Monday, September 1, 2014
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Arthur Guy Empey was a member of the US Cavalry who resigned to volunteer for the British Army during World War One. He was wounded during the Battle of the Somme. When the US entered the war, he tried to rejoin the Army, but was rejected because of his wounds and possibly because of some disparaging comments about American draftees. He wrote a book, Over the Top, about his experiences during the war. With the 100th anniversary of the war, I thought it might be interesting to post his story. Empey later became a prolific pulp magazine author, a movie star and producer, and a playwright.
"OVER THE TOP"
AN AMERICAN SOLDIER WHO WENT
ARTHUR GUY EMPEYMACHINE GUNNER, SERVING IN FRANCE
TOMMY'S DICTIONARY OF THE TRENCHES
16 ILLUSTRATIONS >AND DIAGRAMS
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
Tbe Knickerbocker press
NEW YORK AND LONDON
TO MY MOTHER AND MY SISTERI have had many good comrades as I have journeyed around the world, before the mast and in the trenches, but loyal and true as they were, none have ever done, or could ever do, as much as you have done for me. So as a little token of my gratitude for your love and sacrifice I dedicate this book to you.
FOREWORDDuring sixteen years of "roughing it," knocking around the world, I have rubbed against the high and low and have had ample opportunity of studying, at close range, many different peoples, their ideals, political and otherwise, their hopes and principles. Through this elbow rubbing, and not from reading, I have become convinced of the nobility, truth, and justice of the Allies' cause, and know their fight to be our fight, because it espouses the principles of the United States of America, democracy, justice, and liberty.
To the average American who has not lived and fought with him, the Englishman appears to be distant, reserved, a slow thinker, and lacking in humor, but from my association with the man who inhabits the British Isles, I find that this opinion is unjust. To me, Tommy Atkins has proved himself to be the best of mates, a pal, and bubbling over with a fine sense of humor, a man with a just cause who is willing to sacrifice everything but honor in the advancement of the same.
It is my fondest hope that Uncle Sam and John Bull, arms locked, as mates, good and true, each knowing and appreciating the worth of the other, will wend their way through the years to come, happy and contented in each other's company. So if this poor attempt of mine will, in any way, help to bring Tommy Atkins closer to the doorstep of Uncle Sam, my ambition will have been realized.
Perhaps to some of my readers it will appear that I have written of a great and just cause in a somewhat flippant manner, but I assure them such was not my intention. I have tried to tell my experiences in the language of Tommy sitting on the fire step of a front-line trench on the Western Front—just as he would tell his mate next him what was happening at a different part of the line.
A. G. E.
New York City,
OVER THE TOP
FROM MUFTI TO KHAKIIT was in an office in Jersey City. I was sitting at my desk talking to a Lieutenant of the Jersey National Guard. On the wall was a big war map decorated with variously colored little flags showing the position of the opposing armies on the Western Front in France. In front of me on the desk lay a New York paper with big flaring head lines:
LUSITANIA SUNK! AMERICAN LIVES LOST!
The windows were open and a feeling of spring pervaded the air. Through the open windows came the strains of a hurdy-gurdy playing in the street -- I Didn't Raise my Boy to be a Soldier.
"Lusitania Sunk! American Lives Lost!"— I Didn't Raise my Boy to be a Soldier." To us these did not seem to jibe.
The Lieutenant in silence opened one of the lower drawers of his desk and took from it an American flag which he solemnly draped over the war map on the wall. Then, turning to me with a grim face, said:
"How about it, Sergeant? You had better get out the muster roll of the Mounted Scouts, as I think they will be needed in the course of a few days."
We busied ourselves till late in the evening writing out emergency telegrams for the men to report when the call should come from Washington. Then we went home.
I crossed over to New York, and as I went up Fulton Street to take the Subway to Brooklyn, the lights in the tall buildings of New York seemed to be burning brighter than usual, as if they, too, had read "Lusitania Sunk! American Lives Lost!" They seemed to be glowing with anger and righteous indignation, and their rays wigwagged the message, "REPAY!"
