Relief in Belgium was attended with many difficulties and vexations. The C.R.B. and Comité National proved on the whole admirably efficient. They quickly brought into operation several thousands of local distributing committees in Belgium and northern France. They undertook a wide variety of labors. A system of canteens, covering the whole country, supplied meals to the destitute at a cost of about eight cents a day. Special food was furnished for babies and meals for schoolchildren. Medicines and serums were distributed, children's institutions and orphanages were helped, an agricultural committee supervised the supply of seeds and fodder, special aid was given to artists, lace-workers, and destitute foreigners, maimed soldiers were educated for trades, and other benefits were furnished to different groups of the needy. The funds were obtained from a variety of sources, principally American, British, and Belgian. All financial operations of the C.R.B. were directed from Mr. Hoover's central office in London; the foodstuffs and clothing, purchased chiefly in North and South America, were shipped to great storehouses built in Rotterdam, and thence transshipped into Belgium, chiefly by way of Antwerp and on river and canal boats.
But obstacles and irritations, as these vivid pages by Mr. Whitlock show, were innumerable. While the Germans in general adhered to their engagement of October 16, 1914, small infractions of it were numerous, and before the end of 1915 led the British Government to threaten that unless they were stopped, it would withdraw its permission for the importation of food. Difficulties of transportation---especially when large German military movements were in progress---frequently arose. The commander-in-chief in the military zone (the Étape, or Etappengebiet) was not bound by documents signed by the Governor-General in Brussels and was often hard to deal with. Efficiently as the C.R.B. was managed, changes of personnel were frequent and not all its agents in Belgium were equal to their task. Mr. Hoover's wonderful gifts of organization were sometimes offset by a wonderful lack of tact and imagination. Villalobar, for all his charm and brilliancy, could show a petty jealousy of others. M. Francqui, head of a powerful organization, which among other relief activities paid former government officials part of their old salaries, had some apparent political motives and ambitions. Always in the background stood the German militarists and British Tories who, as Whitlock writes, made the work of the C.R.B. seem like feeding a lamb placed between a tiger and a lion. On the whole, the men who controlled the relief deserve high honor. Yet human nature proved human nature even in this idealistic effort and afforded plenty of drama for an observing eye.
January 28, 1915.---Dr. Rose back this morning from Berlin saying that the Government at Berlin was anxious to restore normal conditions in Belgium, have the people go to work and so on, and wanted to know what could be done. I told him that I scarcely had the patience to discuss the problem, it was so futile, and then I told him how all the machinery was being carried out of Belgium and that such hypocrisy made me sick.
Rose has just been in Poland, where he says conditions are much worse than they are here. The country has been ravaged by three armies; there is terrible suffering and there have been actual deaths from starvation. He is trying now to organize relief work in that country. He said that the Germans are very tired of the war and speak continually of making peace; that they are very much worried about the grim determination of England to fight the war out to the end; that they told him in Berlin that Germany could expect no more great victories, that she had gone as far as she could go, and that it was now only a question of saving as much as she could, and that he thought that Germany would be willing today to make peace if she could hold what she has occupied of Poland and if the Congo were ceded to her in return for the evacuation of Belgium, and so on. But, of course, England would agree to no such arrangement, and that further infuriated the Germans. After Rose went, Blancas(1) and Cavalcanti came in to talk over the question of the hides that had been seized at Antwerp. Some weeks ago I wrote a letter to the German authorities protesting against the seizure of American hides at Antwerp and had had no response. Blancas had a similar case, and on being told the other day that the Germans had settled the matter to Blancas's satisfaction and had offered to pay for the hides, I went to see von der Lancken and renewed my protest. Blancas now tells me that the Germans have withdrawn their offer to him, I suppose to equalize matters and place all on an equal footing and generally to do justice! What a mentality! How is one to deal with it?
January 30, 1915.---After luncheon had the visit of M. Louis Guérin, who comes from Lille, wanting us to help them obtain food for their city; they are near starvation there. He says that the Germans have lost over three hundred thousand men along the Yser, and that they celebrated the Emperor's birthday by an almost superhuman effort to break through the lines; the thirteenth attack they have made at that point; that they failed and lost thirty thousand men. He told me, too, that he had seen German soldiers reluctant to fight, shackled and conducted through the city by officers. Gibson, Heineman, and Hulse start for Berlin tomorrow ....
Lambert says he has discovered a new way of shortening those long daily visits of Villalobar. He has tried everything, but cannot get him to go, but now he says to him as they sit there in the salon:
"My dear Marquis, I am sorry, but I simply must go see my mistress."
This never fails to move him.
McClenahan(2) last night after dinner was full of stories about the atrocities at Dinant and elsewhere. When the story comes to be written it will be terrible.
February 1, 1915.---Nock(3) full as ever of the most interesting observations and good sound sense. We had a long talk about the efforts of the peace advocates who, although we firmly believe in their goal, always have the impracticability of all reformers. We talked a good deal too of Deutsche Kultur. Nock says that the word "culture" means the same thing to Frenchmen, Belgians, Italians, English, and Americans but that it is quite evident that it means something entirely distinct and different to the Germans.
He says that the sentiment in America is practically solid for the Allies and against the Germans and he says that the great punishment of Germany and of Germans will be the almost complete ostracism that Germany and Germans will suffer after the war is over. He says that Wilson is magnificent as President and will be reelected, that Bryan is doing great work as the chief party whip. He also said that Wilson will get us out of the Mexican imbroglio without a war.
February 2, 1915.---At work all morning and most of the afternoon with Nock arranging and assorting papers and getting letters answered. There has been such an accumulation since the war began. We went out late in the afternoon for a walk but it was raining and dismal and we soon came back. Just before dinner I had a call from Madame Drugmann, who came to tell me of the plight of the Comtesse de Rouillé. She had refused a beggar a pittance in the street and the beggar had denounced her as having referred to the German "pigs." She was thereupon arrested for this heinous offense, taken to the Kommandantur, released and then re-arrested after a disagreeable scene on the boulevard de Waterloo, where she again encountered the woman with an agent provocateur. He called another woman out of the florist shop... just under the American students' club. The woman was thrown out of the shop: "You call me a spy, do you; and the Germans, pigs." "I never said such a thing," protested poor Comtesse de Rouillé, but she was again arrested and is now held. Such a miserable business. Eloquent of the manners and depravity of human nature and of the utter pettiness of militarism and irresponsible officialdom, for whom denunciation takes the place of proof and amply suffices as a base of punishment. Thus it is wherever liberty is denied. It makes one's gorge rise. There was little I could do except refer her to de Leval, who might perhaps in some unofficial way aid her. Nock here to dinner and we spent a dull evening in the little salon.
February 3, 1915.---Francqui in this morning. We went over the whole business of revictualing. Everything working well except the pass department, which is still in Heineman's hands, and he intends on keeping it there and monopolize credit and influence as much as possible. Human nature at its worst and littlest again. Great God, how men do dwarf and shrink in an atmosphere that is not purified by the air of liberty. We shall have to straighten out the pass business when Heineman, Gibson and the others get back from Berlin. Hoover, it is said, will accompany them. Francqui thinks that another month with the coming spring may bring large things, but no one knows, of course. All we know now is that this labor here grows more and more difficult and impossible and gets on the nerves terribly.
I had a call from John Van Schaick,(4) who represents the Rockefeller Foundation. He is a Universalist clergyman at Washington and a very intelligent man.
After luncheon Connett was in and we went over many details of the revictualing. Then with Nell and Mlle. for a drive to Laeken, intending to have a look at the old church there; but it was all boarded up and closed, so we drove through the park. The day was mild and there was somehow a touch of spring in the air. Ah! if spring should come and mean what it once did! But what is anything without liberty? And how can one be happy in the presence of the greatest and foulest crime that history ever knew?
February 5, 1915.---I went with Nock on a number of errands in the beautiful sunshine and along the rue Royale, stopping to admire the vista with the great green and gold dome of l'église Ste-Marie at the end .... After luncheon Rippenhausen called and we drove in my car to see the English wounded. There are but two in town. One is at the Palace, now converted into a hospital, and I entered there for the first time since that Sunday when the little Queen showed me through the familiar halls, now transformed into an ambulance. We went up the marble staircase and through the long salons with their interminable rows of cots and beds, and I found my mind crowded with the memories of the brilliant scenes I had once witnessed there. It was sad in every way; sad in retrospect and sad in reality. There are many Belgian wounded there, some French and one English, a young chap, who lost an arm at Mons.
There were many visitors; nearly every man had a half dozen women bending solicitously over him and I stood by one of the beds and talked to the young Englishman who, as I say, has lost his left arm at Mons. Two Frenchmen, soldiers, each of whom had lost a leg, sprawled on a bed near by. The Englishman was a regular and had seen five years' service in India. He was brave and cheerful; in fact, I think the women have rather been spoiling him. He says he has cigarettes to last him for years and cigars and fruit and flowers. We walked about through the whole hospital---I could recall Walt Whitman's descriptions---and then we drove away to the barracks in the rue de la Couronne, now converted into a military hospital. There were many German wounded there, and in the yard, basking in the brilliant sunshine, a crowd of convalescent prisoners.
They wore long gowns made of white and blue stripe ticking, and presented a curious appearance. There were several French soldiers in big baggy trousers and at that moment a moving picture man was taking photographs of a group of Turkos, in the midst of which was a big black broad-nosed Negro from Senegal. It was an animated, somewhat gay, and in a way rather pleasant scene, for the warmth of the sunshine lay over all today. A German officer with studied politeness received me; a red-faced man with an ugly duelling scar on his cheek; spoke excellent English. When I asked him for the English prisoner, he said, "There he goes now," and pointed to a man hobbling away on a stick. We overtook him and he was a remarkably fine-looking young chap, I should say twenty-four, with a little blonde moustache, his right arm in a sling and limping in the left leg, dressed in a smart uniform of khaki, the brass buttons of which proclaimed him as a member of the King's Liverpool regiment. He is a Lieutenant, named Meredith, and I talked with him for a long time. Thinks they are going to send him to Germany, and he does not like the outlook. Said he was well treated in the hospital and that the doctors were excellent. He was anxious to have some sort of exchange effected and I told him that I should see what could be done, though neither he nor I had great hopes of success.
February 6, 1915.---I had a long conference this morning with Francqui and Connett about the revictualing, passes, and so forth. . . and 1 told them of what von der Lancken had said about the use of automobiles by Belgians and what Rippenhausen had said on behalf of von Bissing.
