Transcriber's Notes: Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved. A number of obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the end of this document.
The War on All Fronts, Volume IV
ITALY AT WAR
AND THE ALLIES IN THE WEST
E. ALEXANDER POWELL Correspondent of the "New York World" and Now Captain in the National Army
New York Charles Scribner's Sons 1919 Copyright, 1917, by Charles Scribner's Sons
For the assistance they have given me in the preparation of this book, and for the countless kindnesses they have shown me, I am indebted to many persons in many countries.
His Excellency Count Macchi di Cellere, Italian Ambassador to the United States; Signor Giuseppe Brambilla, Counsellor of Embassy; Signor A. G. Celesia, Secretary of Embassy; his Excellency Thomas Nelson Page, American Ambassador to Italy, and the members of his staff; Signor Tittoni, former Italian Ambassador to France; Signor de Martino, Chef du Cabinet of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; his Excellency Signor Scialoje, Minister of Education; Professor Andrea Galante, Chief of the Bureau of Propaganda; Colonel Barberiche and Captain Pirelli of the Comando Supremo, and Signor Ugo Ojetti, in charge of works of art in the war zone, all have my grateful thanks for the exceptional facilities afforded me for observation on the Italian front.
His Excellency M. Jusserand, French Ambassador to the United States, General Nivelle, General Gouraud, and General Dubois; Monsieur Henri Ponsot, Chief of the Press Bureau, and Professor Georges Chinard, Chief of the Bureau of Propaganda of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Commandant Bunau-Varilla and the Marquis d'Audigne all helped to make this the most interesting and instructive of my many visits to the French front.
To General Jilinsky, commanding the Russian forces in France, and to Colonel Romanoff, his Chief of Staff, I am grateful for the courtesies extended to me while on the Russian front in Champagne.
Lord Northcliffe, who on innumerable occasions has shown himself a friend, Lord Robert Cecil, Minister of Blockade, and Sir Theodore Andrea Cook, Editor of The Field, put themselves to much trouble in arranging for my visit to the British front. Nor have I forgotten the kindnesses shown me by Captain C. H. Roberts and Lieutenant C. S. Fraser, my hosts at General Headquarters.
For the many privileges extended to me during my visit to the Belgian front I take this opportunity of thanking his Excellency Baron de Broqueville, Prime Minister of Belgium; M. Emanuel Havenith, former Belgian Minister to the United States, Lieutenant-General Jacquez, commanding the third division of the Belgian Army; Capitaine-Commandant Vincotte, and Capitaine-Commandant Maurice Le Duc of the Etat-Major.
To Lieutenant-Colonel Spencer Cosby, Corps of Engineers, United States Army, I owe my thanks for much of the technical information contained in Chapter V, as he generously placed at my disposal the extremely valuable material which he collected during his three years of service as American Military Attache in Paris.
James Hazen Hyde, Esq., who accompanied me on my visit to the Italian front, has, by his hospitality and kindness, placed me under obligations which I can never fully repay. I could have had no more charming or cultured travelling companion.
I also wish to acknowledge the information and suggestions I have derived from Sydney Low's admirable book, "Italy in the War"; from R. W. Seton-Watson's "The Balkans, Italy, and the Adriatic"; from V. Gayda's "Modern Austria"; from Dr. E. J. Dillon's "From the Triple to the Quadruple Alliance"; from Pietro Fedele's "Why Italy Is at War," and from E. D. Ushaw's "Railways at the Front."
And, finally, I desire to thank Howard E. Coffin, Esq., of the Advisory Board of the Council of National Defence, for his hospitality on his sea island of Sapeloe, where most of this book was written.
E. ALEXANDER POWELL.
April fifteenth, 1917.
COUNT V. MACCHI DI CELLERE, AMBASSADOR OF ITALY, AND JEAN JULES JUSSERAND, AMBASSADOR OF FRANCE
IN APPRECIATION OF THE MANY KINDNESSES THEY HAVE SHOWN ME AND IN ADMIRATION OF THE TACT, SINCERITY, AND ABILITY WHICH HAVE WON FOR THEM, AND FOR THE COUNTRIES THEY REPRESENT, THE FRIENDSHIP AND CONFIDENCE OF ALL AMERICANS
PAGE I. THE WAY TO THE WAR 3
II. WHY ITALY WENT TO WAR 37
III. FIGHTING ON THE ROOF OF EUROPE 68
IV. THE ROAD TO TRIESTE 105
V. WITH THE RUSSIANS IN CHAMPAGNE 138
VI. "THEY SHALL NOT PASS!" 155
VII. "THAT CONTEMPTIBLE LITTLE ARMY" 204
VIII. WITH THE BELGIANS ON THE YSER 253
The King of Italy and the Prince of Wales Frontispiece
FACING PAGE The Teleferica 4
An Italian Position in the Carnia 5
The King of Italy and General Cadorna at Castelnuovo 32
The Peril in the Clouds 33
Alpini Going Into Action 68
On the Roof of the World 69
A Heavy Howitzer in the High Alps 82
An Outpost in the Carnia 83
"Halt! Show Your Papers!" 160
A Nieuport Biplane About to Take the Air 161
Verdun's Mightiest Defender: a 400-mm. Gun 172
A Gun Painted to Escape the Observation of Enemy Airmen 173
Australians on the Way to the Trenches 196
The Fire Trench 197
A British "Heavy" Mounted on a Railway-Truck Shelling the German Lines 238
Buried on the Field of Honor 239
These illustrations are from photographs taken by the Photographic Sections of the Italian, French, British, and Belgian armies and by the author.
ITALY AT WAR
THE WAY TO THE WAR
When I told my friends that I was going to the Italian front they smiled disdainfully. "You will only be wasting your time," one of them warned me. "There isn't anything doing there," said another. And when I came back they greeted me with "You didn't see much, did you?" and "What are the Italians doing, anyway?"
If I had time I told them that Italy is holding a front which is longer than the French and British and Belgian fronts combined (trace it out on the map and you will find that it measures more than four hundred and fifty miles); that, alone among the Allies, she is doing most of her fighting on the enemy's soil; that she is fighting an army which was fourth in Europe in numbers, third in quality, and probably second in equipment; that in a single battle she lost more men than fell on both sides at Gettysburg; that she has taken 100,000 prisoners; that, to oppose the Austrian offensive in the Trentino, she mobilized a new army of half a million men, completely equipped it, and moved it to the front, all in seven days; that, were her trench lines carefully ironed out, they would extend as far as from New York to Salt Lake City; that, instead of digging these trenches, she has had to blast most of them from the solid rock; that she has mounted 8-inch guns on ice-ledges nearly two miles above sea-level, in positions to which a skilled mountaineer would find it perilous to climb; that in places the infantry has advanced by driving iron pegs and rings into the perpendicular walls of rock and swarming up the dizzy ladders thus constructed; that many of the positions can be reached only in baskets slung from sagging wires stretched across mile-deep chasms; that many of her soldiers are living like arctic explorers, in caverns of ice and snow; that on the sun-scorched floor of the Carso the bodies of the dead have frequently been found baked hard and mummified, while in the mountains they have been found stiff, too, but stiff from cold; that in the lowlands of the Isonzo the soldiers have fought in water to their waists, while the water for the armies fighting in the Trentino has had to be brought up from thousands of feet below; and, most important of all, that she has kept engaged some forty Austrian divisions (about 750,000 men)—a force sufficient to have turned the scale in favor of the Central Powers on any of the other fronts. And I have usually added: "After what I have seen over there, I feel like lifting my hat, in respect and admiration, to the next Italian that I see."
It is no exaggeration to say that not one American in a thousand has any adequate conception of what Italy is fighting for, nor any appreciation of the splendid part she is playing in the war. This lack of knowledge, and the consequent lack of interest, is, however, primarily due to the Italians themselves. They are suspicious of foreigners. They are by nature shy. More insular than the French or English, they are only just commencing to realize the political value of our national maxim: "It pays to advertise." Though they want publicity they do not know how to get it. Instead of welcoming neutral correspondents and publicists, they have, until very recently, met them with suspicion and hinderances. What little news is permitted to filter through is coldly official, and is altogether unsuited for American consumption. The Italians are staging one of the most remarkable and inspiring performances that I have seen on any front—a performance of which they have every reason to be proud—but diffidence and conservatism have deterred them from telling the world about it.
