Belgium is a busy hive. Its people are crowded together and are very industrious. The farmers and truck gardeners have reduced agriculture to a fine art and the lace workers are famous for their skill.
Nowhere did I see man's faithful friend, the dog, utilized, as in Belgium. He helps to haul the carts along the streets, and his services are so highly prized that large dogs are untaxed, while the small house dog, being an idler, has to contribute his annual quota to the expenses of the government.
The elegance of some of the public buildings and the beauty of the streets of Brussels surprise one, if he has allowed himself to judge Belgium by her dimensions on the map. Historical interest, however, is centered, not in Brussels, but in the battlefield of Waterloo, some miles away. In the summer time, thousands of tourists (among whom, according to the guides, are but few Frenchmen) turn their steps toward this field which witnessed the overthrow of the greatest military genius of his generation, if not of all time.
The scene of carnage is now marked by an enormous artificial mound 130 feet in height and surmounted by an immense stone lion—the Lion of Waterloo. The animal looks toward the point from which Napoleon made his last charge and seems to be watching lest the attack may be renewed. Wellington, upon visiting the battlefield after the erection of this mound, is said to have complained that they had ruined the battle-field to secure dirt for this stupendous pile, and it is true that the surface of the earth in that vicinity has been very much altered. In leveling the knolls they have destroyed one of the most interesting landmarks of the battlefield—the sunken road in which so many of the French soldiers lost their lives. As the guide tells it, Napoleon asked a Belgian peasant if there was any ravine to be crossed between him and the enemy's lines, and the peasant replied in the negative; but when the French rushed over this knoll, they came suddenly and unexpectedly upon a narrow road in a cut about twenty feet deep, and, falling in, filled up the cut until succeeding ranks crossed over on their dead bodies.
The field, as a whole, might be described as a rolling prairie, although the visitor is told of groves no longer standing. At the Hugomond farm, the walls of the house bear evidence of the conflict that raged nearly a century ago, and one is shown the ruins of an old well in which, it is said, the bodies of 300 English soldiers were buried. This portion of the battlefield reminds one somewhat of that portion of the battlefield of Gettysburg which was made famous by Pickett's charge, although there are but few monuments at Waterloo to mark the places occupied by the various brigades and divisions.
At a restaurant near the mound one is shown the chair in which, according to tradition, Wellington sat when he was laying his plans for the last day's battle, and you can, for a franc each, secure bullets war-ranted to have been found upon the field. It is rumored, however, that some of the bullets now found are of modern make and that thrifty peasants sow them as they do grain, and gather them for the benefit of tourists.
I found Europe agitated by a remark recently made by the emperor of Germany which gave the Prussian troops credit for saving the English and winning the day, but the French are as quick to dispute this claim as the English. The comedians have taken the matter up in the British Isles, and, at one London theatre, an actor dressed as an Englishman, is made to meet a German and, 'after an exchange of compliments, the English brings down the house by saying : "I beg pardon ! It may be a little late, but let me thank you for saving us at Waterloo."
It is hardly worth while for the allies to quarrel over the division of credit. There was glory enough for all—and it required the co-operation of all to overcome the genius and the strategy of Bonaparte.
( Originally Published 1907 )
The Old World And Its Way:
The Republic Of Switzerland
Three Little Kingdoms
Germany And Socialism
Russia And Her Czar
Rome—the Catholic Capital
Tolstoy, The Apostle Of Love
Notes On Europe
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