Nock thinks he will leave; says the atmosphere here chokes him. A good deal of talk today about the proclamation by the Germans of their blockade against the English and much speculation as to what it means; whether it is a bluff; whether they have some surprise in store, such as the 42-meter cannon for instance, or whether it is a Machiavellian method of embroiling the whole world into war and thus giving Germany a porte de sortie.(5)
February 10, 1915.---We seem to be out of the doldrums at any rate, for the waters are troubled today. First this morning a call from Connett and Francqui, both of them exercised by late developments of the food question. In addition to the trouble about passes, the Comité National had had a letter from Kaufmann complaining about the abuses of the bakers in Brussels, and Lemonnier had had a letter which he has given to Francqui, written by von Kraewel, ordering Lemonnier to report to him certain facts about the trouble with the bakers, and so on. In addition to that Francqui had proposed to the Germans that inasmuch as two-thirds of the foodstuffs now consist of white flour now donated by America and one-third of it is wheat, and as the provinces are clamoring for wheat so that they may have the bran to feed their cattle, he suggested that Brussels be given white flour, there being no beasts here, and that all the grain be sent to the provinces so that they could have the double benefit. No reply has been received to this as yet.
The first question was---the other might wait---what was Lemonnier to do with the letter he had received from von Kraewel? The suggestion was made that Lemonnier should wait, that it was none of his affairs, that the bread was given by America and other neutral countries and that they had nothing to do with it. This view prevailed and Villalobar coming in at that moment approved of it. Villalobar said he had good news, a letter from Klobukowski, who said there was no need to provide more funds, as a decisive and immediate movement would finish the whole business. Villalobar said after the others had gone that he was ready for anything that would change the present horrible situation.
Many Belgian civilian prisoners are being sent back from Germany. They come in a weakened condition, having had nothing to eat other than beet soup; most of them wearing the clothes they had been wearing in August, and all in a pitiably filthy condition.
Then Gibson came back with the news that everything seemed to be going on normally in Berlin; theatres open; intense hatred of the English; hatred of the Americans almost as intense, that nobody would speak English there or listen to it, and he told me much of Gerard's troubles. From all accounts Gerard is a strong man. Hoover and Francqui came in then. Hoover gave me a long account of his visit and work in Berlin .... As a result of all this the situation regarding food supplies is very serious, and Gibson said that the blockade means great danger for America, for if one of our ships were to be blown up then---bang! We shall see what we shall see.
Gibson said the Germans were very confident, but Hoover said they are rather desperate and gave me the impression that they are fighting on the defensive; that von Hindenburg told Rose that they had no notion of going eastward beyond the Vistula and that von Bethmann-Hollweg said their condition was serious. Altogether it was a long and troubled day, and I did not get out of the house and in the open air until six o'clock, and then only downtown with Nock to try on a pair of shoes I had ordered, and found them too large and not fit to wear. Nock leaves in the morning, and it makes me homesick to think of his going.
February 12, 1915.---For days I have been under an intolerable depression, and the news of the death of Frank(6) was the last straw. But everybody is depressed in Brussels these days. The strain grows more and more tense, and the sad deserted appearance of the streets, the idle populace, and the still more idle soldiers who infest the town carrying their brutal rifles, the lack of all diversion, all movement, all gaiety, is depressing to the spirit. There is literally nothing one can do but to wander up and down the streets; and the shops, darkened because they economize in light with no renewed stock, somehow add to the depression. I felt sad to see Nock go. One week of this atmosphere almost did the business for him. Villalobar told me the other day that the strain was growing too great for him also. And every one is more or less affected in the some way. I cannot write; I cannot do anything except what literally has to be done each day. I cannot even remember all the interesting things that I might jot down in these notes.
For instance, I forgot the other day to note that the mystery of Grant-Watson's secret documents seems to have been explained. At the École Militaire there were, of course, many old papers relating to army matters, left there when the school was deserted by the cadets. These were flung about everywhere. English prisoners had a locker or closet and in the one that was allotted to Grant-Watson there happened to be some papers relating to the Belgian army. So the story goes; I do not know what truth is in it. I forgot too that the affair of the Comtesse de Rouillé did not end as happily as I had supposed. De Leval thought he had arranged it all, the judge had decided to let her go, von Bissing had kissed her hand, and so on and so on, and then the infuriated florist of the boulevard de Waterloo refused to withdraw her charge and so it will have to be pressed.
Hoover was in all morning boiling with rage over his interview with von Bissing last night. He wanted to arrange the question of passes with him and von Bissing would do nothing for him, even threatened still further to restrict the movements of the C.R.B. Hoover spent a long time writing out a letter threatening to withdraw from the whole work and leaving the onus on the Germans. They seem absolutely incapable of appreciating the work we are doing and treat every one connected with it as an interloper or a spy, and it is becoming almost unbearable. For instance, Gibson's pass. They held it up for days and then said he could go into every province of the occupied territory except one. "Which one?" we asked. "Ah! any one he chooses to select will be eliminated!" He eliminated Luxembourg. Hoover was to see von der Lancken this afternoon, but I do not know the result yet of the interview. With the intense feeling in Germany against Americans, the situation is exceedingly delicate and difficult. Hoover says the English Government has loaned six million pounds to Roumania, which is significant, and it is predicted that Roumania and Italy will enter the war.
This afternoon I escaped for a while and rummaged about in an old bookstall in the rue de la Tulipe, but found nothing except an old set of Rabelais and I did not buy that. I did pick up, however, a dictionary of French slang, rather useless I suppose.
Yesterday afternoon Mlle. and I had a pleasant stroll. Went to the old Fish Market and saw the place where the statue of Ferrer stood. It is now leveled even with the ground. Visited the vegetable and fruit markets nearby and the vieux Marché ....
Sunday is the anniversary of the day on which I presented my letters of credence to the King, and I understand that some sort of fête is being arranged for it. Lemonnier wanted us to go to the Hôtel de Ville, but I got him to postpone it. The Belgians are all delightful and kind and lovable and anxious to show their appreciation, but I dread anything like a manifestation.
Hoover was talking to a Dr. Marx who is in the passport bureau, and Marx said to him:
"What do you Americans get out of this, I should like to know?"
Hoover looked at him and said:
"It is absolutely impossible for you Germans to understand that one does anything from pure humanitarian, disinterested motives, so I shall not attempt to explain it to you."
Hoover was furious, but there was nothing to be done. They are another kind, another order of intelligence, and such sentiments are simply beyond the limits of their comprehension, that is all!
As I have said before, they are like a tribe that has wandered down into modern times out of the middle ages.
February 13, 1915.---A curious thing has happened; all over town today the American flag is being displayed in the windows and people are wearing the colors. Mlle. says that it is to celebrate the anniversary of the day on which I presented my letters of credence to the King, which is one year ago tomorrow. Gibson and others say that the Belgians think that tomorrow, St. Valentine's Day, is our national holiday and a great American fête. Another avalanche of cards has descended on the Legation already. It is amusing and yet it is touching too. This afternoon, Nell, Mlle. and I drove about on numerous errands. We went to the little book place on the rue de la Tulipe where I found the old set of Rabelais, and I yielded to the temptation to buy it.
Sunday, February 14, 1915.---When I came downstairs this morning and went to the petit salon, there on the mantel-shelf was a beautiful little bronze figure of St. Michel; a charming piece of art and a beautiful souvenir of Brussels---a gift, as it. proved, of Mademoiselle. I was made very happy by it. The day has been made memorable by the fact that hundreds and hundreds of Belgians have again left their cards expressing their gratitude and felicitations for America. Many of them bear inscriptions signifying that the people think it is our Independence Day or some other fête in America at any rate. Many of the letters are from children. Very beautiful they were, too. And many flowers; the salon upstairs a perfect bower, and all sorts of souvenirs, poems, banners, even books and pictures!
In the morning drove in the Bois in the rain, and late in the afternoon I took a long walk; it was storming violently, a drenching rain and a high wind and the town deserted and the streets glistening in the lamplights.
February 15, 1915.---The first thing this morning a call from Cardinal Mercier, a tall fine-looking man in his Cardinal's cassock, with his red sash, red gloves, and hat with the red and gold tassels. He came to thank me for what America has done and what I have done and I enjoyed very much an half-hour's visit with him, in which we discussed, of course, principally the Germans and his late experience. He gave me an autograph copy of his famous "pastoral,"(7) and among the many interesting bits of gossip he had to give me was this: That the German authorities wrote him a letter saying that he was reported to have said that one of his priests at Malines had been killed, and asking him first, the name of the priest; secondly, what regiment of soldiers it was that shot him; thirdly, whether the Cardinal thought him innocent and quite sure that he was innocent. His Eminence replied first giving the name; secondly that he did not know who the soldiers were, that while Belgians could distinguish a German by his uniform, he could not tell to what regiment he belonged and that he thought that the German General staff at Malines would be able to tell what regiment it was; and thirdly, while he himself thought the priest innocent, that in civilized countries personal impressions did not count and that it was for the accuser to prove the guilt and for the accused to prove his innocence, and he proposed therefore that a court be established, composed one half of German judges, one half Belgian judges, to be presided over by the American Minister at Brussels. Before such a court, he said, he would give his testimony and before none other. As yet he has had no response, and as he said with a twinkle in his eye he did not expect one.
February 16, 1915.---Went walking with de Leval down the boulevard Bischoffsheim to the rue Neuve and halfway. He took me to see what I had never seen before in Brussels; the smallest street here, or perhaps anywhere, namely la rue d'une-personne, a gloomy little alley with a lamp burning over it, that leads back to some foul and wicked congeries of hovels. In all the little streets of that quarter various saloons have been turned into dives where the German soldiers carouse, and they were tuning it up tonight as though it were a western mining town, a squalid depressing place indeed. The Germans, by the way, have taken the hospital at St-Gilles to be used exclusively by diseased women.
This is mardi-gras and a year ago tonight there was a carnival and Nell and George and Mrs. Boyd and I peeped in at the ball at the Monnaie. No carnival today and no spirit of carnival in this sad, subdued town.
February 19, 1915.---Von Rippenhausen was here this morning to get the names of our Consuls in Belgium. I chatted with him awhile about the war. He thought that it would not last out the year: he was indeed rather downcast, I thought, although he may not have been, for he seems to be of a morbid cast of mind. We talked a long time about Tokio, where he had served and where he found it so pleasant to live; and then about Germany's reply to our note. I have not seen a copy of it yet, but it seems to be not at all belligerent or offensive. Germany explains the necessity for her taking these steps on the ground that England has called in hunger to aid her as a weapon and then suggests that some sort of convoy be provided for American ships, and in the end appeals to America to give her adherence to the Declaration of London, and if England will do so, Germany will do so.
A walk at noon with de Leval and this afternoon to see von der Lancken, who had asked me to drop in there. Von Bissing has asked him to speak to me about the incident at Liége;, a merchant wished to print the American flag and the Belgian flag side by side with some appropriate sentiment and sell them. Von Bissing said he did not wish to make a big affair out of a little one, and while he would not forbid it, he would not consent to it and he wished me to know his attitude. And then we talked for awhile about the demonstration last Sunday and about the general display of American flags here, and then I went to Devreese.(8) There, to my surprise, I heard that the Belgians were going to celebrate the 22nd of February, so that it seems we are to have a fête every day or two. It increases my anxieties and difficulties, for the position is delicate enough as it is.
