A ROYALIST TEA
AT the end of our first week in Athens, the household of Mr. Stephen Dragoumis, at the suggestion of Prince Nicholas, gave a tea for us to meet the political lights who were illuminating the road of King Constantine during the dark days of Greece. There were over a hundred of these lights. I was put in the embrasure of a window, and the various politicians, in groups of two and three and four, were brought up to impress me with the justice of the Royalist policy.
To the shame of my race I have to acknowledge that never in one afternoon have I met so many intelligent men and so few who were honestly endeavoring to see the truth. All of them spent their time trying to persuade me that Venizelos had been bought by the French, that he was a thorough-paced scoundrel, that France and England were essentially dishonest countries, and that they, the Royalists, were the only patriots and white doves of innocence.
They overdid it; and at that afternoon tea, given for us to meet the beacons of royalism who were to light us to the great truth, I found myself lost in utter darkness. Even the constant compliments they showered on me because I could still speak my mother tongue so well, after my long disuse of it, could not warm me toward the men forming King Constantine's party.
We were in the midst of a hot discussion when a hush came over the assemblage. Prince Nicholas and his beautiful Princess entered and everybody rose. She came forward, smiling and shaking hands, looking prettier than on the day when we had seen her in her own home. All the ladies curtsied, and the men kissed her hand---as is the pretty Greek custom of men toward women. When Princess Nicholas came near my group and was about to shake hands with me, she hesitated for an instant, then gave me her hand, but deliberately turned her head away. It was an unmistakable snub. As for the Prince, he did not come near my group, nor did I see him the whole afternoon. Before we took up our discussion again, the Crown Prince and Prince Christopher came in, monocled and keeping step with each other, and looking more than ever like a pair of twins who had not happened to be born on the same day.
They are likable boys, just the same. They came up and shook hands cordially and spoke to me in Greek, the Crown Prince telling me that my Greek was the talk of Athens. When every one had bobbed to them, and they had shaken hands all around, we once more took our seats and subsided to our normal occupations, which for me was listening to politicians. Kenneth Brown fared better, for his lot fell to the Crown Prince, with whom he talked for an hour about sports and motors and the composition of turpentine and ether with which motors were propelled in Athens during the blockade, and other things they were both interested in; while I had to fight like a tiger with the men of the very party which I had traveled so many weary leagues to champion.
In vain did I keep repeating to these men that the annoyances they were suffering from the blockade did not concern me. Though their bread might be dark and their medicines lacking, we were concerned only with the political aspects of the case. "Leave Venizelos out, and talk to me of yourselves. Tell me your rights not your wrongs---so that I may present your rights to the public; and above all explain to me what you have done to bring upon yourselves the anathema of the world."
"We did nothing, I assure you! We are all Ententists! We have made several offers to go with the Entente, and they did not even take the trouble to answer us."
"Perhaps they had no confidence in your offers. Did it ever occur to you that the proof to the Entente that you really wished to go with them would be to recall Venizelos? "
This simple argument of mine invariably infuriated them. One politician, Baltazi by name, almost had an attack of apoplexy. He was a fat man, not the flabby kind, but the kind that solidly fills out the skin till it is stretched tight and shining with the effort of containing all it does. He was the most self-righteous of them all, and his indignation against the Allies knew no bounds. In fact the effort of voicing that indignation, while at the same time protesting his love for France and England, I feared might at any moment be fatal. If he got any angrier and redder, his skin might no longer be able to stand the strain, and if he burst what a mess he would make.
"You must see Mr. Gounaris at once," he cried. "He will tell you all you need to know to understand our party. He is the leader of this country."
~ "Yes, we are going to him next," I said, " because he was Prime Minister after Venizelos."
"We say 'the traitor' when we speak of that man. We do not pronounce his name," declared Baltazi loftily.
"There is no reason why I should not pronounce his name," I replied; and because I had taken a dislike to Mr. Baltazi, I added, "I have some grievances against Mr. Venizelos, but his policy was the only decent one for Greece to follow, and I am not so certain but that his present revolutionary movement is going to save Greece from annihilation in the end."
Baltazi's complexion took on an alarming purple hue, and for a second it looked as if his death was to be on my hands; but he relieved his feelings by speech, and King Constantine was spared one of his most unscrupulous, though not one of his most brilliant, adherents.
There was also a youth that afternoon who was brought to me, with hatred painted on his features, to tell me all sorts of horrible things against Venizelos. I am afraid I was not polite to him. He talked to me for about five minutes, repeating, "I can tell you about the traitor! I can tell you what that scoundrel has done!"
"Whom are you talking of?" I asked innocently.
"That man in Salonica! That revolutionist!"
"There are thousands of revolutionists in Salonica, who are fighting side by side with the Allies. Which one of them do you mean?"
He saw that I was determined to make him pronounce the name.
"The man whom you call Venizelos, and whom I call-----" and all the riches of a not peculiarly nice vocabulary were showered upon the great Cretan.
"Excuse me," I said curtly, "I have heard about Mr. Venizelos from the great men of England and France. Those men I know and admire, not only personally, but because they have earned a place for themselves in our modern history. They consider Mr. Venizelos the greatest Greek since Pericles. But you---who are you? I have not heard of you."
If that youth's eyes had been movable they would have fallen from their sockets. I did not know who he was? To himself and to the Royalist Party he was a personage. He had written a .scurrilous book to demonstrate that Venizelos was insane. My ignorance of him he must have regarded more in sorrow than in anger; for the next day he sent me his book with a note asking me to read it if I wished to be fair.
I did read it. I have even brought it back to America with me. If there is anything in the youth worthy of redemption, he will go through life trying to forget and to make others forget that once he attempted to throw mud on the soul of a great Greek.
That afternoon several other teas were arranged for us; but tired and disheartened I went away from this one, beginning to wonder if the anathema of 'the world were not deserved after all. That gathering given to cement us most firmly to the Royalist Party was the beginning of my defection from it.
That same evening a slightly perfumed note arrived from Mr. Baltazi, saying that he had come into communication with Mr. Gounaris, who would be at our disposal on the morrow, if we would telephone him and make an engagement.
This we did. Before describing our numerous interviews with Gounaris, it will perhaps be better to give a short resume of the events which brought about the fall of Venizelos and the coming into power of Gounaris, who till then had only been a deputy from Patras.
What we must remember about Greece is this: She offered to come unreservedly to the assistance of the Entente at the beginning, when things looked very black for the Allies. Because of the chuckle-headed pro-Bulgarianism---which unfortunately still exists to some extent in England---this offer was refused. Thereafter, whenever things looked particularly bad for the Entente in the Near East, they would send a hurry-call to Venizelos to come to their assistance---entirely disregarding the suitability of the time and occasion from a Greek point of view. Then when things had quieted down a bit, they would begin anew to flirt with Bulgaria, and ask her how she would feel about it if they gave her a bit of Serbia or Greece.
Bulgaria---an apt pupil of Prussia---sat all the while with mouth wide open, partly to protest her undying friendship for the Entente, and partly to be more ready to receive any fat plums that might fall into it. Meanwhile her hand was slipped around behind her back to receive the big loan which Berlin was giving her.
In November, 1914, Sir Edward Grey, fearing a new attack of Austria on Serbia, urged Greece to go to the latter's help. From the very beginning Venizelos had been eager to march with the Entente; he only asked that conditions be such that his country should have a sporting chance of escaping annihilation, and this required either the cooperation of Bulgaria or her certain neutrality. In the latter case he wanted the cooperation of Roumania, and since his mistrust of Bulgaria was as profound as was the trustfulness of the Allies, he asked for two divisions of Anglo-French troops to be placed between Bulgaria and Greece.
The Entente jumped at this offer---only they slid over the first two very important conditions, and merely promised the two divisions. They vaguely assured Venizelos of their belief in the good intentions of Bulgaria, and declared Roumanian participation to be of minor importance.
Mr. Venizelos refused to march under these conditions, and since Austria did not attack Serbia at this time, the matter of Greek participation was again allowed to drop.
In January, 1915, the clouds darkened over Serbia once more, and again Sir Edward Grey turned to Venizelos, and through Sir Francis Elliot told the Greek Premier he felt certain that France and Russia would be willing to give Greece important concessions in Asia Minor, in return for her assistance to Serbia.
Venizelos appreciated the gravity of the situation for the Allies, and was more than ever anxious to come to their help. He approached Roumania and tried hard to come to some arrangement with her; but the latter country persistently refused all his overtures. Then knowing that at the very least the neutrality of Bulgaria must be secured, he conceived the idea that Greece might be able to buy it.
Bulgaria had long cast covetous eyes upon the rich Drama-Kavalla provinces in Macedonia, peopled by Greeks and Turks. Venizelos now planned to offer her these provinces in return for her absolute assurance of neutrality. This scheme he laid before King Constantine in two letters dated January 24 and 30, 1915, too long to quote here. They were marvelous, confidential letters, meant for the eyes of not more than two or three men besides the King. Greece had now an opportunity, such as had not been hers since before America was discovered, of uniting under her flag all the Hellenes of Asia Minor, who for centuries had suffered beneath the misrule of the Turks. There was some risk, as there is to all great ventures; but with every contingency foreseen---as Venizelos foresaw---the risk was moderate. It meant giving up a small tract of land, of great richness, for the chance of obtaining a vast empire, of far greater richness, and peopled by the most loyal of Greeks.
A statesman, a business man, even a politician could hardly have looked upon the vista that opened up to Greece without gasping at its magnificence. The King failed to do so. Not only that, but he betrayed these confidential letters, after Venizelos fell from power, and permitted Gounaris to publish garbled excerpts from them, for petty political ends, caring nothing for the harm this publication might do to the country whose interests he, of all men, ought most jealously to have guarded.
There was a third letter---even more confidential, if that were possible---in which Venizelos made clear to the King why he believed it would be to the advantage of England to foster a strong Greece against a too powerful Russia. This letter Constantine gave to his brother, Prince Nicholas, who went post-haste to Russia, and placed it in the hands of the Tsar. Constantine thus betrayed his Minister to the ruler of a country with ambitions hostile to those of his own. He felt nearer to an autocrat of an unfriendly nation than he did to a constitutional minister of his own --one, moreover, who had brought him back from the exile which the bloodless revolution of 1909 had imposed upon him when he was Crown Prince.
Mr. Repoulis told me in Salonica that when Mr. Venizelos read him his first letter to the King, he, Repoulis, asked: --
"Are you going to send this letter to the King? "
"Don't do it," Repoulis urged. "He will use the letter to smash you."
Far from sharing the mistrust of the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Venizelos rebuked him, saying: "How can I work with a man if I mistrust him like that?"
