IN PURSUIT OF THE TRUTH
THIS World War has taught great lessons to all of us, has dissipated some of our false creeds, and has revealed to us verities of which we were oblivious. The most significant lesson it has taught me is that the love of race is the deepest feeling rooted in our being.
I came to America almost a child; for what is a seventeen-year-old girl but a child? To America I came, not as many come, lured by the dream of making money and bettering myself in the world, but because America to me was a land where there was liberty of thought and liberty of action. Leaving aside the disappointments that follow the realization of all dreams, as time went on I gradually became an American in thought and in spirit as well as in speech. I did not care to go with people of my own race, and my mother tongue grew rusty for want of use. Then I married an American, and began to have a career---one that I owed absolutely to my American husband, to American encouragement, and to the American public.
Years passed, and I considered myself more American even than those who were born here, since they owed their nationality to the mere accident of birth, while I had acquired mine by choice and principle. One thing only remained to me of my own accident of birth: an interest in all that pertained to the Balkan Peninsula. I had had unusual opportunities in my own home of learning much of the inside history of this most perplexing portion of the earth, and after coming to my new country there was published no book of importance about any of the Balkan countries which I knowingly neglected to read. I did this, however, not, as a native, but as an American writer who happened to specialize on the Near East. The Greek wars of 1897 and of 1912 and 1913 1 followed in the press with the same interest with which all enlightened people followed them, and I did not feel them any more strongly than did other American pro-Hellenists.
Then the devastating World War burst upon us, blowing to atoms ideas and ideals no less than more material evidences of our civilization. Austria attacked Serbia, and---for the greater safety of Serbia herself---Greece, her ally, declared she would remain neutral for the moment, lest Bulgaria treacherously fall on the flank and rear of both of them, and cut off their communication with Salonica, their base of supplies.
Again my interest in the attitude of Greece was not different from that manifested by my American friends. Only when the Liberal leader, Mr. Venizelos, fell in February, 1915, did a change take place in me which was disquieting to a person who loved analysis and psychology. Something moved within me with a force that ceased to be academic, and I no longer appraised the events in Greece coolly with my brain: my heart took the foremost place.
In May Mr. Venizelos was reelected, and came back to power in August. Then in September, in answer to the challenge of Bulgaria's mobilization, Greece called her troops to the colors. This was as it should be, and my heart lost its disquieting leadership, to my considerable relief. I was glad to return to my normal American state of mind, and to view things down there impersonally, as had been my wont. One does not like to have one's pet theories upset, and my favorite theory was that nationalism was the birthright of ignorance only. Those who thought, cared little where they were born: to them the important thing was where---after mature consideration---they chose to remain. Why should I take a paramount interest in Greek affairs merely because I happened to be born in a particular place? Complacently I had resumed my freedom from national prejudice when the following events of great importance took place:
Venizelos fell from power.
Bulgaria---up to the last moment professing neutrality---attacked Serbia.
And Greece refused to go to her aid.
At that moment all my previous conceptions of my real state of mind fell away from me, and I stood revealed to myself as a Greek and nothing but a Greek. A sense of shame overpowered me, as if I were personally responsible for this act of the race whose blood flowed in my veins. The degradation of this perfidy struck me with such force that, as time went on, I could not believe it to be true, and with a misguided sentiment of loyalty to my race I tried to find means of justifying it. In July of 1916, in speaking before the little club in Dublin, New Hampshire, I said that I believed it must all be a plan arranged between Venizelos, the King, and the Entente, to save Greece from the fate which had befallen the other small friends of the Allies. Realizing that they would be no more able to protect Greece than they had been to protect Belgium and Serbia, they had contrived this clever arrangement among themselves to save her from extermination.
Later events were too eloquent to permit of the retention of this theory; yet I desperately strove to find some other explanation than the one on the surface; and in November, speaking before the "Emery Bag" in Brookline, I argued that it was impossible the King was the traitor he seemed to be, since the people had not risen up and dragged him from his throne. He must be a patriot who believed that the sole salvation for his country lay in neutrality; he must be a king with so strong a love for his people that he clung to this neutrality even though by doing so he assumed the risk of appearing unfaithful to his plighted word.
The King had said that the treaty binding Greece to Serbia was a Balkan treaty only, and I believed him, especially since on this point no one seemed to be certain. Yet I must confess that, defend the King and believe in his policy as I might, I could not cease suffering at the attitude of Greece. To me she would have been infinitely greater had she been smashed and ruined in standing by her ally. The farther she sank in public estimation the more precious did her honor and reputation become to me. It was at this time that I resolved to go to Greece, and there on the spot to discover the truth. There must be much that was unknown behind the attitude of the King. If he were innocent, as I believed him to be, then he was the most pathetic figure in this terrible war, and behind him must lie one of its biggest stories. I would go to Greece, would go straight to him, and then would publish to the world what I learned.
This plan I communicated to my husband. Kenneth Brown has felt the tragedy of this war in his own way. Though his family has been American for three hundred years, his ancestry is purely English on both sides, and England is like a second country to him. From the first days of the war he appreciated better than most the enormous work England had to do to prepare herself for her part in the struggle, and the magnificent way in which she has done her duty. And he not only felt but spoke. Had he been an Englishman instead of an American and in the pay of the English Government for propaganda work, he could have been neither more patriotic nor more earnest. In fact his English friends call him John Bull. From all this it may easily be deduced that he was against the King of Greece, since the King of Greece was not on the side of the Entente.
At my plan to go to Greece for the purpose of rehabilitating Constantine in the eyes of the world he looked dubious. He considered that Greece had shirked her responsibility. He had faith in Venizelos and in Venizelos's view of Greece's duty toward Serbia.
"But after all Venizelos is a politician," I argued, "and he may be serving his own ends. What makes you presume that he is more patriotic than the King? Or the Powers may be playing their own game, and using Venizelos as a pawn."
There were other objections to our journey besides political ones. "It will be a hard journey, and you are not strong," he objected. "It will be an expensive one, and we cannot afford it."
But what cared I for the leagues or the submarines between us and our goal when there was the chance to put my country before the world in its true light?
Going from place to place in war-times is made as difficult, disagreeable, and expensive as possible, that all joy-traveling may be stopped. The details of the difficulties of our journey I shall not go into here. Merely obtaining permission to start was difficult, and even after we had our passports viséed by three foreign governments, we were warned by their representatives that: (1) We should never be allowed to land in England; (2) we should never be allowed to cross Italy; and (3) we should never be allowed to reach Greece.
Fig. 2. The back of Mrs. Kenneth-Brown's passport. An extra sheet attached to the original is omitted from this facsimile.
Space will not permit me to tell how near each of these predictions came to being fulfilled.
Even getting into England we found to be no simple matter. In the course of the minute catechism which we underwent before being permitted to land I mentioned that we hoped to see Mr. Lloyd George before going on to Greece. At this the military control captain gave me an especially severe look.
"Do you think the Prime Minister of Great Britain has nothing else to do than to see you?" he asked.
I don't know just when the idea came to me that it might be possible to bring together Constantine and Venizelos and in that way save Greece. Certainly it was before we left England, for I well remember the encouraging words of one titled gentleman of influence, to whom we had a letter of introduction, and to whom I unfolded this scheme, praying his help,
"You are mad! " he cried. "I will not listen to you! I cannot prevent your talking, but I shall not listen. You are insane! To begin with, you will never be able to see the King. You are crazy! "
Others were no more encouraging about getting to see Mr. Lloyd George. "It would be easier to see God than the Prime Minister," they said.
My husband wrote to Lord Northcliffe, and he invited us to come down and see him at Broadstairs. During luncheon he suddenly inquired: --
"Would you like to see Mr. Lloyd George?"
Ah! if we could only see him and plead the cause of Greece! A vision of the unattainable coming within our grasp arose before us; and a few days later Mr. Davis, the Prime Minister's delightful secretary, sandwiched us in, "for ten minutes," between an Italian delegation and another appointment.
Great men are the simplest in the world. This lesson we were to see exemplified again and again throughout our long and adventurous trip. Mr. Lloyd George greeted us as a childhood friend might have. He placed us one on each side of him and talked of Greece and of what England would have liked to do for the Greeks. Mr. Davis announced the arrival of the man with the other appointment. "Tell him to come some other time," said the Prime Minister, and our talk went on for forty minutes, instead of the ten promised us.
"Is it of any advantage to England that my little Greece should be divided?" I asked him.
"Quite the contrary," he replied, and added a friendly and reassuring message to be delivered to King Constantine. He finished: "Come and see me on your way back, and tell me what you have found out."
A sense of warmth and comfort that man gave me. I said to my husband: "There is some terrible misunderstanding, some mistake in Greece. You see England wants to help her, and wants, her united, strong, and independent." And gradually the hope became stronger in me that we might be able to bring about a reconciliation between Venizelos and the King; that matters might be straightened out, and that even at this late hour Greece would come out with the Allies.
It would take too long here to tell how the English Government melted from its attitude of suspicion, and made it easy for us even to cross the Italian frontier. In Paris, Ambassador Sharpe gave us useful letters; but when we arrived in Rome Ambassador Thomas Nelson Page, with his adorable Virginian drawl, warned us severely back from our journey. He was n't going to do anything "to help a lady get into danger," and he considered the waters lying between Italy and Greece no place for a lady to navigate at the present time. But if we were bound to run into trouble, in spite of all his warnings, he would give us letters to French authorities and others to help us to get out again---which he did. In addition both the Venizelist and the Royalist representative of Greece---each confident that his side would win us---lent us a helping hand; and one cannot have too many helps in sailing the Adriatic and the Ægean to-day.
There were in Rome at that time two Greek representatives: the Royalist, Mr. Lambros Coromilas, and the Venizelist, Mr. Apostol Alexandri,---whom the Italian Government refused to recognize. We went to see both, and both were extremely courteous to us. Mr. Coromilas gave to my husband the best exposition he had heard of the Royalist side, and pretty nearly converted him to it. Yet, while we were dining with him and his very pretty American wife, he confided to me in Greek that the policy of the King was ruining Greece.
"Then why don't you go with the Venizelists? " I asked.
"Because I can help Greece more by remaining where I am," he replied.
And because he hoped to help Greece, he helped us in every possible way, since we were to work for the reunion of the King and Venizelos, which would be the salvation of Greece.
