Germany, it will be recalled, declared war against Russia on August 1, 1914 and on the same day the French Premier returned a noncommittal reply to the German ultimatum asking whether France would remain neutral in a Russo-German conflict. Early on August 2nd German troops invaded Luxembourg, and at the same time the German Minister in Brussels proposed that Belgium "maintain an attitude of friendly neutrality toward Germany" by letting troops march through against France. This proposal being rejected, on August 4th the first German troops crossed the Belgian frontier at Gemmenich near the Dutch border. For Belgium the next few weeks were filled with exaltation and agony. There was an unparalleled upsurge of patriotic emotion. Men of all parties sprang to the support of the King. The Socialist leader, M. Vandervelde, entered the Clerical Cabinet. Amid tremendous enthusiasm, the war session of Parliament, August 3rd and 4th, voted $40,000,000 for defense. At Liége, attacked by General von Emmich with three army corps, a gallant Belgian garrison under General Leman held back the German military machine for four days. The German soldiery were mowed down in direct assaults, and only when siege guns demolished two of the forts did they enter the city on the night of August 7th---other forts still holding out. German cavalry then swept over the neighboring country. With skirmishes at Tirlemont, Diest, and other points, the Belgian army retired to a line of defense at Louvain, where on August 19th it made a brave stand against overwhelming odds and was defeated. Next day the German forces entered Brussels without firing a shot. The Government had already been removed to the strongly fortified city of Antwerp; and in this area the main Belgian army remained posted during the remainder of August and all of September, while the German invasion rolled southward toward Paris. Whitlock's diary gives a stirring view of the first three weeks of the war, culminating in the occupation of Brussels.
August 1, 1914.---I was awakened suddenly out of a sound sleep this morning by loud, insistent knocks at my door. I got up; it was six o'clock; I opened the door and there stood Omer,(1) in uniform---the rough blue tunic, linen pantaloons, and the little bonnet de Police. He stood at attention, his hand at the salute.
"C'est la guerre, Excellence."
The words, of course, were superfluous. Omer standing there, ready to depart, was somehow the symbol of the thing we had feared for a week. He was in a hurry; he had to get to town, report, and go to Liége at once. I fumbled through my clothes and gave him all the money I had, while he told me the latest news---the Germans had entered Luxembourg and were throwing down the bridges. I told him I might have him excused; but no; "I shall do my duty," he said. I shook his hand; he smiled in the tender gentle way he had, and went down the stairs. Sleep was of course impossible. I dressed, breakfasted, and gave the order to move back to town. All day we were packing up, and late in the afternoon we were ready to leave the lovely spot where we have spent two such happy months. I found Nell sitting in the great open window looking over the trees to Tervueren,(2) its little red roofs warm in the sun. She was in tears.
"My poor little Tervueren," she said.
We drove in, the two mothers and I, the motor piled with bags, and a little silk flag Eugène had fastened there fluttering from the roof of the car. We passed some mounted troops in the avenue Tervueren---mobilization well under way. At the Cinquantenaire, there was much movement and bustle; the authorities were already requisitioning motors and packing them there. We made a detour round into the rue Belliard and so on to the Legation. It was late before the others came. We drove down to the Monnaie for dinner; and were gratefully surprised when our money was taken without question, for the town is already in a panic and many of the restaurants are refusing all money except gold. On the way back I bought a copy of Le Petit Bleu, which men were hoarsely crying in the rue d'Aremberg at the entrance to the Galerie du Roi. It has an article against Germany with a great head-line: "Shameless Barbarism." Germany has declared war on Russia, and Luxembourg has been invaded---these are the features of today's news. But the whole world is mobilizing, and France, England, and Belgium are of course involved; the declarations are now mere formalities. Jaurés has been assassinated at Paris---he spoke here only the other night. And there is a rumor that Caillaux has been assassinated.
We are very tired tonight. The good Josephine has been laying in provisions for a siege.
Sunday, August 2, 1914.---It has been a day of exciting and terrible rumors, to which, however, we pay little attention, for we have been kept busy every minute by the Americans, of all sorts and conditions, who are pouring into Brussels from all over the Continent, in panic, demanding to know how they are to get home, many of them utterly helpless, so frightened are they: in many instances the women are calmer, braver than the men. It has been a strain, listening to so many tales of hardship---their money suddenly useless, and no one knows about the ships---but I have tried to smile, to reassure them all, and to get as many as will to go to Ostend and thence to England, for the boats are still running across the Channel.
This afternoon Nell and I... drove to Forêt to see Mademoiselle Polinet, who arrived home from Paris last night, having by the merest lucky chance caught the last train. She had a terrible experience; Paris in turmoil, no porters or commissionaires at the station, and she, poor girl, lugging her bags. The train was crowded, and people in panic; a man fainted and a woman died from fright. She was glad to be home, and we were glad to see her.
Von Below delivered the ultimatum of Germany to Davignon(3) at seven o'clock this evening, and from his Legation there is a formal denial that Germany has declared war on Russia.
The mobilization of the Belgian army has been effected amid scenes of enthusiasm, and today prayers for peace have been said in all the churches. The requisitioning of motors goes on; the Minister of the Interior has issued a proclamation forbidding cinema representations that might inflame the populace; a Socialist demonstration to have been held tomorrow has been voluntarily renounced---the Socialists are all patriots now---and the King has issued several decrees, one putting the army on a war footing, another convoking the chambers in extraordinary session for Tuesday, and another regarding the issue of five-franc notes---the silver pieces having crept into hiding. Telephone communication with France and Germany has been cut off.
Up very late tonight, sending despatches to Washington. The room is so hot, the night so still, the tension is so great---it reminds me somehow of those long gone days when I was a newspaper man, and sat up late at night sending other despatches, but never such a big story as this!
August 3, 1914.---Behind the Venetian blinds of the ministries over in the rue de la Loi, the lights burn all night, and after long conferences with the King at the Palace, the ministers, de Broqueville(4) at their head, have drawn up their calm and stately reply to Germany's ultimatum; it was delivered promptly yesterday, to von Below. Germany has not even awaited Belgium's response to her amazing ultimatum, but with her troops invaded Belgian soil today at Visé. And Belgium will fight. The King goes to Parliament tomorrow, and the army is mobilized at Liége.
I was routed out early this morning by a telephone message from the French Legation asking if I would receive Klobukowski(5) at nine o'clock. I divined his desire instantly; I knew he was coming to ask me to take over the protection of French interests in case the capital falls. I was downstairs in Gibson's(6) room by eight, but Klobukowski sent Fontarce(7) in his stead. Poor Fontarce! He was very haggard and pale, with heavy dark circles under his eyes; he had not been to bed at all; indeed there has been no sleep over at the French Legation at all; it is crowded day and night by excited members of the French colony. It was somehow terrible to see the agitation, the tragic expression in his mobile face---even his beard seemed to have grown more grey, and his brow was moist with perspiration, matting down the thin locks of his banged hair.
He was somehow, to me, the incarnation of the demoralization and intensity of these terrible times; he was in agony, as is his dear and charming country.
He nodded sadly in affirmation, even before I could put the question he must have read in my eyes---we had been somehow still hoping selfishly that we might escape the horror.
"Oui," he said, "c'est la guerre."
He presented his chief's compliments and excuses, and wanted to know if I would take over the French Legation. I was pleased, and frankly told him so. He told me of the ultimatum that von Below had delivered to Davignon last evening; and this morning, at 1:30 o'clock, von Below has an interview with van der Elst.(8)
The Legation was again crowded with Americans, in panic, demanding advice, money, passports, shelter. Cruger(9) cannot turn the passports fast enough.
I went upstairs and told Nell that we were in for it; that war was now certain. I was too busy all morning, however, to notice how the family were affected; at noon Nell told me that Mrs. Boyd(10) had decided to go home; she was sadly shaken. Great bustling about then, rushing up and down stairs; the servants flying everywhere, the clamoring Americans in the corridors below -well, I had to keep my head anyway! ... We got Mrs. Boyd off at one o'clock, bundling her and her bags into the motor, her steamer trunks on top, and Alice, her maid, weeping, bidding the servants good-bye, and clambering into the motor after Mrs. Boyd ---her black gown, that is, Alice's black gown, all unloosened down the back, revealing her white undergarments. Glad to have that care off my mind at any rate!
Mrs. Willard, delicate, pretty, beautifully gowned, calm, unconcerned, in again at noon with her nice daughter, still undecided what to do. I was half distracted, and finally decided for her. It was nearly one o'clock; the train for Ostend leaves at two, and I said:
"My dear Mrs. Willard, you must go, and go at once!"
"But my old Sèvres; but my watch is being repaired; and my trunks..."
I called de Leval,(11) gave him orders to go with her and see her off, and then led her and her daughter to their waiting carriage.
"But my trunks---we can never catch the two o'clock."
I almost pushed the little woman into the carriage and at last they drove away---and de Leval got them off. Thank God!
Klobukowski called this afternoon, to ask me to take over his Legation in case of eventualities. He was smiling, as usual, this fat, clever, French politician with the Polish name, and showed none of the signs of the terrible wear and tear exhibited by Fontarce this morning. I told him that I should be delighted to act for his interests and wired Washington for permission to do so.
The fleeing Americans continued to crowd the Legation all day, and we were busy trying to reassure and comfort them---a terrible task. They all think that I have some supernatural power, that I can evoke ships, money, care, comfort for them; predict the course of the war, tell them where they will be safe, and how long the war will last, and so on. It is maddening, but as Carlyle used to say, "Courage, and shuffle the cards."
There are a number of American tourists stranded at the hôtel de Bellevue, so I went over there this afternoon to look them up. I found a group, for the most part, of charming, refined people .... I had tea with them; the Misses ----- of Washington came in; the eldest of the three, or if not the eldest, the ranking sister, in her hoarse voice of command, squared herself before me, and after blowing and bawling about her acquaintance with the great of the earth announced:
"If anything happens, you'll have to take care of me!"
"I'm sure," I replied, bowing, "that Madame is abundantly able to take care of herself."
After dinner, the evening being soft and warm, Nell and I walked out with our mothers, and took a stroll along the quiet boulevard. I talked to Mother about Father, her interest in the fact that she was in Europe---and I resented this stupid, inimical, unnecessary war that is ruining her enjoyment. Then up late enciphering telegrams to Washington ....
Miss Larner(12) of the Department of State at Washington, who came over on the Lapland a week ago---the ship that brought our Mothers---and was caught in this fierce maelstrom of war, called at the Legation, and we have asked her to help us in the heavy work.
I have, too, the services of the excellent de Leval.
From Berlin there is a statement that a French aviator has thrown bombs near Nuremberg and the Germans, as though they were shocked and surprised, say that this impels them to war.
