BY E. ALEXANDER POWELL
THE NEW FRONTIERS OF FREEDOM THE ARMY BEHIND THE ARMY THE LAST FRONTIER GENTLEMEN ROVERS THE END OF THE TRAIL FIGHTING IN FLANDERS THE ROAD TO GLORY VIVE LA FRANCE! ITALY AT WAR
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
THE NEW FRONTIERS OF FREEDOM
FROM THE ALPS TO THE AEGEAN
E. ALEXANDER POWELL
NEW YORK CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 1920
COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
Published April, 1920
TO A REAL AND LIFELONG FRIEND MAJOR J. STANLEY MOORE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Owing to the disturbed conditions which prevailed throughout most of southeastern Europe during the summer and autumn of 1919, the journey recorded in the following pages could not have been taken had it not been for the active cooperation of the Governments through whose territories we traveled and the assistance afforded by their officials and by the officers of their armies and navies, to say nothing of the hospitality shown us by American diplomatic and consular representatives, relief-workers and others. From the Alps to the AEgean, in Italy, Dalmatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Turkey, Rumania, Hungary and Serbia we met with universal courtesy and kindness.
For the innumerable courtesies which we were shown in Italy and the regions under Italian occupation I am indebted to His Excellency Francisco Nitti, Prime Minister of Italy, and to former Premier Orlando, to General Armando Diaz, Commander-in-Chief of the Italian Armies; to Lieutenant-General Albricci, Minister of War; to Admiral Thaon di Revel, Minister of Marine; to Vice-Admiral Count Enrice Mulo, Governor-General of Dalmatia; to Lieutenant-General Piacentini, Governor-General of Albania, to Lieutenant-General Montanari, commanding the Italian troops in Dalmatia; to Rear-Admiral Wenceslao Piazza, commanding the Italian forces in the Curzolane Islands; to Lieutenant-Colonel Antonio Chiesa, commanding the Italian troops in Montenegro; to Colonel Aldo Aymonino, Captain Marchese Piero Ricci and Captain Ernesto Tron of the Comando Supremo, the last-named being our companion and cicerone on a motor-journey of nearly three thousand miles; to Captain Roggieri of the Royal Italian Navy, Chief of Staff to the Governor-General of Dalmatia; to Captain Amedeo Acton, commanding the "Filiberto"; to Captain Fausto M. Leva, commanding the "Dandolo"; to Captain Giulio Menin, commanding the "Puglia," and to Captain Filipopo, commanding the "Ardente," all of whom entertained us with the hospitality so characteristic of the Italian Navy; to Lieutenant Giuseppe Castruccio, our cicerone in Rome and my companion on dirigible and airplane flights; to Lieutenant Bartolomeo Poggi and Engineer-Captain Alexander Ceccarelli, respectively commander and chief engineer of the destroyer "Sirio," both of whom, by their unfailing thoughtfulness and courtesy added immeasurably to the interest and enjoyment of our voyage down the Adriatic from Fiume to Valona; to Lieutenant Pellegrini di Tondo, our companion on the long journey by motor across Albania and Macedonia; to Lieutenant Morpurgo, who showed us many kindnesses during our stay in Salonika; to Baron San Martino of the Italian Peace Delegation; to Lieutenant Stroppa-Quaglia, attache of the Italian Peace Delegation, and, above all else, to those valued friends, Cavaliere Giuseppe Brambilla, Counselor of the Italian Embassy in Washington; Major-General Gugliemotti, Military Attache, and Professor Vittorio Falorsi, formerly Secretary of the Embassy at Washington, to each of whom I am indebted for countless kindnesses. No list of those to whom I am indebted would be complete, however, unless it included the name of my valued and lamented friend, the late Count V. Macchi di Cellere, Italian Ambassador to the United States, whose memory I shall never forget.
I welcome this opportunity of expressing our appreciation of the hospitality shown us by their Majesties King Ferdinand and Queen Marie of Rumania, who entertained us at their Castle of Pelesch, and of acknowledging my indebtedness to His Excellency M. Bratianu, Prime Minister of Rumania, and to M. Constantinescu, Rumanian Minister of Commerce.
I am profoundly appreciative of the honor shown me by His Majesty King Nicholas of Montenegro, and my grateful thanks are also due to His Excellency General A. Gvosdenovitch, Aide-de-Camp to the King and former Minister of Montenegro to the United States.
For the trouble to which they put themselves in facilitating my visit to Jugoslavia I am deeply grateful to His Excellency M. Grouitch, Minister from the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes to the United States, and to His Excellency M. Vesnitch, the Jugoslav Minister to France.
From the long list of our own country-people abroad to whom we are indebted for hospitality and kindness, I wish particularly to thank the Honorable Thomas Nelson Page, formerly American Ambassador to Italy; the Honorable Percival Dodge, American Minister to the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes; the Honorable Gabriel Bie Ravndal, American Commissioner and Consul-General in Constantinople; the Honorable Francis B. Keene, American Consul-General in Rome; Colonel Halsey Yates, U.S.A., American Military Attache at Bucharest; Lieutenant-Colonel L.G. Ament, U.S.A., Director of the American Relief Administration in Rumania, who was our host during our stay in Bucharest, as was Major Carey of the American Red Cross during our visit in Salonika; Dr. Frances Flood, Director of the American Red Cross Hospital in Monastir, and Mrs. Mary Halsey Moran, in charge of American relief work in Constantza, in whose hospitable homes we found a warm welcome during our stays in those cities; Reverend and Mrs. Phineas Kennedy of Koritza, Albania; Dr. Henry King, President of Oberlin College, and Charles R. Crane, Esquire, of the Commission on Mandates in the Near East; Dr. Fisher, Professor of Modern History at Robert College, Constantinople; and finally of three friends in Rome, Mr. Cortese, representative in Italy of the Associated Press; Dr. Webb, founder and director of the hospital for facial wounds at Udine; and Nelson Gay, Esquire, the celebrated historian, all three of whom shamefully neglected their personal affairs in order to give me suggestions and assistance.
To all of those named above, and to many others who are not named, I am deeply grateful.
E. Alexander Powell.
Yokohama, Japan, February, 1920.
AN ACKNOWLEDGMENT vii
I ACROSS THE REDEEMED LANDS 1
II THE BORDERLAND OF SLAV AND LATIN 56
III THE CEMETERY OF FOUR EMPIRES 110
IV UNDER THE CROSS AND THE CRESCENT 155
V WILL THE SICK MAN OF EUROPE RECOVER? 176
VI WHAT THE PEACE-MAKERS HAVE DONE ON THE DANUBE 206
VII MAKING A NATION TO ORDER 243
The Queen of Rumania tells Major Powell that she enjoys being a Queen Frontispiece
His first sight of the Terra Irridenta 12
The end of the day 20
A little mother of the Tyrol 20
Italy's new frontier 28
This is not Venice, as you might suppose, but Trieste 46
At the gates of Fiume 60
The inhabitants of Fiume cheering d'Annunzio and his raiders 78
His Majesty Nicholas I, King of Montenegro 124
Two conspirators of Antivari 130
The head men of Ljaskoviki, Albania, waiting to bid Major and Mrs. Powell farewell 142
The ancient walls of Salonika 158
Yildiz Kiosk, the favorite palace of Abdul-Hamid and his successors on the throne of Osman 194
The Red Badge of Mercy in the Balkans 208
The gypsy who demanded five lei for the privilege of taking her picture 234
A peasant of Old Serbia 234
King Ferdinand tells Mrs. Powell his opinion of the fashion in which the Peace Conference treated Rumania 240
The wine-shop which is pointed out to visitors as "the Cradle of the War" 252
THE NEW FRONTIERS OF FREEDOM
ACROSS THE REDEEMED LANDS
It is unwise, generally speaking, to write about countries and peoples when they are in a state of political flux, for what is true at the moment of writing may be misleading the next. But the conditions which prevailed in the lands beyond the Adriatic during the year succeeding the signing of the Armistice were so extraordinary, so picturesque, so wholly without parallel in European history, that they form a sort of epilogue, as it were, to the story of the great conflict. To have witnessed the dismemberment of an empire which was hoary with antiquity when the Republic in which we live was yet unborn; to have seen insignificant states expand almost overnight into powerful nations; to have seen and talked with peoples who did not know from day to day the form of government under which they were living, or the name of their ruler, or the color of their flag; to have seen millions of human beings transferred from sovereignty to sovereignty like cattle which have been sold—these are sights the like of which will probably not be seen again in our times or in those of our children, and, because they serve to illustrate a chapter of History which is of immense importance, I have tried to sketch them, in brief, sharp outline, in this book.