To visit Italy in these days is no longer merely a matter of buying a ticket and boarding a train. To comply with the necessary formalities takes the better part of a week. Should you, an American, wish to travel from Paris to Rome, for example, you must first of all obtain from the American consul-general a special vise for Italy, together with a statement of the day and hour on which you intend to leave Paris, the frontier station at which you will enter Italy, and the cities which you propose visiting. The consul-general will require of you three carte-de-visite size photographs. Armed with your vised passport, you must then present yourself at the Italian Consulate where several suave but very businesslike gentlemen will subject you to a series of extremely searching questions. And you can be perfectly certain that they are in possession of enough information about you to check up your answers. Should it chance that your grandfather's name; was Schmidt, or something equally German-sounding, it is all off. The Italians, I repeat, are a suspicious folk, and they are taking no chances. Moreover, unless you are able to convince them of the imperative necessity of your visiting Italy, you do not go. Tourists and sensation seekers are not wanted in Italy in these times; the railways are needed for other purposes. If, however, you succeed in satisfying the board of examiners that you are not likely to be either a menace or a nuisance, a special passport for the journey will be issued you. Three more photographs, please. This passport must then be indorsed at the Prefecture of Police. (Votre photographie s'il vous plait.) Should you neglect to obtain the police vise you will not be permitted to board the train.
Upon reaching the frontier you are ushered before a board composed of officials of the French Service de Surete and the Italian Questura and again subjected to a searching interrogatory. Every piece of luggage in the train is unloaded, opened, and carefully examined. It having been discovered that spies were accustomed to conceal in their compartments any papers which they might be carrying, and retrieving them after the frontier was safely passed, the through trains have now been discontinued, passengers and luggage, after the examination at the frontier, being sent on by another train. In addition to the French and Italian secret-service officials, there are now on duty at the various frontier stations, and likewise in Athens, Naples, and Rome, keen-eyed young officers of the "Hush-Hush Brigade," as the British Intelligence Department is disrespectfully called, whose business it is to scrutinize the thousands of British subjects—officers returning from India, Egypt, or Salonika, or from service with the Mediterranean fleet, King's messengers, diplomatic couriers—who are constantly crossing Italy on their way to or from England.
That the arm of the enemy is very long, and that it is able to strike at astounding distances and in the most unexpected places, is brought sharply home to one as the train pulls out of the Genoa station. From Genoa to Pisa, a distance of a hundred miles, the railway closely hugs the Mediterranean shore. At night all the curtains on that side of the train must be kept closely drawn and, as an additional precaution, the white electric-light bulbs in the corridors and compartments have been replaced by violet ones. If you ask the reason for this you are usually met with evasions. But, if you persist, you learn that it is done to avoid the danger of the trains being shelled by Austrian submarines! (Imagine, if you please, the passengers on the New York-Boston trains being ordered to keep their windows darkened because enemy submarines have been reported off the coast.) In this war remoteness from the firing-line does not assure safety. Spezia, for example, which is a naval base of the first importance, is separated from the firing-line by the width of the Italian peninsula. Until a few months ago its inhabitants felt as snug and safe as though they lived in Spain. Then, one night, an Austrian airman crossed the Alps, winged his way above the Lombard plain, and let loose on Spezia a rain of bombs which caused many deaths and did enormous damage.
Even the casual traveller in Italy to-day cannot fail to be struck by the prosperity which the war has brought to the great manufacturing cities of the north as contrasted with the commercial stagnation which prevails in the southern provinces of the kingdom. In the munition plants, most of which are in the north, are employed upward of half a million workers, of whom 75,000 are women. Genoa, Milan, and Turin are a-boom with industry. The great automobile factories have expanded amazingly in order to meet the demand for shells, field-guns, and motor-trucks. Turin, as an officer smilingly remarked, "now consists of the Fiat factory and a few houses." The United States is not the only country to produce that strange breed known as munitions millionaires. Italy has them also—and the jewellers and champagne agents are doing a bigger business than they have ever done before.
As the train tears southward into Tuscany you begin to catch fleeting glimpses of the men who are making possible this sudden prosperity—the men who are using the motor-trucks and the shells and the field-guns. They don't look very prosperous or very happy. Sometimes you see them drawn up on the platforms of wayside stations, shivering beneath their scanty capes in the chill of an Italian dawn. Usually there is a background of wet-eyed women, with shawls drawn over their heads, and nearly always with babies in their arms. And on nearly every siding were standing long trains of box-cars, bedded with straw and filled with these same wiry, brown-faced little men in their rat-gray uniforms, being hurried to the fighting in the north. It reminded me of those long cattle-trains one sees in the Middle West, bound for the Chicago slaughter-houses.
Rome in war-time is about as cheerful as Coney Island in midwinter. Empty are the enticing little shops on the Piazza di Spagna. Gone from the marble steps are the artists' models and the flower-girls. To visit the galleries of the Vatican is to stroll through an echoing marble tomb. The guards and custodians no longer welcome you for the sake of your tips, but for the sake of your company. The King, who is with the army, visits Rome only rarely; the Queen occupies a modest villa in the country; the Palace of the Quirinal has been turned into a hospital. The great ballroom, the state dining-room, the throne-room, even the Queen's sun-parlor, are now filled with white cots, hundreds and hundreds of them, each with its bandaged occupant, while in the famous gardens where Popes and Emperors and Kings have strolled, convalescent soldiers now laze in the sun or on the gravelled paths play at bowls. In giving up their home for the use of the wounded, the King and Queen have done a very generous and noble thing, and the Italian people are not going to forget it.
If Rome, which is the seat of government, shows such unmistakable signs of depression, imagine the stagnation of Florence, which has long been as dependent upon its crop of tourists as a Dakota farmer is upon his crop of wheat. The Cascine Gardens, in the old days one of the gayest promenades in Europe, are as lonely as a cemetery. At those hotels on the Lung' Arno, which remain open, the visitor can make his own terms. The Via Tornabuoni is as quiet as a street in a country town. The dealers in antiques, in souvenirs, in pictures, in marbles, have most of them put up their shutters and disappeared, to return, no doubt, in happier times.
There is in the Via Tornabuoni, midway between Giacosa's and the American Consulate, an excellent barber shop. The owner, who learned his trade in the United States, is the most skilful man with scissors and razor that I know. His customers came from half the countries of the globe.
"But they are all gone now," he told me sadly. "Some are fighting, some have been killed, the others have gone back to their homes until the war is over. Three years ago I had as nice a little business as a man could ask for. To-day I do not make enough to pay my rent. But it doesn't make much difference, for next month my class is called to the colors, and in the spring my son, who will then be eighteen, will also have to go."
No, they're not very enthusiastic over the war in Florence. But you can't blame them, can you?
* * * * *
In none of the great cities known and loved by Americans has the war wrought such startling changes as in Venice. Because it is a naval base of the first importance, because it is almost within sight of the Austrian coast, and therefore within easy striking distance of Trieste, Fiume, and Pola, and because throughout Venetia Austrian spies abound, Venice is a closed city. It reminded me of a beautiful playhouse which had been closed for an indefinite period: the fire-curtain lowered, the linen covers drawn over the seats, the carpets rolled up, the scenery stored away, the great stage empty and desolate. Gone are the lights, the music, the merriment which made Venice one of the happiest and most care free of cities. Because of the frequent air raids—Venice has been attacked from the sky nearly a hundred times since the war began—the city is put to bed promptly at nightfall. To show a light from a door or window after dark is to invite a domiciliary visit from the police and, quite possibly, arrest on the charge of attempting to communicate with the enemy. The illumination of the streets is confined to small candle-power lights in blue or purple bulbs, the weakened rays being visible for only a short distance. To stroll at night in the darkened streets is to risk falling into a canal, while the use of an electric torch would almost certainly result in arrest as a spy. The ghastly effect produced by the purple lights, the utter blackness of the canals, the deathly silence, broken only by the sound of water lapping the walls of the empty palazzos, combine to give the city a peculiarly weird and sepulchral appearance.
Of the great hotels which line the Canale Grande, only the Danieli remains open. Over the others fly the Red Cross flags, and in their windows and on their terraces lounge wounded soldiers. The smoking-room of the Danieli, where so many generations of travelling Americans have chatted over their coffee and cigars, has been converted into a rifugio, in which the guests can find shelter in case of an air attack. A bomb-proof ceiling has been made of two layers of steel rails, laid crosswise, and ramparts of sand-bags have been built against the walls. On the doors of the bedrooms are posted notices urging the guests, when hostile aircraft are reported, to make directly for the rifugio, and remain there until the raid is over. In other cities in the war zone the inhabitants take to their cellars during aerial attacks, but in Venice there are no cellars, and the buildings are, for the most part, too old and poorly built to afford safety from bombs. To provide adequate protection for the population, particularly in the poorer and more congested districts of the city, has, therefore, proved a serious problem for the authorities. Owing to its situation, Venice is extremely vulnerable to air attacks, for the Austrian seaplanes, operating from Trieste or Pola, can glide across the Adriatic under cover of darkness, and are over the city before their presence is discovered. Before the anti-aircraft guns can get their range, or the Italian airmen can rise and engage them, they have dropped their bombs and fled. Although, generally speaking, the loss of life resulting from these aerial forays is surprising small, they are occasionally very serious affairs. During an air raid on Padua, which occurred a few days before I was there, a bomb exploded in the midst of a crowd of terrified townspeople who were struggling to gain entrance to a rifugio. In that affair 153 men, women, and children lost their lives.