February 20, 1915.---This morning the Police Sergeant came to ask what arrangements we wanted made for the great festival of Monday. "It is going to be something colossal!"---and we were all in despair. Gibson at once went to find Francqui and Lemonnier; Lambert having been seen last night. While awaiting the arrival of Lemonnier, the concierge from the Japanese Legation came and reported that German officers had entered the Legation yesterday afternoon and put seals everywhere, thereby creating for us another nice problem.
Then Alderman Steens with mustachios waxed, starboard and port, arrived to say that M. Charles L. Cardon wanted to present to the United States, as a token of gratitude, Van Dyck's sketch of his famous painting, "St. Martin dividing his mantle with the beggar." The sketch is said to be more beautiful than the finished painting, and has been much sought after by American connoisseurs; Pierpont Morgan having offered twenty thousand dollars for it. Steens wanted to know when the ceremony of presentation could take place and I told him to come Monday afternoon. I shall have to obtain the consent of the Government, I suppose, before accepting it. Then Lemonnier came and I begged him to stop the manifestation for Monday, and after some discussion he agreed to issue general orders to the police to discourage all such things.
Sunday, February 21, 1915.---A beautiful day; almost springlike. Nell, Mlle., and I took a walk in the morning, and then Senator Lafayette Young(9) and Dr. Baylis took luncheon with us. Young is a type of American Middle Westerner, and is terribly anti-German, the result of the everlasting stupidities of the Germans in America. He was furious against what he called their treason, as well one might be, and both Baylis and Young said they were ready to go home and support Wilson if the Germans were going to work against him. He said what all are beginning to feel that the Germans have gone mad, a race of fanatics.
In the afternoon I took a long walk by myself and made, I suppose in all, twelve kilometers, since I walked out avenue Tervueren as far as the Trois Couleurs, where a year ago at this time we began to have our first view of the amiable Belgians taking their ease in their inns. The boys were playing football in the fields across the way, but there was hanging over everything the awful pall of war, and I heard very strongly the firing of the heavy cannon from the sea.
Not far away I looked at the château of the Duc d'Orléans and laughed to think of the visit our old manicurist made us yesterday. She wanted us to hoist the American flag over the Duke's château; said it would please him very much indeed! No doubt!
The Belgians are getting ready for a big manifestation tomorrow despite my attempt to postpone it .... People are already beginning to leave flowers and cards.
February 22, 1915.---Washington's birthday, a lovely day too, and almost the first thing I saw in the morning was a sergeant of police in white gloves, very fine, with his sword, in front of the Legation, managing the crowds that came up the rue de Trèves. They made a veritable procession on our side of the street, and on the other side of the street there were scores of passengers gazing on and men and women waiting patiently, also German spies. The little leaf in the door kept clicking incessantly and the cards poured in, poured in. Also masses of flowers of all sorts, great cards with our colors and the Belgian colors, and letters from everybody, little children from the schools, hospitals, and so on. Very touching it all was, and yet it made me very nervous for I feared the possible effect upon the situation---already made difficult enough, Heaven knows, by the exchange of notes between the American and German Governments. Von Rippenhausen was in further to arrange the question of the Legations. They are ready to remove the seals they have put on the Japanese Legation ....
I walked out toward midday in a brilliant sun along the boulevard and avenue Louise. There were crowds, everywhere, and all of them wearing the American colors, and little children playing with the American flags. German sentinels everywhere and I do not know why, but! things seem to be somewhat "disturbing."
There are rumors today that a British transport with two thousand men aboard had been sunk, also rumors of a naval battle in the North Sea in which five British and fifteen German vessels were sunk, also another rumor that the French fleet had bombarded the entrance to the Dardanelles.
February 23, 1915.---Another lovely day, and it was nearly noon before I could get out of doors. A German placard announces the sinking of the British transport and the bombardment of the Dardanelles, but says no damage was done there.
The placards invariably confirm all news that is in favor of the Germans and deny all other tidings. Today de Beughem sent me a beautifully bound copy of the life of Leopold I, and Vandessandt sent me two originals of his etchings, one of the Grande Place and the other of the Palace, and letters and cards continue to come in and the little things that the children do. Letters even to the President and all sorts of childish paintings and even verses. Spent the early part of the afternoon writing letters of thanks---had to write them in French---then out for a stroll toward the close of the day.
Gibson says that von Bissing has replied to Hoover's note---addressing it to Heineman---has very strictly limited passes, and they must all go to 48, rue de Naples to be approved. Heineman seems to be the one person the Germans trust.
Sunday, February 28, 1915.---The day dawned in such brilliant sunshine that I made up my mind to play golf, and as soon as we were dressed we were all off to the golf-links, Nell, Alice, Miss Larner and I. I played eighteen holes with van der Kindere, and enjoyed it exceedingly. My first game since that day in October when the guns were thundering around us, and then I only played nine holes. There were a half a dozen players there and we enjoyed a good luncheon, and then the ride home through the Bois and all the afternoon I read Pierre et Jean before the fire. Cavalcanti and Bulle here to dinner, and we played bridge in the evening.
The golf club has not suffered much from the Germans. They ride over the links occasionally and they took away all the clothing and boots, tennis balls and rackets, and they kept poor Floramont at the Kommandantur trying to make him tell where the English members lived and he, of course, did not know. It was a joy to be there again; something like normal life, though one cannot forget the horrible war for a long time.
March 2, 1915.---Went with Villalobar to see von der Lancken upon three little points concerning the revictualing. First, Hoover's telegram of yesterday telling of the difficulties about the boats, then another matter concerning the importation of iron to help the Cockerill factories at Liége operate, and then something about requisitions. Von der Lancken in rather bad humor, sleepy, I thought, too; said he had been up until two o'clock and had risen early to ride in the park. He had great boots on like a dragoon. Not much news. He said the French were attacking along the centre of their line but accomplishing nothing. They are going to move their offices tomorrow to the Ministry of Industry and Work, which is just down the rue Belliard ....
When we had done, Villalobar had something to talk over with von der Lancken and I wandered over to the end of the room and looked at some rather fine English prints that were there, and von der Lancken said:
"Are you taking a general look around before the general deménagement?"
I said I was admiring the prints, and he said very bitterly:
"If we were the barbarians they say we are, I should take them away with me."
That talk of barbarians has hit him on the raw; he is forever bringing it up.
March 4, 1915.---I am forty-six years old today, and there is, I suppose, nothing to be done about it except to be grateful for the wonderful friends with which I am blessed. The day was made very happy for me by their attentions. A watch from Nell, St. Michel from Alice, a beautiful set of desk furniture from Miss Larner, a clock from Gibson, and a silver frame from de Leval, who recited in such a droll way a little couplet from a song of the French children:
We all had a good laugh and I was deeply touched.
I went out after luncheon to play golf. Found young Phipps there, and we went eighteen holes in a soft mild air under a grey sky and the ground damp and spongy under our feet and with that hissing little sound that the water makes in the spring, just as I used to hear it in Inverness. The birds were singing, and as we played we heard almost continuously the deep heavy booming of the cannon, where I do not know.
I was reading the other day in the New York World of an interview with von Bissing in which he sneeringly said the Belgian people were politically children, that whenever they heard the sound of cannon they thought the allies were coming, and this statement, I suppose, is accepted at its face value in America and elsewhere for that matter. But von Bissing neglects to say that the people in Belgium under his rule have no means of information, and are kept utterly ignorant of all that is going on in the world and are fed on adulterated news by the dirty little rags of newspapers that the Germans get out every day, completing the farce by giving them a certain little Belgian bias and tone.
March 6, 1915.---A telegram from Hoover today saying that some charitably inclined people were ready to take over the revictualing of northern France---Gifford Pinchot Company. I do not like the idea because I can see Pinchot exploiting himself over here.
Heineman and Francqui in this afternoon and I talked to them about it. They were of the same opinion. Francqui said that it would be much simpler to extend the work of the organization to northern France under Connett, simple as "un jeu d'enfant!" Heineman had said that some Swiss people wanted to revictual northern France and send in their stuff through Marseilles. Francqui thinks it would be better to do it by Rotterdam and not have the Swiss in it. We talked a long time about the question of revictualing. Heineman goes to Paris by Switzerland Friday. Francqui may go with him.
Francqui gave me another item that confirmed my suspicions that a good deal of business is being done by certain gentlemen in this country at this time. Potatoes, for instance, that one can buy for four francs in Flanders are offered here for 9.25, the difference doubtless going to officers. I have heard many such stories. A German the other day tried to have cashed a cheque given him by the German authorities for 56,000 marks. Said he had received it for cigarettes, as though anybody in Belgium had 56,000 marks worth of cigarettes.
Francqui brought me in a proof of the medal for the relief work; a beautiful thing.
Heineman is droll at times. He was talking about the number of iron crosses that the Kaiser has given:
"It is easy to get an iron cross," he said, "especially if one has not done any fighting."
It is a fact that all men in the offices here have them.
March 11, 1915.---Conrad telephoned last night saying that von der Lancken wanted to see me this morning at half past nine, German time. We thought this meant about half past ten, Belgian time, but on going to bed I discovered that it was half past eight and so I had to get up half an hour earlier this morning and went over to see von der Lancken, who is comfortably installed now in the Ministère de l'Industrie .... Waited nearly half an hour to see von der Lancken, but finally he came out and I went into the little room on the second floor, overlooking the park itself. He had a number of things to discuss with me. First, the letter that Francqui wrote him the other day asking for the passes and new assurances. In this connection he read me the letter that von Bissing was going to send in reply to ours, giving the passes and the assurances, but not quite the assurances that the Comité National asks. There has always been some difference of opinion as to just what those assurances were and what they covered. He went on to tell me, however, that von Bissing, being a "touchy" gentleman, was offended that Hoover had gone to Berlin, and said of course they could give no official recognition of the Commission for Relief, that they recognized only the Comité National de Secours and the patronage of Villalobar and myself. I explained to him the enormous difficulty of the work, the necessity of raising nearly ten million dollars a month, and that we had to have somebody like Hoover to look after the details. The Germans have never understood the organization nor comprehended the difficulties of this work; assurances, patronages, and so forth are all very well, but it takes money to buy food and to buy food enough to feed nearly seven million of people takes a good deal of money, nearly eight millions a month, much of which up to this time has been given by America. I said to von der Lancken:
"It would be easier to feed milk to a lamb in a cage between a lion and a tiger than to feed the Belgians between the Germans and the British."
He smiled faintly. However, that point passed we went on to another. He had heard that a ship called Aymeric, a steamer flying the American flag, loaded with provisions for the revictualing, bound from New York to Rotterdam with the flag of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, had put into an English port and there discharged arms and munitions. Of course I do not believe there is any truth in this at all, but I told him I should have it investigated in full and I shall have it investigated in full. Then he wanted to talk about Watts. It seems that Watts' wife and daughter have been delivering discourses against the Germans and Lancken ended by telling me that Watts was persona non grata, that he was now in Holland and they would not give him a pass to re-enter Belgium.
