Unemployment had inevitably become a grim problem in Belgium. Most of the factories were forced to close, so that by the end of 1915 it was authoritatively estimated that not less than 650,000 workmen were without places. Their support not only threw a heavy burden upon relief funds, but in the congested industrial areas represented a serious danger to public order. The Belgian authorities tried to meet the situation by undertaking a variety of public works. These were inadequate and did not suit the invaders. Two German decrees in August, 1915, required the idle workmen to accept whatever employment the German authorities might offer unless they could show cause under international law for refusal; another decree of May 2, 1916, ordered the discontinuance of all public works except those specifically authorized. It was also provided that those who stubbornly refused to work for the Germans might be removed to other areas and set to forced labor. Then on October 3, 1916, came the famous decree from German General Headquarters that all Belgians in the Etappengebiet dependent upon the assistance of others, and capable of work, might be deported. This of course did not apply to the region controlled by the Governor-General. Deportations in the Etappengebiet began at Ghent and Bruges, great industrial centres of Hainaut, and were quickly extended to the mining and steel area near Charleroi and to other districts. The Governor-General opposed deportations from the part of Belgium he administered. But imperial orders soon overruled him and the transfer of unemployed to Germany was carried out upon the broadest scale. Burgomasters, when directed to make out the lists of unemployed, refused. German agents had therefore to compile the lists themselves.
A cry of horror went up from the Allied and neutral world. The deportations were a flagrant violation of international law as embodied in Article 44 of The Hague Convention. They were undertaken partly under pressure from the German military leaders, who wished to expand the armament industry and release able-bodied Germans for the trenches, and partly under demands from industrialists. The lists of unemployed, hastily made, were full of errors. The process of deportation was brutal. Men were often torn from their families without opportunity to say good-bye, were left unprovided with necessaries, and were transported in freezing weather in unheated freight-cars without protection. The mortality was high. One after another neutral governments made protests. But the deportations continued until they were stopped by special order of the Kaiser in February, 1917. It is not strange that Whitlock gives them much space.
June 27, 1916.---Went over to the Germans this morning with a number of accumulated questions. I put off going until I have a number because it is always so unpleasant to go there. Talked to von Moltke, who, I am bound to say, is always very polite and serviceable---really a good sort, I think---about the train for the English; this is to be arranged, or discussed, in a great council soon to be held at Berlin, which von Moltke will attend.
And then the case of Hervé Ameels, condemned prisoner of war. This young man... was in Holland; came to the frontier, wishing to send word by telegram to a friend; a sentry offered to let him use the telephone; he accepted, stepped across the frontier, was arrested, tried at Antwerp, and condemned to death. On his person were found incriminating documents, plans of the aviation field at Ghent, numbers of troops, and so on, and the names of two co-spies at Ghent. They were arrested, tried, and condemned to death. And tonight there in the prison at Antwerp they all wait; and their frantic friends are trying to save them. I asked for grace for Ameels ---I knew nothing of the case of the other two this morning, that information came this afternoon.
June 28, 1916.---News from America as regards Mexico very discouraging .... German newspapers are supporting Hughes .... It is to laugh!
And Wilson---by his Peace League speech he has ranged himself among the world's great statesmen. The world as we know it is gone; after this war, if we live at all we shall live in a new world. America has outgrown the limitations of her youth, and has taken her place in that new world. And her place is side by side with the liberal nations of Western Europe.
July 3, 1916.---And now it develops that the heavy firing we have been hearing for days means that the English and French are making a grand offensive. The English, it is said, have advanced along a front of twenty miles, and have taken the first line of German trenches. The Russians continue their advance, and the Austrians are again out of Italy .... One sees few soldiers at Brussels these days. Is it then the big offensive so long expected? Hopes are high and people are excited. But somehow, I cannot feel that it will amount to anything.
July 4, 1916.---Independence, Day, with a greater significance for us, for all Americans, I fancy, than ever before. All day the people have been signing the book and leaving cards---the poor, the simple, the humble, being more in evidence than the rich and great and "noble." No one from the German Government appeared to felicitate the American people on their birthday; had we a king, they would have come galloping. On the birthday of the King of Spain, not only von der Lancken, but von Bissing himself went in person to felicitate Villalobar. Enfin!
Lemonnier and the aldermen came at 10:30, having sent a splendid bouquet to Nell (the salons are full of flowers), and Lemonnier made a speech, with tears in his eyes, very touching and moving, so that we all felt it. He was quite impressive when he expressed the hope that even now "the hour approaches of our deliverance." He spoke most feelingly of Hoover and the C.R.B. and of the President's diplomacy. I responded, and we drank each other's health.
The whole town is excited over the offensive, and already reporting great things within a week. One of the men of the C.R.B. said that several villages that the C.R.B. has been provisioning are already retaken by the Allies. Another said that there had been riots in Liége. Brussels is in a ferment; when the newsdealers appeared this morning at la Porte de Namur, they were mobbed by the eager crowd. None of the Rotterdam papers are allowed to enter.
Arrowsmith(1) says that the Germans are terribly maltreating the Russian prisoners whom they have brought over to work on the railroad at Liége. They starve them, beat them, kick them, flog them, and leave them to die, weak from starvation and brutality. There are, he says, many thousands of them. He was terribly moved: a committee of Belgians had appealed to him to be permitted to appeal to us. I explained the delicacy of my situation, and said that the Russian interests are in Villalobar's hands. Arrowsmith said that the committee had appealed to Villalobar and had been roughly repulsed. Arrowsmith said that when the prisoners, too weak to work, dropped at their tasks, they were kicked and pummelled by the Germans, and then left to die. The Russian Government, he said, had made provision for their food, but there was no way to get it to them.
July 5, 1916.---Such a day! One caller after another this morning, swift on each other's heels, until I was driven mad. Caro came to talk of the request of the Belgians that we interfere in the matter of the proposed action of the Germans in calling Germans naturalized as Belgians to arms. I told him we could not interfere, and he agreed. Albert Janssen of the Banque Nationale in with a surprising---and yet not so surprising perhaps---action of the Germans with regard to this bank. At the outbreak of the war the Banque Nationale transferred all its funds to London. Several of the branch banks in various villages of the country were entered by German soldiers, and at the point of guns, the money taken. When the Germans asked the Banque to reopen, the directors told of these instances of brigandage, whereupon von der Goltz gave them a written promise that they would not be molested if they opened. They opened up the banks, and in the course of time accumulated several millions of marks in deposits, and so on. Now, through von Lumm, it has been requested that these millions be deposited in German banks in Germany. The result would be, of course, that the German banks could thereby subscribe new loans, and help prolong the war, which on the part of the directors of the Banque Nationale here would be giving aid to the enemy. Therefore for patriotic reasons the directors refused. Now von Lumm becomes more insistent---and seeks to devise some way to seize this money, some way that would not be crude bank robbery, such as yegg-men employ.
Von Lumm is a director of the Reichsbank at Berlin. Some time before the war von Lumm visited Brussels, was given a dinner at the Banque Nationale, was fêted, shown the workings of the bank, was given a decoration, and went away flushed with honors and good burgundy---and returned as head of the Bank Abteilung---the one man in all Germany who, under the circumstances, should not have accepted or been appointed to such a position! Janssen left with me the papers. The directors are now removed with punishment if they do not yield, and they wish my advice.
July 6, 1916.---A call from Dr. Reith this morning to discuss a number of points. The Governor-General would like to send to Germany this harvest all that is the result of his own sowing of seed in Belgium; would like his soldiers to eat the fish in Belgian waters; would like to know what to do about contracts made for purchase of beef-cattle before the conventions; what to do in the case of a Belgian who insists that the Germans buy his cattle which he claims were contaminated with disease by German cattle; an officer's wife wishes to take some rabbits to Germany, and so on. Told him I would take the cases under advisement. Took advantage of his presence also to ask him about the threat to incorporate naturalized Germans in the army. He said there was no such intention, that he thought the control was intended to discover Germans who were evading military duty by pretending to be naturalized Belgians. At four, Francqui, Janssen, Van Vollenhoven, and Caro came. Long discussion of these and other points, the Germans trying always to disregard the conventions---until one is sick and tired and in despair over this desperate, impossible, damned situation!
July 11, 1916.---This morning Van der Rest, vice-governor of the Banque Nationale, and Lepereux, director, came to see me and asked me to make a protest to Germany against their proposed seizure of 500,000,000 francs now in the Banque. The directors are quite desperate .... When they had gone I sent for Heineman. He came this afternoon after two. He promises to help; to see von Bissing, and the two bank commissioners (he dislikes von Lumm, as every intelligent person does; detestable round-headed little German, with round gleaming glasses, very fat and pink), and may accomplish something. He will explain to them what, of course, would never occur to the unimaginative German mind until after the event, the effect of such a crude performance on public opinion in the neutral countries, and also, that the result in Brussels would be a panic. Indeed, there have been some little runs on the bank already as a result of the action of the Germans in demanding of each bank a statement of the names of depositors and the amounts to their credit.
July 19, 1916.---A little dispatch in the papers says that the President has agreed with Carranza to arbitrate the Mexican difficulty, the commission to be composed of three Mexicans and three Americans. I have seldom read better news, and never any that made me more proud of our country and its President. What a light in the universal darkness! What an example to civilization in the midst of anarchy! What a lesson and reproach to Europe---bankrupt Europe, with not a man in one of her chancelleries, with not a statesman of the first order! It seems to me like a portent of the future, when finally the American idea will be more generally understood and accepted, when democracy shall reign.
July 20, 1916.---We have another petard for the revictualing for the north of France, the English demanding that the Germans leave the entire crop in that country to the population. Kellogg goes down to Charleville tomorrow to see the German Staff, and Hoover will be over next week. Trouble, trouble, boil and bubble! The German newspapers are raging again, and urging the Government to resume the submarine war. The Germans could not long deprive themselves of the savage delight of this darling weapon!
July 21, 1916.---This is the Belgian national holiday... and the Belgians have been celebrating it as well as they could, considering the heavy and brutal hand of the occupation that rests upon them. As for us, we did nothing, of course; I had a telegram of felicitation---though that seems hardly the word---sent to the King from The Hague. The city wears a holiday air, not gay, of course, but there are many abroad, most of them in Sunday best, and the upper class wearing high hats and the eternal redingote. Many persons sport the little green ribbon, somehow tacitly determined upon as the color to be worn; so that the streets suggested St. Patrick's Day. Even the dogs, most of them, wore the green ribbon, though they are, as I understand, wisely international .... The city seems to have been quiet. There was a little excitement at one of the markets this morning, and at noon at St.-Jacques and Ste.-Gudule there were masses, and "Brabançonne," and big crowds, suppressing their emotion, but bursting out at last, it seems, in cries of "Long live the King! Long live the Queen! Long live Belgium!"
July 24, 1916.---This morning I had a call from Monseigneur Pierard, chaplain of the court, who came on the part of Cardinal Mercier to deliver me a copy of a letter, or copies of two letters, that His Eminence has addressed to the Governor-General, in reference to the Governor-General's last letter issued against the Cardinal. The letters were sent to the Governor-General but not published; he publishes only his own proclamations against the Cardinal, and not the replies. Monseigneur Pierard said that the Cardinal had charged him to deliver the letters into my hands only, and to tell me that he proposes ere long to publish them himself. Monseigneur Pierard sat here an hour, a studious-looking prelate, with his violet gloves and scarlet sash, talking of many things. He told me of the ovation the Cardinal had on Friday evening, the 21st, as he left St.-Louis to return to Malines. The crowd gathered, and burst out into cries of "Long live the Cardinal." His Eminence tried to still the tumult by making deprecatory gestures, which Monseigneur imitated with his velvet-gloved hands, and then disappeared down la rue du Progrès. This is the act referred to in the letter published today, by which the city of Brussels is condemned to pay an amount of 1,000,000 marks.
July 27, 1916.---Joseph Mullen, a withered little man from Verviers (looks as though he were a dry-goods merchant in Bellefontaine) in this morning to say that the Germans had ordered the young men of German birth, but who had become Belgian citizens, according to the Belgian Law, by having opted for this country, to report---evidently for service in the German army. There are several hundred thus placed in his commune, several thousand in and about Liége. The poor little man was dreadfully excited; could not understand why I could not interfere and put a stop to what of course is an outrage and a flagrant violation of international law---if such a thing exists any more in this world. "But you are our protector!" he would say, just as women used to say to me when I was Mayor: "But you are the father of all!"
Van VolIenhoven and Caro were in at my invitation to discuss the note to be addressed to the Germans on the subject of control. De Wouters had drawn up a memorandum, very stiff, and I was horrified when yesterday Van Vollenhoven told me he had sent it to the Germans. I asked him to go at once and intercept it, and luckily it had not left his Legation, so that we were saved the disastrous effect that such a note would have had on German tempers. We discussed it, made some changes, and it was left me to make the final draft, which I did this afternoon, softening and moderating its tone and making it polite ....
July 28, 1916.---Hoover in; a long talk; the old feeling against Francqui, somewhat justified, no doubt, for Francqui had written him a letter asking that the American representation be diminished and that he, Hoover, stay out of Belgium! Hoover had sent this letter to the British Foreign Office, with a warm endorsement, but the Foreign Office refused, and sent a long letter recognizing only the Americans. Hoover very big about it, will not even let Francqui know of the letter, so generous is he. Hoover thinks there is a prospect of the war ending this autumn---by exhaustion. The British, in any event, will keep up their offensive three months.
Oscar Englebert, an industrialist of Liege, who distributes Villalobar's charity, that is, the funds given Villalobar by the governments he represents, in to tell me that the Russian prisoners of war in Liége prison are in abject misery, and are shamefully treated by the Germans; that when he speaks to Villalobar about it, Villalobar flies into a rage and will not do anything; that he dare not address Villalobar on the subject; that the Russian civilians at Liége had asked him to see me. But, obviously, I am powerless.
Sunday, July 30, 1916.---An especial item of interest---Roumania is hourly expected to "march" for the Allies. If human cynicism and contemptibility ever sink to lower depths than in the Balkans ---Wall Street of course excepted---I'd like to have it pointed out to me!
