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The Hostage Cities
by [?]

Thanks to the heroism of the Allies, the hour is approaching when the
hordes of William the Madman will quit the soil of afflicted Belgium.

After what they have done in cold blood, what excesses, what disasters
must we not expect of the last convulsions of their rage? Our anguish
is all the more poignant in that they are at this moment fighting in
the most ancient and most precious portion of Flanders. Above all
countries, this is historic and hallowed land. They have destroyed
Termonde, Roulers, Charleroi, Mons, Namur, Thielt and more besides;
happy, charming little towns, which will rise again from their ashes,
more beautiful than before. They have annihilated Louvain and
Malines; they have but lately levelled Dixmude; their torches, their
incendiary squirts and their bombs are about to attack Brussels,
Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, Ypres and Furnes, which are like so many
living museums, forming one of the most delightful, delicate and
fragile ornaments of Europe. The things which are beginning here and
which may be completed would be irreparable. They would mean a loss to
our race for which nothing could atone. A quite peculiar
aspect–familiar, kindly, racy of the soil and unique–of that beauty
which a long series of comely human lives is able to acquire and to
hoard would disappear for ever from the face of the earth; and we
cannot, in the trouble and confusion of these too tragic hours,
realize the extent, the meaning or the consequences of such a crime.

We have made every sacrifice without complaining; but this would
exceed all measure. What can be done? How are we to stop them? They
seem to be no longer accessible to reason or to any of the feelings
which men hold in honour; they are sensible only to blows. Very soon,
as they must know, we shall have the power to strike them shrewdly.
Why do not the Allies, this very day, swiftly, while yet there is
time, name so many hostage cities, which would be answerable, stone
for stone, for the existence of our own dear towns? If Brussels, for
example, should be destroyed, then Berlin should be razed to the
ground. If Antwerp were devastated, Hamburg would disappear. Nuremburg
would guarantee Bruges; Munich would stand surety for Ghent.

At the present moment, when they are feeling the wind of defeat that
blows through their tattered standard, it is possible that this
solemn threat, officially pronounced, would force them to reflect, if
indeed they are still at all capable of reflection. It is the only
expedient that remains to us and there is no time to be lost. With
certain adversaries the most barbarous threats are legitimate and
necessary, for these threats speak the only language which they can
understand. And our children must not one day be able to reproach us
with not having attempted everything–even that which is most
repugnant–to save the treasures which are theirs by right.