I asked him not to make a nasty and unnecessary incident in a world where there was already plenty of trouble and urged him to let Watts come in.
"If you have objections to Watts, let Berlin make representations; don't be foolish and refuse him entrance to Belgium."
Von der Lancken considered and said I was right. Then von Bissing wants the C.R.B. cars not to carry the American flag, which is not a very unreasonable request since the boys do flaunt it rather freely in the faces of the soldiers. Also von Bissing would be gratified if Van Vollenhoven, Dutch Chargé d'Affaires, could be made patron of the Commission with Villalobar and me. Of course it is for the Commission to choose whom it wants as patron.
March 12, 1915.---After luncheon I walked... to Lejeune's, who as usual had much to say, and this time some things that were interesting, especially about Belgium's army. Nearly everybody blames Woeste for the fact that Belgium has not a large army:
"They trained an army of priests instead of an army of soldiers---eaters of the good God," said Lejeune. They are in for a lot of trouble here after the war is over.
Old mail still coming in. Today letters that left Toledo on the 22nd of September are arriving, and yesterday letters that were posted in August ....
Heineman in this morning. Had seen von Bissing yesterday and explained to him the revictualing. I doubt if the old man knows now what is going on, in that regard at least. He makes a good many difficulties, just as the English Government does, and one thing that is beginning to get on my nerves is that both Governments seem to think that they are doing America a favor in permitting us to spend eight million dollars of our own money every month to feed the Belgians, who have nothing to do with their great quarrel and are being slowly ground to pieces between the two great millstones.
March 13, 1915.---All Brussels excited today by a concert that is to be given tonight. A rumor that the Kaiser is to be here has spread widely and it is becoming a point of honor not to go, a sign of patriotism, that touching patriotism that one sees everywhere manifested. For instance this afternoon in a shop I saw three spools of thread, one black, one yellow, and one red, set in a row in the window, and everywhere little shopkeepers contrive in their window displays to replace the flags they are forbidden to display. Even Devreese said he was going down to the Monnaie to see who went, but I told him that I had heard that old Clootens, who has been the controller of the Monnaie for nearly forty years, was to be there, that he was the only one of all the employees who would consent to attend tonight, and as he knows every one in Brussels he is said to have decided to go in order to make a report afterwards on the attendance. Then coming back from Devreese, the red sun sinking behind the city reminded me that we had German time here and that the sun was setting an hour too soon, and I thought I would take a turn down by the Monnaie. I went down through the old narrow twisting streets, idling along, feeling as I always do, the inveterate charm of this old city, and as I sauntered along I noticed that the crowds were gathered very thickly in the streets. Finally at the rue Fossé aux Loups turning into the rue Léopold three policemen stopped me.
"The street is closed, Monsieur," one of them said.
I looked at him for a moment and replied:
"But they told me there would be a grand concert tonight, and here I am."
He laughed with a nod of appreciation and said, "Have you a ticket?" I said, "No." And I went on. The street indeed was barred, and all around the theatre was a cordon of soldiers. To get around the Monnaie I had to make a detour. The rue Neuve was absolutely impassable, so great was the crowd there. I had to go down then to the boulevard Anspach and around that way. Everywhere there were immense crowds waiting; a kind of sinister feeling, I thought, and an atmosphere as charged with trouble. But then the Germans seem to like trouble, seem to enjoy it, seem to do things just for the purpose of having it and above all they enjoy showing their power. Of course it is hard to conceive of anybody's giving a concert and trying to be gay and merry in these times, and especially hard to conceive of any one giving a concert when one has to have soldiers on guard. I came home with much to think about and many reflections on the devilish nature of militarism. At times it seems as if I could no longer endure it, that I must get out of this suffocating atmosphere, where there is such brutal denial of all human rights. As I passed the park, the gates of which are barred and locked with sentinels in helmets standing at them, a bird was singing in the twilight, and as I turned the corner into the rue Lambermont the starlings were chattering. I was glad that there were no sentinels around these songsters at least. They can fly up and away.
March 15, 1915.---This morning at half past eleven the aldermen of the city of Brussels and M. Charles Cardon came to present Van Dyck's sketch of his painting "St. Martin dividing his mantle with the beggar," an exquisite bit of the master's work. We received the guests in the grand salon, where the painting rested on an easel. Lemonnier made a clever speech, making a pretty application of a fable of La Fontaine, "Le Geai qui s'est paré plumes du Paon," to the attitude of the city of Brussels in having borrowed from Cardon the picture to give to America, and he likened America to St. Martin. Cardon read a letter, the letter of gift as it were, and then I responded in French, and then we all shook hands and Gustave and Joseph served champagne. It was a touching little ceremony, and there the picture is now and I wonder how I shall get it safely to America. Most flattering of all, perhaps, the fact that Cardon has stipulated that the painting is finally to repose in the Museum of Art at Toledo. I am very proud of that.
I went out for a walk and stopped at the gate of the park to note that the Germans have put up little signs everywhere in the little places. Around one gate I counted no less than twenty-one. German system.
Busy this afternoon with letters to Hoover, Page, and Gerard about the revictualing. Hoover writes that the English are making a good deal of trouble.
March 16, 1915.---William E. Edgar of Minnesota, publisher of the Northwestern Miller, was here to luncheon. He brought over a shipload of provisions he had collected, and has exciting stories about his trip across the North Sea. They made the passage by day and saw three floating mines, one of which they barely missed. The seamen all wore life-belts, as did he, the sole passenger and charterer. His description of the nervous captain and of the old pilot nearly seventy years of age was as interesting as one of Conrad's tales; especially when he told of the pilot who, after having turned over the navigation of the ship to the river pilot, came down into the cabin, and pouring out his glass of grog and lighting his pipe, began to talk about his wife's vegetable garden, as if there were nothing in the world more exciting.
Edgar has been on a three days' tour through Belgium with Connett, to whom he has been explaining the various qualities of flour and bread, subjects in which he is well versed. He is a staunch advocate of white bread and much opposed to black or brown. He was particularly impressed by the brave and cheerful aspect of the peoples who are only three weeks from starvation. He was very full of the stories of Dinant and a little village, Tamines, where 400 civilians were murdered by the Germans on August 22nd. In a little churchyard long trenches are dug and the people are buried there, in a thicket of little wooden crosses marking the graves. The crosses give the names and ages, varying from thirteen to eighty-four, and all bear the same date---August 22, 1914. A dozen weeping women were bending over them when he was there.
March 17, 1915.---St. Patrick's Day in the morning.
I did not get out this morning at all. Villalobar was in and we had a long talk about many things. Then Watts called, having just arrived from Rotterdam, furious with the Germans for the delay they caused him, and when I told him the reason of it, namely that his daughter was reported to have written articles against them in the American newspapers, he said that his daughter had done nothing of the sort nor had she given any interviews. A Mrs. Stevenson was traveling with her, however, and on her arrival in New York Mrs. Stevenson had given an interview.
Went this afternoon down to the docks: Nell, Miss Larner and I with Bulle, Gibson, Thurston .. . . We spent a delightful hour there going up and down the docks, clambering on the barges and lighters where the families live in the neat little cabins with pretty curtains at the windows, and children recklessly playing about the decks in wooden shoes which I should think would send them floundering into the water every second, but by some grace they are preserved. It brought back all my old longing for the sea, affecting me with that strange sensation I always have when I see a ship, precisely the same sensation I had when I was a boy. Jack Ross and I at home in Toledo used to go down to the docks on Saturdays and clamber over the old stately schooners which in those days were always unloading grain at the elevators. Jack is gone and even the schooners are gone, but the memory and the sentiment remain and were brought back this afternoon by the vivid odors---some of them too vivid indeed---of the docks.
We made a complete tour of the warehouse where there were stacked high bags of flour and boxes of bacon and all sorts of things, condensed milk, even peanuts and some candy the children had sent for the little Belgians. The sacks were all marked with the names of the places from which they had been sent, and it was pleasant to look at those familiar names; names of towns in Ohio for instance.
The interest of the party, however, centred in Murdock the cowboy, who is in charge. Indeed it was to see this cowboy that some Belgian members of the party went there. They had never seen a cowboy and were anxious to behold one. One girl sighted him at once when we entered, though none of the rest of us saw him. She identified him first by his size and by the corduroy suit he wore, even if it was not a cowboy suit. But he disappeared at once and could not be found, and Thurston reported to me after a bit that he was hiding, that he was too timid to meet the ladies ---this great giant who hurls men into the canal. So with Thurston to pilot me I set out to find him and through one interminable warehouse after another we went, looking here and there, in and out, behind boxes and bales. Finally got on his trail by asking a Belgian policeman who was standing near, and overtook him. He was a typical Westerner, looking one straight in the eye, and has the Westerners' direct and positive manner of speaking. I was glad to see the type once more, and was rather proud of him. We chatted a bit and I complimented him on what he had done and he thanked me. And I said: "I want you to do me a favor," and he said: "What?" -
I said: "I want you to come up and meet my wife."
"Not on your life," he said. "This meeting ladies is not in my line."
I begged him, and he finally said:
"When I say no, I mean no."
March 18, 1915.---This afternoon Devreese came, and Nell, Miss Larner and I drove with him to Cardon's to see his collections. He lives in an old, mouldy, twisting street, quai au bois à Brûler, back of the Fish Market; the house once overlooked a canal, but much to Cardon's regret the canal has been covered over since, and in front there is now a wide and vacant square.
Cardon tells wistfully of the old days when his father, who like himself was a painter, was there and received his guests: Meissonier, Stevens, and all the great. One enters a little hall hung in tapestry and feels at once the rich thick atmosphere of the house, the furnishing and decorations of which are the result of two lifetimes of devoted, intelligent, artistic care. The old bachelor who lives here showed us about, pointing out his treasures of all sorts. It would be impossible to describe them, and to give any intelligible idea of the house would require weeks of study. It is filled but not crowded with all sorts of objets d'art, paintings, bronzes, sketches, wood-carvings, brass, old furniture; even the doors and wainscotings and ceiling having their individuality and their relation to all the rest. After looking at two interesting rooms downstairs we mounted a spiral staircase into a beautiful drawing-room upstairs, and inspected all the paintings and the wood-carvings and then down through a conservatory where pictures were likewise hung, into a noble vaulted room where canvases of Rubens, of Van Dyck, and of Rembrandt hang on the walls. Then along another stair into his bureau, likewise most interesting. He gave Nell a curious ancient ring which happened to have her initials E. W. on it, and we spent two hours there as though in a dream.
March 19, 1915.---A raw cold miserable day with constant snow flurries and a low grey sky.