Burgomaster Max has issued a decree forbidding an advance in the price of food.
August 4, 1914.---Last night at seven o'clock the Government replied to the German ultimatum, in a dignified state paper, saying that Belgium refused to break her engagements and would resist German aggression; then at ten o'clock the King addressed a telegram of appeal to the King of England. This morning at six o'clock, von Below delivered his Government's brutal note saying that Germany would take what she wanted by force.
Germany declared war on France yesterday. The Government has been notified by both France and England that they will come to the defence of Belgium if her soil is invaded, and the formal declarations of war are all that remain to be made.
Nine Germans were today arrested in Brussels, accused of cutting telephone wires, and so forth.
Red Cross organizations and flags everywhere; half the houses in town are converted into Red Cross ambulances. The Palace Hotel is offered, and many big stores.
The Socialists have issued a long manifesto announcing that they will support the Government in resisting the invasion of Belgium. The Socialists are as human as anybody, and international solidarity is now replaced by the patriotism they used to sneer at as "emotion."
Telegraph and telephone service to Liége is cut off, and the trains service is for the military only.
We hear of the blowing up of bridges by the Belgian engineers at Visé.
According to report of military airmen, 100,000 Germans are said to be massed near Hervé.
The civil guard has been detailed for garrison duty in the capital.
Moratorium until August 31st has been declared and export of munitions is forbidden.
At ten o'clock the King went to Parliament; and this afternoon he is off for Liége. It has been a day of beautiful sunshine: the Belgian flags, of black, yellow and red, float from every house, and early this morning crowds gathered all about the park and the Palace and the Parliament buildings to see the King and the royal family go by. The crowds were massed along the sidewalks, on the platforms and street---intersections; people hung out of windows, and even the roofs were black. The civil guard, the chasseurs and infantry, the mounted police, and companies of boy scouts, formed a solid line from the Royal Palace along the rue Royale to the Parliament houses at the other end of the Park. The Queen went by first in a landau, with the three royal children; preceded by the outriders of the Court. The King, booted and spurred, mounted on his big bay, came after, with his staff, and the squadron Marie-Henriette in their green tunics and grey busbies as guard of honor. The crowds were wild with enthusiasm, but were orderly.
At ten o'clock Gibson and I drove to the National Palace to see the King open Parliament. Sir Francis Villiers(13) drove up in his motor just as we arrived, and I entered with him, and we went slowly up the red-carpeted staircase together to the diplomatic gallery; Sir Francis heavy with care. The Salle des Séances presented a scene one would not soon forget. All around the galleries were crowded, the wives of the ministers in the seats opposite us ---I was sorry that I had not brought Nell, though none of the ladies of the diplomatic corps were there. Below, the senators and deputies, all in formal black, some seated, quietly waiting---others in excited groups, discussing the ultimatum of last night and the invasion of the land. The Duc d'Ursel was there in the uniform of the Guides. The ministers, who have been having sleepless nights, were on their benches---de Broqueville, old Davignon, Carton de Wiart, and so forth. Hymans, the new Liberal Minister, and Vandervelde the new Socialist Minister, receiving congratulations. The hall in a hemicycle, with columns all around, not unlike the chamber of the Supreme Court---the old Senate---at Washington, though of course larger. A red and gold fauteuil was placed for the King on the president's dais; overhead under the statue of Leopold I the escutcheon of Belgium and a trophy of the flags of Belgium and the Congo. The diplomatic tribune was hung with Belgian flags too. Down there on the floor, before the president's desk, a great green table was set, and at it were seated Delvaux, Doyen, and Pecher and Devèze the youngest members, and the clerks of the court. Gold armchairs were set for the Queen and the royal family.
The dear colleagues were gathering, in these new changed conditions; the last time we assembled was at Ste-Gudule, scarcely a fortnight ago, at the Te Deum to celebrate the founding of the Belgian dynasty, now so rudely shaken. Von Below, of course, was not there, nor Clary, but Bottaro-Costa(14) was on hand, smiling as ever. We waited many minutes, then there came to us the strains of a band, and suddenly, a voice cried:
The deputies sprang to their feet, and against the solid black of their frock coats, there fluttered the white of the handkerchiefs they waved as they shouted:
"Vive la Reine! Vive la Reine!"
And there was Her charming Majesty, all in white, lovely and gracious, just entering the chamber below and to our left---our gallery is almost over the tribune---acknowledging this loyal salute with sweeping courtesies right and left. She had a modest suite---the old Countess Henricourt de Grunne, La Grande Maîtresse, in a violet gown, and the two little princes; Leopold the Duke of Brabant, the heir apparent, and Charles the Count of Flanders, in black satin suits today instead of the costumes of grey they usually wear. I had seen them last at Ste-Gudule, and my reflections watching them were manifold---will that fair-haired, serious, delicate boy ever mount a throne? So thought I then; so thought I this morning. I did not see the elfish little Princess Marie-José.
The Queen took the golden chair placed for her on the left of the tribune---she was so lovely, so calm, and the little princes taking their seats beside her, the little Count of Flanders, who reminds me so much of Frank(15) when he was that age and size, wriggling on to his chair in such a boyish manner. The deputies resumed their seats, and the chamber was still again, for an instant. And then, while we waited, there was suddenly a noise outside, a rumble, a roar, sounds of turbulence, and then suddenly an usher shouted:
And then a heavy, hoarse shout:
The Queen, the ministers, the deputies, everybody stands; we, in the diplomatic gallery, except the Papal Nuncio in his robes, never once sat down. The King is just below us, entering the chamber from the side opposite that from which the Queen had entered; the deputies sprang to their feet, waving their hands, no handkerchiefs in them now, and shouted in an united voice, deeper, rougher, more masculine, as it were:
"Vive le Roi! Vive le Roi! Vive le Roi!"
It is as though they could not shout it loudly enough, intensely enough, unitedly enough; as they stood there, some in tears---Catholic, Liberal, Socialist---no, not those distinctions now, but Belgium acclaiming its King.
And there he is, striding across the chamber, in the fatigue uniform of a Lieutenant-General, booted and spurred, his sabre clanking at his side. He strides along firmly, swiftly, mounts the rostrum, takes off his kepi, sharply deposes it on the table before him, clicks his heels together, makes a smart military bow, swiftly peels the white glove from his right hand, slaps the glove into his kepi, and without waiting, begins at once in his firm voice and his beautiful French, to read his speech from the notes he holds in his white gloved left hand.
The Queen, the little princes, the deputies resume their seats; the applause that greets His Majesty is quietly hushed by the usual sign of silence:
The doyen's gavel falls on the green table. The stillness in the chamber then is the stillness of poignant, nervous tension. The ministers, in the front benches with their portfolios, know what is coming, no doubt; but the others strain forward---old Woeste,(16) for instance, with his hand behind his deaf ear, to hear the fateful words.
The King is somewhat short sighted; he puts on his pince-nez, holds the narrow little strips of paper rather close to his eyes, and begins to read:
"When I see this deeply moved assembly in which there is no longer but a single party...
The emotions break, the cries break forth; then
"Sh! Sh!" again, and silence. And the King reads on:
"...that of the fatherland, an assembly in which all hearts beat at this moment in unison, my memories hark back to the Congress of 1830, and I demand of you, gentlemen: 'Are you irrevocably determined to maintain intact the sacred patrimony of our forefathers?'"
The deputies spring to their feet, raise their hands as though swearing an oath, and cry:
"Oui! Oui! Oui!"
Several times thus the King striking out stiff emphatic gestures with his right hand.
Below him, the little Duke of Brabant looks up intently into his father's face, never takes his eyes off him. What are the thoughts in that boy's mind? Will this scene come back to him in after years? And how, when, under what circumstances?...
The King has got to that part of his speech where he says
"...in the chamber in which there is no longer but a single party . ......
Silence breaks; the cries, the applause suddenly repressed by those imperative "Sh! Sh!" The King heeds not, reads on, finishes with that moving phrase:
"I have faith in our destiny. A nation which defends itself, which vindicates its integrity in the eyes of the world, that nation cannot perish. God will be with us in our great cause.
"Long live free Belgium!"
The mad passionate applause breaks---handkerchiefs waving, then pressed to weeping eyes. The King seizes his kepi, the Queen and the little princes rise, and he stalks out again, sword clanking; away on stern business now! The deputies remain standing while the Queen courtesies and with the princes retires.
And I find myself leaning over the balcony rail, catching at my throat, my eyes moist, applauding with the rest. But my colleagues, too, are clapping their hands.
Then there is a universal inhalation in the chamber, a long breath, and de Broqueville is opening his portfolio, taking out the pages of his speech, standing up.
"A la tribune! A la tribune!" the deputies cry, and he marches down, climbs up into the tribune, stands there, looks about him, bows. A handsome man, de Broqueville; and a striking figure, there in the tribune, in that moment, for that business; tall, slender, in black frock-coat, curly black hair, smart moustache, the ribbon of the Order of Leopold in his boutonnière. He speaks dramatically, reading the German ultimatum, the Belgian reply, asks almost peremptorily for a vote of supplies, and, at the end, smiting the desk, his seal ring striking sharply on the hard wood, he finishes with:
"The watchword is, To Arms!"
The service for us is over, though the Senators and the Deputies are to hold formal sessions, to ratify the Government's acts and to vote supplies. But the dramatic tableau is done and we turn to speak to one another, and then drift out of the gallery. And as we go, Koudacheff(17) comes up to me, takes me aside, and asks me to take over his Legation in case he has to go away. I tell him I shall be honored to do so, of course.
The Nuncio asked us to wait a moment and we gathered in an anteroom, and then held a little impromptu meeting of the diplomatic corps; the Nuncio in his purple robes, standing in the midst of us, his soft Italian voice lending its accent to his French. He spoke of the possibility of the Court and Government going to Antwerp, and said that we should have to go too in that eventuality.
Pleasant prospect, that, of going to Antwerp, abundantly recognized by Sir Francis, Villalobar,(18) and me as we walked out together. Then the sunshine once more, and the motors rolling up into the paved court before the Parliament buildings, and the colleagues lifting their tall hats to each other, and then rolling away in the crowded, agitated, sunny streets.
When I got back to the Legation I found a telegram from Washington saying that I might take over French interests, provided such action would not prevent my taking over any other legations the chiefs of which might ask me to do so. And on the heels of this, word from von Below that he was leaving in the afternoon and would ask me to take over the representation of German interests. Pleasant task that. One I should like to escape ---but how, under the terms of Washington's instructions?