August 1, 1916.---Nell and I drove to the Legation this morning; much to do there. Hoover was in, and we had a long talk about a successor for Francqui should his health require it; about the C.R.B. and a dozen other things. One thing, the idea that Francqui so painfully elaborated for me one day, that is, that not a cent of the money given in America had been spent but would be used to found a University, is neither correct nor Francqui's. Hoover told me that because of the railroads in America contributing transportation, and because of many other similar contributions in service, and because of the exchange---Hoover's shrewdness contributing much, no doubt---the C.R.B. had accumulated an enormous profit, running into millions. He, Hoover, had proposed to Francqui to use it to found scholarships for Belgian boys in American Universities, and vice-versa. This, known at Havre, excited Catholic opposition and the Government at Havre claimed the money of Hoover. Now Francqui wants it turned over to the Comité National, for he has an eye on politics after the war. He would like to overturn the present Government and put out the Clericals, and he could render no better service to his country than by doing so, and inasmuch as the necessity for the distribution of relief will continue for some time after the war is over, and could be made to continue for an indefinite time, if there were millions to spend, and inasmuch as Francqui as the head of the Comité National, with sub-committees in each province, canton, and communal, has a liberal political machine ready at his right hand, the temptation to one who loves power, and is as shrewd as a Tammany chieftain, is irresistible. And Francqui wishes the money turned over to the Comité National for that. I advised Hoover to let the Belgians fight it out among themselves, and that when they decided to whom it should be turned over, and agree, then to turn it over.
In going out Hoover said he hoped and had some reason to hope that the war would be over in October. It seems to be a general impression. The Belgians are very hopeful at all events. And today is the second anniversary of the irruption of barbarism!
August 2, 1916.---I had been invited to lunch with the directors of the Banque Nationale at the Banque tomorrow; was rather bored by the prospect, half wondering if there were no way to get out of it, even though I had already accepted---and Nell came in and told me that Albert Janssen had been in, and said that the luncheon had been canceled; one of the directors of the Banque had been arrested and sent to Germany! I didn't wish to get out of it that way, or that bad! That is all I know; Janssen hadn't even left the name of the director. I suppose, indeed have no doubt, that the arrest is one of the preliminaries to blowing the peter. The mob has been filling out that mark(2) for a long time..
We drove to the city tonight and dined with the Kelloggs. Hoover there, no others. Hoover and Kellogg go to Berlin tomorrow with von der Lancken, for the big pow-wow over the North of France business. Mrs. Kellogg will come to us for the week-end.
August 4, 1916.---Anniversary of the war and military manifestations in the city. Did not go into Legation. Mrs. Kellogg arrived.
August 5, 1916.---The city seems to have been quiet yesterday. Many persons wore brown ribbons, which were torn from them by German agents; spies in civilian costumes brutally tore the tri-color from ladies' bosoms.
Sunday, August 6, 1916.---Hoover and Kellogg just back from Berlin. They stayed for dinner with us. Their trip to Berlin successful, upon the whole. The affairs for the North of France practically regulated, in principle at least. There was a big conference there, however, on the revictualing of Belgium. The Germans are angry because the Belgians have more to eat than they have, especially irritated by the needless extravagance of the rich here, and so are determined to put the rich on rations, like the poor, especially as far as the native crop is concerned. This will make Francqui and others angry, of course, but there seems no way to avoid it.
Hoover very bitter, as always, against Francqui, and the Comité National generally, and with much reason. There is without doubt a constant effort on Francqui's part to depreciate the work of the Americans. It is of course very disturbing.
In Berlin, Hoover and Kellogg had seen General von Sauberzweig, our old friend, who asked them to have tea with him. (He is now Quartermaster-General in the General Staff at Charleville.) He entered at once upon a justification of his conduct in the Edith Cavell case, to whom he always referred as "the Cavell," and to himself, ironically, as "the murderer." His explanation did not explain or justify his conduct. He said that Miss Cavell was at the head of an extensive movement to send young men to the front to kill Germans (his own son has been blinded for life by a bullet behind the eyes, perhaps, he argued, by one of the men she sent out). He said she was not a nurse, since she was paid, and that he could not rescind the judgment of the military court that had tried her without reflecting upon his brother officers, and so forth.
Hoover had run into Bullitt, the smart-alec correspondent of the Philadelphia Public Ledger, who was here a fortnight ago, and had read his articles. They were full of misstatements, of course. What could we expect from such a type of journalist? I knew him the minute I laid eyes on him. They come in, here, these correspondents, escorted by German officers who never allow them out of their sight; are virtual prisoners, must submit their copy to them, are shown only what the. Germans care to show them, never talk with a Belgian, know no language but American, and after three days go forth to stagger humanity with their observations!
August 9, 1916.---To the Legation .... Levis wished me to send a letter for him to Havre, to Carton de Wiart and the Minister of Finance, whoever he is. Down there, he said, they are very much worried about maintaining order after the departure of the Germans and before the arrival of the Belgian Government. I looked at the fat, red-faced man, so naïve, so confident, so stupid, sitting before me! As if there were a big hurry! Also anxious down there about the use that is to be made of the balance of the relief fund; that is going to make trouble, as I can see. (It recalls Tom Johnson's advice as to the distribution of the funds remaining after Johnstown had been rebuilt.) ... My patience was worn away by Levis ... . Then a Belgian asking me to prevent the Germans from seizing his stock of goods; the fact that he would be ruined seemed sufficient reason to him why the United States should intervene. No way of explaining to him; only a final no, made as kind as possible, sent him away disheartened, poor foolish man. Then dictating for hours, to the stenographer, and still the mass of correspondence grows and grows.
August 11, 1916.---Nothing is ever arranged here even after one has arranged it. As for instance: We came home to tea, and Mrs. Kellogg arrived for the week-end---without Kellogg, whom we had expected. He had to remain in town to discuss the feeding of northern France with a German officer just arrived from Berlin. The whole matter was settled at Berlin last week, by Hoover and Kellogg; Germany agreeing to leave the crops to the natives. Now they announce that they will not do so. Kellogg is in despair, as all of us are. How long, oh how long!
August 12, 1916.---The Kelloggs here for the week-end. Kellogg's interview with von Gersky this afternoon was, I take it, somewhat reassuring.
I hear, and there seems to be no doubt of it, that Sir Roger Casement has been hanged. While technically, and from the legal standpoint, this may have been right, the action of England in reference to the whole Irish revolution is one of the most disheartening things in the present disheartening condition of the world. Waiving the question for the moment of the whole English treatment of Ireland, and it has been a series of cruel, wanton, ignorant blunders for eight centuries, one might have expected a nobler attitude from that England that pretends to be fighting, and in a way is fighting, for civilization and the liberation of mankind; one might have expected some mercy from enlightened men for misguided and enthusiastic poets and scholars. Poor Ireland! But poorer England, far poorer, incapable of noble and generous action. Think what Lincoln would have done in such an emergency! But there are, alas, no Lincolns in Europe; scarcely a man in one of her chancelleries, indeed!
August 14, 1916.---The Germans have organized a centrale to distribute the butter, and as a result there is no more butter to be had. They have fixed a maximum price, and just as in the French Revolution, just as in every other human case where the thing has been tried---the laws of economics being so much more potent than the laws of men---there is no butter for sale! All of which shows that the human intelligence, so-called, never learns anything.
Another evidence of the reliance on law, statistics, and so on. The Germans have ordered eggs in Flanders, based on the number of hens according to their recent census. So many hens, so many eggs! Poor hens! They will have to hustle to keep out of the Kommandantur. And the pigeons! They may fly out at a certain hour, but must be back in their cotes at a given time!
August 15, 1916.---Francqui brought to our attention several letters from the Governor-General of a similar character. The Comité National gives relief to wives of Belgian officers. One woman, however, had had a baby by a German officer; and the Comité National suppressed her relief. The Governor-General rudely demanded that it be restored! There are several cases of this sort.
August 17, 1916.---One of the curious things the war has brought to Belgium is a certain liberation of women. They go out alone without chaperons; some of them walk among the poor side streets, and so forth, which many of them had never seen before. Girls ride everywhere on bicycles, there being no automobiles or other form of transport. Van Holder(3) says girls come and pose at his studio for their portraits; girls of the best families, without a chaperon, as they never did before the war. And Count de Jonghe made a similar observation to me the other day. Women seem to have found themselves; they work, from patriotic motives, but they work.
August 18, 1916.---A placard today announced that meat can be used, I think, only twice a week in restaurants, or that only one plat can be served at a meal; that cream must not be used at all, and so on. It is the beginning of the tightening of the screws---and of the belt, too. The winter will be very terrible.
August 21, 1916.---Allard must have a dinner for the new Nuncio, and wishes me to arrange for the Nuncio to be co-patron of the Comité National and C.R.B. Politics that, the Catholics pushing in, and certain to arouse the disgust of Francqui, Solvay, and the freemasons. Also, I must call on the new Nuncio. What a pestilential nuisance Nuncios are!
August 22, 1916.---The heavy thud of the distant guns heard with terrible distinctness this evening.
August 23, 1916.---In town this afternoon for the courier, and the bad news he always brings. And he brought plenty today. A letter from Newton Baker, bless his heart, that seems to me to hold out no very brilliant hopes of Wilson's reelection. Baker says that it may be that the people do not deserve another four years of such consecration. Then poor Topping came in, his eyes red, his brother of twenty-one, in the Canadian Contingent, has just been killed ....
Went to call on the new Nuncio---a clever little... politician fresh from Buenos Ayres, here now to cultivate Belgian popularity and determined to be a patron of the revictualing. For all I care, they may have Nuncio, Pope, or the devil for patron if they wish, but.., then I'm going to insist that Blancas and the Persian Minister, too, be made patrons.
Villalobar is back; had called and left a new stick for me, and a little note for Nell. They say---that is, Allard and the Nuncio say, the Nuncio told me himself---that Villalobar is opposed to the Nuncio's being a patron, and Allard says that Villalobar says that I am opposed, that he wouldn't care, and so on, but since Whitlock is opposed .... Oh, the damnability of the damned human race!
August 26, 1916.---The Kelloggs are with us for the week-end, Kellogg arriving radiant and happy because he had in his pocket the agreement regarding the crops in the North of France, signed by the Germans. He had obtained many more concessions than he was dreaming of getting, and will save for the French there four-fifths of all that is raised on their soil. It is a fine victory for Kellogg. The agreement has a string tied to it, as all German agreements have, to the effect that England must not make any capital in her newspapers of this concession!
The Nuncio is furious at Villalobar for opposing his entrance into the revictualing. I asked him tonight if he had seen him. No, and wouldn't see him. "I am not going to see him again---never!" It is all a little bit of ward politics, very simple. Government at Havre, all Catholic, early Louis XIV; Francqui and others of the Comité National, very warm A.P.A.; and the Havre gang wish to prevent the Comité National gang from having all the credit.
Villalobar, who is busily engaged always trying to get all the credit for himself, and on the Catholic question, though officially Catholic himself, has the broadness of a man without principles, wishes no other star near by that can dim his glory.
August 29, 1916.---The rumor as to Roumania is confirmed this morning and it is announced also that Italy has made her situation more regular by declaring war formally on Germany---what difference it will make, I don't know. None, probably. The whole of Europe is afire, and the flames are beyond the control of the men who think they direct events, and the fire will have to burn out!
The most important news is that Norman Angell has been imprisoned in England. England, claiming to fight for liberty! Well, liberalism, democracy is dead in England, and the Tories have what they want, without the trouble of a general election.
August 31, 1916.---Villalobar did not come to our fortnightly meeting this afternoon. He had been called in by the Governor-General. He had promised to come to the Legation at three o'clock to see me, but he did not appear. Van Vollenhoven sick, one of his attachés there to represent him; Francqui and de Wouters and Ruddock.(4) A most stupid meeting, de Wouters yawning, and Francqui bored and weary. Nothing of importance discussed. Francqui and I talked of the new Nuncio and of his desire to be a patron, and so on. F. said that as for him he washed his hands, but he said that Villalobar objected, and has wired to Madrid to object. He said that the Government wished the Nuncio in this work in order to "rehabilitate the Pope" here in Belgium, where his pro-German proclivities have injured the church. As for me, I'm sick of the whole business, and of all this cheap politics between the church and the liberals, and of all the envy and spite, and of Villalobar's conspiring and of his inordinate desire to monopolize the credit. And of all the crudities that he and his company have been up to. Pfaugh! And a plague on the Nuncio.
Sunday, September 3, 1916.---Villalobar came; the first time I had ever seen him since his return. He remained an hour telling me the gossip of his journey in Switzerland (where he was delighted, and in a good and inexpensive hotel), France, and Paris. Spain and Madrid very hot, 40° C., and San Sebastian very gay and crowded with all the diplomats, gamblers, and idle refugees of the warring world, and King Alfonso pleased because the gamblers brought money to his realm. He had seen the King again at La Panne; the King very weary, but determined. He made a significant and wise observation to Villalobar. "If there were a man, a real sovereign, in Europe, he would put an end to this war, but the King of England and the Czar are too weak. Unhappily, I can do nothing. I am the King of a little country, under invasion, a King in exile. But if I had the power I would send all the politicians into the trenches, and then they would arrange a peace quickly enough!" His Government wished him to sign a treaty relating to economic affairs with France and England, but he had refused. "I am a constitutional monarch; I cannot conclude a treaty without parliament; I wish my country to remain free, without any obligation to any other nation, be it England, France, or Germany." Wise words, those, of a wise, brave, and simple man. He sees what I have long seen, namely, that the men who do the fighting have no power to make or end war, and if the men who control events---the politicians and the financiers---had to shed a little blood and sweat, and suffer by the war, they would be the more ready to listen to the cry of the people who wish peace.
September 6, 1916.---The head of the Banque Nationale in to see us, and to tell of the conclusion of their troubles with the Germans. They yield at last before superior force, and the German marks will be taken by the Germans to Germany. The final and moving threat was that the Banque Nationale and the Société Générale would be sequestrated, and the news that this would be done had already provoked the beginnings of a panic in the city.
We dined tonight at the Allards .. . . After dinner, about ten o'clock, as we were in the grand salon of the château. Nell and Mme. Allard on a divan, with the dogs about them, and Josse Allard engaged in an argument with his father-in-law de Sinçay and me about the war, and about protection, which Allard thinks would be a good thing for Belgium after the war... suddenly there came three deep rumblings. We thought at first it was thunder, for the evening was murky, but the sound of a cannonade followed, and we all rushed out onto the terrace, and there in the clear starry sky were the flashes of exploding shrapnel, very pretty, and awe-inspiring; terrible, as one thought of the implications, and that courageous flyer up there in the moonlight---for behind the château the moon was full and golden over the dark outlines of the trees. We watched in silence---one bomb seemed to fall in our park. Then we went indoors, Mme. Allard very pale and shaken. "My brother, perhaps," she said. She was thinking of her brother in the flying corps, and perhaps de Sinçay was thinking of his boy, too, but he went in and began calmly to play at billiards with de Wouters. And half an hour later Nell and I walked home through the dark, mysterious park.