In Rome we started on our amusing procedure---which we were to continue in Athens---of lunching with Royalists and dining with Venizelists, and the next day lunching with Venezelists and dining with Royalists. And if Mr. Coromilas came near converting my husband to the cause of Constantine, Mr. Alexandri gave me ideas about Mr. Venizelos's policy which were eye-openers to me. Yet, when M. Camille Barère, the French Ambassador, received us and we talked over the Greek situation, I was still so enthusiastic on the side of the King that he sent for Mr. Alexandri and asked whether he thought it wise to permit such a rabid Royalist writer to get into Athens.
"Oh, yes," advised the latter. "We not only are going to let her go, but we are doing everything to help her on her journey. She is intelligent, and above all she is a patriot. She will find out the truth."
How much I found out I think he will be surprised to learn when he reads the pages that are to follow. I must not anticipate here; but I can say that the stakes King Constantine was playing for were stupendous---stakes for which the risk of his crown was fair odds.
So anxious was "Mr. Alexandri to get us into Greece that he asked and obtained permission for us to sail on a French torpedo boat. Since that was only going as far as Corfu, however, and since there were no regular connections from there on, we decided to sail on the French Government dispatch boats. From Mr. Alexandri we carried a report for Mr. Venizelos, and from Mr. Coromilas we carried several letters to his friends. We also had a number of letters and packages for Athenians of both parties, languishing for lingerie and medicaments because of the blockade. Strictly speaking, I suppose we ought not to have carried these through the Allies' blockade,---especially on their own boat,---but the iniquity of this never struck me until now that I am writing about it. Running a blockade, like other kinds of smuggling, I fear will never appeal to the ethical sense of ordinary mortals---except afterwards if they are caught.
Charming Admiral Saint-Père, of, the French Embassy in Rome, undertook to procure us a permit through the fortified and forbidden seaport of Taranto, and when the permit came to us I had to smile at the legend it bore: "In missione uffizioso per conte del loro governo "---"on an official mission for their government." No one saw this permit except one Italian official at Taranto, and yet a week after our arrival in Athens, King Constantine told a tableful of people that we were on an official mission for the American Government. Meandering and oblique are the ways of diplomacy: the more we denied this story, the stronger it grew, and it was of no small assistance in furthering our comfort.
Fig. 3. The Italian Ministry of Marine's permit to Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth-Brown to sail from Taranto "On an Official Mission for their Government."
From Italy we sailed on a French Government boat, with a delightful commandant whose broad cultivation and wide interests made one almost forget that it was war-time; and with a bold and captivating little admiral, who told us how his sailors had held a trench and reserved their fire until the Germans were almost upon them, eight abreast, and singing songs of victory as they came on. And then how they had mowed them down in great swaths. "Ah! c'était beau, ça," he exclaimed.
The Numedia, which took us to Corfu and Argostoli, looked pretty small, but it seemed like a liner compared with the Édouard Corbière which carried us from Argostoli to Athens. On the latter there were accommodations for eight, and there were forty-eight passengers. We ate in six relays---and ate wonderfully well, too. A Frenchwoman and I had one of the four cabins. My husband and a Russian naval officer had another, and General Sarrail's son-in-law begged the favor of being permitted to sleep on the floor of their cabin, "since he preferred to be stepped on at night by some one he knew rather than by the anonymous crowd."
"C'est la guerre! " explained all shortcomings. It explained---without reassuring one---an entire absence of boats and life preservers. We were told that the Édouard Corbière was so small the Boches would hardly waste a torpedo on it. Submarines have other weapons than torpedoes, however, and a few trips after ours, when the counselor of the British Legation at Athens was a passenger, the steward came rushing to his stateroom to tell him that the boat was being shelled by a submarine---a fact he had already deduced from the noise. The counselor, with a trust few of us displayed, was in his bunk, undressed, and now, in the excitement of the shelling, he could not find his trousers. For a number of despairing seconds, while he vainly searched for them, he debated whether to save his life or his modesty. It is the most forcible testimony to his British tenacity of purpose that he resolved he would not go on deck without his trousers, and about the time the submarine was driven off by the guns of the Édouard Corbière, he triumphantly appeared on deck with them on.
Traveling in those small boats, full of French, British, Italian, Serbian, and Russian officers, the forceful realization came upon me of where Greece stood in the eyes of other nations. Hatred and scorn were her portion. "Coward" was the least of the epithets applied to her, and because no one suspected a Greek under my American name, I received the full blast of the world's opinion of my race. With entire lack of justice no distinction was drawn between Old Greece, which would not abandon its neutrality, and New Greece, the members of which had left their homes, their businesses, their friends, to fight for the Entente, and to rehabilitate their good name toward Serbia. Thanks to the intrigues of a neighboring nation, who aspires to the hegemony of the Adriatic and the Eastern Mediterranean, and who felt that the degradation of Greece was directly to her own benefit, the rumor was spread broadcast that Venizelos and the King were in league, were "playing both ends against the middle," as we might say in America, so that no matter which side was the eventual winner, Greece could not lose.
The first sight that met my eyes on entering the harbor of Corfu---a Greek island---was the French flag flying from the old citadel, which juts out so picturesquely into the sea, and the Italian flag over the new fort behind it. The island had been taken over by the French in order to reorganize the Serbian army, and I found myself at one with the islanders in bitterly resenting the removal of the Greek flag from their own forts.
When I remonstrated with the French commandant of the harbor at this indignity, he listened most sympathetically to my words, and explained that the absence of the Greek flags from the forts was a mere formality indicating that there were no Greek troops there. Three months later, however, on our return from Greece, I was most pleased to see that on the outermost point of the old fort, where it was most visible to all incoming boats, there floated a Greek flag---even though the fort itself was still held by French troops. But there was no sign of a Greek flag on the other fort where the Italians were, playing the master.
Fig. 4. Corfu: Pontekonese, or Rat Island, from which the famous painting "The Island of the Dead" was painted.
The whole island of Corfu could no longer be said to be under Greek dominion, and the Greeks were treated by their unwelcome guests with entire lack of courtesy. In the dining-room of Hôtel St. George the scorn overflowing the Allied breast was unreservedly expressed. A young English officer sitting opposite me at the long table announced contemptuously: --
"There are only two things the Greeks care for, their skins and their money."
At the next table to ours sat Mr. Benaki and his family. They had only just come from Athens, where Mr. Benaki, a gentleman well along in life, had endured forty-three days in the filthy Athenian prison because, as Mayor of Athens, he would not issue a proclamation to suit the King and his party.
At our own table sat the Vourloumi family from Patras, who had had to flee with their little ones from the comforts of their own home, because of their adherence to Venizelos and his principles of wishing to stand by Serbia and the Entente.
Knowing all this, I said to the Englishman:
Be careful how you speak. All these Greeks can understand you."
"I don't care if they do," he replied. "It will do them good."
There was also an insignificant British vice-consul from Epirus, with a colleague from somewhere else, who told all who cared to hear that they would like to see the dirty Greeks drowned; while an Italian seated next to my husband calmly announced: "We have not yet decided whether we shall give back Corfu to Greece, or keep it ourselves."
The control the Greeks showed of their tempers at least was admirable. To the brother of Admiral Coundouriotis---who himself had suffered imprisonment at the hands of the Royalists---I expressed this sentiment, on our return journey.
In his slow, dignified manner, so different from that of the ordinary Greek, he replied: " If they forget that they are our guests, we must not."
It was terrible for me to stand the hatred and loathing for my countrymen which I encountered everywhere, but it became unbearable when they began insulting Greece's ancient history. As our boat approached Salamis, a French officer of General Sarrail's staff pointed contemptuously to a fishing boat: --
"Do you see that? Well, there were perhaps fifty or a hundred like that, and a few fishermen killed, and the lying tongue of Greece has made of it the great battle of Salamis---and the world has- lived on those lies ever since."
I had come to the breaking point. "France just now is sublime, and is covering herself with immortal glory," I said. "Cannot a little of her great spirit come down to you here, and make you generous toward a small nation that is passing through dark days? France used to be a sister to Greece. Is it possible that she was only a step-sister?"
"We loathe Greece," was the answer, " and never again shall we feel friendly toward her."
"Yet," I insisted, "a part of Greece is fighting for you."
At that moment a torpedo boat came steaming past us.
"That's a Greek," said another officer with malevolent glee. "That's one of their fleet that we took from the dirty Greeks."
As those men hated the Greeks, so I felt myself hating Venizelos. But for him, Greece might have remained neutral, and if the Allies wanted to come on her land, they would have had to come frankly as brigands, as Germany went through Belgium; they could not have hidden behind the pretense that Venizelos had invited them.
My heart was heavy and sore, and because all these people hated Greece and her King, my resolution was strengthened to hunt and dig until I came upon the truth of the whole dreadful business, and then to give it to the American press, and clear the name of her King from the dreadful reproaches heaped upon him.
On March 3, 1917, we reached the Piraeus. It was a glorious spring day, with the warm golden sun pouring generously down upon the blue waters. Not until we were actually landed on the quay did we feel certain that something would not intervene to prevent our reaching our journey's end. A short trip by electric train to Athens, and we felt like two children in fairyland, as we drove to the hotel, with the Acropolis showing up at the end of every street.
I cannot express what I felt on that first day in Athens. The little packet of letters which were to help us in our work I was guarding like a hidden treasure. From our experience in getting into England we had feared that all our papers might be taken away from us; but because we had become the adopted children of France and Great Britain, we passed through the blockade and into the country without even seeing a customs officer.
In that packet of letters there was one to the Queen of Greece, one to the Crown Prince, and one to the King's brother, Prince Nicholas, one to the Marshal of the King's Court, and one to the Queen's first lady in waiting. It also contained one for poor Professor Spiro Lambros, the Prime Minister; one for Dr. Streit, of the so-called "Occult Government"; one for that quiet personality, Mr. Alexander Zaïmis, so often Prime Minister, and destined to be King Constantine's last, destined also to have to tell him that he must go; and one to Mr. Calogheropoulos, the Prime Minister who preceded Professor Lambros, and who was put in quarantine by the Powers from the first day, as he told us.
Only when we were settled in our rooms in the Hôtel de la Grande Bretagne, whence we could gaze straight up the Kiffissia Road which leads to the palace of the King, did I begin to be seized by misgivings. I had said all along that I was going to see the King; but here in Athens, at the beginning of the street which led, to his palace, I began to doubt. "For the first time a fear came over me: what if after all this long, difficult, and frightfully expensive journey, the King should refuse to see us? And what if we were never to learn the truth? For a few minutes I sat in my room motionless, paralyzed by that terrible thought. But hope is divine. Was I not in the service of my race, and entrusted with a message from the great man of England? To bring King and Venizelos together once more became my thought; and my fears died. Is it not the most improbable that sometimes succeeds?