Because I was curious to see for myself how the countrymen of Andreas Hofer in South Tyrol would accept their enforced Italianization; whether the Italians of Fiume would obey the dictum of President Wilson that their city must be Slav; how the Turks of Smyrna and the Bulgarians of Thrace would welcome Hellenic rule; whether the Croats and Slovenes and Bosnians and Montenegrins were content to remain pasted in the Jugoslav stamp-album; and because I wished to travel through these disputed regions while the conditions and problems thus created were still new, we set out, my wife and I, at about the time the Peace Conference was drawing to a close, on a journey, made largely by motor-car and destroyer, which took us from the Adige to the Vardar and from the Vardar to the Pruth, along more than five thousand miles of those new national boundaries—drawn in Paris by a lawyer, a doctor and a college professor—which have been termed, with undue optimism perhaps, the frontiers of freedom.
Some of the things which I shall say in these pages will probably give offense to those governments which showed us many courtesies. Those who are privileged to speak for governments are fond of asserting that their governments have nothing to conceal and that they welcome honest criticism, but long experience has taught me that when they are told unpalatable truths governments are usually as sensitive and resentful as friends. Now it has always seemed to me that a writer owes his first allegiance to his readers. To misinform them by writing only half-truths for the sake of retaining the good-will of those written about is as unethical, to my way of thinking, as it is for a newspaper to suppress facts which the public is entitled to know in order not to offend its advertisers. Were I to show my appreciation of the many kindnesses which we received from governments, sovereigns and officials by refraining from unfavorable comment on their actions and their policies, this book would possess about as much intrinsic value as those sumptuous volumes which are written to the order of certain Latin-American republics, in which the authors studiously avoid touching on such embarrassing subjects as revolutions, assassinations, earthquakes, finances, or fevers for fear of scaring away foreign investors or depreciating the government securities.
It is entirely possible that in forming some of my conclusions I was unconsciously biased by the hospitality and kindness we were shown, for it is human nature to have a more friendly feeling for the man who invites you to dinner or sends you a card to his club than for the man who ignores your existence; it is probable that I not infrequently placed the wrong interpretation on what I saw and heard, especially in the Balkans; and, in those cases where I have rashly ventured to indulge in prophecy, it is more than likely that future events will show that as a prophet I am not an unqualified success. In spite of these shortcomings, however, I would like my readers to believe that I have made a conscientious effort to place before them, in the following pages, a plain and unprejudiced account of how the essays in map-making of the lawyer, the doctor and the college professor in Paris have affected the peoples, problems and politics of that vast region which stretches from the Alps to the AEgean.
The Queen of the Adriatic never looked more radiantly beautiful than on the July morning when, from the landing-stage in front of the Danieli, we boarded the vapore which, after an hour's steaming up the teeming Guidecca and across the outlying lagoons, set us down at the road-head, on the mainland, where young Captain Tron, of the Comando Supremo, was awaiting us with a big gray staff-car. Captain Tron, who had been born on the Riviera and spoke English like an Oxonian, had been aide-de-camp to the Prince of Wales during that young gentleman's prolonged stay on the Italian front. He was selected by the Italian High Command to accompany us, I imagine, because of his ability to give intelligent answers to every conceivable sort of question, his tact, and his unfailing discretion. His chief weakness was his proclivity for road-burning, in which he was enthusiastically abetted by our Sicilian chauffeur, who, before attaining to the dignity of driving a staff-car, had spent an apprenticeship of two years in piloting ammunition-laden camions over the narrow and perilous roads which led to the positions held by the Alpini amid the higher peaks, during which he learned to save his tires and his brake-linings by taking on two wheels instead of four the hairpin mountain turns. Now I am perfectly willing to travel as fast as any one, if necessity demands it, but to tear through a region as beautiful as Venetia at sixty miles an hour, with the incomparable landscape whirling past in a confused blur, like a motion-picture film which is being run too fast because the operator is in a hurry to get home, seems to me as unintelligent as it is unnecessary. Like all Italian drivers, moreover, our chauffeur insisted on keeping his cut-out wide open, thereby producing a racket like a machine-gun, which, though it gave warning of our approach when we were still a mile away, made any attempt at conversation, save by shouting, out of the question.
Because I wished to follow Italy's new frontiers from their very beginning, at that point where the boundaries of Italy, Austria and Switzerland meet near the Stelvio Pass, our course from Venice lay northwestward, across the dusty plains of Venetia, shimmering in the summer heat, the low, pleasant-looking villas of white or pink or sometimes pale blue stucco, set far back in blazing gardens, peering coyly out at us from between the ranks of stately cypresses which lined the highway, like daintily-gowned girls seeking an excuse for a flirtation. Dotting the Venetian plain are many quaint and charming towns of whose existence the tourist, traveling by train, never dreams, their massive walls, sometimes defended by moats and draw-bridges, bearing mute witness to this region's stormy and romantic past. Towering above the red-tiled roofs of each of these Venetian plain-towns is its slender campanile, and, as each campanile is of distinctive design, it serves as a landmark by which the town can be identified from afar. Through the narrow, cobble-paved streets of Vicenza we swept, between rows of shops opening into cool, dim, vaulted porticoes, where the townspeople can lounge and stroll and gossip without exposing themselves to rain or sun; through Rovereto, noted for its silk-culture and for its old, old houses, superb examples of the domestic architecture of the Middle Ages, with faded frescoes on their quaint facades; and so up the rather monotonous and uninteresting valley of the Adige until, just as the sun was sinking behind the Adamello, whose snowy flanks were bathed in the rosy Alpenglow, we came roaring into Trent, the capital and center of the Trentino, which, together with Trieste and its adjacent territory, composed the regions commonly referred to by Italians before the war as Italia Irredenta—Unredeemed Italy.
Rooms had been reserved for us at the Hotel Trento, a famous tourist hostelry in pre-war days, which had been used as headquarters by the field-marshal commanding the Austrian forces in the Trentino, signs of its military occupation being visible in the scratched wood-work and ruined upholstery. The spurs of the Austrian staff officers on duty in Trent, as Major Rupert Hughes once remarked of the American staff officers on duty in Washington, must have been dripping with furniture polish.
Trent—or Trento, as its new owners call it—is a place of some 30,000 inhabitants, built on both banks of the Adige, in the center of a great bowl-shaped valley which is completely hemmed in by towering mountain walls. In the church of Santa Maria Maggiore the celebrated Council of Trent sat in the middle of the sixteenth century for nearly a decade. On the eastern side of the town rises the imposing Castello del Buon Consiglio, once the residence of the Prince-Bishops but now a barracks for Italian soldiery.
No one who knows Trent can question the justice of Italy's claims to the city and to the rich valleys surrounding it, for the history, the traditions, the language, the architecture and the art of this region are as characteristically Italian as though it had never been outside the confines of the kingdom. The system of mild and fertile Alpine valleys which compose the so-called Trentino have an area of about 4,000 square miles and support a population of 380,000 inhabitants, of whom 375,000, according to a census made by the Austrians themselves, are Italian. An enclave between Lombardy and Venetia, a rough triangle with its southern apex at the head of the Lake of Garda, the Trentino, originally settled by Italian colonists who went forth as early as the time of the Roman Republic, was for centuries an independent Italian prince-bishopric, being arbitrarily annexed to Austria upon the fall of Napoleon. In spite of the tyrannical and oppressive measures pursued by the Austrian authorities in their attempts to stamp out the affection of the Trentini for their Italian motherland, in spite of the systematic attempts to Germanicize the region, in spite of the fact that it was an offense punishable by imprisonment to wear the Italian colors, to sing the Italian national hymn, or to have certain Italian books in their possession, the poor peasants of these mountain valleys remained unswervingly loyal to Italy throughout a century of persecution. Little did the thousands of American and British tourists who were wont to make of the Trentino a summer playground, climbing its mountains, fishing in its rivers, motoring over its superb highways, stopping in its great hotels, realize the silent but desperate struggle which was in progress between this handful of Italian exiles and the empire of the Hapsburgs.
The attitude of the Austrian authorities toward their unwilling subjects of the Trentino was characterized by a vindictiveness as savage as it was shortsighted. Like the Germans in Alsace, they made the mistake of thinking that they could secure the loyalty of the people by awing and terrorizing them, whereas these methods had the effect of hardening the determination of the Trentini to rid themselves of Austrian rule. Caesare Battisti was deputy from Trent to the parliament in Vienna. When war was declared he escaped from Austria and enlisted in the Italian army, precisely as hundreds of American colonists joined the Continental Army upon the outbreak of the Revolution. During the first Austrian offensive he was captured and sentenced to death, being executed while still suffering from his wounds. The fact that the rope parted twice beneath his weight added the final touch to the brutality which marked every stage of the proceeding. The execution of Battista provided a striking object-lesson for the inhabitants of the Trentino and of Italy—but not the sort of object-lesson which the Austrians had intended. Instead of terrifying them, it but fired them in their determination to end that sort of thing forever. From Lombardy to Sicily Battista was acclaimed a hero and a martyr; photographs of him on his way to execution—an erect and dignified figure, a dramatic contrast to the shambling, sullen-faced soldiery who surrounded him—were displayed in every shop-window in the kingdom; all over Italy streets and parks and schools were named to perpetuate his memory.