September 7, 1916.---The aviator last night threw his bombs on the hangars at Evian, say some .... But more daring than that, and more spectacular, he flew over the city, very low, grazing the housetops, flew below the trajectories of the guns trained to fire up high. He executed several evolutions over the place de Rouppe, the crowd applauding below; he threw out colored lights, and then, they say, cast down a bundle of papers printed in French and in Flemish (probably printed in Brussels) addressed "aux braves Belges."
The population is wild with enthusiasm today, and hope. But one of the shrapnels fired by the Germans failed to explode until it had fallen to the earth, and there in the rue de la Monnaie it tore a hole in a house, exploded terribly, and killed a woman. They say, too, that a man was killed.
But perhaps greater excitement is caused by the seizure of the money, the German marks, in the Banque Nationale and in the Société Générale---600,000,000 marks in the former, 200,000,000 in the latter. The Banque Nationale ceded only when the Germans threatened to liquidate the two banks. There have been serious and solemn deliberations of the directors of the two institutions, and two views, one group insisting that inasmuch as they have to succumb to force, a formal refusal is sufficient, the other insisting on actual resistance, so that the Germans will be forced to violent measures. The sessions to discuss this detail continue, with the violent party---more Catholic than the Pope, more royalist than the King---accusing the others of a lack of patriotism.
The Germans are very nasty nowadays, and threaten to take all the oil in the country, which would paralyze transportation.
Sunday, September 10, 1916.---Kellogg here to tea, Mrs. Kellogg having gone to Namur. Villalobar came, full of apologies for failing us at luncheon Friday; he had sent a note or thought he had saying that he couldn't come. Sat talking in his pleasant, charming way for an hour. Then Kellogg told me of all the difficulties of the C.R.B., and they are many and multiplying. The Germans have always scrupulously respected their agreement about the imported foods, but it is difficult to persuade them to respect the native produce under the conventions of last April. Our claim about excess vegetables, and so on, is what gives them a loophole, through which they are not loathe to march a whole army. They have been seizing butter, and (we were all overjoyed that they should make that mistake of all others) they made a descent on Solvay's country place: Solvay, president of the Comité National! Kellogg says that if they report the regiment to which soldiers caught taking food belong the Germans hint at spying! Altogether a difficult situation, and Kellogg was worn out. The long years in public office, dealing with raw humanity, have given me a protective coloration that he has not yet developed. I know, as the Frenchman said, that every twenty requests that a Minister receives means nineteen enemies and one ingrate.
September 11, 1916.---All bicycle tires must be turned in to the Germans by the '5th of September, and yesterday.. . hundreds of cyclists rode their wheels on bare rims up and down the street.
September 12, 1916.---Today there is a placard saying that as a punishment for the population of Brussels, or of certain of the community, for the manifestations on the night of the visit of the aviator, and for signals said to have been given, the people must be indoors for eight days at eight o'clock in the evening. Some such petty revenge was to have been expected, of course.
The people are really in fear---half fear, half hope---thinking, for some odd reason, that the Germans are about to retreat. One hears it everywhere. It is interesting as a bit of crowd psychology.
September 13, 1916.---After a morning of work here [Ravenstein] drove to town for an afternoon of worry. We lunched with the Kelloggs. Then to the Legation with Hoover and Kellogg. There, a man and a woman to beg me to intervene for persons about to be condemned at Hasselt in the great court martial. They are hanging over sixty persons for espionage. Then Hoover---with the old complaints against Francqui, who seems to be very much against Americans participating in the work and is interfering constantly in the control, which has become so effective that needy commune officers have been discovered giving their entire supply of bacon to their own friends and families. Hoover has numerous instances of Francqui's pettiness and double-dealing---all too disgusting to mention. I came home here all worn out... and I should quit tomorrow, but the poor Belgians, how are they going to keep from starving?
September 14, 1916.---To Villalobar's, where we were to have our bi-weekly meeting, and also to receive the Burgomaster and the aldermen. I was the first to arrive and found Villalobar in a black rage over something. He complained of Francqui, but it was poor little de Brugge, the Dutch attaché, who was to catch the scolding. He came, before all of us who had gathered in Villalobar's salon---Francqui, Hoover, Lambert in deep mourning, the elder Solvay, E. Janssen, Kellogg, and the secretaries. The little Dutchman approached Villalobar, explaining that Van Vollenhoven was ill, and that he came to represent him. Villalobar burst forth: "You cannot represent Van Vollenhoven; you can only represent de Weede, the Minister. I will not admit you to an equal rank with the protecting Ministers," and so on. It was all very painful.
Villalobar set the scene this time with unusual care; a great table in the grand salon, a table covered with a cloth of violet velvet stuff, with places for each, and paper, and pencils; and in another salon, a great service set forth for tea. We had hardly seated ourselves when the municipal authorities arrived and were shown into the salon in front. Then Villalobar and I received them, standing. Lemonnier spoke for them, saying that, as we knew, because of the visit of the aviator the other evening---the flyer, it appears, was a Belgian officer in the Guides, who had wanted to fly over his own home in Brussels---the town was punished by an order to clear all crowds and put out all lights at eight o'clock, this to continue for a week; but the commandant had convoked an assembly of all the burgomasters in the Brussels area, and had notified them that the next visit of an aviator attended by any demonstrations on behalf of the citizens would result in the infliction on the city of a fine of 30,000,000 marks. They were all in despair. Villalobar made a Spanish speech saying that he would report to his Government, and so forth; what would be called in America "the bunk," for we can do nothing.
Then we resumed our sitting. Francqui had prepared a long paper raising the question of the control. Oh, yes! Solvay read a long address first, which we discussed. The question is complicated; the control cannot be exercised by Belgians successfully because whenever a Belgian reports an infraction, he is made to suffer for it by the Germans, and Francqui in his desire to set the Americans aside has not permitted them with any freedom to make it; we resolved to discuss that and other questions with von der Lancken tomorrow, since he has asked us to meet him at four o'clock and we are wondering what for?
I have a telegram from London today asking me to report on the seizure of excess vegetables and of fats, and that gives us a point of departure for our discussions. Also I have a telegram from Berlin saying that I am asked to assume the protection of Roumanian interests, and that Gerard had telegraphed Washington for permission to arrange it with the German Government. I said nothing about it, for Villalobar has already, with his supreme mastery of the art of putting one's self forward, taken over the Roumanian interests and hoisted his flag over the Legation. I didn't want the task myself.
A telegram also from Berlin saying that the Dutch Government has stopped the supply of gasoline for the American Embassy at Berlin because Van Vollenhoven can't have his name in the C.R.B. Van Vollenhoven's work.
Hoover cannot get away, or cannot get to England, because the English have closed the Channel. No telegrams even are allowed to pass. We have no notion, of course, of what it all means, though all Brussels is expecting a retreat of the Germans every day; some are even laying in provisions for a siege.
September 16, 1916.---After a morning of work at my desk here, I drove into the city and... went to Villalobar's. Found him worried as a result of a conversation with von der Lancken, who told him that Hindenburg had been here, had brutally criticized von Bissing's régime as too lenient, and had proposed new rules---closing the city at six o'clock in the evening, the formation of detention camps for all the colonies of foreigners, and so forth. Villalobar much worried and von Bissing has gone to Berlin to protest against Hindenburg's interference.
Then we went, at four, to see von der Lancken. Francqui was there, Brohn and Reith. Von der Lancken opened the talk by bringing up the question of a return to the Belgian population of food, to replace that used by the officers' mess. The only thing they could spare was sugar, and we discussed at length the details of the reimbursement. The Governor-General displayed his own dislike, as reported by his aide, of the Comité National. Then Villalobar brought up the question of control; he had a long note, on fine paper, the one Francqui had produced at our meeting yesterday; he had shown it to me at his Legation before we left, and I had opposed his presenting it. He did so, however, and Francqui read it, and when he had finished the reading, von der Lancken, blazing with anger, waving his arms, gesticulating, and speaking in a loud voice, denounced it as a reflection on the German Government, on him, on German honor, and so on, just as I had predicted. He talked a long while, was not to be pacified, until he began to tell of the opposition on the part of the military party and of the people in Germany to the revictualing, and began to describe the Berlin Conference of the 4th of August. Here I saw an opening: "Baron," I said, "may I interrupt you?"
He looked inquiringly at me, then assented, and I reported what Hoover and Kellogg had told me of his loyal and valiant and successful defence of the work at that conference. After that, all was changed; I told him that the note was not official, was too long and too complicated, that all we asked was not new concessions but merely a better means of satisfying ourselves as to the control; and explained the difficulty of correspondence, the impossibility, and suggested that we have one representative in the centrales. He came around to my point of view finally, after much talk, and we separated, to meet Monday at ten, with Hoover present. Then Villalobar drove away with Francqui in his car, and I went to the Legation.
Ruddock told a story: he asked the Roumanian Minister the other day at a dinner how he knew to whom to turn over his Legation, and the Minister replied naïvely that his instructions from his Government had been to turn to the Spanish Legation in case Roumania went in on the side of the Allies and to us in case they went in with the Germans. The Belgians present, eavesdropping, forgotten by the Minister for the moment, pricked up their ears and the Minister was overcome with confusion---which shows that a slight embarrassment at least is possible in the Balkans.
September 18, 1916.---This morning at ten to the Embassy, Hoover, Villalobar, Francqui, Brohn, Reith, and von der Lancken all there. We discussed---in English this time, for Hoover's sake (von der Lancken speaks English fairly well, too; and Francqui amusingly, a literal translation, word for word, from French)---and agreed in principle that the C.R.B. delegates are to have the right to send uncensored letters and reports to the Ministers, and that we are to have representation in the centrales.
September 20, 1916.---Many requests to do something in favor of the 17 condemned to death in the big court martial at Hasselt, in which 62 were tried. A woman and her daughter came in all the way from Luxembourg to ask help for her nephew and niece, condemned to death. Two others of the same family condemned to hard labor, and three more from the same family at the front. The mother had come, but hearing for the first time from the lawyer that her daughter had been sentenced to death, she collapsed. And so the sister, the bravest of the condemned, came to implore my help, sitting there weeping, begging, pleading, and I am powerless. It is terrible, terrible, this senseless, useless war in which humanity welters!
Hoover and Kellogg in. Hoover still very much at outs with Francqui who, it would seem, grows more and more anti-American. Hoover leaves in the morning.
September 23, 1916.---A beautiful day, clear, cool and with a bright autumnal sun. And never have the cannon sounded so loud; a veritable thunder all the day long. It is as though the guns were booming at the gates of Brussels, and yet they are no nearer.
The city wears a silent aspect; not a bicycle to be seen, the time having come to give up all the rubber tires. The streets are desolate, but it does not make one so nervous to ride in a motor as it did with the bicycles weaving in every direction. Never was there such an individual population as that of Brussels; they wander in the streets, loafing, gossiping, and pay no heed to vehicles. They walk in all directions, and there are no traffic regulations. I have just paid 580 francs for insurance against accident, for they resent the appearance of vehicles, and make it a point of honor not to yield the way. One's nerves are worn to a frazzle by the constant hairbreadth escapes of the pedestrians.
I heard today that two peasants each with a sack of potatoes on his back were advised to halt by German soldiers. When asked if they had potatoes, they said no; when they said no, the soldiers ordered them to show their sack; frightened, they ran---and were shot down.
Requests still coming to me to intervene in behalf of the condemned in the court martial at Hasselt--among them the Burgomaster of Namur. It is sickening---and wrings the heart.
September 26, 1916.---I hear that Hoover was in the English Channel steamer captured by a German submarine the other day and escorted to Zeebrugge, but I have none of the particulars.
September 27, 1916.---Awakened this morning by heavy firing---another aëroplane, another battle in the air. I did not get up, but lay and listened to it for about half an hour.
We drove into town, Nell and I, immediately after luncheon, and then learned that the aëroplane had come from the direction of Ghent, and that, in the cannonade, nearly a dozen persons, all Belgians in their own houses, had been killed. A whole family near the hangar were annihilated, a concièrge... sitting at breakfast was killed, a woman in the avenue Tervueren had both legs shot off and died at the hospital, where Van Vollenhoven took her in his car. The city is in great emotion, and fears that the municipality will be heavily fined.
The aëroplane came, no doubt, to destroy the Zeppelins we have seen the last two or three days. There was a big raid in England the other night, I hear, in which two Zeps were brought down.
We hear great stories of the advance of the French and of the crisis in Greece.
The pastry shops are doing their last baking today, poor things, and they and their proprietors are all sad, as are their patrons. Brussels is noted for its delicious little cakes---now to be no more, for the C.R.B. will not allow enough flour to them. The result, the only result, will be to throw out of employment a great number of employés. But then there is the feeling, common to all benefactors, that the objects of their charity should suffer as much as possible, and appear miserable, and in want; the glow of moral satisfaction is so much greater in the benefactor!
The courier is in, but brought no news of importance, save the usual notes from the British Foreign Office complaining of the manner in which we conduct the revictualing and laying down the law in the British fashion.
September 28, 1916.---What impressions these days have! The soft warm days of early autumn, like the days when we used to start to school. The Zeppelin swimming in the silver haze of September, the ugly symbol of the cult of force, the terrible whining as it passes low over the house at night; the deep resonance of the bombardment at dawn; in the park at Allard's, the great lawn having been turned into a potato patch, the peasants digging there, turning up the soft brown earth, burning the dead vines, the white smoke floating off over the château. The whole land is wearing the white scarfs of these potato fires, the children roasting a potato now and then in them! Van Holder squinting at me from behind his easel; in the bois long shafts of sunlight ....
To the reunion of the Comité National at the Société Générale.
Francqui read a long report, justifying his conduct, defending himself against the insinuations that are aimed at his tyranny, arbitrariness, and so on, and appealing for unity among Belgians. Then Solvay read a prepared response, felicitating Francqui, assuring him of their confidence, quoting phrases from Francqui's speech. Then Levie, Minister of Finance, a Catholic, and in a way the political representative of the Government here, read a speech in which he began by saying that he had intended to remain a silent spectator but now could no longer keep still. He too quoted lines from Francqui's speech and from Solvay's speech, and then eloquently defended Francqui's policies, called for unity, and so the comedy finished, the meeting ended.
Francqui evidently had forgotten that this was the day for the bi-weekly meeting of the Legation, so we went there, nearly every one except Kellogg being present. Francqui nervous and like nearly every one else these days alarmed; the bombardment the other morning had shattered his nerves. He brought to our attention the fact that Tournai had been placed in the Etappen and we agreed to protest to the authorities ....
