**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


A Sanctuary of Trees
by [?]

She seemed to dismiss the matter from her mind. Yet, as women so often do, she kept all these sayings and pondered them in her heart.

The promise of spring passed into the sultry heat of summer. The storm-cloud of the twentieth century blackened over Europe. The wise men of Berlin made mad by pride, devoted the world not to the Prince of Peace but to the lords of war. In the first week of August the fury of the German invasion broke on Belgium. No one had dared to dream the terrors of that tempest. It was like a return of the Dark Ages. Every home trembled. The pillars of the tranquil house of Azan were shaken.

The daughter was away at school in England, and that was an unmixed blessing. The son was a lieutenant in the Belgian army; and that was right and glorious, but it was also a dreadful anxiety. The father and mother were divided in mind, Whether to stay or take flight with their friends. At last the father decided the hard question.

“It is our duty to stay. We cannot fight for our country, but we can suffer with her. Our daughter is in safety; our son’s danger we cannot and would not prevent. How could we really live away from here, our home, our trees? I went to consult the cardinal. He stays, and he advises us to do so. He says that will be the best way to show our devotion. As Christians we must endure the evil that we cannot prevent; but as Belgians our hearts will never consent to it.”

That was their attitude as the tide of blood and tears drew nearer to them, surrounded them, swept beyond them, engulfed the whole land. The brutal massacres at Andenne and Dinant were so near that the news arrived before the spilt blood was dry. The exceeding great and bitter cry of anguish came to them from a score of neighboring villages, from a hundred lonely farmhouses. The old botanist withered and faded daily; his wife grew pale and gray. Yet they walked their via crucis together, and kept their chosen course.

They fed the hungry and clothed the naked, helped the fugitives and consoled the broken-hearted. They counselled their poor neighbors to good order, and dissuaded the ignorant from the folly and peril of violence. Toward the invading soldiery their conduct was beyond reproach. With no false professions of friendship, they fulfilled the hard services which were required of them. Their servants had been helped away at the beginning of the trouble–all except the old forester and his wife, who refused to leave. With their aid the house was kept open and many of the conquerors lodged there and in the outbuildings. So good were the quarters that a departing Saxon chalked on the gate-post the dubious inscription: “Gute Leute-nicht auspliin-dern.” Thus the captives at the Chateau d’Azan had a good name even among their enemies. The baron received a military pass which enabled him to move quite freely about the district on his errands of necessity and mercy, and the chateau became a favorite billet for high-born officers.

In the second year of the war an evil chance brought two uninvited guests of very high standing indeed–that is to say in the social ring of Potsdam. Their names are well known. Let us call them Prince Barenberg and Count Ludra. The first was a major, the second a captain. Their value as warriors in the field had not proved equal to their prominence as noblemen, so they were given duty in the rear.

They were vicious coxcombs of the first order. Their uniforms incased them tightly. Like wasps they bent only at the waist. Their flat-topped caps were worn with an aggressive slant, their swords jingled menacingly, their hay-colored mustaches spoke arrogance in every upturned hair. When they bowed it was a mockery; when they smiled it was a sneer. For the comfortable quarters of the Chateau d’Azan they had a gross appreciation, for the enforced hospitality of its owners an insolent condescension. They took it as their due, and resented the silent protest underneath it.