Early in the summer of 1915 Whitlock with Villalobar, had the experience of a carefully conducted visit to the German trenches near Lille, dining with the Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria on the way. It did nothing to lessen his dislike of the invaders. A summer of vexations followed. The Germans had by now organized a characteristically complicated system of administration. At the head was the Governor-General, his autocratic powers limited by no authority whatever except the Imperial will. Under him was a military administration, supreme in all matters affecting the army or police; a civil administration, controlling the ordinary departments of government; numerous Zentralen to deal with specified raw materials and with special problems of industry and commerce; a Political Department which supervised diplomatic matters, and whose head, von der Lancken, Whitlock saw more often than anyone else; and a section of this Department, the Vermittlungstelle, which was charged with looking after the G.R.B. and Comité National. Whitlock felt keenly his own anomalous position, accredited to a government now at Havre. He found the difficulties of the complex German system, his own relations with it and the relations of the relief organizations, innumerable. He was troubled by the outspoken jealousy and dislike of Americans by certain Belgian groups. He was troubled far more by German restrictions, German measures to crush industry wherever competitive with Germany, and German attempts "to assassinate a nation's soul," as he puts it. As the war dragged on, he felt more and more a prisoner in Brussels. The autumn brought illness, and hard after that, the tragic execution of Edith Cavell.
July 20, 1915.---At two o'clock in the afternoon of this day (three o'clock German time) we started---von der Lancken, Villalobar, Harrach and I, driving away from the old Ministry of Industry, now the Political Department, in von der Lancken's big grey automobile with the insignia of the German Government.
A heavy rain had been falling; Harrach wore his hussar uniform, and von der Lancken was brave in his military cloak of blue-grey with the great white collar with the brilliant red lining. Villalobar and I were bundled up in great coats and the looks turned on our party by passers-by were far different from those friendly salutes to which I am accustomed. We took the familiar road to Hal, and driving rapidly as the German motors always drive (like nouveaux-riche, with the muffler off) we went by Enghien, and Ath to Tournai. We reached Tournai about five o'clock and drove first to the cathedral which Harrach, who is a sculptor when he is not a warrior, was especially anxious to see. It is a cathedral well worth seeing, a noble specimen of mediaeval architecture, dating from the eleventh century, its famous five towers dominating the whole city.
"You know," said Villalobar to me as we strolled down the long nave, "when you enter a church for the first time, if you make a wish, it will come true."
I made a wish.
After we had visited it we went to a little pâtisserie for tea. Madame la patronne was full of curiosity as to who we were---decided finally that Villalobar was an American; divined also that I was one, and then, with a perspicacity not remarkable under the circumstances, said that the other two, von der Lancken and Harrach, were German officers.
She was a bright talkative little woman; Villalobar called her Madame Talleyrand. When von der Lancken said:
"We have come to see your beautiful cathedral," the woman replied: "Yes, and since you have destroyed the beautiful cathedral of Rheims I hope you will spare ours!"
Von der Lancken was red with confusion, red as the collar of his cloak, and we all laughed. We chatted with her and then out again on the road to Lille.
That road was a descent into Avernus. Destruction and desolation more and more apparent as we passed on, one could almost mark the frontier between Belgium and France by the changed aspect of the population. Belgium was rather normal and always lovely, but once in France a vital change came over the scene; instead of the bustling, gossiping Flemish groups, now we saw old and hobbling men; but not a man, not a strong man or a man in middle years to be seen; all off to the front. It was a depressing sight, and I felt a sorrow settle over me, that was not lifted during all our stay; it is not lifted yet, nor ever will be. I cannot forget those tragic faces, that expression of humiliation, that degradation under a conquering heel.
We entered the town towards evening and within four miles of the city, lo, an aëroplane flying high above us and all about it bursting shrapnel; the Germans were trying to bring it down.
From that moment on we were not once beyond the sound of artillery fire ....
The town is an industrial centre, very much like any one of a dozen small cities in the Middle West at home. In times of peace it is dirty enough, but now, with life prostrate, the city empty of men and all who could get away, and swarming and swarming with swaggering soldiers, it is beyond words---haggard, forlorn, dirty and disreputable. Everywhere the dirty grey uniforms, the brutish common soldiers, officers swanking about or dashing by at reckless speed in their big grey automobiles---and that sad, idle, gaping, dazed population! And everywhere dirt, the disgusting dirt of war, that seems to sift into every crevice, every crack and cover everything!
We drove at once to the Kommandantur, where Harrach arranged for our identification papers, passes, and so forth, and we sat there a long time waiting for him, watching the streams of soldiers in from the front, dirty, miserable, in heavy marching order, near us on the sidewalk some men of the hospital corps, with the dogs they use to retrieve the wounded. Harrach came back with the information that the Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, who commands that district, invited us to dinner with him that night.
Villalobar confided to me he dreaded this dinner more than the trenches we were to see on the morrow; but I told him that I had more cause to dread it than he, for I heard that the Prince was strongly anti-American.
We descended at the Hôtel Europe, where Olivo, Villabobar's valet, and Fritz, von der Lancken's orderly, who had gone ahead on the train taking their luggage with them were punctually awaiting us. It is a typical French provincial hotel and we were shown to great bare rooms overlooking the courtyard. Von der Lancken said that we were the guests of the city and it was indicated on the document that Harrach had procured for us at the Kommandantur---our pièce d'identité---that we were to be entertained at the hotel "with board."
I shaved and dressed that evening---Villalobar had scented a dinner with the Crown Prince from afar, and on his advice I had taken a dinner jacket, absurd as it seemed to do so with a visit to the trenches in prospect---with the sound of cannon in my ears; a heavy booming of guns from the South and West. Then in the twilight we drove to a suburb of Lille, where the rich industrials of the city have their châteaux, and there threading our way along a new garish boulevard that reminded me of the outskirts of Chicago, we turned the corner of a great staring wall that had been riddled by shot and shells, where on the sidewalk there was awaiting us a young officer, a brother-in-law of Harrach, who leaped upon the running board of the automobile; he was an aide-de-camp of the Crown Prince and was there to conduct us on our way. We turned down a wooded lane and, twisting and turning, entered a great gate between bearded sentinels and so up a drive to the entrance of a château.
An old servitor in long dark grey coat with two rows of brass buttons, his bald head bowed in an habitual, servile stoop, descended the steps to meet us and we were shown into the hall of the château. We entered finally a salon, furnished in the most execrable taste imaginable and ornamented with a bust of the proprietor, a French physician, a vain and conceited little man, from his portrait in marble, and as a last touch of bad taste in the overcrowded salon, the marble bust wore pince-nez on its nose---to lend an artistic verisimilitude, no doubt.
The officers who composed the suite of the Crown Prince came drifting into the salon, clicking their heels and bowing with the formal and exaggerated politeness of the German; they were presented one after the other and presently we all fell back into a respectful attitude and there entered a thin man, rather tall but not so tall as I, in a grey fatigue jacket, with dark blue trousers bearing extravagantly wide red stripes, strapped under his long military boots.
It was Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria and we all bowed low. He entered the room with a little smile on his face and von der Lancken presented Villalobar and me. He spoke to us in French with an accent more refined, I think, than the accent of the Prussians when they speak French. He seemed sincere and cordial in manner, with nothing of exaggeration or of assumed importance in his bearing, a thin grey man, weary, as I have said, with a lean, smooth-shaven, grey face and a little brush of a grey moustache. He seemed to me to be about fifty-five years of age, though I have since been told that he is a few months younger than I, and it may be that to others I look older than I feel!
We stood about uttering the customary banalities for awhile and presently the wide glass door between the salon and the dining-room swung open and we went in to dine. Villalobar was seated at the right of the Crown Prince, I at his left. I had on my left a tall well set-up reddish man, with a certain charm of manner and a good deal of intelligence, and we chatted pleasantly throughout the simple dinner that was served. There were but five courses, indicated on the menu by long German names---a pastry with some sort of meat inside, then a bit of salmon, a roast chicken and some salad, great mounds of ice cream, and only white and red wines. That was all. It was a dinner much simpler than is served in the house of any Belgian of the haute-bourgeoisie. The old servitor, who, I suppose, came with the Crown Prince from his castle in Bavaria, passed around cigars and cigarettes, and when we had gone into the salon continued to pass them around, bearing the while a candle, from the yellow flame of which we lit our cigarettes and cigars. They served no coffee, to my disappointment, but huge large goblets of beer, and this they continued to serve throughout the evening, and the old servitor continued to pass gravely around with his tall lighted candle.
The Crown Prince withdrew with von der Lancken into a corner near the window and they talked in low tones for a long time, while I chatted with the friendly Count about all sorts of things, trying to avoid the war and congratulating myself that I had escaped thus far any suggestion of anti-American sentiment. But the conversation inevitably veered around to the war, and then the Count said that if America had not provided ammunition to the Allies the war would have been over long ago. I said:
"Let us not take up that subject, I beg of you!" He laughed and the matter was dropped.
His Royal Highness finished his chat with von der Lancken after a while, and seating himself, signed to us all to sit down, and beckoned to me to come close. Villalobar and I then sat on either side of him, and he sent my Count out to see what the news of the day was. His Royal Highness was affable and friendly. He spoke to me in English first, with an apology, saying he could not speak it very well, had been out of practice for a long time, he said; but as a matter of fact he spoke it remarkably well, though presently he drifted into French. He told us about his many voyages, especially his trip to America; he said he hoped after the war was over to make another trip to America, for he was deeply interested in many of our institutions.
His Royal Highness said that it was good of us to have come down to visit his command and said that he had tried to arrange an interesting itinerary for us but naturally it was difficult to see everything in the course of one day and he trusted that we would not find it uninteresting.
July 21, 1915.---I was awakened by a terrible cannonade, in the midst of which I heard German voices calling to each other across the courtyard that my room overlooked. It was dawn and looking out of my window I saw an aëroplane soaring high overhead and all about it the exploding shrapnel. It was so near that I could hear the roar of the motor, could hear the whistle and shriek of the shells, and presently to this horrible noise there was added the drumming of the machine guns.
