These jokes may seem childish, at first sight, but when we think that those who dared perform them paid for it with several months’ imprisonment or several thousand marks, and paid cheerily, we understand that there is more in them than a schoolboy’s pranks. It seems as if the Belgian spirit would break if it ceased to be able to react. One of the shop-managers who was most heavily fined on the occasion of our last “Independence Day” declared that he had not lost his money: “It is rather expensive, but it is worth it.”
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If patriotism has become a religion in Belgium, this religion has found a priest whose authority is recognised by the last unbeliever. If every church has become the “Temple de la Patrie,” if the Brabanconne resounds under the Gothic arches of every nave, Cardinal Mercier has become the good shepherd who has taken charge of the flock during the King’s absence. The great Brotherhood, for which so many Christian souls are yearning, in which there are no more classes, parties, and sects, seems well nigh achieved beyond the electrified barbed wire of the Belgian frontier. Are not all Belgians threatened with the same danger, are they not close-knit by the same hope, the same love, the same hatred?
When the bells rang from the towers of Brussels Cathedral on July 21st last, when, in his red robes, Cardinal Mercier blessed the people assembled to celebrate the day of Belgium’s Independence, it seemed that the soul of the martyred nation hovered in the Church. After the national anthem, people lifted their eyes towards the great crucifix in the choir, and could no longer distinguish, through their tears, the image of the Crucified from that of their bleeding country.
The poisoned wells.
We must never forget, when we speak of the moral resistance of the Belgian people, that they have been completely isolated from their friends abroad for more than two years and that meanwhile they have been exposed to all the systematic and skilful manoeuvres of German propaganda. Not only are they without news from abroad, but all the news they receive is calculated to spread discouragement and distrust.