At eleven o'clock this morning a telephone message came from von der Lancken, asking me to drop in upon him, and I went over there towards noon. He had two complaints to make of the Commission for Relief. Said that the steamship Doria, arrived from Halifax on 21st of December at Rotterdam, had debarked arms and ammunitions in England---800 tons of munitions: "These munitions have been found in an empty part of the ship. According to the bill of lading this part was reserved for munitions." Also the steamship Calcutta, likewise from Halifax 7th of January at Rotterdam, had stopped at an English port and there discharged arms and ammunition.
I told him that if it were true, it had been done without the knowledge of the Commission and that I could only communicate with my Government and with the Ambassador at London and urge them to make rigid investigations .... I told him also that I should not be surprised at any moment to hear that the English had stopped the revictualing altogether and he wanted to know why.
"Because," I told him---and I told it to him bluntly for the sake of the effect, "because Kitchener and the soldiers over there say that if the Belgians go hungry, they will revolt and rise against the Germans and make their task all the harder."
Sunday, March 21, 1915.---The first day of spring, warm with a brilliant sun, and in the morning we set off to drive to Mariemont to take lunch with Warocqué. We were delayed a bit because I had to go to the German headquarters to give Conrad a note for the Austrian Freiherr who was in Friday, and there I met a young chap nearly a head taller than I with an iron cross and another ribbon just like the black and white of the iron cross except that it was green and white, in his button hole---young von Moltke.
We left the Legation a little before eleven o'clock and took the route by way of Waterloo, through Nivelles and Seneffe and so on to Mariemont, reaching the château a little before one, having been delayed a while by a blow-out. But not once had a sentinel stopped us and in the villages we saw numbers of soldiers, the old men of the local militia and young girls in their white dresses for their first communion---strange contrast! We drove up a long avenue with trees into the grounds of the château and by the winding road through the park around to the hall and up to the broad flight of stairs that leads to the entrance and Warocqué and a little spitz dog came down the steps to meet us. He had invited a little company to meet us; Carstairs who is staying there in his capacity as delegate of the Commission and Mme. Ginotte and her two beautiful daughters whom I had not seen since the evening of a reception at Lambert's a year ago. Nell and I were shown to our suite of rooms .... The upper halls were filled with cases containing priestly robes, of which Warocqué has a wonderful collection; he had been collecting out of his enormous fortune since he was eleven years old, and the château is a veritable museum. It is perhaps the finest château in Belgium and one of the finest in the world; it has been in the family for generations and is in the centre of the enormous coal mines out of which the miners dig the fortune that supports it. The present château was built in the middle of the last century, and two wings have been added by the present resident. The one that preceded it, the picturesque ruins of which still remain in the grounds, was burnt in 1794, one of the expressions of the French revolution. In the old château Charles V, Marie Thérèse, Louis XIV and other monarchs whose glories have departed were entertained. We took luncheon in the great dining-hall hung with lovely tapestries, and had our coffee and cigarettes in the library filled with thousands of wonderful bindings. Warocqué said he had sent the best of his treasures to London before the war. After luncheon we walked through the grounds visited the wonderful greenhouses and then the ruins in the ancient courtyard in which are two splendid statues, large bronzes, one by Rousseau, the Belgian, "Youth Entering upon Life," and the other by Rodin, "The Burghers of Calais." Across the lawns peacocks were stalking and there were llama grazing and two kangaroos hopping about and two German soldiers gaping at everything, even the officers entering and looking about as though they were entirely at home. The sight enraged the women; Mme. Ginotte has a son in the Belgian army and the younger Mlle. Ginotte has a fiancé there. Warocqué says the German officers come to see him frequently and send word what they want for dinner, the number that will be there, and insist upon his making up bridge parties in the evening. Of course, he has his interests to look after and he does the best he can. As for the soldiers walking about the grounds, he says they are only poor chaps who would rather be at home. He is an exceedingly generous and charitable man, and maintains many public charitable works in that region. In fact, he represents what is left of feudalism at its best and is the kindly seigneur.
Back to the château for tea and finally drove away, the ladies loaded with orchids from the greenhouses which Warocqué presented them. We were back home by seven after a glorious day, the best in many ways that we have had since the war began.
March 30, 1915.---I remember years ago in looking at an original copy of George Washington's diary at Washington, my noting with some amusement that he began each day's entry with reference to the weather. I have never kept a diary before and I hope never to keep one again, such is the drudgery of the task, this diurnal recording of futile banalities that might better be forgotten. Though now that I have begun, I should like to be able to keep this record up to the end of the war, though when that will be, alas! no one knows! Today then, has been clear and cold again and the wind is from the North. Conrad telephoned this morning to say that the Rotterdamsche Courant had published a story about me to the effect that I was dining in a Brussels restaurant when a German officer objected to my speaking English; that I rose and presented him my card---thus far a familiar and stupid falsehood that has been going the round of the American press, for of course no such adventure had ever befallen me. But the Dutch journal had added improvements of its own to the effect that the officer had invited me to go to the Kommandantur and that I had replied that I should do so if he would walk sixty paces in front of me, that my wife and I would not be seen on the street with a German officer. Conrad wanted me to deny the story. I sent him word that I should not do so, that I had no time to devote to such pettiness. But, of course, such is their mentality that they will assume the truth of this story and hold it against me, for with them mere assertion suffices for proof.
Mme. Reyntiens was in this morning to see Gibson about the trip they propose to take to her château tomorrow. She has been summoned to be there in order to receive the visit from General von Bissing and the poor woman is afraid not to go. She had been at the Pass Centrale to secure permission to go to Holland and there had talked with Major von der Meden, who said that the German officers complainèd that she did not notice them or recognize them in the streets, and then he asked her why it was that the German officers were not liked here! There are no words, of course, for such a state of mind!
March 31, 1915.---Hardly down this morning before Connett was announced and I found him here in my office with young Curtis,(10) the splendid young chap who comes as courier for the Commission for Relief in Belgium. Connett had received a telegram concerning the last two ships of which von der Lancken had complained, the Doria and the Calcutta. Fortunately these ships were not ships of the Commission, but some foodstuffs had been stored on them at Halifax and sent to the Commission, and after they had left England they had discharged foodstuffs at Rotterdam. But the great question was Pinchot.(11) Connett had heard about it, and Curtis indeed had come through with Pinchot in the car or Pinchot had come in his car. Curtis said that Pinchot was carrying despatches, and that he had a great many letters, and that when they told him they wanted to search him and his baggage Pinchot had refused; told in fact the same story that Harrach told me. Pinchot had gone through to Antwerp and the whole matter was referred to Brussels. We discussed the question for awhile and I told Curtis then to go to Antwerp and advise Pinchot to go back to The Hague and that he, Curtis, was then to return to Brussels bearing Pinchot's despatches. I wrote a letter to van Dyke telling him what had been done, and one to Page, and there the matter rests.
If Pinchot had been content to come in as any member of the Commission comes in he might have been here now at work, but Belgium is a little country and he was too big to get in.
Sunday, April 4, 1915.---Easter Sunday, a dull rainy day and no golf as I had hoped. A year ago Frank Neilson(12) was here and we had golf and music and flowers, and the larks were singing and we were so full of hopes and plans!
Had a call from the Comte d'Ursel and Daisy d'Ursel. They came again to thank me, so they said, for getting her out of prison. I was much embarrassed and explained to them that I had nothing to do with her release, that I had made no representations, no application, in fact, had done absolutely nothing. "Ah!" she said, "that is only another proof of your delicacy.".
Cavalcanti, Bulle, and Gibson here tonight to dinner. The monotony and depression of the war is rendering us all very stupid. Try as we will, we can talk of nothing else and there is nothing to say of the war that has not been said. By a curious process of evolution, one's ideas seem to grow smaller and smaller in this atmosphere and there is nothing but gossip. Villalobar for instance--- he said that his King remarked at dinner the other night that he would have to recall Merry del Val from London and send Villalobar there, and Villalobar of course is delighted. Gossip too of the number of German spies in Brussels, some say 7,000. The sinking of the Falaba by a German submarine also furnished a topic for awhile, a deed for which no excuse can be found, and Cavalcanti shook his head and said over and over: "Shameful, shameful, shameful."
April 6, 1915.---This afternoon after luncheon Connett called with Crosby,(13) who is to succeed him. Crosby an intelligent gentleman, Virginian by birth, graduated at West Point, in the engineering corps of the army for five years and then resigned, since roaming the world as an amateur engineer---China, the Philippines, everywhere, and street-railway promoter in America. We discussed the whole situation as it related to the revictualing. I had a favorable impression of him and feel relieved that Hoover has found so good a man to replace the excellent Connett, whom I dislike to see leave us.
Then over to Gibson's for a cup of tea in his charming apartments. I never enter them without envying him them. I wish I might live in such a cozy place, and have no troubles and write. It was a year ago today, as we found quite by accident, that Mrs. Boyd, George, Nell and I had gone to his little housewarming. Then for a walk downtown on some errands, the motor following us for it began to rain and the evening is cold and cheerless ....
Letters today from Hoover, telling among other things of the continued disposition on the part of the military element in the British cabinet to stop the revictualing on the grounds of military necessity, namely, that if the Belgians are not fed, the Germans will have a hostile population in the rear. What barbarism and what selfishness! If England can be saved only by sacrificing the women and children of Belgium then she had better go down. Poor Belgium! after all the sacrifice, is this to be the reward?
April 7, 1915.---Memorandum this morning from Lemonnier about the imposition of the latest fine of 500,000 francs. The letter from the German authorities to the authorities of Brussels is another example of the infantile mentality of the Germans. They defend themselves on the charge of having broken their promise not to levy any more contributions on the city of Brussels by saying that this is not a contribution, but they base it on military necessity and that while they recognize that the municipality of Brussels has not the right to use the money of the municipality for the purpose of building a road to Malines, that is, outside the limits of the city of Brussels, they say that they make them do this because people elsewhere in Belgium refuse to work for them, and seem naïvely satisfied with this excuse.
A call this morning from two Brussels musicians, one of them, the typical long-haired, wistful variety, notifying me of a concert at the Théâtre Flamand next Monday afternoon. A symphony orchestra has been organized and will play the works of Belgian composers that have hitherto not been produced. A pleasant prospect that. I found no way out of the invitation, and the long-haired man said that if they could advertise the fact that I was to be present then the Belgians would come in large numbers, otherwise they might fear the presence of Germans and the concert would not be a success. I told him that if they advertised it or made any sort of a manifestation, I would not go, that I would not be used for advertising purposes.
Highly honored this morning by receiving a large official pass. Drove out with de Leval and had occasion to use it on the boulevard at the porte Louise, and it had a beautiful effect, the sentinel grinning broadly and waving us on.
