[Transcriber's Notes] Chapter numbers and subheading are both Roman numerals. The chapter headings are preceded with the word "Chapter".
Text has been moved to avoid breaking sentences across page boundaries.
Other Gutenberg books on World War I are:
This is a list of unfamiliar (to me) words.
apologue Moral fable; an allegory.
arbitral Relating to arbiters or arbitration.
Belial Spirit of evil personified; the devil; Satan; worthlessness.
billet-doux Love letter.
chatelaine Mistress of a castle or fashionable household. Clasp or chain for holding keys, trinkets, etc., worn at the waist by women; woman's lapel ornament resembling this.
confabulations Conversation; discussion.
Credat Judaeus Apella! [non ego] "Let the Jew Apella believe it; not I". Roughly, "tell it to someone else, not me."
escutcheon Shield or similar surface showing a coat of arms.
flagitious Shamefully wicked, persons, actions, or times. Heinous or flagrant crime;
grandiloquently Speaking or expressed in a lofty style; pompous, bombastic, turgid, pretentious.
identic Identical in form, as when two or more governments deal simultaneously with another government.
lycanthropy In folklore, ability to assume the form and characteristics of a wolf.
Mare Liberum Body of navigable water to which all nations have unrestricted access.
mendax Given to lying.
miching mallecho Sneaky mischief.
Mittel-Europa German term approximately equal to Central Europe.
non possumus We cannot.
obeisance Movement of the body showing respect or deferential courtesy; bow, curtsy, or similar gesture.
passier-scheine Pass; permit.
persona grata Acceptable person or diplomatic representative.
poilus French soldier, especially in World War I.
Potsdam Capital city of the federal state of Brandenburg in Germany, southwest of Berlin. Berlin was the official capital of Prussia and later of the German Empire, but the court remained in nearby Potsdam, and many government officials also settled in Potsdam. The city lost this status as a second capital in 1918, when World War I ended and the emperor Wilhelm II was deposed.
refractory (persons) Hard or impossible to manage; stubbornly disobedient.
sagacity Sound judgment.
schmuck Obnoxious, contemptible, clumsy or stupid person.
schrecklichkeit Frightfulness; horror.
soubrette Maidservant in a play displaying coquetry, pertness, and a tendency to engage in intrigue. Flirtatious or frivolous young woman.
trepanning Using a small circular saw with a center pin mounted on a strong hollow metal shaft that is attached a transverse handle: used in surgery to remove circular disks of bone from the skull.
ululation Howl, as a dog or a wolf; hoot, as an owl; to lament loudly and shrilly.
Vallombrosa Resort in central Italy, near Florence; a famous abbey.
vicegerent Person appointed by a head of state to act as an administrative deputy.
voluble Continuous flow of words; fluent; glib; talkative: articulate, garrulous, loquacious.
[End Transcriber's Notes]
BY HENRY VAN DYKE Fighting for Peace The Unknown Quantity The Ruling Passion The Blue Flower ——————————— Out-of-Doors in the Holy Land Days Off Little Rivers Fisherman's Luck ——————————- Poems, Collection in one volume ——————————- The Red Flower The Grand Canyon, and Other Poems The White Bees, and Other Poems The Builders, and Other Poems Music, and Other Poems The Toiling of Felix, and Other Poems The House of Rimmon
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
FIGHTING FOR PEACE
BY HENRY VAN DYKE D.C.L. (OXFORD) RECENTLY UNITED STATES MINISTER TO HOLLAND
NEW YORK CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 1917
Copyright, 1917, by Charles Scribner's Sons Published November, 1917
I. FAIR-WEATHER AND STORM SIGNS
III. THE WERWOLF AT LARGE
IV. GERMAN MENDAX
V. A DIALOGUE ON PEACE BETWEEN A HOUSEHOLDER AND A BURGLAR
VI. STAND FAST, YE FREE!
VII. PAX HUMANA
This brief series of chapters is not a tale
"Of moving accidents by flood and field, Of hair-breadth 'scapes i' the imminent deadly breach."
Some dangers I have passed through during the last three years, but nothing to speak of.
Nor is it a romance in the style of those thrilling novels of secret diplomacy which I peruse with wonder and delight in hours of relaxation, chiefly because they move about in worlds regarding which I have no experience and little faith.
There is nothing secret or mysterious about the American diplomatic service, so far as I have known it. Of course there are times when, like every other honestly and properly conducted affair, it does not seek publicity in the newspapers. That, I should suppose, must always be a fundamental condition of frank and free conversation between governments as between gentlemen. There is a certain kind of reserve which is essential to candor.
But American diplomacy has no picturesque meetings at midnight in the gloom of lonely forests; no confabulations in black cellars with bands of hireling desperadoes waiting to carry out its decrees; no disguises, no masks, no dark lanterns—nothing half so exciting and melodramatic. On the contrary, it is amazingly plain and straightforward, with plenty of hard work, but always open and aboveboard. That is the rule for the diplomatic service of the United States.
Its chief and constant aims are known to all men. First, to maintain American principles and interests, and to get a fair showing for them in the world. Second, to preserve and advance friendly relations and intercourse with the particular nation to which the diplomat is sent. Third, to promote a just and firm and free peace throughout the world, so that democracy everywhere may live without fear.
It was the last of these three aims that acted as the main motive in my acceptance of President Wilson's invitation to go out as American Minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg in the summer of 1913. It was pleasant, of course, to return for a while to the land from which my ancestors came so long ago. It seemed also that some useful and interesting work might be done to forward the common interests and ideals of the United States and the Netherlands—that brave, liberty-loving nation from which our country learned and received so much in its beginnings—and in particular that there might be opportunity for co-operation in the Far East, where the Dutch East Indies and the Philippines are next-door neighbors. But the chief thing that drew me to Holland was the desire to promote the great work of peace which had been begun by the International Peace Conferences at The Hague. This indeed was what the President especially charged me to do.
Two conferences had already been held and had accomplished much. But their work was incomplete. It lacked firm attachments and sanctions. It was left to a certain extent "hanging in the air." It needed just those things which the American delegates to the Conference of 1907 had advocated—the establishment of a Permanent Court of Arbitral Justice; an International Prize Court; an agreement for the protection of private property at sea in time of war; the further study and discussion of the question of the reduction of armaments by the nations; and so on. Most of these were the things of which Germany had hitherto prevented the attainment. A third International Peace Conference was necessary to secure and carry on the work of the first two. The President told me to do all that I properly could to forward the assembling of that conference in the Palace of Peace at the earliest possible date.
So I went to Holland as an envoy of the world-peace founded on justice which is America's great desire. For that cause I worked and strove. Of that cause I am still a devoted follower and servant. I am working for it now, but with a difference. It is evident that we cannot maintain that cause, as the world stands to-day, without fighting for it. And after it is won, it will need protection. It must be Peace with Righteousness and Power.
The following chapters narrate some of the experiences—things seen and heard and studied during my years of service abroad—which have forced me to this conclusion. To the articles which were published in Scribner's Magazine for September, October, and November, 1917, I have added two short chapters on the cause of the war and the kind of peace America is fighting for.
The third peace conference is more needed, more desirable, than ever. But we shall never get it until the military forces of Germany are broken, and the predatory Potsdam gang which rules them is brought low.
FAIR-WEATHER AND STORM SIGNS
It takes a New England farmer to note and interpret the signs of coming storm on a beautiful and sunny day. Perhaps his power is due in part to natural sharpness, and in part to the innate pessimism of the Yankee mind, which considers the fact that the hay is cut but not yet in the barn a sufficient reason for believing that "it'll prob'ly rain t'morrow."
I must confess that I had not enough of either of these qualities to be observant and fearful of the presages of the oncoming tempest which lurked in the beautiful autumn and winter of 1913-14 in Europe. Looking back at them now, I can see that the signs were ominous. But anybody can be wise after the event, and the role of a reminiscent prophet is too easy to be worth playing.
Certainly all was bright and tranquil when we rolled through the pleasant land of France and the rich cities of Belgium, and came by ship-thronged Rotterdam to The Hague in the first week of October, 1913. Holland was at her autumnal best. Wide pastures wonderfully green were full of drowsy, contented cattle. The level brown fields and gardens were smoothly ploughed and harrowed for next year's harvest, and the vast tulip-beds were ready to receive the little gray bulbs which would overflow April with a flood-tide of flowers. On the broad canals innumerable barges and sloops and motor-boats were leisurely passing, and on the little side-canals and ditches which drained the fields the duckweed spread its pale-emerald carpet undisturbed. In the woods—the tall woods of Holland—the elms and the lindens were putting on frosted gold, and the massy beeches glowed with ruddy bronze in the sunlight. The quaint towns and villages looked at themselves in the waters at their feet and were content. Slowly the long arms of the windmills turned in the suave and shimmering air. Everybody, in city and country, seemed to be busy without haste. And overhead, the luminous cloud mountains—the poor man's Alps—marched placidly with the wind from horizon to horizon.
