Brussels, November 27, 1914.---More busy days. Each day we swear that we will stop work early and go out to play. Each day we sit at our desks, and darkness comes down upon us, and we do not get away until nearly eight o'clock. "Thanksgiving Day" was no exception, and to-day we are going through the same old performance. Yesterday, by strenuous work, I got down to swept bunkers and had a good prospect of an easy day. Instead of that there has been a deluge of Consuls, mail, telegrams, and excited callers, and we are snowed under a heap of work it will take several days to get out of the way.
We came back to them with a bump, however, when Nasmith came to my flat at midnight to say that Jeffes had been arrested. And it was done in the usual charming manner. In the course of the afternoon, the Consul-General. got a note asking him to go to headquarters "to talk over the case of Mr. Jeffes." It asked also that Jeffes accompany the Consul-General "to the conference." When they arrived it was announced that Jeffes was under arrest and to be sent immediately to the Ecole Militaire. The Consul-General. like the Minister, on the occasion of his visit, was placed in the position of having lured his friend into jail. He protested vigorously, but was not even allowed to accompany Jeffes to the Ecole Militaire. It was only after some heated argument that Jeffes was allowed five minutes at home, under guard, to get a few belongings together to take with him. The Consul-General is furious, and so am I when I remember how decently the German Vice-Consul here was treated when the war broke out.
Early in the week Jack is to be sent down to Mons, to bring out some English nurses who have been there nursing the British wounded. Two of them, Miss Hozier and Miss Angela Manners, were in yesterday. They have been working hard during the past three months and are now ready to go back to England if we can arrange for passports.
Under the date of November 26th, General von Kraewel announces that he has succeeded Baron von Lüttwitz, who has been transferred to the army at the front.
Hoover arrived from London this afternoon accompanied by Shaler and by Dr. Rose, Henry James, Jr., and Mr. Bicknell of the Rockefeller Foundation, who have come to look into conditions. There is plenty for them to see, and we shall do our best to help them see it.
As we learned from a confidential source, several days ago, there has been a big shake-up in the Government here. Both von der Goltz and von Lüttwitz have gone and have been replaced---the first by Freiherr von Bissing, and the latter by General von Kraewel. There are several explanations for the changes, but we don't yet know what they mean.
Brussels, December 2, 1914.---We have had a hectic time. Hoover arrived on Sunday evening, accompanied by Shaler and by three representatives of the Rockefeller Foundation. We have had a steady rush of meetings, conferences, etc., and Hoover and Shaler pulled out early this morning. There is not much relief in sight, however, for tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn, I expect to start off on a tour of Belgium, to show the Rockefeller people what conditions really are. We shall be gone for several days and shall cover pretty well the whole country.
Yesterday morning I got Jack off to Mons to bring back the British nurses. Everything in the way of passports and arrangements with the military authorities, had been made, and he went away in high spirits for a little jaunt by himself. This morning at half-past three o'clock he rang the doorbell and came bristling in, the maddest man I have seen in a long time. He had suffered everything that could be thought of in the way of insult and indignity, and to make it worse, had been obliged to stand by and watch some brutes insult the girls he was sent down to protect. When he arrived at Mons he got the nurses together and took them to the headquarters, where he explained that he had been sent down by the Minister with the consent of the German authorities, to bring the nurses to Brussels. This was stated in writing on the passport given him by the German authorities here. Instead of the polite reception he had expected, the German officer, acting for the Commandant, turned on him and told him that the nurses were to he arrested, and could not go to Brussels. Then, by way of afterthought, he decided to arrest Jack and had him placed under guard on a long bench in the headquarters, where he was kept for three hours. Luckily, an old gentleman of the town who knew the nurses, came in on some errand, and before they could be shut up, they contrived to tell him what the situation was and ask him to get word to the Legation. Right away after this the three women were taken out and put in the fourth-class cells of the military prison, that is, in the same rooms with common criminals. Jack was left in the guard room. The old gentleman, who had come in, rushed off to the Burgomaster and got him stirred up about the case, although he was loath to do anything, as he knew that a representative of the American Legation could not be arrested. Finally he did come around to headquarters, and after a long row with the Adjutant, they got Jack released and fitted out with a laisser-passer to return to Brussels. He was insulted in good shape, and told that if he came back again, sent by the Minister or by anybody else, he would be chucked into jail and stay there. Before the nurses were taken down to their prison, the Adjutant shook his fist in Miss Hozier's face, and told her that they were going to give her a good lesson, so that the English should have a taste of the sort of treatment they were meting out to German nurses and doctors that fell into their hands.
The Mayor and Aldermen took Jack in charge when he was released, and kept him in one of their homes until time for the train to leave for Brussels at midnight. They were convinced that he would be arrested again at the station, but he did get off in a car filled with sick soldiers and arrived here without mishap at three o'clock or a little after.
I went over to see von der Lancken the first thing in the morning, and told him the whole story, in order that he might be thinking over what he was going to do about it before the Minister went over to see him at eleven. The Minister said his say in plain language, and got a promise that steps would be taken at once to get the girls out of prison and have them brought to Brussels. Later in the day von der Lancken came through with the information that the action of the authorities at Mons was "due to a misunderstanding," and that everything was lovely now. We suppose that the girls will be here to-morrow; if not, inquiries will be made and the Minister will probably go down himself.
Yesterday morning we spent visiting soup kitchens, milk stations, and the distributing centres for supplying old clothes to the poor. The whole thing is under one organisation and most wonderfully handled. It is probably the biggest thing of the sort that has ever been undertaken and is being done magnificently.
It is a curious thing to watch the Commission grow. It started as nothing but a group of American mining engineers, with the sympathetic aid of some of our diplomatic representatives and the good-will of the neutral world. It is rapidly growing into a powerful international entity, negotiating agreements with the Great Powers of Europe, enjoying rights that no Government enjoys, and as the warring governments come to understand its sincerity and honesty, gaining influence and authority day by day.
There is no explanation of the departure of von der Goltz. His successor has come out with a proclamation in three lines, as follows:
His Majesty, the Emperor and King, having deigned to appoint me Governor-General in Belgium, I have to-day assumed the direction of affairs.
BARON VON BISSING.
Brussels, December 3, 1914.
Brussels, Sunday, December 6, 1914.---We got away at eight o'clock on Thursday morning, in three cars from the Palace Hotel. We were four cars when we started, but fifty feet from the door the leading car broke down and could not be started, so we rearranged ourselves and left the wreck behind. The party was composed of the three Rockefeller representatives, Dr. Rose, Mr. Bicknell, and Henry James, Jr., Monsieur Francqui, Josse Allard, Jack and I.
It was rainy and cold, but we made good time to Louvain and stopped at the Hotel de Ville. Professor Neerinexs, of the University, took up the duties of Burgomaster when the Germans shipped the real one away. He speaks perfect English, and led the crowd around the town with the rush and energy of a Cook's tourist agent. He took us first through the Cathedral, and showed us in detail things that we could not have seen if we had gone at it alone. Then around to the library and some of the other sights of particular interest, and finally for a spin through the city, to see the damage to the residence district. This was a most interesting beginning, and made a good deal of an impression on our people. They asked questions about the work being done by the people toward cleaning up the ruins of the town and trying to arrange makeshift shelters to live in during the winter. The, Mayor is a man of real force of character, and has accomplished marvels under the greatest difficulties.
