Brussels, October 14, 1914.---We are quite up in the air about what we-are to do next. Monday afternoon I went around to headquarters to get a laisser-passer to take Harold Fowler back to England. While the matter was being attended to, an officer came in and told me that Baron von der Lancken wanted very much to see me. When I went into his room, he said that there was nothing in particular that he wanted to see me about, but that he thought I would he interested in hearing the news and in telling him something of my trip. We talked along for some time about things in general, and then he told me that the movement of troops toward the coast was progressing rapidly and that the Belgian Government would soon be driven from the country. Then putting the tips of his fingers together and looking me coyly in the eye, he inquired: "And then my dear colleague, what will be your position?" He elaborated by pointing out that the Government, to which we are accredited, having left the country, we would be merely in the position of foreigners of distinction residing here, and that we would have no official rank or standing. The idea evidently is that they do not care to have us around any longer than they can help.
I later learned that Villalobar had been more ready than I with his retort. In the course of a call later in the afternoon, Lancken. had talked the same matter over with him, and had wound up with the same genial question: "And then my dear colleague, what will be your position?" Without any hesitation, Villalobar replied: "My situation will be just the same as yours. We are both representatives of our country in a country not our own. We shall continue to owe each other respect, and to make the best of conditions."
The latest news we have this afternoon is to the effect that the Government has been driven from Ostend, presumably to the Isle of Guernsey. It would be pleasant, in a way, to retire to a retreat of that sort for a few months' rest, but I fear there is nothing of that sort in store.
To-day I ran across an order from the Governor-General forbidding civilians to ride bicycles. The order concludes as follows:
Civilians who, in spite of this, continue to ride bicycles, expose themselves to being shot by German troops.
If a cyclist is suspected of planning to damage railroad, telegraph or telephone lines, or of the intention of attacking German troops, he will be shot according to martial law.
Apparently it is no longer necessary to go through the forms of proving that the cyclist had any evil intention. The mere suspicion is enough to have him shot.
In the course of a visit to General von Lüttwitz to-day, one of the colleagues remarked that the Germans must keep the Belgians alive, and could not allow them to starve. Lüttwitz was not at all of that mind, for he said with some show of feeling:
"The allies are at liberty to feed the Belgians. If they don't, they are responsible for anything that may happen. If there are bread riots, the natural thing would be for us to drive the whole civil population into some restricted area, like the Province of Luxembourg, build a barbed wire fence around them, and leave them to starve in accordance with the policy of their allies."
And as the German policy is more or less frankly stated as a determination to wipe out as many of the enemy as possible without regard to what is or has been considered as permissible, it is quite within the realm of possibility that they would be prepared to let the Belgian people starve. In any event, you can't gamble with the lives of seven millions of people when all you have to go on is the belief that Germany will be guided by the dictates of humanity.
Fowler was to have left yesterday morning, and had engaged a seat in a new motor that is being run out by way of Maestricht. It was to have called at my house at seven o'clock yesterday morning, and we were up and about bright and early. We waited until a little after nine, when Eugène turned up to say that the chauffeur had been arrested and put in jail for having carried correspondence and having been caught nosing around one of the forts at Liège. The service is now suspended, and we don't see any prospect of his getting off before Friday, when we are sending a courier to the Legation at The Hague.
Yesterday afternoon we went up to Antwerp to see how our old motor-car was getting along. It was out of whack, and we were obliged to get another to come back to Brussels. I took the big car and organised an expedition of Monsieur de Leval, Fowler and a German official named Conrad, who went along to help us over the rough places. It is the first time for weeks that the direct route has been feasible.
I have had enough of ruined towns, and was not able to get the awful sights out of my head all night, but spent my time in bad dreams. From Vilvorde right into Antwerp there is not a town intact. Eppeghem, Sempst, Malines Waehlem, Berchem---all razed to the ground. In Malines a good part of the town is standing and I suppose that the Cathedral can be restored, but the other towns are done for. There were practically no civilians in any of them---a few poor peasants poking dismally about in the ruins, trying to find some odds and ends that they could save from the general wreck. There were some children sitting on the steps of deserted houses and a few hungry dogs prowling around, but no other signs of life. All the way from the outskirts of Brussels straight through to Antwerp, the road was lined with empty bottles. They gave a pretty good idea of what had gone on along the line of march.
The bombardment of Antwerp lasted from the afternoon that we left up to Friday noon. The damage is pretty evenly distributed. Houses here and there in every street were badly smashed and the whole block across the street from the Hôtel St. Antoine, where we stayed, was burned to the ground. The Cathedral was not damaged.
When we were there last week, the streets were thronged with people and with motors. Yesterday there was not a soul to be seen for blocks together. The town was practically deserted.
The garage where I had left my car had been taken over by the military authorities. The car was put away on the second floor undamaged, but also unrepaired, so we shall have to wait until things settle down a little and---we can get some work done. I shall have to go back to Antwerp a little later and attend to that. There is some comfort in the fact that the car has not been smashed.
This morning the Committee for the Provisioning of Brussels came in, and asked whether I was prepared to go to London for them and endeavour to arrange for some sort of permanent agreement with the British Government for the provisioning of the civilian population of Belgium. I am willing.
In the course of some errands this afternoon, I dropped in on Baronne Lambert for a cup of tea. The Baron came in and then Villalobar. About two minutes later, Lambert was called out of the room to speak with a German officer, who demanded that he accompany him to headquarters. Villalobar went with him to see what was up, and I stayed behind to see if I could be of any use. We stood by for a little over half an hour, and then when Mme. Lambert could stand it no longer, I jumped in my car and went down to see what was happening. I found Villalobar on the sidewalk, getting into his car. He was depressed and said that he had been obliged to leave the Baron with the Germans; that he was suspected of nobody would say what, and that the Germans were going to search the house. I went back and had them all ready for the shock of the invasion. They were standing by for the search party, when in walked the Baron, smiling broadly. They had sent him home under guard of two armed men, and were to search the house in the course of a few minutes. While he was telling about it, two officers arrived, profusely apologetic, and asked to be shown over the Red Cross hospital, which had been installed on the ground floor. They were taken all through the place, and found only a lot of German soldiers carrying off the beds and other belongings. Then they searched the Baron's private office and that of his son, and withdrew after more excuses.
There was nothing to show for the whole performance, and nothing had been accomplished beyond making a lot of people nervous and apprehensive. That is the sort of thing that everybody is subject to these days, without any hope of redress. And, of course, this was the least serious thing that could happen.
On board S.S. "Princess Juliana," off Dover, Sunday, October 19, 1914.---Here we are again, coming into England in rain and fog. Up to the last minute, I was in great doubt as to whether we should come at all, but everything was finally straightened out and here we are.