The Hague—that "largest village in Europe," that city of three hundred thousand inhabitants set in the midst of a park, that seat of government which does not dare to call itself the capital because Amsterdam is jealous—was in especially good form and humor, looking forward to a winter of unhurried gayety and feasting such as the Hollanders love. The new Palace of Peace, given by Mr. Andrew Carnegie for the use of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and its auxiliary bodies, had been opened with much ceremony in September. Situated before the entrance of that long, tree-embowered avenue which is called the Old Scheveningen Road, the edifice has an imposing exterior although a mixture of architects in the process of building has given it something the look of a glorified railway station. But the interior is altogether dignified and splendid, more palatial, in fact, than any of the royal residences. It is lined with costly marbles, rare Eastern woods, wonderful Japanese tapestries, and adorned with gifts from all the nations, except the United States, which had promised to give a marble statue representing "Peace through Justice," to be placed on the central landing of the great Stairway of Honor, the most conspicuous position in the whole building. The promise had been standing for some years, but not the statue. One of my first minor tasks at The Hague was to see to it that active steps were taken at Washington to fulfil this promise, and to fill this empty place which waits for the American sculpture.
Meantime the rich collection of books on international law was being arranged and classified in the library under the learned direction of M. Alberic Rolin. The late roses were blooming abundantly in the broad gardens of the palace. Thousands of visitors were coming every day to see this new wonder of the world, the royal house of "Vrede door Recht."
Queen Wilhelmina was still at her country palace, Het Loo, in Gelderland. It was about the middle of October that I was invited there to lunch and to have my first audience with Her Majesty, and to present my letter of credence as American Minister.
The journey of three or four hours was made in company with the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonkheer Loudon, who represented the Netherlands at Washington for several years and is an intelligent and warm friend of the United States, and the Japanese Minister, Mr. Aimaro Sato, a very agreeable gentleman (and, by the way, an ardent angler), who now represents Japan at Washington. He talked a little, and with great good sense and feeling, of the desirability of a better understanding and closer relations between the United States and Japan. I liked what he said and the way he said it. But most of our conversation on that pleasant journey, it must be confessed, was personal and anecdotic—fish-stories not excluded.
The ceremony of presenting the letter of credence, which I had rather dreaded, was in fact quite simple and easy. I handed to Her Majesty the commendatory epistle of the President (beginning, as usual, "Great and good friend") and made a short speech in English, according to the regulations. The Queen, accepting the letter, made a brief friendly reply in French, which is the language of the court, and passed at once into an informal conversation in English. She speaks both languages fluently and well. Her first inquiry, according to royal custom, was about family matters; the number of the children; the health of the household; the finding of a comfortable house to live in at The Hague, and so on. There is something very homely and human in the good manners of a real court. Then the Queen asked about the Dutch immigrants in America, especially in recent times—were they good citizens? I answered that we counted them among the best, especially strong in agriculture and in furniture-making, where I had seen many of them in the famous shops of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Queen smiled, and said that the Netherlands, being a small country, did not want to lose too many of her good people.
The impression left upon me by this first interview, and deepened by all that followed, was that Queen Wilhelmina is a woman admirably fit for her task. Her natural shyness of temperament is sometimes misinterpreted as a haughty reserve. But that is not correct. She is, in fact, most sincere and straightforward, devoted to her duty and very intelligent in doing it, one of the ablest and sanest crowned heads in Europe, an altogether good ruler for the very democratic country of the Netherlands.
We settled down in the home which I had rented at The Hague. It was a big, dignified house on the principal street, the Lange Voorhout, which is almost like a park, with four rows of trees down the middle. Our house had once been the palace of the Duchess of Saxe-Weimar, a princess of the Orange-Nassau family. But it was not at all showy, only comfortable and large. This was fortunate for our country when the rush of fugitive American tourists came at the beginning of the war, for every room on the first floor, and the biggest room on the second floor, were crowded with the work that we had to do for them.
But during the first winter everything went smoothly; there was no hurry and no crowding. The Queen came back to her town palace. The rounds of ceremonial visits were ground out. The Hague people and our diplomatic colleagues were most cordial and friendly. There were dinners and dances and court receptions and fancy-dress balls—all of a discreet and moderate joyousness which New York and Newport, perhaps even Chicago and Hot Springs, would have called tame and rustic. The weather, for the first time in several years, was clear, cold, and full of sunshine. The canals were frozen. Everybody, from grandparents to grandchildren, including the Crown Princess Juliana, went on skates, which greatly added to the gayety of the nation.
At the same time there was plenty of work to do. The affairs of the legation had to be straightened out; the sending of despatches and the carrying out of instructions speeded up; the arrangements for a proposed international congress on education in the autumn of 1914, forwarded; the Bryan treaty for a year of investigation before the beginning of hostilities—the so-called "Stop-Look-Listen" treaty—modified and helped through; and the thousand and one minor, unforeseen jobs that fall on a diplomatic chief carefully attended to.
Through all this time the barometer stood at "Set Fair." The new Dutch Ministry, which Mr. Cort van der Linden, a wise and eloquent philosophic liberal, had formed on the mandate of the Queen, seemed to have the confidence of the Parliament. Although it had no pledged majority of any party or bloc behind it, the announcement of its simple programme of "carrying out the wishes of the majority of the voters as expressed in the last election," met with approval on every side. The "Anti-Revolutionary" lion lay down with the "Christian-Historical" lamb; the "Liberal" bear and the "Clerical" cow fed together; and the sucking "Social-Democrat" laid his hand on the "Reactionary" adder's den. It was idyllic. Real progress looked nearly possible.
The international sky was clear except for the one big cloud, which had been there so long that the world had grown used to it. The Great Powers kept up the mad race of armaments, purchasing mutual terror at the price of billions of dollars every year.
Now the pace was quickened, but the race remained the same, with Germany still in the lead. Her new army bill of 1912 provided for a peace strength of 870,000 men, and a war strength of 5,400,000 men. Russia followed with a bill raising the term of military service from three to three and a half years; France with a bill raising the term of service from two to three years (but this was not until in June, 1913). Great Britain, with voluntary service, still had a comparatively small army: in size "contemptible," as Kaiser Wilhelm called it later, but in morale and spirit unsurpassed. Evidently the military force of Germany, which lay like a glittering sword in her ruler's hand, was larger, better organized and equipped, than any other in the world.
But might it not still be used as a make-weight in the scales of negotiation rather than as a weapon of actual offense? Might not the Kaiser still be pleased with his dramatic role of "the war-lord who kept the peace"? Might he not do again as he did successfully in 1909, when Austria violated the provisions of the Congress of Berlin (1878) by annexing Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Germany protected the theft; and with partial success at Algeciras in 1906, and after the Agadir incident in 1911, when Germany gained something she wanted though less than she claimed? Might he not still be content with showing and shaking the sword, without fleshing it in the body of Europe? It seemed wiser, because safer for Germany, that the Kaiser should follow that line. The methodical madness of a forced war looked incredible.
Thus all of us who were interested in the continuance and solidification of the work of the peace conferences at The Hague reasoned ourselves into a peaceful hope. We knew that no other power except Germany was really prepared for war. We knew that the effort to draw Great Britain into an offensive and defensive alliance with Germany had failed, although London was willing to promise help to Berlin if attacked. We remembered Bismarck's warning that a war against Russia and Great Britain at the same time would be fatal, and we trusted that it had not been forgotten in Berlin. We knew that Germany, under her policy of industrial development and pacific penetration, was prospering more than ever, and we thought she might enjoy that enough to continue it. We hoped that a third peace conference would be assembled before a general conflict of arms could be launched, and that some things might be done there which would make wilful and aggressive war vastly more dangerous and difficult, if not impossible. So we were at ease in Zion and worked in the way which seemed most promising for the peace of the world.
But that way was not included in the German plan. It was remote from the Berlin-Baghdad-Bahn. It did not lead toward a dominant imperial state of Mittel-Europa, with tentacles reaching out to ports on every sea and strait. The plan for another Hague conference failed to interest the ruling clique at Berlin and Potsdam because they had made "other arrangements."
Very gradually slight indications of this fact began to appear, though they were not clearly understood at the time. It was like watching a stage-curtain which rises very slowly a little way and then stops. Through the crack one could see feet moving about and hear rumbling noises. Evidently a drama was in preparation. But what it was to be could hardly be guessed. Then, after a long wait, the curtain rose swiftly. The tragedy was revealed. Flames burst forth from the stage and wrapped the whole house in fire. Some of the spectators were the first victims. The conflagration still rages. It will not be put out until the flame-lust is smothered in the hearts of those who kindled and spread the great fire in Europe.
