Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small]
[graphic][merged small][merged small]

the road to another country. Grieved and pathos of the Belgian army is like the embittered, they served under new leaders pathos of an orphan-asylum: it is unconof another race. Those tired soldiers were scious. like spirited children who had been play- They are very lonely, the loneliest men ing an exciting game which they thought I have known. Back of the fighting would be applauded. And suddenly the Frenchman, you sense the gardens and best turned out the worst.

fields of France, the strong, victorious

national will. In a year, in two years, Sing, Belgians; sing, though our wounds having made his peace with honor, he will are bleeding,

return to a happiness richer than any that

France has known in fifty years. And the writes the poet of Flanders; but the song Englishman carries with him to the is no earthly song. It is the voice of a lost stresses of the first line an unbroken calm cause that cries out of the trampled dust which he has inherited from a thousand as it prepares to make its fight beyond the years of his island peace. His little moplace of betrayal.

ment of pain and death cannot trouble For the Belgian soldiers no longer sang,

that consciousness of the eternal process in or made merry in the evening. A young which his people have been permitted to Brussels corporal in our party suddenly play a continuing part. For him the broke into sobbing when he heard the present turmoil is only a ripple on the vast chorus of "Tipperary" Aoat over the chan- sea of his racial history. Back of the nel from a transport of untried British Tommy is his Devonshire village, still selads. The Belgians are a race of children cure.

His mother and his wife are waitwhose feelings have been hurt.

The
ing for him, unmolested, as when he left

prisals on villages and towns and on the civilian population would have been so bitter. The burning and the murder that I saw them commit throughout the month of September, 1914, was the answer to a resistance unexpectedly firm and telling. At the skirmish of Melle on September 7, when fifteen hundred Belgians stood off three thousand Germans for several hours, I counted more dead Germans than dead Belgians. The German officer in whose hands we were as captives asked us with great particularity as to how many Belgians he had killed and wounded. While he was talking with us, his stretcher-bearers were moving up and down the road for his own casualties. At Alost the street fighting by Belgian troops behind fish-barrels, with sods of earth for barricade, was so stubborn that the Germans felt it to be necessary to mutilate civilian men, wo

men, and children with the bayonets to Our chauffeur, Baron de Maleingren

express in terms at all adequate their rethem. But the Belgian, schooled in horror, faces a fuller horror yet when the guns of his friends are put on his bell-towers and birthplace, held by the invaders.

"My father and mother are inside the enemy lines," said a Belgian officer to me as we were talking of the final victory. That is the ever-present thought of an army of boys whose parents are living in doomed houses back of German trenches. It is louder than the near guns, the noise of the guns to come that will tear at Bruges and level the Tower of St. Nicholas. That is what the future holds for the Belgian. He is only at the beginning of his loss. The victory of his cause is the death of his people. It is a sacrifice almost without a parallel.

And now a famous newspaper correspondent has returned to us from his motor trips to the front and his conversa

André Simont of the Obusiers Lourds (Heavy tions with officers to tell us that he does Guns), a typical high-class Belgian boy soldier not highly regard the fighting qualities of The present Belgian army is largely composed of boys,

as the first army was cut to pieces the Belgians. I think that statement is not the full truth, and I do not think it

sentment. I am of course speaking of will be the estimate of history on the what I know.1 Around Termonde, three resistance of the Belgians. If the resistance had been regarded by the Germans as

1 What the writer and a companion witnessed of Ger

man atrocities will be found in the Bryce Report, under half-hearted, I do not believe their re- the heading of Alost.

[graphic]
[graphic]

a

times in September, the fighting of Belgians was vigorous enough to induce the Germans on entering the town to burn eleven hundred homes, house by house. If the Germans throughout their army had not possessed a high opinion of Belgian bravery and power of retardation, I doubt if they would have released so wide-spread and unique a savagery.

At Termonde, Alost, Balière, and a dozen other points in the Ghent sector, and, later, at Dixmude, Ramscappelle, Pervyse, Caeskerke, and the rest of the line of the Yser, my sight of Belgians has been that of troops as gallant as any. The

[graphic]
[graphic]

"With my best feelings, William De Groote"

He kept going out into the middle of the road during the times when Germans were reported approaching, keeping his men under cover. If there was risk to be taken, he wanted first chance. My friend Dr. Van der Ghinst, of Cabour Hospital, captain in the Belgian army, remained three days in Dixmude under steady bombardment, caring unaided for his wounded in the Hospital of St. Jean, just at the Yser, and finally brought out thirty old men and women who had been frightened into helplessness by the flames and noise. Because he was needed in that direction, I saw him continue his walk past the point where fifty feet ahead of him a shell had just exploded. I saw him walk erect where even the renowned fighting men of an allied race were stooping

and hiding, because he held his life as A Belgian worker in the “Océan Ambulance"

nothing when there were wounded to be and a British nurse

rescued. For many weeks our group of cowards have been occasional, the brave Red Cross helpers had the privilege of men many. I still have flashes of them as working with Lieutenant Robert de when I saw them. I saw a Belgian officer Broqueville, son of the prime minister of ride across a field within rifle range of the Belgium. I saw him go into Dixmude on enemy to point out to us a market-cart in the afternoon when the town was leveled which lay three wounded. On his horse, by German guns. He remained there unhe was a high figure, well silhouetted. der one of the heaviest bombardments of Another day, I met a Belgian sergeant, the war for three hours, picking up the with a tousled red head of hair, and with wounded who lay on curbs and in cellars three medals for valor on his left breast. and under debris. The troops had been

gium, from the cardinal to the humblest curé, has played the man. On the front line near Pervyse, where my wife lived for three months, a priest has remained through the daily shell-fire to administer last rites to his dying soldiers and to comfort the fighting men. Just before leaving Flanders, I called on the sisters in the convent school of Furnes. They were still cheery and busy in their care of sick and wounded civilians. Every few days the Germans shell the town from seven miles away, but the sisters will continue there through the coming months as through the last year. The spirit of the best of the race is spoken in what King Albert said recently in an unpublished conversation to the gentlemen of the English mission:

"The English will cease fighting before the Belgians. If there is talk of yielding,

[graphic]

Gaspar, a refugee baby ordered to evacuate the town, and it was à lonely job that this youngster of twenty-seven years carried on through that day.

Our corps has seen the Belgians every day for several months. We have seen several skirmishes and battles and many days of shell-fire, and the impression of watching perhaps twenty thousand Belgians in action is that of excellent fighting qualities, starred with bits of sheer daring as astonishing as that of any other races. With no country left to fight for, homes either in ruin or soon to be shelled, relatives under an alien rule, the home Government on a foreign soil, still this second army, the first having been killed, fights on in good spirit. Every morning of the summer I have watched those of them that have been resting in La Panne, boys between eighteen and twenty-five, clad in fresh khaki, go riding down the poplar lane from La Panne to the trenches, the first twenty with bright silver bugles, their cheeks puffed and red with the blowing. Twelve months of wounds and wastage, wet trenches and tinned food, and still they go out with hope.

And the helpers of the army have shown good heart. Breaking the silence of Rome, the splendid priesthood of Bel

[graphic][merged small][merged small]
« AnkstesnisTęsti »