of relief and even
of comfort. The sick little planet Earth fell away from me, far,
far, infinitely far, and about me was unvexed emptiness and the
tremendous stars.



It was five o’clock in the morning. A riotous sunrise deluged the
Campine as I slipped into my clothes and ran down the narrow,
twisting tower-stair to keep a secret tryst with the _Baas_, or
overseer. Little slits in the tower wall, cut for mediæval archers,
let in the arrows of the sun; and as I ran through the gloomy
armoury and the high-roofed Flemish dining hall--stripped of their
treasure of old pikes, swords, crossbows, and blunderbusses by
the diligent Germans--out to the causeway, and over the creaking
draw-bridge on my way to the stables and the dismantled brewery,
I imagined myself an escaped prisoner from the donjons of Château
Drie Toren. In truth, I was running away from Baron van Steen’s
week-end house-party for a breath of rustic air while the others

The stables, tool sheds, hostlers’ barracks, bake-oven, and brewery
were thatch roofed and walled with brick, toned to a claret-red,
pierced with small windows and heavy oaken doors. The doors were
banded with the baronial colours--blue stripes alternating with
yellow, like stripes on a barber pole--and in the centre of the
hollow square of farm buildings fumed a mammoth brown manure pile.
A smell of fresh-cut hay and the warm smell of animals clung about
the stables, and I heard the watch-dog rattle his chain and sniff
at the door as I passed.

I found the Baas standing before his door, his face wrinkled with
pleasure, his cap in his hand. Behind him his wife peered out at
us, wiping her fat hands on her skirts, and two half-grown children
stared from the nearest window. The Baas and his wife were the
parents of sixteen children!

“Good day, mynheer!” every one shouted in chorus.

“Good day, madame; good day, Baas.” (I used the Flemish title
for overseer--the word from which has come our much-abused word
“Boss.”) “I’m a deserter this morning: the rest of the Baron’s
party sleeps.”

“Ah, so,” laughed the wife. “Mynheer is like the German soldiers
who desert by dozens nowadays. And would your Honour hide in the
forest like them--like the Germans?”

“To be sure. The Baas is to show me the deepest coverts, where
mynheer the Baron will never find me more.”

We laughed and passed on. A girl with a neckyoke and full milk
pails came by from the dairy; nodding faces appeared at the windows
of the farm buildings as we walked toward the woods; bees sped up
the air from conical straw hives close to our path; and in a few
minutes we were threading our way through a nursery of young pines,
tilled like corn rows in Kansas, and all of equal age.

“Monsieur, there is a soul in trees,” said the Baas,
affectionately patting an ancient linden on the border of the old
forest. The Baas was a man from the Province of Liége, and he
preferred to speak French with me rather than Flemish. He had, too,
a Walloon lightness of wit which went sometimes incongruously with
his heavy frame, as when he said to me once when we were debating
the joys of youth versus age, “To be old has its advantages,
monsieur. One can then be virtuous, and it is not hard!”

“There is a soul in trees,” he repeated. “All together the trees
have a soul. A forest is one spirit. These trees are old men and
old women, very patient and kindly and sluggish of blood. They nod
their heads in the wind like peasants over a stove. And they talk.
Sometimes I think that I can understand their talk--very wise and
patient and slow. Men hurry apart, monsieur, but the trees remain
together like old married people and watch their children grow up
around them.

“Here”--we had turned down a path and were in the fringes of
another forest of small pines--“here the Germans have taken trees
for their fortifications, slashed and cut, and those trees that
are left are like wounded soldiers: they have arms too long or too
short, heads smashed, feet uprooted, and yet they wish to live,
because they are one spirit.”

“What is this?” I demanded abruptly, for at my feet yawned a little
pit, with lumpy clay still fresh about it and a fallen cross lying
half hidden in the weeds.

“Ho, that? It is the grave of a German,” said the Baas heartily.
He spat into the raw pit. “The German has been taken away, but the
children of Drie Toren are still afraid. They will not come by this
path on account of the dead _Deutscher_.”

His foot crushed the rude cross as he talked, and we walked on.
But I was vaguely troubled. That vile pit and the thought of
what it had contained had spoiled my promenade. As I had found
on a thousand other occasions, my freedom in Belgium was only a
fiction. The war could not be forgotten, even for an hour.

A partridge thundered up at our feet and rocketed to earth again
beyond the protecting pines. In a little glade we surprised four
young rabbits together at breakfast. The Baas laid his hand
lightly on my arm. “It is sad, monsieur, isn’t it?” he said. “The
poachers steal right and left nowadays. The _gardes champêtres_
are no longer armed, so the thieves do as they will. There is more
pheasant in the city markets than chicken, and more rabbit than
veal. The game will soon be gone, like our horses and cattle.

“You remember, monsieur, the sand dunes by Blankenberghe and Knocke
on the Belgian coast? Ah, the rabbits that used to be in those
dunes! But now the firing of cannon has driven them all away.”

A silence fell upon us both. The thickets grew denser, and we
pushed our way slowly toward the deeper coverts. I found myself
thinking of the little crosses along the seaside dunes which marked
where greater game than rabbits had fallen--the graves of men--the
biggest game on earth--the shallow pits and the frail wooden
crosses, like that which the Baas’s leather boot had crushed a half
hour before.

We had reached the deepest woods when a gasping, choking cry
stopped us short. The thicket directly before us stirred and then
lay still as death. The cry had been horrible as a Banshee’s wail,
and as mysterious, but it was not the cry of an animal; it was
human, and it came from a human being in agony. The Baas crossed
himself swiftly and leaped forward, and instantly we had parted
the protecting bushes and were looking down on a man lying flat on
the ground--a spectre with a thin white face, chattering teeth,
enormous frightened eyes, and a filthy, much-worn German uniform.

“What are you doing here?” I demanded.

The soldier did not answer, he did not rise, he lay motionless
and hideous, like a beast. Then I caught sight of his left ankle,
enormously swollen and wrapped in rags, and his hands--they were
thin as sticks. The man was helpless, and he was starving.

And now came a strange thing. We two walked slowly around the man
on the ground, as if he were a wild creature caught in a snare. We
felt no pity or astonishment; only curiosity. Utterly unemotionally
we took note of him and his surroundings. He had no gun, no knife,
and no blankets. He lay on some broken boughs, and he seemed to
have covered himself with boughs at night. The wild, haggard eyes
turned in their sockets and watched us as we moved, but otherwise
no part of the man stirred. He seemed transfixed, frozen in an
agony of fear and horror.

“Ashes! He has had a fire here, monsieur, but it was days ago.” At
the man’s feet the Baas had discovered the remnants of a little
fire. “Holy blue!” he added in astonishment, “he has eaten these!”

A pile of small green twigs lay near the fire. The bark had been
chewed from them!

At the end of our search we turned again to the man on the ground.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?” I demanded again. There was
no answer. “Baas, have you a flask?”

The old man slowly drew a little leather-clad bottle from his
breast pocket and passed it to me in silence. He offered it with
obvious reluctance, and watched jealously as I knelt and dropped
a little stream of liquid between the parted lips of the creature
on the ground. The man’s lips sucked inward, his throat choked at
the raw liquor, he opened his mouth wide and gasped horribly for
breath, his knees twitched, and his wrists trembled as if he were
dying. Then the parched mouth tried to form words; it could only

For a moment I felt a mad impulse to leap on that moving mouth and
crush it into stillness; such an impulse as makes a hunter wring
the neck of a wounded bird. Instead, I continued dropping the
stinging liquor and listening.

Then came the first word. “More!” the black lips begged, and I
emptied the flask into them. The Baas sighed plaintively. “German?”
the soldier whispered.

“No. American,” I answered.

“The other one?”


The frightened eyes closed in evident relief. The man seemed to

“But you?” I asked.

“I’m German--a soldier,” he said.


“Missing.” He used the German word _vermisst_--the word employed in
the official lists of losses to designate the wounded or dead who
are not recovered, and those lost by capture or desertion.

“You understand, Baas?”

“No, monsieur.”

“He says he is a German soldier--a deserter, I suppose, trying to
make his way over the frontier to Holland. And he is starving.”

The Baas’s face became a battleground of emotions. His kindly eyes
glared merrily, his lips twisted until his beard seemed to spread
to twice its natural width. Instantly his face became grave again,
then puzzled, even anxious. A stream of invective and imprecation
in mingled French and Flemish poured from his troubled lips, and he
stamped his feet vigorously.

“He can’t stay here,” I concluded.

“It is death to help him,” said the Baas.

“For you, yes; for me, no. The Germans can only disgrace me as a
member of the Relief Commission. They cannot kill me.”

“He must not be left to die here, monsieur.”

“The Germans will probably search your house if we take him there.”

“He may betray us if we help him.”

“That is possible. But you see he is very weak--almost dead.”

“He may be a spy.”

“That again is possible. But see! He has eaten twigs!”

“He is a damned pig of a German!”

“But you do not feed even pigs on sticks and leaves.”

“I am afraid, monsieur.”

“So am I, Baas. Yet you must decide, and not I. It is much more
dangerous for you than for me.”

We stared into each other’s eyes, trying to guess each other’s
thoughts. Every one in Belgium knows that the German army sows its
informers everywhere. We could not even trust each other in that
stricken country. Deserters and traitors were tracked like dogs.
Any one who gave aid or comfort to such persons did so at the risk
of his life. It is said that pretended deserters deliberately
trapped Belgians into aiding them, and then betrayed their hosts.
Something of the sort was hinted in the famous case of Miss Edith
Cavell. Knowledge, then, bade us be cautious; instinct alone bade
us be kind.

The Baas’s wide eyes turned again to the creature on the ground,
and he sighed plaintively. “Monsieur,” he began, in a very low,
gentle voice, “I will help him. Give me my flask and I will go for
food and drink. Then we must plan. Does it please you to remain

“I shall stay here with him.”

“Good! I will go.”