I must get back from this expression of my present feelings and views to the plain story of the experiences which gradually made me aware of the actual condition of affairs in Europe and the great obstacle to a durable peace in the world.
The first thing that disquieted me a little was the strange difficulty encountered in making the preliminary arrangements for the third peace conference. The final resolution of the second conference in 1907, unanimously recommended, first, that the next conference, should be held within a period of eight years, and second, that a preparatory committee should be appointed two years beforehand, to consider the subjects which were ripe for discussion, and to draw up a programme which could be examined in advance by the countries interested. That, of course, was necessary. No sensible government will go into a conference blindfold, without knowing what is to be talked about.
But in 1914, when the matter came into my hands, the lapse of time and the negligence of the nations (the United States included) had made it too late to fulfil both of these recommendations. If one was carried out the other must be modified or disregarded. The then Secretary of State, Mr. Bryan, instructed me to endeavor to have the conference called in 1915, that is, within the period of eight years. After careful investigation and earnest effort, I reported that it could not be done at that date. The first thing was to get the preparatory committee, which would require at least two years for its formation and work. Toward this point, then, with the approval of the President, I steered and rowed hard, receiving the warmest sympathy and most effective co-operation from Jonkheer Loudon, the Netherlands Minister of Foreign Affairs. Indeed the entire Dutch Government, with the Queen at the head, were favorable. Holland naturally likes to have the peace conferences at The Hague. They add to the dignity of the country. The honor is well-deserved, for Holland may fairly be called the fountainhead of modern international law, and has produced many of its best expounders, from Grotius and Bynkershoek to Asser. Moreover, as a side consideration, these meetings bring a multitude of visitors to the country, some famous and many profitable, and this is not bad for business. So the movement is generally popular.
My own particular suggestion toward getting the required "preparatory committee" seemed to its author to have the double advantage of practical speed and representative quality. It was to make use, at least for the first steps, of a body already in existence and in which all the nations were represented. But there is no need of describing it, because it did not go through. I was not so much stuck upon it that any other fair and speedy plan would not have received my hearty backing.
But the trouble was that, push as hard as we would, there was no plan that would move beyond a certain point. There it stood still. Washington and The Hague were earnest and enthusiastic. St. Petersburg was warmly interested, but showed a strong preference for its own plan, and a sense of its right to a leading place as the proposer of the first conference. London and Paris seemed favorable to the general idea, and took an expectant attitude toward any proposal of organization that would be on the level and fair for everybody. Berlin was singularly reserved and vague. It said little or nothing. It did not seem to care about the matter.
I talked informally with my German friends at The Hague. They were polite and attentive. They may have had a real interest in the subject, but it was not shown so that you could notice it. They expressed opinions on the value of peace conferences in general which I am not at liberty to repeat. The idea of a third conference at The Hague may have seemed beautiful to them, but it looked as if they felt that it was lacking in actuality. Possibly I did not understand them. That was just the trouble—I could not. It was all puzzling, baffling, mysterious.
It seemed as if all our efforts to forward the calling of the next conference in the interest of permanent peace brought up dead against an invisible barrier, an impassable wall like the secret line drawn in the air by magic, thinner than a cobweb, more impenetrable than steel. What was it? Indifference? General scepticism? Preoccupation with other designs which made the discussion of peace plans premature and futile? I did not know. But certainly there was something in the way, and the undiscovered nature of that something was food for thought.
The next jolt that was given to my comfortable hope that the fair weather in Europe was likely to last for some time was a very slight incident that happened in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, to which small sovereign state I was also accredited as American Minister.
The existence and status of Luxembourg in Europe before the war are not universally understood in America, and it may be useful to say a few words about it. The grand duchy is a tiny independent country, about 1,000 square miles of lovely hills and dales and table-lands, clothed with noble woods, watered by clear streams, and inhabited by about 250,000 people of undoubted German-Keltic stock and of equally undoubted French sympathies. The land lies in the form of a northward-pointing triangle between Germany, Belgium, and France. The sovereign is the Grand Duchess Marie Adelheid (of Nassau), a beautiful, sincere, high-spirited girl who succeeded to the crown on her father's death. The political leader for twenty-five years was the Minister-President Paul Eyschen, an astute statesman and a devoted patriot, who nursed his little country in his arms like a baby and brought it to a high degree of prosperity and contentment.
Like Belgium, Luxembourg was a neutralized country—the former by the Treaty of 1831; the latter by the Treaty of 1867; both treaties were signed and guaranteed by the Great Powers. But there was a distinct difference between the two neutralities. That of Belgium was an armed neutrality; her forts and her military forces were left to her. That of Luxembourg was a disarmed neutrality; her only fortress was dismantled and razed to the ground, and her army was reduced and limited to one company of gendarmes and one company of infantry. Thus Belgium had the right, the duty, and the power to resist if her territory were violated by the armed forces of a belligerent. But Luxembourg was made powerless to resist; she could only protest.
Remember this when you consider the fates which fell on the two countries. Remember how the proud and independent little duchy must have felt beforehand, standing without a weapon amid the mighty armed powers of Europe.
It was in February or early in March, 1914, that the Grand Duchess sent out an invitation to the Diplomatic Corps to attend a court function. We all went gladly because of the pleasantness of the land and the good hospitality of the palace. There were separate audiences with Her Royal Highness in the morning, a big luncheon given by the Cabinet and the city authorities at noon, a state dinner in the old Spanish palace at night, and after that a gala concert. It was then that the incident occurred. I had heard in the town that thirty military officers from the German garrison at Trier, a few miles away on the border, were coming, invited or self-invited, to the concert, and the Luxembourgers did not like the idea at all. Well, the Germans came in a body, some of them courteous and affable, the others stiff, wooden, high-chinned, and staring—distinctly a foreign group. They were tactless enough to propose staying over the next day. A big crowd of excited Luxembourgers filled the streets in the morning and gave every sign of extreme dissatisfaction. "What were these Prussian soldiers doing there? Had they come to spy out the land and the city in preparation for an invasion? Was there a stray prince or duke among them who wanted to marry the Grand Duchess? The music was over. These Kriegs-Herren had better go home at once—at once, did they understand?" Yes, they understood, and they went by the next train, which took them to Trier in an hour.
It was a very trivial affair. But it seemed to throw some light on the mentality of the German army. It also made me reflect upon the state of mind of this little unarmed country living next door to the big military machine and directly on the open way to France. Yet we all laughed and joked about the incident on the way back to Holland in the train. Only the French, German, Italian, and Belgian Ministers were not with us, for these countries have separate missions in Luxembourg.
At The Hague everything pursued its tranquil course as usual. Golf set in. The tulips bloomed in a sea of splendor. I strove at the footless task of promoting the third peace conference. It was not until the season of Pentecost, 1914, that I went to Luxembourg again, intending to gather material for a report on the flourishing steel industry there, which had developed some new processes, and to get a little trout-fishing on the side. During that pleasant journey two things happened which opened my eyes.
The first was at a luncheon which Prime Minister Eyschen gave me. It was a friendly foursome: our genial host; the German Minister, Von B.; the French Minister, M.; and myself. Mr. Eyschen's wine-cellar was famous, and his old Luxembourg cook was a wonder; she served a repast which made us linger at table for three hours. The conversation rambled everywhere, and there were no chains or padlocks on it. It was in French, English, and German, but mostly in French. One remark has stuck in my memory ever since. Mr. Eyschen said to me: "You have heard of the famous 'Luxembourger Loch'? It is the easiest military road between Germany and France." Then he continued with great good humor to the two gentlemen at the ends of the table: "Perhaps one of your two countries may march an army through it before long, and we certainly cannot stop you." Then he turned to Herr von B., still smiling: "Most likely it will be your country, Excellenz! But please remember, for the last ten years we have made our mining concessions and contracts so that they will hold, whatever happens. And we have spent the greatest part of our national income on our roads. You can't roll them up and carry them off in your pocket!" Of course we all laughed. But it was serious. Two months later the French Minister had to make a quick and quiet flight along one of those very roads.
A couple of days after the luncheon, at the beginning of June, I saw a curious confirmation of Eyschen's hint. Having gone just over the German border for a bit of angling, I was following a very lovely little river full of trout and grayling. With me were two or three Luxembourgers and as many Germans, to whom fishing with the fly—fine and far off—was a new and curious sight. Along the east bank of the stream ran one of the strategic railways of Germany, from Koln to Trier. All day long innumerable trains rolled southward along that line, and every train was packed with soldiers in field-gray—their cheerful, stolid bullet-heads stuck out of all the windows. "Why so many soldiers," I asked, "and where are they all going?" "Ach!" replied my German companions, "it is Pfingstferien (Pentecost vacation), and they are sent a changing of scene and air to get." My Luxembourg friends laughed. "Yes, yes," they said. "That is it. Trier has a splendid climate for soldiers. The situation is kolossal for that!"