The Germans are moving every available man to the front. There are no more sentinels, for the moment, anywhere, even at Quatre Bras. The employés of the railways, for the first time since the war, have been militarized; poor Rosenschweig, the nice little Bavarian at the Political Department, has been sent to the front and others expect to be. The Governor-General has ordered all the wives of officers and soldiers to leave Belgium and return to Germany by the 1st of October. Those who have homes here may remain longer. And in all the civil departments there is tremendous activity and much energy displayed, each functionary wishing to justify his position and appear necessary so as not to have to go to the front.
September 29, 1916.---Ruddock told me that the city is all in excitement over the aëroplane raid the other day, and the destruction of life and property in the course of it. Every one insists that the Germans purposely fired on the houses of civilians, and all wish me to intervene at once and put a stop to it! Just what I can do to stop the madness either of the English or the Germans is not clear to me! If I had any such power I'd act promptly and send all the politicians into the trenches as the thing to end war.
September 30, 1916.---Went to the Legation this morning, for many things awaited my attention. Then, to see Villalobar and particularly to see what I could do for DuBois and the Mayor of Namur, and the others condemned to death at Hasselt. Luckily I met Villalobar by chance, in passing Boutes; he was in there ordering photographs of himself taken in his uniform as Chamberlain du Roi with a cap like that of General Miles---very droll. He had made a request in favor of the condemned on instructions from King Alfonso, and the Nuncio has made one in behalf of the Pope. Von der Lancken then asked Villalobar if he would consent that the King's request be considered as after the Pope's, that is, that the Pope have the first helping of credit! We talked, too, about the bombardment. He has of course done nothing---what is there to do? The Bruxellois now say that there were no aviators of the Allies, but that the Germans sent up aviators in order to have an excuse for firing on the people! Such children as they are!
Sunday, October 1, 1916.---It has been an ideal autumn day, but the sound of the guns has been terrible and incessant. I went to Ravenstein and lunched there, returning here to tea for Francqui was coming to see me. He came, quite excited, nervous, and depressed. "Affairs tire me out," he said. "What affairs?" "Oh, political affairs." He had been reading the Chancellor's speech, and he had found deep significance in the statement that the Germans would use every means in their power to win the war, regardless of consequences. He saw in this a threat of the resumption of the submarine warfare and war with America, and, as a consequence, the end of the revictualing. He had a vision of the terrible von Tirpitz, destroying the shipping of the world. We talked long. I told him then of the presence of Page and of Sharp at Washington; and of the departure of Gerard; there might be some significance in these simultaneous visits. He cheered up then, stayed for tea and for two hours afterward, telling over again all his stories of Leopold II, and so on. I told him what I had said to the Governor-General the other day, so that he would not hear it from other lips. And how he dislikes Green! Well, like all zealots, Green is hard to get on with. John Brown was no doubt an estimable character and a worthy man---but think of having to live with him! From all fanatics and reformers, and from the seeker after perfection, Good Lord, deliver us!
Nothing can equal the romantic imagination of the Brussels people. The story is going around today... that von Bissing came to my Legation the other morning, after the firing and bombing, and showed me what he said were pieces of English bombs; that thereupon I drew from my pouch pieces of German bombs and said, "Not at all, it's all your work," and that thereupon von Bissing stood before me pale and trembling and nonplused!
But what is true, is that the order for the women to leave is meant to apply only to prostitutes---who must not promenade the streets any more and this for hygienic reasons.
Just now, 8 P.M., writing here at my desk, I heard the roar of a Zeppelin's motors. We went out on the terrace, the whole family---Joseph saw it and pointed upward---a thin black line like a lead pencil pointed toward England .... Ugh! How ugly and terrible!
October 2, 1916.---I have not been out of the house all day. I have worked steadily at my desk. A pleasant interruption at tea-time, the Kelloggs arriving, Mrs. Kellogg bringing a lovely spray of orchids. We had a comfortable chat over the tea cups, Kellogg telling of his recent visit to the front, of the discontentment of the members of the General Staff; they "have a streak of yellow," he said, now that they are losing---of the tragedy of the little village of Cirné, where 300 women and 65 children live in caves and will not leave, the village constantly under fire, and the Cathedral of Rheims visible through the periscope. He saw it, and sent 65 packages of chocolate to the children this morning. We talked, too, of the possibility of the resumption of the submarine warfare, which seems more than probable, and of the visit of Gerard, Page, and Sharp to Washington. He thinks it means peace talk, and he knows that Germany is ready to make large concessions just now. But England, or the Tory rulers in England, will not listen; even Lloyd George talks like a Tory, and will be one, Hoover says, after the war---and an Earl. "Just for a handful of silver he left us. Just for a ribbon to stick in his coat!"
The most depressing feature of these depressing times is that there seems not to be a public man anywhere in Europe who realizes the folly and absurdity of the war, to say nothing of the horror, and who has the slightest apprehension of the truth that a victory is only a defeat anyway.
Kellogg says that the English made a heavy advance yesterday, and that the fire we heard all day was due to their enormous effort.
October 3, 1916.---Poor little Belgium! These rainy autumn days before the winter comes in---a dark, desperate winter, no doubt. Even the few horses the Germans have left are so thin that they fall at their task .... And Kellogg this afternoon says that Brohn says the Germans are thinking of stopping the revictualing for pure cussedness. The race of them is mad, mad, mad!
And victorious too! Haven't they conquered England without knowing it? Isn't liberalism dead in England, and the Government in the hands of Tories? What more could Prussian militarism want? Kellogg says the latest indications are that Hughes will be elected! Perhaps there is some little village that will be spared in France where I might go. Poor Belgium! People picking up every scrap of manure dropped in the street---children with buckets, pans, and brushes, women, men, too; that's what the war has brought to Belgium!
I can't escape the feeling that the Germans will soon resume the submarine warfare. This I take to be the drive of the German people, if their newspapers represent them, for they criticize von Bethmann-Hollweg's speech terribly. He didn't provide enough food for them, for their hatred---that insatiable, brutal, stupid hatred militarism has bred up.
October 4, 1916.---A long afternoon at the gloomy Legation, the sight of which I am growing to detest, so sad, so depressing---nothing done, ever, ever, but trouble there. A woman called to explain a neighborhood quarrel she is having with Germans---a typical affair; her daughter is the frizzle-haired girl who gave Nell the flowers on the occasion of our visit to the Hôtel de Ville of St.-Gilles. Then Watts, troubled about the case of ------ of the C.R.B.; he, an American named ------, and old -------, an Englishman, had a drunken row with German officers in a' café the other night, and the Germans threaten all sorts of condign punishments. As if I hadn't enough without young smart-alecks getting drunk.
The news is bad! The signs all point to an early resumption of the submarine war without mercy---and then! And the dispatches say that the Lusitania case is coming up again for discussion. Is there no end? I am almost ready to give up; this long strain of living in such uncertainty is telling on my nerves.
The Zeppelin we saw Sunday night was en route to England; another raid there is reported.
Van Dyke sent us some flowers, and in a letter speaks as though he were soon to retire from the career---lucky man! And a dispatch today says he is going home .... I wish I were out of it all---and far, far, far from---everywhere.
October 5, 1916.---Working all day at my desk; but when the rain ceased this afternoon, Nell and I took a long walk across the fields to the little village of Droghenbusch, with its pretty old church, and didn't get back till tea-time. Tea and a cigarette, and back to work!
One of the British aëroplanes was brought down near Brussels the other morning.
October 6, 1916.---Immediately after luncheon Nell and I drove into town! I went to see von der Lancken about the miserable case of ------, but von der Lancken was not visible, was in a conference, and I talked long with von Moltke about the affair. They take a purely Prussian view; the case must take its course. I expressed my willingness to tender to them my regrets, if they would let --- go out, the other cases to be treated on another basis, and made some little impression, though not enough I fear.
Tomorrow at 11:30 we are to be received by the Governor-General, to present our letter relating to the control ....
I have the usual warning that my nerves are bad, for I dread such things, jump when the doorbell rings, or when a telegram or letter comes---and I can't write, either.
October 7, 1916.---The Governor-General received Villalobar, Van Vollenhoven, and me at 11:30 today---and we presented our letters asking for a more stringent control. He was very pleasant, very affable. He had just been shooting in the Ardennes, and had killed three deer. He says the deer are in large numbers in the Ardennes, and stags, too---many have taken refuge there from the war in France. Just as we were about to leave, I asked him if he was in good health; he put his hand to his head and said no, that he had neuralgia, that the climate here did not agree with him. We did not make the obvious response, but Villalobar and I exchanged glances. Then I asked him to do something for ------, telling him how ashamed I was that any Americans should so conduct themselves. He said, "I shall arrange all that." I felt relieved, for this drunken scrape that has got into, and the others, has troubled me greatly. Then we left; the old Prussian, who has many fine qualities and is a sincere and according to his lights a just man, standing there in his grey uniform (no decorations there), a portrait of King Albert in the room, and guard mount in the Place below---band, shouting, goose-stepping.
Von der Lancken promised to arrange the ------ difficulty if possible---unless it has got too far in the judge's hands. He also invited Nell and me to dine with him Tuesday evening next.
Sunday, October 8, 1916.---Rain, rain, rain, again. The Germans are building trenches along the Dutch frontier from Knocke to Antwerp to protect the road they are making; they are using forced labor to do it. Consequently there is again much talk of a retreat, and so on.
I hear too---I can't write even half that I do hear and do, one hears so much---that the aviator who was brought down the other day escaped, and that he is hiding in Brussels, in the environs, now. How people know these things is beyond me. In most cases they don't know them.
Mahmoud Khan, just back from Berlin and Berne, says that the Germans are more interested in seeing President Wilson defeated than in seeing England defeated; that they are only awaiting his defeat to submit peace terms.
October 11, 1916.---Then to the Legation. Call from the chaplain of the King to tell me that he had heard that the letter he had written to the Queen about my action in saving their Majesties' Hospital, had been taken in the postbag that was seized by the Germans the other day in the North Sea when a submarine held up a packet. Fallon had sent him word or two words, one saying that the letter had been seized, the other that it had been burned. The English postbag was weighted down, and so sank.
And then news tonight of the resumption of the submarine war by the Germans---three German submarines blowing up ships in the American waters---and America on fire! Our news is most fragmentary---the little Gazette de la Hollande. Whether it is only a political move to save the Chancellor in the Reichstag, or whether von Tirpitz is in the saddle again, we have no means of knowing. But it looks like heavy weather ahead!
October 12, 1916.---Here at l'Orangerie all morning, this afternoon at Ravenstein; grey sky, and falling leaves, and a wind from the sea ---all melancholy and sad. Ah me! No news as to the submarines' visit to America, only the little dispatches repeated in the Holland newspapers. But it keeps us excited, and wrought up with indignation and suspense.
October 13, 1916.---A gloomy day, of drizzling rain---and nerves, wherein I worked, or tried to work all day indoors, going out only when Nell and I drove over to Ruddocks for luncheon. We came back here to l'Orangerie, and after tea, played checkers---of all games!---in despair.
What scraps of news we have are disgusting.
October 16, 1916.---Working hard at my desk the livelong day; not out of the house save to step out on the terrace for a minute this afternoon, when the house trembled and the windows rattled, to see if it was the guns, and it was. I have never heard them louder here at Brussels.
Dr. Bull(5) has his trial tomorrow; he is accused of having given material aid to Miss Cavell. We have engaged a lawyer for him, and Ruddock will attend the hearing---if one can call those farces hearings.
October 17, 1916.---A dull day, growing very dark as the afternoon wore on, and the lugubrious sound of the distant guns, the most insistent I ever heard. It has been constantly in our ears; when I awoke in the night I heard it sounding ominously---all day it has gone on; I hear it, feel it, almost as I write---three or four thuds each second, like the rolling of heavy kettle drums. And this morning, at eleven o'clock there was an aëroplane overhead, and three or four shots were fired at it; it came down, and the firing ceased---a German aëroplane they say.
Kellogg came out a few moments afterwards, to tell me of the latest action of the Germans; they have forcibly taken between 1,200 and 1,400 men in the etappen---in Flanders---and carried them off to Germany to work in the mines. This action is coincidental, at least, with the speech of Helfferich in the Reichstag the other day, saying that the time had come when the Empire must forcibly make the men in the occupied regions work. The idea has not as yet been applied in the occupationgebiet, but Van Zurick and Count Rantzau and the military party generally strongly favor it. But von Bissing is opposed, and so is von der Lancken, and von der Lancken has gone to Berlin to induce the Government, if possible, not to apply such measures to their jurisdiction.
I took Kellogg over to Zeveren with me for luncheon, and we had a pleasant visit. He is the most congenial of all who have been here---I am sad at the thought of his departure.
Out there and all about Nymegen the peasants are running the blockade, as it were, with their potatoes. Today there are disguised German soldiers in the street.
October 18, 1916.---In town all day working---lunched at the Kelloggs'---pouch in and tonight all racked with nervousness, as is always the case after one of these dreadful days.
Ruddock, for two days, has been in attendance at trial in which Dr. Bull is involved, with about sixteen others, charged with having been in the conspiracy to send young men across the frontier, that cost poor Miss Cavell her life. They were betrayed by one Gilles, who wrote letters---following the Belgian custom---every time he did anything. Bull enraged the German judge by saying that he had given money only to Englishmen because, he said, he thought that by so doing he was saving lives, for, as he charged, the Germans shot English prisoners! The prosecutor asks for six years for Bull, and I am intensely relieved that he did not ask for the death sentence. Dr. Bull, accused of giving 1,000 francs to Miss Cavell, has been very indiscreet, as most of them were.
I hear today, on good authority, that the Germans intend to demand for next year, instead of the monthly contribution of 40,000,000 francs, a monthly contribution of 50,000,000 marks, which would equal 62,500,000 francs.
October 20, 1916.---A clear, crisp, cold air, and a sparkling sun, the sky without a cloud, made the morning irresistible, and Nell and I started for a walk ....
The winter will be hard and long and sad from all signs. I went to see Madoux(6) early in the afternoon, and passed an hour smoking with him and looking at the studies he has made this summer. Then to Villalobar's for the meeting of the usual group. We have many troubles confronting us; first of all, the question of how the revictualing is to be affected by the action of the Germans in impressing laborers. We have many complaints---from Liége, from Diest, from Verviers, and elsewhere---showing that the deed is being done not only in the Etappen, but here. Von der Lancken has gone to Berlin, but we fear he will not succeed, and that the military party has gained the ascendency and will seize food and seize men, and reduce them to slavery. They have already done this, as I wrote the other day, in Flanders. Men are imprisoned, given no food, and at the end of twenty-four or forty-eight hours, they give up and sign a paper---in German---agreeing to work for the Germans. Kellogg has prepared two excellent memoranda on the subject which I offered. They tell the story as we shall present it, probably, to the Government after von der Lancken returns empty-handed. There is little hope---and England as usual is adding trouble; two letters and a cipher dispatch today from Page demanding that we control all this, and so on. Furthermore, Kellogg says von Herbir is leaving the General Staff; he was our friend in that quarter. Altogether it was a blue and discouraged group that sat around Villalobar's table at tea-time---a table with a green satin cloth, gold service, tea and chocolate cakes and brioches (I wonder where he gets the white flour! I can get none!) Nell says he gets it of the C.R.B., but I won't ask any favors.