It was weird, there in the silent dawn, in this French provincial hotel, from every window, frowsy, sleepy German heads thrust out, two German soldiers on the roof, one of whom I identified as Fritz, von der Lancken's orderly, who had crawled out of his window in the mansard to see the battle in the air. The aviator was flying towards us and was soon directly over the courtyard and to the horrid racket of the shells and the machine guns there soon was added the rattle of the falling pieces of shrapnel in the courtyard. It was nearly four o'clock---useless to try to sleep---and so I shaved, looking out of my window the while at the black puffs of the smoke of the exploding shells; down in the courtyard a little French boy was darting in and out from the cover of a doorway to pick up pieces of the shrapnel; a covey of birds at each fresh rain of metal flitted uneasily from one tree to another trying to find a hiding place.
I was hardly dressed when the waiter brought me my tea---they called it tea---and a few crackers with "petits beurres." The little Frenchwoman who seemed to conduct the hotel had told me the night before with a long face and an apologetic gesture: "Nous ne sommes pas très riches, Monsieur!" So I had to content myself with that breakfast. At 6:30 their time, 5:30 ours, we were all in the courtyard below waiting for our Captain; the battle in the air had ended, but the booming of the guns in the distance still came to our ears.
Captain X---- came promptly in a huge grey car with a black, white and red target on the lantern in front, and the arms of the Crown Prince on the side. He was accompanied by the officer with the monocle, by Harrach's brother-in-law and another officer and we raced off through the city at a frightful speed and to a park somewhere beyond the citadel. Sentinels tried to halt us but the officer with the monocle who had mounted in the seat beside our chauffeur shouted some terrible German words at them and smote them into an immobile attitude of attention. He treated them like dogs and they were as docile as dogs. At several places the road was barred by wooden, stone or wire barricades. But these our monocled Captain did not respect. He ordered the soldiers to remove them and sometimes even did not wait for them to be thrust aside but had the car driven right around them high on the sidewalks. And thus we passed out through the park and took the road to Armentières.
The road wound through little villages, suburbs of Lille, and everywhere was filled with waggons, with caissons, with soldiers; there were soldiers everywhere marching in files along the road, squads of cavalry now and then. We stopped at a château, the headquarters of the general commanding the army corps, and there a very bright young Saxon officer came out and joined us, he was an aide-de-camp of the General commanding the corps; we were told that it was the part of military etiquette not to visit the command of a General without inviting one of his staff officers to accompany one.
The Saxon officer emerged from the wide gate in the wall of a château; there was a sentinel wearing the helmet of the Saxons, green and a tail twisted about it; a troop of cavalry was trotting by---pictures by Detaille and Meissonnier everywhere---and always the wagon trains cumbering the roads and they lumbered on heavily towards the frontier stirring up forever a cloud of dust. Perhaps it was this dust, perhaps it was the dust of the constant cannonade, perhaps it was what de Maupassant calls the odor of invasion, that distilled that subtle dirt which settled over everything, and made everything obnoxious to the touch, to the sight, to all the senses. I had found it difficult to eat. That subtle dirt was on everything, over all the houses and in them no doubt.
In the little villages on the way out toward Armentières, the door of every house was chalked in German, and from windows, especially upper windows, frowsy yellow heads of German soldiers looked out. They were quartered everywhere in those towns; and women were working for them, and toothless old men with trembling chins sitting in the sun watching them stream by.
And we sped on rapidly, our siren screeching importunately and everything hastily turning aside for us, men, wagons, caissons, guns, everything---they all get out of the road when an officer appears.
Our Saxon officer mounted in the Captain's place by the chauffeur and we drove on into the country between heavy woods. Here we began to see the terrible devastation of the war, the ruins, the wreckage, that had been left in the train of the battles with the retreating English troops last autumn. Back among the trees now and then we could see some ruined old château, its windows staring vacantly, its white façade riddled by shell and ball, inexpressibly sad and desolate. And not a single inhabited house, all long since deserted! At the edge of the wood, we stopped. And there, thus early in the day, with the sweet morning air blowing over us, we heard the shriek of shrapnel overhead; we were already under the artillery fire that goes on continually and, as it were, forever between the Germans and the English across the lines of the trenches. That shriek of the shrapnel is a horrid sound. I have often read descriptions of it. There are many comparisons---lost souls moaning in the winds, the wail of damned spirits. It is one of the sounds of hell, surely, for all war is hell, as Sherman said. But nothing brings the sound more vividly to my mind, than the instinctive gesture the Captain with the curiously shaped head made to his brother-officer with the monocle when a shell went screaming overhead, by placing his clenched fists together and then rending them apart as though he was ripping asunder a heavy piece of cloth.
The Captain with the pointed head produced from his pocket an engineer's drawing of the trenches we were about to visit and explained them to us. He told us that we enter the rear trenches, pass on to the second, then enter the first. While we waited there in the morning, in the edge of that cool wood, and he showed us the tiresome plans of the trenches---and the real thing there before us!---a wagon train went rumbling by, the drivers staring at us with that strange expression that stays in soldiers' eyes.
We were joined then by a young cavalry officer attached to a command in the neighborhood and we set out for the little village of X---- where, they said, the entrance to the rear trenches was.
We left the motors behind, great wagons were rumbling on toward the front---now at last in sight. We went out from the cover of the woods, and walked along the road, stretching yellow in the sun. On either side lay the neglected fields, overgrown with grass and weeds, and wonderful with red poppies, bluets, and little yellow and white flowers and then great bunches of an exquisite lavender flower, the like of which I had never seen and the name of which I do not know ....
We walked on in the hot sun for a quarter of a mile. On each side of us they were digging new trenches to be used in case of a retreat, and, as one officer explained, since retreat was unlikely, to keep the soldiers busy; there were barbed-wire entanglements everywhere in the woods, some of them cunningly concealed; and a kind of chevaux-de-frise made of barb-wire, the Germans called them Spanish cavalry---to Villalobar's amusement. And always those flowers in the fields and the perfume of them and the sweet morning sunlight and always that noise of shrapnel overhead that seemed to darken the sky. There was a lane, a quiet peaceful country lane, that turned away to the left, and the woods that lay across the field; at the entrance to the lane there was a sad home, and a sentinel, a young boy, such a pretty boy; he could not have been more than seventeen. He came to attention, his blue eyes fixed in a kind of terror on these officers: his eyes never left them; he stood very erect and constantly tried to stand more erect, even more respectfully and attentively and correctly, by jerking his head back again and again---in an agony of fear and obsequious, exaggerated respect. All the soldiers did that; boys and old men, all in terror, all obsequious, some fawning and cringing .... And the young officers strutted carelessly by, striking their puttees with their riding whips.
Just ahead was a little village, and across the road, a barricade as high as my head, made of sand bags and stones and wood. To the left of this a hut with a low door, and from it at our approach there emerged a little man in the grey uniform of a Captain, grey hair, grey eyes and pince-nez, a mild mannered little man, introduced as Captain X----. He commanded the company stationed at that post, and it was his trenches we were to visit. His little hut had a roof of corrugated iron, with sod on top of it; inside, a table with a telephone, some books, some papers, a cot, a washstand, a picture on the wall, a little stove for cold days. And here he lived.
Near by was another hut, with earth thrown over it; the little grey Captain drew back the curtains to show us soldiers sleeping heavily after their night in the trenches. They were curled up in frowsy bunks---and the air inside was not pleasant.
The road had now become the main street of the village, and the barricade thrown across it, the Captain explained, was necessary because the road was in the direct line of the fire from the English trenches. To reach the German trenches we had to cross the road, edging close up to the barricade, to the houses on the other side of the street. The houses were all empty and silent; all the houses in that poor little town were empty and silent; not a window left in one of them, not a door; the walls riddled and split by bullets and shrapnel, the bricks chipped and peppered. On the floors inside were piles of wreckage, all the filthy débris, the soiled intimacies of a deserted human habitation, sordid relics of sordid lives tragically interrupted and left behind by fleeing refugees before advancing armies in the autumn. To approach the trenches, we went laterally through the houses; the Germans had knocked holes crudely in the walls, so that one could pass directly from one house to another and be sheltered from the rifle fire. And so we passed on through one silent house to the next of that deserted village, through back yards, overgrown with weeds, littered with filthy rubbish, here and there the souvenirs of some former occupant, happy maybe in his quiet home, a portrait hanging crookedly on the wall, having escaped somehow miraculously all those shells; a little lace curtain blowing out of a window in that sweet morning breeze, the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet, depressing in the extreme.
There was not a living being in sight and then suddenly we came upon a soldier sitting in the rear of a house, at a common table. His head was bound up in a white surgical bandage, big as a turban, and he wore an old, faded, worn, threadbare black frock coat; he looked like a zany. He was breakfasting; a piece of black bread on which with a pocket knife he was spreading some kind of grease he took from a can; he had a tin cup of coffee. At our approach he sprang to his feet, came to attention, and stood there; our officers spoke to him, with the condescending sugary kindness that wardens and gaolers display towards inmates of prisons when visiting and inspecting committees are about. It rather made me sick, even more sick than to see the flies crawling over his can of paste and his hunk of black bread .... He had been wounded, of course, and was convalescing. What he was doing there in that deserted house, I have no notion; perhaps a field hospital was concealed near.
At last we reached the trenches; a hidden entrance by an old wall. We descended by steps that were cut into the ground to a narrow trench, a trench like those dug for water pipes in city streets, six feet deep, scarcely a yard wide. Down in that trench one was lost in a labyrinth, a maze of such trenches. One plodded on following the officer, I was ahead, with the monocled Captain; the others came on in single file behind. The trenches were very clean in this fresh clay; on the floor was a rough grating of wood on which we clattered along. And always overhead those shells, those bullets; the English were not all at breakfast surely!
We entered presently a graveyard; the trench was cut directly through it. On either side one could have laid one's hand on a grave where still reposed those hideous relics with which the French cumber their graveyards, and there in the centre high over our heads was reared a great Golgotha, a monstrous crucifix hung on a wooden cross, the white body of the Christ spotted again and again by black holes where bullets had pierced it. The arms of the cross were splintered but there the Christ hung pitiably, in that hail of balls, a great black hole in his white side, with an aspect terribly human---and no one commented on the dramatic picture and all its fearful poignant implications. We walked on in silence.
