It was an imposing sight to watch the German troops ride in. The citizens of Brussels behaved magnificently, but what a bitter humiliation for them to undergo. How should we have borne it, I wonder, if it had been London? The streets were crowded, but there was hardly a sound to be heard, and the Germans took possession of Brussels in silence. First the Uhlans rode in, then other cavalry, then the artillery and infantry. The latter were dog-weary, dusty and travel-stained—they had evidently done some forced marching. When the order was given to halt for a few minutes, many of them lay down in the street just as they were, resting against their packs, some too exhausted to eat, others eating sausages out of little paper bags (which, curiously enough, bore the name of a Dutch shop printed on the outside) washed down with draughts of beer which many of the inhabitants of Brussels, out of pity for their weary state, brought them from the little drinking-houses that line the Chaussee du Nord.
The rear was brought up by Red Cross wagons and forage carts, commissariat wagons, and all the miscellaneous kit of an army on the march. It took thirty-six hours altogether for the army to march in and take possession. They installed themselves in the Palais de Justice and the Hotel de Ville, having requisitioned beds, food and everything that they wanted from the various hotels. Poor Madame of the Hotel X. wept and wrung her hands over the loss of her beautiful beds. Alas, poor Madame! The next day her husband was shot as a spy, and she cared no longer about the beds.
In the meantime, just as it got dark, I installed my last two nurses in the little ambulance out beyond the barriers.
CHARLEROI AND ROUND ABOUT
The Germans had asked for three days to pass through the city of Brussels; a week had passed and they showed no signs of going. The first few days more and more German soldiers poured in—dirty, footsore, and for the most part utterly worn out. At first the people of Brussels treated them with almost unnecessary kindness—buying them cake and chocolate, treating them to beer, and inviting them into their houses to rest—but by the end of the week these civilities ceased.
Tales of the German atrocities began to creep in—stories of Liege and Louvain were circulated from mouth to mouth, and doubtless lost nothing by being repeated.
[Illustration: Map of Belgium]
There was no real news at all. Think how cut off we were—certainly it was nothing in comparison with what it was afterwards—but we could not know that then—and anyway we learnt to accommodate ourselves to the lack of news by degrees. Imagine a Continental capital suddenly without newspapers, without trains, telephones, telegraphs; all that we had considered up to now essentials of civilized life. Personally, I heard a good deal of Belgian news, one way and another, as I visited all my flock each day in their various hospitals and ambulances stationed in every part of the city.