[Transcriber's note: This document contains several illustrations of letters and posters. Where possible, the text on these illustrations has been included in the description of the illustration.]
A JOURNAL FROM OUR LEGATION IN BELGIUM
BY HUGH GIBSON
SECRETARY OF THE AMERICAN LEGATION IN BRUSSELS
ILLUSTRATED FROM PHOTOGRAPHS
NEW YORK GROSSET & DUNLAP PUBLISHERS
Copyright, 1917, by DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages, including the Scandinavian.
TO MY MOTHER
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
His Majesty, Albert, King of the Belgians Front
FACING PAGE Facsimile of the first page of the German ultimatum to Belgium (in the text) 16
Pass issued by the Belgian military authorities to enable Mr. Gibson to enter the German Legation at Brussels 16
Maitre Gaston de Leval, legal adviser to the American Legation in Brussels 17
Her Majesty, Elizabeth, Queen of the Belgians 32
Mr. Brand Whitlock, American Minister to Belgium 33
German supply train entering Brussels 96
German infantry entering Brussels 97
German officers and soldiers were always ready to oblige by posing for the camera 112
"Mit Gott fuer Kaiser und Reich" 112
Count Guy d'Oultremont 113
From left to right: Colonel DuCane, Captain Ferguson and Colonel Fairholme 113
Pass issued by General von Jarotzky (in text) 116
Letter signed by Burgomaster Max requesting the Belgian authorities to allow Mr. Gibson to pass (in text) 128
Boy Scouts at Belgian headquarters 140
Reading from left to right: a Belgian Staff Officer, Colonel Fairholme, Colonel DuCane and Captain Ferguson 140
List of the civilians killed by the Germans at Tamines on August 20, 1914 141
Entrance to the Rue de Diest, Louvain 156
The dead and the living. A Belgian civilian and a German soldier 157
Pass issued by Field-Marshal von der Goltz (in text) 200
A street in Louvain 202
Fixing on the white Flag for the dash between the lines 202
Refugees from the villages near the Antwerp forts 203
Arrival in Antwerp of refugees from Malines 203
At Malines—a good background for a photograph to send home to Germany 218
His Eminence, Cardinal Mercier 219
Fire at Namur during the bombardment 254
Effect of big German shell on Fort of Waehlem 255
Outside view of the Fort of Waehlem after bombardment 255
View of the Meuse at Huy 262
Refugees fleeing toward Dunkirk before the German advance 263
Graves of civilians shot by the Germans 266
A typical proclamation 266
Views of the Fort of Waehlem after its bombardment 267
Herbert C. Hoover 282
French Howitzer near H—— 283
German camp kitchen 283
Von Bulow's greeting to the people of Liege (in text) 324
How the simple pleasures of the German soldiers were restricted (in text) 324
Aux habitants de la Belgique (in text) 328
Appeal of the Queen of the Belgians for help from America (in text) 338
Julius Van Hee, American Vice-Counsel at Ghent 340
Lewis Richards 340
A Brussels soup-kitchen run by volunteers 341
Meals served to the children in the schools 341
German proclamation announcing the execution of Miss Cavell (in text) 349
Miss Edith Cavell 356
Fly-leaf of Miss Cavell's prayer book 357
Notes in Miss Cavell's prayer book 360, 361
This volume is not a carefully prepared treatise on the war. It does not set out to prove anything. It is merely what its title indicates—a private journal jotted down hastily from day to day in odd moments, when more pressing duties would permit. Much material has been eliminated as of little interest. Other material of interest has been left out because it cannot be published at this time. It is believed, however, that what is printed here will suffice to give some idea of life in Belgium during the first few months of the war.
I have eliminated from the journal most of the matter about the early history of the Commission for Relief in Belgium. My day-to-day record did not do any sort of justice to the subject, and since it was not adequate, I have preferred to eliminate all but such casual reference to the relief work as is necessary to maintain the narrative. I am reconciled to this treatment of the subject by the knowledge that the story will be told comprehensively and well by Dr. Vernon Kellogg, who will soon publish an authoritative history of the Commission's work. As former Director of the Commission in Belgium, he has the detailed knowledge of its workings and the sympathetic understanding of its purpose, which peculiarly fit him for the task.
The work of the Commission is of a scope and significance that few of us realise. It is without doubt the greatest humanitarian enterprise in history, conducted under conditions of almost incredible difficulty. To those who had an understanding of the work, it had a compelling appeal, not only as an opportunity for service but also as the greatest conservation project of all time—the conservation of one of the finest races of our civilisation.
In its inception and execution, the work of the Commission is distinctively American. Its inception was in the mind of Herbert Hoover; in its execution he had the whole-hearted assistance of a little band of quiet American gentlemen who laboured in Belgium from the autumn of 1914 until we entered the war in April of this year. They came from all parts of our country and from all walks of life. They were simple work-a-day Americans, welded together by unwavering devotion to the common task and to Herbert Hoover, the "Chief." It was the splendid human side of the Commission that made it succeed in spite of all obstacles, and that part of the story will be hard to tell.
The gallant little band is now widely scattered. Some are carrying on their old work from Holland or England or America in order to ensure a steady flow of food to Belgium. Others are serving our Government in various capacities or fighting in the armies of our allies. Some of them we shall not see again and there will never be another reunion, as in the old days, when the "Chief" came over from London to Brussels with work to be done. But the bright light of kindly human service which brought them all together is still aflame and will always be an inspiration to those who served, however humbly, in the great work.
WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 24, 1917.
A Journal From Our Legation In Belgium
BRUSSELS, July 4, 1914.—After years of hard work and revolutions and wars and rumours of war, the change to this quiet post has been most welcome and I have wallowed in the luxury of having time to play.
For the last year or two I have looked forward to just such a post as this, where nothing ever happens, where there is no earthly chance of being called out of bed in the middle of the night to see the human race brawling over its differences. When pounding along in the small hours of the night, nearly dead with fatigue, I have thought that I should like to have a long assignment to just such a post and become a diplomatic Lotos Eater. And at first it was great fun.
That phase lasted until I had had a thorough rest, and then the longing for something more active began to manifest itself.
I sat down and wrote to the Department of State that while I greatly appreciated having been sent to this much-coveted post I was ready whenever there might be need of my services to go where there was work to be done.
* * * * *
July 28, 1914.—Well, the roof has fallen in. War was declared this afternoon by Austria. The town is seething with excitement and everybody seems to realise how near they are to the big stage. Three classes of reserves have already been called to the colours to defend Belgian neutrality. A general mobilisation is prepared and may be declared at any time. The Bourse has been closed to prevent too much play on the situation, and let things steady themselves. In every other way the hatches have been battened down and preparations made for heavy weather.
To-night the streets are crowded and demonstrations for and against war are being held. The Socialists have Jaures, their French leader, up from Paris, and have him haranguing an anti-war demonstration in the Grande Place, where a tremendous crowd has collected. Nobody on earth can see where it will all lead. England is trying hard to localise the conflict, and has valuable help. If she does not succeed * * *
An advance guard of tourists is arriving from France, Germany, and Switzerland, and a lot of them drop in for advice as to whether it is safe for them to go to various places in Europe. And most of them seem to feel that we really have authoritative information as to what the next few days are to bring forth, and resent the fact that we are too disobliging to tell them the inside news. A deluge of this sort would be easier for a full-sized Embassy to grapple with, but as Belgium is one of those places where nothing ever happens we have the smallest possible organisation, consisting on a peace basis of the Minister and myself, with one clerk. We shall have somehow to build up an emergency force to meet the situation.
* * * * *
July 30th.—No line on the future yet. Brussels is beginning to look warlike. Troops are beginning to appear. The railway stations have been occupied, and the Boy Scouts are swarming over the town as busy as bird dogs. A week ago there was hardly a tourist in Brussels. Now the Legation hall is filled with them, and they all demand precise information as to what is going to happen next and where they can go with a guarantee from the Legation that they will not get into trouble.