Friday we spent in hard work, aggravated with many conferences. In the morning most of the German civil and military Government came to the Legation and discussed the food question with the members of the Committee, the Spanish Minister and ourselves. They all united in asking that I go to London and lay the situation before the Belgian Minister, the Spanish and American Ambassadors and, under their chaperonage, before the British Government. When this had been agreed to, some bright soul suggested that I be accompanied by a commission of fifteen prominent Belgians, to add impressiveness to what I had to say. The two Ministers rose up and said no, adding that as I was to do the work, and bear the responsibility in going on this mission of forlorn hope, I should not be hampered by having to carry the weight of fifteen speech makers. That was knocked in the head, and then to show that we were not unreasonable, we asked that two members of the Committee go along. The men chosen were Baron Lambert and Monsieur Francqui, one of the leading bankers. of Brussels and a man of poise and judgment. They expressed reluctance but were soon persuaded.
This morning, during a call at the Political Department, the talk turned on Mexico. I was asked what the President was driving at, and answered that he was clearly trying to give the Mexicans every opportunity to solve their own troubles without interference. I was then asked, rather slyly, whether the President really wanted them to settle their troubles. Without waiting to hear my answer, the oracle went on to tell me what our real policy was as he saw it, and he had no doubts. The President wanted to take Mexico, but was intelligent enough to realise that if he simply seized it, he would forfeit any claim he might have to disinterestedness, and our Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy could not swallow that. Therefore, he was deliberately allowing the Mexicans to drift into a hopeless condition of anarchy, which he knew would get steadily worse, until all the best and most prosperous elements in the country would come to the conclusion that they would be happier and safer under American rule than under the uncertain despotism of changing factions. The President could then yield to their entreaties, and could take over the government of Mexico as a humanitarian service to the people.
I made a feeble attempt to explain what our real feelings were toward Mexico, but it soon became evident that we could not think in the same terms, so I gave up. There was no criticism expressed or implied. On the contrary, there was evidence of real admiration of the President's technique.
The rest of the day was spent in getting ready letters and telegrams and other papers necessary in our work.
Fowler and I dined at the Lambert's, finished up our work at the Legation, and got to bed at midnight. We got up yesterday morning at half-past three, and at half-past four set sail in three motors---one filled with servants and mountains of small baggage.
We sped in the dark through ruined villages to Antwerp, and from there to Esschen on the Dutch frontier, which we reached soon after daylight. We had papers from the Dutch Legation, calling upon the customs authorities to let us pass, but a chuckle-headed douanier would not even read our papers, and held us up for an hour, while he made out papers of various sorts and collected a deposit on our cars. I expostulated in vain, and shall have to get my comfort from making a row later. As a consequence of his cussedness, we missed the morning boat train to Flushing, and had to spend the day in that charming city. We found the place filled with refugees from all parts of Belgium, and were greeted on every hand by people we knew. The hotels were filled to overflowing, and people were living in freight cars, sheds and on the sidewalk. We clung to chairs in the reading room at one of the hotels, and walked the streets until nine o'clock, when we got aboard the boat with eight hundred other people. Cabins were not to be had for love or money, but Francqui, by judicious corruption, got us a place to sleep, and we slept hard, despite the noise, which was tremendous.
London, October 20, 1914.---Here we are, much cheered up by the prospect.
We hammered hard yesterday and to-day, and this afternoon it looks as though we had secured the permission of the British Government to send food to our people in Belgium.
We got into Folkstone at 4 o'clock on Sunday, were passed immediately by the authorities, and then spent an hour and a half waiting for our train to pull out. We got into darkened London about a quarter of eight. We sat around and visited beyond our usual hours, and yesterday morning I was called ahead of anybody else, so as to get down to my day's work.
First, I got things started at the Embassy, by getting off a lot of telegrams and running away from an office full of people who, in some mysterious way, had heard I was here. I saw several of them, but as my day was going, I up and ran.
First, to Alfred Rothschild's house in Park Lane, where I found Baron Lambert waiting for me. He was beaming, as his son (serving in the Belgian army) had turned up safe and well before leaving to rejoin his regiment in France.
Next I went to the Spanish Embassy, and gave the Ambassador details of what we wanted. He caught the idea immediately, and has done everything in his power.
When I got back to our chancery, I found that the Ambassador had come in, so I went over the whole business again, and made an appointment for a conference with him for the Spanish Ambassador and my travelling companions
At half-past five we had our conference with the two Ambassadors. They made an appointment with Sir Edward Grey for this afternoon, and went over the situation at some length, to make sure of the details.
In view of its significance this meeting was most impressive to me. It was made up of the two Ambassadors, my two companions, and Herbert Hoover, the man who is going to tackle one of the biggest jobs of the time. He has been studying the situation, the needs of the civil population and the difficulties to be overcome ever since Shaler's arrival several weeks ago. While we could enlighten him in regard to recent developments and matters of detail I was astonished to see how clearly he grasped all the essentials of the situation. He sat still while the rest of us talked but his few remarks were very much to the point, particularly when, in answer to a question, he said very quietly: "Yes, I'll take over the work. I have about finished what I have in hand. Now we can take up this."
October 21st.---The Belgian Government has sent over Monsieur de Berryer, the Minister of the Interior, to discuss the food question and the equally important money question.
I had an early morning note from the Spanish Ambassador and went around to see him.
London is filled with war spirit; not hysterics, but good determined work. The streets are full of singing recruits marching hither and yon---mostly yon. The army must be growing at a tremendous rate; in fact, faster than equipment can be provided, and they are not slow about that.
London, October 23, 1914.---On Wednesday we had things pretty well settled, and had also succeeded in raising from official sources about one hundred and fifty thousand pounds. I took a fair amount of satisfaction in gloating over those who had croaked. Then some helpful soul came along and threw a monkey wrench into the machinery, so that a good part of the work has to be done over again. At any rate, we hope to get, some time to-day, permission to export enough food to serve as a stop gap until the general question can be settled.
Monsieur Francqui and Baron Lambert had to start back this morning to organise the Belgian local committees into one central national affair, and I am to stay on until things are settled one way or the other. That may mean not getting back to Belgium for a week or two more.
For some time I have been threatening to get a dog and yesterday, feeling the need of intelligent canine sympathy, I succumbed. At the Army and Navy Stores, I found a hideous brindle bull that some officer had left on going to the front. He was promptly acquired, and given the name of Max in honour of our Burgomaster. The Stores are to take care of him for me until I return to Belgium.
When I got back to the Embassy, from my visit to the Stores, I found Shaler waiting for me with the news that I was expected at a meeting at Mr. Hoover's office in fifteen minutes, to discuss matters with the committee which is being formed to handle the feeding of the Belgian civil population.
I was surprised to find that I had been made a member of this committee, and was expected to attend. It was a comfort to talk with men who know what they are about and who can make up their minds right the first time. Hoover is a wonder and has the faculty of getting big-calibre men about him. We were not in session more than an hour, but in that time we went over the needs of the Belgian civil population, the means of meeting immediate needs, the broader question of finding food from other parts of the world to continue the work, the problem of getting money from public and private sources to pay expenses, and finally the organisation to be set up in Belgium, England, America and Holland, to handle the work. Before we left a tentative organisation had been established and people despatched on various duties with orders to get things started without loss of time, so that food could be pushed across the line into Belgium at the first possible moment.