When we passed through the hot and dusty little city it was simply swarming with the field-gray ones—thousands upon thousands of them—new barracks everywhere; parks of artillery; mountains of munitions and military stores. It was a veritable base of operation, ready for war.
Now the point is that Trier is just seven miles from Wasserbillig on the Luxembourg frontier, the place where the armed German forces entered the neutral land on August 2, 1914.
The government and the "grande armee" of the Grand Duchess protested. But—well, did you ever see a wren resist an eagle? The motor-van (not the private car of Her Royal Highness, as rumor has said, but just an ordinary panier-a-salade), which was drawn up across the road to the capital, was rolled into the ditch. The mighty host of invaders, having long been ready, marched triumphantly into the dismantled fortress, and along their smooth, unlawful way to France. I had caught, in June, angling along the little river, a passing glimpse of the preparation for that march.
But what about things on the French side of the border in that same week of June, 1914? Well, I can only tell what I saw. Returning to Holland by way of Paris, I saw no soldiers in the trains, only a few scattered members of the local garrisons at the railway stations, not a man in arms within ten kilometres of the frontier. It seemed as if France slept quietly at the southern edge of Luxembourg, believing that the solemn treaty, which had made Germany respect the neutrality of that little land even in the war of 1870, still held good to safeguard her from a treacherous attack in the rear, through a peaceful neighbor's garden. Longwy—the poor, old-fashioned fortress in the northeast corner of France—had hardly enough guns for a big rabbit-shoot, and hardly enough garrison to man the guns. The conquering Crown Prince afterward took it almost as easily as a boy steals an apple from an unprotected orchard. It was the first star in his diadem of glory. But Verdun, though near by, was not the second.
From this little journey I went home to The Hague with the clear conviction that one nation in Europe was ready for war, and wanted war, and intended war on the first convenient opportunity. But when would that be? Not even the most truculent government could well venture a bald declaration of hostilities without some plausible pretext, some ostensible ground of quarrel. Where was it? There was none in sight. Of course the danger of a homicidal crisis in the insanity of armaments was always there. And of course the ambition of Germany for "a place in the sun" was as coldly fierce as ever. The Pan-Germanists were impatient. But they could hardly proclaim war without saying what place and whose place they wanted. Nor was there any particular grievance on which they could stand as a colorable ground of armed conflict. The Kaiser had prepared for war, no doubt. The argument and justification of war as the means of spreading the German Kultur were in the Potsdam mind. But the concrete and definite occasion of war was lacking. How long would that lack hold off the storm? Could the precarious peace be maintained until measures to enforce and protect it by common consent could be taken?
These questions were answered with dreadful suddenness. The curtain which had half-concealed the scene went up with a rush, and the missing occasion of war was revealed in the flash of a pistol.
On June 28, 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian crowns, and his wife, the Duchess of Hohenburg, were shot to death in the street at Serajevo, the capital of the annexed provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to which they were paying a visit of ceremony. The news of this murder filled all thoughtful people in Europe with horror and dismay. It was a dark and sinister crime. The Crown Prince and his wife had not been "personae gratae" with the Viennese court, but the brutal manner of their taking off aroused the anger of the people. Vengeance was called for. The two wretched murderers were Austrian subjects, but they were Servian sympathizers, and in some kind of connection with a society called Narodna Obrana, whose avowed object was to work for a "Greater Servia," including the southern Slavic provinces of Austria. The Government of Austria-Hungary, having conducted a secret inquiry, declared that it had proofs that the instructions and the weapons for the crime came from Servia. On the other hand, it has not been denied that the Servian Minister at Vienna had conveyed a warning to the Government there, a week before the ceremonial visit to Serajevo, to the effect that it would be wise to give the visit up, as there were grounds for believing that an assassination had been planned. We knew little or nothing of all this at the time, in The Hague. Anxiously we waited for light under the black cloud. It came like lightning in the Austro-Hungarian note to Servia of July 23, 1914.
It was made public the next day. I remember coming home that evening from a motor-drive through the dead cities of the Zuyder Zee. Taking up the newspaper in the quiet library, I read the note. The paper dropped from my hand, and I said to my son: "That means an immense war. God knows how far it will go and how long it will last."
This Austrian ultimatum was so severe in matter and in manner as to justify the comment of Sir Edward Grey: "Never have I seen one state address to another independent state a document of so formidable a character." It not only dictated a public confession of guilt; it also made a series of ten sweeping demands on Servia, one of which (No. 5) seemed to imply a surrender of independent sovereignty; and it allowed only forty-eight hours for an unqualified, complete acceptance.
Russia promptly declared that she would not object to the punishment of Servians for any proved offense, but that she must defend the territorial integrity and independence of Servia. Italy and France suggested an extension of time for the answer. France and Russia advised Servia to make a general acceptance of the ultimatum. She did so in her reply of the 25th, reserving demand No. 5, which she said she did not understand, and offering to submit that point, or the whole matter, to the tribunal at The Hague. Austria had instructed her minister at Belgrade to reject anything but a categorical submission to the ultimatum. When the Servian reply was handed to him he said that it was not good enough, demanded his passports, and left the capital within half an hour. Germany, vowing that she had no knowledge of the text of the Austrian note before it was presented and had not influenced its contents (which seems incredible, as I shall show later), nevertheless announced that she approved and would support it.
Verily this was "miching mallecho," as Hamlet says. It meant mischief. Austria was inflexible in her purpose to make war on Servia. Russia's warning that in such a case she could not stand aside and see a small kindred nation subjugated, and her appeals for arbitration or four-power mediation, which Great Britain, France, and Italy supported, were disregarded. Behind Austria stood Germany, proud, menacing, armed to the teeth, ready for attack, supporting if not instigating the relentless Austrian purpose. Something vast and very evil was impending over the world.
That was our conviction at The Hague in the fateful week from July 24 to August 1, 1914. We who stood outside the secret councils of the Central Powers were both bewildered and dismayed. Could it be that Europe of the twentieth century was to be thrust back into the ancient barbarism of a general war? It was like a dreadful nightmare. There was the head of the huge dragon, crested, fanged, clad in glittering scales, poised above the world and ready to strike. We were benumbed and terrified. There was nothing that we could do. The monstrous thing advanced, but even while we shuddered we could not make ourselves feel that it was real. It had the vagueness and the horrid pressure of a bad dream.
If it seemed dreamlike to us, so near at hand, how could the people in America, three thousand miles away, feel its reality or grasp its meaning? They could not do it then, and many of them have not done it yet.
But we who were on the other side of the sea were suddenly and rudely awakened to know that the bad dream was all too real. On July 28 Austria declared war on Servia. On the 29th Russia ordered a partial mobilization of troops on the Austrian frontier. On the same night the Austrian troops entered Servia and bombarded Belgrade. On the 31st Austria and Russia ordered a general mobilization.
Then Germany, already coiled, struck.
On August 1 Germany declared war on Russia. On the 2d Germany invaded Luxembourg and France. On the 3d Germany declared war on France. On the 4th Germany invaded Belgium, in violation of her solemn treaty. On the 5th Great Britain, having given warning to the Kaiser that she meant to keep her promise to protect the neutrality of Belgium, severed diplomatic relations, and on the 6th Parliament, by a vote of extraordinary supply, formally accepted a state of war with Germany, the invader.
So the storm signs, foreshadowed in fair weather, were fulfilled in tempest, more vast and cruel than the world had ever known.
The Barabbas of war was preferred to the Christ of righteous judgment.
The hope of an enduring peace through justice receded and grew dim. We knew that it could not be rekindled until the ruthless military power of Germany, that had denied and rejected it, was defeated and brought to repentance.
Thus those who loved true peace—peace with equal security for small and great nations, peace with law protecting the liberties of the people, peace with power to defend itself against assault—were forced to fight for it or give it up forever.
The man who was also a Werwolf sat in his arbor, drinking excellent beer.
He was not an ill-looking man. His fondness for an out-of-door life had given him a ruddy color. He was tall and blond. His eyes were gray. But there was a shifty look in them, now dreamy, now fierce. At times they contracted to mere slits. His chin sloped away to nothing. His legs were long and thin, his movements springy and uncertain.
The philosopher who came to pay his respects to the man who was also a Werwolf (whom we shall henceforth call MWAW for short) was named Professor Schmuck. He was a globular man, with protruding china-blue eyes, much magnified by immense spectacles. The fame of his book on "Eschatological Problems among the Hivites and Hittites" was world-wide. But his real specialty was universal knowledge.