Back to the Legation. Lemonnier there, waiting to see me with a request for an audience --on the part of the aldermen---they want to discuss the forced labor---and a letter telling me about the latest indignity his wife has had to suffer.
All in all, a blue afternoon! And the future dark. In addition to everything else, I feel it in my bones that Wilson will not be elected, and that means that my country too has abandoned all ideals of reason---and democracy---all ideals, in fact, and started on the back-track.
October 21, 1916.---The town, all Belgium indeed, is in revolution over the impressing of the unemployed; though there are those who have a more reasonable view of the matter. I was opposed in the beginning to this state support of an idle class; the result has been that there are on every public square in Brussels---and in other towns too---a great mass of hulking young fellows playing the silly game of ball in vogue in Flanders for centuries, always played in the neighborhood of a saloon, the proprietor of which marks out the count on the pavement and provides the balls. These youths, some may say, should be at the front; at any rate---I don't know the state of their consciences regarding war---they are demoralized, and I fancy nothing will prevent the Germans from taking them and sending them to slavery temporarily. It is harsh but not surprising.
The evident reflection is that we might have peace tomorrow, but England will prevent it. The Allies, under English guidance, have just seized the Greek Government in the name of the right of small nations to live and enjoy self-government.
What a Prussian victory everywhere! She has forced all other nations to stamp out liberty. Liberalism dead in England, democracy démodé in France, and so on, and so on!
A note from Lemonnier this evening informs me that the Germans have demanded of him a list of the unemployed, and that he won't give it; he wants to see Villalobar and me Monday.
Sunday, October 22, 1916.---I find here on my return a note from Villalobar saying he has gone to Liége and Verviers, to return Thursday, and asking me to postpone our meeting with the Burgomaster until his return, when we shall see von der Lancken and know whether he accomplished anything or not. And there are many notes concerning the impressment of the unemployed, notes with the saddest of stories, these poor devils carried off literally into slavery! To think of such things in our times. Our times! Have we not reverted to the eleventh century? Florien tells me that the people at Malines have to report with their horses at Louvain tomorrow morning at eight o'clock. What scenes that Louvain road has witnessed these last two years!
Ruddock and his pretty wife in at seven. Villalobar had telephoned to Ruddock that von der Lancken had returned from Berlin with a most discouraging report as to the seizure of workingmen.
October 23, 1916.---Went to see the Nuncio this morning and nearly froze to death sitting in his unheated reception room, with nothing warmer in it than a picture of Pope Benedict XV. The Nuncio concerned about his gasoline, potatoes, and so on, and wished my assistance. Spoke too about Bull, and the unemployed; told me also that at Havre the Government had rather complained of our not going there oftener to visit them---which angered me, as though we could go junketing all the time! The Nuncio did not let me away without his usual reflections on Villalobar.
October 24, 1916.---One hears on all sides the sad stories of men torn from their families, locked like cattle in freight trains and sent off to no one knows where; some say they sing the "Brabançonne"; and now and then one drops a letter from the train. Today the unemployed of Louvain were to report and not one of the three hundred and seventy did so .... I fear that all these seizures, all these new rigors are due to the orders of von Hindenburg, whose visit here some weeks ago seems now to be bearing its expected fruit...
I dread tomorrow's courier, for this seizure of the workmen will undoubtedly bring a bomb for the revictualing from England.
Villalobar told me that the Nuncio had arranged for the Pope to give him, Villalobar, the Grand Cordon, but that he, Villalobar, had written to Madrid saying that he would not accept it if it entailed any obligation---that he was unalterably opposed to the Nuncio's taking part in the revictualing.
October 25, 1916.---We received the visit of the Burgomaster and the aldermen this morning. Villalobar had talked with them an hour about the difficulty of their position. They even resolved not to give the lists of unemployed, as that would be to betray their citizens; they have not in their possession, officially at least, the lists, those being the property of the four of their number who are the committee on revictualing. -
October 26, 1916.---The pouch today brought a quantity of notes from the Foreign Office about the revictualing, and the long letter signed "Grey of Falloden" defining the relations of the Comité National and the C.R.B. When Hoover was last here, having his usual row with Francqui, I suggested, in order to help him, that if worse comes to worst, I could ask the British Government to define their relations, about which there has been so much dispute. When Hoover went back he evidently told Page this, and Page asked the Government, and now the letter comes, a long one, completely supporting Hoover of course. But I have done nothing with it; this, and the other notes are but Hoover's heavy artillery shelling the trenches before he brings up his infantry when he comes tomorrow for a final battle with Francqui. Francqui evidently scents the battle, for he asked me today for an interview tomorrow and I told him to come to tea with me.
Kellogg and Gregory(7) were also in---Kellogg having had a copy of the letter and fearing I would think he was responsible for it.
At five o'clock to the Germans; von der Lancken, Villalobar, Van Vollenhoven, Francqui, Janssen, Brohn, and Reith. The meeting had been called that von der Lancken might talk to us about the seizure of the workmen; but opening the meeting in his formal way, he took up another question, the old one of control, and had Reith read to us a letter of the Governor-General according what we asked, namely, representation on the various controls. He read me all the details, and we were pleased, for this answers all our recent demands. Then he had Reith make another communication to us to the effect that the coöperatives could be subjected to the control of the Bankabteilung, which means that von Lumm wishes a finger in the pie. These organizations of the Socialists, and Catholics as well, have had something to do with the exchange in the Comité National's distribution of food. I don't understand the details; neither did Villalobar .... Then von der Lancken passed to his third point, the question of the unemployed.
Von der Lancken looked very handsome this afternoon, in his uniform of a delicate blue gray as he sat there slowly explaining their position as to the seizure of the unemployed. He didn't explain it very well; he said that in Germany the children and the old men were working in the fields, while here in Belgium there were 700,000 idle folk, half of them men, mostly young, and capable of working. (Francqui and Janssen nodded acquiescence in the statement of figures). The Governor-General had twice publicly and officially offered work to the unemployed; and now, because of the shortage of labor in Germany, they were determined to force those who would not work, to work. They feel that they have the moral and the legal right to do this; that unemployment was always a menace, and that if the war continued a year or two longer these men would lose the habit of work completely. They would therefore be transferred to Germany (some 10,000 had already been sent) where they would be put to work in the fields, in the quarries, and elsewhere; that not one of them would be compelled to work for the army, or for any military purpose; perhaps it might be that one of them might contribute to the making of a railroad over which a military train might pass.
Brohn remarked that there were hundreds of Belgians working at Krupp's, but not in the munitions department.
Francqui said that some of them were set to making trenches in northern France.
Von der Lancken said that no Belgian had been used in such work, save those who came voluntarily and asked for work; that some of them had been employed on the fortifications at Antwerp.
Villalobar said that the reports of these seizures, would make a great storm in the world outside, and asked what effect it would have on the Comité National and the revictualing.
Von der Lancken said that the Comité National, the C.R.B., and their engagements would all be respected. They had not, and would not, ask the Comité National for the lists of unemployed, but they would ask and would insist that no family of a Belgian thus taken away should be punished by having food taken away from them.
I said that I thought the reason for feeding the families still existed, even more thoroughly perhaps, and Villalobar suggested that we do not raise that point, that the Belgians could be trusted not to allow any of their own to starve.
The discussion went on until Francqui said: "We are slaves," and at this von der Lancken bristled up, and said he would not permit Francqui to talk that way. But the little storm soon blew over. Francqui called attention to the interpellation in the House of Commons the other day by Lord Robert Cecil, and that was discussed awhile, von der Lancken repeating what he said about the intention of the Government to respect its promises.
And then the only dramatic incident of the afternoon occurred. We were all weary---weary of the impossible situation, weary of the madness and horror of the war, and we were all silent for a moment. Then Villalobar sighed, said the war was lasting too long, and turning to von der Lancken, "Germany and England ought to end it."
Then there came from von der Lancken a very human cry, a cry of pain, and he exclaimed: "This abominable war ought to stop! We are ready to stop it. Why aren't the others ready for peace also?"
He expressed the longing in all our hearts and for an instant we were in accord.
The discussion turned again on the unemployed and von der Lancken repeated once more what he said. "It is hard," he said, "but it is a necessity and we have the moral and legal right to do it ...."
Holmbladt in, back from his trip to Denmark. The King had sent me his compliments; Holmbladt say that he, the King, like all Denmark, is pro-Ally. Holmbladt told me of his marvelous cure---he found he had been sleeping over a spring; discovered it by a divining rod! Moved his bed---is now well! What a neurasthenic!
Hoover comes tomorrow, with his faithful companion, trouble.
Nell and I drove over to l'Orangerie, in the rain, the umbrellas balancing in the gloom, the lights shimmering in long waving reflections on the wet surface of the boulevards. Ah me! How such days age a man!
Sunday, October 29, 1916.---To Ravenstein, where Kellogg and Gregory joined me. Mrs. Kellogg came out and we all lunched; much talk of Hoover and Francqui. Hoover, by his lack of tact, his tone of severity, has caused much of this trouble. Our Americans do not recognize that the position of the recipient of charity is so delicate that the donor should not add to the embarrassment by criticism and by intimations that there is lack of appreciation. Hoover would drive everybody with a bull whip; he is a strong man with a good heart, but lacks diplomacy in his dealings with Francqui. He is expected this afternoon and then the storm breaks! A plague on both your houses!
The Bois is lovely in its many hues today.
October 30, 1916.---To the Legation, and many callers---the man from Mons who represents the workingmen down there, a kind of labor leader, though not so free and equal as ours at home, much more pride; referred to it in my presence, and so on. Two aged men---and then Hoover, Kellogg, and Gregory. I had to leave them awhile to go see Villalobar to talk over the unemployed business. Old Count Woeste was just going out as I went in. Villalobar very funny, furious at Merry del Val, whom he referred to as "His Majesty's Idiotic Ambassador at London."
Hoover full of fight, and determined, doggedly determined to force the issue with Francqui, and therefore asked me to deliver to Francqui Lord Grey's note---for which I never asked, but which was written under the impression that I had asked for it. It puts me, of course, in a terribly embarrassing position, and I am sick to death of the quarrel.
November 1, 1916.---La Toussaint, and the bells in all the churches ringing, even those in the little chapel---old by centuries -at the foot of our garden. "It is lugubrious," says Marie.
I am tired out today---why I don't know. Worked nevertheless all morning, lunch in the afternoon, with a cheque, among other things, for $748, first fruits of my recent excursion into the field of the cinema.
Hoover in. Has had no talk with Francqui yet; awaits him in fact. Francqui was to meet me at four, but didn't; left a note---some conflict of engagements.
Everybody interested in the elections. They can't understand them. Many think Hughes was elected last June---and perhaps he was! I have a feeling in my bones that he will be next Tuesday. I don't know why, but I have that gloomy presentiment.
How the bells toll at evening for the dead!
November 2, 1916.---To the Orangerie. Lunch, a walk with Nell, the rain having ceased; then home at 4:30 to find Francqui waiting for me.
He remained until after seven---and such a three hours I never passed in my life. He was furious, enraged; all in all, such a painful scene that I have a blinding headache.
November 3, 1916.---Marie went to Church with bread to be blessed for the dogs; this being the fête of St. Hubert. In France, on this day, the hunting dogs are taken by the masters, in red coats, to church, there to be blessed, and the hunting-horns are blown. Bless our little dogs! Would that the men were like them.
A wretched headache after a troubled, sleepless night, and another dreadful day. First that ghastly luncheon at Francqui's. Hoover, the Kelloggs, and presents---gifts to the Kelloggs---great God! Could there be greater irony, greater mockery? Then at the Legation. Mason in from Mons. Then the regular fortnightly meeting; Villalobar arriving in a Spanish fury---stumping in---then after the ghastly meeting, and the tea (and silent comparisons no doubt between Villalobar's magnificent way and our simple way, for the Belgians are greatly impressed by show and grandeur, and nothing succeeds with them like putting on airs), after the ghastly meeting, Villalobar sitting at my table interrupting Hoover before he could even begin a sentence, beating his misshapen hands, loaded with diamonds, on my table. Oh, the disgust and horror of it all!
November 4, 1916.---Still the headache---from this horrible week; went to Ravenstein, to no purpose as far as I could determine. But what difference? Hughes will be elected Tuesday, and I'll have an excuse to resign and get out of this sickening mess.
Sunday, November 5, 1916.---At Ravenstein. Hoover came out; he is battling with Francqui. He, the Kelloggs, and Gregory dine here tonight.
November 6, 1916.---Today we had von Harrach and von Moltke to luncheon, quite informally, at the Legation. I had asked von der Lancken but he was called to Berlin. This is the first time since the German occupation that Germans have sat at my table; it becomes necessary because Villalobar and Van Vollenhoven both have entertained them time and time again; Villalobar having given a gala dinner for von Bissing himself, and numerous luncheons and dinners to von der Lancken and visiting Germans. The Ruddocks, the Kelloggs, and Hoover were there.
Hoover was worn and haggard after a hard morning with Francqui. He is in constant discussion with him, and several points of interest have developed. It appears, for instance, that Francqui and the Comité National have made their peace with the Belgian Government at Havre. The Belgian Government recognizes Francqui and Company as its representative in Belgium, and in return the Francqui and Company, who were becoming dangerous revolutionary rivals, agree to abdicate when the King comes back. Meanwhile Francqui assumes the powers and rank of a dictator, and has even told Hoover that the Comité National must be shown the respect due a government! The man indeed is quite blown with pride, and this morning told Hoover that the Belgians wished no more charity from America! Whereupon I told Hoover to stop instantly the propaganda in America; that under these circumstances we could no longer be responsible for the sacrifices of the poor, the workingmen, even the children in America, are making for the destitute in Belgium. The discussions are not terminated as yet, but I have rather lost interest in them; the chicanery, the double-dealing, the black treachery of certain participants are so loathsome that one has no words in which to characterize them.