It is going to be up-hill work for many reasons, but it would be hard to find a group of men who inspire as much confidence as these that everything possible will be done, and occasionally a little that is impossible.
October 24th.---Yesterday was another busy day. I did not know that the entire population of Belgium could make such a crowd as I have had in the waiting-room of the chancery. In some mysterious way the news of my coming to London has got about, and swarms of people are coming in with little errands they want done and messages to be delivered to their friends and families in Brussels. It makes work, but that sort of thing is a comfort to lots of people and is worth undertaking. I have made it clear to all of them that anything to be delivered will be turned over to the German authorities first, and hope they will govern themselves accordingly.
The British Government has stipulated that the feeding of the civil population shall be carried on by a neutral organisation, under the patronage of the American and Spanish Ambassadors in London and Berlin, and the American and Spanish Ministers in Brussels. The food is to be consigned to the American Minister in Brussels for distribution by the organisation which is to be known as the American Relief Committee, with Hoover as chairman and motive power. The various local Belgian committees are to be grouped together in a national organisation, to assist in the distribution of the foodstuffs once they are delivered inside the Belgian frontier. The members of the Belgian organisation are, of course, prisoners of the Germans and unable to give any effective guarantees as to the disposal of the supplies. The British Government has, therefore, stipulated that all authority and responsibility are to be vested in the American Committee, and that the Belgians are to be regarded simply as a distributing agency. This is, of course, in no sense a reflection of the Belgians engaged on the work, but merely a recognition of the difficulties of their position.
The neutral composition of the Committee assures it a freedom of travel and action, and an independence of political and personal pressure, and a consequent freedom of administration which the Belgians could not hope to enjoy. It is only by the assumption of complete authority and responsibility by the Committee that the patrons will be able to give the various Governments concerned the necessary assurances as to the disposition of foodstuffs and the fulfillment of guarantees.
There is something splendid about the way Hoover and his associates have abandoned their own affairs and all thought of themselves in order to turn their entire attention to feeding the Belgians. They have absolutely cut loose from their business, and are to give their whole time to the work of the Committee. This is done without heroics. I should hardly have known it was done, but for the fact that Hoover remarked in a matter of fact way:
"Of course everybody will have to be prepared to let business go and give their whole time."
And it was so completely taken for granted that there is nothing but a murmur of assent.
Another strenuous day on the food question and other things.
My plans were to leave for Brussels on Monday morning, but in the evening the Ambassador sent for me and it was decided that I should go to Havre and from there to see the King and Queen. That will take me to within a couple of hours from Brussels, according to old calculations, but under present conditions I shall have to get there by way of France, England and Holland.
Hôtel des Régates, Havre, October 26, 1914.---This is the third town where I have paid my respects to the Belgian Government. I would gladly have foregone the experience, for it is depressing.
I left Waterloo station at 9:15 last night. Instead of the usual two-hour run to Southampton, we puttered along and did not arrive until after one. I had a compartment and made myself as comfortable as possible. When we arrived I found poor Colonel Swalm, the Consul, waiting for me. The Ambassador had telegraphed him to see me off, and he did so regardless of the hour. I felt horribly guilty to have him waiting about for me, but it certainly did make things a lot easier.
I got straight to bed, but had a hard time sleeping, as there was a tremendous racket of loading all night long. Nearly all the passengers were British officers on their way to the front. Among the others I found de Bassompierre of the Foreign Office, and a Mr. and Mrs. W-----, who were coming over with a Rolls-Royee, to be presented to the Belgian General Staff. If I go to the front, he will take me. We sailed at daybreak and were here by two o'clock. Our Consul, Osborne, was waiting for me at the dock with Henry Needham, the correspondent of Colliers. I was let straight through the customs, where a woman marked my bag, and then came to this hotel overlooking the sea.
This was the first thing we saw as we came into the harbour. It is in a suburb called Nice Havrais. built by old Dufayel of Paris. It was a curious and pathetic sensation to see the Belgian flags still flying bravely. The different Ministries are set up here, and one villa has been set aside for the King and Queen, who have not yet left Belgian soil. The Legations are all established in this hotel and are bored to extinction, as their work has dropped very much. This little suburb enjoys all the privileges of extraterritoriality, and even the French Minister to Belgium goes through the motions of being accredited to a foreign Government in his country. The cars of the various Legations go buzzing around among the French and Belgian and British cars. The streets are full of troops of the three nations, while some twenty transports ride at anchor in the open roadstead. Fresh troops from England are arriving constantly, and march singing through the town to the camps outside, whence they are sent to the front. There are two British hospitals near this hotel---one of them the Casino---and wounded are everywhere. The place is astonishingly calm, but everybody knows there is a war. The French have their teeth set and are confident of the final outcome. Women are in the custom house, drive the trams, collect the fares and do a hundred other things that are usually out of their line.
I found the hall filled with colleagues, and exchanged greetings with the crowd before going over to the Foreign Office to make my bow. I found Colonel Fairholme packing, and ready to leave this evening for England.
The Foreign Office has a pretty little villa in a pretty little garden and keeps busy. I saw everybody, from Monsieur Davignon down to the porters, and spent an hour and a half there. Then at their request I went to the "Palace" and talked with General Jungbluth. He will try to arrange my business for me by telegraph, and will let me know in the morning whether I am to go up to the front to see the King and Queen.
When I came away from this call, Osborne was waiting for me and took me down to the Consulate for an hour's talk. Then back to the hotel to dine with Sir Francis. After dinner we all went out and bade the Colonel farewell.
Tuesday.---General Jungbluth was waiting for me when I came down this morning, to say that I should go to the front. Osborne was waiting with his car, and took me to the Ministry of War, to ask for a lift to Dunkerque in a military car. As luck would have it, to-day's car had left ten minutes before, so I was put off until to-morrow morning, when I shall go up with the W-------s. I have spent a good part of the day getting my papers in order---both French and Belgian---and in the tiresome occupation of being photographed.
October 28th, Hôtel des Arcades, Dunkerque.---Another one-night stand.
We cleared out of Havre this morning over muddy, and slippery roads. It rained hard all night, and we made good time by way of Fécamp, Dieppe, Eu, Abbeville, Montreuil, Bologne, Marquise, and Calais, getting to Dunkerque a little after four, just in time to smell the smoke of a couple of bombs dropped by an aeroplane across the street from the office of the Prime Minister, upon whom I called.
We began running into big bunches of troops at Abbeville---English, French and Belgian. I saw some of the Indian troops doing sentry duty and looking cold and uncomfortable, and did not blame them, for it was raw and cheerless. The Rolls-Royce is a beauty and sailed along all day like a gondola.