Yet on entering the arbor where MWAW was sitting, this world-renowned Learned One made three deep obeisances, as if he were approaching an idol, and stammered in a husky voice: "Highly Exalted!—dare I—?"
"Ah, our good Schmuck!" said MWAW, turning in his chair and recrossing his legs. "Come in. Take place. Take beer. Take breath. Speak out."
The professor, thus graciously reassured, set forth his errand.
"I have come to you, Highly Exalted, to inquire your exalted views on the subject of Lycanthropy. Your Exaltedness knows—"
"Yes, yes," broke in MWAW, "old Teutonic legend. Men become wolves. Strongest and fiercest breed. Eat people up. Frighten everybody. Ravage countryside. Beautiful myth! Teaches power is greatest thing. Might gives right. Force over all!"
"Certainly, Highly Exalted," said Schmuck humbly, "it is a wonder-beautiful myth, full of true idealism. But what if it lost its purely mythical quality and became historical, actual, contemporaneous? Would it not change its aspect? Would not people object to it? Might not the Werwolf get himself disliked?"
"Perhaps," answered MWAW, smiling till his eyes almost disappeared. "But what difference? Ignorant people, weak people, no account. Werwolf is stronger race, therefore superior. Objections silly."
"True, Exaltedness," said Schmuck. "It is the first duty of every ideal to realize itself. Yet in this particular matter the complaints are very bitter. It is said that great numbers of helpless men and women have been devoured, their children torn in pieces, their farms and gardens ravaged, and their houses destroyed by Werwolves quite recently. Shall I deny it?"
"No," growled MWAW. "Don't be a fool. It is too well known. We know it ourselves. We are the wolf-pack. Don't deny it. Justify it. That's your business. Earn your salary."
Schmuck was as nearly embarrassed as it is possible for a professor to be.
"Willingly, Exaltedness," he stammered. "But the trouble is to find the basic arguments. Even among the Hivites and the Hittites, I have not yet discovered any traces—"
"Nonsense," snapped MWAW. "Hivites and Hittites are dead. WE are alive. Justify US. Think!"
"Pardon, Highly Exalted," said Schmuck, "I was trying to think. The first justification that occurs to me is the plea of necessity—biological necessity."
"It sounds good," grunted MWAW. "But vague. Explain."
"A biological necessity is a thing that knows no law. It is the inward urge of every living creature to expand its own life without regard to the lives of others. It is above morality, because whatever is necessary is moral."
"Excellent," exclaimed MWAW. "We have felt that ourselves. Continue."
"Now, doubtless, the Highly Exalted are often hungry."
"Always," interrupted MWAW, "say always!"
"Always being hungry," droned Schmuck, "the Highly Exalted may feel at certain times the craving for a certain kind of food in order to obtain a more perfect expansion. To need is to take. Is it not so?"
"It is," said MWAW, "and we do. Find another argument."
"Self-defense," replied Schmuck.
"Too old," said MWAW. "Worn out. Won't go any more."
"But as I shall put it, Highly Exalted will see a newness in it. The best way to defend oneself is by injuring others. Sheep, for example, when gathered in sufficient numbers are the most dangerous animals in the world. The only way to be safe from them is to attack them and scatter them. Especially the small flocks, for that prevents their growing larger and becoming more dangerous. Particularly should the sheep with horns be attacked. Sheep have no right to have horns. Wolves have none. But even the hornless sheep and the lambs should not be spared, for by rending them you may frighten and discourage the horned ones."
"Capital," cried MWAW, springing up and pacing the arbor in excitement. "Just our own idea. Frightfulness increases force. We like to make people afraid. We feel stronger. Essence of Werwolfery. Give another argument, excellent Schmuck. Think once more."
"The Highly Exalted will forgive me. I cannot, momentarily, bring forth another."
"What!" snarled an angry voice above the trembling professor. "Not think of the best argument of all! Forget your creed! Deny your faith! Wretched Schmuck! Who gave you a place? Who feeds you? Who are WE?"
"The Lord's Anointed!" murmured Schmuck, falling on his knees.
MWAW drew himself up, stiff as steel. His eyes blazed through their slits like coals of fire.
"Right!" he cried. "Right at last. That is the great argument. Use it. WE are the Chosen of God. WE are his weapon, his vicegerent. Whatever WE do is a brave act and a good deed. Woe to the disobedient!"
He held out his hand and lifted the professor to his feet.
"Stand up, Schmuck. You are forgiven. Take more beer. To-night I follow biological necessity. More work to do. But you go and tell people the truth."
So Schmuck went. Whether he told the truth or not is uncertain. At all events, it was in different words. And the Werwolfery continued.
THE WERWOLF AT LARGE
In the days immediately before and after the breaking of the war-tempest, the servants of the United States Government in Europe were suddenly overwhelmed by a flood of work and care. The strenuous, incessant toil in the consulates, legations, and embassies acted somewhat as a narcotic. There was so much to do that there was no time to worry.
The sense of an unmeasured calamity was present in the background of our thoughts from the very beginning. But it was not until later that the nature of the disaster grew clear and poignant. As month after month hammered swiftly by, the meaning and portent of the catastrophe emerged more sharply and penetrated our minds more deeply, stinging us awake.
A mighty nation which "rejected the dream of universal peace throughout the world as non-German" (the Crown Prince, Germany in Arms); a nation trained for war as a "biological necessity in which Might proves itself the supreme Right" (Bernhardi, Germany and the Next War); a nation which had been taught that "frightfulness" is a lawful and essential weapon in war (Von Clausewitz); and whose generals said, "Frankly, we are and must be barbarians" (Von Diefurth, Hamburger Nachrichten), while their philosophers declared that "The German is the superior type of the species homo sapiens" (Woltmann); a nation whose Imperial Head commended to his soldiers the example of the Huns, and proclaimed, "It is to the empire of the world that the German genius aspires" (Kaiser Wilhelm, Speech at Aix-la-Chapelle, June 20, 1902)—a nation thus armed, instructed, disciplined, and demoralized had broken loose. Another Attila had come, with a new horde behind him to devastate and change the face of the world. In the tumult and darkness which enfolded Europe, the Werwolf was at large. We could hear his ululations in the forest. The cries of his victims grew louder, piercing our hearts with pity and just wrath.
But even when the most dreadful things are happening around you, the regular and necessary work of the world must be carried on. Your own particular "chore" must be done as well as you can do it.
As the trouble drew near and suddenly fell upon the world, the burden of enormously increased and varied duties pressed heavily upon the American representatives abroad. The first thing that we had to do was to make provision for taking care of our own people in Europe who were caught out in the storm and the danger.
That was a practical job with unlimited requirements. No one, except those who had the distracting privilege of being in the American diplomatic and consular service in the summer of 1914, knows how much work and how many kinds of work rushed down upon us in a moment. Banking, postal, and telegraph service, transportation, hotel and boarding-house business, baggage express, the recovery of missing articles and persons, the reunion of curiously separated families, confidential inquiries, medical service (mainly mind-healing), and free consultation on every subject under the sun—all these different occupations, trades, and professions were not set down in our programme when we came to Europe, nor covered by the slim calf-bound volume of Instructions to Diplomatic Officers which was our only guide-book. But we had to learn them at short notice and practise them as best we could. No doubt we often acted in a way that was not strictly protocolaire. Certainly we made mistakes. But it was better to do that than to sit like bumps on a log doing nothing. The immediate affair in hand was to help our own folks who were in distress and difficulty and who wanted to get home as quickly and as safely as possible. So we tried to do it, making use of the best means available, and praying that heaven and our diplomatic colleagues would forgive any errors or gaffes that we might make. We preserved a profound respect for etiquette and regularity. But our predominant anxiety was to get the things done that had to be done.
Take an illustration. Excuse the personal references in it.
From the very beginning it seemed clear to me that one of the greatest difficulties in the first days of war would be to secure a supply of ready money for American travellers in flight. As a rule they carried little hard cash with them. Paper money would be at a discount; checks and drafts difficult, if not impossible, to negotiate in Holland. Moratoriums were falling everywhere as thick as leaves in Vallombrosa.
So I went directly to my friend Foreign Minister Loudon, and asked him a plain question.
"Would your Government be willing to help us in getting American travellers' checks and drafts on letters of credit cashed if I should indorse them as American Minister?"
He answered as promptly as if the suggestion had already been formed in his own mind—as perhaps it had.
"Certainly, and gladly! Those pieces of paper would be the best securities in the world—short-term notes of the American Government. If you will get the authority from Washington to indorse, the Bank of the Netherlands will honor the checks and drafts; and if the Bank hesitates the National Treasury will cash them."
