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Title: In the Prison City Brussels, 1914-1918 - A Personal Narrative
Author: Twells, J. H. (Julia Helen Watts)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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BRUSSELS, 1914-1918

A Personal Narrative



Author of
“The Higher Law” “Et Tu Segane” etc.


London: Andrew Melrose Ltd.
3 York Street, Covent Garden, W.C. 2

  C. H. M.


These reminiscences of prison years in Brussels, during the entire
German occupation, aim merely at giving an accurate account of the
city’s moral atmosphere, and of certain events which came to me
first-hand and have not yet been recorded. Only indubitable facts are
related, while many of, perhaps, greater and more tragic interest,
already made public, or reaching me through roundabout channels, have
been omitted.

This slight record, which, in great part, lay for many months buried
under Belgian soil, to escape German inquisition, may appear an
unnecessary addition to the volumes of more important matter already
delay, entered the conflict heart and soul—as England, the land of my
forefathers both paternal and maternal, performed very miracles and
risked her all for a cause so great—it seems my duty, as that of every
eye-witness, to give all positive evidence possible, to those who must
bear the consequent taxation, that the cause was worthy of the vast
sacrifices it demanded.

                                        J. H. T., JR.

  “See with what heat these dogs of Hell advance
  To waste and havoc yonder world, which I
  So fair and good created!”

                                                       _Paradise Lost._



“Thank Heaven we are in a sane country at last!” was my thought when,
after struggling as best we could through terror-stricken France, my
companion and I crossed the Belgian frontier early in August 1914.

Such was the impression made by the calm confidence of a people
already meeting the German forces at the point where their
inadequately fortified boundaries had been treacherously attacked. The
impression may have been partly due to contrast with some days amid
the wild confusion and panic of Paris, where, almost devoid of funds
(since all letters of credit were valueless), we had existed, with
several other stranded travellers, on the charity, or rather faith,
of a prominent hotel proprietor. During that never-to-be-forgotten
sojourn in the famous capital, we had witnessed something resembling
the frenzied excitement of revolution days. The entire population,
expecting a repetition of the horrors of 1870, was in a fever of
alarm; distraction and tumult reigned on every side. Streets rang
night and day with the hysterical cries of newsvendors announcing
some unlooked-for lightning flash through the cloud of storm rapidly
spreading darkness over the world; echoed to the ceaseless tramp
of troops hurrying to the front, and with the shrieks and howls of
applause raised by half-maddened crowds thronging the thoroughfares.

Lightning alone can symbolize the rapid shocks that reached us, almost
hourly, during those first days. But, as these events are well known,
and their recital not an object of this account, they may be left to
the more able hands now, doubtless, engaged in presenting them as each
writer deems advantageous to his own nation.

Paris, representing the dazed and horrified condition of the whole
war-stricken country, indeed appeared mad at that time. “_C’est la
guerre!_” was the explanation of every eccentric act; every scarcity;
every failure to carry on business. All classes were in the streets,
gesticulating, arguing, or shouting wildly to the hastily-mustered
troops marching, gay and confident, toward a hell of horrors no
one then could even picture. “_C’est la guerre!_” came with dogged
bitterness from the lips of mothers, in whose eyes still lingered
the tears through which they had smiled farewell to sons they would
never see again—from the man behind the counter who absent-mindedly
regretted that he had not some article asked for, until it was pointed
out to him, in his stock, by a persistent client.

To the French “_La Guerre_” meant the pitiless monster of Bismarck’s
time, whose awful shadow still darkened the minds which could remember
Germany’s last subtly-planned and opportune onslaught. Although later
on, as all the world knows, France faced the situation with admirable
courage and a wonderful spirit of self-sacrifice and determination,
at that time her people appeared distraught by a calamity too little
provided against, and too appallingly suggestive of disaster to be
contemplated with the calm and faith quickly developed after the great
Marne victory.

That first awful period of consternation eloquently revealed how
little France had premeditated conflict with her neighbour, and makes
the ever-glorious and miraculous resistance of her and England’s
armies, against Germany’s superior forces and perfected equipment,
stand out as the one astounding marvel of the war.

When my companion and I were startled, while on a holiday expedition
in the French Alps, by the tocsin’s ominous tolling, we were as dazed
as were all others in the quiet Alpine hamlet so abruptly shaken from
its world-ignoring calm.

To us, descending from the eternal peace of snow-clad peaks, knowing
nothing of the menace that so rapidly rushed the mightiest of nations
into conflict such as the world has never before known, the scene of
despair awakened by that summons was inexpressibly affecting. We had
left the village in all the joy and prosperity of its gladdest season,
and returned to find its streets thronged with weeping and frenzied
women, neglected children, and pale-faced men, too stunned for speech.

It was as though some inexplicable cataclysm had struck the place,
turning a sane community mad; for at first the significance of that
slowly tolling bell was not clear to us. The appalling truth, however,
became quickly known, and we, with other aliens, were obliged, if
not provided with a _permis de séjour_, to leave the locality within
twelve hours and fly from France.

The journey to Paris of twenty-eight hours, side-tracked and shut
up as we were in a suffocatingly overcrowded carriage, without food
or water, was an experience not likely to be forgotten by anyone
who suffered it. It served as a preface to war; a preface which,
save for the lack of bloodshed, contained all the moral miseries
of battle—struggle, menace, suffering, and even the proximity of
death, for several children and women nearly perished of thirst and

As the Paris banks were also closed to foreign credit, we arrived
there to find no means of increasing our funds in hand—only sufficient
to cover the journey back to Brussels (our place of residence),
whither, after a much-needed night of repose, we expected to continue
our journey the following morning. But “_La Guerre_” willed otherwise!
All trains being monopolized for the transfer of troops, we, with
several American millionaires and other foreigners, were forced to
exist on trust, for a period that appeared indefinite, within the
palatial walls of the Grand Hotel.

Looking down from the safe enclosure of windows upon the dark tides
of passion and sorrow surging in the streets, it was comical, as
well as perplexing, to hear the discourse of these pampered darlings
of Fortune who, as yet, had no vaguest idea of war’s true meaning,
and seemed to look upon the surrounding agitation as little more
than a characteristic of excitable France. There was no definite
anxiety shown as to the possible consequences of the outbreak.
Its world-encircling terrors could only be foreseen by those who
understood the length and breadth of Germany’s ambitions. To the
Americans present it meant only a brief European conflict, to which
they and their country were in no way related and from which they were
anxious to fly with all possible speed. Some remarks there uttered
in facetious ignorance of the moment’s real gravity recur to me now
in strange contrast to the heartfelt intensity of America’s later
sympathy, and her slowly accumulating resentment toward the Powers
that made war more a shame to humanity than ever before in history.

“If this imprisonment goes on much longer, I really don’t know what I
shall do!” exclaimed the wife of a wealthy New York banker one day
as we sat in the sumptuous hotel drawing-room listening to the outer
roar; “I have only three francs and twenty centimes between me and

This tragic announcement, from a woman noted for her opulence, was
spoken with a mock gravity that called forth general laughter.

“Well, _I_ have just seventy-five centimes!” retorted another equally
wealthy dame. “If you will advance me one-fifty, I shall give you a
hundred per cent interest when we reach the land of liberty!”

“If we ever _do_ reach it!” was the joking reply. “No, dear lady, it
is far too dubious! I imagine we are here to stay until the Germans
are beaten!”

“Good gracious! don’t suggest such a thing!” exclaimed another. “That
would be _too_ appalling!”

“Oh, it will not be so long! If England comes in, we shall see the end
of war in a few weeks!”

“England! Don’t lay your hopes there—England will never come in!”

“She certainly will,” ejaculated the first speaker. “My husband says
if Belgium is violated, England will certainly have a hand in the
wicked business.”

“Germany is not likely to be so rash as to violate Belgium’s
neutrality,” remarked a man present; “but if she does, God help

“_And_ England!” muttered another.

“Well, all I know,” asserted one of the women, “is that Mr. F.—and
being a diplomat, he ought to know!—told me this morning it would be
folly for England to become embroiled. She isn’t prepared, and she has
no army.”

“She has a navy!”

“What use would a navy be against an inland country?” scornfully
retorted one of the women; then, as though weary of the folly of her
sex, turned to a man who had not yet spoken and asked: “What do _you_

He shrugged and replied rather disconsolately: “My dear lady, the
whole affair is too far beyond my comprehension for me to form any
opinion about it. Civilization has been dealt a blow that leaves
feeble intellects, like mine, too dazed to think!”

“But do you think England will come in?” persisted his questioner.

“She may and she may not,” was the unsatisfactory reply. “I fail to
see what she can accomplish, in her present condition, if she does.”

“Oh, she could be of great use!” exclaimed the banker’s wife. “She
could patrol us across the briny deep, and that is all I care about
at present! Dear me! if only our cars had not been requisitioned,
we might all have been on the sea by now! I do think it rather an
imposition to take what belongs to neutrals!”

“They probably never asked to whom the cars belonged,” returned the
man. “At a time like this, when every moment lost counts against them,
every vehicle for transporting troops is too urgently needed.”

“Oh, I suppose so!” the woman sighed, “but I just wish I had not left
mine in Paris. They might have had it and welcome, if they had allowed
me to get out first!”

“I can’t understand why _one_ train for foreigners can’t be run
through to Calais,” complained another. “There is no _system_—that is
the trouble!”

“System!” echoed the man. “How can there be system, in regard to
strangers, when the country is shaken as by an earthquake? The
most powerful military strength in the world, enhanced by all the
devices and war-machinery perfected by half a century of study and
preparation, is rushing to overwhelm her unsuspecting and unready
forces! What is your discomfort, or mine, or that of any individual,
when compared to the almost inevitable ruin threatening France? We can
only wait and be patient. Our trials are as nothing in comparison to
what every native of this country is now suffering.”

This silenced complaints, and the very typical conversation took a
more serious tone. Not one of us really understood the full gravity
of the catastrophe. It was too sudden and inexplicable. The sentiments
prevailing in Paris, at that time, were scarcely wiser than ours;
save that former experience—the trials of a war still remembered by
many—added the anguish of apprehension to incredulous amazement. We,
meanwhile, were more annoyed than frightened, and looked on the whole
matter with egoistic intolerance, angry that our plans should be
disturbed by so stupid an affair as international discord!

But as days passed, bringing the astounding information that Belgium
was likely to be invaded,—bringing also England’s protest, followed
by her entrance into the fray,—even we neutrals began to feel the
far-reaching shadow of evil.

There appeared no vaguest chance of getting away from distraught
Paris; and, hope of this being gradually eclipsed by sympathy for
the harassed people, a number of us offered our services to one of
the many Red Cross associations rapidly forming in all quarters
of the city. Not knowing what better to do, we entered a long,
unventilated hall, crowded with fashionably-attired women, mostly—in
this particular organization—stranded Americans eager to be of
use, rather than pine in idleness for the comforts of unattainable
homes. A hard-faced, very self-important Frenchwoman from one of the
hospitals addressed us, and for two hours we perspired in the hall’s
breathless atmosphere, while our nerves were racked by her piercing
voice uttering a volley of technical terms which not one in ten of her
auditors understood. We inscribed our names as would-be helpers, and,
anticipating an early departure for the front, provided ourselves with
literature likely to prepare us more quickly than the Frenchwoman’s
rapid flow of unintelligible speech.

Meanwhile, living on charity was beginning to fret those among
us whose financial standing was less widely known than that of
others with millions behind them. The entering of the hotel’s
vast dining-room to partake of meals we could not pay for became
embarrassing. One evening, to avoid this, my companion and I decided
to procure edibles and have a Bohemian meal in our own rooms. With
this in view, we set forth in search of such refreshments as we could
afford. But the soldiers and their friends had been before us; and, as
commercial traffic was at a standstill, new stock was not procurable
to replace what they had exhausted.

If the city had been for months under siege it could scarcely have
been more difficult to obtain food. Every _pâtisserie_ had been sold
out; even the _délicatessen_ shops were void and the proprietors
offensively curt in reply to our amazed inquiries.

“Why?” cried one, glaring personal hatred upon us. “We are in war!
_Voilà pourquoi!_ What do you expect? Next week we shall be starving,
with _les Allemands_ at our door!”

At another shop we secured two slices of cold ham, a bottle of olives,
yielded grudgingly, and, at still another, some cream-cheese. Butter
was invisible, and our search for bread in vain, until, after walking
miles, we obtained two stale rolls, all that remained of yesterday’s
stock, with the usual remark: “_C’est la guerre!_ What would you?”

Looking back, this seems incredible at so early a date; but so it
was, and demonstrated to what a state of panic the people were
brought. They appeared to suspect a German in everyone whose accent
was foreign, and my own probably was accountable for the ungracious
treatment we received.

The following morning, much to the general delight and surprise, glad
tidings reached us from the U.S. Embassy—a train was to leave next
day for Brussels! Although forbidden to take other luggage than a
hand-satchel, we willingly left our large pieces at the hotel, and
took our departure—quite forgetting that our names were inscribed as
first-aid to the wounded! However, as ignorant paupers would hardly
have been of much use, we and other destitute foreigners who fled at
the first chance, were doubtless rather a good riddance than a loss.

The journey proved almost normally rapid and comfortable; and, once in
Belgium, where financial difficulties would be remedied, we hoped to
give what little help we could to those so bravely preparing to check
the menaced invasion.


Brussels appeared, at first sight, little affected by the tragedy
already in action at her outer gates. Banks were doing business as
usual; the streets calm; the shops and cafés crowded with apparently
indifferent throngs, enjoying life with as much appearance of
security as a year earlier. Although it was the dead season, some
smart equipages were to be seen—a pleasant sight after the dearth of
horses and vehicles in Paris! Taxi-cabs were still to be had, and only
the fact that we were stopped four times by Belgian gendarmes—while
driving to the hotel where, owing to lack of servants, we were obliged
to remain a few days—suggested the city’s knowledge that war was
raging without.

But during that short drive other signs of change became visible.
Innumerable red crosses blazed from the whitened windows of all
public buildings and on the house-roofs; while, here and there,
a demolished shop bearing a German name gave evidence of former
excitement now stilled by a spirit of fearless confidence. Sometimes,
also, a troubled face in the crowds told of thoughts centred on
some brave hero at Liège; or a motor-car, going at reckless speed,
suggested that the more responsible were actively engaged preparing to
meet an overwhelming avalanche, of whose magnitude no one in Belgium
then had any adequate conception. However, there was, on the whole,
so little evidence of change in the city that it was difficult to
believe a hurriedly mustered army was even then straining in deadly
conflict almost within cannon-hearing of those bright streets. Several
of the larger business houses, however, were closed, or converted
into hospitals for the wounded. Such was the “Financière” building,
which had been beautifully fitted up with every modern convenience,
and provided with good surgeons, nurses, and everything necessary for
competent and comfortable treatment.

We all immediately took part in these preparations, each one eager
to do his share, however little, in readiness for the first sad
harvest of battle. No one then realized how few of Belgium’s brave
sons would reap the benefit of these fond efforts; but it was not
long ere appalling circumstances made this clear to the disappointed

Hour by hour shocking news reached us from the scene of struggle,
such as the fall of one fort after another at Liège, followed by the
enemies’ onward rush; while tales of their pitiless cruelty caused
brief waves of apprehension to pass over the city—waves quickly
calmed, however, by indomitable and astounding faith.

That the French and British would come in time was the prevailing
argument; there was no danger nor cause for discouragement. Even
though the forts had fallen, Belgium could hold the invaders in check
until adequate assistance arrived; her forces might be driven back,
step by step, for a short distance, but soon would have the upper
hand and drive the foe back into Germany! Such was the reasoning of a
public blinded by their heroic impulse to the situation’s real peril.
No sign of discouragement could be detected even when the remorseless
grey tide was sweeping through ruined and blood-soaked districts
toward the heart of their land.

And it was not merely the uneducated who received the ill-tidings
with this amazing confidence, but men of high standing and competent
judgment. Never, at that time, did I hear a word indicative of fear;
the enthusiastic faith of the first days still remained unshaken.

Although the Government had already withdrawn from Brussels, no one
believed that the capital was in danger; at any rate, no word was
uttered in my hearing that betrayed the least anxiety on that score.

“Have no fear,” the hotel proprietor remarked, as I passed through the
lobby after breakfast on that fateful 20th of August 1914; “there is
no danger of _les Boches_ getting to Brussels. Our men are falling
back only to gather force and attain better positions. Besides, the
French and British are now at hand; we need only hold out a day or two
longer, and then—_nous verrons_!” On every side the same confidence
greeted me: “_Les Boches_ are checked!... _Ils sont fichus!_... The
British are in Antwerp!... In two weeks we shall be in Berlin!” and so
forth; all spoken with a sort of delirious recklessness, suggesting
determination not to recognize disquieting facts.

An hour or so after I left the hotel that morning, my way was blocked
by a silent wall of people, lined on either side of the Boulevard
d’Anvers, watching, in stupefied wonder, a seemingly interminable tide
of grey-clad warriors—the Prussian Fourth Corps, under command of
General von Armin—proudly taking possession of their fair city!

If that haughty and arrogant horde had dropped into our midst from
a cloudless sky, I hardly think it could have caused more awed
astonishment to the general public. So fantastically harrowing had
been the tales of their uncivilized deeds in other quarters of
Belgium, that the half-stunned people had come to think of the German
army as something fabulous, something they were not likely ever to
behold as a material reality. Stories of outrages, inconceivable in
the present age, had been so mingled with encouraging reports of the
monster’s repulse, that popular opinion was unable to decide what was
true and what was not—was unable to picture the awful menace rushing
upon them as other than a moral nightmare, which, they imagined, would
disappear as abruptly and abnormally as it had come.

The dazed amazement in the faces of that watching throng might have
moved a devil to tears, or awakened rage in the heart of an angel—so
silent and helpless they appeared before the mighty and pitiless
force advancing through the stunned city—so callously indifferent was
that force to the shame of their deed! It was like seeing a child
confounded by the blow of a strong man who strode by, smiling with
triumph at sight of its helpless pain. It made one ashamed to be akin
in species to a race capable of committing, and so arrogantly, a wrong
never to be effaced from their history.

Unknown to us at the time, Monsieur Adolphe Max, the
ever-to-be-honoured Bourgmestre of Brussels, had gone early that
morning under a white flag to implore the officer in command for
permission to telegraph a plea to the German Emperor that his army be
forbidden to enter Brussels—the city where he, the Kaiser, had been
welcomed and entertained, only a week or so earlier, by the Belgian
King and people. The officer promised to communicate his request
to the general-in-chief. But the only reply Monsieur Max received
was, not only the entrance of the troops, but a demand for enormous
quantities of food and a _contribution de guerre_ from the city of
Brussels of fifty million francs, to be paid in three days; and from
the province of Brabant four hundred and fifty millions, to be paid
before the 1st of September! This was William the Second’s response to
a people whose faith he had betrayed, who had done him no other ill
than refusing to aid his frantic impatience to overwhelm and crush a
neighbour and friendly state.

The following quantities of food-stuffs were at once demanded from
Brussels by the German army and delivered:

On 21st August, 30,000 kilos of bread, 5000 kilos of smoked meat,
17,000 kilos live-stock, 10,000 kilos of rice, 1400 kilos of coffee,
1700 kilos of sugar, 700 kilos of cacao, 1700 kilos of salt, 120,000
kilos of oats, 170 kilos of tea, 10,000 litres of wine.

On 22nd August, the same amount, save that the bread was reduced to
20,000 kilos, with an addition of 20,000 kilos of flour.

On 23rd August, everything in like quantities was again yielded at the
army’s command, with the exception of bread, which 30,000 kilos of
flour replaced.

As this severe drainage threatened to reduce to famine the 800,000
inhabitants of Brussels, Monsieur Max informed the German authorities
he could not vouch for the people’s submission if such exactions
continued. The occupying Government thereupon agreed, over the
Governor’s signature, to make no more requisitions during a period of
eight days. But the following day new demands were presented, and an
attempt, resisted by Monsieur Max, was made to set aside a contract
which the army chiefs declined to recognize as controlling their

In regard to the war indemnity, Monsieur Max arranged with the
Government to pay it off by instalments by the 30th of September.
Payments were made regularly, and of the 50,000,000 there remained due
but 4,400,000 to be paid when, on the 24th of September, von Luettwitz
announced that no further reimbursement would be made by the army for
food-stuffs requisitioned, as the war indemnity had not been paid
within the time originally specified!

But my object is not to go into these details, or to depict, more than
is necessary, the darker side of Belgium’s martyrdom under German
dominion. The world knows enough of such matters and will probably
know more before these recollections appear. Tragedy and sorrow,
moreover, have been heard, seen, felt _ad nauseam_ by every dweller
in the occupied country. No account of those years can escape their
dominating note of tragedy, but all such events herein given are
limited to those not generally known, whose truth has been personally

The invasion of a capital by enemy troops had always seemed to me the
culminating tragedy of war, and one likely to be rife with stirring
incidents. How little like my preconceived idea was this silent and
awesome mastery—this slowly-moving stream of concentrated force,
passing between those walls of ashen-white faces, whence thousands
of wide eyes spoke the voiceless misery and amazement of a people
betrayed! The warrior’s pride was not lacking, but a pride less
admirable even than that of the criminal forces led by Napoleon into
capitals which he had overwhelmed.

But why connect with this ignoble victory the supremely evil
Corsican’s name? Napoleon, like Alexander and Hannibal, was superb
almost to the end. But William II., devoid of magnetism, devoid of the
human understanding and tact so essential to a great leader, sought to
follow in his steps with no finer attribute than long-nourished brute
force and meanly-developed craftiness. He utterly failed to recognize
that no number of cannon, no number, however stupendous, of enslaved
legions, could replace Napoleon’s understanding.

From Germany’s regiments of triumphant treachery, advancing through
Brussels, no glance of comprehension or compassion met the people’s
wide-eyed gaze. Only one sentiment could be read in the eyes looking
sternly upon them from under shining Prussian helmets—a vainglorious
contempt for the race that had so sublimely resisted their unjust and
inexorable demands.

The scene, viewed from the standpoint of one bred in a country
long since rid of barbarism, appeared strangely anachronistic and
theatrical—like the blazing pageantry of a stage, briefly holding
the attention of an enlightened community which would presently ring
down the curtain and return to real and serious occupations. The
leaders—young men, for the most part, of noble families; men whose
brain and morals had been cramped, since infancy, into the narrow
circumference of their eagle-topped helmets—sat their horses in the
heroic pose of a stage Siegfried. Their polished armour and ornaments
reflected heaven’s sun as meretriciously as do those of Wagner’s
characters the glare of the footlights. Each one appeared inwardly
inflated by a sense of individual world-power, by an intoxicating
impression that in him was revived the spirit of conquering Rome—and,
with it, the right to tread under his spurred foot the wan faces his
absurdly proud glance surveyed. Then came the worn troops following
on foot—they who had borne the brunt of conflict—devoid of ornament,
trudging along at the horses’ heels, obedient offenders of the people
who despised them; hoodwinked slaves, persuaded they were serving
their country, while inflicting and enduring the tortures of hell
merely to enhance imperial pride and save the despotic throne so long
founded upon their blind submission.


After that tragic day, Brussels came more and more under the tyranny
of the “iron fist” by which the Kaiser once boasted he would win
the world-power unattained by other and far more capable enemies of
peace. German soldiers swarmed through the streets, always hurrying
to fulfil urgent business of their impatient leaders, who, on their
way to overwhelm France, panted to thrust the sword of ruin deeper
into hapless Belgium. During those first weeks of the occupation the
city appeared obsessed by a restless mass of grey-robed energy. Every
unit of the vast armies seemed infected by this passion. The streets
fairly roared with frenzy-driven automobiles, enormous war-like
things, sombre as mighty death-machines, mostly torpedo-shaped,
driven, with entire disregard for the safety of pedestrians, through
streets ridded of all traffic that might hamper their way. The
harsh or piercing cries of their horns never ceased; nor, when an
officer of high rank was the occupant, the gay bugle notes, clear and
triumphantly joyous, which so racked the aching nerves and hearts of
every native. I think no one then in Brussels, who took the invasion
to heart, will ever forget that bright, repeated melody so galling to
those whose dear ones had perished in the unequal struggle.

The _voyous_ of the rue Haute districts, however, found a means of
shaming it to silence, after the great repulse at the Marne. They put
words to the melody and sang them at full voice in echo, each time
the bugle announced the presence of a high official. The words, which
fitted perfectly, were: “_C’est loin à Paris!_”

Presently, it was heard no more, and only then, it seemed, did the
stunned Belgians begin to awake and take some interest in life.
They could do little for their wounded; for all hospitals, as well
as public buildings, were seized by the enemy to house Germany’s
mutilated slaves, or serve as resting-places for troops. All the
comfort many of these latter enjoyed was a litter of straw laid on the
floors of corridors.

I was obliged to step over their sleeping and evidently exhausted
forms when, seeking a pass one day to go to our villa, ten miles from
Brussels, I was erroneously led by a dull-witted soldier, who should
not have admitted me, to the top floor of the post-office building.
There I saw his commanding officer—who (it turned out) had nothing
whatever to do with the giving of passes! Though it was after midday,
the men lay sleeping like animals all along the hallways, and their
chief, roused from repose on a sofa in a separate room, was angrily
struggling into his great boots when I was announced. His rage at
being disturbed, but more at having me appear before he was ready to
receive me with impressive dignity, was vented in a volley of abusive
language hurled at the wretched subordinate.

The situation was indeed rather embarrassing for a leader—though a
minor one—of the power-proud Prussian army. With feet clad only in
grey woollen socks, hair roughened, and eyes red and heavy with sleep,
he certainly presented a rather comical picture, crimson with anger
and bellowing insults at the man, whom he ordered from the room. Of me
he took not the slightest notice until the boots were on, and during
that interval of silence, shut up as I was alone with him in a place
where, as I saw at once, I had no proper excuse for intruding, my one
desire was to find some means of escape before he should notice me;
for I expected anything but polite treatment at his hands.

However, apart from a certain amount of silly boasting, and a rather
superior expression of regret that he could not provide the desired
pass, he said nothing really objectionable in answer to my surprising
appeal, although his expression showed he had no very flattering
idea of my intelligence. On learning my nationality, and how wrong
direction had led me to him, the arrogance of his manner softened
considerably: “You will not be able to go to your villa at present,”
he said on learning where it was, “our armies are now in that
locality; and even if you were permitted to go, it would not be safe.”

“But the house may be destroyed,” I replied, “and there are things I
value there which no money could replace.”

He shrugged and returned, with mock sympathy quickly followed by
vanity, “_Schade!_—but no exceptions can be made. Others have lost
their treasures, and many more are likely to. War does not consider

“But why _is_ there war in this country?” I ventured. “What on earth
is your excuse for coming here to ruin a peaceful nation?”

“Belgium was given her chance to avoid war—she would not take it; that
is not our fault!”

I longed to tell him a few unflattering truths, but the fact of
being four stories above the street, with hundreds of armed men
within call, forced me to limit my reply to: “That depends how one
understands fault; certainly the Belgians were not at fault.”

“They were; they were siding with England and France. Stupid people!
What will they gain by making an enemy of Germany? The Allies must
yield to us; then where will Belgium be?”

“And if they do not yield?”

He laughed softly: “_Ach!_ There is no question of that! Are we not
rushing on France already? In three weeks or less we shall be in
Paris, and shortly after that we shall have England at our mercy.”

I forced a smile, though inwardly his confidence made me tremble.
“Aren’t you counting a little too much on your successful invasion of
a very small and unprepared country? England and France may also be
unprepared, but they have greater resources and more time to collect
them than poor Belgium had.”

“_Ach, bewahr!_” he replied scornfully, “they can never resist our
armies. When we take Paris, England’s morale will be broken; she will
not be able to raise an army!”

“If you take it!”

“No, _when_ we take it!” he replied, with quite a genial smile. “Don’t
deceive yourself; we Germans do not attempt things we are not sure of
attaining. Everything is planned to the smallest detail. But tell me,
are you in sympathy with the Allies?”

“I am a neutral.”

“_Ach, so!_... Are all Americans strictly neutral?”

“They are supposed to be.”