Had there been in my mind a shadow of doubt as to the justice of Italy's annexation of the Trentino, it would have been dissipated when, after dinner, we stood on the balcony of the hotel in the moonlight, looking down on the great crowd which filled to overflowing the brilliantly lighted piazza. A military band was playing Garibaldi's Hymn and the people stood in silence, as in a church, the faces of many of them wet with tears, while the familiar strains, forbidden by the Austrian under penalty of imprisonment, rose triumphantly on the evening air to be echoed by the encircling mountains. At last the exiles had come home. And from his marble pedestal, high above the multitude, the great statue of Dante looked serenely out across the valleys and the mountains which are "unredeemed" no longer.
Though Italy's original claims in this region, as made at the beginning of the war, included only the so-called Trentino (by which is generally meant those Italian-speaking districts which used to belong to the bishopric of Trent) together with those parts of South Tyrol which are in population overwhelmingly Italian, she has since demanded, and by the Peace Conference has been awarded, the territory known as the upper Adige, which comprises all the districts lying within the basin of the Adige and of its tributary, the Isarco, including the cities of Botzen and Meran. By the annexation of this region Italy has pushed her frontier as far north as the Brenner, thereby bringing within her borders upwards of 180,000 German-speaking Tyrolese who have never been Italian in any sense and who bitterly resent being transferred, without their consent and without a plebiscite, to Italian rule.
The Italians defend their annexation of the Upper Adige by asserting that Italy's true northern boundary, in the words of Eugene de Beauharnais, written, when Viceroy of Italy, to his stepfather, Napoleon, "is that traced by Nature on the summits of the mountains, where the waters that flow into the Black Sea are divided from those that flow into the Adriatic." Viewed from a purely geographical standpoint, Italy's contention that the great semi-circular barrier of the Alps forms a natural and clearly defined frontier, separating her by a clean-cut line from the countries to the north, is unquestionably a sound one. Any one who has entered Italy from the north must have instinctively felt, as he reached the summit of this mighty mountain wall and looked down on the warm and fertile slopes sweeping southward to the plains, "Here Italy begins."
Italy further justifies her annexation of the German-speaking Upper Adige on the ground of national security. She must, she insists, possess henceforward a strong and easily defended northern frontier. She is tired of crouching in the valleys while her enemies dominate her from the mountain-tops. Nor do I blame her. Her whole history is punctuated by raids and invasions launched from these northern heights. But the new frontier, in the words of former Premier Orlando, "can be defended by a handful of men, while therefore the defense of the Trentino salient required half the Italian forces, the other half being constantly threatened with envelopment."
As I have already pointed out, the annexation of the Upper Adige means the passing of 180,000 German-speaking Austrians under Italian sovereignty, including the cities of Botzen and Meran; the ancient centers of German-Alpine culture, Brixen and Sterzing; of Schloss Tyrol, which gives the whole country its name; and, above all, of the Parsier valley, the home of Andreas Hofer, whose life and living memory provide the same inspiration for the Germans of Tyrol that the exploits and traditions of Garibaldi do for the Italians.
That Italy is not insensible to the perils of bringing within her borders a bloc of people who are not and never will be Italian, is clearly shown by the following extract from an Italian official publication:
"In claiming the Upper Adige, Italy does not forget that the highest valleys are inhabited by 180,000 Germans, a residuum from the immigration in the Middle Ages. It is not a problem to be taken light-heartedly, but it is impossible for Italy to limit herself only to the Trentino, as that would not give her a satisfactory military frontier. From that point of view, the basin of Bolzano (Bozen) is as strictly necessary to Italy as the Rhine is to France."
No one has been more zealous in the cause of Italy than I have been; no one has been more whole-heartedly with the Italians in their splendid efforts to recover the lands to which they are justly entitled; no one more thoroughly realizes the agonies of apprehension which Italy has suffered from the insecurity of her northern borders, or has been more keenly alive to the grim but silent struggle which has been waged between her statesmen and her soldiers as to whether the broad statesmanship which aims at international good-feeling and abstract justice, or the narrower and more selfish policy dictated by military necessity, should govern the delimitation of her new frontiers. But, because I am a friend of Italy, and because I wish her well, I view with grave misgivings the wisdom of thus creating, within her own borders, a new terra irredenta; I question the quality of statesmanship which insists on including within the Italian body politic an alien and irreconcilable minority which will probably always be a latent source of trouble, one which may, as the result of some unforseen irritation, break into an open sore. It would seem to me that Italy, in annexing the Upper Adige, is storing up for herself precisely the same troubles which Austria did when she held against their will the Italians of the Trentino, or as Germany did when, in order to give herself a strategic frontier, she annexed Alsace and Lorraine. When Italy puts forward the argument that she must hold everything up to the Brenner because of her fear of invasion by the puny and bankrupt little state which is all that is left of the Austrian Empire, she is but weakening her case. Her soundest excuse for the annexation of this region lies in her fear that a reconstituted and revengeful Germany might some day use the Tyrol as a gateway through which to launch new armies of invasion and conquest. But, no matter what her friends may think of the wisdom or justice of Italy's course, her annexation of the Upper Adige is a fait accompli which is not likely to be undone. Whether it will prove an act of wisdom or of shortsightedness only the future can tell.
The transition from the Italian Trentino to the German Tyrol begins a few miles south of Bozen. Perhaps "occurs" would be a more descriptive word, for the change from the Latin to the Teutonic, instead of being gradual, as one would expect, is almost startling in its abruptness. In the space of a single mile or so the language of the inhabitants changes from the liquid accents of the Latin to the deep-throated gutturals of the German; the road signs and those on the shops are now printed in quaint German script; via becomes weg, strada becomes strasse, instead of responding to your salutation with a smiling "Bon giorno" the peasants give you a solemn "Guten morgen." Even the architecture changes, the slender, four-square campaniles surmounted by bulging Byzantine domes, so characteristic of the Trentino, giving place to pointed steeples faced with colored slates or tiles. On the German side the towns are better kept, the houses better built, the streets wider and cleaner than in the Italian districts. Instead of the low, white-walled, red-tiled dwellings so characteristic of Italy, the houses begin to assume the aspect of Alpine chalets, with carved wooden balconies and steep-pitched roofs to prevent the settling of the winter snows. The plastered facades of many of the houses are decorated with gaudily colored frescoes, nearly always of Biblical characters or scenes, so that in a score of miles the traveler has had the whole story of the Scriptures spread before him. They are a deeply religious people, these Tyrolean peasants, as is evidenced not only by the many handsome churches and the character of the wall-paintings on the houses, but by the amazing frequency of the wayside shrines, most of which consist of representations of various phases of the Crucifixion, usually carved and painted with a most harrowing fidelity of detail. Occasionally we encountered groups of peasants wearing the picturesque velvet jackets, tight knee-breeches, heavy woolen stockings and beribboned hats which one usually associates with the Tyrolean yodelers who still inflict themselves on vaudeville audiences in the United States. As we sped northward the landscape changed with the inhabitants, the sunny Italian countryside, ablaze with flowers and green with vineyards, giving way to solemn forests, gloomy defiles, and crags surmounted by grim, gray castles which reminded me of the stage-settings for "Tannhaeuser" and "Lohengrin."
Seen from the summit of the Mendel Pass, the road from Trent to Bozen looks like a lariat thrown carelessly upon the ground. It climbs laboriously upward, through splendid evergreen forests, in countless curves and spirals, loiters for a few-score yards beside the margin of a tiny crystal lake, and then, refreshed, plunges downward, in a series of steep white zigzags, to meet the Isarco, in whose company it enters Bozen. Because the car, like ourselves, was thirsty, we stopped at the summit of the pass at the tiny hamlet of Madonna di Campiglio—Our Lady of the Fields—for water and for tea. Should you have occasion to go that way, I hope that you will take time to stop at the unpretentious little Hotel Neumann. It is the sort of Tyrolean inn which had, I supposed, gone out of existence with the war. The innkeeper, a jovial, white-whiskered fellow, such as one rarely finds off the musical comedy stage, served us with tea—with rum in it—and hot bread with honey, and heaping dishes of small wild strawberries, and those pastries which the Viennese used to make in such perfection. There were five of us, including the chauffeur and the orderly, and for the food which we consumed I think that the innkeeper charged the equivalent of a dollar. But, as he explained apologetically, the war had raised prices terribly. We were the first visitors, it seemed, barring Austrians and a few Italian officers, who had visited his inn in nearly five years. Both of his sons had been killed in the war, he told us, fighting bravely with their Jaeger battalion. The widow of one of his sons—I saw her; a sweet-faced Austrian girl—with her child, had come to live with him, he said. Yes, he was an old man, both of his boys were dead, his little business had been wrecked, the old Emperor Franz-Joseph—yes, we could see his picture over the fireplace within—had gone and the new Emperor Karl was in exile, in Switzerland, life had heard; even the Empire in which he had lived, boy and man, for seventy-odd years, had disappeared; the whole world was, indeed, turned upside down—but, Heaven be praised, he had a little grandson who would grow up to carry the business on.
