from the book
'Belgium Under the German Occupation'
by Brand Whitlock 1919
US Minister to Belgium in 1914


an American Diplomat in Belgium in War-Time

portrait of Brank Whitlock



WHO, having lived in Brussels through that terrible month of August, can think of those days, with their various emotions, their exultations, their hopes and fears, their terror and despair, without the memory of that wonderful sunlight which filled them to the brim? Day after day went by, and with each new morning the miracle was renewed. It was a phenomenon unusual in Brussels and in Belgium, where it rains as often as it does in Scotland. It was of the irony implicit in life. There were moments when, looking at the wide cloudless sky, thinking perhaps of Bois-Fleuri, where doubtless the rabbits still nibbled at the roseleaves and the two magpies fluttered about with the Bonne nouvelle they never delivered, or of Ravenstein, where the larks were warbling in the sun high above the eleventh hole, one would say that all this madness and fury could not be! That a world so lovely, wherein life might have so much beauty and so much glory and meaning, should instead be given over to such an insane orgie of blood and lust and cruelty was to make one despair of the human race. It could not be! And yet- there were those miserable German refugees for ever huddling in the corridors of the Legation, shaken by their fears; and there in the courtyard, whiling away their time playing at cards, the lads of the Garde Civique, those young lawyers and doctors and clerks, that rudimentary organism of the Belgian commune, the old Burgerwacht, with its traditions of Jacques van Artevelde.

The heroic resistance of the little Belgian army in the forts along the Meuse - the forts that General Leman, who then commanded them, had himself constructed - created an extraordinary enthusiasm that vibrated nervously in the sparkling sunlight, producing a kind of contagious exhilaration, a veritable intoxication. Men met each other in the streets and said ecstatically:

"Les forts tiennent toujours !"

The newspapers were full of the valour of the Belgians. The French Republic had conferred the Legion of Honour on the City of Liege and the French colours fluttered brightly on the statue of Liege at the Cinquantenaire. Complimentary letters were exchanged between President Poincaré and King Albert. All Belgium was proud. There was a new spirit of solidarity; the old feeling between Flemish and Walloons was forgotten. In those fierce fires a nation was being born anew.

The Grande Place had never looked so beautiful. The flag of Belgium and the red and green of Brussels floated on the Hotel de Ville; there were flags on the guild-houses too, and over by the Maison du Roi there were the great umbrellas and the masses of colour of the flower-market. But the Place was very still; looking at it one might see the various protagonists who had struggled there for liberty in all ages, as Belgium was struggling then. In the excitement emotions were easily stirred; tears, for no reason, would start to the eyes of those with whom one talked. There was something wistful in all the faces; somehow, humanity seemed no longer ugly, but dear, good to look upon. One spoke to persons one did not know - a kind of miracle that, in the general solemn camaraderie.

Lovely Brussels was lovelier than ever, but somehow with a wistful, waning loveliness, infinitely pathetic. All over the Quartier Leopold the white facades of the houses bloomed in flags, their black and red and yellow colours transparent in the sunlight; in the Foret the sunlight filtered through the leaves, irradiating the green boles of the trees, and through the hazy sunlight that lay on the fields the mount of Waterloo was outlined against the sky.

In the Bois, in the midst of woodland peace, the children were playing and lovers whispered still their marvellous discoveries. The expected battle was not yet - but the Uhlans were drawing nearer; one could almost fancy them there behind the trees. But no, not yet ;-it was only a troop of Gardes Civiques a Cheval, in their uniforms of green and their grey fur busbies, young Davignon among them, waving his hand at me.

At night the town was strangely still, every one seemed to be waiting. The outposts of the German army were only thirty miles away; the German cavalry was said to be at Tirlemont. But the movements of the French and the English were surrounded with impenetrable mystery. There was nothing to do but to wait.

"De quoi demain sera-t-il fait?" de Leval would say before going home for the night.

And yet nothing happened. The days went by. The city grew quieter, was filled indeed with a kind of silent glory; with its countless flags, like mammoth tulips full of light, the shimmer of the sun - and the waiting.

Our information was all so fragmentary, so unrelated, so disproportionate. We were like the man who tried to write a history of the Civil War while a battle was going on - a battle which, in the light of subsequent developments, proved to be only a skirmish. We knew, in fact, nothing save bits of gossip or small items of personal interest. The young Princes, Leopold and Charles, had appeared on the boulevard with their governess, quite simply; the crowds swarmed around them enthusiastically; and returning to the Legation one afternoon, I could tell how, near the Hopital St.-Jean, there at the Rue Pacheco, the military guard had suddenly called, "Garde a vous!" and there was the Queen in her motor, with General Jungbluth in uniform by her side; and we uncovered while Her Majesty, who seemed to bear the sorrows of her country on her heart, went in to visit the wounded who had already been brought from Liege.