August 5, 1914.---The German troops are now said to have invaded Belgian soil Tuesday morning at eleven o'clock. They entered near Dolhain. In the afternoon about four o'clock, they had arrived in the region of Fléron, and it is said that the guns of the forts at Liége can be heard booming away.
The Liége deputies have left for the defence of their town.
The Government is making requisition of foodstuffs and measures are being taken for aiding the families of soldiers.
The first page of Le Petit Bleu (which, by the way, was proceeded against by the Government for having published the "Shameless Barbarism" article) given over to "Departure of the King for the Army" and his proclamation. Patriotic fever at its height. A credit of two hundred millions for national defence voted by the Chamber.
Lord Kitchener has been appointed Secretary of State for War in England.
Again a day of excitement, tension, and work; all day the Legation crowded with frightened Americans who continue to pour into Brussels and here remain hesitant, undecided, bewildered, loath or afraid to brave the channel to go home, and hoping for some miracle that will arrest the war or at least spare them discomfort; they do not see why they should suffer. Are they not Americans and should they not be protected by their flag?
"I suppose I am to come right over here with my family in case of trouble," said a big Jew to me this morning.
The Germans are crowding into the Legation also, scores and scores of them. The long corridor is filled constantly; one can scarcely move about and every one plucks at me if I dare to leave my office. Gibson, de Leval and I have all we can do to reassure them.
We could laugh at that Jew---he was so badly scared! But I could weep at the plight of the American school teachers, here on their first trip to Europe, after years of pinching and saving and planning, and consulting guide books! It is pathetic. And then the young couple on a bridal tour---with their all invested in a tourist ticket. The young bridegroom drew it out of that manly pocket---the bride looking so confidently at him, as he did so!---and unfolded about four kilometers of coupons, hotels, railroads, steamships, and so on; all useless now. Lachrymae rerum!
John Stockwell, my old friend from Cleveland in, his express cheque no good and I give him money to get to London. And James H. Patten of Chicago, in the Chancellery for his passport and just enough to go home steerage. Not long ago he had a corner in wheat in America. When was it?
Mrs. Thomas Bailey Aldrich of Boston, widow of our poet, with son and daughter-in-law; had left baby with nurse in Paris and selected this as a propitious moment to motor to Brussels; arrived yesterday; have some fears now. Could I provide some sort of safe conduct for their motor?
"I fear, Madam, your troubles with that motor will be over by the time you get back to the hotel. It will be requisitioned, no doubt."
And so it was, but honestly paid for by the Belgian Government. These are sympathetic, even touching types.
But there is another type. This morning, Mrs. -------, who was a ------, sister of J. J. Astor---let the fact never be forgot by mortal man!---sailed in, disdainful of weeping women in corridor, disdainful of all, especially of all Americans, though now, after years of absence from the land she condemns, anxious for a passport to establish her identity.
Found her sitting in Chancellery, Cruger making out her passport; had a French nurse with her. At sight of me began to recount tales of murder and rapine committed by the "barbarians" in eastern Belgium: they were killing women and children on sight.
"That is buncombe," I said.
"Why buncombe?" she demanded.
"You know they are not savages," I replied.
I tried to reassure and calm her; wholly useless. That particular specimen of super-elegant snobbism and cultivated neurasthenia is not to be comforted; was indeed shocked that any one, especially any American, should dare to contradict any statement she might make.
She had left her jewels behind in Paris, and it was my duty and my privilege to get them for her. I shall not forget the impression this tall, distinguished, finely gowned woman made on me. She might once have been beautiful, had she been simple, sincere, and had she cultivated that supreme possession of women, graciousness; but as it was I felt like telling her to go to the devil. Finally, she took her passport, with shame, I felt, perhaps the only shame that had ever visited her discontented, disdainful face, and sailed out, plumes nodding.
Among the Americans was a young doctor from Chicago---whom the war had overtaken in Germany, where he had been studying. He came through from Verviers to Liége last night on a German military train. The trains were labeled "Express to Paris." The train, however, was stopped by broken rails, barbed-wire, entanglements, and so on, and the passengers had to get out and walk; some of the women rode part way in a peasant's cart; trees felled across the road and barbed-wire entanglements stopped that form of progress and they struggled ahead on foot, lugging their dressing cases. The night was clear and warm and they saw the German cavalry along the roadside, resting; horses picketed and the troopers lying on the ground smoking. One of the soldiers waved his hand at the party as it struggled along. They got to Liége and thence came through to Brussels by train. They heard no firing. Nell, who saw the young doctor---he has a German name---insists that he is a German spy.
The Legation halls too are continually crowded with Germans.
There are thousands of them in Brussels---some say as many as 50,000---and many of them are, of course, spies. The system maintained in Belgium has been extensive, worthy of the Russian third section. These Germans are all frightened for the spy hysteria has developed.
"There is a spy!" some one cries and a crowd gives chase. No one, however, has been hurt. The Brussels police are very tactful, kindly, sensible and efficient.
The Americans are in such numbers that I called a meeting in the afternoon of representative Americans living in Brussels to effect a relief organization. Dannie Heineman, Millard Shaler, William Hulse(19) and others came and organized a committee to raise funds, rent a home that may provide shelter, and so forth. While we deliberated the hall was filled with troubled Americans, Germans, and Jews, women weeping.
The word came that our cipher telegrams had been again refused; so over to the Foreign Office again and after an interview with d'Ursel,(20) Comte van der Straeten-Ponthos went with me to chief of telegraph bureau, and we went around by the rue de Louvain; in the court yard, with arms stacked, a heavy contingent of soldiers---soldiers everywhere indeed---and then strict and final orders that my ciphers are to be sent.
The Administration, however, is in trouble and confusion--- and no wonder!
Then back to the Legation in time to receive two clerks from the French Legation whom Klobukowski had sent over to transfer his funds to me; 450,000 francs to be transferred to my account in order to protect the funds, but the French treasurer was to be allowed to draw against it. I did not like the look of the thing; what with the spies everywhere employed and the use to which all the money was to be put; evidently a nigger in the woodpile somewhere. And so I went out to the French Legation and explained to Klobukowski that I could not accept such a responsibility and then permit another to discharge it. I told him the money should not be turned over unless the entire Legation was transferred.
Klobukowski sitting there---de Leval was with me---was smiling and cordial as ever.
"You are right. I acknowledge that my request was not proper, and ask your pardon. I have so much to do these days! Perhaps I ought to ask some other colleague to serve?"
I told him I should consider it an honor to represent French interests, but I felt that he should ask some one else.
After I had concluded my business with him we turned to other topics, or to the one topic, and he announced to us the victory at Liège; the Belgian army has fought heroically today and the forts at Liége all hold.
Then de Leval asked, "And the French troops?"
"They are coming ....
It was six o'clock, and later at the Legation we had confirmation of the superb resistance of the Belgians at Liège. The hopes of the town are high; the French and English are expected to come to their support. We had the word just at dinner time, and we were gay in the excitement. Joseph indeed was radiant---as we lifted our glasses to Belgium.
After dinner we drove down into the lower town. A warm and gentle rain was falling, but the streets were brilliant and gay and the throngs drifted through the streets, singing the "Brabançonne" and the "Marseillaise," and everywhere Belgian and French colors. The little tables on the sidewalks before the cafés were all surrounded, and as we drove slowly down the boulevard Anspach we heard now and then the crash of broken glass; the crowds were breaking the "vitrines" of German shops or shops with German names. And as a precautionary measure over the door "Chez Fritz"---a big cafe-was this sign:
"Fritz is a good Luxembourger, but the house is Belgian."
We drove out to Forêt---the night was so warm, the rain so gentle and refreshing .... Then home, to find Gibson who had been over to the British Legation and then come home to telephone to our Embassy at London. He could be heard yelling all over the house. London, he reported, was in turmoil, and there are reports there that the Iron Duke has been sunk.
At the British Legation, he was told that the Germans were mowed down today at Liége by the Belgian guns. But a regiment of Belgian lancers, the same boys we saw with their gaily floating pennants as they galloped in review before the two Kings at the Rond Point in the avenue Tervueren that lovely morning in May; the same boys that four days ago rode down the rue Belliard on their way to the front, are said to have been annihilated, and only one officer was saved. Possibility of a big battle tomorrow, for the French, it is said, are coming up in support of the Belgians. Described in those technical terms in which soldiers express themselves, it seems merely like some great game that is being played; but once conceived in human terms it is all horrible.
The other day I wrote a despatch to the Belgian Government about the Hague Conference, but laid it aside intending to polish it up a bit: then, occupied with war, naturally forgot it like the rest of the world. To deliver it now would be an irony too grotesque; something for Hardy's pen .... Ah, the pity of it! And all day the birds have been singing at our little Bois Fleuri and the two magpies are there with the good news they never delivered and the rabbits still nibble at the rose leaves. And over beyond the trees the red roofs of our little Tervueren in the sun; and beyond, Christminster with its spires and the sails of the old windmill turning over and over all day long above the last line of trees; and beyond, Liége, where the Belgian and French and German boys are waiting for the morning to come that they kill each other. They know not why. All they know is that some force has put them in clothes of a certain color, with certain gay trappings and trimmings, and therefore, when they kill each other, the deed is something other than killing! The whole fabric of civilization, so amazing, so delicately adjusted, smashed in a second by a madman at Berlin.
I sent an open telegram to the President today, in an effort to adjust the representation of German interests, and to impress the Belgian Department of Telegraph. But as yet no response to any of our many inquiries, except that we have had telegrams from Mrs. Willard to look after her sacred Sèvres antiques which she bought at the antiquary's the other day, and a cablegram from her husband, whom the war has caught on the other side of the Atlantic, and tonight a telegram saying that ships will be sent for the transport of Americans in Europe---that $2,500,000 has been appropriated by Congress and that the money and officers to take charge of the repatriation are to arrive on the Tennessee ....
The King issued a stirring proclamation to his troops today recalling to the soldiers Cæsar's saying: "Horum omnium fortissime sunt Belgae."(21) It is a noble document.
August 6, 1914.---At half past eight o'clock this morning, Carton de Wiart was announced, on a matter of immediate importance. I went down to find the big, handsome Belgian Minister of Justice in my cabinet, haggard from sleepless nights, but well-groomed as ever and elegant in high hat and frock coat. He came to inform me that the Belgian Government had reliable information that there was a wireless telegraph instrument on top of the German Legation; the gardes civiques detailed there (at my request) to protect the Legation had heard it working during the night. The Government, of course, wished to be correct and there were no precedents, but he proposed that the Procureur du Roi and some of the justices of the Court institute an inquiry and in a regular and formal and legal manner ascertain the facts.
"But," I said, "there is a much more practical method."
"What is it?"