"You must mistrust him," Repoulis replied, "because he is not worthy of your trust." And once more he tried to show to Venizelos that the King was playing a double rÙle and was a traitor to Greek interests.
Needless to say, Venizelos did not become convinced, and he sent off both letters to the King. But since a few days later Bulgaria contracted a big new loan in Berlin---on more onerous terms than it was offered her in France---Venizelos knew at once what Downing Street apparently only believed when Bulgaria actually fell upon Serbia, that all chance of bribing Bulgaria to come out on the side of the Entente was at an end. He therefore took no further steps in the matter, and as Bulgaria did not at this time attack Serbia, the whole question of Greek participation was permitted to drop again.
In February, 1915, when the Allies decided to attack the Dardanelles, the war ceased to be a "European" war for Venizelos. If Turkey was to be attacked---Turkey whose Asia Minor is largely Greek in race, sentiment, and religion---Greece could no longer remain out of the war, especially since these lands, while Greek by every ethnical standard, were also coveted by Italy.
While Venizelos is not a military man, strictly speaking, it must not be forgotten that he has been a fighter from his thirteenth year; and it is possible that the experience he gained among the mountains of Crete, against regular Turkish troops, afforded him an education superior in some respects even to that which one gets in the military schools of Germany. At the outset of the Dardanelles affair, Venizelos wished at once to send an army corps---some fifty thousand men---to the attack. He could have done this in fifteen days, and at that time there were only five thousand Turks on the peninsula of Gallipoli, which was entirely unfortified.
The Royalist General Staff during the whole course of this war has been suffering from an attack of "cold feet" that would be inexplicable in brave military men, except in the light of certain facts which shall be narrated in due course of time. This General Staff, controlled by Dousmanis and Metaxes, are supposed to have assured the King that it would be unsafe to send so many men out of Greece, and Constantine refused Venizelos's request.
The Cretan then lowered his request to one division, of fifteen thousand men, and proposed to call up a reserve division, in order that Greece's army of two hundred and fifty thousand men might not be diminished by a single man.
King Constantine replied to this that a Crown Council, of all the former premiers, must be called to deliberate on the matter. In this council even the political opponents of Venizelos agreed that Greece could no longer remain neutral, if Turkey were to be attacked. In spite of the unanimous decision of the Crown Council, Constantine still refused to send even one division to Gallipoli, lamely falling back on the excuse that Greece must not be weakened by sending away any of her troops.
To be perfectly fair to the Royalists, and also to show some of the handicaps under which the Entente at that time was working, I must not abstain from mentioning that Russia, through Mr. Sazanoff, her Minister of Foreign Affairs, informed the Greek Minister in Petrograd, Jean Dragoumis, "that Russia would look with disfavor upon any participation of the Greek army in the taking of Constantinople." Russia went further and indicated that she would not approve of the participation of the Greek army in any movements in European Turkey.
The reason for this is quite simple. Constantinople had been the capital of the Greek Byzantine Empire for eleven centuries, before it was taken by the Turks. The influence there to-day is more Greek than Turkish, and the millions of Greeks who live in Turkey dream always of the day when Constantinople shall once more become theirs. They feel that morally it belongs to them.
On the other hand, Russia has been wanting Constantinople for hundreds of years, and she has been loudly proclaiming that it was necessary to her existence. Naturally she did not wish the army of a prior claimant to have anything to do with the taking of the city, lest the newly awakened moral sense of the world award the prize to him who could show the greatest moral right of possession.
It seems like poetic justice that Russia, by her jealous refusal to permit the Greeks even to help take Constantinople for her, should now apparently have lost all chance of getting it herself. There is little doubt---had Venizelos's first plan been followed---but that Constantinople would have fallen into the hands of the Allies. So convinced were the Turks themselves of this that they had all their preparations made to move the Government to Brusa, if the Greeks sent fifty thousand men to Gallipoli.
The Royalists made the utmost of this attitude of Russia. "How could we participate in the expedition," they exclaimed to us, "when Russia, officially, through our own Minister, told us that she did not wish us to? It is only that madman, Venizelos, who conceived the idea."
They omitted to add that France and England had managed to persuade Russia to change her attitude, a fact which was communicated to Greece through her Minister in Paris, Mr. Romanos.
Mr. Venizelos himself had reassured Russia by declaring that Greece had no annexation views in regard to Constantinople. Whenever the Royalists spoke of this they fairly frothed at the mouth. "Have you ever heard of a Greek," they would say, "who would actually disavow his claim on Constantinople?"
This view of the Royalists I shared myself, and in Salonica I attacked Mr. Venizelos rather fiercely on the subject. "I hope this is one of the fabrications of your enemies, and that you never said it," I observed.
"But I did say it, madame, and I meant it," he replied without hesitation. "How could we, a small country, take possession of a city which bottled up a nation of two hundred millions, like Russia, not to speak of Roumania? If we had two hundred millions on our backs, sooner or later they would crush us. Nations must live. Russia must have an outlet to the Mediterranean, and Constantinople is the only one. I wanted to help the Allies to force the Dardanelles, and to help Russia to get her outlet, because I wanted little Greece to do her utmost for the big Powers. She could not hope to gain Constantinople, but the rest of the Hellenic world could then be given to her."
For this plan of his he fought with all his heart and power, but wily Constantine, knowing the essential fairness of the man, said: --
"You wish to bring Greece into the war on the side of the Entente; but you have no right to do that, because you were not elected on any such platform. You came into power before the war, and cannot in fairness maintain that you .represent the people on this point. Greece---and---especially her newly acquired provinces---has a right to be heard before you plunge her into war."
M. Guillemin, the French Minister to Athens, said of Mr. Venizelos: "For a politician, he has a great fault: he always wants to be able to put his actions before himself and say: 'They are clean. They are right!'"
This is indeed the keynote of Mr. Venizelos's character, and when the King made his point that the Premier did not fairly represent the people on the question of going into the war, he at once admitted it, and resigned, in order that he might go before the people on this issue.
Venizelos acted in good faith. The King did not. Even his partisans admit that instead of immediately holding the elections---as the Constitution required---on the question of going into war or abstaining from it, he delayed them for months, and employed the intervening time to "play politics," in order to break the power of the Cretan over the people. He called Gounaris to form a temporary cabinet, and then these two, the General Staff, and all the hangers-on around the Court worked with desperate unscrupulousness to win the country to their side.
During the Gounaris premiership Greece sank very low. The old corrupt politicians of the pre-Venizelist days blossomed out in all their old-time activity, and the King lent his name and undoubted popularity to help Gounaris build up a party that might smash Venizelos.
It was at this time that the King gave Gounaris the confidential letters of Venizelos concerning the cession of the Drama-Kavalla provinces, and, as Repoulis had feared, they published---not the letters in their entirety, but carefully selected extracts from them, which could hardly help putting Venizelos in a bad light before the Greeks.
The General Staff assiduously circulated its opinion that the Dardanelles expedition was doomed to failure, and declared that had Venizelos dragged Greece into it, the fate of Belgium would have been hers. The King alone, they declared, through his great foresight and his love for his people, had been able to stand up against him and save the nation.
There was no political trickery, no calumny which the old politicians neglected to use against Venizelos. That he was in the pay of the French and was acquiring an enormous fortune was asserted with such vehemence that I believe the Royalists ended by believing it themselves. This campaign was aided in every way by German gold, which was lavished on frugal Greece in a way that fairly dazzled her. And as if all this were not enough, fate put in her oar by letting Constantine fall ill.
In 1909 Constantine, then Crown Prince, was so unpopular that he and his brothers were blackballed in Athenian clubs and were obliged to go abroad to live. When Venizelos became Prime Minister, he said that if Greece was to have a royal family, they ought to play the part, and not skulk in foreign lands. He therefore brought back the princes, and reinstated Constantine in his place in the army. The Cretan worked very hard to make Constantine popular, and during the two Balkan wars placed him as much in the limelight as possible, himself staying in the background and doing the work. He succeeded so well that Constantine, with the help of his own magnetic personality, became extremely popular, and his opportune illness, of course, still further endeared him to the populace.
It was wonderful political capital, this illness. The Royalists (which is the same as the Gounarists) not only spread broadcast "A vote for Venizelos is a vote for war," but since the Greeks vote with black and white balls, called bullets, they added: "Every bullet cast for Venizelos is a bullet cast into the wound of the King."
One can hardly imagine a more unfair method of electioneering, and it was carried on for months with all the craftiness of which the old-time politicians and the General Staff were capable. Yet in spite of everything they did, in spite of the King's personal popularity, in spite of Germany's gold, and in spite of the weariness of the country after two wars, Venizelos was returned to power by a substantial majority---in Old Greece by a huge majority. (In the newly acquired provinces the Jews and Turks were unanimously against him.)
No adequate justice has ever been done to the Greek people, by the ordinary foreigner who travels through their land or over their waters, for having withstood almost three months' incessant campaign of gold, treachery, and lies---aided by an incredibly stupid act on the part of the Allies.
While the Gounaris Administration was illegally putting off the elections and working to build up a party, it was also making propositions to the Entente to cooperate with them.
The last one, in May, 1915, proposed to join the Entente with the fleet alone, keeping the army for possible aggressions on the part of Bulgaria. Among the things asked in return was the guarantee of Greece's integrity during the war and the peace negotiations. To this there came no official response, but the Royalists told us that unofficially the Government was informed that the Entente could not guarantee the integrity of Greece because that might discourage Bulgaria.
If a greater piece of idiocy could have been committed by the Allies, I cannot imagine it. Here was a nation whose aid was needed, and whose people were friendly, but who was being corrupted by German gold, a pro-German party, a pro-German king, and a Prussian queen, and that people the Entente cherished by declaring: "We cannot promise you your integrity in exchange for your help, because we do not wish to discourage your hereditary enemy, who covets your lands."
Thus did even the Entente furnish ammunition to the Royalists during the shameful months of the Gounaris Administration, when King Constantine descended from his throne and became a party leader, to defeat Venizelos and democracy---in order that Germany and autocracy might emerge victorious.
Let those who accuse the Greek people of cowardice and money-thirst remember that the Greek people voted for Venizelos and war---voted for the Entente which had refused to guarantee their integrity---almost one year after the war had begun, at a time when Belgium was crushed, when Serbia was threatened, and when the Dardanelles campaign was turning out to be an overwhelming defeat.
Venizelos was reelected in June, yet once again King Constantine unjustly kept the Cretan from resuming his power. Under the pretext that he was too ill to transact any business, the Gounaris Administration was kept in for two months longer.
