3443 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.
rise, and continued my way, only to be
stopped by a choking cloud of poisonous
gas. It was a mixture of gas from an
explosion and the smoke of a fire in the
troop quarters. We were driven back,
half-suffocated. Looking out of a peephole, I saw to my horror that the fort had
fallen, slopes and counter-slopes being a
chaos of rubbish, while huge tongues of
flame were shooting forth from the throat
of the fortress. My first and last thought
was to try and save the remnant of the
fortress. I rushed out to give orders,
and saw some soldiers, whom I mistook
for Belgian gendarmes. I called them,
then fell again. Poisonous gases seemed
to grip my throat as in a vise."
The soldiers were really Germans, and
when the heroic old officer recovered consciousness, he found himself a prisoner.
On his way to prison in Germany, he wrote
to his sovereign: "My thoughts will be,
as they have ever been, of Belgium and
the King. I would willingly have given
my life the better to serve them, but death
was not granted to me."
Such was the end of Liege. The delay
which its defense had imposed upon Germany was of value to the Allies, though
not so important as some writers have
assumed. Of far greater importance was
the spirit of the resistance. The fame
of General Leman and his men went round
the globe. The French Republic conferred upon him and upon the city of Liege
the Cross of the Legion of Honor. The
heroism of the defenders was a bugle call
to the hearts of the Allied peoples. Outnumbered, without hope of relief, exposed
to a bombardment more deadly than the
world had ever before seen, these Belgian
soldiers, who a few days before had not
even dreamed of war, were not too proud
to fight for the honor and safety of their
country, and they fought on so long as a
cannon could be served or a rifle fired.
The day of the hero had not set!
Long before the last fort had been reduced, German forces had pushed on past
Liege toward the heart of Belgium. The
Belgian troops that had withdrawn from
Liege had fallen back and had been joined