"To go take a look," I said. "You'll come with me, won't you? Let's be off."
He was surprised but pleased. I told him to go get a wireless telegraph expert and I would go with him whenever he was ready. He went away, came back in half an hour with his expert, a light, agile young chap in rubber shoes---"creepers "---and with Gibson and de Leval, we went over to the German Legation (the civil guard crowding up to assure us that the instrument could still be heard spluttering away); routed out the surprised old Grobowsky, and with him to guide us, ascended to the garret. He opened a trap-door in the roof, and the lovely morning light came through from a patch of the blue sky above; then produced a frail little ladder and I invited Carton de Wiart to ascend. He looked at the little ladder, then down his dignified front of frock coat, then at his high hat; ministerial dignity could never hope to ascend such a little ladder and clamber onto a roof!
And so I went up and the expert came after, and Gibson, and then we clambered about over those red tiles among the chimney pots. Monsieur l'Expert went everywhere, clipped a few wires---telephone, no doubt---but shook his head; no wireless to be found anywhere. While we were looking about, I saw to my surprise a trap-door, almost at my feet, slowly raise, then a head came forth, and presently there arose, like the morning sun before my eyes, a dark handsome face, hair carefully combed down, monocle in left -astonished-eye, high tight collar, butterfly cravat, smart coat, thin hands, manicured nails, a cigarette---and there was Cavalcanti! (22)
He was speechless with surprise, but I divined the situation, greeted him, said:
"If I'm violating Brazilian territory, it's quite by mistake and unintentional, and I apologize."
He laughed, and I explained, and he told me that his chief, beholding men on the roof of his Legation, had sent him up to investigate.
And while we were talking, suddenly, a sound, a sharp rasping sound, broken into what might very well have been dots and dashes---"Zssztt! !---. . . Ssszzt! !-Zst-Zt-Zt-Ssst"---It was precisely like the wireless I had heard on the Atlantic. Monsieur l'Expert cocked his head, pricked up his ears, and then we all fixed the place whence came the sound---and it was a rusty weathervane squeaking in the wind! And so that sensation ended---to the regret of the civil guard when we told them.
Carton told us that the Germans had burned Visé, and shot down the inhabitants who had spontaneously taken arms to defend themselves.
Back to the Legation then, and all morning long the Germans crowded the halls, turning the Legation into a bedlam, and Gibson was trying to arrange for a train to send them to Holland.
Le Baron Lahure telephoned, eleven o'clock, to ask me to sign a cheque for the 450,000 francs that Klobukowski had deposited to my credit. I sent de Leval to present my compliments and to say that I had not authorized such credit and so could not sign a cheque, but that de Leval would assist in annulling the whole operation, which he did.
In the afternoon, the crowd of Germans was larger, and learning that we were charged with protection of German interests, groups of the idle and curious gathered in the rue de Trèves. Then, over all the pandemonium, the horrid sound of strife, angry cries, and then blows on the outer door; the crowds had rushed upon some German entering the Legation, and when the door was closed behind him and in the faces of the crowd, they began kicking. But the admirable de Leval went out and spoke to the crowd---and the German cowered behind the steel filing case back in Cruger's room. I asked de Leval to send to the authorities for protection, and in half an hour a detail of his civil guard was posted at the Legation, patrolling the streets and all was quiet.
Then for a drive in the lovely Bois-and Brussels never so beautiful.
On my return I was told that the train for the Germans had been arranged and Gibson and Nasmith(23) were rounding up the Germans. But to make doubly sure I went myself, de Leval accompanying me, to see Carton de Wiart.
There in his office, then-and a great portrait of Tolstoy on an easel---Tolstoy and this madness! Carton was very kind and not the least bitter towards the Germans. All had been organized, admirable trains had been provided to convey 2,500 Germans to the Dutch frontier tonight, and we have telegraphed van Dyke,(24) who will have them met there by other trains, and so they will go back to Germany.
August 7, 1914.---Poor Gibson has been up all night, with Nasmith, sending off the Germans. He drove away from the Legation last evening with the German-American and his wife and little boy in the motor to the Cirque Royal, the woman cowering all the way in terror in the bottom of the car.
Her, fears, of course, were groundless; the Belgians are by nature too kind, too generous, and they are without animus, and when the motor drew up to the Cirque Royal and as the crowds pressed around it, Gibson took the child, held it aloft and said:
"Belgians do not attack babies."
A big gendarme put forth his hands, took the boy in his arms, and holding it up, said:
"No indeed---nor their mothers, nor their fathers!"
And so he and the child led the way into the great Cirque. There nearly five thousand Germans were gathered, twice the number expected. They were of course all in excitement and alarm, and Gibson had to go about reassuring them. There was some distress, of course; one woman died; a baby was born. The officers of the police and the civil guard with their own money bought chocolate to give to the children and later Madame Carton de Wiart, that noble and charming lady, came with other women bringing hot milk and other comforts for the women and children.
The Belgian authorities promptly provided additional coaches, and after midnight the transfer of the refugees to the station began. It was carried on without incident, and this morning at daylight the last of the four long trains drew out of the Gare du Nord, bearing the Germans toward Eschen on the Dutch frontier.
The action of the Belgian Government in this emergency has been superb in spirit and in execution and the population has been nobly generous. I have written a letter to Carton de Wiart to express my appreciation and admiration. But more Germans are gathering today. We are to have another train tonight, de Leval and Watts, Consul-General, who came back from his vacation in France today via Knocke, having gone to the Ministry of Justice to arrange for trains.
Klobukowski sent me word today that he will transfer his Legation to Villalobar.
I stopped in this morning to see Sir Francis Villiers.
"Why were you not at the meeting of the Corps last night?" I asked. "We missed you, and I especially."
"But, I say, my dear colleague, the Papal Nuncio called the meeting for half past eight; most stupid of him, I mean to say, stupid." And then, that we might hear the conclusion of the whole matter, he looked up and said: "Why, I dine at eight!"
Nothing could be more typically British. Let wars rage, thrones totter, and empires fall; I dine at eight.
Shu-Tze, with one of his secretaries, came to me this afternoon, to ask what the dear colleagues had decided to do at the meeting last night. I explained, but he said he would do as I did. The little secretary spoke of the dangers of bombardment but I reminded him of his diplomatic extraterritoriality. He grinned and his face wore a curious smile:
"But de cannons got no eyes!" he said.
The Belgians continue to hold out bravely at Liége, "an heroic resistance." Paul Deschanel, President of the French Chamber, has sent a telegram to the President of the Belgian Chamber, congratulating him and Belgium---Deschanel was born a Belgian---and the Russian Government has sent its felicitations to the Belgian army.
August 8, 1914.---This morning a telegram came from the Department saying that Diederich, Consul-General at Antwerp, had reported that his life was in danger because he had undertaken the representation of German interests, and instructing me to secure adequate protection for him. I had had such complaints before from Diederich, the poor old man has really been frightened out of his wits. He is indeed unpopular in Antwerp, because he is so pro-German; speaks German in his family circle. I went to the Foreign Office, showed Davignon the complaint, and he laughed, for he understood the situation; indeed had already heard of it. He promised to see that additional guards were provided for the Consul-General.
On my way back to the Legation, stopped in at the British Legation to see Sir Francis. He told me of the announcement of Germany's request for an armistice of twenty-four hours at Liége, to bury their dead---piled up, Sir Francis said, in windrows on the glacis of the forts. The armistice has been refused.
Sir Francis, of course, was delighted.
Indeed, the heroic resistance of the little Belgian army in the forts along the Meuse---the forts that Leman, who now commands them, helped to construct---has produced an extraordinary enthusiasm that vibrates nervously in the sparkling sunlight; a kind of contagious exhilaration, intoxication, when men meet each other in the streets and say:
"The forts still hold out!"
When I came back to the Legation, I was met at the door by the big officer of the civil guard, who greeted me in his deep bass voice, and said:
"Your Excellency, have you any news?"
I told him of the heroism of his comrade in arms, of the request for an armistice, and so on, and his face lighted up.
"It is glorious! It is a day that will go down in history."
And he went to tell his men.
The newspapers naturally are full of the valor of the Belgians, though they have not much news. De Broqueville has issued a proclamation declaring martial law, and a strict censorship has been established; a state of siege has been declared in the Provinces of Limbourg, of Liége, of Luxembourg, of Namur, and within the fortified position of Antwerp. Two spies have been shot at the Porte de Bruxelles at Louvain. The French Republic has conferred the decoration of the Legion of Honor on the City of Liége and the French colors have been put on the statue of Liége at the Cinquantenaire; there has been an exchange of letters between Poincaré and King Albert; all Belgium is proud; there is a new spirit of solidarity; the old feeling between Flemish and Walloons is forgotten---in these fierce fires a nation is being born.
In the midst of all the news of war, we had the news of the death of Mrs. Wilson, and I sent the President a telegram of sympathy and several colleagues have called or left cards of sympathy.
In the early evening a message from van Dyke, a most remarkable message! He said he had been asked by his German colleague at The Hague to ask me to present a message on behalf of the imperial German Government to the Belgian Government. The message of the I. G. G. in German---de Leval translated it while we waited impatiently---was this:
The fortress of Liége has been taken by assault after a brave defence. The German Government most deeply regret that bloody encounters should have resulted from the attitude of the Belgian Government. It is only through the force of circumstances that she had, owing to the military measures of France, to take the grave decision of entering Belgium and occupying Liége as a base for further military operations. Now that the Belgian army has upheld the honour of its arms by its heroic resistance to a very superior force, the German Government beg the King of the Belgians and the Belgian Government to spare Belgium the further horrors of war. The German Government are ready for any compact with Belgium which can be reconciled with their arrangement with France. Germany once more gives her solemn assurance that it is not her intention to appropriate Belgian territory to herself and that such an intention is far from her thoughts. Germany is still ready to evacuate Belgium as soon as the state of war will allow her to do so.
I stood there by the desk in Gibson's room and read it over and over; looked at Gibson, looked at de Leval, looked at Miss Larner, amazed beyond any words at its cold, cynical, brutal effrontery.
I stood there with the telegram in my hand, looked at those ugly German words. What cruel hand had written them? What dark and evil mind had conceived them? Had that clumsy intelligence in Berlin no conception of the fact that there are, after all, in this world such words as honor and faith? Only a week ago a promise more solemn than this had been broken; why regard this as more reliable than that other?
I laid it down on the table, one thing at least decided,---that I would communicate no such dirty bribe to the Belgian Government.
I knew perfectly well that the King would scorn any such suggestion----he is too pure, too noble for that.