* * * * *
July 31st.—No, my recent remarks about nothing ever happening in Brussels were not intended as sarcasm. I thought Belgium was the one place where I could be sure of a quiet time, and here we are right in the centre of it. Even if nothing more happens we have had enough excitement to last me for some time. The doings of the past few days have brought out some idea of what a general European war would mean—and it is altogether too dreadful to think of.
* * * * *
Saturday, Aug. 1st.—Last night when I went home, at about midnight, I found the police going about with the orders for mobilisation, ringing the door bells and summoning the men to the colours. There was no time to tarry, but each man tumbled out of bed into his clothes and hurried away to his regiment. Two of my neighbours were routed out a little after midnight, and got away within the hour. There was a good deal of weeping and handshaking and farewelling, and it was not the sort of thing to promote restful sleep.
This morning I got down to the chancery at a quarter past eight, and found that Omer, our good messenger, had been summoned to the colours. He had gone, of course, and had left a note for me to announce the fact. He had been ill, and could perfectly well have been exempted. The other day, when we had discussed the matter, I had told him that there would be no difficulty in getting him off. He showed no enthusiasm, however, and merely remarked, without heroics, that it was up to him.
Colonel Falls, 7th Regiment, of the National Guard of New York, came in, having been sent back from the frontier. He had the pleasure of standing all the way as the trains were packed.
Millard Shaler, the American mining engineer, who had just come back from the Congo, came in with his amusing Belgian friend who had been telling us for weeks about the wonderful new car in which he was investing. This time he came around to let me have a look at it, he having been advised that the car was requisitioned and due to be taken over to-day.
We have done a land-office business in passports, and shall probably continue to turn them out by the dozen.
* * * * *
Sunday, August 2d.—Another hectic day with promise of more to come.
This morning I came down a little earlier than usual and found the Minister already hard at it. He had been routed out of bed and had not had time to bathe or shave. There was nothing to show that it was a Sunday—nearly twice as many callers as yesterday, and they were more exacting.
Mrs. A—— B—— C—— came in airily and announced that she had started from Paris yesterday on a motor tour through France and Belgium. Having got this far, some rude person had told her that her motor might be seized by the Government for military purposes and that an order had been promulgated forbidding any one to take cars out of the country. She came around confidently to have us assure her that this was a wicked lie—and needless to say was deeply disappointed in us when we failed to back her up. We had refrained from asking the Government to release our own servants from their military obligations and have refused to interfere for anybody else, but that was not enough for her. She left, a highly indignant lady.
The story is around town this afternoon that the Germans have already crossed the frontier without the formality of a declaration of war—but that remains to be seen. Brussels was put under martial law last night, and is now patrolled by grenadiers and lancers.
The money situation is bad. All small change has disappeared in the general panic, and none of it has dared show its head during the past few days. The next thing done by panicky people was to pass round word that the Government bank notes were no good and would not be honoured. Lots of shops are refusing to accept bank notes, and few places can make any change. The police are lined up outside the banks keeping people in line. People in general are frantic with fear, and are trampling each other in the rush to get money out of the banks before the crash that probably will not come. Travelers who came here with pockets bulging with express checks and bank notes are unable to get a cent of real money, and nobody shows any enthusiasm over American paper. I have a few bank notes left, and this evening when I went into a restaurant I have patronised ever since my arrival the head waiter refused to change a note for me, and I finally had to leave it and take credit against future meals to be eaten there. We may have our troubles when our small store is gone, but probably the situation will improve and I refuse to worry. And some of our compatriots don't understand why the Legation does not have a cellar full of hard money to finance them through their stay in Europe.
Communications, with such parts of the world as we still speak to, are getting very difficult on account of mobilisation, the military having right of way. This morning's Paris papers have not come in this evening, and there are no promises as to when we shall see them. The news in the local papers is scarce and doubtful, and I hope for a word from Paris.
Word has just come in that the Government has seized the supplies of bread, rice, and beans, and will fix prices for the present. That is a sensible and steadying thing, and should have a good effect.
Nobody seems to remember that a few days ago Serbia was playing a star role in this affair. She seems to have faded away behind the scenes. A few days ago, Mexico loomed large in the papers and now we have forgotten that she ever existed. Albania supplied a lot of table talk, and now we think about as much about her and her troubles as we do about Thibet.
This afternoon I went around to the Rue Ducale to take a look at the French Legation. The tricolor was flying in the fresh breeze, and there was a big crowd outside cheering itself hoarse. It was made up of men who were called to the colors and were waiting to enroll themselves and get instructions as to where they should report for duty. The air was electric, and every now and then the military band struck up the Marseillaise and the crowd instantly became happily delirious. Some of them had been standing in the sun for hours waiting to get in and get their orders, but they were just as keenly responsive to the music and the mood of the crowd as anybody. All the crowd in the Legation had been working day and night for days, and was dead with fatigue; but, some way, they kept going, and managed to be civil and friendly when I had business with them. How they do it I don't know. A Frenchman's politeness must be more deeply ingrained than even I had supposed.
On the way back from the Legation this evening, I saw von Below, the German Minister, driving home from the Foreign Office to his Legation. He passed close to me, and I saw that the perspiration was standing out on his forehead. He held his hat in his hand and puffed at a cigarette like a mechanical toy, blowing out jerky clouds of smoke. He looked neither to left nor right, and failed to give me his usual ceremonious bow. He is evidently not at ease about the situation, although he continues to figure in the newspapers as stating that all is well, that Germany has no intention of setting foot on Belgian soil, and that all Belgium has to do is to keep calm. In an interview given to Le Soir he sums up his reassuring remarks by saying: "Your neighbour's house may burn but yours will be safe."
* * * * *
August 3, 1914.—No mail in to-day. All communications seem to be stopped for the time being at least. Mobilisation here and in France requires all the efforts of all hands, and little workaday things like mail and newspapers go by the board.
According to the news which was given me when I got out of bed this morning, the German Minister last night presented to the Belgian Government an ultimatum demanding the right to send German troops across Belgium to attack France. He was evidently returning from this pleasant duty when I saw him last night, for the ultimatum seems to have been presented at seven o'clock. The King presided over a Cabinet Council which sat all night; and when the twelve hours given by the ultimatum had expired, at seven this morning, a flat refusal was sent to the German Legation. Arrangements were got under way, as the Council sat, to defend the frontiers of the country against aggression. During the night the garrison left and the Garde Civique came on duty to police the town.
The influx of callers was greater to-day than at any time so far, and we were fairly swamped. Miss Larner came in and worked like a Trojan, taking passport applications and reassuring the women who wanted to be told that the Germans would not kill them even when they got to Brussels. She is a godsend to us.
Monsieur de Leval, the Belgian lawyer who for ten years has been the legal counselor of the Legation, came in and brought some good clerks with him. He also hung up his hat and went to work, making all sorts of calls at the Foreign Office, seeing callers, and going about to the different Legations. Granville Fortescue came in from Ostend, and I should have put him to work but that he had plans of his own and has decided to blossom forth as a war correspondent. He is all for getting to the "front" if any.
Just to see what would happen, I went to the telephone after lunch and asked to be put through to the Embassy at London. To my surprise, I got the connection in a few minutes and had a talk with Bell, the Second Secretary. The Cabinet had been sitting since eleven this morning, but had announced no decision. I telephoned him again this evening and got the same reply. Bell said that they had several hundred people in the chancery and were preparing for a heavy blow.
As nearly as we can make out the Germans have sent patrols into Belgian territory, but there have been no actual operations so far. All day long we have been getting stories to the effect that there has been a battle at Vise and that fifteen hundred Belgians had been killed; later it was stated that they had driven the Germans back with heavy losses. The net result is that at the end of the day we know little more than we did this morning.
Parliament is summoned to meet in special session to-morrow morning to hear what the King has to say about the German ultimatum. It will be an interesting sight. Parliament has long been rent with most bitter factional quarrels, but I hear that all these are to be forgotten and that all parties, Socialists included, are to rally round the throne in a great demonstration of loyalty.