From Louvain we cut away to the northeast to Aerschot. where we took a quick look at the welter of ruin and struck out to the west through Diest and Haelen, which I saw on my first trip with Frederick Palmer before there was anything done to them.
We got to Liège about one o'clock and had lunch in a restaurant downtown, where we were joined by Jackson, our delegate sent down there to supervise the distribution of food for the Commission. He told us a lot about the difficulties and incidents of his work, and some details of which we had to think. He is the first delegate we have sent to outlying cities, and is up on his toes with interest. A lot more have already sailed from New York, and will soon be here. They are to be spread all over the country in the principal centres, some to stay in the big cities and watch local conditions, and others to travel about their districts and keep track of the needs of the different villages. It is all working out a lot better than we had hoped for, and we have good reason to be pleased. Our chief annoyance is that every time things get into a comfortable state, some idiot starts the story either in England or America that the Germans have begun to seize foodstuffs consigned to us. Then we have to issue statements and get off telegrams, and get renewed assurances from the German authorities and make ourselves a general nuisance. to everybody concerned. If we can choke off such idiots, our work will be a lot easier.
The Burgomaster came into the restaurant to find us, and offered to go on with us to Visé, to show us the town, and we were glad to have him, as he knows the place like the palm of his hand.
I had been through Visé twice, and had marvelled at the completeness of the destruction, but had really had no idea of what it was. It was a town of about forty-five hundred souls, built on the side of a pretty hill overlooking the Meuse. There are only two or three houses left. We saw one old man, two children and a cat in the place. Where the others are, nobody knows. The old man was well over sixty, and had that afternoon been put off a train from Germany, where he had been as a prisoner of war since the middle of August. He had KRIEGSGEFANGENER MUNSTER stencilled on his coat, front and back, so that there could be no doubt as to who he was. He was standing in the street with the tears rolling down his cheeks and did not know where to go; he had spent the day wandering about the neighbouring villages trying to find news of his wife, and had just learned that she had died a month or more ago. It was getting dark, and to see this poor old chap standing in the midst of this welter of ruin without a chick or child or place to lay his head.... It caught our companions hard, and they loaded the old man up with bank-notes, which was about all that anybody could do for him and then we went our way. We wandered through street after street of ruined houses, sometimes whole blocks together where there were not enough walls left to make even temporary shelters.
Near the station we were shown a shallow grave dug just in front of a house. We were told who filled the grave---an old chap of over sixty. He had been made to dig his own grave, and then was tied to a young tree and shot. The bullets cut the tree in two just a little above the height of his waist, and the low wall behind was full of bullet holes.
As nearly as we can learn, the Germans appear to have come through the town on their way toward Liège. Nothing was supposed to have happened then, but on the 15th, 16th and 17th, troops came back from Liège and systematically reduced the place to ruins and dispersed the population. It was clear that the fires were all set, and there were no evidence of street fighting. It is said that some two hundred civilians were shot, and seven hundred men bundled aboard trains and sent back to Germany as prisoners of war---harmless people like the old chap we saw.
POPULATION OF LIÈGE
The population of Andenne, after manifesting peaceful intentions toward our troops, attacked them in the most treacherous manner. With my authorization the general who commanded these troops has reduced the town to ashes and has shot 110 persons.
I bring this fact to the knowledge of the City of Liège so that its people may understand the fate which awaits them if they assume a like attitude.
It is strictly forbidden to enter houses or set them on fire without the permission of the Kommandantur
The Burgomaster set out on foot to walk back three kilometers and catch a tram to Liège, and we went southeast to Dalhem. where we spent the night at the Château de Dalhem, on a hill overlooking the picturesque little village snuggled in the bottom of the valley. It was off the main line of march, and had not suffered. The chateau belongs to General Thyss. who was a great friend of the late King Leopold. He was not there, but the place was being protected by a splendid old dragon in the shape of a German governess who had been with the family for over thirty years, and refused to leave when the war broke out. She had been obliged to lodge a crowd of German officers and some of their men, but held them down with an iron hand, kept them from doing any damage and made them pay for every egg and every bottle of wine they had. We arrived after dark and threw the place into a panic of fear, but Monsieur Francqui soon reassured everybody, and the place was lighted up and placed at our disposal in short order.
Although it was pitch-dark when we arrived, it was only half-past four and we set out on foot to stretch a little. The moon came out and lighted our way through the country roads. We tramped for a couple of hours through all sorts of little towns and villages and groups of houses, some of them wiped out and some hardly touched.
General Thyss's cellars are famous, and with our dinner of soup and bacon and eggs, we had some of the finest Burgundy I have ever tasted. Early to bed so that we could be up and off at daybreak.
Friday morning we were away early, and made for Herve, where I had never been before. It is a ruin with a few natives and a lot of Landsturm left. We talked to some peasants and to an old priest who gave us something to think about in their stories of happenings there during and after the occupation of their homes. From there to Liège, by way of a lot of little villages whose names I don't remember, but whose condition was pretty bad, past the fort of Fléron and the defensive works that are being put up there.
Wasted some time trying to get gasoline for the other motors, and then the long stretch to Namur, down the valley of the Meuse, and stopped long enough for a look at Andennes, my second visit to the place.
In Andenne and Seilles (a little village across the Meuse) the Germans did a thorough job. They killed about three hundred people and burned about the same number of houses. Most of the houses had been looted systematically. According to the stories of those inhabitants who remain, there was a reign of terror for about a week, during which the Germans rendered themselves guilty of every sort of atrocity and barbarity. They are all most positive that there was no firing upon the German troops by the civil population. It seems to be generally believed that the massacre was due. to resistance of retiring Belgian troops and the destruction of bridges and tunnels to cover their retreat. Whatever the provocation, the behaviour of the Germans was that of savages. We were shown photographs showing the corpses of some of those killed. It was to be inferred that they had been wantonly mutilated.
Had lunch at an hotel across the street from the station. After a hasty lunch we made off to Dinant, still following the Meuse. The thin line of houses down the course of the river were thinner than they were a few months ago, and there were signs of suffering and distress everywhere. I had never been to Dinant before, but had seen pictures of it and thought I had an idea of what we were going to see. But the pictures did not give a hint of the horror of the place. The little town, which must have been a gem, nestled at the foot of a huge gray cliff, crowned with the obsolete fort, which was not used or attacked. The town is gone. Part of the church is standing, and the walls of a number of buildings, but for the most part, there is nothing but a mess of scattered bricks to show where the houses had stood. And why it was done, we were not able to learn, for everybody there says that there was no fighting in the town itself. We heard stories, too, and such stories that they can hardly be put on paper. Our three guests were more and more impressed as we went on. The bridge was blown up and had fallen into the river, and as we had little time to make the rest of our day's journey, we did not wait to cross by the emergency bridge farther up the river. While we were standing talking to a schoolmaster and his father by the destroyed bridge, seven big huskies with rifles and fixed bayonets came through, leading an old man and a woman who had been found with a camera in their possession. At first there was no objection raised to the taking of photographs, but now our friends are getting a little touchy about it, and lock up anybody silly enough to get caught with kodaks or cameras.