Here and there soldiers pressed themselves against the side of the trench to let us pass or slipped into little recesses that were now and again cut into the side of the trench. They looked more like workingmen than soldiers; they wore only trousers, boots and undershirts. We came from time to time to little dugouts there in the ground where the men were standing or sitting, or sleeping; and in a place as wide as a cistern some men were sawing wood, making gratings for the trenches. In one of these holes there was a bench and bunks where men were sleeping and there was a little pup chained within, a cowering, whining, pitiful thing; when 1 patted it, it shivered all over in its fawning affection. The soldiers had tried to find little comforts, little distractions, little ameliorations. There were here and there prints cut from illustrated journals of the Kaiser or of Hindenburg or other German worthies; some of the trenches were named like streets after Paris or other city; one in clumsy humor was "rue des Barbares."
And so we threaded the trenches, piercing deeper into the hopeless labyrinth. There were more and more soldiers, though the trenches were not filled, as I had expected them to be. But the Captain showed us a rusty iron gong, on which he said the alarm is beaten in case of attack, so that the reserves that were concealed here and there in that labyrinth could come forward to the defence. Perhaps that explained it. I could not understand how he could find his way through this maze, but presently our Captain with the curiously shaped head told me that we were in the second line of trenches. We were indeed seeing more guns, more men, more alarm-clocks, boxes of hand grenades, and so on. Two black wires ran along the trenches for electric lights. Some of the trenches in water-bearing ground were made with wicker linings, and here and there reinforcements of concrete, and there were structures like Esquimaux huts, made of concrete, dépôts for ammunition.
There was a curious effect of silence in those trenches, despite the hellish noise of the shrapnel. But we got used to that. I neglected after awhile even to duck my head every time a shell or a ball had gone over. The soldiers were silent and very sober. They never smiled; they simply flattened themselves against the sides of the trenches as we passed by, staring at us without interest or curiosity, dull or maybe benumbed; though perhaps only properly disciplined.
There was too, a sense of order and of cleanliness, except---loathsome detail!---everywhere, over all, there were crawling flies, flies everywhere, moving about sluggishly, deliberately over the edges and the walls of the trenches. And on the gratings there were little green toads---if they were not frogs---hopping.
That was all, that, and a bunch of poppies and vines overhanging the edges of the trenches, where the sand bags were piled. No one was firing from our trenches; we saw no killed, no wounded even; those men seemed to have nothing to do with that hail of balls that flew always just over our heads, the shells highest of all describing great parabolas in the air they seemed to darken, almost palpably, like a cloud. That was imagination of course; the sun was brilliant; but once one's head was above those trenches! I think now that the trenches had been prepared for our coming; the Germans had known for days that two Foreign Ministers were to visit them, they must have cleaned up; seen to it that there were no dead or wounded. The trenches could not have been so clean and proper, otherwise; but they could not banish those flies!
We had been in the trenches now for an hour and overhead the shrapnel always shrieking and to this there was now added the noise of the flying bullets, that singing sound, that buzzing, exactly like that we used to make as boys when we threw nails sharply through the air. Then continually, like firecrackers, the sound of English rifles; not all the English were at breakfast! They kept up what seemed to Villalobar and to me a vigorous fusillade. It was the racket and old-fashioned Fourth of July at home, and the sunshine added to the similitude; even it made it all garish and unreal, as if it were not really happening at all. But the eyes of the soldiers that looked on death always and awaited it---they were real. After a long while we came to a place in the trench where there was a little steep cupola and on a little stool inside a soldier sitting. The Captain motioned to him to come down and asked me to go in. I went in, sat on the stool, peeped through a narrow slit, and there across fields filled with daisies, bluets, and midway a flaming bunch of poppies, there with a wood beyond, were the low white sand bags of the "enemy's" trenches.
"We are now in the first line of trenches," said the Captain, "there are the English."
I could see nothing but the low line of sand bags, hear nothing except the shrieking of the shrapnel and the humming and the buzzing of the bullets.
And those were the English! In those other trenches were men who spoke my tongue, thought my thoughts, shared my traditions, my ideals, in a sense mine own people. I peered at them a long time(1)....
Finally I gave my place to Villalobar and he looked.
A soldier always sits there, watching, to give warning of an attack. He had a telephone near by, and a gun. There were periscopes here and there, made by the soldiers themselves, of boxes and bits of broken mirrors ....
The winding, twisting trenches were confusing. I could hardly realize that I was actually in the first line. Somewhere near they were advancing the trenches, digging anew; the men who were doing the shoveling pitched the earth as high over their heads as they could, apparently for the purpose of defying the English and at those clods heaved on high there was an instant response of bullets, the rifles behind those sand bags across that prairie cracked more sharply.
We went on as it seemed; through the winding trenches.
"We are back in the second line now," said the Captain presently .... After awhile we were in the edge of the village again, passing as before, through those riddled, deserted houses and back yards grown high with weeds and flowers that had sprung up this Spring without their gardeners, and so we reached again the little hut of the Captain.
Then one of the young Captains who had accompanied us took a photograph of us, and so, at the door of his "home," as he called it, we bade the little grey Captain good-bye.
It was growing hot, and Villalobar, who had manfully marched all that distance, was in a state of perspiration, poor dear old chap! How fine he is, how game!
We were glad of the shelter of the peaceful wood; we were once more untroubled by the sound of firing. There were lovely nooks, trysting places, the only sign of war being the tangled, invisible wire among the underbrush.
We walked, I don't know how far, among peaceful scenes---and the trenches just behind us!---until we came to a clearing and there under some sheds men were at work, German soldiers, making barbed wire. They had some little machine through which they ran the wire and by hand they attached the barbs onto the wires ....
There was indeed a very busy little manufacturing plant in operation there. Some men were making gratings for the bottom of the trenches. And near by, several men were inspecting bombs of the enemy, that had fallen in their lines.
They were photographing them, ticketing and labeling them, making statistics in the slow methodical German way. "To show where they were manufactured."
I could see new campaigns in the American press. Villalobar told me later that the subaltern there was drawing out some American ammunition to display, but that von der Lancken had hastily exclaimed:
"Put that away, you fool, don't show it now." And that was nice of von der Lancken.
Then we must inspect a swimming pool, hidden in the woods; they had built a high board fence around it, and there were springboards standing out over the water, water green with scum, not inviting.
We strolled on, through fields and woods, and came to an old farmhouse, long since abandoned by the farmers: and now occupied as headquarters by a German company or battalion or regiment.
The soldiers were cultivating a little garden in the courtyard, and raising chickens; in the kitchen where they had a piano there was a big stove and a desk at which a soldier was sitting at a telephone that connected it with all parts of the trenches---and the piano! We inspected that, the soldiers standing at attention. At the approach of that group of officers they all came to that frozen attitude of attention; and the officers showed them all that patronage, all that affectation of friendly interest in their welfare, just as one sees in penitentiaries, as I said, when the legislative committee is making its annual investigation. And I remarked to Villalobar aside: "They may enslave other nations, but their own nation is first enslaved." Ah! those poor boys! Those pathetic old men! All reduced to bondage---and otherwise they would make such splendid men; they are so strong, so capable. But the spirit dead in them; not a bit of resistance left; drilled out, whipped out, and now they cringe at attention. It is as though the Sioux Indians had enslaved us, and driven us about with whips to make war anywhere in Canada, in Mexico.
We went off then across the fields to the road and we stood there in the road bidding good-bye to our young lieutenant of cavalry. Villalobar's King is honorary colonel of the lieutenant's regiment, and Villalobar made a speech to the young man, whose eyes stared wide; he was deeply impressed by the fact that he was in the presence of a Minister of the King who was honorary colonel of his regiment. Villalobar said he was going to write to the King about him.
At the same time another wagon train was rumbling and jolting by; in command of a subaltern (in spectacles) as fat as Gambrinus, an absurd sight.
I was glad to get back to the motor, and glad to be out of those trenches.
Through those woods, then, past those ruined châteaux, those white façades shattered by balls, past those fields with the flowers flowering in the sunshine, into the dusty, dirty suburbs of Lille---and we must stop to visit a factory, to see soldiers making nails... Then we drove back to our hotel and Villalobar had to stop there and change his clothes, so warm and wet was he from his exertions.
Meanwhile I waited in the street; a funeral procession was going by, a man carrying a crucifix, a priest in robes---at the head of the procession reading his prayers---and then a poor open hearse, a cheap wooden coffin, a shabby black pall and behind it a woman in mourning, leading a little blind boy, then the friends and mourners, hobbling old men, young women and old, little children, but not one man of middle age, not one for whom war has any use.
The pathos of all that poverty, of all that gloom, depressed me more and more, and then a little boy was tugging at my side: "A penny," he begged, "for food." I gave him two marks and then turning to Harrach, I said:
"How sad life is!" and he replied: "But the funerals are always gay."
I said no more. But the sight of those subdued and conquered people and that crushed city was enough to depress me terribly. I don't know that any one else felt that way, certainly not one of the officers did. I had spoken to Villalobar about it as we were coming back from the trenches; and I had said: "Somebody says that every man has two countries, his own and France."
"That is what the Germans think," Villalobar replied.
I wondered if I were sentimental, too easily moved; but over and above all the horrors of war we had seen, the waste and destruction and desolation, the immense folly of it all, the sense of the moral indignity that had been heaped upon these people weighed most heavily upon me, the dumb sorrows of that conquered people, conquered, broken, passed under the yoke.
But we must leave for the French front. We had been joined by the father-in-law of Harrach, an old German civilian, with a long grey beard that reached nearly to his breast. He had been a soldier in the war of 1870; was now a business man in Hamburg and was enjoying his annual vacation. He explained to me that he had found himself in need of rest and knew of no better way to spend his vacation than by visiting the front. Why any one should wish to come to such a place for a holiday, for rest, was more than I could fathom.
To enjoy the humiliation of a conquered people, the desolation of their ruined homes, vacation indeed!