The Prime Minister had set up his office in the Mayor's room at the Hôtel de Ville, which I found in an uproar because of the bombs. The Prime Minister was said to be at Headquarters, at Furnes, across the Belgian frontier, and I was urged to go there to see him. We made twenty-one kilometers there, in time to find that little town in a great state of excitement, because three big shells had come from nobody knew where, and burst by the railroad station.
But the Prime Minister was not there, and it was dark, so we gathered up a guide and set off for la Panne, where the King and Queen are living. Neither of them was there; nobody but a gendarme on duty. The King was off with the troops and the Queen was looking after the wounded, who have overflowed all the hospitals. In the past week---just this one engagement---the Belgians have suffered 12,000 casualties.
The road from Furnes to la Panne and back lay close behind the lines, so that we could hear the steady roar of the fighting and. see the bursting shells, particularly those from the British ships, which made a tremendous flash and roar.
We came on back to town, being stopped every minute by French outposts, and got to this hostelry at seven-thirty. While I was cleaning up, the Prime Minister came in and claimed me for dinner. He had his secretary, Count Lichtervelde, A. B., who is here looking after the wounded, and a couple of officers. And then we talked until the hands dropped off the clock and I was nearly dead for sleep. Then I took A. B. home to her hospital, through the streets darkened for the benefit of Count Zeppelin, and now I am ready for my rest.
I have plans for to-morrow, but shall see what happens to them when I see the Prime Minister in the morning.
October 29th.---Still at Dunkerque.
Another busy and interesting day, and if all goes well, I shall be back in London to-morrow night.
I was up early, did a little writing, and went over to see the Prime Minister, who was waiting for me. Despatched my business with him in short order, to my complete satisfaction. He is a trump, and it is a joy to do business with him, even at a time when he is hounded, as he is now.
He said the King was out with the troops, but had sent in to say he wanted to see me and would come in to headquarters at Furnes at four-thirty for that purpose. The Queen had also sent word in that she wanted to see me. She was busy looking after the wounded, but said she would come to la Panne at four. That suited me, although I was in some doubt as to how I would be able to make connections between the two audiences.
Last night I had talked of going out to look at the fighting, and A. B. had offered to conduct me. I had not taken the offer very seriously, but when I got back to the hotel after seeing the Prime Minister, she was there in a big racing car, with a crack chauffeur, ready for the jaunt. She was in her campaign kit of knickers, with a long rain-coat. and a big knitted cap, and an entrancing boy she made. Mr. and Mrs. W----- had asked to go along, and were in their car with Barbaçon, an aide-de-camp of the Prime Minister. Monsieur de Broqueville came out quite seriously and begged A. B. not to lead me into danger, whereat everybody had a good laugh.
We made quick time to Furnes and drew up before Headquarters, where we learned what was known of the lay of the land and the points of the front we could reach without getting in the way. The Belgians, who had for ten days held the line of the Yser from Nieuport to Dixmude, waiting for reinforcements to come up, had been obliged to fall back to the line of the railroad, which forms the chord of the arc, and had inundated the intervening territory to impede the German advance. French and English troops were being brought up in large numbers to relieve the Belgians, who have lost in killed and wounded nearly a third of the 50,000 men engaged.
While waiting for some definite news to be brought in for us, we climbed to the top of the high tower of the market next the Hôtel de Ville, for a look at the battle line. It was pretty misty, but we could see the smoke of shrapnel and of the big shells from the English ships, which were enfilading the German right.
The staircase up this tower was a crazy thing, with rotten steps and places where two or three steps were missing altogether. It was bad enough going up where we could take hold and pull ourselves up, but it was far worse going down, because we were ordered down in a hurry and all came piling down in a steady stream. There were squeaks and screams at the bad moments, but we did manage to get down without mishap and take stock of ourselves.
We found some German prisoners lying on the straw in the entrance hall, and stopped to speak to them. They said that their troops were very tired from long, hard fighting, but that they had plenty of men. They seemed rather depressed themselves.
By the time we got down, our information had come and we set off through a welter of transport trains, artillery, ambulances, marching troops, and goodness knows what else, in the direction of X----. When we got within a couple of kilometers of the place, an officer stopped us and asked if we knew where we were going. He shrugged his shoulders when we said we did, and let us go straight into it. When we were bowling along about one kilometer from the town, three shells burst at once, about two hundred yards to our left, and we stopped to see what was toward. A hundred yards ahead to the right of the road was a battery of five big guns, and the Germans were evidently trying to get their range. The shells kept falling to the left, near a group of farm-houses, and as some of the spent balls of shrapnel kept rolling around near us, we decided we might as well go and see the big guns from nearer to.
In the shelter of the farm-houses were fifty or sixty men, some of them cooking their lunch, others sleeping, all quite oblivious of the roar of bursting shrapnel and the spattering of the bullets near by. And a few months ago probably any of these men would have been frightened into a fit by a shell bursting in his neighbourhood. It is wonderful how soon people become contemptuous of danger. The horses that were tethered by the roadside seemed to take it all as a matter of course, and munched away at their hay, as though all the world were at peace. A wobbly cart came creaking by with an infantryman, who had had a good part of his face shot away. He had been bandaged after a fashion and sat up blinking at us stupidly as the cart lumbered by, bumping into holes and sliding into ruts.
I was not keen on staying longer than was necessary to see what was there. but W.-----was very deliberate and not to be budged for more than half an hour. We finally got him started by calling his attention to the spent balls, which make a tremendous singing noise, but do no harm. The only really safe thing in the neighbourhood was what did the trick. The Germans were making a furious attack, evidently determined to break the line before the fresh troops could be brought up, and the cannonading was terrific. The whole front as far as we could see in either direction was a line of puffs of smoke from bursting shrapnel and black spouts of earth from exploding shells. The crackle of the mitrailleuses rippled up and down, the whole line. The Belgians were pounding back as hard as they could and the noise was deafening. Finally, when we decided to leave, the officer in command of the battery loaded all five guns at once and fired a salvo for our benefit. The great shells tore away, roaring like so many express trains, and screaming like beasts in agony---a terrifying combination. My ears ache yet. It was getting hotter every minute and the Germans were evidently getting a better idea of the range, for the shells began falling pretty close on the other side, and I was quieter in my mind when we went back to our cars and pulled out of the actual line. We took a road a few hundred yards back, parallel with the lines, and drove along slowly, watching the effect of the shell fire, until we absolutely had to start back for lunch. On the way we stopped at a peasant's hut, and said hello to Jack Reyntiens.
When we got back to the hotel, about half an hour late for lunch, we found the Prime Minister waiting for us. At the door, in addition to the usual sentry, there were two privates of the chasseurs à cheval, one wearing a commander's star of the Legion of Honor. They saluted and smiled, and I bowed and went on in to my meal. They came in after me, still smiling, and I was taxed with not recognising them. They were the Duc d'Ursel and -----, the heads of their respective houses, who had enlisted, and are still fighting as privates. They had just been relieved and were on their way to the rear, where the Belgian army is being reformed and rested.