But how to manage it? I began to think about a despatch to Washington; I thought at first that I would point out what the President and Bryan, of course, must already realize, that this war is but the old struggle in the world between democracy and autocracy, and that little Belgium is just now holding this Thermopylean pass for democracy. I was writing at Miss Larner's desk a despatch in those terms; trying to make the view accord with our neutrality, a rather difficult task.
Gibson was studying the original telegram. After a while, he said:
"There are no cipher groups here."
"Ah yes! perhaps it is not authentic!"
I thought it over a long while. Perhaps Gibson was right. I did not, nor did he (the despatch was too essentially German for doubt) think he was, but perhaps he was. And so I wrote a telegram to Washington, pointing out that the remarkable message bore no cipher groups or other evidence of authenticity and asking for instructions. Also wired van Dyke asking him if it was authentic. We were all night putting the message into cipher.
Meanwhile the Belgians were holding on at Liége---the statement in the German note that the Germans had taken Liége is not true---and perhaps the Allies are getting up. I told Gibson he might tell Leo d'Ursel, if he wanted, and he did. D'Ursel much impressed, and ran to see Davignon and de Broqueville.
We were all night at the job.
The beautiful dawn was breaking as I went to bed.
Sunday, August 9, 1914.---This morning a telegram came from van Dyke; he was evidently relieved by my handling of the German message, for he said, "Congratulations." The message of course, as I knew, was genuine.
August 10, 1914.---A visit from my Haitian colleague; well dressed this morning as usual, with the Negro's love of fine clothes; and in his flowery French asking to have his mail sent home to Haiti on one of our ships that are coming with aid to Europe. He formally presented his condolences on the death of the President's wife, as did the Cuban Minister.
"The Two Dames," as Colette calls them, are superb. Mother in her old age has taken to card playing and is mastering the intricacies of rummy, playing it with Nell and her mother up there in the grand salon where it is cool. Miss Larner brought back my youth by reciting two lines from an old Whitechapel song---after luncheon as we were having our coffee. What scenes! what days! what friends! What old times it brought back! I can see again the faces of Charlie Seymour, Charlie Perkins, Pete Dunne, George Ade, Ben King, Al Lewis, Grizzly Adams, and the rest in that old room in the alley in far-off Chicago where newsboys are crying the noon extras even now, as I sit here this evening.
This afternoon Nell went to a meeting of the British Red Cross and brought back Marjorie Villiers with her. A sight good for sore eyes, this fine big English girl! She wanted some books for Lady Villiers, just convalescing, and I gave her the letters of Jane Welsh Carlyle and two books of Meredith Nicholson's. When I suddenly discovered that I had not been out of the house for two days, she insisted at once that I go for a drive, and so, into the motor with Nell and Miss Larner, and through the streets, the white houses blooming in flags, their black and red and yellow colors transparent in the sunlight. Such a picture! And then to the Forêt with the sunlight filtering through the leaves, irradiating the green boles of the trees.
August 11, 1914.---Long telegram from Department this morning, one announcing the impending arrival of one Michael Francis Doyle, sailing as soon as possible to assist in repatriating Americans. The news made us all sick, not that we dislike Doyle---of whom none of us have ever heard---but we have so much and such hard work to do that the care of a stranger would be but one more burden, for no stranger could now find his way about in this mad Brussels, and so I wired the Department that unless Doyle could speak French and Flemish, and knew the Belgian world, he could be of no service.
In the course of the morning, Dr. E. J. Dillon, famous English war correspondent, called. A little man in grey tweeds, with large inlaid walking stick; incessantly smoking cigarettes, simple, wise, apparently efficient and seems to know everybody worth knowing in Europe. Speaks familiarly, at all events, of every notability on the Continent. He spoke of the secrecy now enshrouding the movements of the French and English troops, and thinks the Allied armies may be nearer than we think. A great battle is imminent, he says, here on Belgian soil, and within two days stupendous, historic events may begin to unroll themselves.
After luncheon Klobukowski called, serene, smiling, and voluble, in his hurriedly articulated French. Klobukowski showed no signs of strain; his face is dark and ruddy, his white pompadour bristles, and his words sputter rapidly from his thick red lips, through his white moustache as of yore. Again we had the discussion of taking over the French interests, but he expressed his unwillingness to embarrass me. Inasmuch as he has already arranged with Villalobar to take over his interests, this is all superfluous and is but a purely diplomatic way of informing me that he does not wish to entrust French interests to me if I am to be charged with the care of German affairs. I am sorry, too, for I do love the French; they are so charming, so intelligent, so artistic, so eminently civilized. France---and of course England---are the only two nations for which I feel any sentimental attachment, any personal desire to serve. We gossiped a long time.
August 12, 1914.---Sir Francis sent over his cases of archives this afternoon to be ready for eventualities.
I was too nervous to remain indoors; and drove out again with Nell and Miss L. Brussels and Belgium never so beautiful. There is something infinitely pathetic in all this loveliness, and in its presence what words can one find for the abomination, the folly and the crime of this useless war?
But all evening, in a strange energy, I thought of the Grande Place as it looked this afternoon, and finally scribbled some verses; even sketched out a plan for a chapter of my novel. How I hate to give up that darling project. But writing, of course, is impossible. Shall I ever finish it?
Tonight the wind is strangely still, every one waiting, and the German army, so it is said, stretched along the frontier from Holland to Switzerland. The outposts are only thirty miles from us, but the movements of the French and English are surrounded with impenetrable mystery. And we wait, wait, wait .... What will tomorrow bring?
The inhabitants of Liége are sworn not to fire on the Germans or to commit any kind of aggressive action. The hostages, it is said, have been released. The German cavalry is at Tirlemont, drawing nearer, and Liége is invested. But still the Government announces through the press that the "situation remains favorable."
Today orders are issued to the civil guard not to fire on aviators, the sequel to the incident in the rue de Trèves.
August 13, 1914.---Again the sunlight and cloudless skies---strange phenomena for Belgium!---and the town still and unreal.
And lovely Brussels never so lovely, never to me so dear. A long day of tension, recognizable by all. News this morning that the Belgians have repulsed the Uhlans, but these engagements are mere skirmishes, without importance. And no news of the French or English, and the Germans massing.
I had a call this morning from van der Elst, excited over a rumor that the American Ambassador has left Berlin. I don't believe it, of course, and so told van der Elst, but I wired van Dyke for news and he had none.
August 14, 1914.---Another brilliant day; the same sunlight, the same cloudless skies; such weather as we have never known in Brussels; it seems a kind of mockery!
I drove after breakfast with de Leval to the Foreign Office, where all is excitement and preparation for the flight to Antwerp, and then to the rue des Colonies to get some cigars and cigarettes; had a stock of cigars put in humidor for me; one must prepare for the siege! Afterwards to a little book-stall to get some papers, a pretence at an errand in order to keep out in the sunlight and to be in touch with the old town, so charming, so human, and to me, ever increasingly dear. The pity of it is that all this peaceful, innocent prosperity; this calm life should be so rudely broken! Very little evidence of war in the book-stall. I looked over the French novels and plays.
"Voulez-vous quelque chose de shocking, Monsieur?" said the shopkeeper, a rather comely Bruxelloise of middle age with black eyes, who, de Leval says, used to be a singer of some success.
"Ah, Madame," I reply, "vous parlez anglais un peu, n'est-ce pas?"
"Un seul mot, Monsieur."
"Tiens, le mot shocking?"
"Oui, Monsieur, ça suffit pour les anglais et les américains."
And she laughed with abundant recognition of our puritanic hypocrisy, and knowledge of what in general tourists seek in these parts.
I returned to the Legation to receive the appalling news that two hundred American newspaper correspondents were about to descend upon us in force. I sent at once to the Foreign Office to prepare a cordial reception for them; explained to d'Ursel the exceptional position of these men in America, pointing out that they are not to be treated in that informal, cavalier manner with which journalists here are treated, and urged him to prepare a "warm douche, not a cold douche."
Mary Boyle O'Reilly, already on the ground, has been so anxious to see the Queen, that I finally consented and asked today for an audience---and an interview, much as I dislike to trouble Her Majesty in such an hour. Arrangements are progressing favorably.
Then I drove to the British Legation and remained with Sir Francis for an hour talking over the situation. He thanked me again for taking over the British interests, and is ready to go to Antwerp any day. A splendid type of Englishman, son of the Duke of Clarendon, descendant of Oliver Cromwell and of Hyde, whose name he bears!
Consul-General Watts, excited by the alarming statements in the three o'clock edition of Le Soir, called at the Legation to assure me that while he felt no "personal" apprehension, he had heard rumors of the German advance, that citizens of the capital must take every precaution; keep off the streets, and so on, and above all not to shoot. I tried to reassure him, there is always some one to be reassured! ... And all the while down in my heart, I feel that the invaders are drawing near; little items in the newspapers, bits of gossip one hears---the Uhlans seen at this place and that! Le Soir is right. But the city is calm, splendid order is maintained; the people are calm and dignified; these Belgians understand self-government. And lovely Brussels is lovelier than ever, but somehow in a wistful, waning loveliness, infinitely pathetic.
We drove, Nell and I, in the Bois, that "temple of God's peace," as the Times correspondent describes it.
The mounted civil guard, very chic, to use de Leval's constant phrase, in their uniforms of green and their grey fur busbies, are to be seen here and there. We met a troop of them in the Bois, young Davignon among them; he waved his hand at me. And in the midst of this woodland peace the pretty Brussels children are playing and lovers whisper their marvelous discoveries! Ah me! The expected battle is not yet--and the Uhlans draw ever nearer. I seem to see them skulking behind the trees.
Strange it is to think of the lovely days when we were all at Bois Fleuri; days that seem like far-off dreams, and this nightmare of war the only reality.
August 15, 1914.---No change, except in the weather: fine mist of rain this morning. The town a little more normal in appearance because of grey sky and rain, perhaps too a little more in accord with the universal feeling. The English papers note the deep religious feeling pervading the nation, and this especially is in evidence today, as it is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.
I have telegram from Richard Harding Davis in London. He will arrive soon. Also a letter from Paul Otley of the International Parliamentary Union, proposing that the United States urge belligerents to respect libraries, scientific institutions, works of art, and so forth. Huneus(25) had had a similar letter, and scenting an opportunity of fatuous conspicuity, he came over to propose a meeting to consider this proposal. What a silly waste of time. Promised, however, to meet him and some other colleagues in the afternoon.
Then I drove over to the Foreign Office and saw d'Ursel, handing him a note to the effect that Germany has put the Imperator and other ships in commission as hospital ships; d'Ursel was very cordial and, replying to a request I made that Davis be shown consideration, expressed his willingness to aid him in every way in his power. "Reason enough," he said, because I asked it. Fruits already of my having refused to send Belgium the German bribe.