Von der Lancken, Villalobar, and I mounted into the motor of the Crown Prince's staff officer and our young Captain, he of the broad jaw and the short moustache, was at the wheel. He drove that car like a demon. Danger in the trenches was as nothing compared to the dangers we encountered as we whirled and dashed through the streets, he shouting to people to get out of the way. And then on to the road and through the villages... to Lens.
The memory of those sordid villages, with that. bedraggled, unkempt air that the occupation gives them, that palpable layer of dirt, with sad women lifting their, weary eyes in languid interest as we passed, and ragged children, still seeing only the superficial glamour of the military spectacle; though that war was not glorious, those sodden soldiers of filthy grey, swanking officers, and conspicuous salutes---it can never leave me. It was good to get out on to the highway again, in the sunlight, with the harvests ripe in the fields on either side but no peasants to gather them; soldiers had taken their places at the great reapers. We were running sixty miles an hour, too fast to talk, and then just before we got to Lens, lying there before us in a little valley, we stopped and the Captain pointed out away off across the fields and the rolling hills to the right to the Chapelle de Notre Dame de Lorette---the famous and sanguinary Loretta Heights. It lay a little to the northwest of Souchez, almost half way to Arras. There is an old legend in northern France, the product of centuries of battles, that the one who holds Loretta Heights wins the war. It is a kind of superstition with them founded, no doubt, upon the very salient and substantial fact that the army that held the heights had a strategical position that commanded the country side for miles around.
It was at Notre Dame de Lorette that the terrible fighting of May 21st occurred, those movements connected with Joffre's great offensive ....
We drove down into Lens, a little town, dirty like the rest, smelling of the odor of invasion, deserted by everybody who can get away, inhabited now by slatternly women, depressed and bedraggled, and by children on the sidewalks watching the endless stream of grey soldiers flow by. We drove through the town and beyond into a cemetery; of course, after the factory, we must visit the cemetery! ---the most hideous spectacle ever presented to mortal eye. I have often wondered why it is that French cemeteries are so ugly. I cannot imagine, since the French are said to have taste. But those graves decorated with artificial flowers, crosses of wood or of iron, ornamented by photographs and other mementoes of the deceased---a hideous medley, to drive one insane. There at the entrance of the cemetery, blazing in the hot sun, is a monument that had been erected to the citizens of Lens that had fallen in the war of 1870, and already there were the new graves of those other heroes who have fallen in this present war. But they took us there to see not so much the French, as the German cemetery. They had bought a plot of ground adjoining the French cemetery, and there are buried with German regularity, the officers in a sacred plot by themselves in the centre, ivy already planted in the yellow ground, the German soldiers killed in that vicinity, already eighteen hundred Germans have been buried there, men who had fallen in the battles of May and June. There was a monotonous similarity in the dates marked on the rough wooden crosses over the graves and in this inscription: "Hier ruht im Gott." There was a huge angel in stone in the middle of this plot of ground, a heavy, stalwart, muscular, Teutonic angel with a huge sword in her hands, larger than the sword of Gideon .. . . Directly adjoining this plot the French were buried, and over each grave the similar little wooden cross with: "Ici répose en paix."...
We drove off to another part of the town, to a post occupied by cavalry and then on to the top of a hill where there was a colliery, the great iron building lifting its cupola high above the surrounding country, a cupola shattered by shell. We alighted and went around on to the brow of this hill just in front of the building and looked down into the broad valley. The thunder of the guns below us was now distinct and loud, once more we heard the shriek of the hurtling shells and the sharper rattle of the small artillery over at Notre Dame de Lorette. Off to our left a whistling and shrieking of German shells; one could hear them and one thought one could almost see them before they struck and exploded in a puff of smoke.
We stayed there about ten or fifteen minutes watching the duel through glasses. But:
"We must not stay here too long," said our Captain, "or they will see us and take a shot at us." Then back again to the motors.
July 22, 1915.---Very tired and loafed all day. Drove out to Boits-fort in the afternoon and had tea with Madame Franz Wittouck. Tonight dined at Francqui's---a wonderful dinner given in Hoover's honor. About thirty there and we had a pleasant time. Villalobar and I telling about our adventures of yesterday. The table was beautiful, statuary along the charming dining-room, the bottom of it opening out upon the garden, lovely in its cool, dark, green mysterious shadows, illuminated by the light that streamed out of the dining-room. I commented on its beauty.
"Yes," said Francqui. "It is English. I had it done for my wife, and now she is dead, poor thing!"
Francqui was much amused by Villalobar's account of how I had turned up the collar of my overcoat when we were under fire.
The story is about town that de Leval and I were arrested by the Germans, Tuesday afternoon!
But the chief interest of today is the spontaneous and really impressive celebration of the fête nationale yesterday. Every house was closed and shuttered: every café was shut, and the people all in black. At Ste.-Gudule a mass was celebrated and a crowd was there that packed the old church; the Nuncio, very pale, so Josse Allard told me, in the Chancel. The "Brabançonne" was played four times and the crowd climbed on the chairs, weeping, and sang the national song, and when they came to the end, to the words: "Le roi, la loi, la liberté!" they wept and flung up their hands, and shouted the words with defiance, and cried, "Long live the King! Long live Belgium! Long live the Allies!" and one man so far forgot himself as to shout: "Long live Liberty, in the name of God!"
Josse Allard said that he nearly choked with emotion. It must have been a moving scene and there were similar scenes at St-.Jacques.
The Germans had troops ready to shoot down, to massacre the people; and they paraded their machine guns. Soldiers were under arms in the place Rogier near the Gare du Nord, and the crowds poured into the place des Martyrs and actually filled the crypts about the monuments---the crypts where repose the heroes of 1830---with flowers. The de Mérode statue was covered with flowers also. Nell drove down to the rue Neuve, which was crowded from wall to wall, and the men took off their hats at sight of our flag, and cried: "Long live America!"
Fritz kept his shop open and there was a demonstration and Fritz hastily closed---just as he took in his German flag at the outbreak of the war. The crowds compelled some other shops to close also---and Brussels was veritably closed all day and fortunately there were no disturbances.
July 23, 1915.---Hoover, Crosby, Rickard and White here to dinner tonight. Hoover one of the best intelligences and biggest hearts 1 have ever known, very interesting in his comments on the war, its probable duration, and so on, a topic of which we know nothing and never tire. Hoover thinks it possible economic pressure may end it more quickly than we have thought, for England is spending £3,000,000 a day and Germany doubtless more than twice that much and England is having a hard time to keep the pound up; her American securities are rapidly going back home, her South American securities will go next, she can not sell her Indian securities nor her houses and lots in England---what then? The pound may before long go down to four dollars, where it has not been since the battle of Waterloo.
Hoover told us that while at the Foreign Office the other day, he was chatting with Percy and others, and told them they were foolish to maintain the blockade against foodstuffs into Germany; that while they are struggling to maintain their own money at parity, they were, by their blockade, keeping up the German mark because there was no criterion to measure it by. Besides being an illegal thing and an inhumane thing, it was moreover a stupid thing, politically and economically; lift the blockade against food, and Germany could no longer complain of England as inhuman and illegal and so justify her piratical submarine warfare; lift the blockade against food, while maintaining the blockade on contraband and against exportations, and Germany would have to pay gold for her food---and the mark would find its level.
To Hoover's surprise, they had all agreed with him but had said that there was one member of the cabinet who would not consent; what member they would not say. Hoover, however, said that he should not be surprised if the English Government did lift the embargo on food. The tension with America would be eased if they were to do this, and our situation here made much easier.
The German placards this morning contain part of the text of Bernard Shaw's flippancy about England. The trouble with Bernard Shaw is that he has no sense of humor. If he had he would not try to be funny all the time.
Congress is to commence in August---as if there were not already trouble enough in the world!
July 23, 1915.---Hoover has had a long conference with Francqui and has settled all points of difference between the Comité National and the Commission for Relief in Belgium. They have drawn up a memorandum.
July 26, 1915.---A terrible morning at von der Lancken's, one of those experiences that leave one, as it were, spiritually bedaubed and weary to the very bones, sick at the soul because of man's silliness and folly. It was von der Lancken in a childish fury that did it all .... I had gone over to his Ministry, at ten o'clock, as had been agreed, to discuss the order of von Bissing in the matter of the crop.
Von der Lancken, Reith, von Lumm, and another German official, some unknown Herr Doktor or other wearing the iron cross, of course, and Francqui, M. Gasper, of the Belgian Agricultural Department, well acquainted with the silly peasant ways, another man, Belgian I suppose, and then Villalobar and then Van Vollenhoven, were all there. Von der Lancken began by saying that before we entered upon the discussion of the order, he had an announcement and a statement to make. Then he reviewed the arrangement by which Villalobar and I were to be patrons, by which we were to be the medium of communication, and so on, and that despite this Mr. Hoover had called him up on the telephone to insist on a prompt answer to the note we had written the other day, the note in which at my suggestion, we had set forth in very polite French the very impolite terms of the rather brutal note the English Foreign Office had sent to Page and to Merry del Val, setting forth England's demands as to the continuance of the revictualing. Then he went on to say that he had received a copy of the note from Berlin---and I knew what was coming. For up to that time I had sat there, surprised to see von der Lancken in this red-faced Teutonic rage, wondering what it was all about. It was all a cold douche to me. I had seen him angry many times, of course---he is not often in good humor, though he is formally, superficially polite, the artificial, mechanical politeness of the German military. I was used to his nasty innuendoes, too, his habit of twisting his own dislike of Hoover and the C.R.B.---possibly of me, but surely of everything American---into grounds of complaint against us. It is his habit, indeed, a sort of crude and wholly apparent Machiavellianism---doubtless taught in the school of German diplomacy, but so clumsy and maladroit as to be amusing-to begin every conversation by trying to put us in the wrong, the usual preliminary to a nasty trick of some sort. And I wondered what he was trying to back out of there---but when he spoke of the receipt of the note from Berlin, I knew that it was pure anger .... And so he raged on for half an hour, a ridiculous spectacle---sitting there in uniform, iron cross, big riding boots, red-faced and with dark circles under his eyes, mad as a bull.
There was a lull after half an hour, then Villalobar, magnificent, said that all that did not concern us; that we had nothing to do with the English note that had gone to Berlin, that we were responsible only for what we had written in our note; was that polite?