I cabled to the Department of State asking permission to make the indorsements (a thing hitherto expressly forbidden by the instructions to diplomatic officers), and explaining that I would take in each case the best security obtainable, whether in the form of a draft on a letter of credit or a personal note of hand with satisfactory references, and that no money should be drawn except for necessary living expenses and the cost of the journey home. The answer came promptly: "You have the authority to indorse."
So a system of international banking between two Governments was introduced. I believe it was absolutely a new plan. But it worked.
Then another idea occurred to me. The letters of credit were usually drawn on London or Paris. In both cities a moratorium was on. Why not make the drafts directly on New York? Why not call on the signer of the letter of credit for the money instead of calling on the addressee? This would cut out any possibility of difficulty from the moratorium.
This also was a new method. But it seemed reasonable. We tried it. And it worked. A visiting committee of New York bankers to whom I related this experience later laughed immensely. They also made some remarks about "amateurs" and "audacity" which I would rather not repeat. But upon the whole they did not seem shocked beyond recovery.
So it happened, by good fortune, that there was never a day in The Hague when an American fugitive from the war, homeward bound, could not obtain what cash he needed for him to live and to get to the United States. But not money to buy souvenir spoons, or old furniture and pictures. "Very sorry," we explained, "but our Government is not dealing in antiquities at present. It is simply helping you to get home as quickly and comfortably as possible. Please tell us how much money you need for board and passage-money and you shall have it."
Except three or four chronic growlers and a few passionate antiquarian ladies, everybody took it good-humoredly and cheerfully. I think they understood, though not always clearly, that our Government was doing more for its citizens caught out in a tempest than any other government in the world would have done.
When the Tennessee arrived in the latter part of August with $2,500,000 in gold for the same purpose, it was another illustration of our Government's parental care and forethought. We received our share of this gold at The Hague. The first use we made of part of it was to take up the American checks and drafts on which the Bank of the Netherlands had advanced the money. Then we sent the paper to America for collection and repayment to the National Treasury. I have not the accounts here and cannot speak by the book, but I think I am not far out in saying that our loss on these transactions was less than five per cent of the total amount handled. And we banked for some very poor people, too!
I never had any idea, before the war broke out, how many of our countrymen and countrywomen there are roaming about Europe every summer, and with what a cheerful trust in Providence and utter disregard of needful papers and precautions some of them roam! There were young women travelling alone or in groups of two or three. There were old men so feeble that one's first thought on seeing them was: "How did you get away from your nurse?" There were people with superfluous funds, and people with barely enough funds, and people with no funds at all. There were college boys who had worked their way over and couldn't find a chance to work it back. There were art-students and music-students whose resources had given out.
There was a very rich woman, plastered with diamonds, who demanded the free use of my garage for the storage of her automobile. When I explained that, to my profound regret, it was impossible, because three American guest cars were already stored there and the place could hold no more, she flounced out of the room in high dudgeon.
There was a lady of a different type who came to say, very modestly, that she had a balance in a bank at The Hague which she wanted to leave to my order for use in helping people who were poor and deserving. "Please make as sure as you can of the poverty," said she, "but take a chance, now and then, on the deserts. We can't confine our kindness to saints." This gift amounted to two or three thousand dollars, and was the foundation of the Minister's private benevolence fund, which proved so useful in later days and of which a remnant has been left for my successor.
An American wrote to us from a little village in a remote province of the Netherlands saying that his remittances from home had not arrived and that he was penniless. He added by way of personal description: "My social position is that of a Catholic priest with nervous prostration." We helped him and he proved to be all right.
A rising comic-opera star, of engaging appearance and manners (American), who was under a temporary financial obscuration because her company in Holland had broken up, came to ask us to assist her in getting to Germany, where she had friends and hoped to find work. We did it with alacrity. Then she wrote asking us to forward certain legal papers in connection with a divorce which she contemplated. We did it. Then she sent us some of her newspaper articles and a lot of clippings from German journals, requesting us to transmit them in the Legation pouch to America. This we politely declined, with the plea of "non possumus". Whereupon she was furious and denounced us to the German authorities and the German-American press.
An American lady whose husband was dying in Hamburg came in desperate distress with her daughter, to beg us to aid them in getting to him. We found the only way that was open, a little-known route through the northeast corner of Holland, procured the necessary permits, and enabled the wife and daughter to reach his bedside before he died.
A poor woman (with a nice little baby), husband, a naturalized American, was "somewhere in Argentina," wanted to go to his family in one of the northwestern States. She had no money. We paid her expenses in The Hague until we could get into communication with the family, and then sent her home rejoicing.
These are a few examples of the ever-recurring humor and pathos which touched our incessant grind of peace work in war times at The Hague. Thousands and thousands of Americans, real or presumptive, passed through the Legation—all sorts and conditions of men, asking for all kinds of things.
Our house was transformed into an Inquiry Office and a Bureau for First Aid to the Injured. There was often a dense throng outside the front door, filling the street and reaching over into the park. Two Dutch boy scouts, capital fellows in khaki, volunteered their assistance in keeping order, and stood guard at the entrance giving out numbered tickets of admission so that the house would not be choked and all the work stopped.
You see, Holland was the narrow neck of the bottle, and the incredible multitudes of Americans who were scattered about in Germany, Austria, Russia, and parts of Switzerland, came pouring out our way. There was no end to the extra work. Many a night I did not get my clothes off, but took a bath and breakfast in the morning and went ahead with the next day's business. No eight-hour day in that establishment!
It would have been impossible to hold on and keep going but for the devotion and industry of the entire Legation staff, and the splendid aid of the volunteers who came to help us through. Professor George Grafton Wilson, of Harvard, was our Counsellor in International Law. Professor Philip M. Brown, of Princeton, former Minister to Honduras, gave his valuable service. Professor F. J. Moore, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, took charge of the registration bureau. Hon. Charles H. Sherrill, former Ambassador to the Argentine, and Charles Edward Russell, the Socialist, and his wife, were among our best workers. Alexander R. Gulick was at the head of the busy correspondence department. Van Santvoord Merle-Smith, Evans Hubbard, and my son ran the banking department. These are only a few names among the many good men and women who helped their country for love.
My library was the Diplomatic Office, to which the despatches and the passports came; the Conference Chamber, where all vexed questions were discussed and decided; the Court of Appeal, where people who thought they had not received fair treatment could present their complaints; and the Consolation Room, where the really distressed, as well as the slightly hysterical, came to tell their troubles. Some of them were tragic and some comic. The most agitated and frightened persons were among the fat commercial men. The women, as a rule, were fine and steady and cheerful, especially the American-born. They met the adventure with good sense and smiling faces; asked with commendable brevity for the best advice or service that we could give them; and usually took the advice and were more grateful for the service than it deserved.
So the days rolled on, full of infinitely varied cares and labors; and every afternoon, about five o'clock, the whole staff with a dozen or a score of our passing friends, went out under the spreading chestnut-tree in the back garden for a half-hour of tea and talk. It was all very peaceful and democratic. We were in neutral, friendly Holland. The big, protecting shield of "Uncle Sam" was over us, and we felt safe.
Yet how near, how fearful, was the fierce reality of the unpardonable war! Belgium was invaded by the Germans, an hour or two away from us. At any moment their troops might be tempted to take the short cut through the narrow strip of Dutch territory which runs so far down into Belgium; and then the neutrality of Holland would be gone! The little country would be part of the battle-field. Holland has always been resolved to fight any invader.
All through August and September, 1914, that fear hung over the Dutch people. It recurred later again and again—whenever a movement of German troops came too close to the borders of Holland; whenever a newspaper tale of impending operations transpired from Berlin or London. Once or twice the anxiety rose almost to a popular panic. But I noticed that even then the stock-market at Amsterdam remained calm. Now, the Dutch are a very prudent folk, especially the bankers. Therefore I concluded that somebody had received strong assurances both from Germany and Great Britain that neither would invade the Netherlands provided the other abstained.
But all the time there was that dreadful example of the "scrap of paper"—the treaty which had been no protection for Belgium—to shake confidence in any pledge of Germany. And all the time the news from just beyond the border grew more and more horrible. Towns and villages were looted and burned. Civilians were massacred; women outraged; children brought to death. Heavy fines and ransoms were imposed for slight or imaginary offenses. (They amounted to more than $40,000,000 in addition to the "war contribution" exacted, which by August, 1917, had reached $288,000,000.) Churches were ruined. Priests were shot. The country was stripped and laid waste. All the scruples and rules by which men had sought to moderate the needless cruelties of war were mocked and flung aside. Ruin marked the track of the German troops, and terror ran before their advance.