During these two months---as I was to learn later---was completed the plot which had a twofold object; the betrayal of Greece, and the betrayal of the Entente Powers. In those two months Constantine definitely staked his crown and his honor against a reward which to him must have seemed well worth the risk.
Even in England one is forced to believe there were men in high quarters working for the benefit of Germany since from England came the severest blow to Venizelos and to Greek sympathy with the Entente.
Venizelos was to resume the premiership on August 16. Thirteen days before that, Sir Edward Grey notified Mr. Gounaris that the Entente had decided to reconstitute the Balkan League, and for this purpose had offered the Drama-Kavalla provinces of Greece to Bulgaria.
The effect of this announcement upon the Greek people was terrific. A prominent Venizelist, speaking of the matter to me, said: "I don't know what their object was, but had they wished to ruin Venizelos's influence with the people they could not have done it more efficaciously. They practically crucified him."
It is curious that M. Guillemin, the French Minister to Athens, speaking on a different matter, said to us once: "Venizelos is a prophet, and he has been crucified." To which I replied: "Yes, and if the Royalists crucified him, the Entente furnished the cross and the nails."
To come now to our interviews with Mr. Gounaris. Although he was no longer Premier at that time---because of Entente objections---and held no official position, he was nevertheless universally admitted to be a useful tool for those who were really ruling Greece. Among these it is hardly necessary to state was not included the ostensible Premier, Professor Lambros. We had heard much of Mr. Gounaris: the Royalists spoke highly of his learning and intelligence, the Venizelists and the neutrals considered him the worst type of unscrupulous politician.
I must admit that by the end of the second week of our stay in Athens sickening doubts began to creep into my brain and heart. I fought them back as best I could. It seemed pitiful to have stood up for the King for two whole years, and then to begin to lose faith in him. Of his party my doubts became stronger daily---yet the King might easily be their victim. Because Gounaris was so fiercely attacked. by the Venizelists, and so ardently defended by the Royalists, and furthermore because the King in speaking to us of him seemed to attach such importance to the information he could give us, I looked forward eagerly to meeting him, with the hope that he would resolve my doubts.
Through the telephone we made our appointment, and right after breakfast we reached the Tourist Hotel where he lived. Undoubtedly the servants of the hotel were adherents of Mr. Gounaris. It was easy to discern it from the way they pronounced his name, and the important manner with which they conducted us to his apartments.
Fig. 19. Dr. Gounaris.
We found his little sitting-room---from the windows of which one has a most enchanting view of the Acropolis---filled with politicians. Mr. Gounaris was closeted in the next room with more politicians, but soon came out, shook hands most impressively with us, and bade the others good-bye. We were left alone with Mr. Gounaris, his books in many languages, and the Acropolis peeping at us from its lofty yet approachable heights.
The first impression of Mr. Gounaris is a very pleasant one. He is a tall, well-built, spare man, who could easily pass for an American, of the dark, good-looking type. The penetrating quality of his eyes is softened by a slight languor. He was dressed in the proverbial black coat of the European politician and looked his profession, which is the law.
"I am very pleased, indeed, to have you come to me," he said, "for I feel confident that I can put the situation before you quite clearly, so that you will see that Greece, far from being the villain, is really the victim in this war."
After this auspicious opening he set out to show us why the treaty with Serbia had become caduc, or inoperative, and did not at all require Greece to come to Serbia's assistance. This treaty with Serbia was always the point on which the Royalists were driven to their most desperate defense; for the concrete fact which stood out before the whole world was that Greece had had an ally, and in her direst need had, deserted her. Accordingly the strongest efforts were made by the Royalists to prove: --
First. That Greece had no treaty with Serbia, because after the last war no new "Military Convention" was drawn up between them.
Second. That if she had a treaty, it was only against Bulgaria, and not against a stronger foe.
Third. That even if she had a treaty with Serbia contre toute tierce puissance, it was abrogated, was rendered caduc, by various actions of Serbia, such as being willing---under pressure from the Entente---to cede a part of her Macedonian territory to buy off Bulgaria.
It seems to me now incomprehensible that I should even for a moment have been fooled by their specious arguments. But when gentlemen occupying the highest positions in a civilized state all --from the King down---assure you on their word of honor that such and such things are facts, one must have a very skeptical mind, indeed, not to attach some weight to their words.
Gounaris, like the others, started out to show us just why there had been no legal obligations whatever for Greece to go to Serbia's aid. He spoke with the specious fluency of the skilled pettifogger, and went into technical points, as lawyers will. When he had finished, my husband turned to me and with disgust plainly depicted on his face, said openly: --
"It is exactly the fable of the wolf and the lamb drinking from the same stream."
"Mr. Gounaris," I added, "if I were just a writer, I should publish this explanation you have given us; but since I am also a Greek, I will not show to the world what despicable reasoning a Greek is capable of."
Was Mr. Gounaris disconcerted by such plain speaking? He did not change color, he did not draw a quicker breath. Looking as innocent as a sucking dove, he attempted no explanations, no counter-attacks. Blandly he passed on to another topic, smiling a smile of beatific unction, like an archbishop about to give his blessing to his congregation. He smiled upon me as if we were the best of friends, as if he were the wisest person in the world and I just a little child that had to be humored.
We came to the time during which he was Prime Minister.
"Were you elected?" I asked, as an opening.
"No, the King entrusted me to form a cabinet."
"Then why did you not hold the elections at once? "
"I had no party," he answered naÔvely. "If we had held the elections Venizelos would have carried the country."
The words were like the opening of a door into a room, till that moment hermetically shut. They had not held the elections at once because Venizelos would have won. If he had been elected he would at once have brought the country into the war on the side of the Allies.
Something began to hurt within me, as the thought flashed through my mind that the King, even at that early stage, might have been against the Entente. I thrust the thought aside, hoping that the diabolical cunning of the man before me was at the bottom of this trickery, and not the King. The King might only be the victim of his scheming.
It was an interesting picture Mr. Gounaris made, as he sat languidly in his easy chair, one leg crossed over the other, his right hand gracefully occupied with a string of beads, the while he replied to my questions with a smile of righteous contentment. My mistrust of Gounaris started early in our interviews, and during the nineteen or twenty hours that he accorded us for political enlightenment, he never gave me a single minute's cause to change my mind about him, charming though he was.
"Why did n't Mr. Venizelos come into power as soon as he was elected?"
"Oh, he did come soon afterwards."
"No! " I contradicted, " he was elected in June, and was not permitted to come to power until August."
"His Majesty was not well enough to receive him."
"Since the King's illness continued, the Crown Prince could have been made regent, to transact necessary business. The country could not be kept in uncertainty. Some one had to become regent. Why not as soon as Mr. Venizelos was elected? "
"I really don't remember why he did not come in at once. It is n't very essential, is it? "
There was no use pursuing this line against the evasiveness of the deputy from Patras.
"Mr. Gounaris, why did you take the confidential documents Mr. Venizelos had sent to the King, and use them for party purposes?"
"His Majesty gave them to me."
"Was it right that he should give them to you? "
"Perfectly, since His Majesty believed that Venizelos was having an unwholesome influence over the people. It was important, before the elections took place, to show the people what Venizelos was."
Here was another proof of the reasons why the elections had not taken place at once. Venizelos was powerful, he had influence over the people, and the King wished to destroy that influence before the elections. We were getting ever closer to the all-important Why of much that had puzzled me---the Why, which was the answer to the whole Grecian riddle. And the closer I came to it, the more carefully and circumspectly must I act. Gounaris was clever: we must not again let him see that we mistrusted him. We must let him talk. Like most Greeks he is a fluent speaker---in three languages -and he is a product of German Kultur.
Lengthily he discoursed upon the confidential letters of Venizelos, which the King so treacherously had turned over to him to use "where they would do the most good." His patriotic fervor, and indignation against Venizelos were really inspiring. "Venizelos was willing to bargain away Greek territory," he asserted, "because he was no Greek, but a Cretan, an islander, incapable of understanding true Hellenism."
"But you were blind!" I cried. "If you had given up those districts you would have got Smyrna and her hinterland, which in size and value are treble the Drama-Kavalla provinces. It is like giving forty dollars to receive a hundred." (In reality it was more like receiving a thousand.)
"To begin with," replied Gounaris in his loftiest manner,---and, like most shysters, Gounaris could be very lofty,---"to begin with, madame, we are speaking of Greek souls -not of dollars."
"We were speaking figuratively, and you are an intelligent enough man to understand the figure I gave you."
Gounaris carefully fitted a new cigarette into his amber holder. It was an excellent way of gaining time, without seeming to hesitate.
"No," he replied gently, "it is not so. We were only to receive an amount of territory in Asia Minor equal to that which we ceded to Bulgaria. So you see that while Bulgaria would have been strengthened by exactly the amount of provinces ceded to her, Greece would only have remained as strong, territorially, as she was before. Actually, she would have been weaker, because while the Drama-Kavalla districts joined Greece, her new lands would have been far away."
Mr. Gounaris had received us fortified by a formidable pile of documents. He had typewritten copies of all the diplomatic papers that had passed between Greece and Serbia and the Entente during and before his administration. I have sometimes wondered if it were not the same pile of documentary proof which Dr. Streit had used, and which they kept to pass from one to another, for our enlightenment. He had shown us paper after paper as he talked. Now, however, there was regret in the tones of his voice as he went on: --
"The particular document which proves what I have just told you, unfortunately, I have not with me this morning. The next time you come I will show it to you," he ended, his pontifical smile on his lips and in his eyes.
Here was a remarkable omission on the part of a painstaking man. With all his documents made ready for us, the most important of all was unaccountably absent. We looked forward to our next meeting with unusual interest.
Two days later, with an air of subdued triumph, Mr. Gounaris produced the missing document, and read it to us. It was an ingenious paper, addressed by Sir Edward Grey to Bulgaria,---not to Greece,---and informed her that she would receive exactly as much land in Drama-Kavalla as Greece received in Asia Minor.
You can differ with a man's opinions and still keep on friendly terms with him. You cannot call him a forger and a liar without having your social relations seriously damaged. This document Gounaris was showing us was so manifestly and palpably a forgery that the only way to keep on interviewing Gounaris---which we very much wished to do---was to pretend to accept it as genuine. And pretend I did.
"I begin to see," I said heartily, "why you wish to diminish Mr. Venizelos's influence with the Greek people."
"Ah! that is a good step," he replied with satisfaction. "We were convinced that we could make you see that he was only playing his own game. You remember, when in August, 1914, Venizelos, like a madman, went and placed Greece unconditionally on the side of the Entente, that England, France, and Russia thanked Greece, but said they preferred her to remain neutral."
