streets and streets of ashes and crumbled brick--and I seemed to see
again the ruins of ancient Troy in Asia Minor, which are not more
complete. Someone murmured, "Pompeii." But it is not comparable. The
ages have woven about the broken columns of Pompeii a light film of
romance and a bit of tender beauty springs up with the tiny, flowering
weeds which push their way to the sun between many colored tiles. Here,
the tragedy is too new; too crude; too bleeding!
The only living things I saw were a cat scampering down a deserted
alley, and one man--half-dazed, looking at what was probably his own
ruined home; the only wall to be seen which was, even in part, standing.
It must have been an ironmonger's shop, for some black kettles still
hung on nails against the stone, and iron stoves in all their bleakness
stood up in bold relief on piles of ashes.
When the Germans came to Vise the commanding officer called the people
together in the market place and harangued them at length, threatening
them with dreadful punishments if they did not do so and so. He felt he
had to, doubtless, as the town and the surrounding country are well
known centers of the firearms industry; the peasants work in their own
homes to a large extent and are very expert in the making of delicate
weapons and also in their use.
So, when the sturdy Belgians could not digest another single threat,
apparently, somebody fired a shot from the crowd which killed the
officer while he was speaking. Then followed that frightful slaughter
and the firing of the town, the remnants of which we saw to-day. Nobody
on earth will ever know who fired the shot, probably, for the soldiers
hate their officers and already German bullets have been found in German
9 A. M. Over the frontier! Oh, the joy of it--the indescribable
relief--the wet-eyed thankfulness! Shall I ever forget it? I did not
know until then what depths Tyranny had furrowed into my consciousness.
Here were men and women laughing and talking in the streets and people
daring to drive in their own carriages, and everybody reading
newspapers--I felt as if I would spend my last sou for one.
The day was spent in wandering aimlessly over the old town. The wind was
bitterly piercing and a fog hung over the canal but I was not altogether
aware of bodily discomfort. My mind, trying to adjust itself to new
conditions, was in a haze, staggering back and forth from the
consciousness of regained freedom to servitude and from barbarism to
At three P. M. the train left for Flushing, where we were to
take the boat for Folkestone, England. Just before it pulled out of the
station, a friend of Comtesse de M. rushed up to the car window and
said, "Madame, must you go? We have just received a dispatch saying that
a big boat has been sunk today by a mine near Boulogne." But nothing on
earth could have deterred us then.Download<<BackPagesMainNext>>