After brushing up a bit, we sallied forth and delivered some of our letters of introduction to the political men of Greece.
We had not been in Athens forty-eight hours before we realized that we were not in a normal city. It gave me the impression of being like a house inhabited by "in-laws" and step-children, into which one has come soon after a big fight, when feelings are at their bitterest and tempers on edge. Royalists on one side, Venizelists and Allies on the other, were on the qui vive, and the slightest move on either side was interpreted as hostile by the other. Greece was blockaded. The English, French,: and Russian Ministers had abandoned their legations and were living on warships down at Keratsine, relations not having been reestablished between them and the Court after the first two terrible days of December.
Although we arrived in Athens during the first week of March, the whole city still breathed and talked of the events of the 1st and 2d of December. Royalists and Venizelists, Allies and pro-Germans and neutrals, all thought about them and talked about them, each in his own way and from his own point of view. The blockade having been established immediately afterwards, no news had come from the outside world ---no letters, no newspapers, not even telegrams. By reason of this isolation they were thrown back on these days, when time had stopped for the Athenians, and whoever talked to us about them, and from whatever side, never failed to make them out the darkest days of Greece.
So few details of these days have been published in the press of Europe and America, and such momentous results have followed from all that happened then, that I may be excused for giving a short account of what we heard about them, from all sides.
Some time during the autumn of 1916, a French Deputy, M. Benazet, came to see King Constantine to urge his cooperation in the war. The King expressed his deep sympathy for the Entente,---as he always did to any of the Allies,---but further than sympathy he would not go.
Finally Benazet urged: "If you were out walking with a friend, and he were attacked by bandits, and if he had no weapon, while you had a revolver, would you not lend him your revolver to defend himself?"
"Well, that is the position we are in," Benazet went on. "We are attacked by the Bulgarians and Germans, and we have no mountain batteries. You have them. Give them to us."
To this the King is said to have replied: "If you put it that way I will give them to you."
Immediately Benazet notified Admiral Dartige du Fournet, commanding the fleet at the Piraeus, and General Sarrail, commanding the army at Salonica, that the King had promised to give them the mountain batteries.
The French also asked that Greece should give them an amount of small arms and ammunition equal to what they had delivered to the Bulgarians at Cavalla and Drama, in order to demonstrate Greece's neutrality. To this the King is also said to have acceded.
When Constantine notified his Government what he had promised to do, his counselors persuaded him that he had been tricked, and that the batteries and arms were in reality going to be handed over to Venizelos---perhaps even to be used against himself.
"But how shall I get out of it?" the King asked. "I have given my word to Benazet."
"The arms belong to the nation. As a constitutional monarch you cannot give away national property without the consent of the Government."
The men around King Constantine always moved in the most devious ways, so instead of directly giving the excuse they had concocted---which was a very good one in its way---they advised the King to notify the French that it would be well if they should make a show of force, so that the people might think it was not of her own free will Greece was surrendering her arms to the Allies. Then, when the French were making this show of force, the King could notify them that his people were becoming so restless and unruly beneath this compulsion that it would be dangerous to continue the plan of delivering up the arms. In this way Constantine would save his batteries and his reputation, while his counselors would have the satisfaction of knowing that they had once more outwitted the Allies.
Just about here the evidence is extremely contradictory. The French in Athens all told us that Admiral du Fournet bad a letter from the King giving assurances that the French marines would not be attacked when they came up to Athens.
Count Mercati, the Court Marshal, told us that not only had there never been a suggestion on the part of the King that a French force should come to Athens, but the admiral had been especially warned that if Allied troops came to the city the Greek Government could not answer for the consequences. He showed us a copy of the letter which he said was the one referred to by the French, and it only promised that the Venizelists of Athens should not be attacked if they gave no cause.
One thing is certain: up to the present writing, no letter such as the French claim to have in their possession has been published.
The French troops were to arrive in Athens on the 1st of December. For several days before this, every one could see that feverish military preparations were going on in the city. The streets were full of soldiers and epistrates (reservists). There were such rumors of cannon being placed on Philopapas Hill, to command the city, that even the guileless Admiral Dartige du Fournet sent an officer to investigate. This officer was personally conducted by a Royalist officer to a spot on Philopapas where some ditches for water-pipes were being dug.
"There! that is all there is," exclaimed the Royalist, and completely satisfied, the Frenchman returned and gave his report to the admiral.
There were other sinister signs. The houses and shops of many principal Venizelists were marked with red chalk and a few of their inmates were privately warned by epistrates, who happened to be friendly to them, to shut their houses tight, and keep within them.
Two prominent Venizelists told us that they went, the one to the admiral, the other to M. Guillemin, the French Minister, and implored them not to permit marines to be sent to Athens, or if they were sent, to have them arrive in such force that they would overawe the Royalists, who were making preparations for resistance. It was at this time that the admiral sent his officer to investigate the rumor about the cannon; and thereafter, thoroughly reassured, he only laughed at all reports from Venizelists, and declared that this activity was only a mise en scene for the little comedy which was to be enacted.
Meanwhile the epistrates were being systematically worked upon by Royalist officers, among whom, it is said, were the diadogue (the Crown Prince) and the present King. They went from barracks to barracks saying to the soldiers: --
"The greatest degradation possible to an army is going to be put upon you. A handful of French and English marines are coming to disarm you. They believe you to be such cowards that you will not resist. And after that, your King is to be dethroned."
Among the epistrates were Venizelists, and they reported what was going on to their political leaders, yet no heed was taken of their words by the French in command.
On the last day of November a French officer from the fleet was taking tea with some Greek ladies. As he rose to go, his hostess held out her hand to him, and asked: --
"Is there any news?"
He bent and kissed her hand. "Only that tomorrow France will commit a very great folly."
It was more than a folly. Two thousand French and English marines marched up to Athens and entered the public gardens called Little Zappeion. It is said that so great was the faith of Admiral du Fournet in King Constantine that the French guns were at first only loaded with blank cartridges. Presently the two thousand Allied marines found themselves surrounded by a far larger number of Greek troops. The usual estimate is twenty thousand.
The Greeks said: "You have come for our arms. We are not going to give them to you. You will have to fight to get them."
The Allied marines had orders not to fire first. So had the Greeks.
Count Mercati showed me the orders issued for that terrible day. The Greeks were ordered to follow the French wherever they marched, and whenever possible to surround them; but never to be the first to fire. But when two hostile armies are face to face, disaster is inevitable.
The French say the Greeks fired first. Some of the Royalists say the French fired first; some say that Venizelists did so, in order to embroil the Royalists. I have also heard it said that Italians fired the fatal first shot, in order to compromise Greece beyond redemption.
It really matters little who fired first. When thousands of armed men face one another angrily, some one is going to fire, and let hell loose. One hundred and sixteen Allied marines died, and one hundred and fifty Greeks. But since the Greek troops were far more numerous, they surrounded the Allied marines, and Admiral Dartige du Fournet found himself and his men prisoners of the Greeks. The Allied warships fired a few shells at the King's palace, and the French, English, and Russian Ministers rushed to the King and begged him to let the marines go. Prince Demidoff, we were told, was so upset and excited that he forgot to take off his hat in the presence of the King. Then the Allied marines, virtual prisoners, with their guns pointed to the ground, were escorted by Greek troops down to the Piraeus, put on their boats, and sent from Greek soil.
Fig. 5. The Zappeion (with the Stadium in the distance) where Admiral Dartige du Fournet and his marines were trapped by the Greeks. The Fort of Philopapas Hill (where the cannon against the French were placed) on the right.
Thus ended the disastrous 1st of December, and for the time being---with the meek acceptance of the situation by the Great Powers---the trouble seemed to be over. Yet the next morning, at about eleven o'clock, firing began again in the streets. There are several explanations of this.
With Teuton-like ingeniousness and lack of humor the Royalists declare that the Venizelists seized the opportunity when the party of the King was rampantly triumphant to fire at it from the windows of their houses, and that the epistrates only entered those houses from which they were fired upon and arrested their inmates.
The Venizelists and all the foreigners in Athens say that the Royalists, elated at their easy victory of the day before, determined to make a clean sweep, and to terrorize or exterminate the Venizelists that remained in Athens.
There were certainly bullets flying about the streets. What seems to have been done was that a number of epistrates or soldiers were posted on the hills on the outskirts of Athens, and at the appointed hour these fired into the town. These bullets falling into the streets gave the armed Royalists all the excuse they needed, and the baiting of the Venizelists began. The houses of almost all the prominent ones were broken into; furniture was smashed; portable objects of art were carried away; and the inmates were hauled off under arrest, being beaten and manhandled on the way. For hours the city was in the hands of armed criminals, let loose for the purpose, and of epistrates, without even officers to guide or restrain them. My personal opinion is that murder and not arrest was the intention of those who organized this Second of December. It is a testimonial to the essential unbloodthirsty character of the Greeks that only a few people were killed, accidentally, none of them being persons of prominence. It would be hard to find in history another day---with twenty thousand lawless men, armed and able to give vent to their personal grudges ---which passed off with pillage and arrests only, and with no murders.
The French, English, and Russian Ministers took to their heels early in the proceedings, and found refuge on their warships, while a terror-stricken Venizelist and foreign population made for the Piraeus as fast as it could. In this emergency the French behaved most admirably. They received all the Venizelists who came to them, gave them hospitality for days on their warships, and often transported them to other ports.
Thus again did the Royalists win, and as the day before they had humiliated and driven out the French and English marines, so on this day they entirely overcame the Venizelists,---allies of the Great Powers though they were,---despoiled them of their property, and threw about two hundred of the most representative among them into the common prison, alongside of the most ordinary criminals. Here they kept them for forty-five days before the Great Powers plucked up spirit to demand their release.
In view of all this, is it any wonder that I rage when some little bounder of an Englishman or Frenchman asserts (I say " bounder" because the better and more intelligent rarely make the assertion): "The Greeks have no character. They are cowards. If they had any courage they would have risen and driven out the King after the 1st and 2d of December"?
"How could we rise," protested a merchant to me in Athens, "when their own ministers ran away with their tails between their legs, even though they were under the protection of their warships; when their marines were shot dead in our streets, and they took it lying down; when our most prominent men---their friends---were dragged from their palaces and beaten on the streets? What chance was there for us, unarmed, against an army?"