According to what we were told, the Germans entered the town from the direction of Ciney, on the evening of August 21st, and began firing into the windows of the houses. The Germans admit this, but say that there were French troops in the town and this was the only way they could get them out. A few people were killed, but there was nothing that evening in the nature of a general massacre. Although the next day was comparatively quiet, a good part of the population took refuge in the surrounding hills.
On Sunday morning, the 23rd, the German troops set out to pillage and shoot. They drove the people into the street, and set fire to their houses. Those who tried to run away were shot down in their tracks. The congregation was taken from the church, and fifty of the men were shot. All the civilians who could be rounded up were driven into the big square and kept there until evening. About six o'clock the women were lined up on one side of the square and kept in line by soldiers. On the other side, the men were lined up along a wall, in two rows, the first kneeling. Then, under command of an officer, two volleys were fired into them. The dead and wounded were left together until the Germans got round to burying them, when practically all were dead. This was only one of several wholesale executions. The Germans do .not seem to contradict the essential facts, but merely put forward the plea that most of the damage was incidental to the fighting which took place between the armed forces. Altogether more than eight hundred people were killed. Six hundred and twelve have been identified and given burial. Others were not recognisable. I have one of the lists which are still to be had, although the Germans have ordered all copies returned to them. Those killed ranged in age from Félix Fivet, aged three weeks, to an old woman named Jadot, who was eighty. But then Félix probably fired on the German troops.
Field-Marshal von der Goltz announces to the Belgian population that he is informed by the Generals commanding the troops occupying French territory that cholera is raging fiercely among the allied troops and that there is the greatest danger in crossing the lines or entering enemy territory.
We call upon the Belgian population not to infringe this notice. Those who do not comply with this notice will be brought before the Imperial Officers of Justice and we warn that the penalty of death may he inflicted upon them.
There is no end to the stories of individual atrocities. One is that Monsieur Wasseige, director of one of the banks, was seized by the Germans, who demanded that he should open the safes. He flatly refused to do this, even under threat of death. Finally he was led with his two eldest sons to the Place d'Armes and placed with more than one hundred others, who were then killed with machine guns. Monsieur Wasseige's three youngest children were brought to the spot by German soldiers, and compelled to witness the murder of their father and two brothers.
From Dinant we struck across country through Phillipeville and some little by-roads to Ranee, where we were expected at the house of G. D-----. He and his wife and their little girl of five had just returned that morning to receive us, but the place was brightly lighted and as completely prepared as though they had been there all the time. It was a lovely old place, and we were soon made comfortable. German officers have occupied it most of the time, and it required a good deal of cleaning and repairing after they left, but fortunately this work had just been completed, and we had a chance to enjoy the place before any more enforced guests appeared. One of the Imperial princelings had been there for one night, and his name was chalked on the door of his room. He had been très aimable, and when he left had taken D -----'s motor with him.
We took a tramp around the town in a biting wind, and looked at some of the houses of our neighbours. Some of them were almost wrecked after having served as quarters for troops for varying periods. From others all the furniture had been taken away and shipped back to Germany. One man showed us a card which he had found in the frame of one of his best pictures. It was the card of a German officer, and under the name was written an order to send the picture to a certain address in Berlin. The picture was gone. but the frame and card were still there and are being kept against the day of reckoning---if any. We were shown several little safes which had been pried open and looted, and were told the usual set of stories of what had happened when the army went through. Some of the things would be hard to believe if one did not hear them from the lips of people who are reliable and who live in such widely separated parts of the country at a time when communications are almost impossible.
We had a good and ingeniously arranged dinner. All sorts of ordinary foods are not to be had in this part of the country, and our hostess had, by able thinking, arranged a meal which skillfully concealed the things that were lacking. Among other things, I observed that we had a series of most delicious wines---for our host of that evening also had a wonderful cellar. They had told us just before dinner that the Germans had taken an inventory of their wines and had forbidden them to touch another drop, so I wondered whether they were not incurring some risk in order to give us the wine that they considered indispensable. When I asked our hostess, she told me that it was very simple, that all they needed to do was to drink a part of several bottles, refill them partially with water, seal them, and put them back in the cellars; she said scornfully that "les Boches don't know one wine from another," and had not yet been able to detect the fraud. They had a lot of cheap champagne in the cellar and had been filling them up with that, as they prefer any champagne to the best vintage Burgundies. Once in a while there is a little satisfaction reserved for a Belgian.
We were called at daybreak and were on the road at eight o'clock, taking in a series of small villages which had been destroyed, and talking with the few people to be found about the place. This part of Belgium is far worse than the northern part, where the people can get away with comparative ease to one of the larger towns and come back now and then to look after their crops. Here one village after another is wiped out, and the peasants have no place to go unless they travel so far that there is no hope of returning, perhaps for months together. It will be a great problem to provide shelter for these people so that they can return.
We cut through Beaumont, and then took the main road to Mons, where we arrived in the middle of the morning. On the way we had heard that the English nurses had not yet been released, so I made for the military headquarters and saw the commandant. It was evident that they had been hauled over the coals for the way they had behaved when Jack was there, for I never saw such politeness in any headquarters. I was preceded by bowing and unctuous soldiers and non-commissioned officers, all the way from the door to the Presence, and was received by the old man standing. He was most solicitous for my comfort and offered me everything but the freedom of the city. He said that he had not received a word of instructions until a few minutes before my arrival, but that he was now able to give the young ladies their liberty and turn them over to me. In order to get them, I was prayed to go over to the headquarters of the military governor of the Province, and an officer was assigned to accompany me. While we were there, the officer who had been so insulting to Jack and to Miss Hozier came into the room, took one look at us, and scuttled for safety. We heard afterward that he had been ordered to apologise for his behaviour.
At the door of the Provincial headquarters I found another car flying the Legation flag, and Monsieur de Leval came charging out into my arms. There had been a pretty hot time about the nurses and he had finally been sent down to get them out. In a few minutes we had them sitting on a bench in the Governor's office, while Kracker, who used to be one of the Secretaries of the German Legation, here, was making out their laisser-passers to come to Brussels. They were a happy crowd, but pretty well done up by the treatment they had had.
