And the Queen of the Belgians is a German! True, she has suffered much. Perhaps she is embittered; but there was no bitterness in her voice that afternoon in the little villa at La Panne—only sadness and great sorrow and, with it, deep conviction. What Queen Elisabeth of Belgium says, she believes; and who should know better? There, to that house on the sea front, in the fragment of Belgium that remains, go all the hideous details that are war. She knows them all. King Albert is not a figure-head; he is the actual fighting head of his army. The murder of Belgium has been done before his very eyes.
In those long evenings when he has returned from headquarters; when he and Queen Elisabeth sit by the fire in the room that overlooks the sea; when every blast that shakes the windows reminds them both of that little army, two-thirds gone, shivering in the trenches only a mile or two away, or of their people beyond the dead line, suffering both deprivation and terror—what pictures do they see in the glowing coals?
It is not hard to know. Queen Elisabeth sees her children, and the puzzled, boyish faces of those who are going down to the darkness of death that another nation may find a place in the sun.
What King Albert sees may not all be written; but this is certain: Both these royal exiles—this Soldier-King who has won and deserved the admiration of the world; this Queen who refuses to leave her husband and her wounded, though day after day hostile aeroplanes are overhead and the roar of German guns is in her ears—these royal exiles live in hope and in deep conviction. They will return to Belgium. Their country will be theirs again. Their houses will be restored; their fields will be sown and yield harvest—not for Germany, but for Belgium. Belgium, as Belgium, will live again!
THE RED BADGE OF MERCY
Immediately on the declaration of war by the Powers the vast machinery of mercy was put in the field. The mobilisation of the Red Cross army began—that great army which is of no nation, but of all nations, of no creed but of all faiths, of one flag for all the world and that flag the banner of the Crusaders.
The Red Cross is the wounded soldier’s last defence. Worn as a brassard on the left arm of its volunteers, it conveys a higher message than the Victoria Cross of England, the Iron Cross of Germany, or the Cross of the Legion of Honour of France. It is greater than cannon, greater than hate, greater than blood-lust, greater than vengeance. It triumphs over wrath as good triumphs over evil. Direct descendant of the cross of the Christian faith, it carries on to every battlefield the words of the Man of Peace: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
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The care of the wounded in war has been the problem of the ages. Richard the Lion-Hearted took a hospital ship to the coast of Palestine. The German people of the Middle Ages had their wounded in battle treated by their wives, who followed the army for that purpose. It remained for Frederick the First of Prussia to establish a military service in connection with a standing army.