In the place Royale, in the rue de la Régence, we saw many German officers swaggering along with their coats floating in the wind, increasing in numbers as we went toward the Palais de Justice. There must have been hundreds of them, four or five hundred, and such a display of red, brutal, duel-scarred, ignorant, conceited, and arrogant visages I trust never to see again on this planet. They were pouring out of the Conservatoire, where, it is said, a lecture had been given and they or the physicians among them taking measures to combat the spread of venereal diseases among the German soldiers. The problem seems to be a serious one, and it is said that in some of the smaller places placards have been posted saying that public announcements will be made to the families in Germany of those soldiers who permit themselves to become infected. I hear that the officers had a banquet last night in the Palais de Justice, 600 covers, and that the caterer was forced to provide for them at frs. 2.50 each, and that another banquet is to be held tonight at the Palace Hôtel. They say that after the banquet all the officers returned there and drank again. Such bellies and such digestions!
At half past two this afternoon to the Société Générale to attend a meeting of the Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation. Connett was there, and Crosby who is to succeed him: Solvay opened the séance with another allocution, calling the attention first to the fact that tomorrow is the fête of King Albert, whom he apostrophized in his remarks; and at the end all of us arose, Villalobar first of all, in homage to the King. Then Solvay thanked Connett and welcomed Crosby and also had a few words for John White of the London Bureau, who is here for a few days. Then Francqui gave an exposition of his successful trip to France, the object of which will be the feeding of the occupied portion of that country. He and Connett start tonight for a tour of inspection.
April 9, 1915.---A call from Heineman this morning, or a visit rather, for he stayed for an hour giving me the interesting items of his trip to Berlin, Berne, Paris, and Rome. He had seen our Ambassadors at the three big capitals and the Minister at Berne. They all sent me pleasant messages. Heineman, too, got my books at Paris or most of them, and at Milan bought a magnificent edition of Dante for 600 lira. He reports them all confident at Berlin and more confident at Paris. The Parisians have improved, grown serious, stoical. The restaurants at Paris mostly empty and the city dark at night. Few strangers in the hotels, though many English officers. The Belgian refugees in London and France are doing the cause of the country little good. One begins to condemn them, and the French, Heineman says, look upon them as poor relations who will not work but wish to be entertained. He says many Belgian young men are seen about the streets of Paris idle and in the pursuit of pleasure, though no young Frenchmen are seen; they are all at the front fighting. However, the French have an idolatry for King Albert, as well they may have, and make a proper distinction between the rest of Belgium and the noble and wealthy refugees who are there.
All the cocottes and all the dressmakers of Paris have gone to Rome, which is gay and pleasant, though the effects of the war are felt there, too. He thinks while the people at Bologna and the north of Italy are for the war, the people of the south of Italy are not so strongly imbued with the spirit and he says Italy will not enter until the Government is sure which side is going to win. "She will rush to the aid of the victor." He says there are 250,000 English troops along the line, with other contingents at Calais, Dunkirk, and Havre. How many? He does not know, but a strong offensive is expected soon. However, he thinks the war will last another year at any rate, and I am beginning to think so too, though speculation is wholly idle.
Sunday, April 11, 1915.---A lovely day and we all prepared to go to Ravenstein to try to pass it in peace and to forget, if possible, the barbarian. But first I had to work all morning, with de Leval and Miss Larner to help me, getting word to the Germans about the flags for the relief ships, telegrams to Hoover on that subject, and so forth, and in trying to get the Germans to send a telegram which they refused yesterday, informing Mrs. Brandeis' son in London of her very serious illness. Mrs. Brandeis, the mother of Mrs. Frank Wïttouck, an Austrian, very old and lying at the point of death. The son, an Austrian subject, a prisoner in England, was released on his parole and I wrote a telegram to tell him of his mother's illness because the poor old woman is troubled about him and anxious to see him---and the Germans refused to send it through, though it concerned the subjects of an allied nation. Gibson went to talk to von Moltke about it, and he promised to send it.
And then in the evening Connett and Crosby came to dinner. Connett leaves Tuesday and at the prospects of getting out is the happiest man alive. "The moment I cross the Holland border,"said he, "I shall take a long inhalation of free air." He is a splendid man and has done noble work since he has been here, conducting himself with the utmost propriety, tact, and intelligence; and the revictualing now works automatically. And he has done it so quietly and so gently; a strong man of whom I have grown very fond.
April 13, 1915.---There is a placard this morning in which the Germans speak of the note Germany has sent to Washington demanding that our Government be more neutral, and so forth, which in its relation to this situation is but another piece of stupidity. The Germans publish the statement thinking that that will have some effect upon Belgian sentiment, whereas the Belgians are delighted and more in love with America than ever.
At 11: 15 this morning Villalobar, Francqui, Soivay, Lambert and Janssen came to discuss the latest difficulty that has arisen, that created by the letter of which Janssen told me yesterday .... We talked, too, about the terrible condition of affairs in France, Francqui having just been down there. They say that we here in this part of Belgium, are in Paradise; in the Etappen district, purgatory; and in the occupied part of France, hell.
Just before luncheon Diederich arrived, much troubled because he said some German officers at Antwerp are complaining about American neutrality, saying that we ought not to sell ammunition to the Allies and that the ammunition that we did sell was barbarously made, that in the shrapnel, instead of balls, there were jagged pieces of iron, and that the surgeons said this made desperate wounds, and so on. It was with difficulty that I could restrain my impatience with Diederich for not being able to meet this sort of silly complaint, and I went very carefully over the whole situation with him, showing him that first under the conventions it was not a part of the duty of our Government to forbid its own citizens from selling munitions of war to any one they pleased, that this was recognized by The Hague Convention, and that when an effort was made to change it some years ago, it was the influence of Germany that defeated it; that Germany could buy goods on the same terms with others in America, that all she had to do was to get ships across the Atlantic, and this of course she could not do. I knew that Diederich would carry back everything I said to the Germans, so I told him quite confidentially that I thought the English were going to stop the revictualing, and he showed great fear at this.
He told me some interesting things about the Pinchots---Mrs. Pinchot arrived with automobiles loaded with great wardrobe trunks, evidently preparing for a campaign here, though in what field I cannot imagine.
April 14, 1915.---Villalobar in this morning, having been to see von der Lancken, but von der Lancken was not in so he has not had a chance yet to speak to him about the troubles of the Comité National. He said that there was a good deal of talk of peace, that it was somehow in the air but nothing definite. I have no faith at all that there will be peace before another year.
Dr. Hedger and Miss Hall here to luncheon. The Doctor a most admirable woman, very much depressed by all she has seen. She reports the Germans in a terrible mood at Antwerp. "They are all abnormal," she said. "A race of insane folks. In dealing with them I always remember that I am dealing with the insane. Their suspicions kill me---I begin to feel like a criminal myself and now I know how the neighbors feel when the police are after them!"
She said it wistfully: "The neighbors." I could see all those poor in Chicago slums where she labors.
I was out awhile in the afternoon and walking back past von der Lancken's ministry I saw Villalobar's motor and his pretty flag at the door, so hurried on home---and here I am after an hour of interesting news.
For the Comtesse de Mérode and Prince de Ligne have just been in. They came to report that this afternoon while they were having a meeting of the Red Cross---of which they are officers appointed by the King---Hatzfeldt arrived representing von Bissing, and notified them that they were removed from their posts, that von Bissing proposed to take over the Red Cross and have it conducted by a delegate named by him, and Hatzfeldt delivered an order with a phrase to the effect that at the disposition of this delegate there were to be placed the armed forces. They were in terrible excitement and wanted to know what to do; and before I could examine them I saw Villalobar's yellow and red flag flying around the corner, and in a moment he was coming down the hall--- just in time, as I told him, to have the Comtesse and the Prince repeat their story. We discussed it, and finally advised them to make a written protest to von Bissing, very politely, of course, and to prepare a letter to Geneva to be sent in case of necessity. Villalobar said that it was another piece of stupidity on von Bissing's part, and that the Germans were growing exceedingly difficult. I saw by his manner that he had something to tell me, and as soon as the Comtesse and the Prince left, Villalobar told me the latest news. He had been to von der Lancken... and talked instead to von Moltke. The whole place indeed was in an uproar, and this is what has happened: The Cardinal Mercier has written a letter to the Bishop of Paris that has been published in the French newspapers, strongly excoriating the Germans and setting forth some of their deeds here, and von Bissing had heard of it or seen it. Furious with rage, he dictated a terrible letter and sent it out this afternoon to Malines by a priest, a chaplain who is in the German army in some capacity. When von der Lancken heard of it he was alarmed, went to von Bissing, and told him he had made a terrible mistake. Von Bissing thereupon tried to rectify it, and all afternoon they had kept the road between here and Malines hot with aides and orderlies trying to overtake the chaplain and to recover the letter before he delivers it to the Cardinal; for such a letter, of course, is precisely what the Cardinal wants. He would at once find means of publishing it in the outside world to the detriment of Germany.
From the garrulous von Moltke we got more news. It seems that von Bissing's stupidity is not at an end; that he really intends to take over all the work of relief and the Comité National. This, then, explains not only his action this afternoon in relation to the Red Cross, but also the letter that we discussed yesterday; and von Moltke told Villalobar that von der Lancken was intending to ask Villalobar and me to come and see him to discuss the matter tomorrow morning. Thereupon Villalobar left and came here, and we have just had a talk about the whole subject. We decided that we would wait, of course, until tomorrow: wait to hear what von der Lancken has to say, for von Moltke may have exaggerated. In any event it is a grave situation for as I told Villalobar, the British Government will at once stop the revictualing coming through and people in America would stop giving---as they should.
April 15, 1915.---Went at ten o'clock to see von der Lancken and got there just after Villalobar, who passed me in his motor car in the rue Belliard, his pretty flag flying. I had walked because the morning was so lovely, a bright sun, soft air, and the trees in bud.
Von der Lancken explained to us that von Bissing was quite annoyed by the activities of the Comité National, which little by little---as indeed I had noted---has developed into a government of its own, wielding powerful jurisdiction all over Belgium. It was evidently the intention of von Bissing to take over the whole Department of Relief, though von der Lancken, addressing himself during the entire conversation to me---evidently, as Villalobar said afterwards, for the purpose of affecting American sentiment---was very careful to say that they were wholly delighted with the work of feeding and were lost in wonderment and amazement at the remarkable organization we had effected.
He unfolded his project at length; the governor wishes to try to arrive at a better understanding. We discussed the whole question, Villalobar and I agreeing what the work of the Comité should be, and that it be confined within the limits of charity. We explained that internal political questions in Belgium were involved, of course, in a way, that quite naturally the Belgians were looking forward to the time of restoration and anxious to be able to show that they had rendered service during the time of sorrow.
Von der Lancken understood the situation, and was fairly reasonable; and we left, finally agreeing to await the arrival of a written communication from von Bissing which would set forth all of their complaints, von der Lancken having before him at the time a portentous document of some twenty pages in which he said were already set down the causes of complaint. When we have the letter we are to discuss it with the Comité National and finally with him. As we were going Villalobar reminded von der Lancken that the Belgians were indomitable and he, with a start, said: "Yes, we know that after our experience with Cardinal Mercier."