When they were all fixed I went in and asked for the release of Miss Bradford, another English nurse, who had been in prison in Mons and Charleroi for the past five weeks. I learned of her imprisonment almost by accident while we were waiting for the passports. After some argument it was granted, and I went with a soldier to the prison to get her out. I had not expected to find anything very luxurious, but I was shocked when I saw the place. It was the most severe, repressive penitentiary in the country---still filled with common criminals---and the English nurse was given the same treatment and rations as the worst murderer of the lot. There was the usual row with the man in charge of the place, and finally a soldier was despatched, to tell the young woman she could get ready to go. While she was getting ready, the director of the prison took me around and showed me with great pride things that made me shiver. He said, however, that it was an outrage to put a woman in such a place. The prisoners who do the work of the prison were going about the corridors under guard, each one wearing a dirty brown mask covering his entire head, and with only the smallest of slits for his eyes. They are never allowed to see each other's faces or to speak to one another. I was taken up to the chapel, where each man is herded into a little box like a confessional and locked in so that he cannot see his neighbour, and can only look up toward the raised altar in the centre, where he can see the priest. The school was arranged in the same way, and was shown with equal pride. I fear the jailer thought me lacking in appreciation.
I finally got the young woman out, nearly hysterical, and took her up to the headquarters, and from there to the hotel, where Monsieur de Leval had gathered his charges for luncheon. They were rapidly recovering their old-time spirits, and were chattering away like a lot of magpies.
While I was fussing about with them, I had sent my friends and fellow-travellers ahead, and now left the flock of nurses in the hands of Monsieur de Leval, to be conveyed by tram back to Brussels, while I tried to catch up with my party at the château of Monsieur Warroqué, at Mariemont. I made as much speed as my little car was capable of, but it was nearly two o'clock when I arrived.
The old château of Mariemont is one of those built by Louis XIV, when he set out to have one for each month of the year. This was his place for August. It had been destroyed, and the new one is built near the ruins, but the large park is as it has been for a long time, and a lovely place it is. There were about twenty at table when we arrived, and places were ready for us. More fine wines, and this time to show that we were in the house of a connoisseur, the flunky, in pouring out the precious stuff, would whisper in your ear the name and vintage. Warroqué owns a lot of the coal mines and other properties and is apparently greatly loved by the people. When the Germans came, they seized him as a hostage, but the people became so threatening that he was released. How many men in his position could have counted on that much devotion?
Immediately after luncheon we shoved off and made through the rain for Charleroi, where we took a look at the damage done to the town. It was already dark and we then turned toward Brussels and burned up the road, getting to the Legation at half-past six, to find all the nurses sitting up, having tea with Mrs. Whitlock and the Minister.
Brussels, December 10, 1914.---Yesterday afternoon We received the call of General Freiherr von Bissing, Governor General in Belgium, and of General Freiherr von Kraewel, Military Governor of Brussels. They were accompanied by their suites in full regalia. The military men were most affable, but we did not get any farther than tea and cigarettes. They talked mournfully of the war and said they wished to goodness the whole thing was over. It was a great contrast to the cock-sure talk at the beginning of the war. Von Bissing said that there were hospitals in every village in Germany and that they were all filled with wounded. It is becoming clearer every day that the Germans, as well as others, are getting thoroughly sick and tired of the whole business and would give a lot to end it.
A little while ago the London Times cost as high as two hundred francs. It has been going down steadily, until it can be had now for four francs and sometimes for as little as two. The penalties are very severe, but the supply keeps up, although the blockade runners are being picked up every day.
Brussels, December 11, 1914.---This afternoon late B----- brought an uncle to see me, to talk about conditions in France between the Belgian frontier and the German lines. Those poor people cannot, of course, get anything from the heart of France, and as the Belgian frontier is closed tight by the Germans, they are already starving. It looks very much as though we should have to extend the scope of our work, so as to look after them, too. We hear very little news from that part of the country, but from what we do hear, conditions must be frightful. In one little town Mr. K----- came through, only twenty out of five hundred houses are said to be standing. He says that the people are not permitted to leave the place and are living in the cellars and ruins in great misery and practically without food.
Out of a clear sky comes a new trouble for the country. The German Government has come down with a demand for money on a scale that leaves them speechless. The Belgians are ordered to make a forced payment each month of forty millions of francs, for twelve months. The two first payments are to be made by the 15th of next month, and the subsequent installments on the 10th of succeeding months. It is a staggering total, but the German authorities are deaf to appeals, and the Provinces will have to get together and raise the money in some way.
La Libre Belgique, the clandestine paper printed in Brussels in 1915, which survived General von Bissing's reward for the discovery of its office and made fun of him by faking a picture of him reading their condemned paper. (1)
Brussels, December 14, 1914.---Yesterday afternoon late, after a session at C. R. B.(2) headquarters, I dropped in for a cup of tea with Baronne Q----. There was a fine circle of gossip and I learned all the spicy stuff. The husband of Mine. de F---- had been in prison for a month, having been pulled out of a motor on his way to the frontier, and found with letters on him. He got out on Thursday and they are quite proud of themselves. They were having a fine time discussing the predicament of the H----- family. The Countess was arrested last week because she, too, was caught carrying letters. She was released from prison and allowed to return home. Now the Germans have placed sentries before the house and allow no one to enter or leave. The old gentleman is also locked up there. The servants have been driven out, and are not even permitted to bring meals to their patrons, who are dependent on what they are given to eat by the German soldiers. There is no charge against them at present, so they have no idea as to how long the present charming situation will last. There was a great amount of gossip and the right amount of tea and cakes, so I had an enjoyable half hour.
Yesterday morning Grant-Watson was put aboard a train and taken to Berlin, where he is to be guarded as a prisoner of war. It is all most outrageous, as Lancken definitely promised that he would not be molested. Moral: get just as far away from these people as you can, while you can, in the knowledge that if they "change their mind," promises won't count.
Jeffes is left here for the present and may be released. We shall try to get him off, but in view of what has already happened, cannot be very confident. Jeffes is philosophical and uncomplaining, but naturally is not very happy.
Brussels, Sunday, December 20, 1914.---Jack got off to London yesterday after a visit of six weeks. Had it not been for the nearness of Christmas and the knowledge that he was needed at home, he would have been prepared to stay on indefinitely. His grief at leaving was genuine. He invested heavily in flowers and chocolates for the people who had been nice to him, endowed all the servants, and left amid the cheers and sobs of the populace. He is a good sort, and I was sorry to see him go. By this time he is probably sitting up in London, telling them all about it.
To-day I went up to Antwerp to bring back our old motor. Left a little before noon, after tidying up my desk, and took my two Spanish colleagues, San Esteban and Molina, along for company. I had the passes and away we went by way of Malines, arriving in time for a late lunch.
Antwerp is completely Germanised already. We heard hardly a word of French anywhere---even the hotel waiters speaking only hotel French. The crowd in the restaurant of the Webber was exclusively German, and there was not a word of French on the menu.
The Germans took over the garage where our car was left the day they came in, and there I discovered what was, left of the old machine. The sentries on guard at the door reluctantly let us in, and the poor proprietor of the garage led us to the place where our car has stood since the fall of Antwerp. The soldiers have removed two of the tires, the lamps, cushions, extra wheels, speedometer, tail lights, tool box, and had smashed most of the other fixings they could not take off. In view of the fact that my return trip to Brussels at the time of the bombardment was for the purpose of bringing the plans of the city to the Germans, so that they would have knowledge of the location of the public monuments and could spare them, it seems rather rough that they should repay us by smashing our motor. I think we shall make some remarks to them to this effect to-morrow, and intimate that it is up to them to have the car repaired and returned to us in good shape.