For much is now clear. When Francqui, Villalobar, and Lambert went on their famous voyage last spring, they went for the purpose of having the Americans sent out of Belgium by the Belgian and British Governments. Villalobar went to the Belgian Legation at London, and made the proposition to de Rémy there---and the British Foreign Office put its foot down; said no, emphatically. There are other bits of evidence, all tending to prove that our suspicions, unworthy as I thought them at the time, were well-founded. How they then must have laughed when they were together at my easy acquiescence! Truly an unsuspecting goose! Then the slow but steady exaltation of Villalobar, climbing steadily, bit by bit, hesitating at nothing that the corrupt, dishonest, intriguing Spanish mind could suggest, toiling like the patient spider he so much resembles .... to exalt himself, and all the while protesting his great affection for me, his dear Brand, dear colleague. "Thine forever, Roderigo"---with a knife under my ribs. "Art thou in truth my brother?" as Jacob said. How all the spirits of evil must laugh!
Hoover secured from the Morgans a contribution of $20,000 a month for the poor children of Belgium. The other day he sent the installment to the Comité National, and Janssen sent it back ---refused it, because it was an American proposition! And all because Hoover had said that it should go to the "Little Bees"!(8) And there are thousands of hungry children in Belgium tonight who are going supperless to bed.
Hoover thought there would be a revolt among the Belgians of prominence who are sick of Francqui's dictatorship. I told him, no, don't count on that, they will never revolt. He cited -------, who on Saturday told him many things showing Francqui's methods. Today ------ sent word to Hoover from Antwerp asking him not to repeat what he had told him; that Francqui as the head of the Société Générale could ruin his business!
I set down bits as they come to me out of the appalling mass of sickening evidence. Hoover wrote Francqui on Saturday, having passed two sleepless nights, a beautiful letter, offering many possible concessions; a letter that would have softened the heart of a hyena, but Francqui was wholly unmoved!
What a week! How long it seems! What scenes! ... The coming of the letter from Lord Grey, the too direct and brutal letter, the arrival of Hoover, gloomy, sad, discouraged; then Francqui in a corner at Baron Janssen's, shouting, flattering, caressing, pretending that the Belgians like me, would never consent to any other Minister but me.
Then here on Friday evening, in this great salon before the open fire, in a rage, banging the tea-table with his hand, shouting to me---to me! of the Americans, complaining of their manners, for one thing, as he sat there, drinking tea with loud noises of his lips; complaining of the visit of Dr. Lucas, of the notions of Green, and so forth. I tried to restrain myself and happily succeeded---made no retorts, not even when he referred to the Americans as the invaders of Belgium.
"Since the American invasion," he said in response to a question!
The American invasion!
Francqui said too, "We have one master; we don't want two."
He was ridiculous. In his conceit and pride he thinks nothing beyond him.
"You know, Monsieur," he said, "I have written a book of more than six hundred pages---a history of the revictualing. All the details are there. There is even a long chapter on the rôle of the protective Ministers---I shall send you a copy. I write very easily. It is nothing for me to write five or six days at a time. And so I have produced my book. Does Hoover"---he pronounces the word Hoovre---"wish to risk being shown in his true colors in a book which will remain the standard history, which will be read all over the world?" Oh, that mine enemy would write a book!
When I gave him the letter of Lord Grey with a French translation, he read the translation with a black visage, and said: "It is Hoover who wrote that. I know his style." (Even in French, it seems!) And then when he had finished, he said, striking the papers with his hand, "That is the limit!"
My head was splitting, so silly and weak am I, and I had had a hard night. Then that ghastly luncheon at Francqui's! Francqui trying to be gay, flippant, ill at ease, anxious to be done with it. He was very nervous at luncheon, picking his teeth constantly with the quill toothpick. .. and scolding the servants. "Look here, Joseph, hurry up!" Then the flinging of the gifts at the heads of the poor Kelloggs, gifts with not a suggestion of good will in them.
This then is the end of that beautiful dream, that wonderful story of the Americans coming in the noblest spirit in which the heart of man was ever touched and uplifted, the one light in the darkness of the times! Over now; the one thing needed to make it all humanly complete, ingratitude, has been officially provided. From cynicism and bitterness and from growing sour, Good Lord deliver us!
Tomorrow is election day, and Hughes will be elected. And then I can get out of this hell, already bad enough, but now made diabolic by the machinations of enemies in the livery of friends.
November 7, 1916.---Election day---and the subdued excitement at home, the little polling booths, and the little red flags fluttering at the one hundred-yard limits, and the watchers shivering in the November wind, and the boys getting out the vote, and the anxiety tonight! Well, we should know tomorrow, but I have it in my pessimistic bones that Hughes is being elected this day in America. Every one here is interested and excited, asking me how it will go. Van Zype(9) in this afternoon; he, too, anxious---looking for the sake of humanity that Wilson will be chosen. He was fresh from reading Ostrogorski's book on America, and was interested when I could tell him that I knew Ostrogorski.
Hoover, Kellogg, and Gregory spent an hour with me. The discussion with Francqui continues, but with no result. He yields nothing. He has written a long letter, to which Hoover had prepared a reply, yielding nearly everything in an effort to come to some compromise. It was this letter that Hoover wished to discuss with me. He proposes now to ask the English Government to make an arrangement with the Dutch Government whereby food can come to Belgium. Then the Americans can go. And I can go with them, since, because of the attitude of Francqui, Janssen, and Villalobar, I feel out of place and ill at ease here now; they have taken the heart out of me, and I can no longer work with any pride or enthusiasm. I remain in it only that the Belgians may not starve. All this because of their silly, stupid human vanity, jealousy, and desire for that detestable thing called credit!
I have had such a week that I neglected to set down many things ---like the arrest of poor Mme. Hammelrath, arrested in the act of helping two young men to escape, and taken to Hasselt for trial. I tried to help her---nothing to be done.
The seizure of the unemployed, and of many men who are not unemployed, goes on steadily and brutally, with sad and tragic scenes all over Brabant, Hainaut---everywhere. The men are all alarmed. No one knows who is to be seized next. Green wires me today that he is to see the Chancellor about it and wished suggestions. I wired him to suggest that if the policy must be carried out, it be carried out with ameliorations; that married men and heads of families be spared, and that, best of all, the camps in Germany be open to inspection by American agents of our Embassy at Berlin. This would soften the impression abroad. I have just sent Ruddock to ask Hoover's advice. I sent a telegram to Washington yesterday. We hear constantly details of brutalities everywhere. It is all too sad---but my emotions are exhausted. I am ashamed to say that I am unmoved, somehow, by horror.
A wind roaring in the tree tops all day and a driving rain. I was out for a short walk just before tea---dark, rain, the swirling leaves, the sky line, the slender poplars against the grey clouds.
November 8, 1916.---I had the news of the election of Hughes in a note from Topping,(10) Harrach having telephoned it to the Legation at 9:30 this morning. I had foreseen it, of course .... My poor country! To have deserted her high ideals in this hour, and to have descended to the low plane of materialism on which the rest of the world is groveling in these days is indescribably sad. All the thought of our Nation that is not plutocratic, is bourgeois, and these two, devoted to dollars, to comfort, to pleasure, to their bellies, unite to form the Republican Party. The few intelligent liberals in the Democratic Party are not enough, their ideas are not à la mode---force, power, riches, dominate the thought, the imagination of the race; truly Germany may well claim to lead the world today!
Wilson will have his vindication in history as the only, and perhaps the last exponent of the old American ideal since Lincoln. His fate is the fate of all leaders---to have toiled as no President since Lincoln has toiled, and to have been cast out by the people. "Thou shalt carry much seed into the field and shall gather but little in." How can it be otherwise with democracy? Its tragic inherent defeat, that justifies despair of it, is that those it seeks to serve, by the very fact of their need of service, are incapable of appreciating either the service or their need of it.
The hope we cherish now is that as a result of the election we may be delivered, honorably, out of this awful position, though Villalobar and others insist that the King will not let me go. I rather hope that he may not embarrass me by doing me that honor. I am nearly fifty, no, nearly forty-eight... and I long to get away from it all, and try to have a few years of peace and quiet. The only difference between diplomacy and ward politics or any other is that the ward-heelers and haranguers do their dirty work in one language, and diplomats in several.
At the Legation all afternoon. The town is in a ferment over the brutality of the Germans in seizing the unemployed, and the Legation thronged with those who in fear or in horror come to report the dreadful scenes that are being enacted all over Belgium. I can not write them down, but I shall preserve notes of them as they come in. Hoover writes me a touching note about it. But what can I do? I have done what I can. I have sent dispatches to Berlin, which is the place where it must be discussed, and to Washington. Von der Lancken's trip to Berlin is to talk again of the horrible measures the military are taking---it is all the brutal military. The German Government is very much opposed.
I hear that the war levy is to be raised next year from 40,000,000 marks to what? There is a leak in the Bank Abteilung; some wish to make it 40,000,000 marks, some 60,000,000, and some 80,000,000!
Ah, the winter that is coming on!
November 9, 1916.---The city is in commotion over the seizure of men and their transportation to Germany to work in mines, quarries, factories; perhaps---who knows?---in the trenches. That some of them are so employed is indicated by the placard at Tournai---I saw it with my eyes---in which the commandant says, in conclusion: "They will not be exposed to continuous fire." Yesterday the military paraded the streets with cannon in grim warning. The placard has been posted at Antwerp, and is momentarily expected at Brussels. The alarm and terror are very great; every one trembles, and when a man leaves home he never knows, his family never knows, that it is not for the last time .... I have sent long cipher messages to Berlin this morning and a dispatch to Washington, but that is all I can do. Meanwhile, Hoover is wrought up to a great pitch of excitement, and is urging me to make a "ringing" protest, and go out in a blaze of glory. I know there would be plenty of blaze, if I were to do such a thing, but little glory. No, it is not the time for hysterics, or for plays to the forgetful gallery.
The city is outwardly calm, the streets silent and almost deserted today, in the bright sunlight and crisp autumn air. No vehicles seen any more; no bicycles even; horses all gone, and oxen slowly drag the heavy camions over the rough cobblestones.
And one is appalled in the presence of all this brutal force, carrying out a brutal measure that would have disgraced the dark ages. What is the date---1189? Of all the crimes for which Germany must answer before history this last is perhaps the worst.
The policy seems to be based on no principle; beginning with unemployed, men are now taken indiscriminately, of all ages, all conditions. If they were to adopt a policy one might better understand it; if, for instance, they were to seize men fit for service in the Belgian Army, there might be some military reason for that. The Belgians, who see ground for hope in everything, think it presages a retreat!
How the distant guns have thundered!
Ruddock here after tea, with the surprising news that the election of Hughes is not yet confirmed. Harrach had telephoned this morning that there was doubt; this afternoon he telephoned again that Wilson has 248 electoral votes, Hughes 243 and that 40 are in doubt. That is all we know---or all we hear, at any rate. There is some notion, Ruddock says, that the uncertain votes are from Western states .... I recall Tom Kidd. In 1876 he celebrated Tilden's election by getting drunk; then came to himself, to find that Hayes had been elected, then got drunk to drown his disappointment; and had paralysis. Let us continue to consider Hughes elected and like Caliban, lie low and love Setebos!
November 10, 1916.---Some telegrams from Grew,(11) and replies to get out .... The dispatches said that Wilson had 251, Hughes 242, uncertain 38; and Josse Allard came in at seven to announce that the Belgische Kourier, German paper, announces this evening that Wilson is elected. But I do not believe it, Democrats seldom win contested elections.
I have a really beautiful letter from Francqui today, expressing regret at Hughes' election and a wish that I remain; he offers to make a demonstration to the Government to have them ask that I remain here. I really appreciate his kindness, and the act he proposes would of course be a signal honor for me.
November 11, 1916.---Gustave arrived early this morning, saying that von der Lancken wished to see me .... I went down at once wondering what new trouble had been brewed in the world; started by tram, for Eugène had taken the repaired car out to try it, but he overtook me and we flew to town. Found von der Lancken in a very pleasant humor---it was the unemployed. He was just back from Berlin, and had heard from Brohn of a talk Brohn had had with Hoover, in which the suggestion was made that the Belgian camps in Germany be opened to neutral or American visitation, and so on. He wished to know if the suggestion was Hoover's, the Government's, or mine. I told him Hoover's, unless it was Villalobar's; that Hoover had told me of it after a talk with Villalobar, and that I didn't wish anybody to be deprived of the credit of any idea. Von der Lancken thought it a beautiful idea and said if I would wire Washington, he would wire Berlin, both of us suggesting it. I was glad of course to do so. He said also that he would try to redress any wrongs that had been done if I were to bring them to his notice.
I told him that they should adopt a principle and apply it only to the unemployed, and not seize men indiscriminately as they had been doing. He agreed. He mentioned the lists, said the Comité National couldn't give them---"the Comité National must save itself!" he said, lifting his hands piously. He added that they understood perfectly that the burgomasters couldn't give them; that they would be "lynched" if they did. But he thought perhaps some trade might be made by which the unemployed would be designated by some authority, and so on. I said that was a matter for further consideration. We talked a long while about the matter, and about the furor that would be raised in other countries. He showed me a copy of La Libre Belgique with an appeal to us neutral diplomatic representatives.
Then he asked, "Should I congratulate you on the elections---is it Wilson or not?"
I told him I didn't know and he rummaged through the pile of newspapers on the little table beside him---we were in that hot little upper room where he works---and read an Associated Press dispatch stating that Wilson had at last accounts 272 votes and was elected, that the Senate would be Democratic, and that the House was still in doubt. We talked a long time about American politics, I explaining some details to him. They never can understand our system, these Europeans, and he said finally that he thought it was better after all to have Wilson elected; that Roosevelt would have set the world on fire in some way, and that he felt that Wilson's election was a real step toward peace.
Sunday, November 12, 1916.---To Villalobar's this morning, to talk to him about the action we are to take in regard to the unemployed. He had seen von der Lancken yesterday; he agreed to send a telegram to Madrid similar to that which I sent to Washington yesterday.
Many congratulations on the election; but is Wilson really elected?
November 13, 1916.---Francqui came to tea, pleasant, agreeable, full of jokes, to tell me of his conversations with Hoover this week. Hoover had told me of them last night, and they are the same, details all the same, full agreement in everything except the spirit, the point of view. It is just like The Ring and the Book! Where to begin? And why begin at all? Hoover said they had had long conversations, in which Francqui took a lofty tone; regards himself, or the Comité National, as a government---this since the Villalobar arrangement with Havre; entitled to the respect due to sovereignty; he had a new idea, which none of us had ever heard expressed before, that by matchless forethought they had foreseen the direction of the war (in those days they expected the King back any day), and had adopted the word "National" as a slogan, a rallying point for the Belgian people, a symbol of the sovereignty here, and so on. Finally, they had patched up some sort of arrangement or truce, and for three days he and Francqui had been on excellent terms, dining and lunching together, and so forth. Then on Saturday, Francqui had sent Hoover a letter, recapitulating and ascribing to Hoover statements and admissions he had never made, an old trick in special pleading, and in short, practically going back on the whole arrangement. Hoover, poor man, was sick at heart, said he would transfer the whole fight to London, lay a train of powder to blow up Francqui, and so on. He showed me copies of Francqui's letter, and of one he had written in response---to be delivered this morning after his departure. The Francqui letter was in an English translation; I didn't see the original, and it might have been intended as a friendly letter, though Hoover thought not.