In the universal and naive ignorance every one was expecting a great battle, somewhere there on that historic battle-ground of Europe which it had ever been Belgium's fate to be; every one spoke of it, waited for it: Dr. E. J. Dillon, the war correspondent, sitting there in grey tweeds in my office smoking a cigarette, a great inlaid walking-stick between his knees; M. Klobukowski, who came to tell me that he was turning over his interests to the Marquis of Villalobar; and my Rumanian colleague, M. Djuvara, and his wife. Madame Djuvara had just returned through moving accidents and hairbreadth escapes by field and flood from Germany via Rotterdam.

It was always that, a great battle on the morrow-as soon as the French and English could come up. And we awaited the great event; some thought it might take place there at Waterloo, just as before ! Meanwhile, in our lives only the smallest incidents.

A colleague comes to ask my advice on a point of taste. Should his wife keep her German maid? Why not, if she wished to do so? Ah, but the other servants refuse to associate with her, call her "a nasty pig." This is different ! No diplomatic tact, however exquisite, could deal with that ! The old Duchesse Douairiere d'Arenberg sends to me to ask protection for some of her German relatives in Belgium. The feeling against the whole family is high, and the dark and stately palace there in the Petit Sablon is avoided, the glory and prestige of its ancient noble name no more able than I to save the family it had sheltered from the universal suspicion that blighted any one in Belgium who had German relations.

It is afternoon and de Leval and I are alone at the Legation, where it is quiet save for the furious ticking of his agitated little clock. I am reading Roland de Mare's column in the Independance Beige, when suddenly a shot rings out in the Rue de Treves. I pay no attention at first, then, when a fusillade follows, I look out of the window and see the Garde Civique firing in the air. In the Rue Belliard people are gazing upward and the whole squad is firing at the wide blue sky The servants rush upstairs in fright, gather in panic in the hall. Going into the courtyard we see a monoplane hors d'atteinte, with the wide fanlike tail of the German Taube, sailing leisurely and unconcernedly away in the direction of Liege.

Then one evening a note came from Count Clary, asking if our Consul at Ghent would take over the Austrian Consulate there - their man, a Belgian and an honorary consul, having resigned in indignation. Also, would I take over the Austrian Legation the fifth invitation of this kind that I had received in a week.

Villalobar and I had a long serious discussion of the situation. I told him of my intention to remain in Brussels, no matter what befall; without laying claim to remarkable prevision, I had a feeling that there would be work to do there. I had already accepted the responsibility of protecting British interests, and with American interests I felt that, anomalous as the situation would be were the Government to leave,. that work would be more important just then than any other. He was wholly of my opinion. He had promised to take over French interests, and we agreed to act in concert. We had nothing, then, to do but wait. .

“Les forts tiennent toujours." . . . But we had seen no soldiers save Belgians, though a few German prisoners were brought in; they thought that they were in France, and expressed surprise that Paris was not larger.

Then one morning de Leval came in with the news that the French had arrived; cavalry had entered the city the night before. He had seen them from his balcony going down the Avenue de la Toison-d'Or - a squadron of weary troopers, nodding over their horses' necks; and Gibson had seen them at the Porte de Namur. They were hailed by shouts of "Vive la France!" and the cavalrymen roused themselves to reply “Vive la Belgique !"

Girls had come out from the cafe's at the Porte de Namur with trays of beer, which the soldiers drank thirstily.

The city of Liege had been occupied by the Germans, but this, the communiqués assured us, was unimportant so long as the forts held, and "ils tiennent toujours." The population there was said to be calm, even if hostages had been taken, the Bishop and the Burgomaster among them. Then one evening it was told in town that the Uhlans had been seen in the Foret de Soignes.

We went for a drive in the Bois with the feeling that perhaps it would be for the last time. There suddenly, around a turn in the road, into the peaceful scene swept a train of motor-cars filled with British officers ; the seats of the cars were piled high with baggage, and after them there came two cars of English nurses. They all rushed madly by, and our hearts rose at our first sight of the khaki uniforms. Les Anglais were there at last.


We saw no English, however, other than those in the swift motors that dashed eastward through the Bois; no other French than those tired cavalrymen de Leval had seen going along the boulevard, drooping with fatigue over their horses' necks. The newspapers might announce that no official acknowledgment of the surrender of the forts of Liege had been made, that the ‘situation reste favorable," "les forts tiennent toujours" ; the rumours that flew from mouth to mouth were otherwise, and people knew; the slow, persistent truth percolated silently.

Then one day for the first time there were symptoms in the Press of the seriousness of the situation; the three o'clock edition of Le Soir had an allusion to grave events, and instantly, all over town, there were rumours of a German advance - the invaders were drawing near, the Uhlans were seen at this place and that!

