The Art of Tetman Callis Lit & Crit,The Great War And we thought they fought only for beer and slaughter

And we thought they fought only for beer and slaughter

“Count and Countess de X—– had an interesting story to tell of their experiences when the first armies went through. When the war broke out they were at their château and were caught by the first onrush of troops. Their fine cellars were emptied for the benefit of the invader, but nothing more serious happened to them until the second wave came along. Then there was a demand for more wine. As all the wine had been carried away they could not comply. The Germans were convinced that they were being fooled, and searched the place very carefully. Finally they imprisoned the X—–‘s for three days in the cellar and then brought them forth and stood them up before a firing squad and threatened to shoot them unless they told where the wine was hidden. At the critical moment a big gray military car rolled up, and to their considerable relief they saw that one of the occupants was a German princeling, who had formerly been their guest on several occasions. They called out to him, and by his orders were immediately released. After expressing their thanks to him they went into the château to find that soldiers were engaged in packing up their fine collections of enamels and porcelains to ship them to Germany. Another appeal to the Prince, who was most sympathetic. He was a practical and resourceful man, and said:

“‘Of course I’ll stop this, but you will understand that our men would like to keep some little souvenir of the war in Belgium. That would be hard to prevent. But I would suggest that you pick out all the pieces that you value most and pack them away in that large wardrobe. Then I’ll do the rest.’

“Madame de X—– was, of course, delighted with this, and scurried about gathering together the finest pieces and packing them carefully into the big wardrobe. She kept it up as long as there was a nook or cranny where odd pieces could be put, and then reported progress to the Prince.

“‘Are you sure that all the best pieces are there?’ says he.

“‘All that could be packed there,’ answers Madame de X.

“‘Good,’ says the Prince, and then turning to his orderly: “Have that wardrobe sent to Berlin for me.’”

– Hugh Gibson, September 8, 1914, A Journal from Our Legation in Belgium

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