As I said before, when we arrived in Corfu we met Mr. Benaki, the millionaire Mayor of Athens, shortly after he had been released from prison. He was a man who had made his fortune in Egypt, and then had gone to pass the remainder of his life peacefully in the capital of Greece. He built himself a palace on the Kiffissia Road, but then found that there were better things for him to do than to spend his time in leisure. A great admirer and friend of Venizelos, the latter urged him to return to active life in the service of his country, and this led him into manifold activities of great benefit to Greece.
On our first stop in Corfu we had only a few words with Mr. Benaki. On our return journey we saw a great deal more of him. He called on us and invited us out to tea at the villa he had taken, where we met his charming wife and one of his sons. They still felt the hardships and indignities of the 2d of December so keenly that they were unwilling to talk about them. Mrs.
Benaki, however, wrote me a long letter that very night, describing minutely the events of the 2d., as far as they themselves were concerned, and I am now writing with that letter before me. It seems that at about eleven o'clock, shots began to be fired into their house from the roofs of the Royalist Ypsilanthy and Pesmazoglou houses opposite, breaking all the windows and considerably damaging the walls. A little later ruffians, some in soldiers' uniforms, but without any officers, entered the house, beat the menservants and dragged Mr. Benaki into the street, where they banged his head against the trees until his face was covered with blood. The servants, although badly battered, followed their master and prevented worse treatment for him. Bleeding and with torn clothes, Mr. Benaki was taken to the artillery barracks, and there preparations were made to shoot him.
"Is this the reward I get for having supported your families in the two Balkan wars and during the last mobilization? " Mr. Benaki asked.
Mr. Benaki's contributions to the charities of Athens have been munificent, and following on his words some officers interfered, and instead of shooting him they took him to jail, where the notorious Merkouris, the dishonorable leader of all that was dishonorable at that time, insulted him and threw him into prison. At half-past seven the same evening the King sent his own aide-de-camp to bring him back to his home. On the following day a highly placed officer, whose name Mrs. Benaki does not mention, came to the house and told Mr. Benaki that as Mayor of Athens he had better issue a proclamation to the Athenians, in which he should thank the King for his gracious benevolence toward the people, should disavow the trouble-makers, and declare that it was the Liberals who were responsible for the disorders and the accidental deaths on the 2d of December.
"I cannot issue such a proclamation," Mr. Benaki replied; " but I will be glad to send a letter to Count Mercati asking him to thank the King for his royal kindness toward me. I cannot do more than that."
This letter he wrote; but apparently he had not been released from prison for any such purpose, and since he could not be persuaded to issue the proclamation whitewashing the Royalists, two days later an officer appeared with a warrant charging him with high treason, and without the pretense of a trial he was again thrown into prison where he was kept for forty-three days more.
We have seen both his house and that of Mr. Venizelos, and there are numerous bullet-holes on the outside of both. Our own hotel, while showing few marks on the outside, was so badly shot up through the windows of the third story that it is easy to believe the accounts given by the guests of the narrow escapes they had. The Hôtel de la Grande Bretagne being owned by a Venizelist, and standing prominently on Constitution Square, diagonally opposite to King George's old palace, was more favored by the joy-shooters than many others.
|Fig. 6. House of the Diadoque or Crown Prince.||Fig. 7. House of Mr. Venizelos in Athens. Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth-Brown counted thrity bullet-holes in the front.|
A member of the American Legation tells of seeing a man sauntering down University Street, on the opposite side from Mr. Venizelos's house, and every few steps throwing his gun to his shoulder and taking a pot-shot at the house. He was perfectly methodical and leisurely in his shooting, and perhaps was as influenced by the universal human trait of wishing to make a noise as by any particular hatred of the great Cretan.
There were many other victims, men prominent either in wealth or in learning, and we could not pass half a day in Athens without meeting one or more of them, newly released from prison. It was difficult for me to hear the stories of these men and not feel that King Constantine was either incriminated in the acts of the 2d of December, or that he had been greatly duped. If it were the latter, who had duped him? As I had defended him from his accusers across the ocean, so now, while I listened to his accusers in Greece, I reserved judgment until we should be received by the King and should talk with him.
Within two days of our arrival in Athens we sent off most of our letters of introduction, and on the third day were received by Count Mercati, the Marshal of the King's Court. He is a slim, well-dressed man, and very well-mannered. He plunged at once into the tale of all the injustices of the Powers to his royal master. "Some day they will be ashamed of all they have done to him," he declared.
He rang the bell, and to the footman who appeared said: "Bring me the loaf of bread they sent me to-day." To us: "That is what the blockade of the Allies has brought us to---to receive loaves of bread gratefully as gifts." When the bread was brought in, he took it and he held it up to us. It was a large, thin, flat loaf. "This was sent me from Thessaly," Count Mercati went on, "and I was indeed glad to receive it."
He pointed to his two dogs playing in the garden. "See my little dogs. See how thin they are! I don't know how much longer they will live. I give them a week---perhaps ten days. I have nothing to feed them on."
After the footman had departed with the bread, Count Mercati continued anxiously: "You have been here two days, and you must already know how devoted the people are to the King. Don't they all tell you so?"
"They speak more about the 1st and 2d of December than anything else," I replied.
"Ah! The French and English will tell you that I wrote a letter to the admiral pledging the King's word that nothing would happen to the marines if they came up. It is not true, I assure you. Sometime I will show you the letter I wrote, and it had nothing to do with the marines. Not only did His Majesty not promise that nothing should happen, but on the night before the 1st, I went to the admiral and told him that the King could not answer for the safety of the marines. I went back and forth from the King to the admiral, and the only thing the King promised was that the Greek troops would not fire first---and I assure you that they did not fire first."
Thus we began our work of going over the whole affair with the men who had played important parts in it. Yet the eloquent explanations of Count Mercati, in favor of his royal master, did not deprive those first two days of December of their grimness or their horror. Toward the close of our interview I said: --
"We should very much like to see His Majesty. Could you arrange it for us?"
"I have already told His Majesty that you have brought me a letter of introduction, that you are anxious to have justice done him before the world, that you are a loyal Greek, and that your husband is an American writer. But since you are both American subjects, your Minister must ask for an audience for you both, and then I will do what I can. His Majesty is not receiving writers any more."
To Count Mercati we also entrusted our letter of introduction to the Queen, and again were told that it was etiquette for our Minister to ask for the audience. We took leave of the Court Marshal, and went on to the house of the diadoque, to leave our letter to him, and to inscribe out names in the book kept for the purpose. He lived in a small house on the Kiffissia Road, and all that differentiated the home of the Crown Prince from those of his neighbors was that his was smaller than theirs, and a soldier in a shabby uniform stood listlessly in front of it. The sentinel instructed us to follow the carriage road, and behind the house, by the garage, we found a servant who took our letter of introduction and ushered us into a tiny room next to the garage where there were two soldiers' cots and a table. Upon the latter they laid the visitors' book, and we wrote our names, which was equivalent to asking for an audience.
From there we went to Prince Nicholas's house, on the same road. As Prince Nicholas is married to the Grand Duchess Hélène, daughter of Grand Duke Vladimir, they are well off, and their abode is several times the size of the diadoque's. Also the soldiers at their gates are much smarter than the solitary boy who lounged at the gate of the Crown Prince. We were received in a small hall by what appeared to be an English butler. On a high desk was a big book in which we once more inscribed our names. Our letter of introduction we gave to a young courtier who came into the hall to receive it.
Our next visit was to our own legation. Our Minister, Mr. Droppers, to whom we also had a letter, was at home, and received us at once. When my husband told him that we had come to Athens to find out the truth about the whole situation, he rose and faced us fiercely.
"Of course you don't ask for my advice, but I am going to give it to you just the same. Take the next steamer and go home. You will never unravel this muddle---never! Mr. Blank"---he mentioned the name of a well-known correspondent---"came here to find out the truth. He stayed a couple of weeks, and then went away in despair at ever getting at the facts. Go home! You will save time and money, and escape going crazy over the situation."
He said a good deal more in the same strain, with eloquence and a genuine desire to save us from disappointment; but we were not going to be discouraged when we were so near our goal.
Fig. 8. Garrett Droppers, American Minister to Greece.
"All you say, Mr. Droppers," I intervened, "may apply to other writers, but here in Athens I have certain advantages. To begin with, the Balkan Peninsula has been my specialty for years; then I speak Greek; and lastly the temperament of the people has no mysteries for me since by birth I am a Greek myself."
Mr. Droppers seemed discouraged in his well-meant endeavors to dissuade us from staying. "Very well," he said, " I will ask for an audience from the King and from the Queen, and whenever you think I can be of help to you, come to me."
It became our habit after this to drop in quite often to see Mr. Droppers, and dear Mrs. Droppers, who is the most typical American woman of the old-fashioned type it has ever been my good luck to meet on the European continent. They had lived through recent Greek history, and their remarks about current events were always illuminating and interesting.
After our letters were delivered, a number of the Royalist political men of Athens left their visiting cards at our hotel, and then an invitation came from Prince Nicholas inviting us to take tea with him on the following day.
At a quarter past five, only four days after our arrival in Athens, we were ushered into the attractive sitting-room of Prince Nicholas. He and Princess Nicholas were already there, as well as Mrs. Dragoumis, the sister of Stephen Dragoumis, a fierce Royalist, and her niece, the widow of the hero of Macedonia, Paul Melas. Socially, Prince Nicholas is all that one could ask a prince to be. He is charming, affable, and good-looking. He came forward with a friendly hospitality that one meets more often in America than in any other land, introduced us to the three ladies, and all six of us sat around the tea-table.
It was the delightful simplicity of the brother of the King, his attractive appearance, and that of the Russian Grand Duchess who is his wife, which first struck me. The Princess poured out the tea. The talk was of politics: there was no other topic of conversation during the dark days of Greece. Prince Nicholas spoke to me mostly in Greek. His bitterness against the Great Powers was only less strong than his hatred of Venizelos. I tried to make him see that more important than Greece's grudge against the Powers, or than the Royalists' dislike of Venizelos, was the position in which Greece stood before the world.
"She is a nation dishonored, and the word 'Greek' is synonymous with a man who breaks his word. You do not know here, because this miserable blockade has cut you off from all sources of outside information; but we have just come from this outside world, and every one speaks freely to us, not knowing that I am a Greek. Whether we are Royalists or Venizelists does not really matter: what matters is the honor of our country. We must all unite and do what we can to rehabilitate her good name."
The Princess, who was talking with the others, turned and listened to me, and her eyes met mine. They were beautiful eyes, large and dark and full of fire. One could understand why so many men were said to be in love with her. Yet when her eyes met mine, in spite of their beauty, in spite of their fascination, I knew that they were eyes I must mistrust. She would never look upon me and my mission with favor.