All the regular troops have been withdrawn from this part of the country and dispatched to the front, leaving the protection of the capital to the Garde Civique, who are patrolling the streets, to examine the papers of everybody who moves about. This is a sort of local guard made up of people who have not been called for active military service, but who have volunteered for local defense. They are from every class—lawyers and butchers and bakers and dentists and university professors. They have, of course, had little training for this sort of work, and have had only elementary orders to guide them. These they carry out to the letter. There are detachments of them at all sorts of strategic points in the city where they hold up passing vehicles to see who is inside. I have been stopped by them goodness knows how many times this day. They hold up the car, look inside, apologise, and explain good-naturedly that they are obliged to bother me, asking who I am, and after I have satisfied them with papers that any well-equipped spy would be ashamed of, they let me go on with more apologies. They rejoice in a traditional uniform topped off by a derby hat with kangaroo feathers on it. This is anything but martial in appearance and seems to affect their funny bone as it does mine.
* * * * *
August 5th.—Yesterday morning we got about early and made for the Chamber of Deputies to hear the King's speech. The Minister and I walked over together and met a few straggling colleagues headed in the same direction. Most of them had got there ahead of us, and the galleries were all jammed. The Rue Royale, from the Palace around the park to the Parliament building, was packed with people, held in check by the Garde Civique. There was a buzz as of a thousand bees and every face was ablaze—the look of a people who have been trampled on for hundreds of years and have not learned to submit. The Garde Civique had two bands in front of the Senate, and they tried to play the Brabanconne in unison. Neither of them could play the air in tune, and they were about a bar apart all the time. They played it through and then began to play it over again without a pause between. They blew and pounded steadily for nearly half an hour, and the more they played, the more enthusiastic the crowds became.
When I saw how crowded the galleries were I thought I would not push, so resigned myself to missing the speech and went out onto a balcony with Webber, of the British Legation, to see the arrival of the King and Queen. We had the balcony to ourselves, as everybody else was inside fighting for a place in the galleries to hear the speech.
When the King and Queen finally left the Palace we knew it from a roar of cheering that came surging across the Park. The little procession came along at a smart trot, and although it was hidden from us by the trees we could follow its progress by the steadily advancing roaring of the mob. When they turned from the Rue Royale into the Rue de la Loi, the crowd in front of the Parliament buildings took up the cheering in a way to make the windows rattle.
First came the staff of the King and members of his household. Then the Queen, accompanied by the royal children, in an open daumont. The cheering for the Queen was full-throated and with no sign of doubt, because of her Bavarian birth and upbringing—she is looked on as a Belgian Queen and nothing else.
After the Queen came a carriage or two with members of the royal family and the Court. Finally the King on horseback. He was in the field uniform of a lieutenant-general, with no decorations and none of the ceremonial trappings usual on such occasions as a speech from the Throne. He was followed by a few members of his staff who also looked as though they were meant more for business than for dress parade.
As the King drew rein and dismounted, the cheering burst forth with twice its former volume; and, in a frantic demonstration of loyalty, hats and sticks were thrown into the air. Two bands played on manfully, but we could hear only an occasional discord.
Just as the King started into the building an usher came out, touched me on the arm and said something, beckoning me to come inside. One of the galleries had been locked by mistake but had now been opened, and Webber and I were rewarded for our modesty by being given the whole thing to ourselves. In a few minutes the Bolivian Charge came in and joined us. Our places were not ten feet from the Throne, and we could not have been better placed.
The Queen came in quietly from one side and took a throne to the left of the tribune, after acknowledging a roaring welcome from the members of the two Houses. When the cheering had subsided, the King walked in alone from the right, bowed gravely to the assembly and walked quickly to the dais above and behind the tribune. With a business-like gesture he tossed his cap on to the ledge before him and threw his white cotton gloves into it—then drew out his speech and read it. At first his voice was not very steady but he soon controlled it and read the speech to the end in a voice that was vibrating with emotion but without any oratory or heroics. He went straight to the vital need for union between all factions and all parties, between the French, Flemish, and Walloon races, between Catholics, Liberals, and Socialists in a determined resistance to the attack upon Belgian independence. The House could contain itself for only a few minutes at a time, and as every point was driven home they burst into frantic cheering. When the King, addressing himself directly to the members of Parliament, said, "Are you determined at any cost to maintain the sacred heritage of our ancestors?" the whole Chamber burst into a roar, and from the Socialists' side came cries of: "At any cost, by death if need be."
It was simple and to the point—a manly speech. And as he delivered it he was a kingly figure, facing for the sake of honour what he knew to be the gravest danger that could ever come to his country and his people. When he had finished he bowed to the Queen, then to the Parliament, and then walked quickly out of the room, while the assembly roared again. The Senators and Deputies swarmed about the King on his way out, cheering and trying to shake him by the hand—and none were more at pains to voice their devotion than the Socialists.
After he had gone the Queen rose, bowed shyly to the assembly, and withdrew with the royal children. She was given a rousing ovation as everybody realised the difficulty of her position and was doubly anxious to show her all their confidence and affection. The whole occasion was moving, but when the little Queen acknowledged the ovation so shyly and so sadly and withdrew, the tears were pretty near the surface—my surface at any rate.
[Illustration: Facsimile of the first page of the German ultimatum to Belgium.
Kaiserlich Bruessel, den 2. August 1914 Deutsche Gesandtschaft in Belgien Tres confidentiel.
Der Kaiserlicher Regierung liegen zuverlaessige Nachrichten vor ueber den beabsichtigten Aufmarsch franzoesischer Streitkraefte an der Maas-Strecke Givet-Namur. Sie lassen keinen Zweifel ueber die Absicht Frankreichs, durch belgisches Gebiet gegen Deutschland vorzugehen.
Die Kaiserliche Regierung kann sich der Besorgniss nicht erwehren, dass Belgien, trotz besten Willens, nicht im Staende sein wird, ohne Hilfe einen franzoesischen Vormarsch mit so grosser Aussicht auf Erfolg abzuwehren, dass darin eine ausreichende Sicherheit gegen die Bedrohung Deutschlands gefunden werden kann. Es ist ein Gebot der Selbsterhaltung fuer Deutschland, dem feindlichen Angriff zuvorzukommen. Mit dem groessten Bedauerns wuerde es daher die deutsche Regierung erfuellen, wenn Belgien einen Akt der Feindseligkeit]
For several minutes after the Queen withdrew the cheering continued. Suddenly a tense silence fell upon the room. M. de Broqueville, the Prime Minister, had mounted the tribune and stood waiting for attention. He was clearly under great stress of emotion, and as the House settled itself to hear him he brushed away the tears that had started to his eyes. He began in a very direct way by saying that he would limit himself to reading a few documents and hoped that, after hearing them, the House would consider the Government worthy of the confidence that had been reposed in it and that immediate action would be taken upon matters of urgent importance. He first read the German ultimatum, which was received quietly but with indignation and anger which was with difficulty suppressed. Without commenting upon the German note, he then read the reply which had been handed to the German Minister. This was followed by a final note delivered by the German Minister this morning stating "that in view of the refusal of the King to accede to the well-intentioned proposals of the Emperor, the Imperial Government, greatly to its regret, was obliged to carry out by force of arms the measures indispensable to its security." After reading these documents he made a short and ringing speech, full of fire, which was repeatedly interrupted by cheers. When he came down from the tribune he was surrounded by cheering Senators and Deputies struggling to shake his hand and express their approval of his speech. Even the Socialists who had fought him for years rose to the occasion and vied with their colleagues in their demonstrations of enthusiasm. Broqueville rose again and said: "In the present crisis we have received from the opposition a whole-hearted support; they have rallied to our side in the most impressive way in preparing the reply to Germany. In order to emphasise this union of all factions, His Majesty the King has just signed a decree appointing Monsieur Vandervelde as a Minister of State." This announcement was greeted by roars of applause from all parts of the House, and Vandervelde was immediately surrounded by Ministers and Deputies anxious to congratulate him. His reply to the Prime Minister's speech was merely a shout above the roar of applause: "I accept."
[Footnote 1: The following is the text of the German ultimatum:
BRUSSELS, August 2, 1914.