On August 19 Aerschot was sacked and 150 of its inhabitants killed. On the 20th Andenne met the same fate and the number of the slain was 250. On the 23d Dinant was wrecked and more than 600 men and women were murdered. On the 25th the university library at Louvain was set on fire and burned. The pillage and devastation of the city and its environs continued for ten days. More than 2,000 houses were destroyed, and more than 100 civilians were butchered. Time would fail me to tell of the industrious little towns and the quaint Old World hamlets that were wrecked, or of the men and women and young children who were tortured, and had trial of mockings and bonds and imprisonment, and were slain by the sword and by fire. Is it not all set down by sworn witnesses in the great gray book of the Kingdom of Belgium, and in the blue book of the committee of which Lord Bryce was the head? Have I not heard with my own ears the agony of those whose parents were shot down before their eyes, whose children were slain or ravished, whose wives or husbands were carried into captivity, whose homes were made desolate, and who themselves barely escaped with their lives?
Find an explanation for these Belgian atrocities if you can. What if a few shots were fired by ignorant and infuriated civilians from the windows of houses? It has not been proved. But even if it were, it would be no reason for the martyrdom of a whole population, for the destruction of distant and unincriminated towns, for the massacre of evidently innocent persons.
Was it the drink found in the cellars of the houses that made the German officers and soldiers mad? Perhaps so. But that makes the case no better. It was stolen drink.
Was it the carrying out of the cold-blooded policy of "frightfulness" as a necessary weapon of war? That is the wickedest excuse of all. It is really an accusation. The probable truth of it is supported by what happened later, when the Germans came to Poland, and when the Turks, their allies and pupils in the art of war, slaughtered 800,000 Armenians or drove them to a slow, painful death. It means just what the title of this article says. The Werwolf was at large.
The first evidence of this spirit in the German conduct of the war that came to my personal knowledge was on August 25. Two or three days before, our American Consul-General in Antwerp, which was still the temporary seat of the Belgian Government, had written to me saying that he was absolutely destitute and begging me to send him some money for the relief of his family and other Americans who were in dire need. The Tennessee was lying off the Hook of Holland at that time, and there were several of our splendid army officers ready and eager for any service. One of the best of them, Captain Williams, offered himself as messenger, and I sent him in to Antwerp, with three thousand dollars in gold in a belt around his waist, on August 24. He had a hard, slow journey, but he went through and delivered the money.
That very night, while he was in the city, a Zeppelin air-ship, the first of its devilish tribe to get into action, sailed over sleeping Antwerp dropping bombs. No military damage was done. But hundreds of private houses were damaged and sixty destroyed. One bomb fell on a hospital full of wounded Belgians and Germans. Scores of innocent civilians, mostly women and children, were killed. "In a single house," writes an eye-witness, "I found four dead: one room was a chamber of horrors, the remains of the mangled bodies being scattered in every direction."
Mark the exact nature of this crime. The dropping of bombs from aircraft is not technically illegal. The agreement of the nations to abandon and prohibit this method of attack for five years unfortunately expired by limitation of time in 1912 and was not renewed. But the old-established rules of war among civilized nations have forbidden and still forbid the bombardment of populous towns without due notice, in order that the non-combatants may have a chance to find refuge and safety. This German monster of the air came unannounced, in the dead of night, and, having wrought its hellish surprise, vanished into the darkness again. This was a crime against international law as well as a sin against humanity.
My captain returned to The Hague the next morning, bringing his report. He had seen the horror with his own eyes. More: with the care of a true officer he had made a map of the course taken by the air-ship in its flight over the city. That map showed beyond a doubt that the aim of the marauder was to destroy the principal hospital, the hotel where the Belgian Ministers lived, and the palace in which the King and Queen with their children were sleeping.
I cabled the facts to Washington at once, and sent the map with a fuller report the next day. I felt deeply (and ventured to express my feeling) that the United States could, and ought to, protest against this clear violation of the law of nations—this glaring manifestation of a spirit which was going to make this war the most cruel and atrocious known to history. The foreboding of a return to barbarism has been fulfilled, alas, only too abominably!
In every step of that downward path Germany has led the way, by the perfection of her scientific methods applied to a devilish purpose.
Take, for example, the use of poisonous gas in warfare. This was an ancient weapon, employed long before the beginning of the Christian era. It had been abandoned by civilized nations, and was prohibited by one of the Hague conventions, for a period of five years. But that period having expired, and the convention being only a "scrap of paper," Germany revived the ancient deviltry in a more scientific form. On April 22, 1915, she sent the yellow clouds of death rolling down upon the trenches of Ypres, where the British defended the last city of outraged Belgium. The suffocating horrors of that hellish method of attack are beyond description. The fame of this achievement of spectacled barbarism belongs to the learned servants of the predatory Potsdam gang. But we cannot blame the Allies if they were forced reluctantly to take up the same weapon in self-defense.
The real character and the inhuman effect of the German invasion were brought home to us, and made painfully clear to our eyes and our hearts, by the amazing tragic spectacle of the flood of refugees pouring out of Belgium.
It began slowly. When the quaint frontier town of Vise, surrounded by its goose-farms, was attacked and set on fire on August 4, there were many families from the neighborhood who fled to Holland. When Liege was captured on the 7th after a brave defense, and its last fort fell on the 15th, there were more fugitives. When Brussels was occupied without resistance on the 20th there were still more. As the invasion spread westward and southward, engulfing city after city in widening waves of blood, the tide of terror and flight rose steadily. It reached its high-water mark when Antwerp, after the Germans had pounded its outer and inner circle of forts for nine days, was bombarded on October 7 and captured on the 18th.
Nothing like that sad, fear-smitten exodus has been seen on earth in modern times. There was something in it at once fateful, trembling, and irresistible, which recalled De Quincey's famous story of The Flight of a Tartar Tribe. No barrier on the Holland border could have kept that flood of Belgian refugees out. They were an enormous flock of sheep and lambs, harried by the Werwolf and fleeing for their lives.
But Holland did not want a barrier. She stood with open doors and arms, offering an asylum to the distressed and persecuted.
I do not believe that any country has ever made a better record of wise, steady, and true humanitarian work than Holland made in this matter. It is not necessary to exaggerate it. Naturally, Belgium and Great Britain bore by far the largest part of the financial burden of caring for the refugees. Regular subsidies were guaranteed for this purpose. But Holland gave freely and generously what was more important: a prompt and sufficient welcome and shelter from the storm; abundant supplies of money for immediate needs, food and clothing, a roof and a fire; personal aid and care, nursing, medical attendance—all of which these bewildered exiles needed desperately and at once.
This is not the place, nor the time, in which to attempt a full report of the humane task which was suddenly thrown upon Holland by the deadly doings of the German Werwolf in Belgium, nor of the way in which that task was accepted and carried out. I shall note only a few things of which I have personal knowledge.
Going along the railway line which leads to Antwerp, I saw every train literally packed with fugitives. They had come, not in organized, orderly companies, but in droves—tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. They were dazed and confused, escaping from they knew not what, carried they knew not whither. It is well for the poet to say:
"Be not like dumb, driven cattle";
but what can you do in a case like this except run from hell as fast as you can and take the first open road?
The station platforms were crowded with folks in motley garments showing signs of wear and tear. Their possessions were done up in bags and shapeless bundles, rolled in pieces of sacking, old shawls, red-and-white-checkered table-cloths. The men, with drawn and heavy faces, waited patiently. The women collected and watched their restless flocks. The baby tugged at its mother's breast. The little sister carried the next-to-baby in her arms. The boys, as usual, wandered everywhere undismayed and peered curiously into everything.
The crowds were not disorderly or turbulent; there was no shrieking or groaning. There were, of course, some of the baser sort in the vast multitude that fled to Holland—street rowdies and other sons of Belial from the big towns, women of the pavements, and other wretched by-products of our social system. How could it be otherwise in a throng of about a million, scooped up and cast out by an evil chance? But the great bulk of the people were decent and industrious—no more angels than the rest of us can show per thousand.
I remember a very respectable old couple, cleanly though plainly clad, waiting at the station of a small village, looking in vain for a chance to board the train. Everything was full except the compartment reserved for us. We opened the door and asked them to get in. The old gentleman explained that he was a landscape-gardener, living in a small villa with a small garden, in a suburb of Antwerp.
"It was a beautiful garden, monsieur," he said with glistening eyes. "It was arranged with much skill and care. We loved every bush, every flower. But one evening three German shells fell in it and burst. The good wife and I" (here a wan smile) "thought the climate no longer sanitary. We ran away that night on foot. Much misery for old people. Last night we slept in a barn with hundreds of others. But some day we go back to restore that garden. N' est-ce pas vrai, cherie?"