Then Francqui, his story similar to Hoover's. I recognized in his account many elements of the Hoover account, though differently interpreted. Francqui outlined to me the new fantastic notion of the Comité National as a governmental symbol and substitution here. Francqui very much inflated and blown up by it. He spoke of his letter as an act of friendship. I told him he had better not let the Germans hear of this story. The more one sees of Francqui, while admiring his brilliant mind, the less one respects him; the more one sees of Hoover, the more one respects and likes him.
November 15, 1916.---A very cold day; and as we drove down the boulevard, there the saddest, most pathetic of sights. The tramway was torn up, the men putting in some sort of slag---or what one will---in the tracks. Evidently there were bits of coal in this ballast, for all along the tramway, clustered like flies, there were hundreds of women and children, with sacks or small buckets grubbing with their fingers in this refuse for bits of coal. Nell was deeply saddened, and so was I. Poor things! And it is so cold, so cold!
Sent the President a telegram of congratulation today.
La Belgique today says that Hughes has refused to contest, has ordered his partisans not to contest the President's reelection. A fine gesture. Very fitting!
Von Bissing has an interview with a correspondent of the New York Times published in French in La Belgique today. Von der Lancken told me the other day that it had been given, or was to be given, for the purpose of affecting public opinion in America. It has had no effect here other than to inflame the hatred of the populace. The Germans constantly parade their machine-guns in the old city---the lower part of the city---where the people have been especially restless.
November 16, 1916.---Everybody in a state of indignation and fear over the seizure of the unemployed. Nothing else talked of, and unless one shows even more rage than one's interlocutor one is suspected of sympathizing with the measure. E. Janssen's servant was taken. The soldiers line the people up, pass down the line, say "left"---"right"; those on whom the lot "left" falls pass to the left and Germany---those "right" to the right and remain. The measure has created more hatred of the Germans even than the atrocities. I receive letters, anonymous, saying that I am remiss in my duty for not putting a stop to it at once, and Despret has sneered several times at the President for not interfering ....
On my way to Ravenstein this morning, there at the turn at Quatre-Bras, I saw a sight I cannot forget---the sentinels seizing the women who were going into the city with their potatoes. There were a dozen of them, poor women, with shawls over their heads, each carrying in her hand a small sack of potatoes. They had gone to the country near Tervueren to get them for their children at home, and as they came back by the train they had been seized. They were in charge of the soldiers, who hustled them along toward a house near by where they are searched, their potatoes seized, and they fined a small sum of eight or ten francs, and then released. They told me that the scene is a daily one.
November 17, 1916.---Brussels is in terror; the net closes in; it is said that on Monday or Tuesday we shall see the prelude to the seizure of the workingmen in the communes round about Audeghem, Vorst, here in Uccle, and elsewhere. Everybody talks of it, no one speaks of anything else .... When men speak of the Germans it is in deadly hate. They talk to me of the harrowing scenes---the lines of men who have been seized, and then Fate, in the soiled grey uniform of a subaltern, counts off---"Left, right"---and those on whom the fatal "left" falls are sent through a door and are not seen again; their wives wailing and screaming in all the public places of Belgium, throwing themselves on their knees at the feet of the German soldiers, who repulse them with brutal callousness. And every man, every woman, shudders at the words: "Sent to Germany." To add to the horror, the weather is bitterly cold. I am not warm in my selfish furs, and train-loads of men sweep by, with men crowded like cattle in cars, without overcoats, without food---off to the quarries and the mines of Germany. And this is 1916!
Nothing since the war began has so inflamed the Belgians as this being carried off into bondage. The Prince von Ostenberg of von Bissing's staff, who is a familiar figure in his uniform with the yellow trimmings and his monocle, riding a sorrel horse along the avenues and in the Bois, fell from his horse on the avenue Louise yesterday, and broke a leg. A crowd gathered around him and gazed on without pity, and not one would lift a finger to help him. "Very good! Very good!" they cried. "It serves you right!" And von Ostenberg is not a fierce man at all, rather the opposite---though a fool.
Gregory told me of the difficulty the C.R.B. has had to protect its employés; only eight have been seized. He also reported that the Germans are shipping 3,000 head of cattle a week into Germany, and much grease. We have already protested once, but have had no satisfaction ....
Lemonnier was arrested today, he and the aldermen, and I think the burgomasters and aldermen of other communes in the agglomeration. This for their refusal to give up the lists of unemployed. But just as I was leaving my Legation to go to Villalobar's, there arrived a police officer to tell me on behalf of the Commissary that he---Lemonnier---had been released.
November 18, 1916.---Many now criticize the diplomats because we do not put a stop to the outrage the Germans are committing ---especially those who thought their yellow hides were safe by staying in Belgium, and not going to the front .... Another year and I shall be as much abused in Brussels as though I were mayor of the city.
The restaurants may now serve meat only two days a week. On one of the forbidden days, two German officers ordered meat; the maître d'hôtel was afraid to refuse them and so served them. The next day the tavern was proceeded against, and as a punishment ordered closed for three days! The system is conducted according to the same code as Burns' Detective Agency.
Sunday, November 19, 1916.-----Still the seizure of the unemployed goes on. I receive requests from everybody to be taken as an employée of the Legation, so as to be immune. It is heartbreaking; there is, too, constant criticism of me and of America for not ending it ....
And while all this is going on, the Tribunal Correctional of Charleroi is trying a man, Pierre Don, who claims to be the Christ; he is on trial for pretending to heal the sick!
I hear that Max has been removed to Berlin(12) and placed in a cell in a common prison.
Romain Rolland has been awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. Très bien!
November 21, 1916.---Van Vollenhoven, in order to promote that good feeling and those pleasant relations that diplomacy is supposed to cultivate, threatens to stop my supply of gasoline coming in unless the C.R.B. will give him gasoline also. It is not I who determines the question, but the English Government. He thinks the American Government can force the British Government to let in enough gasoline for him too. He would even stop the export of gasoline to Gerard at Berlin, in an effort to blackmail the American Government into asking the British Government, and so on, and so on.
Last night Francqui told me: The Shah of Persia visited Leopold II. After dinner, when the grande maîtresse and the other dames of the court were standing about, the Shah said to Leopold... You have a beautiful palace, very fine apartments and all that; it could not be more magnificent, but the ladies of your harem! You ought to get others---they are too old!"
November 22, 1916.---Last night a Zeppelin, flying low, circled over the city, round and round, the rumbling of its motors, sounding loud, awakening all the dogs to baying; evidently to terrorize the people.
A placard today announces that the new war levy for 1917 will be fixed at 50,000,000 francs a month, an increase of 10,000,000 francs a month over the present contribution. Von Bissing signed this order the same day that he gave out his interview stating that they seized the Belgians and bore them off to the German quarries solely in the interest of Belgium, which was too poor to support idlers.
Another placard states that Brussels and Schaerbeek, and several other communes, will be hereafter Flemish communes, which means that punitive justice will be administered in that language. It means also that sooner or later the Germans will decree Flemish for the schools in order to discourage the use of the French language.
The announcement is made of the death of the Emperor Francis-Joseph.(13) We heard it at Errara, where Nell and I were lunching.
I have a dispatch in cipher from Washington today approving my course and saying that the President had authorized Grew to say to Berlin that the American Government feels a keen interest in the Belgian civilian population and that Germany had promised an explanation.
When Lemonnier had gone, Villalobar told me that he had had a call from Franckenstein, Austrian representative, who had asked his advice about a high mass for the Emperor. Franckenstein had been to see the Nuncio, who was furious and incoherent, so that Franckenstein was at a loss as to what to do. Villalobar had put his flag at half-mast, would call on Franckenstein, leave cards, and so on, and attend the mass if I would. I said I would. We went later around to the Austrian Legation and signed the book, and called on Franckenstein.
November 23, 1916.---At dinner the talk was of Greece and of what the Allies have just done there in sending away, by force, the Ministers of Germany, Austria, Bulgaria and Turkey.(14)
Then they all cried out that it was proper and fine and right and just and served the Greeks right, and so on, and so on.
"Everything that is done on our side is always quite right," I said.
At the Legation, Francqui for tea. He had the response he had prepared for Lord Eustace Percy, and he read it to me---and I was delighted. In the response he rose splendidly to the occasion. Gregory came and approved all Francqui had said! They are getting on famously now and I am delighted with Gregory, who has fine tact, and energy besides .... He sent Hoover a most reassuring message, and I have not been so pleased in a long time. Francqui quite his old self. The sympathy the young men of the C.R.B. have shown in the seizure of the unemployed, and the assistance they have rendered, have touched the hearts of Francqui and of all of them, and they are quite together in spirit and purpose now..
November 24, 1916.---All morning at the Legation getting off telegrams to London, and so on, with the good news about the solution of the Comité National-C. R. B. difficulty. If it only lasts!
In the afternoon the Nuncio came, all excited about the mass for Francis Joseph, wishing to know if I would go. I told him, somewhat as I thought to his regret, that I should go if invited. He talked and talked in his mushy French till I was weary; he is much disturbed because as Nuncio and as dean all don't permit him to dictate things---wishes the Corps Diplomatique to act always in concert, and a fine mess he would make of things ....
Then to Villalobar's. Lemonnier there and Jacquemain, and four members of the Communal Council, one representing the Catholics, an enormous Liberal, a giddy Socialist, and a strange little man who is some sort of Independent. I believe too that there was a Progressive, a kind of local Bull Moose. They came to ask me to do something for Max, now in a cell at Berlin, each vying with the others in his devotion to Max, who has become a fetish. But what can we do? Write to our governments that something be done at Berlin? Talking of Max afterwards, and his hysteric acts and grandstand plays which ended his career as hero in three weeks. He has been offered his liberty and a residence in Switzerland by the Germans, but he refused.
After they had gone, Villalobar and I talked about the Nuncio. Villalobar has been scheming at Madrid and at Rome to prevent the Nuncio becoming a patron of the Comité National. Now has a dispatch from Madrid---of which he gave me a copy-proposing a formula. He is going to talk with Cardinal Mercier about it.
Sunday, November 26, 1916.---Ruddock repeats that the mass for Francis Joseph is to be held tomorrow morning at nine at Ste.-Gudule. What an unhallowed hour to have to turn out! And the execrable taste, too, typically Teutonic, of having a mass in Ste-.Gudule's---at such a time in such a place---when a mass in some small inconspicuous chapel would no doubt light the soul of the old Hapsburg, whose existence on this planet was so sinister and bloody, through the shadows where he has gone, as well as a big affair.
November 27, 1916.---I got off in good time, picked up Ruddock at the Legation, and down to Ste.-Gudule's. There was a heavy fog, and a cold clammy atmosphere, and when we arrived at the threshold of the grey old pile, the grey rolling mists shrouded everything in indistinctness; but I saw Villalobar's flag, and the flag of the Swiss Republic, and the Brazilian flag which looks like a spring salad. And then at the threshold a group of German staff officers, tall and massive, their long greenish-grey coats, looking weird, strange, terrible in the grey fog, like monstrous grey ghosts of anthropoids. Franckenstein welcomed me at the door, the church was full, we passed in, and there on the very horns of the altar was Villalobar. He had told me he would wear an inconspicuous black uniform. The chancel was filled with German officers, in their grey uniforms; von der Lancken, the handsomest of them all, holding his silver helmet, standing near Villalobar. The chancel was hung in black and silver, the arms of the Hapsburgs high over the altar, and ranged on either side, platoons of the Imperial Guard in their opéra-bouffe uniforms of white with red piping bearing drawn swords. The organ rolling---every one waiting for the Governor-General. After a while he came in full uniform and decorations, with the broad, orange ribbon of the Black Eagle on his chest. A striking appearance he presents too; his strangely leathern skin, and roached hair and moustaches of an old trooper, and brilliant, rather sick eyes; he walks with stiff jerky movements, like an automaton. Two of the comic-opera chorus at the altar had gone out to accompany him; there was a ruffle of drums, and he came with Francqui then. He entered with sovereign airs, bowed gravely to left and right, took his place---we were all standing---and the mass began. Army chaplains, the grey uniform trousers and tall boots showing below their priestly vestments, two of them very German, and very much alike, assisted by two or three other priests. There were no altar boys---none to be had, I presume---but instead common soldiers, gray-haired and very slouchy, but painfully anxious to please, a boy scout of say sixteen in knickerbockers, and two tonsured monks, one of whom stood with piously folded hands, wearing an expression of silly, almost degenerate, meekness.
The mass was like other masses, though there was a solo by a boy, a beautiful soprano, and to my dismay, the officiating priest must needs preach, in German, tearing the ugly words out of his thick throat and growing very red. What a hideous language it is, with savage gutturals! He extolled Francis Joseph as a Prince of Peace, and, with some vagueness in his knowledge of history, said that he had never drawn the sword in war until his eighty-fourth year---I think it was eighty-four---when he was stabbed foully in the back. Then he read a psalm in German, went down and blessed the catafalque, and the mass was over.
I stood there in that cold church (one could see one's breath) with many reflections on all that those walls had looked down on during the centuries---Charles the Bold, Maximilian, scores of gorgeous historic scenes. And now it was filled with the grey horde that has poured down out of the northern fogs and overrun the world; those men standing there, stalwart, strong, their brutal, rapacious faces, yet sad too and very anxious, no thought of receding, that grey wave!
The priests are swinging the censers, spraying the holy water around the catafalque, the candles crackle, and pale ghosts of those Italian patriots who died in Austrian prisons half a century ago, press forward in Hades to behold the monarch that crushed them, old now---incurable indeed. The long horror of his reign having come to an end!
This afternoon at the Legation, de Wiart in to ask to have letters sent in by my pouch; no, I could not. Then, would I do something for the son of Van Halgarten, arrested at Liége. A letter from Cardinal Mercier, asking me to intercede for some condemned. Gregory in to report more seizures of the C.R.B. and Comité National men. So I sent a dispatch about it to Washington. Then over to Villalobar's, who had telegrams from London. The Foreign office ready to stop the revictualing if the seizure continues. We arranged to see Harrach at eleven tomorrow, von der Lancken having gone.