As soon as we had got through, I had to start back for my audience of the Queen. W.-----took me out to la Panne, where we found the Villa on the sand dunes, a little way back of the lines. There were a couple of gendarmes on duty, the King's Secretary, and the Countess de Caraman-Chimay, the one Lady-in-Waiting. I had just got inside when the door opened and the King came in. He had heard I was coming to see the Queen and had motored down from Furnes. I was able to satisfy him in a few minutes on the points he had wanted to see me about and then he questioned me about friends in Brussels. I suggested to him that it would probably help our committee in raising funds if he would write an appeal for help from America. He fell in with the idea at once, and together we got out an appeal that is to be sent across the water. Where we sat we could see the British ships shelling the Germans, and the windows of the dining-room were rattling steadily. The King stood beside the table with his finger tips resting on the cloth, watching the stuff ground out word by word. I looked up at him once, but could not bear to do it again---it was the saddest face one can imagine, but not a word of complaint was breathed.
Just as we were finishing, the Queen came and bade us in to tea. She was supposed to wait for her Lady-in-Waiting to bring me, but didn't. The King stayed only a minute or two and then said he must be getting back to Headquarters, where he would see me later.
I suggested to the Queen that she, too, make an appeal to the women of America, to which she agreed. Another appeal was prepared for her, and it, too, will be sent to America by the first post.
The Queen had wanted to see me about the subject of surgeons for the Belgian army. The Belgian surgeons in the Brussels hospitals have been replaced by Germans, and have nothing to do, although they are desperately needed here. The Queen was terribly depressed about the condition of the wounded. There are so few surgeons, and such tremendous numbers of wounded, that they cannot by any possibility be properly cared for. Legs and arms are being ruthlessly amputated in hundreds of cases where they could be saved by a careful operation. Careful operations are, of course, out of the question, with the wounded being dumped in every minute by the score. In these little frontier towns there are no hospital facilities to speak of, and the poor devils are lucky if they get a bed of straw under any sort of roof, and medical attendance, within twenty-four hours. We went to see one hospital in a near-by Villa, and I hope I shall never again have to go through such an ordeal. Such suffering and such lack of comforts I have never seen, but I take off my hat to the nerve of the wounded, and the nurses, most of them the best class of Belgian women, used to every luxury and getting none.
The Queen gave me tea, and one of her small supply of cigarettes, and we talked until after dark. The monitors off shore had been joined by a battleship, and the row was terrific and rendered conversation difficult.
The Queen was still full of courage and said that as long as there was one square foot of Belgian soil free of Germans, she would be on it. She said it simply, in answer to a question from me, but there was a big force of courage and determination behind it. As I was not dismissed, I finally took it on myself to go, and the Queen came with me to the door and sent me on my way. She stood in the lighted doorway until I reached the motor, and then turned slowly and went in---a delicate little woman with a lion's heart. Inglebleek and the Countess de Caraman-Chimay came out after we had cranked the car, and gave me messages for their families and friends. It is a pretty hard change for these people, who three months ago were leading such a dull, comfortable life, but they have risen to it with fine spirit.
The King was with his staff, studying the maps and despatches, when I got to Furnes, and I was shown the whole situation---most interesting on the large scale maps that show every farm-house and pathway. I was to go back to Dunkerque with Monsieur de Broqueville, so waited while they discussed the events of the day and plans for to-morrow.
While they talked reinforcements were pouring through the town, with great rumbling of artillery and blowing of trumpets. It was a comforting sound, as it presaged some relief for the Belgians in their heartbreaking stand.
There was comfort in riding back through the night with the Prime Minister. for there was no long examination of papers, etc. When we came to a post, the aide-de-camp would switch on a strong light in the car. the sentries would salute, and on we would go at a great gait.
Seemingly I was boarding with Monsieur de Broqueville, as I was led back to dine with him.
To-morrow I am off to London. Loewenstein, a young Brussels banker, is to take me over in his racing car. which is a useful institution these days. We take along his mother-in-law, Madame Misonne, and A. B.
It means getting up at five to motor to Calais to catch the boat. There the car will be slung aboard, so that we can be whisked up to London without waiting for a train.
On board S.S. "Orange Nassau," North Sea, November 2, 1914.---On Friday morning we were called before dawn, and got under way as per schedule---Loewenstein, Madame Misonne, A. B., and I. We made good time, over slippery roads, to Calais, despite frequent stops to have our papers examined by posts, and got to the dock some twenty minutes before the steamer sailed. The car was hoisted aboard, and we rode across in it. Frederick Palmer was on board, returning in disgust after having been just that far toward the front.
Our suicide wagon was swung off onto the dock without loss of time, and we sped away toward London while our fellow-passengers were doomed to wait for all sorts of formalities. It was a wild ride. At times we were doing as high as one hundred and thirty kilometers an hour over winding English roads, and I was somewhat relieved when I was dropped at the Embassy, safe and sound.
I got off some telegrams about my trip, and was told the Ambassador wanted to see me. Hoover was with him, and I turned over to them the appeals from the King and Queen.
Jack Scranton decided to come back to Brussels with me, to give me a hand in Legation work, and spent the morning packing enough plunder to see him through a siege of three or four years. A. B. came on to London to see her brother who is seriously wounded and in hospital. Now her family want her to return to Brussels and have placed her in my care for the journey.
This morning we had a crowd at the station to see us off. Countess N.-----has also come along, and was entrusted to our care. A. B.'s family was there in force to say good-bye, so altogether the casual observer might have inferred that we were popular.
Brussels, November 5th.---We were met in Flushing by our Consular Agent, who put us through the customs and onto the train.
No motor was waiting for us at Rosendaal, and we had a hard time getting shelter for the night. Finally we succeeded in getting a room for the two women in a little, third-rate hotel, and Jack and I slept on the floor of a sitting-room in the little Hôtel Central. I was so dog-tired that I slept like a log, wrapped up in my fur coat.
While we were having coffee, M. de Leval came up in my little car. He had been to Rotterdam in connection with the first shipment of food, and thought he would find me alone. He had bought a lot of gasoline in Breda, to be called for, so we could take no luggage. We found another car leaving for Brussels at noon, and loaded it up with Countess N.,-----Jack and the luggage, while M. de L. and I took A. B. and the mail bags, and started by way of Breda. We came through Aerschot and stopped for a stretch and to look about.
We walked about the streets for a time, and stopped in a shop to ask for a drink of water. After giving it to us, the proprietor asked if we would like to see the state the Germans had left things in. He led us back into his living quarters, opened a door bearing an inscription to the effect that it was an officers' mess, and let us in. I never have seen a more complete mess. Everything in the place was smashed, and the whole room was filthy. The officers had left only a few days before and had taken pains to break everything before they went. Obscene remarks were chalked on the walls, and the pictures were improved with heavy attempts at fun. I always used to think that the term "officer and gentleman" was redundant, but now I begin to understand the need for it.