"How do you feel," I asked the old man, "about Italian rule?"
"They are not our own people," he answered slowly. "Their language is not our language and their ways are not our ways. But they are not an unkind nor an unjust people and I think that they mean to treat us fairly and well. Austria is very poor, I hear, and could do nothing for us if she would. But Italy is young and strong and rich and the officers who have stopped here tell me that she is prepared to do much to help us. Who knows? Perhaps it is all for the best."
Immediately beyond Madonna di Campiglio the highway begins its descent from the pass in a series of appallingly sharp turns. Hardly had we settled ourselves in the tonneau before the Sicilian, impatient to be gone, stepped on the accelerator and the big Lancia, flinging itself over the brow of the hill, plunged headlong for the first of these hairpin turns. "Slow up!" I shouted. "Slow up or you'll have us over the edge!" As the driver's only response to my command was to grin at us reassuringly over his shoulder, I looked about for a soft place to land. But there was only rock-plated highway whizzing past and on the outside the road dropped sheer away into nothingness. We took the first turn with the near-side wheels in the gutter, the off-side wheels on the bank, and the car tilted at an angle of forty-five degrees. The second bend we navigated at an angle of sixty degrees, the off-side wheels on the bank, the near-side wheels pawing thin air. Had there been another bend immediately following we should have accomplished it upside down. Fortunately there were no more for the moment, but there remained the village street of Cles. We pounced upon it like a tiger on its prey. Shrilling, roaring and honking, we swooped through the ancient town, zigzagging from curb to curb. The great-great-grandam of the village was tottering across the street when the blast of the Lancia's siren pierced the deafness of a century and she sprang for the sidewalk with the agility of a young gazelle. We missed her by half an inch, but at the next corner we had better luck and killed a chicken.
Meran—the Italians have changed its official name to Merano, just as they have changed Trent to Trento, and Bozen to Bolzano—has always appealed to me as one of the most charming and restful little towns in Europe. The last time I had been there, before the war-cloud darkened the land, its streets were lined with powerful touring cars bearing the license-plates of half the countries in Europe, bands played in the parks, the shady promenade beside the river was crowded with pleasure-seekers, and its great tourist hostelries—there were said to be upwards of 150 hotels and pensions in the town—were gay with laughter and music. But this time all was changed. Most of the large hotels were closed, the streets were deserted, the place was as dismal as a cemetery. It reminded me of a beautiful house which has been closed because of its owner's financial reverses, the servants discharged, the windows boarded up, the furniture swathed in linen covers, the carpets and hangings packed away in mothballs, and the gardens overrun with weeds. At the Hotel Savoy, where rooms had been reserved for us, it was necessary, in pre-war days, to wire for accommodations a fortnight in advance of your arrival, and even then you were not always able to get rooms. Yet we were the only visitors, barring a handful of Italian commercial travelers and the Italian governor-general and his staff. The proprietor, an Austrian, told me that in the four years of war he had lost $300,000, and that he, like his colleagues, was running his hotel on borrowed money. Of the pre-war visitors to Meran, eighty per cent. had been Germans, he told me, adding that he could see no prospect of the town's regaining its former prosperity until Germany is on her financial feet again. Personally, I think that he and the other hoteliers and business men with whom I talked in Meran were rather more pessimistic than the situation warranted, for, if Italy will have the foresight to do for these new playgrounds of hers in the Alps even a fraction of what she has done for her resorts on the Riviera, and in Sicily, and along the Neapolitan littoral, if she will advertise and encourage and assist them, if she will maintain their superb roads and improve their railway communications, then I believe that a few years, a very few, will see them thronged by even greater crowds of visitors than before the war. And the fact that in the future there will be more American, English, French and Italian visitors, and fewer Germans, will make South Tyrol a far pleasanter place to travel in.
The Italians are fully alive to the gravity of the problems which confront them in attempting to assimilate a body of people, as courageous, as sturdily independent, and as tenacious of their traditional independence as these Tyrolean mountaineers—descendants of those peasants, remember, who, led by Andreas Hofer, successfully defied the dictates of Napoleon. Though I think that she is going about the business of assimilating these unwilling subjects with tact and common sense, I do not envy Italy her task. Generally speaking, the sympathy of the world is always with a weak people as opposed to a strong one, as England discovered when she attempted to impose her rule upon the Boers. Once let the Italian administration of the Upper Adige permit itself to be provoked into undue harshness (and there will be ample provocation; be certain of that); once let an impatient and over-zealous governor-general attempt to bend these stubborn mountaineers too abruptly to his will; let the local Italian officials provide the slightest excuse for charges of injustice or oppression, and Italy will have on her hands in Tyrol far graver troubles than those brought on by her adventure in Tripolitania.
Though the Government has announced that Italian must become the official language of the newly acquired region, and that used in its schools, no attempt will be made to root out the German tongue or to tamper with the local usages and customs. The upper valleys, where German is spoken, will not, however, enjoy any form of local autonomy which would tend to set their inhabitants apart from those of the lower valleys, for it is realized that such differential treatment would only serve to retard the process of unification. All of the new districts, German and Italian-speaking alike, will be included in the new province of Trent. It is entirely probable that Italy's German-speaking subjects of the present generation will prove, if not actually irreconcilable, at least mistrustful and resentful, but, by adhering to a policy of patience, sympathy, generosity and tact, I can see no reason why the next generation of these mountaineers should not prove as loyal Italians as though their fathers had been born under the cross of the House of Savoy instead of under the double-eagle of the Hapsburgs.
We crossed the Line of the Armistice into Austria an hour or so beyond Meran, the road being barred at this point by a swinging beam, made from the trunk of a tree, which could be swung aside to permit the passage of vehicles, like the bar of an old-fashioned country toll-gate. Close by was a rude shelter, built of logs, which provided sleeping quarters for the half-company of infantry engaged in guarding the pass. One has only to cross the new frontier to understand why Italy was so desperately insistent on a strategic rectification of her northern boundary, for whereas, before the war, the frontier ran through the valleys, leaving the Austrians atop the mountain wall, it is now the Italians who are astride the wall, with the Austrians in the valleys below.
No sooner had we crossed the Line of the Armistice than we noticed an abrupt change in the attitude of the population. Even in the German-speaking districts of the Trentino the inhabitants with whom we had come in contact had been courteous and respectful, though whether this was because of, or in spite of, the fact that we were traveling in a military car, accompanied by a staff-officer, I do not know. Now that we were actually in Austria, however, this atmosphere of seeming friendliness entirely disappeared, the men staring insolently at us from under scowling brows, while the women and children, who had less to fear and consequently were bolder in expressing their feelings, frequently shouted uncomplimentary epithets at us or shook their fists as we passed.
Under the terms of the Armistice, Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol, was temporarily occupied by the Italians, who sent into the city a comparatively small force, consisting in the main of Alpini and Bersaglieri. Innsbruck was one of the proudest cities of the Austrian Empire, its inhabitants being noted for their loyalty to the Hapsburgs, yet I did not observe the slightest sign of resentment toward the Italian soldiers, who strolled the streets and made purchases in the shops as unconcernedly as though they were in Milan or Rome. The Italians, on their part, showed the most marked consideration for the sensibilities of the population, displaying none of the hatred and contempt for their former enemies which characterized the French armies of occupation on the Rhine.
We found that rooms had been reserved for us at the Tyroler Hof, before the war one of the famous tourist hostelries of Europe, half of which had been taken over by the Italian general commanding in the Innsbruck district and his staff. Food was desperately scarce in Innsbruck when we were there and, had it not been for the courtesy of the Italian commander in sending us in dishes from his mess, we would have had great difficulty in getting enough to eat. A typical dinner at the Tyroler Hof in the summer of 1919 consisted of a mud-colored, nauseous-looking liquid which was by courtesy called soup, a piece of fish perhaps four times the size of a postage-stamp, a stew which was alleged to consist of rabbit and vegetables but which, from its taste and appearance, might contain almost anything, a salad made of beets or watercress, but without oil, and for dessert a dish of wild berries, which are abundant in parts of Tyrol. There was an extra charge for a small cup of black coffee, so-called, which was made, I imagine, from acorns. This, of course, was at the best and highest-priced hotels in Innsbruck; at the smaller hotels the food was correspondingly scarcer and poorer.