"Yes. Dr. Streit showed us copies of their telegrams."
Mr. Gounaris rose and came nearer us. "The Allies then wished Greece to remain neutral because they did not need her. They never said then that Greece was the ally of Serbia. They preferred to keep Greece out because at the end of the war they did not mean to give her a farthing. But in November things went badly with the Allies and with Serbia, and suddenly they remembered not only Mr. Venizelos's offer, but also that Greece was the ally of Serbia---and now it became Greece's duty to go to the help of her ally."
Mr. Gounaris, from, his pile of documents selected two and read them to us. The first was the one I have already mentioned in which Mr. Venizelos declared it to be his firm conviction that if Greece were to be of any help to the Allies, Roumania must come out with her, and Bulgaria must either do the same or at least guarantee her neutrality.
The second, a reply to the first, was written in language which for diplomacy was discourteous if not threatening. It accused Venizelos of trying to wriggle out of his position (s'esquiver). It was a rebuke of the severest kind.
"And now," went on Mr. Gounaris, "I will lay before you the proofs of Mr. Venizelos's perfidy.)"
He selected another typewritten paper from his dossier and passed it to me. It was in Greek, from the Greek Minister in London, and he wrote to Mr. Venizelos "that the Premier was very glad to learn that it was not he [Venizelos] who was making the objections to marching with the Entente, but others."
"Here is the proof," Gounaris went on conclusively, "that because the Allies were angry with Venizelos on account of the conditions he made for marching with them, he was trying to shift the responsibility to the shoulders of the King, in order that he himself might remain in favor with the Allies. Do you not see the double game he was playing?"
At this moment, as if it were all staged, and he had been waiting for his cue, the door opened, and in walked fat Mr. Baltazi, accompanied by another politician.
The proofs of Venizelos's perfidy were handed to him. He read the incriminating letter, and his color became more purple, and his skin if possible tighter than before. If ever he were going to burst, that seemed to be the moment.
"Traitor!" he cried. "I knew that he was a traitor, but I did not know we possessed such proofs."
"We found it in his house, after the 2d of December," Gounaris put in.
Baltazi pored over the letter most carefully.
He read and re-read it, while Mr. Gounaris sat with one leg over the other wearing his archbishopric smile, played with his string of beads, and enjoyed the effect of the document upon us all.
After our morning's work was completed and we were out in the open street, I took several long breaths, before asking: "What do you think of that letter, Kay?"
"Well, I am rather bewildered. It does look as if Venizelos were playing a double game---yet it is so unlike the conception I had of him."
I linked my arm in his. "They took you in, my dear."
"What do you mean?"
"That document was false. Baltazi was speaking the absolute truth when he said he had no idea they possessed such proof of his perfidy. They never did possess it until they manufactured it yesterday. Do you think that Venizelos, even if he were the man they make him out to be, would leave such a damaging letter in his house for months? No, they made it for us---just as they made that other one about the hinterlands of Smyrna."
"You think that was false, too?"
"Certainly," I replied with conviction. "That document was supposed to have been sent to Bulgaria; how did it get into the hands of the Greeks? "
Later we had proof that I was right in both my surmises. Both Mr. Venizelos and the Foreign Office in London assured me that no such letter was ever written, and as for the communication about Smyrna, we have the assurances of the highest officials of Greece, France, and England that what Greece was to receive in Asia Minor was tenfold more valuable than the tract of land she was to give to Bulgaria.
We spent some nineteen hours studying with Mr. Gounaris, considerably more than we had with Dr. Streit; and the more we saw of both these men the more we were convinced that they were what the Greeks call mikrologoi---small-worded men, men of small thoughts, small visions.
The efforts of both of them were directed chiefly to convincing us that Venizelos was of an absolutely contemptible nature; that he was servile, fawning on the Great Powers, trembling when they spoke unkindly to him, and losing his head and wishing to rush into the war, even though this might mean the destruction of his nation; then trying to Put the blame off on any one else, so long as the Great Powers did not frown on him. According to them he lacked courage to do anything himself, was hysterical, jumped from one plan to another, was unreliable, dishonest, womanish, weak, vacillating, and always acted on the blind impulse of the moment.
As Kenneth Brown said to me once: "With the reputation they give Venizelos, one would not hire him for a stable-boy."
They overdid it. If the Greek nation had deliberately sought out its most contemptible character to make Prime Minister, and if the statesmen of France and England could conceive an extravagant admiration for such a creature, then in a thoroughly mad world the only sane remnants were Streit, Gounaris, Baltazi, and the rest of the Royalist party.
The supposition was lacking in antecedent probability.
The question which occupied me constantly was how far the attractive and lovable King of Greece himself was blameworthy. I never ceased to like him, and my one thought was how to save him---less, really, on his own account than for the good of Greece. I am a republican in principle, because to me, for the advancement of civilization, governments must be democratic. A king in our century is a supernumerary and an anachronism; yet I believed a monarchy necessary for Greece, since it made for the stability which was of the utmost importance to a little nation. King Constantine, although without a drop of Greek blood in his veins, had been born and brought up in Greece; he spoke the Greek language and gave the impression of caring for his country. If he were driven out, it would be a black day for Greece.
It seemed to me that the King might still be saved from his own party. Now that we knew so much more about the political situation we could argue more convincingly with him. He had given us such cause for hope in our first interview that we looked forward to our second with the greatest confidence.
A MILITARISTIC DREAMER
THERE are three men closely associated with King Constantine whose names, in the minds of the public at large, connote pernicious influence, from the point of view of the Western democracies. Gounaris, whose reputation is in no better odor than these three, is probably not classed with them because he is considered the tool, where they are the workmen.
We had met the one of the three ordinarily mentioned first, Dr. Streit; we had liked him, and had worked with him. We were now to see a man stronger than Streit; a more implacable builder on autocratic lines than Streit; a bull, where Streit was a serpent; a military man with all the earmarks of the German school (though he has never studied in Germany); a drillmaster; a man one can hardly imagine to be a Greek by his appearance, actions, and trend of mind; a man of the earth, earthy:---and yet the greatest visionary, the most impractical dreamer whom we saw in Greece --General Dousmanis, formerly chief of staff, and at that time the King's aide-de-camp.
He lived in a small house, in an unfashionable part of the town, which at once makes away with the idea that he had been bought by German gold. Indeed, I do not believe that any of the big men around the King were bribed by Germany. Nor were they moved solely by hatred of Venizelos. They played for a great future for Greece, according to their lights. Only because their souls were smoky, their vision was obscured, and losing sight of the beacon star of honor, they struggled desperately for a pettier gain, when a far greater was within their grasp.
General Dousmanis received us in his small study, on the ground floor of his house. A few minutes after our arrival his manservant brought in sweets and Turkish coffee, according to the delightful Greek custom, which, alas! is disappearing. We partook of both while talking with the general, who sat behind his big desk and examined us.
Fig. 20. General Victor Dousmanis, the King's aide-de-camp.
The former chief of staff has no German blood, he has not studied in Germany, he does not even speak the German language; therefore it is a mystery why he looks, thinks, and acts like a German. We were not with him long before we became conscious of his strength and of his tenacity of purpose. He is not a man one can despise, like Gounaris, or more or less laugh at, like Dr. Streit: he inspires respect. He is a foe worth having. Although during this war he has acted entirely against England, he admires that country. He has no opinion of her as a military power, however, because his mentality, being German, cannot conceive that a nation can produce a good army which is not disciplined by an autocracy.
Autocracy! That is the keynote of Dousmanis's nature. That is where King Constantine and he come together. They both despise democracy and have implicit faith in autocracy. Dousmanis hated Venizelos with the hatred which, though it was greatly aided by the punishment inflicted on him by the Prime Minister for an improper use of his position, yet had dignity and strength. It was the hatred of the strong for the strong; of the despot for the liberal; of the man whose cult is brute strength for the man who puts the soul above the body. They are both visionaries, but their visions are as far apart as would be those of a man with his nose buried in a ledger and those of a seer, surveying far countries from a mountain peak.
General Dousmanis never spoke of Venizelos in the scurrilous way that Dr. Streit did, nor with the undervaluing laugh of the mikrologos, Gounaris. He spoke of Venizelos as of a force that he meant to break by any means---especially by foul means---because that force balked him in the realization of his dreams.
I know that he disliked my husband as a citizen of the country which stands preeminently for the democratic idea. I believe that he disliked me also, but thinking me useful for his purpose, he meant to keep me on the Royalist side---and if any man could have done it, that man was General Dousmanis.
Our first interview occupied the whole morning, and throughout it my great regret was that this man before us was not on the side of the Entente. He explained to us carefully why it was better for Greece to remain neutral, since militarily she was too small to take part in the great conflict.
"General Dousmanis, we have not yet been able to see the text of the treaty between Greece and Serbia, and I wish to hear from the lips of all of you who know, whether that treaty called upon Greece to go to Serbia's aid, or not."
"I am only a military man and I do not know the political side of the treaty, but I do know this," and the thick-set neck of Dousmanis seemed to disappear as he thrust forward his big, close-cropped head, so German-looking, and placed the fingers of his short, thick hands together. He fixed us with his dark, penetrating eyes, and I fully expected to hear him say, "Wir Deutsche sind wunderbare Leute!" Indeed it was a shock when the words he emitted were not German. "I only deal with the military convention," he said, "and that convention demanded that Serbia should put one hundred and fifty thousand men at certain points. Serbia had not that force to spare for those points."
"Yes, but France and England promised to send you that force in place of Serbia."
"They did promise that---and what did they send? Ten thousand---and Senegalese at that."
General Dousmanis looked me straight in the eyes as he spoke. One of the sources of his strength was that his keen gaze was never more direct and unfaltering than when he was telling a deliberate falsehood. From all sorts of sources we have checked up this statement, and there is not an atom of truth in it. Of course it was impossible to send one hundred and fifty thousand men in one day, or week, or month. But the hundred and fifty thousand men came as rapidly as possible, and they were all "metropolitan" troops. The first Senegalese only arrived a year or so later, when the Allied army in Salonica was far greater than one hundred and fifty thousand.
General Dousmanis devoted a whole hour to explaining to us why it was impossible that Germany should be beaten. In military matters she was supreme. France and England had proved that they did not know how to make war. They had no plan. They simply watched Germany and tried to defend themselves against her.
On the third day of our working together, he turned to me and said: "There are certain things I should like to discuss with you as Greek to Greek. I do not mean any disrespect to your husband, but he is an American and cannot understand."