He eyed me thoughtfully before saying: “I think they are jealous of
us, like England—like all the world! This war must prove Germany’s
supremacy and put an end to all that!”

As this interview took place some little time before the battle of the
Marne, I must own to a very unneutral pang of resentment, mingled with
dread lest his boasting might prove well founded. But, galling as it
was, I was convinced the man spoke only what had been drilled into
him, and not his own sentiments. He was quite a young fellow, neither
aristocratic in appearance nor so self-important as are most of his
class. His round blue eyes often softened with the wistful musing of a
mind not altogether sure of what he boasted, nor why he was there—what
was leading men only slightly more enslaved than he, to fight for an
object none could define. Later on he recited some of the horrors he
had witnessed on his way from Liège—the so-called legitimate horrors
of war, not those relating to civilians—and spoke almost with tears
of certain friends he had lost in the conflict. Thus softened, he
invited me to have coffee with him in his den, and pressingly repeated
the invitation all the way down those interminable, man-encumbered
flights of stairs which I made for as soon as politeness permitted.
My entering of the room of an officer in command, to obtain a pass
which only the administrative authorities could give, might very
easily have been understood as an attempt to spy, or attributed to
some other equally dangerous motive. Consequently, I could only be
grateful, when again at liberty, that my blundering guide had not led
me into the presence of a success-drunken superior officer, who might
have exhibited his native bullying tendencies when he found me at
his mercy. My chance host, it must be acknowledged, was not of this
type, and only in regard to Belgium did he reveal that tyranny toward
weakness so characteristic of most Prussians in authority.


The lower-class Belgian’s horror of the invaders grew daily, as
more and more harrowing tales of their atrocities came to us from
regions through which their armies were rushing. “_Schrechlichkeit_”
was attaining its object at a bitter price to the poor unreasoning
peasants, who saw not only those dear to them slain for no apparent
cause, but also their superiors, priests, prominent townsmen, and
even women and children. Stories reached us of such unparalleled
ugliness that many refused to credit them, and only when like crimes
were committed in and about Brussels could we believe modern humanity
capable of such deeds. These are now more or less known to the outer
world; although doubtless many done in secret will never come to
light, save when the victims, at the Last Judgment, add their voice
of condemnation to those of innocent men, women, and children sent to
sudden and ghastly death on the _Lusitania_. But that revolting crime
had not yet happened, to inflame neutral minds in Brussels, which,
until convinced of those done in Belgium, were genuinely neutral.

So unbiased, indeed, was the feeling among them that even the
violation of Belgium was looked on by some as an ugly action, but
not wholly damning according to war morals. I heard neutral men, who
admired Germany, even seek to excuse it as a daring and possibly
necessary “strategic move.” But less than three weeks after the fall
of Liège, these very men were among the bitterest and most outspoken
haters of the race they had tried to defend. Civilized sentiment was
so outraged by the wrongs heaped upon Belgians that several Americans,
Dutch, and other neutrals undertook, for their own satisfaction, to
investigate certain awful incidents related. When they were convinced
that these were not only true, but in some cases too mildly depicted,
their neutrality fled in a storm of rage.

The terror which these acts temporarily roused in the peasantry was
revealed to me the day I ventured out, by bicycle, to our villa in
the vicinity of Wavre. No other means of conveyance being available,
I discovered, after considerable search, an old wheel unearthed from
the depths of a merchant’s cellar—one of the few secreted to escape
requisition. No trains were running and no trams, and offer of high
payment failed to tempt the drivers of such few miserable hack-horses
as remained after the taxi-cabs had been seized. But, by starting
early in the morning, it was possible to make the trip by wheel,
pack, and return before nightfall. So, having obtained a German pass
from Government headquarters the day after my visit to the sleepy
officer at the post office, I attached a small American flag to the
handle-bar, and started forth at six a.m. through the deserted Bois,
and thence to still more deserted country roads. There was no traffic
in those days save occasional German military cars, and no sign of
human or any other life on the roads. The Belgians were then for the
most part keeping indoors, in some cases through fear of the Germans,
in others because, commerce and business being dead, they had nothing
to tempt them out; therefore, until I reached an outlying village,
I met no one to direct me. Here, while coasting down the main road,
flanked by modest peasant abodes, I was startled by seeing two men
rush out, and wave frantically to stop me.

“You can’t proceed!” exclaimed one as I dismounted. “Come quickly into
the house! _Vite! Vite!_ They are there, just beyond!”

“Who?” I asked, amazement at this hysterical excitement making me
forget the cause of their terror.

“_Les Allemands!_ Come—be quick; they will appear at any moment!”

If a tribe of hungry cannibals had been in the vicinity, their
agitation could not have been greater. Women were shrieking warnings
from windows, children peering terrified from behind curtains, and
the two men literally trying to drag me indoors.

“But I _must_ go on!” I exclaimed. “I have a pass and am an American!”

“_C’est égal!_ they respect nothing!” was the reply. “They will shoot
you down! They will rob and tear you to bits! _Ne savez-vous pas ce
que c’est qu’un Boche?_ He is a beast without reason! He stops at
nothing! Think only what our innocents have suffered!”

“And my old father, who did no wrong!” wailed a woman from the window.

“They are burning the village beyond!” cried another.

Then several at once: “They killed my brother.... They cut off the
hands of little children;... they burned the farm of So-and-so and
murdered his daughter!... _Et mon fils! mon fils!_ the father of a
family! he lies, buried with twenty others in a heap, at Tamines!”

All that was said I could not hear, indeed did not try to, and being
anxious to go on, sought to escape the two men’s kindly attention.
When they were at last persuaded to resign me to the predicted doom,
I sped on down the hill to a cross-road, and, turning to the right,
saw a moving mass of troops rapidly approaching in the direction
I was obliged to take—on foot, as the road mounted too steeply to
permit of riding. The troop gained on me so rapidly that their heavy
tramp and rough breathing were soon audible. Before we reached the
level they were striding along within arm’s reach, line after line
of dusty, perspiring, war-brutalized men, pressing on to new scenes
of slaughter. The mounted officers in command glanced at me, noted
the flag which then had not been forbidden, and returned their eager
gaze to the distance beyond, evidently controlled but by one idea.
_Haste_—that was the motto of these frenzy-driven legions, ordered to
rush into France despite all obstacles, over the living and the dead,
treading even, if need be, their own fellows under foot!

The soldiers were the heavy, stalwart men of the first German army,
trained and hardened for war—conscious machines of destruction,
who appeared to have forgotten they were human. In their faces one
saw only an animal-like, unquestioning obedience that had become,
through long domination, the very essence of their strength, the will
actuating their movements, their thought, their very life; “Not to
reason why; but to do and die,” seemed branded on their souls. In none
of the many different army contingents that later came to Brussels,
either allied or German, was this strange, dogged, unhuman and
unthinking obedience so strikingly visible. While watching them and
noting their expression of unintelligent, inexorable determination to
push on according to supreme command, the impression came to me that,
had I fallen and lain disabled in the road, they would have marched
over me as unhesitatingly as they trod the dust.

At the hotel where we were staying, a party of English nurses were
putting in a weary time waiting vainly for the wounded. One of these
had offered to accompany me on the trip to our villa, but at the last
moment was forbidden to do so by her superior. The evening of my
return from the expedition, which proved successful and less eventful
than predicted, I told them that it had been accomplished without the
difficulties expected by their matron. “Really? So glad!” replied the
one referred to, evidently regretting that she had been denied this
chance to relieve her dull days.

They were a rather disconsolate lot, very smart-looking, in their
pretty nursing uniforms, but bored by enforced idleness. More than one
told me, with true British spirit, that she would prefer to be in the
most dangerous section of the front rather than pass another idle day
at the expense of those they had come to serve. Later on this wish was
gratified, and no doubt each of them has more than repaid the cost of
their brief period of sloth.

A certain man, also residing at the hotel, was constantly haunting
these women, who complained of his persistent attentions and efforts
to draw them into conversation. He posed as an Englishman, and,
before England entered the war, had been in that country. But his
appearance was not English, and his voice had a guttural accent that
made me suspect him of being a German spy—a suspicion that I later
had reason to believe was well founded. He had the room next to mine,
with a communicating door, through which one could hear voices even
when lowered. Visitors constantly came there, mostly women who spoke
French along the corridor to the servant directing them, but, once in
his room with the door closed, spoke German, and usually took care
that no word should be heard outside. But one day a woman entered
so early that the knock at his door awakened me; I then heard low
voices and the crisp rattle of papers. Presently another woman was
shown into the room; and she, evidently agitated, spoke in German
loud enough for me to hear in my bed these significant sentences:
“_Ach Gott_, you are confident, but I am not! It is said the Russians
mean to make of it a religious war. In that case it will go hard with
Germany.” The man’s reply was too low to be heard, and she continued:
“To be sure; but look at this.” A sound came of paper like that of
a letter being opened. At this moment the telephone-bell rang; the
man answered it in French, and his words came to me clearly: “Hallo!
Yes. She is here with me now; I have seen the letter.... _Pas du
tout!_ Do nothing until I see you.... Yes, he is a Belgian, but his
_wife_ is English—there are two sons; one got away the day the Germans
entered.... Inquire at the Anglo-American club, Toison d’Or.... _Oh
zut!_—tell him I shall be at your place at eleven and——” The rest was
drowned by someone’s pet dog barking in the corridor—a soldier’s dog,
as it proved afterwards.

On descending for dinner that evening, my companion and I were joined,
while awaiting the lift, by two German soldiers—probably the orderlies
of officers lodged on the same _étage_. With them was a fox terrier,
doubtless the one that interrupted my eavesdropping. It approached to
be caressed, which led me to ask the soldiers if they intended to take
it to the front.

“_Gewiss!_” replied one, rather aggressively; “he will come with us to
Paris and then to _London_!”

The emphasis on the last word betrayed that he thought me English, and
the intended taunt angered me.

“Really?” I replied; “evidently you think I am English!”

He smiled shamefacedly, and blurted naïvely: “Aren’t you?”

I coldly told him my nationality, and added: “But if I _were_ English
your boast would not trouble me. You are still a long way from Paris,
and even if you ever _should_ get there, you would not remain long.
And as for London—you might more easily get to heaven!”

They received this sally with confident laughter, and left the lift,
one repeating significantly, emphasizing the words with an upraised
finger: “You’ll see! You’ll see!”

As the German military element was increasing daily at the hotel,
all persons of other nationalities departed, save those obliged to
remain. We, the British nurses, and some few Belgians, unable to
return to their homes in other parts of Belgium, were consequently
in constant association with numerous high officials, who, in the
first pride of victory, discarded their war-raiment for brilliant
blue dress-uniforms, ornamented with gold or silver. They strutted
about with a domineering air of superiority which later became greatly
modified, but at that time was insufferable.

One evening, immediately after the fall of Reims, when the Belgian
spirit was more depressed than ever before, a dinner was held in
the public dining-room by a number of high-grade officers. They
were seated at a long table close to ours, all in gala attire, and
evidently jubilant over some new disaster to the Belgian forces—a
satisfaction which they appeared particularly anxious should be noted
by the Belgians present. But the latter, who hid their aching hearts
under lowered eyelids, appeared not to heed them. Outside, however,
there were many interested watchers. As the evening was warm, windows
had been left open, and at them gathered the idle street crowds,
with nothing, night or day, to divert their thoughts—no business, no
theatres, no cafés—and too anxious to remain in their homes.

No slight consideration for their helpless and ruined victims, looking
in on the joyous party, stayed the gay laughter and toasts of those at
that table! Triumph, which common decency should have impelled them to
indulge privately, was flagrantly flourished in the wan faces of men
who knew not how they were to feed their families in a week’s time, of
youths cast out of employment and unable to give their country the aid
they longed to give.

Soldiers bearing dispatches constantly entered the room, trod heavily,
with clatter of spurs, to within a few paces of the table, drew
up, brought their heels together, and stood at salute until given
permission to approach. Officers of lower rank paused, on seeing
the august and radiant gathering, saluted, and continued to bow and
salute while passing the table to find a smaller one in another part
of the room. Judging by their servility and that of the soldiers, the
two in general’s attire at the dinner must have been of high rank,
but their identities were not known in the hotel. To my eyes each
looked as important as the other, puffed up with pride, betraying,
in every glance and movement, confident conviction that the present
satisfaction was but a fore-runner of greater triumphs.

Again and again when a dispatch was read, evidently containing
satisfactory news from the front, the joyous cry, “_Hoch! Hoch!
Hoch!_” rang out to that pathetically wistful audience, who knew it
was in celebration of a fresh wound dealt to the country they loved.
And yet in their pale, troubled faces no sign of hatred or rage could
be detected, only the same childlike curiosity expressed on the
first day, and a sort of puzzled wonder, as though they found it
difficult to believe that atrocities such as were committed in their
land had been ordered by men of such good appearance, and apparently
so civilized. Even to us it seemed incredible, while watching that
gathering of smart-looking, intelligent beings, who might have won
the respect, possibly even the admiration, of a people accustomed
throughout their history to the wrongdoings of mightier nations;
who, as a whole, would have appreciated a generous recognition of
their noble and courageous stand for honour. But those men, whose
close-cropped, sabre-scarred heads were held so high above a uniform
they gradually made odious to the entire world, were blinded by
vanity, delirious with success. The long-awaited hour of opportunity
had arrived, as pregnant with great promise as those that bred the
first Roman and the first French empires; an hour when Europe, lulled
by the harmony of peace, might be shocked to submission before
Germany’s secretly-created Frankenstein!

It was amazing to see, during the first week or so of the occupation,
with what naïve interest the Belgians clustered about even minor units
of the army that had so ruthlessly afflicted them. They would pause to
stare at a common soldier with something of the awed perplexity the
Indians of America evinced on their first introduction to firearms;
or gather, silent and gaping, about the great automobiles to watch
imposing officers alight. This unconscious flattery, evidently
relished, disappeared, however, in a short time, not only because
Prussians became so prevalent that they no longer attracted attention,
but because the more intelligent citizens took a stand against it, and
reproved those who thus gratified the vanity of their enemies. And the
people were not slow to realize an error due more to their lack of
occupation than to tolerant interest in the intruders. Disaster, in
fact, had come so suddenly upon them; their lives had been so abruptly
changed from the even tenor of prosperity to want and misery, that
they were too stunned at once to realize the cause. Some among the
lower classes, indeed, appeared incapable of seeing the situation as
other than a temporary, inexplicable calamity, not likely to endure
more than a week or two. For this reason, no doubt, there was very
little resentment in speech or action. The general attitude was one
of patient endurance of incomprehensible ills, a fact which made the
lying German excuses for their atrocities ring false to all who had
witnessed the inoffensive bearing of the inhabitants at the time of
their bitterest hour, when the enemy entered Brussels.

Better-class Belgians, who understood the situation, were bitter
enough in private speech, and in their determined and unflinching
efforts to hamper the invaders by every possible means which their
unarmed and imprisoned condition permitted. That they accomplished
much secretly, and despite the severe and ever-increasing espionage,
was acknowledged by the Germans themselves, when information of
their every movement was proved to have reached the Allied forces
within an hour. Every effort was made by the Government to solve the
mystery, and discover the secret means by which the exact locality
of a Zeppelin garage or ammunition depot, army movements, etc.,
was at once conveyed to their adversaries. Many suffered death or
long imprisonment on mere suspicion of connection with these secret
societies, and spies in civil dress were set to watch even such as
were not suspected, whose intelligence or standing made it possible
they might be in the secret. Another mystery especially galling to the
Prussians was the inexplicable publication and distribution of the
_Libre Belgique_, a small truth-telling journal, which spared neither
the Kaiser nor his army in its caustic and often insulting criticism,
and served as a tonic to the oppressed people; an antidote to poison
injected with malignant persistency by the occupying Powers. No amount
of persecution, investigation, or bribery led to the discovery of
where this brave little sheet was published, or who managed it; but
several entire families were arrested and subjected to the torture of
military inquisition, to fines and long terms of imprisonment, on very
slight grounds of suspicion.

Although the _Libre Belgique_ seldom contained any definite news
from outside, its free voice, speaking openly what everyone longed
to utter but dared not, was a delight to us all. Persons of the very
highest social standing undertook its circulation, carrying copies in
hollowed-out walking-sticks, lining of hats, and so forth, in order
to distribute them as widely as possible. Some day the story of its
origin, its compositors, and indiscoverable place of publication will
be known and welcomed with intense interest by all who drew from its
single page almost the only ray of encouragement and hope those dark
years offered for jaded spirits.

On the evening of the military dinner above referred to, which was
in the early part of September, an incident occurred serving, in an
impressive manner, to relieve the fretting recollection of that
callously gay party, which had forced us and, I think, many others to
leave the hotel immediately afterwards.

In the midst of that discordant levity, when the Prussians’ laughter
and noisy toasts were ringing through the room, there suddenly sounded
from without a wild and excited cry that swelled to a very thunder of
voices as it was taken up by the throngs in the street. Naturally, we
all sprang from table and hurried to the entrance door, anticipating
we knew not what, for the cries were too glad in tone to suggest any
fresh blast of all-too-familiar calamity.

Outside many persons from near-by houses had gathered in the middle
of the boulevard—men in shirt-sleeves, women only partly dressed,
children, and aged grandparents, all electrified by a note of joy such
as they had not heard since they had cheered their departing army only
a few weeks ago; weeks already seeming like years! All were gazing
upwards into the pale sky of a summer-like twilight. “_Le voilà!
le voilà!_” was shouted on every side in rough men’s voices, the
shriller tones of women, and the piping treble of children. When the
object of interest became visible to all—an Allied aeroplane soaring,
like a bird of good omen, just above the street—those disjointed
cries blended into one universal roar, that seemed to shake to their
foundations the lines of massive buildings against which it rang.

So hysterically intense was the excitement that it looked for some
moments as if the people had lost control of themselves, and as if
some perilous outbreak would be the consequence—an event that could
only lead to ruthless slaughter of the unarmed citizens. But the
pathetic, almost tragic, poetry of the scene made one oblivious of
everything threatening. One felt only the doleful significance of
that high-soaring, unapproachable friend from the outer world, at
whose message of encouragement we could only guess; whose coming only
made clearer the fact that all who watched it from the dusk-shadowed
streets were prisoners, as much cut off from the free world as
though interned on some island far removed from the sphere of former
interests, and denied all communication with it.

I had not fully realized our woeful position before the air-craft’s
appearance, which stirred me to echo the excitement and joy of that
helpless throng, watching, many with tears in their eyes, this proof
that they were not forgotten by the nations they had so bravely served.

Although it was nearly eight p.m., daylight still lingered in the
heavens, or rather a soft, green aftermath of day where the great bird
circled, high above the house-tops, dark and awe-inspiring in that sea
of pale light.

“_C’est un Anglais!_” cried some; and others: “_C’est un Français!_”
“_C’est un Belge!_” while again and again a wild shout of glad
greeting rose from the streets to that far visitor, which was
presently recognized as a Belgian.

Suddenly a still louder sound shocked these cries to a brief silence.
The echoing report of cannon, already set up at advantageous points
in the city, told that the visitor had been espied by less loving
eyes. However, he seemed to know that nothing could reach him at that
particular point. At any rate, he never wavered, and while the cannon
roared, and cries rose again, now in frantic applause of his courage,
he hovered as before, quietly winging in a circle above the darkening
capital, seeming, by easy and fearless movement, to express sympathy
and encouragement.

When light deepened and lamps began to flare in the sombre streets,
the air-craft, whose driver evidently realized he would soon be
invisible, turned with a wide sweep and, heading southward, flew
off into the violet mist of distance, dying into a mere speck still
passionately watched by yearning eyes from that sea of upturned faces.

Later on these aerial visits became frequent; but this one, the first
sign we had had since the occupation from the outside world, made a
lasting impression. It was said later that printed slips—a sample of
which I unfortunately never saw—had been dropped from the aeroplane
bearing this cheering message: “Have courage for a little time; we
shall soon deliver you.”

That, alas, was in the first days of autumn 1914!


Conditions in Brussels became day by day more like those of a
vast prison. The prospect of escape only grew slighter with
time, and the yoke of German methods more and more bitter. Their
_affiches_, recounting the marvellous achievements of “_nos troupes
victorieuses_,” their proclamations of all sorts with which the walls
were constantly papered, were like hot irons turned in the wounds of
the Belgians, painful to everyone in sympathy with the victims. Even
announcements derogatory to the Belgian army were not spared them.
In one German report, which I read, a Belgian prisoner was quoted as
having praised the German army to the detriment of his own, and as
having added: “If we were led by German officers, we should do as
well as German soldiers.” Of course everyone understood this as only
another sample of _la vérité allemande_, but nevertheless it brought
the blood of anger to the face of many a man longing, but unable, to
strangle the armed liar with his shackled hands.

There was an ungenerous spirit expressed in every announcement
of events such as the Belgians were most eager to hear—a spirit
especially inexcusable in a victorious power. Every success of the
Allied armies was either ridiculed or ignored; only the Germans’
progress was set forth in glowing words, and victories of real
importance were presented in exaggerated detail, on bright blue
bulletins which no eye could avoid seeing. No event, however
trivial—as compared to their own rapid advance—that might awake even
a brief thrill of enthusiasm or hope in their prisoners, was allowed
by the Germans to reach them. Even the Marne victory was so disguised
that I have since heard German officers, engaged in administrative
duty in Brussels, state how neither they, nor any of their friends in
Germany, knew the reason of that astounding reverse, never definitely
acknowledged by official reports.

On 2nd September 1914 the Governor, von der Goltz, had published a
proclamation luring the Belgians to obedience by pretended sympathy
with their patriotic feelings. This began as follows: “Belgian
citizens: I demand of no one to renounce his patriotic sentiments.
I expect of you all a sensible submission and absolute obedience in
regard to the Governor-General’s orders. I invite you to show him
confidence and lend him your assistance.”

Two weeks later von Luettwitz, the Military Governor, demanded the
withdrawal of the Belgian flag—the sole expression of patriotic
sentiment possible to a people whose speech, action, and will were
under subjection. This was the first step in an administration of
tyranny, which rapidly developed to unprecedented brutality under the
odious governments which followed.

The noble Mayor of Brussels, Bourgmestre Max, fought Luettwitz and
von der Goltz with unrelenting obstinacy and courage, in every
instance where they sought to ignore agreements which they had
solemnly made at the time of their entrance—and quickly set aside when
safely installed! It was only then that the flags were forbidden,
which had been allowed to float until the iron hand had closed firmly
on the city; only then that demands were made contrary to primary
agreements. All manner of injustice was resorted to under the plea
that, “_nécessité faisant loi_,” the former contracts no longer held

On the 29th of August the Military Governor of Liège had a bulletin
posted in that city announcing that Monsieur Max had stated that the
French Government declared itself unable to assist Belgium in any way.
The following day Monsieur Max proved the indomitable courage that
made him so hateful to the Germans, by publishing, in wall-posters
with enormous headlines, a flat denial of this utterly untruthful
assertion. His _affiche_ was as follows:

  “Aux Habitants de la Ville de Liège

     “Le Bourgmestre de Bruxelles a fait savoir au Commandant allemand
     que le Gouvernement français a déclaré au Gouvernement belge
     l’impossibilité de l’assister offensivement en aucune manière, vu
     qu’il se voit lui-même forcé à la défensive.”

To this repetition of the German announcement M. Max added in the
largest available type:

     “J’oppose à cette affirmation le démenti le plus formel.

                                        “ADOLPHE MAX.”

It must have been a staggering surprise to the invaders, who thought
their frightfulness had killed the Belgian spirit, and consequently
that their trick would succeed.

Von Luettwitz at once publicly forbade the posting of any bulletin
without his permission.

To be rid of a man who so energetically defied them on undeniable
grounds of right, they arrested Adolphe Max alleging that he had
failed to deliver the whole amount of war indemnity within the
specified time. Although Echevin Jacqmain offered himself as hostage
in place of the Bourgmestre so greatly loved and needed by the people
of Brussels, his offer was declined; and on the 26th of September
Monsieur Max was carried away in an automobile—followed and preceded
by others filled with armed men!—to be imprisoned in a fortress. With
his departure, Brussels was more than ever at the mercy of those who
ruled her with the despotism and unnecessary severity which newly-won
power always develops in men of shallow mind and ignoble character.

So it was not sufficient that the flags had been withdrawn in response
to the beautiful appeal Monsieur Max had made to the people—an
appeal which, after referring to the inconsistency of the German
order with former agreements, ended in these words: “Je demande à
cette population de donner un nouvel exemple du sang-froid et de
la grandeur d’âme, dont elle a fourni déjà tant de preuves en ces
jours douloureux. Acceptons provisoirement le sacrifice qui nous est
imposé. Retirons nos drapeaux pour éviter des conflits, et attendons
patiemment l’heure de la réparation.”

The beloved tricolour was hidden from sight, but after the departure
of Max, even the wearing of a tiny button or bit of ribbon presenting
the colours, became a crime punishable by imprisonment. Women had
these roughly dragged from their dress in the street by any passing
officer who wished to make a public exhibition of power, and one whom
I know was ordered by a young stripling wearing the Prussian uniform,
when seated opposite her in a tram, to hand over a tiny brooch whereon
the three colours were scarcely perceptible.

I shall never forget the grief that swept through the city when the
Belgian flag was put away. It was as though the prisoners’ last
connection with their king and happy prosperous past were broken. Even
the children felt it; one saw them, when no German was in sight, drag
a faded bit of tricolour ribbon from their pockets and wave it in
gleeful defiance of a government that had robbed their young days of
all happiness, and later ground down so many of them through poverty
to death.

Gradually the adamant walls of oppression closed more narrowly about
us, and the pervading mood became subtly affected by crafty German
efforts to kill hope. Prisoners we were, and prisoners likely to
remain for indefinite time, with a monster for gaoler pitiless as he
who guarded the “cellar of the dead” at the ill-famed Luxembourg.
Indeed, the moral and physical misery to which the people of Brussels
were soon reduced was probably not less, measured by duration, than
the concentrated horror of those September days during the first
French Revolution. Streets never actually flowed with blood, but many
a life was extinguished on that crime-stained spot where Miss Cavell
was placed before a wall and shot in secret; many a mind was crazed in
futile efforts to save an innocent son, father, or brother. It was not
for days the people of Belgium suffered, but for months that dragged
on into years of ever-increasing oppression and tragedy.

But daring courage and heroism were not lacking. Many a man, still
unknown to fame, risked his life for his country within the city
walls; many a woman of high standing, secretly serving her nation,
scorned peril and drained a cup of moral anguish no less repellent
than that drunk by the Marquis de Sombreuil’s daughter—a cup, to speak
figuratively, not seldom containing the life-blood of those dearest
to her. It cannot be pretended that all whom the Germans suspected
were innocent, but Prussian astuteness was usually more successful
in trapping the guiltless than the guilty. Fretted by failure, the
Germans vented their passion on these innocent victims, in order at
least to obtain the advantage of a terrifying example.

Despotism waxed strong and incredibly barbaric, when every Teuton
was swelled to bursting with pride and the Allies seemed helplessly
retreating before the onrush of his mighty legions. Petty laws,
senselessly fretting, were imposed on the people of occupied Belgium.
Citizens were ordered indoors at seven p.m., all shops and other
public places had to be closed and street lights extinguished, often
without reason given; sometimes as punishment for the refractory act
of some peasant whose very existence was unknown to those who paid the
penalty. In Bruges and other towns, citizens were forbidden to walk on
the pavement which a German officer happened to be traversing, and had
to salute him deferentially from the centre of the street.

In time all liberty was extinguished, and efforts were made even to
suppress the French language. Flemish, closely related to German,
and consequently offering a means of facilitating future control of
the country, was ordered to appear first on all public announcements
and documents, legal or other; also tram conductors were obliged to
announce the names of streets in Flemish. The privacy of homes was
invaded with or without excuse, while of course all correspondence,
even in the city, and any other writing, was subjected to the
severest censure.

The English language was looked upon as an affront to the enemy. Even
we neutrals were made to feel it objectionable to speak our native
tongue in public because of the Teuton hatred of England, for an
English word affected the invaders as a red rag does a bull. Had they
dared then to offend America, which would have forced them to feed the
Belgians themselves, they would no doubt have officially forbidden it.