Months passed, the telegrams lying handy, but covered with dust. Then, one momentous morning the Lieutenant with a sigh of disgust removed the flag from the war map and returned to his desk. I immediately followed this action by throwing the telegrams into the wastebasket. Then we looked at each other in silence. He was squirming in his chair and I felt depressed and uneasy.
The telephone rang and I answered it. It was a business call for me requesting my services for an out-of-town assignment. Business was not very good, so this was very welcome. After listening to the proposition, I seemed to be swayed by a peculiarly strong force within me, and answered, "I am sorry that I cannot accept your offer, but I am leaving for England next week," and hung up the receiver. The Lieutenant swung around in his chair, and stared at me in blank astonishment. A sinking sensation came over me, but I defiantly answered his look with, "Well, it's so. I'm going." And I went.
The trip across was uneventful. I landed at Tilbury, England, then got into a string of matchbox cars and proceeded to London, arriving there about 10 P.m. I took a room in a hotel near St. Pancras Station for "five and six—fire extra." The room was minus the fire, but the "extra" seemed to keep me warm. That night there was a Zeppelin raid, but I didn't see much of it, because the slit in the curtains was too small and I had no desire to make it larger. Next morning the telephone bell rang, and someone asked, "Are you there?" I was, hardly. Anyway, I learned that the Zeps had returned to their Fatherland, so I went out into the street expecting to see scenes of awful devastation and a cowering populace, but everything was normal. People were calmly proceeding to their work. Crossing the street, I accosted a Bobbie with:
"Can you direct me to the place of damage?"
He asked me, "What damage?"
In surprise, I answered, "Why, the damage caused by the Zeps."
With a wink, he replied: "There was no damage, we missed them again."
After several fruitless inquiries of the passersby, I decided to go on my own in search of ruined buildings and scenes of destruction. I boarded a bus which carried me through Tottenham Court Road. Recruiting posters were everywhere. The one that impressed me most was a life-size picture of Lord Kitchener with his finger pointing directly at me, under the caption of "Your King and Country Need You." No matter which way I turned, the accusing finger followed me. I was an American, in mufti, and had a little American flag in the lapel of my coat. I had no king, and my country had seen fit not to need me, but still that pointing finger made me feel small and ill at ease. I got off the bus to try to dissipate this feeling by mixing with the throng of the sidewalks.
Presently I came to a recruiting office. Inside, sitting at a desk was a lonely Tommy Atkins. I decided to interview him in regard to joining the British Army. I opened the door. He looked up and greeted me with "I s'y, myte, want to tyke on?"
I looked at him and answered, "Well, whatever that is, I'll take a chance at it."
Without the aid of an interpreter, I found out that Tommy wanted to know if I cared to join the British Army. He asked me: "Did you ever hear of the Royal Fusiliers?" Well, in London you know, Yanks are supposed to know everything, so I was not going to appear ignorant and answered, "Sure."
After listening for one half-hour to Tommy's tale of their exploits on the firing line, I decided to join. Tommy took me to the recruiting headquarters where I met a typical English Captain. He asked my nationality. I immediately pulled out my American passport and showed it to him. It was signed by Lansing,— Bryan had lost his job a little while previously. After looking at the passport, he informed me that he was sorry but could not enlist me, as it would be a breach of neutrality. I insisted that I was not neutral, because to me it seemed that a real American could not be neutral when big things were in progress, but the Captain would not enlist me.
With disgust in my heart I went out in the street. I had gone about a block when a recruiting Sergeant who had followed me out of the office tapped me on the shoulder with his swagger stick and said: "S'y, I can get you in the Army. We have a 'Leftenant' down at the other office who can do anything. He has just come out of the O. T. C. (Officers' Training Corps) and does not know what neutrality is." I decided to take a chance, and accepted his invitation for an introduction to the Lieutenant. I entered the office and went up to him, opened up my passport, and said:
"Before going further I wish to state that I am an American, not too proud to fight, and want to join your army."
He looked at me in a nonchalant manner, and answered, "That's all right, we take anything over here."