Though the inhabitants of the rural districts appeared to be moderately well fed, a majority of the people of Innsbruck were manifestly in urgent need of food. Some of them, indeed, were in a truly pitiable condition, with emaciated bodies, sunken cheeks, unhealthy complexions, and shabby, badly worn clothes. The meager displays in the shop-windows were a pathetic contrast to variety and abundance which characterized them in ante-bellum days, the only articles displayed in any profusion being picture-postcards, objects carved from wood and similar souvenirs. The windows of the confectionery and bake-shops were particularly noticeable for the paucity of their contents. I was induced to enter one of them by a brave window display of hand-decorated candy boxes, but, upon investigation, it proved that the boxes were empty and that the shop had had no candy for four years. The prices of necessities, such as food and clothing, were fantastic (I saw advertisements of stout, all-leather boots for rent to responsible persons by the day or week), but articles of a purely luxurious character could be had for almost anything one was willing to offer. In one shop I was shown German field-glasses of high magnification and the finest makes for ten and fifteen dollars a pair. The local jewelers were driving a brisk trade with the Italian soldiers, who were lavish purchasers of Austrian war medals and decorations. Captain Tron bought an Iron Cross of the second class for the equivalent of thirty cents.
We left Innsbruck in the early morning with the intention of spending that night at Cortina d'Ampezzo, but, owing to our unfamiliarity with the roads and to delays due to tire trouble, nightfall found us lost in the Dolomites. For mile after mile we pushed on through the darkness along the narrow, slippery mountain roads, searching for a shelter in which to pass the night. Occasionally the twin beams from our lamps would illumine a building beside the road and we, chilled and hungry, would exclaim "A house at last!" only to find, upon drawing nearer, that, though it had evidently been once a habitation, it was now but a shattered, blackened shell, a grim testimonial to the accuracy of Austrian and Italian gunners. It was late in the evening and bitterly cold, before, rounding a shoulder of the mountain up whose steep gradients the car seemed to have been panting for ages, we saw in the distance the welcome lights of the hamlet of Santa Lucia.
I do not think that the public has the slightest conception of the widespread destruction and misery wrought by the war in these Alpine regions. In nearly a hundred miles of motoring in the Cadore, formerly one of the most delightful summer playgrounds in all Europe, we did not pass a single building with a whole roof or an unshattered wall. The hospitable wayside inns, the quaint villages, the picturesque peasant cottages which the tourist in this region knew and loved are but blackened ruins now. And the people are gone too—refugees, no doubt, in the camps which the Government has erected for them near the larger towns. One no longer hears the tinkle of cow-bells on the mountain slopes, peasants no longer wave a friendly greeting from their doors: it is a stricken and deserted land. But Cortina d'Ampezzo, which is the cheflieu of the Cadore, though still showing many traces of the shell-storms which it has survived, was quickening into life. The big tourist hotels at either end of the town, behind which the Italians emplaced their heavy guns, were being refurnished in anticipation of the resumption of summer travel and the little shops where they sell souvenirs were reopening, one by one. But the losses suffered by the inhabitants of these Alpine valleys, desperately serious as they are to them, are, after all, but insignificant when compared with the enormous havoc wrought by the armies in the thickly settled Friuli and on the rich Venetian plains. Every one knows, presumably, that Italy had to draw more heavily upon her resources than any other country among the Allies (did you know that she spent in the war more than four-fifths of her total national wealth?) and that she is bowed down under an enormous load of taxation and a staggering burden of debt. But what has been largely overlooked is that she is faced by the necessity of rebuilding a vast devastated area, in which the conditions are quite as serious, the need of assistance fully as urgent, as in the devastated regions of Belgium and France.
Probably you were not aware that a territory of some three and a half million acres, occupied by nearly a million and a half people, was overrun by the Austrians. More than one-half of Venetia is comprised in that region lying east of the Piave where the wave of Hunnish invasion broke with its greatest fury. The whole of Udine and Belluno, and parts of Treviso, Vicenza and Venice suffered the penalty of standing in the path of the Hun. They were prosperous provinces, agriculturally and industrially, but now both industry and agriculture are almost at a standstill, for their factories have been burned, their machinery wrecked or stolen, their livestock driven off and their vineyards destroyed. The damage done is estimated at 500 million dollars. It is unnecessary for me to emphasize the seriousness of the problem which thus confronts the Italian Government. Not only must it provide food and shelter for the homeless—a problem which it has solved by the erection of great numbers of wooden huts somewhat similar to the barracks at the American cantonments—but a great amount of livestock and machinery must be supplied before industry can be resumed. At one period there was such desperate need of fuel that even the olive trees, one of the region's chief sources of revenue, were sacrificed. The Italians have set about the task of regeneration with an energy that discouragement cannot check. But the undertaking is more than Italy can accomplish unaided, for the resources of her other provinces are seriously depleted. We are fond of talking of the debt we owe to Italy, not merely for her sacrifices in the war, but for all that she has given us in art and music and literature. Now is the time to show our gratitude.
From Cortina, which is Italian now, we swung toward the north again, re-crossed the Line of the Armistice at Tarvis, and, just as night was falling, came tearing into Villach, which, like Innsbruck, was occupied, under the terms of the Armistice, by Italian troops. We had great difficulty in obtaining rooms in Villach, not because there were no rooms but because we were accompanied by an Italian officer and were traveling in an Italian car. The proprietors of five hotels, upon seeing Captain Tron's uniform, curtly declared that every room was occupied. It was nearly midnight before we succeeded in finding shelter for the night, and this was obtained only when I made it amply clear to the Austrian proprietor of the only remaining hotel in the town that we were not Italians but Americans. The unpleasant impression produced by the coolness of our reception in Villach was materially increased the following morning, when Captain Tron greeted us with the news that all of our luggage, which we had left on the car, had been stolen. It seemed that thieves had broken into the courtyard of the barracks, where the car had been locked up for the night, and, in spite of the fact that the chauffeur was asleep in the tonneau, had stripped it of everything, including the spare tires. I learned afterwards that robberies of this sort had become so common since the war as scarcely to provoke comment, portions of Austria being terrorized by gangs of demobilized soldiers who, taking advantage of the complete demoralization of the machinery of government, robbed farmhouses and plundered travelers at will. It is much the same form of lawlessness, I imagine, which manifested itself immediately after the close of the Napoleonic Wars, when bands of discharged soldiers sought in robbery the excitement and booty which they had formerly found under the eagles. Though the local police authorities attempted to condone the robbery on the ground that it was due to the appalling poverty of the population, this excuse did not reconcile my wife to the loss of her entire wardrobe. As she remarked vindictively, she felt certain that the inhabitants of Villach were called Villains.
I wished to visit Klagenfurt, the ancient capital of Carinthia, which is about twenty miles beyond Villach, because at that time the town, which is a railway junction of considerable strategic and commercial importance, threatened to provide the cause for an open break between the Jugoslavs and the Italians. Though the Italians did not demand the town for themselves, they had vigorously insisted that, instead of being awarded to Jugoslavia, it should remain Austrian, for, with the triangle of which Klagenfurt is the center in the possession of the Jugoslavs, they would have driven a wedge between Italy and Austria and would have had under their control the immensely important junction-point where the main trunk line from Venice to Vienna is joined by the line coming up from Fiume and Trieste. The Jugoslavs, recognizing that the possession of Klagenfurt would give them virtual control of the principal railway entering Austria from the south, and that such control would probably enable them to divert much of Austria's traffic from the Italian ports of Venice and Trieste to their own port of Fiume, which they confidently expected would be awarded them by the Peace Conference, lost no time in occupying the town with a considerable force of troops. They further justified this occupation by asserting that Jugoslavia was entitled to Carinthia on ethnological grounds and that the inhabitants of Klagenfurt were clamoring for Jugoslav rule. In view of these developments, I had expected to find Jugoslav soldiery in the town, but I had not expected to be challenged, a mile or so outside the town, by a sentry who was, judging from his appearance, straight from a comitadji band in the Macedonian mountains. He was a sullen-faced fellow wearing a fur cap and a nondescript uniform, with an assortment of weapons thrust in his belt, according to the custom of the Balkan guerrillas, and with two bandoliers, stuffed with cartridges, slung across his chest. He was as incongruous a figure in that pleasant German countryside as one of Pancho Villa's bandits would have been in the Connecticut Valley. And Klagenfurt, which is a well-built, well-paved, thoroughly modern Austrian town, was occupied by several hundred of his fellows, brought from somewhere in the Balkans, I should imagine, for the express purpose of aweing the population. It was perfectly apparent that the inhabitants, far from welcoming these fierce-looking fighters as brother-Slavs and friends, were only too anxious to have them take their departure, having about as much in common with them, in appearance, manners and speech, as a New Englander has with an Apache Indian. So great was the tension existing in Klagenfurt that a commission had been sent by the Peace Conference to study the question on the spot, its members communicating with the Supreme Council in Paris by means of American couriers, slim young fellows in khaki who wore on their arms the blue brassard, embroidered with the scales of justice, which was the badge of messengers employed by the Peace Commission.
