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12 THE SATURDAY EVENING POST January 9,19/5 Unsolicited, so competent an authority as Julius Gmsar once gave the Belgians a testimonial for their courage. If I recall the Commentaries aright, he said they were the most valorous of all the tribes of Gaul. Those who come afterward to set down the tale and tally of the Great War will record that through the centuries the Belgians retained their ancient valor. First and last, I have had rather exceptional opportunities for viewing the travail of Belgium. I was in Brussels before it surrendered and after it surrendered. I was in Louvain when the Germans entered it and I was there again after the Germans had wrecked it. I trailed the original army of invasion from Brussels southward to the French border, starting at the tail of the column and reaching the head of it before, with my companions, I was arrested and returned by another route—namely, via Charleroi—across Belgium to German soil. Within three weeks thereafter I started on a ten-day tour which carried me through Liege, Namur, Huy, Dinant and Chimay, and brought me back by Mons, Brussels, Louvain and Tirlemont, with a side trip to the trenches before Antwerp—roughly, a kite-shaped journey which comprehended practically all the scope of active operations among the contending armies prior to the time when the struggle for Western Flanders began. Finally, just after Antwerp fell, I skirted the northern frontiers of Belgium and watched the refugees pouring across the borders into Holland. I was four times in Liege and three times in Brussels, and any number of times I crossed and recrossed my own earlier trails. I traveled afoot; in a railroad train, with other prisoners; in a taxicab, which we lost; in a butcher's cart, which we gave away; in an open carriage, which deserted us; and in an automobile. I saw how the populace behaved while their little army was yet intact, offering gallant resistance to the Germans; I saw how they behaved when the German wedge split that army into broken fragments and the Germans were among them, holding dominion with the bayonet and the bullet; and finally, six weeks later, I saw how they behaved when substantially all their country, except a strip of seaboard, had been reduced to the state of a conquered fief held and ruled by force of arms. By turns I saw them determined, desperate, despairing, half rebellious, half subdued; resigned with the resignation of sheer helplessness, which I take it is a different thing from the resignation of sheer hopelessness. It is no very pleasant sight to see a country flayed and quartered like a bloody carcass in a meat shop; but an even less pleasant thing than that is to see a country's heart broken. And Belgium to-day is a country with a broken heart. These lines are written.with intent to be printed early in January. By that time Christmas will be over and done with. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in lieu of the Christmas carols, the cannon will have rung its brazen Christmas message across the trenches, making mockery of the words: "On earth peace, good will toward men." On our side of the ocean the fine spirit of charity and graciousness which comes to most of us at Christmastime and keeps Christmas from becoming a thoroughly commercialized institution shall have begun to abate somewhat of its fervor. The Capsheaf .Rtrocity of the War TO OURSELVES we shall be saying, many of us: "We have done enough for the poor, whom we have with us always." But not always do we have with us a land famous for its fecundity that is now at grips with famine; a land that once was light-hearted, but where now you never hear anyone sing any more or anyone laugh aloud; a land that is half a waste and half a captive province; a land that cannot find bread to feed its hungry mouths, yet is called on to pay a tribute heavy enough to bankrupt it even in normal times; a land whose best manhood is dead on the battleground or rusting in military prisons; whose women and children by the countless thousands are either homeless wanderers thrust forth on the bounty of strangers in strange places, or else are helpless, hungry paupers sitting with idle hands in their desolated homes—and that land is Belgium. Having been an eyewitness to the causes that begot this condition and to the condition itself, I feel it my duty to tell the story as I know it. I am trying to tell it dispassionately, without prejudice for any side and without hysteria. I concede the same to be a difficult undertaking. Some time back I wrote, in an article for THE SATURDAY EVENING POST, that I had been able to find in Belgium no direct proof of the mutilations, the torturings and other barbarities which were charged against the Germans by the Belgians. Though fully a dozen seasoned journalists, both English and American, have agreed with me, saying that their experiences in this regard had been the same as mine; and though I said in the same article that I could not find in Germany any direct evidence of the brutalities charged Cobb Jtanding in the Ruins of the Hotel at Louvain Where His Party Lodged as Prisoners at the Time of the German Occupation. This Picture Was Taken a Month lifter the Destruction of the Neighborhood against the Belgians by the Germans, the prior statement was accepted by some persons as proof that my sympathy for the Belgians had been chilled through association with the Germans. No such thing. But what I desire now is the opportunity to say this: In the face of the present plight of this little country we need not look 'for individual atrocity. Belgium herself is the capsheaf atrocity of the war. No matter what our nationality, our race or our sentiments may be, none of us can get away from that. Going south into France from the German border city of Aix-la-Chapelle, our automobile carried us down the Meuse. On the eastern bank, which mainly we followed during the first six hours of riding, there were craggy cliffs, covered with forests, which at intervals were split by deep clefts, where small farms clung to the sides of the steep hills. On the opposite shore cultivated lands extended from the limit of one's vision down almost to the water. There they met a continuous chain of manufacturing plants, now all idle, which stretched along the river shore from end to end of the valley. Culm and flume and stack and kiln succeeded one another unendingly, but no smoke issued from any chimney; and we noted that already weeds were springing up in the quarry yards and about the mouths of the coal pits and the doorways of the empty factories. Considering that the Germans had to fight their way along the Meuse, driving back the French and Belgians before they trusted their columns to enter the narrow defiles of the valleys, there was in the physical aspect of things no