I looked at him kind of hard and replied, "So I notice," but it went over his head.
He got out an enlistment blank, and placing his finger on a blank line said, "Sign here."
I answered, "Not on your tintype."
"I beg your pardon?"
Then I explained to him that I would not sign it without first reading it. I read it over and signed for duration of war. Some of the recruits were lucky. They signed for seven years only.
Then he asked me my birthplace. I answered, "Ogden, Utah."
He said, "Oh yes, just outside of New York?"
With a smile, I replied, "Well, it's up the State a little."
Then I was taken before the doctor and passed as physically fit, and was issued a uniform. When I reported back to the Lieutenant, he suggested that, being an American, I go on recruiting service and try to shame some of the slackers into joining the Army.
"All you have to do," he said, "is to go out on the street, and when you see a young fellow in mufti who looks physically fit, just stop him and give him this kind of a talk: 'Aren't you ashamed of yourself, a Britisher, physically fit, and in mufti when your King and Country need you? Don't you know that your country is at war and that the place for every young Briton is on the firing line? Here I am, an American, in khaki, who came four thousand miles to fight for your King and Country, and you, as yet, have not enlisted. Why don't you join? Now is the time.'
"This argument ought to get many recruits, Empey, so go out and see what you can do."
He then gave me a small rosette of red, white, and blue ribbon, with three little streamers hanging down. This was the recruiting insignia and was to be worn on the left side of the cap.
Armed with a swagger stick and my patriotic rosette I went out into Tottenham Court Road in quest of cannon fodder.
Two or three poorly dressed civilians passed me, and although they appeared physically fit, I said to myself, "They don't want to join the army; perhaps they have someone dependent on them for support," so I did not accost them.
Coming down the street I saw a young dandy, top hat and all, with a fashionably dressed girl walking beside him. I muttered, "You are my meat," and when he came abreast of me I stepped directly in his path and stopped him with my swagger stick, saying:
"You would look fine in khaki, why not change that top hat for a steel helmet? Aren't you ashamed of yourself, a husky young chap like you in mufti when men are needed in the trenches? Here I am, an American, came four thousand miles from Ogden, Utah, just outside of New York, to fight for your King and Country. Don't be a slacker, buck up and get into uniform; come over to the recruiting office and I'll have you enlisted."
He yawned and answered, "I don't care if you came forty thousand miles, no one asked you to," and he walked on. The girl gave me a sneering look; I was speechless.
I recruited for three weeks and nearly got one recruit.
This perhaps was not the greatest stunt in the world, but it got back at the officer who had told me, "Yes, we take anything over here." I had been spending a good lot of my recruiting time in the saloon bar of the "Wheat Sheaf" pub (there was a very attractive blonde barmaid, who helped kill time—I was not as serious in those days as I was a little later when I reached the front)—well, it was the sixth day and my recruiting report was blank. I was getting low in the pocket—barmaids haven't much use for anyone who cannot buy drinks—so I looked around for recruiting material. You know a man on recruiting service gets a "bob" or shilling for every recruit he entices into joining the army, the recruit is supposed to get this, but he would not be a recruit if he were wise to this fact, would he?
Down at the end of the bar was a young fellow in mufti who was very patriotic—he had about four "Old Six" ales aboard. He asked me if he could join, showed me his left hand, two fingers were missing, but I said that did not matter as "we take anything over here." The left hand is the rifle hand as the piece is carried at the slope on the left shoulder. Nearly everything in England is "by the left," even general traffic keeps to the port side.
I took the applicant over to headquarters where he was hurriedly examined. Recruiting surgeons were busy in those days and did not have much time for thorough physical examinations. My recruit was passed as "fit" by the doctor and turned over to a Corporal to make note of his scars. I was mystified. Suddenly the Corporal burst out with, "Blime me (Blimey - JT), two of his fingers are gone"; turning to me he said, "You certainly have your nerve with you, not 'alf you ain't, to bring this beggar in."
The doctor came over and exploded, "What do you mean by bringing in a man in this condition?"