I knelt beside the soldier and chafed his filthy hands until blood
flowed again in his dry veins. The swollen pupils of his eyes
brightened. He talked continuously in a thin trickling whisper--a
patter of information about dinners he had eaten, wines he had
drunk, his military service, his hardships, and his physical and
mental sensations. I had read of victims of scurvy in the Arctic
snows dreaming and talking day and night of food, only of food. So
it was with the starving soldier. The liquor had made him slightly
delirious, and he babbled on and on.

His broken ankle pained him. When I moved him about to rest it,
his lightness astonished me. The man had been large and heavy; he
was shrunken to a bag of bones. His uniform hung about him like
a sack, and it seemed as if the slightest jar would snap his arms
and legs. Tears welled under his heavy, dirty eyelids. “Mother!
Mother!” he whispered once. “Art thou there? Mother!” Then, as
his eyes again cleared and he saw the trees interarched above
him--the trees which the Baas had told me were one spirit; the
grim, silent, sepulchral trees; the haunted, malignant trees which
had wooed him with their shelter and then broken him and starved
him; the trees beneath which his forest-dwelling ancestors had
cowered for thousands of years and to which they had offered human
sacrifices--he broke down and sobbed horribly. “She is not here!
She is not here! No, she is not here!” he repeated over and over

       *       *       *       *       *

When the Baas returned, we covered the deserter with our coats and
fed him. Perhaps we did wrong to give him food, although I think
now that he was doomed before we found him. We did our best, but it
was not enough. In less than an hour, after a horrible spell of
vomiting, the poor man was beyond all help of ours. His eyes rolled
desperately, his breath came in horrid gasps, and he grew rigid
like a man in an epileptic fit.

We tore open the breast of his uniform to ease his laboured
breathing. A metal identification disk hung on a cord from about
his neck over a chest which was like a wicker-work of ribs. His
belly was sunken until one almost saw the spinal column through it.
His tortured lungs subsided little by little, the terrifying sound
of his breathing sank to nothing, his head thrust far back and over
to the right side, his arms stiffened slowly, his mouth fell open.

We watched, as if fascinated, the pulsing vein in his emaciated
neck, still pumping blood through a body which had ceased to
breathe. The top of the blood column at last appeared, like
mercury in a thermometer. It fell half an inch with each stroke
of the famished heart. It reached the base of the neck and sank
from sight, and still we stared and stared. The man was dead, yet
I seemed to have an awful vision of billions of sentient cells,
billions of little selfish lives which had made up his life,
fighting, choking, starving to death within that cooling clay.

The Baas bent his head, uncovered, and crossed himself. With a
quick stooping motion he closed the wide-open eyes and straightened
the bent limbs. Then he rose to his full height and looked at me
sadly. “This man had a mother, monsieur,” he said. “We must forget
the rest.”

       *       *       *       *       *

In the pit where the other German had lain we buried the body of
the deserter, and we found and repaired the little lath cross and
set it up at the grave’s head. But first I took from about the neck
of the corpse the oval medallion which told the man’s name and
regimental number. It was a silver medal, finer than those usually
worn by privates in the German army. I have it by me as I write,
and on it is etched the brave sentence, “God shield you from all
dangers of warfare, and render you back to us safe and victorious!”

I was late for breakfast at the Château, but Van Steen kindly made
room for me at his right hand. “Aha, monsieur,” he called gaily,
“we thought you were helping to find the deserter.”

“Wha-what, monsieur le Baron?” I stuttered in amazement.

“The German deserter. A file of soldiers woke us up at seven
o’clock, inquiring for one of their men who ran away from Mons a
month ago. They are searching the stables and the forest. They have
traced him here to our commune. I hope they catch him!”

My fingers clutched the silver disk in my pocket. “I think they
will not catch him, messieurs. He ran away a month ago, you say?”

“A month ago.... But it is nothing to us, eh? Let us eat our
breakfasts.” The Baron bowed grandly to me. “Monsieur le Délégué,”
he began in his smooth, formal voice, “once again we remind
ourselves that it is thanks to you and the generous American people
that we have bread. It is thanks to you that our noble Belgium is
not starving.... Eh bien! Let us eat our breakfasts.”

And so we did.



A second time we seated ourselves at our little round table in
the restaurant on the boulevard Anspach--the director of the art
museum and I. A mug of light Belgian beer was before each of us,
and a copy of _La Belgique_ telling of the Somme battles. The
director’s hands shook as he reached for the newspaper and his
half-finished beer. His breath came in short, apoplectic gasps. He
was wildly angry. A couple of minutes before a Flemish newsboy had
rushed into the restaurant and shouted, “Aeroplane! The Germans are
shooting it!” And the restaurant had emptied like a hive, filling
the boulevard, where every one gazed at the dull gray dragonfly
droning at an immense height over the city, pursued with soft
white smoke-flowers which thudded as they bloomed in the upper air.
While we watched, an old peasant in wooden shoes and padded black
petticoats dropped her market basket on the director’s toes. He
forgot aeroplane and anti-aircraft guns, war, the crowds, and me,
his guest. He howled, he cursed, he danced; and now that we were
safe again at our table in the restaurant, anathema and malediction
still tumbled from his full red lips.

“_Ces sales paysants, ils sont des brutes! Imbéciles! Idiots!
Cochons!_” he stuttered, his feet prancing under the table. “They
are beasts truly, monsieur: not men, but beasts, these peasants.
What a temper I am in. But these beasts of peasants. Ah!...” he
smiled suddenly and went on, “I will tell you a story of them.

“You have heard, monsieur, of Van de Werve, the artist? He was of
the school of Rubens; he died in Italy, very young. He had only
twenty-three years when he died. He was not rich; he was very poor.
But he had the spirit, the genius, the _flair_, and Rubens loved
him. The Master said one day, ‘You must go to Italy to study. Here
is a purse of gold. Here are letters of introduction to my friends.
Here is a horse. Go to Italy.’ And the young man started. Months
went by and no word of him came to Rubens or the other friends he
had in Antwerp. He did not arrive in Italy. The purse of gold, the
letters of introduction, the horse, the pupil of Rubens--all were
completely lost to sight. After a year some friends set out to
search for him, and behold! in the village of Tinarloo in Brabant
they found him, painting an altar piece for the chapel of that
place, and kissing and clipping the daughter of the burgomaster,
who sat on his knee! He was always gallant, was Van de Werve, and
as he rode into Tinarloo on his way to Italy, he had seen and
fallen in love with the burgomaster’s daughter and sat at her feet
for a year.

“But the altar piece, monsieur! You have never seen it? Ah,
that was magnificent--‘The Virgin of the Stair’--gold, green,
ravishing! What atmosphere! What feeling! What soul!

“I saw it only once before the war. I tried to buy it for the
museum, but those dirty peasants of Tinarloo would not give it up.
Ugh--a village of fat farmers smelling of dungheaps and cattle pens
and garlic! Their chapel was bastard Gothic--no fit place for such
an altar piece. I urged the curé to sell, but he would not. He
was ignorant as his peasants, but he was crafty, too. He said the
picture was the glory of Tinarloo, the chief joy of the peasants.
I offered him twice as much as I first intended, thinking he meant
to bargain with me; three times, four times as much. He refused two
thousand francs, monsieur!

“Afterward came the war. I am a brave man, monsieur. I am not
afraid of the Germans. When they advanced near to Tinarloo I
thought of the ‘Virgin of the Stair.’ ‘It must be saved,’ I said
to myself. ‘Those peasants, that curé will be glad to give it up
now.’ I hurried there in a cart. Eastward, near Namur, the great
guns roared. There stood sentries along the roads. Peasants were
running away before the Germans with farmcarts piled with goods.
They blocked the road, and I had even to beat them out of my way
with my whip.

“So I reached Tinarloo. Every one was terrified. I went to the
chapel. The curé was there, and the burgomaster, a toothless old
man with a dirty beard. ‘Give me the picture, quick,’ I exclaimed.
‘I will save it from the Germans. Quick!’ ‘No, monsieur,’ said the
curé. ‘The picture will stay here. It is the glory of Tinarloo; it
is the chief joy of our peasants.’

“There came a scream and a roar from the street, monsieur, like
the sound of a great storm, and I knew the Germans were shelling
the village. The old burgomaster bellowed something. I do not
understand Flemish, but I knew he said something of the church and
the picture; maybe it was that the Germans always destroy churches
and pictures. He hobbled out ‘The picture, the picture, give me the
picture!’ I roared at the curé. ‘Give it to me or I will take it.
Fool! the Germans will take it if I do not. Give it to me. Quick!’
‘It is the glory of Tinarloo; the chief joy of our peasants. I will
not give it.’ ‘Then I will take it,’ I shouted, for I was stronger
than he, monsieur. He clutched me, but I threw him off and grasped
the picture by the corner. There came another roar, terrible, and a
part of the church tower fell through the roof. The curé screamed
and dropped to his knees, praying. I worked to get the picture from
the frame.

“Suddenly, monsieur, I was grasped and thrown down. Those brutes
of peasants had come into the church; twelve, fifteen of them,
following the burgomaster with the dirty beard. They held me fast
with their stinking hands. One of them tried to strangle me, and
my neck bears the marks to this day. _Bang_--a shell fell in the
churchyard and bits of shrapnel ripped the windows. The church was
choked with dust and roared with noise. The curé stood up before
the picture. He yelled to the animals who held me down. They loosed
me, and I stood upright, gasping. One of them had a great club in
his hand, another a dung-fork, another a flail. They gathered close
to the curé, close to the picture, and talked; the fools talked
while shells flew, knowing the Germans always aim at churches; yet
they talked.