"What did you say?" she asked.
"That Greece must be united," I repeated.
We were speaking now in English, and her reply came in measured words. She seemed more detached than the marvelous portrait of her which hung on the wall above her head.
"One is a Royalist here in Greece, or one is nothing. Is it not so, Miss Dragoumis?"
Eagerly Miss Dragoumis replied: "You cannot be anything but a Royalist, as soon as you know our side. The Princess is right: one is a Royalist in Greece, or one is nothing."
"It is because I am a Royalist that I have crossed the ocean and the seas, in spite of their dangers and discomforts. I believe in King Constantine, and have come to help him with my pen. But he cannot prosper if Greece remains divided."
There came a supercilious expression on the Pretty mouth of Princess Hélène. "Don't talk of union with the traitor," she repeated.
"And if the King should decide that union is best for Greece?" I persisted. "Ought we not all then to follow his lead?"
She deigned no answer. The two Dragoumis ladies looked dismayed. I had dared to continue a theme after the Princess had indicated that it should end. Fortunately at that moment the King's youngest brother, Prince Christopher, and the Crown Prince came in. They are of the same general build, and of the same type,---Christopher being a little the older and the larger,---and also dress alike; they both have round faces, and both wear monocles, and keep step together when they walk. The result is that they produced on me a curiously comical effect, then, and whenever I saw them afterwards. They shook hands all around, kissing their sister-in-law. The Crown Prince sat next to me and spoke in Greek. He is a very nice boy, likable and quiet. He is rather a man's man, I should fancy, and a little shy with women, whom, I believe, he does not especially like. They stayed half an hour or so, drinking their tea, and saying a few words, not especially noteworthy, to everybody, and then went away---keeping step.
Fig 9. Prince Nicholas with one of his daughters.
Fig. 10. Princess Nicholas.
After their departure Prince Nicholas again talked exclusively to me, and in Greek. Under his roof, he said, the name of "the other one" was never mentioned; but since our whole conversation was about Mr. Venizelos, in one form or another, I saw no reason why I should refer to him as "the traitor" or by any of the other contemptuous epithets employed by the ultra Royalists, so I continued to call him by his name whenever the occasion arose for mentioning him.
Next to Mr. Venizelos in his disesteem came the diplomats of the Allies. "Don't see any one except the Royalists, if you wish to learn the truth of the situation," he said earnestly. "Don't go near the diplomatic set; don't even go to your own legation, for unfortunately your Minister is very biased."
"We cannot do that, Your Highness," I answered. "We must hear all sides, and we brought letters of introduction both to our Minister and to the Minister of France. Both of them have called on us already, and through his secretary the French Minister has sent word that he wishes to see us."
"I am very sorry, indeed," said Prince Nicholas. "All those diplomats are against us."
"That does not matter, Your Highness. We have come here to hear your side---which the world does not know---to find out exactly what the policy of the King is, and the true reasons why Greece did not go to the help of Serbia."
"We did not have to," Prince Nicholas cried passionately. "It was all that man---that---" and this charming, good-looking man started to abuse Venizelos in words which little matched his manners or his looks. "We ought to have known what he was," he went on, when his supply of epithets was running low. ."He played the same game with my brother George in Crete. The demagogue managed to oust George from Crete, and now he is trying to overthrow my brother here. He is a traitor, a revolutionary, a self-seeking demagogue, a---"
I did not attempt to stop him. By this time I had learned that when he started on Venizelos, his language must run its course. Possessed as I was with the one thought of reuniting Greece, it seemed to me unworthy that the brother of the King should speak in the tone he did of the man whom the whole of Europe and America honored.
When he stopped talking, I said: "Prince Nicholas, we have been here only four days; all our letters of introduction to Greeks are for members of the Royalist Party, yet I cannot help seeing that the people of Greece want Mr. Venizelos back. There is no use trying to rule Greece without him. To-day the people are stronger than their rulers."
That Princess Hélène was listening to me I had proof as those dark, lustrous eyes of hers met mine, just long enough to tell me again that they disapproved of me.
When we rose to go I was tired and disheartened. We had been in the drawing-room of these charming and fascinating people for more than two hours. For most of that time I had listened to him who was reputed to be the cleverest of the King's brothers, in whom I had placed my highest hopes of cooperation. All I found was a man possessed and eaten up by hatred of Venizelos, and a woman who I divined would place all her strength and power against me.
Prince Nicholas himself went with us to the door of his palace, assuring us that he would like to see us often and talk with us. His personal charm, his exquisite manner, again so impressed me that I hoped anew that we might convert him to our purpose. Had we succeeded, my poor King Constantine might not to-day be an exile, hissed at by foreign crowds. He might still be a king, and a king beloved; for of him the motto of the Greek crown---"My strength- is the love of my people"---was true. Personally he was liked even by those who were against him.
As we walked back to our hotel the black fear of failure returned to me. Bitterly I said to my husband: --
"I am afraid we shall never see the King. Every one of these people is a deadly enemy of Venizelos, and utterly opposed to the union. They will wish to keep us from seeing the King, telling him how Greece stands before the world, and urging upon him the importance of making friends with Venizelos."
In gloom we reached the hotel. I went to my room, and there upon the table found a letter sealed with a wafer of a blue crown on a white background. Feverishly I tore open the envelope and saw the following typewritten letter: --
Le Maréchal de la Cour Royale
By Command of His Majesty the King, the Marshal of the Royal Court has the honor to inform Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Brown that they will be received in audience by his Majesty the King, this Thursday morning, 8th March, at a quarter past ten (10.15 A. M.)
The Marshal of the Royal Court
ATHENS, 6th March, 1917
Fig. 11. Letter of the Marshal of the Court making the appointment for King Constantine.
FACE TO FACE WITH KING CONSTANTINE
MARCH 8, 1917, 10.15 A.M., was a great day and hour for me, for on that day and hour we were to see the man in whom I had believed in spite of the press of America, of England, and of France,---the man I had defended with every possible theory, to whom I had given the benefit of every doubt, in spite of terrifying facts. Count Mercati had told us that the Governments of the Entente would not allow the Royalist side to be published---would not allow the truth to be known. Now at last I was to stand before the king of my race, speak with him, and learn the truth from his very lips; and once back in free America, I could publish it to a hundred million people.
Driving to the palace I could hardly sit still; for was I not in a few minutes to be received by him whom I imagined the most misunderstood figure in this the most dreadful of wars? The carriage stopped at the gate. We alighted and received the salute of the evzone sentry, picturesque and martial in his unique military garb.
A short gravel walk led us to the entrance of the palace, where two servants in blue livery took it for granted that we had a right to pass. We mounted a circular flight of stairs to an upper hall, where superfluous garments could be left, and where another blue-liveried servant ushered us into an anteroom with a sofa on one side and a big table filling most of the middle. The table was covered by a German print cloth. It was the first jarring note in the palace. To think that in the land of superb Greek embroideries the King's table should have on it one of those white tablecloths with a printed flowery wreath so much used in the Fatherland! There was something emblematic in that German tablecloth on the Greek table, and every time I looked at it, it became more distasteful to me. An almost irrepressible desire to make holes in it came to me.
Fortunately we were left alone with it only a minute. Count Mercati came, shook hands with us, and had not said more than a word or two when an aide-de-camp stood before us, looking very handsome in his uniform. (Some weeks later we met the mother and sister of this aide-de-camp. They were among the most ardent of the Venizelists, and the sister's husband was the chief of staff of Mr. Venizelos's army.) The A.D.C. saluted us in military fashion, and preceded us through a doorway into a beautiful marble hall. He knocked at the door of the King's study, opened it, ushered us in, and closed the door behind us.
The room we found ourselves in was long and well-proportioned, the windows giving on the garden. Opposite the windows were two doors leading I know not whither. In front of these doors stood two tall screens. It was a room of grace and homelike qualities, but he who rose from behind his desk to greet us at once dominated everything around him.
Fig. 12. King Constantine.
Fig. 13. Queen Sophie
King Constantine, from first appearance, is as kings should be: tall, well-built, and full of charm. He wore a simple uniform, and though we had been told that his health was impaired, he looked in good condition, and no older than thirty-five -though he is forty-nine.
He came forward a few steps and shook hands with us, and then in the simplest, most matter of-fact way picked up a chair for my husband and placed it beside an armchair which already stood ready for me, close to his desk. Never in my life have I liked any one so much at first sight as I did King Constantine.
"So you have come all the way from America," he said, smiling.
Then I poured out my heart to him, and in a few minutes told him all that the reader already knows. I told him how I had always believed in him; how I had stood up for him against hostile audiences in America; and how we had come to place our pens at his disposal, in the cause of justice. And then, anxious that from the first there might be no misunderstanding, I added: " But I must tell you that, although I am for Your Majesty, I am against your policy."
He had listened with apparent pleasure to all the first part of my outburst; to the last few words he asked, with pained surprise: --
"Because I think Greece had no choice: she should have gone into this war with the Entente."
It was about this time that I heard the door behind one of the screens open slightly. So quietly did it occur that it escaped my husband's notice entirely. Was it an accident---doors do open by themselves sometimes---or was it considered inadvisable that the King should have an interview without a certain oversight being kept on him? His conduct at our second interview threw an interesting light on this subject.
He did not seem to notice the opening of the door. "Well," he continued cheerfully, "you will see all the men here, you will talk with them, and you will find things out." He turned around and pointed to the top of his bookshelf where were two large autographed photographs of Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas." You see I am quite impartial. Here they are! I like them both. I have nothing against either."
That I had fallen at once under the spell of Constantine's charm I was quite aware, and I was glad of it. It is good to meet some one of whom one has formed a high ideal and find that he measures up to it.
One of the greatest qualities of King Constantine is that one can tell him the truth. I began to plead with him for the union of Greece. His eyes, blue as the bluebells of his garden, clear and honest-looking as those of his youngest child, encouraged me to go on. Now and then he would smile, and the most attractive thing about this very attractive man is his smile. It has a childlike appeal which few women can resist. Only when one's eyes travel to his protruding ears and to the curious shape of the top of, his head is one dissatisfied. These are disturbing details which do not fit in with the rest of the well-built man. Fortunately what dominates is his magnificent figure, his eyes, and his smile. My husband told the Crown Prince the next day that all during the interview he was thinking what a splendid guard for the Harvard eleven was wasted to make a king.