Looking out of the corner of my eye I noticed that the officer who had recruited me had joined the group, and I could not help answering, "Well, sir, I was told that you took anything over here."
I think they called it "Yankee impudence," anyhow it ended my recruiting.
Friday, August 29, 2014
SMS Leipzig was a German light cruiser commissioned in 1906. She left China with Graf Maximilian von Spee's East Asia Squadron when World War One broke out. In August, 1914, Leipzig visited San Francisco to replenish her coal supply. There were restrictions on how long a belligerent vessel could spend in a neutral port. The article is from the 22-August-1914 Pacific Rural Press. The photo is from the excellent website The Coronel Memorial (http://www.coronel.org.uk/). Leipzig went down with most of the rest of the East Asia Squadron in the Battle of the Falkland Islands.
This Makes Us Seasick.
It is indicative of the decline of sensational apprehension of evil, which a war-outbreak engenders, to find that our grain-laden ships are going out to brave the new dangers of the deep. The German cruiser Leipsic coaled in San Francisco on Monday, getting just enough to carry her about 4000 miles to the nearest German possession in Samoa and as she cannot get any more American coal for three months, it is thought she will beat it for home and not burn up her fuel waiting for prizes in our part of the Pacific. This clears us of German trouble, for Japan will keep their Asiatic squadron busy, and as for Hungarian war vessels, they seem to be looking for McGinty. Besides, exchange with England and other European countries has been reopened and war risks on merchantmen are taken by the British government. It seems likely then that all the laden ships in the bay will be going out and all idle ships will take whatever grain we have to spare. But there is trouble for the shippers of canned goods, for two English steamship lines that transport virtually all the canned goods from California to Great Britain have advised shippers that while their lines are ready to resume business, they will not supply steamers at rates contracted for, but will increase rates, and unless this increase is complied with the lines will tie up. Really the rate ought to be reduced instead of increased, because half the time can now be saved by canal, a fact not considered when the contracts were made. This act is likely to bring these Welchers up against a federal grand jury, which is more dangerous than a German cruiser.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
We visited the Blackhawk Museum in June, 2013 to drool over their collection of classic autos. This 1951 Jaguar C-Type Racer is number 14 of 53 built. C-Types won Le Mans in 1951 and 1953.
When I see Jaguars, I always think of San Francisco columnist Herb Caen, who had a love-hate relationship with the marque. I believe he wrote "Owning a Jaguar is like having a beautiful mistress with a social disease." I think newer Jaguars don't leak oil.
Be sure to click on the image to see a larger version. (051/dsc_0074)
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
From The New York Courier and International Topics, 27-February-1915.
The highest commendation for and the best description of The Valley of Fear (Doran) is that it is a genuine Sherlock Holmes novel, with all the suspense of The Sign of the Four and The Hound of the Baskervilles, and all the charm of personality which in Sherlock Holmes is added to his fascination as a detective. In an old English house is a murder mystery which seems insoluble. Guess as he may, the reader cannot find the surprising solution of the mystery which Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson unearth. Then the scene of the story suddenly changes to America and the murder syndicate of an anarchistic community. Here broods the shadow of horrible fear, but it is dissipated by the investigations and dramatic coup of a man who is as strange and interesting a character as any one whom Conan Doyle has depicted.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Monday, August 25, 2014
100 years ago the German Army, in the process of violating the neutrality of Belgium, burned much of the city of Louvain (Leuven), including the university's renowned library. The Germans made crazy claims that the son of the burgomaster had shot a German officer, but that did not happen. The Germans did execute civilians and burn much of the town. The Hotel de Ville and the Church of St. Pierre were not completely destroyed, only damaged. I doubt anyone on the ground signaled targets to the Zeppelin which bombed the city. The author mentions Vera Cruz because the United States invaded and occupied it in 1914 during the Mexican Revolution to protect American business interests.
After the war, the university's great library, which had held a huge collection of medieval manuscripts and early printed books, was rebuilt with the help of many donations from Britain and the United States. The new building opened in 1928. In 1940, German shelling set the new library on fire and destroyed it.