A few miles outside of Klagenfurt my attention was attracted by an iron paling, in a field beside the road, enclosing a gigantic chair carved from stone. My curiosity aroused, I stopped the car to examine it. From a faded inscription attached to the gate I learned that this was the crowning chair of the Dukes of Carinthia, in which the ancient rulers of this region had sat to be crowned. There it stands in a field beside the highway, neglected and forgotten, a curious link with a picturesque and far-distant past.
Our route from Klagenfurt led back through Villach to Tarvis and thence over the Predil Pass to the Friuli plain and Udine, a journey which we expected to accomplish in a single day; but there were delays in re-crossing the Line of the Armistice and other and more serious delays in the mountains, caused by torrential rains which had in places washed out the road, so that it was already nightfall when, emerging from the gloomy defile of the Predil Pass, we saw before us the twinkling lights of the Alpini cantonment at Caporetto, that mountain hamlet of black memories where, in the summer of 1917, the Austro-German armies, aided by bad Italian generalship and Italian treachery, smashed through the Italian lines and forced them back in a headlong retreat which was checked only by the heroic stand on the Piave. The Caporetto disaster would have broken the hearts and annihilated the resistance of a less courageous people than the Italians. Yet the Italian army, shattered and disorganized as it was, stopped the triumphant progress of the invaders; stopped it almost without artillery or ammunition, for hundreds of guns had been abandoned during the retreat; stopped it with the bodies of Italy's youth, the boys fresh from the training-camps, the class of 1919, called to the colors two years before their time! They stopped that victorious rush upon the line of the Piave, a broad, shallow stream meandering through a flat plain with never a height to command the enemy's positions, never a physical feature of the terrain to satisfy the requirements of strategy. Not only was the line of the Piave held by the Italians against the advice of their Allies, but it was held in defiance of all the lessons taught by Italian history, for that the Piave could not be successfully defended has been the judgment of every military leader since first the barbarians began to sweep down from the Alps to lay waste the rich Venetian plain. The Italians made their heroic stand, moreover, without any help from their Allies. That help came later, it is true, but only after the stand had been made. You doubt this? Then read this extract from the report of General the Earl of Caven, who commanded the Allied troops sent to the aid of the Italians:
"In 1917, in the terrible days which followed the disaster at Caporetto, I saw, just after my arrival at Venice, the Italian army in full retreat, and I became convinced that a recovery was impossible before the arrival of sufficient reenforcement from France and England. But I was deceived, for shortly afterward I saw the Italian army, which had seemed to be in the advanced stages of an utter rout, form a solid line on the Piave and hold it with miraculous persistence, permitting the English and French reenforcements to take up the positions assigned to them without once coming in contact with the enemy."
I have heard it said by critics of Italy that the retreat from Caporetto showed the lack of courage of the Italian soldier. To gauge the courage of an army a single disaster is as unjust as it is unintelligent. Was the rout of the Federal forces at Bull Run a criterion of their behavior in the succeeding years of the Civil War? Was the surrender at Sedan a true indication of the fighting ability of the French soldier? Every nation has had its disasters and has had to live them down. Italy did this when, on the banks of Piave, she turned her greatest disaster into her most glorious triumph.
Because it was my privilege to be with the Italian army in the field during various periods of the war, and because I know at first-hand whereof I speak, I regret and resent the disparagement of the Italian soldier which has been so freely indulged in since the Armistice. It may be, of course, that you do not fully realize the magnitude of Italy's sacrifices and achievements. Did you know, for example, that Italy held a front longer than the British, Belgian, French and American fronts put together? Did you know that out of a population of 37 millions she put into the field an army of 5 million men, whereas France and her colonies, with nearly double the population, was never able to raise more than 5,064,000, a considerable proportion of which were black and brown men? Did you know that in forty-one months of war Italy lost 541,000 in dead and 953,000 in wounded, and that, unlike France and England, her armies were composed wholly of white men? Did you know that, in spite of all that has been said about the Allies giving her assistance, Italy at all times had more troops on the Western front than the Allies had on the Italian? Did you know that she called up the class of 1919 two years before their time, a measure which even France, hard-pressed as she was, did not feel justified in taking? (I have mentioned this before, but it will bear repetition.) Have you stopped to think that she was the only one of the Allied nations which won a clean-cut and decisive victory, when, on the Piave, she attacked with 51 divisions an Austro-German army of 63 divisions, completely smashed it, forced its surrender, and captured half a million prisoners? Did you know that she lost more than fifty-seven per cent, of her merchant tonnage, while England lost less than forty-three per cent, and France less than forty per cent.? And, finally, had you realized that Italy made greater sacrifices, in proportion to her resources and population, than any other country engaged in the war, having devoted four-fifths of her entire national wealth to the prosecution of the struggle? There is your answer, chapter and verse, for the next man who sneeringly remarks, "The Italians didn't do much, did they?"
Just as the Trentino and the Upper Adige have been added to the kingdom as the Province of Trent, so the redeemed regions of which Trieste is the center, including the towns of Gorizia, Monfalcone, Capodistria, Parenzo, Pirano, Rovigno and Pola, have been consolidated in the new province of Julian Venetia, with about a million inhabitants and an area of approximately 6,000 square miles.
Trieste, which, with its suburbs, has a population of not far from 400,000, with its splendid terminal facilities, its vast harbor-works, its dry-docks and foundries, its railway communications with the hinterland, and, above all else, its position as the natural outlet for the trade of Austria, Bavaria and Czecho-Slovakia, constitutes not only Italy's most valuable prize of war, but, everything considered, probably the most important city, commercially at least, to change hands as a result of the conflict. Curiously enough, Trieste is the least interesting city of its size, from a visitor's point of view, that I know. Venice always reminds me of a beautiful and charmingly gowned woman, perpetually young, interested in art, in music, in literature, always ready for a stroll, a dance or a flirtation. Trieste, on the contrary, is a busy, preoccupied, rather brusque business man, wholly self-made, who has never devoted much time to devote to pleasure because he has been too busy making his fortune. Venice says, "If you want a good time, let me show you how to spend your money." But Trieste growls, "If you want to get rich, let me show you how to invest your money." The city has broad and well-kept streets bordered by the same sort of four-and five-and six-story buildings of brick and stone which you find in any European commercial city; it has several unusually spacious piazzas on which front some really pretentious buildings; it has a few arches and doorways dating from the Roman period, though far better ones can be found in almost any town on the Italian peninsula; on the hill commanding the city there are an old Austrian fort and an ancient church, both chiefly interesting for the views they command of the harbor and the coast of Istria; some of the most abominably rough pavements which I have ever encountered in any city; one hotel which just escapes being excellent and several which do not escape being bad; and a harbor, together with the wharves and moles and machinery which go with it, which is the Triestino's pride and joy.
To my way of thinking the most interesting sight in Trieste is a small chateau, built in the castellated fashion which had a considerable vogue in America shortly after the close of the Civil War, which stands amid most beautiful gardens on the edge of the sea, two or three miles to the west of the city. This is the Chateau of Miramar, formerly the residence of the young Austrian Archduke Maximilian, who, dazzled by the dream of life on an imperial throne, accepted an invitation to become Emperor of Mexico and a few years later fell before a Mexican firing-party on the slopes of Queretaro. Though the chateau has now passed into the possession of the Italian Government it is still in charge of the aged custodian who, as a youth, was body-servant to Maximilian. Barring the fact that the paintings and certain pieces of furniture had been removed to Vienna to save from injury by aerial bombardment, the interior of the chateau is much as Maximilian left it when he set out with his bride, Carlotta, the sister of the late King Leopold of the Belgians, on his ill-fated adventure. In the study on the ground floor hangs a photograph, still sharp and clear after the lapse of half a century, of the members of the delegation—swarthy men in the high cravats and long frock-coats of the period, some of them wearing the stars and sashes of orders—who came to Miramar to offer Maximilian the Mexican crown. The old custodian told me that he witnessed the scene and he pointed out to me where his young master and the other actors in this, the first act of the tragedy, stood. How little could the youthful Emperor have dreamed, as he set sail for those distant shores, that the day would come when the Dual Monarchy would go down in ruins, when the ancient dynasty of the Hapsburgs would come to an inglorious end, and when the garden paths where he and his beautiful young bride used to saunter in the moonlight would be paced by Italian carabineers.