Aerschot was partially destroyed on August 19th and 20th. The Germans claim that their commanding officer was shot by the son of the Burgomaster. The Belgians claim that he was struck by a stray bullet fired at random by one of his own men in the marketplace. However that may be, the whole place was instantly in an uproar, and quiet was not restored until the town a been sacked and over one hundred and fifty people killed, among them women and children. The Burgomaster and his son and a priest were among those shot and buried outside the Louvain gate. One of those taken to the place of execution was spared on condition that he should go to Louvain to tell of what had happened.
Louvain has been cleaned up a lot, and we stopped there only long enough to have our passes examined at Headquarters, getting back a little before six to a warm welcome.
The other motor was due at six, but did not come, and after waiting up till midnight, I turned in. Jack bobbed up yesterday at noon. The car had been stopped at the frontier because several of the passengers had not proper papers. Jack threw out his chest and insisted on being taken to Antwerp to see the Military Governor. His passport, as bearer of despatches, did the business, and they were allowed to proceed under armed guard. They were kept overnight in the Hôtel Webber, and then Jack and Mine. N----- were allowed to come on to Brussels in the car, while the others were detained.
Marshal Langhorne came in to-day from The Hague to effect formal delivery of the first bargeload of food, and had weird tales to tell of his adventures by the way. Thank goodness, the first of the food has arrived in time, and if the flow can be kept up, the worst of our troubles will he averted.
With this first consignment of food came the story of how it was got through in such record time. Hoover is one of these people who is inclined to get things done and attend later to such details as getting formal permission, etc.
With Shaler's forty thousand pounds and promises of five hundred- thousand dollars more, he went to work and placed orders for twenty thousand tons of food, costing two million dollars a week. This he did on the theory that money would come along later, when the need was realised, but that the Belgian stomachs would not wait until collections had been made. He purchased the food, got it transported to the docks, and loaded on vessels that he had contrived to charter, while all the world was fighting for tonnage, got them loaded and the hatches closed.
When everything was ready, Hoover went to the proper authority and asked for permission to ship the food, announcing that unless he could get four shiploads of food into Belgium by the end of the week, the people would begin to starve. The functionary was sympathetic, but regretted that in the circumstances, he could not help. It was out of the question to purchase food. The railways were choked with troops, munitions and supplies. Ships were not to be had for love or money. And above all, the Channel was closed to commerce.
Hoover heard him patiently to the end.
"I have attended to all this," he said. "The ships are already loaded and ready to sail. All I need from you is clearance papers. You can let me have them, and everything will be all right."
The high official could hardly believe his ears:
"Young man," he gasped, "perhaps you don't realise what you have done. Men have been sent to the Tower for less. If it were for any other cause, I hesitate to think what would happen to you. But as it is, I can only congratulate you on some very good work."
And that's how we got our food in time.
Fines are being imposed on towns on one pretext or another. The other day two policemen got into a controversy with a German secret-service agent who did not explain who he was, and got a good thumping for doing various things that a civilian had no business to do. This morning von Lüttwitz comes out with this proclamation:
On the 28th of October, 1914, a legally constituted court martial pronounced the following sentences:
(1) The policeman De Ryckere for having attacked, in the legal exercise of his duties, an authorised agent of the German Government, for having deliberately inflicted bodily hurt in two instances with the aid of other persons, for having aided in the escape of a prisoner and for having attacked a German soldier, was condemned to five years' imprisonment.
(2) The policeman Seghers for having attacked, in the exercise of his legal duties, an authorised agent of the German Government, for having deliberately inflicted bodily hurt on this German agent, and for having aided the escape of a prisoner (all these offences constituting one charge), was condemned to three years' imprisonment.
The sentences were confirmed on October 31st by the Governor-General, Baron von der Goltz.
The city of Brussels, not including its suburbs, has been punished for the injury by its policeman De Ryckere to a German soldier, by an additional fine of Five Million Francs.
The Governor of Brussels,
BARON VON LÜTTWITZ,
Brussels, November 1, 1914.
Last night we dined at Ctesse. N-----'s to celebrate everybody's safe return.
Brussels, Sunday, November 8, 1914.---Barges of food are beginning to come in, and we have the place filled with people with real business concerning the food and a lot of the usual "halo-grabbers" anxious to give advice or edge into some sort of non-working position where they can reap a little credit.
We are put on German time to-day.
On November 4th the Governor-General came out with a proclamation ordering that German money be accepted in all business transactions. It is to have forced currency at the rate of one mark to one franc, twenty-five centimes. As a matter of fact, it is really worth about one franc, seven centimes, and can be bought at that rate in Holland or Switzerland, where people are glad enough to get rid of their German money. Any shop refusing to accept German paper money at the stipulated rate is to he immediately closed, according to the Governor's threat.
Brussels, November 9, 1914.---Late in the afternoon Jack and I took Max for a run in the Bois. While we were going across one of the broad stretches of lawn, an officer on horseback passed us, accompanied by a mounted orderly. To our surprise the orderly drew his revolver and began waving it at us, shouting at the same time that if that dog came any nearer, he would shoot him down. The officer paid no attention, but rode on ahead. I started after them on foot, but they began to trot and left me in the lurch. I ran back to the motor, overtook them, and placed the car across their path. The officer motioned his orderly to go ahead, and then let me tackle him. He took the high ground that I had no reason to complain since the dog had not actually been shot, not seeming to realize that peaceable civilians might have legitimate objections to the promiscuous waving of revolvers. He declined to give his name or that of the soldier, and I gave up and let him ride on after expressing some unflattering opinions of him and his kind to the delight of the crowd that had gathered. They did not dare say anything direct, but as I got back into the car they set up a loud "Vive l'Amérique." The officer looked peevish and rode away very stiff and haughty. Of course, since he refused to give his name, there was no getting at him, and I was free to be as indignant as I liked.
The Germans are tightening up on the question of travel in the occupied territory, and we are now engaged in a disagreeable row with them over passes for the Legation cars. They want to limit us in all sorts of ways that make no difference to them, but cut down our comfort. They will probably end by giving us what they want; but when it is all done we shall have no feeling of obligation, having been forced to fight for it.
Brussels, November 14, 1914.---On the morning of the 10th, I came down to the Legation and found things in an uproar. A telegram had been received saying that two trainloads of food, the first shipment for the Province of Liège, would cross the frontier in the course of the afternoon, under convoy of Captain Sunderland, our Military Attaché at The Hague. The Minister and I are the only people authorized to receive shipments; and, as no power of attorney had been sent to the Consul at Liège, things were in a nice mess; and, at the request of the German authorities and the Committee, it was decided that I should go down, receive the stuff and make arrangements for its protection and for the reception of future shipments. The German authorities were so excited about my being there to head off any trouble that they hustled me off on an hour's notice without any lunch. I contrived to get Jack's name put on the laisser-passer, so that he could go along and see a little something of the country. Joseph, the Legation butler, was wild to go along as far as his native village to see his aged ma, whom he had not seen since the beginning of the war, and he rode on the front seat with Max who was much delighted to get under way again.
