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Fireless Cookers Seeing them now, I began to understand how an enforced docility may reduce a whole people to the level of dazed, unresist- ing automatons. Yet a national spirit is harder to kill than a national boundary—so the students of these things say. A little flash of flaming hate from the seemingly dead ashes of things; a quick, darting glance of defiance; a hissed word from a seemingly subdued man or woman; a shrill, hostile whoop from a ragged youngster behind a hedge—things such as these showed us that the courage of the Belgians was not dead. It had been crushed to the ground, but it had not been torn up by the roots. The roots went down too far. The under dog had secret dreams of the day to come, when he should not be underneath, but on top. Even had there been no abandoned customhouses to convince us of it, we should have known when we crossed from southern Belgium into northern France; for in France the proportion of houses that had suffered in punitive attacks was, compared with Belgium, as one to ten. Understand, I am speaking of houses that had been deliberately burned in punishment, and not of houses that stood in the way of the cannon and the rapid-fire guns, and so underwent partial or complete destruction as the result of an accidental yet inevitable and unavoidable process. Of these last France, to the square mile, could offer as lamentably large a showing as Belgium; but buildings that presented indubitable signs of having been fired with torches rather than with shells were few. Explaining this and applauding it, Germans of high rank said it presented direct and confirmatory proof of their claim that sheer wanton reprisals were practically unknown in their system of warfare. Perhaps I can best set forth the German attitude in this regard by quoting a general whom we interviewed on the subject: "We do not destroy for the pleasure it gives us. We destroy only when it is necessary. The French rural popuhice are more rational, more tractable and much less turbulent than the Belgians. To a much greater degree than the Belgians they have refrained from acts against our men that would call for severe retaliatory measures on our part. Consequently we have spared the houses and respected the property of the French noncombatants." Personally I had a theory of my own. So far as our observations went, the people living immediately on both sides of the line were an interrelated people, using the same speech and being much alike in temperament, manners and mode of conduct. I reached the private conclusion that, because of the chorus of protest that arose from all the neutral countries, and particularly from the United States, against the severities visited on Belgium in August and September, the word went forth to the German forces in the field that the scheme of punishment for offenders who violated the German field code should be somewhat softened and relaxed. Between the Millstones However, that is merely a personal theory. I may be absolutely wrong about it. The German general who interpreted the meaning of the situation may have been absolutely right about it. Certainly the physical testimony was on his side. Also, it seemed to me, the psychology of the people—particularly of the womenfolk— in northern France was not that of their neighbors over the frontier. In a trade way the small shopkeepers here faced ruin; the Belgians had already been ruined. The Frenchwomen, whose sons and brothers and husbands and fathers were at the front, walked in the shadow of a great fear, as you might tell by a look into the face of any one of them. They were as peppercorns between the upper millstone and the nether, and the sound of the crunching was always in their ears, even though their turn to be crushed had not yet come. For the Belgian women, however, the worst that might befall had already happened to them; their souls could be wrung no more; they had no terror of the future, since the past had been so terrible; and the present was a living desolation of all they counted worth while. You might say the Frenchwomen dreaded what the Belgians endured. The refilled cup was at the lips of France; Belgium had drained it dry. (Continued from Page 13) Yet in both countries the women generally manifested the same steadfast and silent patience. They said little; but their eyes asked questions. In the French towns we saw how bravely they strove to carry on their common affairs of life, which were so sadly shaken and distorted out of all normality by the earthquake of war. For currency they had small French coins and strange German coins, and in some places futile-looking, little green-and-white slips, issued by the municipality in denominations of one franc and two francs and five francs, and redeemable in hard specie "three months after the declaration of peace." For wares to sell they had what remained of their depleted stocks; and for customers, their friends and neighbors, who looked forward to commercial ruin, which each day brought nearer to them all. Outwardly they were placid enough, but it was not the placidity of content. It bespoke rather a dumb, disciplined acceptance by those who have had fatalism literally thrust on them as a doctrine to be practliced. Looking back on it I can recall just one woman I saw in France who maintained an unquenchable blitheness of spirit. She was the little woman who managed the small café in Maubeuge where we ate our meals. Perhaps her frugal French mind was rejoiced that business remained so good, for many officers dined at her table and, by Continental standards, paid her well and abundantly for what she fed them; but I think a better reason lay in the fact that she had within her an innate buoyancy which nothing—not even war—could daunt. Trim as a Trout Fly She was one of those women who remain trig and chic though they are slovens by instinct. Her blouse was never clean, but she wore it with an air. Her skirt testified that skillets spit grease; but in it she somehow looked as trim as a trout fly. Even the hole in her stocking gave her piquancy; and she had wonderful black hair, which probably had not been combed properly for a month, and big, crackling black eyes. They told us that one day, a week or two before we came, she had been particularly