Reliable information has been received by the German Government to the effect that French forces intend to march on the line of the Meuse by Givet and Namur. This information leaves no doubt as to the intention of France to march through Belgian territory against Germany.
The German Government cannot but fear that Belgium, in spite of the utmost goodwill, will be unable, without assistance, to repel so considerable a French invasion with sufficient prospect of success to afford an adequate guarantee against danger to Germany. It is essential for the self-defence of Germany that she should anticipate any such hostile attack. The German Government would, however, feel the deepest regret if Belgium regarded as an act of hostility against herself the fact that the measures of Germany's opponents force Germany, for her own protection, to enter Belgian territory.
In order to exclude any possibility of misunderstanding, the German Government make the following declaration:
1. Germany has in view no act of hostility against Belgium. In the event of Belgium being prepared in the coming war to maintain an attitude of friendly neutrality towards Germany, the German Government bind themselves, at the conclusion of peace, to guarantee the possessions and independence of the Belgian Kingdom in full.
2. Germany undertakes, under the above-mentioned condition, to evacuate Belgian territory on the conclusion of peace.
3. If Belgium adopts a friendly attitude, Germany is prepared, in co-operation with the Belgian authorities, to purchase all necessaries for her troops against a cash payment, and to pay an indemnity for any damage that may have been caused by German troops.
4. Should Belgium oppose the German troops, and in particular should she throw difficulties in the way of their march by a resistance of the fortresses on the Meuse, or by destroying railways, roads, tunnels or other similar works, Germany will, to her regret, be compelled to consider Belgium as an enemy.
In this event, Germany can undertake no obligations towards Belgium, but the eventual adjustment of the relations between the two States must be left to the decision of arms.
The German Government, however, entertain the distinct hope that this eventuality will not occur, and that the Belgian Government will know how to take the necessary measures to prevent the occurrence of incidents such as those mentioned. In this case the friendly ties which bind the two neighbouring States will grow stronger and more enduring.]
[Footnote 2: The Belgian Government replied as follows to the German ultimatum:
The German Government stated in their note of the 2nd August, 1914, that according to reliable information French forces intended to march on the Meuse via Givet and Namur, and that Belgium, in spite of the best intentions, would not be in a position to repulse, without assistance, an advance of French troops.
The German Government, therefore, considered themselves compelled to anticipate this attack and to violate Belgian territory. In these circumstances, Germany proposed that the Belgian Government adopt a friendly attitude towards her, and undertook, on the conclusion of peace, to guarantee the integrity of the Kingdom and its possessions to their full extent. The note added that if Belgium put difficulties in the way of the advance of German troops, Germany would be compelled to consider her as an enemy, and to leave the ultimate adjustment of the relations between the two States to the decision of arms.
This note has made a deep and painful impression upon the Belgian Government.
The intentions attributed to France by Germany are in contradiction to the formal declarations made to us on August 1st in the name of the French Government.
Moreover, if contrary to our expectation, Belgian neutrality should be violated by France, Belgium intends to fulfil her international obligations and the Belgian army would offer the most vigorous resistance to the invader.
The treaties of 1839, confirmed by the treaties of 1870, vouch for the independence and neutrality of Belgium under the guarantee of the Powers, and notably of His Majesty the King of Prussia.
Belgium has always been faithful to her international obligations; she has carried out her duties in a spirit of loyal impartiality and she has left nothing undone to maintain and enforce respect for her neutrality.
The attack upon her independence with which the German Government threaten her constitutes a flagrant violation of international law. No strategic interest justifies such a violation of law.
The Belgian Government, if they were able to accept the proposals submitted to them, would sacrifice the honour of the nation and betray their duty towards Europe.
Conscious of the part which Belgium has played for more than eighty years in the civilisation of the world, they refuse to believe that the independence of Belgium can only be preserved at the price of the violation of her neutrality.
If this hope is disappointed the Belgian Government are firmly resolved to repel, by all the means in their power, every attack upon their rights.
Brussels, August 3, 1914 (7 A.M.).]
As we came out, some of the colleagues were gathered about debating whether they should go over to the Palace and ask to take leave of the King. They were saved that labour, however, for the King had stepped into a motor at the door and was already speeding to the General Headquarters which has been set up nobody knows where. That looks like business.
When I got back to the Legation I found von Stumm, Counselor of the German Legation, with the news that his chief had received his passports and must leave at once. He had come to ask that the American Minister take over the care of the German Legation and the protection of the German subjects who had not yet left the country. I said that we could not undertake anything of that sort without authority from Washington, and got the Minister to telegraph for it when he came in from some hurried visits he had made in search of news.
While we were snatching some lunch, von Stumm came back with the German Minister, von Below, and said that some provisional arrangement must be made at once as the staff of the Legation would have to leave for the Dutch frontier in the course of the afternoon—long before we could hope for an answer from Washington. We did not like the idea of doing that sort of thing without the knowledge of Washington, but finally agreed to accept the charge provisionally on grounds of humanity, until such time as we should receive specific instructions as to who would be definitely entrusted with the protection of German interests. In case of need, we shall be asked to take over certain other Legations and shall have our hands more than full.
At five o'clock we went over to the German Legation, which we found surrounded by a heavy detachment of Garde Civique as a measure of protection against violence. We drew up, signed, and sealed a protocol accepting what is known as la garde des clefs et des sceaux, until such time as definite arrangements might be made. The Minister and von Stumm were nearly unstrung. They had been under a great strain for some days and were making no effort to get their belongings together to take them away. They sat on the edge of their chairs, mopped their brows and smoked cigarettes as fast as they could light one from another. I was given a lot of final instructions about things to be done—and all with the statement that they should be done at once, as the German army would doubtless be in Brussels in three days. While we were talking, the chancellor of the Legation, Hofrat Grabowsky, a typical white-haired German functionary, was pottering about with sealing wax and strips of paper, sealing the archives and answering questions in a deliberate and perfectly calm way. It was for all the world like a scene in a play. The shaded room, the two nervous diplomats registering anxiety and strain, the old functionary who was to stay behind to guard the archives and refused to be moved from his calm by the approaching cataclysm. It seemed altogether unreal, and I had to keep bringing myself back to a realisation of the fact that it was only too true and too serious.
They were very ominous about what an invasion means to this country, and kept referring to the army as a steam roller that will leave nothing standing in its path. Stumm kept repeating: "Oh, the poor fools! Why don't they get out of the way of the steam roller. We don't want to hurt them, but if they stand in our way they will be ground into the dirt. Oh, the poor fools!"
The Government had a special train ready for the German diplomatic and consular officers who were to leave, and they got away about seven. Now, thank goodness, they are safely in Holland and speeding back to their own country.
Before leaving, Below gave out word that we would look after German interests, and consequently we have been deluged with frightened people ever since.
All the Germans who have remained here seem to be paralysed with fright, and have for the most part taken refuge in convents, schools, etc. There are several hundreds of them in the German Consulate-General which has been provisioned as for a siege. Popular feeling is, of course, running high against them, and there may be incidents, but so far nothing has happened to justify the panic.
This morning a Belgian priest, the Abbe Upmans, came in to say that he had several hundred Germans under his care and wanted some provision made for getting them away before the situation got any worse.
After talking the matter over with the Minister and getting his instructions, I took the Abbe in tow, and with Monsieur de Leval went to the Foreign Office to see about getting a special train to take these people across the border into Holland and thence to Germany. At first, the suggestion was received with some resentment and I was told flatly that there was no good reason for Belgium to hand over special trains to benefit Germans when every car was needed for military operations. I pleaded that consideration must be shown these helpless people and that this course was just as much in the interest of Belgium as of anybody else, as it would remove the danger of violence with possible reprisals and would relieve the overworked police force of onerous duties. After some argument, Baron Donny went with me to the Surete Publique where we went over the matter again with the Chief. He got the point at once, and joined forces with us in a request to the Minister of Railways for a special train. We soon arranged matters as far as the Belgian frontier. I then telephoned through to The Hague, got Marshal Langhorne and asked him to request the Dutch Government to send another train to the frontier to pick our people up and send them through to Germany. He went off with a right good will to arrange that, and I hope to have an answer in the morning.