The admiral in command of Venice showed me a map of the city, which, with the exception of a large rectangle, was thickly sprinkled with small red dots. There must have been several hundred of them.
"These dots," he explained, "indicate where Austrian bombs have fallen."
"This part of the city seems to have been peculiarly fortunate," I remarked, placing my finger on the white square.
"That," said he, "is the Arsenal. For obvious reasons we do not reveal whether any bombs have fallen there."
Considering the frequency with which Venice has been attacked from the air, its churches, of which there are an extraordinary number, have escaped with comparatively little damage. Only four, in fact, have suffered seriously. Of these, the church of Santa Maria Formosa has sustained the greatest damage, its magnificent interior, with the celebrated decorations by Palma Vecchio, having been transformed through the agency of an Austrian bomb, into a heap of stone and plaster. Another bomb chose as its target the great dome of the church of San Pietro di Castello, which stands on the island of San Pietro, opposite the Arsenal. On the Grand Canal, close by the railway-station, is the Chiesa degli Scalzi, whose ceiling by Tiepolo, one of the master's greatest works, has suffered irreparable injury. Santi Giovanni e Paolo, next to St. Mark's the most famous church in Venice, has also been shattered by a bomb.
I asked the officer in command of the aerial defenses of Venice if he thought that the Austrian airmen intentionally bomb churches, hospitals, and monuments, as has been so often asserted in the Allied press.
"It's this way," he explained. "A dozen aviators are ordered to bombard a certain city. Three or four of them are real heroes and, at the risk of their lives, descend low enough to make certain of their targets before releasing their bombs. The others, however, rather than come within range of the anti-aircraft guns, remain at a safe height, drop their bombs at random as soon as they are over the city, and then clear out. Is it very surprising, then, that bombs dropped from a height of perhaps ten thousand feet, by aircraft travelling sixty miles an hour, miss the forts and barracks for which they are intended and hit churches and dwellings instead?"
Intentional or not, the bombardment of the Venetian churches is a blunder for which the Austrians will pay dearly in loss of international good-will. A century hence these shattered churches will be pointed out to visitors as the work of the modern Vandals, and lovers of art and beauty throughout the world will execrate the nation which permitted the sacrilege. They have destroyed glass and paintings and sculptures that were a joy to the whole world, they have undone the work of saints and heroes and masters, and they have gained no corresponding military advantage. In every city which has been subjected to air raids the inhabitants have been made more obstinate, more iron-hard in their determination to keep on fighting. The sight of shattered churches, of wrecked dwellings, of mangled women and dead babies, does not terrify or dismay a people: it infuriates them. In the words of Talleyrand: "It is worse than a crime; it is a mistake."
The strangest sight in Venice to-day is St. Mark's. There is nothing in its present appearance, inside or out, to suggest the famous cathedral which so many millions of people have reverenced and loved. Indeed, there is little about it to suggest a church at all. It looks like a huge and ugly warehouse, like a car barn, like a Billy Sunday tabernacle, for, in order to protect the wonderful mosaics and marbles which adorn the church's western facade, it has been sheathed, from ground to roof, with unpainted planks, and these, in turn, have been covered with great squares of asbestos. By this use of fire-proof material it is hoped that, even should the church be hit by a bomb, there may be averted a fire such as did irreparable damage to the Cathedral of Rheims.
The famous bronze horses have been removed from their place over the main portal of St. Mark's, and taken, I believe, to Florence. It is not the first travelling that they have done, for from the triumphal arch of Nero they once looked down on ancient Rome. Constantine sent them to adorn the imperial hippodrome which he built in Constantinople, whence the Doge Dandolo brought them as spoils of war to Venice when the thirteenth century was still young. In 1797 Napoleon carried them to Paris, but after the downfall of the Emperor they were brought back to Venice by the Austrians and restored to their ancient position. There they remained for just a hundred years, until the menace of the Austrian aircraft necessitated their hasty removal to a place of safety. Of them one of Napoleon's generals is said to have remarked disparagingly: "They are too coarse in the limbs for cavalry use, and too light for the guns." In any event, they were the only four horses, alive or dead, in the whole city, and the Venetians love them as though they were their children.
If in its war dress the exterior of St. Mark's presents a strange appearance, the transformation of the interior is positively startling. Nothing that ingenuity can suggest has been left undone to protect the sculptures, mosaics, glass, and marbles which, brought by the seafaring Venetians from the four corners of the globe, make St. Mark's the most beautiful of churches. Everything portable has been removed to a place of safety, but the famous mosaics, the ancient windows, and the splendid carvings it is impossible to remove, and they are the most precious of all. The two pulpits of colored marbles and the celebrated screen with its carven figures are now hidden beneath pyramids of sand-bags. The spiral columns of translucent alabaster which support the altar, are padded with excelsior and wrapped with canvas. Swinging curtains of quilted burlap protect the walls of the chapels and transepts from flying shell fragments. Yet all these precautions would probably avail but little were a bomb to strike St. Mark's. In the destruction that would almost certainly result there would perish mosaics and sculptures which were in their present places when Vienna was still a Swabian village, and Berlin had yet to be founded on the plain above the Spree.
If it has proved difficult to protect from airplane fire the massive basilica of St. Mark's, consider the problem presented to the authorities by the Palace of the Doges, that creation of fairylike loveliness, whose exquisite facades, with their delicate window tracery and fragile carvings, would be irretrievably ruined by a well-aimed bomb. In order to avert such a disaster, it was proposed to protect the facades of the palace by enclosing the building in temporary walls of masonry. It was found, however, that this plan was not feasible, as the engineers reported that the piles on which the ancient building is poised would submerge if subjected to such an additional weight. All that they have been able to do, therefore, is to shore up the arches of the loggia with beams, fill up the windows with brick and plaster, and pray to the patron saint of Venice to save the city's most exquisite structure.
The gilded figure of an angel, which for so many centuries has looked down on Venice from the summit of the Campanile, has been given a dress of battleship gray that it may not serve as a landmark for the Austrian aviators. Over the celebrated equestrian statue of Colleoni—of which Ruskin said: "I do not believe there is a more glorious work of sculpture existing in the world"—has been erected a titanic armored sentry-box, which is covered, in turn, with layer upon layer of sand-bags. Could the spirit of that great soldier of fortune be consulted, however, I rather fancy that he would insist upon sitting his bronze warhorse, unprotected and unafraid, facing the bombs of the Austrian airmen just as he used to face the bolts of the Austrian crossbowmen.
The commercial life of Venice is virtually at a standstill. Most of the glass and lace manufactories have been forced to shut down. The dealers in curios and antiques lounge idly in their doorways, deeming themselves fortunate if they make a sale a month. All save one or two of the great hotels which have not been taken over by the Government for hospitals have had to close their doors. The hordes of guides and boatmen and waiters who depended for their living upon the tourists are—such of them as have not been called to the colors—without work and in desperate need. In normal times a quarter of Venice's 150,000 inhabitants are paupers, and this percentage must have enormously increased, for, notwithstanding the relief measures which the Government has taken, unemployment is general, the prices of food are constantly increasing, and coal has become almost impossible to obtain. Fishing, which was one of the city's chief industries, is now an exceedingly hazardous employment because of submarines and floating mines. Save for the clumsy craft of commerce, the gondolas have largely disappeared, and with them has disappeared, only temporarily, let us hope, the most picturesque feature of Venetian life. They have been driven off by the slim, polished, cigar-shaped power-boats, which tear madly up and down and crossways of the canals in the service of the military government and of the fleet. To use a gondola, particularly at night, is as dangerous as it would be to drive upon a motor race-course with a horse and buggy, for, as no lights are permitted, one is in constant peril of being run down by the recklessly driven power craft, whose wash, by the way, is seriously affecting the foundations of many of the palazzos.