The next day I went alone to see him. He does not speak the clear Greek of Mr. Venizelos, or of Mr. Repoulis, neither does he possess the magnetic quality which renders the speech of those two men so entrancing. He uses short, abrupt sentences, but if his words lack elegance, they make up by a certain carrying of conviction. He greeted me, not with friendliness, for that quality seems entirely lacking in the man's nature, but with a deference he had never shown to me and my husband together. I believe the reason was that he dislikes Americans for the same reason that he does the French: they both stand for the abhorrent democracy. General Dousmanis comes from the island of Corfu. That is land was held by the Venetians for a time. The general's family tree may show no instance of intermarriage with the tyrants of the Venetian Republic; nevertheless, in his utterances, in his acts, and in the smouldering light of his dark eyes, the general brings to mind the time in which Venice ruled, and used foul means in preference to fair. He inspires the kind of respect one accords a man to whom no deed is too dark if it only furthers his ends. I feet morally certain that the infamous Second of December is the child of his Venetian brain.
The day before, when my husband and I were together, he had shown us maps of the war, which he had drawn himself. Now that I was alone, he honored me with many more maps, showing the various routes, by which, in some future time, Greek armies were to march on their conquering way. I poured over them, trying to fathom just what he wanted me to understand.
"When will the Greeks traverse these routes?" I asked finally.
"Some day-when the Greeks shall be disciplined and Greece shall be a military power."
"But, general! " I protested; "you are a great soldier, I believe; you have conducted three wars, and you know what fighting is:---do you honestly think you can change Greece into a military power?"
"Why not?" he demanded.
"Because the Greek people do not like fighting for fighting's sake. It is not in them. They have fought when they had to, and generally fought well; but they would much rather attend to their business, sit in their cafes, read their newspapers, and discuss politics than become a military power. Even in her greatest days of the past, Greece never dreamed of becoming a military power."
There was a light in his eyes which revealed to me that I was touching a hidden spring which might snap open a door and let me see things that would be worth seeing. For this reason I elaborated: --
"A nation is like an individual: it has its own talents. If you force a man to whom music is the breath of life to become a lawyer, you will produce a very poor one; and if you take a nation like Greece, whose mission is intellectual, and try to make her militaristic, you will fail."
For an instant General Dousmanis hesitated; then the light in his eyes died down. The revelations which I instinctively felt to be on his lips were denied me for the time being.
"It is our mission to teach and to civilize Asia Minor---hence my maps," and he laid his heavy hand tenderly on them.
Once more we poured over them.
"Maps are all very well, but you have not told me how you are going to make the Greeks a military nation in order that they may force Greek civilization on Asia Minor."
"Do you think that it was natural in the German to be a great soldier?" he demanded. "I tell you no! He has been made one, and so shall the Greek be."
"The German's nature permitted him to be Prussianized. The German lacks the love of personal freedom and the thirst for individualism which are the most vital characteristics of our race."
General Dousmanis was occupied in folding up his maps, and I was denied a glimpse into those dark orbs of his. I felt that he was not silent for lack of an answer.
Methodically he tied up his maps, while my last words seemed to linger in the room long after they were spoken. I could hear them as if they were repeating themselves. General Dousmanis said no word until his maps were put back in their places. Then he asked: --
"Where do you stand in regard to Venizelos?
"He has made a great many mistakes, to judge by what I hear from your side. I don't know him, you see. I have never met him. On my return from Salonica I shall be able to answer you."
"Tell me where you stand now."
"I cannot forgive him for splitting Greece in two, but I believe I admire him."
"Because he stands for ideals."
"Pooh! Venizelos is unbalanced. He is brilliant, and he has the power to carry the crowd."
"What is that power?" I asked.
"You must admit, general, that it is more than words. He has the power to touch the best there is in us."
"What is the best?"
General Dousmanis never laughs at or scorns anything you say. He takes it and weighs it. He considered my words carefully.
"What does idealism mean?" he asked.
"It means something for which the world has been struggling throughout the ages, and which is beginning to take shape. It means a chance for every man, woman, and child to develop what is best in him, and give it to the world."
"There is only one thing which has counted, and which will continue to count throughout the ages, and that is force."
"Brute force first, and the force of wealth, and the force of organization afterwards. With these three you can achieve something in life. With your idealism you will only dream life away.
MY motto is, (Who is not a Greek, is my enemy.)
"Then you must feel, general, as if you were living in hell, because the proportion of people who are not Greeks is overwhelming."
"You don't understand my motto properly. It means that the interest of Greece alone is my concern. No one else does anything for you. Every person you meet considers his own interests first. Yours, if they count at all, are of minor importance. He will sacrifice yours to his, every time. That is a law of nature. Hence, he who is not a Greek is my enemy, because he will sacrifice Greek interest to his. Do you believe in that insulting phrase, 'The Protecting Powers'? "
"No, I never did," I replied vehemently.
"Do you believe that Greece would not have existed if the Powers had not intervened in 1828? "
"Perhaps she would not at that time, for the revolution of seven years had exhausted her; but my belief is that it would have been better for us. We should have gathered strength and revolted again, and then if we had succeeded, instead of the barren rocks the Powers allowed us,---one third of the country that had been in revolt,---we might have had an economic chance for life."
---"Then you don't feet that Greece ought to be grateful to the so-called 'Protecting Powers'?"
"To Russia---no! Russia meant Greece to die of atrophy; and because she began to live in spite of the restricted and bare territory accorded her, and because Russia was unable to reduce her to a vassal state, she fomented the Bulgarian atrocities, fought the Turks, and created Bulgaria, feeling certain that with a strong Bulgaria to fight her, Greece would have to die. That is what I think of one 'Protecting Power.'"
"And England?" he queried.
"England has been fairer. We were not in her way---and she did give us the Ionian Islands in 1863."
"Because Gladstone made her."
"Yes, but Gladstone embodied what was liberal and fair and best in England."
"Has she ever shown any sign of protecting us?" he demanded.
"Oh! France is different. France is a Don Quixote. France has loved us because spiritually we were one with her people, and because it is in the heart of France to love smaller nations."
"That is literature, madame. Has she ever protected Greece?
"Whenever she could, yes."
"When was that?"
"I don't know offhand; but I was brought up to think so."
"That is the worst about us!" he cried. "We are brought up to feel grateful to people who would put us out of existence if we were slightly in their way."
"I admit that if the existence of France were in the balance against ours, she would, of course, sacrifice us. I have no illusions about the Great Powers, although I admire England and love France."
"I told His Majesty that through your brain you belonged to our party," he said with satisfaction. "That is why I wanted to talk to you as Greek to Greek."
"I belong to your party in so far as I should like to eliminate the words 'Protecting Powers' from our vocabulary. They rob us of our self-esteem, and give the foreigner the right to intervene in our affairs."
"Wait a moment," he said, and he wrote my words down on a piece of paper and read them aloud.
"But I am against your policy," I continued, "because I feel that if Greece had gone into this war, and helped with all her might, she could, for the first time, have made her rights felt. They could hardly have cheated her in the end. This is a world war, and every eye will be upon the men who will sit and confer at the end of it; and since I believe that ultimately America will have to come in, and since she has no interest in the partition of territory, she will be fairer to the small nations than the great European Powers."
"I do not believe in the disinterestedness of your adopted country, madame. She has no territorial interests, but has she not commercial ones? "
"There is no use my discussing America with you, general. You could not understand. You have the average European idea that we think only of the dollar. We don't. To begin with, we make it too easily to worship it, and, secondly, we are sentimentalists, and are filled to the brim with ideals. Let us discard your prejudices against America. That is my ground; I know America, and you can take my word for it that she will not stand for any unjust partitions."
Dousmanis was silent for several moments. I could see that he was debating with himself, and finally decided to tell me his thoughts.
"You believe that we are against the Entente, don't you?" he said.
"Your acts give that evidence."
"Well, we should have gone in with the Entente in the beginning if they had been fair to us. When Venizelos, two weeks after the opening of the war, offered Greece to the Allies, no one of us opposed his policy, except Dr. Streit, and he wanted Greece to remain neutral. Had the Allies then accepted Venizelos's offer they would have had the country with them. I want you to believe that---we wanted to go with the Allies---but what did they do? Each one wrote separately to say, 'No, thank you. We prefer to have you remain neutral!'"
As the general pronounced his last words, his countenance darkened, and I saw how a man can look when hatred dominates him.
"Why do you think they scorned Venizelos's offer?" he asked.
"They did not scorn it," I replied. "They only hoped to keep the rest of the Balkans out of the war."
---"The war started in the Balkans. How could they help its spreading farther? They are not idiots! "
"But they are idiots," I contradicted. "That is the pathetic part of it: that the men at the head of those nations did behave like idiots."
"That is a charitable view for old ladies staying in their homes to take; but you and I must look cold facts in the face. They refused Venizelos's offer because they did not wish to accept Greece as an ally. They knew well that Germany would bid for Bulgaria and Turkey, and they meant to outbid her for those two countries. They hoped to get Bulgaria by offering her Greek territory, and Turkey by telling her she need not give up the Greek islands awarded to Greece by the London Conference, and by offering her a tremendous sum of money. Greece would then have found herself surrounded by allies of the Entente, and they calculated that she would be forced to come in, anyway, in the hope of getting some crumbs; or if she had objected to their treatment, she was at their mercy, since they could have blockaded her. It would not have been the first time. They blockaded us in the Crimean War, so that we might not fight on the side of Russia against Turkey---and what did they give us?---the plague. They blockaded us in 1876 and '77, so that again we might not fight with Russia and against Turkey---and what did they give us? They did not even permit us to have a representative in the conference that followed the war, in which their infamous Treaty of Berlin was drawn up. There they created a Bulgaria, who had never fought a single battle for her independence, much greater than we were; and they gave her our lands that she should be a constant menace to us."
He stopped in the abrupt way he had. His heavy-set head moved from side to side, as inwardly he went on with his argument.
---(Who is not a Greek is my enemy.)
He repeated his motto aloud, twice, but not to me, and I realized for the first time that in his dark, unwholesome, German-Venetian way Dousmanis loved Greece---or rather, since love is too soft a word for such a man, that he had a passion for Greece which dominated his every thought and every act.
Once again he turned to me. "You consider Venizelos a great man, don't you?"
"He certainly has that reputation."
"Venizelos will do well in heaven, but for this earth he is a fool. He never saw their game. They played him, and they broke him. Even when he split Greece in two with his revolution and went with them, they never meant to give him a chance."
He opened a drawer and took from it a brown leather notebook.
"I have it all down here," he said, tapping the book. "We have a man in every one of his departments, and we know. Venizelos was there for months before they gave him a single gun. He could have raised an army of a hundred and fifty thousand sturdy fighters. They hindered him in every way they could, by restricting the zone of his operations, and by putting obstacles in the way of officers who wanted to join his movement."