The hours wore away. One got somehow through the day, the spirits declining toward evening with the sun, for then the rumours began to pour into the Legation brought by the fugitive who came for consolation, or by the timorous who came for encouragement or information. They whispered more and more of awful atrocities, hideous deeds, committed near Tirlemont the Germans were said to have sacked the peasants' houses, killed the men, thrust bayonets through the breasts of girls, hung a Belgian soldier up by the thumbs. I went to bed that night feeling like the sad Pestalozzi.

At the English church that last Sunday morning the organ was not in commission. The organist played on a little harmonium and the choir broke down every few minutes, but services were never held under circumstances more impressive. The atmosphere was heavy with the emotions of the hour. "Give peace in our time, 0 Lord ! " read the little curate, and there was a unisonant sigh. At the prayer for King George V there was a pregnant silence; when the curate added, "and for Albert, King of the Belgians," he paused, the silence deepened; and then, as he went on, "and for Thy servant, the President of the United States of America," one felt - why not avow it even if one is Anglo-Saxon ? - one felt close to tears. The curate, instead of a sermon of his own, read-rather wisely, I thought - a published sermon by the Bishop. It may have suffered an attenuating process in the transmission, but there was one good sentence in it, not by the curate, nor even by the Bishop, but. by Lord Kitchener, who had said to his men after the South African campaign: "You have tasted the salt of life, and you will not forget its flavour."



The retirement of the Government within the fortified place of Antwerp, while understood and calmly accepted by the population of Brussels, nevertheless had that depressing effect which such an event cannot fail to produce. The event was almost casually announced in the newspapers of Tuesday, the 18th, and its importance minimized. The impression that the fortified place of Antwerp was impregnable was encouraged and strengthened by an official announcement communicated to the Press by the General Staff.

All that morning, in the lovely miracle of that persistent sunlight, I drove about town with my old friends among the correspondents, going to the Grand' Place, the charm of which could recall to John McCutcheon those days so long before when he and George Ade made their first trip to Europe, and Ade wrote those bright studies illustrated by McCutcheon's sketches and published in the old Chicago News as " Stories of the Streets and of the Town." We went round to see the Manneken and so on through the narrow, charming streets, invested with a greater charm perhaps because of the premonition of change.

We drove out the Avenue Louise, that those who did not know it might see the lovely Bois de la Cambre. And there, at the head of the broad avenue, where it widens to form th,e entrance to the noble Park, we saw a scene that was to preoccupy my thoughts for long anxious hours. A strip of paving extending across the avenue was torn up and a trench had been dug, hardly wide enough or deep enough for a gas-main; the earth and the paving-stones that had been removed were heaped along the edge, and before this slightest of barricades barbed wire was loosely strung. And, standing knee-deep in the trench, was a company of the Garde Civique, insouciant, smiling-waiting for the advance of the German army.

They stood there, those untrained boys and young men-clerks, students, petits bourgeois - in their improvised uniforms, bowler hats decorated with cords and nodding tassels; armed, to be sure, with rifles, but with no more training than that they had received in Sunday afternoon marches through the pleasant Foret, or a parade on some fete-day-that rudimentary organization, that City Guard, all that was left of the Burgerwacht of olden time, the stock butt of Brussels wit, the standing joke of music- halls and revues ; sternly courageous, no doubt, fired with the best patriotic impulses and filled with the spirit of the stout burgers of the old free cities, but only a welcome incentive and excuse to the grey oncoming hordes. It required no very lively imagination to picture the scene that would ensue if a column of German soldiers should debouch out of the shades of the stately Bois - one whiff of mitraille, one volley, and lovely Brussels doomed!

That afternoon Villalobar and I agreed that as a diplomatic courtesy we should call on Burgomaster Max, the highest authority then left in Brussels. We went to the Hotel de Ville, where all was confusion, and were asked if the Burgomaster might receive us in the Salle de Garde, that is, Police Headquarters, an office that wore the air and had the atmosphere of all police-stations the world over. M. Max, smiling, calm, and master of himself, carefully dressed as usual, with the alert air to which his stiff upstanding hair, great moustaches and pointed beard somehow contributed, came down and received our visit.

But we came away somewhat depressed, not by anything that the Burgomaster had said, but by our prescience of what was impending; for those barricades at the entrance of the Bois, those Gardes Civiques so ridiculously inadequate, were ever in my mind. I asked the Marquis to go with me to the Bois; I wished to show them to him. We drove out the avenue-and there were the Gardes Civiques in their little trench. They halted us at the entrance to the Bois with as much martial importance as though they bad been Life Guards guarding the person of an emperor, but after scrutinizing our passes they let us go on, and we made the circuit of the lovely Park.

There is always something to laugh at in life, even if it is only to keep from weeping, as Figaro said, and, depressed as we were by the not wholly reassuring spectacle of that pitiable defence, as we came away and drove down the avenue in the early evening there was a sardonic smile on the handsome Spanish countenance of the Marquis of Villalobar.