American war correspondent Richard Harding Davis was passing through Louvain in 1914. He wrote about it in his book With the Allies. The photograph is from the book. Click on it to see a larger version.
"At Louvain it was war upon the defenseless, war upon churches, colleges, shops of milliners and lace-makers; war brought to the bedside and the fireside; against women harvesting in the fields, against children in wooden shoes at play in the streets"
The Burning of Louvain
After the Germans occupied Brussels they closed the road to Aix-la-Chapelle. A week later, to carry their wounded and prisoners, they reopened it. But for eight days Brussels was isolated. The mail-trains and the telegraph office were in the hands of the invaders. They accepted our cables, censored them, and three days later told us, if we still wished, we could forward them. But only from Holland. By this they accomplished three things: they learned what we were writing about them, for three days prevented any news from leaving the city, and offered us an inducement to visit Holland, so getting rid of us.
The dispatches of those diplomats who still remained in Brussels were treated in the same manner. With the most cheerful complacency the military authorities blue-penciled their dispatches to their governments. When the diplomats learned of this, with their code cables they sent open cables stating that their confidential dispatches were being censored and delayed. They still were delayed. To get any message out of Brussels it was necessary to use an automobile, and nearly every automobile had taken itself off to Antwerp. If a motor-car appeared it was at once commandeered. This was true also of horses and bicycles. All over Brussels you saw delivery wagons, private carriages, market carts with the shafts empty and the horse and harness gone. After three days a German soldier who did not own a bicycle was poor indeed.
Requisitions were given for these machines, stating they would be returned after the war, by which time they will be ready for the scrapheap. Any one on a bicycle outside the city was arrested, so the only way to get messages through was by going on foot to Ostend or Holland, or by an automobile for which the German authorities had given a special pass. As no one knew when one of these automobiles might start, we carried always with us our cables and letters, and entrusted them to any stranger who was trying to run the lines.
No one wished to carry our dispatches, as he feared they might contain something unfavorable to the Germans, which, if he were arrested and the cables read, might bring him into greater trouble. Money for himself was no inducement. But I found if I gave money for the Red Cross no one would refuse it, or to carry the messages.
Three out of four times the stranger would be arrested and ordered back to Brussels, and our dispatches, with their news value departed, would be returned.
An account of the Germans entering Brussels I sent by an English boy named Dalton, who, after being turned back three times, got through by night, and when he arrived in England his adventures were published in all the London papers. They were so thrilling that they made my story, for which he had taken the trip, extremely tame reading.
Hugh Gibson, secretary of the American legation, was the first person in an official position to visit Antwerp after the Belgian Government moved to that city, and, even with his passes and flag flying from his automobile, he reached Antwerp and returned to Brussels only after many delays and adventures. Not knowing the Belgians were advancing from the north, Gibson and his American flag were several times under fire, and on the days he chose for his excursion his route led him past burning towns and dead and wounded and between the lines of both forces actively engaged.
He was carrying dispatches from Brand Whitlock to Secretary Bryan. During the night he rested at Antwerp the first Zeppelin air-ship to visit that city passed over it, dropping one bomb at the end of the block in which Gibson was sleeping. He was awakened by the explosion and heard all of those that followed.
The next morning he was requested to accompany a committee appointed by the Belgian Government to report upon the outrage, and he visited a house that had been wrecked, and saw what was left of the bodies of those killed. People who were in the streets when the air-ship passed said it moved without any sound, as though the motor had been shut off and it was being propelled by momentum.
One bomb fell so near the palace where the Belgian Queen was sleeping as to destroy the glass in the windows and scar the walls. The bombs were large, containing smaller bombs of the size of shrapnel. Like shrapnel, on impact they scattered bullets over a radius of forty yards. One man, who from a window in the eighth story of a hotel watched the airship pass, stated that before each bomb fell he saw electric torches signal from the roofs, as though giving directions as to where the bombs should strike.
After my arrest by the Germans, I found my usefulness in Brussels as a correspondent was gone, and I returned to London, and from there rejoined the Allies in Paris.