The first group of Americans to work on the relief came into Belgium this month. They are, for the most part, Rhodes Scholars who were at Oxford, and responded instantly to Hoover's appeal. They are a picked crew, and have gone into the work with enthusiasm. And it takes a lot of enthusiasm to get through the sort of pioneer work they have to do. They have none of the thrill of the fellows who have gone into the flying corps or the ambulance service. They have ahead of them a long winter of motoring about the country in all sorts of weather, wrangling with millers and stevedores, checking cargoes and costs, keeping the peace between the Belgians and the German authorities, observing the rules of the game toward everybody concerned, and above all, keeping neutral. It is no small undertaking for a lot of youngsters hardly out of college, but so far they have done splendidly.
The one I see the most of is Edward Curtis, who sails back and forth to Holland as courier of the Commission. He was at Cambridge when the war broke out, and after working on Hoover's London Committee to help stranded Americans get home, he came on over here and fell to. He exudes silence and discretion., but does not miss any fun or any chance to advance the general cause. Of course it is taking the Germans some time to learn his system. He is absolutely square with them, and gets a certain amount of fun out of their determined efforts to find some sort of contraband on him. They can hardly conceive of his being honest, and think his seeming frankness is merely an unusually clever dodge to cover up his transgressions.
Brussels, December 21, 1914.---Yesterday Brussels awoke from the calm in which it had been plunged for some time, when a couple of French aviators came sailing overhead and dropped six bombs on the railroad yards at Etterbeek. I was away at Antwerp and did not see it, but everybody else of the population of 700,000 Bruxellois did, and each one of them has given me a detailed account of it. The German forces did their level best to bring the bird men down with shrapnel, but they were flying high enough for safety. They seem to have hit their mark and torn up the switches, etc., in a very satisfactory way. For three or four days we have been hearing the big guns again, each day more distinctly; but we don't know what it means. The Germans explain it on the ground that they are testing guns.
Mr. and Mrs. Hoover arrived, last night, bringing Frederick Palmer with them. We dined together at the Palace. They were full of news, both war and shop, and I sat and talked with them until after eleven, greatly to the prejudice of my work. Had to stay up and grind until nearly two.
Curtis, who came back last night, says that Jack was arrested at Antwerp on his way out, because he had Folkstone labels on his bags. It took him so long to explain away his suspicious belongings that he barely caught the last train from Rosendaal to Flushing. He seems to be destined to a certain amount of arrest now and then.
Hoover turned up at the Legation this morning at a little after nine, and he and the Minister and I talked steadily for three hours and a half.
Despite the roar of work at the Legation, I went off after lunch with Mrs. Whitlock and did some Xmas shopping-ordered some flowers and chocolates. Went out and dropped Mrs. Whitlock at Mrs. B ----'s, to help decorate the tree she is going to have for the English children here. B----- is a prisoner at Ruhleben, and will probably be there indefinitely, but his wife is a trump. She had a cheery letter from him, saying that he and his companions in misery had organised a theatrical troupe, and were going soon to produce The Importance of Being Earnest.
Brussels, Christmas, 1914.---This is the weirdest Christmas that ever was---with no one so much as thinking of saying "Merry Christmas." Everything is so completely overshadowed by the war, that had it not been for the children, we should have let it go unnoticed.
Yesterday evening there was a dinner at the Legation---Bicknell, Rose and James, the Hoovers and Frederick Palmer. Although there was a bunch of mistletoe over the table, it did not seem a bit Christmasy, but just an ordinary good dinner with much interesting talk.
Immediately after lunch we climbed into the big car and went out to Lewis Richards' Christmas tree. He has a. big house at the edge of town, with grounds which were fairy-like in the heavy white -frost. He had undertaken to look after 660 children, and he did it to the Queen's taste. They were brought in by their mothers in bunches of one hundred, and marched around the house, collecting things as they went. In, one room each youngster was given a complete outfit of warm clothes. In another, some sort of a toy which he was allowed to choose. In another, a big bag of cakes and candies, and, finally, they were herded into the big dining-room, where they were filled with all sorts of Xmas food. There was a big tree in the hall, so that the children, in their triumphal progress, merely walked around the tree. Stevens had painted all the figures and the background of an exquisite crèche, with an electric light behind it, to make the stars shine. The children were speechless with happiness, and many of the mothers were crying as they came by.
Since the question of food for children became acute here, Richards has been supplying rations to the babies in his neighbourhood. The number has been steadily increasing. and for some time he has been feeding over two hundred youngsters a day. He has been very quiet about it, and hardly anyone has known what he was doing.
It is cheering to see a man who does so much to comfort others; not so much because he weighs the responsibility of his position and fortune, but because he has a great-hearted sympathy and instinctively reaches out to help those in distress. Otherwise the day was pretty black, but it did warm the cockles of my heart to find this simple American putting some real meaning into Christmas for these hundreds of wretched people. He also gave it a deeper meaning for the rest of us.
Brussels, December 31, 1914.---Here is the end of the vile old year. We could see it out with rejoicing, if there were any prospect of 1915 bringing us anything better. But it doesn't look very bright for Belgium.
The extracts from this journal have been so voluminous as to preclude bringing the record much farther than the end of 1914. In the main the story of 1915-1916 is in the development of the Commission for Relief in Belgium and the new light shed each day upon German methods and mentality. It is a long story and could not be crowded between the covers of this volume. There is, however, one outstanding event in 1915---the case of Miss Edith Cavell---which is of such interest and so enlightening as to conditions in Belgium under German domination as to warrant its inclusion in this book. At the risk, therefore, of appearing disconnected it has been decided to publish as a final chapter an article in regard to the case of Miss Cavell which has already appeared in the World's Work.
On August 5, 1915, Miss Edith Cavell, an Englishwoman. directress of a large nursing home at Brussels, was quietly arrested by the German authorities and confined in the prison of St. Gilles on the charge that she had aided stragglers from the Allied armies to escape across the frontier from Belgium to Holland, furnishing them with money, clothing and information concerning the route to be followed. It was some time before news of Miss Cavell's arrest was received by the American Legation, which was entrusted with the protection of British interests in the occupied portion of Belgium. When the Minister at Brussels received a communication from the Ambassador at London transmitting a note from the Foreign Office stating that Miss Cavell was reported to, have been arrested and asking that steps be taken to render her assistance, Mr. Whitlock immediately addressed a note to the German authorities asking whether there was any truth in the report of Miss Cavell's arrest and requesting authorisation for Maître Gaston de Leval, the legal counselor of the Legation, to consult with Miss Cavell and, if desirable, entrust some one with her defense.
No reply was received to this communication, and on September 10th the Legation addressed a further note to Baron von der Lancken, Chief of the Political Department, calling his attention to the matter and asking that he enable the Legation to take such steps as might be necessary for Miss Cavell's defense.