“Then the curé came down to me where I was standing. ‘They say to
give you the picture, monsieur,’ he said. ‘But you must swear by
this cross to bring it back when all is safe. It is the glory of
Tinarloo; it is the chief joy----’

“Monsieur, there was a scream like devils in torment and a shock
like earthquake. I was knocked from my feet. Bricks, timbers
fell. Dust covered me, and I lost consciousness. Long afterward
I found myself lying in the grass of the churchyard, among the
black crosses, and the curé kneeling over me; only the curé!
‘Go,’ he said. His mouth was bleeding from a deep cut and his gown
was slashed to ribbon. ‘Go, go,’ he said. I heard him as if in a
dream. ‘Go! There is no longer any picture. Go! before the Germans

“So I came away, monsieur.... They are strange beasts, these
Belgian peasants.”



“The instant Father Guido died his naked soul leaped from his
body and ran up the air as on a stair.” Odile stopped her story.
“Hoo-oo,” she sighed reproachfully, crossing her gaunt old hands
over her middle and staring at my sleepy head. “Mynheer is not

Odile always came into my bedroom before I was up in the morning.
It was her function to waken me, and then to gossip with me while
she opened the green Venetian blinds, tightly closed the windows
against the noxious air of morning, laid out linen, and prepared my
bath in an adjoining room. Her thin, motherly face was the first
thing I saw when I wakened; always smiling, no matter if things
had gone well or ill, always ready to tell me a story if that
were needed to put me in a good humour. “All well, Odile?” “_Ja_,
mynheer, except that the Germans half killed a policeman in front
of the house last night. He screamed horribly, mynheer.” Such was a
typical morning’s news.

She petted me outrageously, and, although she never summoned
courage to assert it to my face, among the servants below-stairs
she gave herself airs and boldly called me her _bébé_. I confided
to her my love affairs in return for which small flatteries she
embroidered my handkerchiefs, criticised my unstarched American
shirts, doped me faithfully whenever I fell ill, and protested
eloquently against the perils of too frequent bathing. Daily baths
might be healthy in America; they were certainly unhealthy in
Belgium, said Odile.

The tale of what happened to Father Guido comes back to me in
fragments. Perhaps Odile did not tell it to me at all. Perhaps she
told it when I was too sleepy to remember. In any event, I cannot
now tell how much is hers and how much my own. The words, alas! are
mine, in any case.

“Nay, Odile, I am listening. Tell me about Father Guido.”

“He was a holy priest, a canon in his monastery, but he doubted
God’s promise of the bliss of heaven!”


“Yes, wasn’t it, mynheer? So he died, and his soul ran up the air
as on a stair. And now listen! The soul of Father Guido stopped
for breath and wheezed hard. It was not used to running. It stood
stark naked in the sunlight just three meters above the bell-tower
of the monastery where he had lived and served God twenty-seven
years. The garden looked very sheltered and inviting. You must know
that Father Guido loved gardening, mynheer. The soul could see
his favourite mulberry tree, and acolytes in gray gowns walking
beneath, meditating. One of the acolytes lifted a hand and stole a
berry. ‘Rogue!’ the soul thought. It was about to walk down into
the garden and remonstrate with the thief when suddenly it leaped
into the air as if a wasp had stung it. The heavy monastery bell
just below it clanged like an explosion. _Bang!_ went the bell;
then again, _bang!_ and after a pause, again, _bang!_ ‘Some one
is dead,’ thought the soul. It licked its lips thoughtfully. They
tasted damp and oily. And suddenly it remembered--that was the oil
of extreme unction. ‘I am dead,’ said the soul of Father Guido with
resignation, ‘and on my way to bliss--I hope.’

“The soul began to climb up long vistas of air, but abruptly it
stopped. ‘My God, I’m stark naked!’ it thought; ‘stark naked, and
the eye of all the world is on me.’ Not once since Father Guido
donned his habit had he been unclothed in public. But the waste
of air about the poor soul offered no shelter, and there was no
returning the way it had come. Its chest heaved with sorrow and its
eyes peered everywhere, above, below, beside it; but nothing--not
even a summer cloud--came near to give it shelter. ‘I’m thin and
withered and I’ve a belly like a tun,’ the soul said bitterly, and
it slapped its thin shanks as it ran, and breathed hard.

“A hawk circled in space, and the soul turned and climbed in the
direction of the swinging bird. It got within two meters of the
hawk and hailed him in Flemish--for all the birds understand
Flemish, mynheer--but the hawk sailed by unheeding, its eye on the
distant earth. Father Guido’s soul was disappointed. ‘But if I
can’t be heard or seen, it doesn’t much matter about my clothes,’
it said, and climbed on slowly.

“The high air grew very cold, but the exertions of the soul kept
it in a healthy perspiration. It gathered strength and agility
as it climbed; it seemed to leap from hilltop to hilltop of the
atmosphere, and below it earth fell away like a ball dropped into a
well. A shadow came crawling from the east, devouring the earth as
Father Guido’s soul watched and climbed; the shadow floated like
pitch over all the world, silently, swiftly eating everything. It
reached the centre of the world. It devoured the monastery and went
on, gathering all things into its mouth. Long afterward the sun
dropped out of sight, and darkness leaped upon the soul high in air
and cloaked it in freezing night.

“The soul was dreadfully alone now, alone with millions of winking
stars, but it climbed on and on and on.

“Mynheer, no man has ever told how lonely the dead are; how they
cry out in the darkness and stretch out their arms; where yesterday
there was warmth and light and friendly hands and soft laughter
there is only cold, emptiness, nothing. Oh, how lonely the dead
are! How lonely the dead are!

“Men do not know how many months or years or centuries the soul
climbed up through the swarming stars, but at last it came to the
foot of battlements shooting up into space--battlements that rose
like flames rooted in clouds, and burning so brightly that the
strained eyes of the soul pinched with the bliss of gazing. And
still the soul of Father Guido climbed and climbed and climbed.

“‘It’s too beautiful for purgatory; this must be heaven,’ said
the soul to itself, ‘but there’s no door.’ And indeed, mynheer,
there seemed to be no door, for the poor soul climbed up and up
those topless cliffs, but found no entrance at all. ‘There’s no
door! There’s no door! There’s no door!’ the soul of Father Guido
repeated like a prayer as it climbed beside the battlements.

“‘God and Mary help us!’ it sobbed at last in despair; and no
sooner had it said these words than it saw a little gate opening
into the jewelled heights, and it flew up hopefully.

“Outside the doorway it paused. There was a door, half closed, and
the soul was afraid. It felt conscious again of its nakedness,
although the paunch was gone from constant exercise and hard
muscles showed under its star-burned skin. ‘I’m a thin old codger,
though; not presentable to St. Peter at all. I’ll wait behind the
door-post until somebody appears.’ So it pressed its ribs close
against the door-jamb and waited. An hour went by, or a minute, or
an age; still nobody appeared. Father Guido’s soul grew anxious.
‘I’ll look inside--just one peek,’ it whispered. ‘One peek won’t
matter.’ So it gently pried open the pearly door and looked in.

“An armchair, mynheer, carved of jewels, like the battlements,
stood beside the door, but the chair was empty. The soul looked
farther. ‘Hum!’ it said thoughtfully; ‘there’s no _pater
hospitalis_ here. I’m disappointed. And St. Peter’s left no

“Father Guido, you must understand, mynheer,” said Odile, by way
of parenthesis, “had been _pater hospitalis_ in his monastery. He
took care of the guests, he selected the wines, he was jovial in
welcoming those who came and tearful in bidding adieu to those who
went; so he was distressed that no one should meet him at the gate
of heaven.”

I nodded sympathetically, and she went on: “A little weed grew in
a crack in the golden pavement where the holy saint’s feet had worn
the flagstone smoothest, and a green scurf of moss pushed out here
and there in the golden gutters. ‘That’s strange; that’s strange
indeed,’ said the soul of Father Guido; but it had little time to
wonder at small things like these, for the whole of heaven towered
before its eyes. Streets and mansions and gardens blazed with
lights of a thousand colours; mansions of silver and amethyst and
jacinth rose amid bowers of roses; towers and roofs and walls and
lattices shone like jewels in changeless sunlight, and avenues of
strange trees stretching farther than eye could see glowed green as
emerald along streets of gold.

“But there was no sound anywhere, mynheer. Father Guido’s soul held
its breath with holy awe and fear. In spite of the warmth of the
eternal sunlight sluicing its bare limbs, cold perspiration came
out on its neck and face, and goose-flesh pricked its legs. The
soul hid itself in a rose hedge and waited breathlessly. Nothing
appeared. Still there was no sound. Presently the soul crept out
again and pattered cautiously up the golden avenue, picking little
rose thorns from its sides and back as it marched.

“Glorious beyond the prophecies of saints and evangels was heaven,
rising terrace on terrace, height upon height, glowing with the
light of gems, bourgeoning with gardens, and flashing with pools
of clear blue water; so that the soul of Father Guido climbed and
climbed, speechless and marvelling. And still there was no sound
but those of its bare feet slapping the golden pave.

“So the solitary soul came at last to the summit of all Created
Things; to the Mountain that is like a Diamond, with the sunlight
flashing naked swords above it; to the Palace which is carved like
a human heart from a Jewel for which there is No Name; and the soul
knew that this was the Home of the King of Kings, of the Verigod
of Verigods, and it knelt on the pavement in terrified awe and

“But, mynheer, the naked toes of the poor soul of Father Guido
nestled into the heart of a little thistle growing in the grass
beside the golden stair leading up to the Palace of God, and the
prick roused it from its devotions, so that it sprang to its feet
abruptly, and bent over and rubbed the hurt digits. ‘God save us!’
it ejaculated piously. ‘Salvation or damnation, that hurts! But I
must go on!’ And it pattered up the palace steps.

“Mynheer, there were no guards at the steps. There were no watchmen
at the door. There were no angels inside the door. The corridors
were empty. But at the far end of the central corridor the soul saw
a curtain hanging from ceiling to floor, red as blood, tremendous,
veiling mysteries.

“The soul of Father Guido went forward to see what the curtain
concealed. It reached the curtain. It stretched out its hand. It
touched the curtain. Then it caught the hem and pulled.”

Odile stopped and drew a long breath, watching me narrowly.

“Please go on,” I begged.