After the battle of the Marne, the incredible outcome of which
we only learned days later through secret outside sources, the
spirit of Brussels revived a little, and the people’s wonderful,
almost unreasoning, confidence became stronger than even before the
occupation. Gradually the city began to assume a more normal aspect;
certain cafés reopened and many shops, also street trams were run at
unsatisfactory intervals. But existence was constantly haunted by the
knowledge that every act and look was watched by the ubiquitous spy
in civil dress eagerly seeking an excuse to drag a citizen to the
Kommandantur. No one dared speak aloud of topics uppermost in the
minds of all, or betray in public by so much as a glance his knowledge
of that great victory which the Germans endeavoured to conceal. The
city walls became more universally papered with _affiches_ curtailing
liberty, or announcing penalties inflicted upon well-known citizens.
“_A la peine de mort_,” in enormous lettering that could be read
several yards away, frequently attracted crowds to read the names of
friends or prominent men condemned to death for such faults as later
on, when Germany was less confident of becoming the world’s master,
were punished by clement terms of imprisonment.

As neutrals, we were not personally troubled in this respect; but
several of our friends were inexplicably arrested and sent to
confinement either in Germany or Belgium. The cause of these arrests
in many cases was never known, even by those who suffered them, only
to be liberated after a term of months or years of cruel confinement
in cells. In other instances the cause for arrest was given out with
the usual non-appreciation of right—as in the case of Count de ——,
a well-known banker of Dinant, who was shot because he declined to
yield the savings of working-class Belgians when the contents of
his safes were demanded. Three other prominent men were dragged off
to Germany, merely because they had raised a fund for some starving
labourers, who, having refused to work for the Germans, had no means
of support. Numerous incidents of inconceivable brutality, though of
character now too commonly known to bear repetition, were related to
me by those who endured these punishments. Such was the experience of
a Belgian, the Mayor of Haux, who told us verbally how he had been
chained to a mitrailleuse and made to go forward before the German
troops facing an Allied attack.

In regard to the Teutonic hatred for everything English, the following
ridiculous instance will show to what extremes German tactlessness
attempted to carry its usurped authority. One day a number of
Alimentation-Commission men, all Americans, were seated together in
a café; and, as all mention of the war was, by their own decision,
prohibited, were jovially recounting reminiscences of happier
times. Not far from them sat five young officers stiffly upright in
gilt-buttoned parade dress and high red collars. They constantly
turned their sheared heads to cast severe glances at the merry group
who, though noting the angry eyes flashing under pale, knitted brows,
paid no attention. Even then, although the Marne had checked their
confident and boastful progress, all members of Germany’s army,
however young or inexperienced in action, assumed the bombastic
manner of world-conquering Napoleons and, as in this case, considered
themselves endowed with right to suppress anyone whose behaviour
displeased them. Under the very evident irritation of these five fresh
products from the great central war-factory, the Americans’ hilarity
grew apace; but on account of the Commission they represented, care
was taken to avoid the least offensive word or gesture that might
excuse interference. Presently one of the Prussians arose—a fat, pale
youth, whose bright blue jacket and trousers appeared likely to burst
if he took a long breath—and swaggered toward them with important
jangle of sword and spurs.

“You shall not speak English where officers of the German army are
seated!” he ejaculated, through lips pale and quivering with rage.

“Indeed? Why not?” inquired one of the party, an athletic creature who
could have pounded the little fatty to a pulp.

“Because _I_ say it!” was the reply; “the English language is
distasteful to us, and should be officially forbidden in Brussels.”

“But it isn’t!” retorted the other in Americanized German; “and I
guess Uncle Sam would have something to say if you tried to stop us
speaking our own language.”

“You are all Americans?” demanded the Prussian, raising his
tow-coloured head, like a proud bantam-cock, and taking them in with a
supercilious glance.

No one replied, for the youth who first spoke to him had turned
nonchalantly to continue his interrupted conversation with a companion.

“I ask are you all Americans?” repeated the bantam, his voice rising
to a thin, high note, on which it broke.

“Yes, we _are_!” shouted another of the party, a hot-headed boy, fresh
from college, who had had all he could endure of this inexcusable
intrusion; “what have you to say about it? We are here to help feed
the people you’re starving!—the people you’ve ruined! And by Gad! if
you try to stop our yap, you’ll get more than is good for you! Get
out! or——”

One of the older men laid a hand on him and whispered: “Shut up, will
you! What is the use of making a row?”

“Well, I shan’t be bullied! Because they have cannon and all manner of
shooting things ready at hand, they think they can bullyrag the lot of

“We are all members of the American Relief Commission,” another
announced, and called the officer’s attention to a badge they all

“_S’gut!_” muttered the intruder who, while probably not understanding
all that had been said in English, evidently recognized defiance. “But
don’t talk so loud in public!” he added, turning away.

“We’ll talk as loud as we like!” bellowed the defiant one, who
understood German and now made an attempt to speak it. “And you can’t
stop us! We are not here as your slaves, _wissen Sie_! We’re neutrals,
but we stand for right! We stand for—for” Failing to find the desired
word in German, he fell back on his own language and added in a
crimson passion: “D—— little swine! I’d like to rub his face in the
mud, where it should be!”

His loud voice had attracted the attention of others, and fearing to
have scandal brought upon the Commission, his companions endeavoured
to quiet him, and as soon as was consistent with dignity, got him out
of the café.

Fortunately this incident occurred when the Prussian eagle had
lost some tail-feathers and was hunched up a bit and on the moult.
Otherwise even though natives of a country then neutral, these boys
might have been dragged by armed men to the Kommandantur, which
would probably have brought about serious trouble and consequent
difficulties for the Commission.

Even German women in the city evidently considered it a proof of
loyalty to their hate-preaching ruler to resent hearing the language
of a race that had frustrated his ambitions for world-power. On one
occasion when two young American women were seated in a tram talking
quietly in their native tongue, they noticed two women opposite who
glared at them inimically. Presently one called her companion’s
attention to them, and, catching their puzzled glance, remarked, quite
loud in German: “Isn’t it _tactless_ of them to speak English in

Tactless! to speak a language dear to the Belgians, while the German
tongue was racking their poor, harassed nerves every moment of the

That winter was one long series of pitiless impositions, and the
execution or imprisonment of helpless inhabitants. Persons, in many
cases afterwards proved innocent, were seized on the merest suspicion,
or on the false information of an enemy—not only the suspected one,
but his entire family and every friend who innocently called at his
house, not knowing of his arrest.

At times, in punishment for some individual’s act, or because “_La
Brabançonne_” was sung by a party of patriots on the Belgian King’s
fête-day, the few cafés doing business were closed, and we ordered to
retire to our homes at sunset for one week or more. Occasionally such
a command was given upon a trumped-up excuse in order that military
movements could be carried out unperceived.

Nevertheless, flashes of hope gleamed out in encouraging rumours,
coming no one knew whence, but spreading like wildfire through the
city. Many, many times we heard from _la laitière_, _le boucher_,
or _la blanchisseuse_ how the Germans had been driven back into
Belgium and were preparing a hasty retreat to their own land! Even
as early as March 1915 their retreat from Brussels was represented
as being so imminent that we were all anxious to secure one of the
sentinel-boxes, striped with the German colours, which stood before
all public buildings and were said to be for sale. These were desired
as souvenirs, such as no inhabitant of Brussels would have wished for
two years later, when the iron of oppression had gone too deep for
anyone to want a reminder.

The Austrians were said to be _hors de combat_, finished, even before
Italy entered the conflict! Germany was pictured as obliged to meet
alone forces that she could not resist for more than a week! Then came
news of Austrian victories, followed by the fall of Mort-Homme, and
hope sank again to despair.

A short time later, refugees from a town on the Belgian border reached
Charleroi, and word was brought that the Allies had taken the former
town and were advancing rapidly toward Brussels. We at once began to
prepare for them, and to welcome the young King back to his own! For
days a wild but suppressed joy throbbed through the capital. Champagne
was drunk in secret, with tears of glad emotion, to King Albert, the
British, and the French.

I shall not attempt to state how many times during the first two years
these glad tidings thrilled our hearts, only to be contradicted, after
long suspense, by some disastrous event, proving that little or no
progress—such as we could then understand as progress—had been made by
the Allied forces. During that period, when France and England were
obliged to lose time (since the former was organizing what strength
she had, and the latter forming an army), we did not comprehend how
strongly the enemy was rooting himself in occupied territory. We
thought that, since the Germans had been so wonderfully checked at the
Marne, it was only a matter of short time before they would be wholly
worsted and we liberated. In those days, consequently, no news seemed
too good to be true, and we accepted all with delighted confidence.

From our town residence close to the Bois, we could hear the constant
thunder of cannon, and during days of happy anticipation it was music
to our ears. Often we would stand listening to it, with a party of
friends, exhilarated by the roar of some heavy gun that seemed to be
hammering open the gates of our prison—seemed like a mighty voice
crying, “We are coming, we are coming—have courage!”

But when, time after time, good news proved false, that distant
thunder became a torture to the nerves, and horrible to a mind capable
of picturing, even dimly, the massacre and destruction it signified
week after week, month after month. Often, during the night, it made
the house tremble to its foundations, and set windows and ornaments
rattling in such a manner that sleep was impossible. At others, the
resounding earthquaking shocks gave place to a steady, terrific roar,
like a constant rolling of heavy wagons over a stony road. This
continued hour after hour through whole nights and days—the frightful
“curtain-fire” eye-witnesses have so well described, whose ghastly
thunder was in our ears when we fell asleep, and when we awoke, like
the monotonous roar of an angry sea.

Meanwhile, life in the capital continued to be harassed by local
tragedies and insupportable restrictions. Among these tragedies were
the murders of Miss Cavell and Captan Fryatt, the condemnation of
well-known and loved citizens to death or long periods of _travaux
forcés_, the seizure of some friend’s son, husband, mother, or sister,
often on unproved suspicion, and, in other cases, because of brave
effort to serve their unhappy land.

One of these—a Belgian woman of good birth—told me the following
story. She, Madame de X——, and her daughter had undertaken to forward
certain valuable information to the Belgian army, and convey orders
from the absent Government to those representing it in the capital.
Her daughter, Madame de Z——, a clever and charming young widow,
managed, at great risk, to cross into Holland for this purpose,—the
frontier was then less strictly guarded than later,—taking and
bringing back documents of the most perilous character. The whole
affair was managed with exceptional daring and skill. Not one of their
most intimate friends suspected upon what they were engaged, and all
precautions were planned beforehand in case of detection. Despite the
number of German spies in both Belgium and Holland, Madame de Z——
crossed the frontier three times without, apparently, being suspected;
but on the morning following her last trip, the affair took a more
tragic turn.

That morning, after consigning the smuggled papers to her mother (who
was to look them over and deliver them), Madame de Z—— left her home
in order to convey a verbal message, which could not be entrusted to
writing, to a man of prominence then engaged upon matters of vital
importance to his country.

On returning from her mission an hour later, Madame de Z—— was shocked
to perceive, when some distance away, that her house was surrounded
by soldiers with fixed bayonets. For a moment she hesitated, fearing
for her mother; but as the latter could not be gravely suspected, she
concluded that the men had come in search of herself. Confident that
Madame de X—— could meet the situation with cool-headed sagacity,
she decided to hide, and allow her mother to explain her absence, as
agreed in case of investigation.

Since the event was one constantly dreaded, they had planned to meet
it in this wise: Madame de Z——’s married sister, who closely resembled
her, was to live at their château in the country until all had been
accomplished, and detection need no longer be feared. In case Madame
de Z—— should be suspected, she, if she could escape capture, was to
go to her sister’s town residence and pass as her sister, stating that
she herself, Madame de Z——, was residing in the country, and had
been there long enough to prove an alibi. The sister, meanwhile, was
to wear clothes identical with her own, a matter not likely to cause
comment, as both were in deep mourning for the latter’s husband, shot
with other civilians at Francorchamps, near Liège, where they passed
their summers.

Consequently Madame de Z—— hastened to her sister’s house, and
explained in part her danger to the old butler, a loyal creature who
might well have been entrusted with the whole secret. But Madame de
Z—— could run no risks, and allowed him to believe she and her family
were under suspicion because of vengeful sentiments openly expressed
after her tragic bereavement.

The mother, Madame de X——, was unfortunately occupied in looking
through the perilous papers when the Germans arrived at her house.
So absorbed was she that the sound of hurried steps in the corridor
failed to arouse her. She raised her eyes from the documents only when
a panting housemaid entered the room without knocking, and whispered
excitedly: “_Les Allemands, Madame!_ they are now mounting the

There was no time for escape, no time even to conceal the papers;
for two officers—to whose summons another maid had responded—after
demanding to see Madame de Z——, ignoring the response that she was not
there, glanced into a room on the first floor, then rapidly strode up
the stairway.

Though paling slightly on hearing this, Madame de X—— quickly gained
possession of herself.

“_Bien_,” she said aloud, “let them come in,” and added low: “Go out,
Jeanne, and watch for my daughter; warn her not to return.”

While speaking, she slipped the papers under the embroidered cover of
a small work-table by which she sat; on this she set a work-basket,
took out a half-finished bit of embroidery, and was calmly engaged
with it when the officers appeared at the door, bowed, and entered.

“We wish to see Madame René de Z——,” said one, the superior; “and,
as we know she is in this house, any attempt to conceal her will only
make matters more grave for her and for you. You are her mother, I
believe, Madame de X——, _n’est-ce pas_?”

Madame de X——, with well-feigned astonishment, stared at the speaker
before replying: “I am Madame de X——, Monsieur, but my daughter is not

“Good! You will not be advised; then we must search the house.”

“Monsieur, I have no power and no wish to prevent you; but may I ask
why you wish to see my daughter?”

Without replying, the officer, who had been speaking French, said
something in German to his companion. The latter retired, and going
below, called in two of the soldiers on guard without. With these he
began a systematic search of the house, from cellar to garret. Every
cupboard, drawer, and wardrobe was opened and ransacked, every bed and
table looked under; even garments hanging in wardrobes were taken out
and examined, as was afterwards related with much amazement by the
maid, who imagined that Madame de Z—— was the sole object of their

Meanwhile the officer who had addressed Madame de X—— remained behind,
standing with hat on, his small blue eyes fixed keenly on her refined,
naturally pale face, which wore a serenely dignified expression of
troubled wonderment. Her white hair, beautifully dressed, the lines
of sorrow that marked her well-bred countenance, and her mourning
raiment dignified the rôle of innocence she played with admirable
ability, while her nerves were strained to their utmost tension by the
knowledge that proof of her guilt lay within reach of this man’s hand!

“You ask why I wish to see your daughter,” he said when they were
alone. “Good! I shall tell you: your daughter, Madame, is a spy!”

He watched the effect of this purposely abrupt statement and saw a
look of shocked amazement come to his hearer’s face.

“A spy! What do you mean?” she gasped. “_Savez-vous ce que vous

“Perfectly. She is precisely that! We have incontestable proof that
Madame René de Z—— has crossed the frontier twice, with important
information for the enemy, and has brought into this city written
matter from the former Government of Belgium.”

Madame de X—— stared, then smiled wanly. “Ah, Monsieur, I fear you
have been very wrongly informed. However eager my daughter and I might
be to serve our unhappy land, alas, women of our station have not the
nervous strength, even had we the courage for such deeds!”

“You may be ignorant of the fact; I trust you are, for your own sake;
but your daughter has shown both the strength and the courage. She has
done this thing; we know it beyond all possibility of doubt, and not
only she, but you and all related to her must pay the penalty unless
you confess. Confession now will save you much suffering.”

Madame de X—— took up the embroidery that had fallen with her hands;
“I may be physically weak, Monsieur, and unfit for daring deeds,” she
said quietly, “but, had a daughter of mine done that with which your
suspicions honour her, no fear of pain would force me to confess.”

“Your daughter must suffer the death penalty; do you realize that?”

“_Bien_—if I could believe her capable of doing this thing for
Belgium, even her death and mine would not dim the pride of my last
moment. But, oh, Monsieur, I only ask let us not be sacrificed without
the glory! Let proof be found before we are made to suffer as I know
others have suffered.”

“Madame, I have told you we have the proof.”

“Of what?”

“Of your daughter’s guilt.”

“May I ask what proof?”

“It is known that she crossed the frontier on the sixth of last month,
and returned on the tenth; she crossed again on Monday of this week
and returned last night, bearing papers which are now in this house.”

These statements, although not quite correct, were startlingly near
the truth; but Madame de X—— betrayed no sign of their effect upon her.

“My daughter Amelia!” she ejaculated. “But, Monsieur, she has not been
to this house for over a month; she is heart-broken and dwells in
absolute retirement at our château beyond Boitsfort. Ah, doubtless you
are ignorant of the catastrophe she and we all have lately suffered!”

“_Ja—ja!_” interrupted the officer, stirring uncomfortably; “I know
her husband incurred his death by rash and guilty action. In these
times mercy can be shown to no one who is guilty.”

Madame de X—— raised her head and fixed on him a pair of scornful dark
eyes. “Her husband, Monsieur, was innocent of the smallest crime; he
did not even know your troops had entered Belgium. He was shot, it was
said later, to avenge a stupid peasant’s act! If my daughter is to
suffer the same fate, then, I beg of you, extend your vengeance to me;
for such sorrows craze the mind and are likely to make criminals of
the best of us!”

Although, unlike Madame de Z——’s husband, who had done nothing, the
speaker was aware of her own guilt, her words expressed the bitter
grief that enabled her and her daughter to risk their lives, not only
to serve their country, but to avenge a crime that had broken their

“My dear Madame,” returned the officer, somewhat impressed by her
sincerely tragic tone, “there is no question of vengeance in this
matter. Indeed, my sympathy is so greatly with you, I should gladly
serve you to the full extent of my power. It is, I know, dreadful for
a mother to see her loved child condemned to be shot as a criminal,
unable even to bid her a last farewell.”

The woman’s hands trembled slightly, but, noting it, she took scissors
from the work-basket and calmly cut the silk from her needle,
rethreaded it, and began work on another flower as she remarked
quietly: “I cannot anticipate such a horror on false evidence. Surely
you will take time, you will investigate the matter thoroughly before
condemning her!”

“Naturally; but before we leave this house positive proof will be in
our hands.”

She glanced up, apparently mystified. “A proof you will find here—in
my house!”

“Yes, Madame; the papers your daughter brought here last night.”

“Oh!” She smiled again, the pathetic mirthless smile of baffled
innocence. “If those papers are here, Monsieur, you have full liberty
to find them.”

“Where did your daughter go to-day?” he asked abruptly.

“Which daughter?”

“Madame de Z——”

“I had no idea she had gone anywhere. Surely if she left the château
she would come to see me! Her sister was here last night and said
nothing of my daughter Amelia having left the country.”

“Her sister is Madame de R——, is she not?”

“Yes, Madame Charles de R——.”

“And she was here to see you last night?”

“She passed the night with me, as I was not well, and returned early
this morning to her house on rue de Bellevue.”

The officer grunted and, for the first time, looked away from her,
glancing thoughtfully about the room.

Madame de X—— noted the change in his face, and, after some moments
of silence, said quietly: “Will you not be seated, Monsieur?” and
indicated a chair near her.

He sat heavily, laying sword across his knees and remarked, after a
pause: “This is a sad business, and very distasteful to me.”

“I can well imagine so, Monsieur,” she returned, with a touch of irony
he did not notice.

“If you would be absolutely frank, I am sure the matter might be
smoothed over—at any rate the punishment might be less severe. The
idea of a woman being shot is appalling; I should like to prevent

“Oh, if justice be done I have no fear of such an event. But if a
woman be guilty it is my conviction, Monsieur, that she should suffer
even as a man. Women _have_ been shot here in Brussels; among others,
the Englishwoman, who died so bravely, and Gabrielle Petit.”

“_Ach, ja!_” He stirred again, and looked at the ceiling.

“Her crime was far less than that you accuse my daughter of,” pursued
Madame de X——; “therefore if Amelia were guilty, I could have no hope,
Monsieur; and surely nothing could make me more frank than I have been
with you. I have sought to hide nothing; you may search where you
will, and may even send for my two daughters to corroborate what I
have said.”

At this moment the other officer appeared, and announced, in German,
that his search had been fruitless.

“Good!” muttered his superior, rising; then, addressing Madame de X——,
said formally:

“I must demand to search this room, Madame.”

“Certainly,” she replied; “here are the keys of my desk and the
cupboard.” She took two keys from the pocket of a small black silk
apron she wore, and handed them to him.

The soldiers were then bidden to enter, and the search began. Not only
was her desk examined and every letter in it opened, but each volume
in the book-cases was taken out and looked through; the cushions and
upholstery of sofa and chairs were examined; the carpet was pulled up
at the edges, and every cranny and crevice, where a paper might be
hidden, investigated.

And all that seemingly endless time Madame de X—— sat listening to
the wild beating of her heart, thrilled through with terror as one or
other of the men approached the little table where the papers they
sought lay hidden only by a flimsy embroidered cover!

Had her hair not been white, it would certainly have become so during
that period of moral anguish and suspense; but, in recounting it,
Madame de X—— affirmed she was scarcely conscious of peril; the strain
was so intense she lost sight of its cause and seemed to suffer more
physically than mentally. Each movement of the men acted painfully
upon her nerves, and though her hands still moved, mechanically plying
the needle, her very muscles seemed to stiffen; she felt petrified and
unable to move her head or body.

The men did their work in silence, but she could hear their breathing,
and now and then a cough or throaty sound that shocked her like the
discharge of a gun. During the whole procedure she noted that the
superior was secretly watching her; and, fearing he might detect
terror in her attitude, she made a mighty effort to change it easily.
But she dared not rise from that table, whereon lay the price of her
daughter’s life and her own.

When everything had been examined to the chief officer’s satisfaction,
he muttered something to his men, and, approaching Madame de X——, laid
his hand on _the little table_!

“What is in this, Madame?” he demanded.

“That?” she replied, with a calm that surprised herself; “only
embroidery-silks and things of that sort—it is my work-table.”

“There is a drawer in it, _n’est-ce pas_?”

“No, Monsieur, it opens at the top.”

Though this was the crisis of all, Madame de X—— stated that a strange
calm of indifference came over her; a conviction that the end had come
gave her the recklessness of despair.

The soldiers, at that moment, were busy replacing books in the
bookcase; the other officer, at her desk, was putting together certain
letters of wholly innocent character he thought might be of service
later on.

“I should like to look into the table, if you please,” said the chief.

“_Bien._” She lifted her work-basket and, handing it to him, said:
“Will you kindly set that on the other table?”

As he, while examining the basket’s contents, turned to do this, she
swept the table-cover with the papers under it into her lap. Scarcely
was this done, when he turned; and quickly lifting the lid, she
remarked, looking up innocently, with the smile now familiar to him:
“Its contents are not likely to interest a soldier, I fear.”

He put his hand in and felt through the silks, then drew it out
quickly, pierced by a needle!

“Good!” he said harshly, his face reddening. Then, when the
pain passed: “Thank you, Madame. So far we have found nothing
incriminating, but nevertheless you must come with me at once to the
Military Governor.”

“Go with you!” she gasped, fearing to rise because of those papers in
her lap; “but why, Monsieur? For what reason do you arrest a woman of
my age, against whom you have no charge?”

He raised his shoulders. “Our reasons, Madame, are not usually given.
You must be imprisoned until this matter is fully investigated; that
is all I shall say. If you wish to go to your room to dress, you may
do so; but I must ask you to be as quick as possible.”

The unyielding dryness of his tone told her argument would be futile,
and, in a last desperate effort to save the situation, she gathered
up her apron, in which lay embroidery, table-cover, and papers, and
left the room in proud silence, determined to benefit by the moment
of privacy allowed her, and destroy the papers. The officer, after
ordering one of the soldiers to examine the chair she had occupied,
said something to the other, who, with him, followed her from the room.

As she mounted the stairs, Madame de X——, to her horror, perceived
that the second soldier mounted close in her wake. This she knew meant
ruin! It meant that the last possible chance to rid herself of the
fatal documents was to be denied her; for, taught by the experience
of others, she knew every inch of the apparel she wore or discarded
would be minutely examined. Consequently, by some means or other,
the soldier must be prevented from accompanying her to her room. A
plea for consideration, however, was not likely to be granted, and
rebellion would only incur greater severity. She paused and glanced
back, thinking frantically what to do. Suddenly an idea came to her.

“Monsieur,” she said, with obvious embarrassment, “this man _cannot_
accompany me! You have examined every inch of my house; you have
cross-questioned me and my servants, and read my intimate letters!
Everything has been freely yielded to your investigation, therefore
I must beg you to recall this man for a little moment. I am an old
woman; I have urgent need of a moment of privacy.”

“Good!” was the colourless reply; “He will await you in the corridor
and accompany you to your room.”

This being all she could hope for, and more than would have been
accorded had her acting been less perfect or the slightest clue
discovered, Madame de X——, followed by the soldier, went on to the
floor above. There the soldier, looking bored and miserable, awaited
her by the door of a small compartment at the end of the corridor.

One moment later those documents which the enemy would have
prized—which would have condemned Madame de X—— and her daughter to
death—were driven, by a resounding rush of water, into oblivion down
the drain-pipe!

But their contents she retained in her memory, and later found means
of communicating them to those for whom they were destined—I believe
during her imprisonment, but am not sure of this point.

The consequence of her heroic courage was the exoneration—after
painful and lengthy imprisonment—of both women, as no proof could be
found of their guilt. But it is doubtful whether condemnation to death
could have caused more anguish than Madame de X—— suffered during
those hours of desperate peril! Among the many great deeds of Belgian
heroism few are more deserving of admiration than the brave and clever
fidelity of these two daring women to the confidence reposed in them.


Although time passed somewhat less dully than later, the incidents
that, during the winter and summer of 1915, relieved our otherwise
monotonous days were of such distressing character that they only
deepened the gloom. One by one our British friends were carried off
to Rühleben, while their wives were left behind without sufficient
means—in some cases absolutely destitute, since they could receive
nothing from without, and were consequently worse off than the
really impoverished Belgians, for whom charity provided. For months
at a stretch, this monotony of misery was broken by nothing more
encouraging than bad news from the front, and the tragic events at
the _Tir National_, where citizens were shot for patriotic deeds,
seldom graver than that of Miss Cavell, or the brave Belgian girl
Gabrielle Petit, twenty-one years of age. She, however, was given a
chance of having her punishment commuted to imprisonment, but declined
this favour which had been denied the Englishwoman. The murder of
Miss Cavell caused a pervading mood of mourning that seemed unlikely
ever to diminish, even in those who did not know her personally. That
crime, so pitilessly carried out, in secrecy and under cover of false
promises, was perhaps most appalling to those in the vicinity whose
hopes were stimulated by misleading assurances, until the post-mortem
announcement proved them vain! Although a British subject has referred
to the deed as rather a “blunder” than a crime,—she being proven
guilty of having assisted young men across the frontier,—the fact that
other women, not British, found guilty of the same humane, although
forbidden, acts, were yet spared the extreme punishment reserved for
spies and the worst of treason, takes all logic from the argument
of this apparently prejudiced Irishman. Edith Cavell’s martyrdom
impressed us in Brussels, as it must always impress history, not only
as shortsighted stupidity—the very determination, secrecy, and haste
with which it was perpetrated contradicts such interpretation—but
rather as a deliberate and atrocious act of vengeance toward a hated

But other tragedies followed so quickly that this one gradually became
lost in the mass of appalling incidents related by relatives of those
who suffered, or widely announced in German _affiches_ in order to
strike fresh terror to the hearts of a sorrowing and helpless people.

Yet hope lived on; despite the prevailing misery, each gleam of
good news that reached us from the front was magnified to a great
victory for the Allies, and twenty-four hours sufficed to develop
the conviction that a glorious and triumphant peace was about to be

Secret organizations in Belgium occasionally brought us a ray
of encouragement, despite the twenty thousand German civilians
endeavouring to discover and destroy these sources of information
opposed to what was allowed to appear in our papers. But, by dint
of passing from mouth to mouth, the news became so distorted or
exaggerated that one scarcely knew what to believe.

