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Europes_Rag_Doll

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Screens and Folding Card Tables. 0 • • (Continued from Page 26) own nationality. Brooding over their own misfortunes had worn the nerves of these captives to the very quick. In any event, be the outcome of this war what it may, I do not believe the Belgians can ever be molded, either by kindness or by sternness, into a tractable vassal race. German civilization I concede to be a magnificent thing—for a German; but it seems to press on an alien neck like a galling yoke. Belgium under Berlin rule would be, I am sure, Alsace and Lorraine all over again on a larger scale and an unhappier one. She would never, in my humble opinion, be a star in the Prussian constellation, but always a raw sore in the Prussian side. In Major Bayer's office I saw the major stamp an order that turned over to the acting burgomaster ten thousand bags of flour for distribution among the more needy citizens. We were encouraged to believe that this was by way of a free gift from the German Government. It may have been made without payment or promise of pay- ment. In regard to that I cannot say positively; but this was the inference we drew r.,rom the statements of the German officers who took part in the proceeding. As for the acting burgomaster, he stood through the scene silent and inscrutable, saying nothing at all. Possibly he did not understand; the conversation—or that part of it which concerned us—was carried on exclusively in English. His face, as he bowed to accept the certified warrant for the flour, gave us no hint of his mental processes. The First Shot Fired Major Bayer claimed a professional kinship with those of us who were newspaper men, as he was the head of the Boy Scout movement in Germany and edited the official organ of the Boy Scouts. He had a squad of his scouts on messenger duty at his headquarters—smart, alert-looking youngsters. They seemed to me to be much more competent in their department than were the important-appearing German Secret Service agents who infested the building. The Germans may make firstrate spies—assuredly their system of espionage was well organized before the war broke out—but I do not think they are con- spicuous successes as detectives: their methods are so transparently mysterious. Major Bayer had been one of the foremost German officers to set foot on Belgian soil after the severance of friendly relations between the two countries. "I believe," he said, "that I heard the first shot fired in this war. It came from a clump of trees within half an hour after our advance guard crossed the boundary south of Aachen, and it wounded the leg of a captain who commanded a company of scouts at the head of the column. Our skirmishers surrounded the woods and beat the thickets, and presently they brought forth the man who had fired the shot. He was sixty years old, and he was a civilian. Under the laws of war we shot him on the spot. So you see probably the first shot fired in this war was fired at us by a franc-tireur. By his act he had forfeited his life, but personally I felt sorry for him; for I believe, like many of his fellow countrymen wh o afterward i committed such offenses, he wasignorant of the military indefensibility of his attack on us and did not realize what the conse- quences would be. "I am sure, though, that the severity with which we punished these offenses at the outset was really merciful, for only by killing the civilians who fired on us, and by burning their houses, could we bring home to thousands of others the lesson that if they wished to fight us they must enlist in their own army and come against us in uniforms, as soldiers." Within the same hour we were intro- duced to Privy Councilor Otto von Falke, an Austrian by birth, but now, after long service in Cologne and Berlin, promoted to be Director of Industrial Arts for Prussia. He had been sent, he explained, by order of the Kaiser, to superintend the removal of historic works of art from endangered churches and other buildings, and to turn them over to the curator of the Royal Belgian Gallery, at Brussels, for storage in the vaults of the museum until such time as peace had been restored and they might be returned with safety to their original posi- tions. "So you see, gentlemen," said Professor von Falke, "that the Germans are not despoiling Belgium of its wealth of pictures and statues. We are taking pains to preserve and perpetuate them. They belong to Belgium—not to us; and we have no desire to take them away. Certainly we are not vandals who would wantonly destroy the splendid things of art, as our enemies have claimed." He was plainly a sincere man and much in love with his work; that, too, was easy to see. Afterward, however, the thought came to us that, if Belgium was to become a German state by right of seizure and conquest, he was saving these masterpieces of Vandyke and Rubens, not for Belgium, but for the greater glory of the Greater Empire. However, that was beside the mark. What at the moment seemed to us of more consequence even than rescuing holy pictures was that all about us were sundry hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who did not need pictures, but food. You had only to look at them in the streets to know that their bellies felt the pinch of hunger. Famine knocked already at half the doors in that city of Brussels, and we sat in the café of the Palace Hotel and talked of pictures! We called on Minister Brand Whitlock, whom we had not seen—McCutcheon and I—since the Sunday afternoon a month and a half before when we two left his official residence in a hired livery rig for a ride to Waterloo, which ride extended over a thousand miles, one way and another, and carried us into three of the warring countries. Mention of this call gives me opportunity to say in parenthesis, so to speak, that if ever a man in acutely critical circumstances kept his head, and did a big job in a big way, and reflected credit at a thousand angles on himself and the country that has the honor to be served by him, that man is Brand Whitlock. To him, a citizen of another nation, the people of forlorn Brussels probably owe more to-day than to any man of their own race. Grass was sprouting from between the cobbles of the streets in the populous residential districts through which we passed on the way from the American Ministry to our next stopping place. Viewed at a short distance each