I left Brussels on August 27th with Gerald Morgan and Will Irwin, of Collier's, on a train carrying English prisoners and German wounded. In times of peace the trip to the German border lasts three hours, but in making it we were twenty-six hours, and by order of the authorities we were forbidden to leave the train.
Carriages with cushions naturally were reserved for the wounded, so we slept on wooden benches and on the floor. It was not possible to obtain food, and water was as scarce. At Graesbeek, ten miles from Brussels, we first saw houses on fire. They continued with us to Liège.
Village after village had been completely wrecked. In his march to the sea Sherman lived on the country. He did not destroy it, and as against the burning of Columbia must be placed to the discredit of the Germans the wiping out of an entire countryside.
For many miles we saw procession after procession of peasants fleeing from one burning village, which had been their home, to other villages, to find only blackened walls and smoldering ashes. In no part of northern Europe is there a countryside fairer than that between Aix-la-Chapelle and Brussels, but the Germans had made of it a graveyard. It looked as though a cyclone had uprooted its houses, gardens, and orchards and a prairie fire had followed.
At seven o'clock in the evening we arrived at what for six hundred years had been the city of Louvain. The Germans were burning it, and to hide their work kept us locked in the railroad carriages. But the story was written against the sky, was told to us by German soldiers incoherent with excesses; and we could read it in the faces of women and children being led to concentration camps and of citizens on their way to be shot.
The day before the Germans had sentenced Louvain to become a wilderness, and with German system and love of thoroughness they left Louvain an empty, blackened shell. The reason for this appeal to the torch and the execution of non-combatants, as given to Mr. Whitlock and myself on the morning I left Brussels by General von Lutwitz, the military governor, was this: The day before, while the German military commander of the troops in Louvain was at the Hotel de Ville talking to the burgomaster, a son of the burgomaster, with an automatic pistol, shot the chief of staff and German staff surgeons.
Lutwitz claimed this was the signal for the civil guard, in civilian clothes on the roofs, to fire upon the German soldiers in the open square below. He said also the Belgians had quick-firing guns, brought from Antwerp. As for a week the Germans had occupied Louvain and closely guarded all approaches, the story that there was any gun-running is absurd.
"Fifty Germans were killed and wounded," said Lutwitz, "and for that Louvain must be wiped out—so!" In pantomime with his fist he swept the papers across his table.
"The Hotel de Ville," he added, "was a beautiful building; it is a pity it must be destroyed."
Were he telling us his soldiers had destroyed a kitchen-garden, his tone could not have expressed less regret.
Ten days before I had been in Louvain, when it was occupied by Belgian troops and King Albert and his staff. The city dates from the eleventh century, and the population was forty-two thousand. The citizens were brewers, lace-makers, and manufacturers of ornaments for churches. The university once was the most celebrated in European cities and was the headquarters of the Jesuits.
In the Louvain College many priests now in America have been educated, and ten days before, over the great yellow walls of the college, I had seen hanging two American flags. I had found the city clean, sleepy, and pretty, with narrow twisting streets and smart shops and cafes. Set in flower gardens were the houses, with red roofs, green shutters, and white walls.
Over those that faced south had been trained pear-trees, their branches, heavy with fruit, spread out against the walls like branches of candelabra. The town hall was an example of Gothic architecture, in detail and design more celebrated even than the town hall of Bruges or Brussels. It was five hundred years old, and lately had been repaired with taste and at great cost.
Opposite was the Church of St. Pierre, dating from the fifteenth century, a very noble building, with many chapels filled with carvings of the time of the Renaissance in wood, stone, and iron. In the university were one hundred and fifty thousand volumes.
Near it was the bronze statue of Father Damien, priest of the leper colony in the South Pacific, of whom Robert Louis Stevenson wrote.
On the night of the 27th these buildings were empty, exploded cartridges. Statues, pictures, carvings, parchments, archives—all these were gone.