It is an unfamiliar, gloomy, mysterious place, is war-time Venice, but in certain respects I liked it better than the commercialized city of antebellum days. Gone are the droves of loud-voiced tourists, gone the impudent boatmen, the importunate beggars, the impertinent guides, gone the glare of lights and the blare of cheap music. No longer do the lantern-strung barges of the musicians gather nightly off the Molo. No longer across the waters float the strains of "Addio di Napoli" and "Ciri-Biri-Bi"; the Canale Grande is dark and silent now. The tourist hostelries, on whose terraces at night gleamed the white shirt-fronts of men and the white shoulders of women, now have as their only guests the white-bandaged wounded. In its darkness, its mystery, its silence, it is once again the Venice of the Middle Ages, the Venice of lovers and conspirators, of inquisitors and assassins, the Venice of which Shakespeare sang.
But with the coming of dawn the Venice of the twelfth century is abruptly transformed into the Venice of the twentieth. The sun, rising out of the Adriatic, turns into ellipsoids of silver the aluminum-colored observation balloons which form the city's first line of aerial defense. As the sun climbs higher it brings into bold relief the lean barrels of the anti-aircraft guns, which, from the roofs of the buildings to the seaward, sweep the eastern sky. Abreast the Public Gardens the great war-ships, in their coats of elephant-gray, swing lazily at their moorings. Near the Punta della Motta lie the destroyers, like greyhounds held in leash. Off the Riva Schiavoni, on the very spot, no doubt, where Dandolo's war-galleys lay, are anchored the British submarines. And atop his granite column, a link with the city's glorious and warlike past, still stands the winged lion of St. Mark, snarling a perpetual challenge at his ancient enemy—Austria.
* * * * *
The Comando Supremo, or Great Headquarters, of the Italian army is at Udine, an ancient Venetian town some twenty miles from the Austrian frontier. This is supposed to be a great secret, and must not be mentioned in letters or newspaper despatches, it being assumed that, were the Austrians to learn of the presence in Udine of the Comando Supremo, their airmen would pay inconvenient visits to the town, and from the clouds would drop their steel calling-cards on the King and General Cadorna. So, though every one in Italy is perfectly aware that the head of the Government and the head of the army are at Udine, the fact is never mentioned in print. To believe that the Austrians are ignorant of the whereabouts of the Italian high command is to severely strain one's credulity. The Italians not only know where the Austrian headquarters is situated, but they know in which houses the various generals live, and the restaurants in which they eat. This extreme reticence of the Italians seems a little irksome and overdone after the frankness one encounters on the French and British fronts, but it is due, no doubt, to the admonitions which are posted in hotels, restaurants, stations, and railway carriages throughout Italy: "It is the patriotic duty of good citizens not to question the military about the war," and: "The military are warned not to discuss the war with civilians. An indiscreet friend can be as dangerous as an enemy."
My previous acquaintance with Udine had been confined to fleeting glimpses of it from the windows of the Vienna-Cannes express. Before the war it was, like the other towns which dot the Venetian plain, a quaint, sleepy, easy-going place, dwelling in the memories of its past, but with the declaration of hostilities it suddenly became one of the busiest and most important places in all Italy. From his desk in the Prefecture, General Cadorna, a short, wiry, quick-moving man in the middle sixties, with a face as hard and brown as a hickory-nut, directs the operations of the armies along that four-hundred-and-fifty-mile-long battle-line which stretches from the Stelvio to the sea. The cobble-paved streets and the vaulted arcades are gay with many uniforms, for, in addition to the hundreds of staff and divisional officers quartered in Udine, the French, British, Russian, and Belgian Governments maintain there military missions, whose business it is to keep the staffs of their respective armies constantly in touch with the Italian high command, thus securing practical co-operation. In a modest villa, a short distance outside the town, dwells the King, who has been on the front almost constantly since the war began. Although, as ruler of the kingdom, he is commander-in-chief of the Italian armies, he rarely gives advice unless it is asked for, and never interferes with the decisions of the Comando Supremo. Scarcely a day passes that he does not visit some sector of the battle-line. Officers and men in some of the lonely mountain commands told me that the only general who has visited them is the King. Should he venture into exposed positions, as he frequently does, he is halted by the local command. It is, of course, tactfully done. "I am responsible for your Majesty's safety," says the officer. "Were there to be an accident I should be blamed." Whereupon the King promptly withdraws. If he is not permitted to take unnecessary risks himself, neither will he permit others. When the Prince of Wales visited the Italian front last summer, he asked permission to enter a certain first-line trench, which was being heavily shelled. The King bluntly refused. "I want no historic incidents here," he remarked dryly.
To obtain a room in Udine is as difficult as it is to obtain hotel accommodation in New York during the Automobile Show. But, because I was a guest of the Government, I found that a room had been reserved for me by the Comando Supremo at the Hotel Croce di Malta. I was told that since the war three proprietors of this hotel had made their fortunes and retired, and after I received my bill I believed it. There was in my room one of those inhospitable, box-shaped porcelain stoves so common in North Italy and the Tyrol. To keep a modest wood-fire going in that stove cost me exactly thirty lire (about six dollars) a day. But a fire was a necessity. Luxuries came higher. Yet the scene in the hotel's shabby restaurant at the dinner-hour was well worth the fantastic charges, for there gathered there nightly as interesting a company as I have not often seen under one roof: a poet and novelist who has given to Italy the most important literary work since the days of the great classics, and who, by his fiery and impassioned speeches, did more than any single person to force the nation's entrance into the war; an American dental surgeon who abandoned an enormously lucrative practice in Rome to establish at the front a hospital where he has performed feats approaching the magical in rebuilding shrapnel-shattered faces; a Florentine connoisseur, probably the greatest living authority on Italian art, who has been commissioned with the preservation of all the works of art in the war zone; an English countess who is in charge of an X-ray car which operates within range of the Austrian guns; a young Roman noble whom I had last seen, in pink, in the hunting-field; a group of khaki-clad officers from the British mission, cold and aloof of manner despite their being among allies; a party of Russians, their hair clipped to the skull, their green tunics sprinkled with stars and crosses; half a dozen French military attaches in beautifully cut uniforms of horizon-blue; and Italian officers, animated and gesticulative, on whose breasts were medal ribbons showing that they had fought in forgotten wars in forgotten corners of Africa. At one table they were discussing the probable date of some Roman remains which had just been unearthed at Aquileia; at another an argument was in progress over the merits of vers libre; one of the Russians was explaining a new system he had evolved for breaking the bank at Monte Carlo; the young English countess was retailing the latest jokes from the London music-halls, but nowhere did I hear mentioned the grim and bloody business which had brought us, of so many minds and from so many lands, to this shabby, smoke-filled, garlic-scented room in this little frontier town. Yet, had the door been opened, and had we stilled our voices, we could have heard, quite plainly, the sullen grumble of the cannon.
WHY ITALY WENT TO WAR
To understand why Italy is at war you have only to look at the map of Central Europe. You can hardly fail to be struck by the curious resemblance which the outline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire bears to a monstrous bird of prey hovering threateningly over Italy. The body of the bird is formed by Hungary; Bohemia is the right wing, Bosnia and Dalmatia constitute the left; the Tyrol represents the head, while the savage beak, with its open jaws, is formed by that portion of the Tyrol commonly known as the Trentino. And that savage beak, you will note, is buried deep in the shoulder of Italy, holding between its jaws, as it were, the Lake of Garda. To continue the simile, it will be seen that the talons of the bird, formed by the Istrian Peninsula, reach out over the Adriatic in threatening proximity to Venice and the other Italian coast towns. It is to end the intolerable menace of that beak and those claws that Italy is fighting. There you have it in a nutshell.
Just as in France, since 1870, the national watchword has been "Alsace-Lorraine," so in Italy, for upward of half a century, the popular cry has been "Italia Irredenta"—Italy Unredeemed. It was a deep and bitter disappointment to all Italians that, upon the formation in 1866 of the present kingdom, there should have been left under Austrian dominion two regions which, in population, in language, and in sentiment, were essentially Italian. These "unredeemed" regions were generally called after their respective capital cities: Trent and Trieste. But, though the phrase Italia Irredenta was originally interpreted as referring only to the Trentino and Trieste, it has gradually assumed, in the course of years, a broader significance, until now it includes all that portion of the Tyrol lying south of the Brenner, the Carso plateau, Trieste and its immediate hinterland, the entire Istrian Peninsula, the Hungarian port of Fiume, and the whole of Dalmatia and Albania. In other words, the Irredentists of to-day—and, since Italy entered the war, virtually the entire nation has subscribed to Irredentist aims and ideals—dream of an Italy whose northern frontier shall be formed by the main chain of the Alps, and whose rule shall be extended over the entire eastern shore of the Adriatic.