“Mynheer, there was nothing inside!”


“There was nothing inside!”

“Ugh! Served him right, then,” I grunted.

“But no, listen. You have forgotten the power of God. The soul of
Father Guido dropped the curtain and fell flat on the ground. It
could not believe what it had seen, and it fell to screaming, the
most horrible screams that heaven ever heard. It screamed again and
again, like a child in the dark, like a little lost child.

“And then suddenly, mynheer, there was a roar of wings, and
loud singing, and a brightness new, like lightning, and the air
was thick with angels playing and dancing and whistling. Father
Guido had believed, you see, or else his soul would not have been
disappointed and would not have screamed. He doubted as you doubt,

“And now, when St. Peter is tired, the soul of Father Guido sits in
the chair beside the little gate to welcome newcomers, as he used
to do in the monastery, and he is kind to those who come, mynheer,
for he, too, has known what it is to doubt.”



My automobile broke down on the outskirts of Diest, and I was
obliged to spend the night in the _Gouden Kat_--a typical Flemish
inn. A dozen little round tables stood outside on the flagstones
bordering the Grand’ Place, the supper room within was divided
about equally among food, drink, and billiards, and madame sat in
state behind a showcase of cigarettes. There were no Germans lodged
in the _Gouden Kat_ so I was given the best room, and as I came
down the tiny, twisted stair after a good night’s sleep in a high
bed with carved posts at either corner, a tester and lacy hangings,
under a black crucifix and the faded eyes of a colour print of King
Albert, a small gray feather spun slowly down and fell at my feet
in the doorway. There was a flutter of wings, and a swallow skimmed
over my head, almost touching me, and out through the open door.

A few gloomy citizens, an occasional housewife, small boys and
girls in neat cheap clothes and noisy wooden shoes stalked across
the open square before the cathedral. A squad of German soldiers
tramped by on their way to the Kommandantur in the Stadthuis. Soon
mass was over, and a flood of grave, black-clad figures filled
the square and melted away into the by-streets. A worn black flag
fluttered from a pole on the very top of the church.

“Madame, what is the black flag on your cathedral?” I asked,
sipping black coffee.

“It was once white, that flag, monsieur.”

“But, madame! it is coal black.”

“Monsieur, it is the flag which we of Diest hoisted when the
Germans came. Aerschot, Louvain, Schaffen--they were destroyed by
the Germans. Diest,” she shrugged her shoulders, “Diest is as you
see it.”

Across the Grand’ Place, behind the gates of a porte cochère
belonging to a rival inn, I found my chauffeur, Alexis, busy with
the broken motor.

“Monsieur, this is the cylinder which does not march,” he called
loudly, his tricky eyes eager for praise and his mouth smiling
blandly behind his curved moustaches. “More oil!” he ordered
imperiously from the bent old innkeeper who stood, cap in hand,
watching; and while the man shuffled off with a wash-bowl, Alexis
loudly continued to explain to me the difficulty. “I am mechanician
as well as chauffeur, monsieur,” he declaimed, although I was well
aware of the fact. “I will arrange everything. In an hour all is

A side glance gave me the clue to Alexis’s authoritative tone. The
young wife of the innkeeper, a heavy flaxen-haired Flemish woman,
watched smiling from the open door. Alexis’s gestures and mouthings
were for her.

In the rafters over the motor-car I heard soft cheeping, and a
swallow slid from a mud cup fixed to one of the timbers and stole
out into the morning sunshine. There were other earthen cups,
lined no doubt with feathers, in the shadow above us: three or four
cups brimming with swallow babies. One after another the gray-blue
mothers came and went, circling fearlessly over us, engaged in the
sensible business of filling the world with swallows.

“In an hour, monsieur, all is arranged,” Alexis repeated, trying to
get rid of me. So I determined to stay.

“Madame, a cup of the white beer of Louvain, if you please,” I

She answered my French with a question in Flemish. “_Wat segt U,

“_Wittebeer van Leuven, als ’t je belieft, madame._”

“_Een potteke Lovens voor mynheer, Marieke, allez!_” chuckled the
bent old innkeeper, coming up with a bowl of oil and shoving her
with his shoulder.

“_Goed, goed_,” she answered, and disappeared, still smiling.

Alexis sulked, but worked; the innkeeper watched admiringly; I
sat in a tiny chair propped against the inn door and talked with
madame, while the swallows circled and cheeped overhead. The motor
backfired when it was tested, and the swallows screamed in fright
and fled through a cloud of stifling smoke which rose into their
nests. But in a moment they were back again at work, filling the
world with swallows.

“Like the cannon, is it not?” said madame in sluggish, country-bred
Flemish, speaking of the motor’s tricks. “But the swallows return.”
She laid her hand on her breast with a curious, passionate gesture.

“He is your husband?” I pointed to the old innkeeper, bent almost
double over the motor as he watched Alexis.

“Yes, mynheer.”

“You have children?”

“I shall have one in three months--about All Saints’ Day, mynheer.”
She spoke with the simplicity of a peasant, to whom life and death
and birth and growth are the simplest things in a complex world.

“Are you glad, madame?”

“Glad? No,” she said after a pause, smiling still.

“Are you sorry?”

“No, mynheer.”

“He is an old man, your husband,” I remarked after a long silence.

“Yes, he is old, mynheer.”

“You love him?”

“Love him? No.”

“Do you hate him, then?”

“No, mynheer. Why should I hate him?”

“Alexis, there, is a jolly fellow. What do you think of him?”

“I do not think of him, mynheer.”

I changed the subject. She was only a peasant, yet she knew how to
rebuff my levity. “Why did you marry, madame?” I asked, and my tone
was serious, befitting the question.

“Why does any one marry, mynheer? I was of the age--sixteen.”

“But why did you choose him?” I gestured again toward the old man,
still bent over Alexis as he tugged at the cylinder core.

“I did not choose, mynheer. The swallows,” she pointed to the
earthen nests, “do they choose? Other people, do they choose?”

“No,” I admitted, astonished at her. “It is Nature. They do not
choose.” I felt a sudden respect for the dully smiling enigma
before me. Love? choice? romance? the adventure of living?--what
were they after all? The stress of towns has bred these fantastic
ideas in men’s brains. This country woman knew she was no different
from birds and beasts, and she knew that it did not really matter
to anybody--not even to herself. In a few slow words, still
smiling, she sketched the dull drama of her life: peasant-born,
unbeautiful, bought from her family by the old innkeeper as soon
as the Church permitted her to marry, twice a mother, but both her
children dead, pregnant again: that was the whole story. She did
not know that her recital was sad, or that it could inspire pity.
She did not even know that it was interesting. She seemed to tell
it instinctively, as a bird cries in the thicket or as a tired dog
whines at the door.

“Alexis, is the motor ready?” I called.

“Almost, monsieur,” he answered; then turning to the innkeeper he
bawled, “Get me a pan and matches!” He rested his hands on his hips
and stared insolently at the woman and me. “Monsieur has seen the
flag on the cathedral?” he asked. He continued in Flemish, “The
brave men of Diest ran up a white flag while the Germans were still
at Liége! Madame says they did well to surrender.”

“I said that to surrender is nothing, myne heeren,” she interrupted
slowly, looking at me but addressing us both. “Every thing

“Ha, madame! Foolishness! Talk like a Belgian patriot if you
please. We never surrender, we Belgians: we fight, fight, fight!”
Alexis swung his arm and waited confidently for my applause.

“Madame,” I turned to her. “You think these things do not matter?”

“They do not matter, mynheer,” she said, smiling.

“The invasion of Belgium?--that does not matter?”

“It does not matter, mynheer.”

“Murder? arson? rape? pillage? millions dead and maimed? millions
enslaved? Madame!” I found myself addressing her as if she were a
logician instead of a peasant.

“It is nothing, nothing; I know it is nothing. I feel it here.”
Again she laid her hand on her breast with the singular passionate
gesture I had marked before. “It does not change anything; it does
not change the soil of the earth, it does not change the man, it
does not change the woman, it does not change the child. Then it
is nothing. We of Belgium are like rain falling on a field: they
[the Germans] are like rain falling. We do not choose: they do not
choose. It is all--nothing.”

Alexis leaped forward, his tricky eyes blazing, his moustaches
stiff with anger. These patriotic outbursts were no new thing to
me, yet I was astonished at him. He trembled with honest emotion.
“Madame! You are no Belgian, you are no Christian, you are no
woman!” he shouted. “You have no sense of honour, you have no
patriotism, you have no decency. Bah! you would have us handed over
to the Boches!” He stopped his tirade abruptly and addressed me in
French, “Monsieur, the car is ready in a moment, if you please.
This woman--this woman----” He raised his arm as if he would strike
her. All this time she had stood watching and listening, still
smiling heavily and making no move. “This woman is a peasant, she
is not human, she is a beast.... Here!” he called to the innkeeper,
who had reappeared, “give me the matches. Hold the basin there.”
He jumped back to his place and pressed the self-starter. The
motor hummed with curious coughs and gasps from the jury-rigged
cylinder. “It will march until we reach home,” called Alexis, his
voice still keyed high with anger. “Monsieur is ready?”

I paid the modest reckoning and climbed into the tonneau. The woman
stared past me at Alexis; even my “good day” was unheard or at any
rate unnoticed. The motor roared and the frightened swallows flew.
The innkeeper flung open the double gates, removing his cap and
bowing low, and we rolled slowly into the square.

There was a patter of slippers on the cobblestones behind us, a
gasp and a choking cry, and madame was hanging to the running-board
beside Alexis, pouring forth a torrent of passionate Flemish. The
German sentries before the Stadthuis across the square stared
anxiously, passersby stopped as if thunder-struck, I looked back
and saw the old innkeeper standing open-mouthed and motionless in
the doorway.

“Mon Dieu, monsieur, she wants to go with me!” muttered Alexis,
mechanically stopping the car. The woman flung her arms toward me
with a piteous gesture. Her heavy, ugly face streamed tears. All
her reserve, her self-control were gone. She had chosen at last,
and she had chosen this!