We plan to start the train on Friday morning at four o'clock, so as to get our people through the streets when there are few people about. We are making it known that all Germans who wish to leave should put in an appearance by that time, and it looks as though we should have from seven hundred to a thousand to provide for. It will be a great relief to get them off, and I hold my breath until the train is safely gone.
The Belgian Government is making no distinction between Germans, and is letting those liable for military service get away with the others.
Wild stories have begun to circulate about what is bound to happen to Americans and other foreigners when hostilities get nearer to Brussels, and we have had to spend much time that could have been devoted to better things in calming a lot of excitable people of both sexes. I finally dug out the plan of organisation of the foreigners for the Siege of Peking and suggested to the Minister that, in order to give these people something to do and let them feel that something was being done, we should get them together and appoint them all on committees to look after different things. This was done to-day. Committees were appointed to look for a house where Americans could be assembled in case of hostilities in the immediate vicinity of Brussels; to look after the food supply; to attend to catering; to round up Americans and see that they get to the place of refuge when the time comes; to look after destitute Americans, etc. Now they are all happy and working like beavers, although there is little chance that their work will serve any useful purpose aside from keeping them occupied. We got Mrs. Shaler to open up the Students' Club, which had been closed for the summer, so that the colony can have a place to meet and work for the Red Cross and keep its collective mind off the gossip that is flying about.
Last night our cipher telegrams to Washington were sent back from the telegraph office with word that under the latest instructions from the Government they could not be forwarded. The Minister and I hurried over to the Foreign Office, where we found several of the colleagues on the same errand. It was all a mistake, due to the fact that the General Staff had issued a sweeping order to stop all cipher messages without stopping to consider our special case. It was fixed after some debate, and the Minister and I came back to the shop and got off our last telegrams, which were finished at three this morning.
I was back at my desk by a little after eight and have not finished this day's work, although it is after midnight. I have averaged from three to five hours sleep since the trouble began and, strange to say, I thrive on it.
I have called several times to-day at the French and British Legations to get the latest news. They keep as well posted as is possible in the prevailing confusion, and are most generous and kind in giving us everything they properly can.
There seems to have been a serious engagement to-day at Liege, which the Germans are determined to reduce before proceeding toward France. The report is that the attack was well resisted and the Germans driven back with heavy loss. A number of prisoners have been taken and were being brought into Brussels this evening along with the wounded. In the course of the fighting there was a sort of charge of the Light Brigade; one squadron of Belgian Lancers was obliged to attack six times its number of Germans and was cut to pieces, only one officer escaping. The morale of the Belgians is splendid.
This afternoon as the Minister and I were going to call on the British Minister, we passed the King and his staff headed out the Rue de la Loi for the front. They looked like business.
Several times to-day I have talked over the telephone with the Embassy in London. They seem to be as strong on rumours as we are here. One rumour I was able to pass on to Bell was to the effect that the British flagship had been sunk by German mines with another big warship. Another to the effect that five German ships have been destroyed by the French fleet off the coast of Algeria, etc., etc.
The Red Cross is hard at work getting ready to handle the wounded, and everybody is doing something. Nearly everybody with a big house has fitted it in whole or in part as a hospital. Others are rolling bandages and preparing all sorts of supplies.
The military attaches are all going about in uniform now. Each Legation has a flag on its motor and the letters C.D.—which are supposed to stand for Corps Diplomatique, although nobody knows it. I have seized Mrs. Boyd's big car for my own use. D.L. Blount has put his car at the disposal of the Minister and is to drive it himself.
There is talk already of moving the Court and the Government to Antwerp, to take refuge behind the fortifications. When the Germans advance beyond Liege, the Government will, of course, have to go, and the diplomatic corps may follow. It would be a nuisance for us, and I hope we may be able to avoid it.
Germans are having an unhappy time, and I shall be happier when they are across the border. Nothing much seems to have happened to them beyond having a few shops wrecked in Antwerp and one or two people beaten up here. One case that came to my knowledge was an outraged man who had been roughly handled and could not understand why. All he had done was to stand in front of a cafe where the little tables are on the sidewalk and remark: "Talk all the French you can. You'll soon have to talk German." Of course there are a lot of Belgians, Swiss and Dutch who rejoice in good German names and they are not having a pleasant time. One restaurant called Chez Fritz, I saw when coming along the Boulevard this evening, had hung out a blackboard with the proud device: "Fritz est Luxembourgeois, mais sa Maison est Belge." He was taking no chances on having the place smashed.
* * * * *
August 6th.—This morning when I came into the Legation I found the Minister of Justice in top hat and frock coat waiting to see somebody. He had received a report that a wireless station had been established on top of the German Legation and was being run by the people who were left in the building. He came to ask the Minister's consent to send a judge to look, see and draw up a proces verbal. In our own artless little American way we suggested that it might be simpler to go straight over and find out how much there was to the report. The Minister of Justice had a couple of telegraph linemen with him, and as soon as Mr. Whitlock could get his hat, we walked around the corner to the German Legation, rang the bell, told the startled occupants that we wanted to go up to the garret and—up we went.
When we got there we found that the only way onto the roof was by a long perpendicular ladder leading to a trap door. We all scrambled up this—all but the Minister of Justice, who remained behind in the garret with his top hat.
We looked the place over very carefully, and the workmen—evidently in order to feel that they were doing something—cut a few wires which probably resulted in great inconvenience to perfectly harmless people farther along the street. But there was no evidence of a wireless outfit. One of the men started to explain to me how that proved nothing at all; that an apparatus was now made that could be concealed in a hat and brought out at night to be worked. He stopped in the middle of a word, for suddenly we heard the rasping intermittent hiss of a wireless very near at hand. Everybody stiffened up like a lot of pointers, and in a minute had located the plant. It was nothing but a rusty girouette on top of a chimney being turned by the wind and scratching spitefully at every turn. The discovery eased the strain and everybody laughed.
Then there was another sound, and we all turned around to see a trap door raised and the serene, bemonocled face of my friend Cavalcanti looked out on us in bewilderment. In our search we had strayed over onto the roof of the Brazilian Legation. It seemed to cause him some surprise to see us doing second-story work on their house. It was a funny situation—but ended in another laugh. It is a good thing we can work in a laugh now and then.
The day was chiefly occupied with perfecting arrangements for getting off our German refugees. The Minister wished the job on me, and I with some elements of executive ability myself gave the worst part of it to Nasmith, the Vice-Consul-General. Modifications became necessary every few minutes, and Leval and I were running around like stricken deer all day, seeing the disheartening number of government officials who were concerned, having changes made and asking for additional trains. During the afternoon more and more Germans came pouring into the Consulate for refuge, until there were over two thousand of them there, terribly crowded and unhappy. Several convents were also packed, and we calculated that we should have two or three thousand to get out of the country. In the morning the Legation was besieged by numbers of poor people who did not know which way to turn and came to us because they had been told that we would take care of them. We were all kept busy; and Leval, smothering his natural feelings, came out of his own accord and talked and advised and calmed the frightened people in their own language. None of us would have asked him to do it, but he was fine enough to want to help and to do it without any fuss.
A crowd of curious people gathered outside the Legation to watch the callers, and now and then they boo-ed a German. I looked out of the window in time to see somebody in the crowd strike at a poor little worm of a man who had just gone out the door. He was excited and foolish enough to reach toward his hip pocket as though for a revolver. In an instant the crowd fell on him; and although Gustave, the messenger, and I rushed out we were just in time to pull him inside and slam the door before they had a chance to polish him off. Gustave nearly had his clothes torn off in the scrimmage, but stuck to his job. An inspired idiot of an American tourist who was inside tried to get the door open and address the crowd in good American, and I had to handle him most undiplomatically to keep him from getting us all into trouble. The crowd thumped on the door a little in imitation of a mob scene, and the Garde Civique had to be summoned on the run from the German Legation to drive them back and establish some semblance of order. Then de Leval and I went out and talked to the crowd—that is to say, we went out and he talked to the crowd. He told them very reasonably that they were doing harm to Belgium, as actions of this sort might bring reprisals which would cost the country dear, and that they must control their feelings. He sounded the right note so successfully that the crowd broke up with a cheer.