And now it is Wednesday, August 19, a day of terrible tension, of extreme anxiety. Over the city a dreadful menace hangs; the atmosphere is charged with portent, and every one is depressed. It is preternaturally still. The sun glitters on the white facades of the houses. One by one the Belgian flags are taken in and the shutters put up at the windows.

The Belgian General Staff has fallen back from Louvain to Malines. All day long crowds of peasants, in carts and on foot, pour into town from the east-a continuous stream with stolid, patient, sad faces, fleeing before the German advance.

A refugee lawyer who had escaped with his family from Francorchamps, near Malmedy, came into the Legation to see de Leval, and told of the horrors that were being committed in Luxemburg - villages burned, peasants shot down, massacres and unspeakable outrages. A troop of Belgian cavalry passed down the Rue de Treves, weary, haggard men, unkempt, with grimy faces, their uniforms grey with dust; a picture by Detaille there in the old Quartier Leopold.

And yet there was that strange phenomenon always to be observed in times of crises, the calm persistence with which life goes on in its normal and usual sequences; for that morning my wife and I went with Madame Carton de Wiart, the wife of the Minister of Justice, to see the soup-kitchens that are maintained by the school system of Brussels for the children of the poor.

Madame Carton de Wiart had not gone with her husband to Antwerp but had remained behind with her children, living on in the Ministry in the Rue de la Loi, and was devoting herself, as ever, to charity. We went to a soupe in the poor quarter near the Quai an Bois-a-Bruler, the little dues marching in while we were there, bowing to us as they passed, to seat themselves at the long low tables to eat their soup and their petits paies, in the infinite pathos that attaches to childhood, especially to the childhood of the poor. Two little girls had been fighting as we entered, and the defeated one stood leaning against a wall, hiding her face in her arms as she sobbed bitterly - her companions, with the savage stoicism of children, taking no notice of her pain.

When I got back to the Legation I found Vil]alobar there and very grave, with news that the Germans were at hand. He had no sooner gone than Sir Francis Villiers came, formally to turn over his Legation. He wore the British calm-this distinguished gentleman, whose hair was grown white in his King's service.

"A most frightful bore! was his only comment on the impending demenagement.

There was little to do since his archives were already in my possession. We discussed the last details, deciding that between us no proces verbal was necessary. He had made all his arrangements for departure.

“I shall lunch quietly," he said, "and motor over to Antwerp this afternoon."

There was no more to say. I disliked to see him go. We had been good friends. . . .

When I was new at the post Sir Francis showed me many delicate attentions, rendered me many kindly services. I had grown to be fond of him and of his whole family. Sir Francis rose and held out his hand. “I trust that it is only au revoir," he said. We shook hands, bowed, and he went away.

After him came McCutcheon and Cobb, and with them Will Irwin, the latest correspondent to arrive. They were eager to get to the front. "You have only to wait a few hours," I said, "and the front will come to you."

But they were impatient ; they started for Louvain, promising to be back to dine with me that night.

We were all rather grave at luncheon, but we tried not to let the others see. I could not get those Gardes Civiques and their little trenches in the Avenue Louise and in the Avenue de Tervueren out of my mind.

Villalobar came at three o'clock and I talked it over with him; something must be done. And so we drove over to the Ministere de la Guerre, deserted now by Baron de Broqueville and occupied by Lieutenant-General Clooten, commanding the Gardes Civiques, a kind of military governor, or I know not what-at any rate, the ranking military authority left in the city.

We were admitted at once into his presence. We told him that we had come to pay our respects, and he bowed like a soldier and thanked us in his heavy voice. Then, as delicately as we could, we approached the question of the defence of the city, feeling our way to a footing that would permit us to give our counsel to attempt nothing with the means at his command.

“J'ai bien peu d'hommes pour la defense de la ville," he said finally.

We rushed into the opening, recalling to him that as an open city Brussels could not, under the laws of war, be bombarded unless a defence were attempted.

But the General drew himself up and said: “Je ferai mon devoir! Je defendrai la ville jusqu'au bout!”

After leaving the General we sat there in the motor in the Rue de la Loi, talked over the situation, and determined to go to M. Max, the Burgomaster; he was a highly intelligent and reasonable man. There lay the last and only hope. The old huissier showed us gravely to the chambers of the Burgomaster. The last time I had been in that stately apartment was when the Chinese Ambassador and his suite were signing the Grand Book of the city. Other guests expected now!

M. Max, smiling as ever and, as always, very alert, smart in attire and elegant in manner, rose from his imposing desk, where he had been studying some paper.

La situation est extremement grave! " he said, in a tone that accorded well with the facts.