We all had maps spread over our walls, on which every mile that the
British and French advanced was marked with pins bearing little flags
of the nations. For how many months—_years_, indeed—we pored over
that line as it crept closer and closer to St. Quentin, Cambrai,
and other points considered the keys to a rapid and overwhelming
victory! I cannot recall them without painful recollection of our many

In the spring of 1918 we put those maps out of sight, and ceased
reading the communiqués vouchsafed us by a German press.

The most trying element of all, in regard to the front, was the
_authentic_ information we received by word of mouth, as early as
December 1916, of the taking of Courtrai, St. Quentin, etc., by the
Allied armies. The stirring account grew as it passed from one excited
recounter to another. It was originally obtained, as stated above,
from some unknown but trustworthy source. But later on we came to
believe that these stories were, in great part, spread by the Germans
in order to weaken and destroy what faith and hope still survived in
the country. I heard soldiers, even at this time, express very gloomy
views as to their nation’s prospects in the war. Once in a tram, just
before the last temporarily successful onslaught of the Germans at
Verdun, I heard one, who pretended he was drunk and had possibly been
taught the words in French, cry out hysterically: “Our cause is lost!
_Nous sommes fichus! Nous sommes fichus!_”

For some reason beyond the comprehension of civil minds the occupying
Government appeared bent upon destroying every vestige of hope
in Belgian hearts. Invariably on the eve of a German victory,
exhilarating rumours of great Allied successes were set forth from
unknown sources awakening joy in the prison city which often verged on
an outburst of dangerous enthusiasm. Then, as invariably, the blazing
blue _affiche_ appeared, announcing an overwhelming defeat of the
Allies in the very section where they were understood to have been

The subtle trickery of such tactics might in time have attained its
object; certainly there could be no better method of wearying and
torturing a people into losing faith. And while it did not succeed
with the better classes, it tired and broke the spirit of the
suffering poor to such an extent that, even when positive proof of
successes reached us, they would not believe; for they had come to the
conviction that the Germans were invincible and would never give up an
inch of Belgium.

We who had witnessed the easy and rapid advance of the enemy through
Belgium and deep into France, cut off as we were from all reliable
information, could not, during the first years, form any idea of
the vastly differing conditions affecting the Allied armies. As the
Germans, opposed only by hastily-mustered, unorganized, and infinitely
weaker forces, had swept on so quickly, we looked for like speed
from the Allies when once their strength was massed and ready. That
the enemy had had time to root himself in and fortify his positions
almost invulnerably, while England was forming an army of untrained
men, and France was preparing hers, we did not comprehend until later.
Few details reached us from the outer world, although during the
first year a London _Times_ was occasionally smuggled in. A _Times_!
No one outside can realize what that meant to us! The poor sheet,
usually more than a week old, passed surreptitiously from hand to
hand, was reduced to a flimsy rag before reaching its last reader!
Enormous prices were paid for it. The members of the Anglo-American
club paid a hundred francs for one copy which contained nothing of
importance, but was nevertheless of inestimable value to us as a
voice from friendly regions whence, week by week, we were further
cut off. But soon these rare and precious journals appeared no more;
and the apparently innocent newsvendors who shouted aloud: “_La
Belgique!_”—and whispered, when someone known to be trustworthy
passed: “_Le Teems, Monsieur?_”—no longer added the zest of dangerous
intrigue to our saunterings through the dull streets.

But tales of heroic deeds done by the Belgians afforded a certain
interest and satisfaction; tales only whispered to those who could
be trusted not to repeat them. And many were performed by the
Flemish, whom the Germans boasted they had won to their side. One
may be given to illustrate the real sentiments of these people, so
falsely represented in the German accounts. At Bruges, where the
Flemish element predominates, an old man, for many years foreman in
the unloading, etc., of canal boats, approached my friend the steel
manufacturer in that town, gruffly complained that the Allies were
making a mistake in bombarding the railroads from aeroplanes, since
the Germans were shipping their ammunition and so forth exclusively
by the canal, and asked the manufacturer if there was no means of
sending them word to this effect. The latter, not wishing to betray
himself, but meaning to attempt it, said he knew of no such means.
Whereupon the old Fleming withdrew, muttering discontentedly, with
bowed head and great bushy brows knitted over a pair of clever dark
eyes, meditating mischief.

A few hours later, German officers came in hot haste to the
manufacturer, and, in a frenzy of rage and excitement, made him
accompany them to the canal. There a great crowd had gathered about
the old foreman, who was under arrest, and threatened with death. He
appeared stupidly indifferent to the menaces and curses heaped upon
him by the infuriated Teutons, merely repeating over and over:

“I could not help it!—An accident!—I did my best!”

For some moments my friend, dazed by the reigning confusion, was
unable to understand what it was all about, until, led by an officer
to the canal bank, he saw the cause of their rage. He was so much
affected by amusement mingling with a deeper emotion that a lump rose
to his throat, and he could not speak.

The old foreman, as though by accident, had managed to let drop the
hook of his great iron crane just as a boat, carrying a vast German
war-cargo, was passing by. It caught the boat so firmly by the nose
that, in his pretended efforts to free it, he not only overturned the
bulky vessel, but dragged down his crane, which, with the boat, sank
into the canal, blocking it against all navigation for nearly five
weeks! He did this at the risk of his life, and only his able pretence
of stupidity, and the manufacturer’s representation that he was in
his dotage, won for him a term of imprisonment instead of the extreme

The brave passage of young Belgians over the frontier to join their
army caused the barriers of our prison to be more closely guarded.
Those who still ventured to cross—and there were many even after the
deadly electric wires had been installed!—did so with scarcely a
chance for their lives. Boys as young as seventeen ran the gauntlet
of that “death-zone,” and many passed it in safety after incredible
endurance and suffering.

A Belgian woman, whose two sons made a daring attempt to pass, told us
their experience, related to her in part by one of their companions,
obliged by illness to return; and in part by the German officer who
coldly informed her of their fate.

After skulking for four days and nights under cover of a wood in
the Campine, devoid of food, save what little they carried in their
pockets, and exposed to incessant autumn rains, they at last reached a
canal lying between them and Dutch territory. Having no other means
of crossing, they plunged at night into the black water, and struck
out for the opposite shore.

The mother, not hearing of their capture, which would have been widely
published, concluded, after several days, that they had got over
safely. But one morning she was startled by the visit of a German
sub-officer who came to announce that one of her sons had been shot
while swimming the canal.

As she pretended ignorance of his intention to cross, the information
was considered sufficient punishment, especially when, several days
later, the tidings of her other son’s death in like manner was
conveyed to her by the same pitiless messenger.

This was the most tragic incident of the sort I heard first-hand at
that time; but tales as sad, or others picturing the glorious success
of such young heroes, were constantly circulating.

Later, when the electric wires and underground mines were installed,
the matter was differently managed. By a carefully-organized plan,
the boys were able to pass over in companies of twenty, thirty, and
more at a time, each one contributing his share to the large bribe by
which the sentinels were bought off.

Once, when, before this rare privilege was wholly withdrawn, my
companion was permitted to go by motor into Holland on business,
he was surprised to meet, in the little Dutch town of Nispen, a
Belgian acquaintance whom he believed to be in Brussels. He and
thirty companions had been safely conducted over the frontier the
night before! Three thousand one hundred francs, one hundred from
each member of the party, had secured them this easy passage. The
youths, now free and eager for revenge, were glad to regain liberty
at so small a price, and be able to join their colours. While he was
relating this in the street, he noticed a crowd gathered about two
German soldiers, unresistingly arrested by the Dutch police.

The young Belgian, on seeing them, uttered an exclamation: “_Mon
Dieu!_” he said. “Those are our sentinels!—the men who led us over
last night!” They hastened to the group, and the soldiers, recognizing
him, grinned and nodded in a friendly manner.

“What are you doing here?” he asked them genially, for the men were
evidently good-natured creatures, not reared in the army, whose
military sympathies were apparently no deeper than their uniforms.

“Got tired of it over there!” returned one, still smiling. “We are not
so free as you are, but we can wait for that more comfortably here
than in Belgium!”

During the summer of 1916 the inhabitants of Brussels, weary of
suffering and the “hope deferred which maketh the heart sick,” began
a rather forced effort to brighten their existence. When, after a
bitterly gloomy winter, the first peep of green became visible in the
Bois, it seemed as though a tremor of new life passed through the
city. War, with its ever-recurring calamities and disappointments,
had come to be looked on as an unalterable affliction, which must be
endured with patience until some unforeseen and unimaginable event
should bring it to an end. Confidence in early and rapid victory had
gradually given place to a less definite though stubborn belief in
final triumph; but now even this was less openly expressed. War, in
fact, became a tacitly avoided subject of conversation. The tedious
communiqués, giving only such details as the Government thought fit to
present, were no longer discussed, even by bereaved and serious folk
whose thoughts were ever at the front. We who, as yet, were spared the
crape worn by so many, began to frequent tennis and golf clubs, where,
while healthfully exercising on the courts, or “chasing a pill through
a pasture”—as the Irishman defined golf!—we tried to forget that the
air we breathed came to us over acres of death.

The Bois became alive again with children and pleasure-seeking
couples; and although there were no horses to drive or ride, boats
were launched, as of old, on the beautiful lake surrounding an island
café, which reopened its doors to serve, not the dainty repasts of
former days,—edibles were far too dear!—but tea and coffee of sorts,
while procurable, and a light home-made beer. One lump of sugar was
allowed to each cup, and no appeal or bribe could secure more. But in
a short time the place was crowded, not only by Belgians, but German
soldiers who mingled freely with them, seeking relief from the dull
routine of their days of rest.

One of the touching sights of this little island retreat was that of
these weary, battle-soiled men, to whose clothes still clung the mud
and grime of the trenches, delightedly visiting the dovecot, where,
for ten centimes, they procured grain to feed the pigeons. These
pure white birds, emblems of peace and beauty, would settle on their
hands, shoulders, and heads; and through their snowy plumage the men’s
gruesome, green-grey uniforms appeared like the thought of an evil
mind, marring the spiritual accord between God and man.

This reawakening of the people was a natural reaction—the demand
of life for its own rights. As with individuals, sorrow’s tedium
had evoked in the entire occupied country a certain helpless
resignation to circumstances that after two years’ patient endurance
and discouragement offered no promise of change. Oppression and
deprivation had become permanent elements of existence. Tragedies even
failed to impress us so deeply as of yore; incidents of heart-breaking
pathos no longer brought tears to the eyes of those who could still
dress warmly in winter, and indulge adequately, if not luxuriously,
in the high-priced food. All had made such sacrifices for the poorer
classes as each considered possible without serious menace to himself.
Many had given the last centime they could spare, others substantial
donations which they probably did not miss.

Nevertheless, evidences of distressing want increased, more especially
among those too proud to ask alms, who, before the war, had been
comfortably off.

During that summer and the following winter these once well-to-do
and industrious citizens swelled the long lines of hunger-driven,
ill-clad beings who, in rain, snow, or sunshine, stood for hours
outside soup-kitchens to obtain the loaf of bread and jug of hot broth
provided by charity. I think no visible sign of the country’s calamity
was more painfully impressive than the sight of those silent, patient
files of heterogeneous humanity, extending at certain hours along
whole blocks of the city’s streets. Chiefly were they eloquent during
the early dusk of winter, when, exposed to the blast of cold winds, to
sleety rain, or penetrating fog, refined men and women, old and young,
stood shivering side by side with the lowest inhabitants of rue Haute!

Some faces seen in those sad gatherings I shall never forget; faces
of haggard, hopeless men, whose brave efforts to live honestly had
been frustrated when success was almost attained; of wan women, whose
husbands were dead or fighting in the trenches, whose children starved
in a heatless home; old women and young, in whose eyes all human
reasoning was eclipsed by an animal hunger—old men and young with that
same anguish in their eyes, but with the hard and morose expression of
embryo criminals lurking about their down-drooping, sullenly closed

Ah, only those who lived in the midst of Belgium’s agony, who beheld a
guiltless people verily crucified as recompense for their loyalty to
honour and truth, can fully appreciate the wrong that was done them!
Only those who saw with their own eyes the callous and inhuman rage
of the invader’s earlier treatment,—when, confident of conquering
a startled world with every diabolical device of destruction which
mind could conceive, he ignored all laws, and deliberately aimed
at crushing the very heart of this little land that had done no
wrong,—only those can understand with what contempt, what _loathing_,
we who did witness it came to look upon the ruler and the chiefs of
that race whose history has been thus stained! For we saw these people
starving while Germany was seizing their crops, their horses, cows,
even the contents of dry-goods and other shops; shipping away the
coal, for need of which so many perished during the cold winters;
taking all fats, so that butter was unprocurable and milk too rare and
dear for the poor to buy. We beheld the famished mothers struggling
to keep their fading children alive on what charity could provide—so
small a portion for each of the many thousands to be cared for!—the
country’s youth stricken down with tuberculosis, and honest men driven
to thieving and crime!

Indeed, the bare sight of those lines of hunger-wan creatures,
stretching like black stains through the city, awoke depressing
conjectures as to whether man’s intelligence was, after all, of a
higher order than that of beasts, or merely the same limited capacity,
artificially burnished! Through nearly two-thirds of the civilized
world, life, beauty, and the harvests of ages were being ruthlessly
and insanely destroyed; every principle of right, every element of
higher sentiment scorned or ignored, in a senseless and hideous
conflict between men—between the most exalted of all living creatures!
Truth, the acknowledgment of a higher Power, and even kindred
sympathy—manifested even by the lowest animals—were sacrificed day
after day to an atrocious passion, costing millions of lives, billions
of wealth, and a loss in treasures, in architecture, literature, and
art such as a thousand years of labour can never replace!

What wonder that individuals did not escape the almost universal
retrogression, and that, amid a people who had so nobly stood loyal to
their ideals, dishonesty and contempt for law gradually developed from
the festering and unalleviated wounds unjustly dealt them!

Signs of this inevitable consequence of war became apparent later, not
only in Brussels, but throughout the whole of Belgium, as in Russia
and (more or less) in all the involved nations.

War! who after this can ever again insult patriotism by relating it
to the beat of drums and the roar of cannon? Every rational being
who has witnessed its dire and degrading effects, even in so small a
scene as the prison-capital of its vast tragic stage, must curse those
philosophic minds of Germany who exerted their intellects to exalt
intellect’s most horrible opponent, and sold their souls to the devil
for a vain Emperor’s praise!

On them, as much as on him they flattered, must be laid the crime of
a catastrophe that has menaced the very foundations of civilization.
Where now can be seen the benefits of that “drastic medicine for
the human race” which Treitschke informs us must always recur by
the Almighty’s will? He pretends that war is elevating because the
individual disappears before the great conception of the State, and
that to check war would be “a perversion of morality,” in that it
would abolish heroism! Is heroism more beautiful or advantageous when
_forced_ from a man on the battlefield, than when, of his own will, he
proves it in a peaceful struggle to live righteously and let others

How many criminals, for selfish objects, have evinced personal
courage like that of a soldier in action?—far greater, because not
in obedience, but in opposition to power! Paid or commanded heroism
is not heroism in the true sense. Thousands upon thousands in the
peaceful walks of life have more worthily deserved glory by labour and
sacrifice for the common good than they who are driven, under command,
to slay their kind—who obey for no clearly-comprehended object,
but first and foremost to preserve themselves. There are perhaps
fifty men in five hundred, apart from the officers, whose dominant
incentive in battle is other than self-preservation; whereas in peace
one-half, if not more, of a like body of men utilize their physical
and intellectual powers for the improvement of general conditions—and
often without aiming at other recompense. The hour for lauding the
soldier above the scientist and artisan is long since past, and vast
military power, or military power of any sort, is a mockery of the
present glorious age.

Can there be any more absurd sophistry than that of pretending that
war corrects egoism? War is bred of egoism, bred of the cruellest of
all egoisms—imperial ambition! In peace the basest selfishness is less
harmful than the selfishness of international conflict. Even those
men who have amassed enormous fortunes by robbing the poor have been
of greater benefit to the world in general than if their intelligence
and force had been utilized in planning how to crush another nation.
Egoism, after all, is necessary to progress, and war is but its most
barbaric expression.

Machiavelli’s assertion that power is the keynote of all policy has
been grasped by the German war-philosophers, who flatter themselves
they see clearly when looking upon the present epoch through the eyes
of an unscrupulous fifteenth-century Italian. Machiavelli perhaps
spoke truth for his time—a truth, moreover, still real for our own;
but his word _power_ has now a different significance. Now only is the
power of reason generally developed; now only the many nations of the
world speak the same moral language; now only the masses, formerly
forced to be war-like animals, are thinking and, to a great extent,
cultured beings.

But what is the use of reiterating what every thoughtful mind has
heard crying to-day over the bleeding earth? That Reason which vast
catastrophes invariably rouse to ephemeral life soon dies in the
gathering storm-cloud of humanity’s innately savage passions! If the
race most boastful of its culture, a race which leapt so rapidly from
the confining narrowness of old-time heresies, could give birth to
the devastating horror that has reigned for nearly five years, and
threatened to thrust the world back into medieval darkness, what faith
can be placed in mere Reason? What faith can be placed in any human
argument, ideal, or belief—what faith in Man himself?—The majesty of
human intellect, before so deliberate a destruction of its own works,
is made to appear no more than a vain invention of fancy; and the
supreme creature of all knowable creation appears of no more enduring
significance than as depicted by Lamartine: “Ce pauvre insecte c’est
l’homme, qui chante quelques jours devant Dieu sa jeunesse et ses
amours, et puis se tait pour l’éternité!”


When the spring of 1916 was in full leaf an unexpected pleasure was
accorded us: permission from the Governor to ride bicycles within
certain stated limits! The privilege was welcomed almost joyously
by all; for, since there were no horses and no means of transit for
those living in the suburbs, or those out of touch with such trams
as were running, many workers were obliged to walk miles each day to
and from their places of occupation. Besides, the pleasure-hungry
inhabitants—doomed to remain summer and winter within the gloomy
city—were glad of a chance to make excursions into woods and open
country without expense or too great fatigue. Every man, woman, and
child able to pedal immediately planned how to purchase a wheel,
although many were only able to do so after a long period of
saving—by cutting down their food supply, and other sacrifices. There
were, of course, not enough bicycles in the country to meet even
one-tenth of this suddenly-created demand, since most of the Belgian
stock had been requisitioned for army purposes. But no sooner was the
cheering permission given than the market was flooded, as though by
magic, with wheels of all styles and all prices—_made in Germany_!
Every shop was stocked to overflowing, sold out, and restocked with
incredible rapidity.

In a short time the Bois, so long deserted and melancholy, presented
a scene of life that did the heart good to see. Hundreds of bicycles,
all bearing the Teuton trade-mark cleverly disguised, rolled
gaily over the smooth asphalt of wide avenues, where the splendid
automobiles of former days no longer deterred the timid; where, at
that time, not even a German car or vehicle of any sort impeded their

So great was the pleasure and benefit afforded, especially to wan,
under-nourished shop-girls and lads, in sad need of fresh air and
some diversion in their joyless existence, that one was tempted to
feel more kindly toward the occupying Government, until, later on,
the subtle and selfish aim became known of this sole act of seeming
consideration. Nevertheless, during those summer months a surprising
spirit of comparative gaiety developed. The conflict raging without
seemed temporarily forgotten. Young and old indulged to the full the
delight of wheeling along smooth cycle tracks (laid before the war)
through leafy woodlands out to Groenendael and other picturesque spots
in the environs, where restaurants, that had done no business for two
years, gladly welcomed them.

Whole families were to be seen awheel; fathers and mothers,
accompanied by children of all ages. Loving couples, even elderly
women and white-haired men, experienced the first semblance of
pleasure and liberty since the 20th of August 1914. On Sundays,
especially, this manifestation of reawakened life was delightful to
see. From morn till eve the city avenues and those of the Bois were
moving streams of radiant cyclists, eager to leave the town behind and
taste the sweetness of summer under fragrant boughs, or in flowered
fields where they would settle in parties for luncheon. Jeanne from
the _laiterie_, Jacques from the butcher’s shop—hundreds of poor,
tired young creatures, who slaved on weekdays to provide themselves
and war-widowed mothers with the necessities of life, were all there,
smiling and forgetting the sacrifices made to procure a cheap German
wheel—sacrifices often betrayed in their hunger-pinched faces! But the
privilege was not indulged in only by these; the aristocrats welcomed
it as gladly, and innumerable smart men and women, deprived of their
horses and cars, pedalled along by the side of Jeanne and Jacques as
contentedly as they.

I have no exact knowledge of how many bicycles were sold in Belgium
during that summer; but judging by the fact that one was procured
by every individual in the capital able to ride and scrape together
the price, many thousands must have been sold in Brussels alone—all
provided by Germany! A large number of the poorer classes could not
save the necessary sum until the summer was over, and cold, bad
weather prevented them enjoying their hard-earned acquisitions. But
they had something to look forward to for the coming summer, should
the war continue—and there was then little prospect of it coming to an

These last, unfortunately, made their sacrifices in vain; for no
sooner was everyone provided with a wheel, and the enormous demand,
so cunningly created and provided for, had been satisfied, than the
moment arrived for the sequel of Germany’s clever commercial _coup_!

Immediately an order was published that everyone possessing a bicycle
should not only declare but _deliver_ his tyres, as the rubber was
needed by the army! Riding was forbidden, even to those who, after
yielding their tyres, asked permission still to enjoy their wheels by
using tyres of rope!

Thus was solved the mystery of that one instance of kindness towards
a wronged people! The German army secured the rubber without robbing
its own nation; and, moreover, enriched certain home manufacturers
with the pathetic savings of many a Belgian girl and lad, since fallen
a victim to tuberculosis—an epidemic then already beginning to ravage
their country’s youth!

Of course the usual excuse was given for checking the use of bicycles:
someone—who and how was not revealed!—had abused the privilege,
therefore all should be denied it! But if, indeed, that abuse ever was
committed, it must have been during the first weeks after permission
to ride was given. No one, anxious to serve his country, or to escape,
would have waited until the last importation of wheels had been
disposed of! This, moreover, did not explain why permission was never
again given, although during the two following summers there was no
conceivable reason why those who asked to ride with rope tyres within
a certain limited locality should be refused.

The whole affair was an abominable trick, subtly clever, with that sly
and treacherous cleverness which won a vast advantage for the German
army in the beginning, and has ever since characterized its policy.

The dark months of winter crept upon us; another joyless Christmas
approached—a day suggesting not peace and good-will, but rather
blasphemous mockery of all that Christ taught. One black day was like
another, always throbbing with the more or less loud roar of distant
cannon, stirred only when good news fanned to brief flame our almost
extinguished hope. Only this, and the ever-new laws imposed by the
enemy, made us realize we were yet alive, and roused us sufficiently
to note what the day of the month might be.

Occasionally, however, we were awakened at dawn by a thunder of
near-by cannon, and, until taught by experience, sprang from our
beds thinking the Allies had come. But it was only to see puffs of
exploding shell surrounding a bird-like form far up in the sky—which
we recognized as a friendly aviator winging through the explosives
toward a Zeppelin shed rather uncomfortably close to our house. Once,
at dawn, several biplanes appeared bent upon destroying this monster
civilian slayer. Brussels, still asleep, resounded to the thunder of
cannon from the many points where high-angle guns were set, one of
these points being a water-tower two hundred yards or so from us. The
shooting was continuous; and puffs of smoke, as the shells burst,
surrounded the air-craft so closely it seemed impossible that they
could escape destruction. Fragments of shell rained upon our roof,
and crashed through the garden trees, while we, in our night-clothes,
leaned from windows watching the brave flyers through our glasses. Our
hearts almost ceased to beat, fearing lest one should fall; for it
appeared almost beyond hope that they could all escape that determined
and well-directed fire. Presently one descended into full view, and,
after circling about the Zeppelin shed, slackened speed just above it.
Shells burst round him on every side, but the intrepid aviator paid no
heed. As we watched, scarcely breathing, he plunged downward close to
the shed—hesitated—then, apparently in no great hurry, soared up like
a fearless eagle to safer heights, through a very cloud of bursting
shells. Almost immediately there was a tremendous explosion, which
we scarcely heeded, so intent were we on his escape. For what seemed
hours, though it was probably not more than a few moments, we followed
his flight amid a storm of attack that seemed to miss him at times
only by a hair’s breadth.

In a villa facing ours dwelt a young American widow, who, with her two
sons, as little clothed as we, was also watching the combat. One of
the boys, as reckless of risk as he was indifferent to his attire, had
crawled from a window, and stood, bare-footed, in pyjamas, on the roof
cornice in great danger of being struck by falling bits of shell. The
widow, wrought to uncontrollable excitement, called out as though the
daring flyer could hear her: “For Heaven’s sake hurry!—_Fly!_—Oh, they
will bring you down!—God have mercy on him! Spare him! Spare him!”

Her cries came thinly to us, through the thunderous din, and, though
she and we all laughed over it later, at that moment of tension
nothing impressed us as extraordinary or comic. Every sense was
centred on that rising form, until it finally disappeared in the mist
of higher ether. Had he been brought down we should have all felt it
as a personal tragedy; for, although at that time America was still
comfortably neutral, we who had witnessed Belgium’s martyrdom were
little in sympathy with our country’s attitude.

But this took place earlier; before the spring of 1917 the
Machiavellian intelligence ruling us is supposed to have devised a
means whereby it hoped to check aerial assaults upon these cherished
perils-to-unprotected-towns. Although the trick was beyond all things
diabolical, many in Brussels, taught by experience the inhumanity of
Prussian war-methods, believed it was done with deliberate intention
to terrify the inhabitants into opposing Allied aerial attack.

As the Zeppelin, unfortunately, was absent from its shed when a
well-directed bomb was dropped on it during this attack, another
attempt to destroy it was made later. During the latter raid several
shrapnel shells tore with direful effect through the city’s crowded
streets. Many ghastly details reached us, but one account, given by an
eye-witness, will serve to illustrate the vileness of a scheme which,
if indeed intentional, can only be equalled by the sinking of the
_Lusitania_ and that shooting of the French wounded, openly recorded
in the German papers, under the heading: “A day of honour for our

One of the shells, in its mad career through the city, struck a
brewer’s wagon, killing the driver, and the oxen which drew it, and
severely wounded a second man. A physician in the vicinity hastened to
the spot; and with those who gathered about the scene of butchery came
two German officers who appeared already prepared for the event.

“_Ach!_” exclaimed one of these, in a tone of compassionate regret;
“you Belgians can thank the British and French for this! What is it
to them how many innocent beings are sacrificed to their senseless
attacks in a vain effort to cripple us!”

But, all unknown to the speaker, several tell-tale bits of the
murderous missile, proving it to be of German origin, had already been
gathered up and secreted by the Belgians present. The physician had
one of these, and, unable to control his fury on hearing this _malin_
interpretation of the tragedy, he turned on the officer, his face
white and quivering with reckless passion: “_Pas du tout!_” he cried;
“no French or English hand committed this crime! Here is the proof!”
He revealed the damning fragment. “Avions do not drop shrapnel, and
neither you nor anyone can deny where that was made!”

The officers scorned the suggestion, but withdrew, for they were
unsupported by others in the midst of a silent but enraged crowd.

One feature in the affair, which encouraged the belief that it had
been arranged purposely, was that German soldiers immediately took
possession of each locality where damage was done, ridding it of every
condemning particle of shell. But fragments enough have been preserved
by the Belgians as proof of a deed worthy only of those who committed

In constant view of such trickery how could a neutral attitude of mind
or heart be retained?

The men of the American Alimentation Commission came to Belgium as
friendly towards Germany as towards any other nation. Several of them,
indeed, were somewhat biased in favour of the Prussian army, and
all as prone as were we ourselves, in the beginning, to doubt the
accounts of their atrocities. But before they left I believe there
was not one whose last trace of respect for the occupying Powers was
not destroyed by what he had witnessed with his own eyes during his
sojourn in the country. Very many, as the world knows, lost no time,
after leaving Belgium, to reveal their outraged sentiments by joining
the Allied forces. Even before America came in, several of these gave
their lives in fighting a wrong they were forced to recognize, despite
their original determination to view all from a fair war-basis, and
not be influenced by mere hearsay.