Orders have been issued to permit us free use of the telephone and telegraph, although they have been cut for everybody else. Yesterday afternoon I talked with the Consulates at Ghent and Antwerp. They were both having their troubles with Germans who wanted to get out of the country. I told them to send everybody up here and let them report at their own consulate, where they will be looked after.
The Government is taking no chances of having trouble because of the doings of francs-tireurs. The Minister of the Interior sent out, on the 4th, a circular to every one of the 2,700 communes in the country to be posted everywhere. The circular points out in simple and emphatic terms the duty of civilians to refrain from hostile acts and makes it clear that civilians might be executed for such acts. Aside from this, every newspaper in the country has printed the following notice signed by the Minister of the Interior:
The Minister of the Interior advises civilians, in case the enemy should show himself in their district:
Not to fight;
To utter no insulting or threatening words;
To remain within their houses and close the windows, so that it will be impossible to allege that there has been any provocation;
To evacuate any houses or small village which may be occupied by soldiers in order to defend themselves, so that it cannot be alleged that civilians have fired;
An act of violence committed by a single civilian would be a crime for which the law provides arrest and punishment. It is all the more reprehensible in that it might serve as a pretext for measures of repression resulting in bloodshed and pillage or the massacre of the innocent population with women and children.
In the course of the afternoon we got our telegrams telling of the appropriation by Congress of two and a half millions for the relief of Americans in Europe, and the despatch of the Tennessee with the money on board. Now all hands want some of the money and a cabin on the Tennessee to go home in.
——, the Wheat King, came into the Legation this morning and was very grateful because we contrived to cash out of our own pockets a twenty-dollar express check for him. He was flat broke with his pocket bulging with checks and was living in a pension at six francs a day. There is going to be a lot of discomfort and suffering unless some money is made available pretty soon. The worst of it is that this is the height of the tourist season and Europe is full of school-teachers and other people who came over for short trips with meager resources carefully calculated to get them through their traveling and home again by a certain date. If they are kept long they are going to be in a bad way. One of our American colony here, Heineman, had a goodly store of currency and had placed it at the disposal of the Legation, to be used in cashing at face value travelers' checks and other similar paper which bankers will not touch now with a pair of tongs. Shaler has taken charge of that end of the business and has all the customers he can handle. Heineman will have to bide his time to get any money back on all his collection of paper, and his contribution has meant a lot to people who will never know who helped them.
There was a meeting of the diplomatic corps last night to discuss the question of moving with the Court to Antwerp in certain eventualities. It is not expected that the Government will move unless and until the Germans get through Liege and close enough to threaten Louvain, which is only a few miles out of Brussels. There was no unanimous decision on the subject, but if the Court goes, the Minister and I will probably take turns going up, so as to keep in communication with the Government. There is not much we can accomplish there, and we have so much to do here that it will be hard for either of us to get away. It appeals to some of the colleagues to take refuge with a Court in distress, but I can see little attraction in the idea of settling down inside the line of forts and waiting for them to be pounded with heavy artillery.
Liege seems to be holding out still. The Belgians have astonished everybody, themselves included. It was generally believed even here that the most they could do was to make a futile resistance and get slaughtered in a foolhardy attempt to defend their territory against invasion. They have, however, held off a powerful German attack for three or four days. It is altogether marvelous. All papers have the head lines: "Les forts tiennent toujours."
In the course of the afternoon we arranged definitely that at three o'clock this morning there should be ample train accommodations ready at the Gare du Nord to get our Germans out of the country. Nasmith and I are to go down and observe the entire proceedings, so that we can give an authoritative report afterward.
There is a German-American girl married to a German who lives across the street from me. I sent her word to-day that she and her husband and little boy had better get away while there was a way open. Last evening while we were at dinner at the Legation the three of them arrived in a panic. They had heard that there was a mob of ten thousand people about the German Consulate about to break in and kill every German in the place. Of course they could not be persuaded to go near the Consulate or any of the other refuges. They wanted to settle down and stay at the Legation. As the Minister was on his way out to the meeting of the corps, the woman waylaid him, had got down on her knees and kissed his hand and groveled and had hysterics. He called for me and we got them quieted down. I finally agreed to go down to the Consulate and take a look so as to reassure them.
When I got there I found that the streets had been barred off by the military for two blocks in every direction, and that there was only a small crowd gathered to see what might happen. About as hostile as a lot of children. I got through the line of troops and in front of the Consulate found several hundreds of the refugees who had been brought out to be marched to the Cirque Royale, where they could be more comfortably lodged until it was time to start for the train. They were surrounded by placid Gardes Civiques and were all frightened to death. They had had nothing to do for days but talk over the terrible fate that awaited them if the bloodthirsty population of Brussels ever got at them; the stories had grown so that the crowd had hypnotised itself and was ready to credit any yarn. The authorities showed the greatest consideration they could under their orders. They got the crowd started and soon had them stowed away inside the Cirque Royale, an indoor circus near the Consulate. Once they got inside, a lot of them gave way to their feelings and began to weep and wail in a way that bade fair to set off the entire crowd. One of the officers came out to where I was and begged me to come in and try my hand at quieting them. I climbed up on a trunk and delivered an eloquent address to the effect that nobody had any designs on them; that the whole interest of the Belgian Government lay in getting them safely across the frontier; called their attention to the way the Garde Civique was working to make them comfortable, and to reassure them, promised that I would go with them to the station, put them on their trains, and see them safely off for the frontier. That particular crowd cheered up somewhat, but I could not get near enough to be heard by the entire outfit at one time, so one of the officers dragged me around from one part of the building to another until I had harangued the entire crowd on the instalment plan. They all knew that we were charged with their interests, and there was nearly a riot when I wanted to leave. They expected me to stay right there until they were taken away.
I came back to the Legation and told my people that the way was clear and that they had nothing to worry about. Mrs. Whitlock and Miss Larner had taken the family in hand, were petting the baby boy, and had them all cheered up to a sensible state of mind. I got them into the motor and whisked them down to the lines that were drawn about the block. Here we were stopped and, sooner than undertake a joint debate with the sentry, I was for descending and going the rest of the way on foot. When a few of the idly curious gathered about the car, the woman nearly had a fit and scrambled back into the car almost in spasms. Of course the scene drew some more people and we soon had a considerable crowd. I gathered up the boy—who was a beauty and not at all afraid—and took him out of the car. There was in the front rank an enormous Belgian with a fiercely bristling beard. He looked like a sane sort, so I said to him: "Expliquez a ces gens que vous n'etes pas des ogres pour croquer les enfants." He growled out affably: "Mais non, on ne mange pas les enfants, ni leurs meres," and gathered up the baby and passed him about for the others to look at. My passengers then decided that they were not in such mortal danger and consented to get out. An officer I knew came along and offered to escort them inside. On the way in I ran into Madame Carton de Wiart, wife of the Minister of Justice, who was there to do what she could to make things run smoothly. She is rabid about the Germans, but is not for taking it out on these helpless people. And that seems to be the spirit of everybody, although it would be quite understandable if they showed these people some of their resentment. The Gardes were bestirring themselves to look after their charges. Some of them had contributed their pocket money and had bought chocolate and milk for the children and mineral waters and other odds and ends for those that needed them. And some of them are not very sure as to how long they will have pocket money for themselves. Aside from the fright and the heat and the noise of that crowd in the Cirque, it was all pretty depressing. During the night one old man died—probably from fright and shock—and a child was born. It was altogether a night of horror that could perfectly well have been avoided if people had only been able to keep calm and stay at home until time for the train to leave.
Having settled my charges and taken a look round, I went back to the Legation and got off some telegrams and talked with Bell over the telephone. He had a lot of news that we had not received and many errands to be done for people who had friends and relatives here.