"Well, let us discuss that; but not the other; we cannot deal with that."
I explained then that the English Foreign Office had written a note to our Ambassadors at London stating the British views, that our Ambassadors had communicated the note to us and that we had acquainted him, von der Lancken, with its contents; that he had accepted them; that with the Berlin note we had nothing to do. That Mr. Hoover was perhaps not always courteous, that he went at his work directly and not indirectly and I used again the illustration of the cowboy. Von der Lancken said he had reason to believe that Hoover had inspired the note, but as to that I said I knew nothing.
And so the storm passed and there for two hours we had a discussion about the order; Francqui did most of the talking on this point, Villalobar and I saying little for we knew nothing about the details of agriculture. The order was wholly German, full of meticulous details, but I didn't care; it was only amusing, as it was to hear the expression of the immature and illogical reflections that came from those muddy German minds. But I could not resist the temptation to say a word about article 7 of the first section, which said: "Those disobeying the orders given in execution of this section will be liable to a term of imprisonment of not more than five years, or a fine of not more than 20,000 marks, or both."
Francqui said that it was a political error, that the peasants would know that no one would remain in prison five years, and that as for the 20,000 marks---that sum was so preposterously large that it could mean nothing to a peasant; that if a peasant wished to hide a portion of his crop he would hide it.
"But those are only the maxima," said Reith.
"Yes," said Francqui, "and military courts always inflict the maximum penalty."
I said that we would not discuss the penalty; that that did not affect us, but that I would point out that penalties too severe always defeated their own end, and cited as an illustration, the passage in Ohio of a law punishing burglary with death, after which there were more burglaries than ever before, because no jury could be found to condemn a man to death for burglary. The Belgians presents Villalobar and Van Vollenhoven, all saw the point and laughed, but the Germans with their eleventh-century intelligences sat with blank faces, unable to grasp the point.
While all this discussion between Francqui and the Germans had been going on, Villalobar had told me that he had known of von der Lancken's anger yesterday, and so had not been surprised as I had been this morning. He had gone to see him to get Francqui's pass and von der Lancken had refused it; he had been in a fury and had spoken of the note that had been sent to Berlin. Von der Lancken said they had intercepted a letter to Crosby in which it had been said that the English Foreign Office would do whatever Hoover said; was furious at Hoover. "It is all a fit of madness," said Villalobar; "pay no attention to it, it will pass."
I told him I had a notion to suggest that the C.R.B. and all Americans retire from the work and let some one else take it up. "No, no, no," exclaimed Villalobar, and I agreed to say nothing. We decided however, to demand, at the conclusion of the conference, the response to our note, and von der Lancken said we would have it in two days. So at last, it ended---at half past twelve. I spoke a moment with von der Lancken and with Reith, saying that they insisted so strongly on the "eminent patrons," on "the protectors," and so on, but that the important thing was the food; that if they kept on they would have patrons but no food coming in; that Hoover was the foreman of the work, and he did the really important part of it.
July 28, 1915.---This morning I read, in English, the President's reply to the last German note; Gibson bore it up to me before I had breakfasted, a clipping from the London Times that Stockton brought down from Rotterdam.
My heart swelled with pride as I read it, pride of my President, pride of my country, pride of its ideals. The note is grave, solemn and firm, admirable in all respects, leaving nothing to be desired, leaving nothing, either, to be said, on the whole discussion. In the duel of wits the clumsy Germans have been the playthings of the President's keen analytical mind; their efforts at evasion, explanation, and justification have been stupid and heavy, wholly typical of the German mentality. Without effort, the President twists out of the bloody German words the very last of their arguments and pretensions and how he does expose their feebleness, their speciousness, their immature, inconsequential, immaterial statements! The issues are now wholly joined and America is entitled to a judgment on the pleadings.
The German mentality is a psychological phenomenon worthy of deep study. While the common law, the civil law, proceeding from widely differing sources, practically unite in the same rules of evidence, the Germans seem to be wholly ignorant of such rules. The pleadings of the German diplomats in the discussion apropos of the Lusitania affair show this: they bring forth all sorts of wholly immaterial evidence, and never even touch the point at issue.
August 6, 1915.---Warsaw has fallen. The news is announced to Brussels today by a little blue placard on the walls .... And now? Can Germany put enough men on this front to break through and get to Calais, to Paris? One shudders, and yet it may well be .... What hope is there?
Miss Dodge here to luncheon. The Germans are clearing out the palace, evidently planning to discontinue the hospital there. Many think they are preparing to move in themselves, to use it as a residence for von Bissing or some princeling.
At Wolles this morning again. Working all afternoon on my paper for the Institute.(2) Drove with Nell. Home to find Riley here, just returned from Switzerland. He wants me to get him a pass to go home to America.
The courier brought me many books, among them Joseph Conrad's Victory and Philip Gibbs's The Soul of the War.
I can't write! I ought to! I ought to use whatever talent I have to portray the horrors of this war. But words seem so poor, so hard to find. I ought to write, and I can not. Everything I set down seems so silly, so futile, so weak.
August 20, 1915.---One year ago today the grey horde entered Brussels; and now for a whole year we have had the experience, unique and terrible for an American who from infancy had been trained in liberty, of living under an irresponsible military despotism. We have seen that army swoop across this poor, dear little country, committing every crime, every abhorrence, every outrage. The effect upon the life of the Belgians has been death. A year ago there was a happy, contented population, laborious, peaceful. The Government of the free communes had made it, during the centuries, a liberty-loving, self-governing, democratic people. And for no reason, that grey horde came with fire and sword, laying waste the land, pillaging, looting, murdering, raping---it is even yet wholly inconceivable that in our day such a thing could be. History knows no such crime.(3) The rape of Poland was not so bad, because the internal dissensions of Poland were really responsible for that.
And Brussels is so sadly changed. We have not heard the ring of a hammer or of a trowel in a year; what music it would be! The shops are depleted; there is no such thing for instance as a new hat; a new style; many things can scarcely be procured at all---soap, tooth-brushes, many medicines, cigarettes and so on. Prices have quadrupled. It costs us to live four times what it cost before the war. Butter, they say, will soon be impossible to obtain, and the chickens are disappearing, for there is no food for them. The streets are dead; no life in them---people dragging about, staring aimlessly, and every block a squad or a company of the grey---that dirty, hideous grey!---uniformed last reserves tramping stolidly, stupidly, brutally along, in their heavy hobnailed boots. The Germans have changed the aspect of the city. Once the most beautiful city in Europe or surely one of the most beautiful, they have destroyed its artistic appearance by the evidences of their taste. They have built kiosks for the vendors of German newspapers, books and publications everywhere, hideous things of clashing colors; and they have stuck up everywhere their garish red, white, and black sentry-boxes like monstrous barber-shop signs.
Today the country is bare, stripped to the bone. The atrocities the drunken, brutal soldiers committed in the early weeks of the war are not worse than those other Machiavellian or Borgian crimes they commit now, the attempts at slow poisoning and corruption of the minds of those they would enslave. We have no press, no post, no communications, no telephone (though that is not such a deprivation but a blessing rather!), no liberty whatever. All of those rights we claim in our bill of rights are all denied---only a reign of terror. It is a year I don't like to look back upon. I don't know how I have lived through it or how much longer this must be endured. And I am the most privileged man in Belgium, and my soul sickens every day and my heart grows hot with impotent rage at what these Germans do.
And yet how different today from that day a year ago! The city has been very still.
August 25, 1915.---Very disquieting news today about our relations with Germany---the old question of the submarine warfare, now raised again by the sinking of the Arabic.(4) We have our first detailed accounts in the Times of the 21st, which came today. Its Washington and New York correspondents report that the feeling at home is even more intense than at the time of the sinking of the Lusitania. Some think the shot of the submarine at the Arabic is the answer to our note and it is freely predicted that diplomatic relations with Germany will be broken. As a matter of fact, relations with Germany should have been broken by every civilized nation long ago. As for us, we can only sit here on our volcano and wait.
The news of the war is better. The English are said to have made most important landings in Gallipoli.(5)
September 2, 1915.---The younger Baron Coppée in this morning to ask my assistance. He and his father own large collieries in Campine, and factories of various sorts, here and in Russia, with interests everywhere. They had before the war contracts to build coke furnaces in Russia, and since under the occupation by the Germans they could not communicate with their representatives abroad, they established a courier of their own. The other day an officer appeared at their offices, brutal in the extreme, overturned everything, bore off the correspondence and papers, arrested the Coppées, father and son, and released them on 200,000 frcs. ($40,000) caution. They had of course to deposit this sum in cash, and since then they have been subjected almost daily to interrogatories, a host of agents prying into all their affairs. Now they are charged on three counts
1. With having sent letters out of the country;
2. With having sent men to Russia to construct the coke furnaces;
3. With aiding the Russians, because the Russians had seized a factory in Russia belonging to the Coppées and were using it to manufacture benzine.
They are to be tried by a court martial next week, and Coppée wanted me to interfere. I felt sorry for the poor fellow sitting there, so troubled and worried that he repeated every sentence twice in identical words, a curious effect .... There is nothing I can do, except, if an opening offers, to speak to von der Lancken.
September 6, 1915.---Francqui came in this morning to make his call, after having returned from his journey to England and France, and I was glad to see him, as I am always. He was full of hope and confidence, has no doubt of the outcome of the war, and says England will remain Mistress of the Seas, a condition not altogether to his liking perhaps, nor to the liking of any man who loves liberty, but one would keep the masters one has rather than to fly to others one knows not of. He had much to say and said it in his clever way, too much to remember and set down indeed. But I have a picture of his crossing the channel from Flushing with two English aëroplanes circling overhead all the way, flying low and signaling to the Captain, and of the usual mass of shipping in the English Channel, and all the tremendous activity on the English coast, no change in that respect, and, he said, the German submarine warfare a complete failure. Already the English have destroyed 37 per cent of the German submarines; by those great fish nets of theirs they set down into the sea, and draw them at certain times with armed tugs, find submarines entangled in them, the men in them all dead ---"They throw their bodies into the sea." He told it all with his amusing gestures ....