"Oh! General Dousmanis!" I cried, "have they really done all that? And if they did, was n't it again out of stupidity?"
"Don't excuse every sly, clever move of England as a stupidity," he commanded. "She is the least stupid nation in the world. That is why I admire her. She has no military force; she knows no discipline; yet she wins out, and she wins out by letting you think that she is stupid. Every move of England in this war has been a marvelous move, although it often looked like a blunder. She fooled Venizelos ---and she broke him."
A limpness came over me. Could he possibly be right? As a Greek I have always felt a strong resentment against England. As a human being, as a citizen of the world, I admire her. On the whole she is the best the white race has managed to do in the matter of character and principles, and now General Dousmanis was convincing me that she was the most sinister and black-minded of all the nations. He was convincing me because he was convinced himself. There was no doubting the sincerity of his conviction.
"And France, is she, too, playing that game?"
"France does not count," was his quick retort. "She is too weak to stand alone. She has to lean on England, and England is making her play her game. This is a war between England and Germany---and neither will win! You may think that I have an exaggerated idea of the importance of our little country, but believe what I say: England could have won this war if she had accepted Venizelos's first offer, made him her ally, and let us manage the fight down here. If Greece had become her ally in the beginning, Bulgaria could not have gone with Germany; Roumania would have had to come with us; and we should have cornered Turkey. But that would have meant that full justice would have to be done the little nations---and they did not want to accord full justice. When they were hard-pressed, --when Serbia became exhausted, and Russia was nowhere to help them,---they turned to us and offered us Albania. As if Albania was theirs to offer! Venizelos refused to take Albania, and they gave a part of it to Italy---while uttering their grandiose words about fighting for the rights of little nations! When later the pressure on Serbia became still greater, they offered us, in a vague way 'important concessions' in Asia Minor. Mind you, they refused to say what. After the war they would have given us something, somewhere---in the way that a rich man gives a crust to the poor man, and considers that the poor man ought to kiss his hand in gratitude."
Once again the countenance of Dousmanis reflected the hatred he felt for the "Protecting Powers." Every minute he was revealing to me more of his character, a character I had only faintly guessed at in our previous interviews. I realized now that there was no crime he would not commit if it benefited Greece.
"Why do you think that Russia went to Galicia and the Carpathians and East Prussia, instead of coming to the assistance of Serbia?" he demanded.
"I don't know, unless the reason was geographical. Could she have got to Serbia?"
"Of course she could, through Roumania."
"But that would have meant violating the neutrality of Roumania," I observed.
General Dousmanis's hands came down on his desk with a thud that made everything on it jump up an inch.
"Did Russia go through Roumania in the Russo-Turkish War, or did she not?"
"She did; but she made an arrangement with her."
"She could have made an arrangement this time. Half a million Russians in the Balkans ---easily provisioned through Greece---with the Greek, Serbian, Roumanian, and Bulgarian armies, amounting to a million and a half men; what would that have meant? It would have meant not only saving the gallant Serbian army, but bringing the war to a quick decision."
"Why did not Russia come to the help of Serbia, according to you, general?"
"Same game! Russia wants Serbia to be a vassal state. If we had all gone in, in the way I have suggested, we should have gone in on an equal footing---not for vague promises of 'important concessions.' Have you met Colonel Metaxas yet?"
"When you see him, even though you are not a military man, you will understand that he is a great soldier. His plans for taking the Dardanelles were brushed aside by the English as if they had been made by a crank. Those plans were not only perfect, but they were the only ones that could have succeeded. We asked for the command down here: that is why they would not accept our plans. Yet if Colonel Metaxas had been given the command and his plan had been followed, we could have taken Constantinople with comparatively small losses. They cast our plans aside, and followed their own ---and their men died like mosquitoes, and then they ignominiously gave up the whole thing. Now they are in Salonica, and General Sarrail is in command. What does he know of the country? And how do you think the French and the English are standing the climate?"
He glanced into his brown leather book again, but did not give me the figures.
"They refused us as allies, so that they might cheat us, and death has taken his toll of them."
General Dousmanis bent over and opened the lowest drawer of his desk and brought forth a new pile of maps. He opened them and showed them to me, one after the other. They were beautiful ones, with every mountain, every ridge, every river, every brook, every road and path marked on them.
"There is not a part of the Balkans I have not made maps of," he went on. "We know these lands, and we know how to fight in them. General Sarrail is in command, and what has he done? After his defeat at Krivolak, if it had not been for our army, his would have been cut to pieces. We saved it. We told the Bulgaro-Germans that if they went a step farther we should attack them."
"Why did you not say that to them when they took the Rupel forts?"
"We had completed our arrangement with Germany by then."
Fig. 21. General Sarrail.
Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Army in Macedonia.
His casual reply took my breath away. Then a torrent of questions rushed into my brain---questions that for once in my life I was able to keep unasked. So there had been an "arrangement" with Germany---and it had not been in existence at the time of the battle of Krivolak! Where had this arrangement been consummated, and when?
Not a word of all this did I utter, and I flatter myself that General Dousmanis saw nothing in my expression to lead him to guess that I had just heard the most important words that had reached my ears since coming to Greece. Could I have induced him to speak at this time by skillful questioning? I believe not.
"If Germany does not throw General Sarrail into the sea! "General Dousmanis was continuing, "it will be a political blunder. She can do it whenever she thinks it advisable. Or if she does not do that, there are other means she can employ in Salonica. But there is no hurry. General Sarrail does nothing---he can do nothing. Do you know what they say about him here in Athens?"
"That he and King Constantine are the only two men in this war who will never break their neutrality."
I laughed at the mot. " But why will not King Constantine come out of his neutrality?" I asked.
"Because in the beginning the Allies did not think it worth their while, and now it is too late."
"Why is it too late?"
He considered for a minute whether to answer me or not. Then I could see that he decided against answering. Instead he asked: --
"Why did you say to the newspaper men that France and England were the friends of Greece?
"Because France and England stand for democracy, and so does Greece."
The word " democracy" acts like inflaming poison to General Dousmanis. He pointed one fat finger at me.
"That is what is ruining Greece. Democracy! Nothing can be achieved through democracy. Any demagogue can carry the crowd with him. If it were not for our efforts Venizelos would have excited the mob and Greece would have been in the war on the side of your friends."
"But, general, you yourself said that you were willing to go with them."
"As allies, with a full right to speak in the final conference---yes. Venizelos would have gone in as a private, and he would have counted as much as a private counts with the General Staff."
For several mornings I worked with General Dousmanis. His mentality was as interesting as any I had yet encountered in Greece. The tone of his arguments never varied. He never changed his point of view. He never vacillated, never doubted but that his was the only stand to take.
"But, general, cannot you, for the sake of Greece, face the possibility of an Entente triumph, and plan also for that eventuality?" I once asked.
"No," he replied, " I cannot suppose it. A strong man traces out his course and follows it. He cannot afford to conceive the possibility of any other than his own way being right if he is to reach his goal."
"Supposing that at the end he comes against a stone wall?"
"Then he will break his head against it, that is all."
"But, general, for one minute take my point of view, and suppose that the Entente will win."
"Well, then," he replied contemptuously, "if your Entente wins, the King is lost; if Germany wins, or if there is a paix blanche, Venizelos is lost." And this was the nearest I could ever get to have him envisage the possibility of democracy winning against autocracy.
Among the opinions General Dousmanis expressed was this: that France was a country of superb individuals, whose individualities clashed, and who could never work together; while Germany was a country of intelligent mediocrities, who could all work harmoniously together in following out an agreed plan.
With General Dousmanis I took up the paramount question, which I had taken up with every Royalist, and to which I had never yet received an adequate answer.
"There are two reasons, general, for which a nation mobilizes her army: First, to make war; second, to defend her neutrality. Greece mobilized ostensibly to go to Serbia's aid if she should be attacked by Bulgaria. Yet when Bulgaria did attack her, Greece did nothing."
"We could not defend Serbia, because Germany had sent word to us through our Minister in Berlin that she had eight hundred thousand troops in readiness for us if we should show ourselves hostile to her."
"Then you failed to fulfill your obligations because you were afraid?" I asked.
"We were not the only allies of Serbia. She had France, England, Russia, and Italy. They could have come to her rescue."
"They could not. But you were next door to her. Your army was mobilized. Yet you refused to move---to save your skins. Is that it?"
The dark countenance of General Dousmanis became even darker; yet he answered with a shrug: --
"If you like to put it that way."
"That is the way the world puts it, general. Now, then, Greece mobilized, but did not go to war. When Bulgaria took Fort Rupel, Greece did not defend her neutrality. Why then did she mobilize in the beginning, since she meant neither to go to war, nor to defend her neutrality? Can you give me an answer to that which will satisfy an enemy world? "
"We mobilized in the beginning because we were afraid that Bulgaria might invade our territory."
"Then why didn't you defend Fort Rupel when she did invade your territory?"
"To begin with, those Rupel forts were not at all as important as they make out. And then we had received guarantees from Germany, by that time, that neither she nor her allies would keep Greek territory, except during hostilities, as this was necessary for military purposes."
"And what did you promise to Germany in return for these guarantees of hers?"
But Germany does not give something for nothing. You must have promised her something."
General Dousmanis looked me straight in the eyes.
"Do you think I lie, then?"
As a matter of fact I knew that he lied. Yet, sitting in his study, having eaten of his sweets and drunk his Turkish coffee, I had not the nerve to tell him so. Also it would not have been profitable, for it would have been the end of our interviews. It was a pure case of Teutonic diplomacy. Dousmanis knew quite well that I knew he was lying; and yet because he could bully me out of saying so, he considered his point won.
Although Colonel Metaxas is generally considered to be the ablest of the men around King Constantine, he did not make as strong an impression on us as did several other men. He is a plump little man of an ordinary dark type. He was educated in Germany, where he was called "the little Moltke," and it is said that on one occasion the Kaiser threw his arm around Metaxas's shoulder, and said to King Constantine: " If I had five men like him, I would conquer the world." August, 1914, is sinister proof that the Kaiser considered he had the five Metaxases.
In spite of his German education, Colonel Metaxas did not consider Germany invincible in the beginning, nor was he absolutely wedded to neutrality, as is proved by the work he did over his plans for taking Constantinople, which plans he submitted to the Entente. That these plans were contemptuously pigeon-holed by England---Churchill is usually credited with this act---must surely be ranked among the important blunders committed by the Entente in the Near East. (On our return to England we wrote to Mr. Churchill and asked to see him, to verify the statements made about him. He made three appointments, only to be obliged to break them, owing to important Cabinet meetings or to being called away to Paris. Unfortunately our own sailing prevented a fourth attempt.)