A little after midnight friend Nasmith came along and we set out together for our rounds. We first took a look at one or two places and then went to my diggings for a sandwich and such rest as we could get before time to start on our round-up. Soon after midnight, Fortescue came rolling up in a cab looking for a place to lay his head. He had just come in from Liege, where he had had a close view of yesterday morning's heavy fighting. He said the Germans were pouring men in between the forts in solid formation, and that these sheep were being mown down by the Belgians heavily intrenched between the forts. The Germans are apparently determined to get some of their men through between the forts and are willing to pay the price, whatever it may be. To-day we hear that the Germans have asked for an armistice of twenty-four hours to bury their dead.
After we had hung upon his words as long as he could keep going, Nasmith and I got under way to look after our exodus. The Garde was keeping order at all places where there were refugees, and I was easy in my mind about that; my only worry was as to what might happen when we got our people out into the streets. Promptly at three o'clock we began to march them out of the Cirque. The hour was carefully chosen as the one when there were the least possible people in the streets; the evening crowds would have gone home and the early market crowd would hardly have arrived. A heavy guard was thrown around the people as they came out of the building and they were marched quickly and quietly down back streets to the Gare du Nord. I never saw such a body of people handled so quickly and yet without confusion. In the station four trains were drawn up side by side; as the stream of people began pouring into the station, it was directed to the first platform and the train was filled in a few minutes. At just the right moment the stream was deflected to the next platform, and so on until all four trains were filled. After starting the crowd into the station and seeing that there was going to be no trouble, I set off with an officer of the Garde Civique to see about other parties coming from some of the convents. They had not waited for us, but were already moving, so that when we got back to the station they tacked onto the end of the first party and kept the stream flowing.
As fast as the trains were filled, the signal was given and they pulled out silently. I stood behind some of the Garde Civique and watched the crowd pour in. The Gardes did not know who I was aside from the fact that my presence seemed to be countenanced by their officers, and so I overheard what they had to say. They were a decent lot and kept saying: Mais c'est malheureux tout de meme! Regardez donc ces pauvres gens. Ce n'est pas de leur faute, and a lot more of that sort of thing.
It takes a pretty fine spirit to be able to treat the enemy that way. A lot of people in the passing crowd spotted me and stopped to say good-bye or called out as they went by. It was pathetic to see how grateful they were for the least kind word. I never saw such a pitiful crowd in my life and hope I never may again. They hurried along, looking furtively to right and left with the look of a rat that is in fear of his life. I have seldom pitied people more, for that sort of fear must be the most frightful there is—simple fear of physical violence.
It was remarkable to see the different classes of people who were there. The Manager of a bank of Brussels had abandoned everything he owned and joined the crowd. There were several financiers of standing who felt obliged to flee with their families. And there were lots of servants who had lived here for years and were really Belgian in everything but birth. Just before the last train left some closed wagons came from the prisons to bring a lot of Germans and wish them back on their own country in this way.
And there was not an incident. Here and there a prowling cab driver hooted, but there was not a stone thrown or any other violence. Before the last of the procession got into the station, it was nearly six o'clock and broad daylight. We moved up the platform with Major Dandoy and watched the last train leave. The Abbe Upmans was there through it all, working like a trump, bucking the people up; he did not stop until the last train pulled out into the fresh summer morning, and then he stayed aboard after the train was in motion to shake hands with a little handful of downhearted people. He shook himself and heaved a sigh of relief—remarking quietly that his duty had required him to go through all this and look after his charges while they were in trouble—but that now he might have the satisfaction of being a Belgian. I too heaved a sigh of relief, but it was because the mob was safely off and I need not worry about street fighting.
Dandoy had not had any sleep for nearly sixty hours, and though Nasmith and I were pretty tired ourselves, we thought the least we could do was to take him home. His family is in Liege and he has not been able to get any word from them. I offered to try a telephone message to the Consul at Liege, but have had no luck with it. None the less, Dandoy has been most grateful.
Before we left the station they began bringing in the wounded and prisoners. Most of the wounded I saw were not badly hurt, and were plucky and confident. Most of them were supported or led by Boy Scouts who have taken off the military the full burden of messenger work and a lot of other jobs. They are being of real value, as they can do lots of useful things and thereby release grown men for service at the front.
When I got back to the Rue St. Boniface—after stopping at the Legation to see what had come in—had just time to throw myself down for a twenty-minute rest before the slave came in with my coffee. And then with no time for a tub, I had to hurry back and get into the harness. And none too soon, for the work began to pour in and I have been kept on the jump all day. If all goes well I hope to get to bed some time after midnight to-night. That means about three hours sleep and hard going during the past forty-eight hours.
This morning the various American committees came to the Legation to report on the measures they have taken for the protection of the colony in case of danger. I have been handed the pleasant task of Chief of Staff, with full authority to settle all matters affecting the protection of Americans in case hostilities reach this part of the country, as seems may well be the case before many days. In harmony with my well-known policy of passing the buck—more politely known as executive ability—I impressed Major Boyer of the Army, who is here for the time. He has set up an office at the headquarters of the committee and makes it his business to keep me fully posted as to what is going on there. First I started him out to look at the various houses that have been under discussion by the committee, so that he could decide as to their relative accessibility and general strategic advantages. He did this and made all sorts of arrangements tending to co-ordinate the work of the various sub-committees along the lines of the plan we drew up. It will be a great thing to have somebody who will act as buffer for all the detail and relieve me of just that much.
Germans who for one reason or another had not got away on our train kept turning up all day, and we kept sending them along to the Consulate. Late this afternoon the hard-working Nasmith came in to say that there were already seven hundred of them gathered there. We shall have to have another special train for day after to-morrow morning, and hope to get most of the remaining Germans out of harm's way by that time.
The Belgians continue to be a surprise. At last accounts they were still holding the forts at Liege. The French appear to have established themselves along the Meuse and to be ready for the attack when it comes. Where the British troops are, nobody here seems to know—and, strange to say, they are not advertising their whereabouts. There are plenty of people who have had confidential tips from their cook's brother, who lives in the country and has seen them with his own eyes. According to such stories they are all landed at Ostend and are being hurried across the country through Malines. Another story is that they have been shipped through to Liege in closed freight cars to outwit German spies, and that they are now in the thick of it. According to still another of these confidential fellows, they have been shipped through Brussels itself in the night and we were unaware when they passed under our very windows. You can choose any story you like and get an audience with it these days.
To-day's mouth-to-mouth news is that the French have fought a big battle near St. Hubert and repulsed the Germans with heavy losses. This has about as much confirmation as the reports as to the whereabouts of the British army.
To-day trains have been coming in all day with wounded from Liege, and the lot—Belgian and German—are being cared for by the Red Cross. The Palace has been turned into a hospital, and the Queen has taken over the supervision of it. Nearly every big hotel in town has turned its dining-room into a ward, and guests are required to have their meals in their rooms. Some of the big department stores have come up finely in outfitting hospitals and workrooms, clearing out their stocks, and letting profits go hang for the time being. The International Harvester Company cleared its offices here and installed twenty-five beds—informing the Red Cross that it would take care of the running expenses as long as the war lasts. The hospital facilities have grown far faster than the wounded have come in, and there is an element of humour in the rush of eager women who go to the station and almost fight for the wounded as they are brought off the trains.
I impressed the services of several people to help out to-day, but the most valuable are two crack stenographers who have been turned over to us by business firms here. By dint of labouring with them all morning and afternoon and seeing as few people as possible, I have managed to clean up my desk, so that I can go to bed with a clear conscience to-night when I have got through my call to London.
* * * * *
Brussels, August 8, 1914.—To-day our new organisation is working like clockwork. In Cruger's formerly calm chancery there are five typewriters pounding away, and at the committee rooms there are swarms of people working to take care of odds and ends. Monsieur de Leval has a table at one side of my room, and the committee relieves us of the people who want information and those who want to talk.
* * * * *
Sunday, August 9th.—I got this far when the roof fell in last night. During the afternoon yesterday I got out to attend to a few odds and ends of errands—and, as always happens when I go out, things began to happen. I came back to find the Minister and de Leval wrestling with a big one.