“Wants what, you fool?” I exclaimed, appalled. “Drive on, Alexis.
Make her go back. You know the Germans would arrest us at the first
sentry-post. Damn you, anyway!” I roared, my anger mounting to
outraged brutality to think that a chauffeur’s cheap amour might
land us both in a German jail. “What have you done to get us into
this mess?”

He thrust his fist into the pleading face. “Go back, go back,” he
grunted, apparently without a trace of feeling for her.

“You must go back, madame,” I exclaimed. “You must go back!”

She ignored me and again burst into a storm of entreaty, all aimed
at Alexis. “No, no, no, no,” he shouted in answer to her pleas. “Go
back to your husband! Go, you--animal!”

At that word she dropped from the car. “Go on, Alexis, quick!” I

Her hand flew to her breast with the old gesture. As the automobile
leaped forward, she walked a few steps toward the inn. I turned and
watched her: Alexis stared straight in front of him. She wheeled
and looked after us, her hand still at her breast, her body swaying
from side to side. Then she looked at the inn, and again at the
fleeing car. Finally, as we dashed away from the square, I saw
her stumbling toward the wretched old man, who still stood in the
blazing sunlight which streamed through the open doorway, while the
swallows of Diest circled and cried over his hoary head.



Wilson belonged emphatically to the genus _Homo sapiens_; species,
_Texicana_; habitat, southwestern parts of the United States and
Antwerp, Belgium. He was tall and lithe and handsome, and also
sentimental. He was the only member of the American Commission for
Relief in Belgium who flatly refused to fly the American flag from
his automobile; he was the only member who publicly declared that
he said his prayers every night, but, as he confided to me once
in a moment of great emotion, he had never in his life prayed for
the President of the United States. The reason for these startling
facts was that Wilson was an unreconstructed rebel and wore pinned
in his shirt, just over his heart, a little butternut badge which
his grandfather had worn in ’63--a symbol of the dead Confederacy
and the Lost Cause.

We used to sing him a gay song which ran:

    An unreconstructed rebel, that is what I am.
    For this fair land of freedom I do not give a damn!
    I’m glad we fought against them: I’m sorry that they won,
    And I do not ask your pardon for anything I’ve done.

    I fit with Stonewall Jackson: of that there is no doubt;
    Got wounded in three places a-storming Fort Lookout.
    I coched the rheumatism campaigning in the snow,
    But I killed a sight o’ Yankees, and I wisht it had been mo’.

    I hates the Yankee nation and everything they do.
    I hates the Declaration of Independence, too.
    I hates the Yankee eagle with all his scream and fuss,
    But a lying, thieving Yankee, I hates him wuss and wuss!

We called him “Johnny Reb,” “Tex,” or “Stonewall Jackson,” just as
it happened to strike us.

Wilson was disturbed about something. “The Socialists are right,”
he said, thoughtfully, drawing his six feet two from the chair
beside my office desk. “There’s only one way to prevent wars--kill
the spirit of patriotism. Look at that old fool out there!” he
continued, bitterly, pointing toward a gray-bearded Landsturm
soldier in shapeless flat service cap, faded gray-green uniform
and high hob-nailed boots, who, with gun on shoulder, strode along
the pavement of the Graanmarkt on his way to the _Kommandantur_:
“That old fellow is probably a toy-maker in Nuremberg or a barber
in Munich, and here he is wandering round Belgium ready to die for
Kaiser and Vaterland!”

“Mankind’s a failure,” I acknowledged cheerfully. “Go on, Wilson.”
I knew these moods.

“The trouble is this,” he drawled. “There are five old Belgians in
the outer office who have come to ask about their pension money.
It’s the first time I’ve had to do with Yankee pensioners. They
were here yesterday,” he went on, impressively, “and for a solid
hour I listened to one of ’em making patriotic speeches and telling
me how he fought and bled and died for my country--_my country!_--a
damned Yankee pensioner.”

I laughed gleefully, and Wilson turned on his heel. “Sit down,
you Johnny Reb,” I gasped. “What’s it all about? Are they Belgian
citizens who fought in our Civil War?”

“‘Civil War’!” he quoted. “There you go again! Haven’t I explained
to you that you mustn’t call it the ‘Civil War?’ It’s the ‘War
between the States.’”

A timid, eminently respectful knock interrupted us, and Peeters,
the clerk, thrust his head through the half-open door, bowing to
each of us in turn. “The men have come,” he announced.

“What men, Peeters?”

“The men who saw Mr. Wilson yesterday.” He coughed apologetically.
“The men for the pensions. They want to see you, sir.”

I looked at Wilson, who was still meditating flight and cursing
under his breath. “Send them right in, Peeters. Mr. Wilson and I
are delighted to see them.”

“Delighted, are we?” my victim snarled; then his voice changed to
honeyed sweetness--the sweetness underlying all Southern courtesy
and hospitality, which is the sweetest in the world. “_Aah, goeden
dag, myneheeren, quel plaisir de vous revoir! Mynheer van der
Aa, Mynheer de Vos, Mynheer Dekkers, Mynheer van Oolen, Mynheer
Anderson._” He introduced them with a flourish--a little file of
old men, dressed in dingy Sunday best, with heavy leather shoes in
place of the customary slippers or wooden _blokken_, each holding
his cap in his hand, each bearded and bewhiskered, each with thick
weather-worn skin and little eyes folded deep in wrinkled cheeks.
These were the pensioners.

The first of them was scarcely five feet high. Little black eyes
snapped out from beneath his bushy brows, and he wore a sweeping
white moustache and an imperial. The second was tall and had once
been blond; now he was bald as a prophet, and his great white
beard swung from his heavy head like a broad pendulum ticking
off the minutes. The third was blind; his graceful, narrow head
tilted forward, a flickering smile played about his mouth, and I
noticed that when his attention was strongly attracted his eyes
occasionally turned up with a strange abortive movement, as if he
might take the darkness by surprise and change it into light. The
fourth man stood straight and soldierly, his knees tight together,
his great feet splayed out from his ankles, and his arms hanging
perpendicularly. He had an ox-like head, and his wide shoulders
were heavy and stooped with age. The fifth man was an aged negro,
and feeble-minded.

Peeters handed me a little paper which I read aloud: “Jan van
der Aa, Pieter de Vos, Georges Dekkers, Willem van Oolen, David
Anderson. Is that right?”

“_Ja, ja, mynheer_”--“_Parfaitement, monsieur_”--“Yes, sair,” the
voices quavered.

“Don’t you all speak English?” I demanded. “You’re entitled to
American pension money, yet you don’t speak our language? _Vous ne
parlez pas_----”

The little man with the imperial burst into volcanic speech. “Sir,”
he ejaculated, “they have forgotten the Eengleesh, but I--I speak
it pairfectly.”

Wilson sighed. “Yes, hang it, he does!” he whispered to me. “He’s
the damnedest, convincingest, Fourth-of-July orator you ever
listened to. Now he’s off! You can’t stop him!”

“You are Jan van der Aa?” I interrupted, after the first sentence.

“Jan van der Aa, sir,” he acknowledged, bowing, and continued
impressively: “Sirs, you see beforre you five men who fought in
the Grrand Arrmy of the Rrepublic, in the grrandest arrmy of
the grreatest rrepublic of the earth.” He rolled the rr’s like
thunder down the valleys of his speech. “It was not for nothing
that we fought. Liberrty and Union are not little things. They
are eterrnal. They are the same in everry country and in everry
time. We five were at Gettysburrg and Cold Harrbourr, de Vos was
at Antietam, Dekkars was wounded at Atlanta, I was at Chickamauga
underr Thomas, Anderson was at Peterrsburrg”--the strange, foreign
accent turned the familiar battle names into mighty voices, voices
to conjure dead men from the grave and dead deeds from the old
books where they lie buried; the man before us was a born orator,
he was winsome, sweet, powerful, pathetic, by turns--“Forrt
Fisherr, Culpeperr Courrt-House, Vicksburrg, Shiloh, Champion’s
Hill, Cairro, Chattanooga.” The tremendous words rolled forth; the
file of old men stirred; they awoke and threw up their heads as he
trumpeted forth these names, and I seemed to see them young again
and soldiers of the Republic.

But Van der Aa stopped abruptly. He turned half apologetically to
the others, speaking a most vulgar and harsh Flemish: “’_k Heb
’t verget_--I’d forgotten what we came for--our moneys,” he said.
“Sirs”--he addressed Wilson and me once more--“our pension moneys
are overdue. We have received nothing since Antwerp was captured.
The American Consul-General writes, but we receive nothing. Will
you tell Washington of us? The Government have forgotten; we are
far away, and so they have forgotten us.”

I turned inquiringly to Wilson.

“Oh, tell them you’ll get their money for them. Tell them
anything,” he whispered, harshly, fumbling his handkerchief. “Stop
that devil of a Van der Aa! You don’t understand; that man can talk
you to tears!”

“Mr. Wilson knows all about the case,” I said. “He will cable
to Washington the first time he goes to Rotterdam. We shall do
everything in the world to get your money.”

Van der Aa thanked me with a gesture and a low bow, and repeated my
words in Flemish to the others. They thanked us slowly. “And now,
sirs----” he began again.

“Stop him, for God’s sake!” groaned Wilson.

“Mynheer van der Aa----”

“----the only things men gladly die for, freedom and union. Freedom
and union, one and inseparable, now and forever.”

The spell came over us like a ghost--the ghost of something high
and splendid--and the voice of America spoke in conquered Belgium.
Not through American lips, but through the lips of an alien; and
not the voice of America to-day, divided, disunited, enslaved
in a thousand ways to fear and base interests; not the America,
I suppose, of the sixties, blatantly provincial, cursed with
over-confidence, torn with civil war; but the voice of the ideal
America--that America of the spirit which Lincoln must have seen
as Moses saw the Holy Land from Mount Nebo, the America which may
be, which must be; the mighty nation like a city set upon a hill,
with the glory of heaven shining upon her, and young men and women
singing in her streets.