November 28, 1916.---I have telegrams from London, the British Government threatening to stop the revictualing. That is, the Germans having taken the men from Belgium, the Germans must be punished, and to do so it is necessary to starve the women and children who remain in sorrow behind .... To the Political Department, where Villalobar and I talked with Harrach for an hour, giving him the English telegrams; I told him that Jewish traders were running cattle across the frontier. He was concerned; promised to stop it, and to telegraph to Berlin.
This afternoon the dispatches say that there is again grave danger of a rupture of the relations between the United States and Germany.(15) Ah me! that worry once more!
Germans seizing the workmen---English cutting off the revictualing---break in relations with Germany---no peace in sight---the Allies' Roumanian blunder producing its natural results---otherwise everything is all right.
November 29, 1916.---Courier in and again no pouch either from London or Washington. We have had none from either place for two weeks. Many callers to argue with me about the seizure of the unemployed; they, many of them, have the human failing of thinking that if they can but convince me, I will do something to stop it. A white-haired lawyer from Tournai, with bristling white moustaches, talked to me till I was weary---a rasping voice, a veritable saw.
November 30, 1916.---Thanksgiving Day, raw and cold; no turkey, no pumpkin pie, no football game.
Van Holder here at nine o'clock; has been promised a passport but not one to return. Wished me to advise him. I told him to go, and when he is cured, that we would arrange for his return.
Then drove with Nell to Ravenstein where many of the C.R.B. were gathered, Gregory having offered a little silver cup, and arranged a little competition. It was stinging cold---too cold to play.
But we played....
Émile Verhaeren, the Belgian poet, is dead at Rouen, killed by a train he was trying to board. He was a great poet---the greatest of Belgium's great poets---a sort of Walt Whitman.
Hear that the Germans will begin to seize the unemployed at Brussels next week. I dread the experience.
Bulle (the Mexican Minister) has a new joke.
"I represent," he says, "a country without a government at the capital of a government without a country."
December 1, 1916.---The day for the courier and again he came bringing us no pouch either from London or Washington. It has been now two weeks since we have heard from either place, save through the C.R.B. and of course by wire. But then the London Embassy, with its customary contempt for everything not English and of London, no doubt has no thought for us. It wouldn't be a bad idea to establish an American Embassy at London.
We had the usual bi-weekly meeting at my Legation this afternoon. Villalobar and Janssen absent. The usual monthly unemployed and seizing of cattle-and men---a little more aggravated each time. The Germans have seized nearly two hundred men provided with C.R.B. cards, despite their promise to respect them. Their promises!
Mme. Franz Wittouck came to call, very pretty in her furs. "I want nothing," she said, "just to see how you are!" A very pretty and kindly compliment.
For we here seem so depressed---the horror of the situation is beyond words---every one discouraged, every one blue, the iron hand of oppression bearing down harder every day---no end in sight, no possibility either of victory or peace---and a dark and terrible winter coming on. The physical suffering is great---and every home in Belgium is darkened by the latest shadow, a real terror exists ....
As one goes through the Forêt these days, one sees wagons filled with Christmas trees, which the Germans are gathering to celebrate the nativity of the Prince of Peace. And in the Bois this morning we saw a platoon of German soldiers playing pussy-wants-a-corner. How touching!
Sunday, December 3, 1916.---At Ravenstein with Gregory after a morning spent in correspondence---revictualing, of course, which entails an enormous mass of work---as the presence of so many Americans entails an enormous amount of entertaining.
Potter telling of the punishment near Lille of men who refused to work---tied to posts, with wires about their wrists behind the posts, as Indians tied their victims to the stake, and left there for hours. Potter saw these himself, there were about sixty in all. At Namur, the men seized were herded in cattle-cars and left thus without food or water, for a day and a night-in this bitterly cold weather.
December 4, 1916.---A letter from the Political Department in response to our demand of last week, promising to stop the shipment of food and of cattle across the German frontier; and to punish the culpable of whom there are thirty-four mentioned. It seems to respond almost entirely to our suggestions.
There is a placard in town announcing the fall of Bucharest ....
The announcement is made also of Lloyd George's resignation.
This is the precursor to my mind of the entire disappearance of the liberals from the Government. Asquith will go---and Lloyd George will return in a Tory Government that will have gained power without having been put to the trouble of a general election. Then one of the ends of the war will have been gained. Liberalism is dead in England for awhile.
December 5, 1916.---All night and all day long the lugubrious thump-thump of the heavy English guns down on the Somme.
December 6, 1916.---Luncheon today for von der Lancken, very informal, he, von and zu Franckenstein, von Falkenhausen, Brohn, and Reith, with the Ruddocks.
We have long dreaded this luncheon, made necessary chiefly by Villalobar's constantly entertaining the Germans, though partly because the war has lasted so long. We had to come to it, though Nell was very, very loath. The Germans were tickled to death: showed their pleasure in every way ....
This evening Francqui and Kellogg came out, to suggest that I join with Villalobar in organizing a bureau for the presentation of complaints about the unemployed---and try to have some returned from Berlin. Gregory urging it that America may have some credit---a view of which I am heartily sick.
December 7, 1916.---Down early to see Villalobar, found him as usual quarreling with that dark Spanish female secretary of his, who seems always to be so furious. What a household! Constantly, it would seem, in turmoil, with dark secrets and mysteries. Villalobar turned from her with his dark face suddenly becoming pleasant, but he was not so amicable when I spoke to him about me joining forces in this matter of the unemployed. Spain, in charge of Belgian interests, and so on, evidently very fearful of losing credit---again that detestable word! I, sick with despair, told him I didn't care about it except to get the Belgians back; that Van Vollenhoven was organizing a bureau, and everybody else organizing a bureau; that representations were being made in behalf of every one who had been taken and that consequently no one would come back; that all by working together might succeed in a measure, and so on. Finally, however, he seemed to come about to my way of thinking but was very grandiose, very patronizing, very much the Spanish grandee.
December 8, 1916.---Bonar Law refuses the Premiership---and Lloyd George, arrived at last, or nearly arrived, has consented to form a Ministry. How he can command a majority is a mystery to me.
There is no diminution in the seizure of men. They say the seizures in Brussels will be begun about the 5th of January---so Franckenstein told me---and will be very carefully made. It surpasses the imagination, this relapse into barbarism. Slave gangs, in our time, in Western Europe! What Germany must answer for to history and humanity! -
December 9. 1916.---I can't get it out of my head, this colossal betrayal by Lloyd George. He has not only stabbed Asquith in the back, but he has led into the shambles all those working-people who trusted him. And yet I should not be so surprised, after all. Dick McGhee, sitting in the smoking-room of the House of Commons years ago, told me that Lloyd George was not a genuine radical, that he had no principles, no convictions; a lot of ability and energy, perhaps some sentimental sympathy with the poor because he had been poor, and hatred of the rich because he envied them and was not one of them, but that was all. The worst of it is, no one seems to think it wrong, what he has done ....
Meanwhile the Allies pile blunder on blunder. The dirty plot in Greece is bearing its fruit in the discomfiture of the Allies, they lost Greece; and the Roumanian catastrophes increase in size and importance with each new report.(16) Everyone is downhearted---with good cause now! Oh for a man on the side of liberty and justice in this world! But whence?...
Janssen in to see me this morning; he had seen Villalobar, whom Francqui had left the morning before (Thursday) in an ugly mood ---so desirous was he, Villalobar, of having all the credit for arranging for the return of the unemployed. Francqui, who left yesterday (feeling, as Janssen said, like a true goose) had felt that Villalobar would agree to nothing that did not leave him undisputed mastery, but Janssen found this morning that he had cooled off, and was ready even to have Van Vollenhoven---Villalobar had told me he would not have Van Vollenhoven included under any circumstances. I told Janssen to arrange it any way he saw fit, with me included or left out, with the credit all of it to Villalobar or to the devil---so long as some of the unemployed could be brought back. The scheming, the chicanery, the intrigue, the petty conniving that poison the very air of the capital, are enough to sicken a dog. Janssen will organize some kind of clearing-house when the lists and requests will be dealt out.
December 11, 1916.---Went to see Van Vollenhoven this morning at Janssen's request---since Villalobar's high nobility will not permit him to make a request of Van Vollenhoven---to join in the central bureau for the organization of the requests for the return of the unemployed. Van Vollenhoven very loath to do so; said he wished to have nothing to do with Villalobar, and so on. Came away in disgust; told Ruddock to rent a house and organize a bureau of our own, and to let Villalobar and Van Vollenhoven and all the other touchy diplomats go to the devil, where they belong. They are not trying, either of them, to alleviate the dire suffering of the land, but to obtain decorations, and what they call credit; they tell every one, or the friends and sorrowing family of anybody who has been taken and borne off in the slave-gangs, to make a written application for his return endorsed by the Burgomaster; and since every one taken thinks, and his friends think---and any civilized man thinks and knows that he was improperly taken---and since a Burgomaster will certify to anything for a constituent, a request is made for every one taken and as a result not one will be returned.
December 13, 1916.---The Chancellor's speech, stating the readiness of the Germans to discuss terms of peace, published this morning. It is a very adroit move.(17)
The papers even here published our protest about the unemployed, with the German reply.
Janssen came to see me at seven, very much excited over an interview he had with Villalobar this morning. Villalobar very difficult and refused to have anything to do with a joint bureau.
Janssen wishes me to induce Villalobar to accept. Too tired.
December 15, 1916.---Villalobar left this morning worried and wondering why he was called, but the story goes about that he has gone to make peace. I trust that he will succeed.
No pouch today, although the C.R.B. mail and Spanish Legation pouch comes from London.
Von Bissing is very ill, I hear; his wife has come in from Berlin to be at his bedside at Trois Fontaines.
The guns boom more loudly tonight than I have ever heard them---that incessant thud, thud, thud, there to the west. Yet what are they accomplishing?
December 20, 1916.---A letter from Hoover, in the usual lugubrious strain. He is more hostile to Francqui than ever; has prepared, he writes, an educational campaign for him on his arrival, vows he will no longer "live a lie to the world," by which he means that he will not be satisfied unless the C.R.B. are as much recognized by Francqui as they are recognized outside. He says we have weathered the storm of the deportations, and so on. As to that quarrel between Francqui and Hoover---I wash my hands of it.
December 21, 1916.---Lloyd George's speech published today, or extracts of it in French. Not half bad really. I was rather agreeably impressed, not because it holds out the slightest hope of peace but because it doesn't have that fury and bombastic tone that I had expected of Lloyd George, since his silly blowing some months ago about a "knockout." Still, he does not show any large generous statesmanlike spirit in dealing with the situation, and it is that which renders the situation hopeless. It now remains to be seen whether Lloyd George has any of the real qualities of the statesman, or whether he is merely a politician .... But he will never take the large view that such a man as Lincoln, or Wilson, or Cavour, for instance, would have taken, and I fear that he will somehow slam the door on peace. Oh, for a man in Europe!
December 22, 1916.---Mme. Hammelrath thanks Nell and me for what we have done in securing her release from prison at Hasselt. Told us all about it-her efforts to help a man get to the front, her meeting with two ferrymen from Antwerp, her conducting her man to them, arriving just as the German police were conducting a raid, then St.-Gilles, and Hasselt; the cruelty of a German nun who took pleasure in announcing to women that their husbands were to be shot, the kindness of another German woman, the sound of the firing squad in the early morning---one sharp volley; then the sound of two thousand voices singing "The Lion of Flanders," and the "Brabançonne"---the unemployed being taken to Germany. When they were searching her house, the police found a note I had written long ago to her little daughter Jacqueline to thank her for something she had sent me---and the letter helped her ....
Then the regular session, with a long list of grievances against the Germans, breaking their word, not keeping their engagements, seizing food, and so on. And long tales of cruelty to the unemployed. They have taken 250 of the revictualing men in Luxembourg where, by the way, Kaufmann is now Governor-General ....
The German paper tonight, Belgische Kourier, says that President Wilson has sent a note to all the powers carefully worded, offering his good services for peace. This should do good. We haven't the text of the note.
December 23, 1916.---The President's note---not in full apparently, but in résumé---is presented in the local papers today. It is like all his documents, a clever, noble one, and should bring peace perceptibly nearer if there is any wisdom left in governments on this side of the Atlantic. The difficulty is that European statesmen think in other sequences, and inhabit another and inferior element.
Among today's dispatches is one from London, evidently from Hoover, asking Nell and me to go to London after Christmas. I do not see how I can go. I haven't the energy or the interest and it would complicate matters very much for me to leave just now. In truth, we don't want to go.
Sunday, December 24, 1916.---Christmas Eve. Looking back on all the Christmas Eves I have known---Mary and I going down in the snow, her red hood, ruddy cheeks, the snow flakes falling across the glow of the street lamps---our little expenditures---such trifles for father and mother and Uncle Will! Then other Christmas Eves---John Ross, and Sissy Kiefer; one evening at Chicago John Eastman and the sleeve-buttons; Springfield and then often at home or in Toledo; last Christmas eve in New York, and the tree in Madison Square; and now this depressing atmosphere. Ah me!
December 25, 1916.---Christmas. We had a pleasant time at the Allards' last night; they are always charming, and make an effort to be cheerful which is a kindly, brave, courageous thing to do, especially with me who I fear never make a very great effort in that direction. . . -
Reading the newspapers, such as they are, this morning, one sees little chance of peace. The comments of the English press, as given, show an utter failure to realize the situation of the world today or of the responsibility of governments. Of course, the press of England, now under the control of the English military caste, does not express the intelligence of England at all. The French papers are naturally much more polite than the English. Switzerland very handsomely sustains the President.
The saddest thing is that there seems not to be anywhere in Europe, in a place of responsibility, a man who can appreciate or understand the President's motives.
December 26, 1916.---Another holiday; everything in town closed up, no newspapers, nothing, the Belgians having a practical method of observing the day after a holiday as well as the holiday itself, thus making two holidays in all, one for the celebration, and one to recover from the celebration.
Much gossip about Villalobar; many say he went to Berlin with von der Lancken to get Germany's peace terms to carry them to Madrid. He told me he didn't know why he was sent for to go to Madrid; he told Lambert it was on account of the unemployed. No one knows, of course. Villalobar wades in the water.
A curious incident at Liége. The Germans posted a placard saying that England had stopped the revictualing, and then followed long and detailed instructions to communal authorities as to what they were to do, imposing a difficult régime. Ruddock asked Harrach about it. Harrach telephoned Liége; all a mistake---but the Germans had shown their hand, and incidentally, how they are prepared for every emergency.