On September 12th a reply was received from Baron von der Lancken in which it was stated that Miss Cavell had been arrested on August 5th and was still in the military prison of St. Gilles. The note continued:
She has herself admitted that she concealed in her house French and English soldiers, as well as Belgians of military age, all desirous of proceeding to the front. She has also admitted having furnished these soldiers with the money necessary for their journey to France, and having facilitated their departure from Belgium by providing them with guides, who enabled them to cross the Dutch frontier secretly.
Miss Cavell's defense is in the hands of the advocate Braun, who, I may add, is already in touch with the competent German authorities.
In view of the fact that the Department of the GovernorGeneral, as a matter of principle, does not allow accused persons to have any interviews whatever, I much regret my inability to procure for M. de Leval permission to visit Miss Cavell as long as she is in solitary confinement.
Under the provisions of international law the American Minister could take no action while the case was before the courts. It is an elementary rule that the forms of a trial must be gone through without interference from any source. If, when the sentence has been rendered, it appears that there has been a denial of justice, the case may be taken up diplomatically, with a view to securing real justice. Thus in the early stages of the case the American Minister was helpless to interfere. All that he could do while the case was before the courts was to watch the procedure carefully and be prepared with a full knowledge of the facts to see that a fair trial was granted.
Maître de Leval. communicated with Mr. Braun, who said that he had been prevented from pleading before the court on behalf of Miss Cavell, but had asked his friend and colleague, Mr. Kirschen, to take up the case. Maître de Leval. then communicated with Mr. Kirschen, and learned from him that lawyers defending prisoners before German military courts were not allowed to see their clients before the trial and were shown none of the documents of the prosecution. It was thus manifestly impossible to prepare any defense save in the presence of the court and during the progress of the trial. Maître de Leval, who from the beginning to the end of the case showed a most serious and chivalrous concern for the welfare of the accused, then told Mr. Kirschen that he would endeavour to be present at the trial in order to watch the case. Mr. Kirschen dissuaded him from attending the trial on the ground that it would only serve to harm Miss Cavell rather than help her; that the judges would resent the presence of a representative of the American Legation. Although it seems unbelievable that any man of judicial mind would resent the presence of another bent solely on watching the course of justice, Mr. Kirschen's advice was confirmed by other Belgian lawyers who had defended prisoners before the German military courts and spoke with the authority of experience. Mr. Kirschen promised, however, to keep Maître de Leval fully posted as to all the developments of the case and the facts brought out in the course of the trial.
The Imperial German Court Martial sitting at Brussels has pronounced the following sentence:
Condemned to death for treason committed as an organized band:
For the same offense the following are condemned to fifteen years of hard labor:
Hermann Capiau, engineer, of Wasmes---Ada Bodart, of Brussels---Georges Derveau, druggist, of Paturages---Mary de Croy, of Bellignies.
At the same ~ion the Court Martial has pronounced sentences of hard labor and of imprisonment, varying from two to eight years, against seventeen others accused of treason against the Imperial Armies.
As regards Bancq and Edith Cavell, the sentence has already been fully carried out.
The Governor-General brings these facts to the attention of the public in order that they may serve as a warning.
The trial began on Thursday, October 7th, and ended the following day.
On Sunday afternoon the Legation learned from persons who had been present at the trial some of the facts.
It seems that Miss Cavell was prosecuted for having helped English and French soldiers, as well as Belgian young men, to cross the frontier into Holland in order that they might get over to England. She had made a signed statement admitting the truth of these charges and had further made public acknowledgment in court. She frankly admitted that not only had she helped the soldiers to cross the frontier but that some of them had written her from England thanking her for her assistance. This last admission made the case more serious for her because if it had been proven only that she had helped men to cross the frontier into Holland, she could have been sentenced only for a violation of the passport regulations, and not for the "crime" of assisting soldiers to reach a country at war with Germany.
Miss Cavell was tried under Paragraph 58 of the German Military Code, which says:
Any person who, with the intention of aiding the hostile Power or causing harm to German or allied troops, is guilty of one of the crimes of Paragraph 90 of the German Penal Code, will be sentenced to death for treason.
The "crime" referred to by Paragraph 90 was that of "conducting soldiers to the enemy" (viz.: dem Feinde Mannschaften zuführt).
It is manifest that this was a strained reading of the provisions of military law; that a false interpretation was wilfully put upon these provisions in order to secure a conviction. This law was obviously framed to cover the case of those who assist stragglers or lost soldiers to get back to their own lines and join their units. It is doubtful whether the framers of the military law had foreseen anything so indirect and unprecedented as that of helping soldiers cross into a neutral country in the hope that they might find their way back through two other countries to their own army. Miss Cavell assisted these soldiers to escape into a neutral country which was bound, if possible, to apprehend and intern them.. If these soldiers succeeded in outwitting the Dutch authorities and making their way to England, their success would not, to any fair-minded person, increase the offense committed by Miss Cavell. Miss Cavell's conduct before the court was marked by the greatest frankness and courage. She stated that she had assisted these men to escape into Holland because she thought that if she had not done so they would have been seized and shot by the Germans; that she felt that she had only done her duty in helping to save their lives.
The Military Prosecutor replied that while this argument might be made concerning English soldiers, it could not apply to Belgians, who were free to remain in the country without danger. The subsequent behaviour of the German authorities to the Belgian young men who remained in the country does not lend any considerable weight to the remarks of the Public Prosecutor.
In concluding his plea, the Public Prosecutor asked that the court pass the sentence of death upon Miss Cavell and eight other prisoners among the thirty-five brought to trial.
Upon ascertaining these facts Maître de Leval called at the Political Department and asked that, the trial having taken place, permission be granted him to see Miss Cavell in person, as there could he no further objection to consultation. Herr Conrad, an official of the Political Department, who received Maître de Leval, stated that he would make enquiry of the court and communicate with him later.
The foregoing are the developments up to Sunday night, October 10th. Subsequent developments are shown by the following extracts from a journal made at the time:
Brussels, October 12, 1915.---When I came in yesterday morning I found information which seemed to confirm previous reports that Miss Cavell's trial had been concluded on Saturday afternoon and that the prosecution had asked that the death sentence be imposed. Monsieur de Leval promptly called the Political Department over the telephone and talked to Conrad, repeating our previous requests that he be authorised to see Miss Cavell in prison. He also asked that Mr. Gahan, the English chaplain, be permitted to visit her. Conrad replied that it had been decided that Mr. Gahan could not see her, but that she could see any of the three Protestant clergymen (Germans) attached to the prison; that de Leval could not see her until the judgment was pronounced and signed. He said that as yet no sentence had been pronounced and that there would probably be a delay of a day or two before a decision was reached. He stated that even if the judgment of the court had been given, it would have no effect until it had been confirmed by the Governor, who was absent from Brussels and would not return for two or possibly three days. We asked Conrad to inform the Legation immediately upon the confirmation of the sentence in order that steps might be taken to secure a pardon if the. judgment really proved to be one of capital punishment. Conrad said he had no information to the effect that the court had acceded to the request for the death sentence, but promised to keep us informed. I stood by the telephone and could overhear both de Leval and Conrad.