On coming out I met Emile Vinck, Socialist Senator, a bright, capable little man, in the rue de la Loi. We were joined shortly by Paul Otley himself, an intelligent old Radical dreamer, with white hair and beard, bright false teeth. Rather impractical, I fancy. He discussed the necessity of preserving works of art, referred to in his letter. Both these men were full of patriotic eagerness and sentiment for Belgium, and the struggle for liberty; no more Socialist talk these days of international solidarity in the working-class.
Sunday, August 16, 1914.---In the afternoon I went over to the Foreign Office and introduced Frederick Palmer to van der Elst; he wishes to accompany the Belgian army. Van der Elst was very nervous, clicking his teeth like T. R., and more concerned, naturally, about a nephew wounded the other day in the trenches at Liége than about Palmer; the nephew was shot four times, once through the arm, and though he uttered a cry, was shot at again by Germans, the ball piercing his neck, though it did not make a fatal wound.
During my absence word came that the Queen would give audience to Miss Boyle O'Reilly at 4:30, I to accompany her and present her, of course, and to prevent indiscretions, and to be responsible for published account of interview.
Miss Boyle O'Reilly was here promptly, and we drove to the Palace, went not to the state entrance in front, but at the entrance in the quiet shady little rue Brialmont, behind the Palace, where the great wall is. The military guard was on the qui vive, but very civil and polite; and once admitted, we were received by the old Majordomo with the black mutton-chop whiskers, and shown up to a little waiting room where we were received by the Countess d'Oultremont. We had to wait, and talked for a long time---about the war, of course. The Countess was very much moved, her eyes filling with tears every few minutes. But after a while, accompanied by the good Doctor le Boeuf who has done so much for the Red Cross work here, we were conducted down the long, red-carpeted corridor to the Queen's private apartments, and shown into the little blue drawing-room, very pretty and cosy. And presently the Queen came in. She wore a simple blue gown with transparent sleeves, and a white, low, girlish collar; not a jewel, only her wedding ring on her hand, and her hair dressed high in delicate simplicity. She was very pretty, very dainty, and though she had a certain gravity, she was calm and self-possessed, and---queenly.
Her blue eyes were wistful, and a little smile that was somehow pathetic hovered about her lips. There was no ceremony at this rather strange presentation. I felt, indeed, an embarrassment at the imposition, for I felt that the Queen did not appreciate the imperiousness of American journalism, which goes where it will, and when it will. But she listened to my apologies with a manner that quickly disposed of my misgiving, and after I had presented Miss Boyle O'Reilly, by some delicate manoeuvre the Queen turned her over to the doctor, who led the way out, I walking beside Her Majesty.
I explained then to her what a fascination the personality of the Queen would exercise on the imagination of the humble homes of America, and what the indirect influence would be, and she looked up in my face and smiled, that sweet, sad smile. Meanwhile we were walking down the long state apartments, with their glittering chandeliers, all vastly different now from their aspect when I saw them last thronged with men in brilliant uniforms at a Court ball. They are filled now with long lines of hospital cots, spread with white coverlets drawn back---waiting for the wounded who are to be brought in perhaps tonight. At the foot of each cot a little Belgian flag was fastened.
"The children put them there," said the Queen.
I had a vision of the two little princes and the princess and asked after their health.
"They are very well," she said.
Up and down through these long apartments we paced, I begging her not to fatigue herself, but she assured me that it gave her pleasure to receive such appreciative visitors in that model hospital she has made out of her palace, all within eight days. The palace seemed deserted, cold and desolate---gone are its olden stateliness and luxury and charm now. Nothing but those white cots, operating rooms, tables with glass tops, white porcelain utensils, even an X-ray apparatus---with all their sinister implications.
And I thought: what a commentary on mankind, all these preparations for cruel, bitter suffering that has not yet occurred, and need never occur had it not been for the senseless and mad ambition and reckless, insane vanity of one man! Now and then a nurse would appear, dropping a courtesy as the Queen passed, and with some of them she spoke for a moment or two before going on.
The wards are so arranged that she can enter them from her apartments. As Doctor le Boeuf, who speaks no English, explained, all wounded men will be received, be they Belgians, French, English, or "foreigners," one avoids the word German in the palace these days. For an hour we walked up and down between those waiting white beds, and in our tour we finally found ourselves in one of the entrances facing the park. "The diplomatic entrance," said the Queen with a sad smile, "though they are all closed up now!"
Back up the grand staircase then, and at the door of the Queen's apartments, I kissed her hand and she went away, pausing as the door closed behind her to turn and make a little gesture of farewell. I admired, and had acquiesced in, the clever manner in which it had all been managed. The Queen had not been interviewed, she had spoken some gracious words to Miss O'Reilly, but she had talked freely only when she and I had fallen behind the doctor and Miss Boyle O'Reilly. There had been no interview, and the Queen had asked me to look over everything that was written; I promised, of course.
August 17, 1914.---When I came down this morning, Richard Harding Davis and Gerald Morgan were here. I went with them to the Foreign Office for passports, brassards, and so on, and then to the old Gendarmerie Nationale in the boulevard Waterloo, driving round by the Grande Place on the way, that Davis might see the most beautiful old square in Europe. It was filled with people craning their necks and gazing upwards and, of course, we immediately said "aëroplane." But presently we discerned two men on the top of the tower of the Hôtel de Ville at the feet of St. Michael, planting a flag there.
At the Gendarmerie... the scene was one that might have marked the French Revolution. It is a great white block of a building, simple and severe, almost staring and yet somewhat French in appearance. Within the great courtyards, crowded with wagons and horses, around a deal table, sat gendarmes, with a bottle of ink and a bottle of paste, preparing the passports, and a crowd of anxious people waiting. We sat there for a long time in the sunlight while Morgan and Davis were fitted out, and then, in a great yellow motor car, they went out past the Porte de Halle on the road to Louvain. Gibson had already gone on the same expedition with Palmer, and I envied them. I wish I might have gone!
I was very tired, and after dinner I went up to my chamber and stretched myself out on a chaise-longue to rest. No sooner had I seated myself than Joseph knocked, and coming in, handed me a telegram. It was from the Foreign Office, informing me that the Government goes to Antwerp tonight and that trains had been provided for the diplomatic corps.
No more chaise-longue!
I sprang up and went downstairs and telephoned Villalobar to ask what he would do. He came over and we discussed the situation. He is indignant at departure of the Government and reports Sir Francis in the same mind. Villalobar and I decided to stay at all events, and to act in harmony and concert.
Meanwhile, American newspaper correspondents are serenely arriving. Among others, Lewis, a nice little Harvard chap, for the A.P. Davis came back to town tonight, having got as far as Wavre, there to be turned back by the Belgians. He had seen no Germans but had his first sight of the Belgian cavalry; "smart soldiers," he thought them. He was disappointed at having been turned back; the curtains for him were drawn again before the stage that is being set for the mighty tragedy.
Madame Carton de Wiart called, very cheerful, competent, and charming as usual, and says that she is not going to Antwerp with the Government, of which her husband is a part. She is much concerned over her soup-kitchens and the making of clothes for the babies of the soldiers. It is always a pleasure to see this blue-eyed, white-haired woman.
Haitian chargé arrived with letters for our pouch, having no other means of communication with his far-away black island. Then I drove out to Mademoiselle's and took her for a drive. Davis came to dinner tonight, and when we were partly through, Gustave brought up the cards of John McCutcheon, Irvin Cobb, and Arno Dorsch. We spent a delightful evening, smoking and renewing memories of our youth. Cobb was very droll.
Carking care, however, was present as a guest and spent the evening. The already stealthy approach of the Germans, this flight to Antwerp, and again tonight a note from Count Clary asking me to take over the Austrian Legion. He intends to go to Antwerp. As his country is at war as an ally of Belgium's enemy, and he is staying in Belgium, there are certain anomalous features of the situation.
August 18, 1914.---The city is much depressed this morning because of the Queen's departure, briefly announced in the newspapers, but the Government has issued a statement saying that the situation was never better!
The first thing a despatch from van Dyke in response to my protest to Germany that while we had replied to requests concerning over two hundred Germans in Belgium at the demand of that Government, no notice had been taken by it of repeated inquiries from this Legation on behalf of Belgians or Americans in Germany. Little satisfaction in van Dyke's telegram, possibly intended to be kind, but has a parson's patronizing note.
Then I drove with the visiting newspaper men about town, going to the Grande Place, where McCutcheon and Ade had been years ago when they wrote their stories and made sketches of "the streets and of the town" for the old Chicago News. We halted the car in the square and sat there for a long time. Cobb, of course, very funny, though evidently much impressed. Then we went around to the Mannekin and through the narrow charming streets; invested with a greater charm, perhaps, because of a premonition of change, and because I long for the old peaceful days of tranquillity. We sent then to the Gendarmerie for the passes for the newspaper correspondents, but no more were to be had; indeed, the correspondents have been invited to leave Belgium. The heavy hand of Kitchener.
We drove on out the avenue Louise, for I wished the boys to see the lovely Bois. At the entrance to the park, a company of the civil guard was massed. They had dug a little trench, perhaps two or three feet deep, and made a little barricade of the earth and paving stones, strung a few barbed wires----waiting for the German advance behind this pitiable defence.
Villalobar called when I got back to the Legation, and suggested that as a diplomatic courtesy we call on Burgomaster Max, the highest authority left in Brussels now.
We went to the Hôtel de Ville, where all is confusion today, and were asked if the Burgomaster might receive in la Salle de Garde---the Police Headquarters---an office that looks and smells like all police stations the world over.
Max came down, carefully dressed as usual, his reddish pompadour, great moustaches en croc, beard pointed and smiling---like a little Griffon Bruxellois. He was calm, master of himself and evidently pleased with our call.
But we came away somewhat depressed, not by anything that Max had said, but by our prescience of what is coming. For those barricades at the entrance of the Bois, those civil guards are so ridiculously inadequate---and if they fire one shot---well, it will be all over with Brussels. We drove back to the Legation and our conversation drifted to other wars, the Spanish-American War, for instance, and Villalobar confided to me that he had a dream of our working together here in harmony, and of bringing our nations into closer relations again.
Then he talked of Old Spain and of how her control of the sea made her great; he said it required a large navy to maintain a nation's prestige, and that all should have one; and coming back to the present, he said England's control of the sea would win her this war.
Later in the afternoon we drove again in the Bois---and again the pathetic spectacle of the civil guards in their little trench at the end of the Avenue. These boys, these grocers' clerks, students, all these petit bourgeois, in their uniforms-derby hats decorated with cords and tassels-were fired, of course, with the spirit of the stout burghers of the old free cities-but their presence there is more alarming than reassuring.