Jack was thrilled with the trip, and nearly fell out of the car going through Louvain and the other ruined villages along the way. As we were in such a rush, I could not stop to show him very much; but in most of these places no guide is needed. Louvain has been cleared up to a remarkable extent,, and the streets between the ruined houses are neat and clean. On my other trips I had had to go around by way of Namur, but this time we went direct; and I, got my first glimpse of Tirlemont and St. Trond, etc.
When we reached Liège we went straight to the Consulate without pausing to set ourselves up at a hotel, but found that nothing was known of Captain Sunderland or his food trains. Thence to the German headquarters where we inquired at all the offices in turn and found that the gentleman had not been heard from. By the time we got through our inquiries it was dark; and, as we had no laisser-passer to be out after dark, we had to scuttle back to the hotel and stay.
In the morning the Consul and I started off again to see what had become of our man. We went through all the offices again, and as we were about to give up, I found Renner, who used to be Military Attaché of the German Legation here, and is now Chief of Staff to the Military Governor. He cleared up the mystery. Sunderland had arrived about the same time I did, but had been taken in hand by some staff officers, dined at their mess, and kept busy until time for him to be off for Maestricht. He was, however, expected back in time to lunch at the officers' mess. He was also expected to dine with them in the evening. I left word that I wanted to see him and made off to get in touch with the members of the local committee and make arrangements as to what was to be done with the food. We sat and waited until nearly dark, when I decided to go out for a little spin. I gathered Jack and the Consular family into the car and went for a short spin.
After losing our way a couple of times we brought up at the Fort of Chaudefontaine, which was demolished by the Germans. It is on top of a veritable mountain and it took us some time to work our way up on the winding road. When we got there the soldiers on guard made no trouble and told us that we could mouse around for fifteen minutes. We walked out to the earthworks, which had been made by the Belgians and strengthened by the Germans, and then took a look at the fort itself, which was destroyed, and has since been reconstructed by the Germans. They must have had the turrets and cupolas already built and ready to ship to Liège, for the forts are stronger than they ever were before and will probably offer a solid resistance when the tide swings back, unless, of course, the allies have by that time some of the big guns that will drop shells vertically and destroy these works the way the German 42's destroyed their predecessors. It was very interesting to see and hard to realise that up to three months ago this sort of thing was considered practically impregnable.
When we got back we found that our man had come and had left word that he could be found at the Café du Phare at six o'clock. We made straight for that place, and found him. I made an appointment with him for the first thing next morning, and went my way.
I was bid to dine with the German Military Governor and his staff, but told Renner that since we were accredited here to the Belgian Government, accepting German hospitality would certainly be considered as an affront. He saw the point, and did not take offence, but asked me to come over after dinner for a talk and bring Jack along, the which I promised to do. While we were dining, a soldier with a rifle on his shoulder strode into the dining-room and handed me a paper; great excitement, as everybody thought we had been arrested. The paper was a pass for us to circulate on the streets after dark, so that we could go over to the headquarters. It was written on the back of a menu in pencil. Although dinner was over the entire mess was still gathered about the table discussing beer and Weltpolitik. At the head of the table was Excellenz Lieutenant-General von Somethingorother, who was commanding a German army on the eastern front when they got within fifteen miles of Warsaw. After being driven back he had an official "nervous breakdown," and was sent here as Governor of the Province of Liège---quite a descent, and enough to cause a nervous breakdown. There was another old chap who had fought in the Franco-Prussian war and had not yet quite caught up with this one. I foregathered with Renner and got my shop talk done in a very short time. Then everybody set to to explain to us about the war and what they fought each other for. It was very interesting to get the point of view, and we stayed on until. nearly midnight, tramping home through a tremendous downpour, which soaked us.
The next morning at eleven I met Sunderland. We saw the Governor and the Mayor and Echevins, and talked things out at length. I had to collect a part of the cost of the food before I could turn it over, and they explained that the chairman of the local committee had gone to Brussels to negotiate a loan; he would be back in four or five days and if I would just wait, they would settle everything beautifully. That did not please me, so I suggested in my usual simple and direct way that the Governor rob the safe and pay me with provincial funds, trusting to be paid later by the committee. It took some little argument to convince him, but he had good nerve, and by half-past twelve he brought forth 275,000 francs in bank-notes and handed them over to me for a receipt. Sticking this into my pocket, I made ready to get under way, but there was nothing for it but that I must lunch with them all. Finally I accepted, on the understanding that it would be short and that I could get away immediately afterward. That was not definite enough, however, for we sat at table until four o'clock and then listened to some speeches.
When we got down the home stretch, the Governor arose and made a very neat little speech, thanking us for what we had done to get food to the people of Liège, and expressing gratitude to the American Government and people, etc. I responded in remarks of almost record shortness, and as soon as possible afterward, we got away through the rain to Brussels.
After getting through that elaborate luncheon, getting our things ready at the hotel, paying our bill, saying good-bye all around once more, etc., it was nearly five o'clock when we got off and nearly eight when we reached Brussels and put our treasure in the safe.
The Germans have begun arresting British civilians and we have had our hands full dealing with poor people who don't want to be arrested and kept in prison until the end of the war and can't quite understand why they have to put up with it. It is pretty tough, but just another of the hardships of the war, and while we are doing our best to have the treatment of these people made as lenient as possible, we can't save them.
Brussels, November 16, 1914.---Some more excitement yesterday morning, when various British subjects were arrested.
Two German civilians tried to force their way into the British Consulate and arrest Mr. Jeffes, the British Consul, and his son, although the American flag was flying over the door and there was a sign posted to the effect that the place was under our protection and all business should he transacted with us. Fortunately Nasmith was there, and after trying to explain the matter politely, he made for the two men, threw them into the street, and bolted the door. The gum-shoe men were so surprised that they went away and have not been back. Last night I was called around to the Consulate and found two more men shadowing the place. There seemed to be no danger of arrest, but Nasmith spent the night there, and this morning I went around and took the Jefres to our Consulate, so that if any attempt was made to take them, we should have an opportunity to protest. The higher authorities had promised not to seize them, but apparently you can never tell.
Yesterday was the King's Saint's Day, and word was passed around that there would be a special mass at Ste. Gudule. Just before it was to begin, the military authorities sent around and forbade the service. The Grand Marshal of the Court opened the King's book at his house, so that we could all go around and sign, as in ordinary times, for we are accredited to the King of the Belgians, but early in the morning an officer arrived and confiscated the book. The Government of Occupation seems to be mighty busy doing pin-head things for people who have a war on their hands.