If you will get out the atlas and turn to the map of Italy you will notice at the head of the Adriatic a peninsula shaped like the head of an Indian arrow, its tip aimed toward the unprotected flank of Italy's eastern coast. This arrow-shaped peninsula is Istria. In the western notch of the arrowhead, toward Italy, is Trieste—terminus of the railway to Vienna. In the opposite notch is Fiume—terminus of the railway which runs across Croatia and Hungary to Budapest. And at the very tip of the arrow, as though it had been ground to a deadly sharpness, is Pola, formerly Austria's greatest naval base. Dotting the western coast of Istria, between Trieste and Pola, are four small towns—Parenzo, Pirano, Capodistria and Rovigno—all purely and distinctively Italian, and, on the other side of the peninsula, the famous resort of Abbazia, popular with wealthy Hungarians and with the yachtsmen of all nations before the war.
Parenzo, Pirano, Capodistria and Rovigno were all outposts of the Venetian Republic, forming an outer line of defense against the Slav barbarians of the interior. Everything about them speaks of Venice: the snarling Lion of St. Mark which is carved above their gates and surmounts the marble columns in their piazzas; their old, old churches—the one at Parenzo was built in the sixth century, being copied after the famous basilica at Ravenna, across the Adriatic—the interiors of many of them adorned, like that of St. Mark's in Venice, with superb mosaics of gold and semi-precious stones; the carved lions' heads, bocca del leone, for receiving secret missives; the delicate tracery above the doors and windows of the palazzos, and all those other architectural features so characteristic of the City of the Doges. There is no questioning what these Istrian coast-towns were or are. They are as Italian to-day as when, a thousand years ago, they formed a part of Venice's far-flung skirmish line. But penetrate even a single mile into the interior of the peninsula and you find a wholly different race from these Latins of the littoral, a different architecture (if architecture can be applied to square huts built of sun-dried bricks) and a different tongue. These people are the Croats, a hardy, industrious agricultural people, generally illiterate, at least as I found them in Istria, and with few of the comforts and none of the culture which characterized the Latin communities on the coast. In short, the towns of the western coast are undeniably Italian; the rest of the peninsula is solidly Slav.
The interior of Istria consists, in the main, of a barren, monotonous and peculiarly unlovely limestone plateau known as the Karst, a continuation of that waterless and treeless ridge, called by Italians the Carso, which stretches from Trieste northwestward to Goritzia and beyond. With the exception of the Bukovica of Dalmatia and the lava-beds of southern Utah, the Istrian Karst is the most utterly hopeless region, from the standpoint of agriculture, that I know. It is dotted with many small farmsteads, it is true, but one marvels at the courage and patience which their peasant owners displayed in their unequal struggle with Nature. The rocky surface is covered with a stunted, discouraged-looking vegetation which reminded me of that clothing the flanks of the mountains in the vicinity of the Roosevelt Dam, in Arizona, and here and there are vast rolling moors, uninhabited by man or animal, as desolate, mysterious and repelling as that depicted by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in The Hound of the Baskervilles. The Karst, like the Carso, is dotted with curious depressions called dolinas, some of them as much as 100 feet in depth, the floors of which, varying in extent from a few square yards to several acres, are covered with soil which is as rich as the surface of the surrounding plateau is worthless. Because of the fertility of these singular depressions, and their immunity from the cold winds which in winter sweep the surface of the Karst, they are utilized by the peasants for growing fruits, vegetables and, in some cases, small patches of grain, being, in effect, sunken gardens provided by Nature as though to recompense the Istrians, in some measure, for their discouraging struggle for existence.
Just behind the very tip of the peninsula, on the edge of a superb natural harbor, the entrance to which is masked by the Brioni Islands, is the great naval base of Pola, from the shelter of whose fortifications and mined approaches the Austrian fleet was able to terrorize the defenseless towns along Italy's unprotected eastern seaboard and to menace the commerce of the northern Adriatic. Pola Is a strange melange of the ancient and the modern, for from the topmost tiers of the great Roman Arena—scarcely less imposing than the Coliseum at Rome—we looked down upon a harbor dotted with the fighting monsters of the Italian navy, while all day long Italian seaplanes swooped and circled over the splendid arch, erected by a Roman emperor in the dim dawn of European history, to commemorate his triumph over the barbarians.
It is just such anomalies as these that make almost impossible the solution, on a basis of strict justice to the inhabitants, of the Adriatic problem. Here you see a city that, in history, in population, in language, is as characteristically Italian as though it were under the shadow of the Apennines, yet encircling that city is a countryside whose inhabitants are wholly Slav, who are intensely hostile to Italian institutions, and many of whom have no knowledge whatsoever of the Italian tongue. The Italians claim that Istria should be theirs because of the undoubted Latin character of the towns along its coasts, because their Roman and Venetian ancestors established their outposts here long centuries ago, because the only culture that the region possesses is Italian, and, above all else, because its possession is essential to the safety of Italy herself. The Slavs, on the other hand, lay claim to Istria on the ground that its first inhabitants, whether barbarians or not, were Slavs, that the Italians who settled on its shores were but filibusters and adventurers, and that its inhabitants, by blood, by language, and by sentiment, are overwhelmingly Slav to-day. The only thing on which both races agree is that the peninsula should not be divided. It was no easy problem, you see, which the peace-makers were expected to solve with strict justice for all. If my memory serves me right, King Solomon was once called upon by two mothers to settle a somewhat similar dispute, though in that case it was a child instead of a country whose ownership was in question. So, though both Latins and Slavs may continue to assert their rights to the peninsula in its entirety, I imagine that the Istrian problem will eventually be settled by the judgment of Solomon.
THE BORDERLAND OF SLAV AND LATIN
It was the same along the entire line of the Armistice from the Brenner down to Istria. Whenever the officials with whom we talked heard that we were going to Fiume, they shook their heads pessimistically. "It's a good place to stay away from just now," said one. "They won't let you enter the city," another warned us. Or, "You mustn't think of taking the signora with you." But the representative of an American oil company whom I met in the American consulate in Trieste regarded the excursion from a different view-point altogether.
"Be sure to stop at the Europa," he urged me. "It's right on the water-front, and there isn't a better place in the city to see what's happening. I was there last week when the mob attacked the French Annamite troops. Believe me, friend, that was one hellish business ... they literally cut those poor little Chinks into pieces. I saw the whole thing from my window. I'm going back to Fiume to-morrow, and if you like I'll tell the manager of the Europa to save you a front room."
His tone was that of a New Yorker telling a friend from up-State that he would reserve him a room in a Fifth Avenue hotel from which to view a parade.
As things turned out, however, we did not have occasion to avail ourselves of this offer, for we found that rooms had been reserved for us at a hotel in Abbazia, just across the bay from Fiume. This arrangement was due to the Italian military governor, General Grazioli, who was perfectly aware that the inhabitants of Fiume were not hanging out any "Welcome-to-Our-City" signs for foreigners, particularly for foreigners who were country people of President Wilson, and that the fewer Americans there were in the town the less danger there was of anti-American demonstrations. In view of what had happened to the Annamites I had no overpowering desire to be the center of a similar demonstration. Pursuant to this arrangement we slept in a great barn of a hotel whose echoing corridors had, in happier days, been a favorite resort of the wealth and fashion of Hungary, but whose once costly furniture had been sadly dilapidated by the spurred boots of the Austrian staff officers who had used it as a headquarters; in the mornings we had our sugarless coffee and butterless war-bread on a lofty balcony commanding a superb panorama of the Istrian coast from Icici to Volosca and of the island-studded Bay of Quarnero, and commuted to and from Fiume in the big gray Lancia in which we had traveled along the line of the Armistice for upward of 2,000 miles.
We had our first view of the Unredeemed City (though it was really not my first view, as I had been there before the war) from a curve in the road where it suddenly emerges from the woods of evergreen laurel above Volosca to drop in steep white zigzags to the sea. It is superbly situated, this ancient city over whose possession Slav and Latin are growling at each other like dogs over a disputed bone. With its snowy buildings spread on the slopes of a shallow amphitheater between the sapphire waters of the Adriatic and the barren flanks of the Istrian Karst, it suggested a lovely siren, all glistening and white, who had emerged from the sea to lie upon the bare brown breast of a mountain giant.