I mopped my eyes; Wilson coughed and blew his nose. The five old
men stood imperturbable, and Van der Aa spoke on and on. He was
pitiless and glorious. As he talked I saw a flag borne to the tops
of tall mountains, flung over precipices, whipped through morasses
and dismal swamps, flung up from the sea and set firm in rocky
earth; and that flag was the American flag--the flag of Wilson’s
country and my country. These men had followed that flag--these
five aliens. I saw freedom and union like simple things, things to
be held in the hand as well as in the heart; necessary, elemental,
homely things. And I saw the world-wide war which is waged in
every land against freedom and union--the fight of caste against
caste, of class against class, of masters with slaves, of the state
against its citizens, of the thousand and one Frankenstein monsters
of commerce and industry and politics and religion, fighting
against the human beings who have created them. Everywhere I gazed
there was war.

“Liberty and union, one and inseparable, now and forever,”
concluded Van der Aa, his right arm outstretched to emphasize his
last period, the eyes of the blind man straining up to catch the
vanished sun.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning Wilson’s motor car arrived an hour late at the office,
and I noticed that from a staff wired to the wind-shield there
floated a little American flag.

“Yes,” he said, defiantly, “I say kill patriotism and you kill war.
I’m taking the first step. I used to be for the South against the
world, now I’m for America against the world, and maybe some day
I’ll be for all the world against the world.

“I’ll see you late to-night,” he added, very seriously. “I’ve got
to go to Rotterdam to cable Washington about those old pensioners.”



Her parents had always regarded her as a sort of stepchild. There
was Elaine, her elder sister, docile, petite, with fair looks and
a proper dot, married at eighteen and mother of two babies; but
Virginie was twenty and unwed. Although I did not know her until
1914, I can fancy the picture in the ancient moated castle of Drie
Toren two years before when Virginie faced the old Baron, her
father, and declared her independence of parental restraints of all
sorts. The old Baron, bearded like a Numidian lion, had a special
vocabulary for matters which concerned his unmarried daughter.
“_Incroyable! pénible! triste! terrible! effrayante! bête!_”--I
heard them dozens of times a day--and the shy, wilted floweret of
a Baroness, her mother, sat with hands placidly folded, waiting
for the final catastrophe which was sure to overwhelm her “_pauvre

La Baronne Virginie was delighted to tell me of the famous
interview with her father. She told it with shrieks and giggles,
between puffs from one of my strongest cigarettes, her cold,
gray-blue eyes--inherited from some merciless Viking ancestor who
had once harried the coasts of Flanders--dancing with delight, and
her bright golden hair waving as she tossed her head to give point
to the jest.

“_‘Mais, ma chérie,’ il m’a dit._

“‘_Mais, mon père,’ j’ai dit_.... The devil! I forget always and
speak French. That morning I was very angry, so I slid down the
banisters and shrieked with the top of my breath, and there was my
father at the foot of the stair, like this!” She made an adorable
caricature of the leonine astonishment of her father at sight of
the apparition of his daughter, her foot caught in her skirt,
kicking vigorously to free herself and spreading tatters of lace
petticoat over the Chinese carpet. “‘Come here,’ he roared, as if I
were a servant. ‘Come here, cher _Papatje, s’il te plaît_. I have
something to say,’ I answer very respectfully, as a Belgian girl
must always speak: ‘I will not marry. I will not worship some man
like Jules. (Jules is my brother-in-law. He has red hair and a wart
on his nose. Ugh!) I will not have babies. I will not be as Elaine.
No, no, no, no, no, I will not. I am going to England to be a
suf-fer-a-gette. I will burn churches and bite people. I hate men!’”

“But do you hate us, really?” I interrupted.

“Of course!” The light of her eyes was like the light on Swiss
glaciers. “I hate all men--you especially.”

I was hurt, and showed it.

“Ha! I do,” she repeated, following up her advantage. “And I hate
my father--enough, not much, just a little. ‘_Oufff!_’ he says to
me, ‘what for a person is this my daughter! Have I not give you
all in the world, miserable one?’ ‘No,’ I answer. ‘Freedom? No.’
‘Freedom!’ he says. ‘Yes, freedom,’ I answer again. ‘It is the
century of the woman. We must have freedom.’ (I got that from an
American book, but I did not tell him. He was so troubled already.)

“So next day I went to England, and in England I burned one church
and bit two people.”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was I who named her Doña Quixote. For all her Viking eyes
she was a perfect Spanish type, such a type as one occasionally
finds nowadays in villages of the Dutch Province of Zeeland or
in the Belgian Provinces of East Flanders and Antwerp, almost
the sole reminders of the days when the Dons lorded it in the
Low Countries. She was not brunette, but a Spanish blonde, with
a magnificent complexion burnished on the cheeks, straight,
aristocratic nose, and jeweled mouth. The oval of her face was
positively Mediterranean, and seeing her glorious hair I knew what
the Elizabethan poets meant by singing of “golden wires.” She was
adorable, perfect, and cold as frost.

“But, mademoiselle,” I began.

“Madame!” she interrupted. “Always call me madame.”

“Pardon, but why?”

“Never ask me the why of anything. It is because I choose. Isn’t
that enough?”

“No,” I burst out angrily. “I’m a reasonable being, I’ll have you
to know, and I must be treated reasonably. What the dickens----?”

She laughed suddenly and delightedly. “Ice, ice, I thought you were
of ice. I thought all Americans were of ice, Monsieur. Good! You
thaw. I shall tell you, because you know how to get angry like a

“Stop teasing me,” I muttered, ashamed, sorry, and indignant.

“At the convent school in Bruges where I went to school the nuns
call us ‘madame’. It is a school for the petty nobility, you
understand, so we are called ‘madame’ just as the little Princess
Marie-Jose is called ‘Madame’ and not ‘Mademoiselle la Princesse.’
I like it.”

“Well, I don’t.”

“That is all one to me,” she responded calmly. “You are to call me

“I won’t. Not until you are married, and maybe I won’t even then.
Maybe I’ll call you by your first name.”

She examined curiously my flushed face, stubborn, unhappy,
disgusted with my own boorishness, but seeing no way out. Her cold
gaze took in all that she wanted; noted that I was a fly in her
spider-net; and she dimpled and thawed graciously. “Please!” she

“Mademoiselle--er--er----” I stuttered, “do you know Spanish?”

“Not a word. But I have read ‘Don Quixote,’ of course.”

“Doña--that is Spanish for a noble lady. I shall call you
Doña--Doña Quixote.”


For the first and, I was about to say, the last time, I caught her
off her guard, astonished, wounded, a bit angry. But the one word
was all I wanted. It showed me I could bully her. That word had
been warm and human, utterly unlike the icy flood which normally
came from her lips. “Doña Quixote!” I repeated blandly.

“You shall do nothing of the sort. Don Quixote was a madman.”

“Yes, and you are a madwoman. You won’t listen to the people who
love you.”

“You are not to say that word to me again.”

“What word?”

“That word! You know--_that_ word.”


“The other one: the one that begins with _l_ and has four letters!”



The Commissaire of the Arrondissement of Metseys beat on the
glass front of the limousine and arrested the mad career
of the Government automobile in which we were riding. The
soldier-chauffeur (a Belgian in the near-British uniform which the
Belgian army now wears, with a small round button in his cap marked
with the Belgian colours in concentric circles--black, white, red)
turned and looked back into the car inquiringly. “We stop here,”
the Commissaire announced in pantomime.

Just five minutes before we had rushed directly under a battery
of heavy French guns blazing away like furnaces. I did not know
they were French guns--although the accent was marked!--until
the Commissaire told me; but then he knew every battery, every
cantonment, every airdrome, and every hospital in that little
bit of Belgium behind the Yser lines which is still free from
the invaders. As we passed the battery, a wave of sulphur had
engulfed us, the glass of the limousine rattled dangerously, and
that mad chauffeur, putting on all power, had rushed us down
the winding Flemish road, scattering stray groups of mild-eyed
Belgian infantrymen and cavalrymen and grazing the metallic flanks
of lumbering British motor lorries, their canvas sides splashed
with Flanders mud, on their way down to the lines. He had rushed
us over a little canal where two or three soldiers were fishing
sleepily, in spite of the noise of the bombardment. He had dashed
us alongside a field of over-ripe wheat, through a long avenue of
stunted willows, across an acre of barbed-wire entanglements, and
into the town of Zandt, its gray walls gleaming in the splashing
sunlight which had just followed the customary morning shower, its
claret-red roofs burnished like the morocco binding of old books.

We stepped stiffly from the car on to the slippery cobblestones and
stared about us.

“The Germans shell Zandt almost every day,” said the Commissaire
coolly. “That French battery we just passed will probably wake them
up. Put the car in the lee of that wall, Pierre,” he called to the
chauffeur. “We shall be back in ten minutes.”

“This, gentlemen,” he said, as we walked down the principal street
of Zandt, “is called the Street of the Spy, because, up to this
moment, no German shells have fallen in it. The population of Zandt
pretend that it is because the Germans have a spy living in this
street. Droll, isn’t it?”

We laughed with him. It is true that no shells had fallen in the
Street of the Spy, but they had missed it by inches, not yards or
rods. If I have ever said that the Germans do not use heavy calibre
shells on unfortified villages and towns, I apologize. They use
their very heaviest shells on these little defenceless villages of
west Flanders just behind the Yser lines; they throw almost daily
shells which are as destructive as cyclones into three or four room
dwelling-houses. A row of such houses falls like a sand castle when
such a shell arrives.

“But the people want to stay here, of course,” explained the
Commissaire. “Where can they go? The peasant and the man of the
small town has no capital except his farm or his house or his
_winkel_--his little shop. He has no bank account. He is primitive.
He is simple. All he has in the world is here in Zandt. And
so he stays. Yes, we give them gas-masks, for the Germans use
asphyxiating gas very often here. But it is hardest on the children
and the little babies.