August 19, 1914--A day of terrible tension, of extreme anxiety; over the city hangs a dreadful menace, the atmosphere is charged with portent, and every one is depressed. It has been very still and the sun glitters on the white façades of the homes, and one by one the flags are taken in, the shutters put up.
This morning we heard that the Belgian general staff had fallen back from Louvain to Malines. All day long crowds of peasants in carts and on foot have been pouring into town from the East, a continuous stream of them, with stolid, patient, sad faces---fleeing before the German advance.
A refugee lawyer who escaped with his family from Francorchamps near Malmedy came into the Legation to see de Leval, and told of the horrors that are being committed in Luxembourg by the German soldiers---villages burned, peasants shot down, massacres and unspeakable outrages; and a troop of Belgian cavalry passed down rue de Trêves, weary, haggard men, unkempt with grimy faces and uniforms grey with dust. A picture by Detaille here in the old Quartier Léopold.
But things in their order:
At ten o'clock I drove with Nell to the Ministère de la Justice for Madame Carton de Wiart to see the soup kitchens that are maintained by the public school system of Brussels for the children of the city...
Through a little twisting street near the Grande Place we entered a large court piled high with fresh, green vegetables, and in the kitchen were great, steaming vats of soup. We tasted the soup and found it rich and nourishing---good for all those six thousand hungry little stomachs!
Then off to the other side of the boulevard Anspach, to a poorer quarter near the markets, to visit two schools where the children reported at eleven o'clock and, sitting at long tables, eat the good soup and the petits pains.
The little ones marched in while we were there, all bowing to us as they passed. It was hard to keep back the tears. Then we crossed the square to visit another school for girls only. Two little ones were fighting as we entered and the defeated one hid her face in her arms and sobbed bitterly, her companions, with the savage stoicism of children, taking no notice of her pain. Another little creature, sturdy and well otherwise, had a very sore eye into which incessantly she ground a grimy finger. Madame Carton de Wiart took her by the hand and led her across to an ambulance,---returning presently with the little tot's eye all bandaged with a nice clean dressing. On the shoulders of the poor, as always, the burden rests; and how patiently they bear it. It seemed somehow like old times to be among these poor where I used to work; where I ought to be working now!
Back to the Legation then, and no sooner there than Villalobar came with news that the Germans were at hand. We agreed to call on the military governor in the afternoon.
Then when Villalobar had gone, Sir Francis came in formally to turn over his Legation. He was very calm and very British, this tall Englishman, descendant of Cromwell and of Hyde, a veritable Clarendon, whose hair had grown white in the diplomatic service. He said little, but complained of the eviction.
"A most frightful bore!" he said.
There was little to do, since his archives were already in my possession; he is to send over another despatch box this afternoon. We discussed the notice to be placed on the door of his Legation, and in outlining it I used the words "under the protection of," and so on. His British pride winced at this, I think---I had used the usual formula inadvertently; and he suggested "in charge of," and of course I assented. We decided that between us no procès verbal was necessary; we merely exchanged letters. He had made all his arrangements for departure.
"I shall lunch quietly at half past eleven," he said, "and motor over to Antwerp this afternoon."
There was no more to say. I know it was a bitter moment for him. He did not like the idea of flight. I disliked to see him go.
We have been good friends .... My first Sunday in Brussels, I went to the English Church, and he came up and spoke to me without awaiting the formalities, and another day he came over in the rain to tell me about calling on the Nuncio .... I have grown to be very fond of him, indeed of his whole family. Lady Villiers is so humorous and Marjorie so charming.
When I was new at this post, Sir Francis showed me many delicate attentions, rendered me many kind little services .... He arose and held out his very white hand:
"I trust that it is only au revoir," he said. "But," and he paused, "I want you to know that I shall never forget you, and what you are doing for me now."
We shook hands warmly---he knows how all my sympathies are with him! We bowed, and he went away.
August 20, 1914.---A day of dreadful excitement; the German army has entered Brussels and we have witnessed the humiliation of a proud, old, ancient city, the finest in the world. How to describe it!
We went to bed last night not knowing what the night would bring, and yet, to my surprise, in thinking it over, I fell into a heavy sleep and was awakened very early this morning by loud knocks on my door. Slipping into my dressing gown, I opened the door, and there stood poor Gustave, weary, haggard, frightened, intensely négligé, looking as though he had not been to bed at all---as indeed, it proves, he had not.
Gustave came to announce Bottaro-Costa, who was waiting for me in my cabinet, himself wearing a haggard air. He came at that early hour for consultation, and brought the news that it had been decided by the authorities, after all, not to offer any resistance; that the civil guard had been withdrawn and disbanded, and that this had been done on orders from the King at Antwerp, and as a result of the advice Villalobar and I had ventured to give Max. The German army was to enter the city during the day.
It was, in its way, a relief, of course, and I was glad that I had done what I had, though I had no means of knowing just what effect our representations had, or how far they were responsible for the event. It was the King, of course, who was finally responsible for that wise decision---the King has a very level head on those broad shoulders.
Bottaro-Costa stayed for some time; he was very uncertain of our diplomatic status, thought that we were merely distinguished residents of the capital. I was not much concerned about that technical point and our discussion of it was preëminently futile.
Villalobar called, and I saw Bulle,(26) in light spats, going demurely along the rue Belliard, on the shady side, and hailed him from the window. Gibson went over to the German Legation to fasten a new placard on the door, and to see how old Grabotsky and the other internes were getting on; they did not know that their compatriots were so near and that their hour of triumph had come.
And so we waited for eleven o'clock, straining our ears. We had been told that the troops would come in under the arch of the Cinquantenaire---I could just see the quadriga that old Leopold placed there, from the window of my chamber---and come down to rue de la Loi. We waited and no sound or sign of the invaders. At noon then, Gibson and I went to see what prospects there were; went down the rue de Trèves and to the rue de la Loi---and the American flag flying over the British Legation. But we saw no Germans and we had a kind of perverted disappointment, as though we were waiting for a circus parade. We went back to the Legation to hear that Villalobar had called in my absence, and Gibson went over to find out why he had come, and learned that Villalobar had called to tell me that the troops were to enter by the Chaussée de Louvain and march down to the boulevard Bischoffsheim.
At luncheon we discussed the propriety of my going out to see the army pass through. I did not like to miss the spectacle; on the other hand, I felt that it might possibly be construed as an indelicacy if I were to go out and witness the humiliation of the city.
I asked the ladies not to leave the Legation---one could not know what might happen. After luncheon we went out on the balcony, and one by one the bright Belgian flags were coming down from the white façades of the rue Belliard, where they had flamed in the afternoon sun for the past fortnight. The Venetian blinds were all down, and only the flags on the Brazilian, the Chilian, and the American Legation were left flying.
Then, eager to go, not quite knowing what to do, I saw Villalobar's car coming down the rue de Trèves---his chauffeur in his red and green livery, his red and yellow flag flying---and I went down to meet him, seizing my hat and stick as I went, knowing what I would, do. Villalobar was as excited as a boy.
"Come on," he said, and I went.
We drove over to the Italian Legation, in the boulevard Bischoffsheim. The boulevard was lined with crowds, waiting under the elm trees, out of the glittering sun. The patrol bourgeois were sauntering about, wearing white brassards, keeping order.
The Bottaro-Costas are leaving, he having been superseded at this post by a Minister who has not yet arrived, and are packing up. The Legation was dismantled and filled with packing cases. The Countess had kept one salon to live in and she received us there.
We waited and waited, there by the bay windows, overlooking the boulevard, chatting the while. Villalobar and Bottaro-Costa grew tired and impatient and went out with Carton de Wiart, the Spanish Consul, brother or cousin of the Ministre de la justice; Gibson and some other Secretaries of Legation had come but had not ascended to the drawing-room; they had disappeared too. I remained with the Countess.
And then, standing by the window, suddenly, I had my first view of the German army; the first view, at least, I had had since I had been in Germany two years ago. Without music, or fife, or drum, a company of infantry came down the boulevard; they were all in grey, even to the helmet covers they wore, and were in heavy marching order. They swung along a bit wearily, perhaps, close to the sidewalk; at the corner where they were to turn down into the boulevard du Jardin Botanique, two of the men fell out, took their post at the corner, and lowered their rifles. One of them seemed to find repose in resting his foot in the sling of his rifle; the other drew a box of cigarettes from his tunic, handed it to his comrade, fumbled for a match---then asked for a light from a Belgian standing near. He gave it to him with Belgian kindness; then a little crowd gathered, staring at the two specimens of the invaders. And that was all.
We waited. "Poor fellows," said the Countess. I assumed that the poor fellows had fallen out to mark the way for those to follow, though the route was already marked by arrows painted on boards and fixtures to the trees. But no more came.
Then Bottaro-Costa came up and said they were going by another route. We bade the Countess good-bye---she refusing to accompany us---rushed down, and Bottaro-Costa, Villalobar and I entered Villalobar's car, and whirled away to the rue Royale, where the chauffeur said the troops were passing. But no troops were there, and finding ourselves in the rue de Ligne, we heard the drum of horses' hoofs! Excited crowds were swaying this way and that; running uncertainly higher and there; finally they took a more stable course, in the direction of the hoof beats, and we drove to Ste.-Gudule. Finally, at Villalobar's insistence, out onto the terrace of the old Church itself, overlooking the little place de Parvis. And there, between the hedges of the silent crowds packed along the sidewalks, slowly descending the rue Ste.-Gudule and turning into the rue de la Montagne, which twisted away to our left, riding in columns of twos, in the same grey uniforms, the black and white pennants fluttering from their lances, was a squadron of German hussars, and as they rode they chanted in chorus, "Heil Dir im Siegeskranz."
It was very still; the crowds sullen and silent there in the glitter of the sunlight---the horses' hoofs clattering on the stones of the uneven pavement, the lances swaying, the pennants fluttering, and that deep-throated chant, to the tune we know as "America," and over us the grey façades of the stately old church---it was all weird, unreal.
The scene had the allure of .medievalism, something terrible too, that almost savage chant, and those grey hosts pouring down out of the middle ages into modern civilization.
Villalobar turned and looked at me and smiled.
"We'll remember this scene," he said.
"And think of where we are!" said Bottaro-Costa, glancing up at the two lofty towers of Ste.-Gudule at our backs, looking down calmly, as they had looked for seven centuries.
The column had halted, the chanting ceased; the last two troopers promptly turned their horses around---no rear attacks! The column moved again, taking up their savage hymn, and, still singing, wound down and away and out of sight behind the walk, the tiles and the chimney pots, where the rue Ste.-Gudule turns into the rue de la Montagne.