great amount of damage visible. Stagnation, however, lay like a blight on what had been one of the busiest and most productive industrial districts in all of Europe. Except that trains ran by endlessly, bearing wounded men north, and fresh troops and fresh supplies south, the river shore was empty and silent. In twenty miles of running we passed just two groups of busy men. At one place a gang of German soldiers were strengthening the temporary supports of a railroad bridge which had been blown up by the retiring forces and immediately repaired by the invaders. In another place a company of reserves were recharging cases of artillery shells which had been sent back from the front in carload lots. There were horses here—a whole troop of draft horses which had been worn out in that relentless, heartbreaking labor into which war sooner or later resolves itself. The drove had been shipped back this far to be rested and cured up, or to be shot in the event that they were past mending. I had seen perhaps a hundred thousand head of horses, drawing cannon and wagons, and serving as mounts for officers in the first drive of the Germans toward Paris, and had marveled at the uniformly prime condition of the teams. Presumably these sorry crowbaits, which drooped and limped about the barren railroad yards at the back of the siding where the shell loaders squatted, had been whole-skinned and sound of wind and joint in early August. Two months of service had turned them into gaunt wrecks. Their ribs stuck through their hollow sides. Their hoofs were broken; their hocks were swelled enormously; and, worst of all, there were great raw wounds on their shoulders and backs, where the collars and saddles had worn through hide and flesh to the bones. From that time on, the numbers of mistreated, worn-out horses we encountered in transit back from the front increased steadily. Finally we ceased to notice them at all. I should explain that the description I have given of the prevalent idleness along the Meuse applied to the towns and to the scattered workingmen's villages that flanked all or nearly all the outlying and comparatively isolated factories. In the fields and the truck patches the farming folks—women and old men usually, with here and there children—bestirred themselves to get the moldered and mildewed remnants of their summerripened crops under cover before the hard frost came. Invariably we found this state of affairs to exist wherever we went in the districts of France and of Belgium that had been fought over and which were now occupied by the Germans. Woodlands and cleared places, where engagements had taken place, would, within a month or six weeks thereafter, show astonishingly few traces of the violence and death that had violated the peace of the countryside. New grass would be growing in the wheel ruts of the guns and on the sides of the trenches in which infantry had screened itself. As though they took pattern from the example of Nature, the peasants would be afield, gathering what remained of their harvests—even plowing and harrowing the ground for new sowing. On the very edge of the battle front we saw them so engaged, seemingly paying less heed to the danger of chance shell-fire than the soldiers who passed and repassed where they toiled. In the towns, however, almost always the situation was different. The people who lived in those towns seemed like so many victims of universal torpor. They had lost even their sense of courteous, naïve curiosity regarding the passing stranger. Probably from force of habit, the shopkeepers stayed behind their counters; but between them and the few customers who came there was little of the vivacious chatter one has learned to associate with dealings among the dwellers in most Continental communities. We passed through village after village and town after town, to find in each the same picture—men and women in mute clusters about the doorways and in the little squares, who barely turned their heads as the automobile flashed by. Once in a while we caught the sound of a brisker tread on the cobbled street; but when we looked, nine times in ten we saw that the walker was a soldier of the German garrison quartered there to keep the population quiet and to help hold the line of communication. The Sack of Little Dinant T THINK, though, this .cankered apathy has its merciful 1 compensations. After the first shock and panic of war there appears to descend on all who have a share in it, whether active or passive, a kind of numbed indifference as to danger; a kind of callousness as to consequences, which I find it difficult to define in words, but which, nevertheless, impresses itself on the observer's mind as a definite and tangible fact. The soldier gets it, and it enables him to endure his own discomforts and sufferings, and the discomforts and sufferings of his comrades, without visible mental strain. The civic populace get it, and, as soon as they have been readjusted to the altered conditions forced on them by the presence of war, they become merely sluggish, dulled spectators of the great and moving events going on about them. The nurses and the surgeons get it, or else they would go mad from the horrors that surround them. The wounded get it, and cease from complaint and lamenting. It is as though all the nerve ends in every human body were burnt blunt in the first hot gush of war. Even the casual eyewitness gets it. We got it ourselves; and not until we had quit the zone of hostilities did we shake it off. Indeed, we did not try. It made for subsequent sanity to carry for the time a drugged and stupefied imagination. Barring only Huy, where there had been some sharp street fighting, as attested by shelled buildings and sandbag barricades yet resting on housetops and in window sills, we encountered in the first stage of our journey no considerable evidences of havoc until late in the afternoon, when we reached Dinant. I do not understand why the contemporary chronicles of events did not give more space to Dinant at the time of its destruction, and why they have not given it more space subsequently. I presume the reason lies in the fact that the same terrible week which included the partial burning of Louvain included also the partial burning of Dinant; and in the world-wide cry of protestation and distress which arose with the smoke of the greater calamity the smaller voice of grief for little ruined Dinant was almost lost. Yet, area considered, no place in Belgium that I have visited—and this does not exclude Louvain—suffered such wholesale demolition as Dinant. Before war began, the town had something less than eight thousand inhabitants. When I got there it had less than four thousand, by the best available estimates. Of those four thousand more than twelve hundred were then


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