In order to intelligently understand the Italian view-point, suppose that we imagine ourselves in an analogous position. For this purpose you must picture Canada as a highly organized military Power, its policies directed by an aggressive, predacious and unscrupulous government, and with a population larger than that of the United States. You will conceive of the State of Vermont as a Canadian province under military control: a wedge driven into the heart of manufacturing New England, and threatening the teeming valleys of the Connecticut and the Hudson. You must imagine this province of Vermont as overrun by Canadian soldiery; as crisscrossed by military roads and strategic railways; its hills and mountains abristle with forts whose guns are turned United Statesward. The inhabitants of the province, though American in descent, in traditions, and in ideals, are oppressed by a harsh and tyrannical military rule. With the exception of a single trunk-line, there are no railways crossing the frontier. Commercial intercourse with the United States is virtually forbidden. To teach American history in the schools of Vermont is prohibited; to display the American flag is a felony; to sing the "Star-Spangled Banner" is punishable by imprisonment or a fine. For the Vermonters to communicate, no matter how innocently, with their kinsmen in the United States, is to bring down upon them suspicion and possible punishment. By substituting Austria-Hungary for Canada, Italy for the United States, and the Trentino for Vermont, you will, perhaps, have a little clearer understanding of why the liberation of the Trentino from Austrian oppression is demanded by all Italians.
A similar homely parallel will serve to explain the Adriatic situation. You will imagine Seattle and the shores of Puget Sound, with its maze of islands, in Canadian possession. Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria are strongly fortified bases for Canadian battle-fleets and flotillas of destroyers which constantly menace the commercial cities along our Pacific seaboard. The Americans dwelling in Seattle and the towns of the Olympic Peninsula are under an even harsher rule than their brethren in Vermont. No American may hold a Government position. The Canadian authorities encourage and assist the immigration of thousands of Orientals in order to get the trade of the region out of American hands. A Canadian naval base at Honolulu threatens our trade routes in the Pacific and our commercial interests in Mexico and the Orient. In this analogy Seattle stands, of course, for Trieste; the Olympic Peninsula corresponds to the Istrian Peninsula; for Vancouver and Victoria you will read Pola and Fiume; while Honolulu might, by a slight exercise of the imagination, be translated into the great Austrian stronghold of Cattaro. Such is a reasonably accurate parallel to Italy's Adriatic problem.
For purposes of administration the Trentino, which the Austrians call Sued-Tirol, forms one province with Tyrol. For such a union there is no geographic, ethnologic, historic, or economic excuse. Of the 347,000 inhabitants of the Trentino, 338,000 are Italian. The half million inhabitants of Tyrol are, on the other hand, all Germans. The two regions are separated by a tremendous mountain wall, whose only gateway is the Brenner. On one side of that wall is Italy, with her vines, her mulberry-trees, her whitewashed, red-tiled cottages, her light-hearted, easy-going, Latin-blooded peasantry; across the mountains is the solemn, austere German scenery, with savage peaks and gloomy pine forests, a region inhabited by a stolid, slow-thinking Teutonic people. The Trentino and the Tyrol have about as much in common as Cuba and Maine.
The possession of the Trentino by Austria is not alone a geographical and ethnological anomaly: it is a pistol held at the head of Italy. Glance once more at the map, if you please, and you will see what I mean. The Trentino is, you will note, nothing but a prolongation of the valleys of Lombardy and Venetia. Held by Austria, it is like a great intrenched camp in the heart of northern Italy, menacing the valley of the Po, which is one of the kingdom's most vital arteries, and the link between her richest and most productive cities. From the Trentino, with its ring of forts, Austria can always threaten and invade her neighbor. She lies in the mountains, with the plains beneath her. She can always sweep down into the plains, but the Italians cannot seriously invade the mountains, since, even were they able to force the strongly defended passes, they would only find a maze of other mountains beyond. When, in the summer of 1916, the Archduke Frederick launched his great offensive from the Trentino, supported by a shattering artillery, he came perilously near—much nearer, indeed, than the world was permitted to know—to cutting the main east-and-west line of communications, which would have resulted in isolating the Italian armies operating on the Isonzo.
The Trentino is dominated by the army. Its administration is as essentially military in character as that of Gibraltar. It is, to all intents and purposes, one vast camp, commanded by thirty-five forts, gridironed with inaccessible military highways, and overrun with soldiery. Economic expansion has been systematically discouraged. The waterfalls of the Trentino could, it is estimated, develop 250,000 horse-power, but the province has not benefited by this energy, for the regions to the north are already supplied, and the military authorities have not permitted its transmission to the manufacturing towns of Lombardy and Venetia, where it is needed. Neither roads nor railways have been built save for strategic purposes, and, as a result, the peasants have virtually no outlets for their produce. In fact, it has been the consistent policy of the Austrian Government to completely isolate the Trentino from Italy. In pursuance of this policy, all telephone and telegraph communications and many sorely needed railway connections with the other side of the frontier have been prohibited. Though the renting of their mountain pastures had always been the peasants' chief source of income, the military authorities issued orders, long before this war began, that Italian herdsmen could no longer drive their cattle across the border to graze, the prohibition being based on the ground that the herdsmen were really Italian army officers in disguise. In recent years the fear of Italian spies has become with the Austrian military authorities almost an insane obsession. Innocent tourists, engineers, and commercial travellers were arrested by the score on the charge of espionage. The mere fact of being an Italian was in itself ground for suspicion. Compared with the attitude of the Austrian Government toward its Italian subjects in the Trentino, the treatment accorded by the Boers to the British residents of the Transvaal was considerate and kind. Thus there arose in the Trentino, as in all Austrian provinces inhabited by Italians, a strange, unhealthy atmosphere of suspicion, of secrecy, and of fear. This atmosphere became so pronounced in recent years that it was sensed even by passing tourists, who felt as though they were in a besieged city, surrounded by secret agents and spies.
But, oppressive and tyrannical as are Austria's methods in the Trentino, the final expression of her anti-Italian policy is to be found in the Adriatic provinces. Here lie Austria's chief interests—the sea and commerce. Here, therefore, is to be found an even deeper fear of Italianism, and here still sterner methods are employed to stamp it out. The government of Trieste is, in fact, organized for that very purpose—witness the persecutions to which the citizens of Italian descent are subjected by the police, the countless political imprisonments, the systematic hostility to Italian schools in contrast to the Government's generosity toward German and Slovene institutions, and the State assistance given to Czech, Croatian, and Slovene banks for the purpose of taking the trade of the city out of Italian hands. Italians are excluded from all municipal employments, from the postal service, the railways, and the State industries. Nor does the official persecution end there. The presentation of many of the old Italian operas is forbidden. The singing of Garibaldi's Hymn leads to jail. Every year thousands of Italian papers are confiscated. Until the war began hundreds of Italians were expelled annually by the police, to be replaced (according to the official instructions of 1912) "by more loyal and more useful elements."
Though for more than five centuries Trieste has belonged to the House of Hapsburg, the city is as Italian as though it had always been ruled from Rome. There is nothing in Trieste, save only the uniforms of the military and the K.K. on the doors of the Government offices, to remind one of Austrian rule. The language, the customs, the architecture, the names over the shop-doors, the faces of the people—everything is characteristically Italian. Outside of Trieste the zones of nationality are clearly divided: to the west, on the coast, dwell the Italians; in the mountainous interior to the eastward are the Slavs. But in Istria, that arrowhead-shaped peninsula at the head of the Adriatic, the population is almost solidly Italian. Though alternately bribed and bullied, cajoled and coerced, there persists, both among the simple peasants of the Trentino and Istria and the hard-headed business men of Trieste, a most sentimental and inextinguishable attachment for the Italian motherland. There is, indeed, something approaching the sublime in the fascination which Italy exercises across the centuries on these exiled sons of hers.
The arguments adduced by Italy for the acquisition of Dalmatia are by no means as sound ethnographically as her claims to the Trentino and Trieste. Though the apostles of expansion assert that ten per cent of the population of Dalmatia is Italian, this is an exaggeration, the most reliable authorities agreeing that the Italian element does not exceed three or four per cent. But this is not saying that Dalmatia is not, in spirit, in language, in traditions, Italian. Cruise along its shores, talk to its people, view the architecture of Ragusa, of Zara, of Spalato, and you will not need to be reminded that Dalmatia was Venetian until, little more than a century ago, Napoleon handed it over to Austria at the peace of Campo Formio in return for the recognition of his two made-to-order states, the Cis-Alpine and Ligurian Republics.