This gave us an opening to ask about the events of yesterday, and he said, clasping his hands in a gesture of relief:
"Oh, heaven came to my aid. It sent a lucky pain to our messenger on the road to Malines, and we overtook him before he arrived."
April 16, 1915.---De Weede(14) has been made a patron of the Comité National. This is the result of Villalobar's scheme to dispose of Van Vollenhoven.
Villalobar was here a little after eleven this morning, and at half past Lambert, Solvay and Janssen came, and then Francqui bustling in a few minutes late. Francqui had had a talk with von Sandt(15) yesterday, quite informally and had heard from von Sandt very much what Villalobar and I had heard from von der Lancken and had had the advantage of a long and, upon the whole, rather good understanding with von Sandt. But Francqui had his explanation of the whole affair:
"Heineman is disdainful!"
"No," I said.
Then he pointed his finger at me and said:
"Monsieur Minister, you deceive yourself!"
And then Villalobar began to talk and proved that it came from a higher source, namely von Bissing himself. And it comes from von Bissing because of his vanity. We discussed the whole situation at length and the men were all satisfied. There is of course nothing to be done until we have von der Lancken's document and then we can go into it. And so we spent the morning talking about many things, principally the war. We were all relieved that the situation seemed to be capable of adjustment and agreed that it was a question of panaches for von Bissing.
However, if it is not one thing, it is another and in the pouch today is a letter from Hoover relating to the ship Harpalyce. As a result of the outrage it is difficult to get boats to cross the North Sea, for the insurance rates have become almost prohibitive. This revictualing is like fitting a stove-pipe, as soon as we get one side adjusted the other side comes off---and the pipe is hot.
A terrible thing happened the day before yesterday, not more terrible than many other things indeed, but somehow, as it was told to me this morning with such particularity by Francqui, Lambert and Solvay, it seemed more real, more personal than any incident lately heard. It concerns a poor man named Lenoir who was division head in the railway administration of the Belgian Government, a rather foolish chap perhaps who had been talking more than was good for him around the estaminets in Brussels, telling of his patriotic services and how he sent information to the Government at Havre. There is, of course, no information of any importance that one could send out that is of a military nature, but the man was taken and the day before yesterday morning at Ghent was tried. There were no proofs but at eleven o'clock he was condemned, and at five o'clock in the afternoon, without having been allowed to see his wife or a friend or a priest, he was led out before his coffin, a squad of men before and behind, stood up against the wall, and shot. And then his wife was sent to Germany. Somehow, this story sickened me as it was told. This poor chap, of course, is only one of hundreds, of thousands, of Belgians who have been killed thus unjustly; only one of the millions that are being killed everywhere.
A good pouch in today with a letter from the Department enclosing a letter the Belgian Government has sent Havenith, the Belgian Minister at Washington, to be delivered to the Department. This is the letter of the Belgian Government:
I have been directed by the Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs to forward to Your Excellency the expression of deep gratitude which my Government owes to His Excellency Brand Whitlock, American Minister to Belgium, for the repeated efforts he made in order to alleviate the heavy burden laid upon Belgium, and especially upon Brussels, as a consequence of the German occupation.
The Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs has already extended to Mr. Brand Whitlock his sincerest thanks for the precious help he was able to give to the unfortunate Belgian population.
My Government has instructed me to inform Your Excellency that Mr. Brand Whitlock's activities, under difficult conditions, have been beyond all praise. On many occasions, the firm attitude adopted by him reminded the occupying authorities of the respect due to international Conventions.
The Belgian Government wants me to associate the staff of the American Legation with its official expression of gratitude towards the American representative in Brussels, His Excellency, Mr. Brand Whitlock.
Accept, Sir, the renewed assurance of my highest consideration.
Francqui told many stories of his trip to Northern France, of the German officers he met there, and gave us a picture of the mayors of the little French communes who gathered together to hear about the revictualing: the bread will be going there tomorrow. He told an amusing story of Matthieu, the rich banker here in Brussels. His château has been occupied by German officers, and they sent in a bill the other day for three months heating and lighting, more than a million marks, Francqui says.
April 20, 1915.--- Every time I go to headquarters I see that horde of scribbling clerks. They make note and record of everything, but never make any deductions!
And there are denunciations of everything and everybody by spies, and then trials by brutal soldiers, ignorant, vain, suspicious, truculent, and narrow-minded, chief of whom is von Bissing himself. It becomes unbearable, and we ask ourselves every day how much longer we can endure it.
At three this afternoon Villalobar and I went over to the rue Lambermont for our interview with von der Lancken, who received us today in the salon of the Ministère de l'Industrie a pretty apartment overlooking the park, where the sun was golden among the trees now all green with spring. He had with him Harrach and one of the doctors or professors of his entourage, a tall slender young German with a long nose and small mustache and the highest collar ever worn in public, a serious young man, and as Emerson remarked at Longfellow's funeral: "A beautiful soul, but I do not remember his name!"
Von der Lancken, who wore a very light bluish-grey fatigue-jacket with the ribbon of the Iron Cross, a pair of dark trousers strapped under his shoes, and spurs, opened the session by making a long speech in French, very formal, in which he reviewed the whole affair of the revictualing, telling us of course what all of us knew, and opening his dossier meanwhile. He had given Villalobar and me each a copy of a carefully prepared document, written evidently by the young Herr professor .... The document was a minute examination of the entire work of the Comité National, prepared with German suspicion, the result, I suppose, of the activities of the spy bureau. Some men may have committed blunders, but on the whole the work is a beautiful one and the organization superb, as von der Lancken himself indeed admitted. What the Committee has done is to take the existing charitable organizations in Belgium and unite them under its aegis, and this has excited the envy and suspicion of the Germans, for the Herr doctor or professor said that all these charitable organizations were political organizations in disguise. Nothing of course could be further from the truth but there is no way of arguing with these Germans; an idea once in their heads is never dislodged.
As von der Lancken went on, with interpolated commentary by Harrach or the Herr professor, it became apparent that what they wanted to do was to take over this relief as they have taken over the Red Cross, but Villalobar and I objected to this, recalling the various assurances they had given. They made no objections whatever to the revictualing. This they found perfect and were prepared "loyally and honestly" to respect all assurances given in that regard, which indeed they have always done. We talked for two hours, the Herr professor and Harrach anxious all the time to reduce something to writing; and this they found difficult because Villalobar objected every time or led them off into some other discussion. Finally, seeing that the discussion would never end until they put some notes on paper, I suggested that the Herr professor write down what they wished to write with the understanding that nobody was to be bound by what he wrote. If he wants to write, I thought, let him write, for we shall never finish and get out of here until he has written. And after much discussion with Harrach he wrote down this much, representing the principles upon which they based their objections.
|Reste intacte, sauf|
|1.||A fixer un prix uniforme à déterminer de commun accord.|
|2.||Que toutes mesures à prendre conséquemment aux constatations des controleurs du Comité seront discutées par les Protecteurs avec les autorités allemandes, qui se charge de leur exécution.|
|Droit pour les autorités allemandes à rester informées de ce qui se passe dans le département "Charité" avec un droit de véto.(16)|
While he was writing I got up and walked to the window, and looked out into the lovely park. I thought of how we used to wander there a year ago, thought of the golf links, thought of the world that is so lovely just now with the spring, or would be if there were no Germans to bedevil it. And Harrach came over to join me and asked me what kind of summers we had in Brussels, whether it was hot or not. I told him that it rained much and that it was not unbearably warm, and then he said he was glad of that, for he had dreaded the thoughts of spending July and August in a hot city---pleasant prospect for us if they are to be here that long! Von der Lancken, too, was by us, and I took him aside to ask him the real significance of closing the frontier the other day and the effect it would have on revictualing, and he said that they had found so many false passports that the Governor-General had revoked all permission to cross the frontier until they could arrange matters, arrest somebody, and track down the forgers. They have already arrested a Dutch courier. He assured me that our courier would not be interfered with, that he would at once make arrangements and that the foodstuffs could be shipped in again in a few days.
Then they invited us into the dining-room for a cup of tea and around the end of the long table we sat and drank tea and smoked and talked and it was not at all unpleasant .... We parted at six o'clock with the understanding that Villalobar and I were to have an interview with the Belgian members of the Committee this morning, and that on Thursday morning we would all meet at my Legation in a conference between the Belgians and the Germans, face to face, to try to solve the difficulties.
The Red Cross affair has been concluded by the Germans taking over the organization, and it may be that they have some such intention in regard to the charitable work of the Comité National, for there are large charitable funds in that quarter and it is Villalobar's and my task to prevent this. If that were done, we would have to report it to our Governments, and that would mean the end of the revictualing. And I am so anxious to carry that work through to the end, that the poor Belgians may at least not have to go hungry.
It seems oftentimes impossible to accomplish but we shall not despair, and try to keep it going.
April 22, 1915.---Solvay was here before ten o'clock and then Villalobar and then Francqui and then von der Lancken, Harrach, and the young Herr doctor, whose name proves to be Reith,(17) born in Antwerp of German parents; lived, educated in Antwerp, now turns up here a German official, talking to enslave the land that gave him shelter! There was another German, a baron, of course, whom 1 had never seen before. Lambert came in a few minutes late and then the session began. Von der Lancken spoke first, very pianissimo, to my agreeable surprise. Then Solvay demanded the floor, and drew from his pocket a great bunch of manuscript and proceeded to read extracts from the speech he had read at the meetings of the Comité National. A shiver went around the room as the poor old man read on, and I was uneasy and anxious for the result of it all; and presently von der Lancken interrupted him politely and said we were entirely agreed upon those points and then the conversation became general, and I said, after whispering to Villalobar to get his approval, that I thought the best method to proceed would be for the Germans to state their objections to the work, and let Francqui and Lambert explain them away if they could.
Thereupon Lambert said they would be delighted to do this---"We are as frank as crystal! "---and they were perfectly willing that everything they were doing should be known; that there were no politics in their work, only a desire to do charity to their fellow-countrymen so terribly tried by the last terrible months. Lambert's very frank speech produced an excellent impression, and then Francqui began in his clever way and with his Walloon drolleries and soon had them all laughing. Meanwhile poor old Solvay anxious to read his speech, and all of us anxious to prevent him, until finally he demanded to be heard again, and repeating all that had been said before, added that they were perfectly willing to expose their entire work to the light of day, even to let the Germans see and know the names of those who were giving the money and the amounts. At this Francqui started, rolled his eyes toward Solvay and said:
"No, indeed, Mr. President! They may cut my throat, but I will never reveal the name of a giver, because charity ought always to remain confidential."