Despite the promise of the German authorities to keep us fully posted, we were nervous and apprehensive and remained at the Legation all day, making repeated enquiry by telephone to learn whether a decision had been reached. On each of these occasions the Political Department renewed the assurance that we would be informed as soon as there was any news. In order to be prepared for every eventuality, we drew up a petition for clemency addressed to the Governor-General, and a covering note addressed to Baron von der Lancken, in order that they might be presented without loss of time in case of urgent need.
A number of people had been arrested and tried for helping men to cross into Holland, but, so far as we know, the death sentence had never been inflicted. The usual thing was to give a sentence of imprisonment in Germany. The officials at the Political Department professed to be skeptical as to the reported intention of the court to inflict the death sentence, and led us to think that nothing of the sort need be apprehended.
None the less we were haunted by a feeling of impending horror that we could not shake off. I had planned to ride in the afternoon, but when my horse was brought around, I had it sent away and stayed near the telephone. Late in the afternoon de Leval succeeded in getting into communication with a lawyer interested in one of the accused. He said that the German Kommandantur had informed him that judgment would be passed the next morning, Tuesday. He was worried as to what was in store for the prisoners and said he feared the court would be very severe.
At 6.20 I had Topping (clerk of the Legation) telephone Conrad again. Once more we had the most definite assurances that nothing, had happened and a somewhat weary renewal of the promise that we should have immediate information when sentence was pronounced.(3)
At 8.30 I had just gone home when de Leval came for me in my car, saying that he had come to report that Miss Cavell was to be shot during the night. We could hardly credit this, but as our informant was so positive and insisted so earnestly, we set off to see what could be done.
De Leval. had seen the Minister, who was ill in bed. and brought me his instructions to find von der Lancken, present the appeal for clemency, and press for a favourable decision. In order to add weight to our representations, I was to seek out the Spanish Minister to get him to go with us and join in our appeal. I found him dining at Baron Lambert's, and on explaining the case to him he willingly agreed to come.
When we got to the Political Department we found that Baron von der Lancken and all the members of his staff had gone out to spend the evening at one of the disreputable little theatres that have sprung up here for the entertainment of the Germans. At first we were unable to find where he had gone, as the orderly on duty evidently had orders not to tell, but by dint of some blustering and impressing on him the fact that Lancken would have cause to regret not having seen us, he agreed to have him notified. We put the orderly into the motor and sent him off. The Marquis de Villalobar, de Leval, and I settled down to wait, and we waited long, for Lancken, evidently knowing the purpose of our visit, declined to budge until the end of an act that seemed to appeal to him particularly.
He came in about 10.30, followed shortly by Count Harrach and Baron von Falkenhausen, members of his staff. I briefly explained to him the situation as we understood it and presented the note from the Minister, transmitting the appeal for clemency. Lancken read the note aloud in our presence, showing no feeling aside from cynical annoyance at something---probably our having discovered the intentions of the German authorities.
When he had finished reading the note, Lancken said that he knew nothing of the case, but was sure in any event that no sentence would be executed so soon as we had said. He manifested some surprise, not to say annoyance, that we should give credence to any report in regard to the case which did not come from his Department, that being the only official channel. Leval and I insisted, however, that we had reason to believe our reports were correct and urged him to make inquiries. He then tried to find out the exact source of our information, and became painfully insistent. I did not propose, however, to enlighten him on this point and said that I did not feel at liberty to divulge our source of information.
Lancken then became persuasive---said that it was most improbable that any sentence had been pronounced; that even if it had, it could not be put into effect within so short a time, and that in any event all Government offices were closed and that it was impossible for him to take any action before morning. He suggested that we all go home "reasonably," sleep quietly, and come back in the morning to talk about the case. It was very clear that if the facts were as we believed them to be, the next morning would be too late, and we pressed for immediate enquiry. I had to be rather insistent on this point, and de Leval, in his anxiety, became so emphatic that I feared he might bring down the wrath of the Germans on his own head, and tried to quiet him. There was something splendid about the way de Leval, a Belgian with nothing to gain and everything to lose, stood up for what he believed to be right and chivalrous, regardless of consequences to himself.
Finally, Lancken agreed to enquire as to the facts., telephoned from his office to the presiding judge of the court martial, and returned in a short time to say that sentence had indeed been passed and that Miss Cavell was to be shot during the night.
We then presented with all the earnestness at our command, the plea for clemency. We pointed out to Lancken that Miss Cavell's offenses were a matter of the past; that she had been in prison for some weeks, thus effectually ending her power for harm; that there was nothing to be gained by shooting her, and on the contrary this would do Germany much more harm than good and England much more good than harm. We pointed out to him that the whole case was a very bad one from Germany's point of view; that the sentence of death had heretofore been imposed only for cases of espionage and that Miss Cavell was not even accused by the German authorities of anything so serious.(4) We reminded him that Miss Cavell, as directress of a large nursing home, had, since the beginning of the war, cared for large numbers of German soldiers in a way that should make her life sacred to them. I further called his attention to the manifest failure of the Political Department to comply with its repeated promises to keep us informed as to the progress of the trial and the passing of the sentence. The deliberate policy of subterfuge and prevarication by which they had sought to deceive us, as to the progress of the case, was so raw as to require little comment. We all pointed out to Lancken the horror of shooting a woman, no matter what her offense, and endeavoured to impress upon him the frightful effect that such an execution would have throughout the civilised world. With an ill-concealed sneer he replied that on the contrary he was confident that the effect would be excellent.
When everything else had failed, we asked Lancken to look at the case from the point of view solely of German interests, assuring him that the execution of Miss Cavell would do Germany infinite harm. We reminded him of the burning of Louvain and the sinking of the Lusitania, and told him that this murder would rank with those two affairs and would stir all civilised countries with horror and disgust. Count Harrach broke in at this with the rather irrelevant remark that he would rather see Miss Cavell shot than have harm come to the humblest German soldier, and his only regret was that they had not "three or four old English women to shoot."
The Spanish Minister and I tried to prevail upon Lancken to call Great Headquarters at Charleville on the telephone and have the case laid before the Emperor for his decision. Lancken stiffened perceptibly at this suggestion and refused, frankly, saying that he could not do anything of the sort. Turning to Villalobar, he said, "I can't do that sort of thing. I am not a friend of my Sovereign as you are of yours," to which a rejoinder was made that in order to be a good friend, one must be loyal and ready to incur displeasure in case of need. However, our arguments along this line came to nothing, but Lancken finally came to the point of saying that the Military Governor of Brussels was the supreme authority (Gerichtsherr) in matters of this sort and that even the Governor-General had no power to intervene. After further argument he agreed to get General von Sauberschweig, the Military Governor, out of bed to learn whether he had already ratified the sentence and whether there was any chance for clemency.