Countess de Buisseret's little boy was playing on the street yesterday when the German troops passed by. Being a frightful and dangerous criminal, he imitated their goose-step and was arrested. M. de Leval went around to headquarters to see what could be done, supposing, of course, that when it was seen what a child he was, his release would be ordered. Instead, he was told seriously that the youngster must he punished and would be left in jail for some days.
Brussels, November 18, 1914.---This is another day of disgust. This morning one of the servants of the Golf Club came in to say that there were fifty German soldiers looting the place. In the afternoon Jack and I went out for a look at the place and to get my clubs. We found a lot of soldiers under command of a corporal. They had cleaned the place out of food, wine, linen, silver, and goodness knows what else. Florimont, the steward, had been arrested because he would not tell them which of the English members of the club had gone away and where the others were staying. Having spent his time at the club, the fact was that he did not know who was still in town and could not tell, but the Germans could not be convinced of this and have made him prisoner.
I stopped at headquarters this afternoon to see von der Lancken. As I came out a fine Rolls-Royce limousine drew up on the opposite side of the street---a military car. The chauffeur, in backing out, caught and tore the sleeve of his coat. In a rage, he slammed the door and planted a tremendous kick in the middle of the panel with his heavy boot. I stood agape and watched. He looked up, caught me looking at him, and turned his anger from the motor to me. He put his hands on his hips, shot out his jaw and glared at me. Then he began walking toward me across the street in heavy-villain steps, glaring all the time. He stopped just in front of me, his face twitching with rage, evidently ready to do something cataclysmic. Then the heavens opened, and a tremendous roar came from across the street. The officer to whom the car belonged had seen the display of temper from his window, and had run out to express his views. The soldier did a Genée toe-spin and stood at attention, while his superior cursed him in the most-stupendous way. I was glad to be saved and to have such a display of fireworks into the bargain.
November 19th.---One day is like another in its cussedness.
The Germans have been hounding the British Legation and Consulate, and we have had to get excited about it. Then they announced to the Dutch Charge that our courier could no longer go---that everything would have to be sent by German field post. You would think that after the amount of hard work we have done for the protection of German interests and the scrupulous way in which we have used any privileges we have been accorded, they would exert themselves to make our task as easy as possible and show us some confidence. On the contrary, they treat us as we would be ashamed to treat our enemies.
This morning it was snowing beautifully when I woke up, a light, dry snow that lay on the ground. It has been coming down gently all day and the town is a lovely sight, but I can't get out. of my mind the thought of those poor beggars out in the trenches. It seems wicked to be comfortable before a good fire with those millions of men suffering as they are out at the front.
And now Grant-Watson(1) has been put in prison. He stayed on here after the Minister left, to attend to various matters, and was here when the Germans arrived. Recently we have been trying to arrange for passports, so that he and Felix Jeffes, the Vice-Consul, might return to England. The authorities were seemingly unable to make up their minds as to what should be done, but assured the Minister that both men would he allowed to return to England or to remain quietly in Brussels. On Friday, however, the Germans changed their minds and did not let a little thing like their word of honour stand in the way.
The Minister was asked to bring Grant-Watson to headquarters to talk things over---nothing more. When they got there, it was smilingly announced that Grant-Watson was to leave for Berlin on the seven o'clock train, which put us in the position of having lured him to prison. The Minister protested vigorously, and finally Grant-Watson was put on parole and allowed to return to the Legation, to remain there until eleven o'clock yesterday morning. I went over the first thing in the morning to help him get ready for his stay in jail. At eleven Conrad arrived in a motor with Monsieur de Leval. We went out and got in, and drove in state to the École Militaire, and, although I was boiling with rage at the entire performance, I could not help seeing some fun in it.
Grant-Watson's butler was ordered to be ready to go at the same time. At the last minute the butler came down and said perfectly seriously that he would not be able to go until afternoon, as he had broken the key to his portmanteau and would have to have another made. The Germans did not see anything funny in that, and left him behind.
When we got to the École Militaire, we were refused admittance, and had to wrangle with the sentries at the door. After arguing with several officers and pleading that we had a man with us who wanted to he put in prison, we were reluctantly admitted to the outer gate of the building, where British subjects are kept. When the keeper of the dungeon came out, I explained to him that the butler had been detained, but would be along in the course of the afternoon, whereupon the solemn jailer earnestly replied, "Please tell him that he must be here not later than three o'clock, or he can't get in!" And nobody cracked a smile until I let my feelings get the better of me.
I was prepared for an affecting parting with Grant-Watson in consigning him to the depths of a German jail, but he took it as calmly as though he were going into a country house for a week-end party. I suppose there is some chance that they may exchange him for a few wounded German officers and thus get him back to England.
Since our snow-storm the other day, the weather has turned terribly cold and we have suffered even with all the comforts that we have. And the cheerful weather prophets are telling us that without doubt this will be one of the coldest winters ever known. A pleasant prospect for the boys at the front! Mrs. Whitlock and everybody else is busy getting warm clothing for the poor and for the refugees from all parts of Belgium who were unable to save anything from their ruined homes. It is bad enough now, but what is coming.
Gustave has just come in with the cheering news that Ashley, our crack stenographer, has been arrested by the Germans. They are making themselves altogether charming and agreeable to us.
Max is spread out before the fire, snoring like a sawmill---the only Englishman in Brussels who is easy in his mind and need not worry.
Tuesday, November 24th.---Another day of rush without getting very far.å
The Germans decided this morning that they would arrest Felix Jeffes, the British Vice-Consul, so I had the pleasant task of telling him that he was wanted. I am to go for him to-morrow morning and take him to the École Militaire with his compatriots. This job of policeman does not appeal to me, even if it is solely to save our friends the humiliation of being taken through the streets by the Germans.
November 25th.---Had a pleasant day.
Had arrangements made with Jeffes to go with him to the École Militaire at 11 o'clock and turn him over to his jailer. The Minister went up with von der Lancken to see the Englishmen and be there when Jeffes arrived, so as to show a friendly interest in his being well treated.
I went around to the Consulate on time., and found that, through a misunderstanding, Jeffes had made no preparations for going, having been assured that another attempt would be made to get him off. I pointed out that the Minister had given his word of honour that Jeffes should be there, and that he would be left in a very unpleasant and annoying position if we did not turn up as promised. Jeffes was perfectly ready, although not willing to go. I went to the Ecole Militaire and explained to von der Lancken that Jeffes' failure to appear was due to a mistake, and asked that he be given time to straighten out his accounts and come later in the day or to-morrow morning. The answer was that he must come some time during the day. The Consul-General went straight to von Lüttwitz with Jeffes, made a great plea on the score of his health or lack of it, and got his time extended until he could be given a medical examination by the military authorities. Late in the afternoon he was looked over and told to go home and be quiet, that he would probably not be wanted, but that if anything came up, they would communicate with him further.
1. Second Secretary of the British Legation in Brussels.
November 27, 1914
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