It is safe to say that the war will produce no more delicate problem than that of Dalmatia, which, as I have already shown, can never be settled on purely racial lines. Those who have studied the subject agree that to completely shut off Austria-Hungary from the sea would be a proceeding of grave unwisdom and one which would be certain to sow the seed for future wars. This is, I believe, the view taken by most deep-thinking Italians. The Italianization of the Adriatic's eastern seaboard would result, moreover, in raising a barrier against the legitimate expansion of the Balkan Slavs and would end the Serbian dream of an outlet to the sea. But the statesmen who are shaping Italy's policies are, I am convinced, too sensible and too far-seeing to commit so grave a blunder. Were I to hazard a prophecy—and prophesying is always a poor business—I should say that, no matter how conclusive a victory the Allies may achieve, neither Austria-Hungary nor Serbia will be wholly cut off from the salt water.
Events in the less remote theatres of war have prevented the Italian occupation of Albania from attracting the attention it deserves. The operations in that region have, moreover, been shrouded in mystery; foreigners desiring to visit Albania have met with polite but firm refusals; the published reports of the progress of the Albanian expedition—which, by the way, is a much larger force than is generally supposed—have been meagre and unsatisfying. The Italians figure, I fancy, on making their occupation as extensive and as solid as possible before the Albanian question comes up for international discussion.
If Italy's ambitions in Dalmatia bring her into collision with the Slavs, her plans for expansion in Albania are bound to arouse the hostility of the Greeks. The Italian troops at Argyocastro are occupying territory which Greece looks on as distinctly within her sphere of influence, and they menace Janina itself. Though Italy has intimated, I believe, that her occupation of Albania is not to be regarded as permanent, she is most certainly on the eastern shore of the Adriatic to stay, for her commercial and political interests will not permit her to have a Haiti or a Mexico at her front door. So I rather fancy that, when the peacemakers deal out the cards upon the green-topped table, Albania will become Italian in name, if not in fact, under a control similar to that which the French exercise in Morocco or the British in Egypt. And it will be quite natural, for there is in the Albanians a strong streak of Italian.
The settlement of this trans-Adriatic problem is going to require the most cautious and delicate handling. How far will Italy be permitted to go? How far may Serbia come? Shall Austria be cut off from the sea? Is Hungary to become an independent kingdom? Is Montenegro to disappear? What is Greece to get? The only one of these questions that can be answered with any certainty is the last. Greece, as the result of her shifty and even treacherous attitude, will get very little consideration. On the decision of these questions hangs the future of the Balkan peoples. Though their final settlement must, of course, be deferred until the coming of peace, some regard will have to be paid, after all, to actual occupancies and accomplished facts. That is why Italy is making her position in Albania so solid that she cannot readily be ousted. And perhaps it is well that she is. Europe will owe a debt of gratitude to the Italians if they can bring law and order to Albania, which has never had a speaking acquaintance with either of them.
Nor do Italian ambitions end with the domination of the eastern shore of the Adriatic. With the destruction, or at least the disablement, of the Austrian Empire, Italy dreams of bringing within her political and commercial sphere of influence a considerable portion of the Balkan Peninsula, from which she is separated by only forty-seven miles of salt water. But that is only the beginning of her vision of commercial greatness. Look at the map and you will see that with its continuation, the island of Sicily, Italy forms a great wharf which reaches out into the Mediterranean, nearly to the shores of Africa. Her peculiarly fortunate geographical position enables her, therefore, to offer the shortest route from Western and Central Europe to North Africa, the Levant, and the Farther East. It has been rumored, though with what truth I cannot say, that the Allies have agreed, in the event that they are completely victorious, to a rectification of the Tunisian and Egyptian frontiers, thus materially improving Italy's position in Libya, as the colony of Tripolitania is now known. It is also generally understood that, should the dismemberment of Asiatic Turkey be decided upon, the city of Smyrna, with its splendid harbor and profitable commerce, as well as a slice of the hinterland, will fall to Italy's portion. With her flag thus firmly planted on the coasts of three continents, with her most dangerous rival finally disposed of, with the splendid industrial organization, born of the war, speeded up to its highest efficiency, and with vast new markets in Africa, in Asia, in the Balkans opened to her products, Italy dreams of wresting from France and England the overlordship of the Middle Sea.
It would be useless to deny that an unfavorable impression was created in the United States by the fact that Italy, in entering the war, turned against her former allies. Her enemies have charged that she dickered with both the Entente and the Central Powers, and only joined the former because they made her the most tempting offer. That she did dicker with Austria is but the unvarnished truth—and of that chapter of Italian history the less said the better—but I am convinced that she finally entered the war, not because she had been bribed by promises of territorial concessions, but because the national conscience demanded that she join the forces of civilization in their struggle against barbarism. Suppose that I sketch for you, in brief, bold outline, the chain of historic events which occurred during the ten months between the presentation to Serbia of the Austrian ultimatum and Italy's declaration of war on Austria. Then you will be able to form your own opinion.
On the evening of July 23, 1914, Austria handed her note to Serbia. It demanded in overbearing and insulting terms that Serbia should place under Austrian control her schools, her law-courts, her police, in fact her whole internal administration. The little kingdom was given forty-eight hours in which to consider her answer. In other words, she was called upon, within the space of two days, to sacrifice her national independence. At six o'clock on the evening of July 25 the time limit allowed by the Austrian ultimatum expired. Half an hour later the Austrian Minister and his staff left Belgrade.
Now Article VII of the Treaty of Alliance between Italy, Austria, and Germany provided that in the event of any change in the status quo of the Balkan Peninsula which would entail a temporary or permanent occupation, Austria and Italy bound themselves to work in mutual accord on the basis of reciprocal compensation for any advantage, territorial or otherwise, obtained by either of the contracting Powers. Here is the text of the Article. Read it for yourself:
Austria-Hungary and Italy, who aim exclusively at the maintenance of the status quo in the East, bind themselves to employ their influence to prevent every territorial change which may be detrimental to one or other of the contracting Powers. They will give each other all explanations necessary for the elucidation of their respective intentions as well as those of the other Powers. If, however, in the course of events the maintenance of the status quo in the Balkans and on the Ottoman coasts and in the islands of the Adriatic and the AEgean Seas should become impossible, and if, either in consequence of the acts of a third Power or of other causes, Austria and Italy should be compelled to change the status quo by a temporary or permanent occupation, such occupation shall only take place after previous agreement between the two Powers, based on the principle of a reciprocal arrangement for all the advantages, territorial or other, which one of them may secure outside the status quo, and in such a manner as to satisfy all the legitimate claims of both parties.
Nothing could be plainer than that Austria-Hungary, by forcing war upon Serbia, planned to change the status quo in the Near East. Yet she had not taken the trouble to give Italy any explanation of her intentions, nor had she said anything about giving her ally reciprocal compensation as provided for in the treaty. Three days after the memorable 23d of July, therefore, Italy intimated to the Vienna Government that her idea of adequate compensation would be the cession of those Austrian provinces inhabited by Italians. In other words, she insisted that, if Austria was to extend her borders below the Danube by an occupation of Serbia, as was obviously her intention, thus upsetting the balance of power in the Balkans, Italy expected to receive as compensation the Trentino and Trieste, which, though under Austrian rule, are Italian in sentiment and population. Otherwise, she added, the Triple Alliance would be broken. On the 3d of August, having received no satisfactory reply from Austria, Italy declared her neutrality. In so doing, however, she made it quite clear that she in no way admitted Austria's right to a free hand in the Adriatic or the Balkan Peninsula—regions which Italy has long regarded as within her own sphere of influence.
Early in the winter of 1914 Prince von Buelow, one of the most suave and experienced German diplomats, arrived in Rome on a special mission from Berlin. In his first interview with the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Baron Sonnino, he frankly acknowledged Italy's right to territorial compensation under the terms of Article VII of the Triple Alliance. There is no doubt that Germany, recognizing the danger of flouting Italy, brought strong pressure to bear on Austria to surrender at least a portion of the regions in question. Austria, however, bluntly refused to heed either Italy's demands or Germany's suggestions. She refused even to discuss the question of ceding any part of her Italian provinces. She attempted, indeed, to reverse the situation by claiming compensation from Italy for the occupation of the Dodecannesus and Vallona. The Dodecannesus was held as a pledge of Turkish good faith, while the occupation of Vallona was indispensable for the protection of Italian interests in Albania, where anarchy reigned, and where much the same conditions prevailed which existed in Mexico at the time of the American occupation of Vera Cruz.