He had gone with Hoover to France, taking Hoover with him and presenting him to the King. Hoover was very much pleased. He had many stories, of course, of the trenches; how for instance he had seen a new-made grave just behind the Belgian trenches, with fresh flowers on 'it. In the trenches just below it, a group of Belgian soldiers were playing cards. He asked one of them whose grave it was.
"C'est mon camarade," replied the soldier. "C'était un bon camarade .... Atout!" and Francqui leaned forward and made the triumphant gesture of a man who had a trump card.
In one village he had come through, a village that was completely destroyed and abandoned by the population, he saw an old woman, eighty years of age, who had stubbornly refused to leave her home -the peasant's love for the soil---and lived on there. She showed him a hole she had dug behind the house and barricaded it with bags of concrete, and when the shells came "she hides herself there." In other places, he said old peasants were plowing, shouting Hue! at their horses---he acted it all out, of course; then a shell falls in the field, the peasants turn and stare at it, then Hue! again and the horse plods on. Even children play under fire.
He had seen his friend General Jogue of the French army, wounded three times, and he described the ferocity of the man. Indeed, all the soldiers he said, now became "apaches."
Very amusing to hear him describe his fear of the traffic in the streets of London and Paris, after the silent and deserted streets of Brussels under the deadening influence of German occupation.
He was full of admiration of the English, though he does not like them as a nation. He says they have a million men in France, all transported with arms, cannon, munitions, horses, and so forth in five thousand voyages across the channel, without the loss of a single man. English everywhere in France, and reserves clear back to Paris.
September 10, 1915.---Wicheler and I went over to see Philip Swyncop, the painter, in a studio in the rue de Livonne, near the avenue Louise. A bright little man and a charming studio, in which blues predominate, even in the portraits and pictures on the easels about. Three little kittens tumbling about the floor. Swyncop finds them excellent instructors in grace of line. We went to see the sketches he has made of the Germans. I had heard dimly of them, but was not prepared for the revelation. Ever since the entrance of the Germans he has gone about, everywhere, studying them, seeking out distinctive and characteristic types, and he has sketched them surreptitiously and then gone home to his studio to paint them. He has nearly a hundred; showing them in all their bestiality, cruelty, sentimentality, and in all the crude colors of their uniforms; the pale grey and the dirty grey, and the green and the raw red and the blue! He gave me one of the sketches, but I was alarmed for him; any of the pictures would of course be the unpardonable sin, because he has not respected the sacred uniform, and there is a picture of the Kaiser, pale, livid, in a long cloak, black at the top, white in the centre, covered with iron crosses, and from the knees down, deep red in blood---for that I can't imagine what punishment would be considered sufficient. I urged him to discretion, and he said he never kept the sketches at his home but always hidden somewhere.
September 13, 1915.---Hoover, who arrived last night, came in to see me today, accompanied by Crosby and Francqui. He comes to discuss, and if possible to arrange several questions: (1) that of the seizure by the Germans in the north of France and in the Etappengebiet in Belgium of the new crop; (2) that of the restoration of industry, and (3) that of the further importation of forage for cattle. To the first the English refuse, unless the Germans relax their seizures, to allow the C.R.B. to send in any more food; this is true especially in the Etappengebiet, where the crop was all raised by the Belgian peasants; the north of France presenting a somewhat different, perhaps less difficult problem, for there the Germans provided the seed and the labor themselves.
As to the second the English imposed such terrible conditions, that no German directly or indirectly shall profit by the resumption of industry, that Hoover is not sanguine of success; indeed has already disputed with the British Government on that point. Some Belgians indeed, as Crosby said, are opposed to it, fearing that Belgium would then appear prosperous under the German régime, and the Germans claim the credit, point with pride, and so on, but Hoover disposed of this objection by remarking drily that the English would impose such terms as to prevent any flourishing prosperity. We talked it all over, and expect to talk it all over tomorrow morning when Villalobar is to meet us here; and we shall, I suppose, talk it all over for days and days thereafter with the Germans, a happy prospect!
Hoover did not bring much news. The Zeppelin that left here a week ago dropped a bomb into the building at London Walls in which the C.R.B. offices are situated, but it did not damage Hoover's office. Hoover says the senseless raids, which killed the usual number' of the poor in the East End, have stiffened the dogged determination of the English, who are preparing for another two years of war.
He reports a formidable revolution in Russia, but as it is a democratic revolution it does not dishearten us. More power to them, and all other revolutionists in democracy!
Sentiment in America now more strongly than ever against any participation in the war, due to sober reflection. He said that the Hesperian case should offer no difficulties, for she was armed to the teeth, had no American passengers on board---two of the crew were Americans---and was an Admiralty ship.(6) The case of the Arabic he thought would be settled, because of the concessions already made by the Germans and because of a feeling at home that Americans have no business in sailing on British ships in these times. The case of a Mrs. X-- of California, has been widely described at home. She was advised, even urged, by Page not to embark on the Arabic but on a ship of the American Line sailing at the same time. She haughtily refused, because she could not have a stateroom with a bath on the American vessel.
The view then to which I held from the beginning, namely, that while Americans were innocently justified in sailing on the Lusitania they were not after that incident justified in risking their own lives and in embroiling their own nation in war by going on British ships, has been strongly urged by Page, Hoover says, and widely obtains at home.
I asked Hoover what became of his story that England should lift the blockade against food going into Germany and he laughed and told me. He went back from here to London full of it, elaborating it, arguing not only that by adopting it the English would force the German mark down but would remove a cause for hate, and thereby pave the way for peace, and submitted it to Francis W. Hirst of the Economist. Hirst was delighted, and with another gentleman, Sir John Simon, I think, and a professor of economics at Oxford, prepared a report---they being members of the Advisory Committee of the Chancellor of the Exchequer---and submitted it to the Government.
One by one they drew in the members of the Government. Sir Edward Grey agreed, then Lloyd George, Balfour, and Hoover thought the day won. But the Tories, ignorant and brutal as ever, would have none of it. Sir Edward Carson, late leader of the revolutionary rabble in Ulster, bloviated as usual, bawling "let the brutes starve," vowed undying hatred of the Germans, is going to exterminate them, though without going to the firing line himself, and thus overwhelming the liberal and intelligent in the Government, the scheme disappeared forevermore, and the pound sterling will go down to four dollars.
September 14, 1915.---Villalobar, Hoover, Francqui, and Crosby here this morning, for a conference. We discussed two subjects, the restoration of industry and the importation of forage. As to the first, it was agreed that Villalobar and I should see von der Lancken tomorrow, and offer our services, since von Bissing professes to be so anxious to have work resumed, and as to the second, we asked Francqui and Hoover to prepare for us a memorandum. We decided to keep both things separate and distinct from the revictualing, though both concern it. Destitution is increasing to such an alarming extent, and suffering will be so great this winter, that it will be beyond the ability of our committee to cope with it, and of course if the people here could get to work and produce, the financial strain in that respect would be relieved.
As to the second, the British Government has stopped the importation of fodder; Hoover has 70,000 tons of maize now at Rotterdam, and if we can not get it in, there will be no food for cattle, consequently no milk, no butter.
Villalobar told of an incident that occurred at the château of his cousin, the Countess t'Kint de Roodenbeke. The German commandant ordered her to furnish his men with so many eggs each day. She did so. Then she was ordered to dispose of her chickens in order to save food. She asked them how she could then provide the eggs? They had not thought of that. It is wholly characteristic of the German mind, which can not put two and two together, can not think of two things at the same time. They would have a commission of thirty-six Herr Doktors on eggs---and an intricate study; and another commission of other professors on hens, and all sorts of statistics, but they never would note any relation between hens and eggs.
September 16, 1915.---Another day in bed, slowly rounding to Hoover in this afternoon. They have agreed on a basis for the resumption in a degree of industry. Villalobar left word to the same effect. Hoover leaves Saturday. He has decided to replace Crosby for various reasons, and will be back in two weeks with a man to succeed him. The terrible difficulty is to find one for the work, the war has lasted too long. But Hoover thinks there will be a change before long and that something may be expected by winter.
Everybody says there are large masses of troops in town, and we hear that Charleroi is full of them.
September 22, 1915.---The pouch brought in newspapers, the deadly stupid London Times and New York World three weeks old. Still much talk of a break with Germany and it seems almost inevitable.
There are two Germanies: the civil Germany, with whom one might discuss and arrange matters if it were not under the heel of the other Germany, military Germany, that has gone crazy. How often have von der Lancken or Harrach or von Moltke shrugged their shoulders helplessly, hopelessly, and apologetically, and said: "We should be glad to do it, but the military!"
The pouch also brings a charming invitation from Page asking us to visit them in London for a fortnight. What joy it would be, if one dared! To think of being in England again, and seeing no German uniforms and meeting gentlemen! Ah me! But it cannot be, unless we should be flung out of here in that direction; not with this crisis existing and perhaps not even then. "The Governor-General does not like one to go farther away than Holland."
Nell and I went to Woluwe this afternoon and then I went, for the first time in weeks, to see von der Lancken, Villalobar and Van Vollenhoven joining me there. They had been here this morning to discuss the question of the resumption of industry, which Hoover has undertaken, the Dutch Government having completely failed with the English, though Van Vollenhoven, who is interested in the nefarious schemes of little Dutch traders, thinks he is the master spirit. It is of course all Hoover's work now. We opened the subject with von der Lancken by giving him a copy of the note Francqui and Jadot had written us. They had the idea at first of making it a part of the work of the Comité National, but Villalobar and I objected, for we wish no possible complications in the revictualing. We talked it all over with von der Lancken there in that yellow salon; he said the Governor-General would view it with a friendly eye and thought it might be arranged if the English Government could be brought into agreement. The details of reinvigorating and reviving an enormous industry like that of Belgium, now thoroughly prostrate, are appalling. Von der Lancken said he would have his man, Herr Brohn of the Krupp works, discuss it with Francqui, and we fixed on Friday morning for the preliminary conference. Later, perhaps Monday, we shall see von der Lancken again. He goes to Berlin Tuesday. In the meantime Villalobar and I are to telegraph our Governments for authority.