vista of empty street had a wavy green beard on its face; and by this one might judge to what a low ebb the commerce and the pleasure of the city had fallen since its occupation. There was one small square where goats and geese might have been pastured. It looked as though weeks might have passed since wagon wheels had rolled over those stones; and the town folks whose houses fronted on the little square lounged in their doorways, with idle hands thrust into their pockets, regarding us with lackluster, indifferent eyes. It may have been fancy, but I thought nearly all of them looked pinched of frame and that their faces seemed drawn. Seeing them so, you would have said that, with them, nothing mattered any more. The Hairdresser's Story We saw a good many people, though, who were taking for the moment an acute and uneasy interest ii n their own affairs, at the big city prison, where we spent half an hour or so. Here, in a high-walled courtyard, we found upward of two hundred offenders against small civic regulations, serving sentences ranging in length from seven days to thirty. Perhaps one in three was a German soldier, and probably one in ten was a woman or a girl; the rest were male citizens of all ages, sizes and social grading, a few Congo negroes being mixed in. Most of the time they stayed in their cells, in solitary confinement; but on certain afternoons they might take the air and see visitors in the bleak and barren inclosure where they were now herded together. By common rumor in Brussels the Germans were shooting all persons who were caught secretly peddling copies of French or English papers or unauthorized and clandestine Belgian papers; since only orthodox German papers were permitted to be sold. The Germans themselves took no steps to deny these stories, but in the prison we found a large collection of forlorn newsdealers. Having been captured with the forbidden wares in their possession, they had mysteriously vanished from the ken of their friends; but they had not been " put against the wall," as they say in Europe. They had been given fourteen days apiece, with a promise of six months if they transgressed a second time. One little man, with the longest and sleekest and silkiest black whiskers I have seen in many a day, recognized us as Americans and drew near to tell us his troubles in a confidential whisper. By his bleached indoor complexion and his manners anyone would have known him for a pastry cook or a hairdresser. A hairdresser was what he was; and in a better day than this, not far remote, he had conducted a fashionable establishment on a fashionable boulevard, he said. "Ah, I am in one very sad state," he said in his twisted English. "I start for Ostend to take winter garments for my two small daughters, who are there at school, and they arrest me—these Germans—and keep me two days in a cowshed, and then bring me back here and put me here in this so-terrible-a-place for two weeks; and all for nothing at all." "Didn't you have a pass to go through the lines?" I asked. "Perhaps that was it." "I have already a pass," he said; "but when they search me they find in my pockets letters which I am taking to people in Ostend. I do not know what is in those letters. People ask me to take them to friends of theirs in Ostend and I consent, not knowing it is against the law. They read these letters—the Germans—and say I am carrying news to their enemies; and they become very enrage at me and lock me up. Never again will I take letters for anybody anywhere. "Oh, sirs, if you could but see the food I eat here! For dinner we have a stew—oh, such a stew !—and for breakfast only bread and coffee who is not coffee!" And with both hands he combed his whiskers in a despair that was comic and yet pitiful. Slght.Seers In Louvain It was Sunday when I saw Louvain in the ashes of her desolation. We were just back then from the German besiegements before Antwerp; and the hollow sounds of the big guns fired there at spaced intervals came to our ears as we rode over the road leading out from Brussels, like the boomings of great bells. The last time I had gone that way the country was full of refugees fleeing from burning villages on beyond. Now it was bare, except for a few baggage trains lumbering along under escort of shaggy gray troopers. Perhaps I should say they were gray-and-yellow troopers, for the plastered mud and powdered dust of three months of active campaigning had made them of true dirt color. Oh, yes; I forgot one other thing: We overtook a string of wagons fitted up as carryalls and bearing family parties of the burghers to Louvain to spend a day among the wreckage. There is no accounting for tastes. If I had been a Belgian the last thing I should want my wife and my baby to see would be the ancient university town, the national cradle of the Church, in its present state. Nevertheless, there were many excursionists in Louvain that day. The Germans had taken down the bars and sight-seers came by autobusses from as far away as Aix-la-Chapelle and from Liege and many from Brussels. They bought postal cards and climbed about over the mountain ranges of waste, and they mined in the debris mounds for souvenirs. Alta gether, I suppose some of them regarded it as a kind of picnic. Personally I should rather go to a morgue for a picnic than to Louvain as it looks today. I have tried hard, both in Germany among the German soldiers and in Belgium among the Belgians, to discover the truth about Louvain. The Germans said the outbreak was planned, and that firing broke out at a given signal in various quarters of the town; that, from windows and basements and roofs, bullets rained on them; and that the fighting continued until they had smoked the last of the inhabitants from their houses with fire and put them to death as they fled. The Belgians proclaimed just as stoutly that, mistaking an onmarching regiment for enemies, the Germans fired on their own people; and then, in rage at having committed such an error and to cover it up, they turned on the townspeople and mixed massacre with pillagings and burnings for the better part of a night and a day. I had come to a point in my experience where I could, I think, sense something of the viewpoint of each. To the Belgian, a German in his home or in his town was no more than an armed housebreaker. What did he care for the code of war? He was not responsible for the war. He had no share in framing the code. 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