We sat down in the two chairs that had been placed for us. He told us that the Germans were moving on the city, and that he had made a resolution to defend it. We asked him what he intended to defend it with, and he said, of course, with the Garde Civique. I permitted myself the liberty of pointing out to him the futility of such a course, saying that as an open city Brussels was protected from assault or bombardment by the conventions and rules of war, but that the firing of a single shot in defence would take it out of this category, and that, wholly insufficient as the Garde Civique was, that would mean not only the sacrifice of their lives but of the lives of citizens as well, and the destruction of the beautiful monuments of the city. The Marquis added his representations to mine and we made them as strongly as we could, Villalobar and, I speaking alternately-sometimes, I fear, in concert. M. Max listened sympathetically, acquiescing in all that we said; he knew it all, indeed, as well as we, but he sighed, shrugged his shoulders, and raised both hands in a gesture of despair.

“C'est une question d'honneur," he said.

My hopes fell, but we repeated our arguments.

I asked him to consider another interest that seemed to be involved. Brussels, like all beautiful and historical cities, is in essence one of the assets of civilization, and I spoke of its works of art, and of how the whole world was interested in them and of those who, in Europe, in America, everywhere, either had seen them or hoped to see them. Thus in a certain sense we seemed to speak for the interests of humanity. I felt that the words impressed him. The Marquis gave his assent, and the Burgomaster listened sympathetically, but still held to his resolve and said: “Que voulez-vdus que je fasse?"

We pressed the point, but received no formal assurance that he would do what we suggested. He said it had been decided to defend the city as far as the inner boulevards, and I smiled, thinking of those Gardes Civiques; their defence could not last as far as the ring of inner boulevards which enclose the old city. Both Villalobar's and my Legation would be out of that charmed circle. I thought of that, and M. Max evidently thought of it at the same moment, for he said he would place at our disposal houses within these boulevards. Small comfort in that!

“Non, merci," I answered at once, "je resterai dans la Legation."

“Et moi aussi," said Villalobar.

There was nothing more to say, but we could not leave without repeating what we had said, without renewing again our earnest entreaties.

While we were talking, M. Jacquemain, one of the echevins, came into the room, very dark and grave and worried, and asked M. Max solicitously if there was anything more he could do for him, and M. Max said "No" and told him to go. They were intimate friends, those two, and M. Jacquemain's devotion and loyalty to his chief were good to see in a world where that kind of loyalty is rare.

The Burgomaster thanked us again and said that he would consider our words. We asked him if he was going home.

Non," he said, "je dormira ici. Je ne quitterai pas mon Hotel de Ville."

We came away, too, with admiration for a man who found himself suddenly in an excessively difficult position.


Very early on Thursday morning, August 20, a date that I am not likely to forget, I was awakened by loud knocks, and, slipping into my dressing-gown, I opened the door, and there stood poor Gustave, weary, haggard, frightened, intensely negligé, looking as though he had not been to bed at all-as, indeed, he had not; he had brought his whole family and had given them Omer's room in the garage, sitting up all night, unknown to me, faithful soul that he was, with the agent de police; to keep watch. The Gardes Civiques had vanished from the courtyard.

Gustave came to announce the Count Bottaro-Costa, the Italian Minister, whom I found waiting in my cabinet, himself wearing a haggard air. He came at that early hour for consultation, and to bring the news that it had been decided by the authorities, on orders from the King at Antwerp, and as a result of the advice that Villalobar and I had ventured to give Burgomaster Max, not, after all, to offer any resistance. The Gardes Civiques had accordingly been withdrawn and disbanded, and the German army was to enter the city during that day.

The news was a relief, of course, for which we could thank the King, who has a very level head on those broad shoulders.

All morning in ever-increasing crowds the poor peasants tramped into. the city, bearing their pitiable possessions in bags, bundles, some of them in Belgian carts drawn by dogs. And from my window I saw one lone, dispirited, footsore Belgian soldier trudging in the hot sun that beat down into the Rue Belliard, sweltering in his heavy overcoat, his knapsack on his back, a tin cup and an extra pair of boots dangling from it, trailing his gun, and powdered grey with dust, trudging wearily along, the symbol of defeat and despair.

M. Max, wearing the red echarpe of the Burgomaster, with M. Jacquemain the echevin, his faithful friend, had gone outside the city toward Tervueren the night before, and there, with the German general, had arranged the details of the entry of the troops, and for their unmolested passage through the city. And now they were to enter at eleven o'clock. All morning long we waited. Villalobar was restlessly in and out with such news as he had.

We had been told that the troops would come in under the arch of the Cinquantenaire - from the window of my chamber I could just see the quadriga that Leopold had placed there - and march down the Rue de la Loi, the long avenue that stretched away from the triumphal arch in the crude glare of the sun, stark, empty, unreal.

At luncheon we discussed the propriety of my going out to see the army pass through ; I did not like to miss the spectacle, but, on the other hand, I had a feeling that it might be indelicate in me to witness the humiliation of the proud city. I asked the ladies not to leave the Legation; one could never know what might happen. After luncheon we went out on the balcony; one by one the bright Belgian flags were coming down from the white facades along the Rue Belliard, where they had flamed in the sun for the last fortnight, and only on the Brazilian, the Chilian, and the American Legations were flags left flying. The parsiennes were drawn at all the windows; the old Quartier Leopold looked like a city of the dead.

