When they crossed the Belgian frontier, the Germans walked straight into a bog, and since then they have been sucked deeper and deeper into the mud of their own misdeeds and calumnies. They were ankle-deep at Liege, waist-deep at Louvain, the bog rises even to their lips to-day. In the desperate efforts which they make to free themselves they inflict fresh and worse tortures on their victims. It is as if victory could only be reached through the country’s willing sacrifice. But every cry which the Germans provoke in the Belgian prison is heard throughout the world, every tear shed there fills their bitter cup, every drop of blood they shed falls back on their own heads. The world looks on, and its burning pity, its ardent sympathy, brings warmth and comfort to the Belgian slave. There is still some light shining through the narrow window of the cell. And there is not a man worthy of the name who does not feel more resolute and more confident in final victory when he meets the haggard look of the martyred country and watches her pale, patient, and still smiling face pressed against the iron bars.
THE OLIVE BRANCH.
We may ask ourselves if it was by chance only or through some subtle calculation that the first slave-raids in Belgium were timed to take place on the eve of the Christmas season, when the angels proclaimed “good-will towards men,” and when the German diplomats offered us the olive branch and the dove—peace at their own price. We may perhaps admit, now that the crisis is over, that for us Belgians at least the temptation was great, and if our repeated experience of the enemy had not shown us that he is most dangerous when he dons the humanitarian garb, we might have been duped by this remarkable piece of stage-management. There is every reason to believe that the deportations were part and parcel of the German peace manoeuvre. By increasing a hundredfold the “horrors of war” Germany provided a powerful argument to the pacifists all the world over: “Look at these miserable Belgians. Have they not suffered enough? Is it not time that an end should be put to their misery? Germany has declared that she is ready to evacuate the country. She might even give an indemnity. What other satisfaction can the Allies ask, considering the present situation on both the Eastern and Western fronts? If England really went to war to deliver Belgium, let her prove it now by stopping the struggle to spare her innocent citizens. It is all very well for those who are living comfortably at home to urge the continuance of the struggle. But can they take the responsibility of speaking on behalf of the population which has to submit to the enemy’s rule and whose sufferings increase every day? ...”
We have all listened to that voice. The Belgians in exile more intensely perhaps than the other Allies. Belgium had nothing whatever to do with the origin of the quarrel. She had nothing to gain from its conclusion. She had been drawn unwillingly into the conflict. She has taken arms merely to defend her rights and territory. What should her answer be if Germany offered to restore them?