Unlike all the Royalists we had met up to now, Constantine showed no sign of animosity, no sign of dislike, not even a sign of impatience when we talked to him of Venizelos. He spoke of him courteously, and with what seemed like good-will. He only remarked once, a little petulantly: --
"Oh! Venizelos wants to make of me a figurehead, and I will not have it."
However, he listened to my plea for the union, while his blue eyes seemed to say, "I want the union myself," and then we told him the message Mr. Lloyd George had given us for him.
A light sprang up in his eyes, as if he did not believe either us or Lloyd George; then another light followed---one of regret or sorrow.
"But how do you think we can bring about the union?" he asked, after a pause. "The matter is not so easy as you seem to imagine. There are many practical difficulties."
"Oh, yes, there are many difficulties," I agreed. Then, trying my utmost to persuade him, I urged: "Your Majesty, up to now you have been right in the eyes of your people. Germany has been successful: she has crushed all the little nations that stood in her way. Your people feel that you have saved them from the fate of the others; but the time will come when Venizelos will be right. They will turn against you then. I want you to be right to the end. Unite with Venizelos, come out with the Entente, and the rest will be forgotten---and you will emerge from this war the idol of Greece. The Allies are now in a position to defend you, so that you need not become another Belgium."
If ever a man was hesitating over a proposition, that man was Constantine.
"There will be many things to arrange," he murmured.
"Of course," we agreed. "But they could be arranged if you and Venizelos could only meet and talk over the various points."
"How could such a meeting be arranged? No one must know about it."
"Of course not. If you will only authorize us to, we will go at once to Salonica and see Mr. Venizelos. Then he can come to the Piraeus on some warship, and you can slip down quietly and meet him, without any one being the wiser."
"Are you certain that Venizelos wants the union? "
We assured him that a very prominent Venizelist had told us formally that Venizelos would be favorable to the union.
"And he must want it," I cried, "since he is such a great man, such a great patriot; for salvation for Greece lies in the union."
Either King Constantine is the most consummate actor in the world, or at that moment he wanted the union; and we felt certain that within forty-eight hours he would send us to Salonica with a message of reconciliation. He talked to us calmly and without prejudice, yet like a man who was discussing a thing he himself was eager for.
"But you understand that I must stand by my friends," he declared. "I must consider them, and not sacrifice them."
"There will have to be mutual concession," my husband said with emphasis.
The King turned to him. "America is with me, is n't she? " he inquired.
Kenneth Brown is of New England stock on both sides of his family, and rather downright at times.
"Who told you that?" he answered with another question, Yankee fashion.
"Greeks in America sent me a telegram to that effect."
"They have misled you. There are a few people, like my wife, who are with you, but the bulk of the American people---and especially the press---are against you; and had not the blockade kept out all newspapers, you would have seen that for yourself."
Here to show the King that, in spite of what Greece had done, France was still her friend, I put in: --
"We were told in Paris, by some one in the Cabinet of M. Briand, that on the day when---in reparation for the events of the 1st of December---the Greek army was forced to salute the Allied flags, there was great consternation among the French. They felt that this humiliation ought not to have been put on your flag."
"My flag was not humiliated," the King exclaimed quickly. "It was victorious. Seven hundred of my men beat two thousand Allied marines." There was a certain jubilance in his tone as he made this astounding assertion. --
For a second I was aghast; then I cried out: --
"Your Majesty! Your Majesty! There were twenty thousand Greeks against two thousand Allies."
What thoughts were his at this moment I shall never know, but it seemed to me that the shadow of a fearful doubt passed over his countenance. Had the truth been kept from him in this matter, as perchance it had also in many others! What passed through his soul and was reflected in his eyes was fleeting. It was there---and it was gone. It was just a gleam, which told me nothing, and the words that followed belied what I thought I had seen.
"They are forcing me to do things because they are the stronger, that is all. The French are a contemptible, degenerate race, and I shall be glad of the day when the Germans will throw Sarrail into the sea---as they will."
To say that I was dumbfounded is to understate the fact: I was paralyzed, and to make him stop talking against the French, I exclaimed: --
"But, Your Majesty, the French have been sublime in this war. They have done the impossible."
"What have they done? " he asked contemptuously. "They have shown they can't fight."
"And the battle of the Marne! " Kenneth Brown and I cried simultaneously.
"The battle of the Marne---rubbish!" he replied.
"And the English, do you also despise them?" my husband asked.
"Oh, no, I like the English, but they can't beat the Germans. They don't know how. They have no officers, they have no generals. Those things cannot be made in a day."
"Then you believe that Germany will win?" my husband asked.
"She has too many against her for that. It will be a paix blanche----a drawn battle." Once more he harked back to the French. "They dislike me, you know, for what I said in Germany about the victories of Greece being due to German methods. What could I say?" he went on impetuously. "I was met at the station and presented with the field marshal's baton. I had to say something, and I told the truth. I should do it again, but the French have never forgiven me. They don't like me, and I dislike them."
"And you admire the Germans? " my husband suggested.
"How can I help admiring them? They are the only nation that knows how to govern, that has any system, and any discipline. Look at what is going on to-day! The whole world is against them, and they can hold the whole world. The only thing the French can do is to annoy me."
"Why do you let them? " I asked. " If Greece did n't give the Allies cause, they would not be doing these annoying things to you. For example, Greece has agreed to maintain a benevolent neutrality toward the Allies; yet Your Majesty decorated the Greek officer whom General Sarrail expelled from Salonica for spying on his army and reporting what he saw to the Germans. It is no wonder that they retaliate on you---and unfortunately they have the power."
"I did it because I didn't believe General Sarrail, and to prove to the officer that I had nothing against him, I decorated him."
"Still, Greece is little," I argued, "and rightly or wrongly she is suspected by the Entente. Would it not be better, under the circumstances, for her to give them no excuse for ill-treating her? "
"How would you have me act? " he asked.
"Give in to all their demands with dignity---instead of pricking them with a pin, when they can retaliate with a sword."
"But we like to show them that we do not submit willingly."
My husband remarked: "Your present method makes the outside world suspicious of your good faith: dignified submission on the part of Greece would not only save her from many annoyances, but would make friends for her in the outside world."
"And why should I show all the dignity?" he protested.
"Because you are the King," replied my husband.
"Oh! what's a king to-day?" Constantine exclaimed petulantly. "When they annoy me, I like to annoy them."
We remained with King Constantine for an hour and a half. A large part of the time he was talking. The Greek people, on the whole, talk too much and too carelessly. There is a Greek word which describes them exactly---athyrostomos. It means a mouth without a door. King Constantine in this regard is more Greek than the Greeks. He outdoes them all. His mouth is absolutely doorless.
When we were leaving him, he walked with us to the door of his study and opened it himself, promising to see us again soon.
"And you will think of the union?"
Smilingly he assured us that he would.
We walked home. Outside the palace gates I had a little curtain lecture for my husband: "Ever since we were married you have been telling me not to interrupt people, and the very first king you meet, you interrupt him twice."
"It was a ground-hog case," he replied. "I had to." Then, linking his arm in mine, he added: "And we've got to suppress this King of yours, if you want to keep him on his throne. Were we to write all that he told us this morning, France and England would certainly dethrone him."
As we walked to our hotel I did my utmost that my husband should not notice how miserable I was. Only when in my room and alone, did I throw myself on my bed and give way to my feelings. Were I of a crying disposition I should have taken it out in weeping and sobbing; for charming as Constantine had been, lovable and attractive as he was, with the remembrance of his frank eyes still fascinating me and his adorable smile still lingering in my memory, I had the bitter conviction that in the crucial hour of my little nation's existence, Constantine was not the right king. He was the king for serene days, for pageants and prosperity: a soldier, yes; a general, perhaps; but a leader, in a period when every move had to be carefully thought out, every word weighed, he was not. That lovable, good-looking man, doorless of mouth and disjointed in thought, was a hindrance, not a help.
Yet in spite of my dismay, and because I still believed him innocent of all the accusations made against him, I rose from my disgraceful position of discouragement on the bed, bathed my face, lowered the shades of my window, and there in the semi-darkness went over all the King had said. There was no treachery anywhere in his speech. His admiration for Germany was undisguised as it was unbounded. "They knew she was preparing: why did they not prepare themselves? " he had said. "And what are they doing now? They are quarreling among themselves. They can't agree on any plan. There is no leadership among them." Contempt for the Allies there had been both in his words and in his tone, but no treachery. Divested of the man's charm and examined in the semi-darkness of my room, these utterances were indeed sinister. Could he---entertaining such admiration for Germany and such contempt for the Allies---make up with Venizelos, when uniting with him would automatically mean to go into the war on the side of the Allies? That question I pondered over and over again. Then I conjured up his looks and his words while he had spoken to us of the union. Was he sincere then, or had he been acting? In imagination my eyes met his clear, honest-looking ones, and I felt ashamed that I ever should doubt him. Careless of tongue he was, but dishonest, untruthful---never! Yet, as Mr. Droppers had warned us, the situation was baffling.
Later in the day a number of reporters came to see us, from various Royalist papers---all the Venizelist papers having been suppressed after the 2d of December. The eagerness of these men for the union---all ostensibly strong Royalists though they were---surprised me. They needed little argument to prove to them that while Greece united was a small country, divided she was as good as non-existent. All of them asked what hopes there were for a reconciliation. Remembering only the King's words about the union, we assured them that the chance for it was good; and we advised them strongly to stop abusing the Entente in their columns, and to remember that France and England were their very best friends and their natural allies.
"If you succeed in bringing about the union," one of the reporters said to me, "Greece will canonize you, and worship you as a saint."
In their published reports they doctored what we said a little to meet the exigencies of the times. All, however, laid stress on the fact that we were working to bring the King and Venizelos together, and also on our saying that France and England were the natural friends of Greece.
The half-dozen thoroughly pro-German newspapers of Athens did not come near us, but having read what the other papers wrote, abused us properly. One said that our "unholy mouths had dared to place the King's name beside that of the traitor." Another wrote that in the midst of all her troubles "the couple Brown" (spelled in Greek " Mpraoun ") had come as the last curse of Greece to teach her who were her friends, when she knew well that Germany was her only one.
On the whole, however, we fared well with the newspapers, and a few nights later the editor of one of the more moderate papers came to ask us what we wished to say in answer to the pro-German press. We replied that they had a perfect right to express their opinion, and that we did not care to reply to them. The editor went on: --
"We feel very badly over the way they have written against you two who have braved so many perils to come to help us. We feel it to be shameful that any Greek papers should treat you like this. Is there nothing we can do for you?"