Then of a sudden I saw Villalobar's car coming down the Rue de Treves, his chauffeur in his red-and-green livery, his red-and-yellow flag flying, and I ran down to meet him, seizing my hat and stick as I went. The Marquis was as excited as a boy.

“Come on !" he cried, and I went, Gibson and de Leval following in our car. We drove over to the Italian Legation in the Boulevard Bischoffsheim. The boulevard was lined with crowds, waiting under the elm-trees, out of the sun. The police Lourgeoise, composed of citizens who had been sworn in to aid in keeping order, were sauntering about, wearing their white brassards.

And then, standing by the window, suddenly we had our first view of the German troops. Without music or fife or drums or flag, a company of infantry came down the boulevard; they were all in grey-a sinister, lurid greenish-grey even to the helmet- covers they wore, and they were in heavy marching order. They swung along somewhat wearily close to the allee des pietons, at the corner where they were to turn down into the Boulevard dti Jardin-Botanique. Two of the men fell out of line, took their post at the corner, and lowered their rifles. One of them rested his foot in the sling of his rifle ; the other drew a box of cigarettes from his tunic, proffered it to his comrade, fumbled for a match, then asked a light from a Belgian standing near. The Belgian gave it to him with Belgian kindness. A little knot of men stared at them. And that was all. It did not seem so bad.

“Poor fellows " sighed the Countess.

I assumed that the poor fellows had fallen out to mark the way for those who were to follow, though the route was already marked by arrows painted on boards that had been fixed to the trees. We waited, but no more came.

Then Bottaro-Costa came running up and said they were going by another route. We bade the Countess good-bye-she refused to accompany us - rushed down, and Bottaro-Costa, Villalobar, and I entered Villalobar's car and whirled away to the Rue Royale, where the chauffeur said the troops were passing. But no troops were there, and finding ourselves in the Rue de Ligne, we heard the steady drumming of horses' hoofs. Excited crowds were swaying this way and that, rushing uncertainly hither and thither; finally they took a more stable course, in the direction of the hoof-beats. We drove then to Ste.-Gudule, and, at Villalobar's insistence, out on to the terrace of the old church itself, overlooking the little Place du Parvis. And there, between the hedges of the silent crowds packed along the sidewalks, slowly descending the Rue Ste.- Gudule from the Treurenberg and turning into the Rue de la Montagne, which twisted away to our left, riding in column of twos, in the same grey uniforms, their black-and- white pennants fluttering from their lances, was a squadron of German hussars. And as they rode they chanted in rude chorus : "Heil dir im Siegeskranz."

It was very still; the crowds sullen and silent, there in the glitter of the sunlight-the horses' hoofs clattering on the stones of the uneven pavement, the lances swaying, the pennants fluttering, and that deep-throated chant, to the tune that we know as "America" and the British as "God Save the King" and over us the grey facades of the stately old church. The scene had the aspect of medievalism; something terrible too, that almost savage chant and those grey horsemen pouring down out of the Middle Ages into modern civilization.

Villalohar turned and looked at me. “We'll remember this scene," he said.

"And think where we are !" said Bottaro-Costa, glancing up at the two lofty towers of Ste.-Gudule behind us, looking down, as calmly as they had looked for seven centuries, on a scene. that was not, after all, new to them. They had seen Frenchmen and Austrians and Spaniards riding thus, singing their songs of conquest.

The column halted, the chanting ceased; the last two troopers promptly turned their horses round. No rear attacks ! Then after a moment they moved again, taking up their savage hymn, and, still singing in those hoarse gutturals, wound down and away and out of sight behind the walls, the tiles and the chimney-pots, where the Rue Ste.- Gudule turns into the Rue de la Montagne, and so to the Grand' Place. We thought we had seen it all, and turned away and drove back to the Italian Legation.

And as we turned into the Boulevard Bischoffsheim there was the German army. All that we had seen was but an advance guard, mere vedettes, for there, up and down the boulevard under the spreading branches of the trees, as far as we could see, were undulating, glinting fields of bayonets and a mighty grey, grim horde, a thing of steel, that came thundering on with shrill fifes and throbbing drums and clanging cymbals, nervous horses and lumbering guns and wild songs.

And this was Germany! Not the stolid, good-natured, smiling German of the glass of beer and tasselled pipe, whiling away a Sunday afternoon in his peaceful beer-garden, while a band plays Strauss waltzes, not the sentimentality of the blue flowers and moonlight on the castled Rhine, not the poetry of Goethe and Schiller, not the insipid sweet strains of Mendelssohn nor the profound harmonies of Wagner, nor the philosophy of Emmanuel Kant; but this dread thing, this monstrous anachronism, modern science yoked to the chariot of autocracy and driven by cruel will of the pagan world.