We thought we had seen it all, and we turned away and drove back to the Italian Legation, and there in the boulevard Bischoffsheim was the German army! All we had seen was a mere outpost, vedettes as it were, a little advance guard, for there up and down the boulevard, as far as we could see under the trees, were the lumbering guns, nervous horses, and the glint of fields of bayonets and those grey, grim hordes.
We stopped, and sat there in the motor, and gazed. Heavy guns, their vicious mouths of steel lowered, drawn by superb horses, were lumbering by, the officers erect, either very thin, of the Prussian type, with hard and cruel faces, scarred by duelling, or the heavier type, with rolls of fat at the back of their necks, and with red, heavy, brutal faces---smoking cigarettes, looking about over the heads of the silent, awed, saddened crowds, with arrogant, insolent, contemptuous glances .... There seemed to me at first to be a communication of cavalry, infantry, and artillery, but finally I fancied that each regiment of infantry was supported by a troop of cavalry, and followed by a battery, forming integrally an unit.
The uniforms seemed to be all alike; all of that rather ugly grey, helmets and every bit of metal hidden by grey covers, though the officers' uniforms of course fitted them and the men's did not, always...
A long line of cannons was rumbling by, the 40th Artillery, to judge by the numbers on their shoulders. Then more infantry, trudging along, and whistling the tune of "Every Little Movement Has a Meaning of its Own"---of course they had heard Madame Sherry in Germany. And then they sang the Austrian National Hymn, and then something from Lohengrin. And how they sang! Efficiency dried, discipline here but too apparent, for they sang all the parts like a Männerchor, as though they had been trained ---as no doubt they had.
Each officer carried his maps in a leather case, with isinglass to protect it and a little electric lamp hung about his neck. I could imagine them studying those maps at night, in the field, through that isinglass, in the glow of those little electric lamps; and this efficiency was everywhere marked, even down to the extra pair of boots each soldier carried.
The artillery rolled on until we were weary of it. Then came a long line of steel pontoons, the mud of the Meuse still on their bottoms. Then the commissariat, cookstoves with fires burning and smoke coming from the long stacks, soup simmering in the great kettles.
Then more infantry, a regiment of hussars with black and white pennants, ammunition waggons innumerable. It became monstrous, oppressive, unendurable; monstrous, somehow, those black guns on grey carriages and grey caissons; and those grey uniforms, the insolent faces of those supercilious young officers--- in their silly duels---wearing monocles; those dull plodding soldiers---such backs, such thews and sinews, the heels of their stout, heavy boots beating on the pavement; as impressive as a spectacle---all the attention to detail that distinguishes a circus in America; but in its implications, horrible, appalling, dreadful. All that organization of steel, grim, resistless, remorseless, cruel, efficient, yes; disciplined, yes, but heavy, sodden, distinctly German.
Then, suddenly, far down the boulevard, the crack of the music of a military band, high, shrill, with the high, shrill, fierce notes, the horrid clang of mammoth brass cymbals, music calculated like that of savages to strike terror. A great band passed by, and then officers and again the grey hordes, pouring down over the peaceful earth, bringing ruin and destruction.
Bottaro-Costa grew weary and went into his Legation. The Countess had been looking at the grim and awful spectacle from the window of her salon.
Then Villalobar had enough and I thought of Nell and the mothers and Miss Larner, and said to myself that if I were to hurry, they might yet have a sight of this splendid but wicked machine. Luckily I found my own motor down the boulevard, abandoned, I suppose, by Gibson, and in it I whirled to the Legation and got the excited ladies. "Hurry," I said, "there may still be time."
We returned to the boulevard---it was perhaps five o'clock---the grey hosts were still filing by. We sat in the motor and waited.
The Consul-General came up and joined us. Then Gerald Morgan sauntered by, very much impressed. He was in the Russo-Japanese war, and says that the Japanese army, so well organized, is a haphazard affair compared with this.
There was a commotion in the line: a horse harnessed to a gun had fallen with the terrifying sickening effect of that spectacle; the artillerymen leaped from the caisson and the line debouched. An officer shouted a sharp order and went on. For an hour the line filed by that gun, a grey horde; the dust beaten up by those thousands of heavy feet rose and sifted into the trees, turning the green leaves into grey. It settled into the grey uniforms, it gave a grey aspect to the atmosphere---and then the first grey twilight, and the grey hordes filed on like grey ghosts in a grey twilight.
I had agreed to go with Villalobar at half past six to the Hôtel de Ville; it was nearly seven. He was waiting for me at my Legation, and we rolled away by the park to the Palace. There were crowds everywhere, and as we turned down into the rue de la Madeleine, our progress was stayed by the crowds; Griffin, the chauffeur, kept his horn honking. Suddenly the crowd swayed right and left and scattered. There were screams, and looking up I saw an aëroplane hovering directly overhead---and from it a line of sparks falling on Villalobar and me; or would be in another instance. We said nothing; we thought of course of bombs, and suddenly the longest, lowest spark broke out into a pretty burst of colored balls ---like a sky rocket on the Fourth of July. It was a signal, we were told, to the army in the field.
We drove on to the Grande Place---that square of golden beauty ---and there artillery was packed and cookstoves were steaming. There were mounted sentinels at the entrances and the soldiers were comfortably settling themselves; the horses were munching their provender. The sentinels saluted us as we entered.
We drove past sentries into the courtyard of the old Hôtel de Ville and then up the grand staircase and down the familiar halls. We went to the Burgomaster's rooms. Tables were already set out, covered with papers, and at them German officers, in the pale bluish grey coats we had seen all over Germany, busily writing. We were received by four officers who clicked their spurs together and made the stiff punctilious military bow.
I spoke in French; told them who I was, but they stared blankly. Then I asked one of them: "Can you understand English?" He smiled with a rather kind expression in his blue eyes and said:
"Yes, if you will speak slowly."
So we explained our mission, and were thereupon shown into another room with much clicking of spurs and more of those stiff bows. Two men seated at tables spread with documents, turned to receive us, but a short, stout and very dusty little man, giving orders right and left, turned and spoke. He wore riding breeches, but had taken off his boots and substituted a pair of tan shoes, grateful no doubt to his weary feet. He could speak in French, with a strong German accent, and when I told him who I was, he immediately said, "Oh yes, I know, you were in charge of the German interests." He made another stiff little bow, his spurs clicking again and again. He kept whirling about, clicking his spurs and bowing to everybody.
We were shown then to the Burgomaster's room. He was sitting there at his great table, where we had seen him only yesterday; it seemed a long time ago.
He received us with a weary smile. Poor man, what he must have gone through.
"Never," he said, "shall I forget it, till the end of my life."
We expressed our sympathy and then our appreciation of his good sense in withdrawing resistance, and after seeing the army we saw this afternoon---the finest, I suppose, the world has ever known ---we shuddered to think of what would have happened if the poor little civil guard had been marched against it.
Max sent an usher out to inform the General of our presence and the messenger came back to say that the General was taking a bath and making his toilet. We- sat down to wait then and while we waited, Max told us of what he had gone through. First, that his relations with the General were difficult and embarrassing: "I refused to shake hands with him."
It seems that he refused to give his hand to the General when he arrived. He will stay, he says, with his Hôtel de Ville until the end. All day yesterday he was alternately in communication with the German army to the east and with the King in Antwerp. The Germans demanded hostages, the Burgomaster, the members of the Conseil Municipal, twenty notables; a contribution de guerre of 50,000,000 francs; and enormous quantities of food and forage. Max refused the hostages---the word hostages has such a medieval sound, my hair almost stood on end---held out, and gained his point. But the levy must be paid.
"I have done my duty," he said simply. Then he told us the news.
"The General Staff has fallen back from Malines on Antwerp, and there the remnants of the Belgian army will be gathered, for we must save a remnant of our army. There is no way to get another. And for three days the Germans will pass through Brussels. The troops that came through comprise the 4th Army Corps."
Max had just finished these statements when the General was announced: General Thaddeus von Jarotsky, General Major and Commander of the 16th Infantry Brigade.
He proved to be the same important little man who had received me outside, now transformed by his bath and toilet, his bald head shining, his short grey moustache bristling, his blue eyes alert, wearing the same blue-grey coat, on the breast of which was a flat bar of different colors, "to carry the decorations"; he wore now in place of the riding breeches long dark blue trousers with wide red strips, military boots and spurs. He was refreshed by his bath, and very hearty and well satisfied with himself. Then more crisp bowing and clicking of spurs and exchange of amenities, Mon Général rubbing his hands briskly.
Villalobar said: "We ask the right to communicate with our governments; as to cipher the right is, of course, disputable: but not in clear."
Mon Général, who spoke French with a curious accent, said: "Yes, of course, and in cipher too, if you please."
In fact, the General promised everything and then got up saying his dinner was waiting and he was very hungry. Then more compliments and bowing and we left.
Tonight, Sarzana, the Papal Secretary, called and told me that the Pope had died this afternoon at 1:30. The news had a peculiar shock. Is the world coming to an end?
There is also a rumor that a peace treaty with Germany had been arranged, but that is too absurd.
And tonight the town is marvelously quiet. I hear that German officers are dining at the Palace.
We have no news of McCutcheon, Cobb, Irwin and Dorsch; who were to have dined with us. I am worried about them.
The grey ghosts still pour in by the Chaussée de Louvain and file through all the streets---a horde like those of Attila, the "scourge of God."
Poor, poor little Belgium, and poor lovely Brussels! It is awful to witness the humiliation of a proud city.
August 21, 1914.---All night long and all through the day the grey hosts have been passing through the city, cavalry, infantry and artillery, ammunition carts and supply wagons, a never ending stream, over 200,000 men, they say-the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein and the Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin among the higher officers. From our windows looking down the rue de Trèves the first thing this morning we could see their grey casques filing by in the rue de la Loi. The population is calm, the calm of sorrow and humiliation. There appears to be an increasing tide of feeling against the French and English. Many of the Belgians feel, unjustifiably perhaps, that they have been betrayed. I have had expressions of this from all sources high and low.
This morning the walls of Brussels bear placards in French and German signed by General Sixt von Arnim giving warning of reprisals if any overt act of hostility occurs. In addition to the levy of 50,000,000 francs and immense quantities of supplies, the Province of Brabant is to deliver up 450,000,000 francs by September 1st. All day Max and his aldermen have been in consultation with bankers trying to raise the tribute.
Cookstoves are burning in the Grande Place: the Belgian flags have been taken down.
Around the town German officers race in automobiles; in each motor one or two soldiers with guns across their knees ready to fire at the slightest provocation. Four army corps in all, I am told, are to be in Brussels. An appalling sight.