From the pretty town of Sluys in the Netherland part of Flanders I made a good many trips to the Belgian coastal regions and the Yser, the little river that will always be named in history, because there came the end of the German advance, and there the Belgian army displayed all its power, fighting with the courage of lions in defence of the last bit of their native soil.CHAPTER XIII105
"Oh, go on!" I answered. "I don't think that I need fear anything of the kind. I am in any case a Netherlander!"Major and Commanding Officer."On the day of my stay at Charleroi, at about seven o'clock in the evening, there was a good deal of bustle round about the station, many trains from Maubeuge arriving. One of these trains was entirely filled by officers of the garrison who had been taken prisoner. Another carried only wounded Germans, lying on light stretchers, on which they were transported through the streets to the hospitals at Charleroi. Many had fearful wounds, and convulsively held their hands on the injured parts, while others lay still, the pallor of death on their face. Maubeuge must have cost the Germans enormous sacrifices, as for many of the wretched wounded no room could be found at Charleroi, and they had to be taken farther by train, to Namur or Brussels.
May all the nations of the world after the war collaborate to compensate Louvain for her martyrdom, see that this city shall be restored to her former, happy prosperity, and get a library which approaches as much as possible the one she lost. The Germans can probably do their part by investigating where the motor-cars went which left the Halls on that wretched Tuesday night, heavily laden with books.Arrived at Riempst I found the pretty village church in its full glory and the vicar engaged in performing his religious functions; the vicar of Sichem was also still at home. The only part of the report that was true was that various burgomasters from the environs had been sent to Tongres and had not returned since. The burgomaster of Riempst, with whom I had been imprisoned already once, was being searched for by the Germans everywhere, but could not be found. In several places I heard also that the Belgians were lying in the woods round about, and that something was being prepared at Riempst; but no one knew what. So I decided to go and inquire.
CHAPTER XII"The first day the religious were allowed to give them some food, although not sufficient. Soon they had nothing to eat but carrots and unripe fruit.The beastly scenes which I witnessed in the glaring, scorching heat benumbed me, and I looked on vacantly for a long time. At last I went back and called at St. Hadelin College, the Head of which I had visited already once or twice. The building was still undamaged.
Evidently he seemed to confide in me, and told me that they had been ordered to clear the north-east corner of Belgium of enemies, and that by and by they were going to march upon Lanaeken first of all.They made also sad havoc of the Boulevard de Namur. Many mansions of the aristocracy had been destroyed and many people killed. There were corpses still lying on the Boulevard as I passed, all in a state of decay. The smell was unbearable and the sight loathsome, especially when I saw several drunken soldiers insulting the bodies of these unfortunate people.CHAPTER VII
On the road from Borgloon to Thienen I had a chat with an old crone, who stood weeping by the ruins of her miserable little cottage, which she refused to leave. This little house, which strenuous zeal had enabled her to buy, was all she possessed on earth besides her two sons, both fallen through the murderous lead of those barbarians, and buried in the little garden at the back of their ruined home. Of another family, living close by, the father and two sons were murdered in the same way.All houses were on fire, and every now and then walls fell down with a roar of thunder, shrouding the greater part of the street in a thick cloud of suffocating smoke and dust. Sometimes I had to run to escape from the filthy mass. On several walls an order was written in chalk directing the men to come to the market-place to assist in extinguishing the fire, and the women to stay indoors. As soon as the order had been obeyed the Germans drove the men from the market to the station, where they were packed in trucks like cattle.A short distance beyond this little caf茅 lies the large bridge across the Meuse. Before the Germans arrived it was partly destroyed by the Belgians, but so inadequately that obviously the enemy could repair it easily. Bombs were therefore fired regularly from Fort Pontisse at the bridge, and only an hour ago it had been hit, with the result that a big hole was made in the undamaged part. In the road also big holes were made by the exploding projectiles. Having passed underneath the viaduct of the bridge, I found myself opposite Vis茅 on the sloping bank of the Meuse. Two boys had been commanded by the Germans to work the ferry-30boat for them, and after I had shown them my passport, they took me to the other side.
166 "The inquiry also brought to light that the German soldiers on the right bank, who were exposed to the fire of the French, hid themselves here and there behind civilians, women and children.As dusk came on nearly the whole population of Maastricht, with all their temporary guests, formed an endless procession and went to invoke God's mercy by the Virgin Mary's intercession. They went to Our Lady's Church, in which stands the miraculous statue of Sancta Maria Stella Maris. The procession filled all the principal streets and squares of the town. I took my stand at the corner of the Vrijthof, where all marched past me, men, women, and children, all praying aloud, with loud voices beseeching: "Our Lady, Star of the Sea, pray for us ... pray for us ... pray for us ...!""I believe that it is my duty to take that task upon me, assisted by some well-known burgesses, who have undertaken to stand by me.
CHAPTER XIWhen I was eating a little at one of the hotels near the railway station, I was offered the newspaper l'Ami de l'Ordre, which had appeared again for the first time on that day, September 7th, under the Censorship of the German authorities. For curiosity's sake I translate here the first leaderette, published under the rule of the new masters:鈥擨n Tongres it was necessary to get a passport signed, and pay three marks each, and ten marks for the motor. But the office of the commander was not open before three o'clock in the afternoon, according to the soldiers who were doing sentry-go in front of the town-hall. Wait till three o'clock? No fear! My companion showed his miraculous paper again, and was allowed to go in, but only by himself. I gave him my papers and those of the chauffeur, and also wanted to give him sixteen marks, three each for the chauffeur and myself and ten for the motor, but he said that that was un197necessary. Within twenty minutes the fellow came back with our verified passports on which the words "Paid: Free" were written.
WITH THE FLEMINGSThe history of the destruction of Vis茅 affords also interesting support to my opinion, as previously expressed, that the violent actions of the Germans took place according to a fully thought-out design."Of course, captain; everything is properly signed, stamped, and legalised."
I saw some extremely poor people, very old and stiff, to whom walking was nearly impossible. A Bavarian soldier escorted them. He had his rifle slung across his back and in both hands carried the luggage of the unfortunate creatures. He seemed to have come a long way already, for he looked tired, and the perspiration ran down his face. Although it is only natural to assist one's fellow-creatures, this scene touched me, for hitherto I had seen the Germans commit rough, inhuman deeds only.Soldiers came from and went back to the Yser, which river I saw three times during the fierce fighting.Two South-American boys, about twelve years old, had stayed on and heroically assisted the Head at his charitable work. Dr. Goffin was not allowed to take anybody with him except these two children in his search for the wounded, and to bury the dead. It is scarcely credible how courageously these boys of such tender age behaved. Later the83 Chilean ambassador made inquiries about them and asked for their portraits.详情
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