“Those boys we are sending away to-morrow to a safe place in
France.” He pointed to two youngsters, nine and seven years old,
peering through the broken glass of a near-by window.

“Are you glad to go, _manneken_?” he asked the elder.

“Oh, yes, yes, mynheer.”

“But why?”

“Because one has fear of the bombardment, mynheer,” said the boy,

       *       *       *       *       *

“This you must see,” said the Commissaire, ducking his head and
leading us into a small passageway between two brick walls. “It is
the most interesting person in Zandt. She is eighty-three years
old. She lost her only grandson in the war. She has nothing to eat
except from her little garden. There, see!”

We had emerged on the edge of a tiny plot of land, perhaps
twenty-two feet square. A gray one-story cottage, covered with
mossy thatch, bounded it on one side; low walls and an outhouse
inclosed it on the others. The little plot was cultivated, densely,
compactly, expertly--a mosaic of fruits and green vegetables. Two
apricot trees trimmed in the French fashion were trained along the
wall, and a low vine, with some sort of pendent fruit, hung from
the outhouse.

But strangest of all there were three beds of ornamental flowers. I
stared hard at them, and suddenly I saw that they were graves!

“Good-day, madame,” the Commissaire called, touching his hat. “See,
these are American gentlemen come to look at your little garden.”

She came slowly from the cottage, a wisp of lace in her white hair,
wearing the ceremonial black frock which a peasant woman puts on
for such feast days as the Feast of the Assumption, a white apron,
and leather shoes. “You are welcome, gentlemen, you are welcome,”
she said, with the grace of a chatelaine.

“But aren’t those graves?” I asked, pointing to the beds of
nasturtiums, geraniums, and marigolds which covered three long
mounds at the end of the garden, taking up almost half of the room
available for vegetables and fruits. “Madame, aren’t those graves?”

“Oh, yes, mynheer,” she said.

“They have not been here long, madame?” I was looking at the
transplanted geraniums, well rooted in the mud, but not yet wholly
at home, and the raw, muddy rim about the edges of the three mounds.

“Since April, mynheer. I tend them myself,” she added proudly.

I turned to the Commissaire. “None of those is her grandson’s
grave?” I asked in a low voice.

“Oh, no,” he muttered. “Her grandson died in Germany. He was taken
prisoner at Liége in August, 1914. Madame,” he said to her, “the
gentleman asks if he may look at your graves.”

“Oh, yes, mynheeren.” She fluttered down before us, bent
rheumatically at the first mound, and pulled at a weed which the
rain had freshened.

“‘Pray for the soul of Franz Mueller,’” I read in breathless
amazement. “A Boche?”

“A Boche, of course!” said the Commissaire.

“And the other two--they are Boches also? ‘Pray for the soul of
Max Edelsheim’ and ‘Pray for the soul of Erich Schneider,’” I read
aloud. The neat wooden crosses bore also the regimental numbers of
the men and the date of their death.

“Boches, too. It happens that they were killed in this garden on a

“But why don’t you remove them? You can put them somewhere else,
and then this poor old woman can use all her garden. I should think
she could hardly raise enough to eat from all this little plot, let
alone from half of it.”

We had spoken in French, and of course the old proprietress had
not understood. The Commissaire now turned to her, speaking the
rhythmic, metrical Flemish of west Flanders. “Madame, the mynheer
says that we should take up these bodies and place them in the
churchyard. Do you wish it done so?”

At first she did not seem to understand, and bent inquiringly
toward the Commissaire, her little gray eyes screwed up in
bewilderment at his words. “What is it, mynheer?” she asked.

“Mynheer says that we should remove the three Germans and let you
have your garden.”

“Oh, nay, nay,” she remonstrated, shaking her head emphatically.
“Nay, mynheeren. God gave me these three graves instead of the
grave of my boy. I could not tend them so well if they were in the
churchyard. It is too far from my house. Nay, nay, let the three
sleep here.”

“But you have not the room, madame.”

“There is room in my heart and in my garden, mynheer. I shall keep
these three graves, and maybe in Germany there is some one who will
keep the grave of my boy.”

       *       *       *       *       *

“Messieurs, there is no use arguing with a Belgian peasant,” said
the Commissaire of Metseys, as we walked back through the Street
of the Spy to our waiting automobile. “But she has a fine spirit,
that old grandmother.”




The aviation launch rolled slowly in the grip of the grounds well
behind one of the desolate islands off Tenedos, southwest of the
entrance to the Dardanelles. The afternoon was windless and humid.
Warm, dripping fog covered the launch and hid from her the outlines
of the rocky, treeless island in the lee of which she lay. Fog
had sprinkled the deck as if with baptismal water, and the day
was noiseless except for the lazy slapping of waves against the
launch’s side.

A hydro-aeroplane alongside dipped and rose rhythmically with
the launch’s motion, and the aviator, Lieutenant Douka, of the
Royal Flying Corps, muffled in a British airman’s uniform, with
thick wadded helmet on his head, goggles, and rubber gauntlets,
bent over and tested the bomb-dropping mechanism. Those who had
known Douka as a student in America or as an unambitious idler in
Paris would hardly have recognized him in his new rôle. He had
always been romantic, but he explained this amiable weakness as an
inheritance from his Byzantine ancestors. “My grandparents were
Greek, you know,” was his offhand explanation to college friends of
his glowing fondness for the classics and things Hellenic. His two
or three trips to Greece had been marred by the unpleasant contrast
between the Greece he had imagined and the Greece of to-day.
He could scarcely make himself understood in the modern tongue
of Hellas; it irritated him, as modern English would doubtless
irritate Chaucer. “A degenerate language and a degenerate people,”
he told himself. Yet he had taken up aviation at Pau, not as a
sport--although that is what he told his friends--but as one of the
gifts he could offer modern Greece when the day of her final fight
with the Turk should dawn.

The war came. He went hopefully to Athens. There came a day
when King Constantine overrode his people, Venizelos retired,
constitutional government in Greece ceased to be, and Douka went to
London and volunteered in time for the Dardanelles expedition.

But he gave no sign of all this as he tested and retested the
bomb-dropping mechanism hanging between the pontoons which
supported the machine, and pushed and pulled the controls. He
thrust his feet against the pedals and examined the petrol and oil
throttles. “Right, lieutenant?” called the skipper of the launch.
“Right, sir,” he answered. “Belay there! Lively!” the skipper
shouted to two sailors who held the machine. A mechanician spun
the propeller and dropped from sight; the motor churned nervously;
Lieutenant Douka lifted his hand and signalled that all was
satisfactory. The launch shot sidewise, and the ’plane skated
swiftly forward, leaving a foaming wake. She tilted and shot
forward faster, then up from the water and heavily into the mist.
Douka swung her back and around the launch. Along the deck beneath
him the sailors stood at attention, but a gust of gray smoke showed
him that his escort was already in motion, off for the mother-ship
and the flock of aeroplanes at Imbros, and he was alone, sailing
away to bomb the _Sultan Omar_, the flagship of the Turkish fleet.

He looked at the clock--it read 3:17; then at the oil gauge--it
was working properly. He climbed to fifteen hundred feet. Under
him the mist lay like an Arctic snow-field, broken by pools of
rotten ice through which the gray sea stared. The sea abruptly
changed to gray land, and he mounted higher. He was flying at a
height of four thousand feet over Asia, the ancestral enemy of his
race and his continent. Somewhere down in the haze beneath lay
Troy. Douka smiled bitterly as he thought again of the ten years’
warfare, and of how the Greeks had blotted her from the earth.
The sullen roar of his motor seemed to stimulate his imagination.
The mist thinned slightly, and he saw far away the narrow blue
ribbon of the Dardanelles--the blood-thickened boundary between
free Europe and the despotic East. Haughty Xerxes once sat on those
cliffs and watched his Asiatic worms crossing to conquer the West.
Twenty-eight centuries had battled on that blue line. Always it had
been the same, age after age, century after century, always the
Greek against the Asiatic, the Greek against the barbarian, and for
five hundred years the disinherited Christian Greek against the
Moslem Turk. Muffled in his helmet as he was, he began to sing an
old Byzantine war song--a song his grandmother had taught him. His
hate rose like a bird in a gale; his clutched hands bit into the
rubber sheathing of the levers; he drove ahead at top speed, but
his wrath seemed to leap out before him like a racer distancing the
thing behind. To kill, to destroy, to blot out, utterly obsessed

High over the Sea of Marmora he flew toward Constantinople.
Battles without end had been fought on the watery plains below.
There the vast Greek Empire had struggled to the death with the
hordes of Asia. The mist which had half hidden the land thinned
and disappeared. The choppy air became cleaner and easier to
fly through. He climbed to eight thousand feet. Far away he
caught sight of the Golden Horn, the royal city of Constantine
the Great, like a Grecian jewel set in Oriental gold, or like a
Grecian body pierced by the bright spears of Turkish minarets.
For five centuries she had been the spoil of the East. He cursed
her conquerors and laughed to himself. What if he should bomb the
mosque of Omar or the Sultan’s palace?... He shook his fist at
Scutari as if the city were a person. Little flowers of dirty-white
smoke bloomed in the air beside him and above him; once he seemed
to fly through a shower where before all had been clear, and he
felt small pieces of steel drumming like rain on the wings of his
’plane. It was a burst of shrapnel. He laughed and flew on.

Up the Bosphorus he drove, searching the sea with his eyes. The
British Secret Service had reported the _Sultan Omar_ at Bojukdere.
He strained for a sight of her.

Then suddenly, like a mirage, he saw the half-moon of a harbour
and black ships at anchorage. He drew rapidly near. A violent puff
of smoke rose from the funnels of the largest ship. She had seen
him, or she had been warned, and was endeavouring to escape. He
recognized her with a cry of delight. She was the _Sultan Omar_.