We sat there in the motor and stared at it. No one spoke for a long time. Then, as under scrutiny masses disintegrate into their component elements, we began to note individual details: the heavy guns that lurched by, their vicious mouths of steel lowered toward the ground; officers erect on their superb horses, some of them thin, of the Prussian type, with cruel faces scarred by duelling, wearing monocles and carrying English riding-crops; some of the heavier type, with rolls of fat, the mark of the beast, as Emerson says, at the back of the neck, and red, heavy, brutal faces, smoking cigarettes, looking about over the heads of the silent, awed, saddened crowd with arrogant, insolent, contemptuous glances. Their equipment, of course, was perfect ; sabres, revolvers in holsters, field-glasses, maps in a leather case with isinglass to protect them, small electric lamps slung about their necks-not a detail had been overlooked in those previsions of forty-four years.

The infantry marched in column of fours with heavy, methodical, German precision- squat Germans for the most part, their trousers untidily thrust in their heavy boots that drummed with iron-shod heels heavily on the pavement; an extra pair of boots dangled from each knapsack.

There were Germans of all the familiar German types: thick necks and flattened occiputs, low foreheads and yellow hair shaved closely, like convicts ; stolid, indifferent faces, with no ray of mirth or humour, but now and then eyes 6f the pale blue of porcelain gazing through spectacles-students, no doubt. Their low spiked helmets were covered with cloth of that same greenish-grey of the uniform; every bit of metal on the uniform, indeed, was covered, and in most instances the numbers on their shoulders were similarly concealed. They were all young men, strong, with long backs and short stout legs, hard thews and sinews, and all individuality, all initiative, had been drilled out of them; they plodded on with the dumb docility of fatalism,. and their officers, across the vast gulf that militarism places between officers and men, were as contemptuous of them as they were of the awed crowds along the sidewalks.

Cavalry, infantry, and artillery went by; each regiment of infantry was supported by a troop of cavalry and followed by a battery, forming integrally a unit. The infantry, trudging along, suddenly whistled to a tune that brought back instantly the memory of happy summers at home - "Every Little Movement has a Meaning of its Own" - though to them, of course, it was "Madame Sherry" heard in Germany; others sang the Austrian national hymn, and there was one company that sang something from Lohengrin. And how they sang! Efficiency, drill, discipline here but too apparent, for they sang all the parts like a Mannerchor, as though they had been trained - as no doubt they had.

The field-pieces rumbled by until we were weary of it all; there a long line of inverted steel pontoons, the mud of the Meuse still clinging to their bottoms; then the commissariat cook-stoves with fires burning and smoke coming from the short stacks, and soup simmering in the great kettles ; then regiments of hussars with black and white pennants, and ammunition-wagons innumerable.

And now and then, suddenly, far down the boulevard, we would hear the crash and blare of a military band, high, shrill, with fierce screaming notes, the horrid clang of mammoth brass cymbals-not music, but noise of a calculated savagery; to strike terror.

It became terrible, oppressive, unendurable, monstrous-those black guns on grey carriages and grey caissons; those field-grey uniforms ; the insolent faces of those supercilious young officers, scarred in their silly duels, wearing monocles ; those dull plodding soldiers, those backs, those thews and sinews, the heels of those clumsy boots drumming on the pavement. It was impressive as a spectacle, but with none of the inspiring effect of martial array; it was grim without any sublimity, businesslike but without the agreeable effect of harmony; a very parade of savagery, in every one of its implications horrible, appalling, dreadful. That organization of steel, however disciplined and efficient, was heavy and sodden; it was perhaps the chief victim of its own remorseless cruelty; seeking to gain the whole world it had lost its own soul.

We returned to the boulevard. It was, perhaps, five o'clock. The German hosts were still filing by, and we sat in the motor and watched, spellbound, for two hours while the grey-green hordes rolled by in undiminished, seemingly infinite numbers.

There was a commotion in the lines; a horse harnessed to a gun had fallen with the sickening effect of that spectacle. An artilleryman leaped from the caisson; an officer shouted a sharp order; the grey line debouched and went on. The dust beaten up by those thousands of heavy feet rose and obscured the sun-light, sifted into the trees, turning the green leaves into grey it settled into the grey uniforms, gave a grey aspect to the atmosphere, and as evening fell the grey hordes were filing by like grey ghosts in a grey twilight.

I had agreed to go with Villalobar at half-past six to the Hotel de Ville; it was then nearly seven. I found him waiting for me at my Legation, and we rolled away around by the Park and the Palace, through the Place Royale. As we turned to descend by the Rue de la Madeleine into the lower town. our progress was stayed by the crowds. The chauffeur kept his horn honking. And then suddenly there was a scream, the crowd swayed right and left and scattered; and, looking up; I saw an aeroplane hovering directly overhead, and from it there fell a stream of fire that broke out now and then in sparks. We said nothing, but each knew, of course, what the other was thinking - bombs! And then suddenly the long thin shaft of fire broke out into a pretty burst of coloured balls, like a skyrocket on the Fourth of July, and there was a long, deep sigh of relief from the crowd. What was it? I never knew. Some said that it was a signal to the army in the field.