It was decided finally that Dr. Reith on behalf of the Germans should examine the work, and Francqui agreed to assist him, and they are to meet, I think, next Monday to begin it. And then the meeting broke up. Von der Lancken stopped to show me an article from the Figaro which reproduced some statements made by the members of the Rockefeller Commission, very indiscreet and maladroit, however true, about German atrocities in Belgium. He said that the Governor-General was very angry and had decided to make a statement and give it out in America. I told him to tell the Governor-General to make out his statement and I should send it over for him. Von der Lancken left this afternoon to be gone several days. We were all rather relieved by the turn affairs have taken, though I have no idea that our troubles are over or that the Germans will relax their intention to interfere in the work. But I have counseled Lambert and Francqui to say to them:
"You take over anything you don't want us to do."
I had a talk about the situation with Reith, and to frighten him a bit I told him I thought our talk all wasted anyhow, because the revictualing would stop in a few days. He opened wide his eyes. "Why?"
"Because it is now almost impossible to get ships and sailors."
"But why?" he asked.
"Because," I said, "you are torpedoing our boats."
I hope he will tell his masters tonight.
A letter today from Hoover explaining the question of the flags, which I sent to von der Lancken, also a long letter telling how difficult it is now to obtain sailors and boats. Was there ever such a great work, or did ever work encounter such difficulties?
April 28, 1915.---Half sick this morning, partook of two resisting dishes at Cornet's last night, when one would have sufficed. They resisted all night.
Count d'Ansembourg in this morning with a long letter begging me to have the revictualing extended to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, where the people are short of food because they foolishly sold all their supplies to the Germans. Then Villalobar with the same question, which we decided to refer to van Dyke at The Hague. And Villalobar troubled because he can not get to London to procure new clothes.
"When will this horror end?" he said.
It has been a perfect day, a golden sun, the wistful haze of spring, a warm air and the sky without a cloud---without even the usual ugly German captive balloon to mar it. And Ravenstein was never so lovely. I yielded to the temptation gladly and went there, practised alone all the golden afternoon, and then Nell and Miss Larner drove out for me, and proposed an excursion. They wished me to see the eight crossroads to which they have been walking on the Sundays they have gone to Ravenstein with me, and so we turned down the rough unpaved road back of the old château to go there, and thence on through the woods, with their tender greens and blossoms and the birds. On all sides the wily peasants are surreptitiously felling the trees---the fallen trunks crash with a solemn boom ---and so on, deeper into the woods of Tervueren, along an avenue of noble pines, low-hanging and cool like the woods in Michigan, and then out into a new clearing, where whole acres of pines have been felled---a sad sight. The trunks were lying in windrows on the ground and the air was laden with the odor of their balsam. We stopped, that Eugène might inquire the way of the old Flemish lumberman who stood with the ax with which he had been lopping off the bough and trimming the trunks, and his hands black with resin. He explained to Eugène that the trees were cut at the order of the Germans at Tervueren and were to be loaded on wagons. Where are they to go? "He does not dare to say."
Then on and out of the woods and suddenly found ourselves on the top of a high hill, and below us and all around the green and red and brown carpets of the fields spread in the warm sun, and rolling away for miles. And then I saw the slender tapering spire---the French word flèche is better---of an old church just over the horizon, and the four sails of a windmill turning in the breeze, and recognized them instantly as the spire and the windmill we used to watch with endless interest and emotion in their peculiar charm from the terrace of Bois Fleuri last summer, Christminster we used to call it because we had never seen it. Ah, what regrets, what longing! And the shame of it all, that that lovely smiling land should have over it the pall of this cruel occupation, that in this sunlight there should be the shadow of the greatest injustice history has ever known. What a lovely world it would be if there were no Germans in it.
And yet the patient peasants were there tilling their fields---with what courage, what faith. We stopped to inquire the way, and I shall long have the picture of the strong beautiful peasant woman who talked with us. She was very handsome, and might have come out of a novel by Thomas Hardy or Eden Phillpotts. The brown men working with her in the fields paused in their labor and looked up, and beyond them were other peasants going homewards over the hill .... And then through a sunken road, like the one at Ohain, I suppose. For the first time in my life I could understand that phrase. The green sod is banked up at the sides and above roll away the well-tilled fields. Now and then we came upon old, ancient humble cots, surrounded by fruit trees all in their delicate bloom.
Charming pictures. And there were wayside shrines, where one might almost cross one's self, and an old peasant woman wheeling a child in a wheelbarrow and so into Christminster, just around the turn of the road---at the risk of destroying another illusion. But for once the reality equaled the dream, and we drove into the pretty little village of Duysbourg. Between old walls, overhung with cherry boughs in bloom---nothing has the charm of old walls---beside which a peasant was driving a team of cows yoked to a wagon. Up to the center of the village, where stands the old church, dating from the eighteenth century, and a high town pump with curious children clustered about it. And so across the fields again with the rays slanting across them, and into Tervueren. And then, just as we turned into the pretty town, in a dell before a fine château was a stone grotto, and a shrine within; three candles were burning there, three little pointed flames bright against the blackness of the grotto, and a girl was kneeling before it at her prayers.
A lovely memory---the warm fields in the golden sun, the bloom on the boughs of the fruit trees, the old walls, the red roofs, the peasants in their sabots, and finally the three candles in the grotto shrine, and the girl kneeling there; subjects for all the painters and poets in the world:
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
And since to look at things in bloom
How lovely Belgium is---and how sad.
May 3, 1915.---The first thing this morning, I picked up a copy of the Literary Digest, and chanced on an interview with von Bissing, with pictures of him taken at the Musée, among the pictures and pieces of sculpture. Interview filled with his pious canting buncombe about how he is ruling Belgium---which he spoke of as a country that had been badly governed---hence the necessity of his coming and assuming the responsibility! He spoke of his efforts to "revive" the country, opening museums, encouraging agriculture, and so forth.
And as I read my gorge rose, to think of the folk at home feeding on such hypocrisies. Great heavens! Is cant inextinguishable in this world? The museums opened, yes, by force, against the will of their directors, soldiers with guns and bayonets at every door and empty ---for never a self-respecting Belgian will enter them. And agriculture! Well, the poor, patient peasants are sadly working in the fields, and after the order of nature Spring is come, and the trees are green, and seeds are bursting---all unconscious of the fact that a brutal ignorant old German general is the cause of the phenomena! Interest in harvest, yes, to seize it for his troops next winter!
Francqui, Heineman, Hulse, and Janssen in at eleven. Heineman has seen Schachs,(18) and seems in a way to settling the trouble. Much discussion of the assurances given for the relief, circulation of money, and so on.
After luncheon T. St. John Gaffney, Consul-General at Munich, arrived on a visit of inspection to Belgium; pro-German from his fingertips to the toes of his shabby boots. Had a letter from some ex-Queen of Naples with a picture he wishes me to send to the Queen of the Belgians. I explained the difficulties, first that the Queen has announced that a veil has fallen between her and her German acquaintances, second, that I had promised the Germans not to forward anything.
May 4, 1915.---A day of little annoyances, one of those days which, by some envious and mysterious psychology, seem to accumulate one difficulty after another. Gaffney first, the worst type of Irishman, with his persistent efforts to induce me to send his letter from the ex-Queen to the Queen of the Belgians; he came at ten, although I had expressly asked him to come at eleven; then Francqui and Heineman to tell me they had seen Villalobar and had explained that the accountability might be assumed by the neutral members of the Committee, and Villalobar had agreed. Then Crosby and Bulle, with a telegram from Hoover, saying that an interview with von Bissing had been printed in New York in that German organ the Staats-Zeitung, saying that the work of America in Belgium was not a charity at all, but business, if not something worse. The old satrap, who of course doesn't understand the C.R.B. and never will, had allowed his senile vanity to carry him away. Hoover threatened to stop the whole enterprise, and would I see von Bissing and have a denial made?
Colonel Kuhn, in khaki uniform, had just arrived---he has succeeded Langhorne(19) at Berlin---and when he saw Crosby, they peered at one another attentively, then with glad cries of recognition almost rushed into each other's arms. They had been classmates at West Point.
Villalobar came on their heels and we went straight to the rue Lambermont to see von der Lancken. He did not view favorably the proposed arrangement as to an investigation, but I insisted that some means be devised to save the face of the Belgian gentlemen on the Committee. He promised to arrange this, but said the matter was not pressing---he was giving a luncheon and was eager to leave, or to have us leave---since von Bissing, as we had been told, was not going away.
Then I explained Hoover's telegram, and he said that it would be necessary to see the original of the interview, and so on, before considering it. I told him I had not seen this interview, but would get it for him.
Then home, and luncheon and then I dictated a letter to von der Lancken sending a copy of Hoover's telegram and asking that Crosby be put in touch with a German officer to prepare a statement ....
This morning we sent off a hundred and seven Englishwomen and children by special train, de Leval going down to see them off. Huneus was there, wanting a special car to himself, but, of course, he couldn't have it, since de Leval would not, very properly, consent to ousting our protegées.
He goes back to Chili---without a cent, Cavalcanti says.
Francqui tells an amusing story of him. He called on Francqui the other day, and in the course of their conversation, said that Chile would make the terms of peace.
"But how?" asked the astonished Francqui.
"Why," explained Huneus, "the United States is the first nation in the New World, and will propose peace, but the United States is controlled by the A.B.C. and Chile controls the A.B.C."
Francqui told him that he reminded him of a mayor of Chicago, who said that he was the greatest man in the world, because the United States was the greatest country in the world, Chicago the greatest city in the United States and he the first citizen of Chicago!
There is a revival of interest in bicycling, the only vehicles that remain, and Cavalcanti, very smart in his bicycle costume.
May 6, 1915.---I arose this morning somehow thinking of England and how beautiful it is there now in the Spring. And then I thought of England's tremendous task, armies in France, in Belgium, in Turkey, in Egypt and South Africa, everywhere; not a sea, not an outpost in the earth but there is to be found an English officer keeping ward and watch. And this is the empire to which intellectually we all belong, our traditions, our literature, our poetry is all there!
Went down into the lower town with de Leval at noon and as we passed the rue Lambermont met Villalobar just descending from his car. He too had been involved in the perquisition of Mme. Carton de Wiart for there they found a note he had written her. She had confided to his care some pieces of art which he had put away in his Legation for her, and he had written to tell her of their safety, saying: "I have received the articles which you have committed to my care, and I have deposited them in a safe place."
And this of course excited their suspicions. Villalobar told me too of a cipher cablegram he had had from his king saying that Italy is to enter the war.
Crosby and Humbert(20) in after my return, Crosby to submit a letter he had written to Hoover explaining the difficulties that were being laid by the Germans in sending food into certain parts of the Etappengebiet. (21) He had had a conversation with a German officer who asked him what the Americans wanted, what they expected to gain. Crosby very properly and very frankly told him that the Americans wanted nothing; that they... were here on a purely humanitarian basis, and that they expected to be treated not as spies but as gentlemen.