And yet these men were more closely associated with the German
officials than with Belgians. Their duties necessitated constant
intercourse with the Government, and with those whose influence might
easily have counterbalanced Belgian accusations. Those stationed in
the _étape_ regions were constantly accompanied by a sub-officer. Day
and night each had his “nurse,” as the boys called these military
supervisors, at his side; ate with him, travelled with him, and slept
near him! What more natural than that so intimate an association
should strengthen their original admiration for the German army? But
facts were too flagrantly against it. Little by little incidents,
at first regarded as awful but possibly legitimate features of war,
led to others, illegitimate and of enraging significance, gradually
destroying, in these fair-minded men, all sympathy with the Central

As year followed year they saw these _soi-disant_ defenders of their
“_Vaterland_” bleeding a helpless country, and clinging, at all cost
and by any means, to territory won through the use of poisonous gas
and burning oil—brutalities never before known, and all fore-prepared,
while the world was dreaming of peace!—saw them draining broken
Belgium by outrageous taxation, and requisition of every kind, while
doing their utmost to create internal strife between the Flemings and

Very few neutrals at first could gauge the situation correctly in
Brussels, where German argument and German lies were predominant. It
was only their _actions_ that opened our eyes, and the extraordinary
advantages they so quickly attained, which gave evidence of an
inexorable and vandalistic plan that could not have been brought to
such perfection in a few months, nor even in a few years.

Only a fool or an all-forgiving angel could have lived under that
domination and retained sympathy or respect for the nation it
represented. Although noble individuals in Germany were probably as
adverse as we to its pitiless barbarity and craft, the fact that no
united voice in that great and prosperous country was raised against
it, suggested that their number was too small to be of any avail. The
first easy victories, the violation and crushing of a neutral land,
seemed to have eclipsed the soul and intelligence of a people formerly
so proud of their culture.


The winter of 1916-17 proved more trying even than that preceding it.
After the tyres were taken, came a demand for copper, and everyone
was ordered to convey to central depôts all the specified articles he
possessed in this metal.

This meant, for Belgians, not only the deprivation of kitchen utensils
and other things necessary to a household, but, even more bitter, it
meant providing the enemy with material to slaughter brothers and
friends. Consequently every means was resorted to to avoid obedience,
without incurring the drastic punishment promised all who resisted.
Copper was hidden under floors, in carefully-replastered and repapered
walls, under the earth in gardens and under coal in cellars—all such
things as were then demanded, but, alas! not those demanded a short
time later.

Treacherous servants rendered this defiance more perilous, as no one
was sure not to be sold by a trusted butler or valet. The butler of
one woman we knew had been with her for twenty years; and to him,
as her husband and sons were at the front, she confided not only
the hiding of copper but the fact that a younger son with her aid
had crossed the frontier. He rewarded her confidence by insolently
ignoring his position as servant and assuming an attitude of equality
with her. Every order she gave was referred to another servant, while
the butler sat comfortably in the drawing-room, smoking cigarettes
in her presence! We ourselves were obliged to unearth our carefully
buried copper at midnight and rebury it in another place owing to the
dismissal of a gardener who had assisted at the first interment! Not
that he threatened to betray us, and more than likely he would not
have done so, but the consequences were too serious to risk.

Examples were made of those found to have hidden their copper, who
not only had every particle of the metal taken, but in some cases
were pillaged of all valuables, fined, and imprisoned. Neutrals were
not exempt, and a story was told me of a Swiss family who offered
resistance when their home was invaded by armed soldiers. After
ordering the men out, they threatened to send for Belgian police,
and were at once subjected to the most abominable treatment. Every
ornament, lock, and door-handle of brass or copper was wrenched
off; chandeliers were ruthlessly dragged from the ceilings; and the
soldiers, after causing general havoc, announced, on departing, that
a van would come the following day to take away piano, pictures, and
other things of value. I cannot say if this threat was carried out,
nor can I vouch for the story, as it came to me third-hand. But I
myself witnessed one of these plundering raids, when a Belgian’s house
was entirely gutted, and can relate the experience of a Greek family
told me by the daughter, whom I knew well. They too, as neutrals,
ignored the order to deliver their household goods, and, since they
had not attempted to conceal them, were astounded when the soldiers

“Why do you come to us who are in no way implicated in the war?”
demanded the Hellenic matron; and the plunderer replied: “That is of
no consequence; all must obey, neutral or not neutral! We need the
copper, that is enough.”

“But I need it too!” argued the lady. “What am I to do without my pots
and kettles? It’s an outrage to treat Greeks as you do your enemies!”

“Greeks!” roared the soldier; “what have the Greeks done for us? If
they are not fighting us to-day, they will be to-morrow!”

“But we are really your allies!” ventured the lady, changing her
tactics; “although Greek by birth, my husband is a Turk by adoption.”

“Good!” was the reply. “If you are our allies you should yield
_everything_ without a murmur, and should have done so long ago. Since
you have not done this, which it was your duty to do, we shall take
everything you possess in copper or brass—even your ornaments!”

And they did! There were few Belgian houses more thoroughly robbed
of the desired metal than was the house of these _pretended_ German

The ever-dreaded visits from soldiers were like swords of Damocles
hanging over our heads. No one dared leave his house for any length
of time, for fear of returning to find it ransacked and looted, and
himself perhaps under arrest because a forgotten _Times_ or other
forbidden literature had been discovered. An innocent conscience did
little to allay this fear, as many persons were imprisoned on the
slightest excuse. Even when liberated later, they had every detail
pried into of their private life, correspondence, and financial
circumstances, besides being held in close confinement and intense
suspense for two or three weeks, often much longer.

One entire family we know, a family of high standing in Brussels,
was arrested upon suspicion, not excepting the delicate mother. She
was confined in a cell for seven weeks, pending investigation—which
failed to find any proof of guilt on her part or that of the others.
Neither they nor anyone knew why they were seized, save that the son
was suspected of having received or passed on the _Libre Belgique_.
After a trial that led to no definite verdict of guilt the family was
liberated, but obliged to pay a fine of twenty thousand marks!

Not only were suspected persons arrested, but their close friends and
everyone who innocently happened to call at their homes after, or at
the time of their arrest.

In the offices of a business friend of ours, an employé failed to
appear one morning, and a young girl typewriter was sent to his house
to learn the reason of his absence. As she did not reappear, another
employé was sent in quest of her, who also did not return. In the
afternoon the typewriter’s mother came to inquire why her daughter had
not gone home for dinner at midday; and, on being told whither the
latter had gone, she hastened to the absent clerk’s house, fearing
some calamity had befallen the girl. When she too failed to return,
our friend’s mystification became apprehension. He appealed to the
police, who informed him all had been arrested as possible accomplices
of the suspected clerk, who was afterwards proven quite innocent, and

Such circumstances naturally kept everyone in a state of nervous

A rather interesting and significant fact in regard to these raids
was the change of demeanour shown by those obliged to do this work
during the second copper requisition in the autumn of 1917. These men
were late recruits, usually young fellows, dragged from honourable
occupations to serve their bitter time in the trenches, and forced
to perform this distasteful service during intervals of rest. At
the house of an acquaintance of ours two soldiers of this type very
politely asked permission to search for copper, entered, looked about
in a half-hearted manner; then, after grunting, “_S’gut; hier gibts
nichts_,” said they were very tired, and asked permission, which was
granted, to lie on two sofas in a back sitting-room and sleep for half
an hour!

Our place was raided at this period by two such tired lads, fresh from
the trenches and expecting to return to action in a few days.

When they first entered one assumed an autocratic manner, made rather
ludicrous by his frail physique and boyish countenance; but, after
we exchanged with him a few words in his native tongue, this bearing
disappeared. The two looked through the house indifferently, and,
as all metal such as they sought had been hidden, found nothing.
They kindly hinted, however, that some brass beds and gas-heating
installations would be taken at a later raid should they be found
there!—a hint we acted upon at once. Some few articles of silver
remained in the dining-room for daily use;—the rest was secreted,
as many families, on one excuse or another, had already been robbed
of their silverware. One, a finely-worked fruit-dish, purchased as
solid silver and, as we thought, not likely to be seized, because of
the workmanship, was subjected to a damaging filing process which
revealed it as heavily plated on copper. Although the amount of copper
contained was certainly too insignificant to be worth having, the
fruit-stand was claimed, and noted on a card to be called for later.
However, it was hidden, and one of less artistic value set in its
place before that predicted call!

It is only fair to conjecture that many instances of inexcusable
brutality to which the Belgians were subjected were caused by a stupid
fear, on the soldiers’ part, of not strictly obeying orders, rather
than by any individual wish to cause pain; although in some cases it
was quite the opposite.

During the first year of war a rather amusing incident occurred as
proof of this. At that time certain neutral business men were allowed
to go to and return from Holland by motor. They were provided with
special passes. Two friends of mine, who were associated in business,
usually made the trip together. But despite their possession of passes
signed and stamped by the German Government, they were held up at
the frontier, and subjected to galling examination and insolence by
a new batch of officials lately installed. As these unnecessary and
lengthy delays greatly impeded my friend’s affairs, he complained at
headquarters. But the Prussian chiefs could not be persuaded that he
was not exaggerating the difficulties, and, after assuring him his
passes would serve him better in future, put the matter out of mind.

Nevertheless, on his next trip my friend and his companion experienced
the same detention and bullying at the hands of these frontier

The former again complained; and, as his word was still doubted, asked
that an officer in civil dress might accompany him on his next trip
and witness for himself what took place.

This being granted, he, with his associate, and a young Prussian
officer, disguised in plain clothes, drove together to the frontier.
On arriving there they were—as usual—held up, ordered to leave the
car, and enter a bare waiting-room. Here their papers were taken from
them, and, while the officials in charge disappeared on pretence of
examining these, they were left sitting in the cold compartment,
guarded by two armed soldiers.

One quarter of an hour passed in silence; their accompanying officer
made no comment. But when more than twenty minutes went by without the
least sign of deliverance, he became restive, glanced at his watch
several times, and looked black. Moments had stretched to close upon
an hour when the disguised military chief, having until now shown the
self-control of discipline, brought his clenched hand heavily down on
the wooden table by which he sat, and exclaimed loud, “_Aber, das ist
unverschämt!_ What the devil are those men——”

Before he could finish the sentence, one of the soldiers on guard
seized him, bellowing, “What’s that? You speak insolently of German
officials? Good! We’ll soon teach you manners!”

At a sign, the other soldier approached; the two burly creatures
grasped their helpless superior before he could utter a word, and
dragged him to an outstanding lock-up house, where, thrusting him
into a corner, they proceeded with their punishment, two against one,
striking him even in the face with their brutal fists, and permitting
him no chance to speak.

The officials, attracted by the loud voices and scuffle, reappeared
just after the enlightened German had been dragged out.

“_Was ist los?_” demanded one, looking about.

“Your men are about to kill that chap out there,” said my friend,
who, with his companion, galled as they were by the unfairness of
the attack, had refrained from interfering. To have done so would
have expressed contempt of military discipline; moreover, they were
secretly pleased that the officer should have his eyes morally opened,
if physically closed, by blows intended for a civilian guilty only of
an impatient exclamation!

“_Ach!_” returned the official, shrugging his shoulders; “if they
are beating him he deserves it!—that’s our orders. We submit to no
resistance here!”

“Very good,” returned my friend; “but have you looked at that man’s
papers? Do you know who he is?”

“Bah! What’s that to me?” returned the surly brute, who held the still
unexamined passes in his hand. “Our discipline is indifferent to rank;
he may be who he may!”

“If you glance at his papers you may think differently;—he is
Lieutenant von ——, aide-de-camp to General von ——.”

The official stared; his mouth fell open. “Eh?” he articulated in
his throat, too astounded to utter a word; then, nervously dropping
other papers to the floor, he sought the officer’s pass, read the
signature, and, followed by his colleague and the others, rushed
for the lock-up house. It was then that my friend saw the helpless
lieutenant, pressed into a corner, being brutally pommelled by the two

Poor man! he was a sight to behold when he joined them later—nose
distorted, one eye swollen and blackening, and several ugly cuts on
his face. He said very little when rejoining his companions; but,
judging by the meek demeanour of the bully officials, some truths had
been told them they were not likely to forget, which made it clear
they would pay dearly for carrying their habitual abuse of authority
into the wrong camp!

The lieutenant, as they pursued their journey, could not refrain from
smiling at the comic side of the affair. He appeared, however, morally
shocked, and the few remarks he made suggested this significance: “The
German man is a brute at heart!” When in authority, he certainly
appears so, especially when endowed with military power—the sacred
fetish of his race!

It was under the constant menace of similar treatment that the
inhabitants of occupied Belgium existed. Galled by pitiless
impositions; denied all freedom of action or word; robbed and
deprived even of home privacy; spied upon and never knowing on what
false charge one might be arrested, one could do nothing but endure.
Rebellion would have been unavailing against armed forces, and only
cause additional misery to others.

One of the pathetic sights of the “copper winter” was to see
well-dressed women carrying some treasured object in copper or brass,
concealed in a neat package, to be buried in some friend’s garden.
Even sadder was it to view the military depôts for the collection
of household necessities or ornaments. Bronze statues (one Belgian,
with pleasure, sent a bronze bust of the Kaiser—which was returned to
him), gas-fixtures, handles of doors and bureaus, clocks, stair-rods,
curtain-bars, etc., were hurled, pell-mell, in a great heap before the
grieving eyes of those despoiled, who were paid four francs a kilo
for the metal, in whatever beautiful and artistic form. And these
things—the sole fortune of many—were to be utilized to slay their
husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons! No wonder every effort was made
to defy the command, and that some even melted their things rather
than yield them!

This the enemy failed to understand. With native lack of sensitiveness
for other people’s feelings, the Germans argued that, as Germany had
made the sacrifice, Belgians should do so as readily! That was always
their reply to appeals for consideration. They appeared quite blind
to the fallacy of such reasoning, but took pains to announce in their
home papers the Belgians were selling their copper in order to buy

That autumn became a season of secret interments, for not only copper
but certain preserved edibles were buried to escape the vampire’s
greed, and in anticipation of the famine obviously approaching. What
the Alimentation Commission provided was so little for each individual
that hunger reigned generally, not only among those who depended
wholly on charity. The latter, indeed, were better off than many
British women and others formerly well-to-do; and everyone who could
sought to lay by something for a still more trying hour.

These silent midnight burial-parties were not devoid of a comic side,
despite their pathetic object. Whole families gathered in the dark
of their gardens, busy about a yawning grave, wherein a red-glazed
lantern afforded dim light invisible from the surface. No word was
spoken by the shadowy forms consigning food and treasure to the
earth’s faithful keeping. All was done in silent haste, in order that
every suspicious trace might be obliterated before dawn. Bushes and
even small trees were planted above the graves, and stood innocently
smiling in autumn leaf when the sun arose!

Food grew daily scarcer and dearer. With the entrance of the United
States into the war it seemed as though Belgium was doomed to famine.
The laying up of provisions that could not be buried, even by those
who could afford it, was dangerous, since they were forbidden, and
could not be concealed from the prying eyes of soldiers likely at any
moment to enter our houses. Consequently the winter of ’17-’18, with a
great scarcity of coal and the probability of being deprived of gas,
was looked forward to with dread.

During the summer every patch of ground, even road-edgings, was
cultivated. Vacant fields were divided into small patches and given to
the poor to till and plant; potatoes especially were grown, for during
the preceding winter there had been a great dearth of this mainstay
of the poorer classes. Now, however, it was not only the indigent who
feared starvation. The well-to-do and even the rich anticipated being
deprived not only of the better edibles to which they were accustomed,
but even of necessities. Consequently flower-beds and lawns of
private estates were tilled to raise potatoes, beans, sprouts,
etc. Our own croquet-ground was converted into a potato-patch;
the rose-garden produced cabbages, onions, and beets, while the
tennis-court netting served to support climbing beans! But ill-fortune
made that summer, in regard to weather, the worst Belgium could
remember for many years, as the winter before had been one of the most
severe. Continual rain destroyed a large proportion of the potatoes
and greatly injured other crops.

It was pitiable to see farmers who, deprived of their horses,—for
the Germans had taken all,—had tilled their fields, foot by foot,
with spades (the more fortunate with slow and stubborn oxen), and
had laboured from dawn till dark to make them flourish, gazing in
wide-eyed despair upon acres of rain-blackened rye or blight-ruined
potatoes. As the Germans claimed a large percentage of all produce,
this misfortune raised the price of ordinary vegetables, poor as they
were, so high that only the rich could afford them. The poor were
obliged to subsist on the two potatoes a day per head which—until
their stock was exhausted—the “National Alimentation Committee”[1]

[1] “Le Comité National,” Belgian organization for distributing
food-stuffs provided by the American Commission for relief.

Not far from us, on a narrow strip of grass-land bordering a wood, two
poor women “whose husbands were fighting” had planted vegetables for
their own use during the winter. They were mothers of several small
children, but despite this care and their household duties, they were
at work there at the first glimmer of day. They went home only at
midday to procure the charity soup and warm it for their children,
then returned to labour until dark. It seemed impossible that anything
could thrive in such a shadowed place, but a weak crop of potatoes,
cabbages, and beans presently appeared, only to be partly destroyed by
rain, while much of what survived was stolen later by those who had no
land to cultivate.

However, after the roots had begun to form and until the potatoes
were ripe, these women never left the spot unguarded. One or the other
remained there the entire day and night, rain or shine, as did all
who had unprotected ground. They erected a primitive sort of shelter,
composed of every conceivable thing they could find: bits of rusty
tin and old carpets, for the most part, as wood was too dear and too
much needed for fuel. Ah, they suffered, these people!—suffered as
no one can understand who did not see their daily struggle to live.
Young and old women went tramping for hours and _days_ through the
woods to gather dry twigs and bear them home in great bundles on their
backs;—not only the usual poor wretch, whose patient drudgery so well
serves the landscape-painter, but many women who were formerly in
comfortable circumstances, now blue with cold and pinched with hunger,
trudged through the rain-oozing dead leaves of the woods.

Later, they went entirely without shoes, for all leather was taken by
the Germans; and until wooden sabots could be produced in sufficient
numbers to meet the demand, women and children were to be seen with
their feet shod only by bits of carpet and often without stockings.
Their patience under these miserable conditions was extraordinary.
When told they could have no coal, they made no murmur, but set out
to gather twigs as though realizing the uselessness of rebellion, and
only impelled by an instinctive impulse of self-preservation.

Many hundreds of trees were felled each winter for exportation and
other German uses, and the poor swarmed where this was done, waiting
eagerly until each superb tree crashed to earth, when they swooped
down upon it, like hungry vultures, each securing what he could of the
lesser branches, to ensure him some warmth during the cold months.

These hapless creatures, terrified by the approach of another season
of bitter winds, ice, and snow, gradually became desperate, and were
ready to commit any crime to obtain food and fuel. Stealing became
more and more common, especially from landed peasants who, owing to
the high prices they demanded for their produce, were looked upon as
legitimate prey. To some extent this was deserved; but the peasant,
after working his very life into the soil, was obliged to resign so
much of his crops to the Germans that he would have gained nothing
had he sold at normal prices. Potatoes, even in September of this
year (1917), were selling at three francs fifty and four francs a
kilo, butter at thirty francs rising to forty-eight later, sugar at
twelve rising to twenty, coffee at ninety, tea at one hundred and
more, while eggs rapidly mounted from seventy-five centimes to two
francs sixty each; flour, outside the 250 grams allowed for bread, was
unobtainable. The Comitié National provided certain edibles at a low
price, but hardly sufficient for each individual to keep body and soul

I was told by one of those who assisted in the difficult and arduous
task of dividing the shiploads sent over from the United States
and elsewhere, that supplies had to be calculated, most minutely,
to the last box of matches, in order that each individual in all
parts of ravaged Belgium should have a share. Their labours were of
incalculable worth, and are not likely ever to be adequately estimated.

As for coal, which the Germans were shipping from Belgium in great
quantities to their own country, or exchanging for other commodities,
with Switzerland and other countries, it was only to be had through
the _accapareurs_. These went on foot with push-carts to Charleroi,
or were conveyed there by any wretched beasts they could find, and
bribed the German sentinels to let them return with small amounts of
coal, for which they demanded two hundred and fifty francs and more
a ton. Even at this price it was under weight, and mingled with dust
and stones. The use of gas was consequently greatly restricted. In
September an _Avis_ announced an increase in its price and a still
more trying limitation, the exceeding of which would be punished by
entire deprivation, not to mention a heavy fine. Buildings occupied
by Germans, however, were stated to be exempt from these restrictions.

The occupying powers seized everything they wanted. The entire
contents of dry-goods and other ware-shops were requisitioned;
food-stores, when not deliberately stolen, were bought up in bulk by
the officers, and sent home to their families in Germany. Even the
shooting of the game with which the woodlands about Brussels were well
stocked was forbidden to all save the army. The Bois and adjacent
woods resounded, during the shooting season, with the report of German
hunting-pieces destroying partridge and pheasant preserves, and that
even on private property; but a young Belgian lad, caught poaching not
far from the place where we lived, was shot in the act and left where
he fell.

These men with guns cared little for the sufferings of the unarmed and
famished people under their control, and found it easier to punish
petty opposition to their laws of greed by a bullet than by trial
or imprisonment. Their victims were numerous. One boy, whose family
I knew, was shot and badly wounded for trying to smuggle from the
country two kilos of potatoes, not for sale, but for the needs of his

Naturally, such conditions led in time to dishonesty. The people
became desperate, and, finding they could secure food by risking
their lives, presently developed the idea of gaining fortune by the
same means. Reckless of an existence so rife with misery, they became
more daring; and then it was that the _accapareurs_ appeared, by
whose courage and clever trickery the rich, at least, were provided
with edibles that would otherwise have gone to Germany. These petty
smugglers (not the great ones, who cornered large quantities of
food-stuffs and concealed them against the hour of dearth) were, in
a way, a God-send to those who could afford to pay their prices;
but their morals suffered further degeneration when greater numbers
adopted this scheme for rapid money-making. Their gains, however,
were not easily won, as they were obliged to walk many miles during
the night in all sorts of weather, to escape the German sentinels who
guarded the city limits and took all butter, eggs, potatoes, etc.,
discovered on the smugglers. The latter concealed their wares most
ingeniously, often in a manner not appetizing to reflect upon. Butter
was packed about their bodies under their clothing, eggs were securely
secreted in their hats, and potatoes were carried in sacks under the
women’s skirts and also in their blouses. For the smuggling of grain a
complete suit was worn, so arranged with pockets, that the grain was
distributed over the entire body. But the cleverest device was that of
a man who bribed a German soldier to sit with him on his donkey-cart
and, pretending he was under arrest, brought in a thousand francs’
worth of butter and eggs on one journey!

During that winter, when the enemy, menaced by defeat in the west,
was planning a new and desperate offensive, unhappy Belgium saw her
oppressed and hungry people degenerating into criminals. The better
sort remained loyal to their proud standard of honour before all,
but the destitute lower classes, physically enervated and morally
sickened, came gradually to look with contempt upon principles so
cynically ignored by those who governed them.

They saw rich and poor alike robbed with no adequate excuse, saw the
country’s wealth carried to Germany merely to enrich their enemies.

Even stud-farms were despoiled of those horses that had been the
nation’s pride, such as the _cheval de trait_, bred with care, through
many, many generations, to attain a point of perfection unequalled in
any other part of the world. Those superb Belgian horses were taken,
not for army use, but to be sold in Germany—as was announced later
on in a German paper. And not only the young animals, but champion
stallions and mares, especially those which were pregnant, were seized
in opposition to the appeals of their owners. To these appeals and to
the argument that it was understood that the occupying army should
take nothing not essential, von Bissing replied that, circumstances
being changed, the German Government was no longer bound to respect
its agreements: (“Les circonstances s’étant modifiées le gouvernement
allemand n’était plus en mesure de respecter ses engagements”).
The “circumstances” amounted to this—that Germany had the country
helplessly in her grip, and, foreseeing final victory, could
fearlessly throw more “scraps of paper” into the face of her hapless

A German bank commissary, an officer, entered the business house of
a prominent Brussels firm and desired information concerning certain
transactions. After an hour or two of investigation, he withdrew,
saying he would return presently to complete his work. Inadvertently
he left his portfolio behind, and the temptation to look into it
was not resisted by those who thus had a chance to learn something
of Germany’s secret devices regarding Belgium. On examining its
contents, they found a list of all the foremost business associations
in Brussels, with exact details as to their management, financial
standing, and relations with the outside world; also the director of
each was mentioned by name and estimated in regard to his influence
and worth.

The important foreign interests of the firm in question were set
forth, accompanied by a statement that it would be greatly to
Germany’s advantage to obtain control of the organization.

This was told me by one of the firm’s head managers, who added: “It
goes without saying we made good use of this chance enlightenment in
order to foil German designs.”

These intrusions into business houses were of daily occurrence, but,
in some cases, clever foresight rendered them of little avail to the
subtle intriguers.

In one instance, that of the Public Utilities Company, “La
Financière,” sixty-five million francs’ worth of Allied securities
(the major part of which were owned by British subjects) were saved by
the general manager’s sagacity. At the beginning of 1915, two German
officers, accompanied by twelve armed men, entered “La Financière”
building in quest of these securities, which they had been informed,
through some unknown source, were preserved there. The soldiers were
posted in all corridors to prevent any attempt to escape the seizure
by employés passing from one office room to another—a trick resorted
to by others on more than one occasion of perquisition! The general
manager, Mr. D. Heineman, an American, was then called, and bidden by
the officers to submit his books and vaults for examination. This he
did without the least hesitancy, having already—in anticipation of
such a visit—altered his books and removed the securities to a vault,
in the same building, sufficiently camouflaged to defy detection.

When the officers failed to find any trace of the desired deposits
they expressed surprise, and affirmed they had learned, on good
authority, such securities were held by the house. Mr. Heineman
replied the information was quite correct, but, as could be seen by
his books, the securities had been removed from Belgium at a certain
prior date.

Meanwhile dishonesty increased in the lower ranks. Even those employed
in the food organization filched sugar, rice, flour, etc., which they
sold secretly at enormous prices. Certain personal experiences may
illustrate the crafty ingenuity which prolonged sorrow and deprivation
gradually developed among the common people—occasionally, too, among
those of the better class, obliged for the first time in their lives
to suffer the degrading pangs of want.

Fruit, although there was plenty in the country, was shipped away in
such quantities that the inhabitants could only indulge in it as an
expensive luxury. One day, when I discovered a pushcart piled high
with nice-looking apples, at a price far lower than that demanded at
the market, I ordered five kilos to be taken home and paid for on
delivery. The youth who, with his mother, tended the cart agreed to
deliver them if his tram fare were paid in advance. As he had some
distance to go, this was willingly done, and a written line given him
for our butler, bidding him pay for the fruit at the stated price.
I then went on to visit a friend, who, on learning of the apples,
immediately wanted some and we set forth to revisit the cart.

We had, however, gone only a few yards, when I was astonished to see
the pushcart, attended by both the youth and his mother, standing
before a house a few doors below that of my friend, where they were
selling fruit.

“What does this mean?” I asked the youth. “You have not taken the
apples to my house!”

The young rascal, who had counted on never seeing me again, hung his
head, and murmured with seeming penitence, “Ah, I beg your pardon, but
it was so far to go, and I could not leave my poor mother to push the
cart alone.”

Although the best of the apples were now sold—for all save those on
top were miserable things—we each ordered five kilos of the fruit to
be delivered at my friend’s house. To obviate any more trickery we
remained by the cart while this was done, and only paid after seeing
the apples taken in by a servant; then went on to enjoy an unusually
lovely afternoon in the Bois, sure of having made a good enough
bargain, even though the fruit secured was only fit for cooking.

But my friend, on returning home an hour or so later, discovered we
had been worsted after all!

After waiting until we were out of sight, the fruit-sellers went back
to the house, and, presenting the pencilled line I had given and
failed to reclaim, stated that we had decided to purchase all the
remaining apples, at the price mentioned in the note. Consequently,
twenty odd kilos of remnant fruit, such as no one else would buy, were
landed at my friend’s house at a price more than double their worth!