Von der Lancken very pleasant, sympathetic because of my recent illness, and interesting with accounts of the horrors of the Russian campaign. He had had a letter from an artist who is in the army, full of particulars of awful happenings among the civil population---deaths from hunger and cholera and a plague of lice! The German army, with its admirable organization, disinfects all its soldiers. Even those now arriving here from the Russian front... are disinfected after their arrival here. Von der Lancken's own sister, wife of a colonel of cuirassiers, went to the Russian front to see her husband when he was wounded, and was horrified and indignant when she had to display a certificate showing that she had no lice.
He sympathized with me for not having had a holiday---I have not been out of Belgium for twenty months---and said that every man in the German army had had a vacation this summer. The men on this front had been taken to Ostend, in relays, for seabathing!
Sunday, September 26, 1915.---The city is throbbing with suppressed excitement because of the attack the Allies are making all along the western front from the sea to the Vosges. Very heavy firing has been heard for two days, and this morning the placards with the official communications admit the seriousness of the attack.(7)
They are guarded, of course, in their statements, but people who take the German word at its proper value, read in the reserves of the statements serious reverses for the hated Germans, and are consequently full of hope again.
Great crowds have gathered all day at the railroad crossing in the rue Belliard, and are there tonight. All day long troop trains have rushed through filled with soldiers and artillery. Eugène, who knows everything, says about twenty-four had gone through by dinner-time, and they are still passing through tonight. They are all going in the direction of Namur.
Eugène says that today forty automobiles, with the inscriptions on their hoods covered, and loaded with German officers, tore through the city bound west. What will come of it? Who knows?
The Bruxellois, of course, think it is the beginning of the long-expected attack that is to drive the Germans out. But I do not think so. I think rather it is a diversion to relieve the Russians.
September 28, 1915.---The city is all excited over the Allies' offensive and hopes are high-foolishly high, I think. The city wears somehow the aspect it wore while Antwerp was being besieged. There are crowds all about the Palais des Académies, where the ambulances are once more rushing in with the wounded. Topping says he saw between thirty and forty large ambulances coming down rue du Trône between seven and nine last night.
Dr. Lespinne, who was down to Tournai Sunday, told me this afternoon that on Saturday 500 wounded were brought in there and on Sunday 900 more. The official communications today say that the French have taken 20,000 prisoners and the English 10,000. Still we really know nothing.
A monoplane flew over the city this afternoon and was fired at.
September 30, 1915.---The Dutch papers announce today that St. John Gaffney(8) has been removed for his offensive mouthings and scribblings. I have wondered for years how this miserable blatherskite could continue in the service. But Nemesis, though leaden-heeled, overtakes them in the end. Good riddance to bad rubbish!
There are fewer soldiers in the city than at any time since the German invasion. They have all been sent to the front, and all the troops who have come from Russia (they were of Mackensen's army) have been hurried off to the trenches. Poor devils! There were a hundred and fifty thousand of them, in worn uniforms, and all weary and broken.
One of the C. R. B. men from Antwerp said that at a kind word, or a flower, they would burst into tears. They had been told on arriving that they would have a month's rest in Belgium, the garden on which German eyes are always turning constantly---and a band concert had been arranged at Antwerp for last Sunday. But it was canceled and all those tired troops were hurried off to the front.
The offensive may be "the grand blow of the war," Crosby thinks. It must, of course, mean something, for it hasn't been undertaken for the pleasure of the thing. We know nothing, only that Brussels is drained of officers; they swagger in their floating capes along the boulevards no more, and their club, the old Hôtel Astoria, is empty.
October 6, 1915.---Improved, but Dr. Derscheid ordered me to stay in bed. Trying to finish the intractable article for the Institute. Hoover lunched here, coming up afterwards to sit with me. Admire this man more every time I see him. Thinks the offensive doesn't amount to much; just as I thought. Another monstrous butchery for nothing!
October 9, 1915.---Up at noon, and dressed but not permitted by my doctor to leave my apartment.
Nell and the rest of the family off to Crosby for luncheon, a kind of farewell, function he gave before his departure, for he goes tomorrow. He came in at tea-time to bid me good-bye. I am very sorry to see him go, for he is a gentleman. His going indeed saddened all of us a little. Hoover left this morning, likewise depressed, for von der Lancken had sent for him yesterday afternoon and talked to him in his brutal German way, telling him, so Gibson says---I didn't see Hoover---that he didn't like him or the C. R. B. or Americans, and that he did not wish Hoover or the C. R. B. to be associated in the new work of resuming industry. It has made me indignant all day, but I can do nothing, lying here. What I shall do, I think, unless I have some other light, is to tell Villalobar that we shall have nothing to do with the scheme, unless the Germans ask us to (for in reality it is no concern of ours, or of Hoover's or of the C. R. B., our sole desire being to assist the Belgians), and that he and von der Lancken and Van Vollenhoven can work it out any way they like. Of course, they can do nothing without Hoover, for the English will consent to nothing unless Hoover is there to guarantee it. Then they'll fail---and blame Hoover for the failure! So there's the vicious circle---and we're right back where we are now! It all grows out of the terrible hatred the Germans have for the Americans. But then who don't they hate, unless it be the Turks and the Bulgarians?
October 11, 1915.---The doctor this morning ordered me to stay in my room two days more---at any rate!
The city excited today over the visit of the aëroplanes yesterday and over another visit they paid us at seven o'clock this morning, dropping bombs, it is said, on Berghem where there is or was, a hangar for the Zeppelins, though some say it was at Jette near by, where asphyxiating bombs are manufactured; and again this afternoon an aëroplane was flying high over the city. Nell saw it.
But all is swallowed up in the sickness we all feel tonight over the fate of Miss Edith Cavell,(9) an English nurse. I don't remember whether I mentioned her in my notes before or not. She was arrested weeks ago, charged with assisting men to escape and join the army. We made protests and followed the case, and while we learned that there seemed to be sufficient evidence to inculpate her---according to the brutal rules of war---we were all impressed this morning to hear that she was being tried and that the prosecuting officer had asked the court martial to pronounce a sentence of death. Eight or nine others were tried with her. We inquired at von der Lancken's this morning, were told that sentence would not be pronounced until tomorrow or next day. Tonight at nine o'clock about, de Leval came up to my room with word that he had heard that the poor woman had been condemned to death at two o'clock this afternoon, and several others with her, that she was allowed to see no one, except a German priest or parson, and that she was to be shot tomorrow morning. The news made me sick---much sicker than I was already. Then we prepared notes, I signed them, wrote an appeal to von der Lancken personally, sent de Leval to hunt up Gibson and Villaiobar to go and see von der Lancken, and now we wait. Gahan the rector and his little wife came, also Miss Butcher. Gahan hurried away to see the condemned woman; he had a note from some one at the prison in German saying: "Come at once, some one is about to die." He went with the sacraments. Nell is downstairs now comforting Mrs. Gahan and Miss Butcher. It is too horrible for words!
Van Vollenhoven is playing bridge with von Bissing tonight at Trois Fontaines. To think of that poor little woman waiting the night through! God, what horror!
Midnight. Gibson just here, a black outlook, nothing to be done. De Leval and Gibson got Villalobar and saw von der Lancken; would do nothing; Villalobar splendid; talked terribly to von der Lancken, who was very nervous. Finally telephoned the Military Governor of the city---a new one---I must get his name (von Sauberzweig). Von der Lancken would not even receive my note asking grace for the poor woman. Nell has been downstairs all evening with the poor woman's friends; gave them hot milk, and so on. We are all sick with horror!
October 12, 1915.---We are all under the horror of the fate of the poor, the brave, the fatuous, the noble Edith Cavell, martyr. The memory of last night will take its place with other nights of watching and waiting without hope. Al Wade, Walter Crosby, Dora Lightner---all those victims of the brutality of man. Edith Cavell of course was not in their class; she had nobly served her country and the cause of liberty in this world. Some day she will have her monument. Half the night we watched---while Gibson, de Leval and Villalobar labored with von der Lancken. Small chance had they with that heart of stone, that cold, false smile, that liar in five languages! They had promised to keep us informed, had said at six last evening that the judgment had not been pronounced, and when our party arrived, routing von der Lancken out of one of the cheap unmentionable theatres, that pander to Teutonic coarseness and lust, he said it would be time enough in the morning---and not an hour later stumbled into the admission that the girl was to be shot at two o'clock this morning! I could see the whole scene, knowing the place and the men so well, that cold, false, Mephistophelian countenance of von der Lancken, smiling with his "Mon Dieu, Mon Dieu!" and "Je regrette," and Harrach, the stupid brute, in his hussar uniform, saying he had no feeling about killing a woman over forty, and sending out for a bottle of beer, saying: "These discussions have one advantage, anyway, they give one a thirst!" Then Villalobar, dear valiant old Villalobar, getting mad finally and telling von der Lancken how brutal and stupid they were, pushing him into another room and there talking to him, von der Lancken emerging white and trembling, then telephoning to the Military Governor of Brussels, whose work it was---nothing to be done.
The name of the new Military Governor of Brussels, succeeding von Kraewel, is Sauberzweig; they say von Kraewel was not severe enough.
And all the while we here, I sick... and Nell downstairs comforting the women, the little nurse, friend and companion of Miss Cavell, and two other nurses, and Mrs. Gahan and Miss Butcher. Nell has been comforting women in such tragic scenes all her life, poor dear! Then, last picture of all, the five women going out into the dark and rain at midnight!
This is what German brutes are capable of, with no regret, no shame. And this but one of many cases in this mad Europe!
Gahan in this morning saying that Miss Cavell was very brave, very calm, last night. She had never expected, of course, such an end; nor had we. The charge was only that she had helped English, French and Belgian soldiers to get out of Belgium and join the army, though von der Lancken always referred to it as "espionage"; the nursing home of which Miss Cavell was the head was a kind of foothold for the movement to help them get out. In all she had helped two hundred, and had no regrets. She was discovered by the Germans finding a letter in which one of the men wrote back to thank her. Some nine others were tried with her and one man, a Belgian, shot with her this morning. One will never know what the Germans did to her, she was never allowed to see any one, even a lawyer .... She was a frail delicate little woman, forty years old, and has an old mother in England.
