He showed me the grave from a window of the car, a great grave in front of the church, with a wooden cross on it. It was too dark to read the inscription, but he told me what it said:
“Here lie forty-six chasseurs.” Beneath are the names, one below the other in two columns, and underneath all: “Morts pour la Patrie.”
We continued to advance. Our lamps were out, but the fusees made progress easy. And there was the moon. We had left behind us the lines of the silent men. The scene was empty, desolate. Suddenly we stopped by a low brick house, a one-story building with overhanging eaves. Sentries with carbines stood under the eaves, flattened against the wall for shelter from the biting wind.
AT THE HOUSE OF THE BARRIER
A narrow path led up to the house. It was flanked on both sides by barbed wire, and progress through it was slow. The wind caught my rain cape and tore it against the barbs. I had to be disentangled. The sentries saluted, and the low door, through which the officers were obliged to stoop to enter, was opened by an orderly from within.
We entered The House of the Mill of Saint ——.
The House of the Mill of Saint —— was less pretentious than its name. Even at its best it could not have been imposing. Now, partially destroyed and with its windows carefully screened inside by grain sacks nailed to the frames for fear of a betraying ray of light, it was not beautiful. But it was hospitable. A hanging lamp in its one livable room, a great iron stove, red and comforting, and a large round table under the lamp made it habitable and inviting. It was Belgian artillery headquarters, and I was to meet here Colonel Jacques, one of the military idols of Belgium, the hero of the Congo, and now in charge of Belgian batteries. In addition, since it was midnight, we were to sup here.
We were expected, and Colonel Jacques himself waited inside the living-room door. A tall man, as are almost all the Belgian officers—which is curious, considering that the troops seem to be rather under average size—he greeted us cordially. I fancied that behind his urbanity there was the glimmer of an amused smile. But his courtesy was beautiful. He put me near the fire and took the next chair himself.
I had a good chance to observe him. He is no longer a young man, and beyond a certain military erectness and precision in his movements there is nothing to mark him the great soldier he has shown himself to be.
“We are to have supper,” he said smilingly in French. “Provided you have brought something to eat with you!”
“We have brought it,” said Captain F——.
The officers of the staff came in and were formally presented. There was much clicking of heels, much deep and courteous bowing. Then Captain F—— produced his box of biscuits, and from a capacious pocket of his army overcoat a tin of bully beef. The House of the Mill of Saint —— contributed a bottle of thin white native wine and, triumphantly, a glass. There are not many glasses along the front.