On another occasion, when butter was unprocurable even at thirty
francs a kilo, two peasant-women came to our house with butter
smuggled in from the country, which they offered at twenty francs a
kilo. Eager as we were for it, but made cautious by experience, we
insisted upon tasting before buying. The women readily opened one
package, and, on finding it excellent, we agreed to take all they
had—five kilos; but, to prevent possible deception, we sampled each
package, all of which were equally good. We therefore joyously paid
the price, and, after contracting for more butter, and a quantity of
eggs to be delivered the following week, dismissed the women with our
blessings and sincere gratitude.

But, alackaday! when those glorious loaves of yellow butter were being
prepared an hour later for preservation, they were discovered to be
merely masses of filthy fat surrounding a large _betterave_, which
made up the weight, the whole cleverly covered with a thin layer of
good butter. Needless to say, the women never returned, and as it was
strictly forbidden to buy peddled butter, we could do nothing but grin
and bear it.

These fraudulent geniuses were products of the war, and no one who
witnessed the pain they bravely endured, for three years and more,
can justly condemn them.

And it was not only the poor who were driven to desperation by
the enemy’s robbery. Everyone, save the very rich, or the _Barons
Zeep_—the so-called soap-barons who made fortunes in secret relation
with the Germans—was reduced to hard straits. Clothing became
impossible to procure. Fashionable women were obliged to dye their
linen sheets for summer wear, their blankets and curtains for winter;
while club-men, in shiny trousers and frayed cuffs, were wont to
exchange laughing comparisons as to the condition of their other
wearing apparel, one likening his oft-patched pyjamas to Jacob’s coat
of many colours!

A pathetic instance of this dire need came to my notice one day as I
was trying to coax a farmer in the open fields to sell me potatoes—for
there was no other means of obtaining this article of food save by
buying surreptitiously, smuggling it home under cover of night, and
burying it underground.

While I was talking to the farmer, an elderly man slowly passed us—a
man evidently of good birth, whose clothes, though worn and shabby,
showed the cut of a good tailor. Soon after he had passed, the farmer
abruptly checked what he was saying to me and, with sullen eyes
directed toward another part of his acres, muttered, “Look at that!
They are all thieves, even the aristocrats!”

I looked, and saw the man referred to tugging frantically to uproot a

The farmer uttered a loud and angry cry, which interrupted his
efforts. He rose without haste, and moved slowly away, his stick held
dejectedly behind him.


As may be seen, existence did not improve with time. Each month the
situation became darker and more alarming; and, after the United
States declared war, the few Americans, we among them, obliged to
remain in Brussels were hated by the occupying powers quite as
cordially as the English. But we who represented a nation not only
mighty in wealth and man-power, but of vast commercial importance
to Germany, were treated with far greater consideration than the
Belgians. Nevertheless, after the United States Minister, Consul, and
entire diplomatic corps departed, we felt more or less at the mercy of
that bullying tendency which power always brings out in the Prussian
military character.

The United States Consul, Mr. Ethelbert Watts—a man known for his
tactful handling of difficult situations and trained in diplomacy by
many years of service in the greater capitals—told me an instance of
this characteristic.

It was at the beginning of the third year of war. Among the forlorn
creatures he took under his protection was a young lad below
military age, a Belgian on the paternal side, whose mother, a widow
American-born, was then in the States. The lad and his sister had been
left in Brussels to await her return, but as she was unable to do so,
the two were soon reduced to deplorable straits. The sister found a
home through marriage, but no other improvement of circumstances. The
boy was taken into the consulate to assure him some means of support,
besides what the Consul personally allowed him. But when the Germans
began to seize young civilians, and send them to work in the trenches
or in Germany, the boy’s mother sent heart-broken appeals to have her
son, delicate and wholly unfit for such labour, shipped on to join
her. Although this appeared hopeless, the Consul, as representative
of a country still neutral, did his best to accomplish it. After much
labour and long argument he succeeded; the youth received a pass, and
was ready to leave on a certain date.

The evening before his departure for Holland, the Consul received a
hastily-scrawled note from the lad, stating that he had been arrested,
and was then locked up, he knew not why. It was too late to do
anything that evening, but the following morning the Consul went to
German headquarters to obtain an explanation.

He was received by a stout, red-faced superior officer, who at first
refused to answer questions, but finally announced that the boy was
suspected of espionage.

“May I ask upon what ground?” the Consul demanded politely.

“Upon several suspicious indications,” was the evasive reply; “he must
be held for further examination.”

“But his passage to America is booked for the day after to-morrow,”
urged the Consul. “He must leave Brussels to-day if he is to catch the

The other shrugged, saying indifferently, “I regret that is

“But his pass has been given him, sir, and as I have personally
vouched for his integrity, I consider it only fair you should tell me
on what ’suspicious indications’ you hold him.”

After a lengthy and needless discussion, it was asserted that the
boy’s notebook betrayed he had carried letters, and delivered them to
several persons in the city.

At this Mr. Watts looked amazed. “Certainly,” he retorted; “he was in
my employ for that purpose, and I can prove to you that every letter
he conveyed related to legitimate consular business.”

After some more wrangling the notebook was produced, and this proven
to be true, but the stubborn tyrant showed no sign of yielding. The
proof could not be held as satisfactory until investigated. And so
forth and so forth, until, after another half-hour of futile talk,
the officer suddenly announced that the boy could on no condition be
liberated without the payment of a fine.

“It will be a matter of two thousand francs or so,” he complacently
added, confident of adding this amount to sums extorted daily from the
inhabitants on one pretence or another. “Of course, as the boy has no
means, payment may be made by anyone who....”

There he was abruptly stopped, for the American’s rage, already at
boiling-point, could no longer be controlled. Although a less robust
and considerably older man, the Consul sprang aggressively to his feet.

“Not one centime shall be paid!” he cried, shaking a defiant finger
under the officer’s very nose; “and if that boy is not liberated
to-day, my Government shall hear of the matter in every detail by

His face was white, and the flame in his eyes drove some red from the
Prussian’s face. The latter’s tactics immediately changed. “Come,
come, sir; no need to lose your temper,” he remonstrated, in a voice
now devoid of its former dictatorial tone. “Let us talk it over
quietly; perhaps we may....”

“No,” interrupted the Consul. “I have talked for over an hour, and
have said all I have to say. This is my last word on the subject—good

As it was then luncheon-time, he returned to his residence, scarcely
hoping for a satisfactory settlement of the matter, but determined,
should it be denied, to carry out his threat.

This proved unnecessary, for, on going to his office an hour or so
later, he found the boy there to greet him, and sent him off to
Holland that evening.

This incident serves to show the mental attitude of the powers then
dominating Belgium, and also explains the consideration, comparatively
speaking, shown to Americans. Belgium was at their mercy, and, owing
to sufferings inflicted, more or less outwardly submissive, since
those who betrayed the least resistance were cast into prison with
no hope of being avenged, at any definite period, by their exiled
Government. It also demonstrates that worst of all the evil qualities
developed by militarism in the German who wore a uniform—the readiness
to crush the weak and to respect firm and fearless defiance in the
strong. This quality, manifested even in peace-time—among the police,
for instance, and other officials in Berlin—is peculiarly galling to

In October 1917 another copper raid took place, and our homes were
again subjected to armed invasion. We were now ordered to deliver
the beds we slept on, if brass, our chandeliers, bathroom fittings,
and all ornamentation in brass or copper with which our houses were
embellished—to dismount and convey them to the enemy without a
murmur. This, after all kitchen-utensils and many other necessaries
had already been claimed! And, strangest of all, while this robbery
of private houses was going on, many shops in the city remained well
stocked with all manner of things, in brass and copper, which, being
new and marketable, were left for a later seizure, to be shipped to
Germany for sale!

Machinery of all sorts was also taken; the before-mentioned steel
manufacturer of Bruges told me how he was robbed of a vast and very
valuable plant, of which some important portions had been purchased
in Germany just before the war. Military engineers came to look over
the place, noted down the more valuable fittings, and informed him
that men would come to dismount them the following day. They arrived
as predicted, and their chief was the very man originally sent to set
them up by the German firm who had sold our friend the machines! A
week or two later another representative of this same firm had the
audacity to present himself before the ruined manufacturer and try to
negotiate with him for the purchase of new machinery after the war!

It may be the recognized right of an occupying army to demand what it
urgently needs and cannot otherwise procure, but in Belgium there was
no question of right or need; everything was taken, not only copper
and machinery, but silverware, clothing, and articles of artistic
worth, which could be of no possible use to the army; and, from Bruges
and other places, many priceless paintings, and other treasures of
artistic and historical value.

An explanation of this latter feature of the general and systematic
looting was given rather dramatically by one of the German soldiers
engaged in rifling a house. It was witnessed by a friend of mine. The
house adjoined that of my friend, and he, expecting his turn would
come next, watched to learn what he must hide while all sorts of metal
objects were brought forth and hurled into a van waiting to receive

Presently one of the soldiers, acting according to orders, came out
bearing a silver tray, on which was an exquisite tea-set of the same
metal. He carried it with care toward the van, paused, and examined
it pensively. Then, after brief deliberation, he set it down on the
pavement, took two of the shining objects, a teapot and cream-jug,
and savagely beat them together until no vestige of their fair form
remained. After throwing these into the van, he did the same by the
others, and finally trod on the tray, destroying it with his heavy,
iron-nailed boots. A second soldier, coming laden from the house,
paused to watch him in amazement.

“What are you doing that for?” he asked.

The other, taking up the mutilated tray, glanced at him with flaming

“There’s no need for the officers to have these pretty things!” he
growled, and tossed it into the van.

Another man, Monsieur de R., told me the following interesting

His country house, stocked with things of beauty and value,
accumulated during many years of travel, was occupied and pillaged
when the German army, drunk with the temporary success of their
first onslaught, were pursuing bandit methods through the country.
Everything was taken: pictures and other almost priceless works of
art, silver, glass-ware, even linen and clothing. What could not be
removed was cut through with swords or otherwise destroyed, and the
château, after sheltering troops for some time, left in a deplorable
state of wreckage and filth. The park was damaged by horses, and many
of the fine old trees cut down for firewood. Monsieur de R. bore
the loss with that amazing stoic endurance manifested throughout by
the Belgians. His only remark at the time was: “It is sad; but—_que
voulez-vous_? We are at their mercy, and they have neither mercy nor

But that all Germans are not devoid of these qualities, he had, a few
weeks later rather astounding proof.

One day the card of a lady whom he did not know was presented to him
at his Brussels residence, accompanied by a request to speak with him
privately upon an urgent matter. As the name was German, he hesitated;
but curiosity impelled him to receive the mysterious visitor. She
proved to be a young and refined woman, very shy, and evidently
greatly agitated.

After returning his cold bow she came to the point at once: “I have
come to tell you, Monsieur, that many of the things taken from your
château were sent on to me in Germany.”

“_Vraiment?_” he replied, with a scarcely perceptible smile of ironic

“Yes; they were sent to me by my fiancé, the officer who—obtained
them from your house.” Her lips trembled as she sought for a less
objectionable word than “stole” to express the deed. “I am having them
all returned to you—every item. They have not even been unpacked.”

“Ah!” The Belgian stared, unable to imagine the object of this
astounding statement from one of a race he believed devoid of honour.

But, without a word of encouragement, the noble girl related her story
in a brave but unsteady voice, broken, toward the end, by tears that
did much to soften his bitter feelings. The objects referred to,
carefully packed in cases, had reached her after a letter from her
fiancé relating how he had procured them. How he put it, she did not
reveal; but her reply was a determined and high-spirited refusal to
accept them. She had come to Brussels in order personally to see the
victim of this robbery, and obtain his word of honour that he would
never divulge her fiancé’s name in connection with the affair.

My friend was so greatly impressed and touched by the admirable
courage and fineness of her confession, that he readily gave the
promise, and I believe no power could force him to break it!


The Belgian race, in general, is possessed of a certain philosophic
patience under calamity, engendered, no doubt, by the fact that their
country has so often served as the battlefield of other nations.
Though hating their oppressors, they seldom, even in private, uttered
any emphatic expression of hatred; and such criticism as was spoken
was characterized by admirable, sometimes amazing fairness.

Even at the darkest times I have often heard persons of all classes
express generous acknowledgment of the slightest evidence of justice
on the part of the Government, and have been impressed, when wrongful
acts were related, by their failing to omit the least redeeming detail
they considered essential to truth.

By the time the second demand for copper was made, the people were
too hopelessly miserable to express resentment even in private. Words
had proven too futile, and active revolt would have been folly. But,
unreviling as they were, and morally stunned by knowledge of their
helplessness, they stored up their wrongs in their memories and aching
hearts. At this period, too, the subtle German scheme for exciting
the Flemish population against the Walloons, thus causing internal
discord, had reached a critical point. The few Flemings who ignorantly
allowed themselves to be bought or persuaded to help this plot, and so
secure a commercial market in Belgium after the war, occasionally, at
the enemy’s dictation, made demonstrations usually ending in riots.
Thus among the people an enmity was stirred up, likely to prove more
serious after the war.

When, after the second glorious check before Paris, the German forces
were being driven back for the last time, the official attitude
in Brussels became considerably milder. The miserable news-sheets
allowed us wailed sycophantic appeals to the world’s “humanity” to
stem the “deluge of blood” flowing from the flood-gates opened by
Germany herself. And yet, at the same time, the controlling Powers
left no means untried to excite civil war in Belgium. Side by side
with these touching and flowery appeals to an outraged world, were
long columns pointing out how the Flemish population had been wronged
for generations; calling them to stand up for their rights; subtly
suggesting how, with Germany at their back, they could be masters of
the country! The brother of my dentist, a Fleming, was approached, and
asked to head a certain association aiming at Flemish dominance. He
was promised not only all the coal, potatoes, and other necessities he
needed, but also that a hundred thousand francs would be deposited to
his credit in a Dutch bank. To his honour, it may be added, he refused
the offer with scorn, as did all those of intelligence whom the enemy
tried to seduce.

With such shameful wrongs eating into their souls, these people were
expected again to dismantle their homes, and help Germany to hold
territory won by craft, while seeking an advantageous peace. No step
back would the invaders take to spare millions of poor citizens driven
daily from hearth and home. On the contrary, they hunted them forth
like cattle, at the evacuation of each town, in order to loot their
houses and shops. The sister of our cook and her husband were driven
from Menin without being allowed time to safeguard their possessions.
Scarcely had they issued from their abode, where, after years of
effort, they had established a small business in clocks and jewellery,
when a German van appeared at their door, and, in their very sight,
carried away over five thousand francs-worth of hard-earned stock.
The couple, with hundreds of others, were herded into a cattle-car so
closely that they were obliged to stand, pressed one against another.
They were carried on to a town near Ghent, and thence made to walk
for four hours, in the night, and without food; crowded into another
cattle-car, and distributed, destitute, over the country to subsist,
as best they could, on the charity of others.

One Belgian told me the following story without a quiver of voice
or other show of feeling, save that the pain of it drove the colour
from his face. He possessed a château at Aerschot and, having married
during the war, was allowed to return to it with his bride during
the second summer. He found the place greatly altered, for it had
been occupied by German troops, and much damage had been done,
especially in the park, where trees planted by his grandfathers had
been ruthlessly felled. But sadder than all, he said, was the fact
that many familiar faces had disappeared from the adjacent village.
On making inquiries, he learned that all those missing had been shot
as innocent examples in order to impress others with terror of German
“frightfulness.” Though told this by the remaining villagers he could
hardly believe it; for among the absent were old men, a priest, and
one young boy whose mother had since died of a broken heart.

But during the heat of summer he had a ghastly proof that the accounts
were true. At a certain point near his park he noticed an appalling
odour. After tracing it to a low mound, he had the place opened, and
there discovered sixty of the absent villagers, shot, and buried in a
heap, scarcely more than a foot under ground.

Another man told me as calmly of an incident that occurred near his
country-seat, at the home of a farmer he knew. The farmer had a number
of Prussian officers and soldiers billeted upon him in 1914 and, being
both good-natured and prudent, he treated them well. When the day came
for them to depart, the chief officers, three in number, bade him
harness the one horse he still possessed, and drive them to Brussels.
There they were to remain a day before rejoining their troops, which
were to depart on foot that afternoon. The farmer’s wife and daughter,
after serving the officers with breakfast, took leave of them amiably
enough, and received their thanks for courteous treatment.

But on returning alone, at twilight of the same day, the farmer was
surprised to see no smoke coming from his chimney, and still more
astonished to find the doors wide open and bits of broken crockery
strewn about the courtyard. Before taking his horse to the stable,
he cried loudly for his wife, and receiving no answer, ran into the
house, which he found deserted. Neither wife nor daughter were there
to welcome him, and the kitchen presented a scene of strange disorder,
as though wild beasts had been in battle there. Broken dishes lay on
the floor, empty wine bottles and tumblers stood on the table, and
one lay under it in the midst of a dark, dry stain of wine. To make a
long story short, the farmer rushed in terror to the village and there
found his assistant surrounded by a group of terrified townsfolk,
discussing the tragedy.

No sooner had the farmer departed, than soldiers entered his house,
raided the wine-cellar and, after drinking themselves into beasts,
assaulted his wife and daughter. The assistant had attempted to
defend them, but being unequal to the task against so many, ran to the
village for help. When he returned with others it was too late; they
found the farm vacated; wife, daughter, and soldiers gone!

The farmer, half-maddened with fear on hearing this, set out with a
number of others to search for his dear ones; but only after nightfall
they found a trace of them, in a wood some distance from the farm.

While following with lanterns the foot-marks of soldiers which led
them to this spot, the farmer suddenly espied a bit of the gown his
daughter had worn, protruding from the ground. The place was opened,
and there, just beneath the sod, lay the body of his daughter in the
ghastly pose of hurried burial.

Later his wife was discovered, quite demented, roaming far off in the

This story is not given as one of the most atrocious of those we heard
almost daily; for it is far from that. In this case the criminals
were drunken soldiers, not cold-blooded, sober officers, such as the
authors of the Aerschot tragedy, those committed at Tamines, and all
along the route from Liège to Brussels!

Many of the stories were so unspeakably horrible I should not care to
perpetuate them in print. I have, moreover, limited myself to such
events as came to me first-hand, and also to avoid those already
known. These two are recounted merely to demonstrate the lack of human
understanding evinced by the German authorities, who expected a people
so treated submissively to yield up their possessions, even their very
beds and mattresses, to an enemy that had scorned all principles of
right and shown them no slightest hint of mercy.

It was little to be wondered at that they hid or destroyed their
goods rather than yield them, even though obliged to endure severe
punishment when discovered. And no less comprehensible was their
contempt for the peace-whines,—the subtle endeavours of a defeated
bully to avert the punishment every heart in Belgium was eager should
overtake them.

The stupidity of Prussian rule in Belgium was only equalled by this
childish effort to escape the consequences of their stupendous
crime!—an effort scorned, not only by the Belgians, but by every
neutral who had seen with what appalling contempt for all laws of
humanity, justice, and civilization they had misused their power, when
victory had seemed likely to be theirs.

Long before the too-patient United States raised an avenging hand,
several of her children were arrested in Brussels for bitter
utterances they could not control. I remember how a young fellow who,
having diplomatic connections, had long suppressed his ire, let out
one day when he and some friends were lunching together in a café. It
was at the time when Belgian civilians were being taken by force to
work for the enemy, and one of the party had related a heart-breaking
scene witnessed at one of the railroad stations. Mothers, wives,
and sisters were gathered there, weeping and shrieking against the
unpardonable cruelty.

This pitiable tale, and others quite as distressing, had roused them
all; but the young fellow referred to was beside himself, and when
others endeavoured to quiet him, he sprang up and rushed into the
street. One or two followed, fearing what he might do, and saw him
deliberately cross to the centre of a public square, where, standing
bare-headed, he shouted at the top of his voice: “To hell with the
Kaiser! To hell with the Kaiser!”

Had he not been dragged back to the café by his companions, he
probably would have continued his perilous insult until brought into
the desired contact with some German. But such brief satisfaction
would have caused not only distress to his entire family, but probably
more wide-spreading difficulties. Another American was arrested and
dragged to the Kommandantur for having been rude to a soldier in
the street, and several were in the German black-book for betraying
inimical feelings more or less openly.

Some time later, when the Teuton spirit was considerably broken, a
young American accidentally trod on a soldier’s foot while boarding
a tram and, being insulted, answered back, to be at once arrested by
a spy who stood near. When brought to trial, guarded by armed men,
before three officers with revolvers in their belts, he was ordered
to stand straight, to take his hands from his pockets and show the
respect that German officers demanded. He was, in fact, goaded and
bullied in order to force him to a show of temper for which a larger
fine could be imposed upon him!

The country’s distress was greatly augmented when hundreds of homes,
already darkened by bereavement and want, echoed the wailing of women
robbed of those dear to them under particularly painful circumstances.
For every man, young or old, of those taken to Germany solemnly
swore, before departing, that he would die of starvation rather
than do a stroke of work for the hated enemy. All refused, also, to
sign statements (into which the Germans endeavoured to trick them)
declaring they left their country willingly!

But they were dragged off, crowded into cattle cars, side-tracked, and
left to wait without warmth or food until the military authorities
saw fit to let their train pass on. What those men suffered has been
recounted by those who investigated these cruelties. I can only judge
by the few instances I saw myself. The unspeakable horror of these
will never leave me. Several lads came back to die, with hands and
feet frozen, too far gone even to take hot milk with which one sought
to coax them back to life. The butcher’s boy, also, who delivered our
meat, returned maimed for life owing to the freezing of his feet.

These, like most others, had refused to help their country’s
destroyers, and were consequently starved and subjected to all manner
of ill-treatment. When reduced to the last atom of vitality they were
shipped back like beasts—with less care, indeed, than beasts—locked
into bitterly cold cars where the conditions became vile, since they
were not allowed to leave them for a moment during the long, slow,
oft-impeded journey. Many, it is stated, died on the way back, and a
number of those who survived, after careful feeding with spoonfuls of
hot milk, were cripples for life.

Much later, when life here became intolerable for these poor wretches
and hope of deliverance had died in them, I believe that some of the
weaker ones did go willingly to do _harvest_ work in Germany. At the
time referred to, however, all intended to work for the army refused
as one man, and were taken by brute force.

But the German people were told that these men were carried off
because they were starving at home! One of the most outrageous deeds
in a whole list of evils was represented as an act of charity!

It is this trickery, this systematic lying, which, from the war’s very
beginning, has stained the Prussian standard and will always stain
it in the eyes of posterity. Their war has been one, unfortunately,
in which the shameful deeds of their leaders must always overshadow
the courage of their troops. Acts of severity, even crimes, when
committed for a vital and otherwise unattainable object, if daringly
and humanely done, command a certain amount of respect. But the
Prussian tactics were neither daring, merciful, nor wise. Always some
excuse, stupid and transparent, was offered, and never, under any
circumstances, was tact exercised. Had those unhappy Belgians been
well treated on their out-going journey (some even said the soldiers
spat in their coffee, the only nourishment they received, after twelve
hours locked up in the cars!), had they been cared for even as cattle
_must_ be, how much more likely would they have yielded to the demands
of their persecutors!

Deceit, clumsiness, and obvious delight in giving pain were the
principal elements of the German occupation; self-evident trickery
like the trumped-up delegation of Flemings sent to Berlin; the
hurling of shrapnel into the city of Brussels, and attributing it
to the Allies! As the Germans photographed waving handkerchiefs at
windows in Brussels when some Prussian of consequence visited the
city, in order to impress Germany with the pro-German sentiment of a
Belgia in love with her ravagers!

I have often wondered, had England been the invader and tactful
Britons—such as those who won the confidence even of the Boers and of
all the Indian tribes—had been the masters of Belgium, what would have
been their influence, in the end, upon a people weary of suffering,
whose original faith in ultimate triumph was being extinguished month
by month. Many might have been won by kindness even from the hand
that had smitten them; indeed, had the enemy thereafter shown them
even ordinary consideration, it is rather terrible to think what the
consequence might have been during a period of subjection far longer
than the least sanguine could have anticipated.

In November 1917 news of the Italian disaster, grossly exaggerated,
was published in three languages on all the city walls, with galling
comments and childish boasts. Attention was called to the fact that
the Central Powers had won from Italy, in three days, all that she
had acquired in two years, and so forth. No chance was lost to
dishearten the Belgian people, though, considering their absolutely
helpless condition, the object of this is hard to imagine. It can
only be understood as the same shortsighted and unnecessary bullying
which a British soldier later told me he had endured for seven months
when a prisoner in Germany. This poor fellow, a New Zealander, who
had volunteered “for Belgium’s sake”—one of the many half-starved
and filthy heroes who swarmed to Brussels when freed of their
chains—recounted horrors of his prison existence almost beyond belief.
Besides being obliged to work for the military advantage of their
enemies, they were crowded together in such numbers that to sit down
in their place of confinement was impossible; and when sleeping at
night, they were obliged to lie one on top of the other. The heat and
vermin were so intolerable, that a large percentage of them died, and
all were forced to discard their clothing, in order to fight lice
that swarmed over them “like a grey covering of dust”! But into those
ghastly details I have no heart to go. I only refer to this one of
innumerable stories, because of a feature that illustrates the ignoble
and needless bullying practised by the Prussian officials. This man
stated that their presiding officer not only obliged them to salute
him with the utmost humility, but made them wait upon him as slaves.
He would deliberately drop his pencil to the ground several times,
and order a British soldier to return it each time with a subservient

In the midst of the discouragement caused by the news from Italy, the
new copper raid took place, and an _avis_ appeared requisitioning all
dogs above forty centimetres in height. This _affiche_ appeared soon
after a tax of forty francs on every dog had been announced—a tax
resisted by the Belgian police, who refused to supply the authorities
with information as to dog owners. It was said, and the bicycle affair
gave weight to the supposition, that the demand for dogs was merely
a preliminary to exacting the tax. At any rate, the requisition was
either vengeance for opposition, or a means of learning who had dogs;
for the matter eventually died out, after causing a panic of grief
and the painless slaughtering of many pets, in order to save them
from ill-treatment by the army. I went to a vet. for this purpose,
and there saw a man of middle age openly weeping, and with him his
one remaining home companion—since his wife was dead, and a son lost
in battle—a soft-eyed, beautiful Groenendael. Even in the streets
women were sobbing, and what occurred in the houses where dogs were
cherished, I can only imagine by the distress reigning in ours.

Some time later, another _affiche_ announced that only dogs under
four years old would be taken—a correction which came too late, for
many hundreds of persons had already sacrificed their animals. But
dogs too old for training would only have been an encumbrance to the
army; so, after many worthless dogs had been given up, for a small
payment, by those who stole or secured them in other ways, this
amendment, which would have spared many a heartache, was tardily

Our dogs we never declared, and kept in hiding until the matter
gradually died down; and so saved them, after many weeks of anxiety
and fear, although hundreds were taken day by day. There was some
mystery about the whole affair. It can only be explained as another
mean scheme for obtaining money, whose failure evoked this method of
vengeance, for there was abundance of dogs to be had for army work,
without depriving people of their pets.


Nineteen hundred and eighteen dawned with little suggestion of the
brilliant and victorious events it had in store for us. Belgium was at
the end of her strength, almost at the end of her courage. Everyone,
even the wealthy, was cold for lack of fuel in the midst of an
unusually severe winter; many were starving, and no one had _enough_
to eat. There was, also, scarcely any gas to relieve the darkness
of early dusk; in some quarters of Brussels no gas at all, and no
candles to be had. The weather was abnormally bitter, and winter
dragged on relentlessly into the month of March—the BLACK MONTH, when
even the bravest hearts were ready to break under the harrowing news
of that second German offensive, rushing forward again over all the
hard-gained territory across which we had with such eagerness and
confidence followed the Allies on the map!