Colonel Metaxas heartily hated the Entente when we saw him. His attitude seemed to me prompted, not by a love for Germany, as was Streit's, nor by a short-sighted, myopic love of Greece, as was Dousmanis's, but by personal feelings of animosity. He felt that he had been slighted; that he had within him the power of a great strategist, and that his power was contemned and unappreciated. And because of this personal bias, he absolutely believed in the sinister interpretations given by General Dousmanis and by Dr. Streit to all the blunders of the Entente.
The colonel is the youngest of the men around the King, and looks even younger than his age. He is a soldier and nothing else. He is very German in appearance, owing to the military stiffness of his manners, and although not bad-looking, he lacks the attractiveness which is the portion of the larger part of the Greek officers. We worked with him for three days in succession. Like General Dousmanis, he was always dressed in mufti, and also like the general he impressed us with his lack of affability.
He also brought forth maps, and stated in the most positive words that Greece could not possibly have escaped annihilation had she dared to oppose Germany, and that King Constantine was entirely justified in saving his little country from the fate of Belgium. He also laid stress on Serbia's disdain of Greece during the first months of the war. A military convention, he explained, is good only for one war. Each war must have its separate military convention. "As soon as the war broke out," he continued, "we endeavored to enter into communication with Serbia in order to draw up a new military convention. She paid not the slightest attention to our endeavors. She behaved as if we were of little account to her, now that she was the ally of the Great Powers."
His language was direct and convincing. I don't know whether he thought he spoke the truth or not. Some men of strong prejudices have the power of convincing themselves that black is white, when their animosity is sufficiently aroused. Or it may be that he also possessed the "strong man's power" of only looking at one side of a question.
This was not the first time we had met this matter of the military convention between Serbia and Greece. Roughly speaking, it was a working plan for whatever campaign was on foot or contemplated. Gounaris had spoken about it at length, showing us the communications that had been addressed to Serbia on the subject and the memoranda of the officer who had gone to Serbia. He had tried to confuse us into thinking it was in effect the treaty itself, and that in neglecting to make a new military convention, Serbia had actually broken the treaty between her and Greece. The truth of the matter is that Serbia, not a very systematic or business-like nation, had been so busy during the first few weeks of the war with other matters that she had simply put it off.
Like General Dousmanis and Dr. Streit, Colonel Metaxas always looked for the worst interpretation of the acts and motives of others..'
He became quite indignant at Serbia's behavior. "When did she turn to us?" he exclaimed. "Only when Russia was nowhere to be seen, and she was facing destruction. Then she cried out to us: 'Come to our help! Let us make a new military convention!' And even at that hour Venizelos sent James Negroponti, of our General Staff, to Serbia, but it was too late."
"Why did you try to make a new military convention? " I asked.
"Because the existing conditions were different from what they had been in 1913, so we had to make a new one."
"But why?" I persisted.
"So that we might know how to place our armies to be of the greatest assistance to each other."
"But why did you wish to assist each other?"
At last Metaxas "caught on" to where my questions were leading him and cleverly tricked me.
"We wished to assist each other, in case Bulgaria and Turkey should attack us both," he replied.
It was an amusing trait of all the Royalists, from the King down, that while vehemently denying that any treaty existed between Serbia and Greece which would be binding in case of a European, as distinguished from a Balkan war, they were always explaining their acts by saying: "Oh, we were obliged to do that, because our treaty with Serbia compelled us to."
The question of the risk of annihilation which Greece would have run had she gone to Serbia's assistance is the one point which has earned for Constantine a great deal of sympathy from the uninstructed public of the Entente countries and America. The Royalist assertion is generally considered to be true, that had Greece gone to Serbia's aid, she would have simply shared her fate without materially helping her.
There is quite another side to the question. Even King Constantine's General Staff was divided on this point---though one never heard this in Athens. Only the pro-German element held that Greece would have been crushed. The others believed that the strength of the natural fortifications of "Old Greece" (of Greece before the last Balkan war), together with the ease of furnishing supplies to the Graeco-Serbian army, and the extreme difficulty of getting supplies to a German army in the Balkans, would have rendered the former invincible. --
Once when Mr. Zaïmis was Premier, the pro-Germans were challenged by Colonel Negroponti to debate the matter before Zaïmis and leave him to be the judge as to who was right. This challenge was never accepted either by Dousmanis and Metaxas or by Zaïmis himself.
"Colonel Metaxas," I asked, "is it true that you were against the Entente from the beginning?"
"Certainly not," was his quick retort. "I wanted to go with them. I made plans for them."
"We were told, however, that later you wanted to attack the Entente?"
"Quite true! I advised our turning against the Entente when they demanded our demobilization." (Colonel Metaxas is the only Royalist who ever admitted to us that at any time he was against the Entente. A special halo envelops him for this admission.)
"What would you have gained by fighting the Entente? " I asked.
"Nothing!" he cried. "With their warships they could have reduced our towns to ashes, but we should have vindicated both our manhood and our independence. We have lost both now."
"Do you believe," we asked him, "that Germany will not be defeated?"
"She cannot be," he said definitely.
"And do you believe that the next move of Germany will be to throw General Sarrail into the sea? "
"She will not have to do that. General Sarrail's army is in a trap. It will starve to death. There are at the present moment one hundred and fifty-two ships in the Bay of Salonica, and not one of them dares come out, on account of the submarines."
This was what Germany was telling the Greeks, and since the blockade prevented any newspapers from reaching Greece, the Greeks naturally believed what they were told. That any member of the "Occult Government," which had its numerous spies in Salonica, should have believed any such fairy tale seems absolutely incredible. Yet Colonel Metaxas spoke with every appearance of sincerity.
Colonel Metaxas's hatred for the Entente was open and undisguised. It was not the same hatred that Dousmanis had for it. One felt that the former was derived from personal ambition that had not been gratified. Had the Entente Powers accepted Greece's first offer to go with them, they might have had Metaxas's absolute devotion; for he would then have seen in the war his great chance in life. In that case I doubt whether Frau Prussia, Dr. Streit, and King Constantine, who were the only people engaged to the cause of Germany from the very start, could have succeeded. It does not seem possible that with the whole country enthusiastically on the side of the Allies, even Queen Sophie and her German gold could have succeeded. Yet what a lot of mischief those German princesses have done to the honor and to the destinies of the countries into which they have married. Noblesse oblige and honesty do not seem to have been a part of the upbringing of these princesses.
During the five and a half weeks of our first stay in Athens we worked eight and sometimes ten hours a day. Political men of all hues of opinion and of all stations would often come and stay until midnight talking over the situation from their divers points of view, until every incident, every bit of by-play became as familiar to us as the faces of actors in a drama. Nor did we limit ourselves to the Greeks; every foreigner --minister, attaché, business or newspaper man---had his side to give, his opinions to unfold.
While working with General Dousmanis in the morning we worked with Mr. Alexander Zaïmis in the afternoon, or vice versa. Mr. Zaïmis is the simplest, and at the same time the most complex, personality in Greece. Universally loved, almost universally respected, there is not a single instance in the terrible three years of Greece's black history in which he has had the courage to look the facts in the face, and to act as those who honor him had a right to expect him to act.
It was a warm March afternoon when we rang the bell of his house for the first time. After the manservant who opened the door had dusted our shoes with his feather duster, we were ushered into a spacious, cool, well-filled library, where the leather-covered furniture harmonized quietly with the thousands of leather-bound volumes. We were hardly seated when a side door opened and for the first time we shook hands with the one man in Athens who personally has given me more hope and more pleasure, more confidence and more disappointment, than any other Royalist.
We liked Mr. Zaïmis that first day and never stopped liking him. Although I know that he has failed Greece, I entertain for him a great affection. He has disappointed me and has not rendered a single great act in the crucial hours of Greece; but I think God is to be blamed for that, and not Mr. Zaïmis.
Fig. 22. Alexander Zaïmis
His mere entrance into the library on that first afternoon filled the room with quietness and repose. Of rather less than the average stature, he looks even smaller, since he does not carry himself erectly; and although not an old man, he gives an impression of age, from his white hair, his slow manner of moving, and his near-sightedness. Well-born, bearing a name that has been respected for generations, he is educated and cultivated to the best degree.
It can well be said of Mr. Zaïmis that honors have been thrust upon him. He has no personal ambitions, no political aims, yet he has always been compelled by circumstances to assume positions he did not aspire to. After King Constantine's brother, Prince George, was forced to leave the Island of Crete, where as High Commissioner he essayed to play the same autocratic role which Constantine, later, all but succeeded in playing in Greece; and where Mr. Venizelos, on a miniature scale, accomplished for democracy what he has recently accomplished in Greece on a greater scale ---there Mr. Zaïmis was appointed to succeed Prince George as High Commissioner of the island. And there he worked in harmony with Mr. Venizelos up to the time when Crete at last became united with the motherland.
We were told that in his testament the late King George, after admonishing his son and heir to remember that he was a constitutional king, advised him to call upon Mr. Zaïmis whenever he was in perplexity. Alas! My poor Constantine only remembered half of this; he forgot that he was a constitutional king, but remembered often to call upon Mr. Zaïmis during the short, stormy, noble, and ignoble years of his reign.
What manner of man, then, is this Mr. Zaïmis, who inspired such confidence in astute King George. He is extremely quiet and slow of speech. In a crowd, unless personally appealed to, he rarely gives his opinion. Alone with you, he will speak and speak well and at length, and now and then his words are vivified by, flashes of a dry, Scotch kind of humor. He looks more like an Anglo-Saxon than a Greek, perhaps because of his blue eyes and his quiet ways. He is as one imagines an old marquis, of a long line of descent, to be. As one talks with him the impression of old age lifts gradually, as if there were veils lifted one by one, revealing a man in the prime of middle life.
After we had shaken hands with him and were all seated, we asked him at once his opinion about the treaty with Serbia.
"It was a Balkan treaty only," he replied unhesitatingly, "and it was phrased 'contre une tierce puissance,' against a third power. Of course I take that to mean against one third power only."
As it was impossible to doubt Mr. Zaïmis's word, we took this as if it were gospel truth. Did he knowingly deceive us? Never for an instant do I believe that he did. He had been out of politics, and had had nothing to do with the making of this treaty with Serbia, and did not know its inner history. Being a good, safe business man, he could not conceive that Greece would have entered into a treaty against so formidable an opponent as Austria, and since Austria was not specifically mentioned, he had taken the word of the King that it was merely a Balkan treaty and had not considered Austria at all.
