“See,” he said, “they dig their own graves!”
It was almost morning. The automobile left the pathetic ruin of the town and turned back toward the “chateau.” There was no talking; a sort of heaviness of spirit lay on us all. The officers were seeing again the destruction of their country through my shocked eyes. We were tired and cold, and I was heartsick.
A long drive through the dawn, and then the “chateau.”
The officers were still up, waiting. They had prepared, against our arrival, sandwiches and hot drinks.
The American typewriters in the next room clicked and rattled. At the telephone board messages were coming in from the very places we had just left—from the instrument at the major’s elbow as he lay in his trench beside the House of the Barrier; from the priest who had left his cell and become a soldier; from that desecrated and ruined graveyard with its gaping shell holes that waited, open-mouthed, for—what?
When we had eaten, Captain F—— rose and made a little speech. It was simply done, in the words of a soldier and a patriot speaking out of a full heart.
“You have seen to-night a part of what is happening to our country,” he said. “You have seen what the invading hosts of Germany have made us suffer. But you have seen more than that. You have seen that the Belgian Army still exists; that it is still fighting and will continue to fight. The men in those trenches fought at Liege, at Louvain, at Antwerp, at the Yser. They will fight as long as there is a drop of Belgian blood to shed.
“Beyond the enemy’s trenches lies our country, devastated; our national life destroyed; our people under the iron heel of Germany. But Belgium lives. Tell America, tell the world, that destroyed, injured as she is, Belgium lives and will rise again, greater than before!”
An aeroplane man at the next table starts to-night on a dangerous scouting expedition over the German lines. In case he does not return he has given a letter for his mother to Captain T——.
It now appears quite certain that I am to be sent along the French and English lines. I shall be the first correspondent, I am told, to see the British front, as “Eyewitness,” who writes for the English papers, is supposed to be a British officer.
I have had word also that I am to see Mr. Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the British Admiralty. But to-day I am going to Ypres. The Tommies call it “Wipers.”
* * * * *
Before I went abroad I had two ambitions among others: One was to be able to pronounce Ypres; the other was to bring home and exhibit to my admiring friends the pronunciation of Przemysl. To a moderate extent I have succeeded with the first. I have discovered that the second one must be born to.