The car, with its exhaust wide open, for your Italian driver delights in noise, roared down the grade at express-train speed, took the hairpin curve at the bottom on two wheels, to be brought to an abrupt halt with an agonized squealing of brakes, our further progress being barred by a six-inch tree-trunk which had been lowered across the road like a barrier at an old-time country toll-gate. At one side of the road was a picket of Italian carabinieri in field-gray uniforms, their huge cocked hats rendered a shade less anachronistic by covers of gray linen, with carbines slung over their shoulders, hunter fashion. On the opposite side of the highway was a patrol of British sailors in white drill landing-kit, their rosy, smiling faces in striking contrast to the saturnine countenances of the Italians. (I might explain, parenthetically, that Fiume, being in theory under the jurisdiction of the Peace Conference, was at this time occupied by about a thousand French troops, the same number of British, a few score American blue-jackets, and nearly 10,000 Italians.) The sergeant in command of the carabinieri stepped up to the car, saluted, and curtly asked for our papers. I produced them. Among them was a pass authorizing us to go when and where we pleased in the territory occupied by the Italian forces. It had been given to me by the Minister of War himself, but it made about as much impression on the sergeant as though it had been signed by Charlie Chaplin.
"This is good only for Italy," he said. "It will not take you across the line of the Armistice."
Thereupon I played my last trump. I produced an imposing document which had been given me by the Italian peace delegation in Paris. It had originally been issued by the Orlando-Sonnino cabinet, but upon the fall of that government I had had it countersigned, before leaving Rome, by the Nitti cabinet. It was addressed to all the military, naval, and civil authorities of Italy, and was so flatteringly worded that it would have satisfied St. Peter himself. But the sergeant was not in the least impressed. He read it through deliberately, scrutinized the official seals, examined the watermark, and then disappeared into a sentry-box on the roadside. I could hear him talking, evidently over a telephone. Presently he emerged and signaled to his men to raise the barrier. "Passo," he said grudgingly, in a tone which intimated that he was letting us enter the jealously guarded portals of Fiume against his better judgment, the bar swung upward, the big car leaped forward like a race-horse that feels the spur, and in another moment we were rolling through the tree-arched, stone-paved streets of the most-talked-of city in the world. As we sped down the Corsia Deak we passed a large hotel which, as was quite evident, had recently been renamed, for the words "Albergo d'Annunzio" were fresh and staring. But underneath was the former name, which had been so imperfectly obliterated that it could still easily be deciphered. It was "Hotel Wilson."
To correctly visualize Fiume you must imagine a town no larger than Atlantic City crowded upon a narrow shelf between a towering mountain wall and the sea; a town with broad and moderately clean streets, shaded, save in the center of the city, by double rows of stately trees and paved with large square flagstones which make abominably rough riding; a town with several fine thoroughfares bordered by well-constructed four-story buildings of brick and stone; with numerous surprisingly well-stocked shops; with miles and miles of concrete moles and wharfs, equipped with harbor machinery of the most modern description, and adjacent to them rows of warehouses as commodious as the Bush Terminals in Brooklyn, and rising here and there above the trees and the housetops, like fingers pointing to heaven, the graceful campaniles of fine old churches, one of which, the cathedral, was already old when the Great Navigator turned the prows of his caravels westward from Cadiz in quest of this land we live in.
Fiume lacks none of the conditions which make a great seaport: there is deep water and a convenient approach, which is protected against the ocean and against a hostile fleet by the islands of Veglia and Cherso and against the north winds by the rocky plateau of the Karst. Yet, despite its natural advantages and the millions which were spent in its development by the Hungarian Government, Fiume never developed into a port of the size and importance which the foreign commerce of Hungary would have seemed to require, this being largely due to its unfortunate geographical condition, for the dreary and inhospitable Karst completely shuts the city off from the interior, the numerous tunnels and steep gradients making rail transport by this route difficult and consequently expensive.
The public life of the city centers in the Piazza Adamich, a broad square on which front numerous hotels, restaurants, and coffee-houses, before which lounge, from midmorning until midnight, a considerable proportion of the Italian population, sipping cafe nero, or tall drinks concocted from sweet, bright-colored syrups, scanning the papers and discussing, with much noise and gesticulation, the political situation and the doings of the peace commissioners in Paris. Save only Barcelona, Fiume has the most excitable and irritable population of any city that I know. When we were there street disturbances were as frequent as dog-fights used to be in Constantinople before the Turks recognized that the best gloves are made from dogskins. As I have said, a few days before our arrival a mob had attacked and killed in most barbarous fashion a number of Annamite soldiers who were guarding a French warehouse on the quay. Several prominent Fumani with whom I talked attempted to justify the massacre on the ground that a French sailor had torn a ribbon bearing the motto "Italia o Morte!" from the breast of a woman of the town. They did not seem to regret the affair or to realize that it is just such occurrences which lead the Peace Conference to question the wisdom of subjecting the city's Slav minority to that sort of rule. As a result of the tense atmosphere which prevailed in the city, the nerves of the population were so on edge that when my car back-fired with a series of violent explosions, the loungers in front of a near-by cafe jumped as though a bomb had been thrown among them. The patron saint of Fiume is, appropriately enough, St. Vitus.
In discussing the question of Fiume the mistake is almost invariably made of considering it as a single city, whereas it really consists of two distinct communities, Fiume and Sussak, bitterly antagonistic and differing in race, religion, language, politics, customs, and thought. A small river, the Rieka, no wider than the Erie Canal, divides the city into two parts, one Latin the other Slav, very much as the Rio Grande separates the American city of El Paso from the Mexican town of Ciudad Juarez. On the left or west bank of the river is Fiume, with approximately 40,000 inhabitants, of whom very nearly three-fourths are Italian. Here are the wharfs, the harbor works, the rail-head, the municipal buildings, the hotels, and the business districts. But cross the Rieka by the single wooden bridge which connects Fiume with Sussak and you find yourself in a wholly different atmosphere. In a hundred paces you pass from a city which is three-quarters Italian to a town which is overwhelmingly Slav. There are about 4,500 people in Sussak, of whom only one-eighth are Italian. But let it be perfectly clear that Sussak is not Fiume. In proclaiming its annexation to Italy on the ground of self-determination, the National Council of Fiume did not include Sussak, which is a Croatian village in historically Croatian territory. It will be seen, therefore, that Sussak, which is not a part of Fiume but an entirely separate municipality, does not enter into the question at all. As for the territory immediately adjacent to Fiume on the north and east, it is as Slav as though it were in the heart of Serbia. To put it briefly, Fiume is an Italian island entirely surrounded by Slavs.
The violent self-assertiveness of the Fumani may be attributed to the large measure of autonomy which they have always enjoyed, Fiume's status as a free city having been definitely established by Ferdinand I in 1530, recognized by Maria Theresa in 1776 when she proclaimed it "a separate body annexed to the crown of Hungary," and by the Hungarian Government finally confirmed in 1868. Louis Kossuth admitted its extraterritorial character when he said that, even though the Magyar tongue should be enforced elsewhere as the medium of official communication, he considered that an exception "should be made in favor of a maritime city whose vocation was to welcome all nations led thither by commerce."
Though the Italian element of the population vociferously asserts its adherence to the slogan "Italia o Morte!" I am convinced that many of the more substantial and far-seeing citizens, if they dared freely to express their opinions, would be found to favor the restoration of the city's ancient autonomy under the aegis of the League of Nations. The Italians of Flume are at bottom, beneath their excitable and mercurial temperaments, a shrewd business people who have the commercial future of their city at heart. And they are intelligent enough to realize that, unless there be established some stable form of government which will propitiate the Slav minority as well as the Italian majority, the Slav nations of the hinterland will almost certainly divert their trade, on which Fiume's commercial importance entirely depends, to some non-Italian port, in which event the city would inevitably retrograde to the obscure fishing village which it was less than half a century ago.
In order that you may have before you a clear and comprehensive picture of this most perplexing and dangerous situation, which is so fraught with peril for the future peace of the world, suppose that I sketch for you, in the fewest word-strokes possible, the arguments of the rival claimants for fair Fiume's hand. Italy's claims may be classified under three heads: sentimental, commercial, and political. Her sentimental claims are based on the ground that the city's population, character, and history are overwhelmingly Italian. I have already stated that the Italians constitute about three-fourths of the total population of Fiume, the latest figures, as quoted in the United States Senate, giving 29,569 inhabitants to the Italians and 14,798 to the Slavs. There is no denying that the city has a distinctively Italian atmosphere, for its architecture is Italian, that Venetian trademark, the Lion of St. Mark, being in evidence on several of the older buildings; the mode of outdoor life is such as one meets in Italy; most of its stores and banks are owned by Italians, and Italian is the prevailing tongue. The claim that the city's history is Italian is, however, hardly borne out by history itself, for in the sixteen centuries which have elapsed since the fall of the Roman Empire, Fiume has been under Italian rule—that of the republic of Venice—for just four days.