Lancken was gone about half an hour, during which time the three of us laboured with Harrach and Falkenhausen, without, I am sorry to say, the slightest success. When Lancken returned he reported that the Military Governor said that he had acted in this case only after mature deliberation; that the circumstances of Miss Cavell's offense were of such character that he considered infliction of the death penalty imperative. Lancken further explained that under the provisions of German Military Law, the Gerichtsherr had discretionary power to accept or to refuse to accept an appeal for clemency; that in this case the Governor regretted that he must decline to accept the appeal for clemency or any representations in regard to the matter.
We then brought up again the question of having the Emperor called on the telephone, but Lancken replied very definitely that the matter had gone too far; that the sentence had been ratified by the Military Governor, and that when matters had gone that far, "even the Emperor himself could not intervene."(5)
He then asked me to take back the note I had presented to him. I at first demurred, pointing out that this was not an appeal for clemency, but merely a note to him, transmitting a note to the Governor, which was itself to be considered the appeal for clemency. I pointed out that this was especially stated in the Minister's note to him, and tried to prevail upon him to keep it. He was very insistent, however, and inasmuch as he had already read the note aloud to us and we knew that he was aware of its contents, it seemed that there was nothing to be gained by refusing to accept the note, and I accordingly took it back.
Despite Lancken's very positive statements as to the futility of our errand, we continued to appeal to every sentiment to secure delay and time for reconsideration of the case. The Spanish Minister led Lancken aside and said some things to him that he would have hesitated to say in the presence of Harrach, Falkenhausen, and de Leval, a Belgian subject. Lancken squirmed and blustered by turns, but stuck to his refusal. In the meantime I went after Harrach and Falkenhausen again. This time, throwing modesty to the winds, I reminded them of some of the things we had done for German interests at the outbreak of the war; how we had repatriated thousands of German subjects and cared for their interests; how during the siege of Antwerp I had repeatedly crossed the lines during actual fighting at the request of Field Marshal von der Goltz to look after German interests; how all this service had been rendered gladly and without thought of reward; that since the beginning of the war we had never asked a favour of the German authorities and it seemed incredible that they should now decline to grant us even a day's delay to discuss the case of a poor woman who was, by her imprisonment, prevented from doing further harm, and whose execution in the middle of the night, at the conclusion of a course of trickery and deception, was nothing short of an affront to civilisation. Even when I was ready to abandon all hope, de Leval was unable to believe that the German authorities would persist in their decision, and appealed most touchingly and feelingly to the sense of pity for which we looked in vain.
Our efforts were perfectly useless, however, as the three men with whom we had to deal were so completely callous and indifferent that they were in no way moved by anything that we could say.
We did not stop until after midnight, when it was only too clear that there was no hope.
It was a bitter business leaving the place feeling that we had failed and that the little woman was to be led out before a firing squad within a few hours. But it was worse to go back to the Legation to the little group of English women who were waiting in my office to learn the result of our visit. They had been there for nearly four hour's while Mrs. Whitlock and Miss Larner sat with them and tried to sustain them through the hours of waiting. There were Mrs. Gahan, wife of the English chaplain, Miss B., and several nurses from Miss Cavell's school. One was a little wisp of a thing who had been mothered by Miss Cavell, and was nearly beside herself with grief. There was no way of breaking the news to them gently, for they could read the answer in our faces when we came in. All we could do was to give them each a stiff drink of sherry and send them home. De Leval was white as death, and I took him back to his house. I had a splitting headache myself and could not face the idea of going to bed. I went home and read for awhile, but that was no good, so I went out and walked the streets, much to the annoyance of German patrols. I rang the bells of several houses in a desperate desire to talk to somebody, but could not find a soul---only sleepy and disgruntled servants. It was a night I should not like to go through again, but it wore through somehow and I braced up with a cold bath and went to the Legation for the day's work.
The day brought forth another loathsome fact in connection with the case. It seems the sentence on Miss Cavell was not pronounced in open court. Her executioners, apparently in the hope of concealing their intentions from us, went into her cell and there, behind locked doors, pronounced sentence upon her. It is all of a piece with the other things they have done.
Last night Mr. Gahan got a pass and was admitted to see Miss Cavell shortly before she was taken out and shot. He said she was calm and prepared and faced the ordeal without a tremor. She was a tiny thing that looked as though she could be blown away with a breath, but she had a great spirit. She told Mr. Gahan that soldiers had come to her and asked to be helped to the frontier; that knowing the risks they ran and the risks she took, she had helped them. She said she had nothing to regret, no complaint to make, and that if she had it all to do over again, she would change nothing. And most pathetic of all was her statement that she thanked God for the six weeks she had passed in prison---the nearest approach to rest she had known for years.
They partook together of the Holy Communion, and she who had so little need of preparation was prepared for death. She was free from resentment and said: "I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness toward any one."
She was taken out and shot before daybreak.
She was denied the support of her own clergyman at the end, but a German military chaplain stayed with her and gave her burial within the precincts of the prison. He did not conceal his admiration and said: "She was courageous to the end. She professed her Christian faith and said that she was glad to die for her country. She died like a heroine."
1. An entry from a later part of Mr. Gibson's journal gives a picture of the Belgian spirit under German rule and one of the few methods of retaliation they had against German oppression.
The Belgians are getting a good deal of quiet pleasure these days from a clandestine newspaper called La Libre Belgique which is published almost in the shadow of the Kommandantur. It is a little four-page paper that is published every now and then--- and says anything it likes about the ---Occupant.--- It also publishes news and texts that are barred from the censored press. It is distributed in a mysterious way that still has the Germans guessing, although they have detailed their cleverest sleuths to the task of hunting down the paper and those responsible for its publication. Every number is delivered to all the more important German officials in Brussels and, more remarkable still, it appears without fail upon the desk of the Governor-General---in that sanctum guarded like the vaults of the Bank of England. Sometimes it appears in the letter-box in the guise of a letter from Germany; sometimes it is thrown in the window; sometimes it is delivered by an orderly with a bundle of official despatches; sometimes it merely appears from nowhere. But it never fails to reach the Governor-General. He never fails to read it and to wax wroth over its contents. Large rewards have been offered for information about the people who are writing and printing the paper. The Germans rage publicly, which only adds to the pleasure that the Belgians get from their little enterprise.
My copy reaches me regularly and always in some weird way as in the case of the Germans. I don't know who my friend is that sends me the paper. Whoever he is I am much obliged.
2. Commission for Relief in Belgium. This name was given the original American Relief Commission a few weeks of its foundation.
3. This was just one hour and twenty minutes after the sentence had actually been pronounced. There is no need for comment.
4. At the time there was no intimation that Miss Cavell. was guilty of espionage. It was only when public opinion had been aroused by her execution that the German Government began to refer to her as "the spy Cavell." According to the German statement of the case, there is no possible ground for calling her a spy.
5. Although accepted at the time as true, this statement was later found to be entirely false and is understood to have displeased the Emperor. The Emperor could have stopped the execution at any moment.
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