9th December (1918)

Over rolling, even hilly country, through many villages; one with a winding stream, old stone mill with foaming sluice, and a tall brick church – charming.

The only place name I am sure of is Verlaine-sur-Sambre.

Got a great hearing in some of the villages: bunting and loyal notices everywhere in evidence.  In one of them groups of children cheered us lustily as we passed, and sang songs of welcome.

Here in Belgium, as in all countries I have seen, modern architecture in dwelling houses is almost always grim and inartistic as compared with the old, which seem to have grown out of the earth itself, walls blending into the ground and roofs into the walls: chimneys appearing at unexpected yet appropriate corners; additions, deletions, projections, dilapidations and all, appear right and natural and proportionate, just as the most fantastic of tree-shapes – so long as nature has not been meddled with – will never look wrong.

Finished up by obtaining mashed spuds, brown bread and lard, and coffee, from a family at supper.  The children obliged us by singing rather discordantly the Brabanconne,* and the old man, sitting hatted before the stove, concluded the performance by trolling a long, spirited “Soldier’s Song.”  They flatly refused money.  The dame told me that before the war she was fat, and she is now thin and drawn – when asked if it was the result of hunger, she replied, “non; peur”. [“no; fear”]

* La Brabanconne – the national anthem of Belgium.

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