We drove on to the Grand' Place, that square of golden beauty, and there already the artillery was parked and cook-stoves were steaming in preparation for supper; the soldiers were comfortably settling themselves, the horses munching their provender. The mounted sentinels at the entrances saluted as we entered.

We drove into the courtyard of the old Hotel de Ville and then mounted the grand staircase and went down the familiar halls to the Burgomaster's room. Tables were already set out covered with papers, and at them German officers in those pale bluish- grey coats one used to see all over Germany were busily writing. Four officers clicked their spurs together and made the stiff, punctilious German military bow, and thus received us. We explained our mission, and were shown into another room, with more clicking of spurs and more of those stiff bows. Here two men seated at tables spread with documents turned to receive us, but a short, stout and very dusty, rather bristling little man, giving orders right and left, turned and spoke. He wore riding-breeches, but had taken off his leather puttees and wore only his tan shoes. He spoke French with a German accent, and when I told him who I was he immediately said: "Oh yes, I know; you were in charge of the German interests."

With this he made another stiff little bow, his heels clicking again and again; he kept whirling about, indeed, clicking his heels as though bowing to everybody.

We were shown then into the Burgomaster's room. M. Max was sitting there at his great table, where we had seen him only the evening before; how long ago it seemed!

He received us with a weary smile. Poor man, what he had gone through!

"Jamais," he said, "je ne l'oublierai . . . jusqu' la fin de ma vie.”

We expressed our sympathy and then our appreciation of his good sense in withdrawing resistance; after seeing the army we had beheld that afternoon-in sheer efficiency the most remarkable, I suppose, the world has ever known - we shuddered to think of what would have happened if the poor little Gardes Civiques had stood against it.

M.Max sent a huissier to inform the General of our presence, and the messenger came back to say that the General was taking a bath. We sat down to wait, and while we waited M. Max told us of what he had gone through; and first that his relations with the General were difficult and embarrassing.

"J'ai refusé de lui serrer la main," he explained.

He would stay, he said, in his Hotel de Ville until the end. He told us then what he had not told us the evening before - that all the preceding day he had been in communication with the German army to the east of the city and with the King in Antwerp. The Germans had demanded hostages, the Burgomaster, the members of the Conseil Municipal, twenty notables, and a war contribution of fifty million francs, to say nothing of enormous quantities of food and forage. M. Max refused the hostages - the word had such a medieval sound that my hair almost stood on end - held out, and gained his point. But the levy must be paid. We renewed our compliments.

“J'ai fait mon devoir," he said simply.

Then he told us the news. “The General Staff had fallen back from Malines on Antwerp, and there the remnants of the Belgian army were to be gathered, for we must save what remains of our army, there is no way to get another." And for three days the Germans were to pass through Brussels.

The twilight seemed to have gathered earlier that evening. In the Grand' Place the field-kitchens steamed, and at each entrance there were the dark silhouettes of the Uhlans on guard. Under the spreading trees along the boulevards the dust hung like fog, and each of the street lamps glowed at the centre of a luminous ball. In the shadows were small groups of men in spiritless discussion ; their faces, when one could see them, were sad, and there were those who went weeping through the gloom. The houses were all closed and dark. And the grey hordes continued to shuffle down the Chaussee de Louvain and along the boulevards. Only in the Palace Hotel was there light and brilliancy, for there the officers of the German army were dining.

The city was strangely still, overwhelmed in its sorrow; and weary to the very bones, and sick at heart, I went home with the sensations of one who had been compelled to witness a shameful deed in the humiliation of the proud, beautiful, sensitive living creature that had been Brussels.

We had expected McCutcheon, Cobb, Irwin, and Arno Dorch to dine with us that night. Eight o'clock came and they did not appear, nor had we any news of them. In their stead, and in their places at the table, there was another guest, always punctual, come to stay a long time-old haggard Care. I felt the load of a great responsibility that settled down familiarly on shoulders that had borne through so many years the burdens of another city, and I worried now about these old, these somewhat too reckless and adventurous friends.

Then in the evening came Monseigneur Sarzana, the auditor of the Papal Nunciature, to inform me that the Pope had died that afternoon at half-past one o'clock. He sat there in his long black soutane, distress in his Italian countenance, as though the world had come to an end and the heavens were about to be rolled together like a scroll.

There was, of course, the note of irony inevitable in all human catastrophe. The latest edition of Le Soir was lying on my table, with whole columns staring blank and white- the mark of the censor. But its leading article said that the situation was excellent, that the French and English armies were on the way, and that the future could be viewed with confidence !



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