Nothing can depict the moral anguish of those days in Brussels, when
the German _affiches_ were announcing victory after victory—when an
increase of force, gathered from the Russian front, made their success
appear inevitable. Trainloads of cannon, ammunition, and men rolled
by during whole days and nights, troops reinforced by the desperate
determination to win, by foul means or fair, which obsessed the Kaiser
and his chiefs. It was a time of utter despair for the Belgians—for
everyone, indeed, whose sympathies were with the Allies. And, to add
to the pervading misery, every German victory was not only blazoned on
the walls, but troops were marched through the city playing joyous and
triumphant music from early morning until evening!

When, at last, the news reached us that their onrush was stemmed for
the second time, the occupying powers concealed it from us as far as
possible. We had looked for great things from America, but were told
that their men could not get over, while our souls were sickened by
eulogistic accounts of all that the under-sea boats were doing. Each
edition of our miserable papers presented a long list of ships sent to
the bottom by treacherous Germany.

But the Zeppelin was dead! That was some comfort; and, with a feeling
that it was perhaps the sign of better times, we saw demolished the
enormous iron-clad garage where one of these monsters used to be

But few gleams of real promise reached us, and it was dread of a
fifth winter, then appearing inevitable, that broke the spirit of
those who went (only then) to work in Germany as a desperate act of

Even in days that were so much brighter for outsiders, in August and
September, we were denied the satisfaction of knowing that our cause
was progressing. The information allowed us did little to ease the
pressure of mingled hope and anxiety. We longed to learn something
definitely encouraging of what was going on where the cannon, ever
louder, was continuously roaring. Day by day our papers were searched
for some hopeful news, through long columns concocted only to destroy
hope and breed despair. Every event suggesting menace to the Allied
countries, culled from obscure journals in every part of the world
(especially from the _National Zeitung_ of Bâle), was set forth and
embroidered. Often they bore no more reliable heading than “_Le
Bruit court_,” but their effect on a people now morbidly prone to
look on the dark side of things was none the less depressing. Irish
troubles; strikes and discontent in India; political confusion in
France and Italy; friction between the United States and Japan or
Mexico; disastrous failure of the Allied venture in Russia—such items
contrasted with the triumphant German communiqués, which, even when
acknowledging retreat, depicted it as a victory, or a mere tactical
movement to attain a stronger position for a decisive counter

Only later were we allowed to know when a position of importance was
won by the Allies. Our first knowledge that Péronne had been retaken
was the naïve announcement in the German report, “Péronne now finds
itself immediately in front of our lines”!—as though the town had
grown weary of being behind them, and had of its own will altered its

On Monday, 30th September, our principal source of news, _La Belgique_
(entirely under German control), contained the following: “Between the
Ailette and the Aisne there have been no more battles, but the Germans
have withdrawn their line to the east of section Allemont-Jany,
leaving Pirnon, Chavegnor, and the fort of La Malmaison in the hands
of the French.” In regard to the retreat at Cambrai it was stated
in the same paper, 30th September, that the withdrawal “_plus en
arrière_” of German troops was executed at night unperceived by the
enemy, who “for a long time the following morning still held the
evacuated territory under fire”; and, in reference to the situation
between the Ailette and the Aisne, “Without the least intervention
of the enemy, we have drawn back our line behind the Canal de
l’Oise,” etc. “_Ce mouvement, préparé depuis de jours, s’est effectué
méthodiquement et sans être entravé par l’ennemi._” This “official
report,” in a tone of curt indifference, proceeds to show all British
advances as negligible. Then came such an announcement as this:
“Conflict between Suippes and the Aisne and also between Argonne and
the Meuse; our forces have attained a complete success.”

The redemption of Cambrai, St. Quentin, etc., we only discovered after
tracing on the map insignificant places appearing in the war-news
allowed us as reached or passed by the Allied forces; usually farms
or other trifling localities formerly unknown to fame. Delightful
as these discoveries were, they could awake no thrill of confident
enthusiasm because overshadowed by the contemptuous tone in which
each slight advance and the appalling cost to French and English was
presented. Moreover, every Allied success was attributed solely to the
clever military strategy of the Germans. Above all was belittled any
progress made by the British, whose abridged and doctored communiqués
were always presented in weak and childlike terms that made them
appear ridiculous. The English never knew, until several days after
evacuation, that the Germans had withdrawn from any locality for which
they were fighting. It was stated in an official announcement from
Berlin, dated 8th September: “_Le détachement du contact avec l’ennemi
s’operait presque toujours à l’insu de l’ennemi._” Another official
statement (13th August) was as follows: “The British offensive
between the Ancre and the Avre has been checked, after the strong and
vain attacks which have cost them such great losses, at the limit of
the old battlefield of the Somme.... On the other hand, the French
have once more placed in line many fresh divisions in order to attempt
to pierce, in spite of all, our positions between the Avre and the
Oise to which the Germans have retired in so able a manner (_d’une
manière si habile_) after having inflicted such heavy losses on their

Niggardly as this information was, we were of course able to derive
from it a certain amount of encouragement. But this was damped by
the boastful German confidence, the constantly reiterated threat of
another vast offensive which would bring the war to an end glorious
for Germany; the awful descriptions of French towns reduced to heaps
of ashes, and the incalculable losses of the Allies.

In September, when matters were much harder than we suspected for the
Central Powers, a new voice came from the monster’s mouth—or rather a
still more pitiful, soft-hearted cry for poor suffering humanity!—from
these people who, after two thousand years of civilization that had
gained for them so high a place in the world, had revived, without
cause, the treachery and barbarity that had made them odious to and
distrusted by Cæsar; who committed crimes in 1914-15 and 1916 that
will haunt the world’s memory for ever! What a mockery must those
German pleas for humanity have appeared to the people of Tamines,
Aerschot, Louvain, and other districts of Belgium still grieving for
those ruthlessly murdered, still morally suffering from the horrors to
which they were unjustly subjected!

Heart-rending pictures were given of fair towns destroyed in the
valley of the Somme; of their homeless and perishing inhabitants;
of beautiful historic edifices wrecked by the “folly of the French
bombarding their own cities”—those centres of a hostile Power
that had not hesitated to commit any outrage in its vainglorious
and frantic rush for Paris! No murmur of regret had escaped the
success-intoxicated legions who advanced, with comparative ease, from
the ruins of innocent Belgian towns, leaving devastation and despair
behind them! No pang of remorse then made them hesitate to slaughter
guiltless citizens, and bury them in heaps, sometimes before life was
extinct, or to crucify their first British prisoners—a fact I was
later assured was true, by an English soldier who had seen the bodies!

But now that the avenging armies, overcoming obstacles such as the
Germans never had to face, were uprooting them from the strongholds
prepared during four years, the despotic song of victory through
frightfulness suddenly became a whine of compassion, a childish and
stupid wail for peace! No outsider could have been more infuriated
at this than those in Brussels who had suffered under the despot’s
hand and witnessed the vileness of his deeds. Again and again long
articles appeared in our papers, trying to induce the cold and
famished Belgians to add their impotent appeal for a cessation of
hostilities, and to impress them with the suddenly developed Christian
spirit of Germany! This failing, an attempt was made at terrorization.
Photographs of ruined towns in France were exhibited, showing the
homeless inhabitants flying for their lives. The papers gave highly
coloured accounts of the general destruction, misery, and horror on
the scene of each battle, as the price of every step in advance made
by the Allies. The same fate was predicted for Belgium, should the
unlikely happen, and the invincible German forces find it expedient to
retire to one of their many well-prepared strongholds in that country.
(The prospect of a German defeat was represented as too improbable to
deserve contemplation.) At one time an account appeared describing the
inevitable destruction of Brussels, should the Germans ever be driven
back on it. In such a case, it was stated officially, Brussels was
to be “the bouquet of the whole war.” Added to all this, quotations
equally disheartening were printed from English papers. One,
purporting to be from _The New Statesman_, was given on 2nd October as
follows: “The Germans will certainly draw back their front to rectify
it. But at a very short distance behind, they possess lines that
form a solid base and, if able to hold it, they will not have lost
more territory than they occupied at the beginning of 1918. And even
supposing Douai and Cambrai should be lost to them, the experience of
years must guard us against exaggerated optimism.” “Above all,” it
finishes, “one can reasonably affirm that Hindenburg and Ludendorf
have not absolutely renounced the idea of a counter offensive. For
the moment, they relinquish territory, but their retreat is methodic,
and we should greatly deceive ourselves to imagine it excludes the
possibility of their launching a vigorous counter attack, when the
Anglo-French assault will have come to an end through exhaustion.”
With such discouraging signs came the German movement for peace and
plea for humanity!

“This war-fury, this rage for destruction, must be nailed to the
pillory” was quoted, about the same time, from a German socialistic
paper of 1st August 1918. Would it have been quoted four years
earlier, when blood and destruction were the means by which Germany
thought to crush civilized states and become master of Europe? Now
that her war-chariot lay wrecked amid the corpses of her legions,
death, slaughter, and devastation suddenly began to appal her, and
roused a cry of fear which found no echo in Belgium. When the British
announced they were fighting east of Roussoy and had occupied Lempire,
the official information from Berlin, dated the 20th September, told
us “the British attempted an advance in the sector Epehy-Lempire with
a great number of tanks. An enormous number of these were destroyed,
the remainder being obliged to retire; and as to the British infantry,
they fled in haste toward their positions of departure.” Every effort
of the Allies was depicted as having failed, “_grâce au feu des
mitrailleuses et de l’infanterie allemandes_.” Then, at the tail-end,
a brief announcement would appear that the German line had retired,
for strategical reasons, without being molested by the enemy.

In addition to these confusing and contradictory reports long
editorials appeared sneering at the Allies’ futile efforts. The
Americans’ advance at St. Mihiel was presented as having been attained
“without combat,” the Germans having drawn back in accordance with
long-prepared plans, and so secretly that the enemy was not aware of
it and “only pursued us very hesitatingly.” When the British made
their great rush on Cambrai and broke through the line that Hindenburg
considered impregnable, it was attributed to a fog. When they advanced
on Hummel it was over ground that had been deliberately evacuated,
with such “masterly ability” that the British for _two days_ were
unaware of the German’s retirement!

Despite the irritation such accounts caused in Brussels, enough was
unintentionally betrayed to revive our hope. Most childish of all was
the continued boasting of what Germany had accomplished in her first
onrush, which, considering all the overwhelming advantages she had,
should have carried her to rapid victory. With her check at the Marne
she was beaten, and that was the moment when the people and troops of
Germany should have waked to their blunder, and rid their great nation
of a malady that has ruined its prosperity and degraded its name.


As the chances of war continued adverse to the Kaiser’s “victorious
armies” the occupying government began to show more lenient
tendencies. In high quarters a gradual and very subtle softening was
dimly perceptible. Belgians guilty of patriotic deeds that formerly
would have brought upon them the severest punishment—deeds far more
serious than that for which Miss Cavell was shot—were now treated with
astonishing tolerance. Penalties even for flagrant acts of espionage
and defiance of military regulations were palliated through the
mysterious offices of a woman whose power no one understood. French
by birth, but the widow of a German officer fallen in battle, this
individual—a sweet-looking, _petite_ woman of about thirty, neither
remarkable for beauty, force of character, nor personal magnetism,
succeeded in having many death-penalties revoked, in liberating a
number of civil prisoners and bending the governmental will, so long
implacable, as she chose.

I made her acquaintance in the little faubourg house where she dwelt
with her mother and brother, the latter an artist, both of the same
pleasant, rather provincial and unimposing type as herself. Her
manners and speech, soft and kindly; her soft, blue, rather childlike
eyes suggested no latent power. One instance of her mediation, told
me by herself, was that of a man and his daughter condemned to death
for espionage. Damning evidence of guilt had been discovered in their
possession—drawings and writings containing important information,
some of which, it was ascertained, they had smuggled into Holland for
the enemy. And although their death-sentence had already been given,
the lady of mystery had it changed to imprisonment and a fine. The
punishment in another case (that of a Belgian youth caught red-handed
attempting to destroy a train conveying German troops) was also
altered to a milder form of penalty.

While all in Brussels appreciated the good this young widow
accomplished, they were none the less mystified; many ridiculous and,
in some cases, ungenerous explanations all equally inadequate were
given. A friend of mine, who was present while she pleaded before the
military judges, spoke highly of her persuasive powers and stated she
had won her object by appealing to their _humanity_! The case was that
of a boy who had been caught trying to cross the frontier—almost the
very crime for which Edith Cavell, Philippe Baucq, and others were
condemned to death. She begged them to consider the anguish of the
boy’s mother, to appreciate the noble patriotism of his impulse, to
put themselves in his place and ask themselves if, at his age, they
would not have done the same, and so forth—arguments that had been
uttered in that room a thousand times, enhanced by the tears and
agony of frantic mothers and wives, husbands and brothers, of those
condemned and never pardoned! Yet this familiar plea, spoken by one
lacking the deep, heart-torn passion with which it had so often been
vainly uttered, won the boy’s reprieve! Why? It is difficult for
anyone familiar with the former mercilessness of that military court
to believe that her softly spoken appeal was alone responsible. A
subtle change was coming over the spirit of German militarism. The
worlds they had sought to conquer were fading from view, and anxiety
to save something from the wreck was probably the root-incentive of
their leniency.

During October 1918 a suppressed, half-incredulous excitement could
be felt in the very air of Brussels, although contradictory reports
prevented us from knowing anything definite. Now and again rumours of
thrilling promise would sweep over the city, but disappointment had
been too frequent, hope too often quenched in despair, for the lower
classes to put much faith on them.

“_Est-ce vrai?_” was their almost invariable reply to news of
encouraging character, and scarcely any enthusiasm was shown even by
those of superior station. The dread of a new German rush forward
appeared to haunt the minds of all, a dread kept alive by the only
journals available and by the confusing accounts, always favourable to
the enemy, these contained. Even as late as 2nd October we read that
the Germans had broken through the Belgian lines, a report given with
the old triumphant bravado. Of the battle between Roulers and Warvicq
it was said the Allies had failed in their attack: “_Les Alliés ont
attaqué sans succès_.” Near Cambrai the Canadians had made a slight
advance costing them frightful losses, but were driven back on Tilloy
by one division of Würtembergers!

On the same date appeared the following report: “D’importantes
forces américaines ont attaqué à l’est de l’Argonne. Les points ou la
bataille a été la plus chaude ont été de nouveau Apremont et le bois
Montrebeau. Nous avons repoussé sur toute la ligne l’ennemi, qui a
subi hier de nouvelles et particulièrement lourdes pertes.” Equally
discouraging accounts were given of the situation in Italy, Macedonia,
and Palestine—accounts as much at variance with the Allied communiqués.

Falsification of facts may have been considered necessary in a
critical situation such as the Central Powers were facing. Surely,
however, they might have spared the unrelenting efforts to terrify
and dishearten the Belgians, who, locked in their prison, could not
have influenced the Allies’ determination to bring the war to an end
necessary for the world’s salvation.

Even when, on the 3rd of October, it was known in Brussels that
Bulgaria had asked for a separate peace, German comments robbed the
event of all encouraging significance. It was announced in our papers
that enormous forces had been dispatched to Sofia which would “settle
the Bulgarian difficulties at one stroke,” and drive the Allies back
whence they had come! Consequently there was no general elation over
an event of such tremendous significance to the outside world. We knew
too little of what had led up to it, and hope had sunk too low to

Although, of course, the ever-approaching thunder of guns told us
much, and the _feu de barrage_ for weeks roared its awful tale, the
only obvious indications we had of the vast changes brewing were the
altered sentiment and behaviour of German soldiers. They occasionally
uttered astounding opinions in regard to their Government and of
sympathy with Belgium. The poor Belgians, so long subjected to German
trickery, saw in this merely obedience to plotting chiefs who hoped
thus to overcome their hatred. No one cut off as we were from outside
news could otherwise understand it; while the journals presented
little else than vainglorious accounts of Allied reverses, German
submarine victories, and the bombardment of Paris by long-distance

In regard to the last-mentioned outrage, the feeling in Brussels
was no less bitter than it must have been in France, and doubtless
throughout the entire world. Our papers presented us daily with
triumphant descriptions of the terror and devastation caused to the
inhabitants of Paris, even stating that the city was being generally
evacuated. The Zeppelin had not taught Germany that her uncivilized
methods of war served merely to create large and indomitable armies in
the opposing nations, once so little prepared for war and so lacking
in enthusiasm!

By the time our beds were demanded, and armed men forced their way
even into the poorest homes to rob the cold and hungry Belgians of
their last remnant of comfort, the change in the soldiers’ sentiments
became even more marked. Beds were taken, often from under the owners
before they had risen in the morning, but in many cases there was a
noticeable indifference shown by those who did the looting. The men
who came to our house only took two mattresses, and made no attempt
to search for wool that was hidden. One of them expressed very
bitterly his distaste for the duty imposed on him, and said, among
other startling remarks: “The whole war is an outrage imposed upon us
Germans by our leaders, who must pay for it some day not far distant”!
Another, whom I met in a shop, told me that if he had not a wife and
little children in Germany he would never return to the Vaterland
he had been falsely lured to protect. At mention of the Kaiser, he
exclaimed savagely: “_Kaiser!—Ach, der Kaiser!_—Wait until the troops
get back to Germany! There will be an accounting then!” and drew his
finger significantly across his throat.

It was unspeakably pathetic at this time to see the war-weary,
ill-clad, and under-fed German troops returning from the front to
Brussels; especially those called back to the trenches, after a
rest too brief to revive their strength, or dim their recollection
of horrors endured. These poor, heavily laden slaves, many so young,
with a look of yearning for home in their wide, helpless eyes, called
for sympathy despite the wrong they represented. No voice acclaimed
them, as they strode through a hating city to give up their lives for
a monstrous error; but many of those who watched forgot, for a moment,
past suffering to express a word of compassion unheard, alas, by those
columns of desperate human beings—beings forced back to be massacred
on foreign land, merely for the vanity of their ruler—merely that
the German Kaiser’s long-cherished and carefully perfected military
toy might avoid the disgrace even then inevitable! It was galling to
better-class Belgians to note about this time a certain friendliness
developing between the German soldiers and common people. At the
markets, where soldiers swarmed, it was no rare sight to see girls
hanging to their arms, and even older women talking and joking with
them. The reason of this was not indifference to all that Belgium had
suffered at German hands, but because to these people the soldiers
spoke more openly. By dint of constant association they learned that
all Germans were not criminals, that many hundreds of the men had
been ignorant of the true situation—men who, awaking too late, were
conscious of the injustice done and bitter against the power that had
deceived and enslaved them.

This recalls a confession made to me, long before, by a man who had
lived in Belgium for twenty years, but, being still a German citizen,
was called back to the army at the outbreak of war. When approaching
the Belgian frontier he and others hesitated, demanding why they were
being led into Belgium, and were told that France had violated the
country’s neutrality, and the Belgians had called upon Germany to
defend her! Only when facing Belgian troops, they realized they had
been deceived; and to hesitate then meant being shot by their own men.

Despised as the German race was, and probably will be for many
generations to come, nevertheless their long-suffering victims were
large-spirited enough to recognize the worthiness of individuals,
and not hold them responsible for their nation’s crimes. But better
qualities were shown only by the later troops brought from Germany
to fill vast gaps in the original army hurled to death _en masse_
during the first mad effort. These entered the hideous strife when
even their leaders were beginning to tremble before the gigantic storm
of vengeance they had roused through the whole civilized world. And
even these probably did not know the whole of their nation’s guilt.
At least, one tries to believe they did not; for to think that so
great a number of civilized beings could have continued the conflict
if aware, from the very beginning, of their leaders’ barbarous
devices, would destroy one’s faith in the stability of civilization.
It seems impossible that thinking and, more or less, educated men
could countenance the illegitimate aerial assaults on English and
French towns; those cowardly and inexcusable air attacks upon Paris
which began in the very first month of the war and continued, without
mercy, to the end. The glorious capital of France now presents a mass
of wounds in her very centre—in cherished localities sacred to all the
world, such as the great cathedral of Notre-Dame, on which a bomb was
dropped as early as October 1914, before adequate protection could be
prepared! It seems as though no reasoning mind could be cognizant of
these wrongs without being impressed with the conviction that right
was on the side of those nations whose courage was unbroken by mean
and unlawful assaults, viler than history has ever before recorded.
England did not waver, and France did not waver; every dastardly
blow inflicted by Germany only increased their righteous wrath; and
the armies returning from the scene where their defeat was already
inevitable were beginning to realize how justifiable was that wrath.

They had seen thousands upon thousands of their fellows brought back
mangled from invaded countries the holding of which meant nothing to
them; had read the long lists of dead, and began to wonder what it
was all for. On several occasions I have heard the soldiers ask that
question with a look of puzzled wonder in their eyes, more eloquent
than the words, “_Wofür ist eigentlich die ganze Sache_?”

Can their rulers answer it in a manner satisfactory to these men? Can
they answer it who, safely removed from the hell into which they drove
them, continued to cry: “We must go on! We must fight to our last
man rather than lose an inch of what we have gained! Victory shall
be ours, for God is with us”? It can only be hoped that the Almighty
whom they blasphemed by that diabolic decision, will not hold those
responsible who, in blind loyalty, obeyed it with the sacrifice of
their young and promising lives.


On 12th October, President Wilson’s reply to the German peace
plea was made known to us, and its brief dignity, its firm, just,
and benevolent strength, stirred every American heart with pride,
and awoke among the Belgians enthusiasm only kept with difficulty
within the limits their rulers ordained. Peace then, for the first
time, began to be spoken of as a still vague but now conceivable
possibility. The poor were eager for it at almost any price—that is,
the uneducated and uncomprehending poor. The thoughtful wanted it
that further carnage might be checked; but those whose wounds were
too deep for forgetting, whose life-interest had been buried in some
innocent grave, cried: “They shall not have peace until they are on
their knees!” And to the argument that such satisfaction could only
be attained at cost of Belgium’s total destruction the unhesitating
reply came “_Qu’importe?_ France has sacrificed her cities, why should
not we? Better see even Brussels razed to the ground, than not achieve
to the full that aim for which we have already sacrificed so much!”

Their determination to go on was not that of Germany, impelled by
greed and pride; but desire to risk all in order to be rid for ever
of an unscrupulous neighbour; to eradicate the smallest trace of that
neighbour’s control, and see it finally broken. This, more even than
a righteous and excusable desire for vengeance, was their reason
for wishing to continue a conflict that had so injured them, while
Germany’s object was merely to avoid punishment and the loss of her

Those without work, without hope or ambition, the poor, famished,
soup-kitchen folk, would not believe that the Germans really wanted
peace: “There is a trick under it; we shall wait and see!” was all
their comment. And it seemed as though theirs was the voice of
prophecy when news of Prince Max von Baden’s famous and seemingly
treacherous letter reached us. How this affected the outer world we
had no means of judging, but it caused in Brussels mingled anger and

In those days the feeling was very high and enthusiastic for America.
“_Ce sont les Américains qui nous out sauvés!_” was the popular
sentiment, although America’s deeds at the front were never given in
our papers. America, according to the German censorship, was even
more negligible than England; only the French armies were allowed a
certain amount of credit in regard to the “victorious alteration of
our front” which the _puissances centrales_ were so often obliged to
acknowledge in those later days. People, nevertheless, were not so
intoxicated by present events as to forget the first thrilling days,
when Belgium alone held back that overwhelming tide, and sowed the
seed of the victory now approaching; nor those later ones when France
and England so marvellously achieved the real, the all-important
defeat of Prussia at the Marne. Nor were those still more terrible
days forgotten, following Russia’s withdrawal—those weeks of anguish
when new hordes of Germans rushed through Brussels toward the front,
and wiped out all the Allied advances we had been following so
patiently, so eagerly, step by step over the torn and blood-soaked
regions of France. That period was more appalling even than that
of the first onslaught, more annihilating to hope. Looking back on
it, recalling the almost crazing tension of anxiety, the reigning
conviction that Germany was rushing on to conquest, the second stand
before Paris, that wonderful, all-glorious victory, shines out as
more brilliant, more soul-thrilling, even than the first. And yet of
the imperishable, recklessly heroic charge of the American marines
before Chateau-Thierry, that outburst of fresh and determined energy,
which refired the Allies and helped once and for all to turn the tide
of war, we knew nothing until after the Allied troops had entered
Brussels. We knew only that the enemy was stronger both in numbers
and in his determination to win at any cost, despite the hypocritical
peace offer that gave him excuse to cry: “You will not have peace
on our terms? Then bear the consequences!” and to make those
consequences—already prepared—throw into shadow all the horrors of his
first _Massenschlacht_.

No, glorious England, France, and Belgium! no plea of overwhelming
numbers, no whine of enforced surrender before the entire world, can
rob you of laurels won in the first awful years—that vast, unequalled
victory which America’s generous hand helped at the critical moment to
assure you!

The realization that victory was in sight came upon us in Brussels
with the dazing suddenness of a comet in a starless night. The
first evidence of Germany’s collapse was the sudden and astonishing
independence of soldiers toward their superiors. We wondered at this
for a day or two; then the truth burst on us with an avalanche of
disbanded troops, from the _étape_ regions, who, flinging off all
control, arrived in groups of twenty, more or less. No red flag could
be seen among them, nothing explained their strange advent save their
look of desperate weariness. So quietly they came that at first
everyone believed they were returning on furlough, bearing with them
booty seized on the way from the houses and farms of fugitives. Until
the time when their increasing numbers attracted even the puzzled
attention of children, there was no relaxation of the iron hand.

Even when the red flag of rebellion was glaring defiance of the Kaiser
and his flatterers, the daily papers offered us their usual official
lies. William the Second’s “invincible armies” were represented as
still resisting the world; the Allies had been checked at this point
or that; and the Belgians again were called upon to consider the dire
consequences to themselves and their country of continuation of the
war. And this when the war was virtually ended!

I think, from all evidence, the shock was as great to the occupying
Powers as to us. They may have been more prepared than we for
disaster, but they certainly seemed taken by surprise when that red
flag appeared, waving at the head of their defeated troops.

If the war came like a lightning-stroke, it went, so far as we could
judge, like a falling star of incalculable speed. Most of us were too
dazed to comprehend the meaning of events.

Suddenly the pompous officer with shining helmet, loaded revolver, and
dangling sword, who had reigned supreme in streets, cafés, and trams,

Those were stirring, extraordinary, unprecedented days! And yet, by
remaining indoors, one might have lived through the first of them
without suspecting anything unusual. The troops entered quietly, too
contented, apparently, to be done with past strife to plunge into
more. Numbers of them sought concealment in Belgium, rather than go
back to the discord they expected at home, openly stating they did
not wish to return to Germany. These were not deserters, but men known
to have come direct from the front. It was a strange experience, and
one of peculiar psychological interest, to watch these battle-worn
men, soiled, weary, and haggard, crossing the city all with the same
look of internal perplexity, as though just waking from a nightmare
whose meaning they were trying to solve. They appeared to have no
set purpose,—probably none, but the leaders had,—nor did they evince
the slightest humiliation at returning vanquished through conquered
lands. On the contrary, their attitude toward the people of Brussels
was kindly, almost friendly; they seemed even to expect applause
from the throngs that gradually gathered to gaze upon them. Some of
those watching would doubtless have given them a cry of farewell, in
sheer satisfaction at their departure (if not in compassion for the
guiltless among them), but for the hideous memories their uniforms
evoked. Despite those memories, a genial or joking word was thrown
them occasionally from the crowd, and replied to in the same spirit.

If, even _one_ year earlier, some trustworthy reader of the future
had predicted such a scene, not one of that gaping crowd would have
considered it possible; for, as History has never recounted a conflict
so frightful, so it has never seen so astounding a termination of
war, such a mingling of tragedy and comedy! In those extraordinary
street-scenes humanity was visibly struggling on the one side against
the follies of tradition, and on the other against the cruel ache
of unforgettable wounds. The German troops, repentent, broken,
realizing that they had been fighting for nothing higher than a pride
founded on their enslaved souls, seemed to crave recognition of their
emancipation—looked for some sign of pardon and good fellowship from
the people they had obediently ground to earth.