cheerful—so cheerful that one of her German patrons was moved to inquire the cause of it. "Oh," she said, "I am quite content with life to-day. I have word that my husband is a prisoner. Now he is out of danger and you Germans will have to feed him—and he is a great eater ! If you starve him then I shall starve you." At breakfast Captain Mannesmann, of the reserves, who was with us, asked her in his best French for more butter. She paused in her quick, birdlike movements— for she was waitress, cook, cashier, manager and owner, all rolled into one—and cocking a saucy, unkempt head at him asked that the question be repeated. This time, in his efforts to be understood, he stretched his words out so that unwittingly his voice took on rather a whining tone. "Well, don't cry about it!" she snapped. "I'll see what I can do." Returning from the battle front our itinerary included a long stretch of the great road that runs between Paris and Brussels, a road much favored formerly by auto tourists, but now used almost altogether for military purposes. Considering that we traversed a corner of the theater of one of the greatest battles thus far waged — Mons—and that this battle had taken place but a few weeks before, there were remarkably few evidences remaining of it. With added force we remarked a condition that had given us material for wonderment in our earlier journeyings. Though a retreating army and an advancing army, both enormous in size, had lately poured through the country, the houses, the farms and the towns were almost undamaged. Contrasts, which take on a heightened emphasis by reason of their brutal abruptness, abound all over Belgium. You pass at a step, as it were, from a district of complete and irreparable destruction to one wherein all things are orderly and ordered, and much as they should be in peaceful times. Were it not for the stagnated towns and the depression that berides the people, one would hardly know that these areas had lately been overrun by hostile soldiers and now groaned under enormous tithes. In isolated instances the depression had begun to lift. Certain breeds of the polyglot Flemish race have, it appears, an almost unkillable resilience of temper; but in a town only a mile away all those whom we met would be like dead people who walked. Also, there were many graves. If we passed along ridged mounds of clay in a field, unmarked except by the piled-up clods, we knew that at this spot many had fought and many had fallen; but if, as occurred constantly, one separate mound or a little row of separate mounds was at the roadside, that probably meant a small skirmish. Such a grave almost always was marked by a little wooden cross, with a name penciled on it; and often the comrades of the dead man had hung his cap on the upright of the cross. If it were a French cap or a Belgian the weather would have worn it to a faded blue-and-red wisp of worsted. The German helmets stood the exposure better. They retained their shape. On a cross I saw one helmet with a bullet hole right through the center of it in front. Sometimes there would be flowers on the mound, faded garlands of field poppies and wreaths of withered wild vines; and by the presence of these we could tell that the dead man's mates had time and opportunity to accord him greater honor than usually is bestowed on a soldier killed in an advance or during a retreat. Mons was reached next, looking much as I imagine Mons must always have looked; and then, after a few stretching and weary leagues, Brussels—to my mind the prettiest and smartest of the capital cities of Europe, not excluding even Paris. I had first seen Brussels when it was as gay as a carnival— that was in mid-August; and, though Liege had fallen and Namur was falling, and the German legions were eating up the miles as they hurried forward through the dust and smoke of their own making, Brussels still floated her flags, built her toy barricades, and wore a gay face to mask the panic clutching at her nerves. Getting back five days later I found her beginning to rally from the shock of the invasion. Her people, relieved to find that the enemy did not mean to mistreat noncombatants who obeyed his code of laws, were going about their affairs in such odd hours as they could spare from watching the unending gray monster that roared and poured through their streets. The flags were down and the counterfeit lightheartedness was gone; but essentially she was the same Brussels. Coming now, however, seven weeks later, I found a city that had been transformed out of her own customary image by captivity and hunger and hard-curbed resentment. The pulse of her life seemed hardly to beat at all. She lay in coma, flashing up feverishly sometimes at false rumors of German repulses to the southward. .8 Tactful German Only the day before we arrived a wild story got abroad among the starvelings in the poorer quarters that the Russians had taken Berlin and had swept across Prussia and were now pushing forward, with an irresistible army, to relieve Brussels. So thousands of the deluded populace went to a bridge on the eastern outskirts of the town to catch the, first glimpse of the victorious oncoming Russians; and there they stayed until nightfall, watching and hoping and— what was more pitiable—believing. From what I saw of him I judged that the present military governor of Brussels, Major Bayer, was not only a diplomat but a kindly and a most engaging gentleman. Certainly he was wrestling most manfully, and I thought tactfully, with a difficult and a dangerous situation. For one thing, he was keeping his soldiers out of sight as much as possible without relaxing his grip on the community. He did this, he said, to reduce the chances of friction between his men and the people; for friction might mean a spark and a spark might mean a conflagration, and that would mean another and greater Louvain. We could easily understand that small things might readily grow into great and serious troubles. Even the most docile-minded man would be apt to resent in the wearer of a hated uniform what he might excuse as overofficiousness or love of petty authority were the offender a policeman of his (Continued on Page 29) CARBON HYLO Fits any socket ; burns in any position; nothing to get out of order.
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