No one defends the sniper. But because ignorant Mexicans, when their city was invaded, fired upon our sailors, we did not destroy Vera Cruz. Even had we bombarded Vera Cruz, money could have restored that city. Money can never restore Louvain. Great architects and artists, dead these six hundred years, made it beautiful, and their handiwork belonged to the world. With torch and dynamite the Germans turned those masterpieces into ashes, and all the Kaiser's horses and all his men cannot bring them back again.
When our troop train reached Louvain, the entire heart of the city was destroyed, and the fire had reached the Boulevard Tirlemont, which faces the railroad station. The night was windless, and the sparks rose in steady, leisurely pillars, falling back into the furnace from which they sprang. In their work the soldiers were moving from the heart of the city to the outskirts, street by street, from house to house.
In each building they began at the first floor and, when that was burning steadily, passed to the one next. There were no exceptions— whether it was a store, chapel, or private residence, it was destroyed. The occupants had been warned to go, and in each deserted shop or house the furniture was piled, the torch was stuck under it, and into the air went the savings of years, souvenirs of children, of parents, heirlooms that had passed from generation to generation.
The people had time only to fill a pillowcase and fly. Some were not so fortunate, and by thousands, like flocks of sheep, they were rounded up and marched through the night to concentration camps. We were not allowed to speak to any citizen of Louvain, but the Germans crowded the windows of the train, boastful, gloating, eager to interpret.
In the two hours during which the train circled the burning city war was before us in its most hateful aspect.
In other wars I have watched men on one hilltop, without haste, without heat, fire at men on another hill, and in consequence on both sides good men were wasted. But in those fights there were no women or children, and the shells struck only vacant stretches of veldt or uninhabited mountain sides.
At Louvain it was war upon the defenseless, war upon churches, colleges, shops of milliners and lace-makers; war brought to the bedside and the fireside; against women harvesting in the fields, against children in wooden shoes at play in the streets.
At Louvain that night the Germans were like men after an orgy.
There were fifty English prisoners, erect and soldierly. In the ocean of gray the little patch of khaki looked pitifully lonely, but they regarded the men who had outnumbered but not defeated them with calm, uncurious eyes. In one way I was glad to see them there. Later they will bear witness. They will tell how the enemy makes a wilderness and calls it war. It was a most weird picture. On the high ground rose the broken spires of the Church of St. Pierre and the Hotel de Ville, and descending like steps were row beneath row of houses, roofless, with windows like blind eyes. The fire had reached the last row of houses, those on the Boulevard de Jodigne. Some of these were already cold, but others sent up steady, straight columns of flame. In others at the third and fourth stories the window curtains still hung, flowers still filled the window-boxes, while on the first floor the torch had just passed and the flames were leaping. Fire had destroyed the electric plant, but at times the flames made the station so light that you could see the second-hand of your watch, and again all was darkness, lit only by candles.
You could tell when an officer passed by the electric torch he carried strapped to his chest. In the darkness the gray uniforms filled the station with an army of ghosts. You distinguished men only when pipes hanging from their teeth glowed red or their bayonets flashed.
Outside the station in the public square the people of Louvain passed in an unending procession, women bareheaded, weeping, men carrying the children asleep on their shoulders, all hemmed in by the shadowy army of gray wolves. Once they were halted, and among them were marched a line of men. These were on their way to be shot. And, better to point the moral, an officer halted both processions and, climbing to a cart, explained why the men were to die. He warned others not to bring down upon themselves a like vengeance.
As those being led to spend the night in the fields looked across to those marked for death they saw old friends, neighbors of long standing, men of their own household. The officer bellowing at them from the cart was illuminated by the headlights of an automobile. He looked like an actor held in a spotlight on a darkened stage.
It was all like a scene upon the stage, unreal, inhuman. You felt it could not be true. You felt that the curtain of fire, purring and crackling and sending up hot sparks to meet the kind, calm stars, was only a painted backdrop; that the reports of rifles from the dark ruins came from blank cartridges, and that these trembling shopkeepers and peasants ringed in bayonets would not in a few minutes really die, but that they themselves and their homes would be restored to their wives and children.
You felt it was only a nightmare, cruel and uncivilized. And then you remembered that the German Emperor has told us what it is. It is his Holy War.