The discussions might well have dragged on indefinitely, but late in March, 1915, Austria, goaded by her ally into a more conciliatory attitude, reluctantly consented to make concrete proposals. She offered to Italy the southern half of the Trentino, but mentioned no definite boundaries, and added that the bargain could not be carried into effect until peace had been concluded. In return she claimed from Italy heavy financial contributions to the National Debt and to the provincial and communal loans, also full indemnity for all investments made in the ceded territory, for all ecclesiastical property and entailed estates, and for the pensions of State officials. To assign even an approximate value to such concessions would entail a prolonged delay—a fact of which Austria was perfectly aware.
Italy responded to the Austrian advances by presenting her counter-claims, and for more than a month the negotiations pursued a difficult and tedious course. It must be admitted that, everything considered, Italy's claims were not particularly exorbitant. She claimed (1) a more extended and more easily defendable frontier in the Trentino, but she refrained from demanding the cession of the entire region lying south of the Brenner, as she would have been justified in doing from a strategic point of view; (2) a new boundary on the Isonzo which would give her possession of the towns of Gradisca and Gorizia (she has since taken them by arms); (3) the cession of certain islands of the Curzolari group; (4) the withdrawal of Austrian pretensions in Albania and the acknowledgement of Italy's right to occupy the Dodecannesus and Vallona; (5) the formation of the city of Trieste, together with the adjacent judicial districts of Priano and Capo d'Istria, into an autonomous State, independent of both Italy and Austria. By such an arrangement Austria would have retained nearly the whole of the Istrian Peninsula, the cities of Pola and Fiume, the entire Dalmatian coast, and the majority of the Dalmatian Islands. But she refused to even consider Italy's proposed changes in the Adriatic, or to do more than slightly increase her offer in the Trentino. Italy therefore broke off negotiations, and on May 4, 1915, the alliance with Austria was denounced.
Prince von Buelow was now confronted with the complete failure of his mission of keeping Italy yoked to Austria and Germany. No one realized better than this suave and astute diplomatist that the bonds which still held together the three nations were about to break. He next endeavored, by methods verging on the unscrupulous, to create distrust of the Italian Government among the Italian people. A member of the Reichstag circulated stealthily among the deputies and journalists, flattering each in turn with the assumption that he alone was the man of the moment, and offering him, in the names of Germany and Austria, new concessions which had not been communicated to the Italian Cabinet. It was back-stairs diplomacy in its shadiest and most questionable form. The concessions thus unofficially promised consisted of the offer of a new frontier in the Trentino, and for Trieste an administrative but not a political autonomy. The Adriatic, it seems, was to remain as before. And these concessions were all hedged about by impossible restrictions, or were not to come into effect until after the war. Yet at one time these intrigues came perilously near to accomplishing their purpose. Matters were still further complicated by the activities and interference of a former Foreign Minister, Signor Giolitti, whose vanity had been flattered, and whose ambitions had been cleverly played upon by the Teutonic emissary. To fully understand the extraordinary nature of this proceeding, one must picture Count von Bernstorff, at the height of the submarine crisis, negotiating not with the Government of the United States, but with Mr. William Jennings Bryan!
But, fortunately for the national honor, the Italian people, having had time to reflect what the future of Italy would be after the war, whatever its outcome, were they to be cut off from the only peoples in Europe with which they had spiritual sympathy, took things into their own hands. The storm of anger and indignation which swept the country rocked the Government to its foundations. The Salandra cabinet, which had resigned as a protest against the machinations of Giolitti, was returned to power. Through every city, town, and hamlet from Savoy to Sicily, thronged workmen, students, business and professional men, even priests and monks, waving the red-white-and-green banner and shouting the national watch-words "Italia Irredenta," and "Avanti Savoia!"
But there was a deeper cause underlying these great patriotic demonstrations than mere hatred of Austria. They were expressions of national resentment at the impotent and dependent role which Italy had played so long. D'Annunzio, in one of his famous addresses in May, 1915, put this feeling into words: "We will no longer be a museum of antiquities, a kind of hostelry, a pleasure resort, under a sky painted over with Prussian blue, for the benefit of international honeymooners."
The sentiment of the people was expressed by the Idea Nazionale, which on May 10 declared:
Italy desires war: (1) In order to obtain Trent, Trieste, and Dalmatia. The country desires it. A nation which has the opportunity to free its land should do so as a matter of imperative necessity.... (2) ... in order to conquer for ourselves a good strategic frontier in the North and East.... (3) ... because to-day, in the Adriatic, in the Balkan Peninsula, the Mediterranean, and Asia, Italy should have all the advantages it is possible for her to have, and without which her political, economic, and moral power would diminish in proportion as that of others increased.... If we would be a great Power we must accept certain obligations: one of them is war....
The voice of the people was unmistakable: they wanted war. To have refused that demand would have meant the fall of the Government if not of the dynasty. The King did not want war. The responsible politicians, with a very few exceptions, did not want it. The nobility did not want it. The Church did not want it. The bankers and business men of the nation did not want it. It was the great mass of the Italian people, shamed and indignant at the position in which the nation had been placed by the sordid dickering with Austria, who swept the country into war. I was in Italy during those exciting days; I witnessed the impressive popular demonstrations in the larger cities; and in my mind there was left no shadow of a doubt that the Government had to choose between war and revolution. On the 23d of May, 1915, Italy declared war on Austria.
For ten months Italy, in the face of sneers and jeers, threats and reproaches, had maintained her neutrality. Be it remembered, however, that it was from the first a neutrality benevolent to the Allies. Even those who consider themselves well informed have apparently failed to recognize how decisive a factor that neutrality was. Italy's action in promptly withdrawing her forces from the French border relieved France's fears of an Italian invasion, and left her free to use the half million troops which had been guarding her southern frontier to oppose the German advance on Paris. It is not overstating the facts to assert that, had Italy's attitude toward France been less frank and honest, had the Republic not felt safe in stripping its southern border of troops, von Kluck would have broken through to Paris—he came perilously near to doing so as it was—and the whole course of the war would have been changed. It is to be hoped that, when the diplomatic history of the war comes to be written, the attitude of Italy during those critical days will receive the recognition which it deserves.
FIGHTING ON THE ROOF OF EUROPE
The sun had scarcely shown itself above the snowy rampart of the Julian Alps when the hoarse throbbing of the big gray staff-car awoke the echoes of the narrow street on which fronts the Hotel Croce di Malta in Udine. Despite a leather coat, a fur-lined cap, and a great fleecy muffler which swathed me to the eyes, I shivered in the damp chill of the winter dawn. We adjusted our goggles and settled down into the heavy rugs, the soldier-driver threw in his clutch, the sergeant sitting beside him let out a vicious snarl from the horn, the little group of curious onlookers scattered hastily, and the powerful car leaped forward like a race-horse that feels the spur. With the horn sounding its hoarse warning, we thundered through the narrow, tortuous, cobble-paved streets, between rows of old, old houses with faded frescoes on their plastered walls and with dim, echoing arcades. And so into the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele—there is no more charming little square in Italy—with its fountain and its two stone giants and the pompous statue of an incredibly ugly King astride a prancing horse and a monument to Peace set up by Napoleon to commemorate a treaty which was the cause of many wars. At the back of the piazza, like the back-drop on a stage, rises a towering sugar-loaf mound, thrown up, so they say, by Attila, that from it he might conveniently watch the siege and burning of Aquileia. Perched atop this mound, and looking for all the world like one of Maxfield Parrish's painted castles, is the Castello, once the residence of the Venetian and Austrian governors, and, rising above it, a white and slender tower. If you will take the trouble to climb to the summit of this tower you will find that the earth you left behind is now laid out at your feet like one of those putty maps you used to make in school. Below you, like a vast tessellated floor, is the Friulian plain, dotted with red-roofed villages, checkerboarded with fields of green and brown, stretching away, away to where, beyond the blue Isonzo, the Julian and Carnic Alps leap skyward in a mighty, curving, mile-high wall. You have the war before you, for amid those distant mountains snakes the Austro-Italian battle-line. Just as Attila and his Hunnish warriors looked down from the summit of this very mound, fourteen hundred years ago, upon the destruction of the Italian plain-towns, so to-day, from the same vantage-point, the Italians can see their artillery methodically pounding to pieces the defenses of the modern Huns. A strange reversal of history, is it not?