"Only desist from writing scurrilous articles against the Entente," I said. " His Majesty gave me permission to try to stop the Royalist press from abusing the French and English."
An enigmatic smile hovered over the lips of the newspaper man. He said nothing, however.
I continued: " His Majesty told us he could do nothing with you, but that I might try."
I shall always remember the odd look the man gave me, his lips still remaining silent.
"Publish just what His Majesty told me," I persisted.
He did not do this. He did, however, write a strong article on how much the press must help to prepare the people for the union of New and Old Greece; and be it said to the credit of the papers, most of them did desist for a while from writing violent editorials against the Entente.
Unfortunately there is a French paper published in Athens for Entente propaganda, and some of its articles at this time were of a nature which could hardly help irritating Greek opinion, and the Greek newspapers began replying to them.
The most sober and frugal race in the world, the passion and vice of the Greeks is controversial arguing. A prominent American in Athens said to us one day: "They are too sober. If they would get drunk sometimes it would do them good. They need an occasional spree to take some of the arguing out of them."
It is a terrible remedy, but in those abnormal days of my little Greece I found myself wondering if he were not right.
The King had said to us: "When you have talked with all my Ministers and the members of my General Staff, you will see how we have been wronged by the Allies."
Tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner, and we were going to understand all, not to forgive, but to place all before the world that it might judge fairly. Since we had undertaken this long journey to learn, we could not afford to start with any fixed, preconceived ideas. We must study the events systematically from the outset of the war. For this reason we wished to start with Dr. Streit, who had been Minister of Foreign Affairs when the war broke out. To him, as I said before, we had a letter of introduction, which we delivered. On the following day he called on us.
It happened that we were just about to start for Prince Nicholas's house, so we only had time for a few minutes' talk. During these few minutes he inspired us with a liking for himself, and with confidence in what he had to say. We made an appointment to start working with him on the following morning, and at exactly ten o'clock the next day were knocking at the door of his most attractive residence. A manservant opened, dusted our shoes with his feather duster, as is the excellent custom in well-kept Athenian houses, and conducted us up a flight of stairs, at the top of which Dr. Streit received us most cordially, and led us into his pleasant, well-stocked library.
Dr. Streit, as his name suggests, is of German origin, his grandfather having come to Greece with her first king, Otto. He was a Bavarian, settled and married in Greece, and had a son. The son also married a Greek woman, and their son is Dr. Streit. In spite of the two Greek women whose blood is in his veins, there is nothing Greek about Dr. Streit save the language he speaks. Tall, blond, and with blue eyes, he is as German-looking as if he had never left the Fatherland a single day. He is a pleasant, agreeable man, and since he has been for years Professor of International Law at the University of Athens, he knows how to expound a theme convincingly to his audience.
"Now, we shall start from the very beginning, when the war started," he said.
"Yes, please," we agreed.
Fig. 14. Dr. Streit
"You know that at that time Venizelos was on his way to Brussels to meet the Young Turks to discuss the question of the islands. You remember the Powers had decided in our favor, but the Turks would not get out of the islands, and as usual the Powers would do nothing about it. Venizelos was in Munich when the clouds of war grew very dark, and Mr. Pachitch, the Serbian Prime Minister, telegraphed him to know what would be the attitude of Greece in the event of war."
Dr. Streit opened his papers, and brought forth copies of the telegrams of Mr. Venizelos. "You see," he went on, "Venizelos did not say he was going to the help of Serbia."
We read the three telegrams, which certainly bore out his contention.
"I was Minister of Foreign Affairs then," went on Dr. Streit, "and I advised the King to wait and see what was going to happen. I telegraphed the same idea to Venizelos, and my telegram crossed one from him saying the same thing. He also declared that since Serbia was the aggressor in this war, he did not believe we need help her---especially in view of the fact that Serbia had been unwilling to help us against Turkey in the early part of 1914, when there had almost been another war between Greece and Turkey. And Serbia would have to be very conciliatory in her attitude toward Austria, if it were proved that she was responsible for the tragedy of Sarajevo."
From the telegrams and the words of Dr. Streit it certainly seemed as if---if there were any question of Greece's having evaded her just responsibilities---it was Venizelos and not King Constantine upon whom the onus must fall, and I was thrilled at the idea that here was the proof I was seeking that Constantine had been maligned in the foreign newspapers. We found out afterwards, both from Mr. Politis, who was then Director of Foreign Affairs for Greece, and from Mr. Pachitch himself, whom we saw on our return journey at Corfu, that the copy of the telegram which Dr. Streit showed us had been altered in several important essentials---to the detriment of Mr. Venizelos.
At this first interview, however, it was impossible for us to doubt Dr. Streit. His frank, open manner, his apparent candidness, his willingness to show us copies of all the public documents, and to explain to us every detail we wished to know about, would, I believe, have convinced more astute cross-examiners than we of his honesty of purpose. Of his skill in exposition there could be no doubt.
My husband took notes of all he said during the first few interviews when he was taking us historically step by step through the events of the first few weeks of the war. These notes were further left with him to look over to make sure they were accurate, so there can be no question of memory tricks in quoting his assertions.
"Venizelos did not go on to Brussels," Dr. Streit continued, "but returned to Athens, and at once a Council of Ministers was held at which King Constantine presided, and at this it was decided that Greece was to remain neutral for the present. There was a shade of difference between the views of Venizelos and of myself in that I wished to remain neutral to the very end, while he had a slight leaning to come out on the side of the Allies at some future time.
"We argued like this: To go with the Central Powers was impossible because England and France could reduce us to ashes with their warships. To go with the Entente was possible, but Greece would do better to remain neutral."
With remarkable skill Dr. Streit gave us nine tenths of the truth, and only such a slight admixture of falsehood as would easily pass with the rest.
To begin with, the Liberal Party in power never for a moment discussed the possibility of coming out on the side of the Central Powers. Nor did Mr. Venizelos's Government ever consider the possibility of any more neutrality than such a temporary one as would best serve the interests of Serbia and of the Entente.
What really took place during the first few weeks of the war is this:
While Mr. Venizelos was absent on his projected trip to Brussels, Mr. Repoulis, one of the most astute and high-minded of Greek politicians, occupied his position as President of the Council, which is the official title of the Prime Minister of Greece. Mr. Repoulis was also Minister of the Interior, and being a newspaper man and a writer of rare ability, it was he who directed the press utterances of the Liberal Party.
Fig. 15. N. Politis, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Fig. 16. Emmanuel Repoulis, Minister of the Interior.
The "Hestia," the official organ of that party, came out, during the first days of the war clouds, with an editorial saying that the Greek people must not lose sight of the fact that in case of war, Greece was the ally of Serbia.
The "Hestia" is an afternoon paper and it does not reach Kiffissia, the summer resort of the well-to-do, till late in the evening. Early the next morning Dr. Streit rushed into Athens and went to Repoulis.
"Have you read that editorial in the 'Hestia'? " he asked, much perturbed.
Repoulis, unlike Dr. Streit, and unlike the average Greek, rarely gets excited.
Calmly he asked: "Don't you know that no one except I would have written that article?"
Of course Dr. Streit had not the slightest doubt on the subject, but his mentality being German did not move on straight lines.
"You wrote it! " he cried. " And what did you mean by writing that leader, Repoulis? "
"Merely to prepare our people. We don't want war to burst upon them unawares."
"But why do you say that Greece is the ally of Serbia, who is the enemy of Austria?"
"Because she is."
"I should be very careful, Repoulis, as to what I wrote in these days." And with this admonition, or threat, Dr. Streit walked out of the office, and went back to Kiffissia, near which place is Tatoi, the summer home of the King.
On that day the rest of the Liberal newspaper men came to Repoulis and asked him what attitude they were to take.
"The leader in yesterday's 'Hestia' will give you your attitude," Repoulis replied. And since events were more definitely rushing toward war, on that afternoon he published another leader, stronger and more explicit than the first.
The next morning Dr. Streit did not even wait for a train. He rushed in by motor, very early, and burst in upon Repoulis.
"Do you realize," he demanded, "that you are compromising Greece in the eyes of Germany and Austria?"
"There are two groups in this war," Repoulis answered. "We shall have to be on the side of one, and the sooner the Greek people realize it the better."
The reply did not tend to soothe the agitation of the grandson of a Bavarian. He declared that Repoulis had no right to publish editorials like these in the absence of Venizelos, and that he must remain quiet until the return of the Cretan.
"At present I am taking Mr. Venizelos's place," Repoulis replied, "and I shall continue to publish what I believe to be right for Greece. When Mr. Venizelos comes back he can change the policy if he wants to, but this is the policy that Greece will follow now."
Dr. Streit and Mr. Repoulis parted not on the best of terms. On Venizelos's return they at once called the Council together---as Dr. Streit had told us---presided over by the King. At this Council it was, indeed, decided to remain neutral, but not in quite the way described by Dr. Streit.
Toward its close, Dr. Streit, rubbing his hands together, had observed, "Then we are all of one mind that we shall remain neutral."
Repoulis, scenting future trouble in the remark, turned to Venizelos: "Do I understand, Mr. President, that Greece is to remain neutral to the very end, or are we to watch for an opportunity for coming in?"
Not only shall we watch for an opportunity," replied Mr. Venizelos,
which means that like a midwife Greece will help circumstances to be born, so that she may join the Allies.
The Council then broke up. As they were going out Repoulis said to Venizelos: "I had a reason for asking that question."
"Yes, I thought so," Venizelos replied, "and I thank you."
Then Repoulis related to his chief the incidents about the editorials in the "Hestia," and added:
"I am afraid, Mr. President, that there is a Germanophile party, headed by the palace, which will break our policy." But Venizelos would not believe him.
It was at the end of this conference that Mr. Venizelos telegraphed to the Serbian Prime Minister, Mr. Pachitch, that it would be best for Greece to remain neutral for the moment; since if she went to the help of Serbia against Austria, she would leave the rear of both of them open to Bulgaria, who could cut off their line of communication with Salonica, which port was Serbia's only source of supplies. If, however, Bulgaria should fall on Serbia, then Greece would attack Bulgaria.
Mr. Pachitch at once saw the wisdom of this course, and confident that Russia would come to his aid, preferred to have Greece remain neutral, furnish him with supplies, and keep Bulgaria in check.
Fig. 17. Nikola P. Pachitch, Prime Minister of Serbia.