"Why did you resign, the first time, in November, 1915?" 1 asked.
"Because the King wished to dissolve the Chamber, and I did not wish him to do it. I knew that if he did, it would place Greece and himself badly before the Entente."
"Had he the right to dissolve the Chamber?"
"Technically---yes; but it was a right which he ought to have availed himself of sparingly. He had dissolved the Chamber in February, 1915. after the first resignation of Mr. Venizelos, but then he had the excuse that it had been elected before the war. The Chamber elected in June, 1915, could not be dissolved without grave consequences."
Here is where Mr. Zaïmis lacked the force to fight the "Occult Government," which was backing the King in his dissolution of the Chamber. Had he stood up against the King, the nation would have supported him, and it is very doubtful whether King Constantine would have dared to defy him and the Greek people. But instead of standing at his post, fighting for the constitution of Greece, and becoming another Venizelos, ---he resigned! If it was wrong to dissolve the Chamber under his premiership, it was wrong to dissolve it at all. How can a public man salve his own conscience for a move he knows to be wrong, by simply resigning and saying he will have nothing to do with it---instead of staying and fighting it? There are two ways of being implicated in a bad action, the direct and the indirect. Mr. Zaïmis directly was not implicated in the dissolution of that Chamber which marked the beginning of the degradation of Greece: indirectly he certainly was. Had he stood at his post and refused to dissolve the Chamber, he would have stayed the hand of Constantine; Fort Rupel would not have been surrendered, and later Kavalla and Drama. Directly, Mr. Zaïmis's hands are clean. Indirectly, there is no man in Greece so guilty as he, because he was the only man in Old Greece who could have saved the country. No man in Old Greece had such a following as he, and the King and his creatures would hardly have dared defy him, in spite of the Prussian lady and her Dr. Streit.
That is why Mr. Zaïmis's guilt is greater than that of the others. The King is a Dane; the Queen is a Prussian; Dr. Streit is a German; Dousmanis hates democracy and was ever fighting to establish autocracy; Metaxas, also a lover of autocracy and an admirer of Germany, was really sacrificing Greece because he had been slighted by the Entente. Mr. Zaïmis had none of these excuses. He was a Greek, and of the best. He had nothing to lose, except the favor of the Court, for which he cared little; had he done his duty, he would have become an immortal.
"By resigning, Mr. Zaïmis, did you not fail Greece in her hour of need?" I asked.
"I could not have stayed," he replied. "When a Prime Minister and a King disagree, the Prime Minister must resign. Mr. Venizelos had to resign twice."
"Yet had you fought the King," I put in vehemently, "it would have made a profound impression upon the Greek people. You could have done what no other could. You had no political opponents, and you are universally loved."
"But I could not stay, since the King was determined to dissolve the Chamber.",
"Why was he so determined?"
"It was a Chamber whose majority was Venizelist. The Royalists felt that it was like a plank across a stream. Any time Venizelos wished to turn over the plank, the Royalists would be thrown into the water."
"Yet it had been elected fairly and squarely."
"Was it not unconstitutional, then, to dissolve it for no other reason than that it represented Venizelos's policy? "
"It could not be called unconstitutional, in a way. My resignation, however, gave France, England, and Russia every right to interfere---if they wished to support Venizelos's policy. Apparently they did not wish to do it."
"Had you stayed and fought, do you think that the King would have insisted on the dissolution of the Chamber?"
"I could not stay and fight, because I was not an elected Prime Minister. The King had called me to serve him: the minute I could no longer serve him, I had to go."
"After your resignation, Mr. Skouloudis came to power?"
"Did you approve of his course?"
"I am not a politician. I am the president of the National Bank."
"Above all you are a Greek. Was it not your duty to watch over the interests of Greece? When the Skouloudis Cabinet permitted the Bulgaro-Germans to occupy the Rupel forts, ought you not to have cried out against it?"
"I was told that we could not have defended them."
"Then why did Greece mobilize, if she could not defend a single one of her forts? "
"The King was determined not to go out of his neutrality. Had he defended Fort Rupel, it would have meant war."
"But did he not mobilize in order to defend his neutrality by force of arms?"
"Then why did he not do so? Don't you see, Mr. Zaïmis, how badly Greece is placed before the world? The Swiss mobilized, and the Dutch mobilized, and neither of these was attacked, because the combatants knew that they would defend their neutrality. Is it not possible that Greece had some secret understanding with Germany? Both General Dousmanis and Colonel Metaxas, as well as Dr. Streit and Mr. Gounaris, speak of Germany's 'guarantees' to Greece. What were these guarantees, and in return for what were they given? "
"I don't know any of these things. My Cabinet was a cabinet de service. I had no right to probe into the actions of the King."
"But as a Greek, and as a force in your country's welfare, you certainly had. I am questioning every one of these things because my heart aches for the dishonor of Greece. How can you refrain from questioning?"
We had reached an impasse. Mr. Zaïmis's greatest fault is his lack of courage to face disagreeable facts. He who had been at the head of his country's government three times since the beginning of the war continually answered my questions with "I don't know," when he should have known.
"After Skouloudis's fall, you again succeeded to the premiership?"
"Yes; the King asked me to form a cabinet to demobilize and to hold new elections. I assumed the premiership merely to perform those two acts. The Entente had demanded this demobilization."
"You were still Premier when the Drama-Kavalla districts were abandoned, undefended, to the Bulgaro-Germans?"
"Yes; but we did not abandon them to the Bulgaro-Germans. The Entente had forced us to demobilize, and our army was in the Peloponnesos. The General Staff told me that they had an idea the Bulgaro-Germans might seize those districts, and that I had better inform General Sarrail, so that he could take them first. You see how fair the General Staff was," said honest Mr. Zaïmis. "They wanted General Sarrail to have them, and they let him know beforehand. Why did he not take them? Why did he let the Bulgaro-Germans have the chance?"
Mr. Zaïmis's words were convincing, and like him I felt that the General Staff had acted very fairly in the matter. When we were in Salonica we asked General Sarrail why it was he had disregarded the friendly hint of Mr. Zaïmis, and instead had sent back a decidedly rude message.
General Sarrail laughed. "That Greek General Staff has its own peculiar humor. They had spies all over Salonica, and they knew as well as I that had I occupied Drama-Kavalla at that time I should have been so weakened here that I should have been an easy prey to the enemy. That is the only reason they sent me word; but Mr. Zaïmis believed they acted favorably and magnanimously to me."
General Sarrail did not add, as was the fact, that the Greek General Staff was all the time behaving in the most treacherous way to him, and, while throwing dust in the eyes of Mr. Zaïmis and the rest of the loyal Greeks, was trying to get him into a trap from which there should be no escape. Fortunately, General Sarrail, having already had many examples of their treachery, was on his guard.
"Why did you resign again?" I asked Mr. Zaïmis. "Did you not feel that it was your duty to stay in the Government, since the Entente had trust in you and in no one else in Athens?"
"I could not have stayed. It was impossible for me to stay," Mr. Zaïmis replied, without giving any reason.
"Your going was a crime," I said vehemently; because your going brought Professor Lambros into power, and you know that the premiership of Lambros is as dark as that of Skouloudis."
" I could not have stayed," Mr. Zaïmis repeated.
The reasons which Mr. Zaïmis did not give us we learned in Salonica from Mr. Politis, Mr. Venizelos's Minister of Foreign Affairs. He said that Zaïmis could not stay because he realized that his position at the head of the Government was a mockery, and that his orders were not being carried out. While he was the responsible head, it was the "Occult Government" which really ruled. Once more Mr. Zaïmis preferred to guard his own good name rather than fight for that of Greece. To be fair to him, I don't believe he sees it this way. He merely felt that there was no use in his remaining Premier when there was a hidden force which worked against him behind his back. Moreover, he and M. Guillemin, the French Minister, did not get along together, and being harassed on all sides, and not being a fighter, he saw no alternative except to resign.
It is odd that during our stay in Athens and Salonica, I found myself in strong sympathy with three men of widely divergent personalities: the infernal Dousmanis, the quiet and lovable Zaïmis, and the great Repoulis, in Salonica. With Dousmanis the link was the conviction that the Great Powers were not to be trusted: the past had taught us that they would sacrifice little nations without remorse. With Zaïmis it was the conviction that Germans, Bulgars, and citizens of one of the Entente Powers underhandedly did many acts---supposedly done by the Greeks---in order to embroil Greece with the Allies and place her in an unfavorable light before them. Mr. Zaïmis gave me instance after instance which happened while he was Prime Minister, only, as he asked me not to make use of them during the war, I cannot give them here, much as I should like to. They would shed a light on the Greek situation that is much needed. My other link of sympathy with Mr. Zaïmis was the fear we shared for the integrity of Greece; for I must confess that under the influence of General Dousmanis I had become afraid ---and how could I help it when Englishmen and Frenchmen in Greece who ought to know told me that the Entente was not sure of giving Salonica back to Greece? A French personage of great importance gave me the excuse that King Constantine had told him that he could not defend it against Bulgaria.
I might have replied that France alone could not defend herself against Germany; yet would that be any excuse for England or America to take a slice of France? The reason I did not say this to him was because I could not make even a slight detrimental remark against a nation that has shown herself, in this war, sans peur et sans reproche. The world is now discovering the sublimity of France. Most Greek children are born with that discovery in their hearts, and although I was sorely tried by the French in Greece, France was still my beloved. I could not speak unkindly of her even for the sake of Greece, and I was rewarded; for on our return to Paris we had the supreme happiness of listening to M. Painlevé, who was kind enough to receive us twice in the Ministry of War. There he spoke of Greece with justice, with appreciation, even with love.
"What other nation," he cried, "would have split in two for the sake of an ideal, and have followed a man who was anathematized by his Church, disgraced and persecuted by his King, and to whom we must acknowledge that we, his friends, failed to render adequate support? What other nation of its size could have raised eighty thousand soldiers for a proscribed and forbidden cause? Those who speak against Greece are ignorant and misguided people."
M. Painlevé said much more along the same line. He knew the situation in Greece as well as we, who had just spent so many months studying it. But in Athens, before having seen M. Painlevé, M. Ribot, M. Briand, and M. Clemenceau, before having spoken with many other great Frenchmen, and influenced by General Dousmanis, Dr. Streit, and others, I was afraid that France was aiming at the independence of Greece.
That same fear for his country ought to have inspired Mr. Zaïmis with added force to act. Instead he accepted the version of affairs given by the King and the "Occult Government," and sat with hands folded while the honor and the interests of Greece were being dragged to the depths of degradation.
Chapter V. Was Constantine a Coward?