A curious telegram had come from The Hague, quoting the text of a message which the German Government desired us to present to the Belgian Government. Here it is in translation, a truly German message:
The fortress of Liege has been taken by assault after a brave defense. The German Government most deeply regret that bloody encounters should have resulted from the attitude of the Belgian Government toward Germany. Germany is not coming as an enemy into Belgium; it is only through the force of circumstances that she has had, owing to the military measures of France, to take the grave decision of entering Belgium and occupying Liege as a base for her further military operations. Now that the Belgian army has upheld the honour of its arms by its heroic resistance to a very superior force, the German Government beg the King of the Belgians and the Belgian Government to spare Belgium further horrors of war. The German Government are ready for any compact with Belgium which can be reconciled with their conflicts with France. Germany once more gives her solemn assurance that it is not her intention to appropriate Belgian territory to herself and that such an intention is far from her thoughts. Germany is still ready to evacuate Belgium as soon as the state of war will allow her to do so.
Of course we were loath to present anything of the sort, but the thing had to be handled carefully. After some pow-wowing I went over to the Foreign Office with the message and saw Baron van der Elst. I told him seriously that we had received a very remarkable telegram which purported to contain a message from the German Government; that it bore no marks of authenticity, and that we were not sure as to its source; but that we felt that we should be lacking in frankness if we did not show him what we had received. He seized the message and read it through, his amazement and anger growing with each line. When he had finished, he gasped for a minute or two and then led me into the next room to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, M. Davignon, to whom he translated the telegram aloud. When they had finished discussing the message and I had a pretty clear idea as to the Belgian attitude toward the proposal—not that I had had any real doubt—I asked him: "If the American Minister had delivered this message what would have been its reception?" Without an instant's hesitation, M. Davignon replied: "We should have resented his action and should have declined to receive the communication."
That was all I wanted to know and I was ready to go back to the Legation.
I took Baron van der Elst home in the car and had the pleasure of seeing him explain who he was to several Gardes Civiques, who held up the car from time to time. He was very good-natured about it, and only resented the interruptions to what he was trying to say. His son is in the army and he has no news of him. As he got out of the car he remarked that if it were not so horrible, the mere interest of events would be enough to make these days wonderful.
When I got back to the Legation and reported the result of my visit, we went to work and framed a telegram to Washington, giving the text of the German message, explaining that we had nothing to prove its authenticity and adding that we had reason to believe that the Belgian Government would not accept it. The same message was sent to The Hague. This pleasant exercise with the code kept us going until four in the morning. Eugene, the wonder chauffeur, had no orders, but curled up on the front seat of his car and waited to take me home. He was also on hand when I got up a couple of hours later, to take me back to the Legation. Chauffeurs like that are worth having.
When I came in this morning the place was packed with Germans. Some cheerful idiot had inserted a notice in the papers that all Germans were to be run out of the country, and that they should immediately apply to the American Legation. As the flood poured in, Leval got on the telephone to the Surete Publique and found out the true facts. Then we posted a notice in the hall. But that was not enough. As is always the case with humans, they all knew better than to pay any attention to what the notice said and each one of the hundred or more callers had some reason to insist on talking it over with somebody. When they once got hold of one of us, it was next to impossible to get away without listening to the whole story of their lives. All they had to do was to go down to the German Consulate-General, where we had people waiting to tell them all there was to know. It was hard to make them realise that by taking up all our time in this way, they were preventing us from doing things that were really necessary to serve them in more important matters. I said as much to several of them, who were unusually long-winded, but every last one replied that HIS case was different and that he must be heard out at length.
Our refugee train left this morning and took eight hundred more of the poor people. Where they all turn up from, I don't know, but each day brings us a fresh and unexpected batch. Many of the cases are very sad, but if we stop to give sympathy in every deserving case, we should never get anything practical done for them.
To-day's budget of news is that the French have got to Mulhouse and have inflicted a decisive defeat upon the Germans. According to reports, the Alsatians went mad when the French troops crossed the frontier for the first time in forty-four years. They tore up and burned the frontier posts and generally gave way to transports of joy. I would have given a lot to see the crowds in Paris.
A letter came yesterday from Omer, the legation footman, who is at Tirlemont with the artillery. He said he had not yet been hit, although he had heard the bullets uncomfortably near. He wound up by saying that he had beaucoup de courage—and I believe him.
It seems that some of the German troops did not know what they were attacking and thought they were in France. When brought here as prisoners, some of them expressed surprise to find that Paris was so small. They seem to have thought that they were in France and the goal not far away.
The King to-day received through other channels the message from the Emperor of Germany in regard to peace, which we declined to transmit. I have not seen its text, but hear it is practically identical with the message sent us, asking the King to name his conditions for the evacuation of Liege and the abandonment of his allies, so that Germany may be entirely free of Belgian opposition in her further operations against France. I have heard among Belgians only the most indignant comments on the proposal and look forward with interest to seeing the answer of the King, which should appear to-morrow.
[Footnote 3: The Belgian reply, which was sent on August 12th through the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Affairs, is as follows:
The proposal made to us by the German Government repeats the proposal which was formulated in the ultimatum of August 2nd. Faithful to her international obligations, Belgium can only reiterate her reply to that ultimatum, the more so as since August 3rd, her neutrality has been violated, a distressing war has been waged on her territory, and the guarantors of her neutrality have responded loyally and without delay to her appeal.]
The town is most warlike in appearance. There is hardly a house in the town that does not display a large Belgian flag. It looks as though it were bedecked for a fiesta. Here and there are French and British flags, but practically no others. Every motor in town flies a flag or flags at the bow. We fly our own, but none the less, the sentries, who are stationed at all the corners dividing the chief quarters of the town and before all the Ministries and other public buildings, stop us and demand the papers of the chauffeur and each passenger in the car. We have passports and all sorts of other papers, but that was not enough, and we finally had to be furnished by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs with a special laisser-passer. This afternoon I slipped out for a breath of air and was held up and told that even that was no good until I had had it vised by the military authorities. It is said that these strict measures are the result of the discovery of a tremendous spy system here. According to the stories which are told, but of which we have little confirmation, spies are being picked up all the time in the strangest disguises.
The gossip and "inside news" that is imparted to us is screamingly funny—some of it.
Yesterday, according to one of these yarns, four nuns arriving at the Gare du Midi were followed for some time and finally arrested. When searched, they proved to be young German officers who had adopted that dress in order to conceal carrier pigeons which they were about to deliver in Brussels. Wireless outfits are said to have been discovered in several houses belonging to Germans. I cannot remember all the yarns that are going about, but even if a part of them are true, it should make interesting work for those who are looking for the spies. The regular arrests of proven spies have been numerous enough to turn every Belgian into an amateur spy-catcher. Yesterday afternoon Burgomaster Max was chased for several blocks because somebody raised a cry of "Espion" based on nothing more than his blond beard and chubby face. I am just as glad not to be fat and blond these days.
Yesterday afternoon a Garde Civique came in with the announcement that the chancellor and clerks of the German Legation, who were locked up there, were in dire distress; that a baby had been born the day before to the wife of the concierge, and that all sorts of troubles had come upon them. Leval, who had announced that his heart was infinitely hardened against all Germans, was almost overcome by the news of a suffering baby and ran like a lamp-lighter to get around there and help out. When we arrived, however, we found them all beaming and happy. The baby had been born some days before and the mother was up and about before the Legation had been closed. Their meals are sent in from a neighbouring restaurant, and they are perfectly contented to bide their time as they are. They had orders from Berlin not to leave the Legation, so it made little difference to them whether they were blockaded by the Belgian authorities or not. I shall drop in every day or two and see whether there is anything I can do to lighten their gloom. Of course their telephone was cut off and they are not allowed to receive mail or papers, so they are consumed with curiosity about developments. It was, of course, necessary to refuse to answer their questions about what was going on and to make assurance doubly sure, I had the Garde Civique stand by me while I talked with them.