The fears of Mr. Repoulis that there was an active Germanophile party in Greece was shared by none of his colleagues. Indeed, they regarded his attitude as that of an ultra-suspicious man. Mr. Politis, Director of Foreign Affairs during these trying times, and later Minister of Foreign Affairs in "New Greece," told me in Salonica that for a long time Mr. Repoulis was actually isolated, none of the others being willing to believe that the palace could go against the interests of the nation for its private ends. Mr. Politis added: "I used to think that Repoulis subordinated everything to the interests of the party. Alas! too late we realized that Repoulis only thought of the interests of his country and that he was justified in all his suspicions."
The reader can easily see how Dr. Streit in his admirably concocted version gave us nine tenths of the truth, suppressing the other tenth for the good of the Royalist Party. Here is another instance in which he showed his skill: --
Dr. Streit told us that when the war was two weeks old the Russian Minister, Prince Demidoff, came to the Foreign Office, and in the course of the conversation said to him: --
"Why don't you Greeks come out of your neutrality and fight with us? "
"In what way?" Dr. Streit asked.
"Give us a hundred and fifty thousand men to fight in Bosnia and Herzegovina."
"We cannot send our men there. They would be too far from their base of supplies. Besides which the Greeks do not want to go and fight Austria. Their enemies are the Bulgars and the Turks."
The justice of this position is apparent to any one; so when in Salonica Mr. Repoulis narrated to me this Demidoff incident---but leaving out the request for a hundred and fifty thousand men
I said: --
"But Mr. Repoulis, don't you think it was absurd for the Allies to ask Greece to send a hundred and fifty thousand men to Bosnia and Herzegovina?"
Mr. Repoulis looked puzzled. "They did not ask us to do that."
"Oh, yes; Dr. Streit told me that Prince Demidoff asked it of him."
"I never heard of it," answered Repoulis, with increasing perplexity. "Dr. Streit did not tell that to any of us."
To have taken the word of either side against the other would have been partial, and we were striving our utmost to be fair. Whenever there was a discrepancy between the statements of the two sides, we always sought for further proofs. In this case there was a third party to whom we could refer, and consequently on our return from Salonica to Athens we went to see Prince Demidoff.
"Will you tell us just what you said to Dr. Streit when you asked Greece to join you?"
Prince Demidoff related the incident exactly as Repoulis had, making no mention of an army to go to Bosnia and Herzegovina. When we inquired about that, Prince Demidoff looked as puzzled as had Repoulis.
"I never suggested such a thing," he exclaimed. "I never even thought of it. It is absurd beyond words."
That Dr. Streit is a very learned and well-educated man, and that he has an agreeable and convincing way of presenting a subject to his audience, is unquestionable. What is questionable, alas! is his honesty and especially his intelligence. Before many sittings with him Kenneth Brown and I had come to the conclusion that his mentality, to say the least, was made in Germany. He related to us incident after incident with the object of proving how hysterical, short-sighted, and worthless Venizelos was as a statesman. Often even his rendering of them proved to us not only the wonderful clear-sightedness of Mr. Venizelos, but also his purity of soul. And this, you must remember, was at the time when I still believed the King, on the whole, to be in the right, and Venizelos to be in the wrong.
For example, in this very Demidoff episode, Dr. Streit continued: --
"When I told Venizelos; what Demidoff had asked of me, he made a gesture with his hand and exclaimed: 'Ah! that is what I have been waiting for! They want us as allies. I shall go at once to the palace, discuss the matter with His Majesty, and place Greece on the side of the Entente.'
"'See here!' I protested, 'don't do that. First make your bargain.' And I then and there drew up a memorandum mentioning the rewards that Greece would demand. I passed it to him, saying: 'That is what Greece must get if she is to go into the war on the side of the Allies.' Venizelos merely glanced at it, and brushed it aside, with the words: 'This is a shopkeeper's bill. I will have nothing to do with conditions. Greece goes in on the side of the Allies unconditionally.'
"What could I do, after that but resign?" Dr. Streit asked pathetically. "One cannot work with a madman."
Fig. 18. A meeting of diplomats in the French Legation at Athens: Prince Demidoff (Russia), Count Bosdari (Italy), De Neeff (Holland), Sir Francis Elliot (Great Britain), Guillemin (France), Balougdjitch (Serbia).
I am obliged once more to anticipate what we only learned later, and say a few words about Dr. Streit's "resignation." Mr. Venizelos discovered that Streit, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, was not bringing before the Cabinet all that came into his office. In the presence of all the other Ministers, Venizelos accused Streit of acting in bad faith, and practically demanded his resignation. King Constantine interfered and begged Venizelos to let Streit stay on, in order that the public might not say there were dissensions in the Cabinet at this crucial moment. Venizelos, believing the King's alleged motive, permitted Streit to remain in the Cabinet for the time being, much to Repoulis's disgust, who felt certain that in Streit they had a secret enemy to their policy. It turned out exactly as Repoulis had foretold. Streit kept the Queen, and consequently the German Minister in Athens, informed of all that took place in the secret meetings of the Cabinet. At the end of a month, however, Repoulis insisting, Streit had to go, and Venizelos assumed also the portfolio of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Politis remaining Director as before.
At the time we were studying with Dr. Streit, of course, we did not know all this, and believed his word as we should that of any honorable man.
As I said before, on the first day of our work with Dr. Streit we arrived at his house at ten in the morning, and when at one o'clock luncheon was announced, we rose, horrified at having kept him so long. To us, the three hours had seemed like a short and interesting hour. We bade him good-bye, first making an engagement for two days later.
Outside I jumped with joy. It seemed to me that I could clear Greece of every accusation of the Allies, and prove that all the fault had been theirs.
"Do you see how different it is from what the foreign press gave us to understand? " I said to my husband.
"It certainly puts a different aspect on the whole situation," he agreed.
The day after our audience with the King we resumed our work with Dr. Streit. He asked us how we had found the King, and we very enthusiastically told him that Constantine seemed willing for the union with Venizelos.
Precipitately Dr. Streit sprang to his feet. He addressed me particularly.
"And what is your idea of the union? What will Greece do after the union?"
"Go with France and England."
"Never! NEVER ! NEVER!" he cried. "Greece will never fight on the side of the Allies!"
He looked more German than ever before. His blue eyes snapped, his face grew red, and his closely cropped hair bristled. He was German and nothing but German. His Greek mother and grandmother were dead and buried and eliminated from his being.
"Why shouldn't Greece fight on the side of France and England? " I asked.
"To fight on the side of the Allies is to help Russia take Constantinople, which is the birthright of Greece. No true Greek can wish that the capital of the once Greek Empire should go to Russia and become Muscovite."
To the left of a doorway leading into a small inner library hung a Greek ikon. To this Dr. Streit turned most devotedly, and making the sign of the cross, said: " With the help of this, Greece will some day come into her own---Constantinople will then be hers."
This was not the only time that Dr. Streit reinforced his arguments by an appeal to the ikon. I dare say he was perfectly honest in his devotional attitude; but the sight of this typical Teuton exhibiting his Hellenic piety on every occasion, always appeared so incongruous to me that with difficulty I kept my face straight. It seemed much more in keeping when in the course of his talks he would casually lay his hand on a silver dachshund which served as paper-weight on his desk.
In reply to his assertion that Greece must not fight on the side of Russia for the reason he gave, I remarked: "It looks to me as if Russia might take Constantinople without the help of the Greeks, and then where shall we be?"
"She won't take it! " he cried. " She won't! Germany won't let her."
"And what has Greece to hope from Germany, the ally of Bulgaria and Turkey?"
If Dr. Streit's German appearance had been uppermost a few minutes ago, now his German mentality came to match it. He argued long and ramblingly, with much the same brand of logic the Germans display when they set out to prove that Germany did not start the war.
It was a profitless exposition, and I left him without the elation of the first day. After this for several days we were with him every morning. We did not touch on the union again, and in his clear, painstaking way he took us step by step through the events that occurred in Athens during the first few weeks of the war. Barring his misstatements (which we did not know of at the time) we could not have had a better teacher to prepare the foundations of our work for us, and to take it out from the merely historical and make it living and dramatic for us.
He had with him copies of all the official documents of his time, and let us read telegrams and official communiques that passed between Serbia and Greece, and between Greece and the three Great Powers. Listening to him, and unaware yet of the falsehoods contained in his presentation, I became again happy. Poor little Greece! How easily she could be cleared of the unjust accusations that had been piled up against her! Count Mercati had certainly spoken correctly when he had declared that the Powers would be ashamed of themselves when the truth was published to the world.
I even began to lose faith in the policy of Mr. Venizelos, which from the first had appealed to me as the only policy for Greece to follow. I had never met Mr. Venizelos, and although I entertained for him an admiration communicated to me by the people who had known him, I supposed him to be, like most Greeks, hasty of speech. I had even said to Mr. Lloyd George, when we saw him in London, that I accused Venizelos of not having managed his tongue with King Constantine, in order to spare his feelings. As, for example, in his great speech in the Chamber, when he said: " If the Great Powers, relying on their might, can bring themselves to dishonor treaty obligations, Greece is too small a state to commit so great an infamy. Therefore, as soon as Bulgaria mobilized, Greece replied in like manner. Greece has no immediate quarrel with Germany and Austria, but if, in the course of events in the Balkan Peninsula, she should find herself faced by other Powers, she will act as her honor demands." This speech I had always considered ill-advised, and one that might have been avoided. Now, in the clear portraiture of Venizelos which Dr. Streit was giving us, the Cretan was shown to have many other faults.
The reader can see that we were completely taken in by Dr. Streit. The disappointment of the second day had worn off. I looked upon him as my friend, and drank in the utterances that came from his lips, especially since he seemed to honor us with his confidence. One incident he related to us is well worth repeating: --
"In March, 1914, the Kaiser came to Corfu, to the villa of the Empress Elizabeth of Austria, which he had bought after her death. Several of the Greeks went to pay their respects to him, among them myself. I was then Minister of Foreign Affairs, and when I saw the Kaiser, he was surrounded by political men, discussing politics. He turned to me and asked: 'In case of a big European war, what would be the attitude of Greece?' I told him that Greece being a small maritime nation could not range herself against
a big maritime nation like England. 'Ah!' responded the Kaiser, 'England will not take part in this war. She will follow her time-honored tradition of staying out and watching her competitors break their heads against each other, and then at the end gather what profit she can out of the situation. No, she will not come into this war: she will let Germany and Russia have it out, my friend."'
That was in March, 1914, and Dr. Streit said that the conversation ended there. Alas, for Greece and her people! I was later to find out that much more passed between the Kaiser and Streit.
Chapter III. A Royalist Tea