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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

With its ammunition car coupled on behind


And

let no one forget that if the British proudly saved the French by their retreat from Mons (which no one seems likely to be allowed to forget) it is equally certain that the shattered Belgian army humbly saved the British on the Yser.

Rolling along the straight highroad to Y---- we passed the usual congestion of troop-filled trolley-cars, lorries, ambulances, farm-wagons, officers' autos and motor-cyclists. Our military motor was an excellent one, with the one fault that it seemed extremely difficult for the chauffeur to shift his gear from neutral into low speed, and he would frequently get hung up for several seconds with the car at a standstill till finally he got his gears in mesh.

At one point we stopped to see an interesting manifestation of the newly developing art of war. A giant 12-inch British naval gun was mounted on a specially designed railroad truck. It stood on a railway siding, with its ammunition-car coupled on behind. A kind of crane stood ready to swing the huge shells from the ammunition-car to the breech of the gun. When some object was found worth firing 12-inch shells at, the engine backed up to the gun-truck with steam up. The track was cleared.

Then the great gun did its firing at the object, and forthwith was whisked away one, five or ten miles down the track out of danger of the German replies. This is what, officers seem agreed, will take the place

of the antiquated fixed fortresses--miles of railway loops and sidings running behind artificial concealments or in semi-open cuts, with batteries of heavy fortress guns shuttling to and fro, firing and changing position constantly.

We motored on till we neared the point where the Belgian army ends and the French begins. Here we paid our respects to the General in command of the division we were visiting. He promptly asked us to lunch, and a very good lunch it was: Vegetable soup, some entree which I could not identify, shoulder of mutton with potatoes and beans, cantaloupe, cheese and black coffee, with a choice between beer, claret and white wine to drink at lunch, a glass of champagne at dessert, and liqueurs with the coffee.

The conversation of the officers turned largely on what was happening to their friends and acquaintances in Belgium, about whom they heard by mail through Switzerland or Holland. One young countess aroused considerable discussion. She had been sitting in a street-car in Brussels with a Belgian friend when a German officer boarded the car. Her friend bowed to the officer.

"What! You bow to a pig like that!" cried the countess. Whereupon the officer had stopped the car and placed her under arrest. She had been given her choice between two months in prison or ten thousand francs' fine, and had paid the fine.

Certain of the officers held that she had been unpatriotic in not accepting imprisonment rather than help the German exchequer. Others felt she had done enough in insulting the officer and rebuking her friend. The talk dwelt, too, on certain other Belgian ladies who had compromised with their patriotism to the extent of taking up social relations with the invaders. From what I heard I feel sorry for these over-hospitable ladies when the Belgians are once more masters of their own country.

After lunch I began to feel more and more impatient to get started for the trenches, but I had already learned too much of etiquette at the front to show it. For the officers of all the armies feel that it is infinitely more important to prove to you that they can give you a good cup of coffee and a good cigar than it is to show you the most beautiful battle that was ever fought. They are, too, all alike obsessed with the very human fallacy that the little ingenuities and contrivances which they have devised for their personal comfort, safety or delectation must be of infinitely more absorbing interest to the visitor than the guns and the trenches, which to them are such an old and boring story.


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