Leaving on our right the Palazzo Civico, built two-score years before Columbus set foot on the beach of San Salvador, we rolled through the gateway in the ancient city wall, acknowledging the salute of the steel-helmeted sentry just as the mail-clad knights who rode through that same gateway to the fighting on the plain, long centuries ago, doubtless acknowledged the salute of the steel-capped men-at-arms. Down the straight white road we sped, between rows of cropped and stunted willows, which line the highway on either side like soldiers with bowed heads. It is a storied and romantic region, this Venetia, whose fertile farm-lands, crisscrossed with watercourses, stretch away, flat and brown as an oaken floor, to the snowy crescent of the Alps. Scenes of past wars it still bears upon its face, in its farm-houses clustered together for common protection, in the stout walls and loopholed watch-towers of its towns, record of its warlike and eventful past. One must be prosaic indeed whose imagination remains unstirred by a journey across this historic plain, which has been invaded by Celts, Istrians, and Romans; Huns, Goths, and Lombards; Franks, Germans, and Austrians in turn. Over there, a dozen miles to the southward, lie the ruins of Aquileia, once one of the great cities of the western world, the chief outpost fortress of the Roman Empire, visited by King Herod of Judea, and the favorite residence of Augustus and Diocletian. These fertile lowlands were devastated by Alaric and his Visigoths and by Attila and his Huns—the original Huns, I mean. Down this very highroad tramped the legions of Tiberius on their way to give battle to the Illyrians and Pannonians. Here were waged the savage conflicts of the Guelphs, the Ghibellines, and the Scaligers. Here fought the great adventurer, Bartolommeo Colleoni; in the whitewashed village inn of Campo Formio, a far greater adventurer signed a treaty whereby he gave away the whole of this region as he would have given away a gold-piece; half a century later Garibaldi and his ragged redshirts fought to win it back.
For mile after mile we sped through a countryside which bore no suggestion of the bloody business which had brought me. So far as war was concerned, I might as well have been motoring through New England. But, though an atmosphere of tranquillity and security prevailed down here amid the villages and farm-steads of the plain, I knew that up there among those snow-crowned peaks ahead of us, musketry was crackling, cannon were belching, men were dying. But as we approached the front—though still miles and miles behind the fighting-line—the signs of war became increasingly apparent: base camps, remount depots, automobile parks, aviation schools, aerodromes, hospitals, machine-shops, ammunition-dumps, railway sidings chock-a-block with freight-cars and railway platforms piled high with supplies of every description. Moving closer, we came upon endless lines of motor-trucks moving ammunition and supplies to the front and other lines of motor-trucks and ambulances moving injured machinery and injured men to the repair-depots and hospitals at the rear. We passed Sicilian mule-carts, hundreds upon hundreds of them, two-wheeled, painted bright yellow or bright red and covered with gay little paintings such as one sees on ice cream venders' carts and hurdy-gurdies, the harness of the mules studded with brass and hung with scarlet tassels. Then long strings of donkeys, so heavily laden with wine-skins, with bales of hay, with ammunition-boxes, that all that could be seen of the animals themselves were their swinging tails and wagging ears. We met convoys of Austrian prisoners, guarded by cavalry or territorials, on their way to the rear. They looked tired and dirty and depressed, but most prisoners look that. A man who has spent days or even weeks amid the mud and blood of a trench, with no opportunity to bathe or even to wash his hands and face, with none too much food, with many of his comrades dead or wounded, with a shell-storm shrieking and howling about him, and has then had to surrender, could hardly be expected to appear high-spirited and optimistic. Yet it has long been the custom of the Allied correspondents and observers to base their assertions that the morale of the enemy is weakening and that the quality of his troops is deteriorating on the demeanor of prisoners fresh from the firing-line. Ambulances passed us, travelling toward the hospitals at the base, and sometimes wounded men, limping along on foot. The heads of some were swathed in blood-stained bandages, some carried their arms in slings, others hobbled by with the aid of sticks, for the Italian army is none too well supplied with ambulances and those who are able to walk must do so in order that the places in the ambulances may be taken by their more seriously wounded fellows. They were dog-tired, dirty, caked with mud and blood, but they grinned at us cheerfully—for were they not beating the Austrians? Indeed, one cannot look at Italian troops without seeing that the spirit of the men is high and that they are confident of victory.
Now the roads became crowded, but never blocked, with troops on the march: infantry of the line, short, sturdily built fellows wearing short capes of greenish gray and trench-helmets of painted steel; Alpini, hardy and active as the goats of their own mountains, their tight-fitting breeches and their green felt hats with the slanting eagle's feather making them look like the chorus of Robin Hood; Bersaglieri, the flower of the Italian army, who have preserved the traditions of their famous corps by still clinging to the flat-brimmed, rakish hat with its huge bunch of drooping feathers; engineers, laden like donkeys with intrenching, bridging, and mining tools; motor-cycle despatch riders, leather-jacketed and mud-bespattered, the light-horsemen of modern war; and, very occasionally, for their hour for action has not yet come, detachments of cavalry, usually armed with lances, their helmets and busbies linen-covered to match the businesslike simplicity of their uniform. About the Italian army there is not much of the pomp and circumstance of war. It is as businesslike as a blued-steel revolver. In its total absence of swagger and display it is characteristic of a nation whose instincts are essentially democratic. Everything considered, the Italian troops compare very favorably with any in Europe. The men are for the most part shortish, very thick-set, and burned by the sun to the color of a much-used saddle. I rather expected to see bearded, unkempt fellows, but I found them clean-shaven and extraordinarily neat. The Italian military authorities do not approve of the poilu. Though the men are laden like pack-mules, they cover the ground at a surprisingly smart pace, while special corps, such as the Bersaglieri and the Alpini, are famous for the fashion in which they take even the steepest acclivities at the double. I was told that, though the troops recruited in the North possess the most stamina and endurance, the Neapolitans and Sicilians have the most elan and make the best fighters, these sons of the South having again and again advanced to the assault through storms of fire which the colder-blooded Piedmontese refused to face.
It is claimed for the Italian uniform that it is at once the ugliest and the least visible of any worn in Europe. "Its wearer doesn't even make a shadow," a friend of mine remarked. The Italian military authorities were among the first to make a scientific study of colors for uniforms. They did not select, for example, the "horizon blue" adopted by the French because, while this is less visible on the roads and plains of a flat, open, sunlit region, it would prove fatally distinct on the tree-clad mountain slopes where the Italians are fighting. The color is officially described as gray-green, but the best description of it is that given by a British officer: "Take some mud from the Blue Nile, carefully rub into it two pounds of ship-rat's hair, paint a roan horse with the composition, and then you will understand why the Austrians can't see the Italian soldiers in broad daylight at fifty yards." Its quality of invisibility is, indeed, positively uncanny. While motoring in the war zone I have repeatedly come upon bodies of troops resting beside the road, yet, so marvellously do their uniforms merge into the landscape that, had not my attention been called to them, I should have passed them by unnoticed. The uniform of the Italian officer is of precisely the same cut and apparently of the same material as that of the men, and as the former not infrequently dispenses with the badges of rank, it is often difficult to distinguish an officer from a private. The Italian officers, particularly those of the cavalry regiments, have always been among the smartest in Europe, but the gorgeous uniforms which, in the happy, carefree days before the war, added such brilliant notes of color to the scenes on the Corso and in the Cascine, have been replaced by a dress which is as simple as it is serviceable.
The Italian Government has a stern objection to wasteful or unnecessary expenditure, and all the costly and superfluous trimmings so dear to the heart of the military have been ruthlessly pruned. But economy is not insisted upon at the expense of efficiency. Nothing is refused or stinted that is necessary to keep the soldiers in good health or that will add to the efficiency of the great fighting-machine. But the war is proving a heavy financial strain for Italy and she is determined not to waste on it a single soldo more than she can possibly help. On the French and British fronts staff-officers are constantly dashing to and fro in motor-cars on errands of more or less importance. But you see nothing of that sort in the Italian war zone. The Comando Supremo can, of course, have all the motor-cars it wants, but it discourages their use except in cases of necessity. The officers are instructed that, whenever they can travel by railway without detriment to the interests of the service, they are expected to do so, for the trains are in operation to within a few miles of the front and with astonishing regularity, whereas tires and gasolene cost money. Returning at nightfall from the front to Udine, we were nearly always stopped by officers—majors, colonels, and once by a general—who would ask us to give them a lift into town. It has long been the fashion among foreigners to think of Italians, particularly those of the upper class, as late-rising, easy-going, and not particularly in love with work—a sort of dolce far niente people. But the war has shown how unsafe are such generalizations. There is no harder worker on any front than the Italian officer. Even the highest staff-officers are at their desks by eight and frequently by seven. Though it is easier to get from the Italian front to Milan or Florence than it is to get from Verdun to Paris, or from the Somme to London, one sees little of the week-end travelling so common on the British front. Officers in the war zone are entitled to fifteen days' leave of absence a year, and from this rule there are no deviations.