Hidden forts on the green hills about the harbour burst into life.
Smoke, flame, and the dull thud of cannon rose to him, for he was
flying lower and lower. A shrapnel shell flashed just in front
of him and showered steel splinters against his windshield. He
screamed with laughter. It seemed to him ridiculously funny that
they should think they could kill him or escape him.

He volplaned; from seven thousand feet he sank to one thousand,
then to eight hundred--to seven hundred--to six hundred--to five
hundred. A curving white wake showed him that his victim was
in motion. He was almost over her. Rifles cracked as the crew
endeavoured to reach him with their bullets. He did not hear them.
His right arm swung deliberately back to the bomb-thrower. He was
near. He was over. He jerked madly, and the pent volcano fell
straight on the warship.

The air rocked and heaved. His ’plane almost turned a somersault,
and he fought to restore its balance in an atmosphere reeling like
a typhoon. Solid waves of air beat and buffeted him. He jerked the
levers and fought furiously. Then, like a bronco, the machine found
her feet, prancing and shuddering in the choppy air, and up he
climbed. A glance over his shoulder was enough, even if the boiling
air had not told him of his success. The blue sea was black with
wreckage; men like insects floated in the water, but the _Sultan
Omar_ had disappeared.

The air still cracked and roared as the Turks shelled him. The
whole land seemed to wake, and the setting sun shone through a
curtain of dirty smoke. A Turkish aeroplane slid up in long spirals
behind him to cut off his retreat; petrol dripped slowly from a
leak in his reservoir caused by shrapnel or a rifle bullet. It was
the price of his success; a glance told him that he could not stop
the leak. He had often thought of that moment. Should he go back
and risk capture by the Turks? No; he would fly straight out into
the Black Sea and die alone in its waters. He would fly out into
the sea where his ancestors had sailed centuries before the Moslems
had taken Constantinople; the sea of the Golden Fleece, of Medea,
of Xenophon and the Ten Thousand, of the long campaigns against the
Persians. He would die there.

The sun set swiftly. In the twilight his mind seemed to slip its
leash and play high jinks with him. His palms grew into the handles
of the controls and became part of the mechanism; his fingers
lengthened into levers, his legs into rods upholding the aeroplane,
and he flew, screaming, laughing, and cursing, until night fell
like a plummet from the dusky sky.

       *       *       *       *       *

Suddenly his machine struck the level surface of the sea and
buckled forward. Douka awoke, as if from sleep, tore the harness
from his aching head, and slumped forward against the straps,
waiting for the end. The wreckage of his machine still floated on
the long, slow waves, and rocked easily to and fro, but one of the
pontoons was crushed and another was leaking.

He felt no wind against his face, and the sea was calm. “Lucky,”
he thought listlessly, knowing that at a touch of wind or wave
the ’plane would go under. It might float for hours, or only for
minutes; he did not care. Death was certain.

But there seemed to be a sound of voices in the air, a distant
singing and a splash of oars. “Delirium,” he said calmly. “But
how beautifully they sing! What is it? It is Greek! Why, it is the
old Greek: ‘To thee, Zeus, blessings upon our timid flocks.’” His
wondering lips formed the words which he had learned in school.

Then out of the darkness swam a boat, and in the boat were a
steersman and four men at the oars, and the men were singing a hymn
to Zeus, the Father of all and the King of all. To Lieutenant Douka
nothing now seemed strange. To his shaken mind it seemed good to
hear them, good to see them, good to find them loosing the straps
which held him to the wrecked machine, and lifting him, in silence,
into their boat.

Half an hour they rowed, when Douka caught across the level sea
a hot breath of wind and the odour breathed from rye-fields in
midsummer. “Land! It is land!” he exclaimed. “It is land--the
White Island,” they answered gently. Both he and they had spoken
in the classic Greek, the Greek of the old heroic days--not the
bastard modern speech, larded with cruel words from the Turks and
the rough idioms of northern barbarians. His tired eyes strained
forward. Like night mist advancing upon them came the land, white
like foam and very fair; and he heard cicadas chanting in the olive
trees, and the warm breath of the night brought murmurs of song and
the sibilant lapping of waves along a sandy shore.

All the island was white. A crescent moon stole out of cloudbanks
and stared down on white sands, white balustrades, the white walls
of palaces, white hills swelling against the darkness, silvery
white olive groves, and slowly moving figures, clad all in white,
pacing along the stairs.

A white crane beside the landing-place awoke, flapped his wings,
and flew slowly off. Stately men and beautiful women thronged the
quay and looked down curiously as the boat grated against the
beach. “We have brought another from the wars,” the steersman
called to them. “Welcome, friend,” those on the quay called gently;
and “Thanks, friends,” Douka answered.

His tortured muscles knotted and failed as he tried to climb from
the boat, and he fell back helplessly. Two of the oarsmen bent to
him, lifted him like a child, and bore him between them up the long
flights of steps. He had fainted.

When he awoke, his nude body lay on a warm marble slab, and two
male attendants of the bath were kneading his aching flesh with
perfumed hands. Their touch was like ice and like fire, and life
seemed poured back into his body as into a wineskin as they
worked. The hands stole over him, gradually more and more softly,
exploring, soothing, stupefying. He slept.... He awoke once more,
to find that they had placed him in what seemed to be a bed of
live coals, in a white furnace which burned and leaped with light,
but the crackling heat did not harm him, and again he slept....
He awoke in a high-roofed hall, and all around him was light and
laughter, jets of fountains and music of slow streams; and the two
attendants plunged him again and again into pools which received
him as into a bed and covered him with warm floods.

Then he was rubbed with oils, and a garland was placed on his head.
Two girls came, bringing him clothing--a blue-bordered peplos, a
white mantle for his shoulders, and white sandals for his feet.
“Drink,” they said, and they gave him a cup of barley crushed in
water flavoured with mint.

“Now it is time for the feast,” they cried gayly. “Come to the
feast.” And they led him through alleys bordered with white
violets, hyacinths, roses, crocuses, and ghostly narcissi. In the
cleft hills the olive groves gleamed like pools of moonlight; a
waking dove gurgled drowsily, and the cicadas sang; and to left
and right he heard faint snatches of old Greek hymns and saw white
figures moving slowly along the sandy paths.

So they brought him to the banquet in a high-roofed hall of marble,
lit by flambeaux in sconces along the walls, garlanded with white
lilies, and spread with Oriental tables and low couches. And boys
and girls flew laughingly about serving the meats and drink.

He was led to his place, and reclined in the antique fashion on a
cushion beneath his elbow. Then guests began to appear through the
wide marble doors. To his delight and astonishment he knew them.
They were like old friends--friends of his youth, friends of the
youth of all the world; and they came into the hall with garlands
in their hair and bright robes upon them and gayety and peace in
their looks.

There came Achilles, his gigantic arm over the shoulders of Hector,
and a smile on his youthful face as he talked; and goat-bearded,
bandy-legged Thersites, limping and chattering endlessly; and
stately Nestor; broad-breasted, stout Agamemnon; Priam, leaning
on an ivory staff; wily Odysseus, walking alone in the throng;
huge, ungainly Ajax; gossipy Menelaus, Sarpedon, and Patroclus;
Neoptolemus leading by the hand the sweet boy Astyanax; Diomedes,
Æneas, smooth-shaven Troilus, black Memnon, laughing Paris. And
the women! white-armed Briseïs, motherly Hecuba, Andromache and
gentle Cressida, Chryseïs, grave Cassandra, Penelope, Polyxena,
Iphigenia, the lithe, dark-eyed beauty of Myrine the Amazon, and
the golden radiance of Helen, her face like noon sunlight--Helen of
Sparta, for whose sake the Greeks are forever named Hellenes, at
whose shrine all men worship, and shall worship so long as beauty
endures--these came into the high-roofed hall; these, and many more.

And after them came an old blind singer, a lyre in his hands, a
laurel crown on his head. “Homer, Homer!” they cried. “A welcome
to Homer!” All rose as he passed, and they led him to the highest
place in the hall, and took their pillows again, applauding him.

They poured libations and began the banquet, drinking from
four-handled cups studded with gold. They ate no flesh. There was
no mark of death in the hall, or violence, or cruelty. They talked
gayly, and all their talk was of peace; they told old stories, but
all their stories were of peace; and when they sang, their songs
were of peace. And always the boys and girls served them, laughing.

Douka drank from his cup, and it was filled again and again. Pain
and hatred fell from him like a garment; he laughed and jested with
the rest--with Paris of Troy, Paris of Asia, Paris of the East,
smiling on his right, and bearded Odysseus on his left. “Tell us
a tale, Odysseus,” he begged at last, “a tale of your travels and
your prowess.” And Odysseus, shaking great tones from his chest
like snowflakes in winter, told of Nausicaa, daughter of King
Alcinoüs, and the game of ball on the Phocæan shore.

“Prowess?” he ended. “There is no prowess but kindliness. Only
kindliness lives forever in the memory.”

Then Helen, smiling at them, cried: “Sing, Homer, sing, for the
moon has set, and the Pleiades; it is midnight, and the time is
going by. Sing of hearth and shrine, sing of youth and age, sing of
love, sing of peace, sing of the flocks safe from harm, the plowed
earth and the groves, and the untroubled sea. Sing of the child
nestling close to his mother, and of joy, joy, joy! Sing to us of
these, old Homer.”

And Homer sang.

       *       *       *       *       *

At three o’clock in the morning a Turkish torpedo-boat patrolling
in the Black Sea came upon the aviator who had destroyed the
_Sultan Omar_. He lay in the wreckage of his hydro-aeroplane. The
Turks took him unresistingly into their craft. They say that he
sang softly to himself in an obscure Grecian dialect and babbled
incessantly of Helen and the heroes who fell before Troy.




Transcriber’s Notes:

Page 46: la Toisond ’Or changed to la Toison d’Or.

Page 49: Hotel de Ville changed to Hôtel de Ville.

Inconsistent hyphenation retained as printed. A few printing
punctuation errors were corrected.

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