Rosendaal, the Dutch custom-house town on the way to Antwerp, claims 15,000 inhabitants. In two nights at least 40,000 refugees poured into that place. Every house from the richest to the poorest opened its doors in hospitality. The beds and the floors were all filled with sleepers. A big vacant factory building was fitted with improvised bunks and straw bedding. Two thousand five hundred people were lodged there. Open-air kitchens were set up. The burgomaster and aldermen and doctors and all the other "leading citizens" took off their coats and worked. The best women in the place were cooking, serving tables, nursing, making clothes, doing all they could for their involuntary guests.
In the picturesque old city of Bergen-op-Zoom—famous in history—I saw the same thing. There a large tent-camp had been set up for the overflow from the houses. It was like a huge circus of distress. The city hall was turned into an emergency storehouse of food: the vaulted halls and chambers filled with boxes, bags, and barrels. When I went up to the bureau of the burgomaster, his wife and daughters were there, sewing busily for the refugees.
I visited the main hospital and the annexes which had been established in the schoolhouses. Twice, as we climbed the steep stairs, we stood aside for stretchers to be carried past. They bore the bodies of people who had died from exposure and exhaustion.
In one ward there were a score of the most ancient women I have ever seen. They had made the flight on foot. God knows how they ever did it. One of them was so weak that she could not speak, so short of breath that she could not lie down. As she sat propped with pillows, rocking slowly to and fro and coughing, coughing, feebly coughing her life out, she looked a thousand years old. Perhaps she was, if suffering measures years.
Another room was for babies born in the terror and the flight. A few were well-looking enough; but most of them were pitiful scraps and tatters of humanity. They were tenderly nursed and cared for, but their chance was slender. While I was there one of the little creatures shuddered, breathed a tiny sigh, and slipped out of a world that was too hard for it.
It was part of my unofficial duty to visit as many as possible of the private shelters and hospitals and workrooms and the public camps, because the Belgian Relief Committee and other friends in New York had sent me considerable sums of money to use in helping the refugees. In the careful application of these funds I had the advice of Mr. Th. Stuart, President of the "Netherlands Relief Committee for Belgian and Other Victims of War," and of Baron F. van Tuyll van Serooskerken, a great friend of mine, whom the Queen had appointed as General Commissioner to oversee all the public refugee camps.
Three of these, Nunspeet, Ede, and Uden, were improvised villages, with blocks of long community houses, separate dormitories for the unmarried men and for the single women, a dining-hall, a chapel, one or two schoolhouses, a recreation-hall, a house of detention for refractory persons, one hospital for general cases, and another for infectious diseases. It was all built of wood, simple and primitive, but as comfortable as could be expected under the conditions. The chief danger of the camps was idleness. In providing work to combat this peril the Rockefeller Foundation and the committee of the English "Society of Friends" were of great assistance. Each of these camps had accommodation for about 10,000 people.
The fourth camp was at the ancient city of Gouda, famed for its great old church with stained-glass windows and for its excellent cheese and clay pipes. This camp was the earliest and one of the most interesting that I visited. It was established in a series of exceptionally large and fine greenhouses, which happened to be empty when the emergency came. Somebody—I think it was the clever Burgomaster Yssel de Scheppe and his admirable wife—had the good idea of utilizing them for the refugees. It seemed a curious notion, to raise human plants under glass. But it worked finely. The houses were long and lofty; they had concrete floors and broad concrete platforms where the "cubicles" for the separate families could easily be erected; steam heat, electric light, hot and cold water were already "laid on"; it was quite palatial in its way. A few wooden houses, a laundry, a kitchen, a carpenter-shop for the men, and so on, were quickly run up. There was a bowling-alley and a playground and a schoolhouse. The people could go to church in the town. Soon twenty-five hundred exiles were living in this queer but comfortable camp.
But it was evident that this refugee life, even under the best conditions that could be devised, was abnormal. There was not room in the industrial life of Holland for all these people to stay there permanently. Besides, they did not want to stay, and that counts for something in human affairs. The question arose whether it might not be wise to let them go home. Not to send them home, you understand. That was never even contemplated. But simply to allow them to return to their own country, at least in the regions where the fury of war had already passed by. I suggested to Mr. Stuart that before you allow poor folks to "go home," you ought to know whether they have a "home" to go to. So we took my motor in October and made a little tour of investigation in Belgium.
That was a strange and memorable journey. The long run in the dripping autumn afternoon along the Antwerp Road, where the miserable fugitives were still trudging in thousands; the search for lodgings in the stricken city, where most of the streets were silent and deserted as if the plague had passed there, and the only bustling life was in the central quarter, where "the field-gray ones" abounded; the closed shops, the house-fronts shattered by shells, the great cathedral standing in the moonlight, unharmed as far as we could see, except for one shell which had penetrated the south transept, just where Rubens's "Descent from the Cross" used to hang before it was carried away for safety—I shall never forget those impressions.
The next morning, provided with permits which the German Military Commandant had very courteously given us, we set out on our tour. The journey became still more strange. The beautiful trees of the suburbs were razed to the ground, the little villas stood empty, many of them half-ruined. (Perhaps one of them belonged to our friend the landscape-gardener.) We could see clearly the emplacements for the big German guns, which had been secretly laid long before the war began, concealed in cellars and beneath innocent-looking tennis-courts. The ring-forts surrounding Antwerp were knocked to pieces, their huge concrete gateways, their stone facings, their high earthworks, all battered out of shape.
Town after town through which we passed lay half-destroyed or in complete ruins. Wavre, Waelhem, Termonde, Duffel, Lierre, and many smaller places were in various stages of destruction, burned or shattered by shell fire and explosives. The heaps of bricks and stones encumbered the streets so that it was hard to pick our way through. The smell of decaying bodies tainted the air. The fields had been inundated in the valleys; the water was subsiding; here and there corpses lay in the mud. Old trenches everywhere; thousands of rudely heaped graves, marked by two crossed sticks; miles on miles of rusty barbed-wire defenses, with dead cows or horses entangled in them, slowly rotting, haunted by the carrion crows.
Yet there were some people in the countryside. Now and then we saw a woman or an old man digging in field or garden. We stopped at the front yard of a little farmhouse, where the farmer's wife stood, and asked her some directions about the road. She gave them cheerfully, though the house at her back was little more than a mass of ruins.
"Were you here in the fighting?" we asked.
"But no, messieurs," she answered with a short laugh. "If I had been here, I should not be here. I ran away to Holland and returned yesterday to my house. But how shall I creep in?" She pointed over her shoulder to the pile of bricks. "I am not a cat or a rat."
They are indomitable, those Flemish people. At Lierre we were very hungry and searched vainly for an inn or a grocery. At last in one of the streets we saw a little baker-shop. The upper story was riddled and broken. But the shop was untouched, the window-shade half up, and underneath we could see two loaves of bread. We went in. The bare-armed baker met us.
"Can you sell us a little bread?"
"But certainly, messieurs, that is what I am here for. Not the window loaves, however; I have a fresh loaf, if you please. Also a little cheese, if you will."
"Were you here in the fighting?"
"Assuredly not! It was impossible. But I hurried back after three days. You see, messieurs, some people were returning, and me—I am the Baker of Lierre."
He said it as if it were a title of nobility.
At Malines (Mechelen) the devastation appeared perhaps more shocking because we had known the russet and gray old city so well in peaceful years. Many of the streets were impassable, choked with debris. One side of the great Square was knocked to fragments. The huge belfry, Saint Rombaud's Tower, wherein hangs the famous carillon of more than thirty bells, was battered but still stood firm. The vast cathedral was a melancholy wreck of its former beauty and grandeur. The roof was but a skeleton of bare rafters; the side wall pierced with gaping rents and holes; the pictured windows were all gone; the sunlight streamed in everywhere upon the stone floor, strewn with an indescribable confusion of shattered glass, fallen beams, fragments of carved wood, and broken images of saints.
A little house behind the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the roof and upper story of which had been pierced by shells, seemed to be occupied. We knocked and went in. The man and his wife were in the sitting-room, trying to put it in order. Much of the furniture was destroyed; the walls were pitted with shrapnel-scars, but the cheap ornaments on the mantel were unbroken. In the ceiling was a big hole, and in the floor a pit in which lay the head and fragments of a German shell. I asked if I might have them. "Certainly," answered the man. "We wish to keep no souvenirs of that wicked thing."
I do not propose to describe the magnificent work of the "Commission for Relief in Belgium." It is too well known. Besides, it is not my story; it is the story of Herbert Hoover, who made the idea a reality, and of the crew of fine and fearless young Americans who worked with him. England and France furnished more money to buy food; but the United States, in addition to money and wheat, gave the organization, the personal energy and toil and tact, the assurance of fair play and honest dealing, without which that food could never have gotten into Belgium or been distributed only to the civil population.