All day indoors, and I long so to get out, long for the sanity of the woods. And oh, to be out of sight forever of that hideous, grey German uniform, symbol of every cowardly brutality of which the dead hearts and poisoned minds of old, old men can conceive. Frightfulness!
October 13, 1915.---Out today for the first time since a week ago Sunday. Drove out with Nell at eleven o'clock, in a soft warm air, and some sun filtering through the autumn haze, to Woluwe where we alighted and walked around the long curve of the road by the solemn pine trees, so balsamic, so like our Michigan, the trees all turned since I saw them last, now in their autumn reds and yellows and browns. It was good to be in that sweet air, in that good sun, and to forget, if but for a moment.
But not for long. This morning placards are posted all over town, announcing brutally the execution of that awful sentence, the horror of which hangs over us all. To us, somehow, in our selfishness, it means the shooting of poor, brave, heroic Edith Cavell, but there was Baucq, the architect, who leaves a wife and two children. And on the placard there is a long and tragic list; five sentenced to death, four others to fifteen years hard labor, one to ten years, and seventeen more who were sentenced for shorter terms. The whole town is stupefied, struck with horror. "It is not a judicial execution," said a judge of the highest court of Belgium this morning, as they stood reading the grim placard. "It is a murder." Sad groups stood under the trees in the boulevards amid the falling leaves, discussing the crime in some such fashion.
There is another placard, a long screed of von Bissing's, posted Monday, that has made an impression as painful, and enraged and humiliated the people, a placard... [which] proves that the crime was premeditated and arranged, and this placard was to prepare the public mind for the shock of the placard of this morning. This first placard was posted Monday, and the judgment against Miss Cavell was pronounced Monday afternoon, and taken together they show the hypocrisy, the falsity, and the unspeakable brutality of the Prussian mind and military régime. The Monday placard is full of owlish advice, and simian cruelty; in the tone of oily piety the Germans know so well how to adopt, the Governor-General tells the people to depend on him, to believe him, to trust him, and so forth, and with allusion to "espionage" tells them that the severest penalties will be visited on those who violate his laws.
And today, the dread announcement on the placard. It shows not only the cruelty, the brutality of the Prussian régime, it shows its stupidity as well. For this crime will shock the world; Richards in from Holland says they have already heard of it there and are filled with horror. It is another, if a smaller, Louvain.
Among the five sentenced to death are two Frenchwomen, Louise Thuliez, of Lille, and the Comtesse Jeanne de Belleville. Villalobar is trying hard to save them. I do hope he succeeds!
We can not escape the horror, however, of that poor brave little woman! Dr. Derschied this morning told me---he knew her well---that she was of English type, very stern with herself in doing her duty, and so on, and very rigid with the nurses under her in the nursing-home she had organized. From all accounts she was a splendid, noble character. De Leval has gathered all he can as to, her trial; it was legal enough technically, he says, and in denying nothing, in avowing all, even in patriotic pride, she helped to bring about her own conviction. They asked her if she had not helped English soldiers---left behind after the early battles of last autumn ---to leave the country. And she said yes; they were English, and she was English, and she would help her own. The answer seemed to impress the Court. They asked her if she had not helped twenty to escape? She said, "Yes, more than twenty, two hundred." "English?" "No, not all English---French and Belgian, too." But the French and Belgian were not of her own nationality---that made a serious difference! Then she admitted that some of them had written from England to thank her, and that was the fatal admission, for under the military law, her having helped them to reach Holland, a neutral country, would have been a minor offence, but to have reached England, an enemy country---that was a crime entailing the last penalty of all!
And so they condemned her, and wouldn't wait but hurried out that same night and shot her at dawn.
Poor Nell, I found her crying in the chaise longue this evening, just before dinner. Mrs. Gahan had been here and had given her details of the girl's last hours, details her husband had given her ---little details more touching than the mere statements of the horrid fact. When the rector arrived she was lying down, got up, put on her wrapper, drew it about her thin form, received him calmly, was very brave; was not afraid to die, had written letters to her mother in England and to all her friends and entrusted them to the German Authorities; received the sacrament had no hatred, no regrets; had had a fair trial, had avowed all, the German chaplain had been kind; was willing for him to be with her at the last, if Gahan could not; she was not afraid, life had not been so good to her, and she was happy to die for her country.
Those, so far as we know, were her last words; she had been told that they would call her at five o'clock. At six they took her out and shot her.
I can't write these details, can't think of them; poor, poor girl, as brave, as heroic, as any that have lived and died for her country! for mankind!
There was a nurse at the nursing-home, who had the morphine habit, was trying to break it; Miss Cavell had helped---sent her word by Gahan to be brave---and if God would let her she would continue to help her!
Ah me! what are words?
We had a letter from the directors of the nursing-home, thanking me and asking me to get the body. I wrote to von der Lancken. He came at 4.30; all fine in uniform; I had him shown into the little salon; he had come to say that the body had been buried, could not, under the "law," be exhumed without an order from Berlin. Von Bissing away, would ask him to procure an order when he got back. Expressed his regret, said he had done all he could, and so on. Then talked of other things, the old subject of carrying letters, of de Leval, whose presence he didn't like in a diplomatic capacity. Talked about the war; thought it would end soon.
Villalobar came after him, and I thanked him for what he had done. He told me that when he had taken von der Lancken aside that night, he had told him that he knew I would say not to kill a woman, and he added:
"Her blood will be on your head, as the blood of Louvain is on your head." Von der Lancken had trembled, grown white, and then had said: "I know it, you are right, but I can do nothing against the military."
And that is it. It is the brutal Prussian military caste, that does all this. Von der Lancken had gone in his motor to see the military governor, this Sauberzweig, but he was obdurate, would do nothing.
October 19, 1915.---It seems that it is spelled Sauberzweig, with a von before it, of course, and though this word has been in the Brussels vocabulary but little over a week, it already connotes every vile, horrid, cruel, brutal, cowardly and despicable thing. "A fine Prussian does not last long," was the profound observation Villalobar made this morning, as we sat talking of the latest menace, the sinister presence of this brute. Villalobar had mentioned von Kraewel, who was a coarse man, as he proved the first and only time I ever saw him in my own salon. But he was not a cruel man, and under him Brussels got on not half badly; as well, that is, as a proud city could get on under a Prussian heel. The population indeed, at all times, has been very dignified, very self-possessed, stoical and calm. But with von Sauberzweig things will be different. He made his début by the murder of Miss Cavell, trying to conceal his intention in the first place and to hide it; then hurrying out and having his foul deed done, in the darkness of the night, before the voice of pity or of humanity could have a chance to get itself heard. Today he has another placard on the walls, before which groups of people stand aghast, a placard that for cowardly cruelty, shameless dishonor, and brazen injustice, is unequaled by anything that even Prussian mentality has thus far achieved. It menaces the population with reprisals if the Allied aviators throw any more bombs here; urges people to spy on each other, threatens to lodge troops on the inhabitants, to escape which inconvenience the city of Brussels paid so many million francs a year ago. And von Sauberzweig says calmly that the promise not to quarter troops will be annulled!
We are all outraged---even von der Lancken I think, for he told Villalobar that when the Kaiser heard of the murder of Miss Cavell, he was furious; demanded all particulars, issued orders, took measures, and so on. Von der Lancken had not said much in his report about von Sauberzweig; was then ordered to give all particulars. Von Bissing has gone to Berlin to secure, it is said, the pardon of the other condemned and perhaps to say something of von Sauberzweig. Villalobar sent word to his King, who telegraphed to the Kaiser, saying, "Mercy is the greatest of a sovereign's prerogatives." Von der Lancken was not pleased with Villalobar's action, it seems. Mercy in a Prussian heart! Not in a von Sauberzweig, at any rate. And if we are to have Sauberzweigism here---God pity poor Brussels!
Villalobar in at noon, we are to have a meeting with Francqui, Lambert et al., tomorrow afternoon and another Friday morning.
October 20, 1915.---A conference with Villalobar, Van Vollerhoven, Francqui and Lambert, several points raised;
First, Reith is making all sorts of trouble with the revictualing; a little man, who never had power before and likes to use it.
Then the resumption of industry. Francqui had had an interview with Brohn and they had tentatively agreed on a plan for a committee. We talked it over, but finally I said, "What is the use in our wasting our time over an effort to have life resumed when this brute von Sauberzweig is going to shoot everybody?" Lambert and all of them, indeed, agreed in principle. Lambert suggested that we, Villalobar, Van Vollenhoven, and I make a representation to von der Lancken. We decided to do so.
Francqui, with his usual acute vision, said the trouble is that the Germans in authority don't understand the Belgians or know what is going on. All they know is what their "apaches" tell them, and all they know is what they glean from the Belgian "apaches." The Germans are always obsessed by the idea that they are surrounded by spies, and that plots are brewing, and nothing could have been better than the deportment of the Belgian population.
The effect of von Sauberzweig's brutal placards is very bad and will bring on trouble. Lemonnier went to him the other day and was insulted. They cannot, will not, understand the communal organization in Belgium or the communal pride ....
Francqui told of two French officers, in uniform, in an aëroplane, who had to descend. They went to a professor, near by, a teacher of some sort, from him borrowed civilian clothes, and in them made their way to the Holland frontier, near Maestricht. There they were arrested by the Germans, and taken before the Commandant. He was about to have them shot as spies, when they told him they had come within the enemy's lines not as spies, but as officers in uniform, told him of the accident to their aëroplane, and offered, if he would give his word of honor not to punish the man who had helped them, to take him to the school or institution and there show him their uniforms. The Commandant gave his word of honor to do nothing to the professor and went with them. They showed their uniforms and made their case, and a month later the professor was condemned by the Germans to ten years at hard labor.
Yesterday, as a result of the menace in the von Sauberzweig placard, 500 Belgian soldiers and 300 French soldiers presented themselves in the rue du Méridien, and were sent to Germany. Today other hundreds presented themselves. Most of them were soldiers who been mustered out after having been wounded, and had returned to Belgium in response to the invitation of von Bissing; many of the French had had little businesses, shops, and so on, here, and had come to resume their lives. And now another broken vow, another promise annulled.(10)