There were intervals between the passing of troops, but soldiers in
small groups constantly wandered about looking for a resting-place.
Nearly every house in Brussels was obliged to take some of them in
for a day or two—soldiers and such officers as had decided to throw
their lot in with the revolutionists. Others, the more aristocratic
officers, despisers of the red flag, fled as best they could.
Occasionally a high-power automobile tore through the city, bearing
three or four of these outraged gods toward the German frontier. But
soldiers, with levelled rifles, checked their course, two of whom
mounted the cars, and, dragging the shining epaulettes from their
superiors’ shoulders, threw them to the crowd. This done, they stepped
back, quietly replaced their weapons, and allowed the car to go on.
The officers offered no resistance; though blanched with rage, they
were as helpless before their armed slaves as Belgium had been before
the massed cannon and diabolic instruments of destruction.

During the first week after the revolution became known, a body of
higher officers, with some loyal soldiers, took possession of the
Gare du Nord, hoping to prevent the revolutionists making use of the
railway. Had they had a greater number on their side, this act might
have caused Belgium, besides all her other trials, to bear the brunt
of Germany’s internal strife. As it was, many Belgians suffered loss
of life and destruction of property through this selfishly stupid
attempt to defy the avenging hand. Great throngs of people were in the
streets; and I, with a friend, happened also to be in that crowded
quarter where the outrage took place. Unwarned and unsuspecting,
we were attracted thither by an interesting mass of troops, just
returned from the front, with cannon, mitrailleuse, field-kitchens,
and armoured war-cars. In the joy of freedom from stern military
authority, we all swarmed as close as possible to these, now
apparently harmless, features of war.

At a certain point on the main boulevard quite close to the station,
one or two armed soldiers stood ineffectually warning back the
throngs, without explanation, either too indifferent or too ignorant
themselves to enforce their orders. Consequently many curious
Belgians drifted past them, some returning the sentinels’ challenge
with laughing bravado. One guard menaced with his rifle a couple who
attempted to pass, but in so melodramatic a manner that, while those
threatened fled in terror, many others slipped by him unperceived.

Then the report of a revolver rang out, immediately followed by
others, and at the same moment a terrific volley of mitrailleuse was
brutally discharged into the street, from windows of the station
building—it was said by officers, who cared little how many civilians
might be sacrificed to their folly. The amazed and terrified Belgians
were driven back like dust before a hurricane—dazed by the deafening
roar, by the plunging of frantic horses, the crash of windows on
every side, and the whistle of deadly missiles that filled the air
like a sudden storm of hail, riddling adjacent houses and felling
many a startled Belgian, with the soldiers it recklessly aimed to
destroy. In less than two moments after the mitrailleuse opened fire,
the street was cleared as by magic of every living being, save the
troops firing back. Rushing blindly from a menace so little expected,
the people crowded into shops or fled up side-streets for protection.
Meanwhile the roar continued until the officers, surprised by troops
(who, I believe, entered the building unperceived from the rear), were
obliged to capitulate, and the irrational conflict was brought to an

Local skirmishes of more or less serious character occurred at
intervals throughout the city, during the passage of troops returning
to their chastened Vaterland. In certain districts bullet-pierced
windows and damaged façades bear witness of these outbreaks, mostly
caused during an attack upon officers loyal to the Empire, discovered
in their place of concealment. But, considering the unparalleled
difficulty of the situation,—these vast armies of enemy troops,
flushed with freedom from autocratic control, coming into the midst
of a people taught to despise them,—there was extraordinarily little
discord. The troops, for the most part, were amiable, taking even
occasional gibes in a good spirit. Only the officers—those who still
remained, mostly without epaulettes and wearing a bit of red—appeared
to distrust the Belgians, and were ever on the alert for attack: the
fear of guilty consciences, apparently quite lacking in the soldier!
I myself saw some who (doubtless in accordance with von Hindenburg’s
suggestion) stayed to settle up matters pertaining to the government,
etc., carrying hand-grenades as they moved about the streets—weapons
they could hurl into the midst of that massed attack they seemed to

While standing, one day, at the Porte de Namur watching a battered
regiment pass by on its slow, foot-weary way to Liège and Germany,
I was amazed to hear what an amount of good-natured taunting they
received from the crowd, not only without resentment, but often with
responsive levity. One man near me cried out in Flemish: “They are
bound to get to Paris, but have decided the shorter and best route is
by way of Berlin!”

“_Ja, ja!_” returned laughingly a haggard-faced youth seated on a
cannon-wagon, “_Sie haben recht!_ the road to Berlin is the best of
all roads!”

Another man in the crowd took a toy cannon from his pocket, and
pointing it at a passing line of soldiers, cried: “Attention! The
British are coming!” And to the amazement, I think, of most persons
present, he was answered by the troops with a roar of spontaneous

Some scenes presented by the retreat of Germany’s disillusioned and
crest-fallen army were pitiful enough to bring tears to the eyes of
their bitterest enemies. Often small detachments passed through,
not in line, but trudging along as best they could under heavy
burdens—probably the sorry remnants of once-proud regiments. These had
no commander and evidently no interest save the one fixed purpose
to get back to their homes. They carried their belongings either on
their backs, or in heavy carts which they dragged along, four or
five together straining at the ropes. These cumbrous country carts,
probably bought or stolen from peasants, were piled high with bulging
knapsacks, boxes, French and English helmets, and other trophies of
the battlefield. And, in strange contrast to these, were bits of
furniture, coops containing live hens, and often a cow or two tethered

Travel-worn peddlers could not have been more indifferent than these
men to public observation. Ill-clad and ill-nourished, they gazed
straight ahead, hungering for their wives and children; taking as
little interest in the revolution as they did in the Kaiser; trying to
forget what they had gone through—plodding along like animals, without
hope of reward or acclamation for all they had courageously endured.

I saw one soldier, an elderly man whose uniform was almost in
tatters, and his boots so worn they must have been painful to walk
in, trudging alone along one of the main boulevards, leading a very
small donkey attached to a cart in which were the treasures he was
taking home. On top of all was a wooden cage containing live rabbits.
He paid no attention to the amusement his appearance aroused in the
onlookers, and, appearing to have forgotten he had ever pertained to a
regiment, saw nothing but the long way ahead, toward the goal of his
one absorbing desire—_Heimat_!

Later on, the troops strode through in regimental order under command
of revolutionary leaders, but bearing, even then, little resemblance
to the brilliant legions that had marched so haughtily through
Brussels on the 20th of August 1914. The great monster had even then
met its master on the banks of the Marne; but it refused to recognize
the fact, or sacrifice Imperial pride in order to save the brave
sons of the then prosperous nation: it threw palpitating, living
hearts of those sons to the cannon, until a latent human instinct
of self-preservation was awakened in them. Then those who survived
understood, at last, that their real enemy was not behind those
determined and avenging guns; but at home, seated upon the throne of

“Oh what a fall was there!” Not of a Cæsar deserving the eulogies
of a Marcus Antonius, but the dignity of a nation worthy a nobler
leader—diligent, prosperous, sober-minded Germany.


No sooner did the Belgians know that the occupying government
had fallen, than their long-hidden, beloved tricolour appeared.
Revolutionary leaders, fearing this might cause trouble, asked those
now in authority to have the colours removed, and the people were
requested to withdraw them, until one appeared on the Hôtel de Ville.
This was accordingly done in the more important thoroughfares, but
in others the flag continued to float above the moving streams of
enemy forces, who showed no resentment. On the contrary, they seemed
to admire the daring patriotism it expressed; and on one occasion,
to my knowledge, German troops marched under those flags through the
Chaussée d’Ixelles singing the Marseillaise!

In the eyes of the more intelligent one could read the anguish at
their hearts, and a passion of resentment that suggested they were
mentally recalling the lines of their cherished poet:

    “Ich rief den Teufel und er kam,
    Und ich sah ihm mit Verwundrung an;
    Er ist nicht hasslich und ist nicht lahm,
    Er ist ein lieber, scharmanter Mann,
    Ein Mann in seiner besten Jahren,
    Verbindlich und höflich und Welterfahren!
    Er ist ein gescheuter Diplomat
    Und spricht recht schön über Kirch und Staat.”[2]

[2] I called the devil and he came,
    And I on him with wonder looked;
    He is not ugly and he is not lame,
    He is a nice and charming man,
    A man amid his best of years,
    Obliging, courteous, and worldly wise,
    He is a modest diplomat
    And speaks right well of Church and State.


The extraordinary spirit of reconciliation shown by these men, their
total lack of humiliation in defeat, was in such strange contrast to
the confident pride with which they had originally invaded Belgium
that it was difficult to believe one’s eyes. And in their individual
self-control, in the genial smile with which they met the rabble’s
taunts, was a more beautiful pride than before—the pride of awakened
conscience, and of that innate moral force which, despite aristocratic
plottings, had before the war raised Germany to a foremost place among
nations; which will no doubt raise her again, like a phœnix, from the
ashes of her errors.

However, there were also dark, familiar stains to mar this dawning of
a new Germany whose sun, by a strange irony of Fate, arose in Belgium!
The yesterday of trickery and terrorism in certain members of that
vast host still survived the night of defeat. Soldiers, by force of
arms, committed daring thefts throughout the country, mostly to obtain
money, of which the troops seemed in great need—must indeed have been,
since some sold their weapons, bed-covers, and even their clothing.
One day I heard a young under-officer bartering his boots with a café
_garçon_ for fifty francs, when shoes of any sort, at the time, could
not be had for less than a hundred, or even more. Another evidence of
this need, and one of enlightening significance, was the reckless sale
of goods which they held in outlying districts of Brussels. At Forest
and other suburban parts of the city, great car-loads of material,
looted from shops and private houses probably months or years ago,—for
the dry-goods shops of Brussels had been cleaned out quite two years
before,—were offered at absurdly trivial prices. Silk-velvet, which
could not be had in Brussels for less than two hundred francs, went at
a mark a yard; warm woollen stuffs, which the shivering population,
thinly clad in dyed cotton, could not obtain at any price in the
shops, were sold—to such as deigned to buy—for an equally small sum.
All these goods, taken on pretence of clothing the army—or _Belgian
prisoners_!—were brought to light again, and not only stuffs, but all
manner of other things, as if from some pirates’ cave, were bartered
back to those who had been robbed of them.

But now thieving became more bold; not by officers, but by soldiers,
who did not attempt to disguise it with transparent lies.

In some cases, nevertheless, that old trick was still tried, as
in that of a prominent banker, who was robbed of one hundred and
twenty-five thousand francs by six soldiers. Evidently familiar
with banking affairs, they presented themselves at his office after
business hours, and, finding him alone with one employé, coolly
demanded the sum desired. The characteristic Teuton excuse was not
wanting—characteristic in its absurdity: Belgians _might_ rob the army
_en route_!—unarmed Belgians might loot the German vans, under guard
of many hundreds of armed soldiers!—therefore large sums were demanded
from all banks as guarantee!

The banker stated that he was unable to grant their demand, as
there was no money available in the bank. But even as he spoke
two _encaisseurs_ entered; their satchels, containing the amount
mentioned, were seized, the contents quietly appropriated, and the
soldiers, revolver in hand, retired. The banker appealed to the
revolutionary chiefs, who refused to credit his story, stating proudly
that “Germans were not thieves.” But by dint of perseverance, and many
visits, he at last convinced them, and the money was returned to him,
from army funds, just one hour before these high-minded leaders were,
for some reason unknown to us, thrown out of power.

Another instance of the justice which these unfortunately displaced
chiefs endeavoured to exercise, was the punishment of a German
soldier, who, convicted of having murderously assaulted the woman
cashier of a restaurant and stolen the contents of her _caisse_, was
placed against a wall and shot—or so we were told.

The shocking original methods of German troops, in regard to places
they inhabited, were also revived in these days. At one private hotel
with whose proprietor we were well acquainted, their behaviour was
almost beyond belief. The hotel had been requisitioned, and occupied
during the war by German women, who left it in good condition. But
the troops, who afterwards took possession for a few days only on
their way out, reduced it to a state of uncivilized filth and wanton
destruction, committing unmentionable acts whereby the up-to-date and
valuable kitchen utensils, the flower-pots, and even the drawers of
bureaus were rendered unfit for future service. Bombs were found under
some of the beds, and the whole place had to be taken over by the
State to be cleansed and examined.

Brussels, during that time, echoed day and night to spasmodic reports
of firearms, sometimes of considerable duration, and consequently
terrifying; at others merely an inexplicable exchange of shots.

But on Saturday the 16th and Sunday the 17th of November, the entire
city trembled to blast after blast of cannon, and the shuddering shock
of car-loads of ammunition set off in merciless proximity to inhabited
quarters. The numerous mines buried in and about the city were also
exploded—those treacherous death-traps awaiting the Allied armies, on
which the occupying government had founded its boast that Brussels
would be the “bouquet of the whole war,” a prediction constantly

While public attention was more or less centred on these continued
explosions, fires broke out in all the railway stations, one of which
was almost entirely destroyed. Many explanations were set afloat
in the familiar German fashion, the most persistent being that rue
Haute thieves had done it in order to pillage certain cars—an absurd
suggestion, since thieves do not usually light a beacon to attract
attention to their deeds. One damning fact, moreover—the simultaneity
of the conflagrations—suggested some inexplicable Teuton object,
perhaps mere vengeance.

The theory of vengeance was given weight by an account given us by the
mayor of Charleroi. Just before the Germans withdrew, some officers
visited him and, without giving a hint of their intentions, asked him
to call together all the former Belgian railroad employés and send
them to work at the station. The mayor, considering this a reasonable
request, willingly agreed, got the men together, and set them to work.
Scarcely were they all gathered in and about the station than terrific
explosions took place in the yard and on near-by tracks. Fifty-eight
of the unsuspecting Belgians were killed, and many others, living
in the vicinity, either slain or wounded, while every window in the
entire town was shattered, doors also and many objects of value.
Hundreds of cars containing ammunition had been secretly attached by a
fuse wire, which the Germans lighted and left to do its deadly work,
while they fled into safety and were never again seen.

Some intrepid Belgians, fortunately, discovered the fuse, cut it, and
thus saved two hundred and twenty car-loads of high-power explosives,
some of which stood in the centre of the town and would have caused
its entire wreckage.

The mayor also told us a shocking story in regard to a hospital in
his town which the Germans had occupied during the war. At their
departure they removed their wounded, and announced that the hospital
was at his disposal. On going to visit it, he found a number of French
and English wounded lying on the floor, who stated they had never had
a bed, and were in a deplorable condition. Outside, in the ambulance
garage, the door of which was locked, he found seventeen dead bodies
of soldiers, entirely devoid of clothing and therefore impossible to
identify as to nationality. In a corner of this place were heaped a
ghastly collection of amputated human limbs. These and the bodies were
in a state of decomposition that rendered their removal both dangerous
and horrible.

A school-house that had been used to shelter troops up to the last day
before the Germans left, he found in a condition quite as incredibly
revolting. There were no beds; the floors, covered with a sort of
mossy turf, were in a state of indescribable filth, whereon the
soldiers slept and which they subjected to animal-like treatment. The
stench, he said, was frightful, and the entire place so infected with
vermin that the charwomen engaged to clean it were not allowed to
leave the premises before being thoroughly fumigated and cleansed.

After such disclosures, could one wonder at the brutalized, unhuman
appearance of those men who dragged their weary way through
Brussels—men once hardy, self-respecting tillers of the soil, or
workers in other useful pursuits? Such treatment as they had endured
could leave no spark of military pride in them, no consciousness of
shame at defeat, no desire even for the triumph of victory.

On Sunday, the 17th of November, when Germans were seen openly in the
capital for the last time, the street scenes were something at which
to marvel. Everyone was abroad. Among the throng surging to and fro,
through those wide avenues and boulevards so long ruled by the enemy,
the familiar grey-green Teuton uniforms were relieved by the khaki
of the English and Belgians, and the pale blue of the French. Many
Italians and Russians were there, and one or two American airmen
who had descended from a cloudless sky to see how the armistice was
affecting us. Although no organized part of the Allied armies had
yet entered save certain Belgians on leave to visit their families,
hundreds of liberated prisoners had come to the city from German camps
where they had been forced to labour for the enemy. All of these save
the French, who could speak the language, were a sorry-looking lot,
wandering about, unable to express themselves. So numerous were they
that it was impossible for the Belgians to collect them at once and
give them the assistance and comfort which they so greatly needed. The
British prisoners especially were pitiable to behold in their starved
condition and wretched rags—poor helpless youths, that for many months
had endured such moral and physical anguish under their cruel jailers
that some stated they had looked back with regret to their life in the

Most of these had found kind hearts to look after them, before that
amazing Sunday when foe and friend mingled in the streets of Brussels,
presenting a sight so fantastic, so unforeseen, that it seemed to lend
a strange element of travesty to all that had gone before.

On the crowded platforms of trams an occasional German might be seen,
pressed close to a haggard-looking Britisher worn to emaciation after
months of harsh treatment by the former’s compatriots; or shoulder
to shoulder with a jubilant Belgian officer, hearing his response to
the triumphant greeting of friends—hearing the wild applause given
to units of all the Allied nations! Strange and incredible sight, in
those streets where the _casque à pointe_ had reigned supreme but a
few days before, where—it seemed but yesterday—the hope of seeing a
Belgian, English, or French uniform had been almost extinguished!

And now the spiked helmet was ignored. No voice was raised to acclaim
it; the once-dreaded uniform passed unnoticed.

So far as I know, however, there was no serious outbreak or obvious
resentment of conditions doubtless sorely trying to those men of
defeated Germany, denied even the prospect of joyous welcome in their
own country, already seething with civil strife. German soldiers—even
German officers, whose rank could no longer be discerned, came face to
face with surly, dark-browed Russians, and exchanged curious glances,
as though furtively trying to read one another’s minds; with Italians,
whose eyes twinkled with the satisfaction their impulsive natures were
less able to conceal; with French, beginning to forget, in the joy
of victory, the wrongs of their prison camps; and with British, into
whose haggard faces they dared not look!

Even the knowledge of having discarded the Imperial yoke could not
have lessened the pangs these men must have suffered, or blinded even
the dullest of them to the evidence afforded by those units of wronged
nations of a punishment too awful and complete to be attributed to
mortal power alone.

Especially galling to them must have been the intense enthusiasm
shown by the population for every Britisher. These, at the time, only
wretched-looking prisoners, were the first Allies who appeared, and
the sight of them sent the people into a frenzy of pride, excitement,
and sympathy. Here and there, in the newly enlivened streets, would be
seen a black swarm of Belgians gathered about one pitiably emaciated
English lad, trying, without knowing a word of the language, to find
some place of refuge to which he had been directed by the Belgian
committee who looked after the prisoners. There was nothing, as a
rule, to denote his nationality, save his speech, and a ragged khaki
jacket, with his prison number painted on the back. In his poor,
dazed face—made more haggard by several weeks’ growth of beard—in the
filthiness of his whole appearance, there was little to denote the
bath-loving Englishman. Some told me they had not changed their shirts
during eight months of imprisonment; had been forced to do hard
labour, with nothing to eat but turnip soup, and one loaf of bread a
day shared by four men.

The Belgians, however, quickly took them in hand, fitted them out with
clean clothes, and at times carried them on their shoulders through
the streets, shouting, “_Vive l’Angleterre!_” right under the noses of
the Germans.

All of those to whom I spoke had been captured at a certain point near
Armentières, where, owing to the collapse of an adjacent Portuguese
trench, the Germans had got behind them and so cut them off. They
were rather bitter regarding the “Pork and Beans,” as they called the
Portuguese, and stated with contempt that they had seen some of the
latter, after their capitulation, pass into the German lines with
hand-satchels, containing their belongings already packed!

On Monday, the 18th of November, scarcely two weeks after the first
definite gleam of approaching deliverance penetrated the prison city,
we realized with a strange, half-incredulous amazement that we were
free! The grey uniform had disappeared; those of our deliverers were
in view, and the outer world was once more a living reality! It seemed
impossible—or rather like awaking abruptly from a hideous dream! No
more roaring of cannon beyond the patient, proudly soaring trees of
the Bois—where sad gaps bear witness of the vandal’s hand; no more
racking thunder of mitrailleuse from the military exercise-field, or
droning of German aeroplanes over our heads; no more dread of armed
soldiers intruding upon our privacy, or of tyrannical _affiches_
imposing penalties and checking liberty! We could go forth into
the free streets without fear of the _polizei_. We could walk by
lamplight at night, instead of inky darkness, and take from our
windows the ugly blue paper or dark curtains by which the dim light
of our houses was hooded. The door-bell could ring without causing
panic, without forcing me, and others who plied the pen in secret, to
rush off and conceal perilous manuscripts even before knowing who
might be at the door. Buried treasures could be unearthed—newspapers
read—letters written—we could breathe normally once more! Over four
years of persecution, isolation, and association with misery, had led
in a few days, as it seemed, to this intoxicating hour of triumph,
when not only the victory we craved was attained, but the malignant
world-menacing monster, vanquished by the sword of Justice, had, like
a wounded scorpion, writhing in its pain, stung itself to death!


On Friday, the 22nd of November, Brussels fulfilled the German
prophecy in a manner little expected by those who made it, for the
city really appeared the “bouquet of the war,” a radiant, triumphant,
glorious bouquet! Victories have been, and victories may be again, but
never in all history has a capital rebounded from long suppression
under such brilliant, unexampled, and ravishing conditions. As though
the Power ruling heaven were in sympathy with her deliverance, a
sky of Italian-like beauty canopied the day—the first really blue
and cloudless sky we had seen for months—the air was crisp and
transparent, the sun glorious. From every window, every balcony,
floated the colours of the Allies: Belgian, English, French, Italian,
Russian, Japanese, and the “stars and stripes.” Many of these flags
were home-made; sheets dyed and put together with feverish haste,
for materials of all sorts were long since exhausted in Belgium, and
the flags available were sold at a price beyond the means of most
people. A German merchant of Bonn, with the opportunist cleverness
of his race, had prepared a vast number of Allied flags, in time to
meet, more or less, the eager demand all through Belgium. But (a fact
which suggests the enterprising Teuton must have formed his scheme
before America came in) there was a great dearth of American flags.
These, consequently, being mostly home-made, were sometimes rather
woeful imitations of the great banner, for their colours ran together
lamentably during later days of rain.

Mention of the flag-making German recalls a significant incident which
occurred in the first year of war, when quantities of toys, all made
to appeal strongly to Belgian sentiments, and said to have come from
Nuremberg, appeared for sale in Brussels at Christmas-time. Among
these expensive playthings were regiments of lead German soldiers in
the act of surrender to their enemies, with hands uplifted as depicted
in the Allied reports after the Marne! These drew many buyers, but the
crowds that gathered about them finally attracted official attention,
whereupon the toys were confiscated, while the shop which sold them
was forced to close and subjected to a heavy fine.

But to return to the flags; on this glad day even the poorest had
their banners prepared in time to welcome their heroic King, and
multitudes gathered to acclaim his glorious return. All work ceased;
even the tramway employés, important as were their services on such
a day, refused large bribes rather than forgo a personal view of the
wondrous scene—and no one could blame them! As there were no horses
nor vehicles to be had, the stoppage of trams made matters difficult
for those living at a distance. But they walked, some nearly all
night, in order to secure points of view in those localities through
which the King was to pass with his cortège of troops. Such crowds
I have never seen; they were as impassable as a stone wall in the
streets; packed close on church steps, on the cornices of buildings,
on trees, at windows, on the roofs. It was a day never before known, a
day never likely to return.

It must be owned that the vocal enthusiasm was considerably less
than one, an American especially, could have expected. The cries at
first were rather brief and spasmodic, the waving of handkerchiefs
and so forth more the exception than the rule. There was none of that
mad acclamation which would have welcomed, or rather will welcome,
returning troops in America, none of the frenzied excitement with
which we had seen French troops applauded when departing from Paris.

The reason of this, no doubt, was the people’s inability to grasp an
event in such tremendous contrast to the four years’ sorrow which had
eaten into their very souls. They had, so to speak, forgotten the
meaning of joy—were too much dazed and overwhelmed by indefinable
emotion to express themselves adequately.

However, when King Albert appeared, riding, and beside him his young
wife—who looked rather worn after her hospital labours—tremendous
acclamations arose from the massed crowds. These were repeated for
Mayor Max, just returned from imprisonment, and for General Leman, the
hero of Liège. Then, after a brief pause, the acclamations rose again
to salute the American troops,—which were honoured with first place
behind the royal cortège,—the British, French, and Belgians. Over
these last brave legions enthusiasm was shown rather than uttered;
emotion seemed to check the cries, as though the vast throngs were
holding their breath. Then, after a moment of extraordinary silence,
there was a universal electric movement, as though that mighty crowd
longed to embrace them as one man.

The people could scarcely be held back from breaking the lines of
troops. Old women, with scranny, bare arms uplifted, ran forward to
touch them lovingly; men white with emotion, sweethearts and wives,
reckless of danger, almost threw the procession into confusion by
their eagerness to be recognized, or exchange a word with the brave
heroes returning from a hell such as they probably never expected to

That night the city was in delirium; the streets were a throbbing
mass of joy-drunken beings such as was never seen before. No madness
of carnival could approach the hysterical excitement of the people
in streets illuminated for the first time in two years; in the
cafés, where the almost forgotten sparkle of champagne gleamed in
glasses raised to the cries “_Vive la Belgique! Vive le Roi! Vivent
les Alliés!_” All through the main boulevards, shouting, singing,
and laughing groups were to be seen dancing in large circles,
hand-in-hand, about an English, French, or other Allied prisoner who
had drunk so many glasses of triumph he was generally seated on the
ground, or standing unsteadily, his hollow eyes staring in a dazed
but contented fashion from a face somewhat pale and thin.

In these groups all the Allied nations were blended with merry girls
and boys giving vent to long-suppressed spirits. The Scotch lads, with
their bare legs, flying cap-ribbons, and kilts, gave a delightfully
comic touch, and added to the magic dream-effect of the whole. They
were the cynosure of all eyes, the _pièce de résistance_ of the
foreign element. When their troops passed during the royal procession,
with bag-pipes in full voice, there was a lull of astonished wonder
and interest, followed by a simultaneous outburst of acclamation.
And that interest and admiration did not wane in the evening; crowds
thronged about them, girls clung to them,—and at times the latter
exhibited rather improper curiosity with regard to their “skirts.”

Now and again automobiles, once so rare a sight in Brussels, forced
the dancers apart for a moment, as a swift skiff might separate
bright-coloured dragon-flies dancing above the still surface of a
lake, only that they may unite with more vim after its passing. In
one of these cars, most of which were military, a party of young
American officers with their friends were making a tour of the city
after a gay supper, during which some twelve of them had sung in
full, clear voices all the beautiful and original songs of their
nation, much to the hearers’ delight. At the head of the car floated
a large American flag, borrowed from the café where they had regaled
themselves. That flag was greeted with continual outbursts of
applause, especially as one of the party, a man with the voice of a
ship’s siren, startled even the reigning hubbub with shouts of “_Vive
la Belgique! Vive le Roi! Vive la Liberté!_” Hundreds of voices at
once responded, screaming almost hysterically, “_Vive l’Amérique!_”
“_Vive Wilson!_”—and, as though the two English-speaking nations were
indissolubly united in the public mind, almost every response was
accompanied by “_Vive l’Angleterre!_”

_Allemande_ and the _casque à pointe_ were forgotten. The Kaiser’s
black shadow had fled before the glorious angel of a liberty crowned
with the fairest laurels ever gathered from the bloody fields of
battle—laurels flowering with noble loyalty and jewelled with
imperishable fame.

And, but a little way beyond the borders of joyous Belgium—hiding from
the rage not only of those whom he had made his foes, but from that of
his own people and his own allies, lurked the man who had boasted that
he would subjugate an advanced and prosperous world with his “iron

William the Second, original promoter, if not sole author, of
history’s most appalling crime, cowered in Holland, bereft of sceptre
and throne, muttering perhaps what Milton put into the mouth of that
other great Enemy of earth: “Which way I fly is Hell—myself am Hell!”


  │ Transcriber's note:                                               │
  │                                                                   │
  │ The original spelling, hyphenation, and punctuation have been     │
  │ retained, with the exception of apparent typographical errors,    │
  │ which have been corrected.                                        │
  │                                                                   │
  │ Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.             │
  │                                                                   